July 2nd, 2017 by carl-gauze
By David Hare
Directed by Bobbie Bell
Starring Kelly Pekar and Jerome Davis
Mad Cow Theatre
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a Kitchen Sink Drama, but this is an excellent example of the genera. Key markers include stark realism, working class Brits, and a good dose of politics. Here we have idealistic Kyra (Pekar) who teaches underprivileged kids in a bad part of London. The pay is low and she lives in a frigid flat in an inconvenient yet equally despised neighborhood. Her big score is one young man who MIGHT make it out if she tutors him in math at 6 a.m. For recreation, she had an affair with garishly well off Tom (Davis) who builds midprice restaurants for patrons who seek class at low cost. You know what they say about London dining: just go for the curry. On the edge we have the third leg of this triangle: Tom’s young son Edward (Zach Lane) drops in for a visit and brings up a question of etiquette I never considered: is OK to make a play for dad’s ex-mistress once mom is dead? Enquiring minds want to know.
The set is an amazing collection of baked on grease and shoddy accouterments. We only miss the searing cold of Kyra’s apartment; this is, after all, June in Central Florida. Kyra is worn yet still passionate, and the politics revolve around whether she’s doing all these good deeds for her own ego, or a greater cause. Tom points out the obvious: there are millions of poor, and always will be. But if you CAN have a nice meal or a decent bottle of wine, why not? Pekar flashes fiery righteousness, Davis smoldering self-satisfaction, and what intrigued me is rarely seen Edward: he seems so sweet and well meaning, and will it last? After all, the taint of Daddy’s Money hangs over him like a glowering cloud.
As a philosopher once said: Poverty is no shame, but it no great honor either. Kyra is the star here; she’s doing something passionate and for a bigger cause. Tom cheats and pushes where he can, and naturally he’s the successful one. The balance point here is Edward; he could go either: freeze with Kyra or take over the family fortune. This story tends to favor the first, but never really condemns the second. It’s a slice of life and a guided tour of capitalism, but it does have its fun moments.
For more information on Mad Cow, please visit http://www.madcowtheatre.com
July 2nd, 2017 by carl-gauze
By Theresa Rebeck
Directed by Julia Listengarten
Starring Earl Weaver
Sure, just about anyone can write, but writing so others pay to read your opus is a much bigger trick. A small group of aspiring writers chip in to hire famous yet washed up author Leonard (Weaver) to give them private lessons. They meet in the ridiculously large New York apartment of Kate (Alexandra Pica). With nine bedrooms, a river view and rent stabilized at $800, her joint is better fiction than anything they can pen. Kate’s spent six years working a Jane Austin piece while Douglas (Sebastian Gonzalez) gets feelers from “The New Yorker.” Martin (Logan Ayala) is intimidated by Leonard, and Izzy (Eranthis Rose Quigley) would rather sleep with writers than be one. Leonard is a powerful figure; he even intimidated me and I sat back in Row “E.”
Rare praise is valued more highly, and as Leonard reads his admirer’s pages he drops them on the floor leaving the kids sort out their own work. Rants are routine; he gives one threatening the students with horrible career results and he should know: That’s how his life ends. But one of these four kids has a glimmer of promise, and Leonard ends up editing for this up and comer.
Plays about writing appeal mostly to people in the business; it’s a busman’s holiday thing. This cast was bright and sharp with every foible clearly outlined. Izzy emitted raw sex and Kate old NYC money while Martin took on smugness and Douglas played the wuss. Weaver dominated all of these youngsters and perfectly encapsulated the rage and frustration keyboards can bring on. The set was an impressive wall of modernist art and it cleverly slipped over the castle set still in place for “Lion in Winter.” There’s a voyeuristic charm here; this is the sort of life changing seminar all artists hope to experience, but so few do. It’s a good show full of intellectual exercises that fills that long stretch until the fall season fires up.
