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Archikulture Digest

by Carl F Gauze

Archive for August, 2015

Cheaper than Therapy

Saturday, August 29th, 2015

Cheaper than Therapy
Spotlight Cabaret Series
Starring Tim Evanicki
Musical Direction by Chris Leavy
Winter Park Playhouse, Winter Park FL

Now THAT was a bitter little sing along! Tim Evaniki’s had a rough year, and two weeks ago he had to cancel this sing for illness; he claims it’s the first time in his career and I believe him. I was secretly happy as well; my day job responsibilities had brought me down as well. But he’s feeling better tonight although he drank enough water on stage to make the audience need a potty break. Evaniki’s career has its ups and downs; he laments “I have a leading man’s voice and a funny friend’s body.” But his styling is unique ad his set list wonderfully obscure; I only recognized his big blow out closer “I Am What I Am” from La Cage Aux Folles. He held back for most of the show, saving it for this powerful closer. I’m glad he did.

Evanicki sang plenty of other fun songs along with the sad stories. “Good News Mrs. Davenport” was a pean to healthcare cleaning you out as you die; there was a very surprising Whitney Houston cover “I Want to Dance With Somebody”, and every actor’s theme ballad “I’d Cast Me.” I think we all would. This cabaret is getting traction; Rochester NY want’s him back; hopefully it will play in Peoria someday soon.

For more information on Winter Park Playhouse, please visit


Tuesday, August 25th, 2015

By Nina Raine
Directed by Aradhana Tiwari
Mad Cow Theatre, Orlando FL

All families are dysfunctional on some level, but you need to be in a special class of wackiness to succeed on stage. The “Tribes” family might qualify; all we know is they’re British, Jewish, and “Conventionally Unconventional.” Sounds like a fast food promo, doesn’t it? Patriarch Christopher (Mark Edward Smith) holds everyone to an ill-defined standard of moral roughage and intellectual purity; no one may enter the house if they do not know Dvorak. Long suffering mother Beth (Marty Stonerock) suffers slowly as she argues about food and half-heartedly teaches daughter Ruth (Hannah Benitez) how to iron sheets but honestly what’s the use? Daniel (Peter Travis) hears voices but his other brother Billy (Britt Michael Gordon) is stone deaf; Billy reads lips like a champion but deep down he’s a massive jerk. Subtext: no one is getting laid. At least not until Billy meets Sylvia (Lexi Langs). She’s losing her hearing as well, and sadly that’s just not good enough for the Deaf Community of London. They can’t hear you, and that’s a mark of pure British snobbery. In your typical “handicapped issues” plays you are told “be nice and try to understand” but here the message is the brusque “You’re not in my tribe, so don’t tell me how to feel.” I love it when I can make my own decisions about an Important Issue!

“Tribes” is both funny and disturbing; Smith’s father figure is particularly brutal to his own family and friends; and Gordon’s Billy callously disregards the damage caused by his faulty lip reading work for the police. He’s hard to hear on stage as well; he accurately reproduced the lack of consonants that the deaf display. While Ms. Langs seems loving and supportive her main concern is self; apparently it’s hard to bond if you can’t hear each other snore. I was particularity fond of Travis’s Daniel. He progressively covers more and more of his head as we progress, and he’s the only one studly enough to smoke cigarettes without permission. In some sense he’s the Pope of Sin in this Cathedral of Self-Loathing; he offers indulgences and mocks the higher authority of parenthood.

“Tribes” isn’t just funny, touching and enlightening, it displays some truly wonderful stage effects in the smallish Zehngebot – Stonerock Black Box. Sign language translates into upstage projects that relish a graceful san serif font. If we can’t hear intonation, why should we see it? But I always write in a serif font; so this is clearly a different voice here. To me san serif feels so…apologetic. Along with words and images a swirl of stars swallows Daniel in the first act; he’s the real loser here but not in a pathetic sense. Rather he hears and thinks and enjoys human voices but he cannot be alone, ever. His inner voices are almost the sum total of the ultra silence enjoyed by Billy and Sylvia, and all that sonic energy must end up somewhere…

For more information on Mad Cow, please visit

Carrie: The Musical

Saturday, August 22nd, 2015

Carrie: The Musical
Book Lawrence D. Cohen
Music by Michael Gore
Lyrics by Dean Pichford
Directed by Derek Critzer and Sylvia Viles
Music Direction by Tim Turner
Choreography by Steven Johnson
Starring Dorothy Christopher and Jasmine Forsberg
Clandestine Arts Presenting at the ME Theatre
Orlando FL

