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by Carl F Gauze

Archive for November, 2011

Gem Of The Ocean

Sunday, November 20th, 2011

Gem Of The Ocean
By August Wilson
Directed by Julia Listengarten
UCF Conservatory Theatre, Orlando FL


Lincoln freed the slaves, but in practical terms did little more for them. By 1904 the legality of slavery was gone but the essentials of the practice hung on – down south the whites blocked the blacks from moving north while in Pittsburgh the mill owners hired people to indenture them. Citizen Barlow (Robert Wright) snuck out of the Alabama post-slavery slavery and into the Pennsylvania version. Crimes happen and now needs his “soul washed” by Aunt Ester (Belinda Boyd). She 285 years old but doesn’t look a day over 70 and freely admits she has no supernatural powers. The local Uncle Tom enforcer Caesar Wilks (Michael Rodney) is on Citizen’s trail and wields a gun and a badge and makes the LAPD look like a bunch of bunny rabbits. Black Mary (Kevia Goins) and Eli (Terrance Jackosn) house with Aunt Ester, Mary is Ceasar’s sister and Eli’s buddy is Solly Two Kings (David Tate). They worked the Underground Railroad and scouted for the Union Army. Now there’s labor tension in the air and smoke from a burning mill, and it takes a trip to the city of bones to save Citizen’s soul.

Wilson’s Pittsburg Cycle tells the African American experience decade by decade, and this was the second last of the plays written. While Wilson still plays up the black stereotypes, they are less blunt here and the players feel more nuanced even if the situation is more extreme. The toughest guy is Caesar; Rodney plays him as the tough, brutalist who holds the law above all else even to the point of offering the death sentence without trial for stealing a loaf of bread. The brightest light on stage is Tate’s Solly. He funny and florid and not afraid of anything. He carries a big stick and isn’t afraid to use it, and he’s the uncle you’d like to tell you all his war stories. Jackson’s Eli voices reason and calm, and deflects the public from this House of Refuge. The enigma lies in Aunt Ester, her spiritualism is a mixture of the Bible and tribal gods and common sense and she send Citizen out to find “two pennies lying on the ground next to each other” just to get him out of the house. Citizen is big and naive and well intended, he’s the teddy bear type who does all the hard work and get none of the reward while Black Mary swishes and bitches and cooks and cleans. She’s the stable black mama who can swing a mom or her hips with equal effect.

Like all Wilson shows this one rattles the rafter with symbolism, and while the first act tends to plod and preach the best part of this show is Citizen’s journey to the City of Bones to confront his own sins and the sins brought upon his race. The set is cloth and canvas, at first it appears a budget decision but when the wind rises and sea turns rough, it’s a serviceable ship to the underworld and back. Whipped in the South and wupped in the North, the principal message here is you can’t just free the slaves and then leave them to their own devices – someone will always try to put them back on the plantation, just where they think they belong.

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

Anything Cole!

Sunday, November 20th, 2011

Anything Cole!
Directed and Choreographed by Roy Alan
Musical Direction by Chris Leavy
Winter Park Playhouse, Winter Park Fl

Cole Porter may be the best song writer ever. Who else would seriously consider rhyming “You’re the breast of Venus” with “You’re King Kong’s (Tallywhacker)?” It’s just a shame they didn’t actually sing that version of “Your The Tops” in this otherwise thoroughly enjoyable tap-a-thon. Cole was one of the twentieth century’s most prolific and subversive song writers, he cranked out hit shows and horrid flops and lyrics that sound Sunday school innocent until you actually think about them. Porter started out in law school to please daddy and ended up composing pop songs to please himself. He spent years in the fashionable Diaspora of prewar Paris and wrote endlessly about the experience, and tonight the all-singing all-talking all-tap-dancing Winter Park Playhouse home team takes us back to the those halcyon tunes.

The opening is an easy shot with “Another Opening, Another Show” featuring the entire cast. Part musical revue, part mini history lesson we learn bits and pieces of biography between the songs. I think that to allow the cast to grab a sip of water back stage and wipe off the sweat. Newcomer Steven Flaa and Kate Zaloumes follow with a gorgeous “Its De-Lovely” and Flaa returns to sing the bossa nova flavored “I Concentrate On You”. Candace Neal gives us a Latin influenced lap dance in “My Heart Belongs to Daddy” and Natalie Cordone united with Mr. Flaa for the erotic and long banned “Love For Sale / Gigolo”. It’s not that raunchy by today’s talk show and high profile murder trials standards, but it got my grandparents undies in a bunch.

