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Split in Three a thoughtful look at race relations

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Florida Rep concludes its 17th season with the world premiere of Split in Three. It’s easy to see why this play was chosen as the winner of last year’s PlayLab Festival. Although this work by Daryl Lisa Fazio is set in rural Mississippi just before the implementation of forced school integration, forty-five years later, the topic of race relations is again a front page story.

Two poor white sisters have very different views on what is about to occur in their town. Nola, the elder, has been trying to hide her feelings behind a façade of bravado and heavy makeup. Nell, the younger, is so heavily influenced by a bigoted ex-husband and radio preachers that she can’t even get in touch with her own feelings.

Emotions explode when a third sister arrives from Chicago. She shares the same absentee daddy, but her mother is black.

All three actresses, Tyler Layton, Rachel Burttram, and Robin LeMon, give convincing performances. Local high school student Christian Koller and Zolan Henderson are also fine in their supporting roles.

Given the heavy duty theme, the play is surprisingly funny. The interplay among the sisters is particularly well written and true to life. Burttram’s expression when she realizes she has moved up in the pecking order and is no longer the baby sister is priceless.

The old-fashioned radio set center stage provides a backdrop of music of the time period interspersed with news clips. We hear first Sam Cooke and later Bob Dylan foreshadow that change is coming. And indeed it is. The sisters experience sufficient changes internally to allow them to unite to face the external changes. We don’t actually see those, perhaps because they have yet to be completely unfolded.

The play runs until May 10, so there is still time to see it. Call (239) 332-4488 for tickets.

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