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Archikulture Digest

by Carl F Gauze

Archive for February, 2013

Stop Kiss

Sunday, February 24th, 2013

Stop Kiss
By Diana Son
Directed by Liz Loftus
Starring Allie Champagne and Kaitlyn Dunn
Rocking Horse Youth Theatre
Presented at The Master Class Academy, Winter Park FL

This show seems to pop up everywhere. Maybe it the straight-forward plot, or the simple production values, or just the touching story, but it’s a perennial. Callie (Champagne) agrees to watch Sara’s (Dunn) cat while she works a 2 year fellowship teaching in a Bronx grade school. Sara is perky and thoughtful, her kids soon fall in love with her and she’s loving the feel good sabbatical of disadvantaged kids in the bad part of town where she makes a difference. Callie’s more cynical; she rides a traffic copter and struggles with the existential question: If you own a car, what the heck are you doing in NYC? The girls hit it off, do the bar scene, hang out with Callie’s semi live-in occasional Friend with Benefits George (Jacob LaJoie.) After a while the obvious becomes apparent – the girls are in love, and on more than BBF terms. All is well and good until they make out in the park at 4:30 a.m. at which point some thugs beat Sara senseless and leave her in a coma. Can this love survive, or is it all for show?

Written in the late 1990’s “Stop Kiss” is beginning to acquire some moss: subtle hints of the early days of the digital revolution stick out and while gays still get beat upon, this show is feeling a bit dated. Still, the two girls have enough chemistry to make it all believable, and their approach and coupling is gentle and discreet. The men aren’t as well drawn, George seems less interested in Callie than a normal 20 something guy, and Detective Cole (Mitchell Lassiter) lacks the confident bluster to be a police officer. I like Jordyn Colman as the 911 dialing neighbor, she’s got some back story that’s not coming out, and she was the supporting character I really cared about.

One issue with this show is its construction – there are multiple small scenes, each accompanied by a costume change and some furniture moving. At first it’s all good fun but by the second act you just want to yell at the stage hands “leave the damn folding table alone!” After all, this is theater not television, and you don’t have three cameras and an editing suite to speed up the action. Still, for a youth production, it’s not a bad offering, the acting was engaging and the stumbling in the dark, well, isn’t that what sex is all about?

Find out more about Rocking Horse events at https://www.facebook.com/#!/rockinghorsetheaterfactory

Godspell

Sunday, February 24th, 2013

Godspell
By Stephen Schwartz and John-Michael Tebelak
Directed by Zack Van Dyke
Musial Direction by Kyle Mattingly
Choreography by Carol Lee Seguin
Starring Bryan Royals and Patrick Sylvester
The Vine Theatre at Theatre Downtown, Orlando, FL

Somewhere between a tent revival and an advanced Sak Improv class we discover this rewrite of a rip-off of Hair. Jesus (Royal) hangs out with 12 or 13 of his closest disciples, and we get a wide ranging mixture of Gospel stories and high energy musical arrangement but little to tie them together. The story, such as it exists was lifted from the NIV version of the Book of Matthew and in the first act Jesus (Royals) smirks and lectures as he spreads his rabble-rousing gospel of loving your brother while acknowledging the entire panoply of the Jewish law, except when he decided otherwise. After the intermission, things take a darker turn and soon prepster Judas (Sylvester) tearfully turns Jesus over to the cast to be painted black and symbolically killed to a medley of Lady Gaga and Forest Gump. Yeah, it didn’t make much sense to me either everything happens so fast you don’t really notice.

While I can’t say I hated this spin through a rock and roll bible camp, I didn’t love it either. The music and dancing was high energy and engaging even if it feels a lot like “Spring Awakening.” A pastiche of pop culture references shores up the gospel lesson, I suspect this revision of a hippie era favorite will either age instantly of need constant regions by author Stephen Schwartz. Maybe he’s up for that, but at least the music is timeless. Everyone in the chorus pulled a solo, “Turn Back Oh Man” with Carly Skubick and “Bless the Lord” with Caroline Drage were my favorites, and the first act blow out “Light of the World” is the sort of high-energy pull out the stops number that can cover a multitude of other sins. Where this show falls short is in the book, there may be six words of original dialog in the show. Worse, there’s no particular conflict, even when Judas does his foul deed Jesus send him on his way with a passive-aggressive goodbye. While you know the ending, the story never takes us to place where Judas has to debate his actions or Jesus philosophizes over his fate. My advice: come for the hymns and the choir, but don’t expect a life-changing sermon on the mount.

