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Archikulture Digest

by Carl F Gauze

Archive for June, 2008

It’s A Guy Thing! – A Cabaret

Sunday, June 22nd, 2008

It’s A Guy Thing! – A Cabaret
Starring Patrick Brandt, Todd Allen Long, Mark Richard Taylor
Musical Direction by Chris Leavey
Winter Park Playhouse, Winter Park, FL

It’s a man’s world, at least tonight in the cozy confines of the Winter Park Playhouse. This loosely structured entertainment features three belting voices and a dozen or two songs that celebrate masculinity, but no so strongly that it offends your date. We’ve all heard that men are just for lifting heavy objects, squishing bugs, and have no idea what color Navy Blue looks like. Not much changes that viewpoint, but the opening medley of “Standing on the Corner” and “There Is Nothing Like a Dame” was loud enough to press your shirt. Guys can sing LOUD if they want. There’s more variety in this variety show than previous WPPH cabarets – some Country music lurks between the Sondheim and Mercer – “I’m Taking The Bar Exam” is a Honky Tonk classic, and there were a pair of Jimmy Buffet songs (“Margaritatville”, “A Pirate Looks at 40”) by Mr Taylor accompanied by guitarist Bill Schwartz.

Periodically the cast pulled slips of paper from a fried chicken bucket and read out Guy Rules. Conveniently, all guy rules are number one, so the girls can keep track of them. They’re basic stuff, like “Learn to work the toilet, we don’t complain when you leave the seat down” and “If you bring us a problem, we will give you a solution. If you want sympathy, call your girlfriend” and most important “Crying is Blackmail.”

There’s an open bar and you can hang out while they sing stuff from Monty Python and the Rat Pack, and there are just enough sports references to make you forget drama majors never get to play Varsity anything. Guy Thing is a date safe show with no malice or macho; its just superior singing by Long, Taylor, and Brandt supported by Musical Director Leavy’s vamping. Guys aren’t all bad, if you see this show one of the boys will call you Monday to see how you’re feeling.

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

Sonnets For An Old Century

Sunday, June 15th, 2008

Sonnets For An Old Century
By Jose Rivera
Directed by John DiDonna
Mad Cow Theatre, Orlando, FL

It’s not easy to find a thread through this disparate collection of monologs about urban life, but each of the individual stories are gems. The ensemble of tellers represents a slice of Los Angles inhabitants, some funny, some sad, and all talking about Life, however you define it. Michael Sapp performs two of the best – a dad and his son playing tourist and accidentally wearing some gang colors, and finding similarities been slaughtering live stock and a black man dealing with the LAPD. Jill Jones tells the story of choking on the brown air of LA until one night she saw the most fabulous sunset, and meets the love of her life who’s been living next door for the past 3 years. Ron McDuffie argues with God over his working class sins, and Trennel Mooring agonized over sending her child to a safe, caring mostly white private school or to exposing her to the full fury of the Angelino educational class struggle. Avis Marie Barnes played a Spanish woman who supported her loser husband while popping out 16 consecutive bambini, and Leander Suleiman tearfully described bullying and near rape in the school yard.

There’s little to tie these stories together other than location and a loose time frame. The dramaturgy notes explain author Rivera’s belief that writers ought to “Write outside their culture.” This worthy attitude clashes with the “It’s a Black Thing, you wouldn’t understand” view so often taken when whites write about minority cultures. If Mr. Rivera sets out to capture other’s worldviews, he’s done an admirable job, and if Mr. DiDonna strives to make us think outside of our condos, he also has excelled.

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

Assassins

Sunday, June 1st, 2008

Assassins
By Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman
Directed by Alan Bruun
Mad Cow Theatre, Orlando Fl

It’s hard to think of a less promising topic for a musical than interviews with people who not only didn’t like the president, but decided to take the law into their own hands. Even through the skilled writing of Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman, it’s a tough show to connect with despite the excellent direction and acting by the Mad Cow crew.

Kevin Kelly plays the pocked and convincing great granddaddy of American assassins, John Wilkes Booth. Of all the shooters, Booth presents at least a reasonable justification for his actions – vengeance for the humiliation the South had suffered at Lincoln’s hands. The Balladeer (Jacob Haines) proclaims Lincoln had some mixed reviews, but his untimely death vaulted him to the pantheon of the New World Gods overnight. Other early assassins such as Leon Czolgosz (Jay T. Becker) and Giuseppe Zangara (Eddy Coppens) leaned more toward the Anarchist Labor complaint of “Why haven’ I made it in America yet?” The modern post Kennedy killers seemed more wacked out with rationalizations ranging from a creepy John Hinckley’s hormone induced “This will impress Jody Foster” to Squeaky Fromm’s (Meggin Weaver) love for Charles Manson.

With difficult material, “Assasins”  gives the actors some challenges. Still, batty Sara Jane Moore (Kate O’Neil) stole the show with her “Go to the store, drop off the dry cleaning, shoot the president” planning. The flaming Charles Guituea (Jonathan Lange) and Sam Byck’s (Kurt von Schmittou) evil looking Santa added a necessary comic element to the proceedings. Kelly’s Booth and the Balladeer both get top marks for singing – their “Ballad of Booth” propelled the show into action and it never slowed until the moving “Another National Anthem” which reaches some ambiguous conclusions. The weirdest moment comes at the end, when the cast convinces Lee Harvey Oswald (Jesse LeNoir) to forgo suicide for a pop at a Kennedy. I’ve heard my share of conspiracy theories, but this was a new one.

For a musical, there’s minimal romance, a cast of barely likeable scoundrels, and more actual history than you might expect in an evening of theater, but it’s a show worth seeing. There’s more action than Godot, and you can almost hum “Everybody’s Got the Right” out into the lobby. I don’t recommend using a gun on an elected official, but November is coming up fast and I’m sure you can find SOMEone to vote against.

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