Number 32: February, 2003

Number 32: February, 2003

So just how many orange traffic cones are there in the world? You see them all over – around utility company vehicles, in mass groupings near job sites, and lost singles fading in rural ditches. Heck, I alone am responsible for 4 big bright ones at work. There must be at least one for everyone in America, at least, and we are still making them. Can they be recycled? Converted to educational uses? Used to block Alien abductions? Are there enough? This is really bothering me…

Joes NYC Bar – St. Paddy’s Day, 2003
Directed by Christian Kelty
Temenos Ensemble Theater, Orlando, Fla

If you’ve dropped by the Chimera known as Joe’s NYC, you know this bar not only knows everyone’s name, but their political, moral and sexual proclivities as well. Tonight’s nominal celebration revolves around the patron saint of drunks (that is, those of us whole don’t have to attend the meetings). But rather than just kill a few more nerves cells in pursuit of a Guinness Book of World Hangovers, the debate takes a serious tone – is it more dangerous to drink green beer, or to go to fight an unpopular war? Center field of the debate is aspiring Yankee Jackson (Bennet W Harrell), who sold his soul to ROTC to get through college, and now finds his million dollar rookie season might be spent a few hours north of Kuwait City, pounding the ground with the dog faces who always do the real dirty work in any conflict. Advice abounds – angst ridden local pol Alexandria (Janine Klein) pleads for the masses to get their information from any source other than the US mass media (like where? Unte Reader?) Space case Butterfly (Kimber Taylor) advises him to live in the best of all worlds and attend her Raelian papier-mâché fundraiser. And the real fight revolves not around guns vs. butter, but double anal vs. chastity as straight-laced Roxanne (Adonna Niosi) and porn queen Sunny D’Light (Cindy Pearlman) argue over the merits of watching porno films or keeping oneself pure for, oh, I don’t know, Howard Stern, I guess.

There’s a lot of posturing, and the whole “bomb ’em up to the stone age” vs. “Bush sucks, so I’m against it” debate weighs on the normally intriguing patter of Joe’s. Things start deadly slow with a poll of everyone’s favorite game, and threaten to roll over and play dead until fiery Orleans (Ali Flores) arrives, bragging of his exploit as Super Spic, half PR, half Mexican, and all habenero in a fight. Back up arrives in from of Sunny, and the saving grace of the show is a well-performed breakdown by congresswoman Alexandria. Her antiwar arguments are the least coherent I’ve heard to date, but the passion blasts through. Noteworthy in anchoring the north end of the bar David (Charles Frierman), who spends his life doing things backward, except the part about building a domino fort and knocking it down. No one can do THAT backwards, not with out powerful video editing tools.

Debate is in the eye of the beholder, and while this is far from Joe’s best show, it’s still worth a trip down to the wrong side of I-4, especially since they now have Guinness. After all, when you go to a bar, it’s really all about the beer. And easy pick ups, too, but the beer is really most important, especially right before closing time.

For more information on Joe’s, please visit www.joesnycbar.com

Island of Dr. Moreau
Adapted by H. G. Wells by Eric Hissom
Directed by April Dawn Gladu
Starring Richard Watson
Orlando UCF Shakespeare festival, Orlando Fla

Consider the White Man’s Burden. The Victorians salivated to the idea of civilizing the savages, but today we’ve sort of given up, never vacationing in the 3rd world and leaving cultural indoctrination to Hollywood. But poor lost Edward Prendick (Watson) falls into the middle of the whole movement, circa 1890. He’s lucky to be alive after a shipwreck, and has only one real option – accept the hospitality of the mysterious Dr. Moreau (Watson) and his assistant Montgomery (Watson, again). They’re beyond working the savage circuit, and are actively involved in upgrading the morals and educational opportunities of the animal kingdom. Though surgery, blood transfusion, and Montessori, they modify dogs and panther and Oxen to be verbal, religious, educated people, bound not by the Law of the Jungle but by a credo of human abstractions – do not walk on all 4’s, don’t eat meat, don’t chase your fellow man up a tree. Ah, if only that simple, and we could get out fellow man back here in Orlando to act that nicely…

So who are these people? Well, all of them are the infinitely mutable Richard Watson, who slips effortlessly between them in a one-man tour de force. Amazingly, there is never any ambiguity as whom he is playing or what their state of mind is. Aiding the transition is an individual prop for each persona – Moreau’s hat, a black cape for M’Ling the dog man, a bullwhip for Montgomery. Each soul is cut crisply from the dialog, and finds it’s own space on the jungle-like set. Judicious sound effects and a thunderstorm in the small space make Prendick’s journey into a madly rational experiment a personal journey for the audience as well. And lurking behind every set piece is a pair or eyes – not human, not feral, but and eerie prediction of what lies ahead for the story.