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

Sense and Sensibility

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

Sense and Sensibility
By Jane Austin
Adapted by Jon Jory
Starring Piper Rae Patterson, Lindsay Kyler, John P Keller, Shannon Michael Wamser
Orlando Shakespeare Theater, Orlando FL


Two hundred years ago, there were only two sure ways to make a decent living – inherit land, or marry in to it. This was true for men as well as women: the whole idea of getting a job or starting a factory to exploit the poor was unheard of in British society. Thus the crisis of the Dashwood sisters and their mother (Suzanne O’Donnell): she was the second wife but her departed hubby left everything to his first wife’s son John (Greg Jobert.) John had the vague obligation “to take care of them” and his initial offer of 5000 pounds a years is soon reduced to 50 under the influences of his wife Fanny (Kelly Kilgore). This is equivalent to moving from Isleworth to Holden Heights. Adding insult to penury, the Dashwood’s move into the house the women occupied, rearrange their furniture, insult the linens and take over the good bedrooms. Her distant cousins the Middleton’s take them in and lend them a cottage as their yenta friend Mrs. Jennings (Anne Hering) promises to get Marianne (Patterson) and Elinor (Kyler) married off by New Years.

Beyond this, I’m frankly lost in this byzantine soap opera of a story. Example: Marianne falls for the dashing cad Willoughby while intellectual Elinor (Kyler) dances around tongue tied Edward Ferrars (Keller). He’s secretly engaged to Lucy Steel (Danielle Gosselin) which upset Edward’s mother, she disinherits him, he breaks up with Lucy, and his younger brother Robert (Nathan Sebens) nabs the money and Lucy. Equally convoluted pairing plague Elinor, and a good Infographic would help decode the romances. However, one question hovers over everyone and everything: “How many thousand a year does he have?” It’s a brutal calculus, and one completely at the whims of the person holding the purse strings with no recourse.

If you ignore the story, there’s still some fun in the brittle dialog. Anne Hering is a joyful breeze in her impossibly large bonnets as is bully Mr. John Middleton (Joe Vincent) and the popinjay of Robert Ferrars. Patterson and Kyler were both sincere and attractive, but they see the game they are bound to play and even as flirts they have a calculating undertone. Edward Ferrars is calm and reserved as befits the gravitas of a 35 year old man while Ms. Steele is airheaded and just a touch, well, déclassé. The set is the same luminous and angular space Othello tucked itself into, and I’m beginning to become familiar with the trees in the background. A taste for Jane Austin will help you appreciate this play, but even if you’re a fan I recommend glancing at the Cliff’s notes before drinking too many glasses of Shakes’ best vino.

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

Biloxi Blues

Sunday, February 17th, 2013

Biloxi Blues
By Neil Simon
Directed by Rob Winn Anderson
Starring Carl Krickmire and Tyler Cravens
Produced by Beth Marshall Presents
The Garden Theatre, Winter Garden FL

It’s been Neil Simon Month around here with multiple performances of multiple shows from this multi-talented author. While “Biloxi Blues” isn’t Simon’s funniest show in many ways it’s his strongest. Eugene Morris Jerome (Krickmire) is a nice Jewish boy from Brooklyn with plans to lose his virginity and gain fame as a writer. He’s drafted into World War 2 and packed off to Biloxi Mississippi for basic training along with a spectrum of other naif young men. They have no idea where West Virginia is, no idea how hot it is in Mississippi in the summer, and despise the Jewish intellectualism of Jerome and his tribe mate Epstein (C. K. Anderson). Jerome collects material for later in life while Epstein fights a bizarre psychological war against Drill instructor Sgt, Toomey (Cravens). I can’t say Toomey grows here, but the men learn to work together and make a reasonable fighting force though there discovery of Jerome’s diary.

This show pops up on a regular basis, and I’ll rank this is one of the crispest productions I’ve experienced. The casting is solid, excellent performances come from everyone including belligerent Selridge (Steven Pugh), doughy Carney (Andy Haynes) and that subversive Epstein. Craven’s Toomey offers a tight balance between terrorist drill sergeant and stable father figure; his battles with Epstein are epic but very human. Supporting actresses Jennifer Bonner (as Rowena the hooker) and Julie Snyder (as Daisy the good Catholic Girl) felt right; they’re needed to soften the brutal macho of the boot camp environment. All of this plays out on a versatile and glowing set by Tommy Mangieri and lit by stalwart Amy Hadley. They even put the ceiling stars to good use in the second act, and the show was packed with men who might just be old enough to have known Jerome.

