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Archikulture Digest

by Carl F Gauze

Archive for October, 2013

It Takes Two

Monday, October 28th, 2013

It Takes Two
A Cabaret with Natalie Cordone and Shawn Kilgore
Directed and Choreographed by Rob Win Anderson
Saturday, October 26, 2013
The Venue, Orlando FL

Who knew there was now a cabaret season in Orlando? There are three running this weekend, and this is the first I’ve seen at The Venue down on Virginia Street. Ms. Cordone and Mr. Kilgore are no strangers, they even have a joint web site and they both been in a bunch of shows up the road in Winter Park. As cabarets go, this one was ambitious and had more dance and costumes than one would expect – a three piece band backed up the singing and Rob Win Anderson took some time out from “Alice” to choreograph the whole event. The pair even did a full lift for “Time of My Life” so this counts as a sort of Cabaret Plus. The songs were naturally couple-oriented, Cordone belted out a slinky “Fever” and Kilgore put heart into “Rainbow Connection” but the best numbers were the joint projects: “You’re the One That I Want”, “Let’s call the whole thing off”, and a totally kicking “Chapel of Love.” Costume changes dominated the second act, including a short and rather silly bit with the couple playing classic Sony and Cher TV number “I Got You, Babe.” The encore was stunning; they covered Andrea Bocelli and Sara Brightman’s “Time To Say Goodbye.” The only downside here was the acoustics, the band often swamped out the singing and the concrete box acoustics did not flatter, and intermittent microphones didn’t help. But despite these issues, the crowd was enthusiastic and gave a standing ovation, and we all went home happy.

You can follow Ms. Cordone and Mr. Kilgore at www.CordoneAndKilgore.com

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

It Takes Two

Monday, October 28th, 2013

It Takes Two
A Cabaret with Natalie Cordone and Shawn Kilgore
Directed and Choreographed by Rob Win Anderson
Saturday, October 26, 2013
The Venue, Orlando FL

Who knew there was now a cabaret season in Orlando? There are three running this weekend, and this is the first I’ve seen at The Venue down on Virginia Street. Ms. Cordone and Mr. Kilgore are no strangers, they even have a joint web site and they both been in a bunch of shows up the road in Winter Park. As cabarets go, this one was ambitious and had more dance and costumes than one would expect – a three piece band backed up the singing and Rob Win Anderson took some time out from “Alice” to choreograph the whole event. The pair even did a full lift for “Time of My Life” so this counts as a sort of Cabaret Plus. The songs were naturally couple-oriented, Cordone belted out a slinky “Fever” and Kilgore put heart into “Rainbow Connection” but the best numbers were the joint projects: “You’re the One That I Want”, “Let’s call the whole thing off”, and a totally kicking “Chapel of Love.” Costume changes dominated the second act, including a short and rather silly bit with the couple playing classic Sony and Cher TV number “I Got You, Babe.” The encore was stunning; they covered Andrea Bocelli and Sara Brightman’s “Time To Say Goodbye.” The only downside here was the acoustics, the band often swamped out the singing and the concrete box acoustics did not flatter, and intermittent microphones didn’t help. But despite these issues, the crowd was enthusiastic and gave a standing ovation, and we all went home happy.

You can follow Ms. Cordone and Mr. Kilgore at www.CordoneAndKilgore.com

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

Feels Like Home

Sunday, October 27th, 2013

Feels Like Home
The Spotlight Cabaret Series Presents Christopher Leavy
October 24, 2013
Winter Park Playhouse, Winter Park FL

