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Archikulture Digest

by Carl F Gauze

Archive for June, 2013

In the Gloaming

Saturday, June 29th, 2013

In the Gloaming
By Alice Elliot Dark and Will Scheffer
Adapted and Directed by Wade Hair
Musical Direction by Justin Scarlat
Starring Justin Scarlat and Vicki Burns
Breakthrough Theater, Winter Park, FL

County Music is great – whatever disaster befalls you, there’s a song out there that covers your case exactly. You could even assemble enough material for a comprehensive drama if you choose your songs carefully. Even though this story is set in an ill-defined North Eastern town, we’ve got the Dixie Chicks to remind us there is no escaping the pain of life, except though harmony and a pedal steel guitar. Danny (Scarlat) is back home after a stint on the left coast and he’s very ill. In fact, he’s returned home to die and like all good tragic deaths, we know the inevitable as soon as we see him. His mother Janet (Burns) is thrilled; his father Martin (Wade Hair) less so. It’s not exactly a falling out, but Danny’s live in boyfriend Richard (Keith Newhouse) is still a bit much for dear old daddy. As Danny weakens and fades away, he rebuffs everyone except mom and once it’s too, too late, Martin cries out in anguish: “Tell me what else my son liked!”

While the story is a bit thumb nailed in places, it’s a heart wrenching window into a family that ignores what it doesn’t want to hear until it’s too late to hear anything. As Danny’s illness progresses, he moves gracefully from slight limp to hospital bed with a smoldering sullenness and increasingly creepy skin discolorations. Mom keeps up her false cheerfulness, she wanted to be the perfect wife and mother and dammit, she’s going down with a smile on her face and a song on her lips. Author Hair spends most of his time backstage, he’s got some lawyerly professional work to hide behind, but when he comes out to watch his son die its heart breaking. The Dixie Chicks are an interesting choice for the music, their more known for their upbeat lyrics but all the songs were well chosen. My fav was “Landslide” sung as a duet by Hair and Burns, and while technically is a Fleetwood Mac song, the Chicks have covered it and I was happy to hear it. Other noteworthy number were “Forgive and Forget” by Ms. Burns, Richard’s “More Love” and Burns’ “Take Me Away Cowboy.”

Like most musicals, this show wears its heart on its sleeve but that’s OK, it’s a lovely heart. The story build slowly, you can guess what’s going on fairly early but the real disease is never plainly stated, it just lurks like a shark under the water. This is a great piece of writing and a great piece of Performance Rights clearance, and maybe, just maybe you should bring a hanky.

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

Collected Stories

Monday, June 24th, 2013

Collected Stories
By Donald Margulies
Starring Karel K. Wright and Piper Rae Patterson
Directed by Denise Gillman
Mad Cow Theater, Orlando FL

Beware of whom ye mentor, lest they show you up one day. Ruth Steiner (Wright) is the mistress of the short story and old school Bohemian. After a bad love affair half a century ago she locked herself away in a Greenwich Village apartment teaching grad classes and pounded out miniature fiction. Today she’s tutoring a gifted student Lisa (Patterson) and it’s a classic clash of the cultures: Steiner is domineering and tweedy, Lisa is blonde and speaks with a Valley Girl question mark in every sentence. Steiner hectors and lectures, Lisa begs to please her and lands a job as assistant gofer and part-time house maid. As the scenes roll by Steiner transitions from intimidating to compromising to mentoring as Lisa builds confidence and a portfolio of publication. They become friends as Steiner eventually reveals the details of the affair, and Lisa quietly records those details into a potentially successful novel while Steiner produces a nice summary of the play they occupy. When Steiner sees a galley of the novel, she ditches Lisa in anger and we end the story, unresolved.

