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Archikulture Digest

by Carl F Gauze

Archive for September, 2012

The Exit Interview

Saturday, September 29th, 2012

The Exit Interview
By William Missouri Downs
Directed by Patrick Flick
Starring Mike Marinaccio and Anitra Pritchard
Orlando Shakespeare Theatre, Orlando FL

Well, it’s finally happened – the Shakespeare team has produced a Fringe show complete with a veteran Fringe cast, a minimalist Fringe set, and one of the perennial themes of the Fringe – the static argument between bubbly faith in Jesus vs. an earnestly logical defense of Agnosticism. Poor Dick Fig (Marinaccio) lost his non-tenured job and parking spot at Anonymous U but before he can slink away there’s one last administrative detail: his exit interview with HR. Eunice (Pritchard) grills him about parking preferences and his perception of those who fired him while outside a gunman (Nathan Sebens) shoots up cheerleading practice. Self involved Fox News reporter (Alexander Mrazek) was interviewing Fig’s ex girl friend (Lauren Butler) who almost lost he baby to a speeding train, but with blood flowing on the parquet and bodies piling up he needs to rush: Can she just sum up God’s plan for her in 8 seconds or less? We can edit it later.

The production is fast and furious with the sort of frenetic surrealism Fringe handles so well. Janine Kline and Ms. Butler open the show in cheerleading costumes, then slip in and out of a dozen other roles as local ads project on a screen above stage. The spirit of Berthold Brecht appears in the form in small internal plays presented in an awful German accent, and Eunice attempts to better her life by assembling a magazine picture collage of a nice car and a chlorine free office. Mr. Marinaccio is his charming, self-effacing self but is disappointed when his thoroughly logical explanation of his beliefs fails to sway Eunice. And here lies the heart of the problem with this and all the other faith vs. reason shows: No one shows any inclination to change their position. Eunice rationalizes any result of her most fervent prayers while Mr. Fig is unwilling to admit there might just possibly be room for the transcendent or inexplicable. Thus, the partisan crowd can sit in the rows smugly agreeing that Eunice is full of crap, and any dissidents who accidently wander in can reaffirm their belief that everyone else going to hell and “Won’t they be sorry then?” This show is funny and edgy, loud and crass, and about as coherent explanation of why I stopped listening to televised news as anyone could give.

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

Savage in Limbo

Monday, September 24th, 2012

Savage in Limbo
By John Patrick Shanley
Directed by Simon Needham and Yvonne Suhor
Starring Christina Geraghty
Art’s sake Resident Ensemble
Art’s Sake Studio, Winter Park FL

There certainly are a lot of ways to be lonely. Denise Savage (Geraghty) is the classic spinster-in- training, either her looks or her Catholicism made her hold out while the rest of her school mates were sperm racing to family hood. One of these classmates drops into the bar tonight, it’s sloppy yet fertile Linda Rotunda (Joy Kigin.) While Denise held out for the bitter end, Linda went all in early, she’s getting action every night but no one will stick around to discuss Days of Our Lives or the Mets. But there’s a third option: hostile bartender (Eli Laureano) verbally assaults his patrons yet has a sweet spot for passed out April (Jennifer Jarackas.) He proposes tonight but they’ve already entered into the sort of silent detente most couples 30 years to achieve. It’s not just platonic; I think he’s proposed for the tax credits.

Like a good Adult Swim show, everyone is trapped in their own personal hell. They yell at each other, insult and incite hoping for a response, but no response will make the pain diminish. You feel sorry for Geraghty and might buy her a drink but any sort of back seat action is taken at your own emotional risk. The same isn’t true of Linda; she’s made herself disposable but doesn’t know how to retrace. A touch of humor comes from elfin Tony (Rowan Bousaid); he hides his loneliness by methodically screwing every woman he meets. He meets Linda more often than most, but treats her like a stick of gum. He’s quite good at it; his type reproduces more than most and will eventually take over the world. Laureano’s Murk comes across as a bit heavy handed, but Ms. Jarackas is a funny and believable drunk. She just needs a touch of Jim Beam behind her ear to complete the effect.

Art’s Sake has a reputation for doing the emotionally and physically brutal shows; this one is rough but not as rough as others I’ve seen here. “Savage” deconstructs the special place that the lonely live in: it’s a world of their making and while they only have to walk around the side of the bars to escape, they won’t for fear of losing something they can’t even describe having. It’s a good show, but don’t bring a first date. Actually, if you were about to break up you might consider making a special trip. Let these guys do your dirty work.

