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Archikulture Digest

by Carl F Gauze

Archive for February, 2016

The Adventures of Pericles

Saturday, February 27th, 2016

The Adventures of Pericles
By William Shakespeare
Adapted by Elle McLaughlin
Directed by Jim Helsinger
Starring John P. Keller, Dameka Hayes, and Gracie Winchester
Orlando Shakespeare Theatre, Orlando FL

What makes a good king? Is it justice? Social stability? A strong external defense? How about…just showing up for work occasionally? King Pericles (Keller) has more frequent sailor points than days on the the job; thank goodness for his trusted and unambitious regent Helicanus (Richard Watson). Helicanus keeps the light on, the trash picked up and sends out regular expeditions to save peripatetic Pericles from himself and other monsters of the deep. First Pericles heads up the coast to get a wife (Sara Sommerwell); she’s hot, and she’s hot for daddy Antiochus (Greg Thorton) and that’s still creepy, even by Daily Mail standards. After Pericles ticks off Antiochus by not getting beheaded, he’s off on a mileage run around the eastern Mediterranean. First there’s a charity trip to Tarsus, then a ship wreck near Pentapolis where he’s soon in a jousting match and wins a much safer wife Thaisa (Dameka Hayes), then off Ephesus by way of another near marine disaster, he misplaces his infant daughter Marina (Winchester) and ends up a brothel in Mytilene that’s low on hookers, but packed with coincidences. And how are things back home in Tyre? The place nearly runs itself. Hardly needs a king, really.

While this road trip might sound confusing, the adaptation by Ms. McLaughlin transforms the bard’s century old verbal constructs and put them in contemporary English while preserving the rhythm, meter and emotional punch that contemporary audiences can comprehend. Comic scenes with Brad DePlanche and Mr. Watson, and later in the brothel with Lisa Wolpe and Greg Thornton punctuate the drama with laughter, and Keller’s Pericles seems like a really nice, well-meaning guy who can think on his feet but who really ought to be in sales. Ms. Wolpe really finds her comic center in the brothel as it’s Madam; here she’s sharp, snappy and a good match for Mr. DePlanche. The set, while relatively simple, makes good use of the trap as does the companion “Tempest” with smoke and bodies in constant motion. Up above the masses Diana, Goddess of the Hunt (Kimmi Johnson) does a nice job of acting a statue even if her headdress might confuse Joseph Campbell. The script brings in the Narrator Gower (Joe Vincent) at every scene break; this more than anything keeps the plot clear and focused. While “Pericles” is never categorized as a comedy, it does meet the “no one important dies” test. Director Helsinger brings out the humor inherent in the human condition, whether it’s the clouded of de-bodied heads in Antioch or the burst of pirates near Ephesus. Extremely enjoyable and action packed, here’s your blockbuster for this year’s season of Serious Shakespearian Theatre.

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

Shadayim

Thursday, February 25th, 2016

Shadayim
By Stephanie Bramson
Directed by James Dryden
Presented at Sleuth’s Mystery Dinner Show
Orlando, FL

Even though this event is at Sleuth’s, you don’t get dinner and a murder mystery here; this show is just renting space. But I digress…

Mom has just died, dad is a mess, and its time to sit Shiva in the orthodox Feldman household. Michelle (Carolyn Ducker) and Cousin Sara (Cami Riviezzo) claim Orthodoxy; but what they sound like to my goyish ears is “Reformed, hold the mayo.” Michelle is the responsible one; she buys extra food, agonizes over spills, and intones her mantra “We here to honor mother” over and over again, although HOW we do that is unclear. Sara is nearly as responsible; she’s going to live in Israel for a year and isn’t THAT all la-de-da? But even though she’s made the down payment on her apartment the others bust her chops about leaving just a month after the death. The two intriguing gals are Zoe (Erica Bamberski) who sits sister to Michele, and that other cousin, 16 year old Leah (Julie Gottfried). Leah chants “I’m getting my nipples pierced” to anyone she can shock. Even Zoe objects and she operates a porno webcam like its 2007, and boy, is she raking in the cash. So Leah admires Zoë, everyone thinks Sara is too, too perfect, and of course there’s a big, dark, make the rabbi kvetch “Oy, Vey!” secret floating around. It takes a while for it to surface, but when it does, the story picks up a focus and momentum it lacks in the first act.

