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Archikulture Digest

by Carl F Gauze

Archive for October, 2017

Grounded

Sunday, October 29th, 2017

Grounded
By George Brant
Directed by Monica Long Tamborello
Featuring Cynthia Beckert
Mad Cow Theater
Orlando, FL

Jet jockeying just isn’t like “Top Gun” anymore. Our unnamed flyer (Beckert) used to drive F-16’s around the sky, but that air frame is almost as old as I and our new war fighters might as well be playing a video game. She meets a nice guy on leave and has an “Oops” moment, and now her career stalls with the addition of a daughter, a husband and a new job in the modern fighting Chair Force. She’s still flying something but its more like that famous Penn and Teller video game “Desert Bus”: hours of ennui punctuated by brutal greyed out violence. And when the body parts fly, it’s not a game – it’s some other mother’s son dead in the burning dessert sand. Patriotism is one thing and earning a living is another, and they don’t mix all that well in her life. Her husband deals blackjack and while he wipes out people’s life savings, its not the same as her wiping out someone’s life. When put to the real test, she fails all because she’s too good at mapping herself into that tiny remote monitor and the soon to be dead enemy of our state. War is, in fact, hell. And here it’s a hell you can drive home from after a shift, then commute back to again tomorrow.

Enthusiasm and patriotism are the entry points to war, and disillusion and tortured dreams the end. Author Brandt accurately captures the surrealism of the modern battle front. Becket feels right as a pilot: the swagger, the casual profanity, and the confidence all came forth in her performance. She admitted after the show her family “had some aviation about it” and she did nail all the jargon. While your chances of death in the Chair Force is about what any office job risks, the ability to separate the focus of the battle field and the joys of home is compromised and that’s where the character finds her downfall.. There no set to bother this story, just some miscolored VASI lights and two panels of Midwestern fluffy cumulonimbus. Beckert takes our attention, and keeps us on her glideslope of total emotional destruction.

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

Love and Marriage

Friday, October 27th, 2017

Love and Marriage
With Kelly Morris Rowan
Musical Direction by Chris Levey
Spotlight Cabaret Series
Winter Park Playhouse
Winter Park, FL

I can tell we’re in for an evening of elegance as Ms. Rowan enters in a blue evening gown dripping with a formal style we rarely see today. Her theme is “Love and Marriage.” Tonight’s program recounts her courtship and marriage starting at a Pennsylvania Renfair gig. Here are some prime picks: “And Then He Kissed Me,” “Old Fashioned Wedding,” and “I Chose Right.” You get the idea. Stories about pets and counselors filling between songs, and Ms. Rowan takes some time to sing a duet with Maestro Chris Leavy. You can always count on an encore here at the Winter Park Playhouse, and the ending is telegraphed by a rather down tempo mashup of “Too Late Now” and “Our Love is Here to Stay.” We won’t go home without a rousing close, and that comes from the swinging “Glory of Love.” An ovation, a trip to settle a bar tab, and we leave with romance in our hearts. Romance – I’m so glad she’s enjoying it…

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

Evita

Tuesday, October 24th, 2017

Evita
Lyrics by Tim Rice
Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber
Directed by Paul Castaneda
Starring Victoria Sol Del Agua, Brandon Munoz-Dominguez, and Freddy Ruiz
Valencia State College
Orlando, FL

Even by musical theater standards, Juan Peron (Munoz-Dominguez) gets off easy tonight. Of course, he doesn’t get all the hits, either, so it looks like a wash for him. His wife Eva (Del Agua) emerges from the countryside, and sings her way quickly to the top. Peron was a milder form of the South American dictator, and I attribute that to the raw charisma of Eva. She finds her way to the big city (“On This Night of a Thousand Stars”) and quickly sleeps her way into Peron’s life. A good bit of negotiation is called for (“The Art of the Possible;” “I’d Be Surprisingly Good for You”) but in the end Eva becomes the face of the regime, and whatever good or bad occurred in her short life it was always overshadowed by her popularity. Che (presumably Guevara) (Ruiz) comments on the action and often presents an alternate take on the scenes but ultimately, he’s only as effective as a commentator, and no one on stage takes cues from him.

