Thursday, November 30, 2006
It's kind of fascinating, this pulling of quotes from reviews for ads. Maybe Judi C. will post something someday about what goes into it. Are specific adjectives important (in the "OTRATTW" ad, "remarkable" is pulled from my review)? Are there marketing angles that are being highlighted (e.g., Mr. Creasy's mention of the play being "in the spirit of the season")? It usually doesn't occur to me until long after I've written my review that it might be excerpted for an ad. And the few times I've written something and thought, "hey, that'd be a perfect quote for an ad," that particularly clever turn of phrase has gone completely unnoticed every single time. So it goes.
The best anecdote along these lines that I have is one year when the Firehouse put out a season schedule flyer that had two quotes from me on it. However, at the time, I was writing for Style as D.L. Hintz and for 64 Magazine under my real name so they could use me twice without appearing to pull from the same source. Pretty tricky!
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
In perusing the weeklies we get at the T house, I saw this article on Tom Stoppard’s “The Coast of Utopia” and there’s a neat little piece on the design of Mary Poppins’ house for the Broadway production. This last one isn’t the same without the picture – grab the magazine next time you’re at Barnes and Nobles and check it out.
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
I say “appropriate” because Mystery Dinner Theater more than anything else seems like a great business model. It’s been interesting to see the company succeed and continue to expand. It also brings out a bit of a conflict in me and perhaps in other people, as well. There’s a bit of a snob in me that thinks that the MDT shows should not even be considered in the same ballpark as “artistic” shows like the ones the Barksdale, the Firehouse, etc. put on. When I think of MDT, I think in business terms: they have a fairly generic “product” that they repackage regularly to keep people interested. And clearly people like the product and continue to buy it.
That might sound a little cynical or condescending. But then I reflect on it a little and realize that it’s really what every theater does. You can look at the Barksdale’s move back into Hanover Tavern, for instance, and see that the product they’ve decided to sell out there is family-friendly classics. And clearly, that product is selling. Theatre IV sells kids shows, plain and simple. And they do a great job and the crowds come in and have a good time. So why, I wonder, am I just a touch disdainful about MDT? Am I holding on to this vague and highbrow notion that “art” shouldn’t be about commerce? Does a production have to big words or complicated themes or pretty sets to count as ‘theater’ in my narrow version of what theater is? Do I need to come down off my high horse of critical distance and mingle with the people a little? Regardless of how ‘important’ a show is, if nobody sees it, does it still make a sound?
I've added Mystery Dinner Theater to my "Producers" list to the left there in an effort to get over myself.
Friday, November 24, 2006
I don't mean to make this blog a continuing rant on any specific subject but Mr. Neman at the T-D just continues to get my goat. In the past few days, there have been sterling examples of what annoys me about him. First, there's the lazy use of 'we' that I've mentioned before. In his review of 'Bobby,' there's this:
"There is simply nothing intrinsically compelling about any of them, so we find ourselves bored and checking our watches with increasing frequency."
No, Dan, YOU checked your watch. We, who are reading, most likely haven't even seen the movie and so our watches weren't even close to the theater.
Then, there's the pseudo-cleverness that ends up just being kind of dumb, like in his appreciation of Robert Altman which ends like this:
"But no one quite made movies like Altman. To honor him best, we should stand around at a party talking about him, and let his microphone pick out the conversations he thinks are best."
OK, I get the idea -- sort of -- but it's expressed so badly that it ends up not really making sense.
Why does this annoy me so much? Because this is what Richmond readers are being trained to think is real criticism. But what they are getting, in fact, is lazy, bad writing. It also drives thinking people away from the T-D to read real film critics at The New Yorker or the Washington Post or really anywhere else.
Of course, there are people who would say, well, he's annoying you but you are still reading him. In fact, maybe by annoying you, he's actually making you a more fervent reader of the T-D. Actually, the exact opposite is true. I used to read the T-D Arts or Style sections cover to cover (as it were). Now, half of the time I skip over the movie reviews and -- though I like Ms. Ruggieri's writing style -- I only read the music articles if they are about an artist I have heard of (a diminishing pool, unfortunately). And theater reviews -- well, sometimes I can't find them to read them so I miss them oftentimes now too.
So, I guess in keeping with the spirit of the holiday, maybe what I should say is that I'm thankful for the website RottenTomatoes which gives me easy access to a whole host of movie reviewers who give me more insightful and clearly stated opinions on movies than what I can find in my daily paper.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
And here’s the my review of “Over the River…” for your consideration.
But for our December trip, it’s going to be “A Chorus Line” and “Wicked.” All of “the girls” wanted to see “ACL” and, through some tremendous good fortune and some most welcome generosity, we got killer seats for “Wicked,” so can’t argue with that. I’m still intrigued by “Spring Awakening” and would like a chance to see either “History Boys” or “A Drowsy Chaperone” before they disappear.
And finally, here’s a bit of cool news: Kevin Spacey will be playing on Broadway next spring in “A Moon for the Misbegotten.” I’d love to see that.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Having said that, this is the season that being able to see shows because you want to is much preferable to seeing them because you have to. And with all of the productions around, there will still be plenty to talk about in this little corner of cyber-space.
Sunday, November 19, 2006
What I respect about Ms. Haubenstock in this review, however, is the line "...they say marginally funny things that repeatedly amused the opening-night audience, but left me cold." For one thing, it acknowledges that the audience was having a good time which I think is important, particularly if you weren't. And for another, it describes pretty succinctly an experience I've had before where I'm sitting amongst people laughing riotously and I'm wondering what it was they smoked or drank before curtain to make them so impossibly giddy. On one level, I think there is a sort of fundamental difference between a regular theater-goer and a critic in that, since the average person has paid money, they really want to have a good time (particularly if the ticket price is exceedingly high). On another, humor works in different ways for different people on different nights. My sister can sit through a Monty Python movie without cracking a smile while I dissolve into a giggling, sputtering puddle on the floor.
Anyway, this is one of those times when I disagree with -- yet respect -- the critic in question. There are plenty of times (like when reading a Daniel Neman review, for instance), when neither agreement nor respect is part of the equation.
I also spoke to several people on Sunday who are either in or involved with "Mame" and they said opening night went off well, though the last week before opening was a bit hectic (like 98% of productions, I expect). I also got the news that "Snowflake's" star wrenched his back and so Theatre IV is going to be hastily putting together a replacement production. Man, T4/Barksdale just seems to be getting hit with these kinds of curveballs lately (last minute cast changes, leaky roofs, etc.) While these are the times that try men's (and women's) souls, I expect the highly functional crew at T4 will come out of this just fine (knock wood). "Snowflake" was a bit of a tough sell anyway -- a silent clown for the holidays? I'm sure he's as magical as they say, but still, I was hemming and hawing on going and there were probably lotsa other folks in the same boat.
