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Archikulture Digest

by Carl F Gauze

Archive for June, 2014

Once On This Island

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

Once On This Island
Book and Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens
Music by Stephen Flahtery
Directed by Wade Hair
Musical Direction by Justin Scarlat
Starring Saige Love, Thomas Rivera and Jessica Barreto
Breakthrough Theatre, Winter Park FL

One small girl, one large island. Young Ti Moune (Sara Rintoul) washed up in a tree after a hurricane; Mommy and Daddy were taken by the water god Aqwe (Gilberto Rivera). She’s alone and hungry, but kindly Tonton Julian (Damany O. Riley) and Mama Euraile (Barreto) adopt her and raise her (Love) into a self sufficent, responsible and starry eyed young woman . One day a rich young Daniel (Rivera) wrecks his car in her front yard and is near death. Tonton and Mama and their friends fear helping him lest he die in their care and the wrath of old plantation money strike them down. But Ti Moune nurse him back to health, chases him to the big city, and like all poor country girls gets a bad deal from the rich city slickers. But she’s really in love and so she gets her revenge, although its bit more symbolic than what you’d expect in a great romance.

While the story is well constructed and executed with care, it’s the singing that makes this a worthwhile view. Director Hair crams 15 people on the stage tonight; they stay in constant motion and never trip over each other although I don’t see how. Ms. Love has a lovely voice; she really sparkled on “Pray” and showed true pathos in the dance number “The Ball”. Daniel had that earthy look leading ladies all fall for; his big number “Some Girls” stands out both for his voice and his playboy attitude. There was a 4 pack of gods in stage, beside the deep blue Agwe there were gods of Earth (YaDonna Russell), Love (Shannon N Davos) and a creepy god of death (Scarlat).No good love story is complete without a joker influenced god of death.

While Ti Moune lived in a fairy tale world bereft of supernatural powers and superstitions, she is always grounded and does the right thing in the face of rejection and contrary advice. The location of this story is unclear but I’m guessing modern day Haiti fits the French accent, dividing poverty and the long walk Ti Moune had to endure as she chased her reluctant lover. There’s just enough knowing dialog to let the parent know this is a real relation, but it’s so subtle little kids won’t catch it and teenagers will see themselves without getting any ideas they don’t already have. This show is a low key but fulfilling evening of love and rejection, song and dance and some pretty cool face painting.

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

Cock

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

Cock
By Mike Bartlett
Directed by Aradhana Tiwari
Mad Cow Theatre, Orlando FL

I’ve never wanted to actually slap a writer before, but I’d consider Mr. Bartlett for that honor. John (Chris Crawford) is a neurotic ball of indecision and general weaseliness. He’s in a long term relation with judgmental Man (Peter Travis), they share a nice flat in London evoked complete by motion and mime. John is coming out of an alternate closet and reveals his huge straight streak: He’s kissed a Woman (Heather Leonardi) and he liked it. So did she, the new pair become “A Thing” and the Man is not pleased. He rightfully demands John takes a stand: straight or gay, he’s willing to accept John’s decision if only he would make one. For the Woman, I sense she’s intrigued not only by John’s good looks but he has potential as a Project Guy, one she can remake to her own desires. Good luck, he’s cheated once and as we follow his tortured emotional path he alternately offers fidelity to one camp or the other, depending on whomever is standing closest to him. After a ton of agony the Man arranges a showdown invites the interested parties to what can only be described as an awkward and unpleasant dinner party. Just to balance things out his Father (Rod Cathey) drops by to offer the rational speech that might have saved us all an hour of indecision and laceration. I just wish John would pick something: gay, straight, bi, whatever. Just pick something, anything. Heck, make something up, and we’ll accept it.

