My Pal Bette
Through Sept. 1
Footlight Theatre, The Parliament House
Film critic David Kehr has said that true camp can never be manufactured, only discovered. He'd get the fight of his life from My Pal Bette, a work of flamboyant contrivance perfect for both the Orlando Inter-national Fringe Theatre Festival (where it premiered last May) and the Parliament House (where it currently enjoys an encore run). With simultaneous tips of the hat to Play It Again, Sam and It's a Wonderful Life, the hour-long playlet has the spirit of Bette Davis (Tammy Kopko) floating back to Earth to guide the personal development of a budding queen with OCD issues (John Ryan, who also wrote the script). Material of this nature lives or dies on the quality of its performance, and Bette incorporates a few real corkers. To say that Kopko has spent the better part of her professional career warming up for the role of Davis in no way prepares one for the pure hilarity of her mimicry or the propensity for tender reflection that makes her portrayal frankly adorable. For added amusement, there's Janine Klein as our awkward hero's mother, a kvelling sub-Streisand in tragically ill-chosen lip gloss. They and their fellow actors make the most of the rampant, toast-worthy one-liners, smoothing over some awkward pauses left by director Vanessa Verdecia while drawing an unerring bead on the palpable compassion that underlies playwright Ryan's comedic conceit. From the very outset, Kopko's Davis means to teach her young apprentice how a well-turned bon mot (and the occasional ferociously wielded cigarette) can ward off one's persecutors, leaving one free to lavish genuine kindness on the folks who really deserve it. Unlike much self-professed camp, My Pal Bette preaches the cultivation of your toughest self as a protection for your truest, which means that it never once confuses the two.
— Steve Schneider
Andrew Spear & Kevin Bourgeois
8 p.m. Monday, Aug. 20
The Peacock Room
What a smudge-filled reunion it'll be, when Andrew Spear and Kevin Bourgeois share space at the Peacock Room for a collaborative show. The longtime friends have much in common, including an obsession for graphite-on-paper drawings — they just love to push those pencils to extremes. "We both slave to the raw nature of actually drawing," Spear wrote in an e-mail invite.
A fixture on the local art scene, Spear likes to claim he's from New York (he lived there for a little while, but there's no mistaking the Boston-grown accent), and that's where Bourgeois lives now, having relocated from Orlando several years ago. Before that, Spear and Bourgeois together experienced the development and promotion of their art and their reputations here in town, and both have come far.
Bourgeois was featured in the April issue of Swindle and is represented by Ch'i Contemporary Fine Art gallery in Brooklyn. Viewers will likely be dumbstruck by his huge, dominating illustrations that deliver a message, however complex. In a recent interview with Our Art Site Dot Com, he explained his style. "My work implements a bricolage of image and views reflecting that society. In pointing out current lowbrow pop and graffiti culture, I find both endeavors of artistic expression absolutely political, and more socially engaged than given credit for."
Those more familiar with Spear's evolving color art than his earlier black-and-white illustrations dense with shading will be reminded that he always starts with a pencil in hand. Look at any Spear piece and you'll see the painstakingly stylized graphite markings. Currently, owls are a subject of fascination for the artist in addition to his continuing affair with female portraits. As for the one-night Peacock Room affair, those drawn to Spear's good-time parties know that they draw a life of their own.
— Lindy T. Shepherd
The World's First Custom Labbit Show
Entry deadline Monday, Aug. 20
Überbot, Winter Park
In a weird coincidence, previously mentioned artist Kevin Bourgeois created a special Munny for Überbot titled The Last Unicorn that's listed for sale on the shop's site for $400. It's a small world, isn't it? (No pun intended.) This week, Überbot is taking the final submissions for its first-ever customized Labbit competition, though this counts as its fourth annual blank figure contest. Überbot owner Steve Lewis says he was tired of taking pictures of Munnys, so he made the switch this year to Labbits, manufactured by the same company.
To enter, just buy a 5-inch blank Labbit ($20) from Überbot or anywhere else you can find them. Then dress it up any way you want. Lewis wouldn't comment on what's already been turned in, saying it's "a magical secret." But he did say that the entries reflect a mixture of "straight painting" and "a lot of cool sculpting." The contest is open to entrants around the globe; Lewis reports that "the postman looks mad at me" because of all the urgent deliveries.
The voting starts at 7 p.m. Aug. 25 at the in-store event, where the herd of Labbits will come together for group viewing. The winner takes home an original piece of art from the store's popular artist Terribly Odd from Miami. "He's constructed a really cool custom Labbit that'll be the grand prize," Lewis says.
So as not to crowd out newcomers, this year Lewis provided some of the store's past winners with 10-inch Labbits to design, and those results will comprise a special VIP display. I don't mean to skew the voting process but must say that the Labbit designed by Orlando Weekly staffer Lindsay Tabora from miniaturized covers of the paper really does stand out.
— Lindy T. Shepherdarts@orlandoweekly.com