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by Carl F Gauze

Archive for April, 2010

Lend Me A Tenor

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

Lend Me A Tenor
By Ken Ludwig
Directed By Frank Hilgenberg
Starring Adam Del Medico, Jackie Prutsman, Larry Stalling, Will Barbara
Theatre Downtown, Orlando FL

Nothing cheers up a recession-cowed economy like a good, five door farce. Set in 1934, this show mirrors today’s gestalt from the desperate search for escapism to the mindless worshiping of whatever pop star is on the horizon. In pre-flaming river Cleveland, famed tenor Tito Merelli (Barbara) shows up to raise some funds and polish the fading city’s self image. Max (Del Medico) would like to sing on stage, but he’s just the gofer for permanently irritated manager Saunders (Stallings). He’d also like to marry Saunders daughter Maggie (Prutsman) but she’s holding out for a better deal – she’s prefer a fling with Merelli, if only his wife Maria (Cira Larkin) didn’t object so strongly. And she’s not the only woman to throw herself at the accepting Merelli, the head of the opera Julia (Sara Benz-Phillips) and the soprano Diana (Victoria Burns) are hiding in various closets, as is the bellhop (Mike Kendrick). Merelli becomes ill, and Saunders convinces Max to sing the lead. The scheme just might work, it’s Othello and opera fans can’t tell one guy in blackface from another. We have everything we need – sex, stardom, and one fewer hiding places than paramours.

While the opera was recorded and both Del Medico and Barbara wisely chose to lip sync, the sex part of the show was quite believable. Low cut dresses and plenty of gratuitous bending over and languid magazine flipping kept the guy’s attention, and the jokes worked well enough to keep the women laughing. Del Medico had the proper hang-dog look for an operatic factotum, and pushy Maggie will make his life miserable once they hook up. Barbara looked more Italian than anyone I’ve ever seen in this role, but Stalling seemed to be set permanently on Full Metal Angry. All the women have their own personal level of sexuality – Maria as the older woman who can barely tolerate leaving philandering man, Julia as a powerful woman looking to enhance her status with sex, Diana as the connoisseur of sexy undies, and Maggie who is young enough to get away with anything, and star struck enough to try.

There’s plenty of door slamming and misplaced identity, and the scenes where the women make out with Del Medico or Barbara in black face steal the show. This is an easy to swallow comedy with enough innuendo to keep you interested, but not enough actual sex to discourage bringing the children. There were more than a few early teens in the audience, and they gave the best reactions to the misplace lust – they might even know what it’s like to be caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.

For more information on Theatre Downtown, please visit

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
By Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice
Directed by Mark Huffman
Starring David Coalter, Patte DePova, Andrew Meidenbauer
Garden Theatre, Winter Garden FL

It’s the Garden Theatre’s first self-production, and they sure started with a bang. Here’s everything a community theatre can hope for – a huge cast, great costumes, skillful lighting, and a family friendly script that sells right into their local market. OK, the sound was mud and the smoke effects beyond biblical, but all in all this razzle-dazzle was a crowd pleaser and huge success. “Joseph” was Webbers follow on to the success of “Jesus Christ Superstar” and was part of a flowering of post-hippie era religious musicals. The story hews very closely to the Biblical version, but has better songs and elaborate dance numbers. For those of you who skipped Sunday school, the story goes like this:

Elderly Jacob (Lanny Reddick) has 12 boys by wives Rachel and Leah and their assorted handmaidens. Joseph (Coalter) is his favorite, and while the older boys worked the flocks and did the dirty work, Joseph hung out and kept his high fashion coat of many colors clean. I suspect he was a bit of an ass, but that’s not enough justification for his brothers to ship him off to the slave markets of Cairo. They tell Jacob a story about Joseph being bravely eaten by a lion, and the old man falls for it. As a slave, Joseph had a decent career until he caught the horny eye of Potiphar’s wife (Katie Pindar Brown). When her pass at him was rejected, she had him tossed in jail where his ability to interpret dreams won him an audience with the Pharaoh (Meidenbauer). By predicting the commodities market, Joseph became the finance minister of Egypt and when his brothers came to beg for food, he messed with their heads, but never sought the revenge he could easily have taken. .