Ms. Riviezzo give us the most consistent and hermetic performance; she seems to have the least trivial lines in the show and gives the the biggest punch. Ms. Bamberski is a close second although when we learn she was raised orthodox my first thought was: “Yeah. Ri…ght.” Her blatant sexuality and petty destructiveness seemed far from her purported upbringing, and she was well past the age of gratuitous vandalism. Ms. Gottfried’s rebellion was more age appropriate; she does and says things that are pure sulfurous bile and her unfocused anger fits the age she’s assigned. Trying to keep a lid on the pot is Ms. Ducker who repeatedly inquires “How is everyone holding up?” Fine, thank you, and pass the rugelach.

This is a new play from a local writer whose mission statement states her goal is giving multiple good roles to female actors. I think she’s accomplished that; the story feels both physically and emotionally claustrophobic. It also has plenty of snappy dialog even if it seem like no one up there takes their faith very seriously even as they insist otherwise. There’s only a short run of this show, and its way down by that large and occasionally working Ferris wheel. It’s worth checking out for its novelty value: There are, indeed, four meaty roles for females, and they are fun to watch.

For more information please visit www.StephanieBramson.com

The Heidi Chronicles

Monday, February 22nd, 2016

The Heidi Chronicles
By Wendy Wasserstein
Directed by Vicki Wicks
Starring Marcie Schwalm, BeeJay Clinton and Marcus Davila
Breakthrough theatre, Winter Park FL

What defines you? Your job? The people you hang out with? The social trends of the day and how you adopt them? All these possibility are tested and found wanting by Heidi Holland (Schwalm). At the high school dance she reads a book; thus she’s a wallflower. In college she’s hangs with a woman’s group energized by uber-lesbian Fran (Lauren Senninger); now she’s a feminist. When occasional boyfriend Scoop (Davila) marries another woman, she’s been “left on the shelf.” Next she publishes a book on female art history;side this makes her an elitist. A girl can never get a break. But in all these situations, she has wants and fears, goals and ambitions, and as for all of us they can shift with time and place and surroundings. By the last scene she adopts the ultimate feminine role: a mother who has held on to a few good friends and made a few solid enemies.

Through all the trials Schwalm remains vulnerable and likeable. The two men in her life are both more intellectual than physical lovers: Peter (Clinton) is her best gay friend for life; he’s always there when they argue and he lets her win most of the time. Scoop marries another but looks like he’s always ready for something on the side; he’s the ultimate assimilated Jew who makes it big in business but remains empty inside. Their best scene comes in an unlikely TV interview with Heidi, Scoop, and Peter. The guys answer all the questions Ms. Perky TV Hostess asks Holly; afterward they both declare she gave the best interview of the morning. While this show has a distinct 1980’s vibe it still resonates; and Ms. Schwalm’s interpretation sells the package.

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/

Heroes and Villains

Sunday, February 21st, 2016

Heroes and Villains
Starring Michael Foster
Musical Direction by Chris Leavy
February 17, 2016
Spotlight Cabaret Series
Winter Park Playhouse, Winter Park, FL

Some new faces are sneaking into the WPPH Spotlight Cabaret series, and tonight we meet Michael Foster for the first time in this lobby. Mr. Foster is a stunning basso with a resume that leans towards the operatic heavy. While he hopes for good guy roles let’s face facts: Emperor Ming was MUCH more interesting than dense old Flash Gordon. The show opens with some kicking show tunes: “Luck be a Lady” from “Guys and Dolls”, “Man of La Mancha” from… that Spanish Play of the same name, and a fabulous duet version of “Master of the House” from “Les Mis” with his friend Andrea Cami. The pair met during the early days of “The Holy Land Experience”; that’s one experience I have yet to put on my bucket list.

