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Archikulture Digest

by Carl F Gauze

Archive for July, 2015

Four By Tenn

Monday, July 27th, 2015

Four By Tenn
By Tennessee Williams
Directed by Fran and Frank Hilgenberg
Theatre Downtown
Presenting at the Fred Stone Theatre
Winter Park, FL

There’s some bad juju surrounding Tennessee Williams short plays; today one of the shorts couldn’t run due to cast illness. That’s what happened at a similar production a few months ago at Queen’s Head. Makes you wonder…

But what DID happen was interesting as always. In “The Lady of Larkspur Lotion” Mrs. Hardwicke-Moore (Rochelle Curbow Wheeler) complains to her landlady there are flying cockroaches in her room. Her landlady, Mrs. Wire (Katrina Tharin), retorts “Where’s my rent money?” and “What do you expect in the French Quarter?” and more pointedly “You’ll die from drink before cockroaches.” Faded fortunes are a perennial Williams topic, and here they are explored quickly and efficiently. Mrs. H-M muses about a rubber plantation in Brazil and why her quarterly income check hasn’t arrived; her fellow tenant arrives to defend her financial honor, but he, too, is broke. They never actually get kicked out, but they do discuss her plantation and its manor house with a commanding view of the Mediterranean Sea. On a clear day you can see the white cliffs of Dover sparkling in the distance. Life is all a fantasy on some level in William’s world, so why not go for the gusto? Mrs. H-M has; its how she supports herself. That and gentlemen callers.

“This Property is Condemned” has more dissolution, but in a sadder, more poignant dimension. Little Miss Willie (Winona Wiley) clings to a house that ought to be pushed over; everyone who used to live there died or ran away before they could get stuck with the liability. She carefully explains this to equally young Tom (Wyatt Rucks); he’s truant as well, but at least has a home to go to. Miss Willy has only one salable skill: her youth, and that may not survive the second act. Heck, even Tom is asking her to dance for him. Kids those days…

Lastly we explore “The Good Neighbor Policy” in “27 Wagons of Cotton.” This begins as an economic fairly tale with Jake Meighan (Skinner) setting fire to a competing cotton gin, then agreeing to process the cotton for the owner of the smoldering ruin, Silva Vicarro (Frank Casado). Meighan’s wife Flora (Brenna Arden) tires of Jake’s simple brutality; she even resists Silva’s advances for half the the play before joining Mrs. H-M as woman of negotiable honor. In the end, this story of sweaty dripping passion balances out; Mr. Vicarro gives as good as he got. In fact, he may bring ALL his business over to the Meighan’s.

As Theatre Downtown looks for a new home this is only an echoey waypoint, but it’s a space that is a fair match to the dark and brooding short plays Mr. Williams has to offer.

For more information on Theatre Downtown and its searh for a permanent new home, please visit http://www.theatredowntown.net

Dames At Sea

Monday, July 27th, 2015

Dames At Sea
Book and Lyrics by George Haimsohn and Robin Miller
Music by Jim Wise
Directed by Michael Edwards
Choreographed by Roy Alan
Musical Direction by Chris Leavy
Starring Molly Jackson and Brian Wettstein
Winter Park Playhouse, Winter Park FL

How many pianos does this outfit own? One on stage, two in the pit, and one in the lobby – that’s their bare minimum. But they need all those ivories for this retro funhouse musical; it’s a pastiche of every tap dancing black-and-white musical ever filmed. In the first act producer Hennessey (David Thome) battles the demons of theatre production; his dancers are sick, his leading lady (Jan Leigh Herndon) is a pain, and the building is about to come down. His plight sounds like any Fringe show ever done. Then bright-faced Ruby (Jackson) bounces in just off the bus; she’s arrived from Utah and is ready to lead the chorus without having eaten in three days or even seen the routine. Blasé Joan (Heather Alexander) adopts her and then lost seaman Dick (Wettstein) drops by. He falls for Ruby and along with his pal Lucky (Roy Alan) they get the show moved onto their battleship and save us from the Nazi’s. I know, it make no sense, but we’re not here for logic, we’re here for tap dancing.

And there is plenty of that, from the opener “Wall Street” to the big first act number “Choo Choo Honey Moon.” The second act doesn’t let up, from the titular “Dames At Sea” to the highlight number of the whole show, “Star Tar,” it’s a constant tip-tap of shoes and and sex. Even the Captain (Thome again) gets a big number with the vampish Mona. Mr. Thome doesn’t get many opportunities to strut his stuff in this show, but he’s great when given a shot in “The Beguine.” Ms. Herndon is an excellent vampish woman Of A Certain Age; she’s sexy and telegraphs “I know what I’m doing, don’t you be the one to mess it up.” While you’re cheering for Dick and Ruby to hook up and for Ms. Kent to seduce the Captain, the “B” couple is Joan (Heather Alexander) and her long time real life dance partner Roy Alan. Their dance numbers anchor “Choo Choo Honeymoon,” and they make everything look so easy you might think “I could do that.” You can’t, ask my orthopedist. There’s more stuff on this set than normal; they even fit a battleship and two cannons down there. All that’s missing are sea gulls and some old guys fishing.
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For more information on Winter Park Playhouse, please visit http://www.winterparkplayhouse.org

