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Archikulture Digest

by Carl F Gauze

Archive for April, 2011

The Sound of Music

Sunday, April 24th, 2011

The Sound of Music
Music by Richard Rodgers
Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
Book by Howard Lindsay and Russell Crouse
Directed by Claud Smith III
Starring Meggin Stailey, Tim Rerucha
The Garden Theatre, Winter Garden FL

If you’re going for a massive, over the top production in a community theatre, this is the stretch project and The Garden Theatre hits almost all the key targets. You’ve sung the story in the shower many times – Maria Rainer (Stailey) debates taking monastic orders, but has a wild streak that will only lead to Heresy and Ecumenicalism. In order to test here resolve, Mother Abbess (Sue Clohan) sends her off to tend the Von Trapp children for a few months. Captain Georg von Trapp (Rerucha) picked up a medal for bravery in the Adriatic, and managers his octave of children the same way he runs a ship – he pipes them awake, pipes them to sleep, and probably pipes them when they need to use the head. Maria adds an element of compassion and humor to this horrid life, teaching the children about music and dance and the general joys of being a kid and not a cadet. It’s a musical, and even with Nazis hanging around there’s love in the air as well as a solid half dozen major radio hits. Can you name them all? Here’s a cheat:”My Favorite Things,” ” Do-Re-Mi”, “Sixteen Going On Seventeen”, “Climb Every Mountain,” “The Sound of Music” and” Edelweiss.” Even the songs that didn’t chart are better than the hits in most musicals, ‘The Lonely Goatherd” has a beirstube charm and might have done better were it not written to serve the plot instead of serving the Billboard Hot 100.

On the production side, this show offered solid if not show stopping music and a killer set that looked like it might kill a few actors. Stailey sang with a solid grace, and even if she never missed a note she didn’t get my blood boiling. Rerucha sang with more heart, and his alternate marriage partner Elsa Schraeder (Cynthia Kime) and he pulled a beautiful “How Can Love Survive?” Another noteworthy strength were the von Trapp children. So often youngsters on stage get a standing ovation from grandpa and grandma and leave me wincing, but these kids were not only cute but had their lines, cues and motion down from Liesl (Katie Vermillion) singing “Do” all the way down to Gretl (Katherine Bedford) singing “La”. True, the boys smirked more than they should have, but if you have to put kids on stage, you could do far worse than these. As to sets, we walked into a space filled with stained glass illumination and during the show a full and active use of the Gardens Fly loft dropped multiple flats and set pieces that took us from a dank abbey to an elegant mansion to a mountain village quickly and expertly. True, there were times when it appeared that the walls might collapse, the chandelier appeared out of place in the mountain groves, and trees tended to move on their own like Ents in Lord of the Rings (volume 2) , but still it was as impressive and ambitious piece of stage craft as you’ll see outside of an E ticket ride at The Mouse. I applauded The Garden for its ambition and execution, and even if I’ve picked a few nits here and there; they should take a shot at Spiderman when the rights become available.

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

Leading Ladies

Sunday, April 24th, 2011

Leading Ladies
By Ken Ludwig
Directed by Tim DeBaun
Starring Jamie Lynn-Hawkins, Michael Colavolpe, Kevin Bee, Robb Ross
Theatre Downtown, Orlando FL

At last – a farce, and one that flies! This has everything you want – a sexy yet ditzy lead, forced English accents, men in dresses, women in love, an implausible McGuffin and a gorgeous three story set with every gag drawing a laugh. Elderly Aunt Florence (Doreen Heard) may or may not be dead, but one thing is certain: her three million smackers would do a lot to ease the careers of terminally hammy Leo Clark (Colavolpe) and Jack Gable (Ross). On the backside of a mediocre career they read Shakespeare to Elks Lodges and hope for a buck to buy lunch. Florence lost track of two children way back in the olden days, and eagerly seeks them as her life winds down. No matter that Clark and Gable are amateur scam artists; their charm outweighs any need for reality. Adam’s apples and moth eaten costumes form no impediment, although Reverend Wooley (Bee) has doubts, especially since he needs the money to palliate the pains of poverty stricken ministers such as himself. Meg (Hawkins) is thrilled to find more relatives and starts to have doubts about living in the parish housing with Wooley. What’s a girl to do? Marry the flighty actor or a stuffy rector? Either way, money can salve the pains of lost honor.

