Monday, April 30, 2007

Write like a man

According to the Gender Genie, I'm all man, baby! Except when I talk about Madonna. Here's an analysis of my last four blog posts:

Brecht/Weill reviews:
Female Score: 610
Male Score: 747
The Gender Genie thinks the author of this passage is: male!

Gay dating in the Styx (Part 5)
Female Score: 262
Male Score: 593
The Gender Genie thinks the author of this passage is: male!

Madonna thing
Female Score: 223
Male Score: 189
The Gender Genie thinks the author of this passage is: female!

Gambling boat
Female Score: 452
Male Score: 524
The Gender Genie thinks the author of this passage is: male!

Good to know. Just for fun, I plugged in a few of the writers I somewhat admire (and one I, um, don't). Here were the results:

Peggy Noonan
Female Score: 0
Male Score: 0
Words nobody ever uses score: 1,325
The Gender Genie thinks the author of this passage is: pretentious!

Joseph Farah
Female Score: 0
Male Score: 562
Question marks score: 257
The Gender Genie thinks the author of this passage is: in need of basic journalism writing training!

Andrew Sullivan
Female Score: 263
Male Score: 632
View from window score: 460
The Gender Genie thinks the author of this passage is: likely to solve a murder with Grace Kelly!

Lone Star Times
Female Score: 115
Male Score: 689
Panda sex score: 632
The Gender Genie thinks the author of this passage is: edward albee!

mambo palace
Female Score: 102
Male Score: 562
Matt Sanchez score: 205
The Gender Genie thinks the author of this passage is: wonkette!

Southern Boy
Female Score: 423
Male Score: 532
Young bottoms in love score: 621
Becca Mann score: 621
The Gender Genie thinks the author of this passage is: really confused!

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Weekend review roundup -- The Brecht/Weill edition

Even if "jukebox musical" has become a pejorative, I can think of a lot worse combinations than Alfred Uhry, Kurt Weill, Donna Murphy and Michael Cerveris. "LoveMusik" -- now in previews at the Biltmore Theatre -- is a good utilization of the genre, using Weill's music to tell the story of his relationship with Lotte Lenya, a relationship without which neither of their careers would be what we know today. Uhry's somewhat bloated book is a bit boring in spots, however. Watching the opening scenes of Lenya and Weill's bizarre courtship, I thought I was in for a long evening. Fortunately, the show picks up considerably as their respective careers do the same. What follows, in fact, is some utterly terrific moments. Murphy's "Alabama Song" and "Surabaya Johnny" are sublime. Cerveris, after playing a string of over-the-top antiheroes like Sweeney Todd and John Wilkes Booth in "Assassins," is wisely understated as the diminutive Weill. His quiet second-act "That's Him" is delightfully done in a bizarre context that's ultimately touching. And David Pittu brightens up the stage with his every appearance as Bertolt Brecht. Between this and recent scene-stealing turns in "The Coast of Utopia" trilogy and last season's production of Harold Pinter's "Celebration" at the Atlantic, Pittu is proving himself quite a comedic asset to the New York stage. The show, however, still drags on too long despite cuts made since the start of previews. Weill's death fails to register the requisite emotion, and neither does the later turbulence of his relationship with Lenye. If neither of them seemed to care much about their relationship, why should we?

Happy End
Watching Donna Murphy perform "Surabaya Johnny" was one of those moments that made me feel lucky to be a theatre patron. Little did I know that this weekend would afford a very different but equally thrilling interpretation of that song -- in Theater Ten Ten's production of Brecht and Weill's "Happy End." This is Brecht to the core, down to the uncomfortable folding chairs for audience seating. But sore butts are worth the payoff. Lorinda Lisitza is exceptional as Hallelujah Lil, the Salvation Army firebrand who infiltrates a gang of nasty criminals. This gal could have kicked Sarah Brown up and down Runyonland any day of the week. Despite the lack of flashy credits in the bio, the rest of the ensemble, many of whom double as the orchestra, is mostly excellent as well. All in all, a great chance to see a rarely produced piece of theatre history.

