Number 12: November, 2000

Number 12: November, 2000

They say being liked by the critics is like being liked by the chipmunks
in the park. Let’s see who brought the best peanuts this month.

The Cherry Orchard
By Anton Chekhov
Directed by Alan Bruun
Staring Christopher Lee Gibson, Katrina Ploof, Mindy Anders,
Rick Stanley, Bill Lefkowitz
Mad Cow Theater

Frozen in time, frozen between the Russian winters, neither Lyubov
(Ploof) nor her well-meaning but vapid brother Gayev (Stanley) have any
concept of cash flow. Cash is flowing, however, mostly out the door and
the family estate is about to go up the pipe. Mortgaged to the hilt and
well into default, they have no choice but to cut their losses and their
cherry trees and subdivide for condos and a strip mall. Only Lopakhin
(Gibson) understands the problem and only Lopakhin has the gumption and
vision to fix it. But no one will listen to such a harsh truth. Not
Lyubov, lost in the past with her drown son, nor daughter Varya
(Anders), who prays for God’s deliverance, nor even romantic Anya (Emily
Harrold), in love with that moth-eaten student Trofimov (Michael Lane),
left over as tutor to the lost boy. Once you show up on this estate, you
get immediate tenure. And now the fatal day arrives – Lopakhin buys the
estate at auction, and owns the place that enslaved his father and
grandfather and those before him. A great day for freedom, but a
disaster for Russia.

And this is the essential Russia of yesterday and today – great, rich,
and careening from disaster to disaster with no clear idea of how to
operate the emergency brake. Ancient retainer Firs (Lefkowitz) mumbles
and grumbles about how things were better when he was a serf, and
Trofimov smells of the revolution looming on the horizon. Varya might
marry Lopakhin, but might not, and Yepikhodov (Jay T Becker) might marry
Dunyasha (Dawn Wicklow), but might not, while neighbor Pischik (Sam
Hazell) cadges mortgage money while laughing past his own default. But
everyone is a friend, will remain friends, and loves one another no
matter what happens. It’s sad, funny, and alien to us. It’s Russia.

With a year’s work by the cast and the public, Cherry Orchard becomes
one of the finest, most comprehensive productions Orlando has seen. No
one character carries the show, but not one single character gives a weak
performance. It’s a perfect people’s collective, complete with
individual collages replacing the standard lobby head shots. And as the
clan scatters to the winds, blows fall on the beloved trees. First an
axe bites into the dry solid wood ready for transformation into
something useful. Then an axe bites into a living tree, cutting the
heart out of the estate and leaving wood suitable only for burning. And
with the sound of a broken string, everything dies.

Closer
Written by Patrick Marber
Directed by Abigail Paul
Starring Marisol Novak, Jason Moyer, Heather Godwin, Dan Johnson
Presented by Cerulean Group at Impacte!, Orlando

How do we hate each other? Let’s count the ways. Dan (Moyer) picked up
Alice (Novak) at a hit and run. She’s torn her orange fishnets and now
there’s love in the air. Dan writes obituaries but Alice inspires him to
pen a tawdry sex novel. He promotes it by convincing sex chatroom
habituŽs he’s hot for them and to meet him at the London Aquarium for some
action. “Aquarium” is the title of the book. Clever, eh? Horny doctor
Larry (Johnson) shows up and meets photographer, artist, and Friend of
Dan, Anna (Godwin), and now they’re a thing. Until Larry meets Alice and
Anna sleeps with Dan and everyone expresses undying love for one another
until they hit the hay with the other’s main squeeze. If one had a
social disease, now they’ve all got it.

Alice’s clothes look so sad when she takes them off, but she knows what
men want – a girl that looks like a boy and makes herself sexy far
beyond her looks. When she’s with Dan, he has a self-absorbed look of
boredom that only disappears when the topic turns to himself. And Anna
exploits the sad and lonely by selling their photos to the wealthy sad
and lonely, making them feel a bit better. I do believe she actually
steals their souls. Finally, consider Doctor Larry, trained
dermatologist and certified loser. When you push him hard enough, he
spits real fire defending his infidelity. Rather than waste time
bragging to the boys in the operating theater, he just volunteers his
infidelity to whoever he’s living with at the moment. He calls it
honesty and love. I call it sheer petty meanness.