Enough plot, let’s tell some jokes. As the lusty lead, Ms. Hawkins held down the calm center of this joyous comedy. Calm, cool and unlikely to ask embarrassing questions, she gave everyone else a trampoline to bounce off of. Kevin Bee felt unctuous and oily as the Right Reverend Money Bags – he could care for the souls of the lost and as long as he collects a fee he’ll happily issue a tax receipt. Colavolpe never felt mean spirited, he was just an opportunist with a trunk full of costumes a he dragged side kick Mr. Ross along for the ride. Larry Stallings did an excellent job playing Larry Stallings in the role of incompetent Doctor Myers and Audrey (Danielle Spisso) roller-skated around as the cute-as-a-bug bearer of exposition. Her milksop boyfriend Butch (David Hiller) might be the weakest role one on stage, but someone has to take the fall in a story this involved. We appreciate his sacrifice for the good of the rest.

Like most farces, the second act over powered the first – you need to construct a tower of misunderstanding and clouded perception to pull off a comedy of this magnitude. Times are dark today and we often suffer though malignant stories that reflect the inner demons of local artistic directors, but here we find a happy two hours that draw genuine belly laughs. If you have a heart, go see this twice and make Theatre Downtown extend the run.

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

The Rimers of Eldritch

Sunday, April 17th, 2011

The Rimers of Eldritch
By Lanford Wilson
Directed by John DiDonna
Starring Zachary Lane, Nichole Auger
Seminole State College, Lake Mary, Florida

While “Our Town” points out the joys of small town living “The Rimers of Eldritch” reveals the hopelessness and misery. Eldritch fades away as 20 miles away Centerville booms. With the mines closed, only a diner and a grain mill provide a tax base with Eldritch’s deep seated intolerance. Marriage before those pointless last two years of high school seems attractive, and it if wasn’t for wives to beat and cripples to pick on, there would be no entertainment at all. Well, that and sex, chief cook and bottle washer at the diner Cora (Skyller Armenta) takes a young lover Walter (Bo Smith) to replace her missing husband giving the old biddies Martha and Wilma (Michelle Albert and Jacquelyn Bell) the chance to start every line with “It’s not for me to judge…” Nutty Marry Windrod (Gloria Duggan) carefully buries small pets in the garden as her daughter Nellie (Amy Blacker) runs the mill and dodges gossip that she did in her 96 year old daddy. The Johnson boys beat their wives and girl friends while Patsy (Chloe McElroy) plots an escape and crippled Eva Jackson (Auger) thinks about sex with RobertConklin (Lane). At some distant mile post, we discover homeless outcast Skelly (Paul Luby) is the real center of the plot, but by now we are all making post-show dinner plans.

Wilson tells his story in an infuriatingly obtuse manner that will drive casual theater goers away in droves. Past and present coexist as red herring swim by and we surmise all the sympathetic characters moved to Centerville during rehearsal. Opinions vary – Patsy want to lock up the cripples, Evelyn Jackson rates court testimony based on the sexual experience of the witness, and anyone in any sort of happy relation is branded “whore” and not invited to the all night gossip sessions. The hopelessness of Eldritch reflects in the dour beams that form Richard Harmon’s set, and brutality motivates every action, mercy none. If there’s any danger in this play, it’s that any unstable audience members might hurt themselves once they get home.

