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Archikulture Digest

by Carl F Gauze

Archive for January, 2009


Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

PB&J Theatre Factory at The Garden Theatre, Winter Garden FL

You can say a lot without words, and “Snack” exploits slap stick and sight gags to make fun of food, love and life. The silence is filled with Mack Sennet style piano music as scraggly Brandon Roberts shuffles out of the darkness to his job at The Bracketing Device Café. Mike Koenig shuffles in with equal sloth until he puts on his Diner Boy Hat and pops into action, sweeping floors, taking orders and juggling chairs with Roberts in an OSHA approved manner. A steady stream of customers passes though until Diner Boy falls in love with a Distant Woman reading a book. He shuts down the shop just as hungry Business Guy Paul Braillard steps up for a snack. His stomach grumblings could be hunger but MIGHT be an enormous fart joke, and with the Diner on hold as Diner Boy chases Distant Woman, Business Guy heads to the airport. This open the door for PB&J to run thought 20 or so silent skits. Some are just silly, but a few stand out. The Airport Security Lock Down Skit and the No Food In Flight Dream Sequence were the best, although Jason Horne as a fly doing backstrokes in a soup bowl was nothing to sneeze at, either.

I haven’t been to a kiddie matinee in decades (maybe longer) but the audience for the show I saw was about 40% under 10 years old. I was dreading the chaos, but all the action stayed on stage as PB&J held the crowds dangerously short attention span. In a prop heavy show, there were numerous scene changes, but they all went seamlessly and while we were threatened with a banana peel slip they pulled that punch, and I may never actually seen a person slip on a skin in real life. After we ran all the way around the block, Diner Boy got a date with Distant Girl and Business Man finally got back to the diner and when presented with his sandwich, he was out of cash. A tense moment followed – would he get something to eat? The question hung in the balance until a kid in the front row yelled “Take It!” Problem solved. While this is no Death of A Salesman, it’s a fun, family friendly show that doesn’t require much thought. Take the kids and hammer a few glasses of wine back at the bar during intermission.

For more information on The Garden Theatre, please visit or

PB&J posted pictures and more information at


Sunday, January 25th, 2009

By David Davalos
Directed by Matt Pfeiffer
Starring Eric Hissom, Jim Helsinger, and Zack Robidas
Orlando Shakespeare Festival, Orlando FL

If there’s a poignant, unanswered question in the Bible, it’s Pilate’s dismissive “What is Truth?” Truth might be any number of things – if it only covers demonstrable facts, then only science and Logic can encompass it, and we define Faith out of existence. If, however, Truth is handed down from a Higher Power and not subject to human audit, then the use of logic and experiment only approximate truth with PowerPoint slides and cryptic mathematics. Yet, I have an internet connection and a telephone without wire. Clearly neither definition is quite right, and the entire argument fits into the gel cap of “Wittenberg.” Arguing for God is constipated and uptight Dr. Martin Luther (Hissom) and his battle against the corruption of a distant Pope Leo. The secular humanist in this bout is skeptical Dr. Faustus (Helsinger), a man prone to free thinking, free love and passing out mind altering substances like Coffee and Voltaire. The measure of these two poles is athletic Hamlet (Robidas). Unable to decide between the competing camps, he votes independent until greater forces than Truth remove him from philosophy and thrust him into Realpolitk. By the Davalos scale, debating Truth boils down to counting the angels break dancing in a microchip. .

Both Helsinger and Hissom took some serious haircuts to prepare for the show, but they whip out chemistry based on a decade of collaboration on various Orlando Shakes projects. They wink at us while winging tungsten tipped fighting stars at each other on stage. Guest actor Robidas provides the skeptical and obdurate outsider – he claims to seek knowledge, but when the mental sparring takes too much energy, a good game of Codpiece Tennis is more to his taste. This is clearly a Guy Show, but a female energy floats through the show via Sara Ireland. Barmaid, Courtesan, and Virgin Mary, she’s the modern feminine ideal: a strong, independent professional with her own income and birth control devices. You might fall in love with her until she shows up next to you in bed tomorrow morning.

Alternately sacred and profane, subtle and snarky, “Wittenberg” lectures, heckles, and makes you consider the beliefs you hate and question the ones you thought worth dying for. Some of the jokes are blunt and easy (how many takes on “To be or not…” can you write?), others dark and obscure enough to require a parochial education and an advanced degree in Semiotics. Author Davalos clearly did his home work, and he addresses the strengths and failing of both camps while enlighten us about “How the Lutherans Discovered Coffee”, “Why Does God Let Puppies Die?” and generally lecturing on the Practical Limits of Knowledge. You might worry about Sarbanes-Oxley or String Theory or Dark Matter, but if God created the heaven and the earth then Truth is the work of man, and it’s a work in progress. Try to do your part – fund a particle accelerator or edit a Wikipedia entry.

