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Archikulture Digest

by Carl F Gauze

Archive for January, 2013

Love Me Tender: An Elvis Celebration

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

Love Me Tender: An Elvis Celebration
Breakthrough Theatre, Winter Park FL

Mojo Nixon once sang “Elvis is everywhere” and that may still be true today. Even after 35 years, Elvis’ music still excites young teens and older woman, and this mixed – media event reminds us of why. We open with a short play, “Graceland” by Ellen Byron. Bothe Bev (Judith Gill) and Rootie (Alyssa Eatherly” arrived early, hoping to be the first paying tourist to cross the threshold of Elvis’ iconic home. Bev chase Elvis openings, this will add some luster to this dubious sheen. Rootie comes from a family of people who find unique ways to die; her premier entry will engage some mystery Mojo allowing here to talk to her dead brother. Exactly how visiting a dead pop star’s home and holding the golden ticket engages the spirits is never revealed, and I’d judge both women’s stake in winning is rather low. Whoever has the saddest story wins, and yes, it was a sad story.

After a cookie in the lobby, we are back for another rousing Breakthrough musical review. The obvious program focuses on The King’s broad repertory, and house musician Justin Scarlat keeps everyone in tune. I can’t say there were any disappointments here; Mr. Hair brought tears with his thunderous “How Great Thou Art”. Lindsay Sevin impressed on “Hound Dog” and the cast suited up in stripes to sing the now-ambiguous “Jail House Rock”. Tonight was a cool look at the early days of Rockabilly, and unlike most pop music, Elvis has improved with age.

For more information, please visit http://www.breakthroughtheatre.com or look them up on Facebook.

My Way A Tribute to Frank Sinatra

Sunday, January 27th, 2013

My Way A Tribute to Frank Sinatra
Created by David Grapes & Todd Olson Book by Todd Olson.
By David Grapes and Todd Olson
Directed and choreography by Roy Alan
Musical Direction by Chris Leavy
Winter Park Playhouse, Winter Park FL

Pump enough steroids into Michael Andrews, and you might end up with this high power tag-team cabaret based on the hits of Frank Sinatra. Sinatra reportedly recorded 1300 songs, sang 100 of them a day, swam 100 laps a day to practice breath control, and ate 6 times a day to keep his energy. Throw in 4 marriages and well known liaisons with every Hollywood sex symbol from Joan Crawford to Marylyn Monroe, and you have one busy man. One shudders to think what an affair with Joan Crawford might be like, but as Sinatra said “I’ve seen it all.” I’m sure he did.

Sinatra was reportedly “the only man who could wear a tux like John Wayne wore chaps”, and the role of tonight’s sythe-Sinatra falls to Kevin Kelly. He gets most of the really good Act Two numbers, including the alcoholic “One For My Baby”. His side kick is the wavy haired Christian Alan Norton; together they form a mini-rat pack and flirt with Laura Hodos and Melissa Minyard. Songs are grouped by theme for the most part, there s a City Medley, A young Love Medley, a Considering Divorce Medley, and of course a Hung Over And Don’t Remember The Detail Medley. All the songs are great, even the obscure “Dindi,” but besides Kelly, I love Mellissa’s “Your Cheating Yourself” and Laura’s “The Best Is Yet to Come.” In a theater filled with classy people, I felt under dressed in my modest sport coat, but that didn’t bother the audience: they packed the seats and over loaded the bar. Not a bad way to spend the night.

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

Othello

Sunday, January 27th, 2013

Othello
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Brain Vaughn
Staring Esau Pritchett, Martin Yurek, and Lindsay Kyler
Orlando Shakespeare Theatre, Orlando Florida

This is the big-blowout no-holds-barred 2013 project for Orlando Shakes, and if you only going to one show this season this is it – big sets, big fights, out-of-town talent, and a story that’s one of the Bard’s clearest. Othello, The Moor (Pritchett) is an oddity in mediaeval Venice – a black man in a position of power. The racism of Shakespeare’s’ England compare favorably with postwar America, but Othello is employed by the government to do its dirty work and the Duchess (Anne Hering) is uninterested in petty complaints. Those complaints come from Brabantio (Joe Vincent) who argues Othello must have use magic to seduce and marry his daughter Desdemona (Kyler). How else could a young girl fall for an interracial marriage? Othello has some other baggage, his “ancient” (i.e. standard bearer) Iago (Yurek) was replaced by younger Cassio (Shannon Michael Wamser). This is a mortal insult, and Iago sets off to destroy his old boss. And what of the Turks attacking Cyprus? Not at all important, so long as The Moor is destroyed.

