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by Carl F Gauze

Archive for the 'theater' Category

[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:\\www.ThePRT.com

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:// http://valenciacollege.edu/artsandentertainment/Theater/schedule.cfm/

Dogmai

Sunday, April 9th, 2017

Dogmai
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 http://www.dangeroustheatre.com/orlando.html

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 http://www.orlandoshakes.org

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 http://www.dangeroustheatre.com/ or https://dangerous-theatre-sanford.ticketleap.com/

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 http://www.dangeroustheatre.com/ or https://dangerous-theatre-sanford.ticketleap.com/

Hedda Gabler

Sunday, March 26th, 2017

Hedda Gabler
By Henrik Ibsen
Adapted by Jon Robin Baitz
From a translation by Anne-Charlotte Hanes Harvey
Directed by Kate Ingram
Starring Victoria Gluchoski
Theatre UCF, Orlando FL

Some see this play as a validation of feminist power, some see this play as a courageous attack by disenfranchised people everywhere, but I see this as bad girl getting revenge and paying the price she negotiates. Look back five or six generations, and imagine your great great grandparents having sweaty sex. Not a pleasant thought, but that’s where beautiful, jaded and repressed Hedda (Gluchoski) comes from. Her new husband George (Terence Lee) adores her, yet has not the faintest clues as to why they might want to get naked. She has a house they can’t afford, a servant (Lilly Vreeland) she can’t tolerate and a friend Thea (Amanda Dayton) she can’t intimidate. But more to the point, she has two pistols her father left her, and we know what that means. Why she married intellectual George is murky, but no matter. Were he to find her naked with Judge Brack (Daniel Romano) or writer Eilert Lovborg (Andy Hansen) he would offer them a drink and ask if he should come back later. It’s a soap opera complete with an underscore, a bad ending, and a heartless lead.

Gulchsoki combines the ennui of the over-wealthy with the social climbing of the nouveau riche. She’s statuesque and cold-hearted and will destroy a man just because. Lee is our comic relief; he’s bubbly and clueless and a lover of intellectual trivia. More interesting is Judge Brack (Daniel Romano). It’s not clear he actually adjudicates trials, but he looks villainous in his black suit and needs a moustache to twirl. The professorial Lovborg (Andy Hansen) looks like he taught Milton to the cast of “Animal House;” he’s come up with a new genre of writing that threatens George’s career path, and if there’s one thing Hedda needs, its George making more money. All this villainy flows across a translucent set of Plexiglas and smoke. The room is elegant yet dark, the furniture uncomfortable, the dresses constricting. So far George is lucky, Hedda hasn’t tried to kill him yet but he should be wary of the pickled herring. Hedda may not love him, but she hasn’t figured out how to kill him either. While Ibsen isn’t known for sparkling drawing room comedy, this new adaptation coupled with director Ingram’s wit makes this a gripping yet sordid little tale that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

For tickets and more information, please visit http://www.ucftheatretickets.com

Three Sisters

Sunday, March 26th, 2017

Three Sisters
By Anton Chekov
Adapted by Libby Appel
Directed by Mark Edward Smith
Starring Hannah Benitez, Rachel Comeau, and Melissa Whitworth
Mad Cow Theater, Orlando FL

Russian drama: you can’t tell the players even with a score card. Written on the eve of the 1906 Russian Revolution, “Three Sisters” is Chekov’s second-last play. We meet a collection of Russian architypes, all trapped in an unidentified Podunkski of 100,000 people. We know little of the town other than its wide river, its northern latitude, and its fading military importance. But we do sense the roots of the revolution: a rising middle class of Kulaks and intellectuals squeezed between the old aristocracy and the ever starving peasant class. Opportunity is as rare as a soft summer day, and the mindset of privileged refuses to die.

Five gun batteries defended Podunkski against polar bears and summer, yet the subtle terrorism of ennui pervades the town. Olga (Whitworth), Masha (Benitez), and Irina (Comeau) live with their intellectual brother Andrei (Mike Carr). In Act One the girls are filled with romantic ideas and Andrei aims for a teaching gig at the prestigious Moscow University. By Act Two, the situation slips down the Russian drain. Andrei marries domineering Natasha (Julie Snyder), Masha falls into an affair with dashing yet married Vershinin (Brian Brightman), and Olga stares a permanent and boring career in academia in the eye. Acts two and three continue the spiral down the drain and the city loses its economic engine of the gun batteries. By now fates are sealed, and Tuzenbach (Adam Reilly) dies from a Chekovian gunshot leaving Irina alone. Only the endless birch forest and the crystalline winter will survive.

