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Archikulture Digest

by Carl F Gauze

Archive for March, 2008

MID-LIFE! The Crisis Musical

Monday, March 31st, 2008

MID-LIFE! The Crisis Musical
By Bob Walton and Jim Walton
Directed by Michael Edwards
Musical Direction by Chris Leavey
Winter Park Playhouse, Winter Park, FL

Are you suffering from CRS? I thought so. It happens to the best of us, and Merck doesn’t have approval for a pink pill to cure it yet. Meanwhile, the WPPH crew entertains with this revue of silly to subtle music and skits that celebrate that period of life that involves embarrassing birthday parties and LASIK surgery. The first act leans in the silly direction, and after a rousing opener “Welcome to Midlife Lies” Pat Brandt and Kate O’Neal do a number called “Biological Clock”. At 40, he’s not ready for commitment, but she’s hoping to see grandkids before she goes. Guys HATE when this happens. The “Weekend Warriors” skit put all three guys (Michael Edwards, Pat Brandt, and Roy Alan) in basketball togs, and while they can sing, dance and act, there’s one thing none of them can do – handle a basketball. If you sit in the front row, rebound for them, will you? Mr. Edwards comes back for the cute song “Side Effects” and the delicate “My Lost Love.” One of the best bits in the first act is “Mid Life Translator.” You can now get help understanding what your significant other is really saying. Hint – she wants to be noticed, and he wants to fool around. But you knew that already, right?

The second act seems much more heartfelt, even with AARP and proctologist jokes peppering the stage. “Thirty Year Reunion” (Heather Alexander, Kate O’Neal and Lourelene Snedecker) commiserate over divorces, and even though the ex’s were real SOB’s, they still miss that old geezer. A very clever “The Long Goodbye” features Brandt and Snedecker and O’Neal at the park, where their now forgetful parents get to play on the swings. We wrap up with the Disney musical style “I’m Not Ready.” Maybe not, but your choices are narrowing, so enjoy it while you can.

There’s an element of fluff here, but the musical fireworks provide the real entertainment and that’s why we showed up this evening. The topics might be touching or heartbreaking, but when you need a break from parent sitting, this is more fun than hearing about how deep the snow was in World War 2. And what’s CRS? I forget…

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

Parade

Sunday, March 30th, 2008

Parade
By Alfred Uhry and Jason Robert Brown
Directed by Kate Ingram
Starring Yaniv Zarif, Madison Stratton, and Brendon Rogers
UCF Conservatory Theatre, Orlando, FL

This is a big, meaty, Important Play that explores racism, anti-Semitism, and the dark side of Southern hospitality. It’s also a Broadway-Class musical with over two dozen actors, a two and a half hour run time and enough set pieces the size of Manhattan condos to stuff a Playbill. In other words, this is not a musical for the faint of heart. But it’s also the most amazing thing UCF has ever pulled off.

In 1913 Atlanta, the Civil War still stings, and damaged veterans still come out for the Civil War Memorial Day parade. But Atlanta changed, expanding from a railroad junction to a major manufacturing center. Money and management flows from New York, and just as Appomattox hurt, so does the idea that Yankees and Jews could extract wealth from a South still mourning for its static, comfortable past. It’s time for someone to take a fall, and miserable Leo Frank (Zarif) was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Rather than wave a flag and eat a picnic lunch in Piedmont Park, Leo went in to work, and when the body of 13 year old Mary Phagan (Ericka Lyon) appeared in his factory basement, only he and black watchman Newt Lee (Michael Baugh) were considered as suspects. Hoping to prop up politically weak governor Jack Slaton (Kraig Kelsey), crooked District Attorney Hugh Dorsey (Michael Petty) went after Leo, reasoning that hanging another Black man wouldn’t have the impact of nailing a Yankee. It took an hour of trumped up charges to put Leo on death row, and only the hard work of his wife Lucille (Stratton) kept him from an official hanging. It was the lynch mob that strung him up – another fine old tradition of gentility, right along with chain gangs and duels.

