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Archikulture Digest

by Carl F Gauze

Archive for December, 2011

Spot Light Cabaret: Heather Alexander & Laura Hodos

Sunday, December 18th, 2011

Spot Light Cabaret: Heather Alexander & Laura Hodos
Musical Direction By Chris Leavy
Additional material by Roy Alan and Todd Alan Long
Winter Park Playhouse, Winter Park FL

Noting says “Holiday Spirit” like a slutty musical number by Heather Alexander, and you heard that from her, not me. The Spotlight Cabaret series at Winter Park Playhouse just keeps growing and this was a sold out extra show was added at the last minute for slackers like me who didn’t buy tickets early enough. Whatever they’re doing, their doing it right. The Alexander / Hodos pairing always pleases the crowd, and the first half of the show stuck with the traditionally sappy stuff – Ms. Hodos sang ” A Perfect Plan Goes Wrong” and “They All Come Home For Christmas” and Heather stalked the AAPR crowd, sitting on laps and polishing comb over’s while belting “Rich, Famous And Powerful” and “Santa Baby.” And they ended the first act with the Andrews Sister’s flavored “Drinking Our Way Through The Holidays.”

All that is fine and dandy, but the real reason for attending this shindig is the second act. Flo and Ebb (Alexander and Hodos) appear in polyester pants suits and fashion accessories for Tuesday Morning. They plug their infamous “Cheese Logger”, complain about the competing cabaret up the street at the Red Fox Lounge, and sing a Time-Life CD compilation about holiday food. Their joke works best if you’ve actually spent time in Oshkosh – Heather is from the much more cosmopolitan Racine, and I spent a few formative years in beer city. Naturally, your mileage may vary if you don’t find the Midwest intrinsically silly. As the gals wound down, Mr. Long and Alan come out to sing them off and fill in while they transition back to their sexy party dresses. All fun, all fueled by cheap red wine and top shelf liquor, and worth the trouble to find parking. After all, those who arrived late had to actually cross Orange Avenue to get to the theatre. It’s not a horse drawn sleigh, but it’s as close as you’ll get down here.

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

Bad Santa and The Angry Elves

Sunday, December 18th, 2011

Bad Santa and The Angry Elves
By Christian Kelty
December 17, 2011
Harper’s Tavern, Winter Park Florida

It’s still a week out from the big day, but already I’m looking forward to starting in on good old form 1040. That’s why I was looking for some sort of rock and roll interlude in the holiday insanity, and my schedule opened up for this Winter Park gig of Christian Kelty’s mini rock show. Harper’s was briefly Drake’s Boathouse, and before that an empty lot and before that the bar side of “Le Cordon Bleu” that burned down back in ’96. They’ve got a little show stage behind the bar and some of the muddiest acoustics this side of the Carr. That and a permanent 60 cycle buzz in the sound system made it hard to hear what was about 10 feet in front of me, but Bad Santa (Kelty) and his backup band did their best to mash up punk, metal and holiday spirit in a chocking cloud of theatrical smoke and a red/green laser spot generator.

Bad Santa behind a cloud of theater smoke.

Was this rock and roll? Absolutely, and in the best sloppy drunk wham-bam, thank-you-ma’am style. We open with “Christmas Bop” which you might remember from the Ramones first album, then follow with a bit of Ozzy and the one song I’m really getting full of: Santa Baby. That came from the band’s sexy drummer and I’d tell you her name if my hand writing and memory were better. The band also features a leprechaun on bass and a pirate sort of guy on lead and everyone did their best to fiddle with the sound system knobs and gave us unexpected pops and blatts. The audience got into the game; Santa Kelty gave out a few creepy gifts, danced with a mute audience member and eventually did a John Lennon holiday medley. That knocked any holiday thoughts out of my mind, and I appreciate that. The show was short and tight, the songs reasonably clever, and while I’m not sure this show is ready to open at the Copacabana, it’s as fun an evening as you have until new years eve.

For more information on Bad Santa and the Evil Elves check out their Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/BadSantaandTheAngryElves

It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play

Sunday, December 11th, 2011

It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play
By Joe Landry
Directed by Tom Larkin
Starring Cory Boughton, Kaje Holthouse, Marcie Schwalm, and John Seegers
Breakthrough Theatre, Winter Park FL

Just as the law imposes a blood alcohol limit on drivers, I have a self imposed holiday sappiness limit and this show is just barley legal for me. But it’s got the Radio gimmick going for it, so I can’t really dislike it on principle. You’ve seen IAWL a dozen times: George Bailey (Boughton) grows up in small town America and subjugates his entire life to offering fair and honest financing for the working classes of Bedford Falls. He rescues drowning brothers, passes on college, misses out on the war and a Silver Star and generally acts as the foil to evil Mr. Potter (Bret Carson). But at some piont, all this selflessness gets to be too much and he say’s “Screw it. I’m getting hammered and committing suicide. That’ll show all those unappreciative immigrants!” But Clarence T. Angel (Carson again) does a reverse Grandfather paradox time travel whammy on him and George learns that people love him, he has done immeasurable good, but maybe he should have considered that obscenely generous offer Potter made him to get out of home lending and into leveraged buyout.

