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Archikulture Digest

by Carl F Gauze

Archive for February, 2011

Hunter Gatherers

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

Hunter Gatherers
By Peter Sinn Nachtrieb
Directed by David Menses
Howler’s Theatre at Art’s Sake Film Acting Studio
Winter Park, FL

It may be against the rules to butcher a lamb in your mission district loft, but how else will you have that fresh killed flavor? Richard (Jeremy Wood) and Pam (Christy Poggi) prepare dinner for their annual anniversary / reunion party with Wendy (Yvonne Suhor) and Tom (Scott Browning). They are still in love with prom and each other, and only an errant bottle spin left them hooked up as they are now. Richard is the artist and cook, while Pam does “something with software.” Wendy practices holistic hand waving while Tom is a successful if impotent doctor. More interestingly, Richard is boffing Wendy and insists on wrestling with Tom every time they meet. It’s much more sexual for each of them than normal, but only Tom seems uptight about it. Wendy wants a kid, and is willing to eat her own panties to that end while Tom discovers he needs some domination to succeed. All of this feels a bit hyper real but they keep pointing out this IS San Francisco.

There’s an ending of course, well crafted, brilliantly written and acted and no fun if I mention it. The show is faced paced and careens between uncomfortable and hysterical. Richard gets the most action; the only thing he doesn’t have sex with is the dinner table. Uptight and tortured Tom burns slowly and turns beet red in his big scene, and I feared he might actually suffer an embolism or some other fatal stage death. While Wendy wear the most provocative outfit and makes sex seem like a large craft project, Pam find her way through the pitfalls of a relation and might have a hope when her life changing experience leads her out to the wilds. I see a commune in her future. Witty and brutal, this comedy is a tonic to all the weighty geopolitics that covers the local stage scene this month. I much prefer a comedy about sex to a lecture on war, there’s always a chance someone will get naked.

For more infromation, please visit www.art-sake.com/

Beowulf

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

Beowulf
Adapted by Charles Bethel
Directed by Jim Helsinger
Starring Charles Bethel
Orlando Shakespeare center, Orlando FL

Down on the other end of the Shakespeare Center, there was a lecture on how war Bad For Children And Other Living Things. But up here, in a room more than a few of us refer to as “Pink,” a tinge of blood filled the air, and it was glorious. Bane of English students, inspiration for the Lord of the Rings, and earliest example of our native tongue we hear Beowulf in modern and highly entertaining translation. Maybe you struggled with the thorns and eths and the obsolete words in this Two Troll tail, but that’s the academic approach: good in its own way, like oatmeal and skipping dessert. But this is a battle saga, the Pop Rocks and Pepsi sort of tale that entertained warriors after a hard day of beheading their fellow man. Grab a flagon of metheglin and pull up a bench. Here – let me wipe off the blood.

Beowulf is the hero of Geetland, which is where the Goths come from. When he hears about trouble in Denmark, he sails over, deals with the coast guard, and agrees to help his buddy King Hrothgar by defeating the monster Grendel who eats warriors in the middle of the night. Epic battles ensue, Grendel dies and that enrages his mother, limbs are sundered and honor won, symbolism pervades the stage and soon Beowulf rules Denmark after Hrothgar dies but before Claudius arrives. Late in his rule, Beowulf must defeat a dragon, and if I didn’t know it was the other way round, I would say he stole this scene right out of “The Hobbit.”

Bethel has done a superb job in adapting this rousing take to the modern ear and modern stage. It clocks in at about one hour, drips with bloody humor and reduces these epic heroes to regular guys who eat and fart and fall asleep at the wrong time. In the telling, he return this tale to what it began as – an evening entertainment with heroism, bravery, treachery, and the one moral that will never fail – we are bound to die, so let us enjoy the moment. All that gold you fought for shall be buried and burnt and thrown away when you die. Thus, take that gold and buy a ticket for this show and a horn of ale and enjoy your time while Mr. Bethel is alive and on our stage.

