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Archikulture Digest

by Carl F Gauze

Archive for March, 2013

Jesus Christ Superstar

Sunday, March 31st, 2013

Jesus Christ Superstar
By Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber
Directed by Wade Hair
Musical Direction by Justin Scarlat
Choreography Erin Robere
Starring Tony Flaherty, Justin Scarlat and Victoria Perez
Breakthrough Theatre, Winter Park FL

How many people can they squeeze in this space, anyway? With a full house and over twenty actors, this show made flying Spirit Airlines look comfy. I’m sure everyone has a passing familiarity with the story: Jesus (Flaherty) preaches reformed Judaism and attracts a huge following yet Judas (Scarlat) worries that things are getting out of hand. Sure enough, Jesus throws a fit in the temple, even though it was his dad who wanted all those complicated sacrifices and really, who keeps sheep around the house in Jerusalem? Caiaphas (A. C. James) and his sidekicks Ananias (Gabe Carroll-Dolci) and The Other Priest (Richard Wyrick) fear the Romans will take it out on them so when Judas shows up looking to do a deal, everyone is happy except Mary (Perez) who just wants Jesus to settle down and take up either of his dad’s professions.

While I’ve an uneasy relation with this show on stage, tonight’s production while claustrophobic was well executed. The singing was excellent over all, with Perez’s Mary nailing “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” and “Start Again.” King Herod (Wade Hair) channeled Devine with a shorn head and luxurious eye shadow in “King Herod’s Song”, and Rob Delmedico was an elegant and sympathetic Pontius Pilate with moving renditions of “Pilates Dream” and the “Pilate and Christ.” Mr. James was another remarkable vocalist; he can hit lows you’ll only find in Grand Opera or Dixieland jazz. Mr. Scarlat’s Judas was hard to hear; reports indicate he lost his voice and Jesus was uneven, when he projected everything was fine but on the quiet lines in “Gethsemane” he was hard to hear. He also had a tendency to smirk, particularly in the first act. Finally, the size of the chorus was overwhelming but they never tripped over each other and there was some fine belly dancing on stage. This looks to be a popular show and it’s by far the best JCSS I’ve seen. Now if we can only get the stage mom’s to not take flash pictures of their darlings at work…

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

Titus Andronicus

Sunday, March 31st, 2013

Titus Andronicus
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Jim Helsinger
Starring Jonathan Epstein, Greg Jackson, Jean Tafler, and Esau Pritchard
Orlando Shakespeare Festival. Orlando FL

Horror is just horrible, but leaven it with a few laugh lines and it goes even darker. Hollywood rediscovered that about 1990, but The Bard knew that trick 500 years ago. “Titus Andronicus” is a Greek tragedy at heart, Titus (Epstein) returns from 40 years of battle with a nice retirement job – emperor of Rome. He slips by passing the gig off to the son of the late emperor, Saturnius (Jackson.) Saturnius’ brother Bassianus (Baldwin) was hoping for the job as well and the two don’t get along at all and that all we need to start they cycle of violence. As soon as Saturnius is in office, he steals his brother’s girlfriend Lavinia (Kelly Kilgore), takes up with the fiery Gothic princess Tamera (Tafler), and proceeds to pillage, plunder and burn his way through every actor on stage. You might point out Titus actually drew first blood, but that’s like worrying over who shot first in WW2. I’ll gloss the details; suffice it to say if you see someone you like on stage chances are they will die quickly and violently. Survivors are in short supply, and despite Saturnius’ evil ways and even more evil facial hair, the real nasty here is Aaron the Moor (Pritchard). He’s the one who famously and profusely apologizes for any good he may have done in life. Now that’s class. Evil class.

While Titus is the thoughtful one, his aversion to power opened this can of worms yet he never seems to realize that even after he loses 20 plus children. (He may have been fighting the 40 years’ war, but clearly there are down times.) Tamara looks like a 1920’s Hollywood vamp, and her two boys Chiron (Greg Joubert) and Demetrius (Matthew Natale Rush) are the metal head Bevis and Butthead of the Romans Empire. Other noteworthy roles are Lavinia who can work wonders on stage with neither hands nor tongue, and Super Villain Aaron escapes a noose around his neck yet finds an even more awful way to die. But my favorite actor was Justin Baldwin; he gets killed three times as Alarbus, Bassianus and then a minor servant the cannibal dinner scene.

The Shakes creative team played this show for gore but I was surprised how small the spatter zone was. The violence was serious; scenes like the behanding of Titus were fully wince-worthy as were the bagged heads of his two ex-sons. A benign metal sound track and lots of leather made the cast look a bit like they were headed for a Front 242 show as giant rolls of butcher paper hung from the ceiling and sopped up most of the blood. The audience ate it up – they may all seem nice at the post show reception, but I think most of them would do well in the Zombie Apocalypse. I fully admit this is my favorite Shakespeare piece, and tonight it was executed with a glorious lack of squeamishness. If you get front row seat, wear black. Heck, wear black and put on some white makeup and wrist studs. You’ll fit right in.