By now everyone at Winter Park Playhouse has done a cabaret except for the marketing manager and the sound guy. Tonight its stalwart pianist Chris Leavy whom we’ve all enjoyed during every preshow and one stage show performed over that past six years. He’s a self-confessed piano geek obsessed with chord progressions and key changes, his next show might be “My Favorite Modulations in Show Tunes.” Tonight’s selections tended toward AM radio hits and show tunes, “Town without Pity” and “Tracy” vied with “Bare Necessities” and “Feed The Birds,” but it’s Barry Manilow’s “I write the songs” that seems to best sum up the show. Leavy’s personal challenge piece was Billy Joel’s “Piano Man,” he had avoided learning for many years, and we still don’t know what a “Real Estate Novelist” does. Leavy’s partner Ned Wilkinson joined in on sax for “New York State of Mind,” and there’s a rather slow and depressing “Happy Days Are Here Again” to remind us of the economy. Leavy filled us in on his early days, including a wonderful fantasy of a trip to an Italian restaurant in Nashua where he pretended to live out the lyrics from “Those Were the Days” while eating parsley covered spaghetti. But I think THESE are the days, you can see people walking down the street during these shows, staring at the crowd and wondering how we are all having so much fun this that storefront window. All they need do is open the door…

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

Chicago

Monday, October 21st, 2013

Chicago
Book by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse
Music by John Kander
Lyrics by Fred Ebb
Directed by John DiDonna
Choreography by Eric Yow
Musical Direction by Tim Hanes
Starring Rachel Taylor Reese, Nicole Visco, Johmichael McDonald, and Natalie Schneider
Valencia College Theatre, Orlando Fl

Casey Anthony didn’t invent the art of slipping out of a tight spot, but she got the sort of publicity Roxie Hart (Visco) could only dream about. Back in the days of jazz and liquor America’s underbelly of corruption surfaced in spades, all that do-good Progressive Reform politics of the early 20th century drown in a pool of alcohol and blood during prohibition. Our femme fatale dreams of a vaudeville gig like the Kardashians have and the only thing standing in her way is her likeable loveable husband Amos (Kevin Sigman) and her less likeable lover Fred Casely. Bang bang and a botched alibi and Roxie is in the can under Mama Morton (Schneider) and in a publicity war with her artistic idol Velma Kelly (Rees) who shot her husband AND her sister. Talk about One-upmanship. Whether this is all real or just a fantasy in Roxie’s jazz addled imagination the girls compete for the attentions of super lawyer Billy Flynn (McDonald) as he plays the press for everyone’s benefit except his clients. Getting famous and getting rich are two vastly different things, and the Cook County courts are much more profitable stage than the gin halls of the South Side.

We start the show with the cast warming up, mugging at the audience and flirting with their dates of either gender. The real performance begins when the big marquee rises to the fly loft and a seven piece band strikes up somewhere in the upstage shadows. You’ve heard the songs, its jazz as we wish we remembered it and Freddy’s dead so soon he doesn’t even get a credit. Roxie is much more conniving and calculating her than in the movie, she scared but clever and that’s a dangerous comb. The perkier Velma and she scuffle as Mama Morton takes a cut from each side; she’s the dominatrix who doesn’t need to wear the heels to get submission from the weak. Our Billy Flynn isn’t quite up to the “If the glove fits…” level of stage lawyering, but he’s a decent dancer and has a nice voice. The good songs here are the one you ought to love anyway: Sigman’s pained “Mr. Cellophane”, Roxie’s self-titled anthem” and Flynn’s pivotal “Press Conference Rag.” Supporting the main cast is a dozen plus lithe ensemble members, they kept in constant motion, appearing and disappearing through the side walls of shimmering tinsel. If it’s a dream, it’s a very sparkly dream.

This is a well-staged production although there were sound problems from intermittent microphones and some weird sound equalization in the first act. The full depth of the Valencia main stage was used, you could see all the way back to those zig-zaggy heating pipes that every backstage drama requires. The parallels between this show and any random CNN Murder Marathon are obvious, there’s a social and political commentary that writes itself but ignore that and groove to Le Jazz Hot. Don’t forget that aspirin from United Drug, I hear it goes well with Coca-Cola.

