Archikulture Digest

Number 11: October, 2000

Win some, lose some. Plucky Performance Space Orlando threw in the towel

putting an end to Orlando’s so-far-from-Broadway-it-must-be-Jersey

scene. Impact! Productions opens with some interesting Gen X theater. We

just need to discuss that dang exclamation point.

Updated! Updated! Updated!

Rocky Horror Show

Written by Richard O’Brien

Directed by Aaron Babcock

Starring Stephen French, Joe DiDonna, David Mackey

Theater Downtown, Orlando</b>

It’s pretty hard to summarize Proust, but Rocky Horror is a snap – boy

meets girl, boy builds monster, aliens invade the earth, then everyone

has sex. Gay, straight, animal, elbow, you name it. We’ve all seen it 20

times, but each time is a new experience – you pick up another bit of

dialog. But what of the nuance, the deconstructionist subtext – how does

it form the story, influence the observer? That would be through sex,

backed by the guilty feeling you’re not having any at the moment, and

the cast is ignoring you to deal with their own problems. At least

that’s how it seems, judging by the rude catcalls and slices of toast

thrown with ninja precision at the actors. I’ll give the cast this much

  • they took it like troopers.

This is a musical, complete with a five-piece band gently backing the cast

as it pummels the hits. The beltingest vocals come from arch alien Riff

Raff (French) who sings a good 10 dB better than the rest of the cast.

DiDonna as Frank N Furter croons in a petulant, ‘I want my nooky now’

style, and the rest of the cast puts out, each in their own special

way. We were all stuck by muscle boy Rocky (MacKay), who appears to have

a pet armadillo in his thong. That’s what my girlfriend thought it was,

and she should know. Sitting high above the action beneath a cheap

fluorescent shop light was the narrator (Dennis Enos), with his Jack

Daniels intravenous rig. I’ll bet he knew Frank and Riff and the rest

really were a bunch of aliens the whole time, and covered up for the

CIA. It was that sort of show.

And what can we learn from this little immorality play? Well, first and

foremost, there are probably a few ways to get it on that haven’t

occurred to you. Really. And if you hang with aliens, they may well want

to probe you. It’s cultural, and we need a greater appreciation of alien

cultures. But mostly, we learn that occasionally the audience can come

up with a good ad lib, and we don’t normally allow that in Orlando. But

it happens here, and you should take advantage of the opportunity

before the mayor catches on and makes it illegal.

Overtime
Written by A. R. Gurney

Directed by Paul Luby

Starring Kim Nelson, Jeffrey Wilson, Brian Fitzgibbon

Seminole Community College Fine Arts Theater</b>

Exactly what is Shakespeare’s appeal? Why, never a loose end. Everyone

gets sex or money or both, bad guys get punished, a hermetic plot. So

neat, so clean, so transient. As we wrap Merchant of Venice, Portia

(Nelson) and Nerissa (Tiki Noreaga-Hagen) have their men, someone’s ship

arrives safely in port, and that schmutzig Judishe Shylock (Jeffrey

Wilson) is put in his place. If life were only that simple…. until

everyone has thoughts about boyfriends, ethnic grouping, and of course

their sexual persuasion. Even guilt flares up, with Shylock invited over

to have a little nightcap and make up from the guilt-riddled liberal

inside Portia.

Are people behaving stereotypically? You bet. The Jews are avaricious,

the blacks are interested in b-ball, the JAP is a whiner, and that pale

Episcopalian is bland, but boy can he dance. And all of this is why we

came tonight. By forcing the evil images lurking within us as far as one

can get away with it today (no blackface and we still can’t say the N

word in community college), we experience an uncomfortable look at what we think of each other. Right or wrong, we always carry premade roles

for those we meet in life. Not all are acurate, but there is just enough

truth to make them handy when dealing with cabbies and televangelists.

