Do you want to write for Ink 19?

Archikulture Digest

by Carl F Gauze

Archive for March, 2015

Nine

Sunday, March 22nd, 2015

Nine
Book by Arthur Kopit
Music and Lyrics by Maury Yeston
Directed and Choreographed by Earl D. Weaver
Musical Direction by Tara Snyder
Starring Stephen Rochet, Ashley Turner, Khalifa White and Kathryn Darby
Theatre UCF, Orlando FL

Guido Contini (Rochet) represents that weird mix of Catholicism and pornography that made Italian film so exciting in the 1960’s. He’s hitting 40 as his life crumbles around him and troubles are piling high. He’s on the hook to make a movie for his producer Lilianne LeFleur (Danielle Engelman). He’s on the hook to meet his mistress Carla (White) who arrives unexpectedly. He’s on the hook to explain his infidelity to his wife Luisa (Turner), and he’s on the hook to explain himself to himself. It’s sad to see a man come to this, but he DOES look good in his sharkskin suit and oiled back hair. Except for his younger self and a few underage classmates Contini is completely surrounded by stunning women and his mother (Reca Oakley). He’s in secular heaven and personal hell.

While you may find Contini morally vacant, you’ll find this show as stirring and emotional as an opera. Contini bluffs and begs, sings and stammers, always torn between his love of women and an intrinsic need to lie about who he is and what he’s doing as he searches for his lost power to make hit films. Luisa is loyal to a fault as she rips him apart for his transparent infidelity; then she stands up and lies for him in front of the press. His mother doesn’t understand him and his mistress does all too well, and his producer wants him to seduce her with money. Along the way he still pulls off stage magic; his hallucinatory “The Grand Canal” could be a money making film if he can only capture the moment on a piece of script paper. While things spiral into obscurity, he seduces incompetent actresses in “The Germans at the Spa” and when his feet are held to the fire he reused inspiration from Miss LeFleur in “Follies Bergeres”. If you must steal, steal from the best. We are left to ask: Is Contini a worthless piece of poop as a man, or a blocked yet brilliant auteur? Yeah, both, and both at the same time.

The music is great, the acting is tight, and what pushed this show over the top is the brilliant dancing (Weaver and Nicholas John Wood) and even more inspiring set design (Bert Scott). I greased in at the last minute due to traffic and entered the theatre in that dark moment between the cell phone speech and the first note of the overture. The set was astounding, a mix of German expressionist arches, light boxes full of Coliseum, and what is becoming a UCF trademark: a set of dozens of chairs moved and stacked to make whatever locations are essential. This show is epic in scope and a swirl of light and sound. A little film history won’t hurt, but a lot of stage joy will result.

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

Boeing, Boeing

Sunday, March 22nd, 2015

Boeing, Boeing
By Marc Camoletti
Translated by Beverly Cross and Francis Evans
Directed by Keith Smith
Starring Alexander Mrazek and Jim Walker
The Garden Theatre, Winter Garden FL

Why do men cheat? Because they think they can. Bernard certainly takes infidelity to high art; he lives in Paris and juggles 3 women, all air hostesses flying the long haul around-the-world flights. Schedules are amazingly predictable and his time tables are infallible. There’s Gloria (Laura Miller) the American all blond and perky, there’s Gretchen (Stacy Fulford) who’s bossy and Teutonic and ready to invade Western Europe, and then there’s fiery Gabriella (Heather Delmotte) who wields shame like a rapier. One fine day Bernard’s old buddy Robert (Mrazek) drops by, he’s from Wisconsin and yet somehow unfamiliar with German cuisine. He’s also a bit lonely but when the flight schedules are thrown for a loop, he steps up and keeps the three women from killing Bernard. What a mensch!

