Freeline Media Review: “Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some)”

Christopher Patrick Mullen, Timothy Williams, and Michael Daly star in Orlando Shakespeare Theater’s production of "Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!)." (Photo by Tony Firriolo.)

Christopher Patrick Mullen, Timothy Williams, and Michael Daly star in Orlando Shakespeare Theater’s production of “Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!).” (Photo by Tony Firriolo.)


ORLANDO — If there’s one thing that the holiday production at the Orlando Shakespeare Theater amply proves, it’s that the Christmas season has, for centuries, inspired writers, filmmakers, animators and other storytellers to create their own holiday epic, aimed at happily entrancing audiences into the spirit of the season.
If there’s one thing that guides so many of these creative efforts — Charles Dickens’ short story “A Christmas Story,” Frank Capra’s 1946 movie “It’s A Wonderful Life,” or the 1964 children’s TV movie “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer,” among many others — it’s heavy doses of sentimentality and exquisitely warm and fuzzy happy endings. Put your troubles aside, these sagas seem to say, and revel in the joyous spirit of Christmas time.
Orlando Shakes has done its share of sentimental holiday productions in the past, from an elaborate version of “A Christmas Carol” to a radio version of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” where skillful dramatic actors did their best to wring a nostalgic and tender tear from the eyes of audience members. Continue reading

Freeline Media Review: “Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde”

In time for the Halloween season, the Orlando Shakespeare Theater is producing "Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde."

In time for the Halloween season, the Orlando Shakespeare Theater is producing “Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde.”


ORLANDO — The Orlando Shakespeare Theater’s production of “Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde” attempts two very interesting challenges — both, I think, successfully.
The first is to take a very literate script (adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher, from the novella “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” by Robert Louis Stevenson) that manages to strike an intriguing balance: asking serious questions about the nature of identity, while at the same time delivering what this story has always offered — some genuinely scary moments. The production, directed by Cynthia White, could have seemed stuffy and talky — one of those “Masterpiece Theatre” imitators with hoity toity British accents — for those expecting a more Watch out! scarefest version, but thanks to a talented cast and some eerily effective lighting and sound effects, the story remains gripping even to those, like me, who know it so well. Continue reading

Freeline Media Review: “Phantasmagoria VII: The Cards They Are Dealt.”

"Phantasmagoria VII: The Cards They Are Dealt" plays through Halloween night.

“Phantasmagoria VII: The Cards They Are Dealt” plays through Halloween night.


ORLANDO — If it’s October, it’s a safe bet that Central Florida will do its best to get people into the Halloween spirit. It’s hard to imagine the month going by without Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios, for example, or the availability in Altamonte Springs of A Petrified Forest, the watch-out-behind-you field of marauding ghouls.
This year, Petrified Forest also features some special guests: the performers from Phantasmagoria, the long-running spooky series about a circus-like troop who entertain audiences by recreating tales of terror from the pages of great literature.
And while it’s fun to see the Phantasmagoria group at A Petrified Forest, it wouldn’t be a true Halloween without catching their latest production, which recently opened at the Lowndes Shakespeare Center and continues through, appropriately enough, Halloween night.
This year, there are a host of eerie visual delights — the dying man hypnotized into a long, seemingly endless sleep, the cats that warn a little girl not to play with matches, the ghostly figure that emerges in a painting, the mausoleum-like structure in a cemetery that beckons warily for outsiders to come on in, the dark woods harboring something completely terrifying. Phantasmagoria once again offers a sophisticated and well-designed update of the “ghost stories around the campfire” concept.
Continue reading

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