And what of the experiment? Just like colonialization, it appears to work at first. Animal sprits are suppressed, literature and law and spirituality are introduces, and a nearly stable society evolves. But as the paradigm is pushed farther and farther, cracks appear in the results. A new vaccine is introduced that buys a little time, but not enough. Eventually the colonizers must withdraw as the colonized revolt, and the veneer is completely peeled away. Only Prendick survives, and to do that he must first kill the only rational thing left on the island, the beautiful and intelligent panther woman. He lives to tell the tale, and we retreat to civilized life, have a few Fuzzy Navels, and laugh nervously. That sort of thing could NEVER happen here, could it?

For more information on UCF-Shakespeare, visit www.shakespearefest.org“>”>www.shakespearefest.org/”> www.shakespearefest.org

Lost In Yonkers
By Neil Simon
Directed by Fran Hilgenburg
Theater Downtown, Orlando, Fla

War is Hell. It’s hell when the loan shark wants his money back after financing you wife’s cancer, and it’s hell when you’re a teen and have to live with the crankiest grandma this side of Berlin. It’s also no fun if you’re hunted by the mob, or if you’re 35 years old and can’t get a date because you not allowed to talk to anyone. Where did all this evilness come from? The Third Reich? No, it came from a bitter woman (Jan Peterson) who lost a husband and two children, and spent the rest of here life trying to make the survivors are tough as she had to be. Of course, the material she had to work with wasn’t very promising – Eddie (Mark March) is a crybaby, Louis (Harold Longway) is a low grade thug, Bella (Maria Flores) is a bit dain bramged from the scarlet fever, and Gert (Barbara Bell) is still breathing rough from gramdmaphobia. Observing this maelstrom of misery are young Arty (Kyle Burton) and Jay (Lucas Cocoran) who must do a year with grandma while dad goes off to earn enough to fend off the shark. Sure, grandma had the money and could bail him out, but that wouldn’t make him a man. Plus she’s taking it with her when she goes. What’s really scary is I think I’m related to ALL these people.

But don’t think it isn’t funny misery. When things get this bad, the only thing to do is laugh, so that’s what the audience did. Sometimes it was at the lovable tough guy Louie, who got most of the best lines. Sometimes it was at Aunt Bella, who goes the most moving speech as she appealed for the right to have her own children. Other times it was at the two boys, who survived the ordeal only to discover that while grandma wasn’t wholly evil, she was more likely to whup you with her cane and charge you for the pretzels she stole herself than tuck you in at night. Occasionally we even got a chuckle from helpless Eddie as he related the absurdities of a New York Jew wandering the Diaspora of the southern United States, and trying his best to say “Shonuf.” Someone get this boy an onion roll.

It’s not a storybook life, unless you read the brothers Grimm too often. But the entertainment value is high, from the believable folk to the stifling set decoration to the poor lost souls trying to keep their heads above water while everything around them whispers “she hates YOU, personally” Grandma DOES hate you, of course, but it’s not personal. She just hates you for your own good, and she does it because she’s completely given up on life a long time ago. You shouldn’t, give up, it’s not like you have to live with these people.

Oh, you DO have to live with them? Sorry, so do I. You have my deepest sympathy. Now get you feet of the sofa and sweep the floor. I spilled an ash try, just for you.