Slice of life, internal monolog brought out, or an extremely chaste love story, this is a moving and gripping drama from the opening “stuck window scene” to that final door slam. Wright and Patterson worked together before and they give us not only chemistry but great delivery of that mountain of dialog, all punctuated with heart and heat. We peel these women to the core: Wright an old fashion girl damaged by an ill-advised relation and Patterson the naïf who grows into a cagey and aggressive collector of material. The set is cozy and bookish, missing only the smell of dust and lavender powder to be complete. I’ll mention the floor (Lisa Buck) is gorgeous, and conclude that this is some of the finest interpersonal drama of the season.

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

I U We

Sunday, June 23rd, 2013

I U We
By Molly Conole
Directed by Sally MacArthur
Choreography by Talia R. Raymond
Breakthrough Theatre, Winter Park FL

For a Fringe holdover show, this has a bigger technical cast than Main Stage Shakespeare event. Not all those musicians and technicians listed in the program were crammed into Winter Park’s tiniest theater, there was just a sound track and a simple light plan and six color coded actresses on stage. The show is a musical review and its focus is on the relations between women in the same family. There’s a young mom (Christina Carter) all about cell phones and ballet practice, an older mom (Conole) agonizing over what could have been, a Grandmother (Amy Gifford) whose not against one last fling, two daughters (Amelia Dutton wants the car, Penelope Dutton struggles with the bassoon,) and the piano player (Kathy Slage) just wants to boogie.

There’s 32 numbers here, some good, some still lacking polish. I was fond of “I Get All My Good Ideas in the Shower” (Young Mom) and “Retirement” (Grandma) as well as “Two Ideas Diverged in a Mellow Wood” (Daughter 2). “I’m Just The Piano Player” began well enough but fell in to an awkward and dissonant phase which I’ll optimistically say was planned but not well executed. As the show progressed, the view point shifted from looking ahead to looking behind. Later songs such as “”What Have I Taught Them?’ and “What Do We Tell the Children?” feel into a navel gazing mode, and I would have checked my watch if I still wore one. Fortunately there was a neat, very visual ending, the colored neck scarves each actress wore were woven into a multi-hued rope in an elaborate dance that closed the show. Family friendly but slow in many places, “I U We” has a distinct female view point.

For more information on “I U WE” please visit http://iuwe.me/

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

8 Track – The Sounds of the 70’s

Saturday, June 22nd, 2013

8 Track – The Sounds of the 70’s
By Rick Seeber and Michael Gribbin
Directed and Choreographed by Roy Alan
Musical Direction by Chris Leavy
Starring Alyssa Yost, Belinda Johnson, Bert Rodriguez, and Trevor Southworth
Winter Park Playhouse, Winter Park, FL

Polyester, polyester, wherefore art thou…polyester? There was a distinct lack of leisure suits in this show, and the cast dressed more Woodstock than Studio 54 but the music captures the hot rotation from that summer I spent working at an AM top 40 station. Each cast member was nominally associated with a fashion vice of the decade: Alyssa Yost is the feminist with the Carol Kinge kinked out hair, Trevor Southworth the preppy with a turtle neck and a popped collar, Belinda Johnson goes for the Farrah Fawcett look and worries about your mood ring, and Bert Rodriguez is the disco king in the velour shirt and the anachronistic Kewpie doll haircut. But ignore the fashion crash, you’re here for the singing and there’s tons of great material, all arranged by theme: the ensemble “We’ve Only Just Begun” gets us rolling, Rodriguez makes love to his pet rock with “Alone Again Naturally,” and “I Am Woman” give the K-Tel section some solid punch. Thankfully we only get one line of “Desiderata,” I much prefer the National Lampoon version. We protest a losing war with that chestnut “Tie a Yellow Ribbon” and very white version of “War” and “Brick House” gives us a touch of the soul funk disco ahead, and even Sanford Townsend Band’s “Smoke from a Distant Fire” appears. If there’s one song I associate with that radio job, it’s that one.