Mr. Foster is fundamentally an opera guy; he gives us a song or two from “Don Giovanni” and “Figaro”; these are done a cappella as his microphone developed an annoying buzz the sound tech couldn’t cure. After a short discussion about the politics of pursuing an advanced degree in opera he went for his strong suit: Disney Hero songs. We visit with “Pocahontas” in “Just around the River Bend”, interrogate “Beauty and the Beast” with “Me!” and take a swim with “The Little Mermaid” contemplating “Poor Unfortunate Souls.” While Mr. Foster once appeared in “The Sound of Music” he only got to play Frantz, the Butler with No Song. I thought: “What a shame!” The evening wrapped up with one more set of Broadway standards: “South Pacific” gave him “Some Enchanted Evening;” “Carousel” added “If I Loved You” and “The Pajama Game” dealt in “There Once Was A Man.” All were satisfying but not as much as his encore of the always impressive “Impossible Dream.” As they say: “Always leave ’em begging for more.” Tonight was great “Greatest Hits” evening only marred by some wonky electronics.

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

Painting Churches

Saturday, February 20th, 2016

Painting Churches
By Tina Howe
Directed by Tony Simotes
With Amy Livingston, Scott Stoney, Kate Young
Mad Cow Theatre, Orlando FL

With age comes wisdom, but sometimes it comes with dementia as well. The Church family holds some status in the Brahman culture of Boston; patriarch Gardner (Scott Stoney) earned a few Pulitzers, some sort of Presidential Medal, and wrote a stack of best-selling books of poetry. But now he’s fading, and his loving and also slightly nutty wife Fanny (Kate Young) is moving them off to a cottage on The Cape. It’s a question of both cash and space; their income is drying up and Fanny was wisely taught: “never dip into capital.” This is the mantra of the trust fund set. She’s also pretty good at hitting the thrift shops; her extra-ugly designer hat only cost a well-deserved 85 cents. When’s the last time you bought anything for under a buck? Into this domestic crises arrives daughter Margaret (Ame Livingstone). She’s a soon-to-be famous artist working in the no-longer-fashionable oeuvre of portraiture. She’s got a big show in a big gallery coming up and want to show off her parents to the Artsy-fartsy punters and Nouveau Riche Russian collectors. Will Mom let her have her dream? Or will she beat her daughter’s dreams down like any good overbearing mom should?

The dementia question strikes close to the heart of all us baby boomers; dealing with the confused and helpless is a major industry these days. The relation between Gardner and Fanny is special; she’s learned how to deflect his rants and restrain his wanderings by being the brightest, shiniest object in his field of view. Margaret doesn’t grasp this immediately; Gardner’s failings have not reached the drooling and peeing stage although his sudden interest in poet criticism might be a subtle tell. The flight and fancy of Fanny’s tactics are a wonder to watch; I hope I get that much indulgence when I start yelling at clouds to get off my lawn. Livingston’s daughter stays focused; she pull of a painting in record time and I’m assuming she went with acrylic rather than the noxiously slow drying oils. While an artist make take their time capturing a scene, a pro works with the constraints given them and still produces a quality product. Director Simotes plays with these counterpoints and brings them to an emotionally charged ending; and when we are done the depth of Gardner’s fallings are all too painful for both those around him and the technically invisible audience. The set is simple and straight forward; scenic and lighting design work hand in hand thanks to the well-oiled team of Lisa Bick and Eric Haugen. This is a cautionary tale for all of those getting old and all of those doomed the soon to be old. If you’re going to fall off the proverbial cliff, best you do it in one spectacular swan dive and not just bounce off all the rocks on the way down.

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

Romeo and Juliet

Sunday, February 14th, 2016

Romeo and Juliet
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Bobby Bell
Starring Amberly Clark, Fabiola Rivera and Denis Enos
Seminole State College, Lake Mary, FL

Transgender Shakespeare seems to know no bounds. If you’ve caught the slightly transgendered “Tempest “in Orlando and want more, I will direct you to this transgender “Romeo and Juliet” up in Lake Mary. Tonight we have two female leads; if you come later it might swap around. I suggest calling the box office for the exact line up.

