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Archikulture Digest

by Carl F Gauze

Archive for June, 2015

Trivial Pursuits

Sunday, June 28th, 2015

Trivial Pursuits
With David Almeida
Musical Direction by Chris Leavy
Spotlight Cabaret
June 24, 2015
The Winter Park Playhouse, Winter Park, FL

Suave and confident, David Almeida took the stage in casual jeans and just -slightly-too-flashy-for-banking shirt and tie. He may not be the strongest voice on the WPPH cabaret cycle but he had the best material. From Monty Python’s “Look on the Bright Side of Life” to “Memories” rendered by imitations of all the great 20th century divas from Cher to Streisand he belted a lovable and winning show. He welded “The Mary Tyler Moore Theme” with the “Laverne and Shirley,” reminisced about Trivial Pursuit and David Cassidy and even sang the Doctor Demento hit “Junk Food Junkie.” Weird Al the Marx Brothers, West Side Story, it’s all there. My childhood, his childhood, the only thing missing was “The Prisoner” and “Laugh In”. Mr. Almeida is living proof cabarets don’t have to be all show tunes and serious sauce, they can be fun and frivolous. Maybe someone should do a Classic Rock Cabaret…

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

The Flick

Monday, June 22nd, 2015

The Flick
By Annie Baker
Directed by Kenny Howard
Starring Daniel Cooksley and Marcellis Cutler
Gen Y Productions in association with Artful Events
Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, Orlando FL

There’s a lot of pop corn to be swept up tonight, and Sam (Cooksley) along with newbie Avery (Cutler) take their time sweeping it. Up one row, down another, occasionally dumping out the fallen kernels into a bigger trash can. It’s a ritual performed more often than Hail Mary in the Vatican. Thus you might guess this story takes place in a cinema and you are correct; it’s the last one in Massachusetts that projects 35 millimeter. Business is slow, money is low and so is morale. When projectionist Rose (Jessica Hope) describes how the “Dinner Money” system works, Avery reluctantly goes along. He know if anything bad happens he’ll take the brunt since he’s the black dude. Time passes. More pop corn is swept. We get little peeks into character and the hopes and failed dreams of everyone and then during every black out a Popcorn Ninja replaces the droppings, forcing Sam and Avery back to their brooms. Did I mention the set was gorgeous? Thanks, Bonnie Sprung!

Is there a point here? Sam has little future and no sex life and even his retarded brother got married. When Rose teaches Avery the details of running the projector he feels betrayed. Now Rose has sexual hang ups and major student debt, but she’s no worse than many other lost millennials. Avery has the best chance and this job is a pastime more than a career; his dad teaches semiotics and he dreams of starting a “35 Millimeter Appreciation Society” in college next fall. And things do go bad; he takes the hit when a new owner actually knows how to read financials and discovers how Dinner Money works. Avery keeps faith with his faithless friends but they throw him under the projector. These are all sharply written roles and well executed. Cooksley’s blunt and smoldering anger flows smoothly off his tongue while Avery obsesses over film. He’s brutal at “Six degrees” but otherwise is lonely and maladept. Rose is a get along, go along girl with a short attention span and green hair as she leaves men wondering “What the hell was that?” There’s even a supporting character, Coletyn Hentz. He represents the audience’s view as “The Sleeping Man” but later appears as the more experienced floor sweeper replacing Avery.

“The Flick” houses a solid core of hard times and low hopes but breaks down when we get to run time. At three hours with little action there was a debate in the lobby during intermission about fleeing the production. But everyone stuck it out (dress warmly, this theater gets chilly fast) and there was no second act attrition. Inside this bloated behemoth is a tight 90 minute show; Director Kenny Howard meditates on this major flaw in his Directors Notes but stays true to the script. I appreciate his insight but I longed for a rousing game of chess in the dead spots.

