Do you want to write for Ink 19?

Archikulture Digest

by Carl F Gauze

Archive for March, 2012

Broadway At War!

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

Broadway At War!
Directed by Joshua Bramkamp
Choreographed by Angelyn Rhode
The Princess Theatre, Sanford FL

War is hell, and sometimes it takes a long time to get news from the front. But when it arrives ignore the vintage newspaper style flyer; this show is NOT The Andrews Sisters channeling Glenn Miller. Even its relation to military conflict is occasionally a bit obscure, you have to sit down and think how songs from “Jekyll and Hyde,” “Urinetown” and “Ragtime” all relate. Be aware you can hurt you brain thinking about stuff like that, better to just sit back and enjoy this cleverly staged review.

Voices can get lost in the cavernous Princess Theatre but they sound fine if a bit distant, and if you’re hard of hearing the dancing is nicely done courtesy of Choreographer Rhode. Bracketing the show are a pair of songs from “Hair” done ensemble – both “Aquarius” and “Flesh Failure / Let the Sun Shine In” were populated by long haired hippies dancing like they’re at a Grateful Dead show. Actually, they were better dancers; real hippies didn’t have ambitions to be great on stage, it run contrary to their philosophy. “Cabaret” gave us two songs: Tara Corless’s sexy lament “Maybe This Time” and a laconic “Money” from Andrew Emery and his two accompanying rent boys. The one singer who conquered this hall was Jamaal Solomon; even across that long concrete arena he got my attention with Ragtime’s “Make Them Hear You” and “Bui Doi” from Miss Saigon. Josh Bramkamp directed and somehow got most of the leads with two cuts from “Jesus Christ Super Star” a duet with Natasha Harrison on a track from “The Scarlet Pimpernel” and a front and center role in the ensemble “One More Day” from Les Miserables. Ignore the low sound levels and the even lower internal temperatures, and this was a thoroughly enjoyable evening. There may be a war on, but the people not fighting face to face still have time for some snappy dresses and beautiful arrangements. Here’s a tip: next time you visit this cute performance space in the bustle of First Street Sanford, sit on the side so you can see the sound booth. That show can be almost as much fun as the one you official paid to see.

For more information on The Princess Theatre, please visit http://www.celerysoupsanford.com/princess-theater/

Man of La Mancha

Sunday, March 25th, 2012

Man of La Mancha
By Dale Wasserman, Joe Darrion, Mitch Leigh
Directed by Stephen Halpin and Kari Negron
Musical Direction by Don Hopkinson
Starring Travis Eaton, Jonny Corzo, Jaclyn Leal
Baggy Pants Theatre at JCC of Greater Orlando, Maitland, FL

There is nothing like the folly of an old man, and Cervantes’ “Don Quixote” is the best example out there. In this musical adaptation (there’s a half dozen operas and a stack of film versions as well) we find Miguel Cervantes (Eaton) and his side kick (Corzo) tossed in a dungeon and waiting trial by the Spanish Inquisition. But first there’s a trial by other prisoners – they don’t have much legal standing but without it there wouldn’t be much of a show. Like bullies in high school, the “judge” finds Cervantes’ manuscript and threatens to burn it since he can’t read. Cervantes fights back, staging an impromptu show to explain the virtues of the written word and the joy of live theatre. Naturally, he plays Quixote, his sidekick plays Sancho and a fiery Ms. Leal is his dream girl Dulcinea and pious Victor Souffrant as the Padre. Quixote starts by attacking the windmill, then chastely courts Dulcinea and hijacks the Barber’s (Justin Jones) gold colored bowl for his “Golden Helmet of Mambrino.” Of course the windmill is off stage, Dulcinea is a girl of negotiable virtue, and the Barber needs his bowl back, but we are now deep inside Quixote’s fantasy of noble Knights and marginal magic. Yeah, he’s delusional, but the illusion is much more fun than his reality.

