Roman Polanski’s Holocaust cinema

Roman Polanski's Holocaust cinema

In this scene from Roman Polanski’s film “The Tenant,” Trelkovsky wears concentration camp-like pajamas on the stairs of his apartment building.

On the stairs, the shadows from the railing look eerily like the bars in a prison cell.

The man, Trelkovsky, is carrying a waste basket of trash, while wearing a set of pajamas that look similar to what Jews wore in the concentration camps.

Trelkovsky, a Polish Jew living in France, has taken a tiny two room apartment in Paris, which became vacant after the previous tenant, a young woman named Simone Choule, threw herself out the window. Trelkovsky desperately needs the apartment, and now he’s increasingly paranoid about losing it. His mostly elderly neighbors complain constantly about noise, and after a housewarming party that drew complaints from neighbors and the landlord alike, Trelkovsky is sneaking down the stairs to get rid of the trash that had piled up during the party. On the way down, he spills some of it on the stairs. But when he comes back to retrieve it, the trash is gone … mysteriously.

Director Roman Polanski’s film “The Tenant,” in which the director himself played the role of Trelkovsky, was made in 1976 and is set in Paris during the 1970s. Continue reading

Review: Terrors of the mind grip you tightly in “Phantasmagoria VIII: The Chains of Fire”

Phantasmagoria VIII

“Phantasmagoria VIII: The Chains of Fire” makes effect use of some classic tales of madness.


ORLANDO – Classic horror literature, in the minds of many, probably means monsters – Bram Stoker giving us the bloody-sucking terror of his vampire Dracula, or Mary Shelley creating the lumbering hulk made of fresh corpses that becomes “Frankenstein.”

Still, not all writers of long-distant eras felt they needed to invent hideous creatures of the night to scare their readers.

One of the great pleasures of watching the continuing series known as “Phantasmagoria” is their exploration of classic horror literature – tales that this talented cast recreates for their Orlando audience, often with bone-chillingly effective scares.

And now with the eighth installment of the series by actor, director and playwright John DiDonna, “Phantasmagoria VIII: The Chains of Fire,” we have reminders that some of those writers of earlier centuries saw no need for monsters to be lurking in the shadows outside. Our own minds could be much scarier to confront.

Here are two examples: how much fear and anxiety can you generate from …. Teeth and wallpaper?

Quite a bit, you might be surprised to learn. Continue reading

A dark and powerful “Man of La Mancha” comes to Orlando Shakes

Man of La Mancha

Laura Hodos as Aldonza, Matt Zambrano as Sancho, and Davis Gaines as Don Quixote star in Orlando Shakespeare Theater’s production of “Man of La Mancha.” (Photo by Luke Evans.)

ORLANDO – Davis Gaines cuts a truly commanding presence as Cervantes, the tax collector, playwright and dreamer in the legendary Broadway show “Man of La Mancha,” now being performed at the Orlando Shakespeare Theater, that he’s thrilling ever moment he’s on stage.

Gaines has a marvelously towering voice from the very start, when he performs the show’s classic opening title song, “Man of La Mancha (I, Don Quixote).” For the next two hours, he beautifully balances humor, pathos and more than a bit of tragedy in his performance. He’s particularly good when matched up against the equally stunning Laura Hodos as his imaginary love, Dulcinea. The two of them could have carried on the entire show themselves and been a pure delight to watch.

This beautifully mounted production of the 1964 Broadway hit by Dale Wasserman was directed by Nick DeGruccio, and his approach made me feel like I was watching the show for the first time. In several of the past productions that I’ve seen in Central Florida, the cast and directors emphasized humor, as the befuddled dreamer Cervantes and his loyal sidekick Sancho Panza were portrayed as comedic figures whose actions verged on slapstick. Continue reading

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