Cleveland-based playwright Eric Coble's latest work, A GIRL'S GUIDE TO COFFEE, makes its world premiere at Actors' Summit in Akron. Performances run Thursday to Sunday through March 11th.
The play centers on Alex – or Lexi, as her parents call her – a young woman working at the Steamed Bean coffeehouse and trying to figure out what direction she wants her life to take. She's surrounded by her parents, her roommate, her boss and her would-be boyfriend, all providing her advice, whether she wants it or not. As if figuring out her life isn't difficult enough, Alex is on a quest to make the perfect latte with each customer she serves.
The 90-minute one-act production is a solid one. Coble's script for A GIRL'S GUIDE TO COFFEE is littered with wonderful humor, as well as poignant moments. Alex has the ability to pause the action around her and comment directly to the audience, which is a nice tool to figure out what's going on in her head. Coble has written about situations in life everyone can connect to – parents' desires vs. a child's wants, meeting someone new, dealing with the stress of a job and finding happiness with the situation you're in.
Director Constance Thackaberry helps the cast interpret the material successfully. The pacing is steady throughout with very few bumps in the road. She makes excellent use of the thrust stage space, making sure the actors play to each side with regularity. The Steamed Bean is a colorful coffeehouse, brought to life by the vision of set designer Neil Thackaberry. It's colored in vibrant purple with small decoration details and knickknacks that exudes the feel of the local shop you'd spend time in.
Most of the cast is making their Actors' Summit debut, although it has plenty of experience under its belt. Margo Chervony plays Alex with heart. You immediately fall in love with her and find yourself vested in her relationships (not to mention you kinda want to donate money to send her to the barista competition in Spain). She's bright and bubbly and knows the perfect coffee drink to serve just by looking at you.
Rachel Gehlert is Alex's quirky roommate Samantha and Frank Jackman is her boss Donny, who leads "the life of a Warner Brothers cartoon." (Jackman's telling of Donny's ill-fated date causes tears of laughter.) Alex's would-be boyfriend is played by Mark Leach and her parents are played by Alex J. Nine and Laura Stitt. This trio also has the duty of portraying a slew of Steamed Bean customers, made possible by slight changes to voice, posture and costumes.
A GIRL'S GUIDE TO COFFEE runs through March 11th and is very much worth seeing, especially in the small, intimate venue of Actors' Summit. Part of Eric Coble's "Alexandra Trilogy," the play is sure to have life after this production but this is an opportunity to see a world premiere right in your own backyard!
Tickets range from $19 to $30 for adults and are $9 for students (with a valid ID). Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening performances are at 8pm, with Sunday matinees at 2pm. Purchase tickets online at www.actorssummit.org/tickets.htm or by calling the box office at 330.374.7568. The theatre is located on the sixth floor of Greystone Hall, located in downtown Akron across from the John S. Knight Center.
Photo credit: Actors' Summit.