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Archikulture Digest

by Carl F Gauze

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

Brighton Beach Memoirs

February 26th, 2017 by carl-gauze

Brighton Beach Memoirs
By Neil Simon
Directed by Paul Castaneda
Starring Nate Elliott, Sharon Barbour-Tedder, and Andrew Emery
Breakthrough Theatre, Winter Park FL

Things were dark in 1937, but teen age lust always burns bright. Eugene (Elliot) is at that age when everything is hot, and having a nubile cousin Nora (Gabby Hatch) rooming with his family only inflames the fires. And there are plenty of fires already burning: Older brother Stanley (Emery) nearly gets fired for mouthing off, Aunt Blanche (Jenn Divine) can neither see nor piss nor get off the pot, Father Jack (Mark Davids) lost his part time job selling noisemakers, and they may soon have a house full of Polish refugees fleeing the smoldering European war. All the pressure piles up on Mother, wife, and logistics coordinator Kate (Barbour-Tedder). She’s got a three hour slow burn ahead of her but I give her points for excellent triage when it comes to in house pants on fire crisis management. And while this family may be Jewish, they sure have white bread names.

Elliot’s young man came across as intense, sincere, and a disconnected observer; when you grow up poor you just assume there’s not anything better. Elliot’s chemistry with Mr. Emery drove the story; these two young men saw their brotherhood as their strength and it never felt like any real animosity could exist between them. Mr. Davids overworked father portrayed an exhausted man at the end of his cash as well as internal mojo; but he always gave reasonable advice and you want to fetch his slippers for him. Equally strong was his wife; Mrs. Barbour spent 3 hours in a slow burn and after this evening you see what a great mother can do to hold a family together through thin and thinner.

All of this drama is simply Neil Simon’s way of sorting out his own life. As they told me in playwriting school if you write about a purple octopus living at the bottom of the sea, ultimately you are the octopus. And tonight that octopuse is as horny as you can get, and he really appreciated Stanley’s little sex talk AND the picture postacard. The compressed Breakthrough set only added to the pressure; you could feel the tension build as actors negotiated the small spaces between the couch and the overcrowded bedrooms. It’s a long show, but well worth the ride under the experienced leadership of Mr. Casteneda.

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/

The Seven Year Itch

February 19th, 2017 by carl-gauze

The Seven Year Itch
By George Axelrod
Directed by Eric Pinder
Starring Sean Kemp and Chloe Brewer
Valencia College Theatre
Orlando, FL

How many people have a door set into their ceiling as the last step of an abandoned staircase? Richard (Kemp) does but its New York and who cares if the rent is cheap? His wife and kid have fled the city heat for New England beaches; he stays home and edits cheap paper backs. Writing is never as exciting as it appears to outsiders. His upstairs neighbors fled as well; they hired a cute but clumsy house sitter to water the tomatoes even though they aren’t there to eat them. That would be the drop dead sexy Marylyn Monroe style “The Girl” (Brewer). She’s a model who does nudie cuties in 1950s America; displaying pubic hair was still a federal offense. Both are bored, and Richard is jumpy as he’s trying to lay of the booze and smokes. Sex hangs heavy in the air, and we meet all the women Richard has ever fantasized over. His wife Helen (Evie Schildwacther) calls him daily to check on him but in the days of dial phones that’s wasn’t very effective. This leads to that, and Richard’s only grounding here is loquacious psychoanalyst Dr. Brubaker (Ryan Burke).He charges $50 an hour so Richard is stuck with a cold shower as his comfort.

It’s a pleasantly dated comedy, studded with great dresses and an agony that men have fought against and lost over for centuries. Kemp has a lot of words to remember, and he shines with a clean cut guilt that makes the show’s resolution a bit of a surprise. Brewer is not exactly innocent in her blazing sexuality; she knows the calculus exactly and has a good time without leaving a scene. Her rival Helen is equally adept; we mostly learn about her through Richard’s flashbacks. Her goodness is hard on poor Richard and she leaves him no excuse for bad behavior. Add an impressive set and some stunning dresses thanks to Greg Loftus and Ashely Montero and you have a classic midcentury sex comedy. The prissiness of the Hayes code has faded but the full on orgy of the hippie generation had yet to ignite. What this gives us is a surprisingly codified eroticism and a well-balanced fantasy. You share Richard’s agony but not his ecstasy, and that’s just proper for a college theater production.