For more information on Orlando Shakespeare Theater and the Harriet Lake festival of New Plays, visit


Sunday, January 25th, 2009

Adapted by Sarah Ruhl
Directed by Denise Gillman
Starring Sarah Jane Fridlich, Tommy Keesling, Stephan Jones, Michael Kunter

Mad Cow Theatre, Orlando, FL

This version of the classic Greek Tragedy “Eurydice” recalls Japanese Anime – it has a great look, interesting characters, an involving story, but when it’s all over your left thinking “WTF, dude?” Eurydice (Fridlich) and Orpheus (Kunter) are madly in love, and on their wedding day she’s drawn away by The Nasty Interesting Man (Jones). He seduces with letter from her deceased father (Keesling), now a successful tycoon in the netherworld. Despite the Rules, Dad remembers his daughter and how to read and write, even though everything is forbidden, from pencils to private rooms to laughter and recognition of past acquaintance. If you forget to forget, the Chorus of Stones (Viet Nguyen, Michael Plummer, and Jenny Weaver) direct you the river Styx and its memory cleansing power. Bold Orpheus decides to rescue Eurydice, sings his way through the gates of Hell, and retrieves her with the proviso he not look at her until the reach the surface. You can guess the result; the Greeks don’t do Happily Ever After.

So what does all this mean? Hard to say, but on a subjective level, Stephen Jones stole the show as the suave seducer, the childish lord of the underworld apprentice, and the fully realized Satanic master of Eurydice’s fate. Fridlich and Kunter emitted some chemistry, although Kunter seemed a bit unsure of his hormonal state. Keesling did what he does best – carry the burden of the ultra nice guy who might, just might, slash up a day care center if he really felt like it. The Stone Chorus rolled more than you would expect, and while a bit chatty, they kept the ideas of “Keep to your self”, “Do what we say” , and “Don’t mind the moss.”

The big difference from the classic tragic mask is Eurydice’s tragic flaw. Unlike pride or ambition, she fails to disconnect with the dead while she’s still alive. Filial Love is admirable, but once Daddy checked out, She Needs to Move On, Find Closure, or Get It Out of Her System, depending on when you grew up. The siren of communication with the dead pulled her in and once faced with a critical decision, she lapsed and she did the one thing she never wanted – killing both men she loved.

For more information on Mad Cow, please visit

Smokey Joe’s Café

Saturday, January 24th, 2009

Smokey Joe’s Café
By Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller
Directed and Choreographed by Brian T. Vernon
UCF Conservatory Theatre, Orlando FL

Way back when, the music industry discovered the Cute Boy Band and Sexy Girl Group models, and they never abandoned it. Locked in a backroom were dynamic writers like Leiber and Stoller, pumping out hit material just like Exxon ships Super Unleaded across America. They wrote an unending string of hits and near hits for Elvis, Peggy Lee, The Coaster and every other period group you see on late night TV CD ads.

Smokey Joe’s pulls out forty of these chestnuts for a blow out revue by a dozen of this year’s top UCF student singers and dancers. There’s no story here, but the material is grouped thematically with the conclusion of one song signaling the beginning of the next. “Fools Fall in Love” (Pascha Weaver) is bracket by two songs about fools falling in love (“Love Me Don’t”, “Poison Ivy”). The slightly depressing down on your luck “On Broadway” introduces the alcoholic (Terry Alfaro) who stars as “D. W. Washburn” and leads into the first act wrapper, a big street corner gospel number called “Saved.” The whole company jumps on poor old D. W., yanking him out of a comfy addiction and pumping some Jesus juice into him. It’s redemption by pop music.

When there’s no direct connectivity, Kerri Alexander appears in a tight red dress and boa that looks like a giant wooly bear caterpillar and sings some torch songs like “Don Juan” or “Fools Fall In Love”. Most of these numbers were very successful, only Alfaro seemed to get out of control with some of the higher registers in “I (Who Have Nothing)”. A. C. Sanford stole the show with his high stepping dancing-on-one-leg minstrel style, even if only got to sing the humiliating “You’re the Boss.” Vernon’s choreography was clever and energetic, and it challenged the casts dancing skills. No one ever missed a move, but they weren’t a tightly synced as we remember the Supremes and the Ronnettes.

The blue eyed soul sound of half a century ago has found it’s equilibrium in the canons of classical music. Part pop, part show tune, and part the melodic basis for an orchestral ensemble, Leiber and Stoller deserve that rarified adjective – “Timeless”.