With a multitude of short scenes flashing before us, cued by light
changes and nothing more, we see a carpet full of glass shards. Each
glistens with a small vignette of pain, and they stick to the bottom of
your feet when you try to clean them up. These are not people falling in
and out of love, but a small time S&M circus with the pain knob turned
to 11.

Caffeine – Episode 2

Written by Todd Kimbro
Starring Ed Campbell, Megan Dewitt, Michael Marinaccio, Todd Kimbro,
Kimber Taylor
Impacte! Productions, Orlando Florida

It’s another Someday night in the Caffeine Crash, Orlando’s almost
hippest coffee joint. Buckstars Coffee still wants to buy out Devon’s
(Kimbro’s) operation and make him assistant district manager. We all
know what ADM’s are like, and he’s having none of that. Holden
(Campbell) and the sisters Tuni (Taylor) and Jasmine (Drewett) have been
abducted by aliens, and Stash (Marinaccio) is on a mission to slash some
tires and rescue the girls before Holden turns everyone he meets into a
flesh-eating homosexual zombie. Just another quiet night. It seems that
Buckstars really intends to control Global Blended Caffination, take over
the world, and turn all the women into DSL-controlled breeding stock.
Guys are programmed to Zombiefy each other, leaving the gay guys who are
much better dressers for the few remaining green-skinned pulsating
brained fem-aliens with that White Rain hairspray smell. It’s a fate
worse than walking into the Sullivan’s Trailside Lounge on karaoke
night.

With the local live soap scene expanding into its second effort, just
enough continuity exists to make the amnesia and infidelity grade, but
not so much that you’re lost if you miss an episode. My favorite
characters were the two Jane Jetson babes in sparkly flared skirts and
uber-blonde wigs who pogoed in and out with the props. Devon
contributes more to this episode on stage than previously, declaiming
how he won’t sell his business to the evil empire of corporate caffeine,
just on principle. Well, when people say principle, what they really
mean is more money. And since this buyer needs Devon’s small beans open
mic joint to take over the world, they’re likely bluffing on the cash
anyway. Give ’em hell Devon.

Warning – there is actual zombie flesh-eating in this production. And
the cast members smoke. Notionally, it sets the character but I think
they can’t talk with Nicorette in their mouths and can’t wait till half-time to fire up like the rest of us. HAHA – no intermission. It’s the
price we pay to save the world from sex-crazed alien invaders.

Kids Only Fringe Festival
Oct 21 and 22
Theater Garage, Orlando Florida

There are many dangerous ways to entertain the public – knife throwing,
crocodile wrestling, talk radio host. But nothing requires more nerve,
bigger cojones, and more disregard for personal safety than doing Improv
with 6 year-olds. That was the risk James Newport and Jay Hopkins from
Sak took in Kid Prov, one of the best events at this year’s inaugural
Kid’s Fringe. They began with the relatively safe One Word At a Time
Story, taking their cue from children who seem to have only one thing
one their minds – extra terrestrials. Increasing the risk level, they
did a set of Giant Puppets, where audience volunteers move the actors
around as if they were giant action figures. Adults might attempt to get
the guys in rude or silly poses. The children seemed mystified by the
process, and tended to run off and play with each other, leavening John
and Jay hung in awkward poses, or run into walls and abandoned. Their
funniest moments came as experts on Sand, one of the most under-appreciated collectibles on E-bay.

A local family posing as the Tany Hill Gang did a little show called
“I’m Not Ghetto” exploring the options a child in a bad situation has to
make things better. Each of the children sang a number, but the best
effect came from the family singing together on such standards as Give
My Regards to Broadway and Hey Look Me Over. With no microphones and a
tendency to speak to one another rather than project to the audience,
most of the individual pieces became lost in the open-air stage, drowned out
by the fountain and street noise of almost bustling downtown Orlando.
There’s some raw talent here, and a cleaner technical setting would do
them well.

And who will forget the brothers Grimy? This vaguely famous circus
troupe would come to Lakeland (presumably from Sarasota) and entertain
folks of all ages. Today, Gidget Grimy has taken sick by OD’ing on
marshmallows, and Grimy Grimy (Richard Paul) must cancel the show until
announcer Charles Friedman convinces the one true Grimy to let him
audition. The show goes on, with a little more improv, a few more word
at a time stories. Their highlight came with an actual pie in the face, a
comedic device that has been so sorely missing from the lives and
experience of today’s post-MTV rug rats.

