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Wyatt C. McNeil, Kelly Elizabeth Smith, David Kortemeier, and Julia Gibson in Relatively Speaking.

Image: John Revisky

Year-round devotees of theater—those of us searching for entertainment in the hot summer months—felt the loss when the Banyan Theater Company, which had presented summertime productions for more than a decade, closed down following the death of its founder, Jerry Finn. The FSU/Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training hopes to fill that gap with its new Dog Days Theatre, promising to offer “smart, contemporary works just light enough for the dog days of summer” with two shows, the first opening in previews on July 11.

According to director Greg Leaming, head of the FSU/Asolo Conservatory, the move benefits not only playgoers but actors, including recent Conservatory grads, who had also been hired often by the Banyan. The new grads are given a professional opportunity onstage, working alongside seasoned professionals from both the region and around the country.

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The cast of Relatively Speaking.

Image: John Revisky

The debut show, British master Alan Ayckbourn’s Relatively Speaking, is a comedy of misunderstandings featuring four actors under the direction of Brendon Fox. The action centers on young lovers Greg (Wyatt C. McNeil) and Ginny (Kelly Elizabeth Smith), whose relationship is tested when Ginny pays a visit to her former, married flame (David Kortemeier) and his unsuspecting wife (Julia Gibson). Greg plans a surprise visit himself, believing the older couple are Ginny’s parents, and the laughs take off from there.

That show runs in the Cook Theatre through July 30, and is followed by an area premiere of David Pichette and R. Hamilton Wright’s stage adaptation of James M. Cain’s classic noir, Double Indemnity. Hewing more closely to the original book than the famous film version with Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck as a pair of murderous lovers, the play is onstage at the Cook Aug. 10-27 (previews Aug. 8 and 9). It stars Conservatory grad Katie Cunningham as the scheming Phyllis, current student Erik Meixelsperger as the insurance man she seduces into her plot, and longtime Asolo actor Doug Jones as suspicious investigator Keyes, along with Don Walker as the husband in danger and Sara Linares, Mike Perez and Wes Tolman in supporting roles.

Tickets to both shows are available by calling (941) 351-8000 or visiting asolorep.org.

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