Threepenny Opera
I wasn't blogging when the Roundabout's "Threepenny Opera" was running last year, and I'm certainly not going to rehash my thoughts on this show now. But this Brecht/Weill-heavy weekend renewed my wish to have a recording of that production. On one hand, perhaps it's a good thing to not have that atrocious translation preserved for the ages. But I really, really want a copy of Cyndi Lauper's "Solomon Song," along with a few other moments from that production. I know it's not going to happen now, but a boy can dream, right? At least I have Charlotte Rae's "Pirate Jenny." I've mentioned this recording before. Download it now if you haven't already.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Gay dating in the styx (part 5)

As passive aggressive as I might be, I enjoy flirting. Every once in a while, it pays off. More often than not, however, I end up in a situation like this:

In my first weeks in New York, I made a point to try out as many of the bars as possible. Most of the time, I had guides, but every so often, those friends were all busy. Now, dance clubs are one thing, but it's always a little daunting to go into an actual sit-down bar by oneself. But, I thought I'd give it a try once, at least.

So, after plomping myself down at the most center-of-the-room bar stool I could find, I began to survey. Couples, couples and more couples. That's pretty much all you find in bars nowadays, thanks to Internet hook-ups, but this time, I also noticed a particularly dapper man of about my age giving me an occasional stare. We played this game for about 20 minutes -- and word of warning, I've been known to play it all night without ever showing my hand -- but he eventually came over and introduced himself. Pierre. Nice, quasi-exotic name.

We moved upstairs where there were tables, and the cute, awkward waiter who couldn't have been on the job more than a few days came and took our order. Upon his return, he accidentally dumped my drink all over Pierre. Even though it was a Cape Cod, which has a rather high staining potential, Pierre took it pretty well and resisted chewing out the hapless kid. Another good sign.

Then, the whispered sweet nothings began.

"Are you going to come take care of me?" he hissed in my ear.

"What do you mean?" I asked, thinking I was reading between the lines. Alas, this was something for literal interpretation.

"I mean, would you come to my apartment and cook for me? Clean for me? Take care of me while I work? I think you'd look..."

And, that was enough for me. I took his number, and wisely for once, did not give him mine. Strangely enough, I've never called it. So, don't ever say there aren't any more old-fashioned guys out there. Believe me, there are. And you can have them.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Gonna deaf you up with my love

I didn't spend all my time in Texas playing blackjack, of course. I made it back to one of my old haunts in Houston -- the gay club South Beach -- for their annual Madonna-rama. Yup, an entire night of Madonna music.

But I'm getting old. While I had fun, I left the club almost completely deaf. I don't ever remember that happening at South Beach before. Is it the daily destruction I do to my ears by listening to my iPod at high volumes every day? Or is Madonna a special ear-piercing decibel that shouldn't be listened to for long periods?

Never mind. Here's a cruddy cell phone video I shot of a Madonna impersonator at the club. I'm giving her the attention because she tossed me a Jagermeister T-shirt. Enjoy!

Seriously, though. If there are any entrepreneurs out there, Houston needs a new gay dance club. South Beach is fun, but it's the only game in town now, it seems. For the country's fourth-largest city, that's pathetic.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The dewussification of gambling

Not counting the one time I won about $300 playing blackjack at Caesars, the casinos in Atlantic City always ultimately depressed me. While the casinos in Las Vegas were always full of the tourists who were either somewhat savvy or too rich for me to care whether they won or lost, the Atlantic City patrons always seemed to lean a lot more toward the type of person who wasn't going to make their rent if the dice didn't come up as seven or if that third plum didn't turn up on the reel. But even that seemed like a laugh riot compared with the final moments on the Texas Treasure.

Yes, as part of my brief trip back to the Lone Star State, I joined my parents, my eldest sister and her husband on the gambling boat that makes trips into the law-free Gulf of Mexico from the Corpus Christi area. I'm not sure what causes one to get to the point in which dropping about a thousand bucks on slots seems like a keen investment, but Lord, I hope I never get there.

Don't get me wrong. I had a lot of fun on the boat. But I think what makes gambling boats a bit of a downer is that last half hour or so, when the boat is too close to shore to allow gambling to continue. There's not much to do but watch the defeated folks doze in the lounge and make some frightening attempts at karaoke.

There was one boat patron, however, who upped the coolness average considerably. Glancing out the window at dinner, my family and I noticed a mustachioed man, dressed mostly in black including a black cowboy hat who was chomping on an unlit cigar. It turned out to be Kinky Friedman. I saw him a few other times throughout the night, but I have no idea if he won or lost. Pity, however, that he never made an appearance during the closing karaoke moments.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Take that, Bella Beauty Supply!