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

For more information on Beth Marshall Presents visit http://bethmarshallpresents.wordpress.com/

The Odyssey

Sunday, February 17th, 2013

The Odyssey
Adapted and Presented by Charlie Bethel
From a Poem by Homer
Directed by Michael Carleton
Orlando Shakespeare Theater, Orlando FL

As the lights go up on Indiana Bethel, it looks like he’s broken through the curse on my office door except this tomb of literature has much nicer amphora and taller Caryatids than mine. As he digs though the classics that won’t be ready until the sequel, he tosses aside The Iliad and Joyce, but when the dust rises along with Rosy Fingers of Dawn he dives into this jaunty retelling of the word oldest epic poem. Rather than burden us with 12,110 lines of dactylic hexameter, Bethel uses a trick Andy Griffith applied to Shakespeare – he cuts out the boring parts, embellishes the battles, and leaves in as many jokes as you can tell without having to explain them in the original Achaean.

I’ll summarize the summary – Odysseus and his buddies whup on the Trojans, steal their women, rape their cattle and destroy their temples. The first two are assumed, the last event ticks off Poseidon, God of the Oceans and that was a bad move: Odysseus’s three hour cruise turns into a multiyear sitcom. He gets stoned with lotus eaters, pokes the eye out of Polyphemus the Cyclops, spends 7 years shacking up with a Goddess, and nearly gets home only to take a nap an get blown all the way to Malta. Once he does get home, he defeats the suitors to his supposedly widowed wife Penelope, pets his old dog, and resumes ruling Ithaca after a 20 year interregnum. This guy is a dynamo.

So how did this class in the classics go over? It’s much more fun that studying irregular Greek verb forms, and it’s important to remember that these epics of old were intended for unamplified reading at a banquet where people were eating, drinking and not always paying attention. Bethel mercifully edits the story down plays up the jokes we still get and purges those too obscure to work. He does beat on the “Rosy Fingered Dawn” phrase, I’m guessing he’s trying to get the audience to chant along but even the sonorous Alan Bruun took several years to get the Mad Cow crowd to parrot “And You Know Who You Are.” Bethel has previously condensed Beowulf for our entertainment and ran this project at the 2012 New PlayFest, the product is spritely and enjoyable, and might even count for a few credits at Community College. If you must adapt a piece of classic literature, this is the way to do it.

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

Laughter on the 23rd Floor

Sunday, February 17th, 2013

Laughter on the 23rd Floor
By Neil Simon
Directed by Dave Russell
Mad Cow Theater, Orlando FL

It’s rare to see so many actors and so many jokes on one stage at one time. Like most authors, Simon writes about himself, he’s just a bit more open tonight about being his own omniscient narrator. This exercise rakes us back to his days writing for Sid Caesar’s “Your Show of Shows”, a snappy comedy show that was way too smart of television. Simon’s avatar is Lucas (Connor Marisco) a young writer on new hire probation. His boss is the sometimes addled Max Prince (Philip Nolen), he’s confused by pills and booze yet is still furious about Joe McCarthy and ready to do battle with NBC, mano-a-mano. Nolan is king of the slow burn; he never quite gets smoke to come out his ears, but it would have been a gag completely in character. The other writers rattle the cage bars of their own personal reality, it’s a brilliant collaboration yet completely chaotic to those on the outside. Tim Williams plays Val, the expatriate Russian and apparent head babysitter. Has the accent down, and leverages his Russian inflected “I don’t give a fok” attitude that demonstrates humor is just a side effect of conflict. The man with the Golden Timing is Uber-Yiddish Milt (Steve Purnick,) his is a knack for hitting a jokes precise nanosecond of maximum laughter, and not just in the show; he was by far the funniest man in the talk back. Brian (Brandon Roberts) is the token Irishman, he’s funny ever time he speaks and has the nattiest hair piece of the show. Then there calmly foul mouthed but pregnant Carol (Heather Leonardo) she and David Almeida’s Kenny form that calm axis of rationality that every sitcom needs, they are the exact opposite of Glenn Glover’s Ira, a Mel Brooks stand-in who was flat on his back bouncing on a table as the others pounded him. There’s one outsider in the group, its bleach blonde Helen (Robyn Kelly) who want to write comedy, but somehow lacks the spark. How Ms. Kelly succeeds in NOT making jokes is beyond me; that in itself is hysterical. Is there a message here? Nothing too significant – writing jobs are insecure, the networks will never understand “art” and good times pass quickly while bad time persist. But damn, there’s a lot of gags here, and they ALL connect.

