Number 48: Hurricane Season 2005 Edition

Number 48: Hurricane Season 2005 Edition

Hot, sweaty, and great! In the middle of summer, I don’t have to go to bed until sun set. Hurray! The only down side id you have to mow nearly every day. But remember, many Orlando theaters are AIR CONDITIONED. Take advantage…

The Oldest Profession
Written by Paula Vogel
Directed by Douglas E Houston
Theater Downtown, Orlando Fla.

So where to old prostitutes end up? More than a few make it into management, like Madam Mea (Pat Barker). She’s kept her stable of girls together from the early days in Storeyville, bringing them to NYC when New Orleans cleaned itself up. The years haven’t been kind to them or their clientele, but the work is steady and a certain camaraderie infuses the women and the johns, even when money is tight. Watching over them is a patron saint of sorts, the incarnation of happy memories of earlier times, the Angle of Story Vile (Penny Lotoza.) As the Reagan years unfold, costs go up, clients become fewer, and each woman leaves this harsh world to climb that brightly lighted stairway to Hooker Heaven. Eventually only kind hearted Vera (Joan Gay) remains, living on the street and gently starving to death. When she expires, the old world is gone, replaced by the drug addled alley girls and STD. It’s a fall from grace, mimicing “Titus Andronicus,” but with sex replacing the cannibalism.

“Oldest Profession” is funny and fluffy entertainment, brought to life through clearly defined women and their storng positve roles. Mae is the queen of the old guard, feisty and defensive, and bound by the traditions and mores of a wanton woman with pride. Hot on her heels is the proactive and capitalistic Ursula (Gloria Duggan). When Ursula inherits the business, she applies modern management methods, wringing efficiency from ever more obsolescent capital equipment. Lillian (Sara Benz Phillips) is the most lady-like, a Southern Belle who would be as much at home in a diplomatic reception as in a 3-way. Edna (Genie Lindberg) and Vera aren’t that bright, but both enjoy the time they spend with clients, and realize what role they fulfill in men’s life, even when the sex itself becomes a distant memory.

While the first act is riddled with out of date NYC references, there are a steady stream of genuine laughs generated deep in the heart of an audience that huddles in the cool recess of the theater. After we dash out for refreshment though the Central Florida humidity, we come back to an increasingly human and fulfilling story of camaraderie, caring, and even more laughs. Sure, we all end up old, wrinkly, and eventually deceased, but if you have enough fun on the way, it’s the best you can hope for.

For more information, please visit www.theatredowntown.net

Play In A Day – Mistaken Identity

Presented By The Central Florida Performing Arts Alliance

Orlando UCF Shakespeare Center, Orlando, Fl.

It’s been a few years since we’ve had a “Play In A Day” event around here. That’s a shame, as it allows our local writers, performers and directors to show what they can do under pressure, and they did well this past Friday the 16th. The premise is simple – a few authors are chosen and given a theme, then in 12 hours they pound out a script, and toss it over the fence to a director. The director gets another 12 hours to cast, rehearse, and block the show. There’s no room for errors, as the audience is sitting there waiting.

While there IS a theme, no one checks to closely as to the authenticity of it, but that a minor point. We open with the creepy “The Thief of Identity” (written by David Lee and directed by Christian Kelty”) A women (Penny Latoza) is lead on stage, bound and blindfolded. As her interrogator (Mike Marinaccio) asks disjoint and unconnected questions, an electric shock jolts her body and is mimicked by an even creepier cellist. Is it a terrorist related atrocity, or a weird sex game? You know how I would vote.

Next comes the playlet hewing closest to the theme – “The Indeterminate Man” (written by David McElroy, directed by Alan Bruun.) A young couple (Tyler Cravens, Melissa Mason) hopes to wed in the Catholic Church, but a previous divorce makes this a remote possibility. The buzz at their apartment door might be the scruffy Father O’Shea (Don Fowler) on his way to investigate. He’s not too interested in the details of past relations, but will bless them for a glass of water, a shot of brandy, and a warm rest room. It seems this is written specifically for Fowler as it allows him full range of his comedic Irish talents, and he build slowly forma stumbling drunk to an impassioned speaker reviling the narrow mindedness of the Church Militant. While the story skates dangerously close to the maudlin at the end, we are rescued, as the dear Father returns for another shot.