We break for some Boone’s Farm Strawberry Wine at the bar, and the cast comes back in even more sweat inducing polyester; I was particularly taken by Rodriguez’s “King Herod” look from “Jesus Christ Superstar.” The opener “One Toke Over the Line” struggles to balance socially wavering views on smoking in the boy’s room, but some of the best material lies ahead. Arranger Gribbin brilliantly meshes C.W. McCall’s macho CB ballad “Convoy” with Paul Simons sappy “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover.” I’ve seen sitcoms with weaker ideas and Southworth looked almost truckerish in his gimme cap and hunting vest. The pinnacle of the show is the discos medley with the cast all in angelic white and dancing artfully to all the iconic songs from “The Hustle” to “Star Wars Cantina Band.” Up in the rafters is an eye dazzling LED disco ball – Don’t stare at it too long, or you’ll be ready to vote for Reagan all over again. The choreography by Roy Alan is slick and Leavy – Wilkinson – Forrest band hits all the notes right where they need to be. I remember the 70’s as a grim and troubled decade, but through these musical theater blinders it looks like we had a ball in the gas lines. Think how much more fun it would be if we added punk and progressive rock!

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

Dream Girls

Thursday, June 20th, 2013

Dream Girls
By Henry Krieger and Tom Eyen
Directed and choreographed by Ray Hatch
Starring Jayne Trinette, Cherry Hamlin, Jasmine Thompson and Van Dobbins.
Mad Cow Theatre, Orlando, FL

There’s some serious hair in this show – wigs that tower to the lights, afros emitting their own gravity field, and that pompadour with sideburns could scare small children in the next theatre. This is a classic rock and roll story – the Dreamettes leave Chicago for New York, they feel certain they can win the Apollo Talent show. Lorrell (Thompson) and Deena (Hamlin) are gung ho, but Effie (Trinette) is ready to head back home. They lose the contest but get a gig as backup singers for James “Thunder” Early (Clinton Harris) courtesy of shifty hustler Curtis Taylor (Dobbins). Effie is reluctant to sing back up, but Curtis points out you don’t just step into stardom; you have to work your way up the ladder. It’s the classic call to adventure and the girls are off on the roller coaster to stardom. The back stage romances are brutal, the music an excellent flash back to the glory days of R&B, and while racism is always lurking, and we see talent can get you into places your daddy never dreamed about. Emotions are up, down, and all over the charts and even though this band is a complete fabrication, it’s a darn interesting one.

The story is solid, music is grand, and there’s a live band in back somewhere pounding out blues and doo-wop and soul and even some light weight disco. Acting is top notch as well, there’s some sparks in the romance between Effie and Curtis, but not as many as fly between Effie and Deena when Deena becomes the lead singer. There’s a mob of supporting actors, Dwayne Allen plays Marty, Early’s manager and speaks as the voice of the past. Jamil Claxon is Effie’s brother C.C. the geeky songwriter who writes hits on command, and Kevin Zepf is the utility white guy, he rips off Early’s hit “Cadillac Car” complete with Perry Como sweater. And then there’s Michael Sapp as “Tiny Joe Dixon”, the blues man who out performs the early Dreamettes singing “Takin’ The Long Way Home.”

While the first act feels long, there’s no shortage of great tunes from “Fake Your Way To The Top” to Early’s version of “Cadillac Car” to the tear jerker “I Meant You No Harm”. Hatch’s choreography is amazing, the cast stays in constant motion and the crew removes props and set pieces quickly and occasionally before the actors is done with them. As Mad Cow Productions go, this one is outstanding and well worth the trip down town, rain or shine.