For more information on the Seminole State College Theater program, please visit http://www.seminolestate.edu/arts/theatre/boxoffice.htm

One Act Festival

Saturday, April 9th, 2011

One Act Festival
Breakthrough Theatre
Winter Park, FL

It’s spring and Arts Festivals are popping up like condos after an interest rate cut. Problem is, they don’t seem to coordinate very well and three or four fell this week. With only a single weekend and an erratic set of shows, what I might have missed as Breathrough’s premire event, but I’ll fill you in on Saturday nights event.

“Relatively Craze” (written and directed by Danielle Dilks) brings to the stage the flavor of early Andy Warhol surrealism. It not clear that was the intent, but that what this 20 minute shorty felt like. Aggie and Clarence (Fo’i Meleah and Christian Barba) sneak into her mom’s house. Aggie want’s to spice up their love life with a quickie on the antique carpet but Clarence isn’t so sure; there might be dog hair in that rug. As they debate whether they should divorce so Aggie can hook up with the pizza guy, a steady stream of relatives enter, each with their own little agenda. Like a cloged pipe, they say their piece and then hang around on stage like day labourers, hopeing the writer will give them something to do. The climatic even is an on stage birth which mirros Dashilee Hammets detective wrting advice: “If you don’t know what to do, add a man with a gun.” The acting was recitative more than emotive, and this is as good as an example of why writers shouldn’t direct their own material.

After a short break (OK, I want home and had dinner) “The Scandalous Edward George” (Katie They and directed by Mike LiCastri) took us through the moral dilemmas a presidential candidate might face. Edwin George (Christian Checker) made it as far at the convention with his ideals unsullied. But that nomination speech opened him up to ever so much bigger contributions from evil industrialists (Alberto Piedra) and he becomes the focus of an epic battle between Good and Evil. Delilah (Joanna Eliza Steven) haunts him in a short red dress and Angela (Rachel West) flits around on ineffectual wings. Like any good mortality play, there are advances and feints on both sides, and when the Woman In The Crotch-High Slit Skirt (Olivia Murphy) attacks, Eddy folds.

While this story has the potential to become a brutal lecture, Thayer and LiCastri take deft approach, and the morality is frosted with enough laugher coating to make this medicine pretty tasty.

“The Pier” (Written by Michael Licastri and directed by Katie Thayer) is little more than 20 minutes of ’90s pop culture references, but they are darn funny references Mike LiCastri picked up a full ride to law school in Atlanta, and his buddies Mike Hawley and Mike Maples try to talk him out of leaving home. Reason to move to Atlanta – midget strippers. Reasons to say home – it’s where your buddies are, and no one ever makes friends in law school. While Hawley was heard to hear, Maples did an excellent job of emoting with a mouthful of fake Ritz crackers. He also nicked me with his stunt fish hook, but the bleeding stopped with some ice and a small tourneqite. If only they could have explained who Justin Bieber is….

OK, on to “Gooseberry Pie” (Written and directed by Charles Gershman.) This mysterious dialog avoids the tired cliché of Subject-Verb-Direct Object and relies on snippets of cross finished dialog between Barbara (Barbara Logan) and Joan (Elizabeth Judith). Perhaps its about a pie recipe, perhaps it’s about a love affair, and perhaps its just the old “Pendulum in the kitchen with her husband” routine. Either way it’s just a bit odd and very similar to overhearing a conversation at a restaurant. You might be disconnected from both endpoints but its still more interesting than whatever your doing this week. Both Logan and Judith danced on the edge of a sexual encounter, but never crossed the line to creepy.

We’re in the home stretch with Nicole Carson’s ‘The Chubby Chaser.” This story has been rattling around in Orlando Play Development hell, but it look like it’s found its legs. Sam (Scott Browning) is master of the slow burn and suffers a horrible internal conflict – He fantasizes about large women, but feel a need to date a skinny Pilates instructor (Melissa Cooper) so his lawyer friends won’t laugh at him even though he’s bonking his purportedly over weight boss (Avis Marie Barnes). Watching over him is his hybrid Jewish / Italian mother (Nicole Carson). She doles out nosey advice and tablespoons of back story and outs him to Miss Skinny Thinmint so he can fall in love with his special soul mate Gina (Carol Palumbo.) In this production, the humor hits spot on and there’s a steady stream of laughs as well as a solid interest in what happens to Sam’s love life. This show is almost ready for Fringe.