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

My Name Is Rachel Corrie

Friday, February 25th, 2011

My Name Is Rachel Corrie
By Alan Rickman and Katherine Viner
Directed by John DiDonna and Emily Killian
Starring Rebekah Lane
Empty Spaces Theater Company
Lowndes Shakespeare Center, Orlando Fla

I’ll vouch for this: Empty Spaces Theatre gives excellent value for money spent. Tonight one ticket gave entrance to two distinctly different shows by two different casts and two different endings.

Let’s begin with the headliner: “My Name Is Rachel Corrie.” Rachel (Lane) comes from an Auntie Mame household of strong, eccentric women who train even more eccentric daughters. She gets an early taste of travel and local activism in the Olympic peninsula, but it feels empty – after all, this is where all the activists end up, and she yearns for more virgin opportunity. Leaving her deeply symbolic bed sheets for the artfully damaged cinder blocks of the Gaza strip, she exits Stage Middle East. There she meets some friendly Palestinians, wonders at the amount of lead in the air and experiences the skill the Israeli Defense Force as it uses M-16 ammunition to control crowds like Scottish shepherds use whistles to direct their collies. Her cause now centers on Israel building a 40 foot wall along the border to intimidate and corral the Palestinians by conveniently putting it through their living rooms and gardens. Rachel writes and emails furiously only to be crushed by a bulldozer thus instantly becoming a lightning rod for all parties to the conflict. She’s almost an inverse suicide bomber.

The play is presented as a monolog with a dash of multimedia, and rambles along for an hour and a half testing Ms. Lane’s vocal chords and our bladders. Lane makes Rachel loveable and human if slightly prone to saving every cat in the neighborhood. She’s a seeker and a traveler, never happy with the world and its most recent distemper and bound to fix the problem through sheer force of will. Yet this play leaves more questions asked than answered – who is she representing in Gaza? What is she hoping to accomplish, and are there really just five “internationals” on station who think they can change world policy? At this point more humane productions would let us take a break, yet I still waited for something to happen that would make anyone want to stop this production for any reason worse than chronic verbosity. Suddenly the writer allows us something to rally around: Rachel realizes that US policy and US weapons and US money fuels this war, and By Golly, That’s Just Wrong! Then she gets bulldozed. Some people, it seems, are just born to martyrdom.

Act Two had much more spark if equally as many words. Producer DiDonna gave a little explanatory subtext and introduced Sue Thompson, a photographer with a beautiful display of West Bank photographs. She explained her enlightenment on the “Palestinian Issue” and the emotional impact of the children she meets and hopes to save with her Kodachrome. Next up was Irene, a woman on a spiritual journey that she hopes leads to public office. She spoke out against the conflict and US policy, along with her fear of government cyberbots. A lively discussion with the audience followed and contributors (including myself) offered opinions ranging from distanced resignation to fervent rhetoric to personal stories from the area in question. DiDonna’s opening question of “How closely must art hew to the truth?” received a thorough digestion, and we all left with that great feeling of having given the room a Good What For. Nobody was injured, no one got out of their chair without being asked, and we were all invited to the Arab American Festival this weekend at Lake Eola. Nothing like making up over a good falafel.

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

For more information on Rachel Corrie, use your favorite search engine, and read multiple sites. WARNING: This is a Hot Button Topic in some circles.

The Crucible

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

The Crucible
By Arthur Miller
Directed by John DiDonna
Starring Cory Boughton, Michael Martin, Shannon McGough, and Bobby Bell
Valencia Character Company, Orlando FL

Having driven route 128 in Massachusetts, I’m not convinced the whole state isn’t still in league with Satan. Perhaps the infection began a third of a millennia ago when Indian attacks were a living memory and the word of God was the ultimate judicial precedent. Under a looming wooden beam that threatened to crush us all, Reverend Parris (Keith Kurlin) struggles to hold his position. While Harvard educated and stamped “Satan Proof” by the Anglicans, his education holds little sway on the frontier and his insistence on gold candle sticks to serve the Lord ruffles local feathers. His daughter Betty (Gina Makarova) and her friend Abigail (McGough) take off to the woods with Tituba (Penny Middleton) to practice some Barbados dancing and quaff a few potions. Innocent fun? Or the opening Lucifer needs to slip into proper New England society. Parris catches the girls, Betty fakes a coma and soon grievances over lands and lawsuits blossom into a full fledge witch hunt, presided over by the Expert From Away John Hale (Martin) and Hanging Judge Danforth (Bell). Soon even respected free thinker John Proctor (Boughton) and his wife Elizabeth (Jennifer Jarakas) are sentenced to hang for the crime not knowing all Ten Commandments in order.