Despite the brutal and indecisive story the acting is quite good. I love Mr. Man’s acerbic English school bully style, he not only holds the moral high ground, but he knows it and let it hiss out of his very walk. Ms. Woman was cute and sexy and vulnerable, clearly she was a keeper if only John was bright enough to realize this. Father’s appearance was a breath of fresh air; he summarized the plot, focused on the important emotional points, and was amazingly approving of whatever his son chose. In the middle of all this sensibility we focus on the prime mover of this almost drama: we almost sympathize with John, trapped in a script with vacillation his only assignment. We all wanted some sort of decision, if only Mr. Bartlett would permit it.

All this fretting and fussing fit into a simple set consisting of Tron-like patterns of blue squares and early 70’s computer styling. As the frustrated men followed the perimeter of a square or stood on circles reminiscent of solder pads on a mother board, Ms. Leonardi took a more fluid path and avoided the linearity of the male grid. Should this be noticeable? I can’t say, but while John took all our time reaching a non-decision it was an interesting staging concept to contemplate. Perhaps this is the future of drama: the fashion today tends to intermission-free one acts. Just as the post war modernists infuriated audiences with plays based on inaction and obscurity, this play infuriates with indecision and unresolved conflict. But even Godot let us get up and stretch our legs.

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

Shout! The Mod Musical

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

Shout! The Mod Musical
By Phillip George, David Lowenstein, and Peter Charles Morris
Directed and Choreographed by Roy Alan
Musical Direction by Chris Leavy
With Heather Alexander, Kate Zaloumes, Jill Vanderoef, Sarah-Lee Dobbs and Natalie Cordone
Winter Park Play House, Winter Park FL

Gosh, those 60’s girls all sure looked cute in their miniskirts and ironed hair and general disregard for the morality of their elders. This show is technically a re-run (it was done a few years ago with a nearly identical cast) but it’s so exciting I never once thought “Oh, I know what’s coming next.” We start out in 1964, the Beatles are hot, Carnaby Street is hot, Britain had recovered from the war and things were popping. Music and fashion set the tone, transistor radios were cheap and portable and songs were short and upbeat. Youth was the product, and it was undifferentiated to the point of not even giving these talented gals on stage names. Instead, they are color coded for your convenience: “Ooh, the Green one looks saucy; I’ll have some of that with a bit of Blue on the side, thank you very much.”

I won’t run through the song list, there’s every hit you want to hear from “England Swings” through “Those Were the Days”. They even set the lyric “Va-Va-Vagina” to a James Bond theme; I suspected that’s how they wrote Bond’s music and later they toned down the lyrics for the theater release. Unlike many period reviews, time passes on this stage and the cast matures. We end up in 1970 with a taste of hippie in the air: the fun is over, the drugs are harder, and the woman have grown into marriages and careers and are fixing problems created by free love and cheap booze.

Musically, the house band of Leavy, Forrest and Wilkins provides a huge sound although Mr. Multi-Instrumentalist Wilkinson has moved some of his instrument collection to a synthetic key board. It’s probably easier for him to load in but it’s not as much fun as waiting him fumble with a flute and slap bass at the same time. No matter what fate lies ahead for these women, this party was a total blast while it lasted. You enter with pop tunes stars in your eyes but you leave with a notion of growth and regret. And they even let you sing along. On ONE song. At the very end. So enjoy it while you can.

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

Rumors

Sunday, June 22nd, 2014

Rumors
By Neil Simon
Directed by Tim DeBaun
Starring Jamie-Lynn Markos, Chris Prueitt, Vera Varlamov, and Daniel Cooksley
Theatre Downtown, Orlando FL

