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Archikulture Digest

by Carl F Gauze

Archive for January, 2015

Steel Magnolias

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

Steel Magnolias
By Robert Harling
Directed by Paxton McCaghren
Queen’s Head Theatre
Winter Park, FL

There may be no secrets in a beauty parlor, but there ARE secrets in a beauty parlor. Off in rural Louisiana Truvy (Joy Jenkins) runs a little shop in her garage; hubby built it so she wouldn’t annoy him while he watches TV. Helpless Annelle (Grace Trotta) arrives, her hubby ran off with everything on the lam from drug charges and Truvy hires here for her color skills. The regulars drift in, but today is special: Shelby (Molly Wurez) is about to marry, and her mom M’Lynn (Melody Carson) wants her to look special even if she takes pink past any logical conclusion. Rounding out the troupe is well off Clairee (Brenna Arden) who owns the local radio station and Ousier (Karen Casteel) who hangs out because … well, we all need a place to hang out.

The Queens Head has a large and spacious set, and even with minimal lighting it looked gorgeous. Wurez’s Shelby was excellent as a girl trying to get out from under mom’s thumb. Her goal was motherhood itself, and while that was harder for her than it should be, she drives towards it with determination and will. Ms. Trotta’s Annelle was equally driven, but in a more internalized manner that expresses itself as a religious experience. Ms. Arden was generally confident in her role, even if she (like others in the cast) felt iffy on her lines after 3 shows. If there’s a star it’s Truvy; her confidence and common sense showed through as did her sense of early 1980’s style.

While this is a “chick flick” in many ways, it’s one with real heart and tons of gags, most of which connected. This is Queen’s Head first official production (they ran a test show back in December) and they are off the dock and ready to present a season with some interesting selections. As of this show they don’t have a very noticeable sign, but they are worth the search. Plan to arrive early; while parking is no problem it took me a while to find the location the first time I went.

For more information, visit www.queensheadtheatre.com or search for them on Facebook.

To Kill a Mocking Bird

Sunday, January 25th, 2015

To Kill a Mocking Bird
By Harper Lee
Adapted by Christopher Sergel
Directed by Thomas Oullette
Starring Warren Kelly, Kennedy Joy Foristall, and Walker Russell
Orlando Shakespeare Theatre, Orlando FL

You’ve been to high school so you’ve at least read the Cliff’s Notes: in the rural south trapped in the depression of the 1930’s, race relations aren’t that different than they were a 100 years before. A black man accused is black man convicted, and the death penalty makes things quick and easy. Young “Scout” Fitch (Foristall) reached that age where adults stop making sense: she gets in fights, shoots an air rifle and admires her father Atticus (Kelley). He has the undesirable job of defending Tom Robinson (Jamil A.C. Mangan) against a charge of rape brought by the filthiest man in Maycomb, Bob Ewell (Eric Hoffman). While the courts grind, Scout and her brother Jem (Russell) and their friend Dill (Josh Lefkowitz) plot to get reclusive Boo Radley out of his house. Ultimately they do, but not in the way they wanted. And Atticus? He prevails in the court of intellect but not the one that returns verdicts. Life returns to dusty normal.

This is a classic and the Shakes crew gives it as big a production as Les Mis or Nicholas Nickleby, admittedly with a smaller cast. Mr. Kelley is slow and methodical and a southern gentleman, he accepts other people for what they are to a supernatural degree and he looks like he’s doing everything he can to not sweat in the Alabama heat. Forestall and Russell form a good team, she’s rather strident and he’s a good-old-boy-in-training, but they work as a team and value each other’s thoughts. Backing the adults are such fine performances as John Ahlin as Sherriff Heck Tate; he’s as interested in justice as he is in keeping peace. Opposite him is the filthy Bob Ewell who may have bathed last year, but it was an honest mistake. His daughter Mayelle (Liz Mignacca) gave one of the best performances of the evening as the abused and illiterate daughter who got caught with an implacable and resigned Robinson. Other noteworthy performances came from Ahmed Brooks Reverend Sykes as well as the put upon Calpurnia (Sheryl Carbonell).