But you came to hear someone belt ‘The Impossible Dream,” didn’t you? That’s OK, the song appears three times and Mr. Eaton fills the room. He’s pretty good at everything, including his “Dulcinea” which gets a reprise by Ms Leal. The Muleteers looks cute in their rubber mule heads and when they take them off the sing “Little Bird” twice and you wonder about all this reprising – while you get to hear the hits twice, it feels like the musical team of Darrion and Leigh are just doubling down on their big numbers. Corzo’s Sancho seemed a bit too wide eyed for me; his singing was fine but he needs not just insane loyalty, but a bit of insanity himself. Padre Souffrant has a great nice church voice; “Psalm” could have opened for the Pope on his current world tour. Tonight the band was on stage and in costume with musical director Don Hopkins and his Grand Piano poking onstage from the general direction of the invisible windmill. The set (Lily Helm) was minimal and largely served to give the resting actors a place to hang out until their next scene. All the real action took place on a few rehearsal cubes – a minimal set and some good music can carry you a long way.

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

Red

Saturday, March 24th, 2012

Red
By John Logan
Directed by Patrick Flick
Starring Buddy Haardt and John Herrera
Orlando Shakespeare Theatre, Orlando FL

At the pinnacle of his career, Mark Rothko (Herrera) retreats to his dark studio to contemplate himself as if he were his own mandala. With a big commission in hand from the sort of evil people who can afford his art, he takes on an assistant “Ken.”(Haardt) While he clearly states the job requirements (sweep floors, clean paint brushes, some light scullery duty) one thing is very clear – Ken is NOT doing art. Fair enough. The boy has aspirations but needs to apprentice, Rothko is lonely and needs to talk. And talk he does, burying us under his philosophy about art, life and art collectors. Per Rothko, to make great art you must understand color theory and religion and read Nietzsche and Jung and have the ability to stare for days at you own work and despise anyone who buys, exhibits or collects it. Make no mistake; it takes more effort than you could image to make a wall size painting consisting of two rectangles of nearly solid color. Rothko’s explanation draws attention both inside and outside the theatre. People in a completely different show across the hall complained: “They keep yelling ‘Red’ in there. What’s going on? Are they fighting?”

What going on is one of the strongest shows in this season’s Shakespeare schedule. Herrera’s bull faced artist isn’t just loud, he’s opinionated and since he’s paid the big bucks, his opinions count for a lot. It’s true he’s full of hot air, pretense, contradiction and self delusion and Ken throws it all back in his face. This promising apprentice begins with a vague desire “to paint” and learns everything but brush technique from Rothko – self promotion, shouting down the opposition, and the fine points of becoming a color Nazi. In a telling scene, he brings in a painting to show the master, but it never gets unwrapped. That’s really the point: what you paint is pretty much unimportant as long as you can sell yourself.

You can’t talk about this show without talking about light. Rothko hates the light of the sun, plein air painting gives him hives and he can’t deal with the ants getting in the gesso. Rothko rightly demands that his work stay in dim light and lighting director Eric Haugen obliges. An early painting glimmers in mysterious red on black looking like a ghost or a tree but when the harsh work lights come up; their fluorescence washes away the mystery, leaving ugly streaks of mismatched colors. But switch back to some dimmed gels and the mystery returns. Art is all about the show, whether it only runs four weekends or if it hangs in a gallery for decades until it falls out of fashion.

Painting has never recovered from the introduction of photography which completely solved the problem of “making it look real.” With reality conquered, unreality was the final frontier and the art of oil and tempera drifted from symbolic realism into the deserts of abstract expressionism, color field, and pop art. The results have been fun and sparked endless arguments fought with cheese cubes and cheap white wine at gallery openings but art as Rothko defined is as transient as a hair style or a pop band. Rothko ranked himself with Turner and Rembrandt and maybe he’ll get his wings someday, but Google his pictures today and maybe you’ll think what I did: “How quaint!”

