Archikulture Digest

Number 23: January, 2002

A year or so ago, happiness lay in the future, a broadband fantasy

land of infinite high quality content buoyed by an ever-rising stock

market. Now, happiness has crashed and burned, fleeing back into a realm

best seen in the sharply incised lines of 1960’s magazine illustrations

describing a future of the past. Martinis and pill box hats creep back into

our consciousness, and even the long forgotten fondue party returns to

brighten our palettes with it’s cheesy toasted morsels. Stab your little

fork into this collection of shows, and see how they taste. <p>

Merchant of Venice

By Wm Shakespeare

Directed by Bobbie Bell

Starring Mark March, Paul Wegman, Kimberley Nelson, Stephen Pugh

Seminole Community College Fine Arts Theater</b><p>

Leverage is a two edged sword, and Antonio (March) is feeling the heat. He’s diversified into an uncertain market, but he’s cash poor and not in good condition to lend a few kilo ducats to his good friend Bassanio (Pugh). Bassanio needs the scratch to woe orphaned but wealthy Portia (Nelson). Her daddy left her with one of those bizarre bequests – to wed, the suitor must correctly select from a gold, a silver, or a lead coffer, only one of which has her picture. No picture, no tux needed. Given the string of bizarre losers she entertains and dodges, you gotta wonder what brand of oatmeal daddy had for brains. No matter, Antonio goes to his despised Jewish competitor Shylock (Wegman) and makes a deal – if he can’t cover his debt, lose that pound of flesh. Shylock doesn’t like Antonio because he lends to Christians at below market rates, and his daughter Jessica (Rachel Stump) ran off with Antonio’s friend Lorenzo (Dan Benoit). Putting up body parts against a loan appears a reasonably common deal in those times, and when time comes to settle up all Antonio’s boats seem to be missing. Well, when the facts are against you argue the law, and when the law is against you, argue those Shakespearean facts. This being a comedy, we have no need to fear that good looking Antonio will bleed, everyone will get a girl, and best of all, Shylock loses every thing including his religion. But, just because he converts to Christianity doesn’t mean anyone will treat him any better, but it sure made the Elizabethans feels good.

There’s some razzmatazz about the play being set in the near future in a neo fascist Italy, but other than the cast dressing in sincere suits and nice dresses, the play is pure 16th century. Wegman’s Shylock writhes and turns as he attempts to rescue some pride from the daily abuse business heaps on him. One of the great ironies of those days revolves around the Jews being banned from almost any business except money lending, and then everyone was ticked off when they controlled most of the money in society. Backing up Shylock was an all around competent crew, with special notice going to Lancelot Gobbo (Rick Paulin), servant and punk rocker to Shylock and then Lorenzo. Antonio always seemed on the edge of an accounting scandal, and Jessica seemed a perfect little Jap, except for her strawberry blonde locks. Well, maybe she had them done at the mall.

“Merchant” is always a challenge to present with it’s strong anti Semitic story line and sheer nastiness buried in an otherwise pleasant romantic comedy. The SCC team did the story well, and its well worth the trip up to darkest Seminole County for the experience.

The Lonesome West

By Martin McDonaugh

Directed by Rus Blackwell

With Don Fowler, Joe Swanberg, Frank Mc Clain, Heather Leonardi

Soul Fire Traveling Medicine Show at Zoë & Co, Maitland Fla</b><p>

The problem with the Irish is you can’t live with them, and you can’t eat them for breakfast. A conniving and desperate lot inhabit the backwoods around Galway, a parish so hard scrabble that murder and suicide outrank impure thoughts and betting on horses in the daily grind of Father Welsh (McClain)…or is it Walsh? … no, Welsh, I’m sure. Even Coleman Connor’s (Fowler) dad got it the bad way – he insulted his son’s admittedly sub-standard hairstyle, and an ‘Accident’ booted him from the mortal coil. That’s what brother Valene (Swanberg) swears anyway, in exchange for Connor’s claims on half the inheritance. With no where else to go, Connor hangs on even as his obsessive and paranoid brother collects plastic religious figurines and refuses to lend him the price of a bag of chips. Woman or any other pleasures are rare, and only flirty Girleen (Leonardi) brings a drop of sunshine into this clouded hovel – she sell poteen and promises poontang, not that these two hosers are getting anything without hard cash. She’s sweet on the Father, but he quits the priesthood by walking into he cold cold lake leaving her with even less to look forward to than the brothers. Walsh bet his eternal soul that these two lunkheads could calm down and like each other. If he wins, the Holy Ghost might promote him to a few weeks in purgatory. Boy, did he make a bad bet.