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

The Miss Firecracker Contest

Sunday, September 23rd, 2012

The Miss Firecracker Contest
By Beth Henley
Directed by Eric Zivot
Staring Kami Spaulding
Annie Russell Theatre, Winter Park FL

Once you’ve lost your reputation, winning it back is nearly impossible, especially in a small town. Not only does everyone know everyone else’s business, it’s the only entertainment beyond television. Carnelle’s (Spaulding) reputation is so low she actually gave a carnie and STD and the local boys call her “Miss Hot Tamale” but she hopes winning the local beauty pageant might give her a leg up and out. She’s got a whiz bang routine in mind and poverty stricken Popeye (Caisey Cole) agrees to sew her costume. Carnelle is soon joined by her stepbrother Delmount (Ryan Lambert) and stepsister Elain (Caroline Cronin): Delmont is just out of the state hospital and Elain leveraged a community college degree for an abusive but successful husband but now reconsiders. Delmount is here to sell off the house and kick everyone into the cold cruel world, but he agrees to stick around till Carnelle does her Roman candle and star spangled dress routine. She’s not bound for glory, but at least she’s passed through the valley of fiery genitalia, and Yazoo City better watch out because she’s coming in hot.

The Annie is 80 years old and just though a major revamp, and Lisa Cody Rapport’s elaborate set blends in perfectly to the faded southern charm of the place. Carnelle is a spandex and leg warmer poster girl for the 80s, her dance routine is just hokey enough to win a small town talent contest if it wasn’t judged by social standing instead of talent. Cole’s Popeye seems surprised when Carnelle addresses her, she only comes alive when she sits on Delmount’s lap and flashes us her best bedroom eyes. Elain is the most constant character, while you won’t like her personally she exemplifies a southern belle perched on an ambiguous high moral ground: she’ll never be hungry again even if that requires a slap or ten. Taylor Sorrel’s carney Mac Sam seem supernaturally removed from what’s on stage, he’s coughing up blood and it hurts when he pees but he accepts his fate. Lambert’s Delmont is the big issue – written as a marginally sane sexual predator, he goes for a broad comedic take on the role. His mugging at the audience got some partisan applause, but overall he shifts this show from a biting essay on a woman’s role in small town America to a goofy parody. Mr. Lambert has the look and physicality to do excellent comedy, but that’s not what this role demands. There’s a good story and plenty of spectacle lurking in this beauty pageant, but some of the contestant drop their batons.

For more information on the Annie Russell Theatre at Rollins College, please visit http://www.rollins.edu/annierussell/current_season/index.html

Miss Saigon

Sunday, September 16th, 2012

Miss Saigon
By Claude-Michel Schonberg, Richard Maltby Jr. and Alain Boublil
Directed by Tom Carter
Musical Direction by Don Hopkinson
Starring Christina Montgomery, Justin Gregory, and Franco Bottley
Wayne Densch Performing Arts Center, Sanford FL

It’s 1975 and things aren’t going well for most people in Saigon. The exception is Chris (Justin Gregory); he just met the hooker of his dreams. Kim (Montgomery) fled to Saigon after the Americans bombed her parents, and now her only job opportunity is sex. Her Fagan is the conniving “Engineer” (Bottley); he buys low and sells dear, demanding a steep price from Chris for his lover: a visa to the USA. Before the deal is done the VC win, the helicopter descends, and in three years the world has changed completely. Chris marries Ellen (Rachel Massaro), Kim has a child (Elliot Corpuz) and everyone takes a leaky boat to Bangkok. Time for a big blow out ending!

Gregory and Montgomery and Bottley and Massaro are all excellent singers, and when called upon to sing solo or duet they burn up the stage. But when ensemble numbers are required, the result is less satisfying, the sound is muddy and jumbled and it’s not clear what the words are. Director Carter is an ex Navy guy, he gets the gun shots right and the military protocol as well, and still finds time to build a convincing romance between Kim and Chris. However, he did write possibly the most incoherent page of Director’s Notes I’ve ever read. The “Dream Land” opener looks beautiful and while the helicopter scene was touch cheesy, it worked well enough bring some emotion out of the crowd. My favorite on stage was Engineer, while he was convincing and duplicitous he never lost sight of what was most important: get the heck out of Vietnam and go somewhere where the currency is more reliable. I was constantly amazed by both Montgomery and Gregory’s voices, when left alone they could do no wrong. Another cool effect was the Saddam-sized head of Uncle Ho, the nose was iffy but his Fu Manchu looked good. I’d almost want it for my deck, but I suspect the paper machè wouldn’t last.