This is my second “Mean Teen” show in a week. When we overdo something here in Orlando, we overdo it to death. With a story line nearly identical to last week’s “Heathers” this show has soldiered on through multiple flops in multiple continents yet Clandestine Arts feels moved to take a shot at the project. The story has been called “Stephen King’s version of Cinderella” but it suffers from uninspiring music, a plot hole or two, and characters who seem to hold the sort of burning hatred for the lead that ISIS reserves for the United States. Carrie (Christopher) grows up in a small town under the thumb of an ultra-religious mother Margret (Wendy Starkand). Mom is determined to keep her child pure to the point Carrie is unaware of what her period is until she’s 17. Carrie is harassed mercilessly until the bitchy Susan (Forsberg) is shamed into niceness by gym coach Miss Gardner (Natalie Doliner). As penance Susan offers up her own boy friend Tommy (Luis Gabriel Diaz) as a prom date, and he convinces Carrie to attend. Carrie even seems to fit in. But the evilest student in school, Chris (Kayla Alvarez), and her 7th year poetry drop out boyfriend Billy (Josh Woodbury) arrange to dump blood on Carrie after they stuff the ballot box for prom Queen. In their minds no humiliation is too great for the inoffensive yet supernatural girl. Oh, I forgot to mention: Carrie inexplicably develops telekinesis during intermission. If there was ever a plot Band-Aid, this is it.

While I didn’t actively dislike this show both Chris and Billy seemed psychotically angry at Carrie for no reason beyond the plot calling for it. Ms. Carrie swung between vulnerable and vindictive; it might help if we saw how she discovered her secret power. Ms. Doliner never seemed to control her charges; and as in so many teen movies the adults seemed written for comic relief. Mother Margaret seemed the worst offender on that count; any attempt by Carrie to talk about her concerns (including all that blood) were rebuffed with biblical platitudes and a burning desire to ignore the world. Some songs nearly escaped the mundane: “Unsuspecting Hearts” was a pleasant ballad between Carrie and her coach, and I put a plus sign next to the title number “Carrie” but for the life of me I can’t recall a lyric or melody. That’s the flaw here; while the notes are played beautifully, songs never seem to establish themselves, and even the closing number “Carrie (Reprise)” seems sad and apologetic for taking up my time.

Given all that, the set was effective (although no real blood was spilled) and the sound excellent even though it was just Mr. Turner on a pair of keyboards. As a performance space the ME theatre is superb with good sight lines, clean acoustics and comfy seats. In tonight’s last scene smoke got a bit heavy and the preshow news flash showing a high school burning was pretty cool. The ME theatre is tough to find; its south of the Florida Mall on an unpromising street that does have a traffic light. This is a show that aims for camp and comes off serious; but like any good monster nothing seems to stop it.

For more information on Clandestine Arts shows please visit or

For other events at ME Theatre visit


Sunday, August 16th, 2015

By Dan Goggin
Directed by Angelyn Rhode
Breakthrough Theatre, Winter Park FL

If you’re going to mock religion it’s only fair to start with nuns; they can at least fight back with rulers. And if you’re going to invoke humorous causes of death, go for the obscure like the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire or the Bon Vivant Vichyssoise Soup Scare of 1971. That’s what nearly wiped out the Little Sisters of Hoboken. (Hoboken – another guaranteed laff line even if you never set foot in Joisey.) The convent still has four of their departed sisters stashed in the freezer; there wasn’t enough money to bury them all after they splurged on a karaoke machine. So tonight they are doing a song and dance routine to raise money and I’m not sure you could have a thinner plot unless you added amnesia, and that role falls to Sister Mary Amnesia (Niashia Aviles). But its still light weight fun tonight; the space is full of back stage shenanigans led by Reverend Mother Mary Regina (Judith Gill). She’s the disciplinarian, racing hard to keep up with the action. Sister Robert Anne (Traci McGough) wants to be a star; she’s good in “Playing Second Fiddle” but great in “I Just Want to Be a Star” because, well, because that’s what she wants. This show does NOT aim for subtlety. Another example: Sister Marty Amnesia sings “So You Want To Be A Nun” along with a nasty puppet who tries to tell off color jokes. This scene accurately describes the Prime Directive of entertainment: You can have a puppet do anything on stage. ANYTHING.

