Number 16: March, 2001 (Updated)

Number 16: March, 2001 (Updated)

Orange County took a half hearted swipe at banning dancing at night
clubs. We, the liberratti of Orlando let our voices be heard and shouted
down this blatant attempt to suppress free speech and club drugs.
Secretly, most of the guys in town hoped the ban would stick,
since none of us really like to dance anyway. Except to feel up Ginger
in Accounting at the company Christmas party.


Romeo and Juliet
Written by Wm Shakespeare
Directed by Dennis Delaney
Starring Alessandro Juliani, Margot White
Orlando UCF Shakespeare Festival
Lake Eola Band Shell, Orlando, Fla

There’s a reason we don’t let 13 year olds marry — they over react to the slightest little thing. Take steamy little Romeo Montague (Juliani). One minute he’s pining for the unavailable Rosalind. Next thing, he’s got a Jones for even more remote Juliet Capulet (White). For some reason, the Montague’s and Capulet’s are pegged on vengeance, and even the servants are ready to bite thumbs and snap towels at one another. And Romeo has to pick one of THEIR women to romance. Well, its true love, its Elizabethan, and next thing these two kids run off to Friar Lawrence (Dathan Williams). They call him ‘Father Easy’ around the church – he’ll go along with nearly any crackpot scheme that walks up and knocks on his cell door. Papa Capulet (Robert Krakovski) has another guy in mind anyway — dashing Count Paris, (Tom Taylor) who has no idea what he’s in for. When a minor street brawl kills randy Mercutio (Mark Rector) and the evil Eddie Munster look alike Tybalt (Andy Warrener), Romeo finds himself banished and suicidal. Friar Easy, I mean Lawrence, comes with a dangerous solution — drug Juliet so everyone thinks she’s dead, then dig her out of the familial tomb before she suffocates. If only Romeo would read his mail — he misses the plot, and has to kill himself. Personally, I don’t think Lawrence should have married the two in the first place, and a little premarital counseling would have been in order at least. I tell ya, it’s got every modern day hot button — underage sex, drugs, teen suicide, messing with the undead — if it wasn’t a classic, you couldn’t put this material up today.

Notionally set in the 1830’s New Orleans, we see the Montague’s as black and the Caplet’s as white, but Romeo is so much paler than his kin folks its sort of hard to keep race in mind as a motivation. Even more disconcerting, only two of the characters speak in a southern accent — either everybody must drawl, or nobody gets to drawl. Juliani and White shoot some sparks, but my favorite character is Mercutio, who runs around in his best Mardi Gras goat pants and horns, sexually harassing all the women in town. You may have gone to school with this guy. And what Shakespearian play would be complete with out comic minor characters, like the graceful comedy of servant Peter (Kip Pierson)?

On a beautiful and well lit revolving stage, there were a few sound problems from time to time — crackly mikes and inaudible bits of dialog. While these are fixable, there were a few pieces of music played in the background that overcame the actors’ speeches, and added little to the production. And while technically a tragedy, the body count is rather low (6, and one of those has a heart attack in the dressing room) and the first half plays as a romantic comedy – the two star crossed lovers would have made it together, had only they showed a little more patience and less desire to prove some dramatic point or other by stabbing themselves. Impetuous youth, stay thy hormones!

Menopause – The Musical
Book & Lyrics by Jeanie Linders
TOC Productions
Exchange Theater, Orlando, Fla

The Estrogen challenged set was out in force for the debut of one of the seasons cleverest parodies. Adding ” – The Musical” to just about any disaster can lift it from the realm of tragedy to comedy, and an older woman’s , ahem, passage is no different. Four pretty decent vocalists meet in a lingerie scrum at Bloomingdale’s, and strike a musical friendship based on there common interest – menopause. It’s a musical, so we’re not looking for much plot, but the songs better be good. It’s the rule.