If Othello has a flaw, it’s that he’s too trusting of a man he just demoted. As Pritchett’s character unwinds, he becomes more and more angry at Desdemona yet fails to question what he admits are wild accusations. That the marriage might upset other people never crosses his mind, and he carefully avoids verifying any facts presented to him. He physically dominates Desdemona, who cowers with the veracity of any abused wife. While Yurek’s evil genius is convincing, he’s a quiet and small as the provocateur and while he executes his plans with a cool efficiency, he never emits the sort of personal anger needed to sell his ideas. Around this core we have some comic relief – Roderigo (John P Keller) is in love with Desdemona, and Iago vaguely promises him Desdemona but instead cleans out his bank accountant and literary stabs him in the back. Emilia (Suzan O’Donnell) is Iago wife and Desdemona’s best friend; she’s fussy and shortsighted as she steals Desdemona’s most beloved possession, again without questioning an unreasonable request. Perhaps it’s Iago with the witchcraft, but sometimes you just want to grab someone in a Shakespeare play, slap them and ask ‘What the HELL were you thinking?”

With all this high powered talent ready to kill each other, it’s up to local sword collector Bill Warriner to choreographed the fights; stage blood is drawn but no one is injured, at least not on opening night. The set ( by Bert Scott) is magical, it looks a bit like a Piranesi wood cut and the moody lighting keeps us in the twilight of Othello’s misguided mind. There are certainly morals abounding in this engaging production: be careful whom you trust, be careful of you mistrust, and like the Gipper once said: “Trust, but verify.” Trust me, this is a great show. Now it up to you- verify.

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

Play it Again, Sam

Saturday, January 26th, 2013

Play it Again, Sam
By Woody Allen
Directed by Frank Hilgenberg
Starring David Strauss and Pamela Stone
Theatre Downtown, Orlando FL

What a stretch! Allan Felix (Strauss) is the ultimate New York stereotype. Addicted to therapy, nearly divorced and obsessed with old movies, his friends Dick (Tim Bass) and Linda (Stone) work to find him a girl friend. They try the disco (Nikki Lopez), they try the art museum and they even pitch the photographer’s assistant (Jackie Prutsman). But there’s no hope; Allan wears too much cologne, plays pretentious jazz, and quotes camera magazines ads for conversational fodder. His imaginary friend Bogey (Ryan Bathurst) advises him to make a move on Linda while the ghost of his ex-wife Nancy (Rosanna Hurt) continues to hector him. Sliding between fantasy and reality, Allen whines, kvetches and addresses the audience directly. In a word, he’s nerdy, needy and nebbish.

Surrounding his ball of anxiety is a solid cast of comic actors. Tim Bass is the flustered businessman abandoning his wife; he has an obsession with phone numbers and it’s not clear if he’s a brilliant stock trader or an inept real estate speculator. Linda is slight but sexy; she telegraphs her role early if you can catch it: “Do you need any help with the dishes, a bed made?” What a gal! Meanwhile Bogey has put on a few pounds, but he’s still the suave operator we all aspire to, and all of Allans’s other propects are sexy, distant and frosty.

The first act feels like a Woody Allan comedy routine, it’s full of well delivered gags but they are just gags. The second act packs the emotion, Allan and Linda spar with subtexts as Bogey offers the sort of cold-hearted advice you expect from a fedora and a bottle of bourbon. The show is on that curious point where it’s recent enough to feel a bit dated, but not old enough to feel quaint. It’s a lightweight comedy, a sorbet to cleans the palette between the holiday ghost story and the upcoming murder mystery. It’s fun, and should come with a slice of pizza.

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

Trash Cinema 101 – “The Brain That Wouldn’t Die”

Monday, January 21st, 2013

Trash Cinema 101 – “The Brain That Wouldn’t Die”
Hosted by Logan Donahoo
Saturday, January 19, 2013
The Venue, Orlando FL

The process of recycling crappy B movies has challenged the entertainment industry since Roger Corman was a production assistant. Late night UHF, Elvira and finally Joel Hodgson’s “MST3K” have extracted increasingly more post-use entertainment values from this matrix of bad concepts, bad writing and bad acting. Local impresario Logan Donahoo lifted the concept, added a bar and charges a few bucks and now you, too, can riff along at The Venue so long as you can stay up late.