There’s catchy music here, and any historical principal fall to a good song or jest. Joseph impressed me; his big number “Any Dream Will Do” was nearly moving. The big production number “Potiphar” was a hoot with his wife and servants in sequins and looking like they had just fled a P.G. Wodehouse house party. In the second act, the surreal “Those Canaan Days” only lacked a bottle of absinthe to complete the transformation of the Levant in to a Montmartre crash pad. Less successful was the ambitious “One More Angle in Heaven” with its Oklahoma hoe-down dance number. It got the entire 48 member cast on stage, but the boot stomping was loud enough to drown out the singing.

There were some audio problems, particularly in the first act. The Narrator (DePova) was often muddy and too loud, and while individual numbers and solos sounded fine, the ensemble numbers were poorly mixed and indistinct. I retreated to the last row for the second act, and from here I got a much better appreciation of the lighting (Eric Furbish) and Set design (Paul Bedford). They turned down the smoke in the second act, and now the fumes highlighted the set rather than obscured it.

As a story, this one is weak even by Andrew Lloyd Webber standards. There is no clear protagonist here – Joseph never rails against his fate, but seems to accept whatever happens to him. He never gets a decent “I want song” but is stuck in the “I am” mode. There’s no tension or uncertainly in his role, and his actions are only a scaffold to hang songs on. These are good songs, and the hanging is first class, but the results are a great review and not a moving story with someone to cheer for. Perhaps that explains the enduring quality of this show – you never feel uncomfortable for anyone on stage, because the author never lets them become uncomfortable.

For a complete listing of events at The Garden Theatre in Winter garden, please visit

Farewell, Facebook!

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

Farewell, Facebook!

Last night I took a couple of boxes of ammo up on the computer tower and defriended about 360 people. Then I climbed down into my Facebook Account page and defriended myself. I felt about as much guilt as eating a grape at Publix, a found a sense of release similar to giving notice at a really bad job. No longer was I bound to people by an endless exchange of zero-value gifts. No more pokes, peeks, or links to pathologically cute kittens. No more invitations to plant carrots or take over rival waterfront gangs. I am now Facebook Free: Hallelujah, and pass the free time!

I never really wanted to be on Facebook, but peer pressure drove me to it. My friends were joining, so in order to belong to the gang, I signed up. At first it was a wild, colorful experience – the site is a regular rat maze of 6th grade fun. Flashing lights and silly quizzes and intimate messages from people I barely knew combined with the smell of stale beer and the chilling thought that my sophomore year WASN’T just a bad dream. People tagged me in awful, out of focus cell phone shots, and unknown relatives appeared in the cedar shavings on the floor. Off in ArcadeLand there were mindless yet addicting games like Farmville and YoVille and MafiaVille and VilleVille. This was a sugar high at the county fair, and it held my attention for nearly a week. Suddenly I had friends in England and Nigeria and South America and Tampa. Heck, I even knew one of them. Logging on became a drug, but not good one and after a few hours it felt like I had swigged an overdose of Wal-Mart house brand cough syrup. A wild look came to my eye. I joined groups whose sole purpose was to become the biggest group on Facebook. I stopped taking showers. I even considered writing a game…

The Internet, once a promised land of peace, love and great discounts on hotel rooms is now a gritty, slightly creepy place, sort of like North Beach in San Francisco. The Zynga games are a sham enticing people to sign up for overpriced and deceptive services. Mark Zuckerberg thinks privacy is dead, and he’s planning to desecrate the corpse. I keep finding endless pages of permissions in obscure corners of Facebook, all defaulted on. The FBI and CIA and KGB and MOSSAD and Scientology and the Taliban are freely collecting my data, reading my wall posts, and trolling for incriminating pictures, or enough innocent pictures with similar lighting to do some fun photo shopping. Even insurance companies are checking up on me. An aluminum foil beanie just won’t cut it anymore.