In a bold and unusual move, local composer Todd Kimbro (aided by director Julia Gagne) set out to compose a musical in his allotted 12 hours. You hear about people composing hits in an hour or two, but I suspect it generally takes longer. What Kimbro produced was one, long complicated duet that ran through a whole range of emotions. Aided by two excellent singers Rob Berliner and Natalie Cordone, we experienced what might well be the blow out number for a big time musical. Rumor has it there was no written music, and the singer learned the song by ear. Amazing.

Local Fringe maestro Beth Marshall aided by director John DiDonna provide a sexy romance with “The Moment”. Two people meet on the internet, and even a 4th grade teacher can have a sex life as she comes on strong to Chris Gibson. Sure, internet dating has a stigma, but the sparks can fly as the two hit it off until a neat surprise twist ruins everybody’s sex life. Yup, you neve know who you might meet in cyber space.

John Goring takes another look at the French Revolution, one of his favorite topics, with “Just a Flesh Wound” (directed by Tim DeBaun) The aristocracy has done something or another to upset the servants, and they are ready, will and able to discuss the best way of eliminating the upper class. Shall it be a cleaver, drowning, defenestration, or just speaking bad French to them? The last is certainly the cruelest, and when a knife goes awry, it’s the staff, as always, who takes it hardest.

Bridging all these wonderful little tales are a number of loosely related dances numbers by Voci, a group that never fails to intrigue and entertain. While the always start with a bit of a story, it’s just a kick off to some fluid movement, leaving the issues of sexually confused hypocritical spirit dabblers hanging. Still, they liven up the set changes, and make a much more interesting sight than stage hands setting chairs on bright green tape marks. All of these stories are worth seeing again, perhaps in some other longer festival. With the overall high quality of writing, acting and directing exhibited, another one of these micro marathons should appear soon.

For more information on the Central Florida Arts Alliance, please visit www.orlandoperforms.org

8th Annual Summer Shorts
Playwrights Round Table
Valencia Community College East and Theater Downtown

When it’s this hot out, it’s best to work on small jobs. Local writers cabal PRT attacks the form with its 8th summer short play festival. In an open call, they chose 7 scripts from 60 plus submissions, and present them at both Valencia East’s Black Box, and the more centrally located Theater Downtown.

“Puffer” (written by Terry McMurray, directed by Janet Raskin) is a wordy little study of a mismatched relation put to the test by an aggressive sushi waitress. Tiffy (Marcie Schwalm) chatters away, while simultaneously listening into every conversation around her and commenting on other women’s clothing. Her closed mouth husband Trevor (Tony DeMil) lives in his own world, ignoring the others but interested in the waitress (Diorama Ortiz). Is she coming on, or just flirting? Trevor fakes death by fugu (The famous yet deadly Japanese delicacy – I swear, they’ll eat ANYTHING over there.) When Tiffy storms out, Trevor offers to date the waitress, but she spurns him. It’s an interesting piece, well done even if the ending is not that satisfying.

Next we experience the incomprehensible “Anti-matter” (written by Joseph Baron-Pravda, directed by Mike Leclair). Its break time in the teachers lounge, and the Freshman Physics teacher (Mick Leclair) is grading papers. He meets the Senior Econ teacher (Linda Durre), and they launch into a rambling discussion of some of the open questions in modern astrophysics and chaos theory. Interestingly, most of the dialog is performed with one or both of the actors impersonating famous actors and cartoon characters. The impersonations are a bit weak, but they thoughtfully say things like “nice Brando impression” to help us out. At the end, we were neither enlightened nor moved.

The strongest piece follows, “The World’s greatest Hypnotist” (Written by Chuck Dent, directed by Bob Lipka.) Schultzie (James Zelly) lives in the state pen, and pretty much runs the place. He and his skinhead buddies messed up a drive by shooting and a few of them were killed. His new cell mate Murphy (Bill Welter) arrives, and the guard (Bret Carson) admonishes “This one’s got to last”. Murphy is a damn good hypnotist, and he’s in to seek vengeance. Both actors deliver scary, believable performances, and the fight scene looks pretty authentic as well. Murphy gets what he wants, and when the guard fails to lock the cell door, you immediately see how this works.

“Therapy” (written by Michael Garvey, directed by Margaret Nolan) explores the world of a young woman interested in Physical Therapy. Although she has strict instructions not to touch patients, Carolyn (Nicole Carson) begins to work over injured Mitch (Daniel Oser), forcing him to bend his knee farther than intended. It’s a bit uncomfortable for both him and the audience, but he’s a tough guy and we’re there to be challenged. When the supervisor (Jill Bevan) return, she takes control of the situation, but Mitch is happy with the treatment. It’s cute, a bit kinky, and draws you in, just like a good story should.

