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Archikulture Digest

by Carl F Gauze

Archive for November, 2009

Delayed – A Musical Preview

Monday, November 30th, 2009

Delayed – A Musical Preview
Music and Lyrics by Elaine Pechacek and Katie Hammond
Breakthrough Theatre, Winter Park, FL

I can’t say a huge amount about a musical that’s not even complete, but they WERE selling tickets for this preview so a few comments might be appropriate. The song writing duo of Pechacek and Hammond are 8 weeks into this promising project, and tonight they were brave enough to showcase 11 songs of this musical set at an airport departure gate. That’s as good a place as any to pull together a crowd of disparate souls and squeeze their patience.

The main character might be Kate (Katie Hammond). She’s a bit crazy and tends toward throwing tantrums and dating inappropriate men. Her “I am” song is “Bad Day” with its long list of disasters ranging from a broken nail to the beginning of her cycle. A simmering subplot lurks in Disney-esque “Pilot Duet” between Kate’s sister Megan (Summer Aiello) and pilot Scott Whittmore. They’re both in love with each other and two nervous to do anything rash. Kate reappears in “Accutane”, a quick tempo march about an acne fighting drug that makes you psycho but gives back your porcelain skin.

These three solid songs set lead into the two best numbers in “Delayed”. Liza (Sarah Hanchar) is the eternal “Bridesmaid,” also the working title of her technically challenging but extremely entertaining song that mixes sexual frustration and Girl Scout readiness. Immediately following it is the even funnier “Stalker”, a duet between Kate and Ian (Ryan Kim) who is stalking her all the way through the X-Ray machine. She knows Ian lurks in Crazy Town, but at least she can travel safely knowing he has less than 3 ounces of fluids or gels.

Next we hear a pair of songs that seem out of tone with the rest of the show. “Jane’s Lament” (sung by Ms Hammond) is a slow, down beat number about a woman near the end of her rope – pregnant and abandoned; she has intestinal problems and is probably in a middle seat as well. Chase Padgett then provides the potentially show stopping “Kids on a Plane”. He’s the world weary road warrior, forever stuck in front of a fussy child, and he spews the highest level of anger of anyone in this project. Musically this is a very promising piece, but profanity substitutes for clever lyrics.

Things look up as Ian returns with “Worst Case Scenario” where he seems less a creepster for Kate’s love than a man with his heart set on a specific goal. Finally, there’s a big production number (yeah!) “GAY” is premised on the idea that all desirable heterosexual men are already claimed, and the only single ones are unavailable.

It’s hard to draw conclusions from this trunk of songs, but “Delayed” sounds promising. What’s not clear from the music presented is who the main characters might be and from whence the conflict flows. Kate and Megan have some baggage to resolve, Jane is in the worst emotional state of anyone, we never revisit the pilot/stewardess relation, and Ian and Kate just doesn’t seem like the pair you would cheer for. How this story pulls together is still in the hands of the creative team, but they promise a public read through in January. Get in line early, or you’ll be stuck in the back next to the restroom.

For more information on Delayed, please visit

For other Breakthrough events, please visit

The Lion In Winter

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

The Lion In Winter
By James Goldman
Directed by Katrina Ploof
Starring Sam Hazell, Peg O’Keefe, and Christian Kelty
Mad Cow Theatre, Orlando, FL

It’s good to be king. It’s good, but not easy. Henry the Second (Hazell) nearly pulled off a trick that only Julius Caesar and a bunch of Belgian bureaucrats every accomplished – uniting Western Europe. Through a nifty marriage and a few battles, he ruled over most of the important lands west of the Rhine and Alps, but now faced the issue of corporate succession. His favorite is John (Alexander Ferguson), young, sallow, and shallow. A better choice might be Richard (Kelty) a sullen and crafty warrior, not given to humor or romance or humoring the incompetent. A middle choice could be Geoffrey (Steven lane) he’s the born diplomat and conniver, but there’s no final decision without the consent of Henry’s wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine (O’Keefe). She controls the Aquitaine, essentially the wealthy south of France. Along for the ride is Alais (Sarah Lockhard) Henry mistress and sister to the King-of-What’s-Left-of-France Phillip (Adam DelMedico). There’s a nice set of tensions for you, and the only thing more I can add is everybody is out to nail everybody else, most of these people pass through the dungeon, and alliances shift faster than the graphics on Monday Night Football.