The highlight of the show came at the end of the first act with a full cast tap routine based on “Anything Goes.” Roy Alan led the pack, and I was a bit disappointed he went with the monochrome shirt and vest ensemble instead of his more typical tux and taps look. The dancing sounded like a team of red bull fueled carpenters, and the shallow and springy stage made these six dancers sound like a dozen or more. Cordon, Zaloumes and Neal gave the second act an Andrews Sisters styled “Miss Otis Regrets” while Alan, Flaa and hipster looking Brian Minyard encouraged us to “Brush Up (Y)our Shakespeare.” Closing number “Everytime We Say Goodbye” was warm but not nearly as rousing as “Anything Goes” but did justice to the music and mood and all around we had a great time. As they say, old wine, old songs and old dogs are always the best.

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

Play de Luna Presents…STRANGER DANGER

Monday, November 14th, 2011

Play de Luna Presents…STRANGER DANGER
Art’s Sake Studios
Winter Park, FL

It’s time for another episode of the Mark Harvey Levine Play Festival at Orlando’s coolest and least known performance space in that weird little industrial district behind the new Publix. Let’s run down tonight’s shopping list:

“Scripted” (Written by M. H. Levine, directed by Landon Price) Elaine (Stephanie Miller) and Simon (James Colt Woodrich) wake up to just another ordinary workday, except this one has been scripted out in detail. A spiral bound Final Draft approved script is on the night stand, and they are unable to deviate from the all powerful, all knowing supreme script writer. Things are looking pretty glum until they find out about the Revision function, then their mundane lives have a chance at creativity so long as they can come up with cool ideas as fast as Mr. Levine. Elaine: bouncy and bright. Simon: loving if a bit dull. Think you can produce a script? You have a word processor; let’s see what YOU can concoct.

“The Rental” (Written by MHL, Directed by Tim Riedel) Hung over and lonely Sonya (Anne-Michael Smith) wakes up to her 30th year on earth, and as a gift her best friend bought her a rental boyfriend (Chris Walker). Not exactly a gigolo, he’s the sensitive caring sort of guy that in real life would either be gay or already married. After she gets over the idea of beating him to death with a baseball bat, he does his best to empathize and care, but Sonya just not ready to accept that angels DO exist and she chases him away. Sonya: skeptical and we see why. Rental Harold: too good to be true and under no obligation to stick around. It was beautiful for almost 90 seconds.

“In Paris You Will Find Many Baguettes But Only One True Love” (Written by Mike Lew, Directed by Jennifer Jarackas) You can’t find love in your home town, so why not try Paris France? Liz (Amy Strickhouser) picks up a beret and a street mime (Scott Silson) and her traveling companion Lindy (Clare Ghezzi) is bent out of shape. Mr. Mime only communicates with makeup and motion until Lindy heads out for baguettes. Lindy is jealous and tries to get mime face all over her space face, but the mime admits he’s from rural Canada and is stalking the girls. What do you expect in down town Europe? Actually picture perfect Europeans? Lindy: jealous but the ultimate winner. Liz: naive but sincere. Mr. Mime: well, I know I’m supposed to look down on mimes, but he has really nice make up and I’d hate to see him spoil his look for these spoiled tourists.

“Superhero” (Written by MHL, Direct by John Connon) What’s a little cosplay between neighbors? Rachel desperately needs rescue; her light bulbs are dark and her tap drips all night long and her VCR flashes “12:00. 12:00. 12:00” like her desperate cry of loneliness in an uncaring universe. Leonard (Robert Walker – Branchaud) battles the Cat Woman and her Claw Minions as he sweat in rubber gloves and multiple layers of K-Mart athletic garb. Rachel isn’t ready to drink the kryptonite, but Leonard needs something super heroic to justify his lack of true super powers. They swap sweaty clothing, but are they ready to swap spit? And is it worth the risk? It’s a real cliff hanger for Rachel: she needs to step outside her underground lair. Leonard: needs to back off the fetish gig and realize when to stop fighting and give in to the girl next door.