For more information on Theatre UCF, visit http://www.theatre.ucf.edu
June 18th, 2017 by carl-gauze
The Lion In Winter
By James Goldman
Directed by Cynthia White
Starring Mark Brotherton and Kate Ingram
Sure, it’s GOOD to be king, but if you don’t leave an eternal Dynasty, well, you might as well just go milk cows. Henry II (Brotheron) had that dream: make the newly acquired English lands an eternal kingdom. His resources include the Aquitaine, which is basically the middle of France from the English Channel to the Pyrenees Mountain, his estranged wife Eleanor of Aquitaine (Ingram) and three sons. Those sons are stereotypes if ever they crossed the boards: Richard (Daniel Romano) is a military tough guy with a lavender streak a mile wide, Geoffrey (Terrance Lee) is the sneaky Machiavellian one, and John (Shannon Burke) the favorite who is clearly incapable of arranging a urination contest in the Guinness factory. Off on the side Eleanor emits snarky comments and tries half-heartedly to influence the future, but honestly, when you’re stuck in a tower, the future isn’t bupkas. Henry is a consummate manipulator; if only his sons would sit down and agree to anything.
Ah, if only today’s politicians were as focused! Brotherton and Ingram fought like they’d been married for 40 years (They may have worked together for that long, that’s almost as useful.) Their three sons all felt a bit over the top: Romano seemed to be auditioning for a Sword and sandals epic, and his sword was never far from his hand. Lee came off as calculating to the point you could never trust him in an alliance, and young John bounced off the walls while raging against the adults. The French king Philip (Bobby Wojciechowski) stood tall and elegant, but seemed no match for this British family feud.
There’s plenty of action here, and plenty of fun lines: When Henry warns the French princess Alais (Kaley Pharr) has a knife, Eleanor implores: “Dear, We ALL have knives here!” This play is set just before the Shakespearean cycle – Bouncy John does eventually become king, as well as the subject of the Bard’s least produced play. It’s fast paced, it’s clear who is doing what to whom, and the language is plenty modern. It’s also set on a dark and moody set with just enough Christmas stuff up front to justify it as a holiday show if required. Henry wanted to create a dynasty, always a difficult task. He did create a country, and his family hung on for 300 years which isn’t all that bad given the rough material he had to work with. This feels like a Shakespeare piece but is infinitely more accessible, and it mixes history with fun and just the right amount of romance.
For tickets and more information, please visit http://www.ucftheatretickets.com
June 14th, 2017 by carl-gauze
Next To Normal
Book and Lyric by Brian Yorkey
Music by Tom Kitt
Directed by Julia Gagne
Musical Direction by Tim Hanes
Starring Janine Papin
Valencia College Theater
What makes a musical great? Beside catchy songs and snappy dialog, something has to get better in someone’s life. That’s not what we get tonight; rather we take a trip down the rabbit hole of mental illness and modern pill-based therapies that only seem to make the problem more expensive. Diana (Papin) loves supportive husband Dan (Phillip Edwards) as well as daughter Natalie (Franceska Mitchell) and a lost son Gabe (Hector Sanchez Jr.). Her crisis lies along the schizophrenia axis and dedicated doctor (Ryan Jordan Garcia) firmly believes that out there somewhere lies a golden land where pills balance poisons. Diana tries uppers and downers and side-waysers and upside-downsicles, but it all comes back to this: making her better only makes her feel worse. Hubby absorbs the stress, Natalie’s ready to flee the moment she can, and demonic Gabe haunts her through pills and hypnosis and electroshock. This kid is a persistent little McGuffin, isn’t he?
The story does resonate as we all know someone who is not completely on track. The set rocks with its jigsaw puzzle motif Autism made popular and the acting nails all the roles solidly. Papin mixes niceness with the edginess of those clinging on the edge of a cliff. Sanchez begins nice but by curtain he’s a vicious little kobold. And while a few notable songs appear (“It’s Gonna Be Good,” “Song of Forgetting,” “Super Boy and The Invisible Girl”) the sung-though dialog quickly became annoying. Tom Kitt’s rather tuneless music noodles along giving the actors a background to sing against, but not much of melody for us to remember. Maybe that’s intentional; Diana’s journey has a hopeless end point and the best she can hope for is the occasional good days scattered in the dusty clay of a condition where electroshock feels like a promising future.
For more information on Valencia College Theater please visit http:// http://valenciacollege.edu/artsandentertainment/Theater/schedule.cfm/
June 13th, 2017 by carl-gauze
By Tommy Lee Johnson
Directed by BeeJay Aubetin Clinton
Starring Sean Kemp and Carol Jaqueline Palumbo
Breakthrough Theatre, Winter Park FL
I always find “old folks” comedies a bit uncomfortable. If you’re lucky, you staring your own future, and if not, well, that’s even sadder. This show offers some good laughs but it’s really about the sad side of hanging out until you die. Gina (Palumbo) runs this small community of Aging Americans as she struggles with her own drinking problem. Can’t say as I blame her, this job offers little emotional upside. Her new assistant Jack (Kemp) is even farther along the spectrum; he barely talks and seems one pill short of spending his life rocking back and forth humming to himself. But as a writer, he reluctantly begins to collect these old timer’s stories in a beat up notebook. Garry Norris is a cranky one, he’s ex-military and proud of it. Vicki Wicks is the flirty one, she’s out to seduce anything remotely seducible, and Larry Stallings is the sad one, he’s grieving his wife who will never be back. That just leaves Mary Lee Stallings as Emily; she’s got one of these ancient lady hairstyles that my mom wore up until her death, and her entire world involves singing along to commercial jingles on TV.