If everyone did the right, rational thing, we would have no horror movies ad no Neil Simon comedies. Tonight’s the tenth anniversary of Charlie and Myra Brock’s marriage, but the party is off to a weak start. The maid and the cook left the food is thawing in the kitchen and decamped to unknown parts, Charlie has a bullet hole in his ear, Myra is missing but worst of all: there is no ice. As guests dribble in, Chris (Markos) and Ken Gorman (Prueitt) struggle with an existential dilemma: Should they pretend the Brocks are still getting dressed, or admit there’s blood all over the bedroom and there’s no real chance of ice arriving? Well, the truth is never THAT funny, so we follow each arriving couple as they go through their own voyage of discovery. There’s plenty of yelling, Claire and Lenny Ganz (Varlamov and Cooksley) are next; he’s just wrecked a band new car and now “has the whip lash.” If Chris and Ken are the voice of preserving appearances at all costs, this pair is more a set of tough love realists. Ernie and Cookie Cusack (Rochelle Wheeler and Larry Stallings) pop in next, they are the broader comedians. She has back spasms and a dress so hideous is caused a revolution in the USSR, and he gets the really brilliant lines: “I’d stay but my wife is bleeding”, “The spaghetti is boiling but the duck is still frozen” and my all-time favorite Larry Stallings line “Fuck-a-rini.” Lastly the Coopers arrive (Jackie Prutsman and Scott Browning) he has hopes for the NY State Senate, and a blood stained room won’t help that cause that any more than an angry wife who caught him cheating.

The comedy is fast and furious, sometimes spinning on word play, sometimes on missed perceptions, sometimes on door slamming farce, but always touching back to the need for the well-to-do to paper over their inner children. It’s all bizarre circumstance piles on even more chancy sequence of unfortunate events and a rational Gorman couple would have told the visitors to go home, taken Charley to the Emergency Room, and put the food back in the freezer. But they didn’t, and thus we have one of the funniest comedies of Theatre Downtown’s storied career. The set glows, the half dozen doors slam, and the audience laughs. How can they be so heartless when a man has lost his wife, his earlobe, and has to take his liquor neat and at room temperature?

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

Aida

Saturday, June 21st, 2014

Aida
By Elton John and Tim Rice
Directed by Derek Critzer
Musical Direction by Don Hopkinson
Starring LaDawn Taylor, Tony Flaherty, and Emily Granger
Clandestine Arts presenting at The Venue, Orlando FL

Strip away the foreign language and overwrought sopranos and most operas have reasonable interesting story lines: they tend to focus on cross-class forbidden romance and “Aida” is no exception. This is one of Verdi’s biggest hits, and the song writing team of Elton John and Tim Rice brushed it up to fit into the cannon of modern America Musical Theater. Aida (Taylor) is a princess of Nubia, and she and her peeps are out seeing the countryside when Radames (Flaherty) stops by to invade. The girls are captured and made slaves, but something about Aida catches his eye and he saves them from the certain death of working the copper and arsenic mines of Egypt. He sends Aida as a wedding present to his fiancé Amneris (Grainger), and while Aida is technically slave, here skills with color and fashion soon elevate her status to BFF. But this is still an opera at heart and if there’s a woman’s name in the title she will certainly die sometime around the last aria. Aida holds to this convention; everyone dies but you can still see them in a museum somewhere.

Sound in The Venue can be problematic, but musical director Don Hopkinson got everything damped down for the 8 piece band backing this show. While the acting tends to the wooden, when this cast opens it pipes to sing magic occurs. Radames starts strong with “Fortune Favors the Brave;” it’s a German lieder and it does a nice job of setting up the military and political backstory of this ill-starred romance. The upbeat, blow out number comes from Amneris and her court, “My Strongest Suite” makes full use of the run way that goes completely through audience seating and brings a 1980’s MTV energy to her ill starred love life. Aida gets here share of good tunes as well, “Easy as Life” and “Elaborate Lives” (in duet with Radames) gets both your blood and your hormones pumping. Even Zoser (J, Michel Werner) (Radames’ scheming father and 5th element in the story) gets a rafter rouser on “Like Father, Like Son.” Later local favorite Barry G. White drops in as the Nubian King Amonasro, but he’s not on stage as long as you’d like and doesn’t even get a song of his own.