Just a quick update to say posting will be sporadic for the next few days. I'm back in the Lone Star State, visiting family and will be heading down to Corpus Christi for a few days tomorrow. But thanks to StatCounter, I just found out that I am the No. 7 Google search result for "frosted hair." Woo hoo!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

No need for currying favor here

All right. I admit it. I was completely wrong. I was sure Audra McDonald's Lizzie Curry in the Roundabout revival of "110 in the Shade," now in previews at Studio 54, would be another Bernadette Peters as Mama Rose. In other words, a Broadway star who gives an enjoyable performance despite being woefully miscast.

Well, I was wrong. Not only is McDonald not miscast, but she's giving one of the best musical performances I've seen this season. Right up there with Christine Ebersole in "Grey Gardens," I daresay. Her Lizzie -- the sassy but self-conscious young woman who is terrified of becoming an old maid -- is heartbreakingly awkward underneath her trademark gorgeous soprano.

The show itself, based "The Rainmaker," isn't exactly PC anymore, but this production never feels dated. And lucky for us, McDonald has a fantastic score with which to work. Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidts' score isn't one of the better known in musical theatre canon, but there are some real gems in it, like the "Another Hot Day" motif that runs throughout the show, Lizzie's spicy showstopper "Raunchy" and the epiphinal "Old Maid," which I think rivals Billy Bigelow's "Soliloquy" in "Carousel" as one of the best single-character Act I closers.

Not all of the cast quite stands up to McDonald's greatness. Steve Kazee's Starbuck, while vocally excellent, doesn't really have the magnetism needed to draw in someone as headstrong as Lizzie. The reliable John Cullum was a good choice for Lizzie's father, as was Bobby Steggert -- part of the fantastic Off-Broadway cast of "columbinus" last summer -- as her simple brother Jimmy. Carla Duren is a bit cloying as the flirty Snooky but does well in her number with Steggert.

Overall, this lovely production of this sleepy little musical is in great shape. There seemed to be a few tempo problems last night, however. I don't know if it's the bizarre Studio 54 set-up for the orchestra -- they're in the upper level boxes, split on each side -- but they seemed to be going at different pace than the cast at times. Still, I wouldn't dwell on that too much, as it's still early in the preview period.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Wrexis nexus

While I'm sending out positive vibes, I'd like to send a few out to New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, for whom casting my vote was one of my last official acts as a New Jerseyan. I never saw a wreck on the Garden State Parkway that wasn't horrific, mostly because everyone, including state troopers, will pass you like you're standing still if you're driving 80 mph. Compared to the wrecks I used to drive by, he came out lucky.

My own luck with cars has been about as good as my luck with pets, so I always have a special empathy for car crash survivors. Those dreadful car insurance commercials in which the people having some sort of banal conversation in their car get sideswiped are quite disturbing to me. Take a look at my roster of vehicles:

Car #1: 1994 Plymouth Sundance
As a stupid 16-year-old, I made the error of letting an unlicensed 15-year-old friend borrow my car for a drive to the store less than a tenth of a mile away. She promptly backed into the car behind her. Knowing the parental ramifications of letting someone else borrow my car, I said I was driving and took the blame for that accident. God, I hope my parents never find this blog. The car was repaired, but three years later, when I was a sophomore in college, I totaled the car when I sped into the back of a truck at 50-something miles per hour on I-45 in Houston. That wreck gave me nightmares for quite a while.

Car #2: 1998 Plymouth Breeze
Less than a year after I got this car, I T-boned an uninsured woman on Westheimer in Houston who had suddenly decided to make a right turn from the left lane. It was a pretty minor accident, but it put my car out of service for a few weeks and it was never the same again. The axles were off, I think, so I managed to get eight flat tires in the course of a few years. I finally sold it.

Car #3: 2005 Nissan Altima
This was another car that lasted about a year. Pretty much the same thing happened as with the Breeze, save this was a lost Pennsylvania tourist who made a left turn from a far right lane and that this one was at about 60 mph on the Atlantic City Expressway. The car, again, was totaled. My insurance payoff--from the woman's insurance, not mine--on this one was pretty sweet, actually, and eventually helped me finance my move to New York.

Car #4: 2006 Nissan Altima
This one actually made it until I moved to New York, whereupon I gave it to my parents.

