Number 7: June, 2000

Number 7: June, 2000

Rumors fly about an HBO make-for-cable-film about the
Battle To Present Shakespeare As We Like It at that most intimate of
venues, Club Juana. Can it be true? A first amendment battle fought and
won HERE, in oh-so family friendly Central Fla? Just remember, deep
down, everyone in YOUR family is naked under those staid outer clothes.

Toxic Audio
Civic Theater Second Stage

You never let a lack of equipment stop you from singing in the shower –
it sounds so good, and the soap bubbles create a pleasant vibrato. The
Toxic Audio crew shower separately, but sound so much better fully-clothed and in the round at Civic Theater’s intimate Second Stage. Lead
by Bass Master Rene Ruiz, we have a human synth machine pounding out hit
after hit after hit. Sometimes, you sort of remember seeing the video on
Progressive Video Network (“Groove is in the Heart” or “Turn the Beat
Around”). Other times, they pull up the dregs of the 50’s and spit
polish them, like the incomprehensible pre-Rasta “Put the Lime in the
Coconut”. Best of all, they know your favorite Didn’t Quite Make Dick
Clark tune “I Want A Head Like The Heads on Easter Island.”

It’s one thing to scat a couple hundred do-be-do-be-do’s a minute, and
another to spit out TV theme songs using nothing but your lips and
thorax, but most impressive is the always popular, always risky Name
Your Song, Name Your Style audience suggestion improv. A dear little old
lady requested “High Heaven” as a country song. Sure, you would have
done a little Patsy Kline gospel number, but the Toxics improvised a
missing classic about a dead cat in the back of a pick up. Ye-Haw!

More than a few songs required a degree of audience participation that
grew from sitting politely on stage under mild harassment up to actually
tricking several people into fairly weak imitations of a Toxic scat tune.
If you have stage fright, use the same method that works with
panhandlers – never make eye contact. The show rings with energy and
unexpected twists like “Fifty Ways to Kill Your Lover” (Hit him with a
pan, Jan”) to new and better uses for that dreaded electronic Simon
game. It was so cool in 1980, even though it had vacuum tubes.

Toxic exudes the sort of talent that whispers “Destined To Leave
Orlando” – See ’em quick, and ask them to stay. Bake cookies if you think
that will keep them down on the farm.

Tintypes
By Mary Kyte, Mel Marvin, and Gary Pearle
Directed by Bruce Earnest
Theater UCF

Optimism and imperialism – that’s what made America great! That and toe-tapping melodies, all there for the taking. Slip back to when Teddy R.
and the Rough Riders made whoopee with those misanthropic Spaniards,
when unionism and socialism were just the gleam in the eye of some eastern
European malcontents. Eleven American Archetypes (“characters” for
those of you who missed English Lit) slam out bits of put’ near every
pop song from the sinking of the Maine to the beginning of prohibition.
From uptown Harlem to down and dirty with Orpheus, you get it all –
Stars and Stripes Forever (bet ya didn’t know it has LYRICS) to Kiss Me
Again to She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain. It’s like punk – if you
don’t like a song, there’ll be another in a minute or so.

As with America herself, there are highs and lows. Top of the pops
include a daring love duet between Teddy Roosevelt (Mark Brotherton) and
Emma Goldman (Michelle Knight) and an all singing all skating version of
Bird in a Gilded Cage by the ever famous Anna Held (Charlotte black)
Energetic but occasionally off key is Yuti Joshi’s ‘Nobody’. Twinges of
guilt haunt the writers, who occasionally toss in some labor rhetoric
and depression era starvation pathos. Important aspect of who we are and
what that time involved, but it’s a musical already and nothing serious
develops from these false starts.

All in all, the ensemble numbers went over best (Arrivals, Money is the
Root of Evil), along with the vaudeville act egged on by plants in the
audience, and a flickering Charlie Chaplin’s (Joshua Duke) who acted as
narrator and counterpoint to TR’s bully optimism. We had it all, back
then, and didn’t realize it. Now, may we please have a war?

The Never Before Told Life of Carol Channing
Written & starring Matthew Arter
Fringe of the Fringe at Theater Downtown

If a guy dresses up and sings like Carol Channing, we call it camp. A
guy dressing like a Broadway broad is fairly silly, and Carol Channing
is fairly silly all by herself. Now, if that same effervescent dragster
sings songs the real Carol wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot shtick, then we
achieve a sort of meta-camp, a higher order of silly. And if that Carol
Channingish guy mercilessly begs for applause while sounding more like Red
Skelton than the Carolster, then we discover the deep secret of Carol’s
life – every single Broadway hit of the past 50 years was written
exclusively for her. Mercifully, just to allow Ethel Merman and Madonna
to have their 15 minutes, meta-Carol passed. Whether it’s Little Orphan
Annie Gets Her Gun or Mary Magdalene at the Cabaret, these were Carol
songs. So sad, don’t you think?

