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Archikulture Digest

by Carl F Gauze

Archive for July, 2010

Bitches of Broadway

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

Bitches of Broadway
Starring Ginger Minge
Breakthrough Theater, Winter Park Fl

If you don’t think you’re ready for the full metal drag shows around town (and I never am) you might consider Drag Lite – “The Bitches of Broadway.” This monthly event falls on the last Sunday of the month, giving the theatre addicted one last fix before that long Monday to Wednesday dark period. Tonight’s theme was “Oz and Rainbows” which allows convenient use of the rainbow striped set from “For Colored Girls…” currently running in the space. Leading the dragness is the multitalented Josh Eads-Brown all dolled up as Ginger Minge who in real life is packing off to a plus-size drag contest in Iowa of all places. Erin Hair opened the show with a beautiful but quiet “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” which lead into Ginger Minge lip syncing “Snatch”, a truly funny and rude song that has nothing whatsoever to do with Dorothy and her annoying little dog. The BOB allowed an actual, regularly dressed guy (Rob DelMedico) on stage, he made it though if “I Only Had A Brain” but just barely. More lip syncing came from Trixxie Deluxx with a mash up of Wizard of Oz songs, and then we had one of the real hits of the evening: Krystal Gillette came out as Elphaba from “Wicked” and belted a wonderful rendition of “The Wizard.” That girl needs no microphone, and her control is almost as good as Eads-Brown. Before intermission, we had a quick audience participation version of The Match Game, which basically no body properly won. The show is fast and lively, combining the great vocals of Wade Hair, Eads Brown, and Krystal Gillette, the primal dancing of Erin Hair (who I soon expect to star in a Busby Berkley style extravaganza), drag lip syncing and no intimidating walk through a parking lot.

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

The Heiress

Monday, July 26th, 2010

The Heiress
By Ruth and Augustus Goetz
Directed by Mike Marinaccio
Starring Jennifer Christa Palmer, Mark Edward Smith, and Steven Lane
Mad Cow Theatre, Orlando FL

“They don’t write plays like this anymore!” expounded Alan Bruun at the post show reception, and I think he’s largely right. In this modern melodrama based on a Henry James novel, the good are very good and the bad are very bad, and the drama comes as we watch them disassemble each other’s positions. Representing rectitude and good common sense is Dr. Sloper (Smith) a well off physician living in fashionable Washington Square. Opposing him is his naïve daughter Catherine (Palmer) who is plain, shy, tongue tied and unlike to marry. She does have two striking features, an Emily Dickinson hair style and a fortune of 10,000 a year. Her goal is the weasley Morris Townsend (Lane) who drops in unexpectedly and proposes immediate marriage. The force of “Love for Loves Sake” lies in the bosom of Catherine’s only confidant, her ditzy aunt Lavinia (Karel Wright) who believes any romance is a good romance. It takes two years, a trip to Europe and ruby shirt buttons to resolve it, but we end up with one dead body, one broken heart, one frustrated woman, and some significant character growth.

Despite the weird power surges in the lighting, “The Heiress” is a gripping drama that builds to two highly charged climaxes that line up neatly with intermission and the curtain calls. Palmer keeps herself the center of the audience’s attention even as she fades into the wallpaper, while Lane’s bad boy charms her and me and everyone except dear old dad. I feel bad for the Doctor; he’s more concerned with money and appearance than with making his daughter happy. Even though I agreed that this suitor was trouble in a duffel bag, surely someone like Dr. Sloper could get a good Yenta somewhere in New York. The only person on stage I would have spent much time with was Wright’s Lavinia, while she was bound to get everyone in trouble over something or other she was the only person having fun in life.

It’s good to go back to old forms occasionally, and the amount of care lavished on this production shows on stage. There are numerous costume changes, with Catherine wearing at least half a dozen full hoop skirts and the men sporting a complete collection of morning, evening, afternoon tea and walking the dog coats. Faithful Samantha O’Hare was once again the maid, dutifully serving drinks and exposition on a silver salver. The battle between pure good and pure evil didn’t originate with Luke and Darth, it dates back far, far into story telling history. “The Heiress” may be a style we think modern viewers won’t accept, but this tale of love and duty is still fresh.

