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Archikulture Digest

by Carl F Gauze

Archive for February, 2014


Sunday, February 23rd, 2014

By Mark O’Rowe
Directed by Mary Beth Spurlock
Additional Direction by John DiDonna, Kevin G. Becker, and Seth Kubersky
With Kelly Kilgore, Sarah-Lee Dobbs, and Tommy Liles
DiDonna Productions/The Empty Spaces Theatre Co(llaboration)
Lowndes Shakespeare Center, Loch Haven Park, Florida

As Irish ghost stories go, this one was dark and somewhat hard to hear. On stage we have three unnamed people, each with a series of interlocking monologs. Sara-Lee Dobbs used to teach but now she helps at a suicide hotline, Kelly Kilgore dodges the romantic bullets of her best friend’s husband, and Tommy Liles likes to take girls home, make love to them, and then remove their innards. Other than, he’s nice looking chap. A phone call sets us in motion; one of Dobbs’ ex-students is 4 weeks from a baby and wants to kill it and herself. Dobbs sets out to find her and meets her hooligan lesbian lover then stalks the lover and her friends in an evening of wilding. Dobbs may not look it, but she can wield a mean cudgel. Kilgore foolishly goes out on a date with her friends, after last call they decide to climb a construction crane as a thrill but an attempted rape leads to a successful fall. She meets someone else’s demon while Liles steal a truck and brings everything back to closure in high speed chase. I’m just hitting the high points here, there’s a lot of plot under the management of a lot of directors in this show.

The cleverly constructed script is performed in the fabled Patron’s Room; it’s the one space in town that competes with the Carr for awkward acoustics. The room is semi dark with bright spot lights aimed at the audience, it’s a challenge to follow the actors as they dart and dash through the space. It’s deeply disturbing with an occasion bit of black humor concealed under a thick brogue that makes the story a challenge to follow. Liles is the most straight forward and least likeable, while Dobbs takes the most concentration as it’s not always clear who she’s referring to in her words. Kilgore follows the happiest path even if it doesn’t seem that way at first; she gets a second chance at a lot of things. “Terminus” is two hours with no intermission and no respite from the incipient violence and desolation. It’s not exactly horror, but it is gripping and once you are through the first round of monologs, it’s not one you can let go of easily.

For more information on Empty Spaces Theater Company, visit

Hay Fever

Sunday, February 23rd, 2014

Hay Fever
By Noel Coward
Directed by Tom Larking
Starring Cira Larkin, Tim Bass, Rachel Comeau and Logan Curran
Theatre Downtown, Orlando FL

If you’re reading this, you may be a bit arty, but not as arty as the Bliss household. They “live in the country,” that’s British code speak for bored to death in a small town with little entertainment beyond a leaky boat and a steady downpour of rain. To alleviate the boredom they invite random acquaintances to weekend with them with the implication some level of hanky-panky will occur. Cute Sorel (Comeau) invites stuffy diplomat Richard Greatham (Tim DeBaun) while her brother Simon (Curran) aims at icy society girl Myra Arundel (Vera Varlamov). Matriarch Judith’s current career consists of retirement tours and collecting press clippings; she’s selected athletic yet rather dim boxer Sandy Tyrell (Daniel Cooksley). Her writer husband David (Bass) puts his wager on flapper Jackie Coryton (Pamela Stone), he wants to study her “in a middle class environment” which sure sounds like a euphemism to me. If that feels like a telephone book of exposition, Mr. Coward wrote it, not me. The Bliss family is self admittedly unconventional, and they’ve booked all four of these marks into the same guest room. What follows is an elaborate parade of mis-aimed groping, off stage canoodling, rapidly rotating marriage proposals, and stunning costumes. It’s a screw ball comedy of manners, poking fun at stuffy English politeness and pushing guests to edge of incivility.