Sometimes adaptations can go awry, but this one is quite effective. It’s much shorter than the full opera and you can follow it if even if your Italian isn’t very good. While it retains the flavor of the original, here the emphasis is not just on the pain Aida suffers, but we see more of how those around her feel. Life in ancient Egypt certain was brutish, painful and short, but love still worked just about as it does today. Plus, we have air conditioning and well balanced sound, and that’s nothing to sneeze at.

For more information on Clandestine Arts please visit https://www.facebook.com/pages/Clandestine-Arts/614617505219325

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

Rapunzel

Saturday, June 21st, 2014

Rapunzel
By Brandon Roberts
Directed by Brad DePlanche
Orlando Shakespeare Theater, Orlando FL

If kids love anything better than fart jokes, it’s got to be poop jokes. There a surprising amount of scatology in this charming hour of Children’s Entertainment, it’s based on a classic Brother’s Grimm tale of child abandonment, imprisonment and cannibalism. In other words, it’s just like all the kids’ stuff that my grandparents thought was good for me when I was growing up. The Plumber (Will Hagaman) works hard to keep drains clean in his tiny kingdom; he fights hair balls and grease balls with his royal plunger and the same determination that knights use on dragons. His wife is pregnant and demands expensive and hard to find Rapunzel artisan lettuce for her pica. The only Rapunzel lettuce in the area grows next door, but the owner is an Old Hag (Amanda Leaky) who demands the unborn child in exchange for some greens. The audience cries “No, don’t do it” but The Plumber is desperate, and while he never formally agrees to the deal, the neighbor IS a witch and apples supernatural contract law to cinch the deal. Soon Rapunzel (Jayne Clare) is engaged in a 6 year upgrade to the Ms. Hag’s ugly McTower and her dad’s memories of his loving child are bewitched away.

Well, this tale might not be exactly as I remember it from 1960 but Disney never respects source material either, and in any event the audience loved the entire production with no postmodernist complaints. A few smallish children were brought on stage and givens some minimal plumbing training (you’ll need these skills someday, kids), they had great fun battling the Old Hag as The Plumber and his Apprentice (Jeffery Todd Parrott) made jokes, cleaned grease traps and demonstrated a level of hydraulic professionalism so rarely seen today. Leaky looked truly evil as a wart nosed witch, and Hagaman has that boyish charm that is only amplified by a few unsuccessful reverse plunger kicks. Ms. Clare was bold and daring as Rapunzel, she was never scared and while you can read some sort of post-feminist manifesto into this script, I prefer to think that any plumber that can produce a pipe clogging hairball on demand is destined for a healthy career. While this is certainly kids show, it’s got enough adults (but CLEAN adult) gags woven in to it that you’ll even enjoy the preshow speech.

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

Hair

Sunday, June 8th, 2014

Hair
Lyrics by James Rado and Gerome Ragni
Music by Galt McDermott
Direction by Elena Day
Choreography by Ellie Potts Barrett
Starring Byron DeMent, Jaymeson Metz
Mad Cow Theater, Orlando, FL

It was so cool being a hippy in 1968, especially if mom and dad are a just a few miles away. You can simultaneously dis their bourgeois suburban life style and still pop in for a decent meal and some cash when sleeping out in Central Park gets old. Sure, there was that whole “Get drafted and sent to Viet Nam” thing, but you could always burn your draft card because they can’t draft you without it. Right? We spend act one getting to know Berger (Metz) and his tribe as they smoke smokeless pot, have sweaty hippy sex and generally flaunt the conventions of society regarding sex, race and personal hygiene. Berger’s a Charlie Manson looking gnome and his best buddy is poseur Claude (Dement). Claude claims to be from Manchester UK but his draft card says Bayonne, New Jersey. He’s been called up, and if you read between the lines you’ll guess he’s against the draft but might go in anyway: it’s his driver’s license that goes up in smoke.

