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Archikulture Digest

by Carl F Gauze

Archive for July, 2011

Spring Awakening

Sunday, July 31st, 2011

Spring Awakening
Based on a play by Frank Wedekind
Music and Lyrics by Duncan Sheik
Book by Steven Sater
Directed by Wade Hair
Musical Direction by Don Hopkinson
Starring Max Herskovitz and Ariana Morales
Breakthrough Theatre, Winter Park Florida

I grew up in this 19th century culture of Germanic solidity – failure was punished with a stick, sex was never discussed, and the word of authority was sufficient for anyone under any circumstances. In this world a questioning intellectual like Melchior Gabor (Herskovitz) is bound to have trouble. Latin and Greek are trivial, he understood the mechanics of sex and explained it all to his best friend Moritz (Bret T Fox) in writing, and he bragged about not believing in God or anything else. Little Wendla (Morales) asks her Mother (Cynthia Ros McClendon) about sex, and she’s too embarrassed to hit even the low points, and leaves Wendla vulnerable to her natural urges. Beyond this, it’s a spiral to total destruction – failing grades lead to family disgrace, there’s suicide, rape, pregnancy, masturbation, homosexuality, and some really nice music.

This 2006 adaptation by Duncan Sheik and Steve Sater takes the original 1891 story and stream lines it – the original always feels like your digging though a thrift shop looking for a matching outfit. But here we find a central character in Gabor, and everyone else serves to illustrate his ill fated journey into sexual self discover. The cast handles their roles well – Herskovitz is self assured and above the petty bourgeoisie standards of his instructor (Stephen Halpin). Fox’s Moritz really does seem as if he will die if he finds out the truth about the origins of babies, and the girls surrounding Wendla (Alexandra Milbrath, Adriana Milbrath, Erynn Hair) mix the innocence and bile of teenagers competing for something they don’t understand, but realize is significant – the acceptance by the boys.

It’s the music and choreography that hold this together. The music is 1990’s, not 1890’s and the stomp line dancing takes us out of the suffocation of Wilhelm II’s Germany. There’s hardly a clunker in this set or tunes, “Mama Who Bore Me” and “Don’t Do Sadness / Blue Wind” were particularity heart wrenching, and Gabor’s “Totally Fucked” mixed the misery of a random fate with the helplessness of knowing you’re the fall guy preserving the status quo. A bit of bait is dangled here, Moritz want to flee to America but doesn’t have the 90 marks for a ticket. In retrospect, he might have become a bachelor farmer up around Crivitz, but would have been speared the humiliation of flunking out of school and being shot in WWI. I’ll say this – Breakthrough has put some lipstick and silk stockings on this pig, and made it beautiful.

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

Spotlight Cabaret: Candace Neal

Sunday, July 24th, 2011

Spotlight Cabaret: Candace Neal
Winter Park Playhouse, Winter Park FL
July 21, 2011

She’s a tall one, that Ms. Neal, and she seems to have sprouted an inch or two since her last appearance here in “Pump Boys and Dinettes.” That means even the people in the back of this crowed lobby can see her as she towers over the front row seats. Tonight she’s come out in a the middle of a Central Florida gully washer to sing for us, accompanied by the much shorter Timothy Pappas on the baby grand. Like all the Spotlight Cabaret girls, Ms. Neal mixes solid singing with a charming personality and a not completely convincing claim she’s nervous. They all say that but no one ever has any trouble controlling the room, and tonight she’s backed by Mr. Papas who not only helps her with piano but in other more personal aspects of life as well. The pair has a positive chemistry that makes for a great song writing and performing duo.

Ms. Neal cheats us on the open with a few bars of “Memories” but mercifully leaves the cats out in the rain to fend for themselves. The real opener is “Love Will Keep Us Together” followed by “Dye My Hair Blue” and what my wine stained notes show as “The Hooker Song.” It must have been good, but I’m pretty sure that’s not the real title. She next takes a swipe at show tunes aimed at male singers – “Nothing Like a Dame”, “Mr. Cellophane” and she almost but not quite hits the low notes on “‘Old man River”. She’s tall enough to make those notes, but not wide enough.