Tonight’s experiment was “The Brain That Would Not Die” (a.k.a. “The HEAD That Would Not Die”) featuring creepy Dr. Bill Cortner, his decapitated girlfriend Jan Compton, and a cast of supporting actors that couldn’t pull together a failing Fringe show. Pre-show we hung about and drank “Jan’s Pan Juice” cocktails as Thomas Thorspecken sketched away. We moved into the theatre, and after a slight delay Logan Donahoo took the stage in his traditional pink Adam Ant face painting. There’s a preshow discussion, complete with Power Point and a quiz. The film has some interesting history, and since you were there, well, you have an internet.

The movie rolls, Donahoo makes snarky comments and gradually the audience warms up. The audio is rough, the original source was muddy at best and with the volume up and the concrete ceiling of The Venue, it’s a bit like Rocky Horror – you’d best have your cues memorized because hearing dialog is a challenge. Despite the slow pacing of the film, it’s still a bit creepy and while the film makes no sense medically, it’s at least takes some care with the effects. Occasional comments from Donahoo or the audience pop up but to make true funny commentary for the movie it helps to see it and take notes first, painful as that may be. That’s Logan’s job, were paying him to highlight the absurdity before it happens. It’s a dirty job, but you know we need some after hours entertainment in Orlando. Trash Cinema is late and it’s loud, and lots of fun if you enjoy bad horror.

Trash Cinema 101 is very needy and wants you to like it at http://fb.me/TrashCinema101

More information on events at The Venue resides at http://TheVenueOrlando.com/

Les Liaisons Dangereuses

Monday, January 21st, 2013

Les Liaisons Dangereuses
By Christopher Hampton
Directed by Daniel Seay
Starring Jany Bacallao, Jessica Booth, and Stephanie Recio
UCF Conservatory Theatre, Orlando FL

THIS is the sort of show I live for – Brilliantly conceived, superbly executed, emotionally raw and even the set changes were entertaining. Maybe you’ve seen the 1988 film or read the original novel, but here’s the kernel of the story: In 1780 Vicomte de Valmont (Bacallao) and Marquise de Merteuil (Booth) are the alpha sexual predators of the French aristocracy. They deploy wild sex as a petit thermonuclear weapon and both are out to settle old scores. The Marquise asks Valmont to deflower the 15 year old daughter of her friend Mme. Volanges (Mallory Murphy), this will humiliate the man she hates who is slated to marry little Cècile (Mallory Murphy). Vicomte feels this is beneath him; his goal is another of the Marquise’s close friends, the pious Mme. Tourvel (Recio). It’s a suitable challenge, and if he can produce a tear stained letter from her, The Marquise will give him one last quickie. If it sounds brutal, it is and The Marquise is out to show the world a woman can be as brutal as a man. Look at it as she does- the 1790’s are sure to be better for women’s rights.

Start with Ms. Booth in her brocade and bustle. Her eyes drip sex, her confidence and power are surely the strongest aphrodisiac, and she can smile sweetly as she drops an arsenic-laden sugar cube in your tea. Valmont is clearly her equal even if he seems bit young to be truly evil. Together they rejoice in each other’s conquests, and if swinger clubs existed back then, they’d own the Royal Patent on them. Recio’s piety is a self delusion, she is lonely and alone and while the front of her brain knows Valmont is wrong, the back of her brain screams “Bring him on!” She differs from The Marquises only in the stumbling block of her morality – she gives in, but hates herself and writes the letter.

Supporting this triad of lust is more and more talent – Kate Ingram as the world-wise Aunt Mme. De Rosemonde, she doesn’t expect much from men and is therefore happy. The innocent Cècile handles her rape well, and is only momentarily shocked when The Marquise advises her to take more lessons from Valmont to prepare herself for her marriage. In the next scene, she peevishly demands of Valmont “Why do we have to talk? Let’s get to it!” Valmont is so horny he keeps a courtesan on payroll, that’s the delightful Èmilie (Inge Uys). She’s the biggest part of the shows naughtiness as she serves as nude writing desk and inkstand for Valmont as he write a seduction letter to Mme. V.

