Archikulture Digest

Number 39: Back From The Dead Edition

Ok, I’ve had a few technical problems up here the past few weeks, and I

appreciate you bearing with the Ink 19 staff in these difficult weeks. I regard

the whole thing as a manifestation of a bit of undigested cheese, or some

holiday pudding gone a bit off while lurking behind the rancid eggnog. Anyway,

we’re all feeling much better, and ready to take on the world in 2004

The Roar of the Greasepaint, The Smell of the Crowd

By Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley

Directed by Michael Edwards

Starring Roy Alan and Michael Edwards

Winter Park Playhouse, Winter Park Fla.</b><P>

On a long, tortuous road between “Waiting For Godot” and “Mary Poppins” we find this sly commentary on the decay of the British class system. A shabby looking Sir (Edwards) arrives on stage extolling the virtues of The Game. Woebegone Cocky (Alan) drags the equipment around, struggles to understand the rules, and starves. Meanwhile, street urchins sing happy songs and Sir’s assistant The Kid (Ansley Delong) takes lessons on being a right bastard, torturing Cocky whenever possible. When Cocky finally asserts himself and forces Sir to make the first move, the Kid swaps sides and tortures the Aristocracy instead, all set in what might at first glance be a children’s show. This is Art + Politics = Entertainment at it’s best.<p>

Written back in the mid 60’s, this intentional stagy show covers quite a bit of fine music on it’s Candy Land set. Songs like “The Joker “ (no, not the Steve Miller hit) and “A Wonderful Day Like Today” fill stage; with both Edwards and Alan capable of putting the raw volume behind these numbers to drive them home. Supporting actress Delong did wonders as well, with “Things To Remember” and “Look at That Face.” In a way-to-short appearance, The Black Man (Amos Dertes) puts over “Feeling Good” with such verve you hope he comes back for the finale, or at least Karaoke Night at some dive bar on Park Avenue after the show.<p>

Who are all these people? In the guise of a children’s game we see the slide of the British aristocracy. It’s lived off the back of the working class for centuries, but now the pickings are slim and maintain the moral justification for dominance has faded. The working class has just about had it, and we mimic the terrible British labor strife of the post WW2 era. A beautiful Girl (Natalie Cordone) is held out to Cocky, symbolic of Middle Class gentility, only to be taken away and soiled by Sir. When Cocky rebels, The Kid deserts Sir with no qualms and goes to work for the other side. Who is she? Why, I take her to represent the Press, now dedicated to harassing the high and mighty. When a Black Man appears, Cocky tries Sir’s routine on him, which he blithely ignores. He cares not for lese majesty and The Game, only a chance to earn a living.

There’s nothing like parody to bring down the high and mighty, and looking back at the course England has traversed over the last 40 years, it’s not been pretty – grand houses turned into theme parks, the royal family turned into a bumbling vaudeville act, and a economic slide that really makes you wonder about the phrase “Its good to be King.” It might have been, once upon a time, but right now Prince Charles and Prince William are in a courtly competition for a job that pays less than a decent soccer player might make, and with more weekend obligations. “Greasepaint” now appears to have been a Sibyl in the foot lights, with all her predictions made true. Good thing none of us has a peerage, matey.

For more information on Winter Park Playhouse, please visit http://www.winterparkplayhouse.org/ <p>

Jack Kerouac Writer-In-Residence Evening

With Ted May, David Amram, Joe Hayes, Bob Keeling

Stardust Video, Orlando, Fla.

February 29, 2004</b><p>

I’m not even sure I have the name of this event correct, but this seems close enough. A few years back, someone discovered that two of the great Beat Generation novels “On

The Road” and “Dharma Bums” were written right here in O-town. Since we leave no promotional opportunity unexploited, we have leapt right onto this bone of culture and established a writer-in-residence program. A promising young author now has the chance to soak up the same fetid atmosphere Kerouac worked in, although they have to supply their own Benzedrine. The current resident is Chicago playwright Ted May, and he has come out for an evening of readings and intellectual interaction with the local hipsters.

