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Archikulture Digest

by Carl F Gauze

Archive for October, 2009

Bride of Wildenstein – The Musical!

Saturday, October 31st, 2009

Bride of Wildenstein – The Musical!
Book & Lyrics by Marsian & P.J.McWhiskers
Directed by Derron Wood
Starring Marsian
Presented by Ibex Puppetry with Macabre Vignettes at the Cameo Theatre
Orlando, FL

So your billionaire trophy husband lost interest in you and now he prefers pooping diapers to Big Game hunting inside your tights – what’s a society girl to do? If you’re Jocelyn Wildenstein, you get more surgery than Michael Jackson and end up looking like a stray cat in a burn ward. The draggy Marsian picked up the story and ran with it like she’s the reincarnates Weekly World News. She transforms this cautionary tale into one person mixed media show, suitable for all mature Fringe Festival audiences. This unique piece of musical performance art is part of this year’s rather smallish Orlando Puppet Festival, and appears in conjunction with Macabre Vignettes art exhibit at the Cameo Theatre. Arriving late, I didn’t get the full effect of Macabre Vignettes, but I recommend the 8 foot metallic creature munching canaries out of a cage, and the combination Chem lab / Goth bar in the back. Other interesting sculptures and paintings adorn the walls, but this twisted puppet show is the main attraction.

Author and actor Marsian took a clever angle on the sad decent of Ms Wildenstein. She portrays both Jocelyn and hubby Alec with a double sided costume, allowing character switches with a spin of the high heal. Her supporting puppets include Jocelyn’s best friends May Moon, a brown felt monkey. I don’t get the monkey / plastic surgery connection, but maybe it’s a side affect of the anesthetics. As the show proceeds, her full size hubby repeatedly shrinks to a small cardboard cut out, leaving her abandoned and deformed. The songs are blunt yet effective, Mr. Monkey advises here “Cash the Check, leave the house” and Marsian charges through that tune and the rest with vim and vigor. I rarely check the tabloids anymore since celeb cellulite isn’t nears as much fun aliens endorsing presidential candidates, so this show is a great way to catch up on the E! level gossip you might have missed. I’ll offer one piece of advice – if you have a choice between this show and Googeling “Wildenstein”, see the show. The real pictures are too scary to contemplate.

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

Frozen

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

Frozen
By Bryony Lavery
Directed by John DiDonna
Empty Spaces Theatre Company
At the Orlando Shakespeare Center, Orlando FL

Under English common law, the insane may not be convicted of a crime. However, in some cases they really shouldn’t be allowed to wander about like Ralph Ian Wantge (Keith Kirkwood). The use of a middle name might be prejudicial (Lee Harvey Oswald or John Wayne Gacy come to mind) but it’s the one thing that makes him distinctive. From his “Base of Operations” Wantge wanders the British country side abducting and murdering young girls and buying expensive Danish kiddy porn. With no visible means of support he keeps this hobby going for 20 years until he’s tripped up by tattoos and overly meticulous gasoline receipts. Dr. Agnetha Gottmundsdottir (Elizabeth Dean) specializes in cases like this, and demonstrates to my satisfaction that Wantge is seriously brain damaged and technically not responsible for his actions. I’m also convinced of the hatred he engenders in the mother of a random victim, Nancy Shirley (Marty Stonerock).

Both Kirkwood’s precise creepiness and Stonerock’s gut wrench rage operate under heavy yet fluent accents. We learn new and quaint Britishisms like “a cup of drinking chocolate” or “my bits and bobs drawer”, and a dangerous amount of knowledge of neurology and experimental psychological methods. Dean breezes through the technical lectures, and finds a sympathetic patient in Kirkwood’s obsession – “Too bad it’s illegal to kill girls” he muses yet she still hugs him at the end of the show. Dr. A’s journey is most believable, even as her thesis condemns her sins more severely than Ian’s. “Don’t confuse sin with symptom” is a catchy phase and it leads us to a conundrum in modern Western jurisprudence – just because you committed the crime doesn’t mean it’s legally right to lock you up. This hard nugget is left on stage with no good answer offered, leading to what I find as the best part of the theatrical experience – the heated philosophical debate on the ride home. Director DiDonna and his supporting collaborators do what they do best: take morally repugnant stories and push them until they make you think – hard.