There’s a rock solid cast here – besides Boughton and Carson you’ve got John Seeger with the most wonderful radio voice in Orlando, Marcie Schwalm in her ever stylish snood playing all the bad girls, and newcomer Kaje Holthouse as George’s faithful wife. David Strauss covers the miscellaneous men’s roles (including the bratty kid, he was born for that role) and Andrew Hakimipour as the out of sync sound effects guy. That was the one thing about this show that jarred, he was supposed to be missing sound cues for humorous effect, but it never got a laugh. If you’re going to put a sound effect guy on stage, watching him hit the mark is where the real fun lies.

Despite this, the show flows along and sticks close enough to radio reality for today’s market and George Baileys decent into Hollywood Hell and redemption feels reasonably natural. Radio drama is more and more exotic in this iPad world, but it’s still fun to watch unabashed performance where sound rules and motion is all about finding the microphone at the last second. Close your eyes and you can smell the warm hum of the old Atwater Kent cathedral radio. Somehow, it smells like …love.

Or over heated phenolic. They’re very similar emotions.

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

Bitches of the Kingdom

Saturday, December 10th, 2011

Bitches of the Kingdom
By Fiely A. Matias and Dennis T. Giacino
Musical Direction by Lulu Picart
Starring Michelle Knight, Jennifer Lynn Warren, and Lisa Sleeper
Orlando Shakespeare Theatre, Orlando FL


At first glance, you’d think the Disney legal team would be on this like lawyers on a bus crash, but nearly all our favorite animation babes are based on public domain fairy tales that date back to the Hundred Years War. Disney female characters are typically bloodless, sexless and rather submissive, but give them a chance like tonight’s show and they can castrate men with the best. Snow White (Knight) leads this Amazon pack into battle, her anthematic “One More Happ’ly Ever After” sets tonight’s tone – feisty, funny and laid down over a 4/4 pop beat that’s somewhere between show tune and labor rallying song. Her co-stars Cinderella (Warren) and Sleeping beauty (Sleeper – get the pun?) barely keep up, and when legless Belle (Allyson Fischer) nearly falls off stage in here roller chair that’s the last time the audience isn’t laughing.

There’s more here than busting stereotypes, Matias and Giacino deconstruct the family friendly storytelling mythos and hold it up to the ridicule it deserves. Krista Miller plays the “Secondary Princess” in a tee short with airbrushed boobs and airbrushed G -string, Lulu Picart keeps her hair in place with Chopsticks of Death as Hua Mulan, lesbian conqueror, and Andrea Canny channels Bette Midler as the Little Mermaid. There’s an overwrought “Squaw Girl” by Pocahontas (Jenn Abreu), and Lisa Sleeper really takes the lead on “Big Tits”. But the biggest hit of the evening was the Kurt Weill rip “Not V’one Red Cent” from Rapunzel (Lois Sage). It’s all about licensing and marketing and the fact that she’s not getting a cut when they put her face on a baby diaper. Disney may specialize in making magic, but they’re even better at making money.

The Oops Guys have really hit a vein with this show, it premiered at last year’s Fringe and now have four touring companies up and down the easy coast and they’ll tackle Las Vegas next. This you chance to catch this show in its natural habitat, and here’s a word of advice – don’t bring the kiddies. You’d hate to corrupt them this young.

For more exciting information about Bitches of The Kingdom visit http:\\www.bitchesofthekingdom.com

The Diviners

Sunday, December 4th, 2011

The Diviners
By Jim Leonard Jr.
Directed by Aradhana Tiwari
Starring CK Anderson and Michael Marinaccio
Beth Marshal Presents at the Garden Theatre, Winter Garden FL

It’s rare to find ringworm as a story motivator, but Jim Leonard Jr. handles it deftly giving us this dreamy memory play set in the depths of the depression. CC Showers (Marinaccio) used to preach but he’s given that up and hit the road looking for honest work in the depths of the depression. He hiked from Hazard Kentucky to Zion Indiana and winds up apprenticing in Ferris Layman’s (Don Fowler) garage. He’s the only person patient enough to deal with Ferris’s son Buddy (Anderson) – Buddy lost some capacity when he nearly drowned and is now plagued with a fear of water and a terrible itch. He’s also really good at witching water and predicting rain; the near death experience robbed him of one thing but gave him another. The town’s people adore CC; they desperately want a church again and his protestations about a career change are ignored. As Normal Henshaw (Marty Stonerock) proclaims ‘”You can’t quit the spirit!” Town doctor Basil Bennett (Mike Lane) helpfully point out Buddy has the worst case of ringworm he’s seen, and if he doesn’t bathe soon the child will go blind. Cold water is a start and CC convinces him he can breathe in the water and bathes him. At this precise moment Normal and the other righteous women of Zion town arrive, and while CC is convincing them he’s not baptizing anyone, Buddy gets what he’s always wanted – a chance to join his dead mother.

