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Archikulture Digest

by Carl F Gauze

Archive for December, 2016

Out of the Apple Orchard

Friday, December 23rd, 2016

Out of the Apple Orchard
By Ellen W. Kaplan
Based on a book by Yvonne David
Directed by Kenny Howard
Starring Jeremy Kleckner, Karen Ann, Sara Jones, and Ron Miles
Presented by Eden Grove
At the Orlando Repertory Theatre
Orlando, FL

Before there was a Borscht Belt, there was a small community of Jewish refugees up in the Catskills. The air was better than in the Lower East Side, but the opportunities were fewer. The Bieman family moved up there, hoping the clean air would cure father’s (Ron Miles) pneumonia as no one had yet invented antibiotics. With daddy out of action, the job of bringing home the kosher bacon fell to young Adam (Kleckner). He was in grade school, but the main skills taught there were reciting patriotic speeches and a bit of grammar. An orchard full of ripe apples offered a solution, but when farmer Friedland (Tommy Wooten) catches Adam, there’s a pile of invective that challenges the stately mountains gracing the upstage mountain range. As Adam wrestles with right and starvation and daddy coughs up internal organs, Mama (Jones) and Sarah (Maggie Connor) make apocalyptic statements and doctor Maxwell (Doug Bowser) flies about on his white horse (Bayley Steinwher, Josh Lefkowtitz, and Coletyn P. Hentz).

There’s a solid message here; Adam faces the horrible choice of Starvation vs. Sin. He’s properly torn, and that internal debate is the heart of the story. Decorating it is the astonishing set by Bonny Sprung: buildings rotate, a school house drops from the fly, and a mystical red bird (articulated by Mr. Hentz and voiced by Jose Navarro’s violin) follows Adam as he anguishes. Jessica Hoehn is the amazingly calm school teacher and Miles’ Papa can really cough up a lung. Wooton seems overly angry at the loss of nine apples, but we then see an amazing toy turkey attack and Adam’s sinning isn’t bad enough to damn him to hell. Where this show stumbles is in the dialog department; nothing on stage seems like natural speech. Obvious facts are announced, dreadful conclusions are final, and the idea that lurks in my head is we are hearing a transcript of the original children’s book. While acted by a great cast on a beautiful set, the words all feel stilted and the action seems arbitrary and none of the actors really have much free will. The cast was talking TO each other, and not with them. My party had four actual children in it tonight, they were transfixed so my criticism may arise from not being the target audience here. This is a promising piece, but there’s still some rough edges here that will hopefully buff off as this project continues in development.

For more information on The Apple Tree Series, please visit http://www.appletreeseries.com

A Breakthrough Theatre Family Christmas

Tuesday, December 20th, 2016

A Breakthrough Theatre Family Christmas
Created and Directed by Wade Hair
Breakthrough Theatre
Winter Park, FL

With the year winding down, it’s time to return to the old chestnuts and bring out the Christmas song book. This season, Breakthrough Theater gives just about everyone that worked for them a chance to pop out one last favorite holiday number, and over two dozen people pack the stage tonight. Nearly all are relative newcomers; most have only done one or two other shows and those just in the last year or two. Only Angela Cotto and Carla Davis are on my regulars checklist of naughty and nice girls. A medley of the Hot Holiday Hits bracket the individual performances, and I think my hot chocolate covered notes indicate they began with “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Toyland” and “A Few of my Favorite Holly Branches” opened the evening. Soon we were into the solo numbers.

One way to win over an audience is free candy; and a young lady kicked off the solos with the old Dean Martin fave “Marshmallow World” as she passed out marshmallow snowmen. Ms. Davis in a striking red dress begged us to “Please Come Home for Christmas” and the next singer promised us if we showed up it would be a proper “Hard Candy Christmas.” Then the super sexy “Santa Baby” reminded us gifts really ARE the reason for the season. As the cast wrapped up the program, Ms. Cotto proudly demonstrated her recently acquired skill with the kazoo. You haven’t had your heart wrenched until you’ve heard a Christmas medley played with a Kazoo, and backwards no less. As we wrapped up the last number a guest Santa snuck in thought the sound booth and passed out more candy canes. How could you go wrong? Sugary songs on stage and sugary treats in cellophane, and a massive cast delivering the goods. Wow, it really IS a Breakthrough Christmas!