I’d really love to love this festival of free love, and there are some great songs here backed up with a compact three piece band and occasional uncredited cello work from one of the tribe, but most of the first act passed without a clue as to why we should care other then we can lip sync to its like “Hair” (ensemble) and “Easy to be Hard “(sung by Heather Kopp). If Claude is having any sort of interesting internal debate about the military, he pretty much keeps it too himself. The second act fared better, when Claude resolves his poorly expressed issues the show finds its major dramatic moment, and I was moved. I also thought the entire black light version of “The War” was cleverly done and makes up for many other flaws in this production.

Those flaws are choreography (Ellie Potts Barrett) that never seemed to find something interesting for the cast of 18 to do, and the “Wall of Hair” moves for the title song made me think “Yup, there’s a lot of hair on this stage.” Then there’s the curtain speech that falls in the middle of an otherwise exciting opening montage of cast members drifting on stage as the band played some urgent dope smoking sounds, I was really in the mood at that point but the preshow speech felt like having to make a condom run halfway through an evening of romance. The preshow warns us about nudity, but when the cast does strip down the lights go down with their undies and you’ll have to look quick to be offended. Go see this for the music and the vibe, but there’s more to this script than makes it to the stage: Less smoke and more about Claude’s conflict would really help this classic.

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

The Cripple of Inishmaan

Sunday, June 8th, 2014

The Cripple of Inishmaan
By Martin McDonagh
Directed by John DiDonna
Starring Sam Corrie, Tommy Liles, and Janine Papin
Valencia State College, Orlando FL

As I sat down to watch this oddly titled little drama, a British friend sat next to me and worried: “I hope they get the accents right.” Afterwards she assured me they were fine, and that only adds to the evening’s enjoyment. Out on one of the rocky islands east of Ireland starves a small, tight knit community: Eileen (Papin) and Kate (Amy Cuccaro) run what passes for a store; it’s the social center of the place and filled to the rafters with canned peas. They care for Cripple Billy (Corrie), he’s been written off by everyone and no one expects him to get a job, kiss a girl or do anything other than take up space until he dies. Like all good Irish stories this island is full of characters: there’s Anger Issue Helen (Justine Rodriquez Gearing) whose main skill is throwing eggs at people she doesn’t like, there’s Johnny Pateen Mike (Liles) who collects and spreads gossip and demands payment for his earth shattering news stories about geese biting cats, and there’s BabbyBobby (John Michael McDonald) owns the boat (there’s only ONE on the island?) who is willing to row Helen over to where the Americans are making a movie. The movie is Billy’s chance to get out but he finds America only adds another entry to his failure list: He can’t act, either. At least he got enough money for a return trip.

There’s dark history on this island, and not everything Billy knows or thinks he knows is true. While he’s figuring it out we are entertained by his fellow castaways. Liles’ Johnny Pateen is the center of attention; he’s tall, wears a bowler, and fully believes in the importance of his own blarney. Helen is the fireball, she’s got the looks and is the only slut available on Inishmaan, and she can trade that for whatever she wants until she begins to sag. The comic relief comes from Phillip Edwards as her little brother Bartley, he obsesses over candy bars and doesn’t just get egg in his face, it’s all in his hair. The calm center of all this energy rests with Ms. Papin and Ms. Cuccaro, they are loving and accepting and even if they talk to stones, it’s nothing serious. This being Ireland, we need an alcoholic and that’s Johnny Pateen’s mother (Kathleen Lindsay-Moulds). She’s not only feisty, but her wooden leg has a wooden leg and Johnny Pateen complains “I’ve spent a fortune on booze and she still hasn’t died yet.” I’m not getting the accent right, of course, that’s up to the cast. But it takes Mr. Corrie to hold all this together, not only is his limp and his stammer realistic, but his pathology of a cough turning into something much worse added shades of misery to his life. He’s a hopeful child, but as we who sit tin the seat know, writers are here to turn simple misery into major disaster. Ireland must be a pretty good place, look at all the plays they set there.

