Do you want to write for Ink 19?

Archikulture Digest

by Carl F Gauze

Archive for April, 2017

Into the Woods

Sunday, April 30th, 2017

Into the Woods
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by James Lapine
Directed by Steve MacKinnon
Staring Justin DeLoach, Brance Cornelius, and Andrea Stack
The Garden Theater
Winter Garden, FL

I think they jiggled the stage direction from the last time I saw this show. Instead of a mystical medieval village, we begin the story in a library full of books. Our Narrator (DeLoach) sneaks in; it’s clear he doesn’t have a library card as this collection overwhelms him. The cast appears, acting around him, and we are off on Steve Sondheim’s most challenging work. A half dozen fairy tales interact with one another: The Baker (Cornelius) and his Wife (Stack) yearn for a child. Rapunzel (Aja Grooms) grooms her hair in a castle waiting for her prince (Connor Padilla) as Little Red Ridinghood (Sharon Yost) heads off to grannies house. Dim-witted Jack (Sage Starkey) trades a cow for magic beans, driving his mother (Candy Heller) to fairy tale distraction. There’s witch (Shannon Bilo) motivating the story, and a Mysterious Stranger (Stephen Pugh) explaining life to The Baker. I’m sure I’ve forgotten a few threads here, but action leads to reactions, and the results of all these shenanigans is an unwelcome giant attack and a long dissertation on how we are responsible for our actions, even if we meant well.

That’s a big story to put into this small set, but it’s full of nooks and crannies and hyper dimensional storage space and it always feels intimate and never cluttered. DeLoach is a young man with a small voice; he seems pleasantly lost in the action. Ms. Heller is a strong presence even if she can’t get her boy to think clearly. The twin princes Padilla and Rob stack have a lot of bounce in their step, and Stack is a darn scary Wolf when needed. The principle agony arises between The Baker and his Wife. They are constantly full of remorse and finger pointing and raise the question: You THINK you want kids, but do you really?

With a drop dead set and over a dozen of the best voices in town, this is a spectacle worth the trip out west even if the music is challenging. A few tunes stood out: “Agony,” “Last Midnight,” and “It Takes Two” all have little checkmarks in my program but none really pop into mind. The one thing that does stick in my mind is the odd Mysterious Man. Mr. Pugh plays him as a surreal object, and he never seems completely human on this stage. He’s the one person that retains the ideal of a story with a happy ending in this stage filled with reality based results. More than any other musical, “Into the Woods” takes reality, shifts it into a dream world, and then drops the floor out from under the dreams leaving the actors in the same dilemmas we entered the theater with. It’s schadenfreude, with better dancing.

For more information on The Garden Theatre, please visit

[miss]: An Uncompromising Woman

Friday, April 21st, 2017

[miss]: An Uncompromising Woman
By William Newkirk
Directed by Chuck Dent
Starring Nikki Darden Creston and Alma J. Hill
Playwrights Round Table
Presented at the Orlando Shakespeare Center
Orlando, FL

Disclaimer: I have been involved in the development and production of this play.
It’s tough to put science on stage without it turning into a lecture or a backdrop for a romance. Author Newkirk avoids either pitfall and delivers an excellent, in depth look at how scientific reality comes to be. In the post war era, women were presumed incapable of scientific rigor, but Dr. Frances Kelsey (Creston) accidently gets offered a PHD scholarship and a job at the Food and Drug Administration. The FDA is supposed to keep the pharmaceutical companies slightly honest, there’s a review process in place that doesn’t verify the claims made for new drugs, just that aren’t actually poisonous. In principle the review should dig deeper, but as we repeatedly hear from the drug guys Dr. Murray (Russell Trahan) and Dr. Pogge (Jeff Hole) “That’s how the game is played.” That pair work for Merrill, maker of tonight’s drug in question Kevadon. It seems a miracle: it’s a sedative that you can’t OD on, it suppresses morning sickness, and it even helps kids with poor school work. Dr. Kelsey’ issue concerns the paperwork; it just sounds like ad copy. With her low social standing (she specialized in rectal enema approvals) the Merrill guys have it in for her but she holds her ground. “Where are all the bad babies?” demands Dr. Murray in the show’s climax, and it IS a valid question. Those deformed feti hide behind slow reporting from overseas, and when the show ends, Dr. Kelsey wins an amazing victory. Not only is she vindicated for her stubbornness, she demonstrates that the scientific method really DOES produce important results that apply to all of us every day.