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

Boeing Boeing

Sunday, June 16th, 2013

Boeing Boeing
By Marc Camoletti
Translated by Beverly Cross and Francis Evans
Directed by Mark Brotherton
Starring Patrick Sylvester and Eric Early
UCF Conservatory Theatre, Orlando FL

Once upon a time flying was glamorous and fun. One the things that made it fun (beside the 3 bag – 75 pound luggage allocation and free drinks in coach) were the sexy “air hostess”, otherwise known as the “Coffee, Tea or Me?” girls. Swinging Bernard (Sylvester) exploits this to the max is his sexy Paris pad, he’s engaged to three different girls and juggles them with aid of his long suffering maid Bertha (Kate Ingram). Bernard has complete trust in the reliability of international airline on-time performance and a well-thumbed copy of the flight schedule book. Thus, he successfully juggles his American Gloria (Emily Schwartz, flying for TWA), his Italian Gabrielle (Danielle Miller, flying for Al Italia) and his ambiguously Teutonic Gretchen (Kim Hough, courtesy of Lufthansa). When his old buddy Robert (Early) drops in from Wisconsin, the weather goes to hell, flights are rerouted, and the doors start slamming when the women arrive on an unplanned schedule. Can he juggle all the knives, or are his happy days about to turn sour in this very silly, very physical French seven-door sex farce.

While some of the acting is over the top, the net result is a still a very funny and occasionally nail-biting evening of comedy. The energy starts high and stays there, this lack of build makes the show a bit tiring to watch and the sweat is pouring off Sylvester and Early by intermission. Sylvester’s seems only concerned about the next 5 minutes; his long term planning skills seem insufficient to keep up this sexual façade for more than week or two. Bernard is silly and vulnerable even if he waffles between the sexually frustrated farm boy and a passably charming Sean Connery imitation, but as a physical comic he’s destined for greatness and large medical bills. Slap him in the face with a door, belly flop him onto the floor, or sling him around in a rolling office chair, he’s always the the highlight of the show. The women do their jobs well, although they are all curiously hard of hearing off stage and seem overly gullible. Gloria feels the most real; she’s got a Brooklyn accent and seems most enthusiastic about sex beyond Bernard. Gretchen is the stereotype; she’s got a hair trigger about German cooking and seems to enjoy groping Kate Ingram more than kissing Bernard. Gabrielle is the self-centered one; she gets headaches and won’t go out for a weekend in the country after covering three loops arouse the Atlantic.

There are some dated elements here including a midcentury modern male sexual fantasy, that never slows us down. The set is spectacular, complete with a view of a pixie stick Eiffel Tower. The air plane warning light on top isn’t every consistent, but as for a silly summer romp in the hay, you can’t beat “Boeing Boing”>

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

Mood Swings

Saturday, June 15th, 2013

Mood Swings
A Cabaret Starring Kevin Kelly
Musical Direction by Chris Leavy
Winter Park Playhouse, Orlando FL

It somehow feels wrong to walk out of a cabaret and have it still light out, unless of course its sunrise you’re seeing. But that didn’t keep a full house from visiting Kevin Kelly in this latest rotation on the Spotlight Cabaret rotisserie. He’s looking smart in this tux and earrings; he’s the sort of guy who can belt out Frank Sinatra and Barry Manilow with equal ease. He sang from both artists, but what made this show special were the Dr. Demento numbers. Dr. Demeto is the only guy I know who can make a living off of novelty songs, and Mr. Kelly gave us a touching rendition of Tom Lehrer’s “Poisoning Pigeons in the Park.” When that song was written “It wasn’t against any religion to dispose of a pigeon” but of course times change and not ever bird lover got the joke. Later on there was a paean to alcoholism, the classic “I’d rather have a bottle in front of me that a frontal lobotomy.” Show tunes and crooner numbers are fine, but THIS is the sort of entertainment the Orlando area demands. Be warned the intermission is gone and there’s going to be some change in the “Seat and a drink deal” next month due to some obscure liquor law demands. But days will be shortening for the next Spotlight Cabaret and in a few months it will be decently dark when we slip into this little club.