And pretty good they are. With nearly 2 dozen pop tunes that we all sort of remember reworded in a hormonal manner, there are plenty of laughs, even for the two guys who crept in. My favorite singer was Shelley Brown, who has a wonderful gospel singing voice, carrying just enough tremolo to let you know she doesn’t just practice in the shower. Taking the lead on “You heard it through he grapevine (And now you’ll never see 39)”, you hope these songs can slide into a bootleg Motown greatest hits disk. Another stand out has Patti McGuire doing a touching duet with a long pink Mr. Microphone, “Only You”. Well, her and her microphone, anyway. And everyone, including Wesley Williams and Pam O’Bannon pitch in on “The Husband Sleeps Tonight”, which is why all older couples need to keep a guest room.

The set, I’m told on good authority, was painted “Blush”, which is one of those colors like Navy Blue, that only woman can see. And on that Blush Set sang the 4 horsemen of menopause – Zoloft, Praxil, Prozac, and St. Johns Wort. It’s silly, its fun, but let me remind you – please take your medication – it will make everyone happier.

Meetings
Written by Mustapha Matura
Directed by Canara Price
Peoples Theater
Theater Garage, Orlando, Fla

Both Town Mice and Country Mice live on Trinidad. Jean (Canara Price) and Hugh (Stacy Glover) started country, but now Jean has discovered big city living, with take out chicken and chips, martini’s, and drinking champagne with the American cigarette distributor. Selling Luna cigs with ingredient ‘X’ is her ticket to the big time and maybe even off this little island. Hubby Hugh, an engineer by trade, longs for the country foods he grew up with – Chip Chip Soup, Yams, Coo Coo and slippery green fig, roasted bread fruit. Of course, Jean has neither the time nor inclination to cook these quaint and odd smelling dishes. Hugh befriends an elderly fruit seller Maria, who introduces him to the old ways. She even provides nubile young granddaughter Elsa (Shauntira Quant) to do a little cooking. As Hugh drifts slowly back to his country roots, ancient religious practices come to haunt him – he visits a Shango meeting, and starts thinking more about helping the bush people, and less about his yuppified city life. Jean’s mysterious cough worsens, and it’s not just the people in Maria’s village ho drop like flies. It’s not just nicotine, it’s ingredient ‘X’. Damn those American tobacco companies!

Well, of course the Trinnies worry about the same stuff we do. They just do it at a slightly higher volume level. Leonine Hugh with his restrained dreads speaks eloquently about village ways, helping the helpless, and using wealth and power to improve your brethren. Jean has the same stuff, but sees wealth as a ticket out of that life style and into the pages of Vogue. She sports a mean bikini and does her level best to tempt the chicken deliveryman. Her motivation might not be pure, but she left the bush years ago and see it as just a place for a little ruthless market research. Innocent Elsa, dieing to please who ever she meets, is heart broken (as we all are) when her kin take sick back home, but shows Hugh the path to the old ways. And we always knew smoking was bad, but never thought it this quick acting. Hugh and Jean came together for mutual love and aid, but careen off in different directions when they collide with success. It’s what happened when life fills up with the sort of stuff you need but don’t really want. Sort of like a fur coat in the West Indies.


Seder
Written & Directed by Ron Vierling
Holocaust Memorial Resource & Education Center
and the Jewish Community Center
Maitland, Fla

War is hell. And it’s especially bad when you have no way to fight back. Five sisters, daughters of a small town Polish Rabbi, are lucky enough to escape the Nazi’s in body if not soul. It takes 50 years and travel round the world to bring them together in Chicago, a reunion they hope to celebrate with the Seder meal, a tradition that relives the escape from Egypt an eon ago. Egypt is just and abstraction, but Poland is a little closer to reality. Meeting at Helene’s (Susan Rogers) apartment, she and Eva (Marsha Richmond) begin with a bit of stilted small talk. The were the eldest, sent off to fight with the Polish partisans, who despised the Jew nearly as much as the Nazi. Next we meet Ceil (Mildred Wang), the independent one. She made it to Portugal and helped ferry Jews to Chile, where a few Nazis wintered as well. Finally, the youngest two, Rachel and Sarah (Sue Cohen and Barbara Ross) appear, and the small talk gives way to individual tales of horror suppressed for 50 years.