It’s Desperate Living at it’s Irish best, with the Connor brothers duking it out nearly every time they cross the stage, and if you can listen through the peat smoke thick brogue, there’s plenty of sly and not so sly humor. Walsh suffers a crisis of confidence every 5 minute or so – does God exist? If he does, why are his under 12 soccer team doing so much damage to the opposition, and if not, what is he doing freezing in this Irish bog when he could study alcoholism somewhere were the booze comes in bottle with labels? Makes you think, it does. Walsh’s death does prompt a little soul searching in the brother McScruffy, and confession of personal cruelty coupled with even peticide pale next to the biggest sin of all – Connor’s been watering Valene’s booze for decades! It’s not a scene for the weak of heart. Girleen is pretty broken up; the Father is up the pipe, and what’s left after reconciliation? Well, a good fight is always nice, and love is what you make it in the cold mists off Western Erie.

The Laramie Project

Written by Moises Kaufman

Directed by Katrina Ploof

Mad Cow Theatre – Orlando, Fla</b><p>

It’s tough being gay in cowboy country. Matt Shepard knew that, and died at the hands of two rednecks short of beer money and looking for a thrill. People die at the hands of their fellow man every day, yet Matt achieved a fame beyond his stature, propelled to martyrdom and sainthood by a media feeding frenzy founded on the very existence of gay people in the remote wild west. Fame notwithstanding, Matt remains a cardboard cut out as the people who knew him parade across the stage – a bit naive, short, HIV positive, a shy but promising student, that’s about it. His role is not to reveal himself, but to reflect the opinions of the world around him. Gay in Laramie? Time to come Out! Bigoted and proud of it? Maybe he did something and deserved his fate. Religious? Those people should rot in hell, or maybe rot in heaven. A tough cop or a loving parent? Matt might help you see the world in the sharpened focus of your own prejudice. A political agenda to pursue? Matt would certainly endorse your position, if only he were alive so you could ask him.

When Matt died, a set of theater folks from New York ventured out into the hinterlands to explore the situation. Hundreds of interviews reveals Laramie as a close knit small town with a limited economic base and the sort of ideas that aren’t out of line with any other town – sometimes tolerant, sometimes bigoted, and rocked by a brutal murder of one of their marginal own. Seventy or so locals fly across stage and build a character out of snippets of text – we never see Matt, only Matt’s environment. Matt’s killers appear (John Cannon), the media in a blood lust frenzy (Dawn Wicklow), even the voyeuristic Moises Kaufman (Sam Hazell) intent on seeing how life is lived west of the Hudson and north of the Hollywood freeway. All are real, all are engaging, and all are forced to see something of their own world in a different light cast by horror arriving unannounced. There were moving moments, such as the hospital director (Rick Stanley) breaking into tears announcing the death of Matt or when one of the killers is excommunicated by the Mormon Church that had ordained him a minister. There were funny moments, as one of the older local women admits to doing her housekeeping in the nude, or the local barkeep making his own tape of his Hard Copy interview, “just in case”. But mostly there’s a sense of sadness – a young man dies, and the world makes a circus of the results. His is not to rest in peace, but to rest as a poster boy for everyone with an axe to grind – “Matt Shepard – he changed the world by leaving it.” I guess that’s better than fading out as just another AIDS statistic.<p>

Spunk! Three Tales of Zora

Based on stories by Zora Neil Hurston

Adapted by George C Wolfe

People’s Theatre at Studio Garage</b><p>

There’s a special magic to seeing a blues song signed for the hearing impaired. You know the words, and the hand gestures bring a new depth to misery. There’s a blues soundtrack to the American Black experience – a combination of social slights and outrageous abuse coupled with the continual optimism of a fundamental Christianity. It’s enough to make white folks remark, “Those people are always singing – nothing ever seems to bother them” Down in old timey Eatonville Florida people eaked out a living in a world separate and distinct. Three tales of that time cross the stage while Guitar Man (John Ellis) strums a blues melody and the Blues Speaking Woman (Boni Sherman) narrates the inner feelings of the good folks of the is small enclave of Black independence.