“Intermission” Ahhhhh….sweet relief!

“Misfortune” (Written by MHL, Directed by Yvonne Suhor) Cindy (Rachael Thompson) and Barry (Cole Nesmith) chow down in Chinatown but his fortune cookies could have come from Glen Garry Glen Ross. Adding “In Bed” only makes things worse, and the waitress (Christina Geraghty) keeps trying for a tip but Barry knows he’s doomed and it looks like Cindy will finish him off. Good thing she’s not that good a waitress, she not only gave them the wrong bill, but the wrong fortune. The Chopsticks of Doom were aimed at the next table, and Cindy and Barry are safe to chew down more chow mien next week. Cindy: Soon to be ex-girlfriend scary. Barry: Nerdy in a hipster way, marked for death at the open. The Waitress: Dead men don’t leave tips.

“Tongue, Tied” (Written by M. Thomas Cooper, Directed by Simon Needham) Possibly the best short tonight. Tina (Joy Marston Kigin) is infested with two sock puppets, one a sassy black number with hoop earring and enough attitude to trump an August Wilson show, the other a Frenchified number with a Gauloises Straight and enough existentialism to choke Camus. She meets Tom (Jay Sevilla) who is similarly equipped with a violent Mr. Chan and his sensei Pat Morita. The puppets hit it off; maybe these two can lose their demons in a Laundromat and find love, or at least a gig in a shopping mall daycare center. Humans: Human, lovable, and repairable. Puppets: snotty, funny and well manipulated.

“A Fork in the Life” (Written by Mark Aloysius Kennelly, Directed by Ayla Parson) What IS it with these middle names and hyphens? I believe a production team credit should occupy fewer letters than the script. Roxie (Britta Gardner) stands on a pallet and threatens to throw herself into the first row as Angie (Jennifer Jarackas) jogs by and tells her the jump will do little more than give her a set of wet undies. Roxie was dumped by a boyfriend, Angie fears the same and when Jim Serrano comes along and calls them lesbians he gets to test out Angie’s theory that death is unlikely in this scenario. Roxie: a bit whiney. Angie: a bit butch. The ubiquitous MAN played by Serrano: a bit dead. So much for theory.

“Disco Ninja Robot” (Written by Robin Hack, Directed by Derek Angell) FedEx customer service goes to hell in a hand truck as slightly buzzed Ray (Daniel Baldock) terrorizes a paying customer (Jim Serrano). Is he his own evil twin, or just a little paranoid? His coworker Crystal (Perla Ovadia) is little help, and its miracle he doesn’t get his butt kicked from her to workman’s Comp. Ray: a mean jokester with a roll of bubble pack. Crystal: peripheral to the plot. Mr. Customer: filled with righteous consumer rage in the face of a corporate blow off. We’ve all been there, but it’s the only way a minimum wage slave can get his due. Script: in need of edits.

Fun stuff tonight, these guys should do more shows more often. Catch them if you can!

For more information on Art’s Sake Studios, check www.art-sake.com/

Well… Since You Asked!

Sunday, November 13th, 2011

Well… Since You Asked!
With Kate O’Neal
Written by Kate O’Neal and Jay Hopkins
Directed by Jay Hopkins
Jester Theatre Company
The Garden Theatre, Winter Garden Fl

Hello World, meet Kate O’Neal! She’s a professional singer, occasional actor and all around Chatty Cathy tonight in Winter Garden. I came for her singing, laughed at her stories and left feeling liked I’ve know her for years. She’s been around the block once or twice and describes herself as a cougar in training, but still has kids camping out at home. While she’s changing the locks we hear about her past, her philosophy of life and an even few beauty tips. Her opening number was penned by local funnyman Jay Hopkins and arranged by Jim Rhinehart, but I’m not sure if Mr. R was lurking backstage or was reduced to a digital helper. Between songs, she pulls “audience questions” out of a candy dish and launches into personal stories, but somehow I Think these questions might possible have come from a professional comedian who knows how to set up a joke.