While there’s an innocent looking “Deactivate account” button, it’s not that simple. “Deactivate” is not “Remove Completely”, and merely puts you in cold storage. To really get out of the Mob you need to erase everything you’ve ever posted and disconnect every game, group, and freind you’ve ever had. I started by erasing photos and videos, then I killed two groups I created to plug a project last year. Since then I’ve exited another 300 groups; few I recall joining, but even so they all were happily sending the details of my and all my freinds ‘net experience to the world. As I killed groups, I left messages directing real people to my real e-mail. Then I started the final shut down, defriending people in alphabetical order. Each ex-friend became a clear Plexiglas cube floating weightlessly around me. Near the very end, a grainy black and white video tape began playing, and a man in an ill fitting suit revealed what was happening: Orwell was off by 20 years, but if I became a Runner I could avoid becoming Soylent Green. Resistance WASN’T futile. I extended my middle finger toward Face Book, and pushed the Delete Account button. Electricity flowed up my spine, I blacked out, and reawoke in my own living room, staring at a test pattern. I got up and walked out the door, into a muggy Florida night, fre once again.

See you in real life.

Oh, yeah. All your virtual gold fish are dead. Sorry.


Update 6-22-2010

I lasted 2 months. I had to re-enter this insanity, so many shows promote themselves EXCLUSIVELY on facebook. However, my new profile has virtually no factual information about me, and has been heavily restricted.

I feel so…cheap.

25 Movies Brian Feldman Has Seen At Enzian Theater

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

25 Movies Brian Feldman Has Seen At Enzian Theater
Brian Feldman Projects
April 19 to April 20, 2010
Enzian Theater, Maitland FL

The neon lights are bright on Orlando Avenue.

The Florida Film Festival ended last night, and the place is deserted. The staff has gone home to recover, the fans are furiously updating their Netflix accounts and there is plenty of parking. In fact, I’m the only one in the lot. Feldman is nowhere to be seen, and the Enzian marquee announces “Baraka.” I missed that documentary, but its plot summary EXACTLY matches that of “Koyaanisqatsi” on IMDb. Why am I here? I’m waiting for Brian Feldman to appear and CHANGE THE TITLE OF THE MOVIE THAT’S NOT BEING SHOWN. Seriously.

A lightly attended event.

As I wander the detritus of the FFF, a bucket of chocolate covered cranberries remains, along with some coolers full of melted ice and some very nasty tasting “Vitamin Water.” I have no idea what’s really in that stuff, but it tastes like a mixture of Thorium Oxide and Silver Nitrate and brags about trace elements I learned to regard as toxic in High School. A few more people show up, including Feldman and his Dad and a pit bull looking for a seminar on Dogma 95. The wet Spanish moss drips. I find an actual beer in the cooler – it’s rather warm and not from a country known for brewing excellence, but it’s better than the Vitamin Water. Feldman asks what sort of movie title I’d like to see next. Comedy seemed appropriate, and off he goes to get the letters for the next title. He’s gone for a very long time, and I begin to feel I’ve entered an early Bergman film.

Looking for the Dogma 95 seminar.

Film lovers partying!

All the titles in this event are from films Feldman has watched at the Enzian over the years. Why is he doing this today? Why is he doing this now? A true film connoisseur never asks, he only speculates and deconstructs. Film school essay questions bubble into my head, but soon enough Feldman returns, speaks to a streaming video feed somewhere up in the general direction of God, and soon the new title appears. I and the other stragglers scream out suggestions until the answer is obvious: “Monty Python’s Life of Brian.” Current day Brian struggles with the apostrophe, it’s much thinner than the other letters and the suction-cup-on-a-stick can’t grab it. He flails for a while and then masters that tricky punctuation mark that causes so many school children anxiety. Celebratory pictures are taken, and Feldman settles in for the next hour, dreaming scenes from this Python classic until the next title arrives. The excitement, while never quite palpable, continues like the slow trickle of spent rain drops falling on the pavement. If only tonight were in glorious black and white…Oh, wait! It WAS!

