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Archikulture Digest

by Carl F Gauze

Archive for December, 2008

Cracker Barrel Old Country Chanukah

Wednesday, December 24th, 2008

Cracker Barrel Old Country Chanukah

(Not sponsored or affiliated with Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Inc. or CBRL Group)

Conceived by Brian Feldman

Orlando Jewish Theater at Cracker Barrel #260, Orlando FL


Art is where you find it, and you’ll find Chanukah where the Midori is. Maybe you call it that 8 pronged candle stick a “Menorah,” but the harassed shift manger of the Cracker Barrel thought differently and rather than burden him with facts he didn’t need, we just smiled. Cracker Barrel might seem an awkward place to celebrate one of the least significant holidays of the Jewish cannon, but the Orlando Jewish Theater (formerly the Feldman Dynamic) stepped up to the challenge. They spread out a Hanukkah table cloth, lit an iPhone “Midori”, and we all sat down to a trans-fat packed feast of catfish, poached eggs, and Skillet themed stir fry.

This was the second night of Chanukah, and the second visit to a Cracker Barrel for the Old Country Chanukah. The Feldman’s kept a low profile, rumor had it that the previous night had not gone well. There is a rule prohibiting unauthorized photography inside Country Themed gift shops in Orange County, and the Sheriffs were reportedly called. Fortunately, no guns were drawn.

Our meal met or exceeded all Interstate Highway dining standards, and while nothing on the menu was specifically Jewish the Chicken and Dumplings seem potentially kosher. I opted for the Country Boy breakfast, but passed on the bacon in deference to the spirit of the holiday. A discussion on the suitability of eating catfish arose – while catfish have scales at some point in their life, they lose them later and thus have been declared Tref. Someone ordered it anyway. It’s looked pretty yummy.

This Cracker Barrel seemed more relaxed about cameras; the waitress took a group shot and the manager let us take another outside. Down in the tourist district the attitude leans more toward “They must be from a distant country, with ways different from out own.” As the meal wound down and the topic of whose cell phone had more cool features petered out, we had a quick spin of the dreidl, ate our Gelt for dessert, and did a little shopping in the gift shop. I considered the “Cat In The Bag” gag gift and some of those cool holographic cardboard eye glasses that make every point of light a smiling snowman.

Was this art, or just a cheap way to knock off some year end holiday obligations? A little of both, and at this busy time of year, saving a few hours while communing with your multi cultural acquaintances is so much nicer than a drunken football game with your brother in law and his wacko politic. Mazel Tov!

To learn more about the Orlando Jewish Theater, please visit http://twitter.com/OrlandoJewish

It’s A Wonderful Life – A Live Radio Play

Sunday, December 14th, 2008

It’s A Wonderful Life – A Live Radio Play

By Joe Landry

Directed by Jim Howard

With Jim Howard, Richard Width, Ame Livingston, Larry Stallings, and Amy Terechenok

Orlando Theater Project at The Garden Theater in Winter Garden, FL

Ever since this chestnut escaped into the public domain, it’s become as big a part of our holiday tradition as sticky candy canes and peeing on Santa’s lap. Unlike that other staple seat filler, it’s not quite in danger of “Being Done To Death”, but it’s on that slippery slope. Until that inevitable disaster occurs we can quietly slip back to a 1940’s radio station where the cast of voices present the verbal version of the play, complete with sound effects and a very mild back stage drama.

Too-nice-to be true George Bailey (Width) struggles to keep his tiny Building and Loan afloat as the town meanie Mr. Potter (Howard) tries to take it over. When $8000 goes missing, George decides he’s worth more dead than alive through the miracle of Term Life Insurance. He’ll sacrifice himself instead of losing face and bothering the FDIC for the money. What a guy! Angel second class Clarence Odbody (Larry Stallings) get the job of saving George, and shows him how cheap and tawdry life in Bedford Falls might be, had George not been born.

