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Archikulture Digest

by Carl F Gauze

Archive for April, 2009

What I Did For Love – The Musical

Sunday, April 26th, 2009

What I Did For Love – The Musical
Created by Dorothy Marcic
Directed by John DiDonna
It’s No Mystery Series at Sleuths’ Dinner Theatre, Orlando Florida

Back when pop music was all about falling in and out of love, Phil Spector and the Brill Building sound filled the airwaves with a candy colored customized view of ready love and quick if painful breakups. I suspect the topics haven’t changed all that much in the past 50 years, but the narrow bandwidth A. M. radio sound has – today’s arrangements are much louder and busier and harder to hum along with. Writer Dorothy Marcic creates a well structured mash up of the genre, never singing more than a bar or two of any song but capturing the sound and feel of a time we wee all younger, and perhaps not even born yet.

The singers are archetypes – on the female side there’s The Girl Who Can Have Anyone (Sarah-Lee Dobbs as Desiree Sue), The Girl Looking For Mr. Right (Melissa Mason as Hope) and The Girl Who’s Not Sure There IS A Mr. Right (Elizabeth Dean as Goldie). The guys divide out as the Tough Guy (Joel Warren as Buster), The Smooth Player (Rusty Smith as Bill) and the Sad Little Geek (Ian Admonson as Yale.) It’s impossible to assign song titles to any of the performances, in this fluid and dynamic show everything is a duet or a trio or an ensemble that blends one song into the next. The cast dances through some of the numbers, with the choreography (Casey Saxon) carefully dodging the patrons tables and tightly spaced chairs. The only issue with the staging is the audience area isn’t well lit and the performance can get lost in the darkness in the back of the room. And if your at a front table in the Sleuths’ dining room, expect to do some frequent head turning, and please stay seated as to not be bowled over by “Where did Our Love Go?” or “She’s Not There.” It’s interactive, even if that’s not the selling point.

Unlike some early “It’s No Mystery” performances, you get dinner with this show, and while the menu is a bit limited, the food is quite good. The show stops to allow you to eat, so you’ll be out late with the 8:30 starting time and the desert tray. Fortunately, it doesn’t feel long and never drags with the song excerpts limited to fair use length. It’s what Love has come to today – nostalgic romance coupled with a 21st century attention span. All that’s missing is someone to Twitter about it.

For more information on Sleuth’s Mystery Dinner Shows, please visit http://www.sleuths.com

Barefoot In The Park

Sunday, April 19th, 2009

Barefoot In The Park
By Neil Simon
Directed by Tim DeBaun
Starring Sara Jane Fridlich and Michael Kutner
Theater Downtown, Orlando FL

In the idealized 60s, respectable people didn’t live with bohemians and they used elevators, not ropes, to get to their 6th floor apartments. Not so for newlywed Corie Bratter (Fridlich), she’s impulsive and adventurous and willing to snacking on Eel Yummies or running off to Staten Island to sample Albania sheep soup. Her lovey dovey is uptight junior attorney Paul (Kutner) who’s just gotten his first crack at a court case. She thinks Paul ought to be more playful, he feels Corie doesn’t appreciate he can’t show up in court in a dashiki and a hangover. No heat and no actual space adds to the fun, all for the outrageous rent of $125 a month. Corie’s mom (Marion Marsh) hikes up the stairs and makes some snide comments, but it seems Paul is more in love with her than Corie. The alternate path to their lives arrives in the form of jovial neighbor Victor Velasco (David Gerrard), a mountain climber and dead beat artist who rappels down from the attic to visit when ever Paul can provide the liquor. After about a week of this carnage, Corie demands a divorce, Paul catches a cold, and they live happily ever after when mom gives Corie some stock advice about “losing a bit of yourself” to remain happily married.

Despite excellent performances by Kutner and Fridlich, Gerrard’s Velasco stole the show. He’s the lovable rascal that you’d want to guide you through the remote borough of New York and the shady corners of your mind. Fridlich flies effortlessly through the story, and when her first “I want a divorce” passes her lips, you’re still so convinced she’s in love that you’re likely to miss the line and its meaning. Kutner is the sympathetic one, you feel as hurt as he when this relation tatters. Marsh’s unnamed mother was the enigma – she’s never the interferers like a good mother-in law should, but rolls with the flow even if she never builds the stamina to tackle the stairs. When Corie’s attempts to set Mom up with Velasco, the result surprises everyone except Velasco. He’s the only one who really believes his own stories, and is boho enough to ignore Mom’s middle class background. Teetering between the worlds of respectability and sensuality, one might wonder “Can you have both?” Of course not, you have to pick your priorities, and there’s no splitting the difference.