This show flies along, and you’ll have to hold on hard to keep up with whom really wants what to happen. Hazel’s Henry is a lusty, driven man with a sense of megalomania, and O’Keefe’s Eleanor is proud but frustrated, willing to fight to the end. She has little else to do, and her righteous anger presents itself in her oratorical style. Kelty is sullen and simmers violence, and Lane was born a millennia too soon – he’d have done well trading bonds or refinancing the housing market. The innocents are John and Alias. John feels too childlike to be a consideration to run even a small dukedom, but Alais is the prototypical battered bride – she’s accept anything from the man she loves, even if she knows he’s unlikely to deliver any of his long term promises.

While there’s a certain unreality in the twists and turns of Lion in Winter, it reflects the power politics of the late dark ages. Kingship was a rather tenuous position, the barons and minor nobility held the real power since they raise the armies the king needed to fight, and unless they thought they were treated well, revolt or simply showing up on the wrong side of the battle line was an option. Just to put these people in context, Henry was grandson of William the Conqueror, Richard was known as Lion Hearted and lead the third crusade, and John signed the Magna Charta. This was a completely dysfunctional family, torn apart by internal dissention that will make your Thanksgiving dinner look calm. Slice the turkey and then hide the knives if this crew shows up Thursday.

For more information on Mad Cow, please visit

The Learned Ladies

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

The Learned Ladies
By Molière
Directed by Be Boyd
Starring Emily Bramblett, Kristina Dezego, Ryan Garcia, Kraig Kelsey
UCF Conservatory Theatre, Orlando, FL

If it’s not about sex, money or God, why write about it? Tonight God is off doing something important in Rome, but here in Louis XIV’s Paris sex and money are enough to drive this brilliant production of Molière’s best work. The sex angle revolves around handsome Clitandre (Garcia) who was rejected by the overly intellectual Armande (Julia Gordon), leaving the field clear for simple Henriette (Dezego) to snag the man of her dreams. Daddy’s money is controlled by his imperious wife Philaminte (Kerri Alexander) and the wealth drawn hangers on like the awful poet Trissotin (Kelsey). He has the women enthralled, and he’d be more than happy to marry anyone in site, including dragged-out Belise (Casey Nobel). Philaminte just fired her housemaid Martine (Bramblett) who is coaching Henriette and outmaneuvering Philaminte, who prefers to marry Henriette to Trissotin. Can the day be saved by a clever ruse, or are the women destined to spend their lives with The Wrong Man?

Of course things turn out well; this is a classic French farce. Poking fun at the air bags of the French bourgeoisie and their modern descendants is as funny and timely as ever. The set is one of the best ever fabricated by Scenic Designer Steven Ricker. It’s severely formal and well appointed, allowing the action to flow from the stage up the center aisle stairs. It replicates everything about 1672 except the smell of the plumbing. Everything is just slightly over played under Be Boyd’s direction – Martine appears to be seducing Father Chrysale (Peter Cortelli,) Kelsey’s Trissotin is a wild parody of self importance, and Alexander’s Philaminte nearly had me turning over my check book.

There are always wind bags, and any one slick enough can sell anything to a select audience with “I want to believe” tattooed on their knuckles. Molière was the master of parody, and careful enough to never offend anyone too critical to his food chain or lose his head. This fast paced and highly romantic production feels like a Shakespeare comedy, only funnier. It’s nice to sit through a show that has both high production values and exceptional talent, and spend an evening laughing at someone who skates as close to yourself as you can stand.

For more information on UCF Conservatory Theatre, visit

Pedestrian, or Walking: Impossible

Sunday, November 22nd, 2009

Pedestrian, or Walking: Impossible
By Brian Feldman Projects
West Oak Ridge Road and South Texas Avenue, Orlando FL

Orlando is NOT a city for walking. Get away from Winter Park or Lake Eola, and you’ll find miles upon miles of suburban sprawl, endless cul-de-sac subdivisions, and a screwy network of roads that funnel cell phone wielding soccer moms in SUVs to strip malls and fast food joints. Orlando is ranked the most dangerous city in America for pedestrians, and a perfect target for Orlando’s Premier Time-Based Performance Artist, Brian Feldman. Predictions of his imminent death do not deter him, nor did the tedium of walking endlessly around concrete wastelands in some of the more economically challenged parts of town.

