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Archikulture Digest

by Carl F Gauze

Archive for August, 2009

Alice

Sunday, August 30th, 2009

Alice
By Terri Giannoutsos and Heather McClendon
Directed by Terri Giannoutsos
G.O.A.T. Late Night series
Orlando, Fl

Nothing is harder or more seductive to a writer than adapting a classic public domain novel. Alice in Wonderland is doubly hard, but its combination of surrealism and great costuming opportunities makes it a perennial favorite. This mercifully short adaptation falls into all the traps – weak character development, stilted use of profanity, and blunt transitions. We open with Maryann / Alice (Heather McClendon) house sitting Mom’s (Cynthia McClendon) goldfish on Halloween. An older woman in search of sex, she’s got a date with the pool boy that turns the stomachs of Maryann and her younger brother Harold (Trevor Fraser). An impromptu party is in the works, and Maryann invites her best friend Kat (Tara Corliss) who brings her loser boyfreind Dumbass (Rob DelMedico) who brings his dealer 7 (Giannoutsos) who brings the rest of the plot. Alice is drugged by suave Mad Hatter (Viet Nguyen) and we get the mandatory hallucinations until mom returns from her date. MaryAnn then does the only non surreal thing in this show – she knees Mad Hatter, and kicks him in the butt, and throws him out her zero tolerance house. No word on Mom’s date, but she had a half smile. Go Girl.

Ok, there are some serious script issues, but you have to love the dedicated work of the cast to make this show work. Rob Delmedico did some of his best work here – he really sold DumbAss, and I wanted him to have a real name, somewhere, somehow. Tara Corless as Kat captured the slutty sexiness of Maryann’s best friend. Why they are friends at all is a mystery, Maryann has nothing nice to say about her. Maryann seemed pretty right wing even under the influence of 3 rufies and a shot of scotch. My understanding is that this script has been through more than few revisions, and a few more might help it out, but it has a way’s to go. Surrealism without underling internal logic is just silliness, and even silliness was lacking tonight.

For more information on Greater Orlando Actor’s Theatre, please visit http://http://www.goatgroup.com/

Mark Baratelli Tries Two Hard

Saturday, August 29th, 2009

Mark Baratelli Tries Two Hard
With Mark Baratelli and John DeHaas
Sleuths’ Mystery Dinner Theatre
Orlando, FL

On a rainy Wednesday the day after school started I found myself heading to Sleuths’ for comedy night. As I drove the thought occurred: “Wednesday is the least funny day of the week.” But Fringe veteran Mark Baratelli was enough of a draw to get 20 people out tonight. He worked hard and it took a while to get the crowd on his side, but he did get the room laughing as he did shortened version of two successful Fringe shows “How Do You Feel?” and “Improve Cabaret”. Both shows depend on audience interaction, but it’s more “are they laughing in the right spots?” than the “name a non specific location” stuff you might be more familiar with. My contribution was a fairly violent sneeze, and he ran with it.

“How Do You Feel?” riff off the dreaded mega self help improvement seminar. I’m no Tony Robbins fan, but Baratelli’s “SPIC” (you’re Special, Patience, Intelligence, Control) model is really no worse than what otherwise sane people pay hundreds of dollars to hear. He skates off into dangerous territory by blacking his face and renaming depression as “The Blacks”, the leading us into a diatribe against The Blacks. It’s uncomfortably funny, and a direct challenge to what we like to believe about ourselves.

After a short intermission and the loss of a few out-of-towners, John DeHaas joined Mr. Baratelli onstage and we took a shot at some of the best excesses of the lounge revival. In a natty he hat borrowed from the gift shop (Sleuths’ has one of the best collection of tourist trinkets on I-drive) he sang vaguely familiar songs about New York and San Tropez, regaled us with his attempt to add a song to Brigadoon, and ran through the story line of his production “Parts! The Musical.” This segment flowed batter than the self help stuff, the music seems a more natural way to make you feel better than a lecture on feeling good about yourself. If a rainy Wednesday can be fun, think of how a few drinks on Saturday will work.

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

For more information on Mark Baratelli, check out http://TheDailyCity.com

Closer

Saturday, August 29th, 2009

Closer
By Patrick Marber
Directed by Paul Castaneda
Greater Orlando Actors Theatre
Winter Park, FL

You’ll need good note keeping skills in this boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy meets girl, boy loses girl drama. Dan (John Bateman) simultaneously seduces photographer Anna (Nikki Darden) and stripper Alice (Bunny Fitzgerald). He met Alice when she was hit by a car, and used his obituary writing skills to turn her story in to a semi-successful novel. He met Anna when the book went to press and he needed a professional head shot. In his spare time Dan pretends to be a hooker on line and that’s where he meets Dr. Larry (Wyatt Glover). As a prank he describes himself with Anna’s hair and boobs, and then sends Dr. Larry to the London Aquarium for a hook up. Using one of those handy writerly coincidences, Anna really is at the Aquarium, and hits it off with Dr. Larry. Now everybody falls in and out of love with everyone else except for the two possible gay pairings. While I was waiting for them, I was relieved when Marber skipped that level of sleaze.