The person who gets of easiest in this show is the hard drinking reporter Britt Craig (Brendan Rogers). He helps fan the flames of hate, having little else to report, and provides most of the comic relief in the show with his number “Big News”. Both Leo and Lucille sound equally great, her with “You Don’t Know This Man” and the two together in “This is Not Over Yet.” The supporting cast features more quality singing, including Michael Baugh’s rumbling baritone and Mrs. Phagan (Megan Wiley) with her lovely “My Child Will Forgive Me.” But the most amazing number was “Feel The Rain Fall” with Jim Conely (Steven Gatewood). Set and lighting designer Joseph Rusnock’s silhouettes of the chain gain back lit with a blood red flood and singing along to the blows of their sledge hammers still sticks in my mind.

While there aren’t many memorable melodies, this show tackles difficult and dangerous material with a deft hand. Because this is an Important Play, the company has taken the unusual step of creating a separate resource page with links to history and background material for the show. This is a show that stuns in its scope and execution, and is unlikely to appear anytime soon. Catch it while you can.

For more information on UCF Conservatory Theatre, visit
http://www.theatre.ucf.edu

For more information on Parade and its background, please visit http://www.ucfparade.com

Doubt – A Parable

Sunday, March 23rd, 2008

Doubt – A Parable
By John Patrick Shanley
Directed by Chris Jorie
Starring T. Robert Pigott and Christine Decker
Orlando Theater Project at The Orlando Shakespeare Festival

Daddy taught me to never play poker with anyone named “Frenchy” or “Doc”. I don’t recommend playing against Sister Aloysius (Decker), either. She’s got a heart of stone and a face that relays a single emotion -“You’ve sinned, and I expect a FULL confession.” She’s crossed paths with Father Flynn (Pigott), convinced he’s abusing little boys, and determined to bring him down. Against her ice and granite is joyous Sister James (Ame Livingston), a naïve woman with a gift for and joy in teaching children. Sister Aloysius brings Sister James around to her own stern teaching methods (no pain is too great when teaching love and virtue) and simultaneously brings her into the plot to reveal Father Flynn’s sins. Everything is purposely ambiguous. Motivation and actions becoming murkier and murkier, and when everyone finally agrees upon an answer, it’s Sister Aloysius who breaks. Her Vatican-class diplomatic maneuvering leaves her with one huge question unanswered – ‘What is truth?”

Despite the sordid and depressing story line, this is a great comedy. Sister Aloysius gets almost all the laughs as she justifies her knuckle rapping school of schooling. Decker’s serious demeanor and ominous habit make her scary even on the other side of the 4th wall. Pigott’s Flynn is the coach and teacher you always respected and worked your hardest for. Whether he’s guilty or not, you have to admit he’s a charmer, and his sermons are actually much better than the ones I’m used to at church. But its sister James you’d prefer as your pedagogue, her niceness is infectious to the point of making bullies play nice with nerds. The supporting role of the possibly abused boy goes to Elle Vernee, an elegant and self assured woman who would defend her child to the ends of death row.

“Doubt” calls it self a parable, a story that need not be true but which casts truth in a clear, sharp light. A number of truths lurk here – what were Father Flynn’s motivations, is it fair to accuse without solid evidence or convict with out at least on corroborating witness, and how can we be so cruel to those for who we profess love? Shanley sums it up as “Killing kindness in the name of virtue”, a sin that most righteous commit with practiced ease. This production is well written, well executed, timely and timeless – no doubt about that.

For more information on Orlando Theater Project, please visit http://www.otp.cc

I Have Before Me A Remarkable Document Given To Me By A Young Lady From Rwanda

Sunday, March 23rd, 2008

I Have Before Me A Remarkable Document Given To Me By A Young Lady From Rwanda
By Sonja Linden
Directed By Michael Marinaccio
Mad Cow Theatre, Orlando Fl

Ripped form her homeland as her parents and her nation were hacked to bits with machetes, Juliette (Trenell Mooring) swapped sunny Rwanda for the cold gray shores of England. Her life is confined to a small gray room, and with no money and no connections, she peers into a bleak future. But she did get a novel written, and translated into English. It’s a dry, tedious collection of statistics and history, lacking drama and heart. Knowing no better, she had written a Government Report. She just needs some guidance, and hooks up with Simon (Tommy Keesling), a burnt out poet with a public service job you could only get in the UK- he helps refugees write and publish their stories. No matter his own small anguished books of verse gather dust in remainder bins, he’s better advice than she can get anywhere else. As he guides her dry facts into living characters and figurative prose, they develop a chaste romance that strengthens Juliette’s self worth, and steers Simon back into a living relation with his distant wife.