I caught up with Brian on day three of his circular odyssey at the intersection of Oak Ridge and Texas. On one corner there is an empty lot, on another a depressing Chinese restaurant, then an apartment complex and a strip center with Banco Popular on the corner. It’s a typical Central Florida landscape, and not something you would find on a post a card or promotional website. I followed him on half a dozen circuits, and while he seemed a bit preoccupied, we conversed about the project and its meaning. Traffic was busy but not particularity heavy. While Oak Ridge is a major east-west artery, Sand Lake and Americana are alternatives and by local standards, this part of town is easy to navigate. Feldman reports that 50 people were struck by cars in the past two years at this location, and 5 died of injuries. Extrapolate this to the metro area, and it’s clear your chances of automotive impact are much larger than dying from Swine flu or whatever other scary story is padding headlines. While Feldman’s performance publicizes the injuries and death toll, the event seems particularly low-keyed even by his standards. There is no support crew, his trademark portable marquee is missing, and the only record of his performance may well be some personal notes and this blog entry.

Feldman Crossing West Oakridge at Texas Ave.<

While the risk of accident is significant, to date Feldman's most significant injury on this project is a sunburn and some random profanity from passing drivers. He seems focused and in good health and spirits, and ready to move up to some really scary intersections including the construction site at 436 and Colonial. It may not be quite as risky as sticking ones head in a tiger’s mouth, but Feldman is no match for a Ford Explorer or a Lincoln Navigator.

Update 11-23-09: Mr. Feldman today announced Pedestrian, or Walking: Impossible has been postponed until 12-1-09. Please refer to his website for more details.

For more information on Brian Feldman Projects, please visit

Kick Ass Plays For Women

Sunday, November 22nd, 2009

Kick Ass Plays For Women
By Jane Shepard
Breakthrough Theatre, Winter Park, FL

Strong roles for women are uncommon, but this collection of short plays is loaded with great roles and great performances. We begin with “Commencing,” directed by Laurel Clark. In one of those incredibly awkward dating moments, Arlen (Christine Robison) brings a nice bouquet of flowers on her first blind date with Kelly (Michelle Kepner-Prueitt.) Since Kelly is straight, a rather awkward interlude occurs. Both women have been outside the dating scene for some time, but neither is going to switch teams. As the show builds, tension mounts until we get to a rather long diatribe section that examines stereotypes and societal prejudice, but once the writer has flushed that out of her system, we get to the good part. As the women become friends and the icky sex vibes die down, we find both has a bigger dating issue than gender preferences or a fear of Alcoholics Anonymous. It’s likely to doom them to a long lonely life, and it’s not even their fault.

After a short break, “Friend of the Deceased” brought the most post-show discussion in the ride home. Director Christine Robison filled in for an injured actress, and brought some real bitterness to her dead husband’s funeral. He ran around extensively, and when one of his ex-girlfriend (Samantha Faith O’Hare) shows up to grieve, Robison throws money at her and forces her to reveal the details of the trysts. It’s not clear exactly what the truth is here, O’Hare may have actually done the deed with the dead daddy, or she may be an actress paid to help the widow drive away her demons.

The final performance was by far the most disturbing. In “Nine,” another Laurel Clark project we find Sara-Lee Dobbs and Alia Laurence chained to the wall in tattered and filthy clothes. They are clearly in some political prisoner torture center, and struggle to keep alive by playing a “tell it game”. Each has a fact, simple as it may, be they refuse to tell the other in order o keep themselves alive. The emotional energy starts out at 10 and goes up from there, leaving the audience drained and glad to escape. ‘kick Ass Plays” is powerful and moving, and another excellent and unexpected pleasure from Winter Parks newest theater.

