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Archikulture Digest

by Carl F Gauze

Archive for November, 2008

Molly Sweeney

Monday, November 24th, 2008

Molly Sweeney
By Brian Friel
Directed by Alan Bruun
Mad Cow Theatre, Orlando, FL

Jesus casually brought eyesight to the blind, but He never stuck around to help with the post operative depression. We spend our entire childhood learning to see and hear, and a sensory skill granted late in life can devastate. Molly Sweeney (Katrina Ploof) was happy enough in her own dark worlds of sensation and no idea a glimpse could reveal what she took months to understand. We join her in a dark room. The lights rise reluctantly as a grudging concession to the sighted. Molly only knows the world one touch at a time – A cat is just fur and a tail and some soft feet. Her concept is radically different form ours, and that flavors her thought process and sense of self. Relentlessly self-improving dreamer Frank Sweeney (Sam Hazell) marries her as a project, and drags her from darkness into light. He’s always up for a challenge, whether raising Iranian goats in the Irish Sea, feeding the starving Ethiopians in the horn of Africa, or moving grumpy badgers form an oncoming irrigation project. Dr. Rice (Mark Ferrera) will accept a challenge as well, but he’s more desperate. His rising star in the ophthalmological sky crashed when his wife left him and he took to drink, and he’s in need of some professional salvation. Everyone wants Molly to see, but it’s a risky operation and the thought “What’s she got to lose?” get explained in detail during the second act.

There’s more than one way to read this trilogy of monologues. You can take it as a woman trapped in the darkness longing for a world she’s only heard of, or a metaphor for Ireland and the well intentioned meddling that keeps it torn apart, or as a level headed woman who flew too close the sun and melted her wings. There’s enough layering here to prove the Pythagorean Theorem, if you want to. Ploof’s diminutive build and practiced enthusiasm make her the lovable aunt you never had, and Hazell support lasts for the entire medical operation but fades when Molly ceases to hold his interest. Ferrera was an excellent hard drinking eye surgeon. He gets through half a bottle of generic Irish whiskey, and seemed way to jittery to operate. Still, his operation was technically successful although the patient’s soul died.

Pour a drink in an Irishman, and he’ll talk your arm off. All this layering of meaning and Navel Gazing began well enough, but once the end point was obvious, there was still a good twenty minutes of wrap-up. With a semi dark room and a glass of wine, it felt like the show could use a bit of an edit

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

An Inspector Calls

Sunday, November 23rd, 2008

An Inspector Calls
By J.B. Priestly
Directed by Rob Anderson
Starring Mark Edward Smith, Kate Singleton, Keith Kirkwood, Sara Jane Fridlich
Mad Cow Theater, Orlando, FL

Port for the exposition, Whisky for the complication, and Bile for the denouement – that’s the idea Edwardian drama. The Birling family is in a fine fettle this pre-war evening – lord of the household Arthur (Smith) sees ever-rising profits and a possible knighthood for his efforts to thwart a Bolshevik revolt down at The Works. Gerald Croft (Michael Kutner), son of his biggest competitor, just popped the question to lovely daughter Sheila (Fridlich) and his wife Sybil (Singleton) couldn’t be happier. Even his squiffy son Eric (David Knoell) is happy – all the decanters a filled to the brim. What could be nicer, except perhaps an unexpected visitor? Maid Edna (Samantha O’Hare) read few lines beyond “Someone’s at the door”, but she clears the empties and introduces The Inspector (Kirkwood), a creepy and smarmy interloper who wretches horrid confessions out of everyone for crimes they weren’t even aware they committed. He makes Jerry Springer look like a rank amateur.

Kirkwood’s Inspector seems capable of extracting the sort of confessions mom could have gotten when you were four. He says little, but when he speaks he has an uncanny authority that even self- righteous Mark Smith can’t repel. He and Singleton’s Sybil seem cut from the same bolt, both confess everything and immediate rationalize any guilt away. I can’t say I disagree with them, the slights they made to the less fortunate only show shallow self interest, not criminal culpability. Only Kutner seems willing to accept responsibility, and then he shoulders much more than what the law requires. This private trial aims to skewer the wealthy and make them feel bad about themselves as they sit in their theatre box. I sort of miss the Miranda rights ritual of the made-for-TV movie, but murder mystery detectives always operate with extraordinary rights granted to them by their authors to further the story.