Finally, I had this totally surreal interlude at Lowe's on Saturday where a complete stranger walked up to me saying very emphatically "You should really..." just as I was answering a call on my cell phone from my lovely wife. So, I had to very upruptly shush this stranger while I completed a 5 minute phone call involving the very intricate and confusing details of which light switch plates I should buy. I expected this strange man to simply walk away since clearly I did not work at Lowe's (or was their most clueless employee) and was not going to be available to talk with him anytime soon. He stuck it out, however, and when I hung up he completed his sentence: "You should really take your boys..." -- I had my two youngest with me -- "...to see 'Amahl and the Night Visitors.' It's a great show and your boys would love it and I don't know why they don't do more to advertise it but I'm telling everyone because it is simply a great show and the boy who's in it this year -- sometimes it's a black boy but this year it's a white boy -- he is just fantastic..." at which point I had to stop him to tell him that I knew perfectly well that it was a great show, that I had seen it before, but please do go on and spread the word to as many other people as possible because gosh darn it, word of mouth is the best advertizing there is, even if it is some strange man who walks up to you at Lowe's.
When he walked away I couldn't help but wonder, do I just look like someone who wants to hear about theater?
Friday, November 17, 2006
1. “Patrick Dennis” was one of several pseudonyms for the man born Edward Everett Tanner III.
2. Dennis published his first four novels under the name "Virginia Rowans".
3. In 1956, with Auntie Mame, The Loving Couple: His (and Her) Story, and Guestward, Ho!, Dennis became the only writer ever to have three books on the New York Times bestseller list at the same time.
4. In Dennis's later years he left writing to become a butler, a job that his friends report that he enjoyed. At one time, he worked for Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonald's. Although he was at long last using his real name, he was in essence working yet again under a pseudonym; his employers had no inkling that their butler, Tanner, was the world-famous author Patrick Dennis.
Also, my little ole blog got a little slice of love from the "South of the James" blog as part of a piece on the Richmond Marquee magazine. I guess I've been a little sheltered in my little corner of the blogosphere. I'll have to branch out and see what other Richmond area blogs are out there, when I get some of that elusive treasure: free time! Thinking I'll ask for some for Christmas...2012.
Thursday, November 16, 2006
I’m curious what ever happened to Dipietro’s “Memphis” that was getting some try-outs a couple of years ago. Did he kick that to the curb so he could focus on “All Shook Up,” a high-concept musical (all Elvis songs) that just seemed like a bad idea to me. Though the New York Times said that, compared to other so-called ‘juke box’ musicals, ASU “actually rates as slicker and more skillful than most,” the show was generally damned by similarly faint praise. For instance, the NYT review went on to say “Were it staged in a pint-size theater with cardboard scenery and a campy young cast, "All Shook Up" might be a moderate hoot. But inflated to the proportions demanded by a glamour barn like the Palace, it becomes a mind-numbing holler.”
“All Shook Up” is currently touring nationwide, though nowhere really close to Richmond. A show that might be worth a trip out of town though is the regional tour of “Doubt,” which will feature Cherry Jones in the cast. That tour is coming to DC, Baltimore, and Charlotte, NC. I’m thinking I’ll be heading north to check it out come springtime.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Also, be sure to pick up next week’s Style that will feature a theater-related cover story. Is your curiosity peaked?
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
And I must add that I have trouble thinking of Joan Crawford and Triangle Players together without a vision of Robert Throckmorton sneaking in. Where for art thou, Robert?
Smoke on the Mountain: Feb. 23 – Apr. 29
The Odd Couple: May 18 – Aug. 5
Deathtrap: Sept. 7 – Oct. 21
Dames at Sea: Nov. 16 – Jan 20, 2008
My initial impressions: a) excited about "Smoke." I haven’t seen a production of it since the Mill’s triumphant production years ago (yes, I’m biased!), 2) wary of "The Odd Couple." My recollection is that this is not a play that has aged so well. The recent Broadway production with Broderick and Lane did not get very favorable reviews, if I remember correctly. III) Think both "Deathtrap" and "Dames" could be great, totally depending on the casts. I don’t have a particular affection for either of the scripts but the right people involved – like with most shows – can make for some excellent fun.
Monday, November 13, 2006
Clearly, Ms. Haubenstock at the T-D was fond of your performances as well. Here’s hoping for full houses for you all through the holidays!
Friday, November 10, 2006
I won't get a chance to see the production but I did run into a friend who left the show at intermission. Not exactly an endorsement. But please go see it yourself and let me know what you think.
I’m adding a link to Andrew Hamm’s blog below in the “No People Like Show People” section. Based on what I’ve read, Mr. Hamm writes at length about many interesting topics, not just theater. I’ve enjoyed reading his take on the political scene over these past weeks; not necessarily agreed with his take, but enjoyed reading it just the same. He also gets a lot more comments than I do so is a more enjoyable and provocative writer, has more friends than I do, or most likely, both. My impression is that a debate between Mr. Hamm and Mr. Wichmann would prove verrrrry interesting...
Thursday, November 09, 2006
In his comment, the director Andrew Hamm, largely captured my sentiments (and was way too nicely complimentary to me). I’d only add two things:
1) There’s a bit of a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t situation when it comes to mentioning race in some contexts. For instance, Richmond Shakespeare had Foster Solomon, a black man, playing Hamlet several years back. In my review, I didn’t mention his race at all, calling him “tall, bald and impassioned” but never calling him African-American. Why? Because I didn’t think it mattered in terms of either the production or his performance. A couple of weeks ago, Amy Beigelsen wrote a review of “Steel Magnolias” where she mentions race explicitly. Why? Because race matters in that production; for instance, it prompted some changes to the script to make the cultural references more appropriate. In both of these cases, I think the reviewers did the right thing.
2) In my review, I said the director did not call undue attention to the play’s racial overtones. Something NOT done is hard to describe, so let me do the reverse to illustrate what I mean. In Rick St. Peter’s production of “Taming of the Shrew” at the Barksdale several years ago, Rick blocked one of the fights between Kate and Petruchio as a boxing match, complete with a ring and gloves. That was calling heaps of attention to the play’s “battle of the sexes” overtones.
Finally, one last point (or maybe more exactly, plea for leniency), when you read any review, mine or anybody else’s, remember the writer usually has a relatively tiny amount of space (300 to 500 words) to capture plot, overall impression of the production, specifics on individual performances, and technical merits. For some perspective on how little that is, this post up to right here is about 400 words. Not much space.
If you happen to be planning to go to Las Vegas or Los Angeles in the next couple of days, you could consider trying out for the new reality TV show looking for the leads for “Grease.” Who knows? You could be the next Carrie Underwood! Meaning that, at the next Tony Awards, maybe you’ll get dissed by someone like Patti LuPone when you win best actress the way Faith Hill dissed Carrie.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
My boss asked me for a recommendation; he was looking to take his 7th grade daughter to a play. She is taking her first drama class and was encouraged to go see a professional production since she had never seen one before. (This last bit is of course a little astonishing to me given that my kids were generally IN shows before their first birthday, let alone attending them…) One of the recommendations I gave was CAT’s “The Importance of Being Earnest.” I was a little hesitant because, as I remember it, the play has some pretty sophisticated humor in it amongst the silliness, and also over the years I have seen the occasional marginal production at CAT.