“Boeing, Boeing” is a bit dated on several levels, but retains the fire and speed of a great door slamming farce. Three bedrooms, four women and two men require a score card to track, and there’s a set of clever revolving picture frames that are hopefully set to the correct fiancée at all times. That job falls to imperious Candy Heller as Berthe the Maid. She doesn’t approve but she plays along; she’s the sort of old family retainer they just don’t make anymore. Mrazek is brilliantly funny in this starring role; he normally does much less exhausting supporting jobs but here he’s in full command even as you fear for his heart or a nasty fall off the stage. His large presence melds well with Walker, Walker excels as the slow burn guy and he’s more cerebral as a comedian. It’s hard to pick a favorite on the distaff set; Millers’ Gloria dominates as the ditzy blond who gives Robert a nice flash while Ms. Fulford overanalyzes her feeling while vigorously defending her native cuisine. Ms. Delmotte is great as the flustered woman, but Ms. Heller can stop anyone with the disapproving glance of Margret Dumont without her on stage wealth. From preshow to bows, this comedy hits on all cylinders and is selling fast – the night I visited the bar line went half way up the stairwell. Now THAT’S a hit show!

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

Bug

Sunday, March 22nd, 2015

Bug
By Tracy Letts
Directed by Karen Casteel
Starring Leesa Castaneda and Paxton McCaghren
Queen’s Head Theatre, Winter Park, FL

Cocaine and conspiracy theories are two hobbies that don’t lead anywhere healthy. The most stable person on this stage is Agnes (Castaneda). Waitress, drunk and coke head, she’s living in the Camouflage Motel dreading the parole of her violent ex-husband Jerry Goss (Jay Glass). When her gratuitously lesbian friend R.C. (Melina Smart) drops by on the way to a party, Agnes inherits mysterious and crazy Pete (McCaghren). He only smokes rock cocaine; that powdered stuff is bad for you. It might even have cocaine bugs in it – you know: the kind the CIA spreads trying to kill off the user population even as they try hard themselves. You have to dig out the egg sacs from under your skin and inside your fillings, and we learn how to do this useful skill. Jerry drops by every so often to beat Agnes and threaten Pete, but when he introduces the possibly non-existent Dr. Sweet (Samuel Lourcey) you know that somewhere a line has been crossed and there’s only one path forward – burn the place down.

It’s a gritty and paranoid delusion on stage; what was once a vice is now a habit and soon will be an end unto itself. There’s plenty of adult matter here far beyond Ms. Castaneda’s underwear, and you always know something bad will happen but exactly what and how is missing. Castaneda feels desperate, McCaghren slides slowly down the incline until his momentum of doom takes everyone with him. Glass is interesting – you keep expecting him to pummel somebody but despite his brutality he can achieve goals by nudging and cajoling. Ms. Smart needs more to do; while she’s done a better job of balancing her life between bouncing and dealing she still toots a line and remarks on Agnes’s drinking problem. When we get to the mysterious Dr. Sweet we no longer know if anything on stage is real; he might be an illusion trapped inside the elaborate tin foil safety shield. The foil keeps out radio waves, but traps them just as well.

Like all Letts’ material there isn’t much redemption, just a slow crescendo that peaks with a small Armageddon. The sleazy hotel room looked good with its camo curtains and pretentious 1970’s bed; I can’t imagine how the carpet must smell close up. You might look for a moral, but all you see are people who really did spiral down the sink on coke. This show will make you wince, grimace and maybe turn your head, but it won’t let you go.

