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Archikulture Digest

by Carl F Gauze

Archive for September, 2016

The Foreigner

Monday, September 26th, 2016

The Foreigner
By Larry Shue
Directed by Thomas Oullette
Starring James Blaisdell
Annie Russell Theatre at Rollins College
Winter Park, FL

Gol durn furriners! Coming in here with their smelly food, odd clothing, and strange silent languages! In this edgy 1984 comedy we meet inoffensive Charlie (Blaisdell). He’s on vacation in rural Georgia (ours, not that commie one) courtesy of his military demo explosive buddy Froggy LeSueur (Nicholas D’Alessandro). Froggy is off to some fun, shiny place like Fort Benning, and he leaves Charlie alone and on the outs with his distant wife. Charlie’s shy and doesn’t want to talk to anyone so he pretends not to speak English. Naturally, he hears all sorts of good stuff, including a plot to steal his landlady Betty’s (Bailey DeVoe) hotel by Reverend David (Casey Casteel). David’s impregnated his fiancée Catherine (Lily E. Garnett) and he’s running the last KKK cell in the state so you doubt how right he is with God. He also plans to screw Catherine’s rather slow brother Ellard (Alex Arbit) out of his inheritance. What starts out as a silly comedy rapidly darkens when brutal Owen (Nick Brown) pulls out a knife and takes command of the situation. It’s time for wishy washy Charlie to take the lead, and when the stage floods with KKK costumes he shows his mettle. This is pretty edgy, particularity for image conscious Rollins.

Act One opens on a rainy night on stage; a passing storm added some extra punch to the effects. I even thought they had mounted a speaker outside. On stage Charlie doesn’t keep silent long; he’s pretty funny as he relearns his native tongue under Ellard’s guidance. D’Alessandro’s Froggy was a bit over the top, but the strongest role went to Brown’s redneck Owen; I wouldn’t want to run into him at a biker bar and he seems to know exactly what to do with a Buck knife. Ms. Gannet was meek and innocent and plays off nicely against her evil priest boyfriend; he became progressively scarier as the show proceeded and you know she needs rescuing. There’s triumph and deceit, tacky trinkets and sharp acting, and this show does a good job of reflecting some unfortunate rural realities. Just bring an umbrella, you never know if the rain is real.

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

Clybourne Park

Monday, September 26th, 2016

Clybourne Park
By Bruce Norris
Directed by David Reed
Starring Andy Hansen and Austin Davis
Theatre UCF, Orlando, FL

Buying a house is a big move, and selling one can be an even bigger adventure. In act one of this bitter comedy we find ourselves in white middle class Chicago in the dog end of the 1950’s. Russ (Hansen) and his wife Bev (Amanda Dayton) are packing up; they haven’t exactly been block busted but the buyer will be black. Their real reasons for selling are complex, but mostly it revolves around how their veteran son was treated. Long winded Karl (Davis) and his deaf wife Betsy (Sydney Walker) drop by to object, and Bev’s House keeper Francine (Brianna Joseph) tries to escape with her husband Albert (Joshua Goodridge). There the dread black people Kevin fears and they would just as soon not get into this brawl. Fast forward to 21st century, and the house is a wreck. The neighborhood cratered, but now it’s coming back. Closeness to downtown jobs draws the whites, and the current residents aren’t any more thrilled than their ancestors.

The pace is fast, the tension tight and Hansen does a slow burn in act one. Mr. Davis is a sharp foil; he stammers and stutters and spits anger; he can’t believe his neighbor would sell him out. In act two he’s equally offensive. A high point of the show is a series of racist jokes as each party attempts to show how hip they really are. While Ms. Joseph keeps her persona in both acts, it’s her partner Goodridge that gets the barbs. Lastly I’ll mention David Klein who plays the smarmy priest Jim in act one, and the frustrated real-estate agent in act two. All this action takes place on a gorgeous two story midcentury set designed by Gary Alexander. Maybe you’re not in the housing market, or maybe you want to move downtown, but there’s both a business lesson and human lesson, and it’s tightly written and cleanly executed.

