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Archikulture Digest

by Carl F Gauze

Archive for the 'theater' Category

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. He 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 have 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.

The Cradle Will Rock (The Musical)

Saturday, September 30th, 2017

The Cradle Will Rock (The Musical)
By Marc Blitzstein
Directed by Tony Simotes
Music Direction by Jason M. Bailey
Choreography by Robin Gerchman
Starring Nicholas D’Alessandro, Carlos Ramirez Pereyo
Annie Russell Theatre, Rollins College
Winter Park, FL

Back in 1937, this show caused riots. Today, its equally as important, yet its story of labor fighting management is not nearly as inflammatory. Why? Because labor has largely lost its battle. On a spare stage, a large realistic mural shows the inside of a steel mill. Shirtless workers stir vats of molten steel, faceless and wraith like. In front of the musical is an unprepared stage with racks of clothing and a ghost light. The cast of Cradle was booted from their original space for political reasons, and the show is going to improv its way through tonight’s performance.

We begin with a young Moll (Margot Cramer) looking for money from a man looking for love; she wants a dollar, he offers 30 cents. The cops bust up the deal, but have bigger fish to fry. There’s a labor rally, and their boss Mr. Mister (D’Alessandro) has ordered heads busted. The “Liberty Committee,” is hauled into court as well, and we hear all their stories: artists who beg to flatter patrons for lunch, Preachers are paid to preach war, and the one man with some spine, Foreman (Pereyo), nearly gets bought off with cash. But he holds the line, and while this match is a draw, the battle lines are clear: it’s cheaper to bribe a few community leaders than it is to pay the rest a decent wage. Where have we heard this story again?

The show is purposely over the top; it’s a morality tale that never aims for subtlety. The characters are stock, and the lessons we learn show how easily anyone can be bought off, and not always for cash. D’Alessandro alternates between suave and outraged; I liked outrage better. Chase Walker is alcoholic druggist Harry; he lost a shop he didn’t even own when an assassination wipes out jovial and harmless but framed Gus Polock (Jordan Barnett). That’s capitalism; it makes few if any moral distinctions here. It’s a great morality tale, and the mural (Zephyr Lenninger and her crew) reminds me of the heroic murals in odd places like the Allen Bradly cafeteria back in Milwaukee. This show is about as political as you can get on the legitimate stage, and the stories it tells are still as relevant as when they tried to shut down the original production. Someone once said something about breaking eggs, but he was on the other side of the of the last big war, so that doesn’t count. Or does it?

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

Class of ’59: 10 Year Reunion

Tuesday, September 26th, 2017

Class of ’59: 10 Year Reunion
Written and Directed by Wade Hair
Breakthrough Theater
Winter Park, FL

Having struggled to stay conscious during a Greek adaptation, I am happy to report “Class of ’59” contains absolutely no complex metaphors, no deconstructionist symbolism, and no endless monologs about the uselessness of living. Instead, it’s looking back and we are suddenly in 1969 celebrating the transition from high school greases and do wop hits to mid- life middle class jobs and your music becoming “Oldies”. The reunion is led by principal Stevenson (Wade Hair) and his secret crush Mary Lou (Kelly Elisabeth Fagin). He’s acquired a head of industrial carpeting and she’s still shy, but there’s hope for a happy ending tonight. As they flirt and avoid the question, the class sings songs, dances up a a storm, and burnishes the patina of nostalgia some people have for high school. We get a few of Breakthrough’s signature high density dance numbers (“Rock Around the Clock,” “At the Hop”) some medleys that flowed nicely by both the guys (The King Pins) and the gals (The Poodle-ettes). Everybody got a solo number including the stunning “Unchained Melody” sung by Gonzolo Mendez and “These Boots Were Made for Walking” by Iris M Johnson. If my high school had been this skilled, I might have enjoyed it. It’s a fun show, and doesn’t even have that spilled milk smell real high schools still feature.

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/

Iphigenia and Other Daughters

Monday, September 25th, 2017

Iphigenia and Other Daughters
Adapted by Ellen McLaughlin
From a play by Euripides
Directed by Elizabeth Horn
Starring Eranthis Rose Quigley
Theatre UCF
Orlando, FL

In Greek mythology, King Agamemnon sacrificed his innocent daughter Iphigeneia (Quigley) in exchange for fair winds allowing him to sail against Troy. In the twisted logic of the ancient Greeks, this was a good deal. But in the eyes of Iphigenia, not so good. We begin the evening after her death, somewhere in the afterlife. Wrecked towers frame the upper stage. A sandpit lies below. Lights are dim and dramatic, the set highlighted with blood red lights as a sound rushes through the space; it reminded me of the unstoppable buzzing of a Sudafed overdose. Clytemnestra (Paige Dawkins) appears with a tea cup, stately and serene. She birthed Iphigenia, and pontificates slowly and elegantly. Chrysanthemums (Elisabeth Christie) is a sister, spared but despairing. The last sister, Electra (Amanda Dayton) crawls out of a sewer grating and chains herself in the sand, working it with her hands to reproduce…nothing. A oddly attractive chorus of platinum blonde women emote. Later, the brother Orestes (Shannon Burke) arrives with sad news, sad to the point of no clear path forward or backward. The spirit Iphigenia becomes a statue, the lights go up, the door opens, and the confused audience is thrust out into the 21st century daylight and that long drive home discussing the question: “WTF, over?”