For more information on Mad Cow, please visit http://www.madcowtheatre.com

King Hedley II

Monday, February 11th, 2013

King Hedley II
By August Wilson
Directed by Anthony B Major
Starring Michael Sapp
Seminole State College, Lake Mary, FL

In this, the penultimate episode of the Pittsburg Cycle, August Wilson hauls us down into what’s left of the Urban Ghetto in the 1980’s. Jim Crow is a distant if still painful memory, those with enough resources have fled to the somewhat integrated suburbs, and what’s left in the ‘hood are those too old or too unskilled to escape. King (Sapp) hustles as he can, shooting craps is a viable career, selling hot major appliances is his bread and butter job, and bonus time comes from knocking off a local jeweler. Meanwhile his semi-sane neighbor Stool Pigeon (Dwayne Allen) quotes the Old Testament and wonders why he has to go farther and farther to get a loaf of bread. King’s Mother Ruby (Jami Thomas) waits for the city to buy out her property, and King’s wife Tonya (Beatrice Roberts) debates keeping his child. After all, how can she possibly feed it, and what legacy can King hand down? Slick Elmore (Joe Reed) arrives in town, flashes on Ruby and sells marginal fire arms to King’s buddy Mister (Roseny Mauger). We see four fire arms, and three of them are fired. All very Chekhovian.

This feels like the longest of Wilson’s productions, the dialog cycles back again and again to certain themes and words. King has planted a symbolic flower garden in dirt Ruby disapproves of, Elmore treads on the flowers and Stool Pigeon uses it to bury deceased Aunt Ester’s deceased cat. She was 366 this year, and her death as shock to everyone. While there’s curious lack of the drug trade, there’s as much symbolism as you care to analyze. Sapp’s black Everyman has lost his pride, his family and his neighborhood; only an odd knife cut that got him some time makes him stand out. Reed’s Elmore is slippery and a shadow of the street smart black hustlers of The Piano Lesson or Seven Guitars, he’s reduced to selling bad watches and cheap fire arms and his ultimate insult it to elope with Ruby and deny King a portion of the family homestead. Mauger’s Mister was quite as a good side kick, but Allan’s newspaper hoarding street preacher nearly stole the show with his Holy Roller cant. The women, while well played, were clearly an after-thought to the story; they offer the ideal of stability independent of their men. It’s clear the men have had a century of chances yet never really did what was right by them. Is Aunt Ester’s death the death of some ideal of a proudly independent people under subjugation, or is it the sign that assimilation is not only possible, but essential?

For more information on the Seminole State College Theater program, please visit http://www.seminolestate.edu/arts/theatre/boxoffice.htm

The Graduate

Sunday, February 3rd, 2013

The Graduate
Adapted by Terry Johnson and Charles Webb
From works by Calder Willingham and Buck Henry
Directed Joshua Eads-Brown
Starring Tyler Robert Conrady and Rochelle Curbow Wheeler
In The Wings Productions in conjunction with
Rocking Horse Theater Factory
Orlando, FL

I suspect even if you never saw the film version of the show the lines “Plastics” and “Mrs. Robinson, are you trying to seduce me?” are somewhere in your all purpose pop culture encyclopedia. While this stage show differs significantly from the film version, it’s mostly because of additions and rearrangements, not all of which help the story. The bones of the action revolve around Benjamin Braddock (Conrady) who’s out of college and hanging around until grad school kicks in. He’s a bit lost, teaching no longer appeals and maybe a Kerouac inspired field trip is in order. A week of drinking with bums and drifters clears that romantic notion, leaving him free to be seduced by the wife of his dad’s business partner wife Mrs. Robinson (Wheeler). The affair is heated but loveless; her alcoholism has left her with libido but few conversation skills. When her daughter Elaine (Lorelei Sandberg) shows up, Mrs. Robinson is adamant they stay apart, but Ben’s dear old dad (Matt Stevens) and Mr. Robinson (Jeff Hole) set them up. The pair hits it off until the dirt spills, Elian’s is disgusted, Ben stalks her to Berkley, and we spend a good half hour figuring out whether she’ll marry Ben or some stable, attractive medical student.

While the cast had some rough spots, this was overall an enjoyable production of a genuine obscurity. Ms Curbow-Wheeler looked the part of the bored 1960’s house wife with gin and money on her hands, and while Conrady’s Ben seemed overly soft, he was always properly shocked by her actions. I won’t say they had a great chemistry, but in these roles there’s not supposed to be chemistry, just a spare towel to wipe up with. Jeff Hole was amazing as the jilted husband and Sandburg’s Elaine seems genuinely confused yet perfectly willing to sacrifice love for stability. After all, she had mom as an example. Story wise, Ben’s road trip does little to enhance his character, it’s a bold step but even when he returns home hangover with a wild story of four hookers and a major firefighting experience, he seems no wiser or more focused.