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

For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf

Saturday, July 24th, 2010

For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf
By Nrozake Shange
Directed by Daniel Boisrond
Breakthrough Theatre, Winter Park FL

Why it is black men are so sexy before you’re pregnant, and so sleazy afterwards? That’s the thought that rattled around in my head at the end of this intense exploration of the Black Female Experience. Exploring the Black anything experience isn’t as popular a it used to be, but this collection of poems, stories and choreography still excites, intrigues, and moves. The seven actresses are only known by the colors of their monochrome headbands, belts and scarves but they take on myriad roles. Each comes from a different major city, that’s really peripheral; these stories are largely out of specific time or space.

Lady in Brown (Debra Foxx) begins with an introductory monolog “Sing a Black Girls Song” but even before the show started the cast moved slowly on stage as the crowd entered the room. Lady in Yellow (Shellita Boxie) launched into an upbeat story of graduation night, she was the only remaining virgin in her class and decided this was her the big night and she would take full advantage of it. The Lady in Blue (Vanessa Valdez) has a touch of Spanish blood and heads up to Spanish Harlem for a dance marathon. Taking no crap from anyone, when pressed she speaks loudly and in English, just to show who’s who. Lady in Orange (Charmion Sparrow) led a group complaint about rape – if you’ve ever talked to a guy or danced with him, that makes anything he does OK, and that just ain’t right. Lady in Brown returned to talk about winning the 2nd grade reading competition but gets disqualified because she read books from the adult section of the library. Lady in Purple (Kisha Peart) mused upon spurned love and Lady in Green (Felichia Chivaughn) drew a parallel between stealing your heart and stealing your TVset. But Lady in Red (Evelyn Tyler) brought the toughest piece of all to stage – she tells of her man abusing her and destroying her children in a failed attempt to force marriage.

As the show runs along, there are knowing nods and calls from the audience. The performances are in near constant motion, and with no choreographer listed I’ll give that excellent credit to director Boisrond. It’s hard to pick anyone who out shone the others, this was an exceptionally balanced group and each let you know that no matter how bad things sounded they knew exactly what their color felt like in real life. This is a striking show and one not often performed, and while its 35 years old, I suspect not much has changed in the way people torture the ones they love.

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

The Man From Earth

Sunday, July 18th, 2010

The Man From Earth
By James Bixby
Adapted by Richard Schenkman
Directed by Chuck Dent
Starring David Strauss
Renegade Theater at The JCC, Maitland, FL

The old saw “Show it, don’t say it” didn’t make it into this adaptation of a great 1960’s Sci-Fi story by James Bixby. John (Strauss) teaches college and at his farewell party he claims to be about 14,000 years old. Needless to say, his friends are skeptical. Artie (Alex Carroll) think he’s lying, Harry (Glen Howard) think he’s crazed or on drugs, and Dr. Gruber (Larry Stallings) want to psychoanalyze him. The women are relatively quiet until John claims to be Jesus, at which point Edith (Amy Pastoor) scream “sacrilege!” Tall tales are fine until they conflict with your own tall tales, but what everyone agrees is that there is no way to independently confirm John’s claims. Eventually his friends beat him down and he admits he made it all up. Then there’s a nice twist ending, but it takes a lot of butt time to get there.

What struck me about this script is there are a lot of actors hanging out on stage hoping for something interesting to do. You can only get so many drinks, and if Stallings hadn’t been packing a 45, this would have little more than an elaborate re-reading of a paperback story. The acting was good, Strauss was as full of himself as only 14,000 years of experience can make one, Pastoor seem offended by anyone questioning her beliefs, and Carroll gets mad and stomps off as well as I’ve seen. The few lines the girls did get came off well – Amy Schwartz was suitably cute and accepting of John’s wild story, but as an undergraduate, Linda (Rachel West) had very little to do.

“Man From Earth” is a good example of how hard it is to translate a story between media. In a short story long philosophical discussions are no problem, large casts never clutter the pages, and a poor dramatic arc doesn’t hurt so long as The Rule of Cool applies. The premise of a long lived but not exactly immortal man is a snappy Sci-Fi concept, but in this production it never leads to character growth or critical life altering decisions. Everyone has a nice argument, and then they go back to their orginal positions. That’s academia.