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

Romeo and Juliet

February 19th, 2017 by carl-gauze

Romeo and Juliet
By William Shakespeare
Starring Joshua Goodridge and Isabella DeChard
Directed by Belinda C. Boyd
Theatre UCF, Orlando, FL

We all know this drill, so I’ll be quick. Hormone infused teens meet, fall in love and find their families have different ideas about mating. Its sweltering hot and bad decisions fester; cherries are popped that shouldn’t have, promises made that can never be kept, and then a stack of well-meaning bad advice crashes down on everyone’s so-called life. Yes, it’s that perennial favorite romance that I like to call: “R&J”

This particular version drops in on 1920’s Chicago gangland; the warring clans dress in snappy fedoras and suits. It’s implied the fight concerns territory, but that’s neither clear nor important. What is clear are the sharp musical numbers; we open with a rockin’ “Minnie the Moocher” complete with shimmying dancers and a singer clutching an old fashion dynamic microphone. Like all good romantic leads Goodridge was sharp and athletic, his Juliet (DeChard) was wispy and perky and all those other wonderful adjectives a young woman in love deserves. Paris (Mathew Buckalew) was distant and polite; he never seemed willing to fight for anything. Up until he died (tack on a spoiler alert on everyone on stage) he seemed a bit reluctant to marry into this dramatic family. Julian Kazenas stood out as a bitter and violent Tybalt, and our cross gendered casting pick tonight went to a bright and energetic Sami Cunningham as Benvolio. But the show stealer award tonight went to Waneka Leary as Nurse. She’s a woman who knows how to lead and audience to laughter and then get them to drink. She did every comedy gimmick from physical to word play to “lawdy, lawdy” material. I want to see more of her in upcoming comedies.

Act Two took a much darker turn, and not just from the pile of bodies. The music was largely gone, the flirtation of romance collapsed under the attack of family power politics, and even their lighting was dimmer and more moody. Oily Father Lawrence (Jarrett Poore) wiggled like a politician caught with his hand in the cookie jar when he realized the magnitude of his error, and even Romeo gets nasty toward the poor apothecary (Alexandra Pica) as he brow beats her into an illegal drug deal. The final straw came when one of the underlings fired the band. No more jazz for YOU tonight! The stage was a dream; old brick work that would have suited any hipster microbrewery lines the walls and a bridge rose and fell silently to form a high post for the high minded parts of the dialog. Those who insist on their Shakespeare neither shaken nor stirred might wince, but for an updated telling of an old story, this was like a shot of cheap gin in a high class low life dive.

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

A Piece of My Heart

February 19th, 2017 by carl-gauze

A Piece of My Heart
By Shirley Lauro
Directed by Marianne DiQuattro
Annie Russel Theatre
Rollins College
Winter Park, FL

If Coppola ever did an all-female version of “Apocalypse Now,” this could be the script. Its 1960-something and Viet Nam is still just a news item but not yet a revolution. Six enthusiastic yet naïve women sign up for duty in this steamy jungle. Steele (Alliyah Corley) is regular Army intelligence; perhaps that’s an oxymoron but she does her job even if no one pays attention. Whitney (Fiona Campbell) is a bright eyed candy striper, innocent and sworn to remain so even as she picks up a solid drinking problem. Martha (Haley Benson) come from an Army brat background and hoists a pack bigger than she, and Vassar expatriate Whitney (Fiona Gamble) has never seen a man die. That leaves Leeann (Annalisa Moon) who almost blends in, but the experience leaves her confused about what might or might not be her heritage. Then there’s Mary Jo (Amanda Glace), the guitar playing party girl. She’s not even in the army but is offered big bucks by a sleazy promoter. She doesn’t even get GI bill or VA hospitalization, just raped and infected with PTSD.