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

Happy Pink Girl Sings

Sunday, June 9th, 2013

Happy Pink Girl Sings
Starring Sarah A Hanchar
Musical Direction by Elaine Pechacek
Presented at Breakthrough Theatre, Winter Park FL

What is the Fringe Festival for if not for personal self-revelation to a paying crowd? Self-doubt, body image issues, and “can’t seem to understand either sex” are fine and dandy topics so long as you sing a few songs and tell a few jokes. Last year’s “Happy Zombie Girl” is back as “Happy Pink Girl;” frankly the rotting flesh makeup didn’t flatter her complexion. HPG grew up a born entertainer, she obsesses over “The Little Mermaid” and her motto is “I hate to shut my mouth.” We all need structure in life and those aren’t the worst role model you can adopt. Ms. Hanchar is very friendly and engaging, she and her composer Ms. Pechacek love to throw their hands in the air after each song just like they scored a goal in hockey. Songs are mostly original; “The Audition Song” and “The Improv Song” were crowd favorites although I found “The Overwhelming Song” very entertaining as well. A bit of a musical prodigy, HPG taught herself Ukulele and has correctly concluded you can sing anything along with a uke and it always sounds happy, even if it’s “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” (Disclaimer – “Wreck of the EF” was NOT performed tonight. The reference is for illustration only.) You just want hug her (in a non-creepy way) and her growing up stories and day job tales of woe provide a low impact hour of family friendly and happiness building entertainment.

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

Tiger Tail

Sunday, June 9th, 2013

Tiger Tail
By Tennessee Williams
Directed by Frank Hilgenberg
Starring Brenna Arden Warden, Frank Casado, and Tim Bass
Theatre Downtown, Orlando FL

Summer is here and what better time for a hot, sweaty sex drama from everyone’s favorite Dixieland playwright? Sexy Baby Doll (Warden) was married off to slovenly Archie Lee Meighan (bass) on the condition of no hanky panky till she turned twenty. While he waits and drinks his liver away, the cotton ginning business has collapsed even since the Syndicate Plantation built a new state of the art facility. (I think it has a gasoline engine.) Rather than get into an expensive technology war, Archie takes a 5 gallon can of gas and burns the problem to the ground and then browbeats Baby Doll into forgetting he went out that night. When smoldering Silva Vacarro (Casada) arrives with 27 wagons of cotton, he’s not just looking for agricultural services or the root cause of the fire, he’d prefer some moral vengeance, and Baby doll is ready to oblige him.

This may be Tim Bass’s best performance ever; he’s got everything down but the smell of Archie’s dimwitted loutishness. As he drinks more and more his stumbles and slurs are exactly what you’d expect from a drunk daddy, and after his half-baked scheme falls apart, he dimly eventually catches on to how he really got screwed. Meanwhile the lust between Baby Doll and Mr. Vacarro is a formidable presence on stage; there were times when we should have averted our eyes had the lighting not respectfully dimmed itself. Mr. Casado’s role is an odd one in the Williams universe, he’s the ethnic outcast that fits into neither the Whiter-Than-Irish domineering class, yet for technical reasons he’s can’t be despised as a Negro. Thus, he’s just one more challenge to the accepted order of gracious southern decay, and no one knows quite what to do with him except of course Mrs. Baby Doll Meighan. Supporting this wobbly triangle is Sarah Benz Phillips as put upon Aunt Rose, she does the cooking and cleaning and handles all the abuse Baby Doll can’t absorb, and she screams at the ringing of a phone. I sympathize with her more than anyone else tonight.

All this lust for life rolls out on a cluttey and authentic set courtesy of Mike McRee, I couldn’t smell the mice but everything else was there from the busted bushel basket to a live hand pumped water system. Even though this show was originally a film, it seems to have less production baggage than other Williams show and director Hilgenberg allows the action to fill the space with all the menace and bitter chemistry the South can produce. My only complaint is a few non Chekhovian weapons; a gun is fired at a never identified menace but was strangely absent from the last act. This is one of Williams most straight forward stories, the internal monologue of everyone on stage is “When can I get some?” and the answer is “Right about now.” Go get yours.

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