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

True West

Sunday, June 1st, 2014

True West
By Sam Shepard
Directed by Kevin Becker
Starring Chaz Krivan and Corey Volence
Dark Side of Saturn Productions
Presented at the Lowndes Shakespeare Center

I suppose its s till brotherly love even if you try and strangle him with an electrical cord. Austin (Krivan) went to college and now he has a comfy gig as a failed screen writer. Lee (Volence) drifted; he survives on petty theft and dog fighting and holes up in the desert until the heat cools off. They meet in Mom’s (Barbara Blake) place; she’s off to Alaska and need Austin to water her plants. The boys are insanely jealous of each other, Austin wants to not worry about survival and Lee wants the appearance of success that will help him get women. They trade low blows and Lee takes an early lead, he’s a skilled manipulator and he promptly steals the one thing Austin has – a lead on a film deal via the ambiguous Saul (Jim Cundiff). “I always wondered what it would be like to be you” bemoans Austin, and after stopping in at the neighbors to borrow a television, Lee describes the place as “Paradise – it kills you a bit inside.” Lee might have a saleable story, but has no idea how to write a screen play, and Austin knows the mechanics of screenwriting but can’t stand the humiliation of working for Lee. They COULD work together, but that wouldn’t satisfy either so instead they drink and destroy each other along with an innocent typewriter and a few bromeliads.

This show start tough and gets tougher, Volence carries a dangerous edge in his face and Krivan is lost and knows he’s weak. Anyone could take him down from his agent to his mom, and he cowers before Lee like Moses in front of God. But he’s not totally powerless, he knows you can’t beat a script out of a typewriter with a sand wedge and that at least allows him to stand up for something, if not for himself. Cundiff is a cipher, he’s reserved and emotionless, and you never really believe he’s actually able to pull off any sort of a deal. And what about mom? She’s a late arrival and missed the party, all she can do is shame the boys and watch helplessly as they attempt to kill each other.

If we step back from the story, the relation between Lee and Austin sparkles. They clearly have history, they clearly know each other better than they admit and there can be no hatred as strong as between estranged brothers. Volence doesn’t look like he just got off a year living in the Mojave but he exudes a brutal toughness. Krivan is a wonderfully fluid drunk and a sad sack, you just want to push him down and steal his last ice cream cone. But when we get the climax he’s a potential killer, and with Volence’s face red as a beet it’s a real blood feud that could go one to add a new chapter to the Old Testament.

For more information on Dark Side of Saturn please search for them on www.facebook.com

Spotlight Cabaret with Kevin Kelly

Sunday, June 1st, 2014

Spotlight Cabaret with Kevin Kelly
Musical Direction by Chris Leavy
Winter Park Playhouse, Winter Park FL

Dapper. That’s the best way to describe Mr. Kelly in his light grey summer weight suit and his close cropped hair. If not for the earring, he’d fit into the America Ideal any time from 1930 to 1970. That cool era lines up with the height of Frank Sinatra’s career and tonight Kelly is all Sinatra. There are a few hits (“Come Fly with Me,” “Nice and Easy”) but the best part of this show is the stuff Sinatra recorded made famous and we just forgot about, just because there was so much other material.

As Americans, we are noted for our short attention span when it comes to pop stars, but Sinatra was the exception. A crooner early on, he’s now associated with the Rat Pack and the glory days of Las Vegas. His arrangements ( and he’s how I learned what and “Armament” is) are influence d by jazz: loose syncopated rhythms, lots of brass and an orchestral sound that’s not at all like the long hairs of the 19th century. Semi-obscurities here include “On The Road to Mandalay,” “Foggy Day (in London Town),” “Love Walked In” and that Cole Porter Classic “I Get a Kick Out of You”. Like all these shows, the room is crowded and familiar, the drinks flow, and if this was actually the height of Sinatra’s career there would be a cloud of smoke from Pall Malls and Chesterfields. The air might be up to modern environmental standards, but the smoke is stilling hanging in these wonderfully rendered classics.

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