'Suckerfish' plays with human perceptions


Published: Friday, January 31, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 30, 2003 at 9:55 p.m.

Facts

IF YOU GO: Suckerfish

The one-act, existential comedy follows Hank through his dilemma while centering on people's perceptions about homelessness.

  • WHAT: A comedy by W.T. Underwood
  • WHEN: Friday and Saturday, 8 p.m.
  • WHERE: The main stage of the Acrosstown Repertory Theatre, 619 S. Main Street.
  • TICKETS: $5 for students, $7 for general public.

  • When William Eyerly first read the script for "Suckerfish," a comedy about the invisibility of the homeless, he felt compelled to direct it.
    "When I was growing up, my mother used to say, 'There but for fortune go you.' In other words, that could be you," said the director. "Some of (the homeless) are military veterans. They were heroes of this country. Some of them had careers and had successes and lost everything for whatever reason. And, once you're there, it's very hard to escape."
    And, in Suckerfish, that is exactly what happens to Hank, a businessman who is thrust into a decayed neighborhood when his car crashes. Then, try as he might, Hank cannot get home because everyone refuses him help.
    Gainesville audiences will be the first to see what happens next, as the play premieres tonight and Saturday at the Acrosstown Repertory Theatre.
    The play stars Shamrock McShane as Hank, who - eventually - gets stuck with the identity of a homeless man. As such, nobody will offer him assistance, not even a police officer, because everyone simply sees a man dressed in a crinkled, bloodied suit; to them, he's just another local homeless man.
    "He's all messed up, disheveled. He's been bleeding, the (pay) phone won't work, nobody will help, nobody will stop. The whole world is passing by, and nobody notices him," Eyerly said.
    Making its premiere on stage at the Acrosstown Repertory Theatre today and Saturday, the one-act, existential comedy follows Hank through his dilemma while centering on people's perceptions about homelessness.
    After Hank's car crashes, he is thrown at the shoeless feet of a homeless man who sleeps covered in newspaper under a pay phone and speaks in garbled jargon. Hank is unconscious from the crash, but the homeless man wakes him up while trying to yank Hank's shoes off his feet.
    The busted pay phone and the homeless man - played by Scot Davis - serve as Hank's first obstacles, as well as the play's comic backbone.
    And it was that humor that prompted local playwright Sarah Bewley to send the W.T. Underwood script to her friend Eyerly.
    "I read the play and just loved it," said Bewley, who met Underwood in 1997 in Los Angeles. "I thought it was funny and wonderful and had something to say. I asked him, 'Would you mind if I submitted it to this theater I work with in Gainesville,' and he said that would be cool.
    "The first thing that drew me to it was it was funny. I was reading it on the plane on my way to New York, and I was laughing out loud. It was hilarious."
    The humor in the dialogue and circumstances accentuate the play's message, which Bewley said is ultimately about human perceptions on where they are going in life.
    "Those perceptions are a little faulty. I think when people see a homeless person they think, 'Oh I would never end up there.' You just don't know that for sure," Bewley said.

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