Director DeBaun has taken this pleasantly dated script and played it for all its humor, even making the endless jokes about 6 flights of stairs work well past their expiration date. Set designer Tommy Mangieri build a spacious looking set with some of the truly most disgusting wall color I’ve ever seen. He must have a special Pantone book for the mixture of grime and failed cleaning that defined the Bratter’s apartment. Simon relies on his world of stock situations and characters, including the obligatory “locking oneself in the bathroom” scene, but these are real people, or real enough to send a pleasantly acceptable message about true love overcoming low stress hardship. One wonders if Corie could have a touch of bipolar in here blood, but even if she chooses the road of middle class respectability, she’ll still drag Paul down to The Village for an open mike night or twelve.

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

A Man For All Seasons

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

A Man For All Seasons
By Robert Bolt
Directed by David
Starring John DiDonna, Mark Edward smith, Brendon Rogers
Bay Street Theatre, Eustis Florida

They say “stubbornness is its own reward”, and Sir Thomas More (DiDonna) clings to this ideal with religious zeal as he argues himself into a hard place between Duty to God and Duty to King. While God rarely offers policy updates, King Henry (Rogers) does and he just changed his mind on marriage. When Henry decides a divorce is in order, More’s concurrence would make the move more popular. More thought otherwise, and begins his descent by annoying his superior Cardinal Wolsey (Adrian LePeltier). Wolsey died before this rather private affair became common knowledge, leaving the real battle to worldly Thomas Cromwell (Smith.) He’s off to make the real stink even if it was the King who truly needed More’s notoriously pious legitimacy. When More refuses to concede, Cromwell succeeds in turning his friends against More in the name of national unity, and that was enough to cost his head.

DiDonna made a good More, academic and pious, yet no fool. His clear headed arguments and academically balding head proclaimed piety, but never that of the Pharisees proclaiming strict adherence to the letter of the law. Rather, he thought through the issues, applied fundamental principles, and arrived at logical if unpopular conclusion. It seemed as if DiDonna was thinking on his feet, and not reciting lines. Opposite him was the fastidiously unscrupulous Cromwell portrayed by an officious Smith – be glad he wasn’t auditing your taxes. I was sorry to see Wolsey die so early; his nastiness ran deeper than Cromwell’s and you could imagine him dancing a jig at the execution. There were softer players, as well. Henry was vain and preening, even under a 30 pound waist coat. The amorphous Richard Rich (Glen Howard) looked buffoonish, and you knew he saw his entire a career as a lucky mistake that was always about to be revealed. There were some women in this Manly Man’s world – stuffy wife Lady More (Barbara Blake) cooked and cleaned and looked on disapprovingly as her husband disgraced the whole family by keeping to his ideals, and their daughter Margaret (Jennifer Bonner) charmed everyone even if she did marry the waffling Lutheran William Roper (Rick Breese.) I’m sure he loved Margaret, but he needed More to keep his own head as it spun round the newest idea.

While you never doubt More’s loyalty and piety, his logic undergoes a subtle shift. At first he merely objects to a divorce justified by Catherine’s inability to produce a male heir, but later tackles a more fundamental issue about Henry usurping the Churches rights. Henry violated his oath of office as well as the Magna Charta, but no one else seems too worried about these niceties, and we end up with the fundamental question “What is an oath worth?” In medieval stories knights were always taking oaths that got them in horrible troubles, and today we make and break oaths with little thought, no longer standing in fear of an eternal wrath. There’s little question of free will vs. destiny today, but in 1535 there was no question – you have free will, but you exercise it at the risk of your immortal soul and your all too gently attached head.

For more information on The Bay Street Players, please visit http://www.baystreetplayers.org

I Do, I Do

Sunday, April 12th, 2009

I Do, I Do
By Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt
Directed and Choreographed by Janet Watson
Orlando Theatre Project
Garden Theatre, Winter Garden Florida

Marital happiness can become a slippery thing once the champagne wears off and the bills start rolling in. It needn’t be, and this Jones/Schwartz classic emphasizes the positives of legalized heterosexual union. It skates on the edge of sappy, but makes up for it with great songs and a huge faux Victorian bedstead. Dashing Michael (David Kelly) and his blushing bride, Agnes (Laura Hodos) nervously prepare for their wedding, which requires wearing clothes one would wear under no other circumstances except to star in a musical. They then proceed to sing their way thought lust, pregnancy, vanity, adultery, separation, graceful aging, and finally downsizing to a condominium in the less fashionable section of Boca Raton. It took them 50 years, but the ride was great.