A competent but not commanding staff presents Overtime on a jewel bright

set, asking us to examine our mores in a sort of post-deconstructionist

Sally Jesse what’s-her-name way. There were moments of spit and fire

from everyone, but not always at the same time. Shylock comes off best

of all, with ample time and scope to defend himself for his faith and

drug of choice (money). Poor Salerio (Fitzgibbons) comes off worst,

accused of fighting against multicultural nationalism, all because he’s

secretly Serbo-Croatian, or whatever that country is this week. Such a

poor end for such an excellent job of grovelling.

Asian Sings The Blues

Featuring Fiely Matias

Music & Lyrics by Dennis T Giacino

Oops Guys – Theater Garage, Orlando</b>

Scary season, and for the jaded Eastern European, accents and body parts

just don’t make it any more. Sure, a young black male makes you jump,

but for real heebie-jeebies visit a Cabaret Show. You know the deal –

a smarmy crooner and Piano Stylist (just give it a wash and a perm) and

a tummy-tucked guest star you never saw before. But add a twist – a

Chinese cabaret show, lead by that little guy with the big voice, Fiely

Matias. Backing him are the not-ready-to-audition-for-June-Taylor Egg

Drop Dancers and pianist Dennis Giacino. Half a camp review of the

overwrought lounge act and half a silly attack on oriental culture,

Matias keeps the audience giggling nervously between songs with bad

jokes while Gong Boy does the sort of menial jobs Charlie Chan assigned

to Number One Son. He even moons on command. With such soon-to-be-on

K-Tel tunes as “Acceptable Porn” and “Ode to a Fag Hag”, there was

something to offend everyone. What allows him to pull it off is he

really has a nice singing voice, so when he pops off an odd note, you

can tell he meant it. It’s such a fine line between genius and

stupidity.

Well, what does he do besides sing? Aha, glasshopper, so happy to say.

There’s a bit of pseudo-sumo Kabuki theater. All Kabuki players look

like they’ve just seen Hillary nude, and sound like they are repelling

mosquitoes. I know this reveals some deep chord of the oriental psyche,

but danged if I can explain it. Don’t forget the mysterious oriental

calisthenics. He’s small, he’s oriental, and he bends in rather unusual

ways, sort of like Gumby-san. And there’s a shameless plug for his new

record. Heck, you never know – someone might want a memory. It’s fun,

it’s not that clean, you get free popcorn and a fortune cookie, but it

saves you having to sing your own songs like those cheapskate Karaoke

bars do.

Vampire Lesbians of Sodom

Written by Charles Busch

Directed by Steve Gardiner

Starring Robert Black, Steve Gardiner, Jareb Dauplaise, Michelle Elam

Theater Garage Courtyard, Orlando</b>

When the succubus is hungry, you’d best feed her. And make it a virgin,

please. This morning’s nummies didn’t get enough nitrous and woke up a

bit too early, forcing the succubus to confront her own inner feeling

toward drinking virgins’ blood, agonize a few seconds, and then dig in.

Of course, since breakfast was undercooked, it bites the mouth that eats

it and now we have a plot. I’m never real clear on this vampire blood

exchange business, but we now have two immortals, forced to track and

fight each other though eternal kitty bitch sessions. And where do they

end up? Why in Hollyweird, of course, the uber vampire company town. And

since no one dies, careers just go on hiatus, permitting the eternal

dinner theater revivals, again and aging and again…

But what does this all mean? Vampirism is certainly a metaphor for oral

sex at a minimum, and a sneaky homosexual relation without the burdens

of explaining why you’ve never actually married and still live with your

college roomie. But is it an accurate metaphor for the mass media

creative process? Is the act of writing or producing simply the

extraction of whatever vital forces you experienced in other venues,

with the hope that you can distill the pure essence from other’s actions

and claim them for your own? Is this why the vampire schema remains

popular despite having been done to death in Roger Corman’s cutting room?

