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Archikulture Digest

by Carl F Gauze

Archive for November, 2015

The Quest: Choose Your Own Adventure

Tuesday, November 24th, 2015

The Quest: Choose Your Own Adventure – A Musical
Written and conceived by Nishaa Carson and Keith Newhouse
Directed by Spensyr Mayfield and A. J Harrett
Musical Direction by Nishaa Carson
Fight Choreography by A. J Harrett
Starring Kevin Romera, Nishaa Carson, David Bracamonte, and Erik Branch
Central Florida Vocal Arts
Presenting at The Venue, Orlando FL

Opera is one of those arts that used to be funny and sexy until it became a hobby of the wealthy. Central Florida Vocal Arts attempts to peel off that veneer of respectability while maintaining the vocal gymnastics opera excels at. Tonight they taken a rather innovative approach to “The Magic Flute,” mixing it with pop tunes sung in the grand styles and simple but fun staging. At various times The Tall Guy With A Drink (Peter Heid) appears and encourages us to vote on what happens next. Since I only got to this show at the end of the run, it seemed like the crowd knew the “right” way to vote. Shades of Tammany Hall!

Poor lost prince Tamino (Kevin Romero) is attacked by a plush snake operated by three young women. He wakes up in the avian presence of Papageno (David Bracamonte) and they become friends. Tamino is shown a picture of Pamina (McKenzie Frazier) and we are off on the race to get the young couple marries despite the efforts of the evil Queen of the Night (Carson) and the evil looking but kind hearted Sarastro (Eric Branch). Branch belts out an amazing version of Radio Head’s “Creep” while Bracamonte does some doo-wop. Later he joins in a duet with Ms. Frazier on my favorite Holy Grail tune “A Song Like This.” Ms. Carson sticks to the operatic arias; she very good at singing them and I’m very bad at identifying them. Overall, it’s a fun and surprising collection of pop, show tunes and opera, all done tongue in cheek and with audience participation. Plus, CFVA is one of the few groups than can get good sound out of the echoey Venue space.

For more information on Central Florida Vocal Arts please visit https://www.facebook.com/CFLVocalArts or http://cflvocalarts.com/

Living Room Theater

Tuesday, November 24th, 2015

Living Room Theater
Conceived and performed by Tisse Mallon and Banks Helfrich
November 23, 2015
A Private Residence, Orlando, FL

Sometimes you’re out in public and accidently overhear some snippet of conversation, some slice of drama from another life. It’s an accidental voyeurism, incomplete and unintended yet somehow invigorating. That’s the closest explanation I can offer for this “Structured Improvisation” by local film maker Helfrich and artistic entrepreneur Tisse Mallon. Like an old fashioned illegal rave the address had to be sought out, the seating ad hoc and not all that comfortable, and the rest room up stage and unavailable. A laptop plays sound effects and paces the performance; I found the faint arc of a story of relation progressing but that may only be a personal apophenia. We begin with “Time”; here Helfrich demands to know when and where “now” is and Mallon counters with “Now is forever.” Deep stuff… The most interesting segment “Piss Off:” presents Helfrich demanding to know where Mallon’s “line” is – just what would he have to do to piss her off? Later “Cell Phone” turns the act of fielding dropped phone calls into a parody of physical aggression and violation of personal spatial boundaries. I loved this as I’m still not comfortable with being available to anyone, anytime, anywhere. This team has 30 or so little scenes, so your performance will almost certainly differ. Occasionally there’s a musician, but tonight he had a paying gig. How can you see one of these events? Use your newfangled smart phone to Facebook the link below. Exercise your digital right to invade other people’s cyberspace. Right now this is a high minded “pass the hat” funded activity, but you never know. Success pops up in the weirdest places in Orlando.

For more information on attending or hosting “Living Room Theater” please visit https://www.facebook.com/groups/livingroomtheater/

A Public Reading of and Unproduced Screenplay About the Death of Walt Disney

Sunday, November 22nd, 2015

A Public Reading of and Unproduced Screenplay About the Death of Walt Disney
By Lucas Hnath
Directed by Jeremy Seghers
Presented at the Lowndes Shakespeare Center, Orlando, FL

A reading. Of a play. That is a reading of a play. This reading. Tonight. It’s about Walt Disney (John DiDonna). It has lots of stage direction. Cinematic direction.