It’s also a high energy piece of comedic farce with a stripped down set of slamming doors, the Bliss’s use sex as a shrimping net to collect victims for their internal family entertainment. Larkin’s fading charms are a classic role for women “of a certain age”; she still thinks ingénue roles are possible even as she arranges her next farewell tour. Ms. Comeau and Mr. Curran are the more calculating of the set; you wouldn’t want them making you into a voodoo doll. Mr. DeBaun is formal yet stunned by the poor protocol and wears the most amazing yellow striped sport coat; I think I owned a couch like that once up on a time. Mr. Cooksley’s Sandy is open to an older woman, but everything’s negotiable and Sorel is more his demographic – he’s confused by the goings on but has his very nice hair and fisticuffs to fall back on when times get tight. And Bass’s writer persona never seems interested in his flapper, during a parlor game Ms. Stone is brought to tears by the concept of “adverb.” Really?

Is there a message here? I hope not, this is a light weight piece of fun that sometimes feels dated but drew a steady stream of laughs from a small opening night audience. The costumes were amazing; Ms. Stones second act outfit ought to be in a fashion museum. I never caught on to the reasoning behind the title but “Hay Fever” is a great date night planted solidly in early British absurdism.

For more information on Theatre Downtown, please visit

The Music Man

Sunday, February 23rd, 2014

The Music Man
By Meredith Willson and Franklin Lacey
Directed by Mark Brotherton
Music Direction Steven Chicurel
Orchestra Conducted by Laszlo Maoris
Starring Andrew Conners and Alexis Matavi
UCF Conservatory Theatre, Orlando FL

This is the sort of production I haunt theaters hoping to see. “The Music Man” ranks high as an America musical theatre chestnut, it’s packed with great music, great characters, and a great romance that you’ll fall in love with yourself. Harold Hill (Conners) works as a small time grifter; he’s cleaned out Illinois and today crosses over to Iowa to give traveling sales men a bad name in that state. His sells entire towns musical instruments and uniforms and musical instruction books, but can’t play a note himself. It’s not the most evil scam ever, he DOES deliver the hardware, it’s just that his software hasn’t been written yet. In stuffy River City he runs up against two barricades – skeptical Mayor Shinn (Jean Michel Rousseau) demands his credentials, and the town piano teacher Marian Paroo (Matavi) might be past her “sell by” date but she knows a thing or two about music. Her mother (Stephanie Trull) is on Hill’s side, she recognizes a last chance when she sees one and encourages a romance. The mayor was easier to deflect, Hill convinces his easily distracted School Board (John DeLisa, Trevor Starr, Gabe Friedman, and Derek Antoniazzi) they are masters of acapella barbershop harmony worthy of working a Disney Cruise. They actually are excellent, there little singing numbers (“It’s You”, “Lida Rose”) were charming. Marian sees through the scam, but also sees the wisdom of her mother’s advice especially when Hill gets her traumatized little bother Winthrop (Jason Zavit) to open up. Marian comes around, falls in love, but Hill still has a job to do that might be construed as deceptive, but really boils down to the ultimate job of all musicals – He’s here to sell us all a dream.

And it’s a dream of a show. The newly merged UCF theatre and music departments pull together a massive production. There an orchestra of two dozen plus musicians, there’s the cleverly choreographed barber shop numbers, and a soaring musical score that fills the Main Stage Theater. Conners seems to be judging each action he takes, he bluffs, charms, dodges and keeps every one off guard but full of hope. Opposite him is Marian, she exudes imminent spinsterhood with her heavy and conservative dress emphasizing her fear of commitment and the deception of men. She’s right about the deception part but a little deception beats load of lonely. To manage the press of actors, director Brotherton takes a nod from “Our Town” and keeps everyone on stage and seated in uncomfortable hardwood chairs when they are not acting. There’s more set than “Our Town”, but it’s a dreamlike faced of fake building fronts that thumbnail the actual locations without actually becoming them. Another brilliant piece of stage craft is the opening “Rock Island” number; the salesmen play cards and jostl and set up Hill’s background as the train rumbles along. Hill’s sidekick Marcellus Washburn (Jeffery Peacock) did some great dance moves in his all-too-short introduction to “Shipoopi”, and the Mayor’s wife (Edmarie Montes) and her dance ladies were completely silly dancing their “Ode to a Grecian Urn” number. Even little Jason Zivot was darling as the Cute Kid.