Brian Feldman with a complete lack of irony.

Brian Feldman in 3-D.

For more information on Brian Feldman Projects, please visit
For more information on the Enzian and the Florida Film Festival, visit

Comic Potential

Monday, April 19th, 2010

Comic Potential
By Alan Ayckbourn
Starring Garlen Maxon, Nathan Harry Bartman, Greg Suarez
Directed by George Colangelo
Seminole State College, Lake Mary, FL

It’s never a good sign when a comedy has more giggles on stage than in the audience. In this blazingly unfunny production, the first real audience response came in the second act with an awkward Tiger Woods joke, and the subsequent pie-in-the-face was a relief – yes, there would be actual laughs in this show, but watching the lead actress in her short skirt might be a better reason to drop by. So what’s going on here?

Sometime in the near future, robot actors called “Actoids” take over all the low paying parts in soaps and movies, and are held in low regard both as people and as machines. Chandler Tate (Bartman) is a faded film director with a drinking problem charged with cranking out an Actiod-based soap opera. Preprogrammed motion and dialog eliminate rehearsals, but today some of the Actoids are acting up – one of them keeps switching vowels and pretty Actiod Jacie 333 (Maxon) laughs at him. She has a nascent sense of humor, a skill in precious short supply in this lo-fi sci-epic. Adam Trainsmith (Suarez) is nephew to the network’s owner and eager to learn from Tate. Like everyone in the business, he has a treatment for a new comedy, and he eventually falls in love with her while bitchy network executive Carla Pepperbloom (Amy Baker) works to scotch the deal. Technical staff Prim Spring (Bonnie Anna Kerlin) and Trudi Floote (Crystal Ortiz) threaten to walk off the set. After a chase though a high end hotel and low end brothel, Adam teaches Jacie to read from a Gideon Bible and she decides that there really is something wrong with her, and she SHOULD be re-burned. Fair enough.

The big gap in this show is its singular lack of comic timing. Simple failure at acting would provide laughs of the wrong kind, but everyone is good enough to avoid that. They plow though jokes without those critical pauses, delays, and aside glances that make gags into humor. Bartman’s character bounces between strident and offended, and even though he’s pouring down the alcohol he never gets a decent drunken stumble or slurred misspeaking joke. Blaker’s Pepperbloom is just nasty and while the pie in her face really was nicely set up, it did not redeem any of her other lines. Part of the plot revolves around Adam’s concept of a comedy show based on Jacie, but when he talks though it you think “1926 melodrama” instead of “21st century screamer.” As Adam talked, I visualized Jack Warner waving a cigar at while growling “I like it, kid!” Unfortunately the audience didn’t have Mr. Warner’s visions. The cast didn’t seem to think much of it either.

Harsh as all that is, there were a few nice scenes. When Jacie is thrown out of the brothel by Turkey (Greg Larro) I was actually moved, and Alexander Flores as “Man in the Boutique / Restaurant” was suave and ironic, and had a gorgeous voice. Prim and Trudi weren’t all that funny, but they seemed to make a solid couple and allowed the script to float a few lesbian jokes that crucially leaned on the thought that the word “Lesbian” is intrinsically funny, like “Kangaroo” or “Turgid”. Maxon felt sympathetic and high minded as the ‘droid that felt bad about her internal programming bugs, but what she had was sex appeal, not ha-ha appeal.

If there’s potential in this comedy, it lies in the campy angle of a young man falling in love with a robot who lacks any of the girly parts necessary to consummate the relation. There’s a suitably wacky set of damaged humanity backing the concept, but the only part of this show I unreservedly enjoyed was Richard Harmon’s futuristic set. The inexplicable use of a ZZ Top sound track to tie up a British comedy didn’t help either, although Jacie did show her legs. Tate explains comedy in one scene as “Surprise and Anger”, and I agree – I was angry that “Comic Potential” never succeeded in surprising me, and judging by the comments heard at intermission, I was not alone.