So, to keep count, that's four accidents, three of them bad enough to deploy airbags, two cars totaled and one trip to the hospital. Amazingly, my only injuries were a few deep cuts from the airbag in the second wreck and a sore chest in the fourth. That unbreakable Bruce Willis character has nothing on me. But I should also point out that only one was really my fault!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Delay of game

I actually had a self-indulgent news commentary-type thing I was going to write today, but I'm going to put it off a day. It doesn't seem appropriate today, so I'll just send my best wishes and prayers to the folks at Virginia Tech. No politics, no commentary about it. Just good thoughts for all involved.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Weekend review roundup

If I were squinting and had cataracts, I wouldn't mistake Frank Langella for Richard Nixon in a dark alley. Jimmy Stewart as Richard Nixon, maybe. But even in the view from a front row center orchestra seat under the bright lights emulating a television studio, Langella's performance as the disgraced former president is the most powerful, true representation of a historical figure I've seen on the stage in a long while. That's not to say Peter Morgan's play, now in previews at the Jacobs Theatre, is perfect. There's too much narration from secondary characters and too much background set-up on Nixon at the beginning. It's still a compelling treatment of all-too-familiar material, and Langella's ultimately pitiable Nixon is a sure contender come Tony time. Equally delicious is Michael Sheen's David Frost. Only Dudley Moore could make an English playboy more delightful.

Talk Radio
Like Langella, Liev Schreiber is catapulting a flawed play a bit closer to the territory of greatness. As the Barry Champlain, the call-in show host with a God complex in Eric Brogosian's "Talk Radio," Schreiber almost tops his impeccable Richard Roma in the recent "Glengarry Glen Ross" revival. Unfortunately, he doesn't have much in the way of a supporting cast here. While the voice actors handling the radio show calls are good, the play comes to a screeching halt anytime Schreiber leaves the stage. Still, Brogosian's play gets an additional boost from current events. There are, after all, other paths to self-destruction for a talk radio host that don't involve critiques of hairstyles. Like taking one's self too seriously. Thank goodness that so rarely happens on the AM dial today.

Forbidden Broadway
This isn't a review so much as a quick commentary: I haven't seen "Forbidden Broadway" since they days they were doing Bernadette Peters' Mama Rose, but seeing it today only magnifies the over-reliance on meta-humor and irony in the "real" Broadway. The best illustration? They are able to parody "The Song That Goes Like This" from "Spamalot" without changing a word until halfway through the song. As to the show itself: Even though it's harder to parody something that's already parodying itself, "Forbidden Broadway" still has more hits than misses. They really need to do another update, though. Shows like "Lennon" were such flashes in the pan that they're hardly worth the effort.

Friday, April 13, 2007

What is a mandatory elective, anyway?

As Texans try to decide whether the Bible should be taught in every public school, one renegade mayor might be doing more harm to his own cause than anything the ACLU could muster up.

Fresh from his national news-grabbing move to ban the n-word via resolution, Brazoria Mayor Ken Corley and his City Council have now passed another loaded resolution, this one demanding that public school reinstate daily prayers. Never one to mince words, the mayor uses the usual defense of such a move in saying no one would be forced to pray, but adds this:

“Non-Christians can pray, too, if they want to,” Corley said. “Who knows, maybe we can convert some of these non-Christians.”

The mask didn't stay on long, did it? A neutral study of the Bible is ultimately a good thing, and I value the courses I took on it in college. But somehow, I figure suddenly asking every school to put in a Bible study elective will force districts to throw the load on teachers who probably aren't prepared for such a course. And grandstanding like that doesn't do much to erase that cynicism.

Besides: The rock-solid fundamentalists would never stand for a true neutral teaching of the Bible, anyway. Do you think they want their kids to learn the similarities between Noah's ark and Gilgamesh? Do they really want a historical perspective of all of those Old Testament stories? Or would they rather everything be taught as a literal historic retelling without any context? Because teaching the Bible as an infallible document ain't a neutral study. Sorry. True study of the Bible should cause one to question the blind faith they've been taught all their lives, and many high schoolers aren't mature enough to do so. So be careful what you with for, fellas.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Grease that wheel, already

I've threaded two common themes across several posts in this blog, both of which lament something missing in political discourse today: crackerjack columnists and the ability of nuance. Well, I've found the perfect exemplar of both of those themes in columnist Burt Prelutsky. This man seems to have the easiest job in the world, as his columns are nothing more than the same Mad Lib (forgive the pun) every week with a few different adjectives thrown in. No common theme, no particular reason of timeliness -- just the same hackneyed arguments week after week after week. Just read this week's column.