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

“subText”

Sunday, September 25th, 2016

“subText”
By Tyler Dwiggins
Directed by Wade Hair
Breakthrough Theatre
Winter Park, FL

Teen romance is never easy, and now it’s not just “does he like me?” Nowadays its more like “does he like my gender?” This collection of nearly a dozen shorts explores this theme; there’s a unifying thread of Cameron (Bryan Adobo) and Dani (Maddie Roby) who commiserate and offer surprisingly adult advice to each other. He has a crush on his lab partner; her dating record has a half-life of three days. They internet stalk this mysterious lab guy; his musical tastes and fantasy football interests indicate this might not be a good guy to ask out. While this unwinds over four vignettes, Mike (Joshua Huff) foolishly tries to date Rosie, Posie and Josie but his fat fingered texting crosses the beams, and the blast crater he leaves behind is pretty deep. Barely legal Ameillia (Sophia Bell) and equally youthful Ed (Tyler Kreusch) might have a future but he’s a sloppy speller and she’s a diphthong Nazi. I suggest both of them wait a bit before hooking up for real.

Next Mr. Huff continues in his “not gonna get any” ways as he plays video games on what might be an anniversary date. Lucky for him its GF Erin (Mary Grace Meyer) the actually fumbles the dates but it’s a close thing. Lastly I’ll mention “Dressing It Up” with Josie (Faith Elyse) and Bridget (Lillian Almodavar) as they head out shopping for prom dresses. Josie’s gung-ho even though the big night is still is months away. She rejects an orange dress, claiming “It makes me look like a sad traffic cone.” That’s the best line in the show. Anyway, they decide that prefer each other, and this may be the earliest conclusion to the “who to go out with?” ever asked. Today’s cast is fun and fresh and they often provide us with acting that’s better than the text they work from. Teens will identify with this; I had a good time but found it a bit cell phone heavy.

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/

1776

Sunday, September 25th, 2016

1776
Music and Lyrics by Sherman Edwards
Book by Peter Stone
Directed by Mark Edward Smith
Choreography by Sara Catherine Barnes
Musical Direction Heather Langs
Starring Laura Hodos, Karel K Wright, and Melisa Whitworth
Mad Cow Theatre, Orlando FL

It’s an odd musical, for sure. Acts end without big blow out songs, there’s not really a romance to drive the story, and there’s more political wrangling here than in “Call Me Madam.” In the sweltering June summer of 1776 Philadelphia, the Continental Congress argues the “Open Window” policy versus “Too Damn Many Horse Flies” policy. But the real question is revolution; should some or all of the 13 colonies split off from mother England? On one hand, the Brits are taxing the locals who are more used to smuggling, and on the other General Washington is getting his butt kicked in the field. Firebrand John Adams (Hodos) fumes and sputters, his confidant Ben Franklin (Wright) tamps him down, and sexually frustrated Thomas Jefferson (Whitworth) gets roped into writing the whole revolution recipe down on paper, so at least everyone knows what they are arguing about.

I went into the show with low expectations, but was fully in love with the experience by the end of the first scene. The all-female cast was so strong the issue of their off-stage gender never became an issue. The original text survived intact with no precious changes of pronoun or case, and Hodos’ anger and frustration flew out to the audience keeping us on the edge of our seats. There’s plenty of comic relief; Stephen Hopkins (Beryl Rochatka) consumed rum at a prodigious rate as the Custodian (Jac Le Doux) kept the booze flowing. Wright’s Franklin was at turns gouty and philosophical; he’s the trained diplomat that would eventually get France to come and break the military stalemate. Both Jefferson and Adams had young lonely wives at home (Hannah Laird and Jennifer Newberry); they added a surprisingly feminine note to this show. Lulu Picart plays John Rutledge of South Carolina; she spoke eloquently for slavery and that became the great moral compromise that Adams had to make to get his revolution. Ironically, if there had been no revolution, the American slaves would have been liberated in 1833. (Look it up.)