For more information on Empty Spaces Theater Company, visit http://www.emptyspacestheatre.org

Halloween – The Musical

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

Halloween – The Musical
By John DeHaas
Directed and Choreographed by Doug White
Starring John Graham, David Houde, Shawn Walsh
Footlights Theatre, Orlando FL

Who would ever imagine a cello on stage at the Footlights Theatre? It took the composing genius of John DeHaas to put it there, even if its only in the service of one of the best horror parodies to past though our darkened woods. You might remember little Mikey Meyers (Walsh) who knifed his big sister for the twin crimes of teen age sex and eating his only Snickers Bar. That was in 1963, and fifteen years of institutional food kept him mum on the motivation even as Dr. Sam Loomis (Graham) worked to understand his twisty little mind. Mike discovers teens are STILL doing it, so he slips away from his captors and pretty quick its Spam-in- a-cabin time, only this time laughs fill in for the blood.

Nowadays, any random event becomes the germ of a show with a colon and exclamation point in the title, but this one delivers the internal organs. From opening number “Trick or Treat” to the boffo closer “She Ate My Last Snickers”, DeHaas gives us a solid comedy without falling too deeply into the easy horror movie tropes. The song styles range from show tunes to doo wop and come across sounding surprisingly clean in a room full of drunks screaming love and adoration for David Houde. The cool part of the show was John Graham, the histrionic and Shatneresque Dr Lewis. The original Bob from the first movie, he breaks us out midway through the show to show a highlight reel of his “dying foot” scene and call the rest of the cast “carnies.” This Halloween isn’t scary and has some rough spots, but the energy and creativity makes it better than any theme part scare night you’ll eve visit.

For tickets and more information, please visit www.WANZIE.com/boxoffice

Sloth

Monday, October 26th, 2009

Sloth
Conceived and Executed by Brian Feldman
Brian Feldman Projects
October 23 and 24, 2009
Part of 7 Deadly Sins by Emotions Dance Company
Cameo Theatre, Orlando FL

Writing about theater is fun, but sometimes you just don’t have any energy or inspiration to talk about it. Take Brian Feldman’s latest effort at entertaining Orlando while doing the minimum possible. His press releases for “Sloth” came in fast and furious, the Cameo Theater is right around the corner, and Feldman had a knack for turning the mundane into the monotonous. Yet it nearly passed by without notice on my part, and I just barely made it over for hour 24 of this 30 hour snooze fest. “Sloth” was part of Emotions Dance Theatre’s “7 Deadly Sins”, and even with press tickets I couldn’t get the gumption to drop by for their clearly more elaborate and well rehearsed project.

A poorly composed photograph with excessive artifacts and flaws.

A poorly composed photograph with excessive artifacts and flaws.

A bounced e-mail finally energized me and after scrounging up pants and a reasonably clean shirt I stuck my nose into his latest Entropyfest. Feldman was propped in a recliner wearing shorts and a tee shirt, and when not dozing he chatted nonchalantly to the smattering of lethargic well wishers who hoped for some jumping, some obsessive eating, or at least the vocalization of 20 pages of sexually oriented want ads. They were disappointed, as he only munched junk food while blankly staring at an old analog TV tuned to pretty much the same nothing you saw back when America lived on an NTSC format. Passing on a snarky blog entry appealed, but something poked and prodded me, and later that night I rolled off the couch and thought “Well, I could write few words, or get a beer. Either will require effort…”

Pictures fill up space much faster than words.

Pictures fill up space much faster than words.

Then is struck me – Feldman HAD rubbed off, without my even noticing. I, too, had become slothful. Not only did I neglect my duty to his highly conceptual art (an acquired taste I’m still acquiring) but other, more important assignments fell fallow. The lawn grew shaggy, trash piled up in the kitchen like the artistic mound around Feldman’s Laz-E-Boy, and his mechanical fish tank was in better shape than the leaking pool outside. The Feldman Dynamic had become static, and the rest of the world had joined him. I hope and pray his next project is more along the lines of “Brian Feldman Leads A Stock Market Rally” or “Clean Out The Feldman’s Garage.” Brian Feldman, America needs you!