I'm not even going to quote from it, because it's so asinine. It's nothing more than a bunch of broad generalizations with all the hot-button names (Nancy Pelosi, Robert Byrd, Ted Kennedy) thrown in for pointless garnish. Nothing specific to today is mentioned.

Now go to his archives and read last week's column. And the week before that. And so on. It's all the same thing! And when they are on a timely issue, they provide no more insight to it than reading a few posts at FreeRepublic. It's not even his positions I find as repulsive as the intellectual sloppiness and laziness it must take to so consistently produce something of poor quality. There are numerous conservative writers -- Peggy Noonan, Andrew Sullivan, mambopalace or some of the guys over at the Lone Star Times, for example -- whom I don't often agree with but respect the thought and/or humor they inject into their positions.

And yes, there are plenty of liberal versions of Prelutsky out there, too. I can't even get through a sentence of theirs. To see what you actually believe in turned into a cartoon would make me reconsider my positions more than Noonan's most florid prose.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Answers to reader mail

Actually, that title's a lie. I rarely get email from this blog, but I have noticed -- courtesy of StatCounter -- that there have been a lot of people finding their way here by asking questions via search engine. And most of the time -- when they're not about Patricia Heaton, Lea Salonga or frosted hair -- they're questions that aren't answered on the blog. So I'll try to tackle a few of them (question marks and articles added where appropriate):

What is Steve Blanchard's salary as the lead role in "Beauty and the Beast"?

Less than what Angela Lansbury got paid to do the movie, but more than whatever kid is playing the teacup now is taking home. And, I'll wager, probably more than what I make.

Is Jenn Colella a lesbian?

Most of the questions revolve around determination of someone's sexuality. In Ms. Colella's case, I have no idea, but she played one effectively in "The Color Purple." (UPDATE: I have no idea what I'm talking about, as I was obviously mixing up Jenn Colella and someone else. But I'm sure she would be a great Celie. Even though she's white. Carry on.) While I'm on the subject, I also have no idea whether Tyler Hanes, Wentworth Miller or Johnny Galecki are gay, either. Sure, I could make educated guesses, but I don't have any hard evidence on any of them. Unfortunately.

How can you tell if a Gemini is gay?

Hmmm. Well, I'm a Virgo, but I'll try to answer anyway. My guess would be that in the case of a Gemini, you should probably find some way to determine whether they enjoy sexual relations with people of the same gender. If that answer is in the affirmative, then they probably are gay. By the way, this also would apply to all the other Zodiac signs. Except Scorpios. Those people will do anything with opposable thumbs.

How do I make applesauce?

Here's my special recipe: Go to the store, and buy a jar of applesauce. Dump it into a bowl, add in some cinnamon, and if high-falooting company is coming, some raisins. Say it's an old family recipe.

Toot, toot, tootie?

Excuse you.

Gay pedophilia photo?

Sorry, could you say that again? The dude from Dateline NBC couldn't quite hear what you were saying. Besides, I might look like a spring chicken, boys, but believe me -- I'm well over 17.

Anne Coulter Baldwin?

That would be the best marriage ever. Unless we're talking Stephen Baldwin. No "e" in her name, by the way. That might help with future searches.

Have I stayed too long at the fair, Marlene?

Not at all! Have one more sausage on a stick and jump on the Tilt-a-Whirl.

Hot gym steamroom on YouTube.

That's not a question. But you have my attention.

Who is Justin Chatwin dating?

Not me. Thus, I don't care.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Weekend review roundup