For more information on Gen Y Productions please visit http://www.genyproductions.me/

Dinner With Friends

Saturday, June 20th, 2015

Dinner With Friends
By Donald Margulies
Directed by Denise Gillman
Mad Cow Theatre, Orlando FL

There’s enough story material here to dig an open pit Plot Point mine and start shipping subtext worldwide. Gabe (Brain Brightman) and Karen (Ame Livingston) are the perfect couple – they screen Shiraz for astringency, build almond lemon cakes out of polenta, and probably make their own Vanilla extract on weekends. Best friend Beth (Becky Eck) is over for dinner; its all gastronomic travelogue and foodie one-upmanship until she drops the bomb: absent hubby Tom (Cameron Frances) isn’t just off on a business trip to DC; he’s ditching her for a younger sexier model. So we’re off on a journey of fidelity vs. excitement, commitment vs independence, and most importantly: how do Gabe and Karen relate to each other now their best friends with everything shattered?

Mr. Brightman is the horn rimmed bastion of rationality and rectitude; he’s garrulous and insightful until confronted with questions about feelings, and then he clams up. Wise move. This infuriates Ms. Livingston. Her response is both guttural and moral; shes all in favor of cutting Tom out of their lives, cutting off his privates and serving them to him with with fava beans and a fine Washington State chardonnay. Ms. Eck is energetic and eager as the wounded woman. Her high moral ground stands on a tower of cardboard boxes; but you still want to tuck her into bed and read her bed time tales of fighting codependency. Mr. Francis occupies the more juvenile “Hey, whatever feels good” level which would be fine except he has a couple of planned kids on his tax form. While personally unaffected, he’s basically the 800 pound jerk in this cage.

Along with the extensive set shifts (and I LOVED the folding Midcentury stone wall) and extensive foodie chat there was an interesting choice on stage. I spent most of the show trying to figure out if Gabe had a big secret to reveal. Even though it was easy to guess what it would have been he either remained pure or silent, so I may have guessed wrong. The text said one ting, the actions another. A poignant line flew by: “Men don’t talk to you for years, then it’s just to tell you they are leaving.” Here we have both options played to a solid but short term end point. Guys, you might want to talk sports on the ride home.

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

Whistle a Happy Tune

Sunday, June 14th, 2015

Whistle a Happy Tune
A Tribute to Rogers and Hammerstein
Directed by Wade Hair
Musical Direction by Angela Rhode
Breakthrough Theatre, Winter Park FL
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Wow! Rogers and Hammerstein had TWO major flops! Who knew? But luckily “The Sound of Music” and “The King and I” and “Oklahoma” outweighed the little known and less appreciated “Me and Juliette” or “Allegro.” Maybe there is some life left in these lost librettos; the Breakthrough cast pulls a few numbers from the losers as well as a better selection from the winners; and while there’s a good reason winner sell more tickets at least we have bragging rights for hearing material from the losers. Wade Hair put this show together, but he took ill dramatically at the last moment leaving Chris Sicilliano to fill in. There’s a significant population of children on stage as well; I think they tie to the Breakthrough Summer Camps. The kids have spunk but seem intimidated; but mostly they need to get old enough for their vocal tracts to stabilize.

Act One opens with Andrew LeJeune belting “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” along with the full cast; he’s the clear winner in the vocal category tonight. The quaint “Kansas City” uses Mr. Sicilliano’s talents and he’s a good match for this number. “Carousel” is the next source; the stand out here is “If I Loved You” featuring Mr. LeJeune and Melissa Grace. “June is Busting Out All Over” felt weak; here June leaked rather than burst but the cast redeemed itself with “It’s A Grand Night for Singing” from “State Fair.” The failure “Allegro” gave us “The Gentleman is a Dope (by Shelli Costa) and “A Fellow Needs a Girl” with Anthony Marando dueting with Mr. Sicilliano. Musical director Angela Rhode led the cast through spirited “Honey Bun” from “South Pacific”; this show gave us the best overall tunes tonight.