For more information on the Queen’s Head Theatre, please visit www.queensheadtheatre.com

James and the Giant Peach

Sunday, March 22nd, 2015

James and the Giant Peach
By David Wood
Adapted from a story by Roald Dahl
Directed by Tim Williams
Orlando Shakespeare Theater
Orlando FL

Geez, these kids get ALL the fun. Lacking the ambiguity of “Hamlet” or the sheer desperation of “Long Day’s Journey into the Night”, “James and the Giant Peach” is an adventure story with a moral and tons of really cool stage tricks. James (Michael Sheehy) starts out as so many fairy tale children do: abandoned by his parents and raised by abusive in-laws. His evil aunts are foam puppets worn by Ladybird (Liz Mignacca) and Centipede (Anna Carol). Carol is scrawny Aunty Spiker, Mignacca the adorably mean Auntie Sponge; she’s the one who’s soft and squidgy, particularly where she sits. Amen. James finds a supernatural opportunity but he spills his magic beans and instead of he being transformed, all the local insects and fruits trees are. Soon we are off to fight sharks, sucker punch an octopus, and hijack a flock of seagulls as James and his invertebrate friends travel from rustic England to NYC.

Step past the herd of mewling babies (this was a particularly early audience) and you’ll find every piece of magic Orlando Shakes can pull off. The transformation of the peach was the best stage trick I’ve ever seen here, complete with lasers and black clad stage hands. Seagulls dropped from the ceiling poop free, the underwater scenes were actually scary and words and actions did what they do best here: they make a complete and hermetic world out of foam and paint and action. Mr. Grasshopper (Christopher Joel Onken) narrates; he’s tall and greenish and never missed a chance to stand on one leg like an Ian Anderson violin solo. The best line went to Rastafarian looking Earthworm (Ryan M Skiles) as he proudly exclaimed “I have no bones!” And then there was Miss Spider (Danielle Reneè); she offered a suitably wholesome mix of danger and mild sexiness. Big bonus points to scenic charge Patricia Sorbi and her crew, their peach needs to go in a prop museum somewhere. Like all good children’s shows, this one keeps the adults oohing, ahhing and laughing; it interacts with the children in the front rows; and it carries a “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval” moral asking us to value everyone for their own special abilities.

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

The Philadelphia Story

Saturday, March 21st, 2015

The Philadelphia Story
By Phillip Barry
Directed by Aradhana Tiwari
Starring Piper Rae Patterson, Brian Brightman, Scott Edwin Leake and Robert Johnson
Mad Cow Theatre, Orlando FL

Money might not make you happy, but on stage it tends to make you very funny. Tonight Philadelphia society prepares for a June wedding; Tracy Lord (Patterson) steps up to the plate for the second time, this year with wealthy coal baron George Kittredge (Leake). Last season’s strike out hubby was yacht designer C. K. Dexter Haven (Brightman), violent but sardonic as all get out he’s not quite ready to accept Tracy’s independent streak. Adding fuel to the fire are the two spies in the house sent by a local tell-all rag to peep on the rich and famous. That’s Liz Imbrie (Becky Eck) and semi-hack writer Mike Connor (Johnson); they might be a low level romance but they get along too well professionally for any real sparks. When Tracy and her mom Margret (Leslie Penuel) find out about the spies they set out to freak them out to the point they kill the article. Cute, but after a short bit that device slips away and the real story appears; that’s the three way romance between Tracy and her suitors: Connor and Haven and Kittredge.

Bouncing off the walls and igniting his classic screw ball comedy we find a tasty six-pack of fine comic actors: “Uncle Willy” Tracy (Brian’s Chamber) plays the kind of dirty old man I hope to grow into; he pinches butts, clucks disapprovingly at young people but still horn dogs the eligible and semi-eligible women. Young Dinah (Kennedy Joy Foristall) overacts her little heart out as the just-knowing-enough pre-teen who delivers all those awkward bumps of exposition. Then there’s Kevin Zepf as Tracy’s brother. He’s bright, positive and not completely believable as a writer; he spends a pre-wedding party drinking nothing but coffee and then at 3 a.m. sets out to write a 3000 word rebuttal to save the Lord family’s honor. He makes the sunrise deadline like THAT could happen in real life. Imperious Tommy Keesling is Margret’s cheating husband; his rationalization of an old affair went down a bit too easily with her but then he IS rich. Lastly I’ll plug the always proper Butler Thomas (John Hamilton Rice); I was happy to see he successfully snuck a left over drink and I hope no one left a cigarette butt in it.