Moody scenes glow under exaggerated blues and oranges. The blues bring cold birch forests to crystalline life (kudos to Lisa Buck for the extra cool moveable birch forest). Strong oranges emphasize the warmth of this soon to go critical nuclear family. All of these sisters stand out sharply: earthy Masha, ethereal Irina, and frozen ice queen Olga. The fourth element, Fire, resides in Natasha’s burning jealousy consuming the entire family. The military men are unreliable narrators; Doctor Chebutykin philosophizes until it drives him to drink and you never hear his real name on stage. Smooth Vershinin identifies the vulnerable, seducing the unhappy Masha, and Baron Tuzenbakh plunges meteor-like from a safe military career into a foolish duel. In Russia there is always hope and joy yet disaster is a step away. All want to go to Moscow, that gleaming city on the hill, yet it might as well be Mars for all these country folks. Even if they started walking and made it to the front door of the Kremlin, they would still be a million versts away.

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

Squabbles

Sunday, March 26th, 2017

Squabbles
By Marshall Karp
Directed by Lorraine Patria
Starring Russell R. Trahan, Ali Jagic, and Andres Salgado
Mimi’s Community Theatre
Presented at the Winter Garden Masonic Hall
Winter Garden, FL

There’s no kvetching like Alte Kocker Kvetching. We find ourselves in a typical American home located conveniently on the ground floor of an old-school Masonic Hall. Above us weird rituals generate sounds ominously similar to an infestation of River Dancers; below Shannon (Jagic) and Jerry (Salgado) try to live in quiet wedded bliss. Love would be enough if not for Alice’s cranky dad Abe (Trahan). Abe is too old to live alone but too spry to be any help to the marriage. He’s territorial and full of useless advice and commentary but each of the loving couple work so that keeps the pressure off. Off until there’s a bun in the oven and Alice’s mom Mildred (Carmen Borja) arrives from her burnt out house with her remaining belongings in a lawn bag. Now we ask the dramatic question: Who will move into the small bedroom, and can two mortal enemies live together when the only oral sex they have is yelling “Screw You!” across the dinner table?

It’s a slice of life here; we tackle a common problem facing so many American couples: God gave their folks four score and ten, so what sin did we commit to keep them hanging around? Trahan dominates the stage; he has the best lines and the loudest projection even at the cost of pushing too hard from time to time. Salgado remains upbeat and a bit goofy; he’s balanced by the slow burning Ms. Alijagic. Sassy Mother Superior to Abe plays a solid foil to Trahan; she starts from a position of weakness but uses verbal judo to eventually topple him. Comic support comes from the truly bizarre lawn guy Hector (Ron Miles). He’s the walk-on sitcom neighbor who lives in the upstairs bathroom and speaks with an inexplicable squeak.

For a new company, the set impresses even though it’s just made of Styrofoam and architectural scavenge. This is a good selection for a beginning show; I hear there are more challenging titles on their roster for the near future. While this location is a bit hard to find (Go to the western-most lighted trees and turn right) it gives Winter Garden a second theater option and one that has the opportunity to take on lesser known authors in an acoustically sound setting. Winter Garden – it’s not just bicycles and car shows anymore!

For more information on Mimi’s Community Theater please visit https://www.facebook.com/littlecommunitytheater/

Brian Feldman’s William Shakespeare’s Macbeth

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017

Brian Feldman’s William Shakespeare’s Macbeth
Conceived by and Starring Brian Feldman
Directed by Irene L. Pynn
Brian Feldman Projects
March 20, 2017
Walt Disney Amphitheater at Lake Eola Park
Orlando, FL

Is this a performance artist I see before me,
The stage blank, the audience sparse? Come, let me observe thee.
I understand thee not, yet I attend thee still.

Art thou not, weird friend, tired
Of feeling so slighted? Or art thou but
Suffering stage fright, an man unseen
For lo these 15 long, long minutes?
Aha! Thou’st arrived, dressed as a Transformer
For me to write my thoughts.

Thine togs! Girded for the battle, the rink,
The grid iron, perchance to save yourself from harm.
Your text clouds the audience. A small dog protests.

Diction slurs, words repeat; Yet I listen
and on thy tounge and dudgeon gouts of sound
thou said by rote appear. You own the stage.

It is the bloody business which informs
Thy act to mine eyes. Now o’re the one half hour
The script seems dead. You wickedly abuse
The meagre crowd. Yet thy text motivates
True Kubersky’s pen, true patience foreborn
Alarumed the viewing public, the crowd
Who did not appear, nor this show attend.

While Feldman’s ravishing strides, filled with rage
Spewed out fire. Thou sure and firm-set stage:
Hear not the cars, the motor craft, the birds.

The very winos shuffle past amused
And take the present concept for their own
Which now suits you. While you act, I write
Words to record the depths of thy passion.

(A bird flies by. Brakes squeal)

I go, and two hours remain; is this hell?
It is not, Carl Gauze, for it is a show
That’s summons one to Feldman, or to go.

For more information on Brian Feldman Projects, please visit