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

Torch Song Trilogy

Sunday, April 18th, 2010

Torch Song Trilogy
By Harvey Fierstein
Directed by Wade Hair
Starring Joshua Eads-Brown, J. R. Barnhill, Sean Patrick Casey
Breakthrough Theatre, Winter Park Fl

Possibly the most chilling words in any relation are “We need to talk”. Only a testy “It’s time to change the subject” indicates a more serious problem. Both phrases appear much more often than necessary in this rambling and occasionally sensible four way romance. Arnold (Eads-Brown) slogs away in the sequined shit box of NYC drag, and one night he picks up the closeted bisexual Ed (Barnhill). It’s a quickie romance, after a mere two weeks broken hearts litter the sidewalk and both are heading in opposite directions – Ed to an upstate farmstead and heterosexual ambiguity with Laurel (Penny Mathis) and Arnold to boytoy hotness with overly tattooed Alan (Carey). A botchy and not nearly-kinky-as-it-sounds four way weekend reveals everyone’s innermost desires – Arnold wants love, Ed wants sex, Alan wants romance, and Lauren has a knack for getting the booby prize on the bisexual dating game. Lurid as all this might be, it takes the third act to bring us past the guilty pleasure of secret romance. That’s where we meet Arnold’s strident Jewish mother (Judith Gill) and his early teen take home project, battered adoptee David (Avery Chester). For 14 going on 31, this boy is way too world-wise, but he does get almost all the killer lines.

Considering the melodramatic dialog these actors had to claw though, they did an acceptable job. Eads-Brown carried the weight of this bloated script; he was alternately touching and pathetic as a queen who needed abuse to fulfill his self selected role of gay martyr to the world. Opposite him was a rather flat J. R. Barnhill who never seemed passionate about either sexual pathway – pay for gay and pay for straight seemed equally weighted, but he voted with his penis to stay with the Laurel and avoid telling mom and dad the bad news. Chester’s David, while seeming overly sophisticated even for a boy with hustling cred, got every laugh he was assigned, and I was impressed with his comic timing. Arnold’s mother, Mrs. Beckhoff (Gill) was very much the uber-Jewish mother with her schmaltz jar of guilt to slather on even the most insignificant action. There wasn’t much subtlety here, she charged in blaming Arnold for everything from her varicose veins to a bad seat in coach. If I were Arnold, I would have jumped out the window before I’d let her in the apartment.

While “Torch Song Trilogy” captures the kitchen sink drama of its denizen’s sordid little lives, it suffers from writer’s bloat and frequent recourse to soap opera bluntness and badge wearing characterization. At the end of the second intermission, I told my date “I hate ALL these people” but I softened my assessment after the last act to “Thank God they’re only this way on stage”. While parts of the play will break your heart, at some point you’ll want to break everyone’s neck. Take a deep breath and count to ten before you return to the lobby to shake hands.

For more information, please visit

67 Books

Saturday, April 17th, 2010

67 Books
Brian Feldman Projects
Orlando Public Library 101 E Central Orlando FL
April 11 through 17, 2010

In true Tom Sawyer spirit, Brian Feldman has begun co-opting other art minded folks into doing his hard work. This week’s Feldman Event celebrates National Library Week, and for 67 hours, library patrons have volunteered to stand outside on a rail-less overhang and read books to uncaring and possibly illiterate passersby. Opening day of this event fell alongside a type of spring art festival around Lake Eola making parking scarce and expensive, but I lucked into a prime spot on Magnolia and ran inside to drop off some videos. Up on the cast concrete overhang of the Book Bunker was Terry Olson, reading Kate DiCamillo’s “The Tale of Despereaux.” His feet dangled over the edge, giving Mr. Feldman a bit of worry.

Mr. Feldman excels at taking the mundane aspects of life and turning them into mini-spectacles that make you reconsider the deep, inner significance of brushing your teeth or filing your taxes. Getting your library card was a rite of passage in 1963, but when you could sign your name could get all the books you wanted, if only for two weeks. That’s the great thing about libraries – they provide the best entertainment value you can ever find for your dollar, and if you can’t find what you need, they will gladly get you a copy from another library. Besides the low cost, you don’t have to store anything, and if you’ve moved recently, you know books are harder to move than mattresses or large mirrors.

