hairy issues chase Little Red
The Little Red Riding Hood Show
Through Aug. 8 at Lowndes Shakespeare Center
812 E. Rollins St.
Little Red Riding Hood may be the final universally familiar fairy tale not yet co-opted by Disney. Maybe that's why Orlando Shakespeare Theater's production of Russell Davis' The Little Red Riding Hood Show is such an unexpected delight. Despite being sponsored in part by the Mouse, under Patrick Flick's spry direction this kids' show somehow manages to be more slyly subversive that many so-called adult entertainments.
The adaptation's amended title sounds similar to The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and maybe there are spiritual similarities. There's the audience participation preshow, in which hippie Grandma (Robin Olson) takes masterful control of her rambunctious charges, reminding them of the traditional plot with a growl-along storybook reading, complete with the gory "stones in the belly" denouement. Then comes the perky heroine; in this version named Jennifer (Megan Goldman), who has a penchant for wandering off the path and a compulsion toward competitive spelling — a motif amusingly elaborated in Robbin Watts' colorful set.
Finally, there is the charismatic antagonist in the form of Malarkey the Big Bad Wolf. As portrayed by vibrant visiting actor Austin Farwell, and costumed by Denise R. Warner, he's a kindergarten-friendly glam rock god in tight leather and tighter denim. He struts into Little Red's story heedless of his proper place in the script, breaking into semi-Shakespearean soliloquies and making dark insinuations about the lies that trusted adults tell.
As Mother (Nonalee Davis) observes, "A little story can expand on you," and what was once sweet and simple can turn slippery and subjective. No matter how badly we might want our story to follow the authorized outline, the wolves of the world keep intruding with wicked truths. If you have age-appropriate kids, you should seek out this witty wee theater; like Mother says, good parenting is all a question of timing.
— Seth Kubersky
What We See When We Look Back
Through Aug. 6 at Twelve21 Gallery
1221-C N. Orange Ave.
In this market, modest starts portend greater success than showy ones — at least they're cheaper. Twelve21 Gallery, a new venue that popped up in May during Snap!, doubles as graphic design studio Laughing Samurai, poised over Tim's Wine Market in the Ivanhoe district. The one-room gallery shared by people trying to work seems so apropos; it's part of the trend of blending art exhibits and music events with home, office and other nontraditional venues.
For its second exhibition, Twelve21 offers What We See When We Look Back, showcasing a trio of UCF students brought together by curator Sarah Poindexter. While the exhibit is a rather cool, studied take on many street-art themes, the artists have potential; they reference the past through the urban feudal world of today, resonating with colorful proclamations of death and decay coming from a culturally opposite point of view.
Josh Erickson offers jarring juxtapositions of ghostly images blending past and present. His vintage 1950s shots of water skiers from Marineland turned into modern-day tourist posters were featured through mid-June in Hello From Florida: Photographs of the Sunshine State at the Gallery at Avalon Island. In this show, "Old Smoker" shows a man sacked out on a couch. The image is embedded within a child's sleeping face, as if an awful deterministic destiny awaits him. Erickson's slides carry a lighthearted sense of fashion and style of old, yet feel deadly as superimposed images of children as ghosts, spiders or monsters touch the deepest fears.
Danielle DeGuglimo continues the past-present thread with "I Like Turtles," her tribute to YouTube celebrity Jonathan, Portland's zombie boy. Her deliberate reference to Goya's classic "Boy With Cats" alludes to this painter's death fetish as well. Lighter yet still quite ominous are her woodcuts romanticizing the junk space of modern urbanity. Least portentous are her collages, which humorously blend shocked imams looking up at nude females and females flirting with deer, in addition to compositions softly intertwined with string, bits of gold leaf and butcher paper, textural delights trapped in glass.
Nelson Hallonquist serves as the heavyweight of the show with "Untitled (Abstraction for Metalheads That Like Ad Reinhardt)." Subtle upside-down crosses, only visible as texture, minimally reference the music's iconoclasm within an homage to abstract expressionism's own iconclast. As the endpoint of that movement, Reinhardt would seem wildly out of style in the rambunctious, pluralistic art scene of now, yet his serene blackness reproduced by Hallonquist fits well with the necrotic obsessions.
— Richard Reeparts@orlandoweekly.com