Act Two shined with “I Have Dreamed” from “The King and I”; here Samantha Cardella and Mr. Marando made stage magic. “We Deserve Each Other” from “Me and Juliette” showcased Marianne Ling’s voice. With “Cinderella”, Flower Drum Song” and ” The Sound of Music” left there were plenty of power tunes to close out the evening. Not a bad performance for a laid up lead and a bright eyed flock of new comers.

for more information, please visit http://www.breakthroughtheatre.com or look them up on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Breakthrough-Theatre-of-Winter-Park/

Bullshot Crummond

Wednesday, June 10th, 2015

Bullshot Crummond
By Ron House, Diz White, Alan Shearman, John Neville Andrews and Dereck Cunningham
Directed by Tim Williams
Starring Sebastian Gonzalez, Chloe Brewer, and Celestine DiCicco
Valencia College Art and Entertainment Theatre
Orlando, FL

If it wasn’t for the British upper class, World War Two would have been overrun by Nazi saboteurs like Otto and Lenya Von Bruno (Edwards and Benson). But that Sceptered Isle was kept safe by the high principles and giant cod piece of Hugo “Bullshot” Crummond (Gonzalez) along with a close friend played by Mr. DiCicco. With five authors (just imagine the script meetings!) you might expect a jumbled mess of conflicting ideas and plot points, and that’s just what you get. But the show is delivered tongue-in-cheek and with the panache of a good MST3k episode. It’s a very funny, occasionally sexy and an always entertaining romp through poorly executed plans and sheer dumb luck. The Germans parachute in to Netherington Abbey aiming to steal a formula from Professor Fenton (DiCicco) while Crummond and Rosemary Fenton (Chloe Brewer) alternately chase and flee from the Teutonic Terrors. The cardboard set is adjusted by stage hands on the fly, ducks and aero planes fly on squeaky wires, and actors seem unable to recognize each other when ever the plot demands it. It’s like the current Presidential race, but with better gags.

Edwards deadpans his way through the crisis and while acting is not really required here, timing is, and he’s on top of every gag thrown his way. DiCicco covers a half dozen supporting roles from the vapid Algy Longwort to the hump backed Marovitch, gleefully attacking every line he has. Ms. Brewer offers the most interesting underwear; she’s the romantic lead but could run her own comedy club, and the elegantly evil Mr. Edwards argues with himself as the German Spy and the Italian mobster in one of the best quick change routines I’ve seen. Lastly there’s the slinky Ms. Benson, femme fatal and navigator; she covers the evil front for her partner Otto when he’s off playing other roles. This is a Farce with a capitol “F”, and that’s “F” as in fun, frantic and fabulous.

for more information on Valencia Arts and Entertainment Theatre, please visit http:// http://valenciacollege.edu/artsandentertainment/Theater/schedule.cfm/

Out of Gas on Lover’s Leap

Sunday, June 7th, 2015

Out of Gas on Lover’s Leap
By Mark St. Germain
Directed by Johnathan Raffoul
Breaking Ground Productions at
Breakthrough Theatre, Winter Park, FL

Daddy’s money can solve a lot of problems, but not the sort that infest this young couple on their graduation night. Myst (Allie Novell) has a pop star mama and feels unloved. Grouper (Alex Bridgeman) has a senator for a daddy who only trots him out for photo opps. The two matriculate at a private boarding school for the rich and useless, but it’s not so strict that pot and beer and pregnancy are out of reach. Our couple finds themselves on lovers leap, but the motorcycle they used to get there ran out of gas. Coincidence, or plot point? Their lives may have run out of gas as well; Grouper dreams of moving to Seaside NJ and living a life of grinding poverty while Myst hopes to be a failed singer someday. Are these two made in Jersey for each other? Or will their insecurity and needy personalities drive them together for a life of white trash misery?

There’s a mix of nurture and nature here; both these young people are slightly uncentered and their upbringing has only amplified those difficulties. Ms. Novell seeks sex as a solace; she’s not so much horny as homeless. Grouper (God only knows the horror story leading to THAT prep school nickname) aches for stability which is not something public life offers. Bridgeman slides up and down the trombone of manliness: he sometimes begs, sometimes threatens, and overall seems curiously uninterested in the actuality of sex. He prefers some sort of enforceable commitment, and that’s not in his cards. Should they roll the bike down the hill and get gas, or just take the short cut? While this play has a very short run (a One Week Wonder, if you will) it starts out a bit disjointed but focuses tightly as the second act winds down. While it’s not my favorite story, it IS compelling and revealing.