It’s hard to point out better or worse acting skill; this show was about survival and performance. Everyone here pulled together giving us a shell shocked experience of war time; they even brought an actual tear to my jaded eye. Not bad for smugly safe Winter Park; they all did a damn fine task. The set was a multi-level, multi-purpose slope; this let the imagined blood flow down into the unused orchestra pit. Besides the featured gals, Nicholas D’Alessandro and Johnathan Garcia played the male roles, each rapidly going from dead to alive to back down to dead. D’Alessandro played an entire command chain, and he nailed it.

This is a story of volunteer ideals turning to nightmares; all their hopes into disdained prayers. From classroom to managing 300 plus nearly dead bodies in a week, this is the same trial by fire their equally naïve boyfriends are feeling as the world drops out from under them. The military life is tough but bearable, the camaraderie keeps them afloat, but the tide of unstaunched blood overwhelms them unless they turn off their minds as they surf that wave of body parts. But all nightmares end, and the dawn wakes them up to post war home where things are much worse on a different level. True, in Vietnam bombs and bullets and body parts were a horror, but back home the post-war war battle was all psychological. Job opps were few and stereotyped, racism was as strong as ever, booze no longer dulled the pain and the stronger stuff was stepped on and hard to find.

This show is as traumatic for the audience as it was for the gals and guys on stage. Act One was filled with the horrific and comically gruesome: removing a man’s boot removed his foot. Young local children tried to stab them. Guards were working for the other side, guys died peeing, and the advice given to the newbies was: “Don’t think. Never think. Fill out the forms and move on.” After years of multiple rocket attacks and random death from above, the return to the States was a joyous yet exhausting final to act one. At this point, the play felt complete, and I would have left satisfied. What could they possibly do to top that? Well, that little romp was called Act Two. The girls are home, but not embraced. Jobs are menial at best. Sacrifice was despised. The nation hated the war, and took it out on the returnees; those perpetrating the wars sat back comfortable in their tower office suites. You know the drill, its true for every soldier from Lexington to Mosul. This show may be as close to war as the theater going public will ever experience.

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

And the Loser Is…

February 18th, 2017 by carl-gauze

And the Loser Is…
Created by Chris Leavy
Spotlight Caberet Series
Starring Chris Leavy
Musical Direction by Chris Leavy
February 16, 2017
Winter Park Playhouse, Winter Park, FL

If there’s one local artist’s name I type over and over, it’s Mr. Chris Leavy. He directs music for about everything to cross the stage in this building, and tonight he’s leading his own cabaret once again. The theme is “Songs that almost received an academy award.” These tunes were nominated yet failed to grab the gold plated gimcrack. Most of the great material tonight came from the glory days of the Hollywood movie musicals like Irving Berlin’s tune “Cheek to Cheek” featured in “Top Hat.” Berlin had only this one nomination and never won an academy award, mostly because his career largely predated the Oscars.

Tonight’s list of misses IS impressive. There’s “Eye of the Tiger” (not exactly a WPPH style of music). Dolly Parton’s “Nine to Five,” the Bond classic “Gold Finger” and the sad British flicks “Alfie” (from Burt Bacharach and Hal David) all appear, as does Kermit’s “Rainbow Connection” from “The Muppet Movie.” Along with his exceptional musicianship, Leavy has a mountain of back story on all these songs. It’s detailed with footnotes but finally he gives up explaining each number and rolls though an extended medley. It’s just like his normal preshow material, just all film scores and he runs through numbers at twice his normal speed. And like all cabaret evenings, it fun to watch the passers-bye stop and stare at us all sitting on barstools and overstuffed couches watching a man in a silver sequined jacket play show tunes.

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

Josephine

February 15th, 2017 by carl-gauze

Josephine
By Tod Kimbro
Directed by Michael Marinaccio
Starring Tymisha Harris
The Venue, Orlando, FL

Pick a letter, and there’s probably a dead celebrity with a one person show bringing them back to life. Tonight we explore the music and songs of Josephine Baker, French vedette and one of the first African Americans to achieve world renown on stage. The actor supporting her is dancer and local chanteuse Tymisha Harris, and as in all good shows she’s a good physical match as well as a gifted singer and performer.