Cut to –

Walt has talent. Walt has ego. Lots of Ego. He deserves it. His brother Roy (Tommy Keesling) just handles the money. Walt rubs this in his face. Roy sucks it up. Cut at every dramatic high point.

Cut to –

Walt smokes. Walt smokes a LOT. Walt neglects his daughter (Jenny Ornstein). Walt coughs blood. Roy does the dirty work. Walt wants a legacy. A grandkid. A city. His own city. His own grand kid. Complete with his name. Where can you buy a grandkid? Where can you buy a city?

Cut to –

Florida. You can buy a city in Florida. Walt’s son-in-law Ron (Adam Del Medico) needs work. Ron is jock. Walt hates jocks. Ron can suck his –

Cut to –

Walt coughs more blood. Walt lies to his Board of Directors. Walt throws lemmings off a cliff for money. Walt is kind of a bastard. The kind that throws lemmings off a cliff for money. That kind of bastard. Then lies about it to his Board of Directors. The bastards.

Cut to –

Walt is dying. No city. Just another theme park. But no unions in Florida. Something about a tree. Fuck trees. Fuck everyone who isn’t Walt.

Cut to-

Cut to –

Another cut.

Cut to –

Walt coughs blood. He’s a master of coughing blood.

Cut to –

Blood.

Cut to –

More Blood. It won’t wash out.

Cut to –

Still more blood. Walt love the future. Walt hears about Cryogenics. Freeze the head. Trust the future. Trust technology. Trust your descendants to thaw you out. Fuck the board of directors. Fuck Roy. Fuck the stock holders. Cough up more blood. Not much left, is there Wally, Baby? Is there? Cut your head off, just like ISIS would.

Cut to –

How’s the future treating you, Walt? Too bad you’re not here to –

Cut to –

This play.

There will be a talk-back in three minutes.

There is no more information on this production.

The Secret Garden

Saturday, November 21st, 2015

The Secret Garden
Book and Lyrics by Marsha Norman
Music by Lucy Simon
Directed by Aradhana Tiwari
Starring Heather Kopp, Kennedy Joy Foristall and Zack Nadolski
Mad Cow Theatre, Orlando FL

It’s a book! It’s a film! It’s a stage play! Actually, this 1906 book spawned several films and an opera as well as this magical-realism stage version by noted writer Marsha Norman. We begin with a cholera epidemic that destroys an entire British outpost in India save for surly Mary Lennox (Foristall). She gets the orphanage run around and ends up in remote and possibly haunted Misselthwaite Manor in rural Yorkshire. At first she’s grumpy and petulant but also very lonely. She befriends maid Martha (Sara Catherine Barnes) and her son Dickon (Cole Nesmith) and learns the house’s story: It was a happy enough place with Archibald (Nadolski) and his wife Lily (Kopp) in residence. She had a son Colin (Will Gavigan) with a medical problem; then she died in an unusual gardening accident. Now Archie’s Brother Neville (Steven Lane) cares for the boy and hopes he may die, snagging the house and lands for himself. Mary foils the plan by finding Lily’s garden, restoring it and introducing Colin to the idea he’s not really sick and just needs a little outdoor time.

The story has a rather odd structure; most of Mary’s on stage time is spent apart from her uncle or his brother. The haunting turns out to have plebian roots and a good slice of the cast is off stage or dead for most of the show. Mary’s strongest relation rests with gentle Dickon; he’s patient and earthy and understands the animals; he teachers her about gardening which gets her out of her self-pity. Mary spends time with the great character actor Glen Cover as the gardener Ben; he’s a joy every time he’s on stage. Stephen Lane offers his strong and precise diction as Dr. Neville in residence, and Kopp’s ghost of romance past is suitably transcendental. Another noteworthy presence is Mrs. Barnes as the Yorkish maid; she takes a good stab at the Yorkish accent but in general the accents here are never terribly strong or consistent.

