Tuesday, February 27, 2007
The music is fantastic. Lin-Manuel Miranda also wrote all the songs, and they combine musical theater bravado, belting, and power ballads with rap, salsa, merengue, and the beats you would hear blasting from cars if you walked down the streets of Washington Heights any day of the week. The lyrics are smart and sharp, and you can hear Miranda's work in music/comedy group Freestyle Love Supreme peeking out coyly. This unlikely marriage of styles is exciting and innovative, and actually succeeds at making musical theater sexy again - an unlikely feat.
I've also gotta give props to the designers, whose work goes a long way in making the show so exciting and dynamic. Anna Louizos's set is so gorgeous: we see three storefronts (a taxi dispatch, bodega, and salon), and apartments above them, with the huge bridge rising above it all, beckoning to the inhabitants like a portal out of the Heights, into a fantasy world. Jason Lyons's lights are perfect - the first act follows a day from sunrise to a late-night blackout, and every part of the day is rendered flawlessly by having the scrim be a gigantic sky background. The costumes are also a real achievement - designer Paul Tazewell has managed to capture all the color and flair of the culture while still being true to the characters' limited financial means.
Also, keep an eye out for dancer Seth Stewart. He is one of the sexiest, most compelling, and most watchable dancers I've ever seen perform. He toured with Madonna, for christssake. He plays Graffiti Pete, he starts the show, and you will not be able to take your eyes off him.
When I saw it, the audience went wild. I was in the front row, perched between two oldsters who I expected would be leaving at intermission - instead, they were the first on their feet at curtain call, hooting just as loud as the rest of the house. The cast recording isn't out yet, but there was a long line of people who were waiting to order it in advance, and kids were clamoring for In the Heights sweatshirts. With a little help on Quiara Alegria Hudes's slightly-too-saccharine book, this thing would be a hit on Broadway.
Sunday, February 25, 2007
12:17 - The confetti comes down (green Oscars, huh?) and it's all over. What a night! All in all, it was a great year for film, and a great year of performances. Peter O'Toole still has the record for most nominations - and never a win. Leo's time will come very soon. Why is the band playing "Oklahoma"? All of a sudden the wind is sweeping right behind the rain. Oh, it's an arrangement of winning films from years past, I guess. Interesting to hear some old classic showtunes - "My Favorite Things" is playing, too. Goodnight!
12:12 - Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton are presenting Best Film. Diane is chic, sleek, and sexy in black, and has never looked better. And the Oscar goes to The Departed! Scorcese calls the movie "the only film he's ever done with a plot." Producer Graham King also produced Blood Diamond, and loves Leo DiCaprio. "To watch Marty direct Jack... we'll talk about that later."
12:07 - And like a flash, here comes Best Director, and the Oscar goes to Martin Scorcese! What a fine job he did in telling the story of The Departed. He's so excited, and the crowd loves him! "Could you double check the envelope?" He thanks everybody, and doesn't forget the casting director! His whole family is there with him - wow, daughter and stage actress Domenica Cameron Scorcese looks beautiful!
12:01 - Ellen is vaccuuming. Reese Witherspoon looks confident and better than ever, here to present Best Actor in a Leading Role. Something feels like it's isn't Leo's time quite yet. Ryan Gosling is happy just to be nominated. Did anyone see Venus? I want to, but haven't yet. Will Smith looks lovingly at Jada - fierce couple. Forrest Whittaker is a shoo-in. Does he have his speech prepared? Yes, he does! His stunning wife is crying. "When I first started acting, it was because of my desire to connect to everyone, to that thing inside each of us, that light that I believe exists in each of us, 'cause Acting for me is about believing in that connection, and it's a connection so strong, so deep that we feel it, and through our combined belief, we can create a new reality." He thanks his "fellow believers in The Last Kind of Scotland," the people of Uganda, his family, his ancestors, and God.
11:53 - Phillip Seymour Hoffman comes out to present Best Actress in a Leading Role. Judi Dench will be nominated in this category every year for the rest of her life. Meryl was SO good, but it's not the type of role that the academy usually recognizes. The Oscar goes to Helen Mirren, who wants to share her "gold star" with her fellow nominees, the filmmakers, and the cast. She salutes the real Queen's courage and consistency.
11:45 - Jodie Foster looks nice. I like how she walks unglamorously, even in that big gown. She presents the list of industry pros we've lost this year, which includes Betty Comden, Don Knotts, Red Buttons, Maureen Stapleton, Jack Palance, Robert Altman, and many more.