For more information, please visit www.theatredowntown.net

Sweeney Todd
By Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler
Directed by Ken McCoy
Starring Brent Turner, Heather Journell, Wesley Whatley
Stover Theater at Stetson University, Deland Fla

There’s many a good reason to wear a beard, and this show only reinforces that in my mind. Sweeny Todd (Turner) escapes from unjust transport to Botany Bay, and returns to London with a chip on his shoulder and a plan for vengeance. How he got there is a bit fuzzy, but a shipwreck was involved, as it so often is in a good Victorian Drama, and clean cut Anthony (Whatley) has pulled him for the drink and is the sort of guy who doesn’t ask pointed questions. So, Todd has set himself up with Mrs. Lovett (Journell), purveyor of the worst meat pies in town. Sweeney has a few skills of his own, like barbering, and soon he is on a path to vengeance against his nemeses, Judge Turpin (Russell Franks) and his side kick Beadle Bamford (Cameo Humes) It’s a nicked ear here and a slit throat there as he practices for his Final Solution while supplying Lovett with raw material for amazingly successful Long Pig Café. Meanwhile, Anthony has discovered the beautiful Johanna (Mail Linh Nguyen). She’s really Sweeny’s daughter, and all the malfeance surrounding him came from Turpin’s desire to capture a child. After a while, the neighbors are complaining about the smell, and the local crime rate has dropped suspiciously, so the game’s afoot. With things getting a bit tight around the Sweeny Todd Tonsorial Parlor, he kills more and more until there is no one left standing except poor forlorn Tobias (Andrew Sotomeyer) Is it a tragedy? Perhaps, but it’s also a musical, so we need a full chorus to punch out this big closing number and that means all the principles come back to life for a rousing “Ballad of Sweeny Todd.” Shakespearian in death toll, true, but a kinder gentler Titus, if you will.

Ambitious and well sung, the show only has one flaw – it’s almost impossible to hear the lyrics. Poor miking and acoustics make following the plot a challenge, and loses the skillful vocal works of Journell’s “Worst Pies in London” and “By the Sea” and Whatley’s “Kiss Me”. When the sound was weak, one had to rely on Turner’s simmering anger and Franks’ oily evilness to carry the story, which they did with aplomb. Whatley’s Anthony was earnestly nice, and Hume’s Beadle played the enforcer with skill beyond his physical size. Good looks valiantly struggle to support missing acoustics.

Sweeny Todd is one of very few serial killer musicals, a genre that is difficult to write without falling into campy sickness or general bad taste. The plot is involved by musical standards, and a few plot points are muddy. While all the evil doers eventually die, there is no strong moral message here, and if you step back from the story, there is a strong cannibalistic streak that is bit bothersome on the drive home. Despite this weird aspect to he whole show, the perfomance is excellent, and the ovation it received well deserved.

For more information on Stetson’s Stover Theater, please visit www.stetson.edu/departments/csata/ta_pages.shtml“>www.stetson.edu/departments/csata/ta_pages.shtml ” > www.stetson.edu/departments/csata/ta_pages.shtml“>www.stetson.edu/departments/csata/ta_pages.shtml

The 3 Billy Goats Gruff
By Jean Pierce and Kelly Collins-Lintz
Directed by Patrick Flick
Orlando UCF – Shakespeare Festival, Orlando Fla

These are the most self-actualized goats I’ve ever met. Not only are they beyond mere animal desires for food and drink, they have clear career paths and goals mapped out. Take Grigsby (Davis Cross). Not only is he handy with a hammer and saw, he has some elementary civil engineering skills, and wants to see the world. His two sisters are heading out as well – Grace (Kristen Michelle Walker) wants to read and write, aspiring to be an unpaid online theater critic. And Gloria (Kristi Clippard)? Why, she’s got taps installed on her little cloven tootsies, dreaming of Broadway. I think she’s a got a chance to be a pretty decent hoofer. Presiding over these ambitious ungulates is the sprit of Grandpa Gruff, who looks a bit like the giant skull Spinal Tap used to schlep around. With grass a bit thin on their end of the pasture, they whip out a respectable bridge, only to have it hijacked by the fuzzy blue Troll (Tim Williams). Why do trolls do that? It’s a deep-seated psychological issue, sort of a span fetish. Nonetheless, it’s time for these goats to organize and reclaim their structural rights, a task accomplished with enough cunning and trickery to make you believe that the goats will ALWAYS beat out the sheep.