While Hodos charms and Kelly seems a bit full of himself, the two belt to the great numbers and do justice to the less memorable one. High on the list of hits is Hodo’s “My Cup Runneth Over” and “Love Isn’t Everything”, with “Where are the Snows” the best duet. The large bed spins around, and with the relatively large, deep space on the Garden Theater stage, the show sometimes feels a bit exposed, as if it wanted a more intimate setting and a closer audience. That space does allow for some nice lighting effects – Ryan Gravilla makes real magic appear around the singing couple, and there’s even a follow spot light. Now THAT’S glamour!

There’s a subtle difference in the script from the recent Winter Park Playhouse production. When Michael admits he’s seeing someone else, a line is left out about just how much he saw of the Other Woman. Without the line, he comes across a bit harsher than I’ve seen him played before. It’s not a huge issue, it’s just a choice Director Watson made, and I congratulate her on it. Either way, the show is a crowd pleaser and one of the most positive takes in intimate relations to regularly see production. It’s worth the drive down the turnpike to sit under the twinkly stars in air conditioned Winter Garden.


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

Fully Committed

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

Fully Committed
By Becky Mode
Directed by Patrick Braillard
Starring Jay T Becker
Mad Cow Theatre, Orlando FL

Behind the elegance of a 5 star restaurant with a TV-ready chef lies a small army of put upon wage slaves, some of whom wish for their own stardom on stage. Sam (Becker) answers the phones and makes reservations and pines for a callback audition to real New York show. There might be a recession rattling down at Wall Street and Broad, but uptown, the rich and possibly famous can’t wait to spend a C-note or two on dinner. Sam’s the ant under the magnifying glass; he juggles reservations from people he’d never be allowed to talk to in the real world. It’s not like his co-workers are much help, they never even show up on a stage. His life and the entire story are contained in a claustrophobic cubby hole dominated by cheap file cabinets, incomprehensible notices, and a pair of ringing telephones, one of which isn’t even on his desk. As the crap piles higher and higher, a revelation occurs to Sam – while he may look like the bottom muskrat on the restaurant totem pole, he really does control the one truly important lever of power – the access lever that allows the famous to feed off each other. If just anyone could walk in and sit anywhere, what’s the point of fame?

Becker gives a virtuosos solo performance, juggling 20 or more voices that range from his narcissist chef to his super evil best friend Jerry, the snide hostess, and a list of cranky celebrity voices that I’m just not tabloid savvy enough to place. There’s no net under this tight rope, any mistake by Becker and only Becker is available to pick up the pieces. But that never happens; Becker never slips off the tight rope even if his Milwaukee accent sounds more like someone from Rockford, Illinois.

The energy in this show starts high and winds tighter and tighter, and with no intermission the audience’s teeth clamp down under all Sam’s pressure. When he wins his local battle and might make an escape with the loot, we’re on the same high he is. “Fully Committed” can only work in an intimate space like Mad Cows Stage Right, and only with an actor of Becker’s caliber.


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

The World of Gilbert and Sullivan

Monday, April 6th, 2009

The World of Gilbert and Sullivan
Directed by John Segers
Orlando Gilbert and Sullivan Players
Athens Theatre, Deland, FL

Attending a Gilbert and Sullivan concert often reminds me of crashing a church service. There’s a hyper-realism to the event, everyone but you knows the music, but after a little while you catch on and soon you’re singing along. Next thing you know, you’re on the Building and Grounds Committee and your wife is baking cookies for the choir.

It’s a bit of a drive out the charming Old Florida town of Deland, but they’ve done a nice job of giving the old down town some shops and restaurants. Best of all, they’ve reconstructed the classic old Athens Theatre. Its right across from the Court House, the seating and acoustics are superb, the sound and lights excellent, and the place is so new it still smells of plasterboard. They’re still auditioning for a ghost, if you’re feeling poorly and looking for work.

Gilbert and Sullivan dominated the Victorian passion for Light Opera, Today we’d call it Musical Theater – not all the dialog was sung, conventional acting and speaking fit between the musical numbers, but the songs were the golden nuggets of G&S’s 14 shows. While someone lost their first production, Thespis, numbers form each of the remaining libretti cross tonight’s stage.

The Master of Ceremonies and director, John Segers, appears in an age-appropriate tuxedo and handlebar moustache, introducing the music and occasionally performing. This set of 7 players are all excellent singers and bring out the best in G&S, even if they avoid the well known for the more obscure. The opener comes from “The Gondoliers”, one of G&S’s later numbers. As Erik Branch and Gerrit Koester ice dance across stage, they sing the story of two taxi drivers who take over the monarchy of Venice and remake it as an enlightened democracy. The theme is a staple, the writers loved exploring class distinction and it absurdity.