For more information on Valencia College Theatre, please visit http://valenciacollege.edu/artsandentertainment/Theater/schedule.cfm/

Venus in Fur

Sunday, October 20th, 2013

Venus in Fur
By David Ives
Directed by Peg O’Keefe
Mad Cow Theatre, Orlando FL

For a first reading, Vanda (Piper Patterson) did one hell of a job. She may have been late to the audition and the worst stereotype of a modern-day actress Thomas (Tim Williams) ever saw, but she brought props and costumes and a deeper knowledge of the source material than Thomas suspected. And that source material is Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s “Venus in Fur,” often regarded as the first piece of Sado-masochistic literature. Thomas adapted to stage and is now directing it, perhaps not the best position for a man of his limited experience. She reads in character, he reads back as a writer, she drags him into reading in character as well until she stops and reverts to Valley Girl speak. Hey, just minute – she’s off book already! All that’s missing is the birch cane, the fur and boots and dog collars are already at hand. Before long, you realize: “He’s into this, isn’t he?” and he is. When his fiancé calls, Vanda calls someone else as well showing sexual power politics can be fought with cell phones just as well as with whips and bondage gear. As the story unfolds, a thunder storm rages and Vanda is unveiled as the goddess Aphrodite, and as we leaned earlier, no one messes with a Goddess.

As a back stage show this has plenty of in-jokes but “Venus in Fur” never drifts from its 50 shades of meaning: You can dominate from a position of power, and you can dominate from a position of weakness, so long as you know what you are willing to endure. Williams is superb as a great actor acting like a bad one, and Patterson is excellent as the naughty yet nice servant come to do someone’s bidding. There’s an open end to this story: while Vanda may be a goddess, she may also just be an ambitious actress with more skill than she reveals, or perhaps the secret mirror of Thomas’s mind. She might even be Thomas’s fiancée, but that doesn’t explain the phone calls. There’s an element of prurience here, it’s almost like discovering your dad’s dirty magazines, and you not sure why that girls is taped the way she is and it’s oddly …interesting. “Venus in Furs” shows exactly why.

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

Alice Lost In Wonderland

Sunday, October 20th, 2013

Alice Lost In Wonderland
Written and Directed by Rob Winn Anderson
Starring Becky Eck, Taylor Anderson, Meaghan Fenner, and Alexander Mrazek
Beth Marshall Presents at
The Garden Theatre, Winter Garden FL

I went into this show with great trepidation; I’ve yet to see an “Alice” staging that even begins to work. The problem lies in the story, it’s a hallucination that ties into the toys and objects and fears of little Alice’s playroom. Writers love the weird characters and surreal scenes, but there’s not much drama in the original. Alice takes direction and reacts to the weirdness, but mostly she is simply is along for the ride. Here writer / director Anderson has largely dodged those issues, he re-imagines the story not as a children’s fantasy but as a psychotic hallucination experienced in a 1950’s hospital that prides itself on its lobotomies and electroshock.

We meet Jane (Eck) as a woman who’s lost and abused. Her anchor in life is an imagined friendship with Alice (Taylor Anderson) from Carroll’s book. Evil doctor Barb (Fenner) plans to clear up this friendship by applying both electroshock and the lobotomy in one horrid operation. It might be kinder just to OD her on morphine. Alice becomes fragmented and Jane has more powerful hallucinations; only kind orderly Mr. Gwynn is there to help her thought the crisis as the White Rabbit. The other denizens of Nurse Ratched Memorial appear, the Mock Turtle (Nicholas Bethencourt) hears constant music in his head, the Caterpillar (Todd Caviness) smokes imaginary cigarettes to calm his nerves and the guy in the straight jacket (Wesley Slade) becomes the Mad Hatter.

Eck’s Jane is frightened and not in control of her situation yet maintains a positive edge in the chaos and works out most of the puzzles tossed at her. Fenner was particularity gruesome; she embodies everything evil that happens when your reality slides away to nothingness. Caviness did a great job of mixing the Caterpillar’s stream of conscience with his own open mike skills, and Mrazek was the comforting presence of a person that cares even when that’s not his job. Other strong supports in this cacophony include Mike Deaven playing Tweedledum like Alex from Clockwork Orange and the brave Dormouse (Erick Nelson) who took a stand to defend Alice at the end.