Both Keesling and Mooring brought a sweetly romantic air to this potentially gruesome tale. Accents were mild and thus more believable, and Moorings underlying fear and practicality made here rebuff both Keesling feeble come-on and the beauty surrounded her on a perfect English spring day. Director Marinaccio shows he’s capable of directing serious work as well anyone else in town, steering this story between the dangers of lecture and treacley emotion. Scenic director Michael Montgomery (with painting by Amanda Smith) created a wonderfully abstract set with a projection screen supplying National Geographic snapshots of Rwanda along with a time clues for the story.

With so many organized mass murders around the world, Americans get a rather filtered view of world misery. Humanity has an almost insatiable desire to kill its fellows for no particular reason, and all the peace conferences and Coexistence bumper stickers in the world seem to have no effect. We are fortunate to keep most of that blood shed at arms length, and if nothing else, “Rwanda” shows while a million deaths is just another statistic, a single romance can save your immortal soul.

For more information on Mad Cow, please visit http://www.madcowtheatre.com

PILLOWLANDO

Saturday, March 22nd, 2008

PILLOWLANDO
Orlando’s Official Unofficial World Pillow Fight Day Event
Conceived by Brian Feldman
Lake Eola Park, March 22, 2008

Orlando FL

Brian Feldman is rapidly becoming Orlando’s Christo, but without the without the wrapping fetish. Between jumping off a ladder at City Hall and riding EPCOT’s Spaceship Earth for a whole day, Brian took time to organize a massive pillow fight in downtown Orlando’s famed Eola Park. Between the gray drizzle, the Ryan – Pagliotta wedding, and the usual homeless residents, about 50 free sprits and nearly as many photographers gathered to hit each other with pillows. The pillows ranged from cast-off yard sale items to uncomfortable decorative couch decor to a giant Easter bunny filled with low carbon footprint foam. As a bonus, we overheard the wedding accompaniment group called “Strings and Things,” which added an elegance the event might not have sought on its own.

Like so many wars, this one went on far longer than I expected. After 30 minutes, a few dedicated warriors continued to slug it out as lines from “Gladiator” and “Lord of the Rings” and “Henry the 5th” were shouted. Such notables as Terry Olson (Orange County Arts and Cultural Affairs Director) and Genevieve Bernard (Assistant Producer of the Fringe Festival) slugged it out along with Mr Feldman in his white Kung Fu nighty. As the battle progressed, a security guard dropped by to ask about the use of bicycles in the park, but seem unconcerned with the melee in progress. The homeless withdrew, too intimidated to panhandle. The Ryan – Pagliotta wedding progresses uneasily, afraid the fight might spread, and the skies might open. The String Trio set down their instruments and seemed more intrigued by the hippies giggling maniacally than the bride and groom droning through their vows. The people they invited along to impress ignored us as best they could.

As the battle wrapped up, the rain fell harder, brought down by the noise and powder residue of the fighting. Some people took their dogs and left. A few sought pictures from the photographers. Some headed off to a bar to lick their wounds. Mr. and Mrs. Ryan and their friends went off to overpriced hors ‘douvres, Freixenet, and a Really Good Wedding Band. Life in the park returned to normal as the swans and winos reclaimed their territory. Art was served… And I got 400 words and made a short film.