I agreed to participate a few weeks ago, but had some travel conflicts that melted away at the last minute. While some sort of online journalistic mojo should prevent me from commenting on something I’m involved in, this event was too much fun to ignore. I considered several tempting books: I’m 2/3rd’s though Pynchon’s “Gravity’s Rainbow”, but the extensive kinky sex might offend the city of Buddy Dyer and Glenda Hood. Tolkien seemed too obvious, and Kafka to obscure, so I settled on Anton Chekhov, one of my favorite short story writers. Being obsessive on time myself, it took several days to select “The Portable Chekhov” and pull out 3 stories that would take exactly one hour to read. I was NOT planning to leave my audience hanging two chapters into a Harry Potter epic.

The Overhang of the Orlando Public Library.

On Tuesday I fought the I-4 traffic up to the South Trail, bailed onto surface streets, and grabbed a parking spot on Magnolia just in time for my 5 o'clock slot. A light Florida rain fell as I crammed enough small change into the meter to hold off the parking Nazis, then a quick jog to the library, and I was ready to ascend to the overhang. The Feldman organization made me sign some releases that came down to acknowledging that if I fell off the overhang or was struck by lightning, Feldman had $0.16 to his name and suing him or the library would be a big bummer for everyone. He also insisted in rights to my silhouette. A homeless guy with two teeth that looked like fangs said I didn’t own it anyway, so what was the problem? I couldn’t see one, and signed.

As my preceding reader was wrapping up, I climbed onto the scissor lift and up we went – the palm trees and poplars went past me, and I climbed out onto the overhang, a surprisingly large space with a nice thick ledge to keep you from plunging to certain paralysis. A riser and tent provided cover, but once I was miked and left to my own devices, I could wander freely. Two loud speakers blasted my voice over Central like an Eastern European propaganda van, and when I got close to them incipient feedback warned me to retreat. Near the back of the overhang I found a pleasant resonance like you get singing in the shower. I vaguely knew Feldman was streaming live video, and he told me later I kept wandering out of frame. As I stepped back to pre-Soviet Russia, spatters of rain threatened and I plowed through "Anna on His Neck", "Gooseberries," and "Vanka". Russia's humiliating naval defeat by Japan lay in the future, and the country was joining civilized Europe. The virga meant nothing to me, and soon an hour had passed. I hope I was close on pronouncing the Russian names.

My slot ended soon enough, a new reader came up to present a lurid super secret agent tale, and I took that slow industrial lift back to the mundane world of day jobs and distressed relations. From the ground, the event recalled the end of "Fahrenheit 451" where individuals have taken up the task of remembering great works of literature in a world that banned print. Before and after me came books like "Watership Down" and "Catcher in the Rye" and "Siddhartha". The readers ranged from Elizabeth Maupin to Harriett Lake to Billy Manes – a disparate lot, but we all have one thing in common – a library card.

For more information on Brian Feldman Projects, please visit

Golf: The Musical

Sunday, April 11th, 2010

Golf: The Musical
By Michael Roberts
Concept by Eric Krebs
Directed by Michael Edwards
Winter Park Playhouse, Winter Park FL

I’ve never grasped the appeal of talk radio or golf, but there’s a huge audience for both. This greens-themed musical makes fun of the sport of duffers with a mix of funny songs, occasionally sucessful skits, and garish costumes. While punch lines tend toward “balls” and “shaft” the show holds a PG rating with heartfelt singing and Chris Leavy on piano. The first solo comes from Matt Horohoe and his love song to “Big Bertha,” his favorite club. These drivers cost more than I paid for my first car, but a local pro shop was nice enough to lend some gear to the performance.