I’ve seen my share of Beckett, Jarry, Ionesco, and Pinter. Yet this play left me more confused and disillusioned than any of those writers. I strove to define a conflict, struggled to decode speeches, Googled the play and Wikied the playwright. I even discussed it with the ushers. Still at a loss I praised the set, reported the soundscape, marveled at the staging, appreciated the lighting. I even celebrated the veracity of the silicon dioxide that cast must wash out of their costumes every performance. But I cannot, with any sense of fairness to my readers or my co-viewers, say what happened or what message I or anyone can carry to the masses. This production left me flabbergasted and flat on my back. I’m pretty sure everyone did an excellent job, but to what end I cannot say. Labeled a “Feminist Play,” but even this normally easy handle gives no succor as I never saw men denigrated or a woman applauded. After two days of non-continuous contemplation, I can say only this: “Wow. Just…Wow.”

Please, God, send me an easy musical comedy next weekend…

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

Grindr – The Opera

Sunday, September 24th, 2017

Grindr – The Opera
Book, Music and Lyrics by Erik Ransom
Directed by Tim Evanicki
Footlights Theater
Orlando, FL

Tonight, Grinder is no mere app, but instead an elegant drag queen (Alexi Barrios) with shoulder length red satin gloves covered in genuine 14 carat rhinestones. We meet four men who will fall under her digital spell: Don (Chris Eastwood) has money and faith but cruises on business trips. His Grindr connection tonight is Jack (Eric Fagan), a young man eager to have sex and open to anything, or so he thinks. Dr. Devon (Tim Garnham) hasn’t dated in ages, and he connects with Tom (Wes Miles) who swings long term and short. There’s plenty of conflict here as Jack learns he really does have limits (strangulation is NOT a turn on). Tom and Devon test the limits of fidelity, and suffer through the same problems straight couples often experience. This sung through musical flies along with a strong book and even stronger songwriting. The ensemble opens with the loveable “Manhunt” but Jack soon follows with the un-stoppable hit of the evening. I’d rather not print the title here, but I’ll point out it is song #6 in your program. Nod, nod, wink, wink. Say no more. Some music is new, some riffs off classics like “YMCA” and any number of disco hits from dance floors around the world. It’s a shame this show has such a short run due to weather, so try and catch it this weekend before its gone for good. I won’t say its good CLEAN fun, but it it’s always good off-color fun.

For more information on shows at the Footlights Theater, please visit http://www.parliamenthouse.com/footlight-theatre/

Big River

Saturday, September 23rd, 2017

Big River
Music and lyrics by Roger Miller
Book by William Hauptman
Adapted from a novel by Mark Twain
Directed by Mark Edward Smith
Musical Direction by Timothy Turner
Starring Jeffery Todd Parrott and Clinton Harris
Mad Cow Theatre
Orlando, FL

This commentary was prepared from a preview performance.

“Big River” tells a big story, employs a big cast and lets them belt some big numbers. Huck Finn (Parrott) lives on the Mississippi River frontier and is torn between book learning and being a good old boy. In those days, it was a close choice; education wasn’t all that important when it comes to hunting wild pigs and managing slaves. His friend Tom Sawyer (Liam O’Connor) thinks in a more genteel manner, but he seeks adventure and it needs to use all of the day’s high tech: sleeping draughts, complicated lock picking, and unnecessary injury. Huck stumbles upon a runaway slave Jim (Harris), discovers he’s about to be captured, and the pair heads off on a raft hoping to get to Cairo, Illinois in the free territories. They miss that safe harbor but hook up with a pair of con men (Mickey Layman and Alex Mansoor). Jim is captured, Tom and Huck free him, and adventure piles on adventure. Looks like Huck lived in interesting times.

This show shines when it shows the complex relation between Jim and Huck. Emotionally Huck knows slavery is wrong, but still believes in good old American property rights. Vocally, he’s got a nice sound but doesn’t project the volume this large show needs. Fortunately, he tends to sing right on the stage lip, so you can hear him well enough. Harris is large yet vulnerable, not only do you want him to get away and recover his family, but you just want to hug him when times are bad. Supporting actor Bobby Bell stole the show with his over the top Tea Party Republican rant about “Guv’ment.” Another superior performance came from Alex Mansoori as the tarred and feathered con man who paid for the overreach of his oily compatriot Mr. Layman. The best ensemble number here are the gospel tunes “Do You Want to Get to Heaven” and “How Blest We Are.” On the slow side “Muddy River” and “River in the Rain” are the most impressive ballads. All these songs draw from our collective unconscious of that Big River; this show looks back to the blues and gospel music that lays the foundation of the American musical cannon.

“Broad River” also looks the racism square in the eye. As Huck’s morality struggle unfolds, the “N-word” and other slurs pop up unapologetically. I applaud that; even in a musical of this size it’s best we not forget where we come from. Jim is truly a tragic figure; even in his final triumph he still has a herculean task ahead to get his wife and children out of bondage. There’s a good dose of bitter medicine here, but it’s sugar coated with some great music and some great theatrical performances.

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