So let’s review – here’s a full blown production of a great musical with full orchestral backing, clever staging, great acting, and all by cast that’s for the most part still leaning their chops. It show what sort of magic can occur on stage, and we are privileged to have it here in Central Florida.

For more information on Theatre UCF visit

Bedroom: 5 Comedies

Sunday, February 16th, 2014

Bedroom: 5 Comedies
By Joseph Bologna and Renee Taylor
Breakthrough theatre, Winter Park FL

It’s Valentine’s Day weekend, and it’s time for some hot bedroom based comedy action. Here are 5 short plays with a common quilt: We open with “David and Nancy” (Dir. Melody Carson), it’s the night before Nancy’s (Brandy Hooper) wedding and she’s fast asleep. Her paranoid father David (Tom Grimmer) comes in, he’s heard a non-existent noise on their non-existent terrace. He’s got an ulterior motive; he wants her to call it off. Just because her groom is a top ranked medicals student with good looks, good prospects and good manners it means his little girl is going away. In the sort of switch that only short plays will tolerate, he changes his mind after she holds fast to her plans. Cute, but weak on motivation.

“Bill and Laura” (Dir. Jennifer Rea) is another familiar story, although much better executed. Norm (John Reid Adams) hosts a dinner party not realizing Bill (Jo’el Perez) and Laura (Jessica Yazzolino-Konecny) are in a bitter divorce. They each arrive with their dates and things get awkward long before the mousse arrives. They start slugging it out, insulting their cross dates in an increasingly bitter slugfest. Just when you think blood will flow, they realize they are still attracted to each other, although the business of living together might still be out of reach. Perez and Yazzolino-Konecny did a skillful job of building and blowing off the battle of lost sex, and I was impressed with the results.

Another clever title comes with “Alan, Betty and Riva.” (Dir. Lorraine Bouchard) Alan (David Clapsaddle) is cheating with sexy Betty (Grace Habegger) but won’t ditch his unseen wife. But he holds out the possibility, so long as Betty agrees to a threesome with “Sex Therapist” Riva (Nancy Ford). Riva is about as blasé as can be, her only concern beyond prompt payment is the prompt departure of the clients, her schedule is clockwork tight. Betty takes a stand, it’s out on the window ledge and maybe, just maybe Alan can string here along another week or two. Riva just hopes she doesn’t land on her 2 o’clock party. It’s silly but full of strong characters: Clapsaddle has the best actor name so far this year and he’s a puffing pigeon and full of himself while Habeggar seems genuinely in love with him. But’s its world weary Ms. Ford that makes this work, her threesomes are not only sordid but mostly devoid of anything approaching sexual satisfaction.

“Nick and Wendy” (dir. Karen Casteel) notches things up, here we find ex-marine Nick (Dean Walkuski) dragged to a self-help seminar by his perky wife Wendy (Xan Khan). He got though boot camp, but this may be beyond his pain threshold. He grouses, but comes back from session one a happy man. He’s one up on his wife, but after round two she’s the happy one. After all four sessions they are both elated but each soon falls back to their true natures. Its short term growth experience, and Walkuski and Kahn have the bitter chemistry that a real married couple takes years to build.

We wrap up with “Mr. Lewis and Mrs. Wexel” (Dir. by Marty and Arleen Radner). They are both in a retirement community and Mr. Lewis (Marty Radner) the only man not on a walker. He attempts to seduce Mrs. Wexler (Arleen Radner) but she’s having none of that foolsihness. Things are looking bleak, his brag about supplying J. C Penny’s with womens half sizes dosn’t get him as far as a their duet of aches and pains. This cute segment has the best line of the evening, she dismisses his career with “So you make up in volume what you lack in taste?” trues words were never spoken. If you’re married, you’ll see something true in this program. And if you’re not, well, fair warning.

For more information, please visit or look them up on Facebook.