While everyone had a bad time of it, Sara seems most disturbed. She’s deeply hostile toward her oldest sisters, hostile for overhearing one of them tell Daddy they thought they had a better change if the oldest ones went together. As a result, Sarah and Rachel bounced from nunnery to nunnery, till Mother Superior was raped by a German solider to keep the girls secret. This doesn’t seem near as bad as what happened to the older girls, who had much worse than rape fall their way. As detail elute, you become happier you didn’t end up at this Seder meal.


It’s and odd show, presented as a reading rather than a full stage production. The small talk near the beginning feels off – it’s meant to be the bubbly small talk of women who love each other and reunite after decades of separation, but the timing is funny and it sounds as if a guy wrote it (which is true.) As the war stories build, dialog becomes tighter, but motivation is a little loose. I never really sympathized with Sarah’s excellently stated position, that she and Rachel were constantly scared. Sure, but would there have been less fear if they paired up differently? I’m not convinced, and she seems awful cranked about it after so long. Still, everyone gets to tell what’s on their mind, and we end with some sort of reconciliation, enough at least to allow the Seder to proceed. It looks like everyone made up – I sure hope so.

Sexual Perversity In Chicago
Written by David Mamet
Directed by Beth Marshall
Impacte! Productions, Orlando Fla.


In a perfect world of macramé and lava lamps, sexual liberation fills the air. Disco twins Bernie (Chad Lewis) and Dan (Michael Marinaccio) cruise the dance floor, ogling chicks and bragging about their conquests. Frankly, I don’t think Bernie’s had it since high school, and probably not even then. Still, they’re thick as thieves, and fairly decent jerks to boot. Meanwhile Deborah (Megan Drewitt) lives the LUG (Lesbian Until a Guy shows) fantasy, doing jigsaw puzzles and Joan’s (Angela Jo Strohm’s) nails. When Dan’s makes it through the minefield of shyness and asks her out, she finds she really LIKES doing it with a guy. This causes no end of misery to everyone. Joan’s heart is broken and her plant dies. Bernie’s is pissed off his wimpy buddy it getting some and he’s not. Dan’s madly in love till Deb moves in and they have to have an actual relationship. And Debby finds that while heterosexual thrills can be fun, Dan stops tasting like Junior Prom and Autumn afternoons and more like a jerk. She moves back to her abandoned Carly Simon Albums, and Bernie and Dan return impressing women on the beach by yelling ‘bitch’ at them. The circle remains unbroken.

There’s a bunch of misplace nostalgia floating around about how cool the 70’s were. It was really a great time to be miserable, and this story is as good a snap shot as to what went wrong as anything. On a cleverly laid out set stolen from my first apartment, we find that sex, like money, doesn’t bring happiness. Of course, it DOES give you something interesting to do while being miserable. Dan and Bernie are polyester versions of the Beer ad lizards – full of themselves and trying to get by on bluff and swagger. Deep down inside they hurt, and they certainly deserve it. Joan and Deb are a bit more problematical. Joan is genuinely offended when Deb leaves, and approaches the situation as Bernie would – agony hidden behind an acid tongue. Sexy Deb is just experimenting, and when the experiments fail, it’s the other lab rats that get jabbed. She’s innocent enough to break your heart with out even realizing what she did. Of course love hurt in 1978 – no one did it right.

Caffeine 7 – The Complete Retrospective
Written by Tod Kimbro
Directed by Jay Hopkins
Impacte! Productions, Orlando, Fla.