For more information on Brian Feldman Projects, please visit
http://www.brianfeldman.com/ To see video of PILLOWLANDO, please visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CFPCOl-dEag

The Gates of Choice

Saturday, March 22nd, 2008

The Gates of Choice
By Michelle Rosenfarb
Directed by Julia Allardice Gagne
Starring Brian Feldman and Kate McBryde
Valencia Character Company, Orlando FL

Look closely and you’ll see no difference between a strict Hasidic Jew and an abusive man. One views the woman as his personal property to use as he sees fit, and the other views the woman as his personal property to be used as his interpretation of the Old Law sees fit. It’s a one way prison, cloaked in pious words. Menachem Stein (Feldman) rejected his parents Reformed Judaism and assimilation in the United States, and retreated to an ultra-orthodox community in Jerusalem. They may be only two blocks from the mall, but it feels like the Jerusalem before King David. Menachem’s wife Sorah (Carolyn Ducker) accepts the discipline, but daughter Mehira (McBryde) senses life offers more than an arranged marriage in a world 10 blocks square. Temptation arrives in the form of recovering Hassidim and soldier Ori Ben-Natan (Buddy Fales). The mere thought of a woman unaccompanied with a strange man threatens the moral fibre of Menachem’s world, but after Mehira convinces Ori to kiss her, they both decide it’s not all that exciting. Menachem spirals deeper and deeper into religious guilt, but the real victim here is Sorah – she loses a daughter and a husband, but still has to support him and do his laundry. That’s Judaism – you’re never without drama in your life.

This otherwise intriguing show had some very odd blocking – 15 minutes passed before it felt like the cast looked the audience in the eye. Perhaps the director was looking to heighten the feeling of isolation, but it felt weird. Both Feldman and Fales were excellent as the paths in and out of Hassidism, but McBryde and her friend Libi (Katie MacMillan) felt a bit rough emotionally as two girlhood friends, and I thought Ms. Ducker’s Sorah seemed so cowed by her husband’s character she was afraid to act. One problem facing the script is its use of Hebrew terms, which are immediately and helpfully explained upon use. While we might guess the meaning, or it might not matter, the practice becomes noticeable early on and feels forced. Ori’s character could use a little more explaining as well, his decision to secularize and it’s repercussions aren’t as clear as Menachem’s opposite decision path.

“The Gates of Choice” was the winner of the annual Florida Playwright Competition. It enters a world that seems more like our stereotype of Islam, and shows a world that believes that equality, freedom of choice, and self determinations for all is undesirable. Menachem controls and does not produce, but rather prays and expects his food on time, his women complaint, and his world unchallenged. It’s a tall order, and his tragedy is even though he does what his peers expect, they eventually decide he’s not strict enough and kick him out of his Shul. He did everything God commanded, and still fails. If we strive for perfection, we better have loose standards if we want to succeed.

For more information on Valencia Character Company, please visit http://valenciacc.edu/theater/

Defending the Caveman

Sunday, March 9th, 2008

Defending the Caveman
By Rob Becker
Starring Ben Tedder
Plaza Theatre, Orlando FL

I find women endless interesting and infinitely frustrating. They say the same thing about me, but I had no idea why they would burn my favorite underwear until I saw Rob Becker’s “Defending The Cave Man.” Beginning with a mix of Joseph Campbell and Alley Oop, alpha caveman Ben Tedder works to explain the cultural difference between men and women, relying on some very suspect but still entertaining theories of how men and women got along that ancient Serengeti. Becker educates with a warm, embracing style, repeating all his key points several times, and sounding like a really friendly Pentecostal preacher or on the of those Tony Robbins types that promise to help you forge yourself in to a better, more caring, and less-fun-to-go-drinking-with human.

So what’s the issue, battle of the sees-wise? I feel I can reveal a bit of the story; after all it’s the delivery and not the end point that makes a comic good. Men are single task focused. They hunt, kill, and then move on to something else. Thus, interrupting them during The Game to ask which pair of jeans makes your butt look fat is a BAD IDEA. Women go round collecting and gathering and searching for new bits of information, and bonding by complimenting each other constantly. Not complimenting them when they buy a new dress or get their hair done is a BAD IDEA; even if you have no idea they did something like that. So, guys, make random complementary remarks and you might be ok. Gals, we’re not ignoring you intentionally. It’s just our DNA, OK?
“Caveman” is a pleasant, non-confrontational show with lots of laughs and a PG rating for a few facts-of-life. I give Mr. Tedder fashion points for avoiding the Fred Flintstone drag on a set painted to look like faux granite. The show has some odd run times, as do other Plaza Theatre shows, so make real sure your Friday tickets don’t have a start time in the middle of the weekly sales meeting. If you bring your significant other, pay attention to when they laugh. That’s were you’re screwing up.

