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Archikulture Digest

by Carl F Gauze

Archive for January, 2012

Vaudeville Burlesque

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

Vaudeville Burlesque
Skill Focus Burlesque
Theatre Downtown
Jan 28, 2012

I’ve always believed in Rule 34 and the slide from 8 bit Super Heroes to pasties protected titillation isn’t all that far. Even if your level 3 Gazillion Übermensch on WOW and living in mom’s basement, you still have ‘needs”. Tonight I missed the early show which reportedly featured juggling and Thom Thorspecken sketching, but I got into the video game late night event. While I have passing familiarity with the Mario Brothers, Black Mesa and John Cave and Princesses Peach are complete strangers, but that didn’t dampen the fun factor of this geek friendly hoe down. Hosted by Ruby Darling and an evil genius in a lab coat and rubber boots (guess who I was applying attention to), Video Game themed girls (and a guy) stripped down to the legally allowed latex and G-string limits as specified by His Chalkiness, Our Dear Leader.

The audience was jazzed, and one girl up in the last row stage left made an eye rolling impression on hostess Ruby. Our theme tonight was “Experimenting on flesh bags” but there’s no pop quiz and this certainly isn’t a peer reviewed experiment. Otherwise respectable actors and actress (none of whom I will out) dress as avatars from Mario Brothers and Suite 101 and Half-Life. The music was too loud, the audience was too drunk, and the bartender was in his typical passive / aggressive lovable curmudgeon mode. As the “experiments” stripped a steady stream of nubile alcoholics ran back and forth to the bar, and after each act the lab rats passed the hat in the audience. The Suite 101 girl had the most clothes and padding to get through, Princess Peach took off the fewest clothes, the guy in the foam was the best technical dancer, and Sonic the Hedgehog and her LED infuse hula hoop strip got the best response. My favorite? Well, I like all strippers, and if I play favorites, I might never here the end of it. This a pro show, they may not start on time, but they hit their marks and get a well deserved response.

For the next Skill Focus Burlesque event, watch http://www.facebook.com/skillfocusburlesque

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

Children of a Lesser God

Monday, January 30th, 2012

Children of a Lesser God
By Mark Medoff
Directed by Randy Tapper
Starring Will Campbell, Madison Graham
Breakthrough Theatre, Winter Park Fl

Who knew there was such vicious politics amongst the deaf? James Leeds (Campbell) is the idealistic but weak willed radical speech therapist working for the deaf. He wanted to save the world, but was only willing to burn his Blue Cross card in the 60’s. His boss (Brendon Rogers) assigns him a special case – knock out blonde Sarah Norman (Graham). She’s profoundly deaf and has so many attitudes she’s still in the school at 26. James falls for her, seduces her, and they marry, upsetting Orin’s (Robert Cunha) plans for the deaf to conquer the world. He gins up an employment discrimination suite with New York lawyer Edna Klein (Jennifer Bennett), but he needs Sarah as the really pathetic poster child for the non-hearing. Who’s in charge of Sarah life? The mother who abandoned her (Vicky Wick)? Her husband James? Firebrand Orin? Or dare she speak for herself, and what exactly does she really want?

While the exposition can be blunt (I’m talking James’ phone call to Sarah’s mom), but once the author disposed of all that back story and motivation, this show is quite gripping. The actors all sign their lines (and a few learned the skill just for this show) and Campbell reads most of them for the audience. It’s grueling, and his character feels rather ambiguously. On one hand, it’s clear why he’s stricken by Sara, but underneath is an element of exploitation – he seduces her while she’s a student (admittedly of age legal) but it also feels like he’s needs her helplessness to make him feel like he’s saving something. He has choices; the mildly disabled Lydia (Gabby Brown) has her sight set on him as has lawyer Klein. Sarah seems happy enough as the dorm maid, and she can offer up solid advice on use of toilet bowl cleaner. I can’t say James hurts her, but he does make her life more interesting.

While intimate and moving this show is a technical triumph and I give points to Terry Wolfe as the sign language coordinator. It can feel wordy, and it would be fun to see it without the translations – I think we can guess at most of the plot just with sign language.

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

Romeo and Juliet

Sunday, January 29th, 2012

Romeo and Juliet
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Thomas Ouellette
Starring Michael Raver, Stella Heath, Wynn Harmon, Anne Herring
Orlando Shakespeare Festival, Orlando FL

I was going to start by talking about the middle school class giggling hysterically about the sex jokes in the first act, but the big event opening night was the back stage carnage between the sword fights. Lord Capulet (Johnny Lee Davenport) fell back stage and was carted off to the hospital for stitches forcing Jim Helsinger to robe up and finish the role script in hand. I believe Mr. Davenport will be back soon, but I heard the thud way up in back by the sound booth.