The Venue stage is an excellent cabaret for this adventure; various period coat racks offer the artist multiple on stage costume changes as Baker ages from precocious street kid to world renowned entertainer to civil rights activist. Baker grew up in racist turn of the century St Louis; career choices included servant, toilet cleaner, and social pariah. A lucky encounter with a French promoter took her to Paris where skin color was a novelty, not a brand and she became show biz wealthy. That is, lots of money when money came in, crushing yet genteel poverty when it stopped flowing.

There’s a good balance between chanteuse and historian here, and every tune was a grand revelation. “April in Paris,” “Bye, Bye, Blackbird,” “Minnie the Moocher” and “Blue Sky” were highlights, but the show stopper was “The Times They Are A-Changin.” Today it’s a sort of period piece, but when backed up by her back story it’s a block buster.

Inside this intimate space Harris was never far from the audience. I won’t say she sat in my lap, but we did negotiate a deal by eye contact. Don’t worry ladies, it was just part of the show. Best of all, producer Marinaccio beat The Venue’s notorious sound into shape. If only every show sounded the clean I’d be there more often. Josephine presents a great story, a great voice and all in a great setting. Josephine est un grand triomphe!

More information on events at The Venue resides at http://TheVenueOrlando.com/

Dishwasher (Orange County Tour)

February 15th, 2017 by carl-gauze

Dishwasher (Orange County Tour)
Created by Brian Feldman
Feb 13, 2017
A Private Residence
Orlando FL

Act 1

It’s a nice night; the sort Floridians dream of all summer. A full moon, clear skies, no mosquitos, temperate breezes. We’re off to a private performance at a discrete private residence. The usual scenesters are already there: a writer, a festival producer, a dancer, a fabric artist, some actors and even a mechanic. We’ve met for the latest Brian Feldman Project: “Dishwasher.” I ate before I arrived, but others were downing vegan tacos and stiff rum drinks. Conversation flowed: a man proposed a Fringe show about changing brakes and charging other people to watch him. Another negotiates a show rating for an upcoming festival; it’s a delicate balance on whether Florida teens can stand sock puppet rape or if their parent’s heads will explode. You know, the usual argy-bargy.


Dishes to be washed, stories to be told.

Feldman remains based in the DC area but currently relaxes on sabbatical in Florida. Feldman pitches a project to me, I pitch one to him. It’s just what we all do – think Big, and try to get others to do the work. Feldman reports I’ve covered his shenanigans over 30 times, a truly shocking statistic. More drinks. More tacos. More fever dreams of theatrical profits. More stiffrum drinks. Pass the gluten free whatever…

Tonight’s concept is straight forward yet oblique: Feldman is here to do the dishes, then grace us with a cold reading of a monolog he’s not seen. The collected experts then jointly which activity Feldman executes best. Dishes are piled up but they haven’t fossilized and the worst thing Feldman looks forward to is some wussy baked-on cheese. Feldman has seen worse, been paid worse. The crowd pulls up chairs, leans against walls, searches for beer in the fridge as Feldman powers up. Like many performance artists, he’s done a stretch or two professionally doing dishes. It’s the epitome of our elder’s advice: “Learn a trade.” Feldman works quickly, accurately, professionally. The atmosphere is collegial. He takes technical questions on hydrohygieneology while telling stories of other “Dishwasher” productions. In other houses mountains of fossilized dishes confronting him. “That One Creepy Guy” invited him in and leers. One gig had a shower in the middle of a kitchen, an awkward situation at best. We learn what parts of Philadelphia lack hot water. We learn dreams of living in Philly as an artist is the life of false messiah.

The anguish of an artist.