This was my first trip to the new and long anticipated Rocking Horse Theatre Factory; it’s located in an industrial garage with scary stuff up in the rafters and big plans for expansion. Right now they have neither heat nor AC so dress appropriately. The location sounds scary, but seemed no worse than any other random industrial area. I suggest you check it out, tickets are reasonable and there’s a bit of a bar, so there have their priorities right unlike Benjamin and Mrs. Robinson.

Find out more about Rocking Horse events at https://www.facebook.com/#!/rockinghorsetheaterfactory

Fat Pig

Sunday, February 3rd, 2013

Fat Pig
By Neil LeBute
Directed by Rowan Bousaid
Frat Pack Productions at Art’s Sake Theatre
Winter Park, FL

When choosing a mate, your tastes may change with age. A young man might prefer an attractive blonde with nice abs, but an older man may settle for a woman who just doesn’t snore too much. Tonight we have the former, charming Tom (Daryn Kahn) is dating cute Jeannie (Danielle Alagna) down in accounting. But at lunch one day he meets overweight librarian Hellen (Stephanie Miller) and they hit it off. Tom might even work both sides of the fence if not for his best friend and the Iago, Carter (Robert Walker – Branchaud). Carter delights in gossip, relishes causing pain, and has the biggest mouth in sales. Inter-office dating is always dangerous, and with Carter on patrol it’s not even intermission when Jeannie and Tom have it out. Well, there’s always Hellen, despite her nice smile she’s lonely and desperate and quickly falls in love with Tom only to discover Tom’s fatal flaw – he’s shallow enough to care what Carter thinks. Too bad, Hellen, but rest assured all men ARE jerks.

It’s a fast-paced knife juggling act, and most everyone gets stabbed a bit. Tom is cute and arrogant enough to get away with romantic murder; you sense no woman is safe around him. While Jeannie looks good in a bikini, she also doesn’t take any guff and is able to play the accounting card with skill and punch hole in Tom’s story and his manhood. As they spar with flamethrowers, Carter gleefully watches and takes YouTube video for future reference. What emotion this crew musters falls to Hellen, when she gets stabbed you truly find her sympathetic; she’s the one person who reliably exudes vulnerability. As battles of the sexes go, this one is brutal, and the petrol emotion of doing it all in the office magnifies the body count – Carter may be an ass, but it’s Tom who’s the real brute here.

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

No Exit

Sunday, February 3rd, 2013

No Exit
By Jean-Paul Sartre
Translated by Stuart Gilbert
Directed by Darlene Stewart
Wallflower Theatre Presenting at G.O.A.T.
Winter Park, FL

While revolutionary in its time, the conceit behind “No Exit” has spread to countless scripts of lesser impact yet in the original its is still a powerful exploration of whether Hell is a medieval-themed theological Horror Ride from Hell, or the more modern thought that your personal misery lies in the center of your own skull. Mssr. Garcin (Brett Carson) arrives first, escorted by the ever-polite Valet (Alex Carol.) Mr. Valet knocks off the exposition, we are then locked in a room and the service bell only works when Jean-Paul Sartre feels it should. There are no mirrors, no windows and no internet access. The furniture is notionally Second Empire, a curious mix of high skill and low taste preferred by Bonaparte and certainly suitable for an eternal perdition with no back support. Soon bitter Inez (Nicole Carson) arrives followed by the moneyed and vain Estelle (Kim Luffman). Sartre tries all three paring for carnal pleasure but nothing clicks and we have that story branch pruned. Next we learn about the particular sins of each inmate – cowardice, infanticide, suicide, and the general swath of fornication mankind is prone to engaging bring these three together. Finally, that pesky door pops open, and we stare into the abyss. What’s it gonna be, hot shot? 10^308 years in the cage, or utter nothingness?

With echoes from existentialism and charmingly old fashion translation, “No Exit” feels a bit dated and Satre’s urge to torture the theatre going public with self doubt reduces to discomfortable chairs. While Ms. Luffman is prissy and picky and unhappy to be housed with the proles, the best part of the evening comes in the Battle of the Carson. They really connected in the argument scenes; it’s almost as if they had some previous marital experience. Mr. Carroll took politeness to its logical extreme; he’s the World War Two European version of calling the credit card company and hoping to talk to a helpful human. “No Exit” is the sort of theatre experiment that all die-hards must experience along with the more commonly performed “Waiting for Godot,” and it will make you think twice before you jilt someone.

For further information, please visit: www.facebook.com/wallflowertheatre