We wrap up with the blazingly funny “The Customer” (Written and directed by George Zanata) a perky customer service representative Mandy (Hollie Anderson) at The Bog Box Store encounters the customer from hell. She claims she can meet all his needs, including disposing of kittens, spot welding and subbing for his alcoholic wife. Eventually manger Bob (Jeff Hole) intervenes, and it’s back to basic training for poor Mr. Customer. Brilliantly written, it builds slowly and reasonably to comic climaxes, all polished by a totally professional cast.

This One Act Show showcased some outstanding scripts and performances, and only needs a beer tent and a longer run to hold its own in the crowded field of central Florida art events. And if Mr. Hair could better coordinate with Amtrak, that would a nice touch as well

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

Lousy T-Shirt

Friday, April 8th, 2011

Lousy T-Shirt
Brian Feldman Projects
Orlando Museum of Art
Orlando FL
April 7, 2011

“1st Thursday” is one of those brilliant promo things that actually gets people out to the museum to look at art, hang out with artists, and maybe even buy a little art. Booze and food don’t hurt the process either and even the Orlando Police Department showed up to do what they do best – direct traffic, and give you the evil eye.

Lousy T-Shirt : The Sign.

But never mind that, Orlando’s Premiere Time Constrained Conceptual Performance Artist (OPTCCPA) entered the 1st Thursday fray with his latest inexplicable event he calls “Lousy T-Shirt.” Here’s the deal – you give Feldman whatever top you’re wearing, and he gives you a Lousy T-Shirt that says so. I had wind of this, and wore something I didn’t mind losing. Feldman and crew took before and after pictures, and while the t-shirt wasn’t actually lousy, all he had left were mediums and I’m a bigger man than that. Buttons were passed out, assistants assisted, the countdown clock counted down, and I was a changed man with one more art molecule in my closet. Embarrassing picture might soon be on FaceBook, but this was truly an Orlando Art Event – Thomas Thorspecken was there, inking away. So I grabbed a beer, ate a gourmet Cuban sandwich, and listened to the jazz band echoing thought the awkward acoustics of the Orlando Museum of Art. Soon it was time to leave, and a surly officer directed me to the most roundabout possible way home – cutting though the Shakespeare parking lot was a threat to city security. What could I do? They had guns, and all I had was a Lousy T-Shirt.

The Feldman crew prepares to denude another volunteer.

For more information on Brian Feldman Projects, please visit

For more information on 1st Thursdays at the Orlando Museum of Art, please visit

Daddy’s Dying – Who’s Got The Will?

Sunday, April 3rd, 2011

Daddy’s Dying – Who’s Got The Will?
By Del Shores
Directed by Tara Corless
Breakthrough Theatre, Winter Park FL

There’s this playwriting rule – if you set a play in Texas, it’s always the hottest week of the year. Never set a story when the Blue Bonnets bloom, no one would know what that means. But we all know hot, the sidewalks are melting in Lawicke Texas, and Daddy (Bill Horine) isn’t long for this world – strokes and dementia have eaten his brain and his squabbling family circles hoping to take a bite of his cash. But he was “correcting” his will when the latest stroke struck and no one knows where the document might be. Mama Wheelis (Karen Edward Hill) preps for the death and you can smell the lavender powered and denture cream in the front row. While she’s religious, she knows when she’s being BS’d. Appearances are all here, in a small town that’s the glue that welds social cracks that would make most people move to a big city. Resentful daughter Sarah Lee (Candy Heller) stayed at home to care for her parents which helped her dodge the problems of getting a man or moving away, or both. Evalita (Nikki Darden) has plenty of men, she has a “frequent divorcer” card and once she’s done with Harmony (Daniel Cooksley) she’s entitled to a year’s worth of Turtle Wax and a 2 night vacation to Biloxi. Lurlene (Sylvia Vicchiullo) ran off with a Baptist preacher, and her devotion to Jesus R. Savior has given her the head of hair that indicates she’s on the short list for heaven. And then there’s abuse Orville (Christian Reed) with his padded tummy and his cowed wife Marlene (Genn Gannon) – he ain’t too bright, and isn’t going to take any competition from anyone he can slap around.