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

Children of a Lesser God

Sunday, March 17th, 2013

Children of a Lesser God
By Mark Medoff
Directed by Brenna Nicely and Beth Marshall
Starring Will Hagaman and Eliza Stevens
Beth Marshall Presents
At the Garden Theatre, Winter Garden FL

Deaf School politics are like any academic warfare – brutal, intercine and fought over relative small stakes. Idealist James Leeds (Hagaman) is the new teacher in the school lead by Mr. Franklin (Adrian LePeltier). He starts James off with a tough case: truculent Sarah Norman (Stevens). She’s stayed on at the academy way past the time most students are pushed out, so now she’s technically the cleaning staff and this allows her to avoid dealing with the hearing world. James tries to draw her out, they fall in love, and I’m left to wonder – why is there a curfew for instructors and legally adult staff members? After the pair sneak off to an Italian restaurant and James figures out how to sign “cannoli” the affair heats up and is soon the “talk” of the academy. The romance annoys punk rocker Oren (Mike Deaven,) he’s set on leading a revolution as soon as he can find a good one and he needs Sarah’s deaf “purity” to legitimize his ability to speak. James and Sarah marry but it’s not going well, Sarah is easily offend and jealous of ample Lydia (Madison Graham) who comes around to watch TV and forget her bra. Soon lawsuits are flying, and we find tonight’s lesson: the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

This is an amazing production, nearly everything is signed and you might pick up a few bits of ASL, not that doing so will impress any of the politically energized deaf. Hagaman is normally a comedic actor but in this very serious role he turns that to advantage with his bumbling frustration at mercurial Sarah. Stevens turns on the sex appeal in the first act and turns it off after the “I do’s” are signed, but her role is hard to like – she seeks appreciation but sees all attempts as either pity or condensation. The other supporting characters are all quite strong willed, Deaven’s Orin just needs studs in his forehead for complete Punker cred and LePeltier’s academic leadership stands ready to burn the school down before he’ll secede an inch. Jamie Middleton Appears as the scavenging lawyer Edna Klein and sympathetic Ava Tunstall is Sarah’s beaten down mother.

We hold a social contract that obligates us to help the helpless, where they want help or not. You want to see the deaf hear, the blind see and the homeless sheltered, but those bad things might just be symptoms of darker problems, problems not so easily fixed. And dammit, why don’t those poor people appreciate what we want to do for them? Don’t they get how bad we feel for them?

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

The Kids Left, The Dog Died, Now What?

Sunday, March 10th, 2013

The Kids Left, The Dog Died, Now What?
By Carole Caplan – Lonner
Directed and Choreographed by Roy Alan
Musical Direction by Chris Leavy
Winter Park Playhouse, Winter Park FL

Talk about playing to your demographic! This poignant and occasionally biting revue explores all those LL/FWP’s (Later Life First World Problems”: Where to take a cruise, what to do if your partner hates opera, and those awkward questions about sleeping arrangements while camping with the kids? There’s only an occasional wisp of a story but the theme comes through loud and clear – opportunities are fading, and it’s time to make some hard choices.

“Who Says Progress is Good?” reflects on the harsh march of technology – a remote control brings a household to its knees and I though “My grandmother never paid a bill with check, and my grandkids won’t either, but for exactly opposite reasons.” Frank Siano got all the good jokes, his running gag of “Doctors” suggests the aches and pains of elderhood but with the sort of bite that makes Jewish complaints an art form. Jeff Aames led “Sandwich Generation,” he’s retired, his parents need tax advice and the kids live in the basement and stare balefully when you refuse to pay off their credit cards with your meager 401k. The girls got as good as they gave, Amy Martin Cole wrenched pathos from “Firsts” and then teamed up with Lourelene Snedeker and draggy Mr. Aames for “Casserole Stroll:” A wife’s death weeps tragedy, but continent men are a hunt for the opportunistic. If you can’t see yourself in this show, you’re just not out of high school. I could warn you about the future but I didn’t listen either, so party on. But some sad day, that AARP letter will arrive with your name on it. We call that: “Singing the Blues”

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

Bad Seed

Sunday, March 3rd, 2013

Bad Seed
By Maxwell Anderson
Directed by Wade Hair
Starring Katie Mecca, Jennifer Rea
Breakthrough theatre, Winter Park, FL

Cute Kid. Too bad she’s a complete psychopath and on the fast track for a Hannibal Lecter Scholarship for Young Murderesses. I’m referring to precocious Rhoda Penmark (Katie Mecca tonight, the role alternates with Clarissa Moon,) she doesn’t play nice with her friends, keeps changing her story under cross examination, and seems destined for a Hollywood producer’s career. Her mother Christine (Rea) is bothered by this proto-Satanic behavior but ultimately helps Rhoda cover her tracks. In this case blood is thicker than justice and surrounding the mysterious death are a cast of eccentric characters. Sharron Tedder is Monica the Upstairs Neighbor with a degree in Freudian analysis form Life Magazine, then there’s the skinny yet alcoholic Mrs. Daigle (Tabatha Rox) whose mourning process involves bourbon, easy on the water if you please. And don’t forget the prissy educator Miss Fern (Sarah Philips) who narrow-mindedly decides little Rhoda is bad for enrollment. The only person who sees through Rhoda’s machinations is the janitor Leroy (John Moughan), he’s a Popeye type but, but pays the ultimate prices in an exceptionally unusual way: how many people die in excelsior fires anymore? And where the heck do you even GET excelsior today?

While the Freud is slathered on like mayo at Jimmy John’s, the story snaps to attention once the theorizing wraps up. Some of the first act dialog sounds like a lecture, but once little Rhoda turns up the heat on her mother there’s some significant drama. The men in this story mostly exist to dump exposition or take dated stands on the Nature vs. Nurture argument, only Leroy has any serious story role. Today we’ve replaced the psychiatrist couch with a bottle of pills, but beside than nothing changes – occasionally really evil people come into the world and they seem to go far with no penalty. I’ll give here this: little Rhoda needs a sequel.

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