While the goats tend towards a relentless positivism that children’s theater requires to pass muster, the costumes are clever and the whole concept of a tap dancing goat is enormously appealing. The best bits go to the heavy, as is so often the case. Williams make the job of inbred evilness look effortless, and even casually threatens to eat one of the 4 year old heckles without bringing her to tears. He’s a troll, to be sure, but a suave and debonair troll. The show is a good length for the intro class aimed at, and there are several nice bouncy songs to make the show fly. My favorite was “Dear God, give me something other than tin!” While well done and entertaining, it DOES reinforce the stereotype of can eating goats, an unfortunate hold over from less enlightened days. All in all, it’s good clean fun on a jewel bright, and a show that can draw in both adults and kids on multiple levels. Naaauugghhhhtttt bbbaaaadddd.

For more information on UCF-Shakespeare, visit www.shakespearefest.org“>”>www.shakespearefest.org/”> www.shakespearefest.org

Blood Brothers
By Willy Russell
Directed by Dr. Karen Copp
Staring Rachel Stump, George Patages, Stephen Pugh
Seminole Community College Fine Arts Theater

Never leave new shoes on a table, it brings bad luck. Never stare at a solitary magpie, it brings sorrow. Don’t spill salt, don’t crack a looking glass. Superstition? Perhaps, or perhaps just convenient markers to explain away the tragedies of common life. Mrs. Johnstone (Stump) has 7 kids, no husband, and is lucky to get a cleaning job, lest they all starve. It seems as daddy went out the door, he left a small present, and now two more are on their way. What to do? One more she could feed, but two is a push over the wall. Her infertile and neurotic employer, Mrs. Lyons (Michelle Ramirez) offers to take on of the two and raise him as her own. Hubby is conveniently gone on a long trip, so the deception works out about as well as any musical can. The boys grow up, Mickey (Patages) to a life of dead end jobs and petty crime, Edward (Pugh) to Oxford and the posh society that runs England. Despite both mothers’ best efforts, they meet and become fast friends, only to die tragically in fulfillment of the superstition – if separated twins ever find out about each other, they both die instantly. I never heard that one either, but it wraps up the show with a nice irony.

Did I mention this was a musical? Despite the clearly defined charters, engaging and realistic plot, and completely logical denouement, all this supports a fine collection of tunes. The lead singer has a clear and beautiful voice, and was well prepared to render Russell’s excellent material particularly the theme “Marylin Monroe.” The two male leads, Pugh and Patages, did a wonderful duet “That Guy” as they reunite after the intermission, and despite uneven microphone placement, the rest of the cast did about as well.

The story is sweetly sentimental, yet not quite maudlin. While the introductory narration implies Mrs. Johnstone has a heart of stone, I see her as a woman who did everything she could to preserve her family in the face of starvation. Mrs. Lyon was the villain if anyone, taking a child then spurning her mother and deceiving her husband. The boys were both basically good, but the class system of England forces one into the dirt while the other has what passes as a decent middle class career. In other words, society made them do it. While I don’t agree with that in general, the case is made here, and the story telling supports it beautify. “Blood Brothers” is one of the best student show at SCC in recent memory, and should not be missed.

2 Little Curses and 1 Big Bless
By Peter Hurtgen, Jr.
Directed by Chad Lewis
Starring Beth Marshall, Chris Gibson, and Janine Klein
Spirit Daddy Productions at Temenos Theater

So, are you REALLY cursed just because some bad stuff happened to you? Like your house burning down in the middle of a flood? It could just be statistics, but not if you believe, like cowgirl Mimi Liebling. Seems all the women in her family are killed before 35 by the thing they love the most. Mimi sets out to break the curse, and has a vision showing here the curse removal tab in her life. She’s convinced she must find a blessed man and make a baby with him. We know most guys are a little south of blessed, but she still tries all the usual paths – dialing random numbers in the phone book, video dating, singles bars, and putting a note on the bulletin board at Winn Dixie. All fail, until she visits a psychic (Klein). Daddy (Gibson) phase in with some incomplete advice, sending Mimi to Reno. Later on mommy appears from the astral plane, and straightens her vision out – “No, you’re wrong – you need to marry a CURSED man and have a baby.” Ahhh, now I see…. well, not really, but them I’m not real hip to this metaphysical crystal rubbing stuff, but she seem happy enough, and if nothing else, it’s a good excuse to hang out with a sleazy guy.