With a brutal story of infidelity and forgiveness, it’s fortunate we have a generally strong cast of actors. Bateman as Dan was soulless and amoral, yet oddly charming – you could see what a woman would see in him, even if you knew he was poison. Standing opposite him was a potentially violent Dr. Larry who just wanted love, or at least regular sex, and wasn’t afraid to ask for it. Alice was completely and utterly lost, and in portraying her Ms. Fitzgerald ranged from erotic to sleazy to haggard, although she didn’t project well. Anna seemed the most mature, yet even she succeeded in marrying one man while beginning an affair with another the same week. Both men beat her, which she took this in stride. I never understand that, but here it is.

Two textual questions came up over and over – “Are you OK?” and “The truth.” Neither seemed to be what they meant. The act of truth telling felt more like a body blow and a declaration of a fight the other party may not have wanted. No one ever told the truth until it could damage at least one person’s self image. The inquiry about OK-ness served to alert the other party that a battle was brewing, and gave them a few minutes to hit the air raid sirens and head to the fallout shelters. Here we have a play about passive-aggressive behavior pushed to its limits, and it makes Virginia Woolf look like a fun evening. I’m torn here – the story is gruesome but the acting excellent, but I’ll advise this: go alone, wear dark glasses and a trench coat, and sit in the back. It somehow feels safer there.

For more information on Greater Orlando Actor’s Theatre, please visit http://www.goatgroup.com/

Sex Times Three – A New Comedy

Friday, August 7th, 2009

Sex Times Three – A New Comedy
Written and Directed by Larry Stallings
With Marc “With a C” Sirdoreus
Wallflower Theatre
Presented at G.O.A.T., Winter Park, FL

I’m pretty familiar with Larry Stallings’ work as writer, director and actor, and I know he has many more than these three tight comedies in his pocket. The set chosen for this show take a common theme of love and suppressed bisexuality, and presents some light comedy with an ensemble cast and a guitarist to fill the show out to just over an hour.

The evening opens with personable Marc “With a C” Sirdoreus and an acoustic guitar. He’s pleasant and enthusiastic, and his original compositions have a heart and humor that few opening acts have these days. “I’m In Love With Everyone I Know” and “We’re All Gonna Die” come across as folksy and folky, but a more complicated arrangement and a few supporting musicians could put him in a high class bar like Will’s. As he did his opening set and inter-act materials, his roadie Kevin Sigman appeared to provide M&M’s, bottled water, and a sweat rubdown. Like I say, this guy has rock star potential.

The Stalling material opens with Zach (Alex Carroll) and Gabby (Kimberly Luffman) as roommates at a transition point in their relation. Gabby’s moving in with her new lesbian girl friend, leaving Zach with a spare room. He’s a little heartbroken, he thought that they were a pretty good team – he decorated, she cleaned. Since he’s in a spot, he admits something he’s been hiding from her – he saw her naked several times, and all under false pretenses. A cute premise and well executed with Luffman’s serious, no nonsense sexuality and Carroll’s teddy bear like boyishness.

Scene two takes us to the hotel room of upcoming comic Davey (Carroll.) He’s ordered a hooker and a body guard – that is, two separate people from two separate companies. When Cynthia (Luffman) arrives in a smart business suit, he’s confused as to where to write the check. Turns out she’s the security coordinator, but when she finds out there are even higher paying jobs available, she asks to be interviewed for a new position.

The final scene takes us to colonial Salem, where we find Ms. Luffman tied to a stake and waiting for dawn to rise so she can be stoned and burnt for witchcraft. She takes it pretty well, and banters with William (Carroll) who offers to untie her in exchange for his undying affection and a chance to move to a more open minded local. Turns out she’s had a few offers, and William finds out just how easy it is to suffer from an indefensible accusation.

Despite the provocative title, these shows are all PG comedies that you wouldn’t have any fears of bringing Mom to see. I would have liked to see a few more of Mr. Stallings shorts in the program, but these were worth the admission, and done with professionalism that’s good to see in a fresh theater company.