The opening story places hard working Delia (Canara Price) in a home paid for by the sweat of taking in laundry. Mean old hubby Sykes (Benjy Westmoreland) doesn’t approve – not so much he goes out and makes some money, mind you, but enough to whip poor little Delia till she gets her back up and stands up to him. He’s just as soon she leave so his girl friend can take over (the house, not the laundry), so to move things a long he brings home a pet rattler. Psychological warfare rises to outright terrorism when he sneaks the snake in the dirty whites – it misses Delia but God provides some justice and Mr. Snake gets revenge for his unfair imprisonment. Should Delia make that long trek in to Orlando for a doctor? Hmm – it’s along way, better think about it a spell…

We next percolate up the road to visit 1930’s Harlem high life where a pair of zoot suit cowboys take turns one upping each other – Jelly (Barry White) in his electric orange get up attempts to show up Sweetback (Westmoreland). Fact is neither has anything to his name except vain pride and a sporadic living hustling domestic help on their days off. These two frayed hustlers never top one another, but engage a beautiful ballet of insults and threatening gestures until a fine looking woman shows up (Price) She’s too street smart to swallow this day old bait, and it looks like another hungry night for out hustlers.

The last tale covers love lost and reconciled. Missy May (Price) and Joe (Dallas Davis) are newly wed and deeply in love. A new ice cream stand appears in town run by entrepreneur Otis D Slimons – he’s done well in Memphis, Philly, and Chicago, and now slides on down to rural nowhere to ply his trade. He looks pretty sharp to Missy Mea in his gold jewelry and big belly. If only Joe could look like that… When she makes a deal with the devil, Joe finds out and has good reason to put her away, and it’s a long path to reconciliation, and reconciliation is based on everyone’s discovery that Slimons is just another hustler, working hard to impress the rubes because no one will fall for him in the big city.

Spunk! feels like a black light opera – the music sets a nice counter point to the action, sometimes moving it along, sometimes just a diversion from the bitter sweet stories. Dramatically, the themes are the hardworking woman and the conniving black man, marital infidelity and good times. The tales are funny, even when the mush mouthed background comments become indecipherable. Occasionally, the characters drop into the affectation of “and then I said …”, nearly always an adaptors attempt to preserve original text at the expense of dramatic presentation. Despite these minor flaws, Spunk! is a funny and lively view of days gone by from Eatonville’s finest author

For more information, please visit <a href = “www.peoplestheartre.org”</a> www.peoplestheartre.org

Eleemosynary
Written by Lee Blessing

Directed John DiDonna

Starring Peg O’Keefe, Marty Stonerock, Torrey DeVitto

SoulFire Traveling Medicine Show, at the Lowndes Shakespear Center, Orlando Fla</b><p>

Intelligence can be such a burden. Dorothea (O’Keef) has it, but a pre-arranged wedding squelched her college hopes. She passed it along to her daughter Artie (Stonerock), but with so much mom level baggage she jumped the first bus out of town. Again, it passed down baby Echo (DeVitto), who grabbed it and ran to conquer the logodaedalic world of spelling bees. True, Dorothea raised her to speak Latin before she got into grade school, but it was distant Artie who suggested words – it was a thing they could do together by phone, avoiding the difficulty of personal touch. They’re all three facets of one persona – Dorothea the impulsive Id, reveling in an eccentricity that permits everything and requires nothing. Artie controls and reconciles, a super ego that works through the negative space of her non-presence in the life of both Dorothea and Echo. And Echo? She’s the ego who experiences the world and her place in it with neither the frustration of Dorothea nor the fear of Artie, using spelling as a weapon of war. None of them can forget a thing, and that hurts. Still, they all test very well. <p>

On a simple dreamy set that makes the most of a difficult space, the story is non-linear yet coherent, beginning with Dorothea approaching death, and then pulling back as the intertwined lives recount. Sharply incised characters enhance each other’s contrast like primary colors on the plane of an abstract painting. O’Keef reminds me of several fascinating women “of a certain age” I’ve known over the years. Funny and fascinating, they revel in odd diets and odd religious beliefs and odd theories that make physicists squirm; yet if you can accept them you’ll never be bored. Stonerock seems smothered and lost, trying to do what mom wants but only in abstentia. She abandons her daughter, leaving Dorothea what she always wanted; a blank lump of material to mold into her own self image. Ultimately, that what the crucible of spelling produces – a young lady who has no qualms about thinking, remembering, and wielding what her nurture and nature gave her. It took three painful generations, but you’ll leave with a much-enhanced vocabulary.