While the story is a bit helter skelter, the acting makes up for it. All the supporting characters are supplied by the Gibson / Klein team, as they pop in and out of the minimalist backdrop changing clothes on the fly. The funniest scene comes with Gibson as Mimi’s soon-to-be boyfriend grilling the psychic with all the standard existentialist questions – “Is there free will?” – “Yes” – “AHA! I KNEW it!” You had to be there. But still, it’s a small show that flies along with no slow spots or drags, and some of the questions on stage are just as important to us as they are to the actors, so drop by and see it. Madam Psychic said you’d be here.

For more information on Temenos Shows, please visit www.joesnycbar.com

Angel
Written and performed by Christian Kelty
Directed by Beth Marshall
Temenos Theater, Orlando Fla

I’m still a bit put off by a naked guy wearing fur wings, but we’ll get back to that shortly. “Angel” is a one-man show (Kelty) with three loosely related parts. On the left side of the stage, Kelty reviews his life (or the life of his character) by reading his baby book and diaries of his life and decent into drug use in New York. On the right hand of the stage, Kelty presents some gripping spoken word pieces, many revolving around a modernist interpretation of nursery rhymes. In the middle is a lectern, where he relates the story of his death on the autobahn and the subsequent passage into the world of angels – a world that intersects our own very closely, with both good and bad angels protecting and attacking humans as they go about their daily lives.

These three phase are all interesting in and of themselves, with the spoken word pieces getting a smattering of finger snaps a from the hipster contingent in the front row. What I had trouble discerning is the relation between the fragments, which seemed a bit disjoint. If the character becoming an angle is the guy in New York, how did he wind up in Germany with a wife and kid? Can the Spoken Word Artist reject the existence of God, yet curse Him and engage in debate with Him? Is the nudity essential to any of the story lines, or merely gratuitous? As the piece progresses, Kelty slowly strips, but it’s not clear we are coming to the naked truth about any of these people. View “Angel” as three one man shows on the same stage, and it’s pretty cool. View it as a single show, and you may follow my hallowed footsteps, wondering if the wings tickled.

For more information on Joes, please visit www.joesnycbar.com

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
By August Wilson
Directed by Ray Hatch
Starring Mareeko Finney, Jimmy Johnson, Wiley Oscar
Peoples Theater, Orlando, Fla

It’s 1930 something, and America has discovered the Blues. Riding the crest of the wave is Ma Rainey (Finney). She’s the star, and has the smarts to act that way, while controlling with the cranky producer Sturdyvant (Butch Connor) and her wussy manager Irvin (Jim Brunner). She’s got her niece Dussie Mae (Christelsie Johnson) and Nephew Sylvester (Troy Ogun) in tow today. She has plans for Sylvester – even though he stutters, he’s going to introduce her new double entendre hit, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” Meanwhile, the rest of the band hangs out in the rehearsal room and debates the role of the Black Man in America. There are many viewpoints – Cutler (Dwayne Allen) is the straw boss of the band, and he has a get along, go along attitude. Toledo (O. Levard Peoples) is the intellectual – knowledgeable about Culture, well read, and likely to end up a jazz musician if he lives long enough. Slow Drag (Oscar) wants to party, meet chicks, and have an occasional shot of whiskey to keep things smooth. The problem child is Levy (Johnson) – he’s a tortured artist, has horrible stories from his youth, and feels he has the right to acceptance in this society, not that society really agrees with him.

It’s well cast, well produced, and well acted. Both Levy and Cutler tell powerful stories of black humiliation and abuse, both shivering with anger. Niece Dussie May (Christele Johnson) drips with sex in her short red flapper dress, and of course there’s Ma Rainey herself – in control, poised, and ready to take on anyone who crosses here, which is most of the outside world. Even the sound recording studio looks authentic Chicago – someone dug up an actual steam radiator for atmosphere, no easy thing to find in central Florida.

The story is all about power. Everyone, with the exception of Irvin, has some pull over something. Ma has star power, Cutler can hire and fire (with permission), Sturdyvant can make Ma an even bigger star, and even sexy little Dussie Mae can get what she wants jut by shaking her tail feathers. In the end, everyone who has power exercises it. Some times that exercise makes things better, such as building Sylvester’s self confidence, and sometime it hurts, like shortening the careers of Levy and Toledo. Power pays no attention to race or station, it transcends. Just like the Blues.

