Thursday, June 28, 2007

When one diva door closes...

I'm absolutely crushed. I had the opportunity dangled in my face this week to attend a private concert by Diana Ross, and then it was mercilessly yanked away from me. The concert was part of a publicity event for a certain airline (don't try to guess which one, because you never will). Unfortunately, the invitation reached my desk past the RSVP date. I'm actually calling BS on the agency planning the event, because a coworker of mine who called a full day after I did mysteriously got admitted.

No matter. Tomorrow night, I'm seeing my true diva first the first time live: Miss Nancy Wilson. No, NOT the lady from Heart!

This Nancy Wilson, unfortunately known to too many just as Denise Huxtable's mother-in-law from "The Cosby Show" and not at all to too many others. I, however, just adore her take on every song I've heard her sing: her breathy "I've Never Been to Me," her tart "Makin' Whoopee," her divine "Lush Life" and all the wonderful gems on her RSVP album, particularly "Blame it on my Youth." Albeit a few months late, she's celebrating her 70th birthday at Carnegie Hall tomorrow night, and you bet I'll be there. And perhaps Phylicia Rashad, Bill Cosby and Moses Gunn will be there to join her in a rendition of "Moody's Mood for Love." Of course, that might be much more likely were Moses Gunn actually still alive.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Another point for progress

This is a paraphrased actual conversation I had with my mother last night, while telling her about my trip to Fire Island this weekend for a concert as part of the New York City Gay Men's Chorus:

MOM: So, are you ready for the concert?
ME: Yeah, if anyone's there to hear it.
MOM: Why do you say that? Haven't they sold any tickets?
ME: Oh, I'm sure they have. But it's not exactly easy to get there, so we're mostly depending on the locals. I think mostly older, rich folks stay there.
MOM: Oh. I always thought mostly gay people live there.
ME: Well, yes, that, too.
MOM: Well, good. Maybe you'll find yourself a rich gay man.

Yes, my mother, who only eight or so years ago had difficulty even saying the word "gay" is now wanting me to find a sugar daddy.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Review roundup -- A coupla white chicks sitting around talking

The Year of Magical Thinking
I had the pleasure of catching Vanessa Redgrave's "A Long Day's Journey Into Night" a few seasons ago, so getting to this show -- in which she becomes author Joan Didion to retell the experience of death of her husband and the subsequent illness and death of her daughter -- just to see the master thespian in action was not a priority. I'm glad I did, though, because it clearly cements Redgrave's status as one of the all-time greats. Calling this work a play is a stretch, as it's more of a florid memoir that is no more theatrical than a book on tape, but Redgrave transforms it far beyond that. Redgrave spends most of the time in a chair and still commands more presence than most leading actresses working today. The precise moments of both deaths, particularly a bit regarding a piece of jewelry, are crushing. At the beginning of the show, Didion warns the audience that this experience will happen to us all someday if it hasn't already. For those who have had it recently, this play will be shattering, as evidenced by the weeping woman who stayed clustered in her husband's arms even as the rest of us filed out of the theatre. For the rest of us, who have either had ample healing time or still have that inevitable experience hanging over us like the sword of Damocles, the show is a sometimes tedious but ultimately worthwhile piece.

Old Acquaintance
I'm not exactly sure why Roundabout felt the need to dust off this old John van Druten bagatelle, but I suppose giving two of New York's most stalwart character actresses a chance to shine is reason enough. Margaret Colin and Harriet Harris are playing the roles made famous by Bette Davis and Miriam Hopkins, respectively, in the film based on the play. Those unfamiliar with the film or play might be surprised that Colin, not the scenery-ravenous Harris, is playing the Davis role, but the character, the highbrow author Katherine Markham, is the together one here. Harris' Mildred Watson Drake, the more prolific writer of trashy novels, is the basket case. Not a whole heck of a lot happens in this show, especially considering the main romance centers around the completely obnoxious character of Drake's daughter Diedre. By obnoxious, I mean the way the character is written and no reflection on the actress playing it, here the capable Diane Davis. The show also seems incredibly drawn out thanks to two intermissions made necessary by massive set changes in the script. Still, the actresses are at their best and are enough to ensure that this "Old Acquaintance" isn't soon forgot. OK, I had to work that in, because everyone else is.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Thank you, church of Oprah