Despite the statistically improbable coincidences and The Inspector’s lecture on social justice, this almost-a-murder-mystery is reasonably entertaining. The set smells like an antique shop, and the feeling of a claustrophobic and insular Edwardian drawing room flows out into the audience and leaves us with the morally uplifting message we need: The well to do and respectable are sinners just as evil as any purse snatcher or pick pocket. That’s the blunt punch line, but another one lurks below the easy surface – it’s not just your sins that trip you up. Random coincidence is just as tricky.


Marisol

Sunday, November 23rd, 2008

Marisol
By Jose Rivera
Directed by Julia Listengarten
Starring Regina Gonzales, Kelli Sleigh, Mason Criswell, Rachel Davis
UCF Conservatory Theatre, Orlando FL

As the economy crumbles and disasters loom on every front, the theater of romantic comedy is replaced by dark, brooding absurdism with growing body counts and excessive use of fog machines. Not content with Titus Andronicus body counts, Jose Rivera provides us with multiple demises of the same players. An apocalyptic set by Mitch Orben looms over looms over the life of Marisol (Gonzales). Her middle class employment and professional dress doesn’t preserver her from the war zone of Brooklyn and a hellish subway ride home. Her guardian angel went off to join a cosmic war, the moon has disappeared, and when a psycho on the B train beats her to death with a golf club, she has to come in late for work the next day. Big haired coworker June (Sleigh) invites her over to her apartment for coffee and maybe a permanent residence, but June’s psycho artist brother Lenny (Criswell) beats June to death with the same 5 iron, only to get a brain divot himself a few pages later. Bad as these sounds, Marisol’s lot decays even further in the after life. Hell is supposed to be bad, but homelessness behind the pearly gates is no treat either.

Gonzales’s Marisol seems curiously un-Hispanic given the epitaphs tossed her way, but perhaps her ethnicity is just an arbitrary character assignment. It’s not like the universe is just picking on one minority in this world with no escape, no one can find more than a moment or two. Nothing she wants is within her grasp, not even a quite place to sleep. June is nice enough but has her brother on a leash she barely controls. That’s where the casting is odd; Criswell’s Lenny seems too nice to be the psychotic, unlike the truly scary Man With a Golf Club (Michael Cox).

The staging almost saves this brutal story – Marisol’s heaven is filled with mysterious squirming bodies under a while sheet that form furniture and dissolve the dreams of her post mortem nightmare. The angel that ought to be taking care of Marisol looks like a cross between a national Guardsman in Iraq and a biker at Sturgis, and while this angle can kick Satanic butt she seems unqualified to salve a bruised knee or a broken date. The subtext here points out disaster is bigger than any of us, and like soldiers, our obligation tonight is death for a bigger cause, one that never will be explained. It’s a bruised and bloody audience that staggers out of this brutal work, and we’re not sure what we did to deserve the beating.

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

Ten Years As a Bit Stained Wretch

Monday, November 17th, 2008

Ten Years As a Bit Stained Wretch

Ten years ago today, I wrote a 350 word review of the movie “Orgasmo.” Ink19 needed a film critic to cover the Enzian in Maitland, and I was the only person who submitted a review out of the dozen or so comers. It was a small thing at the time, but it steered me in directions I had never considered – writing about and making film, theatre, and even getting paid to do it. (note – all Ink19 staff are volunteers, but it’s a resume builder.)

Back in that benighted 1990’s, Ink19 came on real paper and you found it in bars or used record shops or wherever people with poor social skills hung out. Did I have qualifications? Maybe – for two years I counted breasts and dead bodies in C-Grade movies for Joe Bob Briggs, the Drive In Film critic from Grapevine Texas. That job didn’t pay either, but if you’re looking to get rich in this business, start out with a day job and access to a printer and build from there. Since then I’ve commented on over 700 plays, 250 films, more awful CD’s than you can shake a stick at, and even a wedding. Some where along the way I figured out how to write a play and get it produced, and even made a short film that played at the Enzian. Once, but it WAS on screen and there WAS an audince.

It’s been fun, and I want to apologize for every misspelled name, every wrongly attributed character, and every record I panned. Thanks to everyone who comped me in, invited me to a party, laughed at my jokes, and thanked me for a bad review. I know the amount of labor, creativity, and heartbreak that goes into putting on a play, making a film, writing a book, or recording a CD, and hope you all get filthy rich, give a pompous acceptance speech at an un-watched awards ceremony, and don’t have to stay in rehab any longer than a court orders.