Kid’s Fringe provides a separate, much more low-key event than the
Kids’ stage at the more frenetic and dispersed regular Fringe Fest.
There is the requisite face-painting, arts and crafts activities, and a
mixture of free and pay shows all involved and oriented toward kids.
Parking is easier but more expensive than Regular Fringe, and all the
events are within 100 feet of each other, avoiding the need to wander
around downtown looking for the Blue Venue. It’s a modest beginning, but
a pleasant place to take the next generation of art patrons. Even
Spiderman dropped by.

Sister Calling My Name
Written by Buzz McLaughlin
Directed by Arlen Bensen
Starring Tom Stearns, Lisa Curtis, Heather Avery Clyde
Trilemma Productions
Presented at the Darden Theater, Orlando Science Center

Born a woman with a mind completely cast adrift, Lindsey (Curtis) drove
her family into alcoholism and depression as they struggled to cope with
her schizophrenia and retardation (can we still use that word?). After
the folks died, she went to the state hospital to rot, while brother
Michael (Stearns) fled to his own world of academia and divorce. Now ten
years are under the bridge and childhood sweetheart Anne pops back into
his life. Now Anne is a nun and she’s pulled Lindsey out of the dumpster and
discovered an important ‘outsider’ artist. Her scribbles are selling for
$3k a pop bid, $3500 asked.. Next stop – MOMA. Sister Anne brings
Michael back to Minneapolis under the guise of setting up a trust fund,
but it’s really the reunion with Lindsay and maybe a quick look at what
she gave up that drives her. Mike’s not happy, and resists a reunion
with either of these women from his past. And to top it off, God’s taken
a personal interest in the whole thing. It’s messy.

It’s a touching and strained story. Curtis spends the show painting and
flopping around, and if you have had any dealing with the
not-quite-here, you’ll understand Mike’s lack of interest in a reunion.
We can put up with most any deformity, as long as the spark of coherency
or at least logic remains to connect with. It’s the inability to have
the other person behave as we do that drives the wedge. That wedge is
apparent in Mike, and Stearns shows he’s not happy to be here, not happy
to find his ‘lost’ sister, and even Anne isn’t what he thought he was
signing up for.

And how much mind does one need to have a soul? What exactly is it in
you that makes you YOU? Lindsay is aware of herself, aware of her
surroundings, aware of her past, so we grant her a soul. But one wonders
where the limit lies, where the asymptote crosses the line from having
a soul to not. God gave Mike this problem, and like any good deity, he’s
not explaining himself. Maybe you can help.

Something’s Afoot
By James McDonald, David Vos, Robert Gerlach
Directed by Julia Listengarten
Starring Yuti Joshi, Clark Mims, Cory Warren
Theater UCF, Orlando

Ten corpses in a mansion. Lead story on channel 4, or a musical comedy?
On Broadway the tunes and not the bodycount matter, and it’s always
death in a lighter vein. Everyone’s arrived at Rancor’s Retreat for a
weekend house party in a musical mood. Unfortunately, Lord Rancor
himself will miss diner tonight – it seems he has a bit of lead
poisoning. And with an electrical storm of Floridian proportions
brewing, badminton’s off as well, se we’ll all stay inside to dance and
die. With gas, guns, and blowdarts, the guest list starts shrinking and
panic overrides singing but troupers one and all, they keep singing till
it’s their turn to visit the library and check out. Eventually, there
are barely enough folks left to mount a duet or reveal the murderer, but
there’s one last toe tapper sung by…. well, that would be telling.

Based on Agatha Christie’s “Ten Little Indians”, ingenious murder is a
frame to hang some songs on – many of which seem lost on the cavernous
stage, masked by the continuous sound effects of a thunder storm. Rising
above the ambient noise was “Problematical Solution (Dinghy!)”, a cute
bouncy little number about sexual innuendo between handyman Flint (the
rubbery Nick Sprysenski) and Lettie the maid (Tamia Helena Zulueta).
Mims and Warren as Hope Langdon and the lost oarsman Geoffrey put in a
great dance number (I don’t know why I trust you) and kept up a
supercharged stage romance. Yuti Joshi (Miss Tweed) held up respectably
in her first starring role as the relatively long-lived Miss Tweed, a
liberated woman, amateur detective, and free spirit. And did the
butler (Sam Waters) do it? No – we lost him far too soon.. but that all
I can say right now.

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.

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