This might be one of the last really successful drawing room comedies: all the action is on one room, social mores are probed and pushed but ultimately reaffirmed. Everyone pairs up properly in Hayes code friendly couplings. There are a lot of words on these pages; Patterson in particular pumps out some fast but clear dialog and keeps it all intelligible. There’s as much declaration as explanation on this stage and more is announced than revealed. But the humor here derives from not just misunderstanding but more from understanding a bit more than is healthy. As always, there’s a stunning set from Lisa Buck with plenty of mystic lighting and sneaky entrances. This set is a real playground for the rich; they are always with us and while they don’t sin notably more often, they tend to draw more attention when they do. And that’s what money really buys: A much higher class of vanity.

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

Joe’s NYC Bar

Sunday, March 15th, 2015

Joe’s NYC Bar
3-16-2015
Created and Directed by Christian Kelty
St. Matthews Tavern
Orlando, FL

As bars go, this one’s not bad. The cover is a bit high but drinks are cheap and strong, the staff and regulars funny and smart, and Todd Kimbro’s band prevents unnecessary small talk. The down side? Closing time tosses you out into the harsh Florida sunshine at 6 pm on a Sunday. Further drinking options are limited, but there IS a hot dog cart.

Christian Kelty came up with Joe’s Bar maybe a decade ago; it first appears in a seedy little space downtown that was eventually bulldozed for the greater glory of Orlando’s professional sporting team. It reappears today in an ex-gay bar in the oh-so-hip ViMi area, and it’s reminiscent of venerable Wally’s just down the street, less the bottle service. Some familiar faces reappear: John Connon returns as Ivan, formerly the bar back but now a well-dressed Russian mobster. Jen Gannon mixes drinks as Jet and doubles as the estrogen enraged performance artist with black lipstick. Michael Wanzie is Dave, the Drunk Guy At The End Of The Bar and Fringe’s Michael Marinaccio is clean cut Frank, the Off Duty Cop.

As we wander through the space debates erupt about police brutality, the place of blacks in America, gays in Russia and the decline of American manufacturing. Brit agitator “Y” (Simon Needham) proposes we all stop buying Apple products for 60 days to show them who’s in charge, and dragged out Glenda (Glenn Price) adds some sparkle to the event. Part of the action revolves around the misdeed of “Captain” A. Ali Flores; he’s a bit brain damaged but loves superheroes (someone in the crowd liked Aquaman, which is a bit like falling in love with the Orlando Magic.) His day is fulfilled when Trenell Mooring comes in dressed as Wonder Woman from Comicon to complain her stuff was stolen on the subway by a woman and a dwarf posing as a toddler. Only in New York.

Beside the booze and camaraderie, there’s a good bit of emotion. Local critic and scenester Seth Kuberski got in a yelling match over statistical analysis of ‘deaths by’ and ‘deaths of’ police officers by race. A drunken woman tried to balance a beer bottle on her head and then argued with Frank the Cop but had to cede her point half way along when she lost her train of thought. A helpful political analyst demanded Ivan withdraw from the Ukraine, and Frank Hilgenberg even took the lead with a rant on the dumbing down of America and the evil influence of the profit-driven media .You have to give this show points for topical issues, and even more points to director Kelty letting things go just as far as they should before tamping them down. Highly recommended, centrally located, and remember: they pour them strong and straight at “Joe’s NYC Bar.”

