The Apothecary, 1013 7th St. NW

Remaining Performances:

Sunday, July 11, at 3:30 p.m.
Tuesday, July 13, at 7:45 p.m.
Wednesday, July 21, at 10 p.m.
Thursday, July 22, at 9:30 p.m.

They say: “Florida Days follows a dysfunctional family’s journey from the North to the South, as they try to escape their small town roots. This drama is set in the ’30’s and ’40’s when Central Florida was still the Old South.”

Derek’s Take: Florida Days plunges its lead, Betty (Elise Edwards), through a series of stunning events which result almost inevitably in debilitating heartbreak. The story opens with her sister’s marriage to Billy, Betty’s one-time love, and signals the play’s central conflict: Did Betty err in leaving her Florida home to become a journalist in New York?

The question is quickly overrun by a furious cascade of fortuitous events, leading Betty first to a job writing for a fashion magazine – they don’t let women cover politics in the ’40s – and then Betty’s own wedding, after two dates, to a career-minded opera director, Vincent (Thomas Linn). The only problem with New York, it seems, are the dunderheaded artistes who see Betty’s hometown as an unyielding racist hotbed. Florida, you know, is in the South.

From there, calamities start piling up on the domestic front across two states, as if willed by a playwright determined to test Edwards’ range as an actress. Motherhood has trapped Betty at home while Vincent tempestuously perfects his craft, unmoved by either her professional aspirations and the welfare of their child: Why can’t Betty be more like his mother?

By the time their daughter succumbs to a mystery ailment and they head off to Florida for the funeral, Betty not only finds that she’s lost her faith in God, but that her sister’s gone mad to boot. Through it all, Edwards gamely heightens the story’s emotional core and cuts a sympathetic figure undone by the prevailing ethos of her age.

It’s unfortunate, then, that she’s let down by a story that at times strains credulity. In a typically pretext-less scene, an assistant newspaper editor says that he might have a job for Betty. Could this be her chance – finally – to flee the “frivolous and superfluous” world of fashion news and become a real reporter? Neither Betty nor the audience ever finds out. The script drops this storyline so she can cope with the death of her child and arrive at her conclusion that, whatever the setback, we must all get on with our lives.

Florida Days is so fraught with tension it practically discards its central conflict at the close of the opening scene, returning to it only at the finale, when Billy and Betty discuss what might have been. In between is a series of vignettes, connected by familiar characters and almost capable of standing on their own as part of a separate play.

See it if: Your Bible study includes meditations on “Thou shalt not go home again.”

Skip it if: You think that the play’s reference to “Governor Cuomo” might have been meant to be Mayor LaGuardia.