BecauseHeCan
By Arthur Kopit

Directed by Aaron Babcock

Starring Michael Aiello, Rick Spencer, Peni Lotoza

Theater Downtown, Orlando Fla.</b><p>

It’s the summer of paranoia, the world hangs in dread of an arbitrary shift in numbering sequence, and people are worried. Joe Elliot (Spencer) works for a big publisher, and knows that nothing sells like fear. He’s no computer guru, but a salable manuscript leads him to do a little research on line about the imminent end of the digital world. He teaches a writing class on the side, and meets green haired Costa Astrakhan (Aiello). Astrakhan is a script kiddie who wants to make some girl in class, but falls for Elliot’s wife Joanne (Lotoza) instead. She sleeps with him a few times then dumps him, and Elliot boots him for plagiarism. Bad move – he’s put a key logger or some other lamer code on their computer and now sets out to destroy their lives. A few mysterious interviews with Scully and Mulder, oops, Slake and McAlvane (Nonalee Davis and Brian Veiga) doesn’t really put the fear of god in Elliot till they show him his kiddie porn empire, which no one ever told him about. With money, job, and life destroyed, he and Joanne have nowhere to turn. Perhaps Astrakhan will save them – then they’ll HAVE to like him.

Does Astrakhan scare you? He’s capable of mean spirited vengeance yet not really any different than most IT types at work. Spence’s Elliot never seems really concerned about what’s happening, and isn’t the sort of person who would go into full paranoia mode when repeatedly interviewed by agents who take him to a warehouse, flash their badges and refuse to give their names. Plus, he seems pretty coherent as he downs bottle after bottle of cheap scotch. Joanne projects an earthy sexuality, and shows a bit of fire as a Mrs. Robinson going down the tubes, but it’s not enough to bring the whole show alive. Both are innocents at home, and only the federal agents project the menace implicit in the plot.<p>

Creepy but not scary, mysterious but never tense, we get a vague glimpse into the fearsome world of identity theft. It’s easy enough for someone to dig up your SS number, vehicle ID, and figure out your passwords (guess what 90% of men use for a password? Yup – so do I), and yes, unscrupulous people can do serious damage. Astrakhan does it with ease, and even begins to explain the reasons people hack – it’s not really the end product, but the feeling of power one gets from mastering and defeating a complex system. Not everyone seeks that thrill, but it’s there for those who do. Astrakhan does a lot more damage than seems appropriate for being dumped – besides ruining Joanne’s life; he really reams Joe just because he got caught plagiarizing in class. He’s not an evil hacker, but and evil person who happens to hack. He extracts vengeance, but that doesn’t mean vengeance needs a hex editor.

For more information, please visit www.theatredowntown.net

Cantorial
Written by Ira Levin

Directed by Mark Mannette

Starring Beth Bederow, Rick Breese, Barry Stein

Center Players at JCC, Maitland Fla</b><p>

There aren’t that many Jewish ghosts, despite the threats they make to their children It’s just as well, because the ghost of Cantor Izzy Schlenski (Allan Robuck) doesn’t just rattle chains or flit down the halls – he sings religious hymns at sundown in the old synagogue, now a trendy Manhattan flat owned by Warren Ives (Breese) and Lesley Rosen (Bederow). True, he has a nice enough voice, but after a while, well, lets just say he’s a bit of a nudje. After a little consult with elderly grocer Morris Lipkind (Stein) reveals the cause of the haunting – the ghost wants the place restored to its former glory. At first Warren and Lesley resist – the look for a Jewish exorcist, but ultimately get control of the dybbuk by threaten to sell the place to Muslims. Eventually Warren comes around, and when some impromptu demolition reveals the fine woodwork under the faux finished plasterboard, he becomes obsessed with the restoration. While he may or may not be a Jew, he is adopted and deciding your Jewish does have one clear advantage – you know what you’ll be doing every Saturday night. <p>

Replete with Judaic in-jokes and a long Yiddish speech (Think bad German with a bit of Russian slang) “Cantorial” revolves around obsession and reconciliation. There are times when you really believe Warren has gone off the deep end, but deep down you know he’s a goy – after all, a real Jew would have stayed with the Shearson commodities group. There are slow spots, and some jokes seem to fly over the audience and bury themselves in the back wall, but it’s the ethnic character of Morris that carries the play. He’s funny, believable, and has a better sense of timing than anyone else on stage, and infinitely patient with Warrens hectoring and strident obsession.