It seems most of the really funny songs went to Heather Alexander, and while women can swing with the best, “My Husbands Playing Around” and “Golf’s Such a Naughty Game” both aimed a more jaundiced eye on the game. Once the romance fades you still need something to argue about, and like sex, golf is something you have fun with even if you’re not that great. Besides the good songs, Ms. Alexander has most of the costume changes – she looked spiffy in her pink polo shirt, elegant on her traditional sparkling evening gown, and racy in that leopard print nightie. The guys had their moments, “Presidents and Golf” and the vaguely sacrilegious “Golfer Psalm” were funny, but not as good as Roy Alan and his sensitive “The Beautiful Time”. The golf course can be a spiritual place (or so they tell me) and nothing brings that home as the imagery of a dew splattered mini windmill on hole 5.

While the music was up to WPPH standards, some of the skits felt dated and a bit corny. While
Alan and Horohoe make a good Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, I doubt few people under 50 have ever seen the “Road” pictures or remember when Dorothy Lamour was a national sex symbol. There’s a Tiger Woods song in the program, but it predates his recent scandals by a few years and the possibly authorized update felt forced. “Golf Museum” (Kevin Kelly and Alexander) and “Golf Detective” weren’t bad, and the inside the clubhouse references worked with this Bay Hills and Orlando Country Club crowd. You won’t have to show your PGA handicap to enjoy this show, but having a diehard golfer in your life will make it more fun.

For more information on Winter Park Playhouse, please visit

Play In A Day!!

Monday, April 5th, 2010

Play In A Day!!
Producing Artistic Director Beth Marshall
April 5, 2010
PlayFest! The Harriett Lake Festival of New Plays
Orlando Shakespeare Theatre, Orlando FL

Six beers in a pack, six writers in this show? Coincidence? I think not. It’s time again for writers, directors and actors to turn random concepts into polished productions overnight. Rather than dawdle for months and spend endless nights drink beer and debating high concepts, the agenda is military simple – assignments are given at 1700 hours Sunday, directors and actors assigned to each writer, concept solidified by 1800 hours, scripts due next day at 0700, off book by 1500, tech rehearsal as the audience rolls up the bar, and pow – it’s opening night! Cast party begins at 2100, a mere 28 hours later.

The set is a given – “School House Rock” is running at Shakespeare, and a wall of brightly colored bubbles and targets provides the only natural protective coloration I’ve ever seen completely conceal Beth Marshall. She gives the pep talk and a short intro to the show she directed, and we’re off into Margot Knight’s “Malice In Wonderland. Avis Marie Barnes pops out of the woodwork with bunny ears and a paper sign reading “Obama” to lead a series of songs and jokes about health care reform that range from funny to preachy as she transforms in to The Black Rabbit Queen and Lady Macbeth. Opposite her is Britni Leslie as the flexible and impressionable Alice, and the pair roll up all the pros and cons of this year’s most talked about legislations.

The Heavy Drama rolls up next in Todd Caviness’s “Church and State” (Dir Rob Ward). This politically incorrect MTV talk show is hosted by a bouncy and way-too-street-smart-to-be-real Izzy Benjamin (Dominique Major). On the pro gay side is Brett Carson, a politician who came out of the closet because he thought it the right thing to do, and on the obviously-hasn’t-been-to-Sunday-School school of right wing politics we see a prim Elizabeth Murff. The usual platitudes pile on, but in a few minutes most of the cast lies in a Titus Andronicus sized pile of corpses. The heart of this drama – I wasn’t expecting the end.

“Prom Court” by Lindsay Cohen (Dir. Laurel Clark) uses the existing set as Sarah Lockhard’s hallucination – it’s prom night at the P-house, and bitchy Tara Corless picks on a pregnant and hirsute Josh Geoghagan. Butch coach Nicole Carson calms them down, and in one of the most truly disturbing pieces of stage craft I’ve ever experienced she pulls down her pants and pulls out a roll of TP. Fortunately, Sarah Lockhard’s dance deadens the sensation as she floats in and distracts us as Josh gives birth and flushes the fetus. The show is actually rather charming, and it’s not until you sit down and do the math that you realize how warped this production team has become.