For more information on Wallflower Theatre, visit http://www.myspace.com/wallflowertheatre

For other events at Greater Orlando Actor’s Theatre, please visit http://http://www.goatgroup.com/

The Matchmaker

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

The Matchmaker
By Thornton Wilder
Directed by Rob Anderson
Starring Ron Schneider and Meghan Collen Moroney
Mad Cow Theatre, Orlando, FL

Mix the blarney of the Irish with the bargaining skill of the Jewish and you might find yourself married to someone you never even intended to date. Dolly Gallagher Levi (Moroney) makes a meager income “arranging” things, and is on retainer to marry off blowhard businessman Horace Vandergelder (Schneider.) He’s locked away half a million 1900 dollar bills, and with no current wife, he gets his emotional release by abusing his staff in his Yonkers Dry Goods Emporium. He’s kept Cornelius Hackl (Michael Marinaccio) in servitude for over a decade, and grooms younger Barnaby Tucker (Eric Fagan) to take over when Cornelius dies in the harness. Dolly brokers a marriage between old Horace and widowed Milliner Irene Molly (Erin Beute). At the last minute agrees to help Vandergelder’s niece Ermengarde (Kristen Gunderson) run off with her artist boy friend Ambrose (Jamie Cline). In a plot dripping with this much unrequited romance, the ending is inevitable – a door slamming farce set in a classy restaurant driven by frustrated young men, horny women and an older couple who won’t have that much sex, but the arguments will keep them alive into their nineties.

While the farce keeps the story rolling along, the casting keeps it alive. From the sparing of Dolly and Horace to the spaced-out Flora Van Huyson (Betsy Bauer) everyone makes the most of their lines. The romances even seem believable – for instance, Cornelius Hackl doesn’t seem an embittered 32, but he chases an eager Irene with boyish zest and conveniently leaves the barely legal Barnaby as easy fodder for Irene’s bubbly assistant Minnie Fay (Trenell Mooring.) Supporting actor Dan Johnson’s best role was Rudolf, the vicious mustachioed waiter at the Harmonium Gardens while Tommy Keesling reminded me of a well-lubricated Alfred Doolittle as Vandergelder’s newest staff assistant and man-of-the-people advisor.

While the plot resolves more quickly than might be realistic and people change allegiance more to make the story flow than from heartfelt reasons, “Matchmaker” begged to be a musical comedy, although the music wasn’t added until a few decades after Wilder wrote this gentle and genteel comedy. As always, Mad Cow’s set design wizard Cindy White squeezed four complete rooms into five reversible screens and made an elegant and flexible Gilded Age appear out of nowhere. Highly recommended and never disappointing, “Matchmaker” shows that even getting the wrong partner is OK, as long as you’re both in love. We’ll save the after effects for O’Neil and Albee.

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

Blithe Spirit

Sunday, August 2nd, 2009

Blithe Spirit
By Noel coward
Directed by Frank Hilgenberg
Starring Daniel Cooksley, Jamie-Lyn Hawkins, Kristen Collins
Theatre Downtown, Orlando Fla

There’s not a lot of laughs in this Noel Coward comedy about a man haunted by the ghost of his first wife. Charles Condomine (Cooksley) writes mystery novels and needs some background for his next opus, so he invites wacky spiritualist Madam Arcati (Cira Larkin) over to hold a séance. The result is the ghost of his first wife, Elvira (Collins) moving into the spare astral bedroom. It would have been best to leave her to rest in peace, as she stridently attacks the new marriage, and only Charles can see her. Wifey #2 Ruth (Hawkins) only hears Charles side of the conversation, and until a vase mystically floats across the room, she thinks Charles is either nuts or trying to drive here away. When Ruth accidently enters the spirit realm herself, Charles is haunted by both ghosts and his only hope lies in the old wives tale that ghosts can’t cross bodies of water. Hello, New York!

While Fran Hilgenberg’s set was gorgeous and the British accents met muster, the timing in this play was off just enough to kill most of the humor. Cooksley looked a bit stiff, as if he was focusing on the intonation and not the timing of the play, and Madam Arcati looked more like she was warming up for a welter weight bout instead of a spiritual encounter with the deceased. Energetic Edith (Barbara bell) was funnier as the eager-to-please housemaid that Ruth attempts to slow down, hoping to give the house a more upper class feel. Dr. Bradman (John Segers) and Mrs. Bradman (Marion Marsh) and were a good counter balance to the insanity of the wives, and were the skeptic and the believer regarding the spiritualism. Elvira spent most of her stage time walking with one arm holding an invisible cigarette holder, and when she and Ruth were both ectoplasmic, they swayed together in an odd dance that might have meant there were shimmering ghosts, or practicing for Chorus Line. That should have been a great sight gag, but somehow it failed. Hopefully, this elegant looking comedy will find its timing and turn into the fast paced frothiness that Coward excels at writing. All the parts are bolted together, but the engine needs a tune up.