A different perspective on Slothfulness. It could easily have been made brighter in any cheap photo editor.

A different perspective on Slothfulness. It could easily have been made brighter in any cheap photo editor.

Brian Feldman Projects has more web sites, Twitter feeds, and other hyperlinks than I have the energy to include here. If you’re ambitious, just click http://brianfeldman.com and you’ll probably find something interesting. Or maybe not.

The Pirates of Penzance or The Slave of Duty

Monday, October 26th, 2009

The Pirates of Penzance or The Slave of Duty
By Gilbert and Sullivan
Directed and Choreographed by Brian Vernon
Starring Terry Alfaro, J. Scott Browning, Rachel Davis, and Sara Hood
UCF Conservatory Theatre, Orlando FL

There’s plenty of fight left in this classic of Victorian social commentary, and it flares to life under director /choreographer Brain Vernon and his stellar student cast. The romance starts with the classic story of a boy and his nursemaid. We find Frederic (Alfaro) apprenticed to Pirates instead of Pilots by his well meaning but slightly deaf nursemaid Ruth (Davis). “Do your duty above all else!” rules the true Briton’s heart, and the pair stuck it out until his 21st year with a pillow-soft pirate pack. The Pirate King (James Rinaldi) never attacks anyone weaker than his crew, and they always free the orphans. His lieutenant Samuel (Carlos Aviles) expresses wonder at how many orphans populate the Royal Navy, but he, too is slave to duty. While Ruth has a weird longing for Frederic, he ditches her as soon as they hit shore and hooks up with Mabel (Hood); one of Major General Stanley’s (Browning) many daughters. She sings opera and he fights the pirates and the other daughters giggle, and everyone gets paired off except for Ruth and the General. That’s the number two rule – “Sex is never as important as class.”

Vernon plays down the social commentary and raises the bar for the singing and staging. Hood obviously has formal operatic training, and holds both the poses and the notes, especially in her wonderful duet with Frederic “Stay, Frederic, Stay”. Rinaldi and the pirate crew nearly keep up with “Oh, Better Far to Live and Die” and “With Cat Like Tread…” The second act features a galumphing police force, lead by a Sergeant of the Police (Nathan Smith) and his fearful men who tackle their roles with insane vigor of a Monty Python Sketch. Alfaro mixed boyish charm and more good vocals, and you wonder how he avoided talking this pirate crew into more honest employment during his service. Expectations are always high for the often parodied, but never topped “I Am The Very Model of a Modern Major General” by the Major. As he sang the tune, Tom Lehrer’s chorus of “There’s Antimony, Arsenic, Aluminum, and Selenium…” stuck in my mind. If that was the only song in the show, the ticket would be worth the price.

Light opera mixes physical comedy, grand opera, and the music hall sensibility into a broadly appealing entertainment. Few Victorian era shows still engage the modern audiences as the societal norms they parody shift. But a few scripts have stayed fresh, and Penzance is one of the best. UCF chose wisely, and did Gilbert and Sullivan proud.

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

The Mystery of Irma Vep: A Penny Dreadful

Sunday, October 25th, 2009

The Mystery of Irma Vep: A Penny Dreadful
By Charles Ludlam
Directed by Christine Robison
Starring Doug Bowser and Joshua Eads-Brown
It’s No Mystery Series
Sleuths Mystery Dinner Theatre, Inc.