For ticket prices and show times, please visit

Truth or Dare With Pepè

Sunday, November 22nd, 2009

Truth or Dare With Pepè
Heidi Dog Productions
Special guests Miss Sammy, Jeff Jones and Margo Knight
The Peacock Room, Orlando FL
Start with Ambiguous, move on to Swishy, pass though Obvious, and somewhere north of Flaming you’ll find the pseudo Latin Pepè and his safety orange mowhawk. Mr. Pepè first appeared at a Fringe Festival a few years ago and put minor local celebrities on stage and convinced them to tell us sordid fact about their lives, or perform a lewd activity they pray will never land on YouTube. The results are hilarious, and the show lives on, wandering from venue to venue. Tonight it docks at the Peacock Room with Miss Sammy, local comedian Jeff Jones, and the head of United Arts, Margot knight. The show begins with free shots.

Pepe on stage for "Truth Or Dare"

A certain amount of booze always enhances comedy, and with the audience slightly lit Pepè assumes his faux leopard skin snuggy and starts grilling less-than-innocent bystanders about the dirty little secrets in their lives. Thanks to the power of Pepè, those questions go way beyond what you could get away with, even in impolite conversation. Guest host Missy Sammy sported an orange chiffon dress and acts as straight man to Pepè’s lunacy, and the first victim was a young woman who had to put a condom on a floppy rubber creature know as “Whiskey Dick.” Jeff Jones received the treatment next; his dare involved removing the bra from a blow up doll while he was blind folded. Rather than just let the air out of his date of the moment, he went through the contortions every adolescent male tries, and eventually succeeded by turning her upside down and backwards. Margot Knight formed the climax of the show. She’s pillar of the Arts Community and a woman with some a few bra removal stories of her own, but she got off easy with a little exotic dancing. Pepè then passed out another shot, plugged some upcoming events, and got Zach the Shot Boy to strip. It’s not high class, but highly entertaining.

Pepè serves as Orlando’s free lance Court Jester. With a bizarre costume and over the top persona, he takes liberties with his audience that no one could take in real life. All the things you want to say about sex and gender and race but dare not, he has free reign to ridicule and point out with no fear. The only rule is “whatever Pepè does to anyone else, he can do to you.” Its cathartic and he’ll pass out a few drinks to numb the embarrassment. That’s the Pepè way.

For more information on Pepè visit or

Crimes of the Heart

Friday, November 20th, 2009

Crimes of the Heart
By Beth Hurley
Directed by Aradhana Tiwari
Starring Meggin Weaver, Jennifer Bonner, and Britni Leslie
Beth Marshall Presents at The garden Theatre, Winter Garden, FL

Small town living is hard on your sex life for two reasons: The dating pool is small, and everyone knows who’s making goo-goo eyes at whom. It’s doubly hard for Lenny (Weaver) who’s shy, rather plain, and committed to nursing her grandfather into the grave. The rest of her family isn’t much use – Meg (Bonner) ran off to have a mediocre singing career, Cousin Chick (Beth Marshall) bosses her around while making White Trash Pride an art form, mom hung both herself and her cat, and now little sister Babe (Leslie) just shot her husband since she doesn’t like his looks. “Get ’em up a tree and then throw rocks ’em,” is an old writers saying, and Lenny’s batting away boulders by this point.

There are a few men in this story, but they’re just an afterthought. Young lawyer Barnett Lloyd (Jason Horne) shows up at the end of the first act and rescues the story. He’s bombastic and self important, but comes as a welcome relief to the anguished fretting. Bonner’s Meg sleeps around like she’s in a country music song and seduces her old flame Doc (William Hagaman). Doc seems confused by how women work, but a bottle of Jack is all it takes to straighten him out. There’s even hope for uptight Lenny, she revives an old flame she once rejected because she had small ovaries.

While there’s Tennessee Williams grade sin and debauchery in “Crimes of the Heart”, but the juicy and sinful story line fades away as the sisters reconcile. A death in the family removes at least one burden from the sisters, and a surprise chocolate cake does the rest. Lenny steps out of her shell, chases Chick out of the house, calls up her old boyfriend, and reconciles with her sisters, but I was left wondering if the deal Barnett struck would actually work.

The action moves quickly once we figure out what the real story is, and the elaborate and detailed set by Tommy Mangeri sets us clearly in the mid sixties in the Mississippi delta. “Crimes” is a classic Date Show – bring along a native guide to explain the curious rituals of femininity or you’ll continue believing men are only here to lift boxes and squish bugs.