We all know how to abstract a painting – remove unneeded detail, paint
the faces from all sides at once, wear a beret, and keep up the self
destructive behavior. That’s tonight’s story – all of the preceding
episodes of Caffeine, Impacte’s ongoing sitcom soap opera, are
abstracted into a series of scenes and snippets that may or may not make
sense to those of you who haven’t dropped by from time to time to check
on their progress. Devon (Kimbro) runs the Caffeine Crash, the sort of
coffee house that did open mike night till performers actually showed up
and drove away the paying customers. Barkeep Holden (Ed Campbell) is
making the sort of indie film that wouldn’t make the Palatka Film Fest,
not even if daddy sponsored the whole thing. Jeff (Joshua Horn) promotes
it, and is Devon’s cousin. Poor Devon. Poor Jeff. Sisters Tuni and
Jasmine (Kimber Taylor and Meghan Drewitt) are dating one or more of
these guys and experimenting with alien abduction. And Stash (Michael
Marinaccio) hopes to get into the 2004 Olympics, representing the US in
the Asshole event. He’s got an even shot at the silver, might make gold
if the French don’t show up. Go – TEAM!

It’s really a performance art piece – fragmentary segments that make the
watcher say ‘what the ..?’ or ‘oh- way cool!’ There’s not enough to
really explain everyone’s motivation and why they hate or love or ignore
one another, but the ensemble does give you a pleasant confusion buzz.
From time to time, the players present a montage of “warm and fuzzy” or
“insensitive”, which are basically sound bites from the all the shows.
I’d say they’ve got their profanity up to par, but there could be a
little more smoking. And best of all, Greer (Christine Morales), the
Recreational Chemist and all around Ghost of Holidays Past, drops by in
her black vinyl hip huggers. I’m so glad they kept her on after her
character died.

Streetcar Named Desire
Written By Tennessee Williams
Directed by Frank Hilgenberg
Starring Laura Harn, Don Fowler, Nicole Abis
Theater Downtown, Orlando, Fla

Is it better to have sex with a large, dim Pole who loses at cards, or a
slim gilt Poet who has a tendency to blow his brains out after being
with the wrong boyfriend? That’s the Dubois Sisters dilemma. Belle Rive,
that drafty termite-eaten fire trap, went up the pipe to the mortgage
company, and good riddance. The land went to finance the epic
fornications of its men, Lincoln freed the slaves, and now the
relatives died and had the poor taste not to leave a fortune or even a
little insurance policy. Blanche (Harn) retreats to ‘Nawlins and that oh
so trendy slum, the French Quarter. She’s bumming a couch from little
sister Stella (Abis), who lives in a state of poverty and lust consuming
vast quantities of low grade bourbon with Stanley (Fowler) who likes to
slap her around. He’s the go-getter in the neighborhood, because he has,
well, a much bigger opportunity than the other guys. So sez Stella.

Blanch does have standards, and if a man might be the marrying type,
he’s up to scratch. After all, a girl’s got to eat and Blanche sees the
cupboard getting a bit bare. Mitch (Roger Greco) might be a catch, till
Stan figures out just how cheap and tawdry Blanche is, and won’t let his
buddy fall into her trap. Mike ditches her, but does take the time to
rape her on the way out the door. It’s that Southern Hospitality you
hear about. Stanley rapes her too, but that’s really sort of a courtesy
rape, her being kin and all. And now she can finally have her breakdown
in peace.

It’s a hot, sweaty story, and it’s still a bit cool in Orlando to really
appreciate it with the A/C working. Still, you can almost smell
Stanley’s armpits as he continually changes sweaty tee shirts. Blanch
seems to have a infinite supply of nearly transparent summer dresses as
she slides down that last bit of rope from southern gentility to
southern sleaze. When not dressed like a younger Miss Daisy, she and her
sister Stella run around in slips and act as sex-starved as possible
while avoiding the topic, which wouldn’t be polite conversation. You
gotta love it, it’s the New Orleans fantasy before the Gray Line Tour
came in and drove up prices. When not boozing and screwing, a steady
stream of colorful local characters drift in and out, breaking into fights
the way people break into song in a musical. Never mind anyone’s
kindness, but you can depend on the depravity of strangers on stage
tonight. But bring your own bourbon, they don’t sell it in the lobby.