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

A Street Car Named Desire

Sunday, March 18th, 2012

A Street Car Named Desire
By Tennessee Williams
Directed by Frank Hilgenberg
Starring Steven Pugh, Rachel Comeau, Michelle Procopio, Cory Boughton
Theatre Downtown, Orlando Florida

Nothing is harder than letting go, and the longer you delay it the worse it becomes. Stella Dubois Kowalski (Comeau) bailed early – the family estate was mortgage to the termites, and New Orleans offered opportunities better than memories. Blanche Dubois (Procopio) stuck behind to bury the ancestors and screw the solider up at Camp Shelby, but tonight she shows up broke and elegant on Stella’s doorstep. Stella went for vigor over pedigree and her hubby Stanley (Pugh) sweats for a living, drinks whiskey from the bottle, and makes Stella scream with lust. But Blanche is shocked, proper southern women don’t acknowledge orgasms and do their best to hide them under lavender powder and $12 an ounce perfume. (You know the type – they sit in front of you in church after it’s too late to find a better smelling pew.) Blanche’s unwanted intrusion puts Stanley in a tree and then she throws rhinestone tiaras at him – she drinks his booze, dominates his bathroom and tries to talk his wife into leaving him if only to validate her martyrdom to family. In her mind two Southern Belles starving together looks better than one Southern Belle breeding with a swarthy immigrant. While Blanche is slightly past her Sell By date, Harold Mitchell (Boughton) is the straw she graps in her personal windstorm, and if only Stan would cut the couple some slack they could have some sort of happiness.

While this production is rather long (two intermissions and some lengthy scene transitions) it uses that time wisely to deliver the full power of the story. Procopio’s Blanch seemed less fragile than conniving and while she acts horrified by Stanley’s sexuality you sense she’s secretly jealous. Pugh’s Stanley oozes sweat and anger – he and Stella had a perfectly fine life until the past came back and couldn’t even pay its meager rent. Boughton’s clean and sober Mitch could have made a life with Blanche but she made a strategic error – rather than exploit his morality she offended it. And the supporting cast surely deserves mention – Cira Larkin and Harold Longway lovingly represent what Mitch and Blanche could have been while Anthony Vito and Inge Uys represent the world outside this un air-conditioned universe: they come in when sex, violence and shame can no longer regulate home life to apply the Thorazine and electroshock.

If you’ve seen this before, you know where all this bonhomie leads, and if not I’ll just say Stan and Stella continue their sweaty lives after Blanche overplays her hand and fades away without the convenience of a decent casket. This is the last gasp of the imperial Old South – success goes to those willing to work and sweat, and the remnants of the old guard who spent the family fortune in their last grand fornication disappoint their children. And Miss Blanche – well, she was the grandest fornicator of the lot.

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

The Foreigner

Sunday, March 18th, 2012

The Foreigner
By Larry Shue
Directed by Jay Hopkins
Starring Keith Smith, Elizabeth Murff, William Hagaman
Jester Theater at The Garden Theatre, Winter Garden, FL

It takes some cojones to mount a KKK sitcom right here in the heart of the old Lynching Belt, but it makes for a damn funny show with an evil streak darker than blackstrap molasses. Mopy Charlie Barker (Smith) flees his nympho wife in the UK, she’s sleeping with everyone on the M-25 to prove a point: Charlie is dull. Charlie’s Special Forces sapper buddy “Froggy” LeSueur (Warriner) hauls him to a rural Georgia fishing lodge run by his old friend Betty Meeks (Murff.) A depressed Charlie doesn’t feel like talking so Froggy tells everyone Charlie doesn’t speak English. Soon Charlie is up to his neck in intrigue: Reverend Lee (Brett Waldon) plots to buy the property cheap as he courts Betty’s daughter Catherine (Gemma Fearn) and Owen Messer (Don Fowler) rallies the local Klan to do what the Klan does best: bully anyone they can outnumber. It falls to simple minded Eland (William Hagaman) to save the day by leveraging Charlie’s fakey accented speech against Messer’s depressed IQ.

Like all good farces, the first act sets things up and the second knocks them down. Murff is great as the acidic but loving little old lady, Warriner’s cheery accent recalls Mr. Balowski from “The Young Ones,” and Waldon’s preacher man looks like he’s going to end up preaching from prison like St Paul, but not necessarily with God on his side. Fowler looks like he smells of bait and stale beer, but his barely hidden violence is always near the surface and he’s the sort of guy who only sits in chairs backwards. While everyone oozes gags, the Charlie – Ellard axis pushes this show from Funny to Jay Hopkins Funny. Ellard simple mindedly “teaches” Charlie his native tongue in shockingly short time; only a science fiction robot could pick up the local lingo this quickly. Ellard isn’t smart, but sometimes smart isn’t what you need to defeat evil. Smith ignores Owens’s abuse and charms Betty and the audience with a smile and a wink. But what makes all this an exceptional comedy is the gun toting KKK invasion. This is a dark, scary moment and at some point you think “Hey! This isn’t funny at all!” But once we’re though that Valley of Heavy Handed Plot Points, there a happy ending and everyone get their just dessert. On one level this is a silly door slamming farce, but there’s some real heart behind the story and ‘The Foreigner” is a comedy that makes you think. Happily, it had a surprising full house on opening night, and I advise you get out to see it early, I suspect it might sell out, and it’s worth the drive to the western sprawl of Orange County.