Leading this strong cast is Nikki Creston’s gently persistent scientist. Her path is guided by facts and educated hunches drawn from years of biochemical study. Her secretary, assistant and sounding board is Gertrude Helfer (Ms. Alma J. Hill.) She bucks up moral, does the grunt paper work, and probably was smart enough to do her own drug approvals. On the side of evil we have the normally nice Russel Trahan as the face of Merrill to Kelsey, and his even more evil side kick Jeff Hole. When things are really down for these guys, I think: “Trahan is going to put that telephone through his head!” He wields A REAL telephone, not one of these wussy iPad thingies. The human face of Merrill comes from Hayes Schardt. and Deena Flowers as the “Pill Girls.” Their job is pushing doctors to prescribe Merrill’s latest product. Flowers was fluffy and willing to follow orders while Shard felt more skeptical and ultimately felt the blow of her own uninformed actions.

This show hits on all cylinders: the plot is tight and tense, the science clear and relevant, and the heroine a true role model. The subtext here feels clear and timely: rules and agencies are not just created to vex profits and stifle innovation; they also protect the masses from the bad science by holding the pill producers to high technical standards. VERY hard to see this play; it’s selling out fast.

More information on Playwright’s Round Table may be found at http:\\

Creation – Births of Mythology

Sunday, April 16th, 2017

Creation – Births of Mythology
Written, devised and directed by John DiDonna
Valencia College, Orlando FL

Where did this world come from? Where it is going? And why are we here? These are the classic questions of humanity, and throughout the ages we’ve made up answers, farfetched as they may be. “Creation” creator DiDonna uses his highly successful Phantasmagoria template to explore the various attempts mankind devised to answer these Big Questions. A tribe of indistinguishable and unnamed students flow though the space, ominous projections and oversized puppets tell the stories, all of which are presented as equally valid and equally poetic.

We begin with the ancient Greek stories; this is the longest and most confusing section with its endless lists of gods, demi-gods, semi-demi-gods, and so on down the staircase of Olympian privilege. Here the Titans battle and chain and unchain each other; only lowly Zeus is left to run the Peloponnesus after the divine wars end. Here the big two story tall puppet arise; they aren’t nimble but they dominate the room. Next the Hindu myths come forward; they are precise but their language mystical and obscure. Again, Gods battle Gods, whipsawing the earth and its populace. The dancing is more formal, and the again names go on for centuries. Next we find relief in the African creation story. Here a God creates and then accessorizes him until walks, sings, argues and dances up a storm. If only upgrades were that easy.

Next we track into the hot zone; the Biblical Creation and the fall of Adam ruffle some feathers. This reading comes directly from the King James Bible; and I noticed something I hadn’t before: Genesis 1:14 implicitly permits astrology: “Let there be lights in the firmament … and let them be for signs …” they missed that one back in bible study. Punch and Judy acted out Adam and Eve’s story and this actually encouraged two people to walk out. I suspect it’s wasn’t the puppetry per se, but rather Adam’s rather impressive equipage seemed out of line for Sunday school.

At this point we are over the hump. The Babylonia “Enuma Elis” and a rather short explanation for the big Bang theory brought us to an end of the evening. All these tales attempt to go back as far in time as we can conceive; but each ultimately runs up against the unanswerable “Yeah, but what was there before that?” And that will never be answered, but what we have are these myths as a feeble attempt at an answer. The essence of a myth isn’t whether it did or didn’t happen, but that it contains an essential truth for us to comfort ourselves with. Myths paper over the unfillable hole in our information.

