Do you want to write for Ink 19?

Archikulture Digest

by Carl F Gauze

Archive for December, 2009

The Eight: Reindeer Monologues

Monday, December 21st, 2009

The Eight: Reindeer Monologues
By Jeff Goode
Directed by Michael Colavolpe
Breakthrough Theatre, Winter Park, FL

After a few weeks of egg nog and socially conscious ghosts and singing “Holly Jolly” till you puke, it’s nice to come upon a twisted, sicko holiday story like “Reindeer Monologues.” We open with hard ass Dasher (Chris Prueitt) chewing a cigar stub and giving a DI lecture on the dedication required to pull a sled full of gifts around the world once a year. Then the flamboyant Cupid (Jeff Lindberg) flames on stage, hinting at some of the more lurid veniality that occupies the North Pole staff during the off season, followed by glitzy Prancer (Ryan Gigliotti) revealing he hates kids. Well, after this month, who doesn’t? More hints of trouble in paradise are confirmed by butch Blitzen, along with her fashionista gripes about a job requiring you to work naked save for some bells and leather straps, but Comet (Kevin Kriegel) defends Santa for taking him off the street and giving him a second chance after he (Comet) buzzed traffic and knocked off a liquor store. The Santa’s wall of invincibility cracks further with evasive Dancer (Janine Klein) – here story of leaving Reindeer Ballet to pull for Santa ends with a hanging sentence and the sure knowledge the worst rumors are likely true. It takes Donner (Kevin Bee) to confess what Santa did to hurt Rudolph, and an impassioned Vixen (Michelle Kepner-Prueitt) to confirm the other half of the bad news – things really ARE rotten north of Denmark.

With an all star cast crammed on the tiny Breakthrough stage, this is a powerful and serious drama that builds behind a series of comic anecdotes until it punches you in the gut. Don’t bring the kiddies, this is an adult story of debauchery and NOT suitable for a warm cup of cocoa and a plate of Oreos. Start with a belt of holiday Scotch and work up to the serious stuff afterwards. Thank you Breakthrough – some of us have been holidayed out for a month, and need some sordid gossip to cleanse our palettes.

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

Sleigh

Sunday, December 13th, 2009

Sleigh
Created, Written and Directed by PB&J Theatre Factory
Garden Theatre, Winter Garden, FL

If only they could do this in Black and White! It’s 25 frame a second comedy as the PB&J crew mixes mime and slapstick in this visit to mystical Sugar Falls. The snow is on the trees, shoppers are out seeking bells and whistles, and the postal service is down to that one last nagging delivery. Pathos and mincemeat pie-in-the-face humor fill the stage as “Sleigh” carefully avoids the overcooked turkey of that” English Play.”

In this gentle G- rated comedy, several skits stand out. Rubber jointed Brandon Roberts plays the skinny unloved Christmas tree, and while his wobbly and unidentifiable co-tree gets purchased, he’s by far the funniest foam rubber actor on stage. Mike Gill is the tragic one, he freezes on the street busking for a crowd more interested in Ma’s (Becky Eck) and Pa’s (Jason Horne) commercial wares. Mark Koenig and his new wife Meggin Weaver look like they’re sharing their first holiday, and he overachieves decorating the gingerbread house. The best scene of the night arrives when they slap a “For Sale” sign on the gingerbread house, and a family of cookies comes to look at it. Another enjoyable moment comes with the postal crew lost in the woods on a stormy night. Roberts, Feren, and Colin Peterson are freezing to death and trying to rescue that precious Christmas card from a large bird up in a tree, but it takes the GPS and parking skills of United Parcel Service to save the holiday. The good news – Ma and Pa reconcile, the freezing guitarist collects some cheer, and the gingerbread house becomes a happy home for some damaged cookie-folk.

With a simple sound track, a few sound effects and no real dialog, it’s amazing how much story and emotion the PB&J cast broadcasts. The simple act of not having a “ka-CHING” when Gill drops a quarter in his guitar case speaks volumes, and the audience physically responds with heartfelt “aww…” more than once when disappointment affected someone on stage. But everything had a happy ending, and the numerous small audience members up past bedtime were transfixed. At the end, one little girls said “Mommy, I’m done” and promptly fell asleep. It should be a nice ride home for someone.