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

For more information on Jester Theater Company, please visit www.gardentheatre.org

Edward Remixed and Retold

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

Edward Remixed and Retold
Created and Choreographed by Willy Marchante
Casting Shadows Productions and Wanzie Presents
Footlights Theatre, Orlando FL

Turing a Johnny Depp movie into a dance piece is an unusual choice but a surprisingly effective one. Local dance maestro Willy Marchante squeezes his little troupe onto the Footlights stage which has barely enough room for a Michael Wanzie comedy and took us for a magical ride into a dark story. Depp’s portrayal of the misfit Edward Scissors hands is universal; like Edward all we want is acceptance despite our personal oddities. Edward’s (Marchante) sharp and dangerous appendages make his difference hard to hide, and his skin tight black body suit doesn’t help when everyone else is in polo shirts and penny loafers. He’s discovered by a nosy real estate agent (Rachel Brown) investigating a large creepy castle, the courted by Sarah Fanok and Darci Ricciardi and finally despised by Steve Johnson. I don’t think Ron Banks or Nic “Monkey” Grady liked him much either, but they had to focus on their dance moves and has little time for axiciaphobia.

While the motion was compressed and Marchante nearly disappeared behind the upper curtain when performing on his scaffolding, the dance was intriguing and the costumes outstanding. Everyone could follow the broad outlines of the story although having seen the movie didn’t hurt. What did hurt was the blasting sound track; the show was lip synced and the volume painfully high. Song transitions were often abrupt and danced across a smorgasbord of styles: I see how the lyrics fit each mood, but the jump cuts were a bit much. I’m not sure if Dancing to the Movies is Americas next big craze, but it does give the performance a coherence and order that many modern dance troupe lack. “Edward Remixed and Retold” is a clever show, well performed and dripping with potential if they can clean up the sound. While there’s one more performance left I can see this reappearing at some local theater festival or another and the concept could certainly work with any number of other well known films.

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

Spotlight Cabaret: Lulu Picard

Saturday, March 10th, 2012

Spotlight Cabaret: Lulu Picard
Musical Direction by Kyle Mattingly
March 7, 2012
Winter Park Playhouse, Winter Park FL

Go to a Winter Park Playhouse cabaret, and you might hear some Kander and Ebb, a tune from hits like “South Pacific” or obscurities like “Steel Pier,” or even God forbid something from “Cats.” But tonight we had none of that, local piano player and song stylist and recent Princess Mulan in the blistering “Bitches of the Kingdom” announced “This is the future of musical theater.” All songs on the program are brand new, and all written by various friends of Ms Picard. And there IS a different sound here, a sound influenced by the strands of indie pop in the air, strands that will lead us past the current Disney Sound of “Lion King” and “Finding Nemo.” Alex Oyen’s “I Miss Those Nights” and “Life’s Funny” opened the set, both with complex lyrics and an upbeat tone. Blues from Carol Stein, music form vibraphone whiz Christian Tambor, and plaintive missives from Justin Fischer all made for a pleasant set and interesting talking points. The hit of the evening came from Dennis Giancarlo and Fiely Matthias, writers of the above mentioned proto hit. In Mulan’s Song they have Mulan sing “I’m one flannel shirt shy of being a Lesbian.” It nearly brought down the house and made me think: THAT’S entertainment!