Well, apparently, his daughter was enchanted by the play and sat rapt in attention throughout, laughing frequently. Now she is totally psyched about theater and, just today, my boss came and asked for yet another recommendation (watch out, Plaids!) Anyway, I guess my point is that, even when you are toiling away in a show and you are deep into the run and the house isn’t very big and you frankly would rather be at home sipping hot chocolate, you might consider that your audience might include an impressionable youngster experiencing her first show. And your performance may make the difference between that youngster becoming a new and excited theater lover or just another teenage videogame slacker.
And thanks, by the way, all you good folks at CAT for helping me gain points with the boss. I appreciate it.
My preview piece on “Medea” is up on the Style website. For your enjoyment…
As a Webb supporter, I’m psyched to see that it is looking like he will pull out a victory, though there probably won’t be any certainty to it for weeks or months even.
But in a piece of election news that I found both sublime and ridiculous, I was amused to read that Britney has filed for divorce from K-Fed. Looks like the Brit-ster was voting for a change on election day just like the rest of America.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Bravo to 'Brick' by the way for pretty consistently including theater in its coverage. And when I was out trying to find Brick's website, I came across this site for another Brick magazine that is pretty fascinating as well. Just what we all need, another fascinating way to lose a couple of hours of sleep!
Monday, November 06, 2006
I also screwed up by insinuating that Scott Wichman would be playing just one character in “Mme. Bonnard’s Bath.” As pointed out in Ms. Haubenstock’s not-too-enthusiastic review, Scott plays five characters, relative child’s play compared to the 14 thousand or so he did in “I Am My Own Wife.”
Last week, I was able to squeeze in an interview with Heather Davies and Mary Vreeland, director and star respectively, of “Medea” which starts at TheatreVCU this Thursday. It was one of those interviews that makes this theater writing gig worthwhile as both women were extremely intelligent and engaging and knowledgeable and just plain nice, too. We talked for more than an hour, even though the finished article will only be 300 words long. I easily could have written an 800-word lead story on them, they had so many good things to say. It was also one of those interviews that makes me glad that I married such a lovely and talented woman years ago. Otherwise, I would currently be struggling with a school-boy crush on Ms. Davies which would be bad for at least two reasons: 1) school-boy crushes are much less dignified when you are over 40 and 2) she is undoubtedly flying back to England within a week or two. Ms. Davies reminded me both in resemblance and general demeanor very much of Kate Winslet, who would be my supreme school-boy crush, if of course I wasn’t over 40 and above all that. So instead of staring into space and writing “Heather” with hearts instead of the “e”s all over my English composition notebook, perhaps I’ll buy my lovely wife some flowers on the way home from work today…
Friday, November 03, 2006
What I would hope with “Miserables” is that Clay MacLeod Chapman, who is an amazing writer, shows growth as a dramatist. As I said in this review of his “Volume of Smoke” at the Firehouse a while back, Clay does individual scenes very well. But connecting them together in a trajectory of some sort and establishing characters whose relationships grow and change is still something I haven’t seen a lot of in his work. Some of his most intriguing characters in his “Pumpkin Pie Show” stories have been outsiders, misfits or otherwise estranged. For someone so good at capturing estrangement, developing connections dramatically seems to have proven a challenge. I say this with the caviat that I haven’t read most of his stories or his novel and with a reiteration that I have found some of his individual scenes, vignettes and images absolutely stunning.
Thursday, November 02, 2006
Nudity. Obviously, this play's going to have some of that. Plays that I've seen that had nudity in them always stick out in my memory. Sometimes because the use of it has been organic and particularly effective (like the Barksdale's "Misfits" about 5 years ago), sometimes because it was jarring and out of place (a play called "Big Love" I saw at the Humana Festival many years ago started out with a woman emerging from a bath tub for no apparent reason). And in one unusual case, it's been because of both.
Maybe about 6 years ago, Triangle Players did a production of "The Judas Kiss," that starts out with a passionate interlude between a couple of servants. The RTP production had Stephanie Kelley playing one of the servants and the scene was blocked so that she stood up in the bed so her bedmate could "pleasure her orally" as one might say. Well, it was an effective way to get an audience's attention, that's for sure, and that scene has stuck in my mind ever since. The only problem was that the rest of the play was a moderately boring talk-fest and never matched the visceral intensity of those first few minutes.
I guess I think that in the best situations, nudity is just a natural aspect of a play, just like it is a natural aspect of life (I've got 4 kids; not many days go by when one of them isn't running around naked at some point...) From what I remember, "Frankie and Johnny in the Clare de Lune" has a couple of scenes like that, where people are naked because it's a situation where they would be naked in real life, you know? I guess Americans are so repressed about the whole nudity thing it's hard to just take it at face value. For instance, remember the big hullabaloo when Nicole Kidman appeared naked in a scene in "The Blue Room" on Broadway?
I don't have a specific point here, just some ramblings. Hope "The Secret" turns out well. I'm looking forward to seeing Scott as just one character for a change, instead of 6 dozen...
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
I was happy to get a "no hard feelings" kind of response from Mr. Schmidt, one of the subjects of my "People Hate Critics" rant (scroll to bottom). I do certainly hope we have a chance to share a laugh (and maybe a beer) someday and talk about "Caesar" and onstage flubs and politics and pals who get your back. I'll buy. Do you know where I can find a good babysitter?
I hope you caught Ms. Biegelsen’s review of “Steel Magnolias” in today’s Style. There’s a possibility that yet another Style reviewer will be covering “Mme. Bonnard’s Bath.” If all goes well, this town will be positively infected with theater critics!
And while I’m on the subject of the Firehouse, I’d like to throw something out there that might stir the soup a little. The Firehouse has had an on-going relationship with Israel Horovitz for many years now. If I remember right, it was initiated back when Director Bill Patton was doing shows more regularly at there. I’m sure there are many interesting and exciting things that come out of this collaboration. But I also wonder how much it ultimately benefits the Firehouse. Here’s why I wonder that:
--- There are not many people outside of the already somewhat insular world of theater that know who Israel Horovitz is. Even within the theater world, people may not be familiar with “Line” or “The Indian Wants the Bronx” or the other big shows that launched the playwright’s career. So I guess I wonder whether his name is bringing more or different people to the Firehouse. More stuff by younger, hipper writers might be more effective (like Clay MacLoed Chapman’s “Volume of Smoke” which they did a while back).
--- This may just be my impression, but some of the plays by Mr. Horovitz that have been produced by the Firehouse have seemed not quite polished. The last they did, for instance, “Compromise,” had many intriguing elements that might have ultimately gelled into something truly compelling. But, in my mind, it still seemed a work in progress. (I should say that at least two of my friends whose opinions I respect a great deal really enjoyed “Compromise.” So maybe it’s just me…)
--- Lastly, not since “Lebensraum” has one of his shows really grabbed me. And much of the impact of that one was that it was such an interesting idea. The novelty of the premise carried it through some of the rough spots. Nothing since has struck me as particularly good.