So, the ghost gets his way – Warren restores the place and decides to make it into a working synagogue once more. True, he has no Torah and no Rabbi, but he has connections in the antique business and if he could dig up the original woodwork and accouterments to this old Shul, these are just nits. He’s not crazy, and he’s not Jewish, but restoring the synagogue allows him some self-definition and a sense of accomplishment. Leslie even re-appears to give the story a happy ending as a romance, but she’s really superfluous – Warren has fallen in love with an idea, and that’s better than sex any day.

Cashore Marionettes

By John Cashore

Mad Cow Theater

Orlando, Fla</b>

The term “Puppet” always has such a pejorative context – “Puppet Regime”, “Just a puppet on a string” – but really, the potential exists for a deeper positive relation where the shy but skilled revel themselves through their more flamboyant yet inanimate creations. John Cashore brings this relation to his intricately carved wooden mannequins – frizz haired Elmo, intent on mastering the trapeze after watching raptly from back stage, elderly Maura planting a flower on the grave of her lost husband, daughter Sara intently avoiding the duties of homework. Cashore stands invisibly, manipulating astonishing complex control structures that take these dangling wooden homunculi from the carver’s bench to a realism imbued with more emotional realism than most human actors can deliver. <p>

Opening the show, Maestro Janos Zelinka shuffles out with violin in hand, the years heavy on his wooden frame, and proceeds to render “The Lark Ascending”. As he plays with his hands held just so, the years fade as music claims his soul, only to return to his ancient flesh as the tune ends and he ambles off into darkness, leaving his lonely little music stand on stage. This, from a marionette? A block of wood suspended, bringing the audience along on a journey from age to release and back? Not bad for an artistic form almost forgotten in the Terabyte Age of digital stardom. <p>

There’s more, of course – Cashore presents an elephant with the detail and mobility to raise the ire of animal rights groups – using just a few hundred wires and the slightest hand motions, the creature lifts logs with its trunk and tusks, picks up and ingests food, and flares it ears in the best radiation of animal documentaries. There are even times when Cashore crosses the barrier of invisibility and allows his creatures to find their master – meditative Ramul calls on Cashore to help him conquer the mystery of a balloon in a bag, and the show ends with another anonymous figure climbing fitfully up Cashore’s pant leg, up his shirt, and coming to rest on his shoulder – still under control of the wires that might tangle in the low hanging lighting of the Mad Cow space. It’s the details that make figures live – the flick of an ear, a child’s small tantrum, a bum who can’t get a handout from even his closest human contact, and all of Cashore’s clan are just as alive as any of us – until the lights come up, they retreat to their shipping crates, and another show fades into memory.<p>

I Hate Hamlet

By Paul Rudnick

Directed by Thomas Ouellette

Starring Richard Width, Carl Wallnau, Kelly Collin-Lintz

Orlando UCF Shakespeare Festival, Orlando, Fla</b><p>

What’s so great about TV acting? Sure, the potential for a multimillion-dollar participation deal lurks behind every bad script, women crawl from the woodwork to meet you, but worst of all, you’ll never be though of as “Serious”. Andrew Rally (Width) suffers all these slings and arrows, and more – girlfriend Deidre (Collin-Lintz) won’t do the backstage boogie with him till she’s read his reviews. Despite stellar demographics, his show was cancelled and he’s on hiatus (read ‘= unemployed’) in NYC. Will he stoop to play Hamlet in Central Park? Can you say ‘slippery slope’? It’s agony for him – he hates the part, and his buddy Gary (Eric Hissom) has cooked a wonderful deal for him back on the left coast – lots of money and no real skills required. Real-estate agent and part time psychic Felicia Dantine (Suzanne O’Donnell) tries to raise the ghost of John Barrymore (Wallnau), but only connects to her Yiddish mother’s ghost. Barrymore does appear, but only because there’s this clause in his equity contract obligating him to do some charity work from beyond the grave. It’s an epic battle of the codpieces as Barrymore pounds the meaning of Hamlet into Rally, only to have him panned in the papers the next day. Still, Rally sees the light – if he can only bring a flash of interest to a bored 16 year old for 5 seconds, it’s worth doing Chekhov in a basement on folding chairs for the rest of his natural career. <p>

