Rent By Jonathan Larson
Directed by Lees Halstead
Starring Adam Galarza, Adam McCabe, Anan Bateman, Wyatt Glover
G.O.A.T. Theatre at the Orlando Shakes
On an ice-cold Florida night we all shuffled into an equally cold theatre to experience life on the hard streets of 1990’s New York. The bohemians are squatting in lofts, ashamed of daddy’s money and determined to make art on their own. The homeless camp next door, beautiful and glorious as an abstract concept, but prone to pooping on your door step in reality. Besides the bad weather, AIDS ravages the group and there’s no cure insight. Mark (Galarza) shoots low priced art film and Roger (McCabe) play guitar well enough to get the occasional unpaid gig. Their ex-roomie Benjamin (Michael Osowski) now owns the building and will forgive the rent if they get Performance Artist Maureen (Lana Stevens) to cancel her protest supporting the homeless camp. Roger conditionally falls in love with exotic dancer Angel (Bateman) but her addiction repels him as he realizes how much fun a junkie girl friend can be, but Tom (Glover) falls for drag queen Angel (Josh Roth) until death does them part.
This rambling remake of La Bohème with AIDS wanders around plot-wise but the performances and music overcome any deficiencies in the text. Everyone, including the cell phone toting chorus of Alphabet City residents, gets at least one great song and sometimes two. Glover participates in the tender and positive “Santa Fe” as well as the funeral oratorio “Goodbye Love” which had audience members crying on each other’s shoulders. Angel’s opener “You OK Honey?” nearly stopped the show, and everyone pulled together for the signature tune “Seasons of Love”. On the performances side, Stevens was perfect as the self centered performance artist of “Over the Moon” which including the only actual moon I’ve ever seen in the Shakes. McCabe and Bateman’s love duet “Light my Candle” made you cheer for their romance even if McCabe looked too healthy to be a real junkie. Late in the show she has the near death experience but gets rejected by heaven, making the romance even more precious.
Sometimes this show feels like Grand Opera, sometimes like Hair, and sometimes like a SNL skit, but it always has plenty of heart. The G.O.A.T.’s got kicked out of their regular space due to inaccurate wall placement in their restrooms, and they were lucky to get to squat in the Goldman for a few weeks. Having averted last minute cancelation, they pulled the show into the new space and presented a very professional if darkly lit production. The sound was well miked and while microphones aren’t essential in the Goldman Theatre, it’s better to pad the sound down than strain to hear it. “Rent” is another in a series of ambitious and well presented shows by this exciting company, and gave a fresh and interesting start to the New Year.
For more information on Greater Orlando Actor’s Theatre, please visit http://http://www.goatgroup.com/