Archikulture Digest

2008 New Works Festival

2008 New Works Festival

Orlando GLBT Theatre Festival

At Mad Cow Theatre, Orlando, Fl</strong>

Another festival has appeared on Orlando’s burgeoning Theatre Festival calendar. This one goes by the name of the Orlando GLBT Theatre Festival, and focuses on the Gay, Lesbian, Bi and Trans Sexual life style. (Always define acronyms the first time they are used. It’s polite.) While this festival had some grand plans, the mechanical details have cut its scope severely; the 10 Minute New Works segment is pretty much all that appeared in the debut. But that alone justifies the project; John DiDonna pulled together an exciting program that drew an enthusiastic opening night audience for a staged reading of 7 new plays from all over the country.

Opening the roll call was Baby Summer (Ms. Michael Ramirez, directed by Margret Nolan). Bev (Heather Wilkie) and Champie (Tiffany Weagly) adopted an infant they found on the subway, and now it’s the kid’s 7th birthday. Bev wants to tell the child the bitter truth, and Champie leans toward creating a fantasy family tree for the child. The story is touching and obviously both parents love the child. There lies the problem, there’s really not much conflict, making the piece feel more like a vignette or small scene from a bigger story.

Quickly following we see Daniel(le) (Asher Wyndham, directed by Lester Malizia). This monolog has drag queen Danielle (Nicholas Wuerhmann) reflecting on a half century of dressing up, entertaining, and facing her mortality. It begins as a brilliant comedy and gradually transitions to a touching swan song as we find Daniel’s days are numbered. Weurhmann’s acting was superb, and I’d love to see this done as a full production.

The Boileroom (Bill Cosgriff, directed by Seth Kubersky) introduces us to chatty Craig (Kevin Kriegel) and taciturn Anthony (Michael Marinaccio) as they banter in a gay bar. Craig is a pro at this; Anthony has just popped over from Staten Island and is in need of a seminar on pickup etiquette as both navigate the mine field of convenient lies that indicate their relation may never sail smoothly. The characters are well drawn and funny, but the piece fades out with an indefinite ending. A tighter resolution or expansion to a full length seems reasonable, but either way, the audience agrees – Marinaccio has a cute hiney.

There’s a darker turn in Godfrey (Ian August, directed by John DiDonna). Godfrey (DiDonna) wakes up on a sidewalk after a competent butt kicking. He walked out of a bar in Greenwich Village, and wasn’t expecting anything like this. One of his lesser injuries is a missing tooth, but that’s enough to get some two bit help from Jessica Pawli. She might be wacko, but she gets Godfrey cleaned up enough to carry on. The premise is cute, but this isn’t a “ha-ha” comedy, after all someone got the shit kicked out of him.

We could use an intermission about now to visit that creepy guy in the men’s room that gives you hand soap and towels (am I the only person who finds men’s room attendants unsettling?) Instead, its time for Kids R Us (Josh Levine, Directed by Rob Ward). Mattie (Jimmy Moore) and Andrew (Blake Logan) are committed partners, but it’s a mixed relation – Andrew makes latkes and lights the menorah, Mattie wants a pine tree with twinkly lights. Mattie is the pushy one, he brings home an audio animatronic Suzy Doll (Gina DeRoma). Susy is a typical 5 year old, demanding and not completely open about potty time. Logan’s Andrew makes it pretty clear that he and bubbly Mattie still have a few issues. My opinion is NEVER have a kid to save a faltering relation.

Songs My Brother Sang (Myra Slotnick, directed by Laura Lipmann) brings us back to the AIDS quilt, a fabric document that attempts to capture the death toll of the past decades. Abby (Jessica Miano Kruel) visits to check up on her departed brother Peter, and a fastidious Docent (Ryan Dowd Urch) fusses about as she drinks, smokes, and spreads ashes of Peter’s favorite pet. Peter’s old buddy Marcus (Corey Volence) drops by before Abby breaks down in the arms of the Docent. Abby’s character never generates much sympathy, and even though she insults the Docent grievously, he’s still there for her.

Wrapping up the evening is a perfect Tim DeBaun story, This Functional Family (Tait Moline, directed by Chad Lewis). It’s next Sunday, A.D., and Carson (Steve Johnson) is waiting for his prom date to pick him up. Father Vern (DeBaun) fusses about singing show tunes and offering advice while Uber Mom Wilma (Janine Klein) lectures about condoms and drugs and little sister Rachel (Kyla Swanberg) fumes about recycling. When Kelly (Chris McIntyre) shows up, the fuss reaches a crescendo and Carson does what all smart teens do in this situation – he bolts out the door. DeBaun’s apron is charming and the scenario bespeaks a more tolerant world, but the recycling lecture is unnecessary and the dated political references take this from Timeless to Out-Of-Date.

The Orlando GLBT Theatre Festival has some real potential and some enthusiastic worker bees. This group may take a year or two to find its groove, but it’s exactly the sort of thing that makes Orlando Theater exciting. They’ve got a Mission Statement and all that regalia, but I have high hopes they can overcome that vestige of 80’s management speak and become another New Playfest or Caberetfest.

For more information on the Orlando GLBT Theater festival, please visit www.glbttheatrefest.com


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