After a short break to freshen our drinks and see if anyone’s car was swept away, Ms Neal return to accompany herself on “Short People.” She written a few tunes as well, and remind us the there’s nothing like unrequited love to make good music. We hear a few of her originals, ending with the best love song ever: “Check Yes Or No.” More impersonal than speed dating, it’s a natural candidate for the App Store. The evening flies by, the rains fade, and it’s time for that last round of applause before the encore, a smoking “Son of a Preacher Man.” We stand, we file out into the freshly washed night – is that the moon peeking out? Oh, crap – I left my window open. Maybe I can find a dry towel somewhere…

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

The Green Room: The College Musical

Saturday, July 23rd, 2011

The Green Room: The College Musical
Music and lyrics by Chuck Pelletier
Book by C. Stephen Foster and Rod Damer
Directed by Ryan C. Roberge
Air Head Productions
Harwood Watson Dance Studios, Orlando Fl

This was an evening filled with both promise and pain as we worked through the latest musical by Chuck Pelletier. His concept of exploring the universe of the theater geekdom holds promise and Pelletier can crank out interesting music, but his story clunks along and tonight’s singing was often flat. Geeky freshman Cliff (Roberge) invades the cozy little Green Room clubhouse of his sister Ana (Misty Posey) and her friends. They tell him to get lost, and then change their mind for no discernable reason. While they all aspire to the stage, John (Dustin Schwab) has the option of joining his daddy’s big architectural firm if he switches over to engineering. Ana takes class seriously but Divonne (Sara Jones) can’t seem to pass a test or get a significant role. John and Ana date but it’s not serious – he’s in theater for nookie and she’s keeping herself pure and we never go down the path that would turn that into an important motivator. Mean while Cliff takes shine to Divonne after she makes it clear she’s ready, willing and not too picky. A scene or two later she’s pregnant, then she’s not, and Cliff takes it all like a big fluffy sheep dog chasing a tennis ball. John almost changes major but the promise of an off Broadway vanity production funded by daddies money keeps him in the Green Room, although not to the point where he or Cliff do actual homework. These kids are slackers, and whiney ones at that.

While the story telling tends to drop plot bombs when it fails to create interesting tensions, the songs are well constructed and when Ms. Jones sings them by herself they are quite enjoyable. “It’s All About Me” could be a minor hit, and “I’ve Had Enough Of You” and “It Comes Easy” both showcase excellent melodies and lyrics. Unfortunately, only Ms. Jones seems in control of her voice, “Destination Stage Left” and “Waiting in the Wings” both were flat and the male singers couldn’t keep in harmony. There was some snappy dialog, Divonne complains about a professor: “He gave me a ‘D’. Is he trying to get me to stop acting?” and “I don’t want kids, I want a Tony!” Cliff response to Divonne’s claim of lesbianism with “I’m OK with you wearing the pants.” and when Divonne play the burning bush in a biblical epic, he compliments her with “I’ve never seen a more beautiful bush.” This guy can turn out gags.

There are some rough spots in this show, but there’s some funny and touching material as well. “The Green Room” seems a great concept for college and theater festival productions, and the program claims this is the Florida premier. It’s not clear where else it was staged, but I’m hopeful the writes will keep honing this show.

txt

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

txt
Brian Feldman Projects
July 18, 2011
Urban Rethink, Orlando, FL

Urban Rethink. A concrete room. A shitty computer that can’t stay even stay on a complementary wireless network. This is a typical evening for me in the brave new digital age – everyone else makes communication effortless. People text from I-4 all the way to Florida Hospital, a guy whips out an Android on a Vespa as he tools down Mills, congressional genitalia sweep the nation. We drip communication, especially the Feldman clan. iPhone enabled, texting telepathically, they even have wireless credit card readers. For all I know, they live on a cell tower.

