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Archikulture Digest

by Carl F Gauze

Archive for September, 2007

Equus

Sunday, September 30th, 2007


Equus
By Peter Shaffer
Directed by Thomas Ouellette
Starring Eric Zivot, Michael Nardelli
Annie Russell Theater, Winter Park, FL

The crime was a horrendous as it was seemingly pointless. Six horses were blinded by troubled 17 year old Alan Strang (Michael Nardelli), a boy who seemed to adore the species. Before they lock him up for a very long time, magistrate Hesther Solomon (Erica Leas) drops him off with child psychologist Martin Dysart (Eric Zivot). For the next two hours, we follow Dysart’s journey as he discovers Alan’s motivation and his own fears. The crime occurred for a solid if twisted reason, and by the end, we all feel that we, too, could fall into Alan’s trap, or push someone we love off that cliff of insanity.

This is one of Rollins’ finest projects in recent memory. Zivot’s Dysart is earnest if over worked, but he is soon as obsessed with Alan as Alan is with horses. His delivery is analytic and anguished, and in Alan he finds the son he never had. For his part, Alan slides easily between psychosis, snotty adolescence, and the completely absorbed horse lover. His parents are part of his problem, but not an excuse for what he did. Mother Dora (Megan Borkes) worries about his eternal soul while father Frank (Joseph Bromfeild) prefers tough unionism, but seem too young for the role. The story is set in rural England, but there’s a confusing mix of accents, with Hesther, Alan and Frank sounding the most English, and everyone else leaning toward a neutral American sound.

The set design (by Alan Cody-Rapport) reflects the arty minimalism of the 60’s. A series of tall and a bit wobbly beams alternate as the stalls for the horse stable, and Dysart’s office. Incidental furniture folds up from the floor as needed and murky lighting deepens the mystery of “Why?” One of the coolest elements of the show is the wrought aluminum horse heads worn by the actors portraying the denizens of the stable. They hang on the back wall, neither art nor animal. As needed the supporting actors slide into them, and they clip clop around the stage with metal hooves. All that’s missing is the smell.

This complicated psychological piece holds multiple strata of meaning, not unlike the Greek archeological sites Dysart visits on his annual vacation. We touch on worship, sexuality, bad dreams, and our ability to transfer a part of ourselves into another person, animal or even an object. While the story is notionally set in The Present, there’s a dated feeling from the early 60’s psychobabble. In a very fashionable ending, Dysart boldly announces he can heal Alan, but only at the cost of his own mental health. Different in detail, but not in results, Alan’s case differs little from the hundreds of other damaged children that pass though Dysart’s career. Why this one matters is the reason you might want to see this show more than once.

For more information on the Annie Russell Theatre at Rollins College, please visit

And the World Goes ‘Round – Winter Park Playhouse

Monday, September 17th, 2007

And the World Goes ‘Round
Music by John Kander
Lyrics by Fred Ebb
Musical Direction by Christopher R Leavey
Concept by Scott Ellis. Susan Stroman and David Thompson
Winter Park Playhouse, Winter Park, FL

Kander and Ebb have written some of the most memorable music of the late 20th century. Their distinctive style underlies such great shows as “New York, New York,” “Cabaret,” “Chicago,” and many lesser pieces like “The Rink” and “70, Girls, 70”. The theme song “And the World Goes Round” begins the show with a rendition by Laura Hodos, but it reappears occasionally as a motif uniting the loosely related songs and styles. Most of this material lurks in the back of our collective conscience, but you won’t always remember where there came from. “Coffee in a Cardboard Cup” bemoans the fast pace of today and blames our loss of gentility and manners on Starbucks. Tim Evanicki popped off a winning version of “Sara Lee” complete with cardboard-box Carmen Miranda conga line. He returned later for a touching “Mr. Cellophane” from Chicago, one of 4 songs from that popular show. Jennifer Lynn Warren spearheaded another Chicago number “All that Jazz” which nearly had the audience singing along, scary as that might sound.

WPPH co-founder Heather Alexander covered songs from The Rink and Funny Lady, including the plaintive “Colored Lights” and “How Lucky Can You Get?” Newcomer Robert Buchanan showcased “We Can Make It”, again from “The Rink.” Between the steady supply of costumes and set changes, the only weak spot was an odd arrangement of “cabaret”, which felt a bit spaced out and not nearly as naughty as the regular arrangement. These are the high points of the K&E partnership, and a great all singing, all dancing, all talking snapshot of the last 40 years of American show tunes.