Interesting column from Michael Riedel (aka - the only reason I'd ever link to the New York Post) today about the newly found success of "The Color Purple," which recently added American Idol victor Fantasia to the cast as Celie. Here's a snippet:

Stand outside the Broadway Theatre on any given day, and you'll see four or five buses, some from as far away as Chattanooga and Atlanta, unloading their passengers.

(Not all the groups are from churches. The show also attracts student groups, labor groups, even family reunions.)

What was a steady stream of business last year has turned into a torrent since Fantasia joined the show in April. "The Color Purple" now regularly grosses more than $1 million a week, and advance ticket sales are nearing $10 million.

Church groups are an enormous and, for Broadway, which has long struggled to attract black audiences, relatively untapped market.

Ebenezer African Methodist alone has a 10,000-member congregation. The church has already sent two groups to "The Color Purple" and plans to send more in the fall.
Now, what I find intriguing is not that an American Idol winner has breathed new life into what had been a somewhat struggling show. No, what I find intriguing is that this musical has found such an audience among churches.

The musical version of "The Color Purple" deals with the lesbian relationship between Shug and Celie in a tasteful but quite frank way. One of the loveliest, truest moments in the show is the duet they share, and they even swap a kiss onstage. And the churches keep coming. Somehow, I suspect that a good portion of them are not gay-affirming churches, either.

Pam's House Blend, which has done a fantastic job of chronicling the issue of homophobia in the black church, mentioned a similar disconnect a while back -- UPDATE: thanks, Pam, for sending me the link -- talking about a group of church ladies who in the same breath ridiculed a passing drag queen and mentioned how they wanted to see the latest Tyler Perry project in which he performed in drag as big momma Madea.

Of course, this should surprise none of us. All of us, particularly those of us from more rural areas, probably know people -- perhaps even family members -- who are virulently homophobic but have no problem with us as individuals. Well, guess what? That's a step. It's why we come out, folks. It's why we tell our stories. It's why we celebrate pride.

Happy pride, all. I'll be serving drinks in the VIP section at the pier dance this Sunday, so say hi if you're in the area!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Gotta go, gotta go, gotta go right now

A little Brazoria County anecdote that that makes a nice segue from "Radio Golf..."

When I was still a Texan, our community theatre put on a production of August Wilson's "The Piano Lesson." I adored the show, but since there were obviously no parts for me to play, I volunteered to be its stage manager.

The production, staged in the round, was pretty fabulous, if I do say so myself. One night, however, we noticed on the monitors that one audience member wandered out the wrong exit in the middle of the performance.

Kenny, the uber-hot guy who worked maintenance at the arts center, a cyclist with an absolutely fantastic body -- er, what was I talking about? Anyway, Kenny went back to check on her and saw her squatting in the corner. He asked her if she was all right, and she stood and said, "I am now," and returned to her seat. It was then he noticed the puddle.

Yes, the woman had urinated in the corner. Apparently, she had gone to look for the bathroom, gotten confused in the pitch-black backstage area and couldn't wait any longer. And we're not talking about a blue-hair matinee-goer, either. This was a woman in her 40s at most. And the kicker? She returned to her seat and watched the rest of the show as if nothing had happened.

Fortunately, urine-mopping didn't fall under my stage managerial duties. Poor Kenny. But -- and I can't remember if this was an apocryphal part of the story or not -- he got his reward. At the season's end, the co-directors presented him with a T-shirt that had the letters "iano" blacked out. Lesson learned.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Weekend review roundup -- "Radio Golf"

"Radio Golf," the final play in August Wilson's decade-by-decade cycle of the 20th Century black experience, is certainly not a hole-in-one, or even a birdie or an eagle. But it is a respectable par and a fitting last piece of the puzzle to the Wilson canon.