I guess my ultimate question is: In a world full of exciting plays and only a limited number of spots on a season schedule, is the Firehouse hampering itself by so closely aligning itself with Mr. Horovitz?
And to be fair, part of this rant may spring from my frustration that there aren’t more places that new and challenging and even bizarre works can be seen in Richmond. I appreciate what Yellow House and RTP have done occasionally, and what Sycamore Rogue looks like it’s trying to do, but I have to say, I still really miss Theatre Gym.
Monday, October 30, 2006
And, in case you missed it, the T-D came out against the marriage amendment. Will wonders ever cease?
Friday, October 27, 2006
Living Word puts on Richmond's second production of “Steel Magnolias” this year, this one distinguished by its African-American cast. I won’t be seeing this production but Style is planning on covering it. Another possible reviewer is taking a shot at this production. Stay tuned for the results!
If you didn’t see it back during the winter, here’s an article written by Living Word founder Derome Scott Smith. Makes for an interesting read.
Speaking of reviews, I would have expected a review of “The Importance of Being Earnest” to show up in the T-D today, but didn’t see it. I did see the review of “Aida,” which didn’t say anything that made me want to see this traveling show.
Thursday, October 26, 2006
The production that opened at CAT last night has Una Harrison as Lady Bracknell which could be something of a hoot (complete cast and crew listed here). I hope the production is good because I recommended it to my boss (sight unseen – not always a good idea!) and I don’t want to get fired…
I’m enjoying reading the responses/perspectives generated by the reviews I posted, particularly “Caesar.” I am heartened by the impression I’m getting that there are discerning theater patrons out there who think about productions in a critical way. I really believe it is possible to put out “constructive criticism;” the people posting (so far…) have certainly demonstrated that. It’s disheartening for me sometimes when audiences seem impressed by the simple mechanics (i.e., “how do you remember all of those line?”) and don’t think harder about whether an actor, designer or director did his/her job well.
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
And, the folks at Disney’s High School Musical will be doing a concert tour in a few weeks. I love this show, in part, because my kids love it (even the 6 year old can sing “Get Your Head in the Game”) but also because, in an almost subconscious way, it shines a national spotlight on the importance of theater programs in high school. Sure, it’s all Disney-fied and everything, but will it make more talented kids think about trying out for their OWN high school musicals? Undoubtedly.
Speaking of Disney, if I remember right, Aida opens tonight at the Landmark. Someone tell me if it’s good. The bad buzz it generated on Broadway will keep me far away across town from this show.
Monday, October 23, 2006
Also, a few days after I posted something here about the possibility of running into someone at Ukrop's who I had written a bad review about, I happened to meet Jennie Brown from SPARC at the Carytown Ukrop's. Earlier this fall, I saw Cynde Liffick from Richmond Shakespeare jogging along Monument Avenue, probably only a week or so after seeing Thomas Nowlin (who was RS's "Othello") in the VCU Ukrop's. Last winter, I was pleasantly surprised bumping into Jill Bari Steinberg walking along in Carytown and one day last spring Grant Mudge was walking into Crossroads Coffee when I was walking out. A couple of summers ago, as my kids romped around the playground near the Carillon, I noticed Chris Evans and his lovely wife walking along in the park as well with their little one who I think was only 2 or 3 at the time.
But possibly the most interesting unexpected encounter I had was when I was visiting the offices of Media General probably 5-6 years ago. I was working for a consultant and had come to work on their computer system and walking toward the person's office I was supposed to meet, I happened to pass d.l.hopkins's office. I don't think I knew he was a computer geek like me until then.
Maybe some people feel claustrophobic in a town like this, where everybody seems to know everybody else. Personally, I think it's one of the many charms of Richmond, and one of the many reasons we have never been get ourselves to move away, though we've often thought of doing so.
Speaking of interesting encounters, if you are a big Garrison Keillor fan, he's going to be at the Barter Theater way down in Abingdon, VA, on Nov. 1. A drive down there might be a nice excuse to check out the tail-end of the changing leaves.
I've been enjoying the small bit of discussion that my "People Hate Critics" post seemed to generate; thank you all for your perspectives. I'll have to think up some additional juicy topics that might get some responses. Anyone else have any ideas?
Friday, October 20, 2006
Speaking of beautiful sights, I caught a sneak peak of the upcoming premiere issue of “Richmond Marquee” (this job does have SOME perks) and it looks smashing. There are profiles of ubiquitous Lighting Designer Lynn Hartman and expatriate Rodney Hobbs, several other interesting articles plus listings of auditions and show openings through December. There’s a website up now too; check it out and be sure and subscribe. The price can’t be beat.
This weekend will see another production by a company that specializes in abbreviated Shakespeare, the Reduced Shakespeare Company’s “Completely Hollywood (abridged)” at U of R’s Jepson Theater. Just as a head’s up for next week, there’ll be a dramatic staged reading of selections from “Nickel and Dimed” at Jepson; it’s a great book worth checking out if you have a chance.
Also, there’s been a fair amount of press about the ComedySportz anniversary. This leads me to a gray area I’m not sure whether I should cover on this blog or not. There’s been plenty of interplay between actors and improvisation in the past; Jeff Clevenger and Jennifer Frank come to mind. I’ve written about stand-up before. And some stuff that is actually theater – the Mystery Dinner Playhouse shows, for instance – really skews more toward improvisational, or at least interactional, comedy. I’ve got to think about this and, if I have a spare minute, maybe I’ll add those folks into the blog in some way.
In the meantime, there’s a new Mystery Dinner Playhouse show opening this weekend called “Fashion to Die For!” Have a great weekend!
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
I heard news on Q94 (Q94!?!) this morning about the “Sweeney Todd” film that has Johnny Depp slated to play Sweeney. Director Tim Burton’s sweetie, Helena Bonham Carter will play Mrs. Lovett (as confirmed with this story on Broadway.com). What killed me was that, in order to say something that her young hip audience might relate to, the DJ Melissa Chase said something to the effect that you’d recognize the music from Sweeney Todd because it’s been in Looney Tunes cartoons. Oy. Can our pop culture get any dumber?
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Have also been a little frustrated looking into the Broadway possibilities. Got some last row orchestra seats for "A Chorus Line" -- pretty pathetic but what are you going to do. Looked into "Wicked" -- all sold out for the week before Xmas. Oh, that is unless you're willing to pop for the $300 a piece "premium tickets." Excuse me?!?! As if $125/per for "regular" seats isn't enough? It's certainly another reason to be thankful we have so much quality theater right here in town, shows that you can see without taking out a second mortgage...
Monday, October 16, 2006
What would you see if you had one night in New York right now?
Debra Wagoner was astounding as usual, the singer/songwriter Kim Alexander rocked the house, and modern dance troupe Amaranth was mesmerizing. Scott Wichmann’s scene from “I Am My Own Wife” was particularly poignant. And the boys singing “Were You There?” sounded great on a song that managed to be sweet, funny, and significant all at the same time. It was an enchanting evening and if the energy from that one night could be loosed upon the Commonwealth at large I’m sure it would have the power to convince the un- or misinformed people who still plan on voting in support of the asinine Marshall/Newman Amendment.