Besides this minor tragedy, this was noteworthy performance. If you don’t know this story of teenaged lust and bad advice from Friar Lawrence (Harmon) here’s the elevator speech version: Romeo’s hormones can smell an intact hymen at 40 paces, Juliet’s in heat and her cooperative Nurse (Hering) ignores a bloody family feud, and everything Nancy Regan told you about drugs comes true when Friar Lawrence becomes Juliet’s connection. Did I mention the sword fighting?

Director Ouellette plays loose and fast with the text, sometimes getting big laughs out of small lines, and sometimes creating awkward pacing when he mixes scenes together that stood apart in the original. There’s a loud Indie pop sound track from artists too current for me to ID, and plenty of loud clattery swordplay. As suicidal lovers go, the pair of Raver and Heath really did feel too young to make wise decision but you could see the lust. Slimy Friar Lawrence could run for state office while Ms Herring as the Nurse took a genuine delight in tweaking the nose of her employer. From what I saw of Mr. Davenport, he felt more imperial than the notional ruler of bloody Verona Price Ecalus, (Sam Little). The best supporting mooks include Brandon Roberts as the prissy Peter, servant to the Capulets, David Hardie as Tybalt, and Rudie Rushdie as Benvolio. And when Mr. Helsinger lashed into Juliette for disobeying a direct order under fire, well, I’ll say I’m glad I don’t work for him.

While there were some rough spots, the production pushes in a few new directions. The show opens with the bodies of the lovers on the tomb, and then flashes back to the “real opening”. The overlap scenes helped shorten the show a bit, but weren’t terribly elegant. There was a subtle Red / Blue key in the costumes and the show intentionally plays off structures that work best on the small screen. It’s good to try new things with such a well know piece as R&J, and these experiments left the cast plenty of room to do what makes this a perennial favorite – teens acting like teens and people killing each other for the most trivial of reasons: local politics.

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

The Genghis Khan Guide to Etiquette

Saturday, January 28th, 2012

The Genghis Khan Guide to Etiquette
By Rob Gee
Beth Marshall Presents
Orlando Shakespeare theatre, Orlando, Fl

Just about anything you say is funnier in a North English accent, even if no one can understand the words or the cultural references. That’s Rob Gee’s charm – self deprecating, vaguely scurrilous, and ruder than John Cooper Clark. You might know him from the Orlando Fringe or the random open mike night, or possibly form his extensive professional experience with the loony, the wacko, and the mentally deranged. He calls himself “A Slam Poet” and he’s funnier than a LOLcat and more highly regarded than a Street Mime. He opens with a trio of Atypical Love Poems; they are filled with disturbing imagery like “Your sex face looks like Popeye” and “Toy have the sex appeal of a broken catheter”. Always culturally aware, when he comes to a term Americans won’t get he slips gears to explain them at length without dropping the rhythm of the underlining poem. It’s like a foot note, but without having to flip pages. Tales of working in a metal institution tuck into his poems, he explains a “Baffle Lock”, points out that “double fisting” is a British drinking term, and tells about his paraliterary raids telling poetry in bank lobbies. Try that here, and you’ll be lucky to just do ten years. There’s a deep philosophy under the silly, he wraps up with “The Day The World Stopped Turning.” It might do that any day now, so catch this guy before he gets sent back to the grimy northlands.

See where Rob Gee is performing at http://www.RobGee.co.com
Learn more about Beth Marshall Presents at http://www.facebook.com/#!/BethMarshallPresentsFringe

The Last Night of Ballyhoo

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

The Last Night of Ballyhoo
By Alfred Uhry
Directed by Tad Ingram
Starring Kristin Shoffner, Carine Gaito, Kevin Alonso
UCF Conservatory Theatre, Orlando FL

While many people despise the Jews, none do it with such flair and panache as other Jews. At least that’s what’s happening in 1939 Atlanta: as Hitler initiates his new world order in Poland, the Freitag/Levy family clings to its social status in moneyed Atlanta. Adolph Freitag (Robert Svetlik) never married so he has plenty of time to make bedding while his widowed sister Boo Levy (Shoffner) bitterly climbs for status in the only Jewish household on Hempstead Avenue. Well, there IS one other, but it’s on the tacky end of the street so it doesn’t count. Things have gotten so bad the cook quit right before the (Christian) holidays, and there’s no real prospect of date for her barely marriageable daughter LaLa (Gaito). Adolf’s new assistant Joe Farkas (Alonso) might do, except he’s from… well, let’s just say his people came from East of The Elbe by way of Brooklyn. That would never do down at the exclusive Standard Club where neither Christians nor Ashkenazi are appreciated. Smart ass Peachy Weil (Parker Slaybaugh) saves the day by asking LaLa to the Ballyhoo Cotillion. He’s a practical joker but a nice guy; his parents don’t care if he marries LaLa. Neither does he, but at least everyone has a dance partner.