For more information on Renegade Theater, please visit www.renegadetheaterorlando.org

Splash!

Friday, July 16th, 2010

Splash!
Written by Brandon Roberts, Jason Horne, and Mike Koenig
Directed by PB&J Theatre Factory Production
Music by Mike Gill
Starring Kate Zaloumes
Orlando Shakespeare Center, Orlando

Get to this show early so you can listen to the pre-show music, its jam packed with obscure songs that all seem to use the word “woody”, including one I’ve never heard before “She likes my little…” Well, you know. After a few choruses of this, I’m ready for a trip to the beach. We open in a travel agency with Kate Zaloumes stamping passport applications. Her boss Becky Eck steals her prospects, and she drifts off into a day dream. Sun, surf and an annoying cell phone ring fill her day as she dreams away on a clever flip-over set. She falls for slick Joe Summer (Jason Horne) with his leather coat, dark glasses and switch blade comb. He’s got other plans; Becky Eck expanded in this dream and continues to taunt Kate as does Clancy Gull (Mark Koenig) and the Gull Gang. Her little travel agent heart is broken, so the witch Doctor (Brandon Roberts) send her on a quest – she needs a white coat from the gulls, a red pair of sunglasses from Becky, a green comb from Joe, and a Blue surfboard from the doctor to enter a surfing contest and find where her heart truly lies. It’s like “Into the Woods” but without the complicated Sondheim soundtrack and endless symbolism.

With no dialog and a ton of sight gags, this show doesn’t suffer deconstruction easily, but will keep you engaged with clever costumes, low impact romance and a gang of completely cool sea gulls. The easy bird poop jokes are passed by; the bathing suits are modest with even Mr. Roberts’s costume failure a non-crisis. There’s an exceptionally early start time, so it’s safe to bring the kids and still get them to bed before they fuss. Summer at the beach with mimes? No problem, just imagine they just put on too much sunscreen. Just don’t try to explain the preshow music to your kiddies

For more information on PB&J you’ll have to visit them on Facebook

Orlando Shakespeare Festival has a real web site; you can find it at http://orlandoshakes.org/

Sleuth

Friday, July 16th, 2010

Sleuth
By Anthony Schaffer
Directed by Kenneth Rush
Benjamin Rush, Torey Scarbrough, and Joshua Atkins
Breakthrough Theatre, Winter Park FL

“Vengeance is mine!” sayeth the author, and that’s about all I can report on the plot of this nimble mind fuck of a story. In a cramped apartment, a marriage has collapsed and there’s more than a few scores to settle, and at every turn it’s not clear who is really up to what, whether the control has really passed from Houston to the shuttle, or if the people who are obviously not who they claim to be really aren’t. Heck, we don’t even know where the bodies are buried – maybe behind the bar, perhaps behind the Picasso, or even out on the fire escape?

But I digress. Once again, the Breakthrough production crew has squeezed way more set than should be possible onto their Manhattan-apartment sized slice of real estate. Fish swim in a tank, a flat screen TV monitor hangs from the wall, and a semi realistic modernist nude contemplates her sexuality as a penis rises from her left ear. The scary guy is Andrew Wyke (Scarbrough) – he connives and flatters and when he’s manipulated you into a sense of complacently he casually mentions he just put cyanide in your scotch. Milo Tindle (Rush) looks weak, feels broke, and is as morally bankrupt as Wyke but is more likely to hot wire your toaster than snake an exhaust hose into your bedroom. And Atkins as Berger? The less said about him the better, he had the worst prosthesis I’ve ever seen on stage.