Here we have a big musical in a big space with some big voices. Director Castaneda takes advantage of the pair of follow spots, an industrial strength fog machine and a well selected cast to bring Eva’s oversized persona down to a real, loveable size. While Mr. Munoz is often stiff and a bit hulking, he feels very vulnerable as a dictator. Ms. Del Agua has the voice for the high notes although the sound mix could stand a little more bass. It’s Mr. Ruiz’s Revolutionary commentator that holds your eye; he’s skeptical of the entire revolution but offers no practical alternative. The set is simple but effective, lights and projects pop the flats into your lap as the chorus specializes in fast changes, energetic dances and solid specialty roles. This is how to run a revolution.

For more information on Valencia College Theater please visit http:// http://valenciacollege.edu/artsandentertainment/Theater/schedule.cfm/

Of Thee I Sing

Sunday, October 15th, 2017

Of Thee I Sing
Book by George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind
Music by George Gershwin
Lyrics by Ira Gershwin
Directed by Mark Brotherton
Musical Direction by Chris Endsley
Starring Kyle Laing, Jennifer Totcky, Joseph Edward Herr
Theater UCF
Orlando, FL

Politics never changes; it’s just that new crooks appear from time to time. Tonight, we find ourselves in a post Hoover time warp where Alaska is a state but we have still to fight WW2. “The Party” has nominated John P. Wintergreen (Herr) as their man for the White House, but they need a platform to stand him upon. Ideas fly by but the one that sticks is “Love.” Wintergreen will run on a policy of Love and his Bobby Bitman-influenced campaign manager Fulton (Laing) will round up each state’s most beautiful gal and pick the best. If Wintergreen wins, they marry on Inauguration Day and if he loses? Who cares. We have been governed under worst conditions. Along for the ride is un-noticed VP Alexander Throttlebottom (Kent Collins). Nobody remembers his name and no one tells him his job is to run the Senate. He is very, very happy with all this. The winning girl is bombshell Diane Devereaux (Katie Whitmore), but Wintergreen is having nothing of her – he’s fallen for his assistant Mary Turner (Totcky). This takes us to inauguration where Deveraux claims breach of promise. Soon we have an international incident and a very silly French Ambassador (Mikey Reichert) threatens war with the United States. Today, that seems totally plausible.

The politics are as cartoonish as CNN, but this IS a Gershwin Brothers piece that won the Pulitzer Prize. The duplicity and sheer lack of respect make this a funny piece even if you don’t get the plot point that prohibition is still in effect yet everyone carries a hip flask. Herr has the preppy good looks to win and hold office, Whittemore is clearly the American Ideal circa 1932, and while Laing overplays his role, its a choice that pays off: innocent Collins is sweet and harmless and draws his laughs from the traditional low esteem Veeps hold. As FDR’s second in command John Nance famously remarked: “The Vice Presidency isn’t worth a bucket of warm piss.” Yet, Throttlebottom appears to fall short of even that low standard. The main Va-Va-Voom factor here comes from Whitmore in her flattering red swim suit. When you first meet her, you think: “Woman scorned. Beware!” and Mr. President fails on that count. Musically, the songs are all well staged and sung, but only “Love Is Sweeping the Country” sticks in my mind for its melody while “Posterity is Just Around the Corner” gets points for its non-sequitur title.

There’s tons of energy here; all the dance numbers are attacked like the D-Day landing. A clever moving thrust stage pulls and pushes the action along as color changing columns indicate mood and time. A few references here and there allude to the current administration, but the parallels lie more in the broad strokes of politics more than today’s headline. Heck, even the American Flag shirt contingent stuck around for the second act. If that’s not cross aisle bipartisanship, I haven’t seen it. And no, I haven’t seen any for many a year. Go for the dance, the acting, the music and the set along with the privilege to see an important but rarely produced classic executed with grace and style.

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

The Odd Couple (Female Version)

Sunday, October 15th, 2017

The Odd Couple (Female Version)
By Neil Simon
Directed by Keith Smith
Starring Marty Stonerock and Peg O’Keefe
The Garden Theater
Winter Garden, FL

This production is presented in ensemble with the male version directed by Katrina Ploof and starring Steven Lima and Mark Ferrera. These comments only reflect the female version.