Meta-Carol does a wide range of songs in a widely varying level of
success. Some come across as darn good replicas, such as “I’m Here” and “Don’t Cry for me Argentina”. Some are pretty embarrassing, at least to
those of us watching, such as “I’m Flying” from Peter Pan and the
dreaded “Yodeling Number” from Sound of Music. But, in each and every
case, Arter pops on a new costume and shames us into applauding. It
helps if you have an encyclopedic knowledge of who wrote every Broadway
hit over the past 50 years, but even if you don’t the utter absurdity of
the situation will keep you amused till that boffo headdress and “Hello,
Dolly” close the curtain. Bring in the clowns. Oh – you’ve SEEN them!
How nice.

The Chairs
By Eugene Ionesco
Directed by Rick Stanley
Starring Becky Fischer and Joe Swanberg
Mad Cow Theate

What we have here is a failure to communicate. Our Old Couple, married
nigh on 100 years or so, struggles to sum up life together. Tell me that
friendly old story, the one I ask for every night. You could have been
so much more – head Coach, head General, head King maybe. Lonely and
isolated on the desert island of the mind, confined in a house with
more doors than any two actors could ever need, as many doors as choices
in life, our Old Couple love and ignore each other the only way possible
– at the top of their lungs and in each other’s face. Summing up is hard
to do – hire a professional orator, and invite everyone that counts,
land lords and intellectuals. That’s anyone who’s anything anywhere –
you’re either a landlord, or you’re an intellectual. Couch potatoes need
not apply. At the appointed time, the art and money crowd shows up -and
bring on the chairs! We’ll need lots of them! Pack the house, the Orator
will arrive any moment!

Set on a corrugated cardboard set, painted a green that I always associate
with failing aerospace companies, the only flashes of contrast appear
from red lights behind the set, a bit of cloth and Old Woman’s costume,
a sort of fuchsia rooster getup that you need to show you’re over 65 to
purchase at Beall’s. And there are doors. Doors, doors, doors
everywhere, all the better to pull the thrift shop chairs onto the set
for the invisible members of the cast, members who perhaps exist only in
your mind. Are there more than 2 people on stage? Or did the actors
fool us otherwise? And do we listen to our closest friends and
companions? I know I don’t. I don’t even listen to the voices in my own
head. There are other things to think about, and no time for other’s
thoughts. Life piles up opinions and facts and experience, none worth a
hoot in our final act. This mountain of information grows fuzz on the
intellect just like New Years morn grows fuzz on your tongue. The
farther you go, the harder it gets.

Stale Magnolias
Dying to Perform Players
Fringe of the Fringe at Theater Downtown

Lawdy, Lawdy, ain’t these girls a sight! Half the identifiable women in
Chippytwins Parish are gittin’ their ‘do’s done in Floozy’s (Brian
Alexander) Beauty Parlor and Birthin’ Shed. Swellby’s (Christian
Stokes) getting married and Floozy’s lucky enough to have a little extra
help from new girl Anal (Curtis Dalton). Mama Chagrin (Jef Gordon) and
Hairee (Edward Lerp) and Geezer (Jim Beeson) are keeping a steady keel
with a combination of alcohol, Valium, and hair spray. Well, Swellby’s
taste in men ain’t no better than anyone else is this drag opera, but at
least she has some fashion sense and keeps her wedding to a theme –
black. Black Hair, black dress, black roses, hell, even a black
preacher. Is there a bun in that oven? Looks more like a whole tube of
Pillsbury dough babies. Time to hose out that shed.

We have a multitalented cast pushing their falsies over the top in this
southern potboiler. Floozy has the best boobs, Anal actually kinda looks
like a real girl after a few too many Jaggermeisters, Hairee could pass
as your pervert grandpa, Chagrin keeps her Marge Simpson hair from
causing a neck injury, and Geezer, well, looks like a geezer. It’s a
skill, I guess. Someone who knows told me the plot is pretty close to
the real Magnolias. That’s a shame, because if these were real women,
there would be some dreary message about empowerment and closeness and
overcoming obstacles. This is a story about big hair, polyester
mammaries, and general debauchery in the sort of small town you don’t
really want to be gay in. In other words, it means to be funny, and has
a few belts along the way.

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