For more information, please visit http://www.breakthroughtheatre.com or look them up on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Breakthrough-Theatre-of-Winter-Park/

More information on Breaking Ground may be found at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Breaking-Ground-Productions/

In The Heights

Sunday, June 7th, 2015

In The Heights
Music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda
Book by Quiara Alegria Hudes.
Directed by Paul Castaneda
Musical Direction by John Cantù
Starring Freddy Ruiz, Matthew Roman, and Ana Bateman
Greater Orlando Actors Theatre and Baggy Pants Theater
Presented at the Lowndes Shakespeare Theater, Orlando FL

The classic American success story thrusts the immigrant into a new land where they overcoming new challenges, learn new ways and find financial and emotional empowerment. But not everyone rises to the top; and while these denizens of Washington Heights can see the big bridges and tall buildings they remain stuck in low rent bodegas and running debt ridden small businesses. And they can’t even get laid. Shop owner Usnavi (Ruiz) hangs on, dealing with shoplifters, graffiti “Artists” and an assistant Sonny (tonight by Hector Sanchez) who has his own dreams and negotiates for free soda instead of a raise. Across the way Rosario’s Limo Service is run by the unlikely named Kevin (Michael Acevedo) and his wife Camellia (Leesa Castaneda). They sent their daughter Nina (Bateman) off to Stanford but the scholarship isn’t enough and her multiple jobs have forced her to drop out. This sets up romance and cultural clashes and a when a wining lottery ticket drops into this little community, everything is thrown in a whirl.

Ruiz mixes rap with Broadway quality vocals; his best material comes in the ensemble numbers (“In the Heights”, “96,000”) and in his duets with Vanessa (tonight played by Sonia Roman). While he’s notionally the lead and narrative voice, he’s sexually awkward and needs his friends to push him into the land of lovey dovey. The more successful romance lies between Nina and Benny (Matthew Roman). He’s American and has trouble understanding the Spanish dialects; Nina helps him out and here we build the inevitable comparison with West Side story: Move your kids to a new county, and they are likely to ditch the old ways and marry an exotic Irishman or Pole. Gentle Abuela (Alina Alcantara) is the McGuffin here: she gets the lucky lottery ticket and agonizes over it in “Paciencia y Fé”. Winning the lottery sounds great, but if you’re not used to dealing with money it can cause more trouble than you would expect. Here it seems to help proving that old adage: You never know. Colorful locals populate the stage; I loved Graffiti Pete (Erick Ariel Sureda); his excellent break dancing skills and modest graffiti art made him a charmer while Jon Perez as the Piragua Guy filled the set transitions with humor and wit. He, too, fights an immigrant’s battle, eventually triumphing over the the evil Tastee Freeze Man.

With a stunning set by Tom Mangieri and musical direction from the versatile an in-demand Juan Cantú, the only real flaw here was the sound. While this is a big space with a big crowd, the speakers were rock concert loud and badly distorted the sound, especially in the first act. By the second act they had improved to Just To Loud, but they still were just to loud. Better audio levels would give these skilled singers a better showcase for their talent. Come for the acting, cheer for the singing, but bring some ear plugs or a couple of cigarette filters.

For times, tickets and more information please visit http://baggypantstheater.com/

Ain’t Misbehavin’

Saturday, June 6th, 2015

Ain’t Misbehavin’
Music by Fats Waller
Conceived by Richard Maltby, Jr. and Murray Horwitz
Directed by John Cantù
Mad Cow Theatre, Orlando FL

Like so many great bluesmen Fats Waller started out in a religious household, learned some chops on a grand church organ, and went on to write some of the most deliciously sinful music of the 20th century. His specialty was Stride Piano; the left hand pumped rhythm while his right did melodies. The result was a juke full of people dancing and drinking and generally working up for a good Sunday morn confession. There’s no real story here, jut a great selection of Waller’s material acted out like life-sized music videos. Audience members were seated on stage, one told me she was impressed by the amount of airborne saliva visible that no one in the regular seats saw. Or felt.