We all know the story from “West Side Story”: Romeo (Clark) and Juliet (Rivera) are from feuding Veronese families, but raging teen age hormones override any blood feud the elders are still fighting from the papal state era. This Verona has degenerated into a Mad Max post-apocalyptic town infested with quaintly costumed droogies. The tight vinyl pants, Cindy Lauper makeup and impressive-at-a-distance weaponry made for some groovy ultra-violence. I’m not sure who did fight coordination but the battles were impressive if a bit kayfab. The Montague / Capulet war is old; it could be wrapped up with some symbolic sacrifice or two. Romeo had the hots for the never seen Rosalind, she’s over in “As You Like It” at some other college. Romeo is fickle; once she sights Juliet Rosalind is just last week’s meme, and Juliet is equally quick to the mark. Not even death can stop them from mating. Older and cooler heads would negotiate; these kids invade, and love it. Good old Friar Lawrence (Enos) quickly weds this underage pair, they secretly do the deed, and then Romeo gets involved in a gang fight and has to leave. Friar Lawrence offers Juliet Ruffies, and at least everyone has the decency to die in their family tomb. Kids These Days. What’s a dukedom to do?

With vocal projection issues and no microphones it was a bit hard to follow the action; but after you’ve been to this chestnut a few times you can guess the lines. The sharpest action came from Juliet; she’s sexy and projects and seems to genuinely agonize over love. Equally enjoyable was the Nurse (Isaiah Taylor); she dressed like a babushka but greases the kids along the path with her own sexual energy. Tybalt (Eric Arroyo) and Paris (Nikole Torres) were fine fighters; cut out of the sex on stage they had a ton of machismo energy to burn. On the the down side Juliet’s mother (Iyana Collins) spoke way too fast and lost all those hard constants and fricatives you need to punctuate Olde English on stage, and I found Ms. Clark’s Romeo lacked the fire of a horny young man. In an important supporting role Denis Enos was an excellent Friar Lawrence, and the other responsible adult on stage, Larry Stallings, played lord Montague, a man with amazingly few lines. This is a student production; it hits and misses but breathes a violent life into this chestnut of the stage. But like all the other gender crossing productions I’ve seen, I still don’t get why it’s supposed to be better.

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

Expecting Isabel

Sunday, February 14th, 2016

Expecting Isabel
By Lisa Loomer
Directed by David Charles
Starring Rachel Comeau and Nicholas D’Alessandro
Annie Russell Theatre, Rollins College
Winter Park, FL

“Hey! Let’s have a baby!” Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? It is if you want one but if you can’t have one, you may follow this couple’s journey to the depths of despair and bankruptcy as they follow their American Family Dream. The baby idea sprouts in the head of Nick (D’Alessandro)’ an occasionally employed sculptor with a cool wife. That’s Miranda (Comeau); she writes greeting cards for people with dead pets and — gasp! — OWNS a west side of Manhattan apartment with good lighting and a view. She’s cool to Nick’s idea, but after she’s had a year or two of hormonal manipulation to achieve in vitro baby making she’s as fully committed to it as any mom can be. But here’s the raw fact: the baby making industry is there to clean out your bank account and never promises you anything. After they torture Miranda the guns aim at Nick. He must deliver sperm samples on stage only to discover his swimmers can’t pass “The Hamster Test.” Now it’s time for the adoption circus; an equally distasteful world where you pays your money and you takes your chances and anyone from “Mr. Deadbeat Birth Daddy” to Pentecostals can screw you over. At this point I suggest you aim for the golden retriever.

The stage is bright and cheerful; we sense the hipness of Manhattan without any of the dog poop or squeegee boys. Miranda is cool and professional, Nick charming and ineffective as they live this experience of foiled reproduction. Surrounding them is a great cast of character actors: There’s unctuous Dr. John (David Kahn) who smirkingly proposes endless horrible procedures on Miranda and smugly suggests he’d LOVE to create life; Lauren Finn who nailed the Catholic Mom from the Bronx, and brassy Isabell who pops up and tells her erstwhile parent to bugger off, she’s going out for sex and drugs. You work all your life, and yes, this is the thanks you get.