11:42 - Kate Winslet can't possibly look anything but beautiful. She mentioned on the red carpet that growing up in England, people told her she'd never play anything but the fat girl. Bet those people are feeling great tonight. She's presenting Best Film Editing, and the Oscar goes to The Departed. Nice to see a lady up there for one of the categories that's usually dominated by men.
11:28 - Travolta likes a full-figured woman... ew. Him and Queen Latifah present Best Original Song, and it goes to Melissa Ethridge for "I Need to Wake Up," the song from An Inconvenient Truth! Did the Dreamgirls songs split the votes? What an upset! Ethridge thanks Al Gore for showing her that "caring about the earth is not republican or democrat, it's not red or blue, we are all green, this is our job now - we can become... the generation that changed, that woke up and changed."
11:20 - It's Dreamgirls time! Please god, don't let Jennifer Hudson's boob pop out. Beyonce comes out (or up, rather), and the two divas sound in very good voice. Beyonce looks really proud of Jennifer. "Listen" sounds great. It's nice to hear that these ladies can bring it live, and not just in the studio. Anika looks fabulous! Why does the audience look a little bored? "Patience" rocks!
11:13 - Jack Nicholson bald - yikes! The Joker's back in town. And out comes scary Kristin with Tobey Maguire, presenting Best Original Screenplay. Little Miss Sunshine wins! Hooray! What a beautiful, humble, honest, and funny story. Well deserved.
11:07 - Hugh Jackman and Penelope Cruz present Best Original Score. I liked Babel's score, and The Queen's - so evocative. Babel wins!
10:55 - Celine is singing the world premiere of "I Knew I Loved You". This song is boring. Actually I just think Celine is really really boring. Hey, the set for the Oscars this year looks really great, huh? Very Dreamgirls, kinda clubby, but I much prefer it to the classic beige tones they usually use.
10:46 - Jerry Seinfeld will never change, at all. He presents Best Documentary Feature to An Inconvenient Truth, but I bet that those who don't believe in global warming still won't see the film. Al Gore's life post-presidential-run ROCKS.
10:42 - My crush Eva Green looks terrifying, I will admit, but it only makes me love her more. She actually looks like she showed up in costume for her role in His Dark Materials. Her and Gael Garcia Bernal present Best Documentary Short Subject to The Blood of Yingzhou District. 10:38 - George Clooney dashes hopes of a Gore '08 run, and presents Best Supporting Actress. Moxie loves an underdog, and kinda thinks one of the women from Babel should win, but everybody loves a fantasy story, so of course the Oscar goes to Jennifer Hudson. "Look what God can do," she tearily says. And she remembered to thank Jennifer Holliday, thank God!!
10:35 - Ellen confirms that Pilobolus dancers are naked back there! Told ya so.
10:25 - Catherine Deneuve and Ken Watanabe present a looong segment of past winners tries to convince America to care about this award. America checks out Grease: You're the One that I Want while it plays. Cate Blanchett and Clive Owen present Best Foreign Language Film to The Lives of Others - wow, no victory here for Pan's Labyrinth!
10:23 - Naomi Watts and Robert Downey Jr. present Best Visual Effects. And the Oscar goes to the gents from Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Man's Chest.
10:14 - Gwyneth Paltrow's dress is ugly. She's presenting Best Cinematography. And the Oscar goes to Guillermo Navarro for Pan's Labyrinth.
10:00 - Emily Blunt and Anne Hathaway present Best Costume Design. Oooh, a dazzling display of some of the nominated designs, in the flesh! Check out the actor-doubles for the stars. Pop that hip, Dreamgirls girl! And the Oscar goes to Marie Antoinette.
9:47 - Helen Mirren and Tom Hanks present Best Adapted Screenplay. Ravishing. So ravishing. Aw, she calls him Bor-AT. It's so cool that they're reading the stage directions as we see the action played out onscreen - a nice way to appreciate the art of screenwriting. And the Oscar goes to William Monahan for The Departed.
9:45 - Cameron Diaz presents Best Animated Film to Happy Feet. ABC does some stupid animated schtick with penguins in the audience. Blah blah blah. I'm so over Cameron Diaz, by the way. Chica has GOT to do something risky and get people to forget about Justin. I just hope it doesn't involve gaining 30 pounds or wearing a fake nose.