This was once a novel of an era that tended to ramble and the script has perhaps two dozen scene changes. Rather than letting this bog things down, Director Seay turns the movement of the couch and chairs into a comic minuet. Towards the end, the set changes were getting applause, and that’s something pretty darn rare. Scenic designer Joseph Rusnock puts the sex scenes in a giant roll out bed, as the show progressed the older pair of ladies behind me began cheering for the bed, and eventually every scene change was accompanied by a whispered “Here comes the bed!” This is an adult show, and its view of love is the polar opposite of any romantic comedy or chick flick you might name. This is sex fought as trench warfare, and as we end The Marquise and Valmont beginning to break of diplomatic relation, but then head upstairs. All that’s left is for the moral ambiguity to resolve, and we’ll leave that in the competent hands of fight director Robert Aronowitz.

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

When Will I Be Loved?

Saturday, January 19th, 2013

When Will I Be Loved?
The Linda Ronstadt Hall of Fame Campaign 2013!
A Cabaret Starring Priscilla Bagley
Musical Direction by Chris Leavy
Winter Park Playhouse, Winter Park FL

So why ISN’T Linda Ronstadt in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? She sure had enough hit songs in the genre, and we’ll enjoy about half of them tonight. Perhaps it’s a random “haven’t gotten to her yet”, maybe it’s some sort of Brill Building distaste by the aging hippies in Cleveland, or maybe it’s that her career has spanned genres from folk music to country to show tunes to Punk. Pardon me, Ms. Ronstadt may be the best singer ever, but she is NOT punk. But what she is a great source for Ms Bagley’s powerful voice.

Ms. Bagley opens with “Different Drummer,” “No Good,” and “That’ll Be the Day” and then heads down an unusual path: we are asked to identify what products Ms. Ronstadt’s songs have plugged. That’s a certain mark of musical success – you are paid to sell out. As we wrap up the first act, Mr. Bagley joins his wife on stage and they tag team “Somewhere Out There.” He does have his own name, I just didn’t write it down. Now its refill time at Heather and Todd’s, and Ms. Bagley closes us out with the heart breaker “Blue Bayou.”

The second act advances us forward in career time, Ms. Ronstadt has settled into a Big Band and show tune phase. Highlights here include “Poor Wandering Mable” from “Pirates of Penzance,” “Falling in Love Again,” and a duet with house pianist Chris Leavy. One thing many of us may have forgotten is Ronstadt’s backing band from her rocking days went on to form “The Eagles.” Her selection here closed out this sparkling night, and “Desperado” never sounded so good.

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

The Centerpiece

Saturday, January 19th, 2013

The Centerpiece
By John Reid Adams
Directed by Frank Siano
Starring Anthony R. Smith, Victoria Burns, David Hiller, and Travis Eaton
Thriller Theater presenting at Breakthrough Theatre
Winter Park Florida.

There’s so much promise in this wobbly satire of a detective novel, but the writing gets stuck in the woods, lost in the library, and stymied in the scullery leaving an otherwise enjoyable cast to chew through the gags spray painted on the fourth wall. Billionaire drunk Drake Figgison (Bob Brandenburg) changed his will again, this time leaving everything to his lazy son Marty (Hiller) and cutting out his shrewish wife Sylvia (Burns). Only flamboyant butler Charles (Smith) knows the details, and when Drake steps in the cat, knocks out the fuse box and screams in the dark, he lands on the dinner table with a barbeque fork in his back and a family not grieving so much as gloating over how to spend the money. Their completely wooden neighbor Robert Olams (Michael L. Hooper) and his daughter Sabrina (Liz Mignacca) arrive, call in the world’s most incompetent investigator (Eaton) and solve the crime without ever having to call 911. How cool is being rich?

I loved Smith’s flaming Charles even though the writer could never decide if he was flamboyantly gay, macho straight, or confusedly bisexual. Saddled with a confusing character, he blustered along and always stayed the center of attention when on stage. In close pursuit we have Ms. Burns as the bitter the Tallulah Bankhead of a sleazy wife, her feathered hat and sequined gown would be the envy of any drag queen in town. Brandenburg’s Drake is also a brilliant, he leaves us way too soon but even his Styrofoam corpse gets some laughs. But then there’s Mr. Hooper’s Olmsted – he remembers his lines but delivers them like a load of mulch. The plot driven romance between Marty and Sabrina Olams is plausible, but they spend more time mugging at the audience than falling in or out of love. And as to Inspector Abernathy, well, he does seem unqualified to solve a crime, and it seems whoever actually killed Drake will remain a mystery despite the confessions.

