Number 10: September, 2000 (Updated)

Number 10: September, 2000 (Updated)

Batteries? Check. Plywood? Check. Bottled Water? Check. Ticket to grandma in Kansas? Check. We’re ready for hurricane season. Maybe we’ll see a little improv while Channel 9 goes 24/7 on a storm still 5 days away. Clear blue skies and a light breeze, with the promise of actual disaster in the air. It’s fluffy news at it’s best.

A Doll’s House
Written by Henrik Ibsen
Dir. Mark Edward Smith
Starring Laura Harn, Mathew Imregi, Alicia McMillan. Mark March
Theater Downtown

Just because you’re Swedish doesn’t make you unhappy. But, if you are Swedish and you are unhappy, you’d feel right at home with the Helmers. Flighty yet spendthrift Nora (Harn) has a deep dark Victorian secret. Straightlaced Torvald (Imregi) is only slightly funnier than a pine plank. Nora’s girlhood friend Kristine (McMillan) looks like Big Nurse on a bad day, and office toady Krogstad (March) would rather be on a different carbon-based planet. Let us now proceed. Nora needs cash to pay her extortioner Krogstad and Torvald wants to unload Krogstad for speaking to him at work, and Kristine dumped Krogstad for a guy with money and personality. Poor Krogstad, saddled with a name like a gargoyle. Say it to yourself, out loud (Krooooogggg shtaaaad. Eeesh.). Kristine married some loser for his money, but he croaked before his options came in, and now she has to take in washing. You don’t know misery till you have to scrub skid marks out of a Lutheran’s underwear in January. Just to cheer things up, old family friend Dr. Rank (Joe L. Smith) caught some incurable disease which made him sweet on Nora, but now he must go die alone in the snow. Torvald talks nice about helping skylark Nora until she actually needs help, then he dumps her like a bad plate of lutefisk. Oops, a plot point just arrived and the Big Secret is safe, making everything lovey dovey again. This is the last straw for Nora. She’s off to Reno for a divorce and a crummy job working Keno, but at least she’s rid of that sack of toast crumbs Torvald. Swedes are all about status, don’t you know.

In this Un-feminist work from a previous fin de siecle, the woman’s work falls squarely on the shoulders of Nora. Harn is more than up to the task as she slides from bubbleheaded cutie to a wronged woman in the vice grip of Swedish law and a creepy blackmailer. Imregi plays the stiffer than a frozen cod husband until he explodes in a rage of damaged pride and starched undies. Kristine and Krogstad (brrrrr… still hate that name) end up as lovers, but not the sort that actually enjoy being around each other, nevermind holding hands. Only Dr. Rank seems to enjoy himself, and then only after a couple of cases of bubbly and a Perky Dan.

On a spare yet prim stage, the life of the Helmers flows in and out of the drawing room through 4 nearly identical doors. As the life collapses through the ice in to the cold dark waters of Swedish winter, the doors open, revealing the wreckage of their life. First the door to Torvald’s study opens, as he despairs indebtedness and frivolity. The maid’s door opens to the sordid details of Nora’s poor judgment. Now Nora’s door opens, and love flees and she’s won’t have the decency to keep pretending. Lastly, the door to that cold outside opens, and Nora flees with that most important of all Torvald’s chattels – respectability. Light fades and both Torvald and the audience enter a cold life without Nora. We went for coffee. We don’t know what Torvald did.

Being in Love with Alice
Written by Mike Carter
Dir. Winnie Wenglewick
Starring Steve Gardner, Ward Ferguson, John Pinkerton, and Jenna Hadju
Performance Space Orlando

Don’t you hate crappy sex? It’s so.. well.. crappy. Of course, it’s still better than No Sex, and that’s what Our Hero’s (Ferguson) getting. Somehow he’s found a cute roommate Alice (Hadju) who has no interest in him. She just brings home these sleazy fellows with nice hands and not much else to recommend them. A Spirt Guide and Theatrical Device (Gardner) pops out of the fridge and takes Our Hero on a path of deeply spiritual self-actualization. In other words, nooky lessons. Since Alice’s bedroom door is mysteriously blocked, their work is cut out for them. How did O.H. discover this amazing architectural feature? One word – used panties. OK.