Crazy For You
Adapted from George and Ira Gershwin
Directed by Mark Brotherton
Starring Daniel Lee Robbins and Julie Ruth
Theater UCF, Orlando, Fla

Boy flees fiancée. Boy falls for girl that despises him. Everyone gets a
girl. But oh, how they fill in the details! Bobby Child (Robbins) has to
either marry overbearing Irene (Clark Mims) or do his mama’s (Aradhana
Tiwari’s) dirty work – repossess a theater in Dead Rock Nevada. As he
decides what to do, there’s the sort of fantasy tap dancing sequence
that faded with movies that were called “Follies of 1938”. Bobby dances on
the car. Bobby dances on the floor. Bobby dances with the set of
perfectly matched pink showgirls. Bobby flees to Nevada. And there he
meets the girl with the stunning hair, Polly Baker (Ruth) who drinks and
rides and shoots and it the only visible talent in this dried up mining
town. The only talent until Bobby decides that reviving the opera house
is a better idea than foreclosing it, and guess what? All those cowboys
lolling about are pretty good dancers. – Glory Hallelujah, now if we can
just get people to walk that long mile to the show, we’ll be rolling in
the dough.

With costume changes and lavish dance numbers, this show is a real
spectacular. And it’s not just the spectacle, all the characters are
spectacular in their own way. Robbins’ dancing and rubbery prat falls
show that no matter how good he was last show, he can still get better.
Leading lady Ruth with her spectacular strawberry curls (actually her
own hair, I have on reliable authority) can belt out a song or two, and
the chorus danced, kicked and sashayed flawlessly. With the Gershwins
writing, numbers that should have stopped the show abound, like “Can’t
Be Bothered Now” and stomp-ified “I Got Rhythm”, which closed the first
act. Put that one at the end of the last act, and you’d never clear out
the theater for the late show.

Hospitality Suite
Written by Roger Rueff
Directed by Rocky Hopson
Starring Mark Ferrera, Joe Candelora and Jerry Eisinger
Avalon Gallery, Orlando, Fla

It’s lubricant selling time here in the 26th floor of the Holiday Inn in
Wichita. Yes, the annual Heavy Machinery show brings salesmen from all
over the country, hoping to snag that one Big Kahuna of a sale. Phil’s
(Ferrera’s) swung this posh Junior Suite, complete with mini coffee pot
and room service cheese ball. The Suite represents the corporate body,
and as the account executive, Phil’s the throbbing member ready to
impregnate the customer and make him ripe with product.
Wet-behind-the-ears Bob (Eisinger) supports him and is the company’s
brains, being from research. Bob’s not strictly necessary in this fetid
sales incubator but he’s a nice ornament, and can double as barkeep even
though he’s a born again Baptist and designated driver. Leading the
thrust is vaguely better-than-average salesman Larry (Candelora), a set
of flattering lips, ready to agree with anything if it leads to a sale.
They’ve got one job to do – find the mysterious president of Frontier
Manufacturing, the biggest firm in the Midwest, and sell him Lubricants.
Nobody knows what he looks like, and it falls to sincere Bob to stumble
on to him, and waste this opportunity of a lifetime saving his soul and
philosophizing about dogs. Although this guy’s soul already seems
pretty safe, Bob wants to be sure – after all, what good is low friction
if you lose you soul? Important stuff, to Bob.