As he works, our host interviews him, asking excellent questions. Feldman gives excellent, or at least interesting answers. He may be a dishwasher, but he’s also a performance artist. Soon the dishes are done; clean ones go in the dishwasher which stands in as a drying rack; putting in a soap pod and pressing a button would have destroyed the artistic integrity of the evening. Coffee and dessert? Why, thank you. No, black is fine. Tonight we are the Cool Kids, but can never explain why.

Phase Two

Dishwashing. I can’t believe I’m covering dishwashing. But in my experience with Feldman projects this is nothing, I’ve stepped out to cover him sleeping in the street, boxing with his father. I’ve rigged TV antennas for him, hit him in the head with a claw machine, and had him creep me out as a faux restroom attendant. It’s a weird sort of male bonding, but I don’t hunt or golf so what else do I have?

The second phase of tonight is the Cold Reading. Our host has selected a particularly challenging text; it’s Lucky’s speech from “Waiting for Godot.” “Godot” is a surrealist piece by Samuel Beckett and the ultra-marathon of theater: 2 hours of nonsensical text on a plain set where basically nothing happens. I’ve seen it at least three times. One was painful, one hilarious, once utterly sad but always …well… surreal.


Feldman emotes.

Here’s the twist. Feldman can only speak when his head is hat-free. Our Suave Host gives him a tablet with his assignment and places a straw hat with a jaunty blue band on Feldman’s head, and we are off to the races. The hat comes off, and Feldman plunges into a long, nonsensical but very convincing monolog. What did it convince me of? That if you say anything loudly and confidently enough, you can make people believe you. As Feldman chews through nonsense scenery our Suave Host chases him around the room and through the house. It’s one of those doubly connected 1960s ranch numbers that pets love. You can flee in any direction. Feldman deflects, Suave Host attacks. Words fly from the foyer. Words echo from the living room. Syllables and examination point reflect from the dining room light, the kitchen, the closet. Feldman is cornered! Feldman escapes! A left! A right! A declarative sentence! An appositive! The hat attacks! Cover fire from the cat deflects a chapeau attack! The stuttering monolog makes no sense, but the performance does: Art is what you define it to be, and art is what you can convince a grant committee to fund.

The hat is on. The show is over.

Lucky is back in his cage, and it’s time to hang out, trade theatrical horror stories, dream up new projects, recall old friends. We have not changed the world, but we’ve made it worth living in. Oh, you have a 3-D TV? Cool….Let’s watch Deadpool!

For more information on Brian Feldman Projects, please visit

The Physicists

February 14th, 2017 by carl-gauze

The Physicists
By Friedrich Dürrenmatt
Translated by James Kirkup
Directed by Paul Luby
Starring Alex Koohyar, Harry-John Shephard, and Josh Melendez
Seminole State College
Lake Mary, FL

Science on stage is always a dicey proposition: Too much detail and you drive the audience to sleep, not enough and what are you hoping to accomplish in the actual science department? We have here a lecture on scientific responsibility in the sense of “Don’t go looking into a field of physics that might kill a bunch of people.” A noble thought, but practically not very feasible.

We spend the evening in a classy mental ward staffed by attractive female nurses and the idealistic yet hunchbacked psychologist Fraulein Doctor Matilda Van Zandt (Kristina Bartholomew). Names are long and full of hard consonants; this was a Swiss play written in German and it shows. There are only three patients: Herbert George Beutler (Melendez) who thinks he’s Isaac Newton, Ernst Heinrich Ernesti (Koohyar) who thinks he’s Einstein, and Johann Wilhelm Möbius (Shephard) who thinks he’s himself, but pretends to get regular visits from King Solomon so he can hide among the insane. Actually, Beutler really thinks he’s Einstein as well, but he doesn’t want to offend Ernesti, so he’s doubled up with a more classical physicist. The three spend their time killing off attractive female nurses, all of whom are athletes with medals in judo and wrestling. Local police inspector Voss (Xander Burns) wants Von Zand to hire male attendants; he thinks this would cut down on his paper work. In Act Two several beefy male boxers arrive to keep things calm, some black shirted guards appear, the food gets worse. Now nothing is as it seems. These seemingly happy inmates are now stuck and they bare their souls; all regret that the search for the truths of modern physics has lead to war, and their side might lose.

