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Archikulture Digest

by Carl F Gauze

Three Sisters

March 26th, 2017 by carl-gauze

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

March 26th, 2017 by carl-gauze

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

March 22nd, 2017 by carl-gauze

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

Destiny of Desire

March 21st, 2017 by carl-gauze

Destiny of Desire
By Karen Zacarías
Directed by Melissa Crespo
Starring Nadya Borno, Tamir Navaro, and Sonia Roman
Garden Theatre
Winter Garden,FL

¡Sexo! ¡Traición! ¡Asesinato! ¡Puntos de Exclamación! Yes, this show has it all, and every line spoken has an exclamation point. Most telenovelas run for months; this one crams everything into two frantic hours. Babies are switched at birth, an evil doctor performs un-needed surgery, lovers cheat, cheaters love, and there’s a good bit of illegal DNA exchanged. The plot is too intricate to render correctly here but we begin with the poor yet honest chorus of Hortensia and Ernesto del Rio (Stephen Lima and Alina Alcantara). We jeer the rich yet evil plot drivers Fabiola and Armando Castillo (Sonia Roman and Demi Castro) as they trifle with their daughter and her ill-classed friend (Navarro and Borno.) But all injustice vanishes by the curtain, and the evil-doers get their comeuppance, up to and including a proper de-wigging.

The anguish is in English and the songs tend toward Spanish; yet there’s no confusion not intended by author Zacarías. The show begins with us in a desolate movie house in Bayarica, Outer Hispania. The screen is torn; we can peer into the back stage as actors warm up, stretch, smoke and hang out. Ancient B&W silents illuminate us as wait for the show to begin in this Cinema Infierno. Once the acting starts, it’s direct and fast. The duo of Navarro and Borno glow with the intense friendship reserved for young women Of A Certain Age. Lima and Alcantara whine and manipulate; they are poor but never completely blameless. Our villainess is blonde peruked Roman; she’s a deadly margarita of a goofy sexuality and bitter social climber. Her husband Armando (Demi Castro) needed one more gold chain to achieve full Jersey Shore Goombahood, and our two romantic leads (Andrew Romano and Esteban Vilchez) emit a goofy well intentioned energy that made the resolution satisfying. I’ve never been a soap fan but this sort of soap is condensed, focused, and not packed with ads. The house was packed the day I caught this fun show; reserve early as they are bringing in busses from The Villages.

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

An Evening with Mr. Johnson

March 19th, 2017 by carl-gauze

An Evening with Mr. Johnson
By Michael A. Matteo
Directed by Tim Evaniki
Starring Tommy Wooten and Nathan Bonk
Parliament House Footlights Theater
Orlando FL

When your tag line is “And Tommy Wooten as ‘The Penis,” certain standards are set. Perhaps not high ones, but they ARE standards. Men are managed by their Johnson; their partners only THINK they have a hand on the old helm but facts are facts. Note there are two versions of this show floating around central Florida; this particular one is the gay version in the venerable P-House; the hetero one opens in 2 weeks at the shiny new Dangerous Theater in Sanford. But back to tonight…

While the whole Johnson Control issue is well known and constantly debated, tonight we delve into the dialog between Ed (Bonk) and his personal Mr. Johnson (Wooten). Ed is torn over lost lovers, Sir Richard of The Lower Regions is only concerned about performance statistics, and we wonder: shouldn’t there be a Fantasy League about this popular activity? The debate is fueled by alcohol and anxiety; Ed is in love with Morgan (Steven Johnson) whose performance gets high marks for sincerity and low ones for the applause. Mr. Johnson prefers the cruising life; even if one experience is shabby there’s always a next time. The debate goes on. Jeff Jones drops in as Ed’s Jewish Mother to tidy up and guilt him into finding a stable boyfriend. And how about some food? There’s always food if you have a Jewish Mother. Morgan reappears, things heat up, Mr. Johnson is happy but we wonder: for how long?

This may well be the best P-house set I’ve seen; it’s an elegant and tasteful apartment that looks so…normal. Bonk’s Ed seems like a sweet guy and you wish him well, but it’s Mr. Wooten that steals this show. Loud, brash and constantly in full on funny guy mode, he steam rolls though any weak spots in the dialog and says just about what you would want him to say. Steven Johnson (don’t get confused, there’s more than one Johnson on this stage) seems rather bland; even when he’s in his full whoopee mode this Johnson is a quiet guy. What we need here is more of Mr. Jones’ Judaic guilt; sex is always more fun if it feels naughty. I’m looking forward to the straight version next month; I suspect the dynamics are similar even if the mechanics aren’t.

