Panhandle Players get it done the 'right' way

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So what is better than a photographic artist? An artistic photographer who turns playwright to the delight of a hometown audience!

John Spohrer, Jr. whose artistry is already seen in hundreds of beautiful, natural pictures of our Panhandle area turned his talents toward the theatrical stage and created a fun and very personalized story of our own Apalachicola and the weekly newspaper that serves it. Last weekend, the Panhandle Players performed “The Corruption of Harry Finley,” before appreciative audiences.

A realistic cast of characters led the too-common story of how a real estate promoter developer hustler comes to a small waterfront town, proposes construction of million-dollar condos on valuable and well-used public waterfront property, the newspaper editor objects in writing even as the city commission approves the condo plan unanimously, and the story takes off from there.

Directed by Judy Loftus, from St. Joe Beach, the cast revolved around lead Royce Rolstad III who, as newspaper editor Harry Finley, played a slightly more serious role than his usual comedy characters. An important stage figure to the story was gun-totin’ Sheriff Sam played perfectly by Eastpoint’s own Henry Kozlowsky, in what may well have been his last Panhandle Players show in a prolific, storied local career. He and wife Elaine, also a seasoned actress, have decided to relocate to Connecticut and live on the seashore in a family home.

Femme fatale Alexis Schefka as Alice the reporter is in reality an FWC fisheries biologist who came to Franklin County only a few years ago. Megan Shiver was over the top in her role as the Chamber of Commerce representative, seeing editor Finley as fresh meat for her conquest!

Steve Allen, of Carrabelle, played developer Jimmy Fairfield with the ready checkbook to assure things got done in the “right” way. Sally Crown and Mishelle McPherson played the important banker and county recorder figures Adkins and Wiggins, without whom no officialdom would be complete. Wiggins turned out to be a strong advocate to editor Finley’s righteous side and ultimately helped turn the tables on the plans of developer Fairfield.

Robbie Johnson, of the real Apalachicola, was seen as Mayor Frank who convincingly presented his conflicting dilemmas of pro-development and being everybody’s cousin, while Torben Madson’s portrayal of the city attorney, who cancelled all the legal advertising in retaliation for Finley’s editorial was truly believable in sharing what could have been the death knell to the paper’s survival.

In the meantime, there was a brick, imprinted with the word “Boom” on it, thrown through the newspaper window, and later, an arson blaze that destroyed almost all of the newspaper offices except, oddly enough, the well-hung picture of our own real Apalachicola weekly newspaper editor David Adlerstein! Tall, handsome fire chief Connor Montfort, a real-life firefighter from Panama City Beach, kept things real in his high visibility yellow suit and authentic black fire hat as the story drew to its climax.

Some excellent lines of truth included “It’s not what you know; it's not who you know, it’s what you know about who you know,” about the developer’s special arrangements made with the city commissioners. My favorite “You miserable miscreants are mucho mistaken” was a throw-away laugh line from the sheriff, and in a bow to “truth is stranger than fiction,” Sheriff Sam told Finley the story of the officials putting out the deer decoy only to be fired at by a gun-totin’ local.

The Panhandle Players’ amateur production company promises a good time with each presentation. Many of the cast are repeat members whose talents vary from lead to secondary to bit part roles. Most participate wearing many hats; Rolstad was poster designer, program designer and technical director. Loftus was also house manager. Jim Morris was sound technician, responsible for the wonderful ear-splitting songs chosen by Spohrer for Finley to be listening to on his headset. (“Proud Mary” by Credence Clearwater Revival was one of my toe-tapping favorites.)

Mark and Natalie Parsley were set designers and stage crew, Liz Sisung was stage manager who also helped with program design and, Steve Bonello was light technician. Elaine Kozlowsky and Bunnie Ison managed concessions. Each member-participant brings talents and enthusiasm to their shows.

Make a date to see the next performance and support this local community theater. Social distancing seating and masks were still required for safety of the audience in the Chapman Auditorium, located just past the 12th Street stoplight on Highway 98 in Apalachicola.

This article originally appeared on The Apalachicola Times: Panhandle Players get it done the 'right' way

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