A gentle comedy of mores, “Ballyhoo” pokes around in the crevasses of the successful and not completely accepted. The family relations are hard to keep straight without the handy family tree in the program, but if you just take this as intersecting love stories, it’s easy to follow. Joe seems genuine confused that Jews could discriminate against Jews, but this is the Old South, and discrimination is a mark of gentility. Shoffner seemed continually strident, and opposite her we find Adolph’s sister-in-law Sunny (Katie Thayer). Just like her name telegraphs, she only sees the positive and has high hopes for Lala who’s 22 and still stuck in middle school. I loved Slaybaugh’s Peachy, he was a complete switch from the stuck up and futzy Freitag household. Everyone here draws a distinct view on the situation, from Boo’s dislike of a Christmas star on the Hanukkah Bush to Adolph’s stolid businessmanship to Joe’s confused outrage. The double standards of this family lurk in all of us, and I’ll add this – the set was gorgeous. These people may be discriminating against their own, but they also discriminate when they go shopping at Rich’s Department store down on Peachtree.

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

I Love You Because

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

I Love You Because
Music by Joshua Salzman
Book & Lyric by Ryan Cunningham
Directed and choreographed by Roy Alan
Musical direction by Chris Leavy
Winter Park Playhouse, Winter Park FL

Hey, they used dirty words in this show! Despite WPPH’s tendency toward squeaky clean entertainment, I distinctly heard “P*n*s P*mp” and even “C*nn*l*ng*s,” so while there isn’t explicit sex onstage, you know these people are actually D**ng *t. Stodgy Austin (Todd Mummert) writes trite greeting card messages and just broke up with his off stage girlfriend. His brother Jeff (Christopher Norton) recommends taking six month to get over it and date the worst girl he can find, just to recalibrate. Meanwhile Marcy (Lulu Picard) is in the same situation and her BFF Diana (Belinda Johnson) advises the same thing. Diana even sings a song about the math behind the six month thing (The Actuary Song) which makes her the geeky cute one. These opposing teams meet on a Jewish dating site, apparent to make the break up easier when the time comes. Of course, Mary and Austin fall for each other after suitable agonizing (…But I Don’t Want To Talk About Her, Because of You) but the interesting relation forms between Jeff and Diana. They become Friends With Benefits, and grease through all those awkward “getting to know you” moments with the delusion that the sex is only temporary. They seem more fun as a couple while Marcy and Austin have the Democrat / Republican thing lurking in the background. When their lust wears off, why, it just might be presidential election time. Awk-ward!

I loved this cast and I liked some of the songs even if I couldn’t hum one right now if you held a bagel to my head. The plot holds few surprises and it takes silly jokes and excellent singing to keep this show alive. I love Norton’s hair with its carefully and critically greased look, and paired with Mummert they look a bit like Abbott and Costello – the tall guy get the acid straight lines, and short guy practices looking hurt but always driving he comedy forward. Ms. Picard is sassy cute and she and Mr. Mummert are a darling couple and you do cheer for them even if the script telegraphs its punches. You can hear those plot turns coming, and then a small voice in the back row goes “oh oh!” But that also says the audience is on board with the story – it’s a mixed message. Over on the side, stalwarts Chris Leavy and Sam Forrest keep the jazzy soundtrack flowing, and I’ll give the set high marks. This show was well received, the house was full and there were plenty of overheard compliments.

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

Add Songs, Stir

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

Add Songs, Stir
By Paul Strickland
Beth Marshall Presents
Orlando Shakespeare Center, Orlando FL

Storytelling is nothing more than cooperative hypnosis without that embarrassing “squawk like a chicken thing.” Strickland has made a name for himself on the Fringe circuit with a knack for extending the mundane into fascinating hour long journeys through his life. Tonight he creates a more abstract world where a small town attempts financial recovery by building a glass bottomed boat. When the boat proves to large to tow to the lake, they create a Potemkin village in the valley below and flood it, building the sort of underwater fantasy land that would have pulled tourists off the state highway a long time ago. Strickland sings plaintive acoustic numbers between tales, I’m guessing titles like “Never Any Closer” and “Together in a Dream” and a variant of “Twilight Time.” These buffer his stories, stories possibly about the mannequins floating under the lake, possibly about his friends, and possibly mirrors of his own insecurities and heart breaks. No matter which, the performance riveted, and even though the audience was packed with the Fringe Faithful, the response was well deserved. If all the schedules fall out right, and the water does not leak out of lake or the boat hit the rocks, we may see this show again in the near future.

