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About Russell Florence, Jr.

Russell Florence, Jr. is a member of The American Theatre Critics Association and The Drama League. In addition to his role as arts and culture editor of Dayton City Paper and theater critic for Dayton City Paper and Impact Weekly, he served as a Dayton Daily News freelance writer and editorial page contributor. He has also written features for such theater publications as Spotlight Ohio and The Sondheim Review. He attended over 30 Broadway/Off-Broadway productions during the 2013-14 season.

‘Good People’ Review – Dayton Theatre Guild – Boston Bliss

good people

The Dayton Theatre Guild, who staged memorable local premieres of “Fuddy Meers” and “Kimberly Akimbo” by Pulitzer Prize winner David Lindsay-Abaire (“Rabbit Hole”), delivers a splendid local premiere of “Good People,” Lindsay-Abaire’s 2011 Tony Award-nominated working-class dramedy about misunderstanding, regret and neighborhood pride in South Boston’s Lower End a.k.a. Southie. Delicately directed with impressive authenticity by Debra A. Kent, this terrifically insightful, humorous and engrossing character study concerns the resilient yet brash Margaret “Margie” Walsh, a down-on-her-luck … [Read more...]



‘Pride and Prejudice’ Review –Sinclair Community College –Inclusive Austen

pride and prejudice

Film and TV actress Keke Palmer made headlines three weeks ago when she became the first African-American Cinderella on Broadway in “Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella.” But you don’t have to go to New York City to witness that kind of unique, outside the box casting. After all, Sinclair Community College’s wonderfully charming production of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” takes a similarly non-traditional approach that allows the classic tale to refreshingly breathe anew. Elegantly directed with beautifully fluid transitions by Kimberly Borst, “Pride and Prejudice,” breezily adapted by … [Read more...]



‘Fences’ Review – Wright State University – The American Family in Conflict

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August Wilson’s tremendously visceral 1987 Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning drama “Fences,” among the finest inclusions in his remarkable 10-play “Pittsburgh Cycle” chronicling the African-American experience in the 20th century, opens Wright State University’s 40th anniversary season with emotionally riveting resonance. Beginning in 1957 and spanning nearly eight years in the life of a middle class African-American family in Pittsburgh, “Fences,” splendidly and poignantly co-directed by W. Stuart McDowell and Sheila Ramsey, centers its thought-provoking account of race, regret, … [Read more...]



‘How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying’ Review – Dayton Playhouse – Corporate Charm

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Datyon Theater critic Russell Florence Jr. review Dayton Playhouse's How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.”.



‘Miracle on South Division Street’ Review – Human Race Theatre Company – Kitchen Table Revelations

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The charming Nowak family of Buffalo, New York receives a rude awakening in Tom Dudzick’s lighthearted and lightweight 2013 comedy “Miracle on South Division Street,” currently receiving a breezy regional premiere at the Loft Theatre courtesy of the Human Race Theatre Company. Strongly Catholic and affectionately Polish, the Nowaks have been tending to their late patriarch’s shrine to the Virgin Mary for decades. Built in 1943, the 17-foot-tall shrine (which Buffalo native Dudzick based on a local legend) was established after Grandpa Nowak had a vision of the Virgin Mary in his barbershop, … [Read more...]



‘Nice People Dancing to Good Country Music’ Review – Dayton Theatre Guild – Lone Star Connections

(l to r) David Hallowren, Noah Walters and Jared Mola in the Dayton Theatre Guild's production of "Nice People Dancing to Good Country Music" 
(Contributed photo by Craig Roberts)

Colorful characters attempting connection fuels Lee Blessing’s folksy1983 comedy “Nice People Dancing to Good Country Music,” the name of the Houston bar at the center of this simplistic summertime diversion at the Dayton Theatre Guild. Tough, hot-tempered ex-biker Jim Stools (David Hallowren) owns the bar in question which has undergone a renovation at the hands of his girlfriend Eve Wilfong (Angela Riley). Looking to appeal to the heart as well as the wallet, Eve brings a renewed sense of identity to the establishment, a more welcoming sense of purpose because she feels “there is a power … [Read more...]



Tender ‘Sugarhill’ Wins Dayton Playhouse FutureFest

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Playwright Linda Ramsay-Detherage of Detroit received top honors Sunday, July 27 at the 24th annual Dayton Playhouse FutureFest of new plays for her World War II-era Southern family dramedy “Sugarhill,” a compelling exploration of race, heartbreak and hope. Set in the fictional titular Louisiana town in December 1941, “Sugarhill,” also named the Audience Favorite, scored highest among a commendable field of six original, developing plays adjudicated within criteria including theme, style/language, dramatic structure, character development, story/plot, pacing, page-to-stage, and the next … [Read more...]



‘Once On This Island’ Review – Epiphany Lutheran Church – Vibrant Storytellers

(L to R) Back Row: Desmond Thomas, Kathy Meyer, Kandis Wean, Bryan Burckle. Front Row: Brianna Russ in Epiphany Lutheran Church's production of "Once On This Island" 
(Contributed photo by Charles Woodward)

The Epiphany Players Drama Ministry of Centerville’s Epiphany Lutheran Church delivers a wonderfully heartfelt, joyously sung production of the1990 Tony Award-nominated musical “Once On This Island.” Composed by Tony winners Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty (“Ragtime”) and adapted from Rosa Guy’s 1985 novel “My Love, My Love,” this Caribbean-immersed show inherently appeals with its straightforward, touching emphasis on a young peasant girl’s coming-of-age. The effervescent yet strong-willed Ti Moune (sprightly portrayed by the winsome Brianna Russ) adores the wealthy Daniel (a charming, … [Read more...]



Saluting Dayton’s 2013-14 Theater Season

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Looking back on Dayton’s commendable 2013-14 theater season, appealing stories reflecting cries of revolution, love and forgiveness, identity and family, and relationships beyond repair gave audiences thought-provoking, richly rewarding memories. Wright State University certainly triumphed with an exceptional Les Misérables which catapulted its musical theater component to astonishing degrees from performance to design. The beautiful complexity of The Magic Fire, the wonderful earthiness of Oklahoma!, and the dynamic electricity within The Wild Party also gave the organization cause to … [Read more...]



‘Play it By Heart’ Review – Human Race Theatre Company – Sing Out, Jeannine!

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Three generations of strong Southern women feud and reconcile against the backdrop of changing dynamics within the country music industry in “Play it By Heart,” a promising new musical still navigating its path as evidenced in its Human Race Theatre Company regional premiere at the Loft Theatre. In this sweet but predictable tale, the legendary Jeannine Jasper (Trisha Rapier), a Grammy and Country Music Association winner with a spot in the Grand Ole Opry on the horizon, yearns for retirement to the chagrin of her overbearing, ruthless stage mom Naomi (Sharva Maynard). As mother and daughter … [Read more...]