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

Orson Wells’ War of the Worlds

Saturday, August 1st, 2009

Orson Wells’ War of the Worlds
Written by Orson Wells
Directed by Aradhana Tiwari and Joseph Fletcher
Presented by: Play The Moment and Questionable Productions
Orlando Shakespeare Festival, Orlando, FL

You sit in a radio studio, talking into a glowing machine and trusting that your words are going out the world. But there’s always a listener: make a mistake and you’ll hear about it. “Someone is always listening” was true in spades when Orson Wells and his upstart Mercury Theatre pulled off one of the biggest hoaxes in radio history back in 1938, and tonight’s production is just as convincing. The story is stock Sci-Fi and brilliantly executed. Aliens from a distant world invade with super weapons, destroy society and infrastructure, and impose fascism from above, all in about 30 minutes. You really can bend time and space in a theatre.

This zippy production by two local groups, Play The Moment and Questionable Productions, takes the original transcription and adds a crowd of public citizens who react to the pseudo news events, turning mundane life into feverish panic. As you’re sitting there, it’s not inconceivable you’d have panicked as well. The radio part of the show comes courtesy of Allan Gallant (as Orson Wells) Frank McClain (as Professor Pierson) and Brandon Roberts (as reporter Carl Phillips). While they read from scripts, there’s both an audio professionalism here, as well as an interesting visual presentation as they move around microphones and mutter comment to each other about the performance as The Public flows around them. I was impressed by Robert’s announce voice; he’s normally cast into physical comedy roles, and rarely gets a good chance to project. McClain and Gallant have radio voices as well, and both gave great military commander performances. The Public, unidentified except as actors, brought an updated Our Town to stage – they sewed, knitted, danced and worked at ordinary jobs and ordinary situations, until they heard a plausible crisis blow up in their own home town and turn them into horrified and leaderless ants. After the hoax was revealed, they each had a rationalization for their panic, and it came down to this: “I trusted, but never verified.”

I’ve listened to War of the Worlds many times, seen it, read it, and analyzed it to death, and it still garbs me every time I experience it. While the original story is one of the classics of Victorian fiction, its Wells’ skill at splicing the story into the fabric of broadcasting tropes and public fears and expectations that made it panics a nation. While a disclaimer starts the show, not everyone tunes in to hear it, and the immediacy of the news bulletins and the twist from “nothing to worry about here” to “run for the hills” never gives the listener a wink that it’s all a show. Radio drama may be making a comeback, and this is as good an example as you’ll see.

For more information on Play The Moment or Questionable Productions visit http://www.playthemoment.com/ and http://www.questionableproductions.com/

Deep Blue

Saturday, August 1st, 2009

Deep Blue
An Installation by Doug Rhodehamel
Music by Nigel John
Bold Hype
Winter Park, Florida

If it wasn’t for the bitter cold and dark, the bone crushing pressure, and the steady diet of dead plankton and hydrogen sulfide, living on the abyssal plain might be nearly as cool as this ambitious installation. A deep blue laser and a mist machine cloud the air with arty murk as creepy ambient music recalls the sound of a submarine hull being crushed in the depths. Recycled card board fish eerily float through the room. Outside it’s muggy and wet with a parking lot of damp bicyclists hanging out at the neighboring coffee house. Bold Hype appears closed – blue paper covers the windows and there are no lights or activity indicating art is occurring in side, yet the curious try the door and are led by a chain of small white fish through a short maze of black cloth in to a room filling with hipsters. It’s all part of the event.

Deep Blue takes Art to the Bottom of the Sea.

Deep Blue takes Art to the Bottom of the Sea.

At first your eyes refuse to adjust. Mysterious shadows float by and the laser paints an undulating sine wave of ocean just above the exposed air conditioning ducts. It’s chilly, and except for the glimmer of the obsessive texters, only the ultra violet light of the fish’s eyes illuminate the room. You move carefully – there’s minimal furniture but people drift through this murk as well, some holding a Vodka Collins that emit a faint green glow. Mr. Rhodehamel wanders around; you’ll bump into him eventually as he checks his installation for artistic integrity and offers to sell some fresh fish if you want any. The music clanks and scrapes away, sounding a mix between conceived bathymetric sounds and early ’60s East German modernism. The fish remind me of wildlife books I grew up with – the Trieste had just come back from the Mariana Trench and astounded the world with photos of hitherto unseen life forms. Rhodehamel captures their glowing eyes, toothy jaws and odd arrangements, using cardboard cut into strips and reassembled to form an environmental mobile.

Doug Rhodehamel, creator of Deep Blue.

Doug Rhodehamel, creator of Deep Blue.

One can ruminate of all the stock topics – environmental blah blah, saving the ocean by wearing the right tee shirt, the intransigence of art and reality, but one fact remains – this is a damn cool room. Like most of Rhodehamel work, the fish will soon swim away and the room will be repurposed to the gallery it is, but if he pumped up the bass, sold some Jaeger Bombs and charged $20 cover, he’s have this weeks trendy night club on his hands.

For more information on Doug Rhodehamel’s projects, visit http://www.dougrhodehamel.com/

Other events at Bold Hype may be found at http://www.boldhype.net/