I suspect real radio people didn’t dress as nicely as this cast, but the premise is entertaining – rather than blocking the show as if Bedford Falls was real, we see people scrambling to slam a door and then run to a microphone for a cue. Jim Howard sets the mood with his made for radio announcing style, while Larry Stalling does what he does best: project a nervous, uptight energy making Clarence seem like he might never get his promotion. Richard Width’s charm projects into his George, and as the only one character player, we never get to see him as two people arguing at once. The female roles were filled by Ame Livingston and Amy Terechenok, with Ms. Livingston in the clean cut roles like George’s uber nice wife Mary. Ms. Terechenok’s roles leant more toward the fallen woman roles, including Violet. Violet was George’s first girlfriend, and if he had never been on the scene, she’d be walking the streets.

Watching the radio actors is more interesting than watching the movie itself. We get a few silly ad breaks, a back story about a missing and presumed drunk sound effects guy, and a preshow that builds anticipation for the final count down to On Air. Ron Gravilla’s slightly claustrophobic set brings us into the radio studio, although there’s no way he could ever recapture that smell of warm electronics and cold cigarette butts.

With a nod and a wink we know that this is just a play and we should all relax. Sure, it’s crammed with subtext about banking reform and urban planning, but those subjects are just as timeless as love and death and what’s in that oddly shaped box under the tree. These radio actors feel more real than their on air characters, and after the show they’ll all retire to a bar across the street for a couple of double bourbons before they come back for their next shift. I haven’t seen this in ages: a holiday show that tastes fresh, and doesn’t leave that synthetic sweetener aftertaste.

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

For more information on The Garden Theatre in Winter garden, please visit http://wgtheater.org or http://www.myspace.com/gardentheatre

Godspell

Sunday, December 14th, 2008

Godspell

By John Michael Tebelak and Stephen Schwartz

Directed by Paul Castaneda

Starring Kevin Sigman and Wyatt Glover

G.O.A.T., Orlando, FL

It’s really hard to criticize a play co-written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, but what works as theology lacks a bit in the theatricality department. In this Sunday School lesson for the Attention Deficit Disordered, the singing outperforms the songs, the acting outperforms the script, and the Sinners become Saints without epiphany. We open with a Goth Metal dance party that makes you think “I’m going to need to call the cops, soon.” As the party gives the audience a frightening sense of worldly metal angst, John the Baptist (Glover) enters and gets the party calmed down with an apocalyptic version of his “You damned kids stay off my lawn” speech. The unhappy unsaved Goths quietly fall back as a very Sephardic Jesus (Sigman) takes the stage. It’s time for the bright, shiny and well behaved disciples act out the parables, sing some upbeat but unmemorable songs, and take the sort of gentle rebuke from Jesus that you might give your 3 year old if he grabs too many cookies. And our Goth friends, they come back one by one, very discretely, and hang out at the back of the ensemble as truly penitent sinners ought.

While the songs were sort of blah (“Day By Day charted” in the 70’s and sounded sort of familiar), the singing wasn’t. “Day By Day” felt like it could still have some pop mileage when sung by Corrine Mahoney and The Ensemble. “Turn Back, Oh Man” was a nice torch number from Erin Brenna my favorite female dancer, and “We Beseech You” with Emile Doles stood out. Other noteworthy voice came from Mr. Glover and Nicole Carson. The dancing varied wildly, but lithe Andrew Sybert kept every one on the same line, even if showed off more than once. Sigman’s Jesus projected an otherworldly “I’m just here for the party” feeling but lacked the pop star charisma needed to make the Disciples enthusiasm feel real. The Goths looked menacing enough, but I’d have liked Jesus to interact with them more as they converted.

Except for some loud music in the opening sequence, Godspell is completely family friendly and never pushes a boundary that would offend a fanatically Christian audience member. The message might, we see that Salvation isn’t just for the people with fish bumpers stickers – I.R.S. agents and downloaders have an equal chance if they want it. The large cast and minimal staging fill the GOAT space and compliment the exposed brick and wire atmosphere, and shows the company is adjusting nicely to its new space. While Godspell lack the toe tapping hits of its contemporary “Jesus Christ Superstar,” the show is enjoyable without getting preachy, and a great show case for some of Orlando’s lesser know but still noteworthy voices.