For more information on The Garden Theatre, please visit or


Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

By Steven Sondheim
Directed by John DiDonna
Starring Cory Boughton, Kevin Sigman, Marcie Schwalm, Nathan Bartman
Seminole State College, Lake Mary FL

Sure. “Shoot the President”. That’s your answer to everything if you live in this nether world of mis-motivated political operatives. Sitting high upon the throne of gunpowder politics is John Wilkes Booth (Boughton). A string of bad reviews drove him to shoot a middling president and boosting him in the polls. The reviews he got after his bold move were worse than ever, and when they cops burnt him out of his barn he learned a belated lesson – no one appreciates the sacrifice you make for others. While Booth seems somewhat rational, all the other assassins seem completely unhinged but still possessing a twisted internal logic. Giuseppe Zangara (Fredy Ruiz) seems motivated more by a stomach ulcer than any politics, Sara Jane Moore (Schwalm) brings her kid and dog to the assassination and ends up throwing bullets at Jerry Ford, and we never hear from John Schrank who actually popped a cap into Teddy Roosevelt. Then there are the really scary ones: Squeaky Fromme thought Chucky Manson was the Son of God, Leon Czologosz (Cory Owen) fantasized about Emma Goldman, and Samuel Byck (Michael Sapp) wore a Santa suit and thought he could pilot a 747 into Dick Nixon’s White House. At least Al Qaeda took flying lessons first.

Even by Sondheim standards, this is a totally bizarre show, yet clearly in the sweet spot of local impresario John DiDonna’s theatrical mission. The story vignettes put past history into context, and make the viewer rethink that common dismissal of a shooter “Oh, he’s just nuts.” Sanity may be a rare commodity among freelance assassin, but every evil spirit must believe that what they are doing is somehow justified. Amongst all this high fiber political history are some very nice musical numbers. “The Ballad of Booth” melodically recalls the sense of anger the civil war brought to American political discourse 150 years ago, while “The Ballad of Guiteau” reveals the grandiose and ever expanding mind of a man who thought he could do anything. “Another National Anthem” ties all these world shaking logic into a tuneful if not coherent argument that leads us to the best role in the show – Lee Harvey Oswald (Bartman). With a failed marriage, worse than awful military career, and two defections to his credit, Oswald comes across as a despicable looser who debated suicide or assassination as a way out. He takes a plastic rifle and pans the audience, delivering a slug into the brain of Americas post war superiority complex, and enshrining himself as the permanent American Antichrist.

Killing the president rarely fixes the problem you perceived. The System is too large and redundant to change for the loss of one man, no matter how important. And the bad guys and lunatics are much more interesting than the sane, especially if you can just pay to see them in the freak show. Finally, Sondheim can spin a decent musical out of the least promising material. “Assassins” keeps getting produced, and while you might not resonate with its internal politics this production entertains all the way from the opening Parade of the Styrofoam Presidents to the final volley of shots aimed at the audience. This is True Crime, told on a grand scale.

For more information on the Seminole State College Theater program, please visit


Monday, November 16th, 2009

Book by Joe Masteroff
Music and lyrics by John Kander and Fred Ebb
Directed by Kevin Gray
Choreography by Dodie Pettit
Musical Direction by David Patrick
Starring Peter Travis, Emily Killian, Dustin Schwab, Robert Yoho
Annie Russell Theater, Winter Park FL

We’ve all seen it happen – the new boss shows up, shuts down all the fun, and proceeds to make life miserable for everyone. Tonight the fun’s set in Weimar Germany, and while the Nazis tip well, they can’t admit to themselves they enjoy the drag show. Aspiring novelist Cliff (Schwab) flees a French-induced writers block and meets minor smuggler Herr Ludwig (Yoho) and alcoholic dancer Sally Bowles (Killian) his first day in Berlin. Herr Ludwig keeps his Nazi leaning quiet while polishing his English and waiting for the revolution. Sally dances at the Kit Kat club under the watchful eye of its Diamond Dog in Lederhosen Emcee (Travis). Between outrageous production numbers and gay bar sexual politics, life slowly unravels for everyone except Ludwig. Cliff’s land lady Frau Schneider (Amanda Leaky) breaks off her engagement to Herr Schultz (Jonathan Feebler) because he’s Jewish, Sally becomes pregnant but is fuzzy on the owner of the sperm, and Cliff adopts standards just high enough scotch the smuggling game. Everyone applauds the dance band as the iceberg bears down on Central Europe.