While director DiDonna has abandoned light comedy for railing at us as thunderbolts crash down around him, he can still whip us into frenzy with this portrait of injustice, superstition and prejudice. When called upon, the young girls howl like banshees and faint in unison. Procter, while a flawed is still a good man, and whatever sins sour his home is his business, and dragging them into the light does no one any good. Parris is climbing and self righteous, while Hale can swallow his doubts until a dozen people have died by his own hand. He at least repents and attempts to change his ways, but Bell’s Judge Danforth is not swayed by mercy, forgiveness, or coerced testimony. If God almighty refuses mercy to sinners he certainly isn’t either. He would have made a great Jesuit. Stunning supporting actors abound from the reserved Jarackas as Mrs. Proctor to the amateur lawyer Giles Cory (Hood Roberts) and the looming Hopkins (Jesse Millican) as the jailer and all around enforcer.

Our dark times are bringing out an equally dark streak on stage, this was my second witch burning play this week and the last local production of “Crucible” hasn’t faded from mind. In this production, the smell of hysteria reeked strong, the venal motivation of land and status clearly shown, and we fear the out of hand hysteria young women that drive their parent into the darkest recess of our collective souls. We may look back smugly on those colonial days, but hysteria and gang attacks in the media still sweep our digitally connected world, ruing lives and careers. If you doubt me, send me you name and I will whisper the curse of death “kiddie porn.” That’s all it takes to ruin someone today, and none of us is more than a thumb drive away from jail.

For more information on Valencia Character Company, please visit http://www.valenciacc.edu/arts/

Vinegar Tom

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

Vinegar Tom
By Caryl Churchill
Directed by Julia Listengarten
Starring Allison Walter, Jason Nettle, and Kayla Zaniboni
UCF Conservatory Theatre, Orlando FL


If you ever idly wondered how Steven Sondheim would do to adapt “The Crucible” into an Emo musical, Caryl Church already did it, and she didn’t even give us a potty break. In the witch hunt happy days of 17th century English country side, the usual stuff happens to a yeoman farmer Jack (Nettle) and his up-tight wife Margery (Zaniboni) – crops fail, cows die, butter won’t churn up, and Jack has misplaced his masculine vigor. At first they blame God for turning away from them, but soon latch onto the fad of the day – it must be witchcraft. Next door lives a good candidate – Alice (Walter) and her mother Joan (Lesley Noyes) are poor, friendless, and tend to damn people to hell when they get upset. When itinerant witch hunter Packer (Casey Nobel) arrives, these women are doomed along with anyone else that hung out with them. Entertainment was precious, and a good execution was more fun than a weekly church service.

Then there’s music. At odd and inexplicable times a 5 piece rock band comes out and does a few numbers. Unlike a true musical, they don’t propel the plot or add motivation or resolution, but the lyrics tend toward cunts and penii and a woman’s role in society. They weren’t bad as post punk feminist protest songs go (although the bass player didn’t seem to have her wireless turned on) but they slowed down the already turgid story line. If the band had just done a set with these songs: not bad. If we had just went through a “classic burn the witch” story: not bad. But together they made time stand still, and not in a good way.