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/

Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!)

Tuesday, December 6th, 2016

Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!)
By Michael Carleton, James Fitzgerald and John K. Alvarez
Music by Will Knapp
Directed by Michael Carleton
Orlando Shakespeare Theater
Orlando, FL

If any one point is clearly established here, that would be Marley’s demise. That fact was nailed clearly, repeatedly and most dramatically by Tim Williams. Beyond that, tonight offers a Santa’s sack of gags, clever ideas, and sometime sweet remanences. “A Christmas Carol” remains one of the most loved and most hated holiday stories, and you can only do it so often to a regular theatre crowd. But is IS a crowd pleaser, and if you only go to church for Easter, then there’s a good chance you only go to theatre for Dickens. Assisting the valiant Mr. Williams tonight we have long time favorite Christopher Patrick Mullen as the flighty guy, and new comer Michael Daly as the ironically Santa Shaped guy. The three not only have excellent chemistry and great timing, they never step on another’s laugh lines.

Some “Classics” are merely touched upon (a quick, jazzy frug from “A Charlie Brown Christmas”, a single shot from “A Christmas Story’s” Red Ryder Carbine Action BB Gun) while others are explored in more depth. More involved segment include the “The Fruit Cake Dating Game” where an audience member is dragged on stage, and a mashed up “It’s a Wonderful Life.” We see some earth friendly recycling; comedic travel logos for holiday traditions in distant European lands look familiar, and the lately lamented Theatre Downtown gets a cautionary shout out. Soon we are at intermission. Then Act Two zips by with a “Complete Works” edit of “Carol.” At a squeezed down 15 or 20 minutes it short circuits the feel good ending. Yeah! This is an evening of light weight fun, full of laughs and tinsel and short on pathos.

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

The Perfect Gift

Saturday, December 3rd, 2016

The Perfect Gift
Written and Directed by Winnie Wenglewick
Dangerous Theater, Sanford FL

It’s time to head back north to Sanford and see what’s become of the old Princess Theatre. The previous tenants disappeared Brigadoon-like into Florida theatrical mist, and now the Dungeon Mistress of the Performance Space Orlando is back from Denver to provide off-beat entertainment. The build-out isn’t done, but the seats are less cramped, and parking is still abundant and free.

This version of “The Perfect Gift” expands on the show that ran at the Marshall Ellis space a few months ago. Now it goes something like this: It’s almost Christmas under the old over pass, and Stacia (Wenglewick) takes her lunch with homeless Winter (Thomas C. Taffinder). He’s more interesting and less bigoted than her office mates, and after some holiday grousing from Stacia, he invites her back to his under-bridge encampment for a Dollar Store holiday meal. Here we meet is ambiguous buddy Harold (Larry Stallings). Harold is making his famous chocolate covered pretzel; the recipe calls for a Hershey bar and a butane lighter. The party is soon threatened by a jar of pickled herring, but no one is desperate enough to eat this obscure Norther European delicacy (Disclaimer: my dad loved this stuff for New Years, but no one else in the family would touch it). All three have invisible friends; some friendly and some downright scary. If there’s a moral here, it might be holiday joy does little to ease mental health issues.

While the holiday complaints are standard, and there are some long blocks of exposition; each character is neatly conceived and executed. Winter bubbles with an endless positive attitude; Harold is sweetly tragic, and the normally tough-as-nails Stacia folds like a card table when the shocker at the end appears. Technically, the space offers excellent lights and sounds, the seating is still rather eclectic. The PVC set needed a can of pipe solvent but overall this is a much better experience than the previous resident company provided. Right now most of the space is just painter tape and big ideas, but all is supposed to be in place by March. Meanwhile, here’s a holiday event that avoids most of the traditional sappiness of feel good Christmas shows.

For more information on Dangerous Theater (of Central Florida) check http://www.dangeroustheatre.com/pg-orlando.html. They run another operation in Denver, CO so pay attention to what location the tickets are for.