For more information, please visit http://www.goatgroup.com

2008 New Works Festival

Sunday, December 14th, 2008

2008 New Works Festival
Orlando GLBT Theatre Festival
At Mad Cow Theatre, Orlando, Fl

Another festival has appeared on Orlando’s burgeoning Theatre Festival calendar. This one goes by the name of the Orlando GLBT Theatre Festival, and focuses on the Gay, Lesbian, Bi and Trans Sexual life style. (Always define acronyms the first time they are used. It’s polite.) While this festival had some grand plans, the mechanical details have cut its scope severely; the 10 Minute New Works segment is pretty much all that appeared in the debut. But that alone justifies the project; John DiDonna pulled together an exciting program that drew an enthusiastic opening night audience for a staged reading of 7 new plays from all over the country.

Opening the roll call was Baby Summer (Ms. Michael Ramirez, directed by Margret Nolan). Bev (Heather Wilkie) and Champie (Tiffany Weagly) adopted an infant they found on the subway, and now it’s the kid’s 7th birthday. Bev wants to tell the child the bitter truth, and Champie leans toward creating a fantasy family tree for the child. The story is touching and obviously both parents love the child. There lies the problem, there’s really not much conflict, making the piece feel more like a vignette or small scene from a bigger story.

Quickly following we see Daniel(le) (Asher Wyndham, directed by Lester Malizia). This monolog has drag queen Danielle (Nicholas Wuerhmann) reflecting on a half century of dressing up, entertaining, and facing her mortality. It begins as a brilliant comedy and gradually transitions to a touching swan song as we find Daniel’s days are numbered. Weurhmann’s acting was superb, and I’d love to see this done as a full production.

The Boileroom (Bill Cosgriff, directed by Seth Kubersky) introduces us to chatty Craig (Kevin Kriegel) and taciturn Anthony (Michael Marinaccio) as they banter in a gay bar. Craig is a pro at this; Anthony has just popped over from Staten Island and is in need of a seminar on pickup etiquette as both navigate the mine field of convenient lies that indicate their relation may never sail smoothly. The characters are well drawn and funny, but the piece fades out with an indefinite ending. A tighter resolution or expansion to a full length seems reasonable, but either way, the audience agrees — Marinaccio has a cute hiney.

There’s a darker turn in Godfrey (Ian August, directed by John DiDonna). Godfrey (DiDonna) wakes up on a sidewalk after a competent butt kicking. He walked out of a bar in Greenwich Village, and wasn’t expecting anything like this. One of his lesser injuries is a missing tooth, but that’s enough to get some two bit help from Jessica Pawli. She might be wacko, but she gets Godfrey cleaned up enough to carry on. The premise is cute, but this isn’t a “ha-ha” comedy, after all someone got the shit kicked out of him.

We could use an intermission about now to visit that creepy guy in the men’s room that gives you hand soap and towels (am I the only person who finds men’s room attendants unsettling?) Instead, its time for Kids R Us (Josh Levine, Directed by Rob Ward). Mattie (Jimmy Moore) and Andrew (Blake Logan) are committed partners, but it’s a mixed relation – Andrew makes latkes and lights the menorah, Mattie wants a pine tree with twinkly lights. Mattie is the pushy one, he brings home an audio animatronic Suzy Doll (Gina DeRoma). Susy is a typical 5 year old, demanding and not completely open about potty time. Logan’s Andrew makes it pretty clear that he and bubbly Mattie still have a few issues. My opinion is NEVER have a kid to save a faltering relation.

Songs My Brother Sang (Myra Slotnick, directed by Laura Lipmann) brings us back to the AIDS quilt, a fabric document that attempts to capture the death toll of the past decades. Abby (Jessica Miano Kruel) visits to check up on her departed brother Peter, and a fastidious Docent (Ryan Dowd Urch) fusses about as she drinks, smokes, and spreads ashes of Peter’s favorite pet. Peter’s old buddy Marcus (Corey Volence) drops by before Abby breaks down in the arms of the Docent. Abby’s character never generates much sympathy, and even though she insults the Docent grievously, he’s still there for her.