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

Every Christmas Story Ever Told

Sunday, December 6th, 2009

Every Christmas Story Ever Told
By Michael Carleton, John Alvarez, and Jim Fitzgerald
Directed by Jim Helsinger
Starring Tim Williams, Mark Lanier, and Paul Kiernan
Orlando Shakespeare Festival, Orlando FL

Marley was dead. Of course he’s dead; everyone from Donald Duck to Frank H has been beating him over the head for decades. So when Ebenezer Scrooge (Williams) sets out to squeeze another season’s blood out of this literary turnip, both the ghosts of Marley (Lainer) and Christmas Present (Kiernan) object and propose and alternate story arc – combine every other story from Luke to Linus into one mind blowing feel good Spectacle-Spectacle of a show. They pull cardboard tube antlers and bubble pack oceans out of nooks and crannies, creating one of those rarest of holiday events – two hours of solid laughs completely unencumbered by guilt or a need to go “awwww…”

There are too many sight gags and copyright-free rewrites to fairly report, but Lainer as “Gustav The Green Nosed Goat” and Tim Williams as the stammering George Bailey may be the two most striking performances. Not that there was any lack of comedy form Mr. Kiernan, he made a wonderful Chuck Barris on the Fruit, Nut and Dating Game, and read most of the dark and gruesome “Christmas Traditions From Around the Globe”. The comedy in this show flows from multiple angles – broad parodies of The Grinch and The Nut Cracker swirl around visuals of a wonderful one man “Macy’s Float Gone Amuck,” razor sharp “locals only” gags and even a Tiger Woods joke. Clearly the writing team of Carleton, et al. and director Helsinger were cutting and pasting into the wee hours to make this the freshest holiday anti-fruitcake they could.

Does Marley rise from the blacksmithy of the underworld and provide redemption to all us Scrooges? I think that was in there somewhere, but was laughing too hard to notice. If you absolutely, positively need to see every Christmas special ever made but can’t afford cable this season, this is your ticket. But close your eyes during the Polar Express joke, not even this crackerjack team of crackpots could make that turkey funny.

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

We Need A Little Christmas

Sunday, December 6th, 2009

We Need A Little Christmas
Directed by Wade Hair
Breakthrough Theatre, Winter Park FL

This show felt a lot like a real Christmas party – the place was packed with kids running in and out, there was a weird uncle with a collection of creepy holiday hats, and no one would touch the fruit cake or the cheese ball. Beyond that, this functional family can really sing, and they mix a selection of holiday standards with several explicitly religious numbers. So often the world seems split between religious hostility and fanaticism, and it’s nice to see someone ignore the whole litmus test mantra and just do the music they enjoy.

With 13 singers on stage, things felt crowded. The cast was split between professional stage veterans and little kids who were better at cuteness than harmony. The ensemble filled the stage for the opening numbers “We Need a Little Christmas” and “It’s the Most Wonderful time of the Year” and then slid into the mandatory maudlin number, the very modern sounding “A Christmas to Remember” which actually made me fight off a weepy feeling. Soon enough we were into a pair of traditional medleys of rock and roll classics “Rocking Round the Christmas Tree” and “Jingle Bell Rock.” While the youngsters did what they do best: sparkle, but the voices that caught my attention were the more experienced. Director Wade Hair has a sweet but powerful tenor, and Davis Garrard has a hyper drive on his voice warble control. The ladies were equally up the task with stirring renditions of “Santa Baby” and “Sisters”. The space is packed, the air-conditioning set on Ice Age 2, but the warmth and energy of this Holiday cabaret will cheer you up, no matter how much joy you still need to exude.

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

Haul Out The Holidays

Sunday, December 6th, 2009

Haul Out The Holidays
Directed by Michael Edwards
Winter Park Playhouse, Winter Park, FL

At last! A holiday cabaret that stays far away from the sound track to your Wal-Mart shopping experience. The fine family at WPPH tackles the seasonal “old softie” show, but keeps to what they do best – show tunes, movie music and tap dancing. The premise is rock-paper-scissors simple – Heather (Alexander) and Roy (Alan) entertaining their adult friends Laura (Hodos) and her significant other Todd (Mummert). A bunch of kids run around and contribute to the merriment. While they open with a stock medley of the generic holly and snowflakes, soon we enter into a Roy Alan specialty “Turkey Lurkey” and the kids sing the obscure “Somewhere in My Memory” (Tianna Stevens) and “Once Upon A December” (Bella Muller). Novelty songs are a part of the holiday season, but I’d never heard the B-movie classic “The Fruit Cake that Ate New Jersey” led by David McCarthy. An elegant “The Best Things Happen While Your Dancing” has Todd and Laura ballroom dancing across the stage, and the kids return with a slow, jazzy “Christmas Time Is Here.”

The highlight of the show comes from Eb and Flo (Hodos and Alexander) as the pant suited, hair helmeted singers from the Best Western in Oshkosh, WisCANsin. I grew up in the same zip code as Alexander, and she nails that Midwestern divorced party girl accent as she blasts through the disco hit “Cheese Logger Today”. Other treats are the tap dancing “Holiday Hop,” Heather Alexander’s “Santa Baby” romp up the center aisle to rub the bald spots on the older audience members, and a gorgeous “Believe” by Todd wraps up the show. Sure, they sang a few numbers from The Grinch and something about Chestnuts and Eggnog, but there’s no reason to keep beating those numbers into the ground. This is a fun, innovative show that takes most of the sting out of the gift of a fruitcake you last saw five years ago.

For more information on Winter Park Playhouse, please visit http://www.winterparkplayhouse.org