For more information on Winter Park Playhouse, visit http://www.winterparkplayhouse.org

Comedy of Errors – Orlando Shakespeare Theater

Sunday, September 16th, 2007

Comedy of Errors
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Pat Flick
Starring Robby Pigott, Daniel Harray, Brad DePlanche, Brandon Roberts
Orlando Shakespeare Festival, Orlando, FL

I love it when a good Shakespeare fart joke comes together. In what must be the most improbable plot from the Bard, two pairs of twin brothers are bound to each other by blood and gold, and then split apart by shipwreck and chance. Both pairs find themselves in Ephesus, one set a respected citizen and his servant, and the other a well fortuned travelers. Miraculously, there dear old dad Aegon (Bob Dolan) shows up right about then, but is in danger of beheading for having been born in Syracuse.

The story pivots on the identical looks of the 2 twin sets. Antipholus of Syracuse (Pigott) is pleasantly surprised at the welcoming reception the Ephesians give him. They hand out gold, cash, and dinner invitations freely, even though he’s been in town less than a day. His twin, Antipholus of Ephesus (Harray) has the worst of it – he’s arrested for failing to pay debts, locked out of his own house by shrewish wife Adriana (Suzanne O’Donnell) and beaten by a courtesan (Jennifer Drew) he turns to when the spare key is missing. Similar fates await the servants, Dromio of Syracuse / Ephesus (De Planche, Roberts). The local boy is beaten and sent on endless wild goose chases while the newcomer gets all the easy jobs.

What sets this production apart from other “Comedy of Errors” I’ve seen the complete abandonment of the plot in pursuit of slapstick humor. With the wildly ludicrous plot, the first time anyone thinks about why anything is happening, the show slips apart. We are spared that eventuality by good casting. DePlanche has a long history of comic support roles in OSF shows; this is one of his best. His highlight came with the extended fart joke sequence in the second act. With half the mass, Brandon Roberts gets picked up and run around stage more than anyone else. Anne Herring appeared far too briefly as the Abbess late in the last act, even though she got to push a cart of fish around before intermission, and the Pigott/Harray roles were filled with excellent slow burns and snappy comebacks. It’s hard to imagine a better set of players.

The energy this show packs blows you away, there’s never a slow moment or a missed joke. With it’s new, easier to pronounce name, Orlando Shakespeare Theater is out of the gate running with a stellar opener – a Shakespearian comedy that’s really funny!

For more information on Orlando Shakespeare Theater, visit
http://www.orlandoshakes.org

Five Women in Havana – Womens’ Playwright Initiative

Thursday, September 13th, 2007

Five Women in Havana
By Ree Howell
Directed by Kathleen Lindsay
Womens’ Playwright Initiative

Sometimes life hands you a lecture on the joys and evils of communism, and there’s no way to sneak out. The agitprop was getting pretty thick in this World Premier play when the cast stripped down to their underwear, which brightened the political dialog immensely. This amazing transformation came halfway through the first act of “Five Women in Havana”, this season’s WPI full length finale. The premise intrigues – as a category 5 hurricane bears down on Cuba’s aging infrastructure, five women are trapped in a seedy hotel until the weather clears or the building falls down around them. Two Americans (Janet Raskin as Harriett, Christine Padovan as Rachel) and Cuban expatriate Pilar (Vanessa Sotomayor) meet the fanatical Castro supporter Juana (Noel Miner) and her cynical cousin Maria (Jenifer Catalano). Tension turns into bonding and a tired debate on the virtues and vices of Cuba vs. America, but then we get personal – each woman reveal her deepest, darkest secrets, all of which seem to involve cheating men.

While the show careens from idea to idea and plot points fly like lawn furniture in the eye of a storm, the capable cast sketches believable and sympathetic women. There are laughs scattered throughout, some intentional and a few not. The strongest chemistry flows between Juana’s idealistic communism and Marias’s more skeptical nationalism. Both want out of the Worker’s Paradise, and their fight over a man is the best developed back-story in the show. Catalano’s Pilar takes the lead on the tango dancing sequences, which were good enough to enjoy but not so good as to be unbelievable. Rachel had the nicest undies and the most open ended story – an awkward impregnation with no real clue as to motivation or potential resolution.

Five Women in Havana Director Lindsay pulled an entertaining evening out of a very rough script (which was read by WPI in June but not revised). This story has a great premise and lots of promising story leads scattered thought it, but it some revision might make it easier for a good cast to make it a heart-breaker of a relation play, and not have to struggle to keep the shingles from flying off.

Five Women in Havana For more information on Womens’ Playwright Initiative, please visit http://www.WomenPlaywrights.com/