This is a very ambitious show, and when it works it thrills. But there are some sound problems; missed mike cues and muddy ensembles weaken an otherwise overwhelming performance. While well sung, “Miss Saigon” only offers one memorable melody: “The American Dream” by Engineer. It’s worth the drive out to Sanford just to hear it, and maybe next time someone will proof the program.

Check out http://www.waynedenschperformingartscenter.com/ for more info on Wayne Densch events in Sanford.

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)

Sunday, September 16th, 2012

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)
By Adam Long, Daniel Singer, & Jess Winfield
Directed by Jim Helsinger
Orlando Shakespeare Theatre, Orlando FL

Do they rewrite this show every single time it’s presented? Apparently so, since while this show relies on one of the earliest-still-read English authors it’s also tabloid fresh and filled with current pop references. Comic geniuses Brad DePlanche, Phillip Nolen and Chris Patrick Mullen blast out all four walls and part of the roof as they set out to educate us about all 884,647 words The Bard penned. Naturally, some works are glossed over; I think Cymbeline got half a line and the word “leer” was mentioned in passing but Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet get beat to a pulp. I’ll bet you guessed this is no studied theoretical exercise in subtext and alliteration, its fart jokes and tit gags and butt kicking slapstick, all in the spirit of Billy Boy’s original audiences standing in the pit for a six pence and a bag of Hazel nuts wanted to see.

Romeo and Juliet gets the kindest treatment; DePlanche puts on his girly wig for the first and not the last time tonight. The cool thing is you get all the important plot points in about 5 minutes and while it’s not as heart wrenching as last season’s Made For TV R&J it makes you feel a lot better about not understanding all the endless iambic pentameter. The Histories reduce to a football game (not that bad an analogy), Titus Andronicus becomes a Vinnie Price inspired cooking show. One of the funnies scenes comes at the end of the first act: Mr. Nolan suggests doing a full Hamlet, Mr. Mullen flees for the airport with DePlanche in tow, and Nolan has a full fledged breakdown. Nothing entertains like watching someone’s whole life collapse on stage.

The second act beats Hamlet to death, we get only the quotable speeches and some puppets and plastic swordplay. Then they repeat it in 5 minutes, and then 15 seconds, and then backwards. I could have used one less version, but that’s the heart of high speed comedy: the jokes can be lousy, but if there’s enough of them and they come all fast and furious, everyone will be laughing so hard they won’t notice the quality. This is definitely not for the Shakespeare Purist; it’s aimed completely at the Shakespearian Anarchist.

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

Blur

Sunday, September 16th, 2012

Blur
Emotions Dance
With Turning Pointe
Choreographed by Larissa Humiston
Orlando Rep Black Box, Orlando FL

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a dance company huffing and puffing as much as Emotions. I know dance is hard work, but isn’t the premise that all that motion is magically effortless? Still, this short run was well received and close to sold out, and nearly everyone coming into the lobby had flowers or a potted plant. I asked a friend if we forgot something, but it seems he hadn’t gotten the flower memo either.

Opening act ‘Turning Pointe” is a young people’s troupe that combines bits of classic ballet, hip hop and cheerleading. I’m always hesitant to talk about young performers, but these girls were all charming and flexibility, and presented a confident and energetic performance called “Money.” I hope to see them all when they grow up.

The main event “Blur” contained six themed segments and was lead by principle dancer Cindy Heen. Her solo “Innocence” recalled the earliest days of modern dance; she mixed bits of classical ballet with wilder “Rites of Spring” moments and brought them together to end with a smiling “Dying Swan.” “Coffee Fix” riffed off the Starbucks experience, the varieties of sugared caffeine are infinite in the coffee universe, but in the dance universe they reduces to competent yet basic moves done in the classic green barista apron. “5th Avenue” followed, it more about the urban experience you get outside the coffee shop. Here interesting music from Square Pusher and Frozen silence combined with ambient traffic noise served as a back drop for the rest of the troupe, and Ms Heen appeared in a black plastic trash bag over her otherwise attractive cream and sparkles dance outfit.

The first act felt a bit short, but we soon came back with additional urban reflections. “Crowded Streets” put Daft Punk and Blue Man Group behind the dancers. There was reprise of the famous Groucho / Harpo “Miming in front of an invisible mirror” to open the segment, and then the troupe appeared with cool electric rave gloves filed with colored LED’s, it’s something Fosse might have considered had the technology been available. “Prime Time” used television motifs and Lady Gaga music as its driver. I probably missed most of the references as my TV box took a lightening hit in 2009 and I’ve been internet only ever since. Wrapping up the evening we experienced “Connection”, the TV themes continue but now we flip over to ESPN where sportscasters harangue and bully; it’s like the dancers invaded a sports bar during the basket ball play offs. Overall, it was an interesting evening, with some intriguing concepts and some solid motion. I just think they need to get in a little more road work.