Wicked Little Tales

Sunday, July 26th, 2015

Wicked Little Tales
Best of Phantasmagoria
Created by John DiDonna
Produced by Phantasmagoria Orlando and DiDonna Productions
Orlando Shakespeare Center, Orlando FL

Just as Christmas marketing creeps up earlier and earlier each season, so does Halloween. This distilled version of Phantasmagoria picks up the best and most popular recitations and dances from the past five years of shows, making for a more compact and consistent show at the expense of reduced puppetry and swordplay. The cast and crew remains large as does the feel of the show; there are Fight Directors and Fire Captains and Choreographers of all ilks making this show fly; and fly it does. The house was packed and turning away people with cash in hand, and the real purpose of this show was a warm up for an out of town tour.

We enter the space with a tableau of frozen actors on stage, then a stage manger enters and begins counting in German. He can get to three and he knows some common profanity, but I think two digit numbers might stump him. He’s interrupted by an assistant who dusts the actors; they respond by giving us a few mild frights and giggles. Once the show begins in earnest we hear the likes of Poe’s “The Raven” and a creepy African piece “A Tale of the Bantu” and a very thrilling Dickens piece “Captain Murderer.” The Captain is a cannibal and misogynist and a chef as well, but he IS very convincing. In between are dance numbers; there’s a very funny rendition of the old school yard number “The Hearse Song” (that’s the one where “the worms play pinochle on your snout”). Belly dancing and aerial work fill in, and the stage is in constant motion. There are rules: once a story is chosen it must be told, and once it begins it must be completed. They violate this rule at the end, but nothing bad happens; maybe they just get a theatrical parking ticket. This show draws a steam punk crowd; there were more than few pair of goggles in the audience as well as other quaint pre-cellular accoutrements. While the show has its racy elements it’s generally family friendly – as long as your family name is “Addams.”

For more information on Phantasmagoria please visit: https://www.facebook.com/PhantasmagoriaOrlando or www.phantasmagoriaorlando.com/

The Importance of Being Earnest

Saturday, July 11th, 2015

The Importance of Being Earnest
By Oscar Wilde
Directed by Mark Routhier
Starring Trevor Starr. Patrick Sylvester and Amanda Tavarez
Theatre UCF, Orlando
FL

Making money is one thing, but inheriting it can be worse: you have no pressure to do anything, so you often end up doing nothing. Algernon (Trevor Starr) spends his days eating cucumber sandwiches and avoiding his imperious Aunt Lady Bra knell (Belinda Boyd). Her mission in life is proper marriages among the young and wealthy. Algernon’s strongest defense lies with the fictitious Mr. Bunbury who is always on death’s door. Algernon’s best friend Jack (Alex Hehr) has a similar situation; he’s guardian to young Cecily (Victoria Gluchoski) and keeps her in an obscure country house. He keeps a fictitious brother Earnest with similar illness; Earnest lives in London giving him an excuse to escape to the city. Plots thicken, denouements condense out, and we end up with happy marriages and skewered societal norms.

What we are bereft of is laughs. The first act drifted by with a scattered giggle or two, but it was depressing watching gags troupe across stage with no recognition from the audience. Mr. Starr wears a paste on moustache and seems aimed at a Groucho Marx persona. Mr. Hehr is a solid actor as well, but he too lacks the sort of timing needed to make this show pop. That falls to Ms. Gluchoski; when Cecily appears in the second act it’s like a comic flower blooming. Now that the ice is broken the laughs flow. She even pries laughs out of the otherwise stiff Gwendolyn (Amanda Travers). The other active couple in this country setting is the excitable Miss Prism (Jasmine Mitchell) and the parish priest Rev. Chasuble (Mike Nilsson); they seem to have more authentic spark than anyone else on stage. Groucho isn’t the worst casting idea for this classic comedy, but timing is more important than facial hair if you’re going to make this classic reach the pinnacles I’ve seen it do elsewhere.

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

Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up?

Saturday, July 11th, 2015

Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up?
Book by John R. Powers
Music and Lyrics by James Quinn and Alaric Jans
Directed and Choreographed by Earl Weaver
Musical Direction by Susan Glerum
Starring David Klein and Helena Whittaker
Theatre UCF, Orlando FL

I never saw a show about Teen Age Lust with leads who seemed less interested in sex. Eddy Ryan (Klein) returns to St. Bastion’s Catholic School for a reunion; he’s half way looking for his semi-sweetheart Becky Bukowski (Whittaker). They had a bumpy romance; she was the fat girl who bloomed, he pursued her but never very hard or fast so she commits sexual suicide and joined a convent. But ten years later she changed her mind (didn’t know you could do that, but then I’m just a protestant kid) and now there’s hope for a chaste kiss and maybe some hot sweaty hand holding. But where’s the drama in that?