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

The Andrews Brothers

Sunday, March 4th, 2012

The Andrews Brothers
By Roger Bean
Directed by Michael Edwards
Musical Direction by Chris Leavy
Winter Park Playhouse, Winter Park FL

I think I saw this in an old Phil Silver’s Show, or maybe in an Abbott and Costello film. The premise is simple – the Andrews Sisters are the ONLY musical act in the USA during the deprivations of WW2 and they can’t make it to a remote island for a USO show, so the men on the island drag it up and pull off a hit. The leggy Peggy Jones (Sarah Michele) is the only available female, but fortunately everyone else is an exceptionally talented stage hand of some sort. Act one agonizes over whether the Andrews Sisters will show up, Act Two throws in the towel, the boys dress up and the physical comedy takes over. Stage left we find a compact musical group: Chris Leavy on keys, Sam Forrest on rhythm, and Ned Wilkinson as multi-instrumentalist covering trumpet, conga, and whatever other musical doodads are requires to get that boogie woogie Big Band sound of the era.

The songs tend toward period standards; the hot numbers in Act One is Peggy’s “I Wanna Be Loved” and her big sloppy kiss in “On a Slow Boat to China”. Act Two’s best number is her “Stuff Like That There”, but the funniest song is “Six Jerks in A Jeep.” Audience members are recruited and put into less than typically embarrassing positions as they drive a cardboard jeep around. The actors on stage each had their own special talent, a buff Kevin Kelly faked a stutter and got the girl, the smallish Todd Mummert did the sexy girl with glasses number and Roy Alan – well, Mr. Alan did some excellent tap while wearing pumps, but in drag he’s one of the scariest women I’ve seen. There’s a mixture of styles here, Hawaiian folk tunes come out as 8 bar boogie, there’s a German love song which felt weird in a WW2 piece, and “Mairzy Doats” sounds as lame as it did when I first figured out the lyric as a kid. Still, this mixture of sexual frustration, unbridled patriotism and men is dresses entertains without threatening and reminds us that tap dancing can always raise the sophistication of the silliest premise.

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

Bus Stop

Sunday, March 4th, 2012

Bus Stop
By William Inge
Directed by Joshua Eads-Brown
Starring Rochelle Curbow Wheeler, Nathan Bartman
Breakthrough Theatre, Winter Park FL

Nothing like a blizzard to bring out the best and the worst in people. Tonight Mr. Inge lodges eight frustrated people in a snow-beset diner just outside of Kansas City. Ahead of them lay the lonely western plains and mountains, behind them the suspicious and claustrophobic mores of Eastern morality. Everyone is paired up, but not everyone is destined for happiness. Cherie (Wheeler) is a dance hall floozy who nearly married her 14 year old cousin, but now rambunctious rancher Bo (Bartman) is carrying her off to Montana. It might be abduction, it might be consensual, she just can’t make up her mind. Robust sheriff Masters (Jeff Hole) keeps the peace, but he can’t just baby sit Bo, there’s a blizzard and the phone lines are down and someone needs to deliver coffee. Diner owner Grace (Karen Hill) is missing her husband but finds a companionship from horny bus driver Carl (Kenny Jardine.) He claims he can walk for “hours and hours, it helps the stiffness.” We presume the stiffness is a side effect of driving long haul buses thought the prairie. Drunken yet loquacious Dr Lyman (Brett Carson) nearly seduces Grace’s assistant Elma (Anna Kraeger), but is stopped by the wave of gossip that precedes him. That leaves Virgil (K. Musselle), Bo’s sidekick and mentor. He offers good advice like “women like men with a tender side.” But when Bo and Cherie ride off, he’s the abandoned one, and only he knows why.

This classic study of personalities in a locked room is a delight, the cast is well matched and everyone hits their marks under Eads-Brown’s direction. Bo dominates the show, you really feel he’s about to punch out everyone on stage. Carson is florid and demonstrative and has one of those endlessly self refilling hip flasks that only TV boozers can buy. Hill looked desperately horny, although she does have the piece of mind to ask Carl to keep his mouth shut, some of the other bus drivers don’t appeal to her that much. Mr. Hole’s sheriff seemed like an earthy, hands on guy, he’ll beat the crap out of you when required, but then buy you a beer and a band aid. This is a nice, compact show, and a piece of classic American theatre that doesn’t get done often enough. Get there before the snow melts.

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