I see a lot of fledgling Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway works about which I rarely feel compelled to comment. However, I want to give a little mention to "Manuscript," a new play by Paul Grellong now playing at the Studio Theatre at Theatre Row Studios. It's presented by You Are Here Productions, an independent group from Theatre Row that was started to help new playwrights. While I'm not going to say much about the production itself, I will say that Grellong's script -- which centers around three Ivy League students who get their hands on a great writer's unpublished manuscript -- shows a lot of promise. The "Deathtrap"-esque twists and turns and some snappy dialogue made it an overall enjoyable evening. The script is in dire need of some editing -- the ending drags on way too long, and a line near the beginning gives a far too obvious hint at the final twist -- but overall, it's an admirable effort. This isn't the first time "Manuscript" has been seen in New York, as Bob Balaban directed a version at the Daryl Roth with Pablo Schreiber and Jeffrey Carlson a few years ago, but I missed it and was glad to be able to see it in some form. So much of the new stuff by budding playwrights that I see tries too hard for shock value in a feeble attempt to be edgy. One recent show which I won't mention by name had so much pointless vulgarity, including one out-of-the-blue mention from a female character how she liked to masturbate her own horse, that even I was almost offended to the point of walking out. But it's good to see that there is still some up-and-coming talent that's getting the basics right. Greg Cayea and Duane Langley, who act in this production, and Vadin Lum You, who is the assistant production manager, created You Are Here Productions about a year ago and should be commended for giving this work another chance to be seen.

The Dark at the Top of the Stairs
It's a rare opportunity to see William Inge's overlooked gem from 50s onstage, and fortunately, the Transport Group's current production at the Connelly Theater -- billed as the 50th anniversary production -- does it justice. Donna Lynne Champlin, last seen squeezing an accordion as the greedy Pirelli in John Doyle's "Sweeney Todd," is utterly divine as the overbearing Cora Flood, the over-protective and over-doting wife and mother whose daughter would rather play Chopin than socialize, whose son would rather look at his album of movie stars than play outside and whose husband would rather travel on business than stay at home with her. Also exquisite is Michele Pawk as Cora's sister Lottie, who has her own marital problems with her aloof husband Morris (Jay Potter). These two fine actresses have great chemistry together, and the show sizzles in the second act in which they both dominate. Pacing elsewhere is a bit slow, as the entire show clocks in at about three hours with two intermissions, and it didn't have to be that long unlike a production of, say, "A Long Day's Journey Into Night." The set design, by Sandra Goldmark, is also worth a mention. The stage is mostly bare with the exception of the looming staircase and a few furniture pieces behind a translucent screen, so a lot of the action takes place almost in silhouette. It's an intriguing and usually effective device. The towering Patrick Boll also is superb in his too-brief scenes as Cora's husband Rubin. The show runs only through April 21, so don't miss the chance to see this work in the hands of a talented ensemble.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Speaking of 'Wind' wakers...

Christopher Plummer in an interview with "Playbill" called "Inherit the Wind" a "wonderful warhorse," but it should come as no surprise that the theatre legend, the oldest actor one the stage, breathes the most life into that warhorse's creaky joints.

Plummer is the Clarence Darrow-based Henry Drummond in Doug Hughes' revival of the classic, now in previews at the Lyceum Theatre. The wise, wizened old lawyer who stands on the side of reason over blind faith couldn't be in better hands. And luckily, Plummer has a good match in Brian Dennehy as the bombastic Matthew Harrison Brady.

The drawback to having two such bright stars on the stage together is that it also brings out the weakness in some of the ensemble. Seeing that it's still previews, I won't name any names at this point, but I will say that Denis O'Hare is a fine fit as the caustic journalist (is there any other kind?) E.K. Hornbeck and that Byron Jennings does what he can with the cartoonish Rev. Jeremiah Brown.

So was this revival necessary? Unfortunately, Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee's play remains as timely as ever. I say unfortunately, because one would hope reason would have made more of an advance in the last century, but any newspaper today could prove to the contrary. And the pandering Brady could easily pass for any politician today spouting dull religious platitudes that he only half-heartedly believes. But while the language of the play is lovely, particularly coming out of Plummer's and Dennehy's mouths, the whole ignorant hick town premise feels incredibly broad, silly and even a bit offensive today.

None of that matters, though. It would be worth seeing even if it was just Plummer and Dennehy reading through the speeches in the show.