While the men of the original “Odd Couple” drank bourbon and smoked cheap cigars, the women in this version play Trivial Pursuit and drink wine spritzers. Simon’s original story went on stage in 1965 but today the world demands an equivalent all-female version of this mismatched friendship. Mr. Simon has obliged. Olive Madison (Stonerock) has an ill-defined job involving sports. Her long term and obsessive-compulsive friend Florence Ungar (O’Keefe) is unhappily married to a short Jewish man with a cowboy boot fetish. It took twenty years for Florence’s world to fall apart, but now she’s homeless and needs a crash pad. That falls on Olive’s weekly Trivial Pursuit night where her friend notices Florence’s glaring absence. Soon suicidal Florence appears, and when it’s clear she’s not going to jump out the 11th floor window the struggle between Olive’s sloppy sexuality and Florence’s frustrated perfect home making bubbles up until the pair are about to kitty bitch slap each other to death. When Olive attempts to seduce some Spanish neighbors, the jokes pile up faster as Florence does her level best to destroy the potential hook up.

The light and airy set invites us to one of those New York City apartments no real person could ever afford. Act one is a bit forced; the raunchy male camaraderie of the original whiskey soaked poker game isn’t nearly effective and a few jokes fall flat as the large cast diffuses the comedic tension. But once Olive and Florence are alone in Act 2 the apartment neatens up to a painful cleanliness while the love / hate machine between these women explodes. The interdiction of Manolo (Thomas Muniz) and Jesus (Brandon Lopez) piles on the gags, and even their misplaced foreigner shtick delivers laugh after laugh. The supporting cast support well enough; Vera Varlamolv as Sylvie give us a lovable sexiness, Laura Cooper as the nice cop Mickey adds a calming lid to Florence’s sinus condition, and Jade Jones as Renee offers a running commentary on the action. I went in expecting little, but was rewarded with a strong ending and side splitting comedy from a hard-fought supporting cast. Yes, you need to help your friends in a pinch, but that doesn’t mean you need to move in with them for more than a sitcom’s run of months.

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

Hand to God

Sunday, October 15th, 2017

Hand to God
By Robert Askins
Directed by Kenny Howard
Starring Jerry J. Jobe, Jr. and Becky Fischer
Generation Productions
Presented at the Dr. Phillips Center
Orlando, FL

Rough sex with underaged boys and Satanic hand puppets – this IS a fresh look at Lutheran Youth Discipleship programs in the 21st century. Margery (Fisher) lost her husband recently, leaving her and her shy son Jason (Jobe) adrift. They’ve taken up “Christian Puppetry” as an anchor, and her “Christ-ka-teers” need to put up some sort of performance next week. Pastor Greg (Jason Blackwater) is interested in Margery, but she’s not ready for a wishy-washy man like good ol’ Pastor Greg. Snotty and precocious Timothy (Andrew Romero) is more her speed and even if he is under age (not an obvious fact from the casting) he rings her bell. Young Jason really digs the puppets; his best friend and left hand puppet Tyrone gradually takes over his life, but innocent Jessica (Devan Seeman) helps with the exorcism. I didn’t even know Lutherans DID exorcisms, and I grew up in that sect.

If you have any love for the squeaky-clean religion so popular today, I advise running away and pulling out your hair. But if you’re more skeptical, this shows what MIGHT happen when religion goes bad. I felt most sorry for Pastor Greg; he’s a bear of a man (in a totally heteronormative sense of the word) and his pass at Margery might be the sincerest moment of the show. Only Fisher’s relation with the barely illegal Timothy shocks more; they take their sex to the point plumbing came off the walls. Fisher and Romero play the “B” couple in this not-quite-a-romance leaving Jason and Tyrone and sweet Jessica to work out the jagged “A” love triangle. Jobe’s sharp transitions from innocent to uber-evil and back again surprised, and he enjoyed his wilding moment more than he should. But I give points to Blackwater’s Pastor Greg; he achieved the right result without ever falling in the trap of the Saccharine Ministry. Ms. Fischer is frightening, Mr. Romero enjoys his ride too much, and Ms. Seeman artfully clings to a knowing sense of innocence. Tonight was brutal, scary and redemptive – almost like the hagiography of a saint slaughtered for just being different.

For more information on events at the Dr. Phillips Center, you should click on drphillips.box-officetickets.com

The Hound of the Baskervilles

Sunday, October 15th, 2017

The Hound of the Baskervilles
By Steven Canny and John Nicholson
Directed by Jim Helsinger
Orlando Shakespeare Theater
Orlando, FL

I went and re-read the original Sherlock Holmes story and dang it, this rollicking parody hits just about every plot point in the original, but with more wit, slapstick and panache than even Dr. Watson could muster. There are no walls here; the cast speaks to the audience, runs thought the audience, and assaults the audience although the show does offer a free drink ticket for an intermission pint for their trouble and mortification. The ethereal Steven Lane mainly covers Holmes’s lines; he’s slim and gaunt and a master of the dead pan. The only legitimate Brit in the cast is the rarely seen Steven Needham; his dossier focuses on Watson and his documentary functions as well as some necessary yokel work. There are many a yokel in this show, spooning out plot points in that unintelligible West Country palaver aimed as confusing Americans. Ruddy Chris Crawford does the heavy character lifting. He’s the about-to-be-dead Sir Henry Baskerville, his own dead brother, most of the female roles, and another phalanx of yokels. This show is PACKED with yokleness.