This “Cabaret” combines the high production values with a brand new set of lights and some innovative direction to spin a thrilling and delightful story. We begin with outrageous convention in the first act but take a dark turn in the second. Sparkly Emcee Travis not only introduces dancers and performs lascivious dance numbers, but his world weary affectation while moving microphones and flirting with Cliff only emphasized his exit – unafraid to spit in the eye of his overlords, this bad boy paid the price for his actions. Killian’s Sally abandons the smiling face of someone who was in on the joke and looks like she’d just been raped and beaten as she spits out her final song. Cliff knows more than few things about love, including one of the Kit Kat Boys, yet he’s always about two steps behind the reality of Sally’s portmanteau love affairs. Touching performances came from Frau Schneider and Herr Schultz – both genuinely wanted love, or at least companionship, but Schneider was bluffed out of it by the Nazis and Schultz hid behind a nationalism that would send him marching to the gas chamber singing “Deutschland Uber Alles.” Herr Ludwig pasted a friendly veneer over a simmering violence, but never really nailed his German accent. If there was a problem with this production, it was accents. Those who tackled them typically sounded more Russian than Prussian.

Two broken romances orbit the axis of this story, but under the direction of Kevin Gray we see love is only a drug to dull the pain of the coming collapse. Each person on stage is running from something: their past, their future, or their present, but no romance can save any of them. Cliff sampled bohemia yet flees to Middle America while Sally tried love and found it wanting and settles for sex. Schneider and Schultz are trapped by their class, and neither nationalism nor hard scrabble capitalism will save them from the storm. Ludwig and Mr. Emcee both revel in the collapse of the Old Régime, one thinking “This is the world the revolution promised” and other thinking “This is the revolution that promises glory.” The morning is cold and dank and almost here, but there’s time for one more bottle of champagne, and the band! Oh, the band! The band is still beautiful, just like the moment.

For more information on the Annie Russell Theatre at Rollins College, please visit

The Boys Are Back!

Sunday, November 15th, 2009

The Boys Are Back!
Musical direction by Michael Wittenburg
The Winter Park Playhouse, Winter Park, Fl

With a title like “The Boys Are Back!” you might expect an evening of picking up chicks, getting drunk in an Irish bar, and the occasional college fight song, but tonight’s entertainment felt rather…sensitive. We opened strong with “Luck Be a Lady Tonight” sung by Todd Allen Long and “The Lady is a Tramp” belted by Mark Richard Taylor, but Jeff Clark balanced the testosterone with a smooth “Lady” and “My Funny Valentine.” He even did a half a duet of “Lilly’s Eyes” from “The Secret Garden.” Backing up the boys was Musical Director Michael Wittenburg hiding behind the piano. He produced a candelabra for the “classy” part of the show. That’s when he noodles the ivories while the boys slipped off stage to “check on the steak” and freshen up their costumes. Veteran drummer Sam Forrest wore his best fishing shirt and kept up a jazzy drum beat on a small kit, highlighting the onstage banter with a cymbal brush or rim shot as required. Another WPPH familiar, Bill Schwartz played acoustic guitar for the first act, and went electric for the much manlier second act.

Maybe it was the Coors light and hot wings at the bar, maybe their venture into country music, but act two felt manlier. Mr. Long opened with a Hee-Haw favorite, Buck Owens “Phht You Were Gone”. Eventually Taylor and Clark join in, and soon the audience is singing along. The swaying arm-in-arm closing time atmosphere continues with more country sing-alongs – “Drink More Beer” and “Bowling Trophy Wife.” Maybe they need to take of their top hat and loosen their cumberbunds more often, but these songs made the show. When not singing, we heard some “Guy Rules” and a Top 10 of gems like “Men are like lava lamps – fun to watch but not too bright.” We ended with a big blow out, “Copacabana.” Audience member were abducted to play Ricky and Lola and the other guy. While Lola swung here feather boa two guys mimed a pretty decent fist fight. It looks like guys can do more than scratch belch and flip channels, but don’t ask us to remember holidays or care which dress makes you butt look fat. Some of us might, just possibly, show some emotion, but then me need to lie down on a skanky couch for a while and just watch football. Honey, can you get me a beer?

For more information on Winter Park Playhouse, please visit