Ed Feldman communicates.

Tonight Ed Feldman mans the counter, selling buttons, taking admissions, and passing out super secret temporary Twitter passwords. Brian flusters around, centering a vintage chair on a platform, arranging cell phone chargers, and generally emitting an aura of industrious artiness. I struggle with network packets and conflicting Win 7 settings but eventully establish a semi-stable connection with the 21st century. I check on tropical storm Bret as it flies away like Casey Anthony after a winning verdict… and …and…I’m on Twitter! My heart palpates. I sense a minor earthquake in Guam, notice someone’s pet is feeling better, and my world is reduced to 140 symbols. We begin!

While this chair is incredibly cool, the best is still to come.

“txt” involves Feldman reading anonymous Tweets from an intimate audience. Tonight we had a comedian, and bartender jokes flowed like catsup on a bun. Some sexual innuendo popped up as well – was it coming from the Woman With The Mohawk, or the Mother And Daughter Sharing A Salad? I cut and pasted a few lines from random internet ads, and Feldman takes them in stride. We fling some emoticons his way, then Morse code, come-ons and turn offs, and he retorts with panache as someone suggests he scratch his nose. Time seems to fly but he points out we had a late start. So an hour feels like an hour.

Ok, I’m actually engaged, and I’m trying to type something entertaining or at least provocative. But it feels forced. It’s not the message length; it’s not a lack of individual feedback, it’s not the face to face encounter with a narcissistic yet world shattering technology. Despite Twitter driving revolutions and adding a new facet to free speech, there’s a feeling it might soon join a rusting pile of other earth shaking technologies like AOL or MySpace. Will Twitter someday date us like bad prom hair styles or leg warmers? Are we truly anonymous? Brian Feldman may not know who tweets what, but the Trilateral / CIA / Google complex can identity us. Better be careful – a crack about porn may turn into a job interview mine field. Then we are finished, but not like a fine wine. Feldman arises, thanks us, we mingle and then drift off.

Feldman survives interrogation by an innocent looking lamp.

Perhaps tonight is fixed in a data base, or perhaps our words will evaporate like the wisps of smoke they are. It's all just art, narcissistic and transitory, and fun while it lasted. But damn, it was a lot of work getting that computer set up correctly.

For more information on events at Urban Rethink, please visit http://urbanrethink.com/

For more information on Brian Feldman Projects, please visit =”http://www.brianfeldman.com

Completely Hollywood (abridged)

Sunday, July 17th, 2011

Completely Hollywood (abridged)
By Reed Martin, Austin Tichenor and Dominic Conti
Directed by J Michael Roddy
With Mark Baratelli, Matt Horohoe and Joshua Siniscalco
Winter Park Playhouse, Winter Park Fl

Given a choice, I’d rather have a great cast and weak material than a weak cast and great material. That’s what happened in this pop culture flyover – three seriously funny guys merged bits and pieces of 186 films into a fire hose of jokes. If one failed they were on to the next before you noticed. The first act focused in the Twelve Rules of Film making. These include “All successful films are a combination of two other successful films” to “there are only two plots – The Jesus Story and Coming of Age.” Another rule “Everyone has a screen play” set up the second act, but first we worked through such mergers as “Darcy’s Angles” and “Snow White and The Seven Samurai.” Given that “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” is in preproduction, there was nothing here that couldn’t happen in real life, or what Hollywood pretends is real life. So in the second act, THREE movies were combined into one, but it’s all a blur now – I think Hobbits attacked a spaceship with meatballs, but don’t hold me to that.