I brought a few friends, but we got there late enough that all the tables were taken and Ted’s sound crew had glommed onto the comfy couch up front. I squeezed into a comfortable Terrazzo chair right by the stage, while my friends deported themselves on whatever solid objects they could find, Mr. May began by reading a few short but interesting poems, Control and Purgatory. Purgatory was at some point set to liturgical music, and a short tape was played. The music was beautiful, but I lost the words. Another recording of an NPR review of a play he had written followed this. It’s a little unclear why he played this – either he was proud of getting some national radio recognition, or he was miffed the critic didn’t “get” the point of the play. Either way, the taped audio was a low point in the evening.<p>

David Amram next joined him on stage for a little Jazz Poetry – Ted read, and David played an assortment of small drums and woodwinds while various cell phones went off. Sure, they weren’t part of the program, but Jazz Poetry is open minded enough to accommodate the occasional “found sound”, and we plowed though some good stuff about Bullies in Chicago and seeking a Jazz Heart. Amram, and old friend of Kerouac, then finished with a fairly impressive improvised poem, which only suffered by his repeating “Brevity is the Soul of Wit” until brevity was long past. <p>

More people came and went. Joe Hayes read a segment form a Fringe Fest show he’s putting up this May. Bob Keeling read a short segment from his new book on Kerouac Florida years. Several local female poets came up, including Darling Fitch from Rollins, who had the best material of all. She spoke of seducing her lover from a basketball game, washing her dead fathers pajamas, and a Picnic – all were very touching.<p>

Somewhere in here the terrazzo grew to cold and I had to insinuate myself on the sofa, but the evening was fun – a beer and an espresso, a poem and a reading, I met some old friends and made some new ones, and while I’m not convinced Kerouac is the greatest writer of the 20th century, he did capture a world bracketed by the triumph of World War 2 and the morass of Viet Nam. Distant days always appear rosy, and we write about today for those who follow.<p>

For more information on the Kerouac Project, please visit http://kerouacproject.markandjodi.net/index.htm <p>

Othello

By William Shakespeare

Directed by Richard Width

Starring Esau Pritchett, Eric Hissom, Sarah Hankins

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

Pity poor Othello (Pritchard), mighty general of Venice. He marries the cutest girl in town, Desdemona (Hankins), only to have his father in law Brabantio (Mark Brotherton) despise him to the point of death in the second act. He is sent to fight the Turks in Cyprus, but the ungrateful dogs die in a storm, denying him glory in battle, leaving only the headache of administration. His most faithful servant, Iago (Hissom) gets a burr under his saddle over a passed promotion, and he spends the rest of the show finagling a split between Desdemona and Othello, and generally abusing everyone else he comes in contact with. Sure, Othello is a might general, but some days even 2-foot long dreadlocks can’t buy a break. As Iago’s plans evolve, we experience all the usual Shakespearian devices – oaths sworn before key facts are known, random misinterpretations of coincidence, and a general inability for anyone to consider alternate interpretations other’s intentions. You know the rest – bodies pile up, and honest Othello gets it worst of all – he commits suicide by small cuts. Iago is left unresolved – perhaps he gets what he deserves, or maybe he hangs on, hoping for a sequel Shakespeare never got around to writing.

On a stage full of Doc Martens and bowie knives, actors wave flashlights and spew spit as venomous line flow. Brabantio’s personal crisis quickly swings to a military problem and back to a personal one. The Turkish invasion serves two purposes – it moves the action out of Venice, giving Iago more maneuvering room, and it gives a good excuse for a sheet metal rattling thunderstorm, all the more intense for it’s resonance in the intimate Goldman theater. There’s the curious mix of old and new we have some to expect from this troupe- stylish hats of all ages flitter across stage, hairstyle range from Bob Marley to Betty page, and Desdemona even sports some 16th century Capri pants. The acting is brilliant, as always – conniving Eric Hissom emits genuine evil rays, Bumbling Rodrigo (Chris Taylor) captures the innocence of a rich idiot in love, and Becky Fisher puts life into the variety of supporting roles that always keep the stage alive in Elizabethan drama. Best of all is Pritchard’s Othello, standing nearly a head above everyone on stage and showing his pectorals at every opportunity. He IS a mighty man; brought down by treachery and deceit, and denied the one thing he deserves most – the perception that he is loved.