Comedy is the essence of timing, and timing is what makes this show pop. People and props fly together with split second precision. Smoke rises from the steam room, costumes are changed in mid-flight, props drop from the rafters yet never quite injure any actor. The audience senses no fourth wall; this is as intimate and raw as a first readthrough but with more people sinking into the moors. This show has, by far, the best “sinking in to the moor” effect ever staged. As we exit, one question sticks in my mind: what makes the British prefer to live on land that will swallow them up as surely as California catches fire? No good answer comes to mind, so come for the comedy, stay for the brilliant stage craft. And be sure to check out the armor-plated wallets in the gift shop. Watson recommends them.

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

26 Pebbles

Monday, October 9th, 2017

26 Pebbles
by Eric Ulloa
Directed by Belinda Boyd
Theater UCF
Presented at The Rep
Orlando, FL

The new outlet for America’s internal grief is Devised Theater. That’s a partially improved script created by a collative cadre of artists. Tonight, we explore The Sandy Hook shootings in Newtown, CT. The details are all too familiar; a man with mental problems walked into a rural grade school and killed most of the first-grade class. As we begin this story, we hear from the cast all the wonderful aspects of this small town, pre-murder. No crime, everyone knows each other, and a sense of community and shared destiny not so common anymore. The stories stop abruptly, and we hear the disaster unfold as did the locals: fragments of information, false leads, and a growing sense of panic. As we learn about the event, the press streams in, terrorizing the town almost as badly as the shooting itself. In the end, the children and their teachers remain dead, the story drifts from the public eye, and all that remains is a traumatized town and a loss of shared innocence. That, and 63,700 stuffed bears sent by sympathetic outsiders who could do nothing more effective.

With each actor building a dozen characters, its only fair to rank this on the ensemble performance, as no one actor could be better than any other. Brittany Caine is a mother and narrator, Daniel Romero plays the priest and a line man, Andy Hansen a Rabbi. Courtney Yakabuski reads auras, Megan Murphy is the outsider from Australia who has blended in, and Aradhana Tiwari played the school principal. The show has a good build; even as you know what’s coming the shots are a shock, the chaos palpable, and the press vultures chasing locals with cell phone camera lights effective. We’d like to see this violence end, but it’s not clear how in today’s environment. But this play brings the shooting down from a distant abstraction to real people with real emotions evolving in real time.

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

Curtis X. Meyer – Ascent Into Madness

Thursday, October 5th, 2017

Curtis X. Meyer – Ascent Into Madness
The Dangling Spotlight Series
Featuring Curtis X. Meyer
October 3, 2017
Dangerous Theater
Sanford, FL

The spacious Dangerous Theater just added a new series of events. Along with the quirky theatrical presentations, there’s now a monthly “Spotlight Artist” series beginning tonight with local spoken word artist Curtis X. Meyer. With his burning eyes and persistent cough, he looks and breaths the image of a man with something to say, and there’s no way to stop him. We heard 12 pieces, mostly concerned with equality and all displaying a curiosity and drive that classes him with people who grab your lapel and keep talking at you until you fake a coronary to escape.

We begin with some praise of the developer of the modem condenser microphone. A seemingly small bit of progress, but one that affects all of us. “Ruminations of Wonder Woman” and her comic book history, stories about his youth (dad was a high official of Ripley’s “Believe It or Not” and the family motto was: “Weird pays the bills”), and his skill of recognizing auto tune all pull us in. Meyer’s best material talked about the metal state of Martin Luther King but he pulled off a genuine crescendo with a long, energetic rumination on the 1938 Benny Goodman Carnegie Hall concert. This show force-fed Modern Jazz to an audience that was not prepared for its musical excesses. It was a striking show, and he brings it alive without any instrument save his voice. You missed a great evening back in 1938, just as you missed this great performance tonight. Maybe you should get out more often…

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.