You can discover more about Emotions Dance at www.emotionsdance.org Warning – Flash is required to use this website.

Pete ‘N Keely

Saturday, September 15th, 2012

Pete ‘N Keely
By James Hindman, Patrick Brady and mark Waldrop
Directed and Choreographed by Roy Alan
With Heather Alexander and Christopher Alan Norton
Musical Direction by Chris Leavy
Winter Park Playhouse, winter Park FL

You know what makes me feel old? Being the only guy in the audience to get the Martin and Lewis joke. “Pete ‘n Keely” take a find look at Mid-Century Modern television and divorce in an era where one was vital and popular and the other a coming success. Keely Stevens (Alexander) fought her way to the middle of the pack in the Golden Age of television; her hubby Pete Bartel (Norton) gave up an unlikely career in baseball and Italian table service to follow her dream. They had hit after hit back when most of tonight’s this audience was wearing coonskin caps and poodle skirts, but then the romance faded as it so often does. Rather than leaving ex-spouses lie, the network opted for a brittle reunion shows sponsored by a product that depletes ozone but makes your hair look fabulous. Will Pete and Keely reunite in real life, or will she steal the show while he molests the script girl?

Who cares? You’re here for the music, not the fictitious gossip and with Del Costa’s (Chris Leavy) house band it’s a relatively rocking pop tune extravaganza. Most of the tunes are old standards: “Besame Mucho,” “Fever,” “Lover Come Back To Me” and even “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” draw the correct ratio of tears and cheers, and there’s a sort of anti-Bob Fosse musical comedy “The Tony ‘n’ Cleo Show.” Here Keely and Pete have turned into Miami Beach style tourists in search of the lost Tomb of Cleopatra, and you almost expect Joey Bishop to pop out and tell a few stale jokes. There’s even a Santa Claus number, just in case you need to run a seasonal show that doesn’t mix ghosts with shepherds. But the highlight of the show was the first act closer: “The Cross Country Tour” samples 50 songs about US cities prompting Keely to complain “How many key changes can a girl sing?” While not a funny as an SCTV parody, there are enough laughs here to keep you smiling all the way home.
For more information on Winter Park Playhouse, please visit http://www.winterparkplayhouse.org

Parallel Lives

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

Parallel Lives
By Mo Gaffney and Kathy Najimy
Directed by Jay Hopkins
Jester Theatre at the Orlando Shakespeare Theatre
Orlando, FL

I have to start paying better attention. I thought this was a cross gender Noel Coward production, but it’s actually collection of skits and scenes. But you have to admit that a cross gendered Noel Coward comedy would be the sort of wacky thing Jester might pull off. I stand corrected, and now to the event actually produced: It has its moments, and most of them are pretty funny. The best by far is “Three Sisters”. Mom is dead, and Lizzie (Jodie Chase) and Marla (Michele Feren (Sims)) prepare for the funeral and accept an endless supply of tuna fish casserole while waiting for their space cadet sister Karen (Karen White). It’s all funeral gags and laughs until one of them finds Karen hiding in a closet listening to old tape. Rather than nail another gag, we see a touching reconciliation and a nice short play with real heart. The movie “West Side Story” provides the frame work for “Annette and Gina”, they are two teens in love with the movie and trying to relate it to their confusing teen age lives: Annette (Chase) posits the question to Gina (Feren): “Would we still be best friends even if I had just killed your entire family?” I guess this can come up for real, but it does put a friend in a tough spot. Another solid piece that took some time to grow on me is “Hank and Karen Sue.” Hanks (Feren) had a few too many Budwiesers and Karen (White) has had a few too many men but eventually Hank’s endless pick up line loop wears her down: sure, she’ll marry him, what difference could it possibly make? While not exactly ha-ha funny, it’s an amusing piece many times better than the short plays we see around town. Lastly I’ll mention “God”, here young Teri (Maria Ragen) and Tina (Chase) sneak out of mass and debate what it means for all the nuns to be married to The Big Guy upstairs. Their discussion of religion is as good as any I’ve seen and they come to about the same conclusions. All four of these women are brilliant comics, and director Hopkins did an excellent job selecting them for contrasting looks and ability hit their timing. Funny yet feminist, this show made most of the guys in the audience laughed as hard as the competing team.