You don’t really need to read the other play before you see this comedy, but it good background. Overacting steals the stage, from Barrymore’s oily self-confidence to Felicia’s coffee achieving Jewish Realtor to Deidre’s semaphore version of Ophelia. Everyone is over the top, but Wallnau’s Barrymore can still grab a moment of time and hold it frozen, just long enough for us to see how it’s done. Hissom has grasped the shallow shtick of the West Coast Under Assistant Promotion Man – he isn’t interested in making art, just buying it. Width perfects Rally with his Prince Charming persona, Rally earnestly avoids a role beyond his two years of community college acting class. It takes more than a little skill to play a bad actor convincingly. Rally even has an agent, Lillian (Mary Baird) who introduces herself as “the scum of the earth”, she had a fling with Barrymore ages ago in this very same apartment and, always the gentleman, he vaguely remembers her.<p>

There are several zillion jokes flying around, some physical, some literary; some buried so obscurely that only the three people with fine arts degrees laughed nervously. The jokes all revolve around Shakespeare and acting and Stage vs. Small Screen tensions – TV’s where the lightweights get rich, while the stage hold the moral high ground of poverty and Arthur Miller. Like the real Hamlet, there are timeless quotable lines – “Death – the 3rd coast”, “This is show business for Mormons!” and my favorite “Don’t confuse Truth with Asthma”. Barrymore wraps up with a good lesson on how to suck maximum applause out of the audience. It’s a lesson well taught, as “I Hate Hamlet” is padded with enough laughs to notice up in the 3rd balcony.<p>

For more information, please visit <a href=http://www.shakespearefest.org/>http://www.shakespearefest.org/ </a><p>

Jezebel’s Laundromat

Written and Directed by Todd Kimbro

Starring Nikki Darden, Marlo Hoffman, Steven French, Cindy Pearlman

Impacte! Theatre, Orlando Fla</b><p>

Thank God for Bithlo, Orlando’s own Tobacco Road. Bithlo is where you get your used car parts, hang out at the Washateria, and find girls like run around Jezebel (Darden). Sure, she gets around, but she’s scraped up enough to open the town’s finest cleaning establishment, much to the chagrin of Aunt Sweet (Hoffman). Well, not chagrin, really, but a sort of jealousy that Jezzy’s getting it regularly, and Sweet is “saving herself.” Jezzy runs into a soldier bound for Viet Nam, Robert Smith (French), and ends up one the unwed mother bill. Robert Jr. has a short life, accidentally falling into a washer and dieing. With another in the oven, Jez runs and of course everyone thinks the worse. Robert takes a short trip to Jax and seems to disappear as well. Did he take a powder or did something more sinister happen? Time passes, and Jezebel produces a daughter also cleverly named Robert (Pearlman). Robert number 3 longs for her brother and obsesses on proving her mothers innocence, if only to herself. It takes Jezebels’ slide into catatonia and a sink hole to reveal what really happened, and the truth is verified to Robert III by a bum (Peter Hurtgen) living in the back of the now condemned Laundromat. It’s time for her to leave for anywhere, and the last Robert (Gianni Quatrano) is ready to take her away.<p>

“Jezebel” rambles on, sort of like the 2 lane blacktops you might get lost on out in that part of the county. Past and present action interleave, cleverly separated by the pop tunes of the day. If you know your REM from your Beatles, you’ll do fine, and the plethora of Roberts is no real problem. Still, there are long stretches where the action seems suspended and you begin to drift like Jezebel’s troubled mind. It’s funny without really being a comedy, and tragic in a slightly condescending manner. Loss of her lover and child drive Jezebel to lose her mind and die of a broken heart, and her daughter finds the ghosts of the past dogging her future life. Well cast and cleanly presented, it’s a small town’s dirty laundry hung out on a very, very long clothesline.<p>

Launch 2002

Playwrights Round Table

Theater Downtown

Orlando, Fla </b>

Visitors gone, decorations down, all those ill-conceived gifts back to

Wal Mart, and it’s time for a small peek into the near future of Orlando

Theater. The Playwrights’ Round Table pulled together seven short pieces and

vignettes from upcoming plays for an intimate revue at the Theater Downtown.