Or is it that we want to see scantily-clad women pursued and consumed, and

maybe they’ll slip out of their costume just a bit? That’s my theory,

and I’m sticking to it.

The Woman in Black

Adapted by Stephen Mallatratt

Directed by Michael Carleton

Starring Richard Width, Eric Hissom

UCF Shakespear festival</b>

Practicing the law – so dreary, so dull, yet so important to someone.

Property transfers, petty legal squabbles, clearing up estates, all the

dog work for a young man in Victorian England. Yet when young Kipps

(Hissom) escapes London’s deadly yellow fog to wrap up an estate he gets

the pee scared out of him at Eel Marsh House out in EBF (the Eastern

British Fenland). Eccentric and reclusive Mrs. Drablow finally went to

her reward, and Kipps must represent the firm at her funeral and then

clear up some minor paperwork, which turns into a two-week journey to

hell. As he travels from the metropole of London to the thorp of

Croyden-on-where-did-you-say-exactly, the locals become more and more

reclusive and freaked out when he says where he’s headed and why. Mrs.

Drablow resided at the end of a causeway that was under water at high

tide, subject to instantaneous pea soup fogs, and the house does have a

small infestation of restless spirits. Anyway, all this freaked him out

so bad that 20 years later he still gets the willies, and he’s hired an

actor (Width) to produce this as a play for his friends and relatives,

thus releasing his inner demons. Freudian or Jungian, I don’t recall,

but prior to tabloid TV this was how you cleared up these ‘life issues.’

With only two actors and the occasional wraith (Kathleen Kaplan), Width

and Hissom not only cover all the locals at Eel House, but swap for one

another from time to time. A cluttery backstage area morphs into a musty

estate and lonely fen land, and as we move from reality to terror the

effects become increasingly violent and effective. Not only fog and

ghosties attack the audience, but a few spits of icy cold rain dampened

the hairdo of those in the cheaper seats. I’m never very impressed with

the Count Floyd sort of scary stories, but this succeeded in freaking me

out more than once.

Poor Angels

Written and directed by Brain Bradley and Peter Hurtgen Jr.

Starring Drew DeCaro, Joe Swanburg, Todd Schuck, James T Honey

Discount Comedy Outlet</b>

Serial killers and performance artists – on the surface so different,

yet deep down consider the similarity… One goes around the countryside

destroying dreams, leaving behind confused and disappointed family

members. The other just kills a bunch of people he doesn’t know really

well. That pretty well describes Dwight Stanley Rutts (Honey), who kills

people with no discernible pattern. That’s his pattern – no pattern.

Guided by his inner clown (Schuck), he’s just an artist perfecting his

craft and developing a brand identity. Lunkhead cops Lazarondo and

Bischoff (Bradley and Hurtgen) chase him when not writing sound bites

for their film script. Their script is so lame that they get rejection

letters from production companies that haven’t even seen the script. It

should be a summer sleeper. Their prime suspect is the pinhead son ( Ian

Covell) of one of the victims, and he too has a personal invisible

friend – Cuchulainn, Hound of Ulster (Drew DeCaro). Cuchuliann was

summoned from the Irish Valhalla to help Pat in his quest – take the bus

to Newark. There they attack New Jersey. They lose. Pat seeks his

brother, karaoke meister in the Newark airport lounge, who now finds

trouble with the mob. Seems he has $270,000 in counterfeit bills and the

dumb cash machine won’t accept deposits over $5000 a day. What he needs

is a better financial planner.

Are there bad cop in a donut shop jokes? You bet. A corpse or two in the

bathtub? Hasta be. Simulated gunfire and strobe lights? Count on it.

Horny fat chick jokes? Full frontal nudity? An anti-gravity manifesto?

Two out of three aren’t bad. With the biggest cast and most coherent

script to date, “Poor Angels” is DCO’s most ambitious stage production

to date. Each of these folks can get a laugh by standing on stage and

not saying a word. While this undoubtedly made high school miserable,

now they’ve got low paying jobs that put this skill to excellent employ.