Commercial Interjection - Did anyone else know that Rashida Jones, a.k.a. Karen on The Office, is the daughter of music legend Quincy Jones? E!'s website is listing the 31-year-old actress as his wife, whoopsie.
9:37 - Why didn't Al Gore ever look this dashing and confident when he was in politics? Even fat and standing next to Leo DiCaprio, he looks pretty darn good!
9:27 - Pilobolus is dancing the Oscars tonight - I wonder if they'll whip out their boobies and have men dancing in flesh-colored thongs, like they do in their dance shows. This could get interesting!
9:22 - Now we're cookin' with gas - ravishing Rachel Weisz presents Best Supporting Actor to Alan Arkin - yes! He almost didn't get the part because he was "too virile" at 73. Totally deserved, even in this tough category.
9:21 - A whole separate category for Best Sound Mixing, really? Huh. Jessica Biel, or Miss Magenta as I'll henceforth be calling her, presents the Oscar to the Dreamgirls fellas.
9:15 - A choir of sound effect pros delivers the dorkiest three minutes of the evening. Steve Carrell and Greg Kinnear present Best Sound Editing to the guys from Letters From Iwo Jima. Guess no victory tonight for Apocalypto. Is America's favorite bigot, Mel Gibson even here? Haven't seen him at all.
9:00 - Shortie actors present the best short films! Little tykes Abigail Breslin and Jayden Christopher Syre Smith present Best Animated Short Film, and it goes to The Danish Poet. Aww, little Jayden messed up the line! Moxie was rooting for the short with the little rodent from Ice Age. Oh well. And West Bank Story wins for Best Live Action Short Film. "I made a comedy musical about Israelis and Palestinians... and it's a movie about peace and hope... Hope is not hopeless." Whoa - instantly added to my netflix list.
8:58 - Pan's Labyrinth wins another award, this time for Best Makeup. Yawnie yawn.
8:55 - Will Farrell and Jack Black are threatening to beat up the nominees. Jack Black threatens to beat down Peter O'Toole with his Nickelodeon Award, and wants to know which party hottie Helen Mirren is headed to. Somewhere the Weisslers are watching these guys singing and wondering what musicals they can develop for them.
8:45 - Daniel Craig is hunky. Seeing him in a tux is nothing new, sure, but what a classic man he is. Pan's Labyrinth wins the first award of the night for Best Art Direction. Pilar Revuelta would totally be played by Bebe Neuwirth in the movie version of the art direction of Pan's Labyrinth.8:37 - Doesn't Ellen look great? I'm loving the deep red velvet tuxedo with the casually open collar, and the white shoes are daring and glam, while reflecting Ellen's own personal panache. Her and Amy Sedaris ought to play a pair of crazy sisters in an independent movie. "If there weren't Blacks, Jews, and gays, there would be no Oscars." Preach on, sister! And then there's the tamborine, a hallelujah chorus, and we're celebrating the nominees, since they've all already won, right? Nominees don't look convinced.
8:30 - It's starting it's starting! Cool, a docu-style mashup of the nominees, with whimsical clarinet music in the background. "Oh my gosh, Abby, you got nominated for an Oscar," says Abigail Breslin - can someone please steal me this child, so I can take her everywhere I go, and be best friends with her? Hmmm... how many different ways can I say that Helen Mirren is hot during the next threeish hours? Will Smith kisses Kate Winslet, Marty Scorcese kisses Helen Mirren (why not?), and Ellen comes out.
8:25 - Moxie is afraid of Kirsten Dunst. Doesn't she look threatening? "I'm Kristin, and I'm gonna eat your babies! Eeeee heeheehee!!!" Moxie predicts that once the Spiderman 3 hububb is over, her career spirals down, down, downwards.
8:08 - And we're onto ABC's arrivals coverage. Aw, Patricia Fields is a jeans-and-flip-flops gal. Emily Blunt looks like a goddess of the sea in that indigo gown. Damn, girl. You lookin' fine.
7:55 - How cool is Abigail Breslin? I love that her dress looks like a kid's fantasy dress in every way. So sick of those mini-grownup child stars in mini-valentino dresses. This looks like a kid having a blast being a kid. Go, Abigail!!
7:49 - Meryl Streep proclaims she's a size 14 on national tv, when she's nominated for a role in a fashion movie. Way to go, Meryl! Meanwhile, somewhere in Hollywood, Nicole Ritchie, Mary Kate Olsen, and Kate Bosworth suddenly shiver with anxiety and fear.