There are cute moments and sad moments and sunny ones as well, but this is the most serious role I’ve seen Larry Stallings tackle. There’s some real pathos under his normally comic exterior, and you see it here tonight. Kemp’s self-absorbed rocking disturbs; it’s not clear he’s less in need of institutionalization than these other mooks. Ms. Wicks’ flirtiness sometimes went into some dark corners, and Mr. Norris was an exact replica of many vets I’ve worked for: proud, in your face, and a little scary. Ultimately, Ms. Palumbo was the earth mother goddess of all these lost souls; she’d make a good mom on and off stage. This is your future, America: if you don’t OD or burn up in an airplane crash you too may be singing along with the Draino man.
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/
June 11th, 2017 by carl-gauze
By Tracy Letts
Directed by Pam Harbaugh
Starring Allan Whitehead and Sean Philippe
Theater On The Edge
Hippies. Can’t believe they’re still around. Back in the Nixon era, Arthur Przybyszewski (pronounced “Przybyszewski”) (Whitehead) bailed for Canada to avoid the draft, a position I can’t say was wrong. Eventually he came home, rejected by his family and most of his ex-friends. A starving donut shop in a rough part of Chicago is his legacy, and a variable work ethic sets his income limits. He’s a good guy down deep; he feeds homeless Lady (Nelia Lake) and spars with his more ambitious Russian neighbor Max (Robb Maus). When we meet the man, someone has carefully trashed his shop, and ambitious hustler and writer Franco (Phillippe) arrives and takes over. He has the ideas Arthur can’t be bothered to consider, like longer open hours and an open mike night. He also has some debts to a tough guy, and that’s his downfall. Everyone has an angle, including police officer Randy (Ceveila Gazzara). She’d love to date an overweight hippie with access to pot and deep fried pastry.
It’s a slice of life on this stage, with everyone concealing a secret or a grudge. Whitehead is close to the ethnic good guys I knew from Milwaukee, and Franco is the bright, promising kid who knows how to climb out of a hole. Team him up with that Russian guy and they can take over Chicago. The two cops mostly serve as backstory, and while the tough guys (Zack Roundy and Marco Digeorge) motivate the story, they do not complete it. But they’re darn scary when they want to be.
Overall, this is an action packed show; fights and smashed crockery are everywhere. An oily glaze of stale donuts covers the floor, and even the coffee pot looks alike it could use a good vinegar soak. Taut, gripping and dangerous all describe this production, and like the previous performances I’ve witnessed in this space, the set (fabricated by Dan Cooksey) is move-set perfect. “Superior donuts” is not an easy show to watch, but it’s an easy show to love.
For more information on Theatre on the Edge, please visit http://theaterontheedge.org/ or http://facebook.com/TheaterOnEdge
June 4th, 2017 by carl-gauze
Music & Lyrics by Bert Kalmar & Harry Ruby
Book by George S. Kaufman & Marrie Ryskind
Directed by Ron Schneider
Musical Direction by Robin Jensen
Starring Jeffrey Todd Parrott, Chris Metz, and Adam Scharf
Mad Cow Theatre, Orlando FL
Hurray for Captain Spalding! (Parrott) even if his timing is a little off. The Marx Brothers ruled the film comedy of the early talkie days. Their acts were honed by years of touring the Vaudeville circuit, and their gags still ring true as they spear the wealthy and pretentious. Captain Jeffery T. Spaulding just returned from Africa, and wealthy Mrs. Rittenhouse (Karel Wright) is fêting him in her mansion. Pompous painter M. Doucette (Matt Horohoe) brought along a value painting that is his only asset, and upstart John Parker (Adam Reilly) hopes to make a name for himself in the art world with his copy of the painting. Small time grafters Chico (Chris Metz) and Harpo (Adam Scharf) are here to entertain and steal whatever they can while all the young women (Heather Copp, and Margaret Cross) and are set on marrying whoever has the most cash.