You feel good AND laugh when Platinum Jimmy (Swanburg) gets his head

smashed into a piano. You’re secretly pleased to see chubby JJ (Anita

Pritchard) tied up in a closet as the Rutts explains he’s doesn’t do

rape – its not in his manifesto. And best of all, we all can get behind

Cuchulainn’s assessment of New Jersey – there really isn’t a nice part,

no matter what they tell you. Poor Angels – good comedy.

Caffeine
Episode One – The Phantom Premise

Impacte! Productions

Written by Todd Kimbro</b>

Two cultural icons arose from 20th century America – Jazz Music and the

Sitcom. Jazz needs a smoky, dark club fired by caffeine and nicotine. A

sitcom needs, well, ongoing comedic characters who might hang out in a

place fired by caffeine and nicotine. Like this coffee bar and open mic

club known as Caffeine Crash. CC’s staff easily fulfills these simple

needs. Stash (Michael Marinacco) runs this place, hiring and firing and

sleeping with the wait staff at will. Angst-ridden barkeep and

screenwriter Holden (Ed Campbell) works on a script that everyone else

thinks is brilliant. Soon to be ex-waitress Greer (Christine Morales)

has a second job cranking out crank in her basement, and sisters Tuni

(Kimber Taylor) and Jasmine (Meghan Drewett) worry about who has bigger

boobies and what sort of career they might have hopping tables. When

foul-mouthed patron Beth Marshall (known only as Woman, a curious lapse

of creativity) craters after a cup of Joe, Stash gets threatening phone

call and concludes she was poisoned, with him as the intended victim. Of

course, it’s Friday night, their busiest time, and a crop of cops would

be a bad idea. They prop her up with some dental floss and a pair of

Lolita sunglasses while two brilliant Goths (Will Maier and Sheila

Macintosh) rattle off some Nuevo beat poetry. Are they real? Are they

latex? Well, it’s poetry, and after half a dozen triple espressos and a

pack of clove cigs, it sort of starts to make sense.

With a strong cast, sharp and well-timed humor, and strong writing,

Caffeine promises to be an entertaining run over the next 7 months. Each

month a new “episode” will stage, with the climax aimed at next spring’s

Fringe Festival. A strong running cast and plenty of opportunities for

local walk-ons might well make Caffeine the experimental crucible for any

number of local wackos who need to chip away at their 15 minutes.

Impresario Devon (Kimbro) swishes out of his office cum box office

periodically to grab another drink and try to ignore whatever crisis

Stash surfaces. He’s the owner, not the manager, and has better things

to do. Like write more episodes.

To Hell In a Hand Basket

Directed by Steve Gardner

Performance Space Orlando</b>

Hand basket – hand truck – it all depends on where you grew up. I learnt

hand basket, but hand truck seems so much more final. Another quartet of

short, semi-related plays graced the dark confines of PSO, Orlando’s

darkest black box theater. In “Intergalactic Problem Solver,” God (as a

youth) is just sort of messing around, showing off to the goddess

(Michele Scarfo) next door. Poof! Out comes darkness – a sort of

Byronic field, suitable only for Higgs Bosons. Pop! Out comes light –

a collection of massless but pervasive particles that keep you from

kicking your toes against a foot stool in the dark. Bang! Oh look, it’s a

cute little earth – all green and blue, just like goddess’s mom. Bim

bam – some animals and even a few little people – how cute. Too bad He

(Steve French) didn’t stop down at the planning and zoning board to pick

up a permit and READ THE INSTRUCTIONS. Darn kids these days. Maybe the

Problem Solver can work this one into his schedule. If he can’t, someone

will get crucified….