For more information please visit www.facebook.com/#!/BethMarshallPresentsFringe/

Hedwig and The Angry Inch

Saturday, January 14th, 2012

Hedwig and The Angry Inch
Book by John Cameron Mitchell
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Trask
Directed by Bruce Ryan Costella
Musical Direction by Spencer Croswell
With Joshua Eads-Brown and Janine Klein
In The Wings Productions at The Abbey
Orlando, FL

Damn, this show has some great rock and roll! And between the smashing chords and cynical lyrics there’s this weird, heartwarming story about love and mutilation and escape, and there’s a disconnect between the two that builds you up and tears you down like the Berlin Wall. We sit in a in a seedy cabaret with overly bright LED lighting and it might be Orlando or maybe Junction City, Kansas but it doesn’t really matter. We meet the outrageous Hedwig Robinson, a slip of a girlyboy who grew up in East Berlin listening to pop tunes on Armed Forces Radio. He meets Luther, a service man with flexible preferences and a willingness to marry him out of communism, but Hedwig ends up in divorced in Kansas with a botched sex change and a cheap beige wig. He turns to the music he loves and that’s how we end up in The Abbey tonight. Along with his backup band “The Angry Inch” we meet his “husband” Yitzhak (Klein). Their relation is strained and infused with jealousy and arbitrary meanness. While he’s jealous of Yitzhak, he’s even angrier at his more successful protégé Tommy Gnosis playing a bigger venue down the street.

There’s a disconnect between the kicking rock and the more leisurely paced monolog. When the band played I was ready to burn down the house, but the air fell out of the room during the leisurely monologs. Eads-Brown’s delivery wasn’t to blame; he’s made for the part and has both vocal skill and the emotional intensity to make Hedwig real. His entry costume was great; with its American flag them and beehive hairdo he looked like Evel Knievel after he failed to jump the Aquanet factory. Klein’s Yitzhak looks incredibly masculine; I knew it was her up there in that leather jacket and biker doo rag, but I wasn’t positive until she came out in her black velvet ball gown.

Behind the show is a solid four piece band led by Spencer Croswell, and every tune sounded great from “Wig In A Box” to the audience favorite “Origin of Love.” There were a few technical problems, the opening song lighting seemed frozen and Eads-Brown ran around the stage in the dark. Maybe a bad cable, maybe some bad programming, but by the second song the lights were moving and jumping, and Eads-Brown got the follow spot he deserves. If you can find parking, this is a receptacle Hedwig but not a great Hedwig. It needs tighter direction: the talent is there but not used to best effect.

For more information on In The Wings, visit http://www.inthewings.org

For other events at The Abbey, visit http://abbeyorlando.com

Tick, Tick…BOOM!

Saturday, January 7th, 2012

Tick, Tick…BOOM!
By Jonathan Larson
Directed by Stephen Halpin
Musical Direction by Don Hopkinson Jr.
Starring: Bret T. Fox, Ariana Morales and David Brooks
Baggy Pants Theatre at The Roth JCC, Maitland FL

Before Jonathan Larson wrote “Rent,” there was this angst ridden NYC hipster romance / musical. Jon (Fox) is turning thirty and his musical theater writing career has gotten him as far as a single off-off -Broadway workshop. His best friend and roommate Michael (Brooks) sold out for a high paying marketing gig with a nice apartment and a Beemer while girlfriend Susan (Morales) wants to marry and move to Cape Cod. They only do summer stock out there, and John has bigger dreams plus there are plenty of cute actresses waiting table in the Big City. While he may never get to The Great White Way but there’s plenty to agonize over as his biological clock ticks away. If only Steven Sondheim would drop by…

I listened to the original soundtrack to this show a while ago, and it left me cold but tonight’s arrangements by local music guru Don Hopkinson brought these songs to life. While nothing here is a toe tapping hit, the effect overall is quite pleasant if you can get over the incredibly awful microphones the cast sang though. :”Johnny Can’t Decide” lays out Jon’s central dilemma in an urgent rock style, “Therapy” gives Jon and Susan a fun and sexy duet, and the big number “Why” pushes Jon down his post show journey. Poor Michael never gets his own song, although he contributes to the bruncable “Sunday” as well as the very Rent-sounding “No More.” If you ignore the sound issues (drop outs, distortion, feedback, and delays) this is a solid production of a musical that rarely sees the stage these days. It’s clearly autobiographical and a time capsule of the New York of 1990, although the tension between bohemian starvation and a soulless corporate corner office spans the centuries. The show has a few laughs, a few tears, a few nice songs, and a few lost girlfriends. I just would have preferred the cast to lose the microphones and project.

For more information on Baggy Pants Theatre, please visit http://www.baggypantstheater.com