Halloween is big business, but it lacks the done-to-death chestnuts Christmas offers. Irma Vep is simple and silly enough to make a claim for that slot, even if it’s a drag fest without a deep, brooding moral. Played by two comic actors who know how to wear a wig and tell a joke, the story carefully segues around the seven lively and fully developed denizens of Mandacrest Manor. Mandacrest is out past Heathcliff’s place, somewhere on the lonely Yorkish moors. Exposition is passed off to the serving class in the shape of frustrated Jan Twisden (Eads-Brown) and gimp Nicodemus Underwood (Ba’aser). He lost a leg saving someone from a wolf, and she looks like she could have bit it off. The pair works for Egyptologist Lord Hillcrest (Eads-brown) and the New Lady Hillcrest (Ba’aser). A few people are missing, including the first Lady Hillcrest and her son, Victor. Victor was killed, or so they say, but his pet wolf Victor. Say what you will about the aristocracy, they aren’t always the cleverest when it comes to naming things. The New Lady H doesn’t fit in very well, and Edgar’s shrine to the first lady doesn’t help matters, nor do the constant lupine attacks on the live stock. You can guess the rest; it’s a fangs and fur festival, complete with a zero budget trip to Egypt and a bleeding painting.
You’d need to be about 3 years old to get a real fright out of this slapstick comedy, but anyone over 10 might pee laughing. Costume changes are quick and occasionally accurate, and the air of seriousness Eads Brown struggles to project often fades in the withering fire of Ba’aser jittery mugging and exquisite timing. There are three acts, with the second shown as a scratchy video projection from the biggest digital projector I’ve ever seen. Director Robison handled the cast well enough, but also took the time to get the audience pointed in the right direction for the faux silent film. The projector faced the back wall of the Sleuth’s Theater, probably because of some structural problem supporting it. Irma Vep should give you enough holiday humor to get you through the real horror up ahead – holidays with the family.

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

Lucky Stiff

Saturday, October 24th, 2009

Lucky Stiff
Book and Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens
Music by Stephen Flaherty
Directed by Julia Allardice Gagne
Starring Eric Fagan, Dorothy Christopher, Amber Hancock
Valencia Character Company, Orlando FL

A musical often requires suspension of disbelief on a very long rope, and Lucky Stiff need a few feet more than most. Brit shoe salesman Harry Witherspoon (Fagan) discovers his long lost Jersey mobster uncle died, leaving a 6 mega bucks estate if Harry takes the corpse on an all-expense-paid trip to Monte Carlo. It’s creepy, but not as creepy as fitting shoes on overweight women all week, so he packs uncle Bye-Bye (Steve Drucker) on the train and checks into the fabulous Motel Formaldehyde. Their only interruption comes from competing heiress Annabel Glick (Christopher) who represents a canine charity in the slums of NYC. They squabble early and often, but their romance doesn’t click until half way through the second act. Getting in their way is the jilted Rita LaPorta (Hancock) and her optometrist hubby Vinnie (Daniel Budd). Rita embezzled 6 million in diamonds, misplaced them, and blamed it on Vinnie. Vinnie is pretty hapless, and serves mostly to acts as Rita’s foil. As everyone runs around on a very impressive multi-level set, the corpse gets lost, the money gets lost, the plot gets lost, but eventually Harry and Annabel wake up in bed, both praying they didn’t actually enjoy the previous evenings black out. Thiers is an awkward nerdy romance that might lead to a successful marriage if they both agree on the Kirk / Picard question and share matching Magna fetishes.

Laughs were sparse in this door slamming farce, but the show never felt like they were misplaced, just forgotten about. Music seemed to be the real focus of Gagne’s direction, and there’s enough solid material to keep the show zipping along. Christopher gave the show most of its vocal fireworks with “Times like This” and her love duet with Fagan “Nice”. While Rita LaPorta (Hancock) never felt terribly likeable, she belted “Rita’s Confession” and supporting actress Karlyn Koebe did a sexy job as the French chanteuse Dominique with “Speaking French”. The expositional lifting came from opener ‘Something Funny’s Going On” but it got the job done and pushed the show off the dock. The best comedy work came late from Sean Flynn as Uncle Luigi as he unraveled the twisted plot – its bit contrived, but them most murder mysteries are at heart. Lucky Stiffs needs tight physical comedy to really work, and while the clever set made room for the action, it needed tighter comedic timing than the cast delivered.