There’s good character work here, but the script bogs down under a load of jokes that feel like they would be funnier on a 1960’s sitcom. This story reads like it was written in a hurry and never edited, it needs some serious tightening. It’s not a bad show, but it can be a much better show.

For more information, please visit http://www.breakthroughtheatre.com or look them up on Facebook.

Thriller Theatre is on Facebook, their most recent link is https://www.facebook.com/#!/events/392760514146329/

Almost, Maine

Sunday, January 13th, 2013

Almost, Maine
By John Cariani
Directed by Jay Hopkins
Jester Theatre Company at The Orlando Shakespere
Orlando FL

Maine – the only state that just connects to one other state. The place where going south for the winter means skiing Vermont. The state where a letter marked “Bob in Township 13 Range 7” will arrive promptly. Spend a winter or five there, and you’ll find entertainment options are pretty much snowmobiling and sex. There’s beer, of course, but mostly its snowmobiling and sex, if you can find someone. But in this surreal land falling in love involves impacting the ground; when the “other shoe” drops it may land on your head, and if you are asked to return love, don’t forget the receipt.

In these eight little vignettes, we dance between meeting for the first time (“Her Heart” Gemma Fearn, Don Fowler) to meeting for the last time (“Story of Hope” Fearn and Fowler again), how much love can hurt (“This Hurts” Ryan Gigliotti, Michele Simms (Feren)) to how much hurt love can take (“Where It Went” Simms, Gigliotti). Along the way we discover the Mainers don’t always have accents, they sometimes hold jobs other than lobstermen, and they pronounce “Bangor” funny.

With the show split into small plays we can glide over the subtext without bogging down in complex stories, and see the cast each shine in a starring role – Gigliotti as the elegant ear muffed guy explaining non Euclidian geometry to his girl friend, Fowler as the sad sack in the bar watching his ex-girl friend prepare to marry another, Simms struggling to see love where she only feels too many layers of snowmobile gear, and Simms a woman who can wield a means ironing board. This is a delightful and touching romp, and it’s never too early to prepare for V-day. Yeah, lunk head, it’s a month away. START SHOPPING! And not at Home Depot.

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

Extremities

Saturday, January 12th, 2013

Extremities
By William Mastrosimone
Directed by Paul Castaneda
Staring Stephen Lima and Jennifer Bonner
G.O.A.T. Theatre, Winter Park, FL

If you have any remain shreds of post-holiday Bon Homie or even some Good Will Toward Men, this show ought to wipe that smile right off your face. Marjorie (Bonner) is hanging out in her jammies at the remote farm house she shares with her roommates Terry (Cara Fullum) and Patricia (Caitlin Bowden Carney.) While they’re off slaving at their day jobs, Raul (Lima) bursts in. He’s got some cock and bull story about an old debt but he’s been stalking the girls and had big plans. Soon we’re rolling down a road of assault and attempted rape and kidnapping, and it’s a highway Lima takes to a fearsome and brutal height of ecstasy. His ecstasy that is, I was squirming in my seat. Marjorie resists, but he’s strong and has the jump and a knife. In the mayhem Marjorie discovers one weapon to fight back with, and soon she has Raul hogtied in the fireplace. Now vengeance is hers, and when her friends return they, too must suffer this righteous anger.

As dark, viscerally disturbing GOAT productions go, this is the darkest I’ve seen. While Bonner is no slouch in the sexy – flirty domain, its Lima’s raw animal energy that overwhelms the women and the flaws in the script. Even when Bonner is in command, whacking the fireplace with a hammer or poking the eyes out of the captive Lima, he never loses control, even when he prays to Mary and justifies his action by excuse of a pregnant wife. You might even feel sorry for him, as do Patricia and Terry, but he’s as evil as anyone I’ve seen on stage.

Yeah, the plot has some gaps, that’s typical when the object is a heaving gut reaction rather than the dry intellectual crime fighting intellect of a Holmes or Marples. Why are these three women living in g a remote farmhouse, and why do they seem to dislike each other so much? More importantly, once Bonner has Lima hog tied, why doesn’t she just bash him with the Chekhovian hammer and escape? Other than needing to fill out the second act, motivation seems constructed for the writers plan as opposed to what a reasonable rape victim might do to save herself. But save all of this though for drinks afterward, when these people are working you’ll be cowering.

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