We’re not here to see love bloom but to recall our awkward grade school years, Catholic or otherwise. Tough Nun Number One is the strident Sister Lee (Kate Ingram), she rings the audience in to submission preshow; stragglers and cell phone users are shamed into line and if they don’t shape up it’s five “Our Fathers”, ten “Hail Mary’s” and a couple of laps around The Stations of the Cross. Tough as she is, she does take the time to give Becky self confidence when she needs it and discipline when she’s just a kid. Mark Brotherton plays the other responsible adult as Father O’Reilly; he actually dances a jig when school’s out for the summer. Klein seems as lost and awkward at 28 as at 18, but I will give high marks to Trevor Starr as Louis Schlang: he did a wonderful doowop fantasy number at the big high school dance number in act two. Mike Depki (Alex Hehr) is packed with naughty advice and Felix Lindor (Evan Jones) has his mortal sins backing up faster than he can repent. The popular girls (Meredith Pughe, Alecsa Kazenas and Sami Cunningham) are brutally nasty, especially when they smell weakness among their peers.

Bits of the sets look familiar, I think parts of “Nine” and “Arcadia” are back and the silver metal chairs are fast becoming my friends. There’s limited live music tonight; Susan Glerum works a piano backstage producing the helpful music needed for teen aged hymns when hitting a reliable note is just an even bet. Catholic School survivors will relive the past through a plate of safety glass, us other sinners will have our suspicions confirmed: The nuns are tough, but they really do want you to succeed in life and relations. Neither the jailers nor the jailed want to be here, but its all for their eternal good. But will you cheer for true love? Hard to say; if they don’t why should we?

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

Freud’s Last Session

Sunday, July 5th, 2015

Freud’s Last Session
By Mart St. Germain
Directed by Rick Stanley
Mad Cow Theatre, Orlando FL

St Augustine argues God exists because there can be truth greater than human reason. Pascal doubted, yet his knowledge of probability showed the cost of believing was less than the price of being wrong. And Monty Python slugged it out in a wresting ring, deciding God Exists two falls out of three. Freud and Lewis never examine these novel arguments, but slug it out between “I had a vision on the way to Oxford” vs. “So what’s with these Nazis?” The presentation was brilliant, even if I was never fired up to change my views on eternity.

In this fictitious dialog set on the eve of WW2, Sigmund Feud (Terry Wells) flees to England. Famous for the couch side interviews, he was a strident atheist and reflected the most modern intellectualism of the day. Lewis (Michael Lane) hung out with Tolkien and Dyson, knew his myths and histories, and survived the trenches of WW1 with a skeptical sheen on him that cracked one day on the train from London. In an instant he was converted back to the Christianity his mother taught him, and needed no human logic to defend himself or God.

The discussion is erudite and far reaching, although it explores no ideas you haven’t heard if you’re familiar with the faith vs. logic arguments. Lewis argues a sense of awe and an implicit morality that man often ignores, while Freud relies on brain structures and physics. As Poland falls and Freud’s jaw bleeds from the cancer, Lewis takes his leave. We have a polite discussion on the drive home, and if God exists, he smiles beneficently upon us. And if He doesn’t, the fundamental laws of quantum mechanics keep my transmission from falling out. Thus, there are still eternal questions I can’t answer but the world keeps spinning, and that is something.

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

Mark Twain’s Is Shakespeare Dead?

Sunday, July 5th, 2015

Mark Twain’s Is Shakespeare Dead?
By Keir Cutler
Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival, Red Venue

I don’t have a dog in this fight, but more than a few people I know do. Mr. Cutler returns to the Orlando Fringe with his professorial style and a large bust from FamouseDeadPeopleStatues.com. He’s in the bully pulpit tonight; this show plunges into the minefield of “Did Shakespeare really write Shakespeare?” There are as many books on this touchy topic pro as there are con, and tonight he takes a firm stand in the camp of “No He Didn’t”. The arguments are compelling, Shakespeare’s apparent illiterate will (no books mentioned in an era when books were expensive), no chance for him to master all the technical skills mentioned in his plays, and the plentitude of other more likely candidates contemporary with Old Will who did have all these skills. It’s an interesting show, but like any gospel lesson there’s no examination of the contrary position “Shakespeare might have actually written Shakespeare’s Canon.” It’s a cool introduction if you’ve not explored this dusty corner of English lit, and a reaffirmation of what you believe if you’re a fan of Francis Bacon.

This production is part of the 2014 Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival. Information on tickets and show times may be found at http://OrlandoFringe.org/