Despite these poor authorial choices, there was some solid acting on this stunning set by Benson Knight. Nettle’s speech about losing his penis was priceless, and “cunning woman” Ellen as the witchy woman was downright creepy, even if she seemed more New Orleans than jolly old England. The opening action between Walter and Luke Bernard was positively erotic, and Packer’s assistant Goody made a good case for justifying their witch burning activities as a social and spiritual good and profitable as well. Packar was given a new way to test for witches – poke them with needles until you find the place that doesn’t bleed. Satan cleverly hides this place, so there is quite a lot of needling to be done.

From a story telling perspective, the “Witch burning as an allegory…” always emphasize the overwhelming power of the accuser. Once accused, there is no recourse or defense and it’s up to the author to decide how long to torture the audience. Due process only aids the powers of evil, and once an ending is inevitable, it’s time to wrap the story. Here we had another half hour of musical numbers, needle poking, and a truly odd vaudeville act. I was told this show empowered women, but the girls I cheered for swung, and that isn’t empowerment, that’s just heaping abuse on indignity.

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

Shhhh!

Saturday, February 19th, 2011

Shhhh!
Written and Produced by PB&J Theatre Factory
The Garden Theatre, Winter Garden FL

I’d like to report “The Butler Did It,” but he was nowhere to be seen. Tonight he “Tears of a Clown” diamond went missing, and the police have no idea where there suspects headed. We do, of course: The Small One (Mark Koenig) and the Big One (Todd Zimmerman) are lurking in the back of the Garden Theatre, looking for a hideout. Soon they mime their way in through an unlocked window of the Mist Ache Inn and accidently leave the “vacancy” sign on. This draws customers, and they have no choice but to bluff their way through the inn keeper’s trade. The diamond is in constant danger of loss in the luggage or cleavage of a guest, and while few words are spoken this troupe of mimes tells a coherent if exaggerated slice of people’s lives. Pat Braillard seeks a missing argyle while he provides the murder weapons to mystery detective Melisa Mason. Her writers block keeps her up while elderly Joseph Siniscalco chases buxom Michelle Feren and witchy Megan Stailey tells fortunes while her pet parrot (Siniscalco) climbs over the set and leaves feathers everywhere.

Sight gags and carefully crafted situations don’t translate well to the internet, but the star of this show was Siniscalco’s parrot – the concept was brilliant, the execution skilled, and he pulled off the best death scene I’ve seen all week. Keonig and Zimmerman did a decent laurel and hardy sthtick, and if crime doesn’t pay they could just keep running this little hide away. This might be the most cohesive PB&J story so far, and its plenty clean for the kids while maintianing enough intellecula gags for those of legal drinking age. It’s funny time funny, and just a bit touching.

For more information on The Garden Theatre, please visit www.gardentheatre.org

For even more info on PB&J Theatre Factory, please visit pbjtheatrefactory.com/

Pride and Prejudice

Sunday, February 13th, 2011

Pride and Prejudice
Adapted by Jon Jory from the novel by Jane Austin
Directed by Thomas Ouellette
Starring Avery Clark and Michele Vasquez
Orlando Shakespeare Theatre, Orlando, FL


It’s had to get romantic when you need a thesaurus to decode the love notes. People used longer sentences back in Regency England, at least when they attempted to sound “literary.” Perhaps that’s why getting married was as complicated as the minuets they danced for courtship. The Bennet household was particularly difficult to wed; there are 5 daughters and no male heir. Through one of those quirks of English laws the women will get booted if Mr. Bennet (Wynn Harmon) dies, thus his wife (Anne Hering) focuses all her effort on matchmaking. Wondrously, a wealthy, single, attractive, and pleasant neighbor appears – Mr. Bingley (Matt Wenge) “has 4000 pounds a year,” a truly vast sum in 1813. Best of all he’s sweet on the oldest daughter Jane (Courtney Moors) and to be polite she has to wed first. But there’s a snake in the grass, Bingley’s buddy Mr. Darcy (Clark) despises country folks and takes it upon himself to prevent his friends from “marrying badly.” Not only are the Bennet’s broke, entailed, and unknown, he regards them as uncouth and rustic. Daughter #2 Elisabeth (Vazquez) catches Darcy’s eye, but his proposal raises her hackles, and we’re off on a merry-go-round of proposal, rejection, elopement told with syntax that defies easy grammatical analysis.