7:39 - Cate Blanchette describes the red carpet layout as "higherarchical," reminding us that Aussie celebs aren't just luminously beautiful, but dang, they talk good, too!
7:37 - WHOA Nicole Kidman. What is that big red bow? It looks poised to devour her head.
7:27 - Seacrest cried at The Devil Wears Prada. Hehe. I used to hate Anne Hathaway, but I heard rumors that she's a lesbian, and now I kinda like her. I dig that there might be more to her than meets the eye. Sorry, through, that dress is horrible. C'est terrible, terrible, no?
7:26 - Jeez Louise, that's Celine Dion?!? She looks like the new cast member of Grey's Anatomy. "How has being in Las Vegas changed you?" asks Seacrest. "It's gonna be hard to leave - very emotional." Sure, Celine, sure.
7:18 - Helen Mirren is a goddess. I saw her a couple years ago in Mourning Becomes Electra in London, and she was sex incarnate. I think her and Holland Taylor should have to mud wrestle for the title of sexiest woman-of-a-certain-age ever.
7:12 - OH. MY. GOD. I can't BELIEVE that's Djimon Hounsou in the video for "Love Will Never Do" with Janet Jackson!! He was HOT. I can't believe I never realized that was him!!
7:09 - Steve Carrell thinks The Departed will win best picture, and gives a shout out to friends in Vegas. Awww... he's funny and talented and a genuine, nice guy. I hope his career keeps getting better and better.
6:53 - Jessica Biel is prettier after getting those collagen lips. Buzz is that she'll win for Actress With Least Personality of 2007.
6:45 - Dreamgirls alert... Anika Noni Rose looks great in dark metallic blue-green, and Jennifer Hudson looks like the snazzy diva she is, but what's with the gigantic gold snakeskin jacket? Yikes.
6:40 - Rachel Weisz is the most glamorous hollywood star of our time. Look at her. Gorgeous. She looks like her whole body is bejeweled, and they just wrapped the satin around it all. Beautiful. Beautiful!
Friday, February 23, 2007
Word on the street is that casting is underway for Jim and Steve's replacements. I strongly advise you to see it performed by the guys who have lived these stories, before it's too late. Oh, and check out Steve's blog here!
If you haven't already seen it, don't miss The Big Voice: God or Merman? It's the story of how two men made their way in the world, finding music, laughter, the theater, and each other. The show is their love letter to the theater and to each other, and it's one of the most moving, heartfelt, and fun evenings I've had in a long time.
The Big Voice is the story of Jim Brochu and Steve Schalchlin's lives - growing up in severely religious families, discovering freedom through music and the dazzling lights of Broadway, and finally finding and holding on to each other. Jim wanted to be pope (the lights! the spectacle! the crowds!) until he heard a recording of Ethel Merman singing "There's No Business Like Show Business," and recognized his true calling. Steve "got saved" as a Baptist when he was only a little kid, but realized that his inspiration was through writing music, not through the church. The Big Voice in the sky to which all must heed the call, it turned out, was not an old bearded man in the sky, but Ethel Merman (or Judy Garland, if you're in the other camp).
The show is humbly staged at the Actors' Temple Theater, a converted religious space, which is all too fitting for a show that illuminates the true connection between religion and theater. Jim and Steve aren't undiscovered dynamos of musical theater, but their performances are humble, sweet, funny, honest, and utterly from the heart. Their stories are the kind that you wish your grandparents could tell you - stories of running into a candystriping Ethel Merman in a hospital, getting inspiration in tough times from the guy who played Potsie, and Jim finally seeing his portrait on the wall at Sardi's.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Was it the unbelievable amount of hype? The low energy of a Tuesday night at the theater? Or just the fact that I wasn't really feelin' it? I finally caught Grey Gardens last night, and while I think it's a beautiful show, it just didn't give me the chills I expected. I feel like everybody gets so rabid over Christine Ebersole's performance, I just couldn't help being underwhelmed. I finally understand why people feel that Spring Awakening's hype ruined it for them - when you miss seeing a show when it has all the momentum, and then have to listen to everybody under the sun get all orgasmic over it, enjoying it that much yourself feels unoriginal and forced.
The things I loved:
The stage pictures. Some beautiful moments, like the news clippings at the top of the show, a distraught Little Edie running down the stairs and out the door at the end of act one, and Mary Louise Wilson sitting in bed, feebly unable to open the can of cat food. Like Coast of Utopia, there are moments of the show that stick in my brain like little fires still burning.