Thanks all the people who encouraged me, tolerated me, and gave tactful advice or dressed me down in public – Ian Koss, Beth Marshall, Christian Kelty, Eric Hissom, Tod Kimbro, Gale, Seth Kubersky, Steve Schnieder, David Lee, John Blum, Terry Olson, and countless others.

Back to work. I can’t just rest on your laurels.

Hair, The Musical

Sunday, November 16th, 2008

Hair, The Musical
Book and Lyric by James Rado and Gerome Ragni
Music by Galt MacDermot
Directed by John DiDonna
Starring Corey Volence and Nathan Bartman
Seminole Community College, Lake Mary, FL

“Hair” is exactly what the 60’s were like, if you ignore the bad drugs, social diseases, and general lack of personal hygiene. A tribe of the young and restless flock to Greenwich Village and orbit around the magnetic Berger (Volence). They reject the bourgeoisie capitalist values of their parents, unless they need a few bucks to get a joint or some hummus. As with most non-conformists, they dress and act pretty similar, and as the show begins they emphasis their hip social conscience by rattling off their favorite drugs (“Hashish” sung by the Ensemble), sex positions (“Sodomy” sung by Woof / Fredy Ruiz) and pollutants (“Air” sung by Jeanie / Chelsea Adams) We meet little lost Claude (Bartman) who pretends he’s British (“Manchester, England”) but really snuck out of mom’s place in Flushing. He agonizes over burning his draft card – he prefers not to be shot, but he’s not really a revolutionary and just wants to party. If he stayed in High School he’d still have his deferment, but now that’s too late. A farewell joint from Berger leads to a long hallucinatory sequence about war and patriotism. Claude makes a tough call; his other option is hanging with Berger and his friends and living under a bridge.

“Hair” is possibly the best show I’ve seen at SCC. Director DiDonna pushes the cast out into the audience and uses the theater’s 70’s vintage brick work and staircases to great effect. The nudity of the original gets pulled under the community standards requirement, but Volence runs around for most of the first act in a fringed leather jock strap showing his commitment to natural hair. With a cast of thirty on stage, not everyone gets a Big Number, but Michelle Rogers “Good Moring Starshine”, Michael Sapp’s “Colored Spade”, and Jolie Hart’s “Frank Mills” were standouts, and of course the ensemble keynote “Hair” shook the house. Acting was excellent all around, and Chelsea Adams as Claude’s pregnant semi girlfriend made Bateman’s role snap to attention.

Backing up the acting was a live band of suitably hairy musicians and technicians. The tie-dyed stage tilted forward to showcase Casey Saxon’s choreography. Todd Kimbro provided vocal coaching, and there were genuine Floaty Special Effects on a back stage screen. The same screen opened the show by counting us back 40 year with a series of still ranging from Obama to Princess Di to Nixon, then brought us back to today with a reverse sequence. With an audience full of aging hippies and a crowd of youngsters who don’t see why telephones have to have wires, this really was a Be-In of Peace, Love and Understanding. The Age of Aquarius didn’t work out the first time, but tonight it seemed almost possible it COULD happen. But don’t get your hopes up…

For more information on the Seminole Community College Theater program, please visit http://www.scc-fl.edu/arts/theatre/

Hooray For Hollywood!

Sunday, November 16th, 2008

Hooray For Hollywood!
With Heather Alexander, Krista Leona Anderson, and Jeff Clark
Musical direction by Kyle Mattingly
Winter Park Playhouse, Winter Park FL

If you’re a guy, sit on the aisle. Eventually Heather Alexander will sit in your lap and mess with your comb-over. While we waited for her trade mark “Slutty Number,” the WPPH singers ran through some of the great song from the American Film Institute Top 100 movies of the 20th century. That’s a huge fount of raw material and cutting the list down to a 2 hour program was the toughest part of their job. They chose some easy ones like “Moon River” from Breakfast at Tiffany’s and “As Time Goes By” from Casablanca, and some relative obscurities like “When She Loved Me” from Toy Story 2 and “Make ‘Em Laugh” from Singing In The Rain. There was even a piano number from Forrest Gump, and with no vocals, the cast had time to throw feathers on Mr. Mattingly as he played.

The first act had the trio out there in matching blue tops and pants, and they got Jeff Clark in a dress briefly for “Que Sera” and “Buttons and Bows”. A little camp is OK, but we were quickly back to the serious singing, including a rarely heard full version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” by Ms. Alexander. There’s an introduction for the song that was cut for the film, and the abbreviated version itself was nearly cut as well. Judy Garland only sang it once on the Luella Parson’s radio show.