On a set filched from the Holiday Inn on North Drive, these three men
pace and agonize and curse and reveal themselves as they stare out the
windows and talk dirty as only guys in sales can do. Not Bob, of course,
he’s from research and is put off by the heavy duty guy stuff. I liked
Bob, sincere in everything he did, ‘cus the bible told him to do it.
Introspective Phil, the divorced guy, reads avidly – Chekov and
Penthouse, Plato and Playboy. I thought he was contemplating suicide a
couple of times, but he never really mentioned it. As lost sale
opportunities go, this one was a candidate for the big jump. Larry, the
boisterous glad hander, had the charisma associated with Ultra Sales
Guys, but somehow lacked vitriol. He got upset at the plate of carrot
sticks for hors d’ouvres, but you never really thought he’d get something
better, like shrimp.

Most people sort of regard sales as an annoyance, but it’s an honorable
profession, particularly in the world of industrial products. You don’t
often sell stuff that doesn’t at least partially solve a real
problem. The real problem that’s not solved here is Bob’s focus. He’s on
the company nickel and he needs to sell the company product. Selling
anyone else’s product, even that of God Almighty, is a sin. Bob’s not
rendering unto Caesar, and that makes him the villain. I hope he
realizes it before it’s too late.

Nobody Likes Tom Foolery
Steppendwarf Productions
Theater Garage
Orlando, Fla.

When a film counts on a single triumphant cinematographic credit roll
shot to pull it out of $5.99 DVD hell, you can bet it really belongs
there. “Hidden In This Picture,” the first of tonight’s playlets,
reveals obsessive and overwrought director Robert (Larry Lesher)
savoring this high point of a mediocre career from the highest point
just out of the camera frame. Nothing can go wrong for the last shot of
“Beaver Goes To War”, a chopped up tale of shot-up Marines on Guam.
Nope, not one thing. Clear sailing, until 3 cows wander into the frame. What
now – total disaster? Can we transform them into anything else – a tank,
a boat, a metaphor? That’s it – a symbolic succoring of the young
marines, cut off from family and life! That’s what a Cow means! Bob’s
writer and career-long buddy Jeff (Mike Marinaccio) suggests the cows
represent the metaphor for their hacked-up script, distorted story
concept, and investor micromanagement. Cows at War – even the Cohen
brothers haven’t tackled that one.

Following a short intermission, “Bachelor Holiday” continues Lesher’s
manipulative frenzy as one of three roommates who spend Saturday
recovering from hangovers and kvetching at one another. While Gentle
Ford (Gianni Quatrano) struggles with a loathing of mice and the need to
kill one quickly, Norris (Lesher) whines about who ate his cereal and
how the world would be so much better if everyone was just like him.
Sure it would – we’d all be dead from hitting each other in the head
with a shoe. I doubt it would be painless, but it would be quick. Acting
as ref and party miester, Hunter (Chris Robertson) solves everyones
problems with a suggestion of killing that bottle of tequila before
lunch, just as soon as they finish torturing the mouse. Ah, sweet
college days!

Of the two shows, “Hidden” moves along quickest and works the single
joke of cows in an expensive film shot about every which way possible.
“Bachelor” has many of the same elements, but seems to drag in a few
spots. Both are well cast and worth a visit. Like a certain recent TV
show, neither of these plays is really “about” anything, but both act
as a scaffold for strong, entertaining character interaction.

Toxic Audio – One Night Only!
Fool Fest 2001
Sak Theater
Orlando, Fla 2-21-01

Musician life is easier if you don’t need to lug an instrument around. No Bass Viola, no piano tuners, no union movers. Toxic A just about has it made – any instrument they need is available at the tip of their lips, from Paul Sperazza’s air drum solo to Rene Ruiz’ ultra bass rhythm section to the scat singing of Michelle Mailhot. TA’s been a Florida favorite since the 1998 Fringe Fest, and they could soon join that list of acts too good to hang in the Central Fla heat and humidity. Tonight they opened the first annual Orlando Fool Fest, a sort of Fringe Lite without the buttons and an emphasis on improv. As always, Toxic’s best stuff was jazz-based renderings of classics, such as “Route 66” and their barn burning closing standard “Turn The Beat Around.” Along the way they engaged in a little audience humiliation, choosing some poor volunteer to do the Mitch Miller version of “Why Don’t We Do It In The Road”. It’s a song that shows even the Beatles can turn out lame lyrics when forced to meet a deadline. Toxic has an improv stripe in their a cappella cape, and they show it with the musical equivalent of swallowing flaming swords – they improvise a song based on lyrics and a title provided by the audience. Luck is still on their side, as Gregorian Chant and Klezmer music are so far from most people’s minds. Tonight we tackled “Brush Fire Love” via Motown and that Rasta classic “Don’t Dress Your Cat In An Apron.” And then we had “Barney Sings the ABC Song”. Can’t win ’em all.

