St. Petersburg – In a season where saccharine holiday smarm floods the cultural landscape, Gypsy Productions’ release of Who Took The Last Ketchup? One Hell of a Holiday Vacation may be the incendiary, albeit heartfelt, itch you need to scratch.
Directed by noted local renaissance man Trevor Keller and featuring an original script by local playwright Michael Matteo (An Evening with Mr. Johnson: It’s Hard Being A Dick!), Ketchup takes place on the last night of Max (Peter Konowicz) and Lena’s (Skyla Luckey) annual holiday vacation to Florida. It’s also the same night Walter (Eddy Ganim) a homeless drag queen, enters their world.
Their strained relationship and vacation already has Lena on edge and her only hope is that Walter’s involvement can salvage this one last night in Paradise. Of course, her dilemma is hilarity for the audience, Keller says.
“It’s funny and really good,” says Keller, who admits that he considered transforming the married couple into a same-sex couple for this showing. “But when we did that, the poignancy of it just wasn’t there. In the story line, Max, the husband, has issues with having a gay son.”
Keller is convinced keeping the couple heterosexual was the right call, because a gay drag queen and the constant reference to a gay son make it a very LGBT-friendly play.
“There’s a transformative part in the show that brings Skyla Luckey, who plays Lena, to tears in rehearsals,” Keller says. “That’s all I’ll say, though, I don’t want to give away too much.”
Who Took the Last Ketchup isn’t a typical holiday show—in that it never really directly mentions the season. However, Keller is quick to point out that the setting and the stage will make it obvious that this vacation is taking place during the December holidays.
“So in that way, yes, it’s geared toward a holiday theme,” Keller says. “But there are so many holidays, I wouldn’t say this is a Christmas show.”
This is the first time Keller has worked with the three local actors, and he’s incredibly pleased with his choices.
Keller met Luckey after learning of her at Watermark’s 20th anniversary celebration at Crumb & Cork during a casual conversation with Liza Miller, who is part of Gypsy Stage Repertoire.
“She referred me to several female actresses and Skyla was one of them,” Keller says. “We laughed about how all gypsies have to stick together.”
Konowicz became involved after Keller put a call for actors on social media. Keller was aware of his work on FreeFall Theatre’s recent production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
The role of Walter was a bit more difficult to cast, and Keller had to search to find the right fit. When he discovered Ganim’s bio on a site dedicated to theater and producers, he immediately felt a connection.
“Eddie brings so much more to this role—they all do,” Keller says. “They bring an organic quality. That’s why I love doing original pieces so much. The characters aren’t established and we’re developing them ourselves through rehearsals.”
This is Gypsy’s first re-entrance into the arts world with a full-scale play since it shut down after a stumbling re-launch in 2011. Trevor and Gypsy Productions gained notoriety at the now-closed Suncoast Resort, which shuttered its doors in 2009. Once the resort closed, Gypsy—much like its namesake—roamed Tampa Bay with performances in different venues until it finally went on hiatus.
Keller had all but given up on Gypsy’s renaissance and kept himself busy with other side projects. But fate and determination allowed him to return to his passion as director.
When the Flamingo resort decided to open up its own theater section in the revamped Blu Room, which is off the main bar of the popular resort, Keller was approached by management who wanted to purchase some of his equipment.
“They purchased my lights and some other Gypsy property and we developed a relationship,” Keller says. “I asked if I could help bring in some shows and I was the producer of the recent LipSchtick show starring David ‘Scarbie’ Mitchell. It was a huge success.”
Now Gypsy, and Keller, are flourishing. His mailbox is flooded with notices from Equity actors and directors requesting roles and scripts readings, including an offer from Del Shores, the creator of Sordid Lives. Keller had a chance to form a close bond with the author after Shore performed at the Flamingo in early October.
Expect something from that new relationship to appear at the Blu Room Theater in the spring, Keller hints.
So things for Gypsy, Keller and The Flamingo and are coming roses. And rightfully so; even to the point where Keller had the triumph mapped out on his own body.
“I just had a tattoo down since we left the Suncoast which I have dreamed of having done and which just came to pass; I had a side piece down that comes up to a chest piece which is a Phoenix rising. I think it says exactly everything Gypsy as a company and a group of people says to me. We have been down, we have been inactive but we will rise again.”
WHAT: Who Took The Last Ketchup? One Hell of a Holiday Vacation
WHERE: Blu Room Theater, Flamingo Resort
WHEN: Dec. 3-21
TICKETS: $20-$25 at 727-321-5000