The second act found the singers a bit more eclectically dressed, and opened with the WPPH mantra “The bar is open, and the more you drink the better we sound.” Someone took them seriously, there was a bit of good natured heckling and a manual response from the stage. A long set of Burt Bacharach followed, including an Oscar wining number from an X rated movie – Midnight Cowboy’s “Everybody’s Talking at Me”. There WAS a narrow slice of time between the end of the Hayes code and the refusal of papers to advertise X films where that rating meant edgy cinema and not just enormous genitals. The show was packed with fun facts like this, and that helps make this more than just a bunch of singing heads. WPPH is looking for larger quarters, and it’s about time. They sell out regularly, and you need to buy early to get in on their brand of fluffy fun.

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

The Pillowman

Tuesday, November 11th, 2008

The Pillowman
By Martin McDonagh
Directed by Kevin G. Becker
Hubris Theatre Company
Lowndes Shakespeare Center, Orlando, FL

Totalitarianism isn’t for the squeamish. Katurian (Josh Geoghagen) writes creepy children’s stories and get hauled in for a thorough beating by good cop Tupolski (Tommy Keeling) and bad cop Ariel (Stephen Lima). The charge is unclear, and while his macabre stories might hold some subtle political message this arrest appears as a standard “Shake Down the Intellectual Troublemakers” exercise. Katurian’s retarded brother Michal (John Bateman) is in the next cell, and when it looks like Michal might get even worse treatment, Katurian stand up for his rights and get the crap hammered out of him. Thrown in the same cell, they revisit their past and we discover the terrible reason they are both in the jail house.

In this violent and deeply disturbing drama, no one is really innocent, but everyone acts to within an inch of their live. Stephen Lima intimidates the audience as well as Katurian with an angry edge that never wavered. Tommy Keeling, who mostly plays nice guys on stage, became nearly as frightening, although his brand of torture tended to the intellectual. Mr. Geoghagen seemed almost too nice to be in trouble, but as Katurian he seemed to sense trouble and did his best to talk his way out. Most impressive, however, was John Bateman’s portray of weak minded Michal. He captured the innocence and misplaced humor of his character, and the chemistry between the two brothers almost made up for the horror of the Ariel/Tupolski method of interrogation.

The extravagantly expressionistic set by Tommy Mangieri recalls the nightmarish claustrophobia of “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari”. While the violence on stage made half the already meager audience flee at intermission, those who remained saw the story step back from physical abuse to emphasize the high stakes mind games brought on by life times of hiding the truth from oneself. Hubris Theatre opens with a strong, gripping drama, and I look for this company to give Empty Spaces some serious artistic competition. Bring a strong stomach and a closed mind, you’ll need them.

Please visit http://www.myspace.com/hubristheatrecompanyfor more information on Hubris Theatre

Schmick-ed

Monday, November 10th, 2008

Schmick-ed
By Matthew Arter
The Twisted Sisters Comedy Hour
Footlights Theater, Orlando, Fl

A really good parody should be funny, even for those who missed the original subject matter. This take off of the smash Broadway hit heads in that direction, but falls back to what Footlights Theater does best – putting guys in dresses and camping it up. The Broadway smash hit “Wicked” gives a back story to the “Wizard of Oz” witches and writer Matt Arter does of good job of thumb nailing the complex story down to 50 minutes. We move from mystical Oz to the fussier precinct of the Schnoz Retirement Community in the kosher section of Boca. Elphaba Greenblatt (Sam Singhaus as Miss Sammy) suffers from the worst name ever given to a dramatic character, and has just moved in with stuck up Galinda Goldman (Matthew Arter as Carol Lee). Elphaba meets a new boyfreind, and Galinda is as jealous as can be. We get the dirt on the tension via Tessie Rose (Rich Kuntz as Gidget Galore) collector of dolls and local gossip. Everyone trusts her because of her wheel chair, but she’s not really handicapped, she just does it for the better parking space.

All this frivolity is just a framework for the half a dozen song parodies. Arter chose wisely, his re-writes are funny and just the right length to keep this show zipping along at 55 minutes. There are easy targets like (My Thighs Are) Defying Gravity, subtle title shifts – “Popular” becomes “Fabulous”, and a gratuitous addition of a few bars of Hava Nigela. The music suffers from some serious microphones problems that tore up some of the later songs. Schmick-ed entertains if your expectations are calibrated to drag musical performances, and they got a wicked ovation from the opening night crowd. If you’re looking for men in dresses singing show tunes, this is right on key.