All of this mayhem took place on a luminous and threatening set from Tommy Mangieri, they even made Alice expand and shrink with some very clever staging. Why she expanded was left open, and some of the scenes (The Tea Party and Croquet Match) seemed to exist because people expect them to exist, rather than to propel the story. Still, this is by far the best imaging of “Alice” as I’ve seen; it makes her more than a leaf on the stream of bad dream and more like a real person fighting a real problem. She may not triumph but she made another day without sinking deeper. Be warned, this is NOT a show suitable for small children. But it is a great piece of literature staged in a though provoking and innovative fashion, and full of topical discussions on the ride home.

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

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

The Drowsy Chaperone

Sunday, October 20th, 2013

The Drowsy Chaperone
Music and Lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison
Book by Bob Martin and Don McKellar
Directed and Choreographed by Earl Weaver
Starring Alex Bair, Caitlin Doak, Tyler Beauregard and Sandia Ahlers
UCF Conservatory Theatre, Orlando FL

What better way to deconstruct Post Modernism than to dissect a classic Over-The-Top 1920’s musical? The gags and songs and self-reference never stop, and when you’re done you know nothing about literary criticism but you’ll have your choice of hummable tunes for the ride home. We open with the sad little Main In A Chair (Bair) he’s boarded up in his apartment, cut off from society and suffering nonspecific sadness and non-specific sexuality. His only solace is a stack of vinyl discs, each containing a soundtrack that your parents thought ancient. He’s folded away his fourth wall and invited us to take a tour of his favorite show: “The Drowsy Chaperone”. In this engaging bit of fluff showgirl Janet (Doak) is retiring from the stage to marry the oil money of Robert (Beauregard) while her ex-boss Feldzieg (Luis Traps ) argues to keep her on stage lest he get worked over by gangsters (Jay Pastucha and Jason Osorio). Janet can’t see Robert on her wedding day; it falls to Chaperone (Ahlers) to keep them apart, assuming she’s sober enough to do so. Feldzieg induces lothario Aldolpho (Fredy Ruiz) to seduce Janet but he bags Chaperone instead, and then everyone gets married including a few folks I can’t fit into this narrative. The Man in Chair helpfully starts and stops the action; explain fun facts about the cast like “Aldolpho was partial consumed by his own poodles when he died.” It’s that fine grained detail that makes shows come alive.

I admit I’m partial to this script; it’s full of solid music and does away with all those dreadfully slow plot sections of the big MGM musicals. While I find our Man In Chair is a bit young he’s nicely vulnerable and reedy. Doak’s Janet sings and dances like an old hoofer and you want to see her back on stage as soon as she divorces poor old Robert. He’s nice but interchangeable with his best man George (Tony Pracek) although both of them can tap up a storm in their signature number “Cold Feets.” Our Chaperone steals scenes and gets arguably the best number with “As We Stumble Along” and when Aldolpho beds her you know they each deserve the other. Another solid on stage pairing comes from Feldzieg and his under skilled girlfriend Kitty (Anna Robbins). They’re based on the old comedy team of Burns and Allen, although he’s got a darker edge than old George B. Other notable supporting actors include Trix the Aviatrix (Reca Oakly) as well as Underling (Austin Powers) and dotty Mrs. Tottendale (Anna Carol). Beware the spit take scene.

This is a brilliant and exhilarating production. The UCF scenic staff (Joseph Rusnock and Sara Morgan) created a visually stunning set full of surprises and there are never any slow moments. On one level this is classic mindless forget-your-troubles song-and-dance but on another it’s a loving recreation of what made those old Broadway shows and their film descendent entertaining: they reflect our lives and our prejudices and use humor to make a point no one would listens to in a lecture.