With a growing tour schedule and a deep desire to be loved by Ed McMahon, Toxic Audio keeps building its fan foundation. With some more hard work, overnight success lies just a few years in the future. When they make it big, let’s hope they don’t forget how to pronounce Kissimmee.

Foolish Hearts – An Improvised Soap
Sak Comedy Lab
Fool Fest 2001
Orlando Fla 2-21-01

They say life is a soap opera, or something like that. You live a bunch of intertwined stories, making it up as you go along, just like the Sak Troupe. Dante Inferno (Ian Covell) has left acting to raise disadvantaged ducks for poor children, while Bill E. Bupp (the former Lord of Evil Incarnate, James Newport) traded the keys to the sulfurous kingdom for a cushy job as director of a slacker film called Uncle Frank’s Dead. Diva Paisley Motif (Megan Whyte) makes out with her personal stuntman Zak Maxim (Matt Laroux), while Chip Hardwire (Ryan Smith) takes over the CEO job in Hell. He’s a delegator, and Mr. Giggles the Evil Oven Mitt gets to do the dirty work. Way to manage, Chip. And poor Christian Bolt (Trey Stafford) trades his second-in-charge role in hell and the ability to peg someone in the head with a lawn dart at 100 klicks for a shitty Assistant Director credit. In other words, it’s like your life, but they got you to come watch.

There are bright spots and dim spots. Paisley can vamp and overact, pout and pucker to a T. You sort of want to watch her dis more people, but she can be the soul of restraint when needed. Chip as a Satan Release 2.0 flaunts his Chaplinesque look as small powerless man turned loose with the awesome responsibility of running a big dangerous thing like the Broaster of Lost Souls. And sulky Christian seemed like he should have a bit more to do, even if he’s stuck as Assistant Director to Ron Lucifer. Poor Dante seemed stuck with the duck farm thing, which just seemed like the sort of odd and unfruitful Unusual Profession an audience drunk would toss out – he accepted it, but it’s basically a dry well as motivation goes. It leaves him only slightly better off than Rook the Bad Rapper (Matt Soule) who runs back and forth trying to latch on to the main action and do something funny.

As improv goes, we don’t get to yell out Non-Specific Locations and Childhood Traumas – that role is reserved for the Voice of God, otherwise known as the sound guy. That’s the weakness of audience driven improv – any doofus can yell out any stupid thing that comes to mind, and you have to work with it. For 5 minutes, a good improv group can juggle anything, but to run for an hour or longer and hold up continuing charters and situations, you need some deflector shields to keep the Klingons at bay. Tonight’s effect is a bit like watching a dress rehearsal while the writer agonizes over character motivation. You want them to do better, you know it’s there, but they’ve become trapped in humor hell.