As the 12 remaining stories are sampled, we get such gem as “Three Young Girls” from “The Mikado” performed by Kelly Fagen, Theresa Segers, and Patricia Osbourn, “Ruth” from “Pirates of Penzance” sung by Terrilea Myers, and probably their all time biggest hit, “I Am The Model Of A Modern Major General” sung by the Maestro Segers. That song underwent a major rewrite by Tom Lehrer in the ’60s to become the well known Geek Anthem “The Element Song.”

The Orlando Gilbert and Sullivan Players presented of fine program of Victorian music, and after you here enough of the songs, you’ll detect certain melodic themes that the writes rely upon over and over. Lyrical fireworks subdue the stock music, but Gilbert and Sullivan have such as strong style that after this show you ought to pick out any random G&S song with 99% accuracy. It’s almost like the styling of church musicians, the faithful can tell Martin Luther from Charles Wesley just as easily as you can tell Bach from Handel. This is music for the faithful, and the fellowship is wonderful.

For more information on events at the Athens Theatre in Deland, please visit http://www.athenstheatre.org

The Orlando Gilbert and Sullivan Players have more information at http://www.facebook.com/home.php?ref=logo#/event.php?eid=56313942778&ref=mf

Knights For The Arts

Sunday, April 5th, 2009

Knights For The Arts
Harris Engineering Center
April 3, 2009
University of Central Florida, Orlando FL

An Arts Festival set in the main hall of the Engineering Building! Who would have thought? But that’s the sort of innovative thinking we need in this day and age, and besides, the space was available and the acoustics weren’t all that bad. This unusual event came to my attention via Facebook. I submitted a short film for consideration and was one of the few non-UCF students at the event. It’s not elitism; the event just wasn’t well publicized and has yet to gain a reputation on or off campus. While I have a conflict of interest here, I’ll say a few words because a small event like this can grow to something great with time.

The Harris Building really does work for an Art Event, the post-post modern style riffs off Frank Geary with wavy roof lines and high sheet metal awnings that look like flying debris waiting for the next hurricane. As the artists set up clanky aluminum easels hauled over from the art department, they gradually covered up the wall display of The History of Electrical Engineering. Perhaps a dozen artists set up images, mostly in acrylic with some photographs by George Kong. These pictures were dark and mysterious, many featuring a woman in a night gown interacting with some sort of cloth dummy in rural woodland. Other artists presented fantasy forests or geometric abstracts, and Steph Gold even glued cupcake sprinkles on her work. The effect was nice, but in Central Florida, the philistine bugs will fail to respect the artist’s vision and eat them in short order.

My film ran twice in its glorious low res 640 by 480 pixels, and a decent crowd turned up both times. After the first run through, the very efficient Event Coordinator Tiffany trotted everyone outside for a poetry reading by Alyssia Nicholson. Her poetry focused on a rocky relation with her parents and the pains of growing up. The musical Duo of Bradd (two D’s, please) and Krista sang a few gentle songs, including the Beatles’ Blackbird. As they sang, we wandered around eating donuts, drinking ultra sweet iced tea, and appreciating art. Some of the engineering artifacts still remained – a glass case housed some ancient pocket calculators (one of which got me though the senior year of high school) and even an early Macintosh “Toaster” computer.

As a second guitarist set up, we were offered a choice – more folk songs, or a reading of “The Vagina Monologues.” The reading came courtesy of SOAR, or Speaking Out Against Rape. The SOAR women sold jewelry, buttons, and The Big Vagina Coloring Book. They then presented a nicely staged reading of Eve Ensler’s ground breaking work on female sexuality. This play gets banned fairly often due to its provocative title and Americas general prudery about sex. It made for a moving and entertaining wrap to the evening. It’s good to see that there still are places open to frank discussions of sex as a fact of life, and not just a marketing device for consumer products. Thanks, UCF!


For more information on Knights For The Arts, please visit http://www.facebook.com/home.php?ref=logo#/group.php?gid=8123628694

PILLOWLANDO9

Sunday, April 5th, 2009

PILLOWLANDO9
Organized by Brian Feldman
Brian Feldman Projects and a Cast of Hundreds
April 4, 2009
Duncan Park at SunTrust Center, Orlando FL

It’s another turn in the comfy mosh pit of PILLOWLANDO, a chance for the citizens of this World-Class city to get some sunshine while beating the crap out of each other in a loving friendly fashion. This year’s choice of venue made timing tricky; I was on a meter and had to be done by 5:30. At 4:30, a half dozen people sat quietly on the grass, and the photographers began rolling up. We chatted about exposures and editing and if cameras would outnumber fighters.