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

The Twilight Zone

Sunday, October 20th, 2013

The Twilight Zone
Written by Rod Serling, Richard Matheson and Charles Beaumont
Breakthrough Theatre of Winter Park, FL

We begin our Halloween coverage with the semi-recurring “Twilight Zone” series at the intimate Breakthrough Theatre. Our host tonight is the jittery Rod Serling (Aidan Bohan-Moulton); he’s ominous and twitchy, sort of like a sportscaster on the back side of a methed up whose trying to hide his one-air jonesing. Fours shows tonight, each a script adapted from the classic Sci-fi Weird Out series that some of us are just able to remember from the days when TV was cooler than Instagram.

“Night Call” (Dir. Tom Larkin) finds and elderly Elmer Keene (Bill Horine) terrorized by repeated phone calls with no voice, or just a distant howl. Telemarketing was years away and he’s demanding help form the phone company in the form of long suffering operator Miss Finch (Chelsea Lynn Scheid). His day nurse Margaret (Anne-Marie Ferraro) is concerned but can’t spend the night. Could it be the phone lines have FALLEN ON A CEMETERY? Yes, that was big scare in 1959. The apace is slow and the story seems to loop around repeatedly, but Elmer gets what we call “closure” these days but I can’t say this one was terribly scary.

“The Lonely” (Dir. Jim Cundiff) is a bit more promising, Exiled to a remote asteriod, Corry (Chris Prueitt) slowly goes crazy from boredom. Sympathetic supply pilot Allenby (Gary Norris) drops off a robotic companion (Erin Wagoner) along with the powerbars, it takes him a while to adapt to his new dynamic but ultimatley they bond. Too bad his parole ship is short on Delta V, he can’t bring the ‘bot home and it falls to some to brutally shoot old Yeller. While this is and old school sci-fi plot that’s been done a few dozen times, it still emotionally raw and leaves a small tear.

Done with Space and now on to Time, we find a man on death row in “Shadow Play”(Dir. Jennifer Rea). Adam Grant (Josh Breece) is sentenced to die at midnight for a mysterious crime, but is it a dream or just a plot driven time lock with extra hallucination sauce? His entire dream community joins in the debate, and Larry Stalling gets the governor to issue a stay of execution as s ort of one time experiment in the space time continuum. Today we’d call this a Multiverse problem and write learned papers on Sring Theory, but here it becomes the most visually compelling short with creepy face masks for everyone.

Dean Walkuski appears as the on-the-edge of postal dad Erich in “The Living Doll.” He’s burdened by credit card debt and an unhappy yet abusive relation with wife Annabelle (Sharon Barbour Tedder). She’s bought her daughter Christie (Sara Rintoul) a talking doll. Dad resents it, tries to toss it out and even pistol whips it, but you can’t fight the love of a small kid. Is dad going crazy? More psychological than the other shows, I’d like to know more about what brought Erich and his wife together and then drove them apart.

The horror and fear here comes from inside you mind and the dark showdowns that lurk there and it helps if you go in willing to believe, There are no gory severed limbs or ax wielding movie icons but you’re in a confined space with people trying to weird you out with mind games, and that’s pretty old school.

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

Dracula: The Journal of Jonathan Harker

Sunday, October 13th, 2013

Dracula: The Journal of Jonathan Harker
By Jim Helsinger
Directed by Michael Carlton
Starring John P. Keller
Orlando Shakespeare Theater
Lowndes Shakespeare Center, Orlando FL

Ah, there’s nothing like a good public domain story for adaptation! There is no way you cannot have heard this tale, I see 280 titles on IMDB alone with “Dracula” as a keyword. But liberties were taken in many of those productions, and it might be time to revisit the original just to see how we have sinned. This adaptation is about as close to original as you might find, it even keeps the diary conceit as an outline for the action, and there is plenty of action considering this is a one man show. One man shows are always risky on several levels, the actor has no one to help if he drops a line, the writer has to keep the separate characters separate, and pulling action out of that single pair of eyes on stage can be a challenge. Fortunately director Carlton and actor Keller succeed the set itself is outrageous enough to keep you entertained with its revolving door and ceiling full of spider web dressed chairs.