For more information on Valencia Character Company, please visit

Yankee Tavern

Monday, October 19th, 2009

Yankee Tavern
By Steven Dietz
Directed by Anne Hering
Orlando Shakespeare Theatre, Orlando FL

As small helpless creatures awash in a world we barely understand, a model of this heartless universe helps explain away all the bad things. Religion and conspiracy theories fill that role, each posits a large, expansive power with a unified goal and strategy, and each requires you to accept outlandish facts without proof. Faith not only moves mountains, it fills hours and hours of air time just as readily. In post 9-11 NYC, the Yankee Tavern is on its last legs, soon to become a glass tower of commerce and investment. Meanwhile, it houses a few lost souls like Ray (Jim Ireland) a crazed and nearly vagrant skeptic with a George Carlin delivery and an encyclopedic knowledge of what might or might not be true. He drinks free courtesy of the owner, Adam (Zack Robidas) whose father left him this derelict building. Adams studies international political theory, which prepares you to either be a spy or sweep the floor at the UN. His girl friend Janet (Katherine Skelton) is getting skeptical about their upcoming wedding. Adam spends way too much time with his sexy professor and disappears on trips to places that she can’t trace. A guy named Palmer (Tom Nowicki) drops in one day to share a beer with an invisible friend and a maze of conspiracies from JFK to 9-11 to the wedding industry fill the room. Its heady stuff and the answers are as elusive as the questions themselves. To quote Pilate “What is truth?”

Starting as a wacky, character driven comedy, Yankee Tavern twists and turns and ultimately heads down a creepy path with no safe end in sight for anyone. Ireland’s frenetic delivery and non-stop verbal barrage keeps the audience laughing, but the laughing slows down and evaporates as we see Adam become more than a bright student and more of a cog in a mystery machine. Skelton’s Janet might love him, but she wants “The truth” as much as any woman, but it’s not in this deck of marked cards. She clearly will NOT be happy in a CIA marriage. Keeping a moderately calm center is Nowicki, who might be a rouge agent or Company Plant. Either way, he’s man with the discipline to order two rolling Rocks, an only drink one. Take THAT Chuck Colson!

Paranoia is big business, and it can be as big a business as you let it get in your mind. There will always be evil forces and murky plans, and they may or may not line up with your best interests. A truly great Conspiracy allows you to play the small patriot yelling the truth on top of a stormy mountain, just like and Old Testament prophet. It’s a crappy job, but it gets attention, and that’s a big draw for more than a few people. Whether you believe the aliens have taken over the Trilaterals and the Ark of the Covenant was stolen form the Pentagon in the fire, Yankee Tavern is a high energy race through the fun house mirrors of the America zeitgeist. Wear dark glasses and only pay cash for the tickets – it’s no secret Orlando Shakespeare uses the same computer operating system as a certain large “Defense” company in town. Just a word to the wise…

For more information on Orlando Shakespeare Theater, visit http://www.orlandoshakes.org

For more information of conspiracies…you probably don’t want to go there. Seriously.

The Seafarer

Sunday, October 18th, 2009

The Seafarer
By Conor McPherson
Directed by Frank Hilgenberg
Starring James Zelley and Pete Penuel
Theatre Downtown, Orlando, FL

It’s not often you get a scary Christmas story, but this alcohol soaked holiday tale mixes a solid ghost story with the doddering hopelessness of a holiday not designed for lonely people. I won’t say “The Seafarer” upholds stereotypes, but it’s hard to think of an Irish man on stage sipping seltzer water and holding both a professional career and a stable family life. Sharkey (Zelley) has taken a small step, swearing off the Tullamore Dew for two whole days, no small feat when the entire village is buying one another their Holiday Pint. Sharkey cares for his father Richard (Paul Luby) who recently went blind while dumpster diving, and stumbles across their brother Ivan (Tim Bass) who lost his glasses and crashed under their living room carpet. Richard invites Sharkey’s nemesis Nicky (Daniel Cooksley) over for a drink, and he shows up with mysterious Mr. Lockhart (Penuel). Since Nicky got Sharkey’s ex and his car, he’s not thrilled, but he’s even more upset when he discovers an old and very significant debt he owes to Lockhart.