For more information on Valencia College Theater please visit http://


Sunday, April 9th, 2017

By Johnathan Vick
Starring Debbie Sussman
Dangerous Theater, Sanford FL

God may move in mysterious ways, but sometime it seems like He isn’t doing much of anything. It’s a cheerful household that contains this particularly unhappy family. Mother Gwen (Sussman) tries running the house like a Carthusian monastery, but her family never takes her vows. Tessie (Jade Roberts) dates boys and stays out all night, Aunt Debby (Vera Varlamov) still sleeps with her ex-husband but dates a Muslim, and dotty Grandpa (Larry Stallings) tells birthday suit gags. When her son Toby (Barry White) returns from the Middle East a decorated Marine, Gwen is disappointed he’s not interested in her particular brand of Christian self-flagellation. It’s so hard to run a kosher Catholic house; everyone ridicules her but this only strengthens her faith. It’s a faith she only came to when her husband died; he drank, smoked and swore but never went to church and she laments “How could God remove such a good Christian man?” There’s a LOT of yelling, and eventually she breaks; perhaps it might help if she actually READ her bible and not just gone with the Evangelical Cliff’s Notes.

It’s a long journey and some editing would help the run time. Sussman really poured on the emotion; you can tell shes lived this misery somewhere in some past life. Mr. White is the sanest guy here; he’s survived the war and maintained his upbeat and positive point of view only to lose it to one of those guns the paranoid keep around for burglars and suicides. Robert’s earthy sexuality brought us comic relief, and Ms. Varlamov’s ambiguous dating arrangements offered the most interesting yet unexplained situation. Grandpa Stalling plays a role where a weak, disenfranchised character offers deep insight to a higher status person who fails to see the truth in a situation. He’s the simpleton that reveals a great truth that any sane adult ought to have learned shortly after they were potty trained. This is a first class cast tackling an interesting story; and with a few trims this could be a very tight production exploring a whole stack of modern day cultural hot buttons.

For tickets and more information on Dangerous Theatre of Orlando please visit

Anthony and Cleopatra

Sunday, April 2nd, 2017

Anthony and Cleopatra
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Joseph Discher
Starring Michael Dorn and Carolyn Kozlowski
Orlando Shakespeare Theater
Orlando, FL

Tonight’s headline: “Roman general screws up own suicide: sad!” Sex will drive a man to do stupid stuff; examples are everywhere. Mark Anthony (Dorn) ducked out to visit sultry Egypt leaving his wife to lead a rebellion somewhere unpronounceable; now he’s doing the double nasty with seasoned and sensuous Cleopatra (Kozlowski). The sex and the politics are equally as hot; back in Rome Octavius Caesar (Rodney Lizcano) tries to manage an unwieldly Trans-Mediterranean empire in a threesome with horny Anthony and ineffective Lepidus (Shane Taylor). Caesar wants peace and loyalty, Lepidus avoids a horrible death, but Tony wants another hot weekend in Alexandria. Machinations arise; there’s a political marriage between Anthony and Caesar’ sister, but it lasts about 15 seconds before Tony heads back to the honey pot of sweaty Egyptian sex. And then the murders begin…

As Shakespeare’s stories go, this scrip makes more sense than most. Motivations are clear, deceits are plausible, and the action between Dorn and Kozlowski is clear and even pushes hard against the sort of “community standards” Shakes obeys, even in the breach. Kozlowski’s on-stage presents dominate the evening; she’s the more experienced courtesan, survival motivates her until it doesn’t, and I think she’s actually in love with this guy. Dorn is clearly dominant in his role, yet he’s upstaged every time Kozlowski has a chance. He seems comfortable in his out-of-town-big-name-actor role but she’s the scrappier fighter winning the on-stage contest of “who does the audience love?” The supporting actors are mostly equity; Lizcano is likeable yet brutal, the soothsayer (E. Mani Cadet) creepy, and as to the minor role, well each wonderful in their own way. Jeorge Bennet Watson as Enobarus is the general who knows how to dodge the spears, Sophie Blum shines as Cleopatra’s maid Charmian, and Blaine Edwards’ Pompey looks good in Roman armor.

Actually, the whole set looks good, this one of the most beautiful sets I’ve seen. The scenic crew lead by Rebecca Pancoast shined. An impressive eagle fights an Egyptian Ra upstage, rough brickwork glowed under oblique lighting, and a gold leafed combination chair and bed contains the intimate action between the principles. There were a few light tricks I never did figure out, and while this show has many merits and an all-around great cast you GOTTA see this set. Sex, politics and great lighting; this show has it all.