The best song of the show “Mama Look Sharp” comes from the Courier (Emile Jean Scheetz). It brings to earth the harsh reality of Adams’ idealism–actual people die in battle, often leaving their relatives unable to support themselves. Other noteworthy tunes included Rutledge’s rousing “Molasses to Rum” and the love song “Yours, Yours, Yours” by Hodos and Laird. Someone points out that “life is more than sexual combustibility” but really, that’s the main reason we do almost anything on some level. There’s both sexual combustibility and political infidelity, and together they make a great musical production.

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

Astaire Way to Paradise

Sunday, September 25th, 2016

Astaire Way to Paradise
Starring Roy Alan
Musical Direction by Chris Leavy
September 21, 2016
Winter Park Playhouse, Winter Park FL

Roy Alan is the sort of guy who owns his own private tap stage that follows him around; it comes with a red velvet rope to keep the unwashed and un-danceable at bay. Mr. Alan has done Astaire shows before; this one focusses on Astaire’s later film career. Astaire’s sister and dance partner Adele cashed in by marrying British aristocracy leaving Fred without a partner. Astaire headed west and began work in the film industry; there he made that famed pairing with Ginger Rogers and a half dozen other stars.

Mr. Alan taps through every number from “A New Step Everyday” to “Fancy Free” to “Swing Time.” Each step is different but he’s not here to teach the intricacies of tap; instead he emphasizes anecdotes from Astaire’s career. He choreographed the famous “Chimney Dance” for “Mary Poppins,” hung out with Ira Gershwin, and introduced new filming techniques that surpassed Busby Berkley’s ground breaking efforts. Berkley aimed for an artistic yet fractured style of close up, Astaire aimed more for the realistic look using longer and wider camera positions. Alan captures the energy of Astaire; other audience favorites include “Nice Work If You Can Get it” and “Build Up to an Awful Let Down,” all backed by Chris Leavy’s effortless keys. It’s only an hour, but it left us all exhausted, including our star.

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

All Hands on Deck: The Musical

Sunday, September 18th, 2016

All Hands on Deck: The Musical
Conceived by Jody Madaras and Quincy Marr
Book and arrangements by Jody Madras
Directed by Roy Alan
Musical Direction by Chris Leavy
Winter Park Playhouse, Winter Park, FL

If we got nothing else from WW2, we now have a constant stream of Off Broadway musicals keeping the Andrews Sisters and Glenn Miller in the public eye. With a small, tight cast and an equally large musical section, tonight we return to that eternal USO show aimed at cheering up the troops before they head Over There. The older guy singing is local favorite Todd S. Mummert; his side kick is Joshua Roth with his larger than life smile. The girls are Rebecca Jo Cross and Kayla Kelsey Morales, and the band is prominetly on stage with shy drummer Sam Forrest front and center. We all have to do our part, I guess.

The show is split in two notional segments; the first set somewhere between Jacksonville and Miami, and the second an impromptu radio broadcast due to some mysterious weather phenomenon. But the tunes stay in the same genre: upbeat classic pop tunes. All the songs are fun. “Atkinson, Topeka, and Santa Fe,” “Bring Enough Clothes for Three Days,” and “Der Fuehrer’s Face ” are the fun tunes you never hear; “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree,” “Sentimental Journey” and “Bei Mir Bist Du Schein” are the ones you hear over and over yet never lose your taste for. There’s a strong patriotic theme; “Yankee Doodle Dandy” and “America the Beautiful” and a call out to the veterans in the audience give the whole show an even higher patriotic sheen; and with the tight stage spacing it’s hard to do much choreography beyond a little very tightly compressed tap. Put on your flag pins, forget your least favorite candidate and march right down to this show.