“Digging Into Glass” (written by John Goring, directed by Frank Siano) takes us backstage with a low level production of a Tennessee Williams play. Weak willed Rob (Kane Prestenback) has a casting problem – he’s made his live in girlfriend, Becca (Emily Ocheltree) the lead, but she’s perennially late, and might not be as good as catty Casey (Nichole Urban.) One of them has to go, and he tried to make nice while the woman have a brilliant verbal dual about the crummy careers awaiting each other. I’ve gotten just enough exposure to this process to appreciate the humor, as you will.

It takes a minute or two to get what’s happening in “The House Across the Street” (written and directed by Larry Stallings). German Police detective Victor (Daniel Cooksley) has crossed into France in hot pursuit of a murderer, and needs to borrow the window of Isabel’s (Jennifer Goodson) living room. Neither speaks the other’s language, but they make progress, and a romance might be budding. Isabel’s friend Celeste (Nicole O’Donnell) has decent German and explains a few things to each, and even gets some right. Maybe something good will happen, until Victor’s partner Ernst (Stallings) arrives, and in the end no one gets anywhere. You really want them to date, but they fail, just as their two homelands.

Our last piece is anther Jack McGrath identity theft story, “If You Were Me”. White trash Brenda (Nicole Carson) and her husband David (Brett Carson) track whoever stole David’s identity by the thief’s purchases. Time Share salesman Jason (Mark M Daniel) drops by for signatures on the Las Vegas week, only to be ditched by his employer for not closing fast enough. It’s a topic on everyone’s mind, and you’d almost think Brenda and Dave were actully married in real life. And Jason? He’s slick, animated, and had me convinced not to talk to him about money.

It’s always amazing how much you can cram into 10 well chosen minutes, and these shows are well worth seeing.

For more information on Playwright’s Round Table, visit
www.playwrightsroundtable.org

Our Town
By Thornton Wilder
Directed by Katrina Ploof
Mad Cow Theater, Orlando, Fla.

A morbid fascination with the minutia of daily life infuses our culture. How else to explain reality TV, or this perennial favorite drama of small town ennui? Its 5:49 a.m., 1901, in one of those sleepy, self satisfied New England towns that dot Christmas cards and shopping mall calendars. Life is waking up, and Stage Manager Peg O’Keefe stashes the ghost light as we enter, and calls forth the denizens of semi-mythical Grover’s Corners, NH. Doc Gibbs (Mark Edward Smith) returns from the quaintly ethnic side of town, having delivered twins in exchange for a few stuffed cabbage rolls yet to be named. His son George (Craig Weiskerger) shirks his chores, plays baseball, and dreams of the back breaking life of a farmer, plowing fields of Devonian granite plutons. He’s in love with shy, retiring, and intelligent Emily Webb (Sara French), daughter of the town journalist Mr. Webb (Tommy Keesling). There future is to wed, and she to die in childbirth. Of course, we all owe God a death, and when we settle up, He gives us a Windsor chair in the cemetery atop the hill so we can exchange slow gossip about the living until judgment day.

Yeah, you can cut the dramatic tension with a beach ball, but that’s not the charm of the piece. As in any good Ideal Town, everyone pitches in to support and gossip about their fellow man and woman. And as in any good Mad Cow production, polished performers deliver tight well crafted portrayal of people we all left the North to avoid. A stern Peg O’Keefe keeps things moving along, pacing scenes and introducing background data with the authority of a New England Preacher. Gentle people fill the town, like the gentle milkman (John Gamber) and his invisible horse. Keesling and Whiskered have a wonderful little scene where they both flounder feebly, seeking some common ground in their new relation. Settling on chicken farming rather than sex, they accurately capture the awkwardness of two men transacting a woman’s fate – both would rather it be over, and not have to think about the details. Mark Edwards Smith sums up the most subtle issues of small town life, they of Pillar of The Community. His power far exceeds his notional duties, and he’s on call 24 hours a day. He shows the love of community must take precedence over love his own.

We all end up in the graveyard on top of a hill, where the dead have the best views in town. Wilder brings life in full circle here, birth, marriage, and death and leaves some subtle messages. Enjoy what you have while you have it, life is transient and arbitrary, and in the long run, education gets you just as dead as stupidity. That’s Reality Theater, and it gets a standing ovation.

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

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