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

Viewing Veronica

March 19th, 2017 by carl-gauze

Viewing Veronica
By Larry Stallings
Directed by Vicki Wicks
Starring Nicole Andrea Torres, Marcie Schwalm, and Dylan Bruce Thompson
Breakthrough Theater
Winter Park, FL

“Hi mom! I’m dead!” Cuter words were never spoken. Perky yet post mortem Veronica (Torres) passed far too soon, as is the case for almost all deceased teens. There was an obscure medical condition, a split over what to tell a minor about a critical health issue, and a crumbling parental marriage. All good stuff, and all in service to the theatrical interpretation of the afterlife. Veronica narrates to us directly, and only semi not quite but almost boyfriend Kyle has any sense of her presence. The tension here lies between Mother Laura (Schwalm) and her nasty ex Dennis (Kevin Hudson). He’s picked up a younger model Anne (Sydney Annas) and when they are all in the room, sparks fly. At first it appears Kyle might serve to suave Laura’s pain but in act two Kyles dada Ray (Anthony Marando) appears, and everyone goes bowling. Except, of course little Veronica; she’s off to play in the green hills of the afterlife.

While the script is a bit rough in places, and people swap emotional states way to fast, there’s a pleasant melancholy about what was and what might have been. Veronica is largely a commentator to the action; the principle tension here is the old fire between the passive and slightly depressed Laura and the over the top jealousy of her ex Dennis. Why he’s still stalking her is a mystery; he’s got the trophy wife and months sales leader, yet he cruises her house daily. Kevin is the most sympathetic person; even after only two dates he seemed headed down the road to romance. And now he’s thrown into a gatekeeper role as Laura’s shield. Push over, or take charge guy? I think it’s too soon to tell. This is a new take on an old story by a well-respected local playwright, and worth a look.

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/

I Want to Be a Blond Bombshell!

March 17th, 2017 by carl-gauze

I Want to Be a Blond Bombshell!
With Noel-Marie Matson
Musical Direction by Chris Leavy
Spotlight Cabaret Series
Winter Park Playhouse
Winter Park, FL

Blonde isn’t the big sexual turn on it was 50 years ago, but it’s still a useable stereotype. Deep down Ms. Matson is really a brunette, but she’s discovered the joy of buying Marilyn wigs and telling stories about her movie obsessed bubala. Songs tonight tended toward blonde numbers: “I Enjoy Being a Blonde”, Peggy Lee Disney tunes, and Betty Grable’s film performances filled the bill. But the pinnacle tonight was her tap number; only the second ever in the Spotlight Cabaret series. How did she learn to tap? No expensive lessons for this girl; she did it old school by watching movies and duplicating the routines step by step. Apply that sort of focus in the wrong direction and you can get in real trouble. Her encyclopedia knowledge of Ms. Grable’s oeuvre shined; Grable made a few dozen largely forgotten films, all with the same exact plot. And let’s face it, most movies in those days were written by a plot-o-matic and don’t hold up well. To wit: Grable always had a stock male lead; my favorite was Don Ameche the con artist but all the other men were just cardboard cut outs as well. I’ve seen more than few old movies, and they are all dreadful except for the dance extravaganzas, and of course Groucho. Matson brought all these late night movies back to me, and she’s one of those performers that dominates a room when she needs to. She may have been mousy in the recent “Why Do Fools Fall In Love?” but here she is way bigger than life, and so much closer.

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

Mid-Life! The Crisis Musical

March 12th, 2017 by carl-gauze

Mid-Life! The Crisis Musical
By Bob Walton and Jim Walton
Directed by Michael Edwards
Musical direction by Chris Leavy
Winter Park Playhouse
Winter Park FL

It’s so cute watching middle aged people complaining about getting old. Like they didn’t know it was coming… Yeah, we all age, but at least this show offers a path to aging with some grace and humor. Sure, there are prostate jokes and “can’t find my glasses” humor and for goodness sake, an actual “sex with sheep joke.” Just what is this world coming to? No one has on-stage names; we are down to our AARP number and the cast goes by clever monikers like “Woman 1” and “Man 3.” Knowing the cast from other projects sure helped me but I keep forgetting the tall blonde’s name. She’s friendly and always hugs me so why complain?

Songs are split among all possible combinations of singers; there’s a strong ensemble opener “Lies!” Later the guys get together for “Weekend Warrior” where Glen Gover, Shawn Kilgore and Todd Alan Long all warm up for the middle aged basketball tournament. Fortunately they never takes the court. One thing I’ve observed about age: Guys should NOT play B-Ball with youngsters. You’d be surprised how useful functioning knees are.

HEATHER! Yes, HEATHER ALEXANDER. That’s her name. Blond. Hugs a lot. Curtain speeches. The tall blonde one. It’s so obvious now that I remember. She belts it with Krista Leona Anderson and redheaded Lourelene Snedeker for “He Got What He Deserved.” That song is tonight’s other racy admission; it seems all vows are not equally sacred. A sad segment “The Long Goodbye” had these middle agers taking even older parents to the park on a “Play Date;” next the company reunited for “I’m Not Ready.” Too bad, the system ain’t stopping and backing up just for you. Alternately funny then touching, you don’t have to be old to appreciate the fine singing and sometimes silly humor on this stage, but it doesn’t hurt.