I can’t say there’s a sexual tension between Elizabeth and Darcy, but they are well matched as warriors. Darcy stalks the stage like a cat out for vengeance on Mus musculua while Elizabeth juggles him like they had already been divorced twice. Mr. Bennet is pleasantly ineffective but offers “I might outlast you after all” when effusive Mrs. B constantly harps on his impending mortality. Colonel Fitzwilliam’s (Christopher Kiley) serves as the story’s McGuffin and read more like a pacifist than an artillery officer. While Elizabeth has some spine, the other daughters merely look cute and hope for the best. Lydia (Kristin Shirilla) is the dizziest of the lot and picks up all the shrill elements of her mother’s dialect while Mary (Brooke M. Haney) buries her nose in a book and hopes Sarah Lawrence College will hurry up and open.

The more convoluted and constricted society becomes, the more is fascinates. Today you pretty much pick out someone you can tolerate, and stick around as long as you can, but two hundred years ago getting sex was more like negotiating a peace treaty. These negotiations intrigue yet leave me feeling that neither love nor sex was the motivation, just commercial potential and leveraging brand names. Everyone dances well and much of the action takes place while the cast moves in elaborate quadrilles choreographed by W. Robert Sherry. The set is simple and versatile, the lighting subtle and the battle formal and planned. Give this couple a few years, and they could reenact “Virginia Wolf” with black powder muskets and a cavalry charge.

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

The Skill Crane Kid

Monday, February 7th, 2011

The Skill Crane Kid
By Brian Feldman
February 6, 2011
Part of Artsfest
Stardust Video & Coffee, Winter Park FL

Until today, I never saw anyone get stuffed animals out of those “Skill Crane” machines. I didn’t even know you called them Skill Cranes; I thought of them as “Stuffed Animal” machines. But I was the first winner this morning, and now proudly own a blue super hero bat thingy, made in China. All courtesy of Mr. Feldman and his latest project.

No reasons need be given, none were offered, but Mr. Feldman spent this rainy Sunday camped out in one of these machines covered in cheap stuffed animals and spritzing like the clouds outside. Inspired by a child in Wisconsin who was small enough and limber enough to crawl into a Skill Crane. While Feldman is small and wiry, he used the regular front entrance normally locked to keep the shoppers from cleaning it out. Once he installed himself in the Skill Crane, a few early risers stopped in for coffee and took a chance for 50 cents. One person kept dropping the crane on Brian’s head; I doubt its feeble fingers could do more than massage his bald spot.

Feldman in the Machine

I dropped back in mid afternoon. The place was hopping and more than a few animals fell before the wimpy grabbers, and Feldman’s handlers were opening the window occasionally to let some oxygen into the machine. While it’s certainly not air tight, neither is it well ventilated and under the lights and surrounded by plush poly fill cuteness, this project has to be stifling. But the children were excited and the odds of getting an attractive plushy was much better than normal; Feldman was not averse to “helping.” Surveys were passed out and passersby asked to sketch their impression of the event. Somehow, this helps him get grants.

A satisfied customer

The event continued until midnight, so there was one last check in. By now, Feldman looked exhausted and a fog of spent breath built on the windows. The children were gone but the hipsters were out, and Feldman rooted through the animals to fulfill requests as the toy level dropped to the level of Feldman’s knees. Occasionally he looked in pain and attempted to stretch his legs in this Plexiglas Mini Cooper. As midnight approached, Mark Baratelli filmed a report as miscellaneous photographers documented with cameras sporting real lenses. After the countdown, the machine opened, volunteers help Feldman back into the real world, he drank water and sprinted off to the rest room. Art is art, and bodily functions are bodily functions. You need a little of both.