For more information of shows and show times for Defending the Caveman, please visit www.DefendingTheCaveman.comFor more information of the Plaza Theatre, please visit www.ThePlazaTheatre.com

VarieTEASE – Nightclubbing

Monday, March 3rd, 2008

VarieTEASE – Nightclubbing
Conceived and executed by Blue
BlueStar Productions at the Footlights Theater, Orlando, Fl

It’s more hot girl-on-girl lip-syncing action at one of Orlando’s least family-friendly entertainment complexes on South Orange Blossom Trail. VarieTEASE, an elaborate dance and decadence show that gets revamped every month or so take you a place just slightly weirder than what you might see wandering around outside the Footlights Theater bar and box office. Opening the festivity is “Willie” performing an uber-Joel Grey routine done to “You know How I Feel”, followed by a younger and sassier Wendy O. Williams impersonator played by a young lady known as “Spiky,” complete with Mohawk and black electrical tape pasties. This must be a non equity production – no one uses a real name anywhere on stage. Baby Blue herself comes out for a rendition of “Fuck Me Pumps” or a song with that chorus, and there’s a very nice performance of “Too Drunk” by “Lollie.” I’m taking some wild stabs here with names and song titles, there’s no program and the groups My Space page wasn’t a huge amount of help. If there’s a flaw, it’s the badly overdriven sound system, but the energy was right up there, the audience enthusiastic, and recently remolded Footlight Theater has lost some of that traditional “Marlborough Marinade” smell. It’s a short show, but that’s the old vaudeville advice – leave the audience begging for more.

For more information on the Footlights Theater, please visit

http://www.theparlimenthouse.com or http://www.Wanzie.com

For more information on VarieTEASE, please vist http://www.myspace.com/vtease

Biloxi Blues

Sunday, March 2nd, 2008

Biloxi Blues
By Neil Simon
Directed by Stephen Pugh
Starring Adam Delmedico, Joe Rochel, and Eddy Coppens
Theater Downtown, Orlando FL

Take any random 18 year old boy, give him a rifle and a hooker, and you’ve made him a man. Take any random 18 year Jewish kid and stick him the Deep South, and you’ve got a comedy. Success dims Neil Simon’s sensibilities in the eyes of some, but this semi-serious exploration the Army’s training methods and a young man coming of age is one of his finest works. Under the direction of Stephen Pugh (who played Epstein way back in ’01) just about every jokes comes across with full force, and every painful moment hurts the audiences much as it hurts the characters.

Eugene Morris Jerome (Delmedico) has 4 life goals – get laid, fall in love, become a writer, and not get shot, but that still doesn’t make him the protagonist. The central conflict in Biloxi Blues lies between Old Army Sgt Toomey (Rochel) and over-principled Arnold Epstein (Coppens.) Toomey is determined to make good solider out of the raw recruits, and does so by stripping them of individual personality and replacing it with the Army issued one of unquestioning loyalty. Epstein feels the world should be decent and companionate, and he wants to lead by example. This mainly keeps him on latrine duty for most of his training, and draws the ire of everyone around him.

Supporting the main action are a tribe of ethnically diverse good old boys – Wykowski (Matthew Davidson) plays the brutal Pole with a chip on his shoulder, Selridge (Marcus Carrasquillo, another ’02 alum) is the go-with-the-flow type, and Hennessey (Greg Nappo) the Black Irish loser. There are only two females drifting through this boy’s night out, but they knock off two plot points. Sarah Lockard play Rowena, the very sexy and accommodating prostitute who draws the line at army boots in bed, and Pamela Stone as Daisy Hannigan, the sweet southern girl that fulfills Eugene’s need for romance.

The concerns of this story are all human; the causes of the war, the holocaust, and military discipline are just the backdrop to the story, not forces to be challenged. The war is, the Army is, and life is. It’s the getting through that matters, and Jerome knocks off his goals one-two-three while mastering the art of the push up. It may seem pointless, but pushups are how we defeated the Nazis, and it’s how we’ll defeat the Taliban. Just don’t ask me why.

For more information, please visit http://www.theatredowntown.net