The Mountaintop

Sunday, February 16th, 2014

The Mountaintop
By Katori Hall
Directed by Stephen Jones
Starring Clinton C.H. Harris and Felichia Chivaughn
Mad Cow Theatre, Orlando FL

Dr. Martin Luther King (Harris) settles into the musty Lorraine Motel in Memphis the night before he is to die. His buddy Ralph Abernathy is off getting cigarettes, it’s pouring down rain, and he’s got a raspy throat. Tomorrow is a big speech and a march for the Sanitation Workers of Memphis, but now all he really needs is a cup of coffee. That comes courtesy of Room Service via attractive Camae (Chivaughn). She begins to leave, but stays as she essential to this two person cast. They chat and we learn about King’s background and plans, his frustration with marches turning into riots, the FBI, the press, and a thousand other devils besetting a man of action. Camae revels little other than she drink and smokes and lets the occasion profanity slip, just like the Dr. King does. We discover her deep secret about halfway along, and then we slip from a reasonable review of civil rights history into an oddly antic theological mess complete with a video montage of Dr. King’s post death impact.

I was impressed by the cast and the production although the video montage at the end felt preachy. Harris captures King’s internal tension beautifully, and he has that rising preacher cant that makes you come down to the river whether you had planned to or not. Ms. Chivaughn is cute and flirty and did a good job giving her own rabble rousing speech mirroring King’s word of tolerance and cooperation with those of continued separation and war on the whites. The set (Nick Murphy) looks musty and even had partial curtains that looked exactly like I remember from the cheap roadside hotels of old family vacations.

My issues here lie in the script, and these next lines contain a spoiler. King becomes enraged when he suspects Camae is an FBI plant, but has almost no reaction when she reveals a supernatural origin. Her past and her mission are not that far from “It’s A Wonderful Life” and we go through the standard tropes of what I call “Fringe Festival Theology”: having to complete some mission in order to find your own redemption, phone calls to God who is off raining on a forest fire, breasts as wings, and gender swapping in heaven. There’s even a pillow fight and some anachronistic technology. I’ll give author Katori the benefit of the doubt and believe she was attempting to lighten up an otherwise dark piece of theatre. But what I saw trivialized Dr. Kings work and what we can reasonable assume his beliefs were, and that lessens the impact of a tragic even from a stormy era of our recent history.

For more information on Mad Cow, please visit

Gem of the Ocean

Sunday, February 9th, 2014

Gem of the Ocean
By August Wilson
Directed by Elizabeth Van Dyke
Starring Mark V. Harriott, Belinda Boyd, Andrew Tarver and Michael Sapp
Seminole State College, Lake Mary FL.

Welcome to the first installment of August Wilsons’s epic Pittsburg Cycle, a retelling of the American Black Experience. Tonight we are in Pittsburg in 1904; black folks are sneaking out of the south where emancipation wasn’t so much liberation but just a transition to a more subtle form of forced labor. There’s work up north, The Mill needs hands but the labor supply is so overwhelming that the pay works out to be slightly negative dollars per hour. At the Tyler house we meet 285 year old Aunt Ester (Boyd). She came across on the slave ships and embraces the Bible as well as the old African rituals. Various friends and relatives live with her or drop by to visit: Solly Two Kings (Tarver) worked the Underground Railroad and scouted for the Union army, Black Mary (Michelle Andino) keeps house under the heavy thumb of Ester, she’s been through a dozen men and hasn’t got one to stick yet. Caesar Wilkes (Sapp) is climbing up the white man’s world, he owns slums and carries both a gun and a badge and loves the law. Into this powder keg come young Citizen Barlow (Harriott), he’s just walked up from Alabama and is willing to work but feels he deserves enough money to eat on a daily basis. He needs his soul washed, and that’s where Ester comes in – everyone believes she holds supernatural powers (and she is Biblically old) but she knows Barlow’s “washing” is only a ceremony to push him in a direction he must find on his own.

Wilson effectively uses stereotypes to tell his story, after all there a there’s a thread of truth in all of them. Boyd’s Ester is the strong no nonsense mother figure who implements tough love and skepticism as needed. Barlow is the superstitious hick but he finds a cause that will still flare after his life is gone. He’s loveable and naïve but you sense he has the right sprit to makes something of himself. Solly is the most interesting, he’s not afraid to walk back into the heart of southern darkness to save his sister and walk her all the way back to Pennsylvania. Wilkes is brutal, and his brutality is the realpolitik of the era – whites will never accept him as equal, but they will allow him to profit if helps them exploit the naivety and powerlessness of the migrating hoards.