For tickets and dates for Joe’s NYC bar please visit Wanzie.com. Other information is at https://www.facebook.com/joesnycbar

Vincent

Saturday, March 14th, 2015

Vincent
By Leonard Nimoy
Directed by Brant Pope
Starring James Briggs
Starry Night Theater
Presented at The Orlando Shakespeare Theater

The line between art and insanity is thin and fuzzy, and while Theodore van Gogh (Briggs) insists repeatedly that his brother is sane you sense that sort of weird vibe street people often emit. Tonight the point is moot: Vincent is dead, Theo is still mourning, but he brings us together for a post mortem retrospective of his brother’s difficult and careening life. Vincent grew up in a religious house and wanted fervently to preach to the poor in the coal mining district of Belgium. He believed that to preach to the poor one must be poor, and while he lived his beliefs the Church felt he ought to at least wear a clean shirt when representing Jesus Christ. Vincent began sketching when he was fired by the church, and built his art skills observing the broken poor and hellish landscapes of Belgium. Rejected by his pious and middle class parents he depended on Theo for money, and when he took up with an Amsterdam prostitute and her children even Theo was pushed to the edge. Vincent hungered for success but made it nearly impossible to show his work; only one painting was sold near the end of his life although he turned out hundreds of oils.

Briggs shows us a convincing and real demonstration of brotherly love as the men argue by letter and every element of their relation comes down to money, money, money. As Briggs moves about the set he reads letters, projects paintings, conveys his frustration with a brother he loves but can’t get to behave. Briggs’ best moments come when he’s preaching: it’s so close to a real church service I almost stood up and sang a response. When he stopped the sermon, arms raised like Christ in his deaths throws; it felt like we should all come down for some laying on of hands.

The details of Van Gogh’s life are plentiful and well documented; he lived in an age where people sent letters like we send texts, but the letters were preserved. I suspect it’s only a coincidence, but this play was written by the recently deceased Leonard Nimoy and it constantly returns to both Theo and Vincent’s relationship with God and the Church. Faith was a large part of their lives although Vincent did much more to require confession than his more staid brother. Well told and moving, this is a historical drama that’s worth seeing. It excels as turning these century old people into living, breathing bundles of energy, hope and despair.

For more information on “Vincent” and the Starry night tour please visit www.StarryNightTheater.com

Everything Old is New Again

Thursday, March 12th, 2015

Everything Old is New Again
Spotlight Cabaret Series
Starring Kevin Kelly
Musical Direction by Chris Leavy
March 11, 2015
Winter Park Playhouse
Winter Park, FL

There are those who age gracefully, and then there are those who channel Frank Hilgenberg from the back of the room. Kevin Kelly puts on a tux once again to lead his sixth cabaret in beautiful downtown Winter Park. It’s his birthday so he is allowed to select his favorite songs, although I suspect he would have done that anyway. Most of these songs are completely obscure, and I hope I get their titles right. The opener is easy, it’s the crooner friendly “Those Were The Days”; it’s followed by the age-proof “I Still Have My Health” (and not to be confused with “Young and Healthy”). But with the boat off the dock I was adrift, tunes like “Frim Fram Sauce” and “(Ah, The Apple Trees) When The World Was Young” drift along in Kelly’s mellow voice as I scribble bits of lyric on a napkin as a reminder. Thanks to Google I’m pretty sure those are right, so I’ll stop while I’m ahead.

Audience banter is part of the show; another birthday boy was heckled and he heckled back. As the show rolled along, a Tom Lehrer number “When You Are Old and Gray” added some naughty humor; with all the good Lehrer material out there maybe one night we can all sit down for a full program of those old-fashioned science songs. A guest appears; Noel-Marie Matson popped off a few duets and plugged her own upcoming show; their “Get Happy/ Happy Days Are Here Again” was especially nice. As our drinks diminished (everyone had to drink if Kelly blew a lyric) and our musical experience expanded Kelly wrapped up with a standard from Bobby Darin, “When the Curtain Falls”. Nostalgic and exotic, Kelly’s a sure bet when it comes to singing in public.