“Sleuth” is diabolically clever, sharply executed, and keeps you uncomfortably on the edge of your seat. While they don’t drink as much liquor as George and Martha, there’s even more bitterness to be sorted out and I’d go so far as to suggest Mr. Schaffer had a few unhappy relations. Mr. Wikipedia? What do you say? Hmmm…VERY interesting…

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

Annie

Sunday, July 11th, 2010

Annie
By Thomas Meehan, Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin
Directed by Steve MacKinnon
Starring MacKenzie Potter, Beth Neel, and David Eppley
Theatre Downtown, Orlando, FL

I don’t understand why anyone would want to be an orphan, and neither does Mrs. Hannigan (Neel) in this slick and wonderful production of “Annie.” The comic strip was recently canceled after 80 years so I’ll give you a brush up on the plot: Annie (Potter) showed up a decade ago on the doorstep of Municipal Orphanage with a note and half a silver locket. Mrs. Hannigan manages the orphanage and abuses the kids, but in a loving alcoholic frustrated old maid manner. This year rich industrialist Oliver “Big Daddy” Warbucks (Eppley) invites a random child (Annie) to spend Christmas in his mansion, falls in love with her, and the pair go on to inspire FDR to create the New Deal. If that’s not enough, the music is excellent and there’s a cute fuzzy dog who licks everyone in the audience.

We all know the risk of small children and animals on stage. They either mess up one way or another, or they get their parts right and out-cute the adults. Tonight we joyfully experience the second of those outcomes – the dozen or so preteen orphans remember their lines, hit all their cues, and put on some amazing Busby Berkley style dance numbers including a full kick line. Potter’s Annie is pale and pathetically wispy, but had plenty of energy to nail her big numbers like “Maybe” and “Tomorrow”. “Tomorrow” is where we meet Sandy (Cleo the Goldendoodle) and her collar slipped off as Potter clung desperately to the dog’s front paw as it tried to escape. There’s nothing like being upstaged by your co-star.

The adults turned in excellent acting as well, including Neel as the conniving orphanage manger with a heart of gold. Opposite her we find the very slick Rooster (Mathew Schwartz) and his platinum dyed, rugs-don’t-match-the-drapes moll Lily St. Regis (Britni Leslie). Supporting Warbucks the always elegant John Kelly serves as Drake the Butler and his mis-fired love interest / hyper efficient assistant Grace Farrell (Danielle Lang). I was disappointed by Eppley as Warbucks; he seems less like a striving war profiteer and more like the sort of man who would vote Democrat, even in a closely contested race.

“Annie” is one of those great family friendly musicals, and tonight it kept the dozen or more single digit aged audience members enthralled, and I’m happy to report they all came back after intermission. The singing and dancing was some of the best seen on Theatre Downtown’s stage, and the excellent production values kept on the safe side of the Early January/Late December romance between Annie and Warbucks. As the show wrapped up, Warbucks slips the more age appropriate Grace a wedding ring, but he gives the gooey eyes to Annie. Somehow, I think Annie can control this titan of industry, just as Director MacKinnon controlled this high profile script.

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

My Faves!

Sunday, July 11th, 2010

My Faves!
Starring Andrea Canny
Musical Direction by Kyle Mattingly
Winter Park Playhouse, Winter Park FL

I’ve never seen a cabaret singer drop as many lines with as much grace and panache as Andrea Canny. Here recent two show cabaret at Winter Park Play house drew a SRO crowd as she sang songs she loved from her childhood but has rarely performed professionally. Some of the material I’d never heard (or can’t remember, I get confused so easily…) “In Vienna” was new to me, “Summertime In Ohio” and “The Man I Love” felt familiar and I’m still trying to recall “I’m Not Afraid Of Anything.” Where Ms. Canny felt strongest was on old pop tunes, her version of “Killing Me Softly” was as good or better than the orginal, and the encore number “Drift Away” grabbed you right about here, even if the audience was encouraged to sing along.

Yes, there was audience participation, risky as it always is. We received handout sheets and helped out on “What’s New Pussy Cat?” and “Downtown” and “On A Clear Day”. I hummed, a sort of half way response that implies “I’m trying to help” but which really means “There’s no way my voice will improve this experience.” I wasn’t alone here, only a few braved singing at full volume. After all, Canny is the pro, and were a bunch of fans oiled up on the free drink ticket you get with this show. But what the heck, we’re all out for an evening of fun and entertainment, and if Ms. Canny wants us to sing along, why not?

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