For more information, please visit www.peoplestheatre.org

Anti-Babe’s Meaning of Life
Not the Boss of Me Productions
Theater Downtown, Orlando, Fla

It’s been a long time since I’ve been in a room full of Robert Smith wannabees. The music was loud, smoking mandatory, and only black electrical tape protected us from the righteous wrath of Orlando’s departing queen of anti-fun. But then, I only went to the early show. As we enter the theater, we hear the sad story of two Drunken Masters, Hung So Lo and Him Cum Soon, on a quest to find the meaning of life by hitting all the clubs in O- town. They contemplate various aspects of life as we’re entertained by a writhing mass of glittery bodies partial dressed in vinyl and leather fetish gear. And what is there to contemplate after a 5th a Jack and half a case of Old Milwaukee? Lots of things – things that go thought your head while watching the waterfall clock go round and round. There’s the absolute silliness of trash talk TV, the general abuse of women by men and vice versa, and my favorite, “Hot Dripping Wax – Foreplay, or Just Dangerous?” There’s even the mandatory jab at GW, although I ‘vet never seen him in a vinyl and mesh shirt.

Is the journey worth the admission? I think so, particularly if your life doesn’t revolve around glow sticks and house music. The dancing is wild and exhilarating, audience participation is encouraged, but no throwing beer bottles, please, it cuts the cast and we are not doing THAT tonight – liability, you know. As a fashion show goes, I did see a lot of stuff Sears doesn’t carry, and I suppose you can purchase it if you desire (see the web site, it’s interesting all by itself), but none of it looked like it fit me. As a glimpse into the Orlando demimonde, it can’t be beat – lots of parking, you get home a reasonable hour, and the whole crew if very friendly. I even noticed the Betty Page girl thanking an audience member for licking her boot after the show. A polite Dom is a bit of a stretch in my mind, but then this IS theater.

For more information on Anti-Babe, visit www.antibabe.com

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum
By Burt Shevelove, Larry Gelbart, and Stephen Sondheim
Directed by Julius John
Starring Mark Shami, Brett Dault, Rick Breese
JCC, Maitland, Fla

I came, I saw, I giggled. Somewhere in the sprawling city of Rome, the scheming slave Pseudolus (Shami) see a way to freedom by delivering the hot babe Philia (Ainsley Delong) to his lisping love struck master Hero (Breese). It’s a challenge worthy of him, as Philia has been sold by procurer Lycus (Valensky Sylvain) to general Miles Gloriosus (Jeff Cohen). If only the plague would kill her just enough to get the general back to war, but not enough to make her, well, deteriorate. It’s a toughie, made more so by Hero’s dad Senex (Tom Greenman) aiming for one last fling while his wife Domina (Sara Philips) is off visiting mom somewhere in the country. A glimmer of hope lurks in Senex’s servant Hysterium (Dault), who looks pretty bad in drag, but not so bad as to be detected by a dozen people at close range with decent eyesight. Will everyone get a girl? There IS a hint in the title song “Comedy Tonight!”

The show is entertaining enough to over some the dropped cues and technical problems. The best voice comes from Sara Phillips rendering “That Dirty Old Man”, and of course the closing number sticks with you into parking lot and the shower the next morning. Pseudolus has the largest role, successfully carrying the show on the shoulders of his conniving comedy. Occasionally, a frumpy Erroneous (Aaron Tanzer) shuffles across the stage, eventually providing a Deus ex Plot Patch that forces all the right lovers to end up together, and all the frustrated ones to have a legitimate reason not to be to upset. And the sets? Some of the finest I’ve seen anywhere, with brilliant lighting that makes excellent use of the JCC space. Real Romans would have used burning pitch torches, and more people would have been killed, even in a comedy. This one is so much better.

Rudi
By John Goring
Starring Heather McClendon, John Siniscalco
Cherry Street Theater, Winter Park, Fla

The great thing about Teddy Bears is they’re cuddly, soft, and you can tell them anything. They’re so much better than real bears, which have claws, hibernate, and so often have embarrassing hygiene issues. Still, it’s nice to dream, and little Jennie (McClendon) falls off to sleep dreaming that here little teddy IS real, and saves here when she fall in the woods. It’s a dream; so she got the promotion to Princess, but mommy and daddy are a little upset that she’s dating out side her species. Rudi the Bear (Siniscalco) has to go, but he’s a very positive bear and takes the whole thing quite well. The princess takes it harder, as the whole thing revolves around the preteen depiction of True Love. Mommy and Daddy (Jennifer Allen and Larry Stalling) aren’t evil or anything, so they send out Millie Maus (Emma Longster) to retrieve Rudi from the wilds of never never land, meaning all can live happily ever after.