Opening the event was the rather pedantic “Struggle Between Souls” (written

and directed by Mark Mannette). A clean-cut Wall Street Journal-toting

fundamentalist Christian (Gregory Moravec) shares a breakfast table with the

Wiccan Sandra (Patty Accorso). She looks a bit like that fortune teller

woman down on Mills, and the interchange emphasized that neither side is

very interested in learning about the other, but they both have axes to

grind, honed on the cutting wheel of blind faith. You should love your

fellow man, but nowhere does it say you have to tolerate him.

In the next piece, “Augusta,” (written and directed by John Goring) two

black sisters part, possibly forever, as Abby (Cheryl Beckham) leaves for a

medical procedure she might not survive. Older sister Florence (Jacki

Marshall) fans herself so hard you actully start believing it’s hot, and

hears the confession of her little sister’s love life gone bad. There’s a

bigger story lurking outside this scene that deftly captures the women’s

affection in a place and time not so very far removed from the here and now.

“Jezebel’s Laundromat” (written & directed by Todd Kimbro) starts in a few

days, and represents a new height in Kimbro’s continuing works describing the

white trash south. Jezebel (Nikki Darden) opens a Laundromat, but lets her

baby fall into a load of dirty whites and she ends up in the loony bin.

Faithful Aunt Sweet (Marlo Hoffman) drops by to visit, asking the rhetorical

question “Are you too crazy to know your stupid, or are you too stupid to

know you’re crazy?” Drop by Impacte! next week and find out.

A show that’s been floating around Fringe festival for a while, “American

Gondola” (written & directed by Terry Murray), has a psychotic aeronaut Kalb

(Lou Hilaire) tricking businessman Frank (Charlie Dent) into a spin around

the clouds, only to find that sanity isn’t a requirement for a pilot’s

license. Once up in the sky, a tense little drama unfolds as Kalb threatens

Frank, only to fall out of the basket himself. For two guys and a few

folding chairs, they put a real sense of menace in the air.

Joan Leslie reminisces about a century-long life in central Florida in

“Double Aught Granny” (by Steve Rowel, directed by Heather Leonardi).

Alternately touching and funny, she describes her journey from country girl

to flapper to single mom and beyond, wearing out four husbands and observing

the changes Florida went thought to bring her to that dread question, “How

does it feel to be so old?” Sure, it begs a snappy answer, but she opts for

the safe and friendly path. When you’re that old, you can pretty much have

your way.

“Marry Me…. Or Else” (by Alice Kira, directed by Willie Teacher) captures

a few moments in a bar as Dave (Willie Teacher) negotiates future life with

his second best girlfriend Cindy (Meg Wozniak). He’s the bouncer, and when a

very funny drunk (Mannette) stumbles up and compliments her breasts, Willie

swings in to action and tosses him out the door. A knife is pulled, Willie

reevaluates his life and makes Cindy the ultimate offer – he’s getting

married right now, and if she acts fast she can have him. Otherwise he’ll

take Julie. Gosh, how romantic. There must be a bit more of this rambling

story lurking in a script off stage, but what appeared is interesting even

if a bit disconnected.

As a wrap up, “People Like You” (by Jack McGrath, directed by Heather

Leonardi) reappears, with a wonderfully nervous Jess (Leonardi) about to pop

off to Peru to marry an archeologist she met on the Internet. But before

she leaves, uber-efficient Ms. Jones from Cyberlife Insurance drops in to

sell some life insurance. Their computer predicts she’ll need it, and with a

pending IPO the company is looking for some publicity. There’s an argument

over whether Jess is really like people like herself, but no mind – it’s a

battle between the certainty of statistics and the attempt of an individual

to assert their Brownian right to act randomly. Despite being a bit dated

(Hey, what’s an IPO again?), “People..” is a scream and well worth seeing

anytime it appears.

Playwright’s Roundtable presents and critiques new works by its members and

others, and not everything you see in their workshops will make it to

stage, but they offer an excellent opportunity to see the process of taking

concepts and turning them into dynamic presentations.