But what we did see was impressive, from the opening ensemble “Ain’t Misbehaving” to the winks and a nod closer “It’s A Sin To Tell A Lie.” Shonn McCloud and Monique Midgette (best stage name EVER) did a delightful “Honey Suckle Rose”; she returned later with a show stopping “I’ve Got A Feeling I’m Falling.” Clinton Harris later joined up with Shonn for the impressive “Ladies Who Sing With the Band” and the low down “Fat and Greasy.” Shonn hit his high point with “The Viper Drag” and if this song doesn’t legalize it, nothing will. “Mimi” Fanaè led us the nearly forgotten “When Nylons Bloom Again”. It’s a bit anachronistic as this show was set in 1930 and nylon wasn’t introduced until 1939. Ah, The Wiki – spoiling dreams again and again. Lastly I’ll mention Shauna Alexander’s great duet with Monique: “Find out What They Like” is the sort of sexist advice that actually might buy a woman some long term piece of mind. Behind this powerful quintet was a live band, and while dressed for the era and soundly professional they kept flat expressions and and did theikr job and their only bit of fun was a possibly impromptu vocal near intermission. This is a high energy, low down sexy entertainment, perfect for these hot Florida summer nights.


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

The Music of Johnny Mercer

Friday, June 5th, 2015

The Music of Johnny Mercer
John Lariviere and Mark Galsky
The Persian Room Presents
At Ali Baba’s House of Kabob
June 2, 2015
Ali Baba, Longwood FL

A slow rain fell on this Tuesday night as I drove up to Longwood to seek out a Mediterranean restaurant in a out of fashion strip center. Inside the place was nearly empty, a bing-bong sounded as we entered and a waiter soon appeared. We had our choice of seats. Show time was a ways off, so we ordered food and watched as a thin woman ran back and forth. Her black no-nonsense clothing and roll of gaffing tape shouted “Stage tech!” and she engaged in those mysterious preshow rituals that can become a show in themselves. The Persian room is a typical suburban restaurant but comes equipped with a small stage. Local Impresario Frank Siano has a deal with the place: he runs a cabaret or similar entertainment, they sell food and drinks.

Tonight the talent came all the way from south Florida; John Lariviere wears a smart tux and cummerbund, and delivered a practiced two dozen hits by Johnny Mercer. It’s all classic American Song Book stuff, and he certainly has the voice for it. But his humor was a hard sell with this small crowd; south Florida audiences may like to sing along but we northerners are made or sterner stuff. While Mr. Lariviere is good, Mr. Galsky is exciting: he plays piano with a Liberace flair on the keys and displays a solid black “invisible on stage” look. Trills and crescendo fly, his fingers look like rubber, and by the time they blew out the show with “Moon River,” I was in love with his style. Some of the acts passing though here are local favorites, and support them as they deserve, but this was a surprisingly entertaining hour with talent you may not see without a long ride on the turnpike. Longwood’s not really that far, and the kebabs here are excellent as well.


For more information on events at The Persian Room please visit: www.alibabahouseofkabob.com/events

Cabaret Sunday: Songs of the 70’s

Monday, June 1st, 2015

Cabaret Sunday: Songs of the 70’s
Breakthrough Theatre, Winter Park, FL

What do we really know about the 70’s? Sure, it was a thrilling era of hostages and endless crises, Punk Rock battering Prog Rock, and that pox and vexation of flammable male fashion: polyester. Hot in the summer, cold in the winter, and liable to fuse itself to your leg if you dropped a joint on it. But then there was disco: abhorrent to all sentient being, yet it is the one thing that survived and it now forms the basis of our Vaseline blurred reminisces of the Ford administration. But I digress…

Wade Hair and the Breakthrough theater have built a nice little cabaret scene here, and while it lacks the bar service of the competition it features a larger cast, better sight linen and a top ten trivia contest with no real prize beyond out-smugging your date. Tonight’s highlights include an unusual and touching “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” which until tonight I had never considered as cabaret material. There were the de rigueur disco numbers; “I Will Survive” and “Last Dance” sounded the best. Some Broadway is always nice, Mr. Hair channeled Barbara Streisand while Ken (No Last Name, Please) belted “Impossible dream.” Abba appeared, sans the trilling vocal dynamics of the originals, and Justin Scarlat popped off a gentle parody of Billy Joel’s “Piano Man.” Was this decade ever as cool as it looks on TV today? Yes, but only if you think surviving on a desert island is nothing but costume changes and coconut phonographs. That’s the power of song: turning heartbreak and desperation into a pleasant low impact evening out on the town,

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