Like an old science fiction novel, this is a story that was once edgy and thought provoking. But today we realize that while nuclear weapons are pretty darn evil, it doesn’t take much more than acetone and peroxide to blow up a subways station. The dialog here is stilted and lengthy; you often want to fast forward though the excessively formal middle names. Melendez is the brightest point of light, he’s foppish when others are goose stepping and funny when others are depressed. Mr. Koohyar seem sad to be Albert Einstein; while the math was hard he was a rock star in his day and has lots of awards and laws with his name branded on them. Mr. Shepard never seemed genuinely mentally ill, but his earnestness is endearing. These three are the heart of the story; everyone else seems to only exist to set up these three’s lines. When the black shirts arrive the result is inevitable although not set up very well. A world exists outside of this asylum, and that’s where the evil really lies: in the hands of those with an agenda that will use whatever it can to beat down the opposition. Perhaps this is a parable for today’s world situation; but it needs to pick up the pace.

For more information on the Seminole State College Theater program, please visit http://www.seminolestate.edu/arts/theatre/boxoffice.htm

The Great Gatsby

February 13th, 2017 by carl-gauze

The Great Gatsby
By Simon Ley
Adapted from a novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Directed by Anne Herring
Starring Buddy Haardt and Matthew Goodrich
Orlando Shakespeare Theater
Orlando, FL

Walk into this theater, and you might be walking into the Morse Museum. Art deco lighting fixtures, a marble swimming pool, and back lit Art Nouveau figures back lit with a blue glow, all in service of Fitzgerald’s tawdry tale of jazz age adultery. The American Dream shined brightly after WW1; prohibition was just a minor irritant and the entrepreneur class made alcohol and money easy enough to get. The stock market soared, our enemies were in ruins and high tariffs seemed like a good idea. Jay Gatsby (Goodrich) did OK bootlegging; he bought a mansion on exclusive West Egg Harbor in Long Island. Here he drafts the yet-to-be successful bond trader Nick Caraway (Haardt) to help him meet his long lost love Daisy (Katheryn Miller). Too bad she already has a husband, Tom Buchannan (Christian Ryan). Tom is no angel; he’s blatantly bonking Myrtle Wilson (Georgia Mallory Guy) who’s married to the local auto mechanic George (Jacob Dresch). Daisy Bucannon is torn: stick with her unfaithful husband or become unfaithful herself? Ennui and alcohol are a bad mix, and soon its one, two, three bodies on stage. There’s no room for true love here, only money gets any real affection. Nothing much has changed in the past hundred years, has it?

Despite the juicy sex, the splendid furniture, and the dead bodies, this is a rather bloodless production. Goodrich’s Gatsby is amiable and suave; to him everything is a laugh and even pursuing Daisy seems doomed. Nick sums him up beautifully: “He spoke as if there was money in his mouth…” Haardt’s Caraway is much stronger; yet he seems overwhelmed by the splendor of his position and you sense it’s all a temporary dream to him, a premonition played out by the final curtain. Miller’s Daisy often sounds like a Tennessee Williams heroine; she’s also lost and feeling her little control slip away. Ryan’s Tom was much more menacing; he’s slick and edgy and ready to do the violence implied in the echo of Southern Melodrama. But the man who sold the show was the not-too-bright George. His wife was cheating on him with Tom and was killed by Gatsby in an accident, and when he came on at the end to claim vengeance and justice, it was electric. I’ll also mention the pant-suited Jordan Baker played by Aubrey Saverino; despite all the sex floating around Gatsby, she was the one woman who came across as actually sexy.

With clever staging and fervent pace, this is a classy but not overwhelming story. The rotating stage from Les Misérables returned with a smaller diameter; it efficiently brought us props and people and yet never appeared obtrusive. Atmosphere is everything here; we are back in the roaring twenties with the roar damped down to let us see the lives of the unhappily wealthy. And as I’ve always held: money might not buy happiness, but it allows you to be unhappy in much nicer surroundings. And these are VERY nice surroundings.

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