A precocious youngster, Kate began by singing good old Catholic tunes like “Immaculate Mary” and then progressed to much less immaculate tunes, her mother forbade her from singing “It’s All The Same” for the second grade talent show. As she matured, she sang in local cover bands, graduated to country and opened for The Judd’s and other bands you might pay real money to see. Finally, she graduated to show tunes and has stood so low as to get health benefits from a certain local entertainment giant. Cross her, and she might spray round up on your begonias, but she could be your friend if your ever in hospice. The gags were fun, but I could have done with few more tunes. I’m hoping this is a show in progress and Kate will return with more music.

For more information on Jester Theater Company, please visit http://www.jestertheater.com

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

Quilt: A Musical Celebration

Saturday, November 12th, 2011

Quilt: A Musical Celebration
Lyrics by Jim Morgan
Music by Michael Stockler
Book by Jim Morgan, Merle Hubbard and John Schak
Directed by Wade Hair and Erynn Hair
Musical Direction by Erik Branch
Staring Rob Ross, Kelly Elisabeth Fagan
Breakthrough Theatre, Winter Park FL

Twenty one people on stage, a full house, and an opening number with lit candles – I know where the exits are, but this is flirting with disaster. But they all extinguished safely, and off we went into what now count as s a period piece of socially conscience musical theater. Written in 1992 and based on the “NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt,” this loosely follows a number of people who have lost friends and family to the epidemic. The central characters are Wes (Ross) and Karen (Fagan) who meet while sewing panels for the quilt at the Gay and Lesbian Center. Wes is planning a Seconol based suicide and Karen is worried her friends might think she’s gay. Wes lost his lover “gumdrop” and Karen’s was dating Dr. Ted who used her as a cover for his real life. Along the way we meet Mrs. Polaski (Kendra Musselle) who denies her son was gay (“We were very close. He would have told me something like that”) and the Brown Family (Treniecia Ward, Josan Battle, Kimberly Bonny) who lost a sister and her baby to aids contacted from the mysterious “Jamal” and a Maria (Candy Heller) who’s son received an infected kidney transplant.

Occasionally heavy handed, always angry, and overall hopeful this show reflects the state of HIV 20 years ago. While none of the tunes are especially memorable there were some excellent renditions, starting with Wade Hair singing “At a Distance” and wrapping up with Vicki Burns’ “In the Absence of Angels”. Gloria Duggan looked elegant as the well to do mother and Justin Scarlat as the “funny uncle.” As the songs progressed, a simulacrum of the AIDS quilt appeared on a Velcro board. While each victim had his or her own story, the common thread is the friendship between Wes and Karen. He finds a reason to keep living, and she finds a reason to start helping people, although her sewing skills are a bit dangerous. Off on the side we find Erik Branch pounding out the sound track on a spinet, his music illuminated by a purple lamp that reflects off his tuxedo.

With a packed house, there were plenty of people who have stories of their own loss, someone even left in the first act to go out and sob in the lobby. As musical go, this is more a call to action than an evening’s romp, but it’s good to look back and see that despite the death and misery, there is hope. There’s always hope.

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

PlayFest 2011Version 2.0 (Day 4)

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

PlayFest 2011Version 2.0 (Day 4)
Orlando Shakespeare Theater
Orlando FL

It’s closing night, and the 2011 PlayFest V2.0 feels like a huge success. Solid houses, good Q&A sessions, and notably improved wine options at the Harriet Lake bar make for a warm and inviting event among the scattered showers. Three shows today, and bear in mind that these are not finished pieces, but are still subject to author improvement.

Zombie Town by Tim Bauer

Directed by Mark Brotherton

There’s art in them thar rural natural disasters, and San Francisco’s Catharsis Collective heads out to rural Harwood TX to do a living documentary play about the after effects of the mini Zombie apocalypse. The mayor wants to sell them a car, the local DJ was happy for the scoop of a life time, the hippy and his slutty girl friend will likely reproduce, and the local Community College got what it always wanted – a corpse for its anatomy department. Possibly the funniest self referential theatrical comedy of the last two or three years, the house was sold out on a Sunday morning, the audience roared and there was a partial standing ovation. EVERYTHING is better with zombies including self indulgent angst ridden theatre.