A caution about stage seating: Like "Spring Awakening," this production utilizes on-stage seating for a number of audience members. The seats, at a little less than $40 a pop, are a great bargain to see this production. They're incorporated into the set, so the audience members in them are among the cast as the crowd in the courtroom, at the rally to welcome Brady and the prayer scene. The latter is especially chilling for the onstage audience, as it's drawn into the center of the increasingly ill-spirited chants of the crowd. This a rare opportunity to sit onstage with two great actors, but keep in mind that the show is designed to the actual audience. Most of the time, it works, but there are a few points when the main dialogue is drowned out by other actions, particularly some offstage singing at one point. Also, the onstage audience will hear the ad-libbed asides of the ensemble, and that can be a bit distracting, too.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Remembering Link lust

One thing I haven't mentioned here is what a video game geek I used to be. I say used to be, because I still probably would if I ever had time to play them anymore. But my tastes leaned toward the adventure and RPG types, so that's much more of a time investment than I'm willing to give anything right now. That doesn't stop me, however, from charting the sexuality of one of the hottest elf-men to ever be in 8-bit graphics. But as fans of the series might notice, the sexuality of our hero is a bit difficult to determine over the series.

Link in the short-lived cartoon version -- the Friday version of the Super Mario Brothers Super Show -- was a bumbling oaf and an insensitive clod who always ignored the feelings of that fairy thing on the left. His biggest ambition seems to be getting a kiss from Princess Zelda much to the detriment of all the hero stuff he's supposed to be doing. And he looks to be hitting the carbs pretty heavily.
Kinsey rating: 0, or a Ray Romano

Arguable the best of all the Zelda games, A Link to the Past finally gave Link the back story that Zelda and Ganon had been hogging all that time. This Link had a sensitive side, reuniting feuding brothers, delivering mushrooms to witches and numerous other good deeds outside of the old saving Zelda gig. He didn't even laugh when the obese fairy makes an appearance at the end. But our man here is undoubtedly hetero at the core, as he almost lets a wicked thief confuse him Elmer Fudd style when he disguises himself as a beautiful woman.
Kinsey scale: 2, or a Hugh Grant

The Ocarina of Time featured the first video game version of Link who could really be considered a hottie (the adult version, at least). He was a hit with the ladies in the game -- not only Zelda, but also that horse farm chick whose name I forget. In all, he was pretty darn manly. But come on. The whole game revolved around him playing a flute. That sort of counteracts everything, yes?
Kinsey rating: 3, or a James Galway

Ah, the wonderful old standard that brought me into the world of adventure games. This little pixelated wonder wasn't much to look at, and his main goal was largely hetero -- save the princess. But then again, this is the game that taught us the importance of accessorizing. Did Mario need to carry around bombs, candles, bows, pieces of meat or what have you? And the boy could decorate. With a well-placed bomb, he could create a little square-doored cave with a working staircase. And he wasn't really all that excited when you finally found Zelda. In fact, you had to play the whole damn game again. Also, the Link in this photo appears to be broke, which means he could totally be one of my ex-boyfriends.
Kinsey rating: 4, or a Ty Pennington

Fans of the series cringed when they saw the graphic design of the most recent Zelda game, The Wind Waker. Any moves toward realism were suddenly replaced with the cartoony, cel-shaded Link you see on your left. Through the convoluted tale, it turns out that this guy isn't even the real Link. Or something like that. But what matters here is that this Link is a real mama's boy. Or grandmama's boy, in this case, as his grandmama gets deathly ill when he leaves her. Not only that, this Link has a fashion sense! Do well in the game, and what's your reward? You get to play in a whole new outfit!
Kinsey rating: 5, or a Gianni Versace

In the subpar second game, The Adventure of Link, the plot would seem to be the most hetero of all. Zelda's been put to sleep, and Link must scramble to wake his girl and prevent Ganon's resurrection. They even mark the end of the game with a behind-the-curtain (those drape things you see there lower at the end). But let's look at the evidence against him. He has a magic spell that turns him into a fairy. He fights something called an Ironknuckle. And most damning of all, the "enemy" he faces at the end is his own shadow -- which either is a Judy Garland reference or is some sort of coming-out-of-the-closet metaphor. The beard thing with Zelda will never last. You are the gayest Link! Hel-loooooooo!
Kinsey rating: 6, or a David Gest

Monday, April 02, 2007

Coincidentally, I'm writing this because it's a slow news day

One of the worst things about working on a Saturday rotation schedule as a small-town journalist -- besides the fact that you're working on Saturdays, naturally -- is those daily, disposable "events" you always have to cover.

Take a look at a small-town Sunday or Monday paper and you'll see what I mean. You'll see those stories about dinky church events, town festivals, police barbecues or something similar that might have some sort of news peg -- the organizers are trying to start an annual event, or it's the town's 45th birthday or something to that effect -- but it's usually not enough to make the event interesting to anyone who didn't have the desire to attend it in the first place.