For more information on UCF Conservatory Theatre, visit

Almost, Maine

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

Almost, Maine
By John Cariani
A Staged Reading by Orlando Theatre Project
Presented at Mad Cow Theatre, Orlando, FL

If there was a perfect 10 minute play festival, this might be it. Author Cariani present eight shorts, each a bittersweet tale of love punctuated by a brilliant moment of theatricality. The shows flow from a noteworthy ensemble cast – rubbery Eric Pinder, plaintive Darby Ballard, suave Ryan Gigliotti, and sexy Ame Livingston all mix and match to point out the absurd and unobserved facets of romance gone good and romance gone bad. Conveniently, the town of Almost is that one odd corner of Aroostook County that lacks any sort of Down East accent, making it portable and comprehensible to the even the most suthentic southerner.

In “Her Heart” Ballard is a hiker camping on Pindar’s front yard. She needs to see the Northern Lights to get some closure on her ex, and fortunately for her Pindar is the sort of repairman that can tackle broken hearts. Later Pinder couples with Livingston in “Seeing The Thing”. They’ve been snowmobiling together for more than a few months, and he’s painted a picture for her. She’s can’t identify the pointillist subject, her years of working in the plywood mill have blunted her feelings gland. The stage direction was hilarious, although the layers and layers of snowmobiling gear called for make this an unlikely production this far south. Another fun segment is “Where it Went.” Pinder and Livingston are out ice-skating and pretending to enjoy the activity, even though there’s a Vesuvius of bad relations under their skating gear. Things go from scrabbling to stabbing when her missing shoe reappears, dropping out of the sky like her realization things are probably over. There are some subtle link in these vignettes, ones you might not even notice until the day after.

“Almost, Maine” never makes fun of the rurals who live in a place where “Range 17, Township 4” is a valid street address. By avoiding the trap of attempting authentic accents that shift every few miles, we see these as stories that really are out of time and place. The occasional “wicked” (translation – very, extreme, superlative) and a smattering of “Jeez’m Crow” (translation – I find that hard to believe, Oy Vey, WTF over?) keeps one foot in the country without stepping in anything, and the jobs and the bar they inhabit keep expectations low. This is a wonderful piece of writing, and a cleverly stage read. It’s better than a blueberry lobster roll covered in maple syrup.

For more information on Orlando Theater Project, please visit

For more information on Mad Cow, please visit

The New Century

Monday, January 5th, 2009

The New Century
By Paul Rudnick
Directed by David Lee
Starring Elizabeth T Murff, Frank McClain, Anitra Pritchard
Footlights Theatre, Orlando, FL

There’s a laugh a minute in this gay-enabled comedy by Paul Rudnick. We open with Helene Nadler (Murff) and her self one-upmanship about an increasingly gay set of children. She’s way beyond the simple misaligned sexual connections, there’s a transsexual lesbian son (“Isn’t that taking the long way around?”) and every Jewish Mother’s dream – a doctor who’s also a sex slave – “You WILL kiss your Aunt Sophie.” A poop fetish lurks in her life as well, but she assures us she’s a saint and the gol-durndest most accepting mother in Long Island history, Jewish or Goy. Act Two reintroduces us to Mr. Charles (McClain), the Gayest Man on Earth. His glance is enough to make a straight man gay, but his industrial strength hair piece distracts your gaze just enough to block the necessary eye contact. McClain appeared in the same roll in the Fringe a few years ago, and while this is the same script, it’s every bit as funny as the original and worth seeing again. His ward Shane (Brock Yurich) isn’t bright, but you can dress him up like Robin, and that’s good for a Cable access show at 4 a.m. The third act revolves around a Midwestern mom and scrap booker, Ellen Diggs (Anitra Pritchard). She nails the classic Nice Aunt Look and the sight of a knitted pink poodle toilet paper cozy brings back creepy memories of Wisconsin in the ’70s. Crafting is only a crutch, the glitter and pinking shears hides her shame at her son’s lifestyle. Her life shattered when he died of AIDS, and the climax gives an unusually emotional moment for the Footlight stage.

There lies the problem in this otherwise comic – after the trip from suburban leather boys and the Palm Beach gay gulag to Pritchard’s stellar and touching performance, the show drifts back to its campy comedy which now feels forced. The loose ends could have been left lying on stage, or the climax put nearer the end. It’s tough to blend the camp and the crying, although the humor is a perfect anecdote to last year’s parade of dark dramas. In the hands of director David Lee, we find that a silly sex comedy can still make you cry.

For more information on the Footlights Theater, please visit or

Life is a Dream (La Vida es Sueno)

Monday, January 5th, 2009

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