Number 11: October, 2000

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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