It’s another Saturday night, and “Jesus Is Drunk Again” finds our Dear

Lord down at the old watering hole wrapping up another tough week. There

are a few good times ahead – softball with the Lord of Darkness (Steve

Gardner), hanging with roomie Hitler (they’ll let anyone in) and .. oh

oh, Dads back, and now He’s out of the closet. Seems He and Moses aren’t

just on the same team -one’s pitching and the other catches. AND Mary

(Brenda Emerson) creeps around looking for 2000 years in back child

support. That’s the After Life.

And speaking of after life, “The Mob” takes a close look at the cruel

world of enforcing the rules in the after life. Someone wants to whack

the J man (Luke Corcoran), and Judas (Ward Ferguson) might just help

for the right price. Life’s tough on the mean streets of heaven, and

even after the deal goes down, that two-toned wing-tipped two-timer’s

remorse can’t just be fixed by mailing back those 30 silver dollars.

Maybe it’s time to take the easy way out, but if you’re already dead, can

you really commit suicide?

With a hyperactive Satan, a frenetic and over-excitable God, and a cast

generally wired for sound, these shorts zip by way too fast. It’s not

exactly Sunday School, but a sacrilegious time was had by all.

Suckers: Your Guide On How To Fit In With Nonconformists

Written by Todd Kimbro

Directed by Michael Marinaccio

Starring Brook Hanemann, Will Maier, Sheila McIntosh, Don Fowler

Impact! Productions</b>

It’s the crack of 9 (pm, that is) and time to drag our butts out of

bed, pull on a clean Cure tee-shirt, slap on a little black lip gloss,

and hit the street. Violet (Hanemann) is the sort of girl with abysmal

taste in men that we see oh so often in these little shows. Now she’s

broke and must suffer the greatest indignity of all – employment. Open

Mic night doesn’t pay much, but at least she can hang with her Goth

friends – wannabe homo Louis (Maier) and Siberian husky Smegva

(McIntosh). After a bit of beat poetry, its off to club FlambŽ to catch

some upbeat Robert Smith tunes. Too bad Violet forgot her money and

can’t get past the bouncer Byrne (Fowler). With nothing better to do,

she reveals her deepest thoughts to the bouncer and a homeless guy

(Blake Gardner). What deep gossip do we discover? Smegva’s actually from

Scranton and used to wear leg warmers and scrunchies AND Byrne and

Violet have the hots for each other. They just can’t bring themselves to

admit it. Deep down, Violet really wants to be normal, and all this

rebel without portfolio stuff is just an act. How sad.

Despite a strong cast and a script full of humor, the entire play falls

a bit flat, coming across as a series of gags pasted on top of a little

pop psychology. Byrne gives the evening’s deepest emotional display

revealing his affection for the whiny and self-obsessed Violet.

Comedically, the strongest performances come from the beat poetry of Lois

and Smegva. I know, it’s serious, soul revealing stuff, but it makes me

giggle. The supporting actors Trey Stafford (the X-ed up raver) and

Gardner were side-splittingly funny, whether acting on stage or just

playing the part of the mechanicals- moving set pieces and actors on and

off stage. On the weak side, there were some musical numbers that just

never clicked, and one even had the cast lip synching with its

prerecorded self. Overall, we have a pleasant but thin story of

disaffected youth dealing with the reality that mommy’s renting out

their room, and not giving them a cut of the action.

Being in Love with Alice

Written by Mike Carter

Dir. Winnie Wenglewick

Starring Steve Gardner, Ward Ferguson, and Jenna Hadju

Performance Space Orlando</b>

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 Spirit 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 a stretch to find an imaginary

girlfriend. 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 wanker just like us.” Leave a

necktie on the door knob if you need to.

A Doll’s House

Written by Henrik Ibsen

Dir. Mark Edward Smith

Starring Laura Harn, Matthew Imregi, Alicia McMillan, Mark March

Theater Downtown</b>

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 Helmer’s.

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 dovy 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 Ur-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 bubble-headed 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 four nearly identical doors. As the life collapses

through the ice into 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 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.</b>


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