This is gag oriented humor, and if not done quickly it were best not done at all. Fortunately, these three comics were at the top of their form, and it’s the sight gags that stick with you – Baratelli as the MGM lion, the obligatory Austin Power scene, and Horohoe as the maniacal director with his mini megaphone. It helps if you watch a lot of popular movies; you’ll need the background to get the jokes. The running slowly skit is funny because of “Chariots of Fire” but the fast running gag relates to either “Forrest Gump, “Marathon Man,” “Running Man” or a cop drama I missed. If there’s a gag gap here, they skipped “Plastics” and “A fella’ could have a pretty good weekend in Vegas with all that stuff.” And we know you can’t have everything – otherwise, what would they put in the sequel?

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

Danny Feedback’s “Crack Rock Opera”

Sunday, July 17th, 2011

Danny Feedback’s “Crack Rock Opera”
With Kinky Catawampus and Room Full of Strangers
Bread and Circuses LLC
July 16, 2011
Theatre Downtown, Orlando, FL

Part Rock Show, party Vegas parody, part environmental theater, this entertainment covered the waterfront with varied success. Our master of ceremonies Sal Minnelli appears in a powder blue tux, aviator shades and a hair piece that could deflect most small arms fire. Backing him is his dragged out band leader Mr. Lipchitz wearing a fetching blue chenille number with lace and sequins – only his Nikes clashed with the outfit. Up in the back a heckler went after Minnelli for making fun of transsexuals, and they were soon joined by a real heckler who had been acting creepy in the lobby. It wasn’t easy to appear creepy around this set, but Mr. Lovely Hair was soon ejected by a bouncer. I’ve never seen anyone thrown out of a theatre before: this was exciting! This was edgy! Controlled mayhem, and in air-conditioned comfort!

Then there was a break to change some instruments, and things began to unravel. A band called “Kinky Catawampus” took the stage. As early 21st century punk bands go, they were definitely one. They did have a loyal and vocal following, and there drummer and lead gave good performances, but their song writing was more about making noise than making a point. People slipped out the bar. Some never returned.

With one opening act down, another break to change instruments ate more energy and added some extra hum to the microphone lines. “Room Full of Strangers” took the stage. Musically similar to “Kinky Catawampus” they wore ski masks and did a few more theatrical things – they heckled a plant with a loud cell phone and when someone called for “Free Bird” a guy in a white suit and cardboard wings ran around. I did like their cover of “Kids in America,” it’s a good early MTV number even if the location of “east California” leaves me asking: “Needles? Blythe? Baker?” The bar did more business.

After two openers, I expect some fireworks, and Mr. Minnelli returned to introduce the headline event. Fuzz God Danny Feedback leads a band with his mother on base. She’s also the band slut, but when a Jenkem epidemic strikes she leaves for the woods. Officer Adolf Travolli takes his night stick to hunt her down while saxophonist Suku’ Me’ narrates in glow in the dark kabuki makeup and Ronnie appears in an animal mask to fills. Mom eventually returns, we have a happily- ever-after, and …and…time to go to the bar.

It’s not clear what the target audience is for this show. As theatre, the bands get in the way, the equipment changes destroy any forward momentum and the Crack Rock Opera plot is bluntly written and poorly acted. As a rock show, the bands fill a need and their fans adore them, so what purpose does the stripped down Hedwig story serve to enhance the music? The best part of the show was the Minnelli / Lipchitz segments – the parody songs were completely tasteless and completely funny, and I’d love to see those characters expanded. All put together, I find the show less engaging than the sum of its parts. The show feels like “we rented a space and it’s open till 1 – who wants to play?” This is a million dollar title pasted on a $4.95 show.

For more information on the Crack Rock Opera, please visit breadandcircusesllc.com

COMICS! A Nerdy Burlesque Show

Sunday, July 10th, 2011

COMICS! A Nerdy Burlesque Show
Skill Focus: Burlesque
Blank Space (David Charles)
201 E. Central Blvd
Orlando, FL
July 8, 2011

It was a hot muggy walk from on-street parking to that odd little corner space on Magnolia and Central, but not as hot and muggy as it was inside. With 45 minutes to show time Blank Space was shoulder to shoulder in sweating hipsters hoping to get a beer or a decent view of the action. Fire codes be damned, this was going to be a party. Decisions, decisions – try to grab a little prime real estate, or get some badly needed fluids? I saw a friend at the bar, much closer than I would ever get and I winged him a sawbuck and a request for a Sprecher Triple Abbey Ale. If you’re drinking top drawer craft brews without a price list, you might as well go for the longest label.