It’s a typical dysfunctional family, and much funnier than “August Osage County.” Everyone on stage bounces off Sara Lee as they pursue nefarious agenda, and each paints a slice of us that we would prefer not to watch. Orville and Evalita take the imitative; they tear the place apart knowing that whoever finds the will must then survive the knife fight. I loved Evalita’s hair; it looked like a tombstone and deserved a separate credit in the program. Lurlene denies any interest in filthy lucre, but it COULD help build her hubby a mega church somewhere decent, like Abilene. Cooksley looked smelly and seedy as Harmony – we haven’t seen him in a while and it was good to have a rock solid hippy on stage, and Edwards-Hill as Mama Wheelis reminded me of the old Carol Burnet show as the straight-laced older woman who accidently swears. It’s classic American humor. Even demented Daddy got some great sight gags with his tuxedo boxers and incoherent monologs to himself. The laughter here is nervous, these people aren’t that far away from our own homes, and let’s face it – it gets pretty hot here in Florida. This is a fun show, and if they could afford anything stronger than a 2 by 4 air conditioner, the room might have been cooler.

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

Pillowlando MMXI

Sunday, April 3rd, 2011

Pillowlando MMXI
April 2, 2011
Orange Avenue and South Street, Orlando Florida
Brian Feldman Productions

War is bad for children and other living things, but pillow fighting is a whole ‘nother deal. Brian Feldman returns with another battle of the fluffy cushions, this time at the site of the perhaps soon-to-be Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center. Whatever eventually crosses that stage, today’s event was as much performance art as anything the mayor’s pet project might offer this town. A half hour before the starting whistle, a dozen or so photographers arrived and vigorously interviewed anyone who walked up with a pillow. As the clocked ticked up to the 5 pm hour, more and more fighters arrived – some in PJ’s, more than a few in their Sexy Kitty Halloween outfits, and a few in custom spray painted tee shirts. The crowd talked trash, cooed at babies, and fluffed their down filled armaments. Promptly at five, Feldman strode up in his long white coat, toting a gallon of water and a football whistle.

Battle of the comfy cushions!

Following the Geneva Convention on Unconventional Warfare, Feldman announced the rules of engagement: No hitting cameramen, no hitting glasses wearers in the head, and no feather pillows – this is Orlando, and we have ordinances about that sort of things. He blew his whistle, a battle cry went up. We fought. Brother hit sister, mother hit child, artist hit writer. Rallies formed, defensive positions were obliterated, and everyone who hit me said “Excuse me – my bad.” It was hot, and as the more vigorous fighters worked up a sweat, some of the cleaner fighters faded off – no point in having to dry clean a tee shirt or pillow.

After a half hour of silliness, the fight stopped, warrior tossed pillows high in the sky, and we formed a loose line for a group photo with that round 1960’s bank building in the background. While it’s one of the classic Populuxe structures in town, it’s slated for demolition. As a formal policy, Orlando demolishes all important building about 2 years before we notice how cool they were. But these are the decisions the masses are not involved in, and like ants, we fought for no discernable reason and retired to the Yum Yum cupcake truck for refreshments. At least on our level, war can be fun and darned good aerobic exercise.

For more information on Brian Feldman Projects, please visit