Mr. Harker is young and ambitious; he leaves Essex for the backside of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in search of a major real-estate commission. There he is abducted by his client The Count, and escapes just in time to save England from a vampire infestation. Immortality is fine for gypsies, but proper Englishmen know not to hang around when they are no longer wanted. All the elements of the classic vampire tales are here: aversion to sunlight, a taste for blood and a disgust of Christianity. Christianity requires you to bow down for eternal life, Vampirism asks you to stand tall. And Keller does as he jumps, climbs and slithers through the set resurrected from the last version of this show. Guns are fired, candles snuffed, and flash paper burned, the audience gets a few good scares from the stage and the rafters. Keller’s main role is that of the Earnest Young Englishman but plays a dozen others. His best self-supporting role was the improbably named Quincy Morris, Texan and cowboy. The character was great, but what self-respecting cowboy would be called “Quincy”? That’s almost as bad as being named “Marion.”

As a Halloween horror nights scare fest, this will leave you cold. But as a three dimensional shadow box of creep, this production is thoroughly enjoyable. Adaptation can be tricky things, and here Helsinger has done an excellent job. A few things are fiddled from the previous two performances; the first I saw was at the now extinct Winter Park Arts Mall and that show would have been about where the Publix wine department is now located. There are no cheap scares here, this is a psychological thriller that often allows you to step outside of the action and analyze it. But there are moments where you find yourself crawling over and abyss and it doesn’t matter if it is 1000 or 4000 feet deep, the view will leave you breathless.

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

Phantasmagoria IV: Hell Hath Risen

Sunday, October 13th, 2013

Phantasmagoria IV: Hell Hath Risen
Created by John DiDonna
Directed by John DiDonna, Kevin G Becker, Seth Kubersky and Alex Richmond
Choreographed by Mila Makarova and Dion Smith
Fight Direction by Bill Warriner
Staring Bill Warriner, Jeremy Wood, Stephen Lima and Samantha O’Hare
Empty Spaces Theatre Company
Presented at the Lowndes Shakespeare Center

With that flock of credits, there was little room for actual Hell to rise in this year’s evolution of the Phantasmagoria cycle. If you’ve missed previous year’s shows catch this one, it’s a collection of horror stories, dance and puppetry that flows around the audience and sometimes sits in their laps. Tonight the Brothers Grimm (Wood and Warriner) go down to the Teutonic crossroads in 1817 to summon up the demons of storytelling. Its somewhere in Germany which is a neat trick since that country was 60 years in the future. They light off a piece of flash paper (that’s two flash paper shows in the building this season) and the demonic troupe arrives, led by the ring master (Stephen Lima) and his side kick Alice Liddell (O’Hare). Stories are told in a sort of group recital method, and grim puppets come out to dance between the shows. There’s a tension between the story collectors and the story tellers, the Grimm brothers claim they are preserving them, the specters claim they are destroying them and despoiling their truth. “Truth” is a rather slippery concept, and that premise goes down an alley of Lit theory even I am too timid to tackle. But I’ll say this: Phantasmagoria is the most theatrical horror story night you’ll see, and you don’t have to stand in line for 45 minutes to see it.

The stories are a mix of common and rare, we hear the “Myth of Pandora” and crowd favorite “The Cask Of Amontillado” resurfaces, on the rare side we discover Dickens “A Mad Man’s Manuscript” and the truly awful Grimm story “How the Children Played at Slaughtering.” I grew up in a Germanic atmosphere and I have some old children’s books that will curl your toes, my ancestors believed the way to keep children’s safe was to scare the poop out of them and this story does more than that. There are some aerial acts with Ms. Makarova climbing the silk scarf and her daughter Gina doing her ring routine, but the highlight of the evening was the final dragon slaying mega battle. There’s some serious puppetry here, and it’s worth the ticket.

For more information on Empty Spaces Theater Company, visit http://www.emptyspacestheatre.org