For more information on UCF-Shakespeare, visit > http://www.shakespearefest.org/

Batboy – The Musical

Story and Book by Keythe Farley and Brian Fleming

Music and Lyric by Laurence O’Keefe

Directed by Anne Hering

Starring Kurt Jenkins, Tal Yardeni, Jeff Lindberg, Zinnia Ortiz

Valencia Character Company, Orlando, Fla.</b><p>

You’ve got to love a full-blown musical based on a tabloid front page and jokes about black lung disease. Deep in a cave in West Virginia, Gollum like Batboy (Jenkins) survives on a diet of God know what, until one day the redneck Taylor family discovers him while spelunking. They haul him to the surface and turn him over to Dr. Parker (Lindberg). He’s in favor of putting batboy down, but his wife Meredith (Yardeni) and daughter Shelley (Ortiz) beg for mercy. In only a few love duets and production numbers, he’s speaking with a clipped English accent and the townsfolk STILL hate him. Sure, they think he’s killed all the cattle in town, but that’s just a plot point that only would happen in a musical. Batboy longs for acceptance and to attend the big tent revival. He comes down the aisle first, but despite a sincere conversion they run him out of town anyway. That’s show biz – once you make the cover of the Enquirer, no one in the trailer park will do lunch anymore.<p>

There’s a lot of fun and a lot of technical issues in this show. When you can hear the singing, the plot zips along and you skate right up to the edge of believability. But when the ensemble numbers get everyone on stage, barley a word is audible. I think it’s the mikes and the mix, but it was a huge problem opening night. The cast is great – Jenkins’ Batboy has and energy and flexibility to leap like a bat at the drop of a director’s command. Both Yardeni and Ortiz have great voices, and there may be others lurking in the mix as well. Lindberg as Dr. Parker was a bit over the top – he looked like he was about to plie at every opportunity, which I see as a bit unusual in a small town vet. Great support came form Daniel Villanow as Reverend Hightower and Mom Taylor, as well as lanky David Almeida as the local sheriff.<p>

While the story has way more plot than a typical musical, the thrust is simple – an innocent monster is saved from damnation, and still rejected by society. He runs off with the only person who sees thought his disfigurement, and they attend an inexplicable animal orgy hosted by Pan (Kyle Lacertosa). Sure – why not? We are in the tabloid demimonde. Things need not make any sort of sense, just so long as they are eye catching. Thank you Photoshop, for giving us the newspapers on the checkout line. We love ‘em!<p>

Cabaret
By Joe Masteroff, Fred Ebb, and John Kander

Directed by Ray Hatch

Starring Brett Dault, Olivia Haine, Rob Guest, Jr.

JCC, Maitland Fla.</b><P>

You could never accuse artistic director Art Krulick of not taking chances after the current production of Cabaret. For those of you who missed it in the past, struggling author Cliff Bradshaw (Guest) heads to Berlin to find his muse, or at least some cheap digs. After a tough negotiation with landlady Fraulein Schneider (Brigitte Hill), he moves into her rooming house and bordello for a measly 50 marks a week and hooks up with sexy Sally Bowles (Haine). Cash is always short, and a friendly offer form Ernst Ludwig (Larry Stalling) results in a high paying job smuggling cash for the Nazi’s, who are rising but still not in control of Der Vaterland. It’s distasteful, but not as bad as letting Sally do what she excels at – singing in the sleazy Kit Kat club. Kit Kat is full of scantly clad girls and managed by the pasty and ambiguous M.C. (Dault). Eventually Sally “Gets In Trouble,” as we used to say, and Cliff decides things are getting too hot for him to stick around, so there’s only one thing left – the Big Number.<p>