This is a sharply executes production on a glorious rambling set – The Tyler house seems enormous, and there’s no sense of the claustrophobia endemic to the crowed housing of the era. The heart of this story follow s Barlow to the City of Bones, it’s a shamanistic journey to an Africa that no one had experienced in generations. It shows that there are roots reaching beyond and existing before the journey to the New World, and that pride and justice are not inconceivable – they are just very far away.

For more information on the Seminole State College Theater program, please visit


Sunday, February 9th, 2014

By Mary Chase
Directed by Jay Hopkins
Starring William Hagaman, Jac LeDoux, Kevin Zepf, and Robert Diachesyn
Jester Theater Company
Presenting at the Orlando Shakespeare Center

Ah, those golden old days when drunks were comic characters and delirium tremens was a plot driver. Elwood P. Dowd (Hagaman) is such a man, he inherited money and uses it to print business cards and employ distillers. His closest companion is invisible Harvey, a 6 foot invisible pooka. Harvey’s presence (real or imagined) infuriates Elwood’s sister Veta (LeDoux) and his niece Myrtle Mae (Snyder); they prefer the more suffocation society of the heavily perfumed Elderly Money crowd. Elwood is damaging their social calendar so Veta removes the gentle and fluid Elwood to a rehab center run by Dr. Chumley (Diachesyn) and his assistant Dr. Sanderson (Zepf). As psychiatrists go, they are quick to diagnose and even quicker to incarcerate and Veta thinks this is wonderful until she finds herself in the hydrotherapy tub. Meanwhile Elwood passes out business cards and tries to drum up drinking friends, Dr. Sanderson flirts with Nurse Kelly (Jamie Thomason) and Dr. Chumly hides in his office and curating his reputation in the head shrinking community. It’s all quite silly, but here’s the takeaway: having money is better than having sense, and being pleasant will get you father down the road than excessive intelligence.

Who’s who and where they are drives this comedy of mistaken diagnoses and pre-Obamacare health services, and even though the set threatens to steal the second act it’s an evening of warm and friendly comedy. Hagaman is genial with a deadly sense of timing, and Mr. Diachesyn starts out slow and full of himself but builds a slow burns resulting in brilliant flames of laughter. Zepf and Thomason have some nice chemistry, and Elizabeth T Murff appears for the all too small role of imperious Mrs. Chauvenet. Ms. Ledoux is ditzy and wound up too tight, and her daughter Ms. Snyder has a good handle on late Victorian stage posing. The best supporting role was Duane Wilson (Max Hilend) as the violent orderly who hauls people off to the hydrotherapy room. He’s like Nurse Ratchet but with better comedic timing.

With telephones providing offstage exposition and bathtubs presented as the novelty technology of the day there’s a dated feeling to the script. But “Harvey” is a classic comedy of errors and misunderstandings, and when handled as well as this production it’s still packed with laughs. Hagaman seems more mentally deprived than alcoholic, he never does the horrible things real life drunks do to damage their loved ones. Elwood holds his ground as a calm center in a screwball comedy, and appears exactly when needed to let others bounce laughs off his geniality. Harvey becomes more and more real as the story unfolds, by the end even rigorous Dr. Chumly sees him, and Harvey goes from a figure of divisiveness to a uniting figure in everyone’s life. It’s tempting to draw a parallel to the divine: the world is full of Gods, they aren’t always believed, but when they are they, too unite us and divide us. And if you’ve never seen the face of your God, how do you know he’s not a 6 foot tall white rabbit?

For more information on Jester Theater Company, please visit

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

Monday, February 3rd, 2014

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Book by Jeffery Lane
Music and Lyrics by David Yazbek
Directed by Julia Gagne
Musical Direction by Tim Hanes
Starring David Almeida, Wesley Slade, Jillian Gizzi
The Garden Theatre, Winter Garden