Rick prepares for battle.

Rick Jones prepares for battle

No worry on that count, bicyclists with bedding balanced on their heads and parents pushing strollers with linens soon filled this small piece of greenery. A well-enforced dog ordinance and a dearth of local residents in Orlando’s ever more vacant condo towers means this park is largely reserved for lunching office workers and the permanently unemployed. That is, no dog poop to worry about. Shortly before 5, Mr. Feldman arrived in a long white coat and sweat band, looking likea suburban pimp in a 70’s Blaxploitation movie.

Feldman Arrives, ready to kick some hiney.

Feldman Arrives, ready to kick some hiney.

The group was lined up for some pre-fight pictures, and at 5 sharp, we heard the call “Raise your Pillows!” and the battle commenced. There were fewer battle calls than last year, although theming was in evidence. A group of three young men with variations on Smiley faced pillows tag teamed the crowd while a woman with bright orange hair flailed back at them. One of the photographers duct taped pillows to his body and ended up looking like Alexei Sayle from “The Young Ones.” Small children gleefully attacked adults they did not know. Vultures circled overhead. The police did not intervene; at least not until after I left.

Body Armour - A personal choice.

Body Armour - A personal Choice.

Is there meaning to this sort of semi coordinated public pajama party? Of course, it’s in the act of play that we define ourselves as sentient beings. By engaging in stylized mock warfare, we show that we can deal with other tribes without the biological imperative kill or be killed, eat or be eaten. We show that on a nice day, 100 or so strangers can mutually agree on boundaries and a set of alternate appropriate behaviors that would not be allowed at work, in the mall, or on a transcontinental flight. And it didn’t cost anything except a buck to park.

A melee of pillow fighters.

A melee of pillow fighters.

For more information on IWorld Pillow Fight Day please see http://www.pillowfightday.com

For more information on Brian Feldman Projects, please visit http://www.brianfeldman.com/ or http://twitter.com/PILLOWLANDO

BFF

Saturday, April 4th, 2009

BFF
By Anna Ziegler
Directed by Ana Eligio
Fred Stone Theatre, Rollins College, Winter Park, FL

The Rollins Theatrical department occasionally turns the kids loose to do a complete student production – they handle the writing, directing, and acting, along with all those mundane technical challenges like light and sound and costume with only minimal adult supervision. The result often intrigues more than satisfies, and this time we experience an interpersonal drama about dealing inappropriately with death and loss told thought a fast cut montage of flashbacks and constant costume changes.

We begin with Lauren (Megan Borkes) and Eliza (Kaitlyn Schirard) as girls on the edge of puberty, dealing with an endless summer vacation and the nagging itch that life is perfect right now and unlikely to improve with age. We then follow two intercut stories – as Lauren and Eliza mature into sexual beings, Lauren shift her emotional focus to boys and the delightful sins of the flesh as Lauren drifts in a repressed lifestyle of athletics and eating disorder. The older 20 something Lauren meets jittery Seth and adopts Eliza’s name if not her persona. Lauren and Seth are no great lover – each has their own inability to deal with the death of loved ones. When Seth takes the plunge and offers her a ring from Zale’s, she flees, only to crawl back offering that “they just be friends”. In one of the few wise moves in the story, Seth drops her like a bad mortgage.

The acting in the show is up to par, with Schirard’a Eliza successfully transforming from an awkward teen to a hospitalized young women. Borkes shows the frustration of watching her best friend get stuck just before puberty but often comes across as strident and unattractive. Seth might be a bit too nice, a bit too eager to please – he needs to be loved and will pay almost any price for love, up to but not including Lauren. I like to think he sees the flicker of her internal bonfire, and gets off the train before it’s too late.

This is a decent showing for a beginning writer; the concept is sound and the writing displays occasional flashes of brilliance – “today becomes a memory even as it’s happening” caught my ear. It appears the author is writing what she knows stylistically, a hyper active string of flicker-cuts characteristic of modern TV and movies attempt to hold your attention while filling time between ads. Technically, the stage is not up to presenting that eye candy editing, and as a result much time is wasted moving props and changing from one unexciting costume to another. There’s a heartfelt and touching story lurking under all the clutter on stage, but with out the program and some additional ambient audience illuminations, you’ll get lost before you’re sold on the who and why of BFF.


For more information on student productions at Rollins College, please visit http://tars.rollins.edu/theatre/currentseason.shtml