Thursday, October 12, 2006
But I'm ignoring that because there's plenty of stuff to be positive about. For one thing, shows are being extended left and right: "I Am My Own Wife" got pushed out another weekend and "Sordid Lives" added performances. And just when I think I've got at least a vague handle on all of the theaters in town, I see that a group called the Reflections Repertory Company is doing "A Bench in the Sun" starting tonight (the T-D posted an announcement about them...hmmmm....). According to their website, they're doing "Agnes of God" next, which is one of those plays that, with the right people in it, can be just transcendent. And if you are interested in going to a theater that tends to program shows in a more faith-based way, I'd recommend the Jewish Family Theatre at the JCC. They did a great "Anne Frank" a while back and will be starting up with "Crossing Delancey" in a few weeks.
Furthermore, the very nice responses from Mr. Hamm to my "People Hate Critics" rant lifted me out of the doldrums this afternoon. It seems that perhaps we CAN all get along! I really appreciate your further explanation of the moment I described in 'Julius Caesar,' Andrew, and your reassurance that I am not hated. (And nice job with Cassius, BTW, very excellent work!) I'm hoping that it comes across that I think pretty long and hard about saying negative things in a review. Sometimes it seems like there's no avoiding it but, as the song goes, I try to accentuate the positive. And, as I think I've said before, most of the time the on-stage mistakes bring out the real talents of theater pros. I am that much more impressed with them when they are able to work through the flubs and come out the other side with no one the wiser.
And Jacquie, I'm just not telling you when I'm going to see your shows anymore since I seem to be a jinx...
And last but not least, it's fall, it's going to get good and cold this weekend, I'm going to take a break from theater for a couple of days and maybe see a movie this weekend (since there's about three out now that I'm hankering for...), and I'm going to have the chance to share in the joy of people (very talented people) coming together on Sunday to support a good cause. For now, at least, I can't really complain.
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Please Go To: http://www.votenova.org/ To Pre-Register Your Donation And Reserve A Seat, OR Call (804)330-4566 For Reservations And Make Your Donation At The Theater.
Also in the better late than never department: I’m sorry to have missed the Arts and Letters Live event on Monday. I’m planning on catching the broadcast on Thanksgiving. It’s pretty exciting to have (at least) two nationally recognized stars in our little town for the weekend (Hilarie Burton and Elliot Yamin, of course).
And I’ve fallen down on the job again, as “Frankenstein Lives!’ has been open a week at the Science Museum and I haven’t mentioned it. I have to admit to some puzzlement about the run of this show; I’m not quite sure why it is closing Oct. 29 just when the fever pitch about Halloween should be highest. Hope I can get the kiddies off to see this before then!
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Anyway, I'm sure that there's people that are annoyed or angered or bored by my reviews (or my blog). Fine by me. Difference of opinion is what makes our democracy strong.
But for you non-critics out there, here's a window into the conundrums critics face. I saw Richmond Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar" last Friday. Generally a very good production (but I'll save the specifics for when my review shows up in Style). I liked the performance of Jeff Schmidt as Mark Antony quite a lot. He's was doing a great job with the funeral speech ("Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears...") but then, at the very end of the scene, he totally went blank. Like, totally. It was the most complete full-stop flub I think I have ever seen on stage. There was nothing but dead air for a good few seconds. As I remember it, he eventually repeated one of the lines from earlier in the scene and then everyone just exited.
I'm not pointing this out to be mean. I think Mr. Schmidt is a fine actor; he had been doing well, performed nicely during the rest of the show, and overall did an admirable job. But as a critic, what do you do? Do you memorialize that momentary lapse in print in the spirit of giving an honest assessment of the production? Or do you gloss over it to be "nice?" Movie reviewers can be jerks in their assessments because they aren't usually going to see the person they wrote about at Ukrop's the following Friday. But how do you balance giving a hard-working actor the benefit of the doubt with keeping up a semblance of journalistic integrity?
Or how about this: "The True Story of Pocahontas" opened last week also. As Ms. Haubenstock pointed out in her review, the script has some serious problems. She didn't even mention what I thought were the most significant issues: Pocahontas's motivation for saving John Smith isn't explained, and a huge hunk of the show is told in the future tense, which was confusing to me, not to mention the kids of various ages I had along with me. But you also have to admire the fact that they tried to "keep it real" and not do something that totally made Pocahontas something that she wasn't. Do you reward intent? Or damn with faint praise by saying, "well, at least it wasn't something worse."
Q: What would you do?
A: Avoid becoming a critic at all costs, perhaps?
PS: Style could still use someone else to write them reviews. If this entry isn't inspiration enough, I should tell you the pay isn't so great either...
Friday, October 06, 2006
I’m always a little bit wary about anything calling itself “The True Story…” of anything. History is a notoriously slippery subject. Pocahontas seems like a historical figure who by default is romanticized. I’ll be intrigued to see how Pete and Julie dealt with this impulse.
This show also makes me think about how the majority of actors I’ve known have at one time or another had a “street theater” type job, like a character at a theme park or dancing/playing in a theme park show or working as an interpreter at a historical park, etc., or even a dancing/singing waiter/waitress. My lovely wife spent some time portraying a Native American – evocative of Pocahontas though it may not have been her explicitly – while working at Busch Gardens many moons ago. While I’ve heard these jobs can be a huge pain, people have also told me they represented some of the best training they’ve ever had. Care to share YOUR experience?
Thursday, October 05, 2006
Also, yesterday was a testament to never knowing where theater is going to pop up in your life. I was reading a book called “Women in Early Imperial China,” because, well, it’s a long story but I just was. And here’s what I came across: “Sociologists have long used role playing to create subtle models of society. According to one theory, individuals in society are akin to actors in a play. Sometimes we carry ourselves as if we were back stage, preparing for a public performance. Other times we are on stage, in view of others, playing out chosen social roles. As social actors, we choose the props, clothing, and makeup that will make our performance appear most believable…In real life as in the theater, the actor and audience influence each other. Actors manipulate the audience, and the audience’s reaction shapes an ongoing performance….To a large degree, we are the sum of the social roles we perform.”
OK, so that’s a lot of sociological theory, but if you followed that, imagine that one of your social roles is being an actor (as it very likely might be if you are reading this). Then, it’s kind of like role-playing within role-playing! And what if the character you are playing is an actor! That’s like sociology to the third power!
And even though this seems like the kind of conversation you have late at night in a college dorm room, I assure you I’m not stoned as I’m writing this…
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
Second indignity (not mine): the Times-Dispatch review of David Sedaris’s appearance at the Landmark was tucked down below the obituaries in today’s paper. Jacquie O told me that the review of Swift Creek Mill’s “I Love You, etc.” was also placed in this ignominious location. Could the coverage of live performances BE any more invisible?