Positives: Rednecks, Zombies, and two previous productions.

Negatives: Not on the upcoming schedule anywhere in town.

Technical nits: No actual brain consumption.

The Invention Of The Living Room by Andrew R. Heinze

America is the world’s melting pot, but that doesn’t make life easy for the most recent huddled masses. The Levin’s huddle in New York a tenement as they struggle to adapt to the big city. This sure ain’t their parent’s shtetl, but their son hatches a brilliant idea – mass-produced suburban housing in the potato fields of Long Island for the anti Semitic GI’s back from liberating them. Bessie (Janine Klein) is torn between the past and the future – does her household stick to ancient prohibitions against lentils on Passover and radio on the Sabbath, or do they ditch the head scarf and accept their urbane and dark complexioned daughter-in-law (Trennell Mooring)?

Positives: a well constructed ensemble piece with clearly delineated and well. motivated characters.

Negatives: Strident at times and the family arguments play to racial stereotypes. Of course, there is always some truth behind the stereotype, else it wouldn’t exist.

Technical nits: with a large cast and a claustrophobic set, I see this on Winter Parks Smallest stage.

Feverish by Steve Yockey

The Greeks have a bad track record for financial responsibility, but they are past masters at tragedy. Phaedra (Jennifer Chirsta Palmer) takes her entourage into the woods, where Jay Becker’s Dionysus offers here a green peach. The excessive symbolism causes her to fall in love with her hunky son Hippolytus (Brad Frost) and destroys the whole family. His long absent father Theseus (Patrick Ryan Sullivan) invokes his own father Poseidon who sounds weird, spacey and sort of Jewish: “You don’t call. You don’t write. You only talk to me when you need someone killed.” It’s surprisingly entertaining.

Positives: Classic tragedy, a gayer-than-thou chorus, and a mother’s love gone horribly wrong.

Negatives: Why is party God Dionysus such a jerk?

Technical nits: Stick with the white wine, or the dry cleaning bills will kill you.

Closing Party

Cheese cubes. Left over skittles. And the rest of the Barefoot Wine we’ve been avoiding, but this meet up is much more engaging than the opening night party. And yeah, I blew off the Playwright’s Panel. Maybe next year.

More information about PlayFest may be found at http://orlandoshakes.org/plays-events/playfest/index.html

PlayFest 2011Version 2.0 (Day 3)

Sunday, November 6th, 2011

PlayFest 2011Version 2.0 (Day 3)
Orlando Shakespeare Theater
Orlando FL

Half way through this festival, and there are some real positives to its compressed schedule. With only one presentation of each show, the house is nearly full every time and there’s no excuse for missing a show. The whole event feels snappier, and there’s still time to eat and go to the John. Here’s what’s happening artistically, and bear in mind these are all script-in-hand readings and the author is nowhere near done with the script.

Samsara by Lauren Yee

Directed by Beth Marshall.

The stork won’t be visiting Craig (Jason Nettle) and Katie (Julie Woods-Robinson) anytime soon. She’s had some bad plumbing, and he’s not exactly heartbroken. But Katie keeps up the pressure, and soon $20k and some genetic material head over to the Subcontinent. I knew about call centers, but this is getting extreme. Suraiya (Melina Countryman) trades nine months of gestation for a crack at medical school and Craig spend some quality time with her to bond with the baby. And Katie? She’s afraid to fly until it’s too late.

While their story is realistic and the outsourcing of pregnancy is real, the script floats in and out of surrealism – Suraiya’s fetus (Rudy Rushdie) talks with her and us and is the most engaging character on stage. Katie has a fantasy affair with Maurice Chevalier in the form of a generic Frenchman (Jesse Lenoir). He’s sooth and suave and tres continental and when Craig discovers him, he’s heartbroken as is the fetus who hits the road and ditches this whole weird scene.

Positives: The Fetus and the Frenchman are outstanding, and I really thought Suraiya was sweet.

Negatives: Craig and Katie both felt superficial, the act of acquiring a baby felt like they were shopping for a sports car, and while Suraiya’s job was one step above prostitution (Yee’s words, not mine) it seemed to have little or no effect on her.

Technical nits: The script seems to have some very challenging effects and the feels more like a movie than a stage play. And what does the title mean?

