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Archikulture Digest

by Carl F Gauze

Archive for December, 2015

The Perfect Gift

Monday, December 7th, 2015

The Perfect Gift
Written and Directed by Winnie Wenglewick
Dangerous Theatre or Orlando
Presenting at ME Theatre, Orlando FL

If you have an elephant’s memory, you may recall the storefront “Performance Space Orlando” that once existed in Mills just south of Princeton. It’s long gone; a medical building that does horrible thing to old people lives there now. But good news; PSO’s owner Winnie Wenglewick is back in town with a new company and perhaps a new space that will go under the name “Dangerous Theater.” While the building takes shape she operating out of the cavernous ME Theater space down south of Florida Mall.

“The Perfect Gift” is her first presentation; it’s an eerie holiday show that wanders about until it delivers a killer punch at the end. Frustrated Stacia (Wenglewick) takes lunch with a homeless guy; that how bad her work situation is. Winter (Thomas C Taffinder) bathes once a month, need it or not, and hangs with his invisible friend R. C. After some happy reminiscences, the pair retreats to Winter’s digs under a bridge. Here we meet the daffy Karma (Kim Stone). She, too has an invisible friend and we learn invisible friends are a form of guardian angel leading Stacia wonders why she hasn’t got one. Hang on, it’s gonna be bumpy sleigh ride from here.

Production values are minimal but ultimate unimportant but I did like the Christmas tree made of coat hangers. Taffinder is a great physical mimic, he seems to replicate every motion the other actors produce. Ms. Ellis also makes an impression, shes the sort of daft aunt many of us collect and treasure. Ms. Wenglewick is more serious and no nonsense, I’d likely side with her for most of the show. This is a rather odd holiday story; it begins by crossing the glurge valley then moves in for a dark kill. Yes, there are Christmas carols and ghosts, but ghosts without the explicit moralizing that says “If you’re not enjoying every minute of this extended holiday season you are pure evil.” This show gives suckers like me an even break.

For tickets and more information on Dangerous Theatre of Orlando please visit http://www.dangeroustheatre.com/orlando.html

Peter and The Star Catcher

Sunday, December 6th, 2015

Peter and The Star Catcher
Based on a novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
By Rick Elice
Music by Wayne Barker
Directed by Michael Carleton
Musical Direction by Lulu Picart
Starring Stephen James Anthony, Katrina Michaels, and Perry Ojeda
Orlando Shakespeare Theatre, Orlando FL.

Everybody loves a back story; and “Peter Pan” is full of unquestioned answers. It took humorist Dave Berry and thriller writer Ridley Pearson to create those questions, and the result pulled down a stack of Tonys. We we meet yet un-named orphan Peter (Anthony) and a mysterious chest of magic bound for some exotic kingdom where Lord Aster (Paul Bernardo) plans to toss it into a volcano. Why waste all that literary magic? Because it might be… dangerous! A fake second chest is filled with sand to deceive Piratical Black Stashe (Ojeda). Both chests depart on separate ships: the speedy “Wasp” with Lord Aster and the slower and presumably safer “Neverland” with his precocious daughter Molly (Michaels). We are all up for a chase, and when Mr. Stache captures both chests they each seem filled with sand. There’s magic somewhere on this remote island run by ominous Fighting Prawn (Steven Lima) and we finally get the back story payoff of missing hands and ticking crocodiles. More importantly, Peter receives the ambiguous boon of eternal life on the cusp of adult hood. If you thought middle school was a blast, cheer for Peter and his lost boys, but otherwise it’s really sort of a sad place to be. Maybe he’ll get a date with Molly’s daughter in a few decades.

So how great is this performance? Technically its virtuoso, but the first act is occasionally hard to follow and there are plenty of gags just for gag’s sake. (I attribute that to the Dave Berry influence). Brett Scott’s set is marvelous, and we see almost every stage trick in the books from clever light effects to the center stage trap door to the tiny 4th wall breaking ships scurrying about stage. A good example occurs when Molly jumps down a hatch made of a rope and four men. She hops and squats, they rise up, and the effect draw a small “oh!” from the crowd. The acting was often played for pantomime melodrama; Mr. Stache did all but twirl himself. The second act opened up with a musical number that could be a successful fringe act all on its own, and both Smee (Mark Ferreira) and The Fighting prawn (Mr. Lima) struggles as alternate show stealers. Mr. Anthony’s Peter was did a serious job as the beaten and abandoned child yet he didn’t seem to carry the undirected anger one might except from a person in that position. One last highlight worth mention is the crocodile; it’s a creature of nothing but shadow and light and menace and again it’s the stage craft that makes this show a must see. Oh, to be in England! And have a big budget and a clever crew and a few hundred lights to hang them upon!

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

Little Women

Sunday, December 6th, 2015

Little Women
By Adapted from Louisa May Alcott by Peter Clapham
Directed by Wade Hair
Starring Allie Novell, Ashlee Degelleke, and Joshua Huff
Breakthrough Theatre, Winter Park FL

I don’t think I’ve hears as many consecutive grammatically correct sentences in one place and one time as this. Louisa May Alcott wrote one of the great American novels back in 1868 and to this day it’s a favorite of children everywhere. It follows the March family with their father (Anthony Marando) away at war, their imperious aunt (Eileen Antonescu) wielding inheritance over their heads and their mother Maree (Dina Ajar) remaining impossibly upbeat throughout endless poverty and disease. The girls all have their distinct personality: Josephine (Novell) is the Tom Boy with ambiguous overtones while Meg (Degelleke) the romantic who snares the boy next door (Huff). Younger Amy (Mackendrick Zavitz) is fastidious and a junior grammar Nazi while here Sister Beth (Abigail Marotta) is a gifted pianist. Wars are fought, telegrams are sent and meals are cooked; and in the end everyone turns out better than they feared.

The stiffly formal dialog forces the questions: do children EVER get subjunctive phrases correct? When they are alone? Off stage? I get the trope of stiff speech to indicate period, but sometimes you just want to edit these kid’s lines for brevity. Novelist Jo feels a bit off in the first act, but that turns out to be a costuming thing needed to propel act two. Meg is the one person here you would really spend time with; beside her graceful air, she’s the balanced one who forms a calm center I this frazzled house hold. Antonescu’s miserly and controlling aunt was brutal on stage but she apologized to me in the lobby. Both young men (Huff and his tutor played by Ryan Roberson) felt more reserved than boys on the make should be; they were over shadowed by the larger than life Mr. Laurence (John Moughan). He was the exciting and fun person here; his role is a bit of a blow hard but his heart was in the right place and like mother Marmee he was all in favor of young love. While estrogen levels were high and some of the arguments were quite screechy, this is still a nifty view of Civil War era American life and mores. The set was gorgeously done, if a bit anachronistic, and there’s just enough of a holiday undertone her to count as a Christmas play without the glurge. And in this special season we should all recall that neither scarlet fever nor typhus are holiday heart warmers.

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/