And in the better late than never department, here’s a link to my piece on Debra’s “The World on a String” and the Starlight Cabaret Series. If you haven’t gone yet, there’s a show this coming Saturday at 11pm – I expect that’s when Debra brings out Arlen’s more risqué material – plus two shows next week. Wouldn’t a trip to the Cabaret be a great end to a long Columbus Day weekend?
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
Closer to home, The Times They Are A-Changin' made its debut on Broadway last week as well. Also haven’t read anything from the NYC reviewers but the notices on the Chicago run certainly were positive. I’m hoping to make the yearly sojourn to NYC sometime early next year but am still undecided on whether this will be the big show to see or not.
Monday, October 02, 2006
You may not notice it but the reviews I'm writing for Style these days are more often around 400 words long versus 500 words in the past. It seems that everyone is cutting back some. Those missing 100 words mean that the review for "The Constant Wife" won't be mentioning some solid supporting performances (e.g., Jill Bari Steinberg, convincing as up-and-coming businesswoman friend to Constance; Andrew Boothby, a welcome dose of energy as socially awkward Mortimer) and some excellent technical work (Sue Griffin's costumes were divine -- where DID she find Bernard's Wimbleton shoes? Got to get me a pair of those!). One hundred words doesn't seem like much but three or four sentences is often the difference between getting a mention and not.
This "Wife" was also the kind of show that makes me wish I had the 1200 words or so that a NYTimes reviewer has. There's much that could be covered with this play -- in terms of the text and in terms of this particular production -- but not much that could be explored succinctly enough to fit into 400 words. Here's a few of the things that WON'T be in my published review:
-- This is a play that takes patience. The first act is a moderately funny drawing room comedy with most of the spunk coming from Mrs. and Martha Culver (great work by Kelly Kennedy and Jen Meharg in this production). Things really start rolling in the second act and but it was only in the third act that I felt fully engaged.
-- I really try not to be too politically-correct, but I was put off by the preponderant man-bashing. Men are called everything from wicked to weak to childish in this play. I don't think I would have minded so much if a) so much of the bashing hadn't happened in the first act which was relatively slow in comparison to the rest of the play, b) it was a little more clever and c) there was even a little less of it -- after the initial point was made (and remade), it just felt like piling on.
-- You come to appreciate the depth of Constance's insight and intelligence. She is truly a remarkable character. But after the show was over, I was struck by the 'what-if' scenario. What if Mortimer hadn't brought the whole situation to a head? Would things have continued on for her and John ad infinitum? The thought that Constance might simply have turned a blind eye for several more years makes her seem less noble.
-- There was something not quite clicking for me in the chemistry between John (Steve Perigard) and Mary-Louise (Laine Satterfield). I enjoyed each of their performances separately – particularly Steve’s growing apoplection in the third act – but there wasn’t much fire or verve or even a sense of sneakiness spurring their scenes together. The way I read the play, Mary-Louise is drawn to John because he’s a bit more dashing, sophisticated and intelligent than her somewhat blunt Mortimer and John is drawn to Mary-Louise because she’s a sweet young thing, a pleasant bauble that amuses him. I left the play not knowing why exactly they had ever been attracted to each other.
-- On some more positive notes, I could have gone on at length about the beautiful set, well-appointed down to the little trees visible through the living room window. And Larry Cook’s performance was a treat, particularly his restraint in the last scene where it would have been easy for more gloat to sneak in.
The only reason I haven’t mentioned Ms. Mamana is because I was able to sneak some praise of her into my 400 words. I thought she did a great job with a part that also required significant restraint. I’ll admit I was on the fence early on in the show but, by the end, I was duly impressed. It was probably the even-handed delivery of the “go to hell” line that won me over for good.
I hope I haven’t given away too much in this rambling bit of blogness. And I hope you check out my (much shorter) review when it shows up in print.
Saturday, September 30, 2006
Oh, also, great piece on Michael Herring, Commonwealth's Attorney, who is a neighbor of mine and a friend of a friend. Theater coverage as well as compelling local reportage?!?! Now you're scaring me, Brick!
I went to see "The Constant Wife" last night and will be posting more extensively on that experience as soon as I finish the review which won't be tonight because the kids are asleep and the wife and I have a date with Season 5 of "Six Feet Under." (One of the great things about blogging is no finicky editor cuts your ridiculously long run-on sentences...) But I ran into Jodi Strickler there who is one of the nicest people on the face of the earth and who is stage managing the show. I think of Jodi whenever I refer to my brood of kids as "chillren" ('Quilters' joke, sorry). Whenever I hear 'show-biz' people dismissed as crazy or egotistical or backstabbing or whatever, I think about all the people I know like Jodi who are just, like, normal and friendly and personable. Frankly, I've met more people in the computer biz who were whack-jobs than in the theater biz. And they couldn't carry a tune, either.
Friday, September 29, 2006
For those of you who haven’t heard all the details, I’ve included them below. And below that is Lisa’s contact info; if you want to help out, I’m sure Lisa could use assistance.
“Richmond Marquee” will celebrate accomplishments, highlight opportunities, lament losses and showcase news that is specific to the theater community in the form of a monthly publication (with hopes of moving quickly to bi-weekly and eventually weekly). Subscribers will be given the option of receiving time-sensitive e-newsletters between issues (so no one misses an audition). "Richmond Marquee" will provide a forum for collaborations of ideas and submissions of opinions. It will highlight what to see and where to see it; and allot more than a quarter page of space to do so. It will be supported through individual subscriptions and ad sales. The projected accompanying website will provide a page for actors to post headshots and bios.
Included will be:
· A section called “On the Boards” – effectively, the theater calendar of ongoing productions
· A section called “I Hope I Get It” – listings of upcoming auditions submitted by various local theaters, professional and community
· A section called “Lights Up!” – highlights of productions opening soon
· A section called “Footlights and Footnotes” – stories about actors, theaters, local news that directly affects US
· A section called “Cue the Spotlight…” – profiles of various members of the theater community
· Occasionally, an opinion page – letters to and from the editor
· The “Call Board” – individual classified ads
· Space for purchased weekly display ads – theaters, individuals, related businesses
It will not contain theater reviews. It is intended to be a tool for working the local theater scene – one that uplifts the individual parts and celebrates accomplishments, encourages individual ambitions.
6 mo - $12.00
Subscriptions for longer than that are not being offered because of the possibility of changing the frequency of the publication. When it changes, the subscription rates will be adjusted. Also, anyone who pre-orders a subscription prior to November 1st (Premiere date), will receive the Premiere Issue in the mail free of charge in addition to their subscription term.
Thursday, September 28, 2006
Well, after much wrangling of schedules, it looks like the folks at the
Firehouse have been able to find a night for a special performance of "I Am
My Own Wife," mostly to accommodate other theater artists who can't make the
regularly scheduled shows. Mr. Wichmann will work his magic on Tuesday, Oct.
10th at 8pm (at the Firehouse, of course) and the proceeds from the
performance will benefit the RAPT Theatre Artists Fund. Tickets for RAPTers
will be $10. If you've been frustrated because you haven't been able to see
Scotty shine, here's your chance!