Condition of Our Parole
The Cowards
Fool Fest 2001
Sak Theater, Orlando Fla
2-24-01

You can tell it’s almost Spring Break – the Canadians are in town, and they’re swimming in the hotel pool. Two of them dried themselves off and sang a few songs at Fool Fest, with favorable results. Mark Richardson (the scared looking one) and Dave Pearce (the tall guy playing guitar) sang a few of those silly sort of songs you tuned into Dr. Demento for – “Grandpa’s Hooked on Heroin” and “Bastard Son Of Stompin’ Tom” and “I Want To Have Sex With The Ladies That Read The News.” When they ran out of music, they pulled off a string of short and funny sketches about Art and Canada, not two subjects one often groups together. There was Dr. Krevorkian and son, ready to sell your home and move you elsewhere, and a debate over the difference between Bok Choy and Pol Pot (Leafy vegetable or bloodthirsty dictator? Beats me.) And Genghis Khan went to Catholic School. But the best skit, the one that brought tears to the eyes involved two Shakespearian actors rendering James Brown’s greatest hits – Across America, Licken’ Stick, and Sex Machine/I Feel Good. You have to listen hard, but the Iambic Pentameter is lurking down in the Godfather of Soul’s bass line, and it’s, it’s, it’s… moving. And short. And devoid of the Elizabethan inflection that trips up some many high school students.

We know they’d sell their soul to Satan to get an album on the charts, but I think they should stay on parole and do community service with this act for another few months. They’re way too funny to rehabilitate.


Johnny Millwater: Comedy Show of Death
Fool Fest 2001
Sak Theater, Orlando Fla
2-24-01

Comedy’s not pretty. And magic isn’t either, especially when you’re heckled mercilessly by two elderly foreigners with a poor command of English. Trouper that he is, John Millwater marched through this hailstorm and astounded the audience by swallowing artfully inflated bendy animal balloons. I think he had bent it into a snake, but I can never identify those critters. Like a good magician with a union card, he never revealed where the balloon really went. Thank you, Johnny.

Interspersed between some standup jokes and complaints about his Dodge Colt (the Yugo of the western auto industry) we also saw a bit of comedy fire eating. Yeah, you’ve seen fire eating, but have you seen it with a guy with a really long tongue? And no make-up? I thought not. After a few more vaguely off-color jokes (a pale mauve and a few in Ecru) there was a card trick with a passable force leading to a very confused reveal. What that means is he produced the card before he really meant to, which confused audience and magician alike. Now we have the exciting, death defying two-minute time limit Straight Jacket of Death Escape, aided by the cutest Turkish girl in the audience. No one died, but we were hoping after that big intro. It was a fun show, but would have been better with a more hostile audience. Well, maybe not better for Johnny, but there’s nothing like a vicious audience to make a magic/fire eating act come alive.

Mission IMPROVable : The Trip
Fool Fest 2001
Sak Theater, Orlando Fla
2-24-01

The longer the form, the more dangerous the Improv. Mission IMPROVable blew through that barrier and produced one of the most coherent improv segments I’ve seen. Tonight we explore a Life Regret, “getting married” (or not). This Trip ran about a half hour where the cast never once dropped the ball, moving the thought forward, exploring it’s side alleys, and always slipping back to center just when you though they were lost on the 418 toll way. From the idea of marriage and time, we looked at a running story of a 13 year-old who baby-sits children 3 years after the parents ran off, what sort of deal you can get on the baby trading floor, and a long chant about shit and what makes you scream it at the top of your lungs. And while this happens, a ball of unlimited time gets passed back and forth, and the concept of a lifetime commitment intertwines with the concept of the time you have and time you let slip away. It was cool. One of the players even admitted why he broke up with his girlfriend, which wrenched a pitiful “oooh” from all the women in the audience. The guys all nodded, but weren’t sure why. When the marriage segment ran as far as they could take it, they played it backwards. Well, the words went forward, but they reversed the sequence. This sort of show could really mess with your mind if you took drugs. Of course, that would be SO 1978.

With a bit of time left at the end, we ran one more game called “Challenge.” Five of the IMPROVable lined up and talked about their early childhood embarrassment. At the slightest mistake in narrative, any of them could challenge the storyteller and take over the narrative. Sure, sometimes they challenged grammatical errors or little slips in narrative, but you could challenge if you just thought you should be talking. It’s just like having your own web site, but funny.

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