Cute and kid friendly, this musical story can be read as recovering a lost friend, or as recovering a lost romance, depending on your readiness to deal with either. Rudi seems a friendly bear, and Jennie looks the dream princess part, although it’s a bit hard to hear her sing even in the small space of Cherry Street. There’s a nice mix of dance, song, and dialog, and the children in attendance seemed absorbed in the tale. It’s a pleasant hour or so away from the demonic Play Station, and a good chance to get the family out of the house for low impact togetherness. And remember, imagining a teddy is real is so much cheaper than owing the real thing, and easier on the furniture.

Loot
By Joe Orton
Directed by Rocky Hopson
Starring Paul Wegman, Lisa Hallsted, and Jay Becker
Mad Cow Theatre, Orlando Fla.

Aha! The game’s afoot! Someone’s nicked the cash from the local bank, cleverly burrowing into the vault via the neighboring funeral home, and inspector Truscott (Becker) poses as an officer of the local Water Board to get into the home of recently widowed Mr. McLeavy (Wegman). It’s not strictly legal, of course, but all for the greater good, as Nurse Fay (Hallsted) is setting him up to be her 7th hubby in 7 years. She specializes in wealthy men with cash about to die from plausible causes. McLeavy’s son Hal (Marinaccio) and his undertaker buddy Dennis (Don Fowler) are ready to take the body to the cemetery and the cash to Portugal, if they can just run the Water Board gauntlet. Their friendly 50/50 split is diluted when Fay catches on, and will suffer further dilution at the hands of Truscott. He’s been chasing Fay ineffectively for some time, and even the discovery of a random glass eye doesn’t put him closer to the truth. Thank goodness the Water Board can work people over and get them to confess with out the bother of a lawyer around.

It’s all very funny, and we all laughed, but there was a curious flatness to the whole performance. Hallsted never developed any chemistry with the characters peopling her world, and Fay’s come on to McLeavy seemed more like a reading than a seduction. Becker’s Truscott had a suitable oily menace, but jokes seemed locked within him, and didn’t always make it through the 4th wall to the audience. Fowler’s Dennis was most believable, with his trademark slovenly veniality perfectly fitting the role. Wegman did his usual excellent acting job, but just wasn’t enough to pull this splintered show to the heights of hilarity that one might have expected for this play with this crew.

Like most well meaning yet obsessive persons, McLeavy is just a duck sitting around waiting to take it in the wing from the slings and arrows of injustice. His extreme Catholicism acts as a problem magnet while blinding him to the skullduggery surrounding him. But, it’s the way of the world, as McLeavy ends up in the lockup after his house, inheritance and wife are taken from him. If more people acted like his fellows, it would be a sad world indeed, as the split would get so large there’d hardly be anything left to go around.

For more information on Mad Cow, please visit www.madcowtheatre.com

Vanities
By Jack Heifner

Directed by David Buchman

Starring Julia Schwartz, Megan Brown, and Jennifer Jacobsen

Take A Chance Theater Inc. at Cherry Street Theater, Winter Park Fla

The problem with High School is it seems so important at the time. Of course, the same can be said of college, adult life, and even death itself. With that in mind, we meet three ditzy cheerleaders, ready to plaster the gym with chicken wire, colored tissue paper and pep. Together, they are a complete person, with lustful Mary (Jacobsen) playing the Id to organized Kathy’s (Brown’s) ego. Worrying them all into submission is the super ego of Joanne (Schwartz), concerned with the real risk of their NOT being the most popular girls on campus in college. Well, as the heart of the Tigers’ cheerleading squad, they do all those annoying things cheerleaders do – decorate, block your view of the game, and berate all those of us cynics who see pep as what it is – an unwanted telemarketing call right in the middle of biology. As the program proceeds, they mature into similarly annoying sorority babes, pledged with keeping the Kappa Kappa Gamma’s bloodlines pure. Of course, separate personalities emerge – Mary is now a professional slut, bolstered by The Pill and a burnt bra. Joanne is keeping herself pure along with her childhood sweetie Ted, who by now must be permanently blue. Only Kathy seems lost – no clear plans, mediocre job prospects, and about done with organizing the rest of the world. What can happen next? Well, only two things as far as I see – complete dissolution of the tribe, or unification on a much higher level, with all three combining into a single person. Amazingly, Heifner makes both eventualities occur, nearly simultaneously. It’s pure Freudian bliss.