In other benefit news, I received confirmation a couple of days ago that the
Commonwealth Coalition benefit will indeed be happening on Sunday, October
15th at the Barksdale. Wine and refreshments will be available beginning at
6:30 p.m., followed by a 7:30 curtain time. According to Kimberly Jones
Clark: "The show will feature diverse talents from many facets of arts and
theater in the Richmond community."
The show will feature vignettes from various Richmond-area productions and
will provide an eclectic experience as these artists come together in
support of The Commonwealth Coalition. Just as a reminder: this is the
organization that is working to defeat the Marshall/Newman Amendment or
so-called "marriage amendment." Please plan to come, join in the fun and
support this effort.
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Well, for some reason my “I Am My Own Wife” review is not on the Style website today, though it is in the magazine (really, honest it is!). For those who only peruse Style online, I’ve included the full text below.
But first, here’s a little announcement on behalf of Sycamore Rouge in Petersburg for all you theatrical folks who really get into the Halloween spirit (for more info, call Jonathan Elliot):
“We're looking for creative individuals with a sense of humor, mirth, and enjoyment of the Halloween spirit to help transform Sycamore Rouge into the ultimate haunted house. If you're ghoulishly talented at fiendishly decorating your own home every October, we invite you to use Sycamore Rouge's twelve thousand square foot facility as your canvas this year! We'll be hosting a brainstorming session at Sycamore Rouge this Sunday, October 1, from 1 to 3 pm. Light refreshments will be served, as we wander the dark corners of the facilities and plan all sorts of fun, spooky, and scary happenings.
The Haunted House will run from October 26-31, and will be available in two versions: "Kiddie"(ooooh! This spaghetti is really BRAINS!!!!) and "Adult"(masked men with chainsaws jumping out from dark corners). We need actors, designers, planners, hosts, builders for both versions--whether you want to be a kooky witch or design the perfect fright, we'd love to have your help!
If interested, please RSVP by responding to this email, or call Jonathan Elliott, Sycamore Rouge managing director, at (804) 957-5707, ext. 104.”
OK, and now here’s the review:
Portraying 35 characters, Wichmann is a one-man wonder in the Firehouse’s “I Am My Own Wife”
By David Timberline (409 words)
The first time Scott Wichmann changes character in the mesmerizing one-man show “I Am My Own Wife,” now playing at the Firehouse Theatre, the effect is as dramatic as a slap in the face. The remarkable actor does such an astounding job at embodying the aging, fussy, and slightly fey German transvestite Charlotte Von Mahlsdorf that it feels like waking up from a spell when he suddenly transforms into a very masculine American journalist about a dozen minutes into the play. But this is only the first of countless captivating moments as Wichmann goes on to portray 34 additional characters in order to tell the story of Von Mahlsdorf’s complex and seemingly impossible life.
Born Lothar Berfelde in 1928, Von Mahlsdorf discovered her predilection for girl’s clothes as a boy living in Berlin. It was her misfortune to live under two of the most repressive regimes of history, the Nazis and the Communists of East Germany, and yet somehow she survived, all the time pursuing an abiding love for antique furniture, clocks, and phonographs. Her dramatic story includes a stint in a German youth prison, close calls with soldiers during the fall of Berlin, and the clandestine support of the city’s underground gay movement. But how much of it is true? Playwright Doug Wright confronts this question by making himself a character in the show and portraying the creative crisis he faced when aspects of Charlotte’s account seemed to conflict with the facts.
It is breathtaking to watch Wichmann switch between characters, each drawn with impeccable clarity. But Charlotte is his masterpiece. Speaking in a hypnotic sing-songy lilt and armed with a knowing smile that is warm but also a bit sly, the actor makes Von Mahlsdorf empathetic, compelling and maddeningly elusive. Director Morrie Piersol supports Wichmann with occasionally inspired blocking and key lighting and sound effects (lighting design by Michael Mauren, sound by Ryan Corbett and Trey Pollard).
The show is not perfect; the “play about writing a play” conceit is a little too self-conscious and does not quite pay off in terms of dramatic tension. Edwin Slipek Jr.’s scenic design is dominated by the simple beauty of a few pieces of antique furniture but they contrast jarringly with an indistinct, angular backdrop (a map of Berlin, perhaps?) Still, fueled by Wichmann’s bravura performance and capped off by one last treat as you walk out of the theater, this is a production that shouldn’t be missed.
“I Am My Own Wife” runs Thursday – Saturday nights at 8pm, with Sunday matinees at 4pm, through October 7th at the Firehouse Theatre, 1609 W. Broad Street. Tickets are $10-20 and can be purchased by calling 355-2001.
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
My hope and dream, when I first heard about Brick, was that it might be able to give some coverage (finally) to the college theater scene and some of the more fringey theater stuff that happens here. I (and by extension, Style) can barely cover the mainline companies in town and have basically abandoned even a couple of the second-tiers (sorry, RTP and CAT). My fear with Brick is that it’ll end up covering a lot of the same ground that the T-D and Style (and Entertainment Weekly and a half-dozen other regional and national publications) already have pretty thoroughly shellacked, i.e., movies and TV and music. I hope that Pete can find someone that can cover the theater beat and, while I’m mentioning it, I should say that Style could also use someone to assist in theater coverage. If anyone else out there has some interest, E-mail me and I’ll pass your credentials up the line at the home office.
Oh, and I am still withholding any final judgment on Brick. I’ll still pick it up and read it over and ponder Free Will Astrology, if nothing else. And clearly, I’m not shy about giving it free publicity on my blog (for whatever that's worth!)
Of course, if you have read my review of Ms. Wagoner’s CD (scroll to the bottom), you know that I kid because I love. Debra has always been a spectacular vocalist and a personal favorite of mine. The opportunity to hear just her sing for an evening is a supreme treat. And just for the record, Julie is no slouch on the drums either and a pretty darn good singer/actress herself.
There will be a blurb in Style on the Cabaret series but not until next Wednesday, unfortunately. In the meantime, I hope the piece in the T-D helps generate a significant audience for this show. Tell your friends!
Also, since I relish any opportunity I can find to praise my wife in a public forum, here’s an anecdote from ancient history: fourteen years ago (yikes!), Holly and I traveled to Australia on our delayed honeymoon. We did a scuba diving excursion there and, when it was over, a bunch of folks went to an Aussie nightclub that was having a karaoke contest. With a little encouragement of the alcoholic kind, Holly entered and sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Due mostly to the wildly enthusiastic response of our fellow scuba divers, she ended up winning second place, nearly beating out the local favorite. So, long before Katherine McPhee, Harold Arlen was helping beautiful brunettes come in second place in competitive singing events...
Monday, September 25, 2006
A brief aside appropo of nothing: Part of Mr. Porter’s commentary mentioned last season’s “Southern Baptist Sissies” at RTP. I happened to speak to him a few days after he saw that show and he had many positive things to say about it. Earlier that same day, I spoke to someone else whose opinion I also respect who said the production was “on the level of bad community theater.” Having not seen the show, I didn’t know how to respond to either of them. As much as I love to have an opinion about things, sometimes I’m kind of forced not to.