Wrapping up the evening is a perfect Tim DeBaun story, This Functional family (Tait Moline, directed by Chad Lewis). It’s next Sunday, A.D., and Carson (Steve Johnson) is waiting for his prom date to pick him up. Father Vern (DeBaun) fusses about singing show tunes and offering advice while Uber Mom Wilma (Janine Klein) lectures about condoms and drugs and little sister Rachel (Kyla Swanberg) fumes about recycling. When Kelly (Chris McIntyre) shows up, the fuss reaches a crescendo and Carson does what all smart teens do in this situation – he bolts out the door. DeBaun’s apron is charming and the scenario bespeaks a more tolerant world, but the recycling lecture is unnecessary and the dated political references take this from Timeless to Out-Of-Date.

The Orlando GLBT Theatre Festival has some real potential and some enthusiastic worker bees. This group may take a year or two to find its groove, but it’s exactly the sort of thing that makes Orlando Theater exciting. They’ve got a Mission Statement and all that regalia, but I have high hopes they can overcome that vestige of 80’s management speak and become another New Playfest or Caberetfest.

For more information on the Orlando GLBT Theater festival, please visit

  • www.glbttheatrefest.com
  • Lost in the Blogosphere…

    Sunday, December 14th, 2008

    Lost in the Blogosphere…

    Someone just dropped me a note that a few of my reviews never appeared on this blog. I apologize, I THOUGHT I hit the “publish” button, but they didn’t make it. I’ll try to do better in ’09.

    CFG

    Oral

    Sunday, December 14th, 2008

    Oral
    By Hanna Klugman
    Kick the Puppy Productions
    Brown Venue

    Talking about sex is hard enough, but for some reason oral sex is tougher. Hanna Klugman pulled together a couple dozen interviews on the topic and hashed the results in to a very funny and entertaining free flowing piece on the how’s, why’s and etiquette of licking the naughty bits of others. With the ensemble nature of the show, it’s hard to assign any specific action to any actor, but I loved the discussion of how women pee and why there is so much plumbing crunched into such a small area. We discuss the pros and cons of swallowing vs. spitting, look into some fairly elaborate fantasies, and see the fall out of one of the most feared social disease – gonorrhea of the eye. Don’t ask. It creeps me out.

    While the show begins with a bit of a nervous air, by curtain we’ve tackled all the big issues and most of the small. The bottom line is Communicate, Experiment and Practice, and if you’re nervous about discussing the topic with your kids or parents, send em to this show – it’s the most fun sex-ed class you could ever have in public.

    This show is presented as part of the 17th Orlando International Fringe Theater Festival. Information on times, tickets, and venue location my be found at http://OrlandoFringe.org/

    Life is a Dream (La Vida es Sueno)

    Sunday, December 14th, 2008

    Life is a Dream (La Vida es Sueno)
    By Pedro Calderon de la Barca
    Directed by Alan Bruun
    Starring Stephen Lima, Leander Suleiman, and Elena Day
    Mad Cow Theater, Orlando FL

    I had this weird dream the other night – a troupe of martial arts trainees crawled out of the floor at IKEA and put on a play. There was a king, a monster, a romance, a battle, a little love and a good bit of treachery. What more could you want? Bobbie Bell played King Basilio, a wily man in fear eldest son Segismundo’s (Lima) horoscope. Believing makes it true, and while Segismundo is locked in a magic tower, Basilio makes deal with Astolfo (Jamie Cline) to marry his own first cousin Estrella (Michelle Krause). Meanwhile, Rosaura (Suleiman) enters the tower in disguise accompanied by comic Clarin (Day). She’s looking for Astolfo, desiring either marriage or murder as he left her at the altar back in Moscow. To justify his torture of Segismundo, Basilio drugs him, places him on the throne for one day and tells him this is just a dream. His short rule is brutal, but when a rebellion displaces Basilio, Segismundo returns and rules as if he’s really in dream, a place where only good must be done.