For more information on the Footlights Theater, please visit http://www.theparlimenthouse.com or http://www.Wanzie.com

Voci

Monday, November 10th, 2008

Voci
The Garden Theatre
Winter Garden, FL

I’m always surprised when Modern Dance appears in the wilds of West Orange County. It seems more at home in urban lofts and rough and tumble storefronts, but a large and appreciative audience turned out for this collection of 8 numbers. “Behind Raggedy Ann’s Smile” opens the soirée (Choreographed by Tara Lee Burns). This Voci Favorite plays dress up with 3 dolls who furiously remove and replace their skits and bloomers as they search for the perfect balance of sultry charm and aloof feminism. This perennial is a good marker for what Voci expects of its audience – tonight the dancers all wore multiple layers of clothing, not so much to ward off the fall chill but to prevent any whisper of impropriety.

Things became a little more high tech for “Flow: Thoughts from the Right Lobe” (Choreography by Adrienne Nichols) A overhead camera projected her motions on a back screen, giving us three dancers for the price of one – we see Ms. Rose’s motion on stage, her shadow lagging by about 10 nanoseconds, and the screen with a few seconds of web cam delay. If you miss something but are quick, you’ll just catch it on the back screen. Oddly, a rather long dead spot followed this dance, leaving us to wonder if something bad had happened backstage. The program was little help; it merely says “-pause-“, not “- really long and uncomfortable pause-“.

Three more routines followed before the regular intermission and the second half of the evening’s entertainment, including work by Cheryl Man, Ellie Potts Barrett, Lucas Crandall and Genevieve Bernard. Another projection-based piece opened the second act. “Black White and Silent”(Choreographed and performed by Ms. Burns) used silent film images and long gone stars of yesteryear as a backdrop for the dance which adding a Lost-In-Time” feel to the movement. Following was the enigmatic “Parcht” (Choreography by Ellie Potts Barrett). While it’s often hard to assign meaning to all dance, the muted orange and brown costumes made me think: “Fall. They are dancing to fall.” Blunt, perhaps, but subtlety isn’t always essential for good art. Despite the odd dead spot in the first act, Voci entertained and took us in some new directions, and the star spangles ceiling of the garden Theater set their work in an elegant and dreamy space.

For more information of Voci Dance, visit http://www.vocidance.org

For more information on The Garden Theatre in Winter garden, please visit http://wgtheater.org

The Last Five Years

Sunday, November 2nd, 2008

The Last Five Years
By Jason Robert Brown
Directed by Dan Roche
Starring Jack Noseworthy and Melissa Minyard
Gramercy theatre, Orlando FL

We’ve hear the story so many times before – Young Jamie (Noteworthy) meets Cathy (Minyard) as he stands on the brink of success, they fall madly in love and marry whereupon he immediate meets a flock of large breasted Blonde Floozies, and boy, is Cathy annoyed. Ok, I made up the blonde part, but this is a two person cabaret and the emphasis is on music and singing and not staging. It’s a nice change up for the Orlando Cabaret scene with its late (10 pm) start; you now get a better feeling of actually staying out late on a school night.

If your not familiar with “The Last Five Years”, Jason Brown tells a Neil Simon-esque romance with Jamie’s story begging at the “I’m so horny ANYONE will do” phase and Cathy’s ending with “I’m stuck in rural Ohio Summer Stock and WHERE is your emotional support?” Like all good sexual battles, its fertile ground for great music like “In The Next Ten Minutes,” “Summer in Ohio” and even the oddly prophetic “The Schmuel Song.” Both Minyard and Noseworthy have great control and depth, and the only audio complaint I have is the volume was set to 11, clipping these two voices and making the singing a bit harsh. Musical director John DeHaas spent most of the show concealed behind an upright piano, but Cellist Paul Leiner sat up stage and seemed bored when he wasn’t bowing. You can’t have Cabaret without booze, and even though the bar is waaaay out in the far reaches of the Plaza’s cavernous lobby, they pour their drinks stiff and you can bring them inside. All we needed was to fire up that Little Shop of Horrors smoke machine to replicate the long-forgotten smell of stale Pall Malls. There is hope for Orlando night life; a few more events like this and we won’t have to knock off 7-11’s for fun after midnight anymore.

For more information on events at the Plaza Theater and by Gramercy Theatre, please visit http://www.theplazatheatre.com