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10/14/2009

The Arts

Culture 2 Go

 

It’s a cold world after all
Lifestyle
Through Nov. 7 at Bold Hype
1844 E. Winter Park Road
407-629-2965
www.boldhype.net
Free 

Remarkable photography is on display at Bold Hype Gallery, where artists Corey Arnold, Peter Beste and Joe Conzo reveal an inspiring sense of humanity through portraits of Norwegian dark-metal musicians, hip-hop figures and Bronx tenements, and fishermen set against the majestic beauty of the Arctic. These powerful, unmanipulated images bring visions of disparate parts of mankind into sharp focus for contemplation.

Arnold, a Portland, Ore., resident who was in town for the Oct. 10 opening, is working his way, Michener-style, through the commercial fishing world. Humans in the frigid Bering Sea come across as out-of-place and absurd: swinging at a birthday piñata, wearing a Halloween horse costume, or lying prone and partly buried in a ship’s hold crawling with giant crabs, as in “Opilio Bed.” “Icy Bow” and “The Birds,” without the human figure, are startlingly clear images that deeply involve the viewer in the Arctic experience; such is Arnold’s gift that his photographs transcend mere documentation and have an iconic, almost spiritual quality.

Conzo, who also attended the opening, has photographed the Bronx and the hip-hop scene for more than 30 years, and has brought to Orlando some of his best. In the 1980 photo titled “Fort Apache,” Paul Newman looks irately at the camera – Conzo’s grandmother organized the protest against the filming of Fort Apache, the Bronx in the neighborhood. The Bronx’s wasteland-defiant position comes alive in “Charlotte Street,” in which several buildings have been burned down to express the residents’ rage against urban meaninglessness. The brick structure, occupied on the left, ends in the hollow, skull-like eye sockets of a burned-out tenement displaying a huge Puerto Rican flag. The language of the photo expresses great pathos about the people inhabiting an impossible situation.

Beste, in an anthropological journey into the world’s underground metal cultures, presents the ritualistic, fetish-oriented Norwegian dark-metal subculture, in which ancient folklore combined with rejection of Norway’s homogenous Christian culture has resulted in self-imposed suffering and the creation of an alternative world. Hardly street art in the American urban sense, these individuals inhabit the forest or small towns – Norway’s close-knit culture is such that “Kvitrafn of Wardruna” probably knows the woman staring at him from the left side of the image – yet the two coexist on the street in two different worlds. In “Gaahl Walking Away From His Grandparents’ Cabin,” the loneliness and solitude are profound. 

Rex Thomas

Not so agile
Picasso at the Lapin Agile
Through Oct. 17 at Greater Orlando Actors Theatre, 669 Cherry St.
407-872-8451
www.goatgroup.com
$15

Picasso at the Lapin Agile, the new Greater Orlando Actors Theatre’s latest show, feels slightly off. But it isn’t until the last character in the Steve Martin–penned (yes, that Steve Martin) comedy rushes out of a side door in an avalanche of smoke that we see why.

As “The Visitor,” pointedly warning everyone at the legendary Montmartre bar to “watch out for the shoes” in a broad Southern twang, lanky Joe Glass wears an over-the-top wig – and, weirdly, tan suede shoes. It’s just one detail, but in an exquisitely balanced postmodern piece like this, it helps tip the balance away from what Martin intended – an elegant sketch that toys with 20th-century modernist ideals.

It’s not the only time this Picasso at the Lapin Agile, directed by Ashland Thomas, shows its lack of agility. Each of the 11 characters in the play, Martin’s first full-length effort and a success after its 1993 Chicago debut, is symbolic. Picasso (Kevin Sigman) and Einstein (Adam Shorts-Boarman), represent genius – art and science, respectively – on the brink of a major breakthrough on this evening in 1904. Around them revolves an illuminating group of admirers, lovers and leeches (most amusingly greedy art dealer Sagot, played magnificently by E.J. Younes).

On the very edge of that constellation is one of Lapin Agile’s most interesting characters. As Schmendiman, Joshua Roth is pitch-perfect, a brash, self-assured huckster who feels that he is the next new thing. Ironically, he is: crass commercialism.

As Germaine, the sassy, sensible barmaid, Ashley Evelyn Hoven balances the old order – elderly Gaston (Lou Buffetta), constantly tottering to the loo – and the young stars, poised to soar as they do, gratifyingly, in the play’s transcendent final scene. The perfect postmodern symbol, Germaine predicts the future (sometimes truly, sometimes not) and makes references that were unknown in 1904.

Picasso at the Lapin Agile needs to be nimble; anything clumsy hobbles it, making it stumble into the contrived and obvious. GOAT’s production is heartfelt and often funny, but too often merely predictable. It mistakes witty bons mots for LOL jokes and gentle verbal sparring for slapstick. When barman Freddy (Scott Mills) casually asks Einstein some simple math questions and Einstein tosses off the correct answers, Freddy shifts from a genial foil into a caricature of a man out to prove a genius wrong, then an overly awed admirer.