Wow – I finally saw the one thing I've never seen on stage before: scenery falling down. Just like in the movies! But the temporary displacement of a mobile 15 foot tall palm tree did nothing to dampen my enthusiasm for this light hearted romp through larceny and deceit in the South of France. Suave Lawrence Jameson (Almeida) knows how to hold an elbow and commands his own mood lighting. Professionally, he's a major grifter working a resort frequented by wealthy yet gullible women willing to spend their allowance on a personalized adventure. He's best buddy with the taciturn Police Chief Andre Thibault (Keith Smith) and his current mark is Muriel Eubanks (Mary Ellen Williams.) She's a classic American; she lacks sufficient geography to realize the revolution she's funding exists only in her own mind. But she doesn't mind that much as Lawrence is an elegant dancer, wears nice after shave and isn't her hubby. Scruffy Freddy Benson (Slade) arrives to cut into this exclusive action, and discovers he can learn a few things from Lawrence as well. Should they compete or collaborate? Soon it's mentoring 101 with Freddy more than convincing as Lawrence's lunatic brother "Ruprecht" helping him elude marriage to ex-mark Jolene (Shannon Lynch). But when fluffy Christine Colgate (Gizzi) arrives with the nickname "The Soap Queen of Cincinnati" they get all competitive again. Whoever can fleece her for $50k get to stay and the loser slinks away permanently. Let the double crossing begin!

With a Florida-bright stage and aggressively mobile landscaping, this Greg Loftus stage is a perfect showcase for a bouncy musical. Songs were delivered with confidence and success, from Almeida and Smith's "Given them What They Want" to the penultimate "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" sung by Almeida and Slade. Tasteless Freddy shines with "Great Big Stuff" and Andre sells his solo "Chimp in A suit" like a lounge singer. Other hits include "All About Ruprecht," "Like Zis, Like Zat" and "The More We Dance". The music is well balanced, while multiple styles waft through the air there really aren’t any clunks in the music department. Almeida switches between ingratiating and imperious instantly as Freddy reads as an innocent abroad with American bad taste until it time for him to go to work. Ms. Gizzi was just one OMG from pure Valley Girls, and both Williams and Lynch were loveable even if they seemed a bit too savvy to be taken in by a con artist.

While nothing really sexy occurs on stage there are a few lyrics that push this show up to PG. But that's what makes the songs funny, there the rhymes you'd writer yourself, and then tone them down for the family audience. But that makes this show feel "adult"; you're let into worlds you know exist but know nothing of, and once inside you are one of the cool people. And you get to be cool in the South of France, which is cool all by itself.

For more information on The Garden Theatre, please visit

Nicholas Nickleby (Part 2)

Sunday, February 2nd, 2014

Nicholas Nickleby (Part 2)
By Charles Dickens
Adapted by David Edgar
Directed by Jim Helsinger
Starring John P. Keller, Allison McLemore, and Jean Tafler
Orlando Shakespeare Theater, Orlando FL

If you’re not blown away by Act One of a show, often as not Act Two can rescue the evening by tying all the bits of story together. Tonight we find “Part 2” of this Dickensian epic steps up the drama and gives a more unified story than Part 1. There we met Nicholas Nickleby, (Keller) his attractive sister Kate (McLemore) and his overly chatty mother (Tafler). They fell from country gentility to Victorian urban poverty, and the rambling story introduced a dozen major characters along with a bus full of spear carriers, crowd scene stand-ins and generalized wrenched masses all yearning to be fed. Tonight we hit the payoff; all the threads of story pull together for a tense and worthwhile drama.

There are two story lines, both revolving around the machinations of Ralph Nickleby (Gregory Thornton). He’s using Kate as bait to fleece a young noble Lord Frederick Verisopht (Jeffery Todd Parrott) but instead draws oily Sir Mulberry Hawk (Richard B Watson) who intends to ravish Kate and then leave her ruined. Mr. Watson soon returns as Wackford Squeers, he’s back from his humiliation in Yorkshire at the hands of Nicholas, and he’s notionally looking to recover the mentally deficient Smike (Stephen James Anthony) who ran off with Young Nickleby in Part One. His real reason makes more sense; he’s involved in a scam with Ralph and his confederates to cheat young Madeline Bray (Olivia Grace Murphy) out of an inheritance. Act Two brings all this tension to a peak; I was actually leaning forward in my seat and angry at the injustice of Ralph Nickleby and moved by the selflessness of Lord Frederick’s sacrificial duel. Act 3 was less compelling, it wrapped all the loose ends and happily ever-aftered everyone with a massive denouement dump.