For more information on Brian Feldman Projects, please visit

TXT

Sunday, February 6th, 2011

TXT
By Brian Feldman
February 5, 2011
Maitland Telephone Museum, Maitland FL

I tried. I really tried. I got rid of the auto predicting software on my Wal-Mart Drug dealer phone, joined Twitter and and and and I sent at least 3 texts to Mr. Feldman. None of them got though and it cost $1.20 in credits in my “Fifteen cents to sent, five cent to receive” texting plan. I feel like I bought a lotto ticket. Other than that, the show went well; Feldman was more animated and artier than the last time I experienced the TXT project. There were no data jams and the sense of humor and camaraderie was invigorating, if not electrifying.

Feldman controls a vast commnication empire

So what is TXT and what the heck is a Telephone Museum? Next door to the iconic Maitland Center for the Arts is a small house with an out building, a paean to the utility that allowed instant connectivity before radio became the internet of the 1920’s. Relics of switch boards and central offices and rotary relays coagulate here. It’s an unusual slice of technical history open the public and worth a visit if you’re tired of paint splats or fuzzy animatronics. It’s also a great place to take out of towners not willing to pop for the $80 day ticket to The Mouse.

And what of “TXT?” This is Feldman’s clever deconstruction of the modern method of whispering via a $400 pocket appliance. As we arrive, an assistant signs us up and tells us how to text. I miss the lesson, a lot is assumed these days about how you chat with mom. Once the show began, Feldman crawled up from under the Populux mahogany desk last spotted in “How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.” We send texts, and Feldman reads them in order adding dramatic gestures and intonation. People joke, flirt, say snarky things about each other, all buried under a anonymity equivalent to writing comments about your ex GF on the men’s room wall. On the side, local sketch guru Thomas Thorspecken sketches, a camera man films, I take notes and museum personal hover nervously lest Feldman or his acolytes insolently touch an actual telephone. Museum Gods know that once an object of public abuse enters the hallowed halls and is blessed by “curation,” touching it sucks the mojo out of it.

What do we learn? Some people laugh boldly, others hook up, and typographical errors and mispronunciations point up the casual nature of communication. Feldman puts soul and animation into the messages, and I almost wish I, too had an unlimited data plan. Off in the corner, the Gayest Mannequin in Orlando observes. I’m sure he’s eves dropped on a few racy calls in his time. Please deposit fifteen cents to continue.

For more information on Brian Feldman Projects, please visit

Great Urban Spaces: Days of Secret Pop Up Modern Dance Shows

Sunday, February 6th, 2011

Great Urban Spaces: Days of Secret Pop Up Modern Dance Shows
Kick Off Party
February 4, 2011
Voci Dance
Movement Arts Studio, Orlando FL

I opened with a faux pas and called the parking lot a “Parking Lot.” Silly me, the gravel underfoot was a “Performance Space.” Hoping to do better, I checked in to the Artsfest desk, as a woman across the macadam read tarot under a cloud of votive lights. The action had already begun, a few dancers moved in the courtyard full of cement vases and rusty cupids. As an impossible large bustle appeared, a projector illuminated the corrugated wall with images of corsets, Victorian dancing, and tentacle porn. The audience stood quietly with muted conversations recalled a funeral viewing. Once the bustle dressing was complete, and the dancers herded us inside where a woman in grey silk was tied to a divan. Black yarn bound her, and she writhed and moaned as the dancers flitted around her. We moved past her as the yarn snapped, and she laughed, quietly but manically. To the right was s donation bar, to the left, the heart of performance art.

Inside the main hall, cloth hung from the ceiling and a miasma of chandeliers and bird cages recalled Oscar Wilde’s drawing room. The themes of “I need to speak to you” and “You are cruel” fleshed out the motion, and as the four dancers writhed a matronly seamstress pulled fabric off the ceiling and dressed them. There were lot and lots of knots, and dark clanging music underlining the couture. Scatter applause nipped the air, but the show isn’t over: even more knots of black yarn bind all together until motion snaps them all asunder once more. I’m suspecting symbolism here, but it might just be post modernism. Or modern dance. It’s so hard to tell these days.

More pop up dances are scheduled this week, check http://www.facebook.com/#!/vocidance for time and locations. Or you can see more about them at http://www.vocidance.org