I also really liked the use of the two young girls, embodying so much hope and entitlement in act one, and I loved them as the cats in act two.
I also thought Erin Davies did an admirable job at a very tough role. She has to be innocent and hopeful, but also tip her hand as to the recalcitrant, dramatic, petulant woman she will become (and has always been, in some ways). I can't imagine Sara Gettelfinger in this role - though she's very talented, she seems much too adult and hard for Young Edie.
And of course, you have to hand it to Christine Ebersole. Everyone raves about her as Little Edie, but I found her Edith to be every bit as strong of a performance. Edith was strong and forceful but very weak inside, and embodied with spot-on accuracy the kind of truly toxic mothers who use both insults and affection as deadly weapons. I was pleasantly surprised by her Little Edie's sense of humor and sarcasm, still being lighthearted in such a dark place. I thought it was kind of cool that this woman would be so shunned, yet have such a caustic wit instead of endless self-pity.
What I wasn't thrilled with:
What's the deal with the score? So many songs seemed shticky or just inconsequential. How about "Marry Well" and "Hominy Grits"? Both songs are there for a reason, yes, but it just seemed like there were better ways of telling us how the family feels about marriage, and just how inappropriate Edith's attention-grabbing is. It seemed, in both numbers, that they filled the void by having the cute young girls skip around with some cutesy choreography. These, and some of the other numbers (the patriotic one in act two felt waaay overblown, too), just felt like time that could have been better spent.
I also expected the story to be told in a more dynamic way. We know from the prologue what happens to Grey Gardens and to Little Edie. So what story is really being told in act two? The story to be told is that Edie decides to leave, attempts to leave, and then realizes she cannot. I wish the arc of that journey had been more compellingly and excitingly actualized in the book and lyrics. When it comes right down to it, I was a little bored.
Let it be known that this is why I hate seeing Broadway musicals months after they've opened. I have no doubt that on opening night, Grey Gardens was a flourishing triumph, with plenty of conflict and excitement and tension and all that good stuff. However, after a few months, the rough spots stick out like sore thumbs, and the lagging energy is fully palpable. I felt the same way at Company a few weeks ago - I left fantasizing about how much more exciting it must have been when it was fresh and new.
Also, now that I've seen Spring Awakening and Grey Gardens, I have to say that SA feels like the Tony winner for best musical. I find SA so exciting, the energy so high, that Grey Gardens feels stuffy and stale in comparison. Of course, if I'd seen the first preview of GG (as I did SA), I bet I'd feel quite differently.
Grey's Anatomy creators are looking to spin off one of the show's characters into a second drama project, according to The Wall Street Journal. Heading out on her own would be Dr. Addison Montgomery-Shepherd, who is played by Kate Walsh. An upcoming two hour episode will serve as the pilot of the new series, which will be written by show creator Shonda Rhimes.What a crappy idea! Shonda Rhimes needs to spend more time focusing on bringing the humor and quirkyness back to Grey's Anatomy, not creating more nighttime soapy fluff. I do love Addison as a character, but I hardly want to watch a whole show about her. It also doesn't help that Kate Walsh comes off as a dithering idiot in every television interview I've ever seen. I'm sure she's a smart woman, she certainly plays Addison as one, but she really needs to get a coach before she does the next round of press.
Update: Cynopsis reports today that Taye Diggs will also be in the cast. So now we KNOW it'll be cancelled.
Friday, February 16, 2007
Oh Jesus Christ. From the man himself, via Andrew Lloyd Blogger:
I am considering writing a sequel to Phantom of the Opera based on an idea presented to me over a decade ago. I will be returning to the UK shortly and hopefully have a blog for you, but let’s just say, I am full of ideas.
Full of ideas, indeed. In the words of the chatterati, "a good nightmare comes so rarely."