Given that only our earnest Hero can see the balding jiminy cricket of Mr. Theatrical Device, it’s not that big of a stretch to find an imaginary girl friend. Dates are inductive – if you can’t get one, you’ll never get a second. If you can get that first one, you’re much more appealing, and if you luck into a messy break up, you’re ever so much more so. How do you break up with a non existent girl friend? We recommend forgetting her dry cleaning. Subtle, yet direct. You’re in like Flint.

PSO scarfed this show a week before its London Premier, giving the Orlando area just one more bragging right. “Alice” is the sweet story of a young man overcoming the shyness so many of us felt (and still feel) toward directly asking for sex. Rejection lurks around every corner, and sometimes imaginary friends are the best ones. At least the sex is safe, and if there’s a guy lurking in the icebox behind the stale Chinese food who can cheer you on, so much the better. Someone once said, “We have met the enemy, and he’s awanker just like us.” If you need to, leave a necktie on the door knob.

Steambath
Written by Bruce Jay Friedman
Starring Dennis Enos, Joe L Smith, Tina Gleason, Patrick Scott Barnes
Theater Downtown, Orlando

Epistemology happens. Tandy, (Enos) a can-do sort of fellow, is so busy he can’t possibly take the time to be dead this week. Spend quality time with his daughter, lead a cleaner more focused life, and he’s even got tickets to the Sox. Now he’s stuck in the eternal steam bath with 2 gay guys (Tom Mangeiri and Gregory Patrick), a pudgy gassy fellow (Andre Provencer), and the Seen It All and Don’t You Forget It Old Timer (Smith). Still, this cutie Meredith (Tracy Gleason) just wandered in, in a towel, so the hormones are still firing despite everyone’s untimely reassignment. It ain’t exactly heaven, but more like the random assortment of frequent diers you’d get on a Comair flight. God (Barnes) wanders in, slumming as the attendant. It’s His hobby. How do you know He’s God? Well, He can do a few card tricks while messing up peoples’ lives at random. That and a smoke machine, and you’re Deus Ex Theatrum.

After a strong and funny start with Tandy and the Old Timer going at it, Steambath gradually disassociates into a group of increasingly unrelated monologues. Even God loses credibility through His squeaky voice and mysterious lack of chemistry with his chosen few. Tandy and Meredith generate some tension which peaks earlier than hoped for – frustrating enough alone, but even more so in front of a nearly full house. Not even the strong chorus line from our two Gay Young Men can keep the show alive. As we near the end of time, the monologues become just a bit whiney, making you glad to see the cast disappear into the Door of Ultimate Oblivion.

Mankind finds no shortage of models of the great beyond. Heck, I’ve even come up with a few myself. Sorting things out while sweating with strangers is no worse than Dante’s 7 rings, and we all can find humor somewhere in death so long as it’s not our own. We just couldn’t find it here tonight.

Play in A Day 2000
Central Florida Theater Alliance
August 13, 2000
Sak Comedy Theater

Never enough time for anything today. Not even writing a play. Good theater takes time, support, caffeine, and mostly time. Well, CFTA has stripped that last bit of dignity away from these writers. Given a single all-nighter, 9 crews cracked out 9 pretty decent skits. With only 12 hours to go, directors, actors, and stagehands tossed the scripts in the air and fungoed them on stage at venerable Sak Comedy Lab. Top of the pile is “‘Good Witness” by Darryl Pickett. Thirty-something Todd Schuck’s fundamentalist folks have hit the road for the weekend, and that “lose my virginity” fund is about to pay off. Things are heating up when his nosey church neighbors pop in to drum up a date for daughter Charlotte. Ooh – who’s that in the back room? – we understand. There’s a biblical injunction about sleeping with a woman and her daughter, but I think there’ll be a fundamental exception tonight.

Trey Stafford sent up “Goodbye Captain Robust” with Ian Covell as the superhero with a critical vulnerability – super strength, and super sensitive to pain. Only his sidekick Throwboy (Ryan Smith), impervious to pain, can protect him. It’s a match made in Marvel heaven, and I think there’s a bit more to the relation, nudge nudge. Heather Clyde intrudes, and Throwboy must decide – heterosexual thrills, or the same old tosses across town routine with the Captain. Love hurts, as they say.