For more information, please visit www.playwrightsroundtable.org

Living Sculpture

Voci Modern Dance Group

Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Gallery </b>

The harsh Central Florida winter is fading fast, and we all look for an

excuse to get outside these beautiful days. One nice option is to visit one

of the lesser known sights in town, the home and gallery of Albin Polasek, a

man with an exceptional gift for capturing the human form in stone. Polasek

did most of his realist sculputure while the world preferred the abstract,

but he has left a legacy of amazing figures on the south shore of Winter

Park’s Lake Osceola. For many years this museum languished, but we now have

the chance to see some intriguing events in the gardens. The local dance

group Voci occasionally drops by to practice its elegant mix of movement on

the grounds, moving from place to place with a casual audience following the

action. It’s a strangely relaxing environment, a place where the sounds of

urban transportation mix with birdcalls and the soft rustle of Spanish moss

on ancient oaks.

I won’t pretend to understand the intricacies of Voci’s moves, but clearly

they strove, fought, loved and lost as the 6 dancers took turns rolling on

the grass, lifting one another, and moving with coordination and grace I

never would have thought of. An earthy performance, Voci picks up leaves in

their hair and mud stains on their knees while moving to a eclectic set of

classical, African, and electronic tunes. It’s not a fixed stage, but a

moving demonstration. As a piece ends the troupe subtly indicates motion

applied not only to them, but the audience as well. It’s not clear what they

have planned next and sometimes the folding chair-toting viewers find themselves surrounded by dance, only to have the movement gently flow around to

other places. The statues seem pleased as Voci moves among them, sometimes

in a gentle parody and sometimes ignoring their stony audience members. It’s

low impact entertainment at its best.

For more information, please visit www.polasek.org

A Couple of Blaguards

By Frank & Malachy McCourt

Directed by Michael Edwards

Starring Doug and Kristian Truelsen

Orlando Theater Project at Seminole Community College </b>

When born Irish, Catholic, and on a lane in Limerick, life takes a pretty

determined course. Clothes are thin, daddy’s drunk or gone (not sure which

is better), the loo is down at the end of the lane, and the church preaches

God’s love and the certainty of eternal damnation caused by fun. Coupled

with the ferocious Celtic chastity of Irish women, entertainment options

are reduced to drink, song, and looking for work while praying not to find it.

Our two brothers, Frank (Kristian) and Malachy (Doug), grow up in this

cultural stew of bleak prospects, part of a larger and ill defined family

whose members’ propensity for random death made holding a Wake a fine art.

The boys are molded by their feisty and cantankerous grandmother, a woman

convinced that no greater glory exists than dying Irish Catholic, a glory

not eclipsed even by winning the sweepstakes. True as that may be, the

sweepstakes winner will eat better and not freeze to death in the winter.

Childhood is harsh and money scarce, and what do the Irish do when the going

gets tough? Why, they emigrate to America, a land of opportunity and women

who never learned the word ‘No’. It’s the Promised Land, flowing with love

and sausages. Freed of the smothering Irish culture, the brothers each find

a ready market for their blarney as teachers, actors, and general roustabout

poltroons. Frank’s epiphany came in the army, stationed in Bavaria where he

leaned about his own culture (Joyce, Yeats, and Wilde) from one of the

Swarthmore girls you hear about but never meet. Malachy’s comes when he

kills off the parakeets at the Biltmore and ends up a pioneer of abuse talk

radio. And what joy does all this bring? Money, respect, sins of the flesh,

and the realization that mom is a shrike and a perma-martyr, and dad really

is a drunk Presbyterian ner’do well from the north of Ireland.

A biographical two-man tour de Erie, “Blaguards” is an entertaining evening

of song, stories, and caricatures of the Irish life, many taken verbatim

from Frank’s famous book “Angela’s Ashes”. The Truelsen’s bring all the

characters to life with a biting and sharp edge, alternately playing the

relatives, the clergy, and the rest of the world set out to make Irish life

miserable to Irish, and enchanting to the German, Jews, and protestants who

missed growing up in such abject but picturesque deprivation. Doug’s

portrayal of priests and Dublin’s mayor Dan Burke hit the mark perfectly,

and Frank’s part comes alive in the second act as the pleasant but

dangerously negligent tippler we associate with the Irish. After all, would

a German glue the dead parakeets on their bars just to keep his job? No, of

course not, he’d carve new ones out of wood. It’s this cultural divide that

makes Irish slackers the most entertaining of all.</i></a>


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