Smoke by Gloria Bond Clunie

Directed By John R. Briggs

In the mid sixties a union organizer Wallace Johnson (Quinton Cockerell) visits a small North Carolina town to help the tobacco workers. He meets up with penny pinching Ora Rakestraw (Fredena J. Williams) and after a long first act of jawboning, they fall in love. Redneck Sheriff Hayes (Don Seay) rattles his sword and Wise Woman “Mama” Liz (Avis Marie Barnes) works mojo and makes a mean corn bread. Everyone has an angle on illusion, and everyone had a missing part of their life that the author fixes for them.
Positives: Ora Rakestraw: the best PlayFest name ever! And once you’re into the second act, the romance and intrigue flows like honey.

Negatives: The first act is endlessly talky, and the Sherriff feels underused.

Technical nits: Scenes always seem to open with radio updates about President Kennedy’s vacation status as breaking news, and the stage direction calls for “1963 hits” and “1965 hits” to set time frame. The first it too blatant, the second too subtle.

Keynote Address by Jeffery Hatcher

Carmina Burana. Proper theatre smoke. A multicolored set for one of the multiple “Miss Nelson is Missing” floating around. And into this walks a balding author with a working knowledge of every backstage from Broadway to the flesh pots of Los Angeles. Mr. Hatcher is so successful he supports himself with writing for the stage, and he spends the better part of an hour discussing the tortuous relation between authors and audiences and all those minor characters like actors and producers who mediate the process. His comments on critics and the power they wield in the rarefied atmosphere of New York are frightening, his policies on avoiding elevators and marquees are more than superstition, and his sense of drama pervades everything he does. I wonder if Pat Flick told him he could have risen from that tunnel center stage, that’s the only way he could have topped tonight talk.

Strongman’s Ghost by Jeffery Hatcher

All dictators preside over some version of Kafka’s world with opaque rules and arbitrary decisions. Intellectuals are at a special disadvantage – besides seeing though the bull, they are likely to publish about it in mocking ways the powerful don’t quite understand. Eric Pinder is pulled out of his bed and dragged to El Presidente For Life’s (Ron Schneider) palace, and assigned the task of finishing El Pres’s 18th best seller. Vicious guard Stephan Jones offers editorial advice, treacherous Colonel (Michael Briggs) offers an implausible but unpopular alternate ending, and El Pres himself offers to polish his own image, but doesn’t grok the Monomyth. Everybody on stage wants to be writer, but only Pinder can type and separate fantasy from reality. As you might expect, this is not a wise career move.

Positives: gripping narrative, deep, hard to pin down sense of unease, uber clever double-reverse-over-and-under ending.

Negatives: A few loose plot points, and the sort of show where one guy will get all the in jokes and confuse the general audience members.

Technical nits: One of the least tech intensive shows in the festival. What’s the scenic designer supposed to do?

More information about PlayFest may be found at http://orlandoshakes.org/plays-events/playfest/index.html

PlayFest 2011 Version 2.0 (Day 2)

Friday, November 4th, 2011

PlayFest 2011Version 2.0 (Day 2)
Orlando Shakespeare Theater
Orlando FL

Friday Nov 3 – The Odyssey by Charlie Bethel

Starting a high profile show like this at 6 pm on a Friday tempts the good intentions of Orlando’s Transportation Gods and a slow I-4 held this show’s open for about 5 minutes. Last year Bethel’s fluid and funny “Beowulf” was a huge crowd favorite, and I give this man points for adapting Homer’s “The Odyssey” into a 75 minute modern user-friendly romp in only a year’s worth of research and writing.