Entertaining but heavy, this production – though promising and sometimes genuinely sweet – needs to step back, drop the schtick and lighten up. It needs to sing and dance.

Laura Stewart

Previously Reviewed

Getting what you deserve
Oleanna
Through Oct. 11 at Mandell Theater, Lowndes Shakespeare Center, 812 E. Rollins St.
407-328-9005
www.emptyspacestheatre.org
$20

Considered one of David Mamet’s most provocative and controversial dramas, Oleanna is a work in which the inability of people to communicate effectively with one another becomes the root cause of personal and professional damage. It’s also a play that examines the power relationships between teacher and student, adult and child, and man and woman. When originally produced in the early 1990s, it resonated with the smoldering fires of the feminist movement and became a flashpoint in the never-ending battle between the sexes.

Under the direction of John DiDonna, a current production of Oleanna by the Empty Spaces Theatre Co. is still a riveting drama between two confrontational characters, even though the passage of time has somewhat diffused its sizzling political import. Veteran Orlando actor Dennis Neal plays John, a rather pedantic but by all appearances entirely conventional college professor who is attempting to achieve the security of tenure, while attending to the needs of his students as well as family matters. As written by Mamet and played by Neal, John is the adult in the room – empathetic, congenial and professional.

Trenell Mooring performs the character of Carol, his emotionally wounded pupil who, in the opening scenes, acts out the pain of a severely injured self-image via childish tantrums and incoherent rants. While John attempts to mentor Carol, her responses to his ministrations appear completely at odds with his intentions; she even goes so far as to accuse him of sexual harassment because he put his hands on her shoulders to calm her. By the dénouement, Carol has succeeded in skewing the healthy norms of master and subordinate, destroying John’s dreams of tenure with her accusations of impropriety. And nothing the man has said or done warrants the result that he must now accept.

Mamet is not interested in presenting us with an ambiguous situation in which both characters have equally sympathetic points of view. What the playwright wishes to convey is that within any social or political zeitgeist, truth is dependent upon how the winds of thought and belief are blowing that particular day. So while cloaked in the agenda of feminism and anti-elitism, Carol’s lust for power is really the same age-old fight between those who believe they are on the bottom and those who seem to be on top. As always, oppression is in the eye of the beholder and justice is ever a fickle maid.

–Al Krulick

Women working together
A Confluence
Through Nov. 1 at Maitland Art Center, 231 W. Packwood Ave., Maitland
407-539-2181
www.maitlandartcenter.org
$5

While mortgages, money and men occupied many of our minds this stressful summer, four women retreated into themselves and created A Confluence.  Brigan Gresh, Vicki Jones, Dina Mack and Anna McCambridge’s self-imposed seclusion resulted in a transcendental experience that is about the algorithm behind the art as much as it is about the aesthetics of the artwork itself.

The artists began with individual themes such as “dermis” (Mack), “apostrophized trees” (Jones), “grief over loss of a loved one” (McCambridge) and “poetic diurnal milestones” (Gresh).  Disparate and unrelated themes, perhaps – but the four brave women, eager to try something new, unite them in a narrative visual experience that unfolds in the center’s three rooms.

In the Long Gallery, the artists’ individuality begins to dissolve, and a blended narrative takes over. A female figure, at first sadly seated on a rooted pillow, stands in the second panel, turned to her right, with cathartic water spraying down, then disappears into the mist, perhaps temporarily transformed into an owl, floating alone in a rowboat. She reappears in the fourth panel, looking to her left this time, possibly to the future, reborn and ready to face the unknown.  The artists’ interlocking themes layer these panels and lend them a mystical quality, accentuated by the owl’s presence.

A video infuses the show with atmospheric, minor-key tones, portraying clips of the artists working on the show with an anti–Hard Day’s Night attitude. The next room becomes an installation for the four women, who write about love, muse about life, blow off some steam and otherwise fill a narrow layer with text, replacing the grief of loss expressed earlier with a whirl of the here-and-now.

In the final room, the artists return to their own métier: Mack’s dermis is transformed from opaque to translucent, filled now with the legs of a bee and pumpkin seeds; McCambridge’s beautiful animals symbolize blessings such as “strength” (a deer), “wisdom,” “love” and others. Jones, who invested trees with personalities in the beginning, finally lets buds be buds and pods be pods, while Gresh, whose force seemed clearly felt throughout the gallery, appears at the end to be bled nearly white, with tiny curled fragments of thread embedded in small, glossy white boxes.

Content prevails over commerce in this show; the crisp, square, mostly white panels belie a rigorous process. Perhaps the rigidity of the format helped the artists sublimate their egos to unite and create a story that curator Richard Colvin rightly calls “greater than the sum of its chapters.” 

— Rex Thomas

arts@orlandoweekly.com
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