Ivory tower journalism professors might use these as an excuse to show how every story should count and how a good reporter could use it as an opportunity to find the a compelling story among the chaff. OK, perhaps, and this might work out in some cases, but realistically, the reporter, who in most cases is working the day alone, probably wants to get in and out of the event in about 45 minutes and doesn't have time to get the life story of every attendee to see who wins queen for the day. After all, the reporter doesn't want to miss any real news that's breaking, because trust me: The editor isn't going to care how great the Annual Tree Lighting story came out if the reporter missed a murder that occurred that day.

Still, I don't even blame the editors for assigning them, because the stories serve a few purposes, after all. They're an easy way to get a community that doesn't make news very often in the paper. They're useful filler for the thick Sunday editions or usually news-dry Monday editions. Most importantly, they're a chance to put in cute pictures of kids.

That's also the horrid part for the reporter, however: interviewing those kids. Little is more excruciating than trying to mine a 7-year-old for a quote, because in my experience, kids rarely say the darndest things. In fact, they rarely speak in sentences that are more than four words long when put on the spot by a reporter, so that's why you'll see quotes like: "It's a lot of fun," 6-year-old Paducah resident Caitlyn (they're always named Caitlyn) Williamson said. "I liked the horses." And despite journalism school's best efforts to teach aspiring writers that quotes should be a garnish used sparingly in the story, the mindset in the real world pervades that if a person isn't quoted, they're not really in the story. So Caitlyn's monosyllabic grunts make the cut.

My point in bringing this up is to give a little perspective for the next time you see one of these eyeroll-invoking stories in the paper. I like to defend those usually budding journalists when I can, because I know they get a lot of flack. They probably didn't want to write the story any more than you wanted to read it. So just skip it over and think of how happy Colton's (they're always named Colton) parents are that he's on the front page.

To be fair, I guess I should link to one such story I had to write. It took some digging, but I found one, copied onto Free Republic of all places. Scroll down a bit, and it's there. It was one of those "Rally for America" things that took place at the beginning of the war. You know, when it was actually popular in the South? It's a bit more newsy than the events I was talking about, but keep in mind that one of these things was going on every weekend in those days, so it was a stale story going into it. I did, however, manage to invoke the imagery of red, white and blue vomit rather high up in the story, so I guess that's worth something.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Weekend review roundup

Howard Katz
Given the dismal reviews, I expected "Howard Katz," Patrick Marber's dark comedy now playing at the Laura Pels Theatre, to be a disaster. It wasn't. But a horrible flaw in the play left the nastiest aftertaste I've gotten from the theatre in some time. The dependable Alfred Molina plays the titular character, a toothless shark of an agent who represents reality show cast-offs and commercial actors and watches his life dissolve as he dares to question his purpose. Like Job, he suffers calamity after calamity that shatters everything in his family and career. But while Molina and the supporting cast -- which includes Alvin Epstein and Elizabeth Franz -- are excellent, Katz's suffering is unpleasant and hollow to watch. So many characters make the point of what a horrible, soulless man he is, but none of the plot backs that up. Sure, he's distant from his wife, but he doesn't really mistreat her or cheat on her, either. He doesn't have much respect for his clients, but they don't seem to have much respect for him. We even find out that he's been financially supporting someone else in his family. Thus, watching the self-destruction of this pathetic man is no more pointed or satisfying than watching some earnest fool blow his paycheck on 500 Mega Millions tickets. Although, speaking of gambling, I will admit that the scene about the blackjack table anchor we all love to hate was rather funny.

While the melody of "Fugue" -- a Lee Thuna work now playing at the Cherry Lane Theatre in Greenwich Village -- is engaging, a distracting counterpoint makes this two-and-a-half hour play about amnesia ultimately forgettable. Deirdre O'Connell is a treat as the mysterious Mary, a woman suffering from the "fugue" type of amnesia, meaning her memory is running away from a past trauma. Director Judith Ivey does a great job here of staging the ephemeral memories that come in and out for Mary in the form of her family and acquaintances, but the play loses steam every time the play shifts its focus to her helpful doctor John Oleander (Liam Craig). The simple set -- a hospital room with a catwalk overhead -- is effective, and the ensemble is strong. But even they can't elevate the script above another melodramatic "doctor with a purpose" tale. Perhaps this fugue would be better served as a monophonic piece.