I’m sure you’ve translated the original from Greek to Latin somewhere along the line, but the story boils down to this: At the end of the Trojan War Odysseus rapes, pillages and plunders Troy and desecrates the local temples. Greek gods were OK with the R, P & P but draw the line at D: Odysseus is cursed to spend a decade trying to get home and when he does everything has just gone to hell in a hand truck. The journey take him far and wide, and just like a good horror film his friend disappear in a variety of bloody and pointless deaths, leaving him to wash up on shore wet, bloody and alone. Only the good intentions of Athena and his native sneakiness allow him to rescue his incredibly loyal wife from every gold digging Lothario in Syracuse. He’s a hero, but all his actions only serve to prolong his misery and he tends to take naps at the worst possible moments. But there’s a moral – respect the divine, keep one step ahead of everyone, stay vigilant, and keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

Bethel’s niche is telling large stories in a one man format. His mix of colloquial slang and archaic language is a good balance of “what it was really like” and “what we can understand today.” “Rosy Fingered Dawn” marks his scene changes, but I would have liked a bit more of “Wine Dark Sea” or “Grey Eyed Dusk.” He relates the eye gouging of Cyclops with bloody relish, spews guts and body parts all over the nice clean marble floor and points out the Gods become upset when humans have more sex than they do. But Odysseus seems to get his share of action with a variety of supernatural chicks; maybe that’s part of his woe.

Odysseus’ world is on the verge of the supernatural Old Days and the mundane Modern World. Prayers are answered, prophesies come true, the evil are punished and virtuous rewarded, although not without having to preserver through heartbreaking misery and back breaking labors. If you listen carefully, you can hear whispers of the Christian mythos – the archetypes of Joseph Campbell tie the Ancient Greek and Middle European and Post Modern American fears together. Study them with Mr. Bethel, and you will laugh and you will cry and you will never be bored.

More information about PlayFest may be found at http://orlandoshakes.org/plays-events/playfest/index.html

PlayFest 2011 Version 2.0 (Day 1)

Friday, November 4th, 2011

PlayFest 2011Version 2.0 (Day 1)
Orlando Shakespeare Theater
Orlando FL

This year’s New PlayFest (Version 1.0) landed in the middle of Florida Film Fest and for all I know auditions for the Second Coming. As the dynamic Orlando Arts Scene seeks equilibrium, PlayFest guru Pat Flick responded by dropping the “New” from the PlayFest title and shifting the event to the beginning of November. I love this new time slot; it’s just past the insanity of the September / October rush and just before the sappy “It’s A Wonderful Christmas Carol” Season. This is the pivotal week; a shortened program helps us all slip gears by squeezing everything into one long weekend and staking a claim for this week end in 2012. Wednesday is the Play-In-A-Day assignments, Sunday is the closing party, and in between every premier is run exactly once. The scheduling is quite nice; you can see everything with some effort and still have time for lunch. Here’s an event by event summary of the action:

Thursday Nov 3 – Play-In-A-Day

Now in its sixth year, Play-In-A-Day (PID) mixes up the talent and encourages artists to work with those they don’t normally collaborate with. But with all the familiar high profile faces and a smattering of newbies, that vital mix is getting harder to achieve. Still, the results are solid, this is the best PID I’ve seen so far. The gimmick works like this: a writer gets a cast and a “twist” and 12 hours to crank out a 10 minute script; a director and cast have 12 hours to get off book and get the show on its feet. And NO props.

Long time PID participant Davis Lee gives us “Family Road Trip…” (Directed by Beth Marshall) It’s a surreal and flighty in-joke about the material in the past years of PID. Stephen Middleton and a dragged out John Cannon cruise the area attractions with a hype active Sarah Lockhart in the back seat pointing out past themes and absurdities, always falling back to things that come in threes and fours. It’s a bit of Firesign Theater, and a bit of insider humor, and surprisingly funny.

Josh Geoghagan’s “Fair Enough” (Directed by Laurel Clark) takes us into a dysfunctional family wake. It teases with a Zombie Apocalypse lead in, but then delves into some family dirt that couldn’t be revealed until Jim Cundiff’s wife dies. His daughter Ally Gursky and her uncle Chuck Dent cover some squicky history, and agree they can get along with each other but not their grieving dad.

“Waiting” comes from out-of-towner Paul Strickland. (Directed by Tara Corless) This piece takes the most suspension of disbelief to appreciate as Neil Bernard seeks out the waiting rooms of life and meets his Godot as the love-struck Barry White. White thinks the bruises on his arms are from his brain, but we all know his performance artist girl friend left the marks. Either Samantha O’Hare is the best gosh darn dancer / actor in his life or Mr. White is in for a long dry spell. I think I liked it, but I’m not sure why.