A more intellectual exercise comes from the pen of Eric Pindar and director Jennifer Bonner. In “The Shakespeare Code” an English professor is found murdered with a cryptic sonnet in his pocket. The style is suspense thriller, and it’s a literate and carefully thought out work that might well find life as a fully edited production. John Palmer plays multiple roles from suspect to assistant cop to the Woman With Too Much Perfume. Opposite him we find Richard Perez as the inspector, and while both had scripts in hand they made this show really pop.

John DiDonna, better known for his gut wrenching productions about psychotics and psychopaths pulled the plum assignment of doing a ’70s comedy. I do believe John is dangerous on some deep level, his director Leesa Halstead reported he had dreamt about Sanford and Son in a premonition that it was time for him to do more comedy. We get a completely silly Barry White making love to a bottle of Ripple (look it up). His other sweetheart in this pawn shop of love is a doddering Marty Stonerock as they team up to save Medusa (Maddie) from a fate worse than death – living in s South Central. This show is a complete reversal for DiDonna, and while it seemed to go on and on like a real 70s comedy, the writing and acting kept the audience laughing.

We closed with Michael Wanzie’s “EasterFest!” (Dir. James Brendlinger). This Performance Art piece pits Jesus Christ (Mellissa Mason) against the ever so secular Easter Bunny (Abby Savage). Their gentle parody of this recent holiday degenerates into a tirade about placing PlayFest! too close to a major holiday. The symbolism was accurate even if the communion wafer came from the New England Candy Company and the wine came from Costco. While the symbolic crucifixion of Pat Flick and David Lee may have been a bit much, but I do agree with the premise – PlayFest! falls too close to the Florida Film Fest.

As “Play In A Day” shows go, this one had some real laughs along with a few painful moments, but was a crowd smash. Someone called the show “Fringe Light” and there’s an element of truth in that – this felt like a warm up for the next big event which lurks a mere five weeks in the future.

For more information on “PlayFest!,” please visit

The Big Gay Birthday Party

Sunday, April 4th, 2010

The Big Gay Birthday Party
March 3, 2010
Restaurant Row, Orlando FL

One of the weirder aspects of this gig is knowing way more drag queens by first name than might be healthy. Tonight my wife and I found ourselves on the back deck of a high-end restaurant on Sand Lake Road with some of the regulars from the Orlando Fringe Festival, as well as few suspect looking people I never saw before. The occasion was the 30th birthday party of Douglas McGeoch, better known as Didi Panache, side kick to the notorious Wayburn Sassy (Chaffee). So many people get all wrapped up about 30, but it’s really no more significant that Y2K or getting that first AARP invite.

So how flaming was this semi-public event? I’ve seen worse. While the phrase “Shut UP, girlfriend!” occurred more often than necessary, the first major crisis caught me off guard. An urgent cry went up for “Black Napkins.” Assuming this was a new type of drink, I asked what it contained. But the opposite side of the table really DID want black napkins: the white ones, while linen emit small fibers that clash with the all black shirts and slacks. I had no idea any one group of men could actually worry about this sartorial detail.

Black napkins arrived, the dozen and a half guests ordered drinks, the sun set and planets appeared in the clear, pollen soaked night sky. Gifts were offered to the guest of honor, but as his parents had yet to arrive, he held off on opening them as secretive status updates were passed on to one of today’s many social networking sites. Eventual food was ordered, gifts were opened, and the pitch of the evening rose as a stiff breeze blew in from the east, evaporating the gin from martinis faster than they could be drunk.

This being a theater crowd, war stories filled the conversation and a local producer dished the dirt on a current high profile production. Alcohol flowed and that sort of “really good party” conversational buzz filled the air, and soon it was fireworks time. Whether planned accidental, dessert was accompanied by fireworks from Universal Studios and Disney and the topic of the table drifted to off-color Orca jokes. Soon it was time for the mandatory red-eyed group photo, the table sang a final chorus of “Easter Parade” with some alternate lyrics, and we all drifted back to our separate worlds. And all those white fuzzy fibers that everyone worried about? I had ’em on my jeans, and they wiped right off as easy as Saltine crumbs.