The stage was amazing; a huge hickory tree has grown to the lights, and will be here for the next month or so thanks to Scenic designer Bert Scott. If anything was lacking it was light: this show was dimly lit, and the final resolution set on s a stage so dark one depended on the denouement dialog to reveal what we had just tried but failed to see. There were more than a few voiceovers, sometimes handling bits of exposition and sometimes just reflecting actor’s internal mind sets. A little more light and a little less VO would work for me, but this is a worthy show that says more about justice and compromise than any civics class.

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

The Explorers Club

Sunday, January 25th, 2015

The Explorers Club
By Nell Benjamin
Directed by Dave Russell
Starring Eric Pinder, Heather Leonardi, and Simon Needham
Mad Cow Theatre, Orlando FL

We just can’t get enough sex and science this weekend: tonight we land in Victorian London as the upstart Explorers Club meets. Overshadowed by those smarty pants at the National Geographic, the Explorers Club works to build their reputation in a world exploding with exploration and rationalism and sexism. Like your first grade tree house, the Explores Club demands “No Girls Allowed.” But Miss Phyllida Spotte-Hume (Leonardi) enters with news of a lost and unpronounceable city along with a native she nicknamed “Luigi” (Ryan Gigliotti). Mild mannered vice president Lucius Fretway (Pinder) proposes Phyllida for membership and maybe something more, but the guys aren’t buying it. Loutish Harry Percy (Needham) arrives having “misplaced” the rest of his party as they searched for the East Pole. He brushes Lucius aside and the romantic expedition is underway. In a small diplomatic faux pas Luigi bitch slaps the Queen, so Sir Bernard Humphries (David Alameda) arrives demanding the location of Luigi’s homeland so they can wipe it out. Now it’s time for someone to take a stand and defend the colonials, and maybe win the girl. Huzzah!

“The Explorers Club” takes broad slapstick comedy and Victorian melodrama to new highs of hilarity. The set could be a gift shop at any jungled themed attraction, and Luigi brilliantly combines bartending with slow pitch softball to deliver both drinks and laughs. Along with Pinder’s natural fretfulness and Needham’s “What-ho!” charm, there’s a strong company of comic actors rotating throughout the night. Kevin Zepf is Professor Cape, a snake fancier and venomologist, and his closest friend is Professor Walling (Dennis Enos) who specializes in the small mammals Cape’s snakes prefer to snack on. Professor Sloan (Glenn J Glover) works in historical Biblical Archeology, he’s looking for the lost tribes of Judah in all the easiest places he can reach. Ms. Leonardi takes an assertive and spunky role, she’s done excellent field work and rightly demands recognition from those clearly not as clear headed as she. And David Alameda’s Sir Humphries is everything you could want a British civil servant to be – stiffly dressed, stiffly officious and flexibly brutal. He would fit right in at the DMV.

I’m sure we can all find some fiber filled lesson on women’s rights and indigenous autonomy, but this show isn’t here to make you feel superior. It’s a zippy collection of silly action, physical comedy and top notch comedians working in perfect harmony. Maybe Mr. Percy will never find the West Pole or his party, and maybe Luigi will make a dent in London drinking society’s foreheads, but I can tell you this: several members of the cast accused me of laughing at them. Guilty as charged – may I have another please?

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

Arcadia

Sunday, January 25th, 2015

Arcadia
By Tom Stoppard
Directed by Kate Ingram
Starring Abigale Cline, Eric Early, Madelyn James and Blain Edwards
Theatre UCF, Orlando FL

In “Arcadia”, Tom Stoppard has written perhaps the finest play about sex and differential equation ever. The action occurs in Sidley Park, a property in rural England still known today as a haven of rustic boredom. Septimus Hodge (Early) tutors precocious Thomasina Coverly (Cline), she’s just old enough to ask what “carnal embrace” means and he’s just edgy enough to explain it. And he should know: he was spotted in such a position with Lady Chater in the conservatory and so the gossip flies along with real dirt. Lord Crowley is redesigning the garden in the new rustic style under architect Richard Noakes (Kody Grasset). Lady Croom (Kimberly Hough) is up in arms; she prefers her stately lake to a crumbling hermitage. Chaos? In England? Heavens forbid! Meanwhile, the 20th century Sidley Park is run by the literary intelligentsia. Hanna (James) deconstructs the gardens and writes least selling books while her partner Valentine (Patrick Mouse) tries to model grouse hunting fluctuations with chaos theory. Their calm life is upset when weasley Bernard Nightingale (Edwards) snoops around for clues linking the Chater / Hodge duel to Lord Byron. Even 200 year old gossip still sells, and much better than all that dreary thermodynamics that Thomasina might have discovered.