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

Paint Chips

Sunday, September 18th, 2016

Paint Chips
Conceived by Genevieve Bernard
Voci Dance
Presented at Orange Studio
Orlando FL

The poster SAID 7:30, so I arrived early only to be sent back out into the Mills Avenue heat to visit the vinyl shop up the road and chat with another record collector. After a while, I went back and was deemed entry and a cold beer. The currently named “Orange Studio” is a big empty warehouse; you really can’t miss its college football color scheme. Inside, it’s a sort of film studio; in one corner is a large cyclorama, in another a bar, in the third the comfy couch and a small piece of shag carpet. Doug Rhodehamel mobiles hang from the rafters; they are made from artfully recreated color samples from a major hardware chain. Near one wall DJ Nigel John is spinning vinyl, because what’s hipper than a 30 year obsolete audio system? Under foot, we have concrete. Lots of concrete and that’s the major flaw with this space: It’s LOUD.

Ken Nordine was a jazz guy and spoken word artist; although when he was working most people called that skill set “voice over.” He did tons of ads, including a series for a paint company that took each color and gave it a clever personality. These ads were so popular people called in to radio stations to request them. Now THAT’S advertising success. The Voci troupe adapted these audio bon-bons into a popular dance piece in last year’s Fringe, and here it is again in a bigger space. Seating is limited and standing a chore; fortunately the show is split up by DJ sets and we can sneak onto the couches that the dancers work on.

Nordine gave the colors a voice; Voci gives them life. Olive is thrilled to be “Color of the Year”, Gold insists on an armed guard. Gray strikes a balance between White and Black; they in their turn seek extremes. Amber packs some heat, Blue and Yellow tem up to make Green, Green in turn spans Chartreuse. It’s an ideal world; no death or taxes or commuting pains, only hip digital projections and overwhelming rhythm. It is Art, and Art with a capital “A.”

For more information please visit VociDance.com

Dearly Departed

Wednesday, September 14th, 2016

Dearly Departed
By David Bottrell and Jessie Jones
Directed by Wade Hair
Breakthrough Theatre, Winter Park FL

Being dead is no picnic, but sometimes survival is worse. “Mean and Surly” Bud (Marty Radner) collapsed into his Fruit Loops, and it’s not like there’s a trust fund to distribute. His wife of 39 years wants his nickname on the tombstone, his responsible son Ray-Bud (Anthony Marando) has to foot the bill, and his broke brother Junior has been picking up women in the K-Mart parking lot and now his wife knows. And this all takes place in the south, and where else is poverty and in-breeding funnier? Like all Breakthrough shows the cast is ginormous, but everyone seems to fit on stage when its called for.

The funniest guy up there was Franco Colon playing Royce, the nephew. His deadpan, quirky responses to his overbearing mother Marguerite (Marian Dunham) were priceless. Ms. Dunham was a little over the top; as the Jesus obsessed Baptist she was more caricature than real person. I loved Reverend Hooker (Damany O. Riley) and his hip flask of personal salvation; he can preach my eulogy anytime. Mr. Marando did the slow burn and was surprising and surprisingly adept when he threw a very convincing stage punch to Junior; all it needs to really sell it was a fist to a side of beef sound effect. Mr. Radner died too early to get much stage time, but the nearly mute Delightful (Alicia Boswell) succeeded in eating at every moment on stage and drawing solid laughs.

The family dynamics here feel real and authentic; out of their nest of desperation only Ray-Bud seems to have a hope of a decent retirement. And the others? They will stumble along from disaster to disaster, supported by faith and fast food, and slide back in to the safe arms of family loyalty and bad decisions.