Spirited and engaging, this is a silly little comedy about some serious stuff. I really liked the childless couple and despised all those who wanted to “help” for profit and politics. There’s something interesting happening at all times; writer Loomer does an excellent job of distilling action down to only the good stuff and director Charles fulfils her instructions with charm and wit. While we have no shortage of souls on this planet, yet there’s always a couple who can’t add to the roster but wants to. This show is for them, and for all you young people who don’t appreciate what mom and dad went through for you.

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

The Tempest

Saturday, February 13th, 2016

The Tempest
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Anne Hering
Starring Greg Thornton, Gracie Winchester, Lisa Wolpe and John P. Keller
Orlando Shakespeare Theatre, Orlando FL

Orlando Shakes often takes liberties with The Bard’s works; they may move them in time or place and they love cross gender casting. This production of “The Tempest” is one of the less successful transpositions, and if you missed the opening night preshow Q&A you may wonder why the cast looks like its Prince Albert’s retinue. Here’s the clue: we are in 1910 where spiritualism was taking off and brooding Prospero’s (Thornton) books of magick are now replaced with a tarot deck. This backstory isn’t blindingly obvious on stage, but it does take Prospero’s proto- scientific knowledge of a rules based universe and pushes him back in to the “Pray and Hope” school of random divine interventions.

Prospero gave up control of Milan (annoyingly pronounced “MIL-en”) to his brother (now sister) Antonia (Wolpe) who promptly put him on a leaky boat to nowhere. She added his three year old daughter Miranda (Winchester) to the manifest but even the rats have left this ship; perhaps he had to crew it as well. Now 12 years have passed; Prospero’s powers grow, and he brings Antonia and a royal wedding party to wreck on his island. Young Ferdinand (Brad Frost) falls for Miranda; Prospero approves but leaves them a stern warning: No nooky until the paper work is done, or ELSE. Then we have the highlight of the show, the clownish Stephano (John P. Keller) and Trinculo (Brad DePlanche) stumble upon the half man, half fish Caliban (Richard B. Watson), a servant of Prospero. They get him drunk and attempt a coup; but to paraphrase Joe Walsh “It’s hard to capture the castle when you can’t find the door.” Lastly we have the listless set of elders in there braided finery led by Antonia; they wander about under Prosperso’s will and accomplish very little. Even the normally satanic Steven Lima as Sebastian isn’t very evil; when Antonia talks him into murdering their party for political gain I was hoping for more than a weak smile. Ms. Wolpe feels static as well, although she does look offended most of the time she is on stage.

Along with the comic actors the other highlight of the show is the staging. It’s minimal with a set of rolling ladders that keeps Ariel (Dameka Hayes) in flight. When on the floor she walks with a dancers steps and is the most likeable person in the cast. They put the trap door to good use, bringing and removing Prospero, offering elaborate dinners, and helping actors who need to get off the Shakespearean stage when they aren’t conveniently knifed in the arras. Caliban’s clever little hobbit hole was clever, and while he may be credulous and cranky he has a strong sense of right and wrong. A large sun moves over a parabolic arc to keep time, and when Prospero needs to work his magic he stands tall in a star spangled robe and peers down a staff with a large stone that really should have glowed. Lastly I’ll mention the Intern’s Masque presented for Miranda and Ferdinand; it was a fun interjection into a plot that veered from comic to confused. This is one of Shakepsears most accesible shows, but not one of its most successful presentations.