The music is well written but very modern; memorable songs are hard to find. I marked “There’s a Girl” and “It’s a Maze” and “Come Sprit, Come Charm” in my notes, but now can’t recall any of the melodies. What really does shine here is the stage craft: The fog machine occasionally does too good a job, but the use of large swathes of cloth and paper flowers is visually exciting as are the kabuki forests and moodily lit moors. A mysterious Fakir (Kristofer Cleto) guides Mary through the set’s wonderful atmosphere, and there was a pianist lurking back stage to give us a live sound track. Numerous children attended the opening night; this a kid friendly show tuned for pre-adolescents and I think a visit to The Secret Garden can only help them.

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

Tartuffe

Saturday, November 21st, 2015

Tartuffe
By Molière
Translated by Richard Wilbur
Directed by John Christopher Jones
Starring Matthew Striegel, Haley Benson, and Casey Casteel
Annie Russel Theatre at Rollins College
Winter Park FL

I hate to say this, but when someone begins a conversation with a declaration of their Christian faith, I tend to count my fingers and run like hell. That skepticism eludes gullible Orgon (Casteel); he’s taken in by by the Rasputin-like Tartuffe (Striegel). Tartuffe prays, flagellates himself and slathers on the piety like gravy on your Waffle House hash browns. The subterfuge was lost on everyone else on stage. He gets lectures from everyone from his brother Cléante (Nicolas Petersen-Gyongyosi) to smart aleck housekeeper Dorine (Chole Brewer). Well, Orgon’s mom Madame Pernelle (René Borr) drinks the Kool-Aide as well; but her main role is to do an expo dump in Act One, and have a comeuppance in Act Two. There’s a hook as well: Daughter Mariane (Lilly E. Garnett) is on love with likeable Valère (Bernard Farquharson) but Orgon promises her to Tartuffe. Orgon manages to be an idiot on as many levels as possible and when he signs everything over to Tartuffe, it’s only a day before Tartuffe turns on his benefactor and evicts the whole family after ratting him out to the king. How can Orgon be saved? Not from the machinations of a clever servant; it takes the full frontal Deus ex Machina of the King. Yeah, the ending is happy, but weak.

Excellence abounds on this stage; Striegel’s Tartuffe is not only oily, but viscously virtuous and his seduction of the glamourous Elmire (Benson) is actually disturbing. Ms. Benson has the best wardrobe of anyone; her fashions span from the 30’s to the 50’s giving her a powerful seductive note as she draws Tartuffe toward his potential destruction. Cléante is elegant in his tux and F. Scott Fitzgerald hair, and Garnett’s’ Marianne is properly demure and sympathetic. I thought Dorire was very strong in the first few scenes, but her powers fade when pitted against a genuine conman. The set was simple yet glorious with a curved staircase, a miles long chandelier, and classic paintings that were easily stolen by Tartuffe’s servant. The set blended right in with the flapper-era look of the Annie Russell interiors, and overall this was a very elegant evening.

For more information on the Annie Russell Theatre at Rollins College, please visit http://www.rollins.edu/annierussell/current_season/index.html

Collected Stories: Volume 1

Saturday, November 21st, 2015

Collected Stories: Volume 1
With Ned Wilkinson
Spotlight Cabaret Series
Nov. 18, 2015
Winter Park Playhouse, Winter Park FL

Some musicians like to show off more than others. You can’t step into Winter Park Playhouse without seeing Mr. Leavy sitting behind a piano; there are rumors of a drummer named “Sam” but no one can actually describe him. On the cusp of visibility we find Ned Wilkinson, a man often described as a “Mr. Multi-Instrumentalist.” He plays darn near anything that makes noise, and speed learns those he hasn’t touched yet. Tonight’s entertainment involves a large standup bass, it may be his favorite fiddle, and he opens on it with “I Am My Own Roadie.” Then it’s over to alto sax for some modern jazz, and oboe for “Who Knows Where or When?” and then a sad trumpet version of Gene Pitney’s “Town Without Pity.” It’s crowded with instruments up there by the window; from the street the place looks a bit like a pawn shop. Wilkinson tosses in a few Winter Park Playhouse back stage stories but as you might expect they were nowhere as juicy at the tales you might encounter at Fringe or any other less classy operation. After a trombone influenced “Let’s Face the Music and Dance” and a flutish “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive” there an unplugged version of “Everybody is Turning On.” It really was unplugged; a Les Paul doesn’t sound right without a hum buck pick up and Peavey amp. This is one of the more unusual cabarets I’ve seen; it’s a combination of musical virtuosity and a repertory built mostly on the rhythm or counter point version of long time hits. Was anything missing? Yes: Mr. Wilkinson needed more cowbell.