    I’ve never had a dream where anyone told me I was or wasn’t dreaming, but no matter, because plenty of good governance occurred tonight. This might be one of Stephen Lima’s best performances as the chained and backlit monster who finds redemption through the simple kindness of freedom of action and will. Bobbie Bell looks more and more kingly, and it’s always fun watching him in capitalist / monarchist roles. Ms. Krause was sultry if restrained, and I thought she paired up better with regal Mr Cline than the more mercurial Rosaura. Day’s Clarin was the comic, and looks like she studied well at the school of Red Skelton.

    Amanda Smith and Rebecca Hutchen’s set was particularly striking, looking like a carpeted cat run with white umbrellas raining down and serving as swords and other props as needed. The effect was as if an Elizabethan drama was done by an avant garde performance company in 1960, and by minimizing the clutter on stage, Segismundo’s curtain speech was magic. The Valentines Day opening connects well to both romance and battle, but there’s more here. “Life is a Dream” can takes us anywhere, just like a real dream.

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

    VarieTEASE: No. 24 The Doll Factory

    Sunday, December 14th, 2008

    VarieTEASE: No. 24 The Doll Factory
    Conceived and choreographed by Blue
    babyBlueStar Productions
    Orange Venue
    Orlando International Theater Fringe Festival, Orlando, FL

    In this VarieTEASE show, bits and pieces of dolls litter the stage along with complete and fully functional dancers. As the crowd filters in, stage hands place props and body parts on stage, occasionally parading around a shelf full of heads to make a point. As the lights fade and the preshow announcements are dispatched, the music rises and The Buyer (Nick Gray) descends the stairs form the back of the theater. As he examinees the wares, Willy the Dollmaker and his assistant Ben begin adjusting the girls, setting them into motion with glowing screwdrivers. As Robot Dog (Chris) ignores his guard duties to frolic with the dolls, Blue ventures out into the audience as an ambassador of doll land.

    It’s hard to fault a show featuring a chainsaw wielding dwarf attacking the audience, but “The Doll Factory” lacks the over the top spectacle of last years “Carnivale.” The music could be louder, and while there’s action all around the stage, the best dancing came form energetic Willy, particularly in the second half. This is a good, solid show with great production values, brilliant props, and non-stop action. The problem? We were spoiled last year.

    For more information on VarieTEASE, please visit myspace.com/VTease

    This show is presented as part of the 17th Orlando International Fringe Theater Festival. Information on times, tickets, and venue location my be found at http://www.orlandofringe.com/

    Robinson Crusoe: All Washed Up

    Sunday, December 14th, 2008

    Robinson Crusoe: All Washed Up
    By Fergus Rougier
    Green Venue, Orlando International Theater Fringe Festival, Orlando, FL

    We’ve all heard the story of Robinson Crusoe – he washes up on a deserted island with nothing but an accordion, and forges a new life in isolation with little more than his native wit. It’s years before the unfortunate Friday stumbles into his life, and by that point he’s torn between having a friend and servant, and having someone else to leave towels on the dirt floor. I don’t remember the part about the accordion, but it’s no more suspension of disbelief than a blue cloth can create the land and sea and terrain of this mysterious island. Mixing song and motion and storytelling, the angular Mr Rougier provides a pleasant and non challenging hour contemplating on what we are if stripped of the veneer and convenience of civilization and companionship. Is cannibalism OK as long as everyone else does it? Is the ocean more a psychological barrier to happiness than a physical one? And why does every telling of this story focus on Crusoe’s overblown attempt to build a canoe so heavy he can never get it into the ocean? Mysterious and inexplicable, Robinson Crusoe isn’t washed up so much as he’s forced to confront himself. What we see in him we should find in ourselves.

    This show is presented as part of the 17th Orlando International Fringe Theater Festival. Information on times, tickets, and venue location my be found at http://OrlandoFringe.org/

    MID-LIFE! The Crisis Musical

    Sunday, December 14th, 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