For more information on Orlando Shakespeare Theater, visit

An Evening With Mr. Johnson

Sunday, April 2nd, 2017

An Evening With Mr. Johnson
By Michael A. Matteo
Directed by Winnie Wenglewick
With Henry Gibson, Wes Imlay, and Crystal Nezgoda
Dangerous Theatre, Sanford, FL

No, I’m not stuttering. There are two versions of this script: the gay one I covered last week, and this more traditional hetrosexual production. Quick summary: Ed (Gibson) has a terrible love life; as soon as he finds Miss Nottobad, he’s drawn to Miss Evenbetter. Why is this? His Little Head (Imlay) is smarter than his big head. The pair debate maleness in the most brutal terms, and occasionally Mr. Imlay disappears and comes in through another door as Mom, a guilt inducing Jewish mother jonesing for grand kids. Tonight Ms. Nottobad, Donna (Nezgoda) is willing to give Ed one more chance even after he porked her best friend on Christmas Eve at a family party on the pile of coats in the bed room. There are SO many levels of guilt here, I can’t begin to count. And what was the root cause of this failure of romance? Donna was holding back; her frigid for life ploy was actually designed to protect Ed from her nuclear grade vaginal powers. And odd strategy, if you ask me.

The scene stealer here was Mr. Imlay. even as he over ran his own lines from time to time; he had the in your face presence a good penis actor needs. Mr. Gibson was fine, he just kept quiets as Mr. Imlay pushed him around. Only when Imlay was kryptonited by a silk caftan could Gibson stretch as an actor. Ms. Nezgoda (a new comer to Central Florida) seemed stern and punitive; but once she decided to let it all out, she and her feminine side seemed a bit bipolar. The two scripts are largely the same, some window dressing and a few specific sexual terms are the main differences. This show is running up at the newly refitted Dangerous Theater in Sanford, and while some paint and powder is still missing this is a solid performance space with good acoustics and comfy chairs. Never overlook seat comfort; it’s almost as important as a good script in the long run.

For more information on Dangerous Theater, please visit or

A Time to Go Walking

Saturday, April 1st, 2017

A Time to Go Walking
Written by Peter McGarry
Directed by Winnie Wenglewick
With Marylyn McGinnis & David A. McElroy
Dangerous Theatre, Sanford, FL

Tonight’s forecast projects a light and variable brogue with a chance of light tear drops later in the evening. Richard “Dickey” McDickie (McElroy) prefers reading Longfellow to digging long rows of potatoes, and taking long walks in the woods instead of chopping them to firewood. His long suffering wife (McGinnis) makes tea and soldiers on but when Richard strips down and paints himself blue, she senses something is wrong. He claims its “Time to go walking”, a sort of pre-planned suicide the early Celts may or may not have used to thin the herd. She tells him to either go out the door into the November wind or sit down for a cup of tea. He opts for tea, and we explore their loving yet strained marriage. He’s good at failure, he’s failed so many times she’s tired of it. There was rabbit ranching, motorizing a bicycle, and making death masks; none of which yielded a farthing. Sex is always an undercurrent; he can’t any more, but she thinks he’s seeing the widow down the road. It’s a classic conundrum, and one only solvable by death and a dreamy after life.

The show works as well as it does for no other reason than the couple performing has been together forever, and they both come from that background of pre-Roman English dreamtime. Mr. McElroy is tall and energetic; just not in character. Ms. McGinnis is not a woman to cross, and the bare studio floor she trods emphasizes their lack of material goods. McGerry’s script remains powerful, it’s a sad yet cynical look at what growing old together offers in support: They may be sinking into cold mother earth, but they are sinking together, heads held high and level.

Set in rural Ireland and presented at the newly opened Dangerous Theater, its grand yet low keyed beginning that everyone can enjoy. The space is way up in Sanford and occupies a space that once held another community-style theater company. The space is much more refined, the seats have a slice more knee room, and if you were a fan of Frank Hilgenberg, you can once again sit in his well-worn theater seats. This was a “soft” open there’s still some paint and powder that’s not in place. Things are shifting rapidly, but Sanford still offers abundant and convenient free parking, decent restaurants and bars, and safe strolling before and after the performance. And now, some seriously good scripts on stage.

For more information on Dangerous Theater, please visit or