The story doesn’t get rolling until near the end of the first act, but when it gets going, it’s almost worth the hour of physical comedy and fart jokes McPherson uses to pad act one. The cast is well chosen, Zelley looks like done some professional drinking and even if Luby’s blindness feels forced, he does slam in to more than few walls. Tim Bass is a big friendly bear of a drunk, broke on his ass and in fear of his woman, yet we assume he will find a welcoming bed out in the shed if he ever finds his way home. Cooksley plays a likely lad – he may actually find legal and profitable employment in a cheese shop. The real pillar of creep comes from Penuel. He slimes and laughs and drinks his poteen and sharpens his knife in preparation of skinning Sharkey alive. His description of hell is more potent than any I’ve ever heard from Dante or the Lutheran Church, and he delivers the description with the venom of a man who knows of what he speaks. While the bones of the story are ripped from a Bergman movie, there’s a happy enough ending to give you that first flush of holiday good cheer. Candy and ribbons are nice, but these Celts show if you want to make a guy appreciate the holiday, make sure you give him his cheer in a bottle. You can give him the same thing year after year, and he’ll never complain.

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

6th Annual All Hallows For the Fringe

Sunday, October 18th, 2009

6th Annual All Hallows For the Fringe
Hosted by Wayburn Sassy and Didi Panache
October 16, 2009
Mandel Theater, Orlando Shakespeare Center
Orlando, FL

It’s Halloween again and a good excuse for a pseudo- spooky fundraiser. This season the Fringe pulled together an eclectic entertainment that occasionally touches on the season, but no more so than any non-specific location really sets up an improv skit. Tonight’s show is hosted by the crotchety Wayburn Sassy and his latest assistant, the impossibly tall Didi Panache. Sassy stumbles into a few rather awkward moments, particularly when picks on the guy in the wheelchair. As Wayburn shuffled off stage, Voci dance did a piece called “Gallows”, with three women dressed in hoods and scarlet “A”‘s on their chest. They danced under a bar with hangman’s nooses, miming a symbolic death so familiar to strand up comics.

The Orlando Youth Alliance appeared next presenting three monologs on the topic of “Fearless.” My favorite came from Dorian, who entered high school by defining herself as the “New School Dyke”, yet found romance with a guy who seemed equally out of touch with the jock and cheerleader crowd. Following was a short film by Lindsay Cohen on the holiday topic in question: “Trick-or-Treat-a-thon.” We find Elizabeth Murff and Frank McClain begging for candy on fuzzy cable TV show. Silly and desperate, it shows you can get solid entertainment value into a YouTube length video. Wrapping up the first act is Steven Millers tale of a gay vampire complete with a Czechoslovakian accent seeking to seduce a bunch of drunken frat boys. They find the pay and benefits are generous, but Edvard extracts a high price in return.

After the raffle-filled intermission, Jeremy Seghers took to the stage in a red coat and megaphone singing “Red Right Hand” by Nick Cave. It’s a creepy tune, but not as creepy as the next number. Various tools and noise makers were passed out to the audience to back up Tom Waits “What’s He Building In There?” by Tom Waits. What ever it is, it’s gonna be scary. John DiDonna and Annaliese Moon played out a small family drama. Annaliese had a small problem with mom, so dad is giving her a pep talk about behaving. If she’s good, she can get a gold star, and if not, well, her choices run from von Recklinghausen Syndrome to flesh eating bacteria. Chris MacIntyre and Chantry Banks reprised a short play from a recently Play In A Day event. The Wolfman and his dragged- out girl friend work though issues of trust while watching a drive in move and eating pop corn. Chantry never gets much more than a grunt or two, but they both end up howling ant the moon.

As the evening winds down, and Tod Cavanaugh from the Fringe Poetry Smack down read a nice childhood piece on “The Death of Halloween”. As he ages toward puberty, he determines that a Bat Man mask doesn’t make him cool, and the elderly neighbor lady patronized his intrinsic coolness, addressing him with “well, well, who do we have here?” The bitterness of youth persists so far into adulthood… The last piece of the program came form Baby Blue Star Productions. Blue and her male companions dance a sex scene set in a homeless camp complete with sex toys. As fund raiser go, this one offered plenty of entertainment for the buck, particularly if you’re a fan of Fringe shenanigans.

For more information on The Orlando International Fringe Theater Festival visit http://www.orlandofringe.com/