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

Man and Superman

Monday, November 16th, 2015

Man and Superman
George Bernard Shaw
Directed by Lani Harris
Starring John Michael McDonald and Maddie Tarbox
Theatre UCF, Orlando FL

So where were the Suffragettes? Preshow as we hung out in the lobby actors solicited our opinions of giving women the vote, but inside there’s was nary a peep about rights or a woman’s place in society. Instead, we followed a rather involved romantic comedy interspersed with rather long and rambling speeches about Shaw’s politics. Ann Whitefield (Tarbox) just lost her daddy, and since she’s underage a guardian must be appointed to keep her pure. The task is split; one guardian is the conservative windbag Roebuck Ramsden (Eric Eichenlaub) and the other is radical revolutionary Jack Tanner (McDonald). There’s a romantic triangle as well; Tanner and his buddy Octavius Robinson (Tony Pracek) are both keen on Ann although Tanner is in denial. The subplot concerns Violet Robinson (Skye Coyne) who is shamefully pregnant yet secretly married to tasteless Irish American Hector Malone (Joseph Herr) and disapproved of by his rich and tactless father (Tyler Houck.)

The social commentary is fun when it’s not a monologue; McDonald and Pracek make a great buddy comedy team while McDonald and Eichenlaub tend more towards an older sitcom couple. Ms. Tarbox seems somehow more mature than her guardians; that makes the whole “responsible for” and “in love with ” issue Jack faces seem more quaint than creepy. The set is elegant and flexible; the four comfy leather chairs of Act One morph into an auto-mobile in Act Two. That’s where we get more comic relief from the skeptical mechanic Henry Striker (Alexander Recore) and the bombastic elder Malone. The younger Malone is a bit sappy, but he and Violet seem another good match. That just leaves imperious Miss Ramsden (Roxanne LeBlanc) as Roebuck’s presumed sister; she the puritanical voice of “all propriety and no fun” writ large as Shaw’s private buffoon.

Shaw was antiwar, anti-aristocracy and anti “tradition.” His plays are a soap box but while the things he opposed are still with us and still opposed his exact language is often opaque and not all his gags register with a modern audience. View it as a jumping off point for those of you who may need to write an essay on his politics. For the rest of us we find a surprisingly traditional take on love and romance complete with a happy ending. If this was a real revolution on stage the wealthy would not be allowed to reproduce freely. Consistency – the bugaboo of small minds.

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

Man of La Mancha

Sunday, November 15th, 2015

Man of La Mancha
Book by Dale Wasserman
Music by Mitch Leigh
Lyrics by Joe Darion
Directed by George Colangelo
Starring Kelly Joe Hall, Ryan Nyman, and Iris Johnson
Seminole State College, Lake Mary, FL

Here’s an interesting approach to a minimalist musical: Hire a cast that can’t sing their way out of a paper bag. The story is based on the famous novel by Cervantes; he pokes fun at the popular knightly romances that made the best sellers list in 1600. In the meta-story Cervantes (Hall) is up before the inquisition, and while in jail he’s mock-tried by the other prisoners. He defends himself with musical theatre and that’s the essence of the tale most people recall. Cervantes plays Alonso Quixano who reads too many books on chivalry. In the nether land of his mind he is Don Quixote: knight errant, defender of the weak and demigod of the delusional. He’s well off and rural; that’s what gives him the resources to indulge. He heads out with his Gilligan-esqe side kick Sancho Panza (Nyman) looking for adventure. Sancho is the earthy yet clever one; he has a pithy aphorism for any occasion. They gets as far down the road as the next village; there he annoys the staff by calling scullery maid Aldonza (Johnson) “Dulcina.” She rejects the Don’s advances but can’t fend off her violent boyfriend; tonight’s emotional peak is her rape by Carrasco (Eric Arroyo). Our Don can do little to help with his twisted sword, and today we would call him dementia and make him wear “Depends;” but back then everything was blamed on demons and they burned you at the stake.