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

Naked Boys Singing

Sunday, February 7th, 2016

Naked Boys Singing
Conceived by Robert Shrock
Directed by Tim Evanicki
Musical Direction by John T. Gardner
Choreography by Pete Simpson
Tim Evanicki Productions
Presented at the Footlights Theatre, Orlando FL

For a show about naked guys, there sure are a lot of costume changes. This sometimes funny, sometimes touching collection of Broadway-styled tunes delivers exactly what the title promises with a cast of 7 buff singers showing off their stuff both personal and professional. The choreography is complex and well executed, the music peppy and bright, and even if the vocals are a little hard to hear (because honestly, where are you gonna hide a microphone pack?) the show is a complete joy. Ensemble numbers like “Gratuitous Nudity” show off the troupe’s dance skills; and its tough to not compare their other qualities as well. Other highlights include the Ensemble “Members Only” and Joshua S. Roth’s “Perky Little Porn Star,” the baleful “Kris, Look What You Missed” by Cannon Starnes, and the retro “Robert Mitchum” led by Kevin Kelly. I never knew Mr. Mitcham was a gay icon, but that’s what this sort of show can do: bring up to the straight audience to the nuances of the cruising world. There’s even a boot slapping country number here; Bryan Manley (Seriously? That’s NOT a stage name?) line dances by himself to “Nothin’ but the Radio On.” Yes, they are mostly naked; yes, the boys are always in tune and positively they are a fun evening’s entertainment so long as the nudity doesn’t offend you. And if it does, well, deep down we are all naked somewhere, sometime. We just don’t charge for it.
For more information on shows at the Footlights Theater, please visit http://www.parliamenthouse.com/footlight-theatre/

Hands on a Hard Body

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016

Hands on a Hard Body
Book by Doug Wright
Lyrics by Amanda Green
Music by Trey Anastasio and Amanda Green
Directed and Choreographed by Scott Cook
Musical Direction by David Foust
Starring Justin J. Scarlat and Michael Colavolpe
Florida Theatricals
Presented at the Garden Theatre, Winter Garden FL

First off, it’s a truck. A hard body truck. No one else in this show has much resembling a “hard body” except Heather (Karissa Barber), and I’ll get to her shortly. What we have here is a sad collection of East Texans in search of a lottery ticket out of poverty and dead end jobs in a dying economy. The local car dealership (run by righteous Cindy Burns (Candy Marilyn Heller) and sleazy Frank Nugent (Tim Limbacher) offers this stunt in hopes of drawing more foot traffic and more sales. Good luck on that with oil at $30. The truck is cool, it’s a late model black Nissan pick-em-up with cool flames and no more than two or three obvious dents. Deal is this: keep your hand on the truck longer than anyone else, and you drive it off. Assuming you are alive.

Like “Chorus Line”, this show is a collection of loosely related tales, beginning with Benny Perkins (Scarlat). He won two years ago but lost the truck in a divorce. It’s a truism: if you’re in permeant poverty, giving you money won’t fix the problem. Scarlat leads the show with the theme “If I Had a Truck.” A Prius driver will get his ass kicked at any random bar in this town. Benny is one of Scarlet’s darkest roles, and he’s good with a bitter bite in his fat suit role of sweat and desperation. Opposite him is older and no less desperate J. D. Drew (Colavolpe). He got fired for falling off an oil rig, and all he has left is a bitter relation with his wife Virginia (Jessica Hoehn). Can his bad leg out last Benny’s bad sex life?

The other stories are equally compelling, and each one gets a theme song. The audience gasps whenever someone fails, and even that carries a bit of stereotype: Ronald (Jamaal Solomon) is the black dude that get hit first; his snickers bar and orange diet nearly killed him as he describes “That’s my Problem Right Here.” Returned and damaged Marine Chris (Blake Aburn) is particularly touching as his military training only takes him so far until his drifting mind undercuts him with a flashback. Another pair of tear jerkers were the church lady Norma (Desiree Perez), she’s most loveable leading the energetic gospel number “Joy of the Lord” and Spanish Jesus (Kristoffer Cleto) takes the brunt of the Cindy’s racism when his green card is demanded. He has none, nor does he need one as he sings the powerful “Born in Laredo.” And as for lithe Ms. Heather? She tries to cheat but is downed by one simple fact: five days in the Texas sun running on nothing but meth and bottled water will eat your brain.

Yes, there can only be one winner; one winner on stage. All the rest of us won; this was a solidly executed story backed with a live band and real car that the cast spent the evening pushing around. I can’t remember another musical with such a high percentage of potential hits, all executed with Broadway precision.

For more information on The Garden Theatre, please visit www.gardentheatre.org