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

Tape

March 5th, 2017 by carl-gauze

Tape
By Stephen Belber
Directed by Pam Harbaugh
Theater on the Edge
Edgewood FL

Theater in the Dark, more like. This intimate 30 seat playhouse is a trick to find after sunset; give yourself plenty of time to circle the block as it’s easy to miss the parking lot. But once inside, your journey is rewarded with tough, heart wrenching action in the style of David Mamet. There’s a notional “preshow”; while the audience negotiates arm rests Vince (Zack Roundy) checks into this shifty Motel 6 room in dubious Lansing Michigan. The filthy, peeling wallpaper attempts to cheer up the space; it’s only friend is a lonely single bed whose mattress is stuffed with desperation and unsatisfying sex. Cheap beer is drunk or dumped down the sink; this saves someone’s kidneys the bother of turning Joseph Best Beer into something tastier, like piss. Vince came here from Oakland where he pursues a career as a volunteer fireman and pot dealer. He’s here to meet his high school buddy Jon (Joey Ginel). Jon’s first film will screen at the prestigious East Lansing Film Festival; no small feat for this small town boy. Both these guys dated Amy (Megan Raitano); Vince was with her longer but Jon went all the way and it grates on Vince to this day. They argue, fight, drink and even smoke some pretty authentic dope until Jon confesses to a crime that may not have occurred, and it falls to Amy to sort out these two losers before retreating to her own safe life.

What was really going on here? That’s the charm of the show. No one is straight up about anything; its all conflict based on incomplete information, speculation, and a miss remembered past. Roundy keeps up the pressure, he’s a tough, manipulative guy and you think he might have done well in law or politics. He dresses for the street, and seedy as this motel room is it seems like a small luxury to him. Ginel may be more desperate but he dresses better and folds when pressed. He has yet to learn how to get a patron and squeeze them for money but I suspect he’ll pick up on that skill soon enough. Raitano feels the most balanced, she has a good job and a non-psycho boyfriend and she makes Vince jump when she calls in her local cops. With multiple layers of meaning and murky motivations, director Harbaugh finds the path to forge this testosterone and alcohol into a coherent, gripping production. Then there’s the set; semi working plumbing and absolutely filthy walls and furniture completely discouraged anyone from crossing that invisible wall. The only thing missing here was the mustiness and stale cigarette smoke Motel 6 uses for disinfectant. With the demise of Theater Downtown, this company looks like our new go to for serious modern American drama.

For more information on Theatre on the Edge, please visit http://theaterontheedge.org/ or http://facebook.com/TheaterOnEdge

Love’s Labour’s Lost

February 26th, 2017 by carl-gauze

Love’s Labour Lost
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Thomas Ouellette
Starring Buddy Haardt, Christian Ryan, Aubrey Saverino, and Kathryn Miller
Orlando Shakespeare Theatre
Orlando, FL

“Love’s Labour’s Lost” (or “L3” as I like to call it) is not one of the bard’s scripts where you need to worry much about the story line. Intellectual King Ferdinand (Haardt) talks his three buddies Biron (Ryan), Longaville (Matthew Goodrich) and Dumaine (Blaine Edwards) into a pact: they will live the monastic life for three years studying, fasting, and eschewing women. This is a pact that sounds good after a few beers, but in the cold light of morning it’s clearly a Monumentally Bad Idea. Never mind who will run the mythical kingdom too small or too broke to be worth attacking; there’s the pressing issue of an embassy from the French princess (Savarino). Look, she is out in the yard with three sparkly handmaidens, and vows be damned, there’s classy babes in the front yard. But Ferdinand, doofuss that he is, forces the girls to camp out. Stupid vows! These guys haven’t spent a single night doing vows, and they are already ready to party.

Yes, it’s a fluffy coincidence pie, and thankfully director Ouellette has edited out an hour’s worth of stuff he didn’t understand. And if HE didn’t get those jokes, think how lost the rest of us would be. But these old comedies are really nothing but a spring board for us moderns to show off stage tricks and sexual innuendo. We find long time artistic director Jim Helsinger in a rare stage appearance. He’s the fatuous Don Adriano de Armado, a mix of Salvador Dali and Don Quixote, twirling his mustache, masticating the English language and impregnating a peasant girl. Ryan is the comic head waiter here with slicked hair and a Lothario’s moustache. A conniver, he’s also the only man of reason on stage and even as straight man he pulls more than his share of laughs. Ms. Savarino reminds me of Carol Burnett; shes tall and elegant and sharp with her comic timing. The peasant comedian Costard (Jacob Dresh) nails the physical stuff and shines brightest as Hector in the “Nine Worthy’s” speech, while Eric Eichenlaub gets much better lines here than he did in Gatsby.

All of this silliness is set in a classy 1920’s Art Deco set that doubles For Gatsby’s world in this rep performance. A small rotating stage is put to good use; I really loved how the French ambassadors popped in early as a moving tableaux. An under-used Philip Nolen demonstrated lawn bowling with the aid of an audience member, and director Ouellette wisely went over the top with the multiple males all shadowing each other in a garden late in the show. There’s no real moral here beyond “No sex? Is THAT what abstinence is?” but the effect is lovely. There’s plenty of royal blood swashing around out in the real world; grab this bit of escapism while it’s still here.

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