“The Diviners” holds your attention with a curious lack of the tensions and conflicts that most dramas offer. Practical Ferris hires the unskilled CC, everybody tolerates Buddy, and all the women throw themselves at CC while he carefully deflects them. Marinaccio is a fine speaker, he drops in to a preacher’s cant in the second act and some of us were ready to come down front and confess. Comic relief arrives from the hired hands Melvin (Andy Haynes) and Dewey (Daniel Crosby), they teach each other how to dance and debate their chances of avoiding hell as they nervously flirt with young Darlene Henshaw (Gwen Boniface). Lane laconic philosopher / healer avoids motors cars and other internal combustion engines – today he’d be “Green,” but back then he’d just be a gentleman farmer and likely to stave until they subdivided his land after the war.

With Ms. Tiwari direction flowing like water, this parable of tolerance and good intention takes place on a mystical set by Tommy Mangieri. A rickety windmill and the tree from Godot hide behind a scrim and skeleton houses slide in and out of our perception. Once Buddy agrees to put his feet into the “Itch Juice” the end is inevitable – the water he fears will do him in and destroy CC. Everyone we meet is sadder and hungrier than before but the villainy remains distant: the banks and Herbert Hoover aren’t responsible for this evil, it’s just an existential event. There’s no avoiding it, and the only remediation is time, time and more time and the only place to find that is in the sky with Jesus and Mom and Buddy. It’s the saddest happy ending you’ll ever see.

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

Broadway Bound

Sunday, December 4th, 2011

Broadway Bound
By Neal Simon
Directed by Larry Stallings
Starring Josh Wieder, Eric Kuritzky, and Jacqueline Levine
The Center Players, Maitland FL

Write a story about a slightly dysfunctional family in Brighton Beach, and whatever your intentions were at the beginning, it’s you and your family that fill the pages when you’re done. Neil Simon excelled at capturing that post war second generation Yiddish experience, and “Broadway Bound” explores success and infidelity and shifting family priorities. Simon’s proxy here is Eugene (Wieder). He aspires to write comedy and pops off material as good as any Bonkerz show while his brother Stanley (Alex Carroll) plugs their nascent talents to CBS Radio. Grandpa Ben (Joe L. Smith) still reverses Trotsky even as his daughter Blanche (Sherri DeWitt) disappoints him by marrying rich. His other daughter Kate (Levine) plays the ultimate Jewish mother while her garment cutter husband Jack (Kuritzky) clumsily cheats on her. It’s hard to conceal anything, walls are built for eavesdropping and scandal flies faster in Brighton Beach than it does at News Corp. Jack’s secret may be scandalous, but Kate had one of her own: as a teen, she blew of grandpa’s Shiva to dance with George Raft in a bar and to this day its mix of shame and pride. When you move between societies, your priorities must change as well. In the old country, the insular shtetl was the only protection Jews had; in the new country that protection comes from assimilation and financial success. The old folks are stuck in central Europe, the young claw their way through America. Hilarity ensues!

There’s a funny side to this show and a serious side. Eugene and Stanley drive the funny side, their razor sharp wit epitomizes Yiddish self depreciation. About half the jokes connect; Wieder has the intonation in place but needs to get his timing down. Carroll is enthusiastic and a great head cheerleader for the pair, his laughs are more consistent but he never feels particularly Jewish. Maybe goys slipped him into the family when his Kate was distracted. On the serious side, Kuritzky and Levine’s failed marriage made perfect sense – he had no good answer for his sin and his punishment was this: she takes him back but never addresses him by name again. Hubby whines “If I killed a man you’d stand by me” but that of course is a lesser crime. Their children can’t get their heads around this loveless relation, but give them a few year and few upsets of their own and it will pour out of their pens. Everyone has a shame to hide – incontinence, infidelity, and worst of all – writers block. Amending 6000 years of tradition only give Simon more rocks to these Jews he’s driven up a tree.

Bonnie Sprung’s set feels wonderfully claustrophobic and you can imagine the overpowering scent of lilac powder and cabbage. I spent many a Sunday sitting primly on that over stuffed horse hair furniture and know that fear of scandal isn’t exclusively Jewish. Every culture has it and it’s just that the level of what triggers social rejection is a little looser here today. Eugene and Stanley sin in their parents eyes as well, they mine their own culture for material to sell – Dad sees it as humiliation; the boys see it as success. But sometimes you need to air out the linen closet and run a little yard sale. Let the neighbors see we’re all the same.