I thought this show was a bit uncomfortable – it’s disconcerting to see members of the Jewish Community center strutting around with swastika armbands and giving the Nazi salute in perfect unison. The dancing girls seemed a bit uncomfortable as well – they’re all nice girls, squatting and spreading in torn fishnet stockings, and faking crotch grabbing when called for, but looking like they’d rather so something else in case Nana is in the audience. The singing covers the board – Sally’s big number “Cabaret” comes off fine, as does Dault’s “I Don’t Care”, but Fraulein Schneider is almost impossible to hear, particularly in her opener “So What?” Director Hatch has eschewed microphones, possibly for artistic reasons, possible for budget ones, but a little amplification would have go a long way on the lesser voices. Supporting cast worked very well, particularly Larry Stalling as Ernst Ludwig, and Guest and Haine had good chemistry on their duet “Perfectly Marvelous”.<p>

While the show had some serious technical flaws, it’s always fun to see the JCC shows. They have the toughest audiences in town, and today we witnessed someone seriously trying to grab the fake money tossed out by the M.C. during “Sitting Pretty”. There is a 7-piece band accompanying the show, and they do an excellent job of capturing the atmosphere of a European clip joint. As I’ve always been told, NEVER go into an establishment that calls itself an “American Bar”. It will be much more expensive and less entertaining than this cast.<p>

Far Away

Written by Caryl Churchill

Directed by David Lee

Starring Beth Marshal, Mike Marinaccio, Michelle Sims

Mad Cow Theater</b><p>

Well, if this isn’t the most extravagant display of minimalism I’ve ever seen! A prop or two, the scattered actor, occasional lighting cues, that’s all that graces the slate gray stage in this mysterious analogy for WWII or some similar conflict. Act One opens with a sleepy Aunt Harper (Beth Marshall) quelling the fears of her visiting niece Joan (Kelsey Billingsley). The scream was just an owl; the blood from a run-over dog, and Uncle beating children in the shed was only a traitor’s punishment. By the second act, Joan has matured (Michele Sims) and develops a low-keyed romance with co-worker Todd (Marinaccio) at the fascist hat factory. They spend days producing beautiful hats for funerary parades and bemoaning the corruption of the system. How corrupt IS the system? By act 3 both are in the war, and when they defect to meet for a single day, the entire relationship collapses on the political wrangling of French and Cats, Russians and Elephants, and even the river refuses to give a clear enough explanation of its politics to trust swimming across.<p>

In the claustrophobic space of Mad Cows new Stage Right we find a play NOT for the faint of heart or the absurdist-challenged viewer. Churchill seems to reach in to the heart of Pinter or Beckett, and pull out the pulsating ‘What the heck was that?’ ventricle. Veteran theatergoers I sat next to weren’t even clear if the curtain call was the end of the show, or merely a prelude to explanations. It’s food for thought and a silent drive home, forgoing the usual après theatre snack or drink. Not exactly depressing, not exactly enlightening, “Far Away” reeks of the dissolution and decay best grasped in a Dali painting, a painting made during his painful impotence era. There’s a noteworthy cast pulling this all together, and I appreciate the intellectual challenge, but for God’s sake, don’t bring your elderly aunt – she’d much prefer the blatant sexuality on the next stage over.<p>

I Love you, You’re Perfect, Now Change

Music By Jim Roberts

Book and Lyric by Joe DiPietro

Directed by Michael Edwards

Winter Park Playhouse

Winter Park, Fla.</b><P>

Admit it – you’ve dated. Or at least you acted like you did, just for appearance sake. And when or if you did, things began down a fairly predicable path – first date, second date, next thing you’re a grandparent boring the kids with your reminiscences. It’s all part of God’s plan, and an endless source of amusement to all those who aren’t involved in YOUR personal relationship, like the enthusiastic audience at this revival of WPPH’s clever and engaging musical of last fall. We need men and woman to date, and the guys are provided by artistic director Roy Alan and his golden-voiced counterpart Patrick Brandt. Female logistical support arrives in the guise of the sultry blonde Heather Alexander, and her dark haired competition Colleen Renee Wilson. <p>