The sharpest knife in this kitchen drawer is Sister Mary Hubert (Angela Cotto); she’s great with Sister Mary Leo (Nikole Andrea Torres) as they put everyone down with “The Biggest Ain’t The Best” and we all enjoyed her tap number with the cast “Tackle that Temptation with a Time Step.” There’s actually a few decent tappers in this crowd, and it’s not something Breakthrough does that often. Lastly I’ll mention the two males in the ensemble; they had few words but did their share of physical comedy. These guys are known as Brother Barnes (Nate Elliot) and Brother Nobel (Andrew Emery). Both of these gents are from Winter Springs High; they are young but show promise. This show is a pile of hectic fun, and its best watched with the attitude we should all carry to theological entertainment: It’s not Broadway, but it wipes away all the sins that got stuck on your soul at Fringe.

For more information, please visit or look them up on Facebook at

Romeo and Juliet Deconstructed

Sunday, August 16th, 2015

Romeo and Juliet Deconstructed
By William Shakespeare
Adaptation conceived by John DiDonna
August 15, 2015
Valencia College East, Orlando FL

This is a work in progress, so if it reappears in a radically different form next time, you’ve been warned. I’ve often stated my objection to R&J: its bad advice to teenagers. But I still love it for what it isn’t and here Dr. DiDonna has turned his summer acting students loose on it with the vague instructions: “Deconstruct this”. Deconstructionism flickers in popularity; the best examination I had was “Batman is a Good Guy. But he works outside the law, just like criminals, thus he is also a Bad Guy.” Ipso facto “R&J is a romance, but nobody gets whom they want, and thus it is a tragedy.” Even the Bard recognized that, so the task here is to update or re-interpret the story.

To this end, we were all given little packs of scenes and locations, and then each viewer took their own path through the story. No one person observed all action (I missed the Friar John scene among others.) What we had resulted in two resolutions. First off, one of the audience members seems to have come down with heat stroke. It IS August in Central Florida and we met before the biblical lighting and rain began, but casualties were pretty much pre-ordained either way. The second was an occasionally successful attempt to layer modern romantic and political sentiments on to an ancient tale of political marriage screwed up by horny young men. The abandonment of Rosalind, normally glanced over in “real” productions came forward; Romeo’s failed attempt at the rape of Juliet felt the cleanest of the new scenes, and Parris’ meeting up with Rosalind at the bus station cleaned up a loose end or two that never were addressed in the source material.

The addition of new scenes and relations was effective; what was less effective was the mis- alignment of Arranged vs romantic marriage. An imposing Ms. Capulet held out that a 13 year old girl had no business deciding when she would wed, but it WAS ok for her to get down to baby making before she lost all her baby teeth. The Nurse felt whiney, and we are missing Tybalt and Benvolio although one could argue they are merely McGuffins to get the action going. Yes, it was hot on fair Verona where we sweated out this tale of romance and bad decision making, and it may appear in the fall line up. But I say to Mr. Didonna: “Bring me BODIES!” Just not audience bodies.

For more information on Valencia Arts and EntertainmentTheatre, please visit http://

Heathers: The Musical

Saturday, August 15th, 2015

Heathers: The Musical
By Laurence O’Keefe and Kevin Murphy
Directed by Kenny Howard
Musical Direction by John deHaas
Choreography by Blue Star
Starring Thomas Sanders and Nicole Visco
Gen Y Productions
Dr Phillips Center, Orlando FL

Here’s the sprightly musical that puts a face on all those jerk wads who made life miserable in high school. Veronica (Visco) desperately wants to be liked; even the football team picks on her. Held back by her unsightly friend Martha (Ally Gursky), Veronica’s only hope for acceptance lies with the cabal of the Cool Girls: Heather Chandler (Lindsey Wells), Heather McNamara (Jillian Gizzi) and Heather Duke (Caroline Drage). They are all color coded like Power Rangers, and after some begging the Heathers allow Veronica to be cute. Her success engenders hatred from all her former friends including Martha; Veronica trades true friendship for short term popularity and its clear she has sold her soul to Vogue. Soon wandering J.D. (Sanders) moves in; he’s more grounded than Veronica’s 1% friends: he beat off her attackers, doesn’t say “no” when he should have, and then turns weird in the second act. We are just one small step away from Columbine and one giant leap away from making high school friendly to the socially awkward.