For more information on events at the JCC, please visit http://www.orlandojcc.org/calendar/cultural-events/

Tuna Christmas

Sunday, December 4th, 2011

Tuna Christmas
By Ed Howard, Joe Sears, Jaston Williams
Directed by Patrick Flick
Starring Mark Lanier and Michael Kevin Baldwin
Orlando Shakespeare Theater, Orlando FL

Some small towns like Grover’s Corners are idyllic and prosperous, but most small towns are more like Tuna, Texas – bitter and inbred. Watching over little Tuna we meet the two omniscient disk jockeys Arles Struvie (Baldwin) and Thurston Wheelis (Lanier). As they play-by-play the bitterly fought contest for the best Christmas decoration in town, we sense the bloody rivalry between the townsfolk the pair play when not on the air. This year the long time holiday decorating queen Vera Carp puts live sheep in a manger scene, but her reign is upset with the twin Cowboys-in-a-stocking “All I Want for Xmas” display by waitress Helen Bedd and Inita Goodwin. What push the naught/nice meter in their favor? It was the vandelous Christmas Phantom, and Tuna will never be the same. Ok, realistically it will never change, but “never be the same” scanned better.

The humor is silly and sophomoric but the costume changes are as impressive as the team of dressers back stage who get these two guys in and out of drag in a heartbeat. While the set is simple, it’s very nicely done with touches like two small street scenes perched atop the side wings. Both Lanier and Baldwin keep their multiple roles crisply separated. Baldwin’s best include Stanley Bumiller as the hippy reform school dropout taxidermist and Petey Fisk who rescues exotic pets that nearly kill him. Lanier shined as long-suffering Bertha Bumiller with her rotten kids and even worse hubby, and Joe Bob Lipsey as the flamboyant community theater director. At one point Bertha even describes Lipsey “not the marrying type”, at least not in rural Texas anytime soon.

“Tuna Christmas” is rising fast on the list of holiday shows that get done over and over, but it’s not yet up to the complete saturation level of that other show around the corner. Lanier’s approachable innocence and Baldwin’s lovable roguishness fit well together, and the show is just risqué enough to justify a baby sitter and an extra glass of wine: it skirts on heartwarming while still remaining real. This show is a stocking stuffer of friendly humor and low calorie entertainment for “a certain segment” of the entire family.

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

Wally Doogan’s Holiday Revue

Sunday, December 4th, 2011

Wally Doogan’s Holiday Revue
By Larry Stallings
Directed by Angelyn Rhode
Starring Shelly Ackerman, Ashton Symonds and David Goldstone
The Princess Theater, Sanford FL

Here’s the conceit – we have a Community Theatre doing a play about a Community Theater producing a Community Theatre Christmas Program. Director Kathy (Symonds) struggles to unite a cloud of well meaning and occasionally talented people into a Heartwarming Holiday Experience. Her initial concept involves Todd (Goldstone) hamming up a bit of Hedda Gabler, but just in the nick of time the ghost of Wally Doogan (Ackerman) arrives to haunt the theater and give her some sage advice – drop the arty farty, and jerk the heart strings. The critics will crucify the pretentious Ibsen, but it would take a real Grinch to crucify preteens stumbling though “Angels We Have Heard On High.” The ghost of Wally Doogan is a joker, only Kathy can see him as he pinches butts, pull chairs out from under the self important, and rearranges script pages. He also has his own unseen ghost (Aunt Mildred) who hectors him from beyond the beyond. Today he may be the undead, but once he was a nice Jewish boy.

So how is this fresh new theatre? It has a huge cavernous space with plenty of comfy seats and the continuous drone of AC flowing in the background. Ackerman haunts with humor and panache, Symonds feels like she’s ready to push these weekend warriors though Les Mis next time out and Goldstone can ham it up nearly as well as his son down on the kiddy chorus. Even local burlesque artist Tara Corless appears in Mother Hubbard apron, but I won’t tell these children’s delicate parents. What really sold me on this production was the unexpected physical comedy Goldstone Senior pulled off. Stalling set it up in the text, Ackerman reinforced it with some slick misdirection, and when Goldstone pulled if off without injuring himself, it paid off as one of the funniest moments on stage I’ve seen in months.

There is promise here, The Princess is now the second full schedule show house in the cute bar heavy downtown Sanford historic district. Yes, some actors need microphones or better projections, a few gels wouldn’t hurt, and the occasionally out of phase singing will only work for the run of this show, but this is grassroots performance – local enthusiasts, a few pros up from the Parks, and a local playwright. I had fun, everybody on stage was having fun, and the Princess is off on the right foot.

For More information on The Princess Theatre, please visit Their Facebook page