The tunes are Broadway pop stylings, opening with Cantata For A First Date. Everyone arrives on stage in white robes and clean undies, running a bit late and dressing for the first meeting of Someone Special. It’s a cheap voyeuristic thrill, but it forces us to reflect all the work we go thought to meet someone who may turn out to be a complete loser. Following the opener is funny bit about two people who are so busy they decide to forgot the second through 5th date, the sex, and the first argument, and go right to the awkward One Year Later chance meeting. And you thought Starbucks was fast…<p>

Well, dating’s not all roses and sweat, and the who gamut of sex driven silliness passes across stage – overenthusiastic parents, painful drives to meet the relatives, and long term stresses and stains building up and pushing couples apart. All provides fodder to the humor mill, and there’s even a Card Girl who sashays out to place cardboard sing on an easel for each number. She looked a bit iffy on here heels, but never ever did fall into the front row. Sometimes dating IS a bit of a boxing match, and sometimes it’s even fun, but in the WPPH world, it’s always an entertaining evening, even if you come alone.<p>

Private Lives

By Noel Coward

Directed by Patrick Flick

Orlando UCF Shakespear Festival, Orlando Fla.</b><P>

Every death simplifies someone’s life, but the same can’t be said for divorce. Elyot (Eric Hissom) and Amanda (Mindy Anders) split in a crockery-smashing crescendo suitable for an early Sophia Loren Movie. Each has moved on to even less suitable partners. Amanda married Victor Prynne (Timothy Williams), a stuffed shirt of the first water. Elyot hooked up with flapper ditz Sybil (Sarah Hankins), a bleached blonde with a voice that makes chewing tinfoil a pleasure. This is only mildly interesting until they end up in adjacent honeymoon suits in France, and the old flame re-ignites, like smoldering rags soaked in linseed oil. Absence may make the heart grow fonder, but close proximity makes the battles more interesting, and before long the pair has run off to a secret apartment in Paris where they cycle between love and hate and vitriol on a 5 minute period. Is this a relationship that can be saved, or can any of them be saved? Sure, we’re on stage and divorce lawyers fees are negligible, so everyone gets a girl except the French maid Louise (Andrea Coleman) who just sputters and fumes and makes the audience either wish they had paid attention on high school French, or realize they really ARE at sophisticated theater event.<p>

Funny? Heck, yeah, the cast of Private Lives puts plenty of sparks into this 1930 farce. True, divorce is not the shame it was when my mother grew up, but the situations are still fresh and the cast adept at playing them for the maximum in physical comedy. Hissom looks completely suave with his tuxedo and boyish sprig of black hair permanently glued to his forehead. There’s a sexual chemistry between him and the coolly elegant Anders that drives the action forward. Sarah Hankins, long known as the local Shakespearian Scream Queen, extends her voice work into the incredibly annoying Sybil, alternating between a girlish squeak and a hacking laugh. You’ll be glad you never woke up next to her after a three-night bender in Boca Raton. Even Tim William’s stiffness works wonders against Anders volatility – they say opposites attract, but not for more than a few months.<p>

It’s good to see a more sophisticated yet accessible comedy cross this stage. The language is straightforward, almost all the jokes are still funny, and there’s more slapstick here than might be surmised from the script. I can’t imagine that Elyot and Amanda would ever have any peace in real lives, but they only exist for three shows and a matinee each week, and we need not look at them as role models, only as the people we agree glad we haven’t become. Waiter! Another round of Manhattans here! And bring an extra cherry! Thanks. Anyone got a light?<p>


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