Featured in the Sunscreen Film Festival on Sat., April 30, 12:15 p.m., Muvico Sundial 19 & IMAX, 151 Second Ave. N, Saint Petersburg.
Glad to see that the Tampa Bay-shot feature film Waiting on Mary is making the rounds at the regional film festivals.
The sweet dramedy by Dolphin in a Drum Productions features an all-star cast of local stage actors and recently enjoyed an enthusiastic reception at the Gasparilla International Film Festival, where it nabbed honors for best Florida production.
A charmer with memorable performances all around (with just a few over-the-top moments — which actually work in a John Waters/quirky-sitcom sort of way) — Waiting on Mary is quite remarkable considering the brief time the cast and crew had to make it happen — two weeks of 15-hour-plus workdays.
Local writer, director, actor and videographer Corey Horton handpicked the cast, which stars actor/producer Brian Shea (recently in Jobsite’s Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike). The longtime friends met a decade ago when they co-starred in Bill Leavengood’s Crossing the Bay. Co-writer, director of photography and unit production manager Joe Papa attended theater classes with Horton in high school.
Horton and Papa’s story follows Nathan/Nathaniel (Shea), a newly unemployed colonial character in a pre-Revolution War theme park (set at Largo’s Heritage Village) who gets a horrible double whammy from his cheating wife.
To cope with the trauma, Nathan assumes the personality of Nathaniel, an 18th century colonist — a role he played on the job at Jamestown Park.
In his new costumed incarnation, Nathaniel says he’s on a mission as an observer of the southern colonies, which begins to founder when he develops real-life feelings for sweet, down-to-earth photographer Allison (Emilee Dupre’).
Bonnie Agan and Jim Wicker play Nathan’s parents and Bob Devin Jones as a therapist in the guise of a “cultural ambassador” with requisite concern and exasperation, respectively.
Matthew McGee gives a humorous turn as Col. Pennington, the anachronistic theme park’s supervisor. Matt Lunsford is an obnoxious TV-reporter anti-hero, and Ned Averill-Snell is downright bawdy as Nathaniel’s rock-bottomed-out drinking companion at the Emerald Bar. Katherine Michelle Tanner effectively plays the ex, Mary, who Jim Sorensen opens the film with a bang. Funny cameos include Paul Potenza and J. Elijah Cho.
Shea gives a tear-jerking performance, and Dupre’ fleshes Allison with earthy modesty and non-conformist idealism, bringing substance that we rarely get with a rom-com love interest. Shea is so downright lovable as a lost soul in a tricorn that he almost makes me forget that I wish I knew more about pre-delusion Nathan.
Which brings me to what could have been better.
The script starts out a little thin on context and backstory and is lacking in twists and surprises. It’s a simple, spare story for better and worse. Thankfully, the characters become more engaging as the plot thickens, especially when Nathaniel’s makeshift identity starts to unravel.
The Pinellas location shots are distracting, in a good way, of course — dozens of familiar vistas from downtown St. Pete to Indian Shores Beach are featured.
In sum, Horton deserves credit for crafting a story with upliftingly offbeat humor and touching pathos that stops short of laying it on too thick and insulting our intelligence.