The set is a dream of stones and dampness (thanks to paint by Tommy Mangieri); but the boat winch used to raise and lower the stairs to the Jesuit world above screams like it never heard of lube oil. Mr. Hall is acceptable as an actor but he has neither the depth nor range to sing the anthems endemic to this classic. On the other hand, Ms. Johnson does her best to keep things musical; her “Dulcina Reprise” is exceptional and overshined anything else sung tonight. The Innkeeper (Alexander Burns) also makes the grade with his “Knight of Woeful Countenance” But woeful indeed was the singing voice of the padre (Anthony Uccello) who crucified “To Each His Dulcina.” There are a few positives; the costumes were perfect for the dungeon’s demeanor, the fights and rapes were crisply executed under the guidance of fight captain Eric Arroyo and there was a nice live ensemble backstage. But as to the vocals: better they hum and recite than sing.

For more information on the Seminole State College Theater program, please visit http://www.seminolestate.edu/arts/theatre/boxoffice.htm

Forever Plaid: Plaid Tidings

Sunday, November 15th, 2015

Forever Plaid: Plaid Tidings
By Stuart Ross
Direction and choreography by Steven Flaa
Musical Direction by Chris Leavy
With Kevin Kelly, Michael Swickard, Todd Allen Long, and Brian Wettstein
Winter Park Playhouse
Winter Park, FL
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One day you’re swimming in the back yard and the next you hear the Salvation Army is ringing bells at Publix. Something is wrong here. Maybe this show was the catalyst; it’s got the right mix of holiday magic and surrealism to kick off this season of holiday “Stories” and “Carols” and glurge filled “Specials.” But it’s a fun way into the season, the guys never finish a Carol and it sticks to what works best on this stage: musical excellence and light comedy. You may be familiar with the story of the “Plaids” but here is the retrospective: in 1959 these four harmonizers get wiped out in a traffic accident; then like the Flying Dutchman they occasionally return to Earth to advance their career in the afterlife for reasons thankfully never explained. We appreciate that; music hall theology is always painful. The boys arrive, find live mikes, and God from Inside the Machine (aka “The Booth”) communicates to them though faulty electrical wiring and saliva-covered messages. Musically it’s all over the map; the set list in the program is a little deceptive as not all sungs are song for more than a few bars. Some highlights include “Sh-Boom” and “Mambo Italiano” along with Smudge’s (Long) “Let It Snow” complete with real fake snow.” But it’s the and the engaging “Christmas Calypso” that steals your heart and wraps up Act One.

What stands out here are two things: a genuinely funny and off color joke from Heather Alexander (tonight’s bartender) and a parody of the Ed Sullivan Show. You really have to be a certain age to remember Ed Sullivan and collecting Social Security makes you eligible. Sullivan was one of the early “variety shows” on the old 12 inch B&W Philco. It really was the last gasp of Vaudeville; and tonight the Plaid’s tackle Topo Gigio, Jose Jimenez, the Vienna Boys’ Choir, Señor Wences and a dozen other once famous but now obscure acts. The crowd loved it, and it was the funniest thing I’ve seen on that stage a long time. Yes, it’s a “holiday” show and if you need to see one this one is funnier and less guilt inducing than the Dickens parade. Just keep an eye out for a gift in a box from the lobby.

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

Sam

Friday, November 13th, 2015

Sam
By Donnetta Lavinia Grays
Directed by Lisa Wolpe
New Playfest 2015
Orlando Shakespeare Theater, Orlando FL

You can count on a junkie – nothing they say is ever true. Monique (Holly E Smith) has a habit; she flees Georgia to Brooklyn with her daughter Sam (Shannon Springer). There she drops in on her sister Rachel (Trennel Mooring) and her partner Nadima (Sheryl Carbonell) with a story about her hubby Reggie (Topher Embry) skipping out. Next morning, Monique is gone, Rachel and Nadima have the daughter neither on really wants, and Reggie arrives with a totally different story about a murdered drug dealer and a police chase. It’s a great deal of hand wringing and family angst; not bad but nothing new. The real jem of a story point appears and is gone in a flash but I hope the author can expand on it: Reggie didn’t pull the trigger and neither did Monique – it was Sam. Now That’s a story I could buy into.

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