Thursday, February 15, 2007
Me and my "date", who is also a big Sondheim fan, were talking at intermission about how Sondheim's music and lyrics are similar to Shakespeare's writing. In Shakespeare, the actor can look to the rhythm of the iambic pentameter, and the emotional journey of the material almost leaps off the page, the acting choices presenting themselves within the text itself. Anyone who has examine Hermione's speech in A Winter's Tale knows what I'm talking about - literally taking a breath after each line of iambic pentameter immediately gives the impression of a woman who is exhausted from giving birth, pleading for justice. I think a huge part of Sondheim's genius is that his music and lyrics have the same quality. His songs are beautiful, but what makes them transcendent is the actor taking their emotional cues from the journey of the music. Victoria Clark achieves this impeccably: the high notes in "Too Many Mornings" correspond with the moments when she's losing control of her emotions, the power notes directly feed the strongest moments of wanting. Those low gravelly notes of "Losing My Mind" immediately draw Sally as a woman who can't sleep, can't eat, can't live without this man. It's like one hand washing the other - the performance and material working together in a way that few other musicals can achieve. That's what I live for in the theater - artistic collaboration in it's highest sense.
As to the rumors of a transfer, I strongly hope that it does not transfer unless they can retain Clark and Murphy, which seems unlikely with LoveMusik on the horizon. The two of them made the production, and with lesser actresses it would lose it's power. Thank god for these two women, who really can both sing and act exquisitely.
P.S.There's a pretty good video with clips from Follies on Broadway.com. Check it out here.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Single or not, Valentine's Day is a crappy holiday. The weather is shitty, if you're single you're depressed, and if you're in a relationship, odds are that your lofty expectations (surprise bouquets at the office, private jet to Rio) won't be realized.
That's why I love Jan Maxwell so much. From Theatermania's Vday piece on leading ladies' romantic experiences:
TM: What was your best romantic experience?
JM: I've never had a romantic experience. I could count the lovers on one hand and cut off a few fingers. One time, I met a guy. I set out silk sheets, with rose petals and
lingerie. He never showed up. That would have been the best time.
TM: What was your worst romantic experience?
JM: That involved a gun. A stun gun -- and the first time is sort of rough. There also
was a ferret involved.
TM: What's your ideal romantic experience?
JM: If the man would show up.
God bless that woman.
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
John Gallagher Jr. and Jonathan Groff modeled in Jill Stuart's show at Fasion Week! Moxie can just hear Heidi Klum's little chipmunk voice... "These boys, they are very hip, very fresh, very new. I want one in every color!"
Photo courtesy of broadway.com.
My dad was in the city a few weeks ago. We met for a lovely, very old-New-York dinner at El Quijote, and then sent dad up 8th avenue to walk off the Sangria before heading home to NJ. He reported back about his adventures on that walk, which I've pasted for you below. To get the full picture, one must picture the speaker as an eccentric, greying psychoanalyst for whom this event would be one of the highlights of his whole year.
Over last weekend I was in Manhattan, walking along 9th and 24th, and a homeless guy approached me, with hair out a foot on either side of his head, seriously raggedy clothes, big leather boots all scuffed up, and he stared deeply into my eyes and shouted: "Kafka, Kafka, Kafka ... Fuck Kafka ... Fuck Fuck Fuck!" I wanted to follow him, discreetly, check him out, find out why he was cursing at Kafka. I wondered: why would a homeless guy be shouting these things?
I thought about Kafka, whose literature I read in my German classes decades ago. Kafka was an annihilated soul, and his stories and novels are filled with images of his own annihilation, for example, the vision of Gregor Samsa being turned into a giant, horrid bug in The Metamorphosis. He was obliterated by his family, especially his narcissistic, overpowering, invalidating father, and he recorded the violence he suffered in the symbols of his writings. But he asked a friend to please burn all his texts after he died, and his friend did not oblige him.
I was thinking the angry homeless guy was the reincarnated spirit of Kafka himself, furious at seeing his work having been turned into an industry, at being assigned as required reading in German classes like the ones I took. He was angry at the publically famous name, "Kafka," when it was his heart's desire that all his writings be destroyed, as he was. So no wonder the poor guy was yelling and cursing at me. Once I realized what was going on, I no longer needed to follow the poor fellow. But it is kind of neat that I ran into Franz Kafka in New York City.
Photo of Eighth Avenue courtesy of EKH via flickr.
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
I am very happy to report that Split Ends is one of those very rare pieces of theater that is as enjoyable as it is challenging, and as beautiful as it is important.
Venus Opal Reese (familiar from The Seven) wrote and performs the piece, which employs a variety of modes of expression: Reese uses everything from video interviews to rap and poetry to modern dance, all to illuminate African-American women's experiences, struggles, disappointments and triumphs with their hair. At first glance, the issue might seem trivial - hair? Really, a show about hairstyles? Reese quickly demonstrates that for black women, hair has been "both our burden and our liberation, our barrier and our connection, our cross and our salvation." It's an issue that is frought with sociopolitical implications, and yet the piece is filled with humor, joy, and vitality.