When pressed for a topic, write about yourself. Rick Spencer found himself in that spot, and wrote about writing a play in a day called “A Play In A Day – The Heat Is On”. Can’t find a coherent idea that goes somewhere? Then put down all the losers and make sure we all know WHY they’re no good. The net effect is better than you would hope. We even get to dump on Captain Robust when he’s not looking.

For a transient event, this was too much fun. All of these stories stand watching again, with most extensible to a few more acts. Next time we do this, drop by.

All My Sons
Written by Arthur Miller
Directed by Adam Williams
Starring Brian Harvey, Annie Kidwell, Anton Faustman
Theater Garage, Orlando

War is Heck. No, it’s worse than that. It’s Hell. And defense contractor is no easy gig either. Sure, the bucks flow, but you’ve got Colonels and Majors and whatnot wandering around the factory, screamimg “ship this” and “deliver that” and if you don’t – poof, there goes the contract. Joe Keller (Harvey) knows that. In fact, the heat was so great in the fires of WWII that he shipped a few cylinder heads with cracks, just to make the month. Too bad, a few of our boys bought the farm when their engines quit. In fact, Dad’s partner is doing a little R&R in the old crossbar Marriott for the crime. And his boy Larry hasn’t made it back form the war yet, but there’s always hope. That’s what Mom (Kidwell) says, and God wouldn’t lie to her. Larry’s best girl Ann (Laura Feligno) mysteriously reappears is in town, maybe to marry Chris (Faustman), maybe not. Her brother George (Ross Bogart) thinks it’s a bad idea, along with Mom and Joe and most of the neighborhood. Only Chris and Ann think it’s a good idea, and even they have their doubts.

In a plot so complicated you need graph paper to lay it out, a strong cast and an up-and-coming director wring powerful emotion from this dense work. The start is a bit slow, but as soon as Mom hits the stage, angst builds on angst as Chris grapples with his father’s increasingly obvious culpability in a defense procurement fraud gone horrible wrong. Yeah, money is important – try living without it. Pride is important, but who cares what the neighbors say. Love? We want it, but look hard and it’s there. What this battle fights over is reality. Larry’s dead, Dad’s guilty, Chris is a sucker and Ann is so lonely that she’ll marry into the family that killed her sweetheart. There’s blood all over this house.

Play de Luna
Art’s Sake Studio
Warehouse Theater, Orlando

Sketches are crawling from the woodwork in this town. A few more crept on the scene tonight, as a troupe of acting students and writers went through their paces for a sweaty and appreciative audience in the Warehouse Theater, one of Orlando lesser known venues. Let’s begin with “Smokers Cough.” Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, but then again a cigarette is just an abusive girl friend and bad for your health to boot. It’s just that the sex is so great that Terry can’t give up those toasty smoky blow jobs, even at $3 a pop. Healthy hippy Matty’s willing to bet 50 smackers that she can meditate him into rehab, and Doug in his Homer Simpson pants will take the other side of that bet. After all, it’s so easy to talk a sinner into just one more Addiction is not just a habit, it’s a lifestyle.

More good marks go to “Holding”, a semi real life elevator story. Marcus (Gianni Quatrono) is just staring at his feet when Darcy and Kate (Christine Morales and Natalia Marfil) chatter into his life, kvetching about Kate’s ex-boyfriend Travis (David MacKey). Blond bombshell (do they still make those?) Julie (Christy Moore) comes on and then the elevator gets stuck – clearly all her fault. Now what? Phone is dead, no one around – we can sing songs, tell our life story, play tag, play dress up, maybe make out a bit, fall in love. I never thought to play tag in an elevator, but it looks fun. Can we all swap partners now?

Highlight of the evening was “Adventure”, set in the sort of bar you can get a Heineken in and read a good romance novel in peace and quiet. Sandra (Kate Arpke) is minding her own business when over the top Nikki (Katie Furlong) bursts in and tries to get sex in the second person. How does that work? Well, you tell people what you’re doing and thinking as if you weren’t there. Sandra wants to leave. You, on the other hand, should wish you were there as Nikki swings from the rafters, assaults the barkeep, and intimidates the audience along with poor little Sandy. It was good for me, too. I’m a second person sort of guy.

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