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

Of Mice and Men

Sunday, September 9th, 2012

Of Mice and Men
By John Steinbeck
Directed by Frank Hilgenberg
Starring Jeff Hole and Tim Bass
Theatre Downtown, Orlando, FL


Chances are you couldn’t escape high school without reading this Great American Novel but if you did you owe it to yourself to drop by for this remedial review. George (Hole) and Lenny (Bass) drift from ranch to ranch in the Sacramento Valley. The Depression is in full force but their real problem is Lenny isn’t right in the head. He obsesses over smooth or furry objects, has no long term memory and his mountain man strength means he can kill without meaning to do harm. Today they end up bucking barley for The Boss (Michel Hooper) but their real trouble lies with Curly (Scott Browning). He’s insanely jealous of his wife (Pamela Stone) and she is bored to tears and wants someone to talk to, even if it’s just the ranch hands. Curly is itching for trouble and when he tackles Lenny he’s badly injured. When Curley wife gets feed up and packs her bags, she runs into Lenny and he kills her. Now George is stuck with the worst decision of his life, and the lights fade.

Sometimes ponderous, sometimes humorous, and occasionally creepy, this is a solid examination of friendship and love and what bounds constrain those emotions. As George, Mr. Hole has the rough and rugged look and feel of a man who knows what he can and can’t do, and what he can get away with. He’s also a physical contrast against the much larger and puppy-like Tim Bass. I’m never sure what obligation binds them together, an ancient promise to a long gone aunt seems insufficient and they feel like an old married couple as they plow over pipe dreams of an impossible future. John Kelly plays the one handed Candy, he’s nearly as old as his dog is in dog years but he’s forced to put down his only friend. The fire brand here is Scott Browning; he’s at his explosive psycho best and the Man With The Vaseline-Filled Glove. As his wife, Pamela Stone is petite and charming and while the men call her a tart she seems no more sinful than anyone else. Lastly I’ll point out wonderful Robert Wright as Crooks; he’s the black skeptic who’s not allowed in the bunk house and forces to read books for entertainment.

This story drips with themes and sub text, and that’s why it’s so popular in schools despite a constant pressure to ban it. There is some strong language and talk about whorehouse etiquette, but there’s also the compelling questions about what it means to be lonely, what it means to befriend, and why sometimes you must kill the one thing you care abou, just because you care about it. There were more than a few tear in the seats, and remember: we don’t go to theatre to feel bad, we go to FEEL.

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

Hooked

Sunday, September 9th, 2012

Hooked
By Max Kinnings, Matthew James and Nick Hale
Directed by Travis Eaton
Staring Adam Delmedico and Jesse Riese
Greater Orlando Actors Theatre, Winter Park FL

Bouncy Ben (Delmedico) loves hookers and blow, but his wife Emma (Riese) isn’t so keen on his hobby. He keeps dying in his favorite club and slimy owner Parnell (Stephen Pugh) is getting a little ticked off. Parnell imports eastern European women as sex slaves, and dreamy Monique (Erin Brenna) is his latest catch. When Ben suggests they elope, his wife finds out, he tries rehab but soon fall back in to his bad habits of snorting, cheating and dying. Poor Emma – all she ever wanted was a white picket fence and a baby.

This isn’t the most coherent musical I’ve seen, but the singing is good and some of the songs might become memorable with a little repetition. “Long Live Love”, “We’re Gonna Find another Way” and “Don’t Let Me Down” capture the emotional arc of Ben’s marriage, but the story is summed up in Emma’s best line: “Drugs didn’t make you push your dick in all those women.” That nearly made cheap red wine come out my nose. Delmedico and Riese are both dynamic singers, and the sound in the new GOAT facility is coming under control making for a pleasant listening experience. If you’ve seen Pugh before you know how he’s mastered the greasy used car salesman shtick, and Ms Brenna gives a tight portrait of a girl who fled to a new county only to end up worse than before.

The main issue here is the non-linear story: Ben’s first demise at the club is a flashback attended by Parnell’s complaint about “why did he die here?” The scene is repeated at the end of the first act, but in the second act Parnell dies and Ben is perfectly fine for a while. Maybe this was intended as surrealism, or maybe a cubist view of the events but death is rarely a matter of subjective opinion. Like so many musicals, this is a show more about singing and music than efficient story telling.

For more information on Greater Orlando Actor’s Theatre, please visit http://http://www.goatgroup.com/