There’s so much good stuff going on I don’t know where to start. The Heathers are all brutal beyond words; they sometimes sound like they rehearsed at Gitmo. David Kotary is a wild eyed psycho and the football “hero” bent on raping, pillaging and plundering the entire 12th grade. Ally Gursky is sad eyed and loveable as the fat girl no one loves anymore, and Sander’s J.D. smoothly transitions from Veronica’s dark knight savior to her worst nightmare. I give Alexander Mrazek high marks as the sad dad leading the best song in the show: “My Dead Gay Son”. He’s a large man, but he can move with amazing agility. There were other great numbers like “Freeze My Brain” where J.D. and Veronica sing the praises of 7-11 and the stunning “Shine A Light” led by supporting actress Jessica Hoehn gave me chills. Of the Heathers, I’ll single out Ms. Wells as the actress who does not let death slow her down; she comes back for a demonic “Life Boat” as well as Veronica’s entitled conscience. What a trouper!

All this plays out on a nearly vertical stage (Tommy Mangeri designed and Bonnie Sprung painted) under the guidance of veteran production boffins Kenny Howard, John deHaas and Blue Star. The first row is nearly on stage and the sound in the Pugh theatre some of the best in town; it’s well worth the hassle of having to park a mile away and hike. And best of all, while this is a “message” play it’s also a solidly built musical with great songs, interesting plot devices, and a cast that hits it notes, hits its marks and dances and sings with blazing energy. If I ever end up in hell, it will be high school, just like this troupe portrays it.

For more information on Gen Y productions, please visit or

Clybourne Park

Sunday, August 9th, 2015

Clybourne Park
By Bruce Norris
Directed by Bobbie Bell
Starring Thomas Ouellette, Matt Horohoe, Robin Olson and Sarah French
Mad Cow Theatre, Orlando FL

This show recalls that obscure 1980 BusBoys lyric: “There goes the neighborhood – The whites are moving in – they’ll bring their next-of-kin.” Prophetic words indeed as the great exhalation of White America returns to the inner city. On this stage it starts with the sale of the Russ and Bev (Ouellette and Olson) property, it’s going cheap and its going to < stage whisper &gt A BLACK FAMILY < /stage whisper &gt . Oh, the horror and its up to Karl (Horohoe) and his deaf wife Betsy (French) to talk Russ out of this disaster. Turns out it’s a vengeance sale; the neighborhood rejected his son when he returned from Korea, and this is the worst thing he can think to show these bastards. In the background we find domestic help Francine (Trenell Mooring); under her meteor-proof hair helmet she smells a deal and it’s her family that is getting a shot at this American Dream. In act two, we are in the present day and guess what? All those suburbs are now traffic nightmares and convenient access to downtown is a thing worth paying for. When Lindsey (French) and Steve (Horohoe) want to McMansion the place neighbors Lena and Kevin (Mooring and Michael Sapp) object and soon a rational discussion of real-estate terminology degenerates into a power struggle played with offensive jokes and defensive self -righteousness. It’s hysterical.

The first act belongs to Mr. Ouellette. He begins as a slightly acerbic middle aged guy and ends up giving one of the best motivated rants I’ve ever seen staged. Mr. Horohoe is no slouch as the pretentions and obfuscating Kevin or the circumlocutious Steve; he could turn Dick and Jane into Proust. Ms. French always seems pregnant; she’s equally funny as the deaf and oblivious mother in pink as she is in the more politically aware hover-mom in act two. Supporting the wacky white folks is the dream team of Ms. Mooring and Mr. Sapp; he’s nicey-nice as can be even when he’s calling out his white friends; Ms. Mooring makes a nice transition from a maid horrified by the offer of a gift chafing dish to a modern woman whose only encounter with chafing occurs at the gym. Robin Olson perfectly fills the stereotype of an Ironically Ideal House Wife as well as an Ironically Divorced Real Estate Agent. And rounding out the cast we have smarmy Adam Reilley; first as the preset you want to punch out and later as the gay guy we need lest anyone one NOT be offended somewhere.

So here’s the American story of the last 100 years. First the well-to-do seek open space and acres of lawn to mow; but now they want back into the craft beer world of city sophistication. Naturally, those blacks who spent the brutal decades of crime and decline holding these properties are upset; they went through the tough years and why shouldn’t they now enjoy the fruits of gentrification? We see this even in uncool Orlando as McMansions raise the rooflines in College Park and brightly colored apartments eat up the theaters and thrift shops of Orange Avenue. Engaging and highly entertaining, this is where we sit today. We may not truly love our neighbors any more than our parents did, but if they keep up their property values I suppose we can all get along.

For more information on Mad Cow, please visit