The spirit of the film is still here with its parody of the rich and pretentious, the poor and pretentious and the gold diggers of either sex. Parrott’s Spaulding was good but not always on time with his gags. Opposite him we find the stolid Karel Wright as Mrs. Rittenhouse; she’s as good a Margret Dumont as I’ve ever seen. Both Chico and Harpo nail the physical comedy, although they are never convincing as the ethnic stereotypes of the original. Other excellent performers come from Mr. Horohoe as the scoop-hunting newsman Wally Winston and Brian Chambers as the butler Hives.
This IS a musical, and a small band sits off to stage left. “Hooray for Captain Spaulding/Hello I Must be Going” and “Show Me a Rose” prove Mr. Parrott can sing, and there’s a great chemistry on “Three Little Words” between Arabella (Copp) and Wally. There’s a few extra songs tossed in before intermission, my favorite was “Keep Your Undershirt On”. It is possible to blow the timing on a Marx Brothers show, but this performance makes it all work. True, the gags are nearly 100 years old, but star worship and the foibles of the rich never lose their sparkle.
For more information on Mad Cow, please visit http://www.madcowtheatre.com
June 4th, 2017 by carl-gauze
Breakneck Julius Caesar
Created by and featuring Tim Mooney
Based on a play by William Shakespeare
Dangerous Theater, Sanford, FL
Long, wordy, and bloody: three words that describe many of The Bard’s greatest works. But today, only the “Bloody” feature attracts people, and traveling classicist Tim Moony exploits that selling point in this zippy one man show. Julius Caesar was a war hero, and that counts in politics no matter what era you live in. While JC was well loved his popularity caused jealousy, and soon nearly every important man in Rome whose name began with the letter “C” teams up against him. Stabbing, speechifying and political disasters all pour forth like the dozen of bleeding wounds on Caesar’s body.
Mr. Mooney has perfected the abbreviated Shakespearean tragedy. Setting himself a one hour time limit, he handles multiple characters with subtle shifts in his all-powerful toga. Plot lines are compresses, motivation compared to modern politics, yet all the good speeches remain: “I come not to praise Caesar…,” “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves…,” and the classic “Et tu, Brute?” All good stuff, and there’s plenty of crowd interaction as we yell “Huzza!” and other pithy quotes to speed the show along. This performance is highly recommended, especially for those involved in pushing Shakespeare into young minds. One teacher quipped “You did in one hour what it takes me five weeks to teach!” And best of all, there are no tests.
For more information on Dangerous Theatre, please visit DangerousTheatre.com/. Please note Dangerous Theatre operates in both Sanford, FL and Denver CO.
Track Tim Mooney’s wandering travels at timmooneyrep.com
May 15th, 2017 by carl-gauze
Orlando Fringe Theater Festival 2017
May 17 through May 29, 2017
I will not be covering any productions in this year’s Orlando Fringe Festival as there is a conflict with a production I am involved in. Show information and schedules are to be found at www.OrlandoFringe.org. See you there!
May 15th, 2017 by carl-gauze
Murder for Two
Written by Joe Kinosian and Kellen Blair
Directed by Roy Alan
Musical Direction by Christopher Leavy
With Kevin Kelly and Michael Swickard
Winter Park Playhouse, Winter Park, FL
Kelly works hard to keep from laughing, forcing the yucks out into the audience. The script may be a bit stilted, but the sparks fly as Swickard seamlessly transitions from Dahlia Whitney (wife of the corpse) to Barrette Lewis (a ballet star always En Pointe) to suspicious yet slow talking doctor Dr. Griff. All have motive, means and opportunity, and the lead song “Protocol Says” sets up any restriction on Kelly’s policing actions. Swickard gets all the non police roles from the smart talking streetwise kids sprung loose from 1940s “Our Gang” short (A Lot Woise) to Barrette’s smart (So What If I Did?) to the big finish (Steppin’ Out Of The Shadows) from ex-wife Dahlia. Kelly and Swickard even accompany each other at the same time on the baby Grand. This is the sort of laugh riot WPPH loves, and when I went thought the receiving line at the end, the cast was still laughing at their own jokes. You’ll might not die laughing, but there could be serious contusions on your funny bone.
For more information on Winter Park Playhouse, please visit http://www.winterparkplayhouse.org