A soldier comes home in Pulitzer-winning 'Roses'

Published: Thursday, September 1, 2005 at 10:51 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, September 1, 2005 at 10:51 a.m.
Jennie Stringfellow first saw "The Subject was Roses" about 30 years ago. The drama knocked her for an emotional loop, reminding her of the power of great theater.
"I was just so mesmerized," she recalled.
The Frank D. Gilroy play won two Tony Awards and a Pulitzer Prize in 1965. Stringfellow, a staple in local theater, said she had always wanted to see this play again, so she submitted the work for consideration to the Gainesville Community Playhouse.
This year, she was pleasantly surprised when GCP's selection committee approved it as the season opener.
"GCP is not known for drama," said Stringfellow, who is directing the show, which opens Friday. Indeed, the community theater - still operating out of its second-stage site until January - is known for happier offerings, particularly musicals and comedies.
And while "The Subject was Roses" does have a handful of light moments, make no mistake, this drama is intense.
Here, 21-year-old Timmy returns home to the Bronx from World War II.
"All those casualties. He never got a scratch," notes Timmy's no-nonsense father, John. The parents consider themselves strangely fortunate, and there's quite a party on Timmy's first night home. But when the whiskey wears off, Timmy finds his family still at war with itself.
There is much more to the Cleary clan than weak coffee and strong booze.
The roses in the play's title appear in the kitchen early in the drama - gorgeous red beauties that present a glimmer of hope but, in the end, provide a critical window onto the family and its battle scars.
The play's key element? Tension.
It's a tension that may ring true with many families, a tension that seeps in between loved ones over time until it becomes a concrete, emotional barricade. And while this play is set in the post-war '40s, it will remain powerful and true "as long as people lose touch with themselves and their children," Stringfellow said.
"It's so timely because of the war within us and the war on the battlefield," she said after a rehearsal last week. "We don't seem to learn."
The play runs through Sept. 18 at GCP's 2nd Stage location in Northwood Village Shopping Center. The cast: Ocala Civic Theatre regular John LaPaille plays John, Williston resident Jake Watts, no stranger to South Florida stages, plays Timmy and High Springs resident Wanda Roe, a 2004 GCP Golden Apple winner, plays troubled matron Nettie.
- Dave Schlenker

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