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/

Bonnie and Clyde: The Musical

Monday, September 12th, 2016

Bonnie and Clyde: The Musical
Book by Ivan Menchell
Lyrics by Don Black
Music by Frank Wildhorn
Directed by Rob Winn Anderson
Starring Tay Anderson and Preston Ellis
The Garden Theatre, Winter Garden Florida

A little crime can always spice up a musical; this loving look at America’s most famous crime duo succeeds in recapturing that long, dark era of the 1930’s. Bonnie Parker (Anderson) met up with Clyde Barrow (Ellis) just as the depression got rolling; they robbed banks and small businesses and killed more than a few police. This production dances between the hard scrabble reality of the era and the glorified image that the contemporary press gave them. Ellis’s Barrow is a braggart with a touch of sociopath; Anderson’s Parker leans toward the softer side of the female gangster with solo numbers like “How ‘Bout A Dance?” and the fatalist “Dying’ Aint So Bad.” Backing them up are the rest of their on again, off again gang; Jake Rura plays the brother Buck while Lauren Culver covers for his sister-in-law Blanche. Crime sprees are no fun without the police in hot pursuit and Al Mauro fills the biscuit and gravy roll with the conviction it demands.

The set design by Mr. Anderson consumed up every remaining unpainted barn board in Winter Garden. It’s artfully shabby and colorless in a way that recalls the black and white images we have of the depression; each small town scattered across the midwest clung to a self-identity dependent on farming and a cross road business or two. Bonnie and Clyde were folk heros for some odd reason: their victims were working folks hanging on by a thread and the small banks they robbed had no protection; the money stolen was people’s savings and not the profits of some distant mega corporation. A five piece band lurks in the background; the program calls these musicians an orchestra but orchestras have violins, not fiddles.There’s a good solid country gospel sound filled with catchy numbers; the crowded house loved this show and so did I; this is a strong musical piece with some real heart.

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

Jekyll and Hyde: The Musical

Sunday, September 11th, 2016

Jekyll and Hyde: The Musical
Adapted by Jeffery Hatcher
Directed by Paul Castaneda
Choreography by Eric Yow
Musical Direction Jami – Leigh Bartschi
Starring Adam McCabe, Siobhan Gale, and Hannah Celeste
Greater Orlando Actor’s Theatre
Presented at First Christian Church, Orlando FL

Sometimes when the ethics review board nixes your project they really are doing the right thing. Radical Dr. Jekyll (McCabe) offers a way to split a man’s personality into good and bad parts; presumably the Bad could be locked up somewhere while the Good half goes out to save the world. When his hospital board tells him to cut out these wacky experiments he loads up at his connection and begins experiments on himself. This is a slippery slope, and he’s greased himself up for the ride. We don’t see much good from the Doctor; when he’s in the Mr. Hyde mode he seems like a coked out rock star and when he’s not, he’s pretty rude to everyone he notionally loves. His fiancé Emma Carew (Gale) sticks with him as does the hooker with a heart of gold Lucy (Celeste); there’s something about a brutal man that holds a strange appeal for some women. As Hyde spirals down his male friends seem helpless; even his best friend and lawyer Utterson (Kyle Stone) grudgingly agrees to prepare papers that he knows to be a bad idea. The body count rises, the scientific mumbo jumbo deepens, and when Mr. McCabe is in this manic mode he seems like he’s channeling Ozzy Osbourne.

But, hey, this is a musical and there’s some good material up on this stage. Mr. McCabe has a strong and exciting voice; he sings some powerful tunes including “Alive” and “This Is the Moment.” Ms. Celeste belts out her own good numbers including “Bring on the Men” and “Sympathy, Tenderness.” The full cast responds with “Façade” and “Murder, Murder;” this is a classic Orlando cast packed with skilled regulars. I loved Jason Skinner’s pimp “Spider;” as I sat on the end of a row he hisses at me sotto voce “I can get her for you for a couple of shillings.” Will Barbara played the sleaze Bishop of Basingstoke; he died very nicely. There was plenty of smoke and dramatic lighting and if you’re in the right sight line as Lucy goes up in the audience she holds a beautiful red back light. Sometimes things drag, and the sung through lines aren’t my favorite but there’s plenty of good music and great staging all working to keep this standard fresh.

For more information on Greater Orlando Actor’s Theatre, please visit http://http://www.goatgroup.com/