Both Smike and Ralph Nickleby showed significantly more depth than they did in Part One. Ralph starts out as merely cheap and evil; he has money but won’t part with it. Tonight we see how he gets his money, and why he’s morally warped. Yet he’s not so amoral that he fails to see the damage he’s done, and we feel more complete for our insight. Smike has better lines as well, he reveals his wants and dreams and the wonder that infuses his view of the world outside of Yorkshire. Young Nickleby grows as well and becomes a more curious character. On one hand he seems a pat hand at just about anything he tries, conquering the stage last week and tonight rising rapidly in the business world under the care of the charming if clownish Charles and Ned Cheeryble (Joe reed and Jeff Nathan). As in the first act, the lovable Newman Noggs (Steven Lane) remains the fast friend to Yong Nickleby even if he skates on the edge by spying on his employer Ralph to the advantage of young Nicholas.

There’s some confusing moralizing in this story, Nicholas and Kate both initially reject advantageous marriages because they might look like they did it for the money. Nicholas does have a respectable job with the Cheeryble brothers and he’s out from under the shadow of his uncle, but while money doesn’t buy happiness clearly neither does poverty. Saner friends talk the pair into marital bliss, but here’s the question: Dickens clearly abhors poverty and exploitation of the masses but he implies poverty somehow becomes nobles so long as it is a consciously chosen path made for high moral reasons. And more disturbingly, he implies that true financial security does not come from your own work and initiative, but only by join the ruling class via a financial deus ex machina. Thus Dickens says “Look at all this injustice and misery brought on by extreme wealth!” but he also says “The only way to escape misery is to join the problem or accept starvation as a high moral aspiration.” And isn’t that a rather circular argument?

For more information on Orlando Shakespeare Theater, visit

The Tempest

Sunday, February 2nd, 2014

The Tempest
By William Shakespeare
Adapted by Scott Browning
Howler’s Theater
Presented at The Acre, Orlando FL

“The Tempest” mixes the supernatural with the romantic and remains one of The Bard’s favorite productions. While the original script can run up to three hours this heavily redacted version cuts out the repetition, shrinks the wedding scene and about removes two hours of exposition and obsolete jokes. The remaining motion spreads out in a dark and rainy garden that is mercifully free of mosquitos or other tropical annoyances. Helpful supporting production members drag benches around for the weak to rest upon, and the show experience feel like a gypsy camp on the run. The production also switches the genders of the cast, that’s only significant in the relation between Mirando (Miles Berman) and Ferdinand (Samuel Paul). You might recall that Prospera (Jamie Lyn – Markos) was deposed by Antonio (Jason Skinner) and Alonso (Katrina Tharin); she uses the magic of an old and off-stage witch to shipwreck them on this remote island. The vengeance starts when Ariel (Tina Akers) turns on her invisibility LED’s and starts messing with everyone’s mind. But anger fades to a wedding reception when Mirando falls for Ferdinand. They’re such a cute couple.

Highlights include the Drunkard Scene with Trinculo (BeeJay Aubertin Clinton) hiding under odoriferous local Caliban (Jill Lockard) until they are discovers by drunken Stephano (Brett Carson). He was saved by riding a barrel of wine through the waves, and he thoughtfully brought individual bottles for everyone. Highlighting the Queens Party and the Wedding scene was some acrobatics work from the Fun Dipped Troupe, they juggles and flips and had an acrobat climbing a piece of cloth tied high up in the oak trees. Mr. Berman seemed very excited to fall in love, and Prospera was an imperious figure with her glowing staff.

The Acre is hard to find, there’s no signage and the stated address does not take you to the entrance; that’s actually on a small and hard to notice street called “Ellis Drive”. Look for the fenced in property with lots of string lights, its right across from the brilliant flashing church sign that provided the impression of flashing lightening throughout the show. The parking area is dark as well, a flashlight and sensible hiking shoes are essential. But the result is a piece of raw theater, lit by fire jugglers and the sky glow of Orlando.

For more exciting information about Howler’s Theatre, visit