A money maker being shaken.

Skill Focus brings back old school burlesque to Orlando – this is the stuff MY dad used to watch on the way to basic training. It’s all about the entrance, and the half dozen performers worked that angle as hard as possible. We’re all comix fans here, or at least can act like we are, and the girls all came on dressed in the latest hot trending super costumes of sweaty spandex and unlimited marketing potential. The Green Lantern, Spiderman, Tony Stark and a few I’ll Google later hid behind a cheap Chinese screen while out front MC Sterling worked the crowd. I was ready, we were all ready, and its miracle no one passed out.

The front desk - the guy in green is the least convincing bouncer EVER.

There’s no program and everyone is under stage name, but if you’re around the local scene you’ll recognize these burly-q girls and boys from Fringe and Theater Downtown and all the other little semi-legit venues. The crowd stamped and hooted, dollar bills were inserted into underwear or picked up by the least convincing bouncer I’m ever met, and the crowd loved it. Since this is an open minded group, we even had Peter Parker strip nearly down to his pecker, and assault some guy in the front row.

About an hour of this heat is all a normal Floridian can handle, as the show let out I was chilled by the midnight 90 degree humidity. I felt like I’d just changed my oil, mowed the lawn, and cleaned the gutters, except with better memories. I’m not sure I’m ready for my mother to see this, but dear old dad would be perfectly happy, even if he wouldn’t recognize any of the beers.

Skill Focus: Burlesque offers more dates and fun events at Skill Focus: Burlesque offers more dates and fun events at http://www.facebook.com/home.php?sk=group_209726552379235#!/pages/Skill-Focus-Burlesque/195803080454912

A Weekend in Winter Park with Sondheim

Sunday, July 10th, 2011

A Weekend in Winter Park with Sondheim
Produced and Directed by Jacquelyn Bell and Justin J Scarlat
Stages Theatre Co. at Breakthrough Theatre
Winter Park, FL

One thing about Sondheim – you can take his best love songs, give them Frankenstein lighting in a block box theater, and they still make perfect sense. In this collection of musical numbers, you’ll hear both hits as well as the Sondheim signatures numbers with odd chord progressions that can take years to grasp. Opening with “Invocation and Instructions” from “The Frogs” we hear an ancient Greek version of the traditional cell phone and candy wrapper speech that define individual theaters today. This one is sung by Justin Scarlat and Keith Newhouse, and while it’s a long as a TDT opener, it’s nearly as entertaining as the Alan Bruun’s threatening sing-a-long lectures from the old days at Mad Cow.

Generally, the selections are well suited to the singers – Judith Gill’s belting version of “Rose’s Turn” from Dolly, Newhouse’s soaring “Everybody say’s Don’t” from “Anyone Can Whistle”, and Natasha’s Harrisons sweaty “Sunday In The Park” fit well with their vocal ranges. But the ensemble numbers were the stars here, directors Bell and Scarlat did wonders with the staff and sound system on hand. “Weekend In The Country” and “God That’s Good (from “A Little Night Music” and “Sweeney Todd” flew, and even “Every Body’s Got the Right” from Assassins moved my cynical heart.

The lighting was dramatic, if odd looking with a forced perspective and a tendency to overuse lurid reds, but the glow chalk signature over the door and clever use of the center aisle made the show feel intimate – I could have kissed Ms. Gill as she sang and it wouldn’t have broken stride of the show. The only other issue I’ll mention is this show runs one weekend only, and that’s not enough time for everyone in town to enjoys America’s most challenging musical writer.

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