Reese begins the show, intimately staged at La Mama's Club space, by warming up onstage as the audience trickles in. A video plays informal clips of interviews with African-American woman talking about their hair. Some speak of loving their hair, some of being persecuted for it, some talk of their experiences straightening it and treating it, the unspoken (unconscious?) goal being assimilation - a white woman's hairstyle. The warm-up inauspiciously includes Reese winding her own hair into a neat twirl around the nape of her neck. When the lights come up, Reese begins the show as a male street poet, an "urban philosopher" who aggressively introduces the audience to the show's subject matter: the battle that black people face in accepting and loving themselves in a world where blackness is not truly accepted or loved, and where different is oftentimes considered ugly.
There is a whole lot of knowlege dropped within the 80 minute confines of this piece, but I've never believed that theater exists to educate alone. What's remarkable, even miraculous about Split Ends is the deep emotional current running through it, as if Reese's own heart beats in every word, movement, and character she takes on. Venus Opal Reese (a brilliant woman who happens to have two masters degrees and a doctorate) has such generosity of spirit that you know you're in very good hands. The connection between the personal and political is so well defined that I never felt lectured to, and instead felt that I was hearing a close friend or a family member relate stories that had formed her very identity.
With only three more performances, please don't miss this stunning piece. February 9th, 10th, and 11th, Friday & Saturday at 10:00pm, Sunday at 5:30pm. Check out La Mama for more info.
Photos by Olivia Jacquet.
For the record, there is only one thing more annoying than seeing your actor ex-boyfriend pop up on your TV, with no warning, in one of his several commercial spots. This can very near ruin a perfectly good evening of television with one's newer, better, sweeter, cuter boyfriend. What could possibly be worse, you ask? Seeing the ex's new and sublimely irritating girlfriend in her OWN commercial spot, and realizing that between the two of them, they make more money with their fake-acting careers than you will in the next 5 years combined. Bollocks!
Friday, February 02, 2007
Adrift in Macao has all the trappings of a hilarious send up of film noir movies and musicals - women in slinky dresses, dangerous men running from the law, even a reference to The Scarlett Pimpernel. Sadly, the new musical is perplexingly ineffective, and alarmingly unfunny. In Christopher Durang's program notes, he says that the piece is "intended as one of my 'entertainments'," a loving and lighthearted parody as opposed to his biting satires that skewer issues of class, religion, and politics. I suspect that Durang puts in a lot more careful effort when he's writing his terrific satires than he did when he was piling the frosting and sprinkles onto this rotten cake. Peter Melnick's music appropriately envokes the sillyness and darkness of the material Macao takes aim at, but there's only so much you can do with lyrics that are dead on arrival.
Primary Stages calls Adrift in Macao "the tale of five quirky characters stranded in a Casablanca-like locale in the Far East." The bunch of five are led by Mitch (Alan Campbell) and Lureena (Rachel De Benedet), as a pair of stranded Americans in a foreign city. They are joined by Rick Shaw, a sleazy bar owner, Tempura, a mysterious Chinese man, and Corinna, an opim-addicted lounge singer. The plot vaguely echoes all the old film noir movies, but never commits to any direction in particular - the characters mostly sit around, waiting for something to happen (I'm not exaggerating). Stale material isn't aided by performers who seem oblivious to the fact that the thing is supposed to be a symphony of winks directed at the audience. Did director Sheryl Kaller forget to let the actors in on the joke? Rachel De Benedet plays the seductive lounge singer completely straight, acting as if she's in a drama rather than committing to (and enjoying) the ridiculousness of the situations Durang has presented. The other actors don't fare much better, with the exception of the indefatigueably funny Michele Ragusa, who plays Corinna as an aging, sardonic Betty Boop who's always jonesing for a fix. Watching her is delightful, but the energy in the house is so low that her jokes barely land, let alone make the huge splash she so deserves.
This is the third piece I've seen at 59E59, and each has been worst than the last. Is this simply a cursed space? The bar is pretty fabulous, with delicious original cocktails at a very reasonable $7, but I'm afraid that next time I'll be tempted to stay there all night rather than venturing into the actual theater.
Primary Stages presents Adrift in Macao through March 4th at 59E59.