And it’s pure fun as theater. The writing is amazingly clever; the casting and direction well placed, and despite an occasional dropped line or pâté on Ritz, extremely well acted. Schwartz’s Joanne IS the ideal suburban mom with the ideal suburban family and the ideal philandering hubby. She’s crass and annoying and touchingly sincere in her struggle to hold on to girlish ideals at all costs. Jacobsen’s Mary is the exact opposite – free with her charms, completely comfortable with flouting convention, and the ideal Girl You Date But Never Show Mom. In the balance point is Brown’s Kathy, sometimes almost static on stage as her life slides to a halt – either precariously balanced on a hilltop, ready to roll in any direction, or perhaps sitting at the bottom of a valley, unable to gain momentum in any direction. You might find yourself in any of these positions, and even if you don’t, they are great fun to discuss on the ride home.

Tartuffe

By Jean Baptiste Molière

Directed by Jim Helsinger

Starring Eric Hissom, Kate Ingram, Phillip Nolan

Orlando UCF Shakespeare Festival, Orlando, Fla

Oh, those zany French Aristocrats! Even though they live in mansions furnished with acres of sparkling breasts and the good stuff from Liberace’s estate sale, they still fall for any charlatan that tries to steal the chatelaine. Gullible Orgon (Nolan) swallows the Rasputin-like piety of greasy Tartuffe (Hissom), to the embarrasment of everyone around him. Certainment, Tartuffe prays like Jim Baker in the shower, but all for show. When not emitting piety rays, he steals the silverware and seduces Orgon’s wife Elmire (Ingram) and soils the good linen. Is he just a sponge, or does he harbor deeper animosity toward his host’s generosity? No matter, when Orgon decides to give his buxom daughter Mariane (Sara Hankins) to Tartuffe instead of the stable and good-looking Valere (Richard Width), panic breaks out in the household. People tolerate deception, until their sex life is at stake. Mariane screams like a Corman lead, but it takes the skills of Lady’s Maid Dorine (Mindy Anders) to marshal the troops and project effective counterforce. Not until Elmire offers herself as bait do they entrap Tartuffe well enough to enlighten fuddled Orgon. But it’s too late, as Tartuffe now owns the manse, and only some abrupt script writing can save the family’s honor and get everyone back in the right bed by curtain.

Well, there weren’t any slamming doors, but it’s a fine farce none the less. You’ve got all the important elements – sexy women, guys running around in their underwear with swords, and everyone get a salacious joke and a prat fall. The axis of power lines up between acidic Dorine and alkali Tartuffe, and the axis of comedy points from rubbery Hissom to ballistic Nolan. As they fight a life and death battle to maintain control in the house, the calm center of the storm is Orgon’s brother Cleante (Tad Ingram). As the only sane person on stage, his good advice is ignored, possibly due to his extremely purple costume, a costume that assumes a GREAT deal of confidence on the part of the wearer. As we move farther into the fuzz of thought that Tartuffe generates, we find stepson Damis (Timothy Williams) desperately trying to get his swash unbuckled to fight injustice while the bluish Valere confuses the already lost Mariane with his professional shyness. On the outer orbit, we find the fearsome matron of the family, Madame Pernelle (Catherine Stork). While she isn’t onstage that much, she seem capable of taking on the King himself armed only with a fan and some sort mini-albatross launcher mounted in her hair.

As with all the recent productions that cross the stage of this awkwardly named company’s boards, Tartuffe is a triumph of comedy and lighting and costuming. I’ve still yet to figure out how they got the back wall to glow that electric blue, and how they get the women to sparkle. They’re THAT good. This show shimmers with energy, and even if you don’t think too much of the under-taxed upper classes, you have to admit they ARE the most fun to tease. Even if this lot did lose the revolution.

For more information on UCF-Shakespeare, visit www.shakespearefest.org“>”>www.shakespearefest.org/”> www.shakespearefest.org

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