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

Day in Hollywood A Night in the Ukraine

Tuesday, March 10th, 2015

A Day in Hollywood A Night in the Ukraine
Book and Lyric by Dick Vosburgh
Music by Frank Lazarus
Directed by Michael Edwards
Musical Direction by Chris Leavy
Choreographed by Roy Alan
Winter Park Playhouse, Winter Park FL

Am I this old already? The Marx Brothers were a big part of my early culture; I met their films on black and white TV in glorious 511 line NTCS. Then in college I saw “Animal Crackers” in a real theater and realized Groucho’s mustache and eyebrows were just grease paint. That overlays a sense of nostalgia in this look at those early days of Hollywood when TV and the internet were still sci-fi and a movie house was the only air conditioning in in town.

This two part show starts in Grauman’s Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard; it’s a palace of dreams and ushers and spilled popcorn. The entertainment focuses on the tunes and taps of the era, with titles like “Cocktails for Two” and “The Good Ship Lollipop” sounding much better than they should courtesy of Zach Nadolski, Bert Rodriguez, and Lourelene Snedeker. Tap is always a bit hard to see if you’re in the back rows of this house, and tonight a pair of mysterious feet dances on a cat walk above the stage. It’s amazing how many old time MGM stars I could recognize from just their shoes. Never underestimate shoes; they do so much more than keep your feet dry. Mr. Nadolski and Jill Vanderoef gave us a touching “Thanks For the Memories” and the troupe (including Roy Alan and BambiEllen Fadoul) joined together for “Beyond the Blue Horizon.” But then they all got together to tap out the “Production Code” just before intermission; they all ended up too sweaty to appear on film.

Act Two stepped up to parody a fictitious but totally reasonable Marx Brothers movie: “A Night in the Ukraine.” The title was chosen long before the Ukraine became the Armageddon of the week and Groucho (Alan) gives us a quick plot synopsis: Mrs. Pavlenko (Snedeker as Margaret Dumont) is a new widow and she’s getting ready to attend her first post-widowhood social event. Mr. Samovar (Groucho/Allan) shows up to collect on a debt and make sexually suggestive comments; his coach driver (Constantine as Zeppo) successfully picks her daughter Nina and they go off to Russian marred bliss. Comic relief comes from Chico’s (Rodriguez) broken English and Harpo’s (Fadoul) sexually suggestive pantomime. Yes, there IS a harp solo but it’s played on a bicycle and is mercifully short. Groucho flicks his tux tails and sings as Gino hands women his thigh. Why? Because it looks funny. There’s good stuff here; a bit old fashioned from time to time, a bit silly other times, but the Marx Brothers pushed the dread Hayes code as far as possible. Then it was racy, today it’s just fun.

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

The Acro-Cats

Thursday, March 5th, 2015

The Acro-Cats
The Venue, Orlando FL

Ringmaster Samantha sums it up best:” Nothing teaches humility like performing a trained cat act in front of a live audience.” The Acro-Cats is a throwback to the last days of Vaudeville where novelty acts competed against dancers, comedians and singers, hoping for that big break that would push them into the Orpheum circuit. The Acro-Cats travel by bus, provide a charming and kid friendly entertainment, but they can be rather hard to see if you’re not in the front row. Samantha is aided by two more stage hands, and the cats do their bidding occasionally with reluctance and occasionally with verve. The star of the show was Tuna; she excelled at ringing bells and taking swipes at everyone on stage. Ally swerves between peoples legs, and Nola excels at high jumps. There are a few other animals including a yet-to-be-named ground hog, a trio of white rats, and my favorite: Cluck Norris, the bowling Rooster. The show careened from funny to touching and while not every stunt worked when they did the audience emitted an appreciative “oooohhh!” Samantha explains how the cats were trained, promotes adopting from shelters, and plugged the merch table in the lobby. She also filled in with humorous banter if a cat or two escaped and investigated the back of the room. All The Acro-Cats are rescues, and there’s even a pair of kittens in the lobby for adoption. Go into this one with animal act expectations and a few small children and you’ll be entertained. But get there early; second row seating is second class seating.

For more show details and information about the cats, visit www.circuscats.com