The production is luminous and charming with humor flowing from both character and situation. Septimus and Thomasina form a cute if dangerous couple and we follow her from 14 to the eve of her marriage. She goes into adult life with more math and sex education than was typical. Mr. Chater is a fine cuckold, he fumes and duels but Hodge charms him away from causing any real danger. Lady Croom is elegant, imperious and unable to control her husband’s gardening escapades, which is more than can be said for Mr. Chater. There’s even a butler Jellaby (Jarrett Poore); he coordinates the gossip and collects the odd shilling here and half Guinea there for plot points and speculation. Amongst the moderns Valentine is no great lover but he’s tousled and willing to explain his work to anyone with an undergraduate degree in “maths.” The running spat between Hanna and Bernard is pure brilliance; she’s more interested identifying that critical 19th century hermit than discovering who was a second for the duel. Meanwhile Bernard is a scheming, backstabbing academic who hopes to turn a single line reference in a hunting log to lord Byron into a pop literary career. I give him points for getting on the BBC.

The connection between these two tribes revolves around what we know and how do we know it. Septimus and Thomasina still rely on divine revelation and family tradition, and the new set finds mathematics and data collection more useful. But either way all is uncertain, and both tribes are engaged in trying to corral that uncertainty. Yes, there will be a test, but it’s worth taking: under the insightful direction of Kate Ingram all will be made clear.

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

The Rat Pack Lounge

Saturday, January 17th, 2015

The Rat Pack Lounge
By James Hindman and Ray Roderick
Musical Arrangements by John Glaudini
Directed and choreographed by Rob Winn Anderson
Musical Direction by Chris Leavy
Winter Park Playhouse, Winter Park FL

The good news: This is the most edgy thing WPPH has ever staged. The bad news: it’s almost sold out, so you may not get to see it unless you have inside connections. The premise is Hollywood theology: Frank Sinatra (Kevin Kelly,) Dean Martin (Christopher Alan Norton) and Sammy Davis Jr (Deejay Young) can’t stay in heaven as someone they interacted with is about to commit suicide. If they can’t reverse the process, it’s “H-E Double Hockey Sticks” for the boys. That depressed guy is Vic Candelino (Todd Mummert); he runs a dive bar about to be leveled to make a parking lot for Hooter’s. Can they cheer him up? Can they teach him to sing? Can they all get back to 1968?

It turns out they CAN get Vic to sing and one of the more impressive parts of this show is how he handles singing badly. It’s not something he naturally does and I dare say I could still undersing him, but it’s a cool transformation. The music is all jazzy lounge hits, “Fly Me to the Moon,” “I’m Going to Live Till I Die,” “Young at Heart;” you get the picture. While neither Kelly, Young nor Norton are particularity good look a-likes, by the end of the evening you will totally buy into them with Kelly most successfully projecting the arrogance and control “The Chairman of the Board” is known for. Local bombshell Sara-lee Dobbs drops in as Angie Dickenson, she has one of those classic “frumpy secretary turns into blond bombshell transformations,” and she gets to belt a few hits of her own including the sexually charged “Too Close for Comfort.” Sara-lee to close? Never!

While the music (backed by the house band of Leavy, Wilkinson and Forrest) is spectacular as always the material is surprisingly dark. Suicide, alcoholism and abandonment lurk under this happy pop collage, and while there is an obligatory happy ending, there are some rather dark moments. Thus, this show has a more complete dramatic feel as it explores our darker dreams and hidden vices. But if we have to trot them out in public, I would recommend this skilled set of crooners to make it all seem better.

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