Local hero Kenny Babel penned “Out On Top”, the most complex and funny of tonight’s productions. (Directed by Jay Hopkins) Daddy’s gone a-dying, he fell onto a model Bank of America model at Legoland, and that 5 dollar ATM fee don’t mean nothing no more. Stephen Johnson bids farewell to his brutal father with “Whose on top NOW, fucktard?” and we spend the next 10 minutes in a complex yet clearly delineated set of flash backs. Grieving mother Elizabeth Murf is horrified, and his brother Anthony Pyatt is impressed with Johnson’s bladder capacity, but by the end of the slot everything is perfectly clear. It’s a masterful script, made more so by Hopkins dynamic editing.

In “Welcome to Heaven” by Lindsay Cohen (Directed by Paul Castaneda) the stock Fringe theology script emerges. Local fav Becky Fisher is a big haired Baptist who pops into heaven and finds her personal greeter in the flamboyant Davis Monge. How dare God let gays into heaven! Just because He’s almighty doesn’t mean He has the right to offend his best believer. Director Castaneda keeps the action flowing even if the actors get stuck in a loop of lost lines and all we hope for a booming voice from above to intone “LINE!” Still, it’s fun to watch these two pros battle it out.

“Twilight Sleep” (writer Rob Anderson, Director Jeremy Seghers) does a flip on the surrogate dad theme. Nicole Carson and Eric Pinder have contractions every two minute as they enter the maternity ward of the Oompah Loompah’s. Behind the admission desk Arwin Lowbridge brushes them off – she’s not ready to accept a man giving birth, even if it’s the All Tapping, All Singing, All Dancing Mr. Pinder. He’s a man above men – semi transgender, impregnated and ready for a tabloid headline. Maybe if Arwen’s role had a cut of the tabloid fees, she’d be much nicer to this stressed out couple.

The most provocative show wraps up the night – Rob Ward’s “The Special” (director Leesa Halstead) brings out Lauren O’Quinn as the divorced and cruising women fed up with men. She has a date with Dorothy Massey and ice cold feat. They meet at the No Props Restaurant hosted by Brett Carson and while O’Quinn trembles and Massy taunts, Carson shows the genius of comic timing – it’s not what you same, but when to the millisecond you say it.

As the lights go up was all congratulate each other and retire to the lobby for a small plate of cheese cubes and a cash bar. The noisy buzz of a party fades, and we all agree it was a great night of schmoozing and boozing. More tomorrow!

More information about PlayFest may be found at http://orlandoshakes.org/plays-events/playfest/index.html

The Mystery of Irma Vep: A Postview of a Penny Dreadful

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

The Mystery of Irma Vep: A Postview of a Penny Dreadful
By Charles Ludlam
Starring Joshua Eads-Brown and Doug Bowser
Footlights Theatre, Orlando FL

I can’t imagine anyone doing this play exactly as written. It’s not like this is about a clever plot or subtle acting or actually scary werewolves, it’s about missed sound cues and ill fitting wigs and women who look like and men and men who…men who…who look like Doug Bowser and Joshua Eads Brown. It’s simply that gay.

And what better place the P-House to get a gung ho audience on a Monday Halloween night? It’s where times are changing at Mandecrest manor: the old mistress has died, a new one arrives, and the servant’s scheme and plot and limp around, wishing things were the same as they always were. With Mr. Bowser as the new lady of the house and the smelly stable hand and Mr. E-B as the house maid and the Master of the Manor, the show relies on quick changes, Velcro wigs and a huge amount of audience disbelief. Mr. E-B is actually convincing as Lord Hillcrest, Bowser slightly less so as the new Lady Hillcrest. When it’s time for a were-transformation, convenient fur on the mantle magically attaches itself, and any awkward or expensive props are kept behind the arrases. A few shards of the fourth wall are lying in the aisle so be careful not to trip over them. I think the sound booth was in cahoots with the actors, and if there was a director, he needs to be congratulated on getting even better comic timing out of ht is pair than they would find on their own. I laughed, I cried, and I didn’t hang out in the parking lot. This was the last Halloween comedy I caught this season, but the best.

For more information on the Footlights Theater, please visit http://www.theparlimenthouse.com or http://www.Wanzie.com