I have to give a (reluctant) nod to the T-D for all of its theater coverage on Sunday, with a front-pager on Scott/”IAMOW”, an announcement (a bit late perhaps) of the Richmond Shakespeare indoor season/name change, and even a little piece on Debra’s Cabaret show at the Barksdale. Maybe they ARE trying?
Ms. Haubenstock’s review of “The Constant Wife” was apparently somewhere in the Sunday paper, but I had more luck finding it online than in print. It is an intriguing review: it’s certainly positive but it stops short of a rave. It also has at least one interesting turn of phrase: “larded with witticisms.” Never heard that one before.
And finally, a minor vent: one of the frustrations of writing for a weekly is having a review wrapped up a full 10 days before it gets into print. By the time my review of “IAMOW” shows up on Wednesday, just about everyone (except Brick) will have weighed in on Scott’s performance, making me old news. Oh, the sad life of theater reviewer…
Saturday, September 23, 2006
Also, picked up this past week's Brick. Its direction hasn't changed: still no theater. Fewer chuckles, as well.
Happy holidays and happy Fall (my favorite season)!
I've heard this play compared to an Aaron Sorkin TV show, which is also a bit ironic given my recent mention of Studio 60 on Sunset Strip. Which, because it's late and my mind wanders, reminds me that there was an episode of Picket Fences that I saw years ago while I was traveling -- it was totally out of context because I never really watched the show -- that featured just four of the show's characters and it was so tightly plotted and the dialogue was so great and it all took place in one house in two rooms that I thought it would have made a killer play. But I never found out what the name of the specific episode was so I guess that's one piece of potential theater lost for the ages.
Anyway, did you know that W. Somerset Maugham wrote more than 20 plays between 1907 and 1933, and at one point had four running simultaneously in London? But that he turned away from theater after the 1933 flop Sheppey, and although he lived until 1965, he never lifted his pen as a playwright again. What a shame.
This play ran on Broadway last year and from what I remember, got fair to pretty good reviews. I'm not sure why it only ran for three months. The Richmond production is getting a somewhat last minute addition of Steve Perigard to the cast. I have never witnessed the process of a director directing himself as an actor. It seems to be the kind of thing that could make you schizophrenic. Or something. Is it really 1am? Man, gotta go to bed. Night, night, Richmond.
Thursday, September 21, 2006
- Cartoons. I love Tom Tomorrow and Ted Rall, in particular.
- Snarky side comments. Editor-in-chief/Punchline vet Peter Humes has a nice way with the funny aside and will stick one just about anywhere. Tucked at the bottom of last week’s banner: “Once you are finished reading Brick, you may choose to create funny hats or origami swans.”
- Interesting interviews. In last week’s edition, I enjoyed the interview with VCU History Prof. Emilie Raymond on Charton Heston, a fave of mine since “Bowling for Columbine.”
- Bashing of Style (and all other weeklies). I know I write for Style but even so, I am very well aware of some of Style’s limitations and problems. So I welcome a new free weekly as much as the next guy. But Brick printing a letter that fawns all over the new mag (after only one issue) and says, “finally a REAL weekly publication for Richmond” is a slam against all sorts of people, not to mention people who could actually end up big Brick fans. Is it really necessary to “go negative” so early in the game?
- Disingenuousness at who they are. “Richmond’s PLUCKY weekly”? How plucky are they going to be with a $900 million corporation behind them?
- No website. Yet? Ever?
- Not quite as funny as they think they are. I laugh out loud at Jon Stewart and The Onion and this particularly hilarious post from Eliza Skinner. I chuckled a couple of times reading through Brick.
And of course, my biggest peeve about Brick is NO THEATER! What’s up with that? Granted, I haven’t seen this week’s issue so maybe this point is already moot, but in the two issues I’ve seen there’s no mention of live theater, no calendar of shows, nada. Instead, we get articles on Zach Branff and “The Wire.” That’s plucky?
Theater is an integral part of this town from Theatre-VCU to Theatre IV’s kid’s shows to Bifocals Theater Company. You aren’t covering Richmond, Brick, if you aren’t covering theater.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
This is one of the main organizations fighting the Amendment. PLEASE mark this date on your calendar and plan to come. I think some of the finer details are still being put in place but, from what I've heard already, it's going to be an awesome time in support of a great cause (with several theater-type folks involved). For more info. on the Coalition, you can check out this website.
1. It has the potential to cause real harm to people I love (or at the very least, cause them additional legal fees or anxiety over how current legal arrangements are set up) and it benefits ABSOLUTELY NO ONE.
2. It deliberately writes prejudice into the Virginia Constitution, which is bad public policy at the least and an affront to American values at the most. I spent several hours over this past summer studying Thomas Jefferson for a paper I had to do for school and, his somewhat compromised stand on slavery notwithstanding, I have to think this is the kind of thing that, beyond causing him to spin in his grave, might compel him to actual rise up from the ground and cause physical injury to several prominent Virginia politicians.
If you care at all about the psychic state of the world, please vote against this amendment and call all of your friends and neighbors and encourage them to vote against it as well. Thank you.
By the way, I don’t really know anything about the play “Sordid Lives” that RTP is opening tonight but I expect it’ll be a a hoot, particularly with folks like Amy Berlin and Jennifer Frank in it. Though it’s a farce, the title got me thinking about how so many people, ranging from ill informed to criminally ignorant, think that homosexuals by default lead sordid lives. Yeah, all of those middle-aged gay mothers and fathers I know are leaving the kids at home to play with Drano while they go cruise the public toilets. Get real.
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
First, my review of “I Am My Own Wife” will be in Style next Wednesday. Guess they couldn’t squeeze it in by the deadline this week. Sorry about that. Rest assured, I liked it a lot and have already started urging friends, relatives and strangers on the street to go see it. Scott W. has the Times-Dispatch review on his website.
Here’s a mini-review: I thought last night’s premiere episode of Aaron Sorkin’s new TV show, “Studio 60 on Sunset Strip,” was pretty excellent. What’s that got to do with theater? Part of what’s cool about the show is the view into what happens backstage. I think people are always fascinated by what goes on behind the scenes (part of the appeal of the movie “Prairie Home Companion” over the summer); I know I am. I don’t know if the show will remain interesting over the long-haul but the premiere was pretty compelling. There's already a blog about it if you are interested.
I’ve added links in the “All in this together” section to the Virginia Actor’s Forum and to the Richmond VA Theater websites. I’m particularly fond of the RVA Theater's calendar. It’s not all the way complete (Triangle Players?) but I love seeing the shows laid out on a calendar. Well done!
Also, if you want some interesting reading, it’s worth checking out Broadway.com once in a while. I liked the recap of the British reality show that culminated in the selection of a new Maria for London production of "The Sound of Music" as well as the interview with Eric Bogosian. The production of his “subUrbia” (directed by Rick St. Peter) was one of the most bracing and intriguing shows I’ve seen in Richmond.