Three of the five characters in the show -- rising political star and real estate developer Harmond Wilks (Harry Lennix), his Lady Macbeth-lite wife Mame (Tonya Pinkins) and yuppie Roosevelt Hicks (newcomer James A. Williams) -- almost feel anachronistic. Considering Wilson's delicious control of language, to hear them chat about Starbucks and Whole Foods or listen to En Vogue on the radio seems like Richard III shouting "My kingdom for a Mercedes!"

The message, too, seems a bit heavy-handed at times. There are far too many lines that sound designed to merely elicit "mmm-hmms" from the audience. No matter. Despite its shortcomings, the play is consistently entertaining, ripe with some great humor and sterling performances from all involved, particular Tony nominees and Wilson veterans John Earl Jelks and Anthony Chisholm as the folks whom, unlike the others, Starbucks-world success has eluded. Pity the show's not lasting longer than it is.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Note from home

Dear blogosphere,

Please excuse Mike's absence from blogging these past few days. Or should that be last two days? He never knows, as two of his editors have each insisted on a different rule throughout his career. See, one thought "last" was too doom and gloom, indicating while that there wouldn't be any more days following, while the other thought "past" was too vague, as any day in history is technically a "past" day and therefore does not necessarily refer to the two days immediately preceding today.

But I digress. My poor son has been very, very ill with a disease known as work overload. He's doing one of his major projects for the year at the office, which entails trying to wrest sometimes confidential business information from about five dozen hotel companies and owners. Some of them have been much nicer about it than others, but he prefers not to name names. He also has to throw together a data-rich story of about 3,000 words at the same time and will be doing that most of this weekend.

At the same time, he's preparing for his Monday concert so he doesn't have to mouth "watermelon" during the patter-ish "Imaginary Guy" song. That tricky Lorraine Feather!

He plans to be back in action very soon and will certainly be making up the work he missed during his absence.

Mike's Mom

p.s. You can probably see the family resemblance in our writing styles!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Lying to you through song

Once again, I'd like to give myself a little shameless plug, as it's time for yet another concert with the New York City Gay Men's Chorus. This time--next Monday, 8 p.m. at the Nokia Theatre in Times Square, to be precise--we're focusing on the music of Billy Strayhorn in a new work, "Take the A Train."

Never heard of Strayhorn? To be honest, neither had I until not too long ago, but I was certainly familiar with his work: "Satin Doll," "Lush Life," and, of course, the title song. Strayhorn, who is most known for his 20 years working with Duke Ellington, was an out gay man, and it's pretty darn obvious when you listen to his lyrics.

And, of course, it's not just us you'll be seeing. We've got two great soloists: Darius de Haas, who has put out a full album interpreting Strayhorn's work, and Judy Blazer, a dynamo who now has a supporting role in "LoveMusik." Writer Jeffrey Lane, last represented on Broadway with "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels," penned the book, and Tony winner Joanna Gleason is directing the stage part of the show. Not a bad crew if I say so myself.

I'll admit that it took me a while to warm up to this music. I do like jazz, but I wasn't used to choral arrangements of it at all. The chromatics can be quite difficult to hear, particularly as it seems my part ends every single song on a sixth of a major. What's more, some of the baritone notes are NOT baritone notes, being much further down or even below the staff than I ever care to see! But I've truly come to enjoy it, and after hearing it with the entire band last night, I'm more confident than ever to egg people to come see this. One night only!

Oh, but I should warn you that the title song is a lie -- on weekends, at least. Seeing how sporadic A train service has been since the beginning of the year, it's no longer the quickest way to Harlem. Should we sing "You must take the D train" instead?

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Hooray for my C minus!

So, my Tony predictions were 72 percent correct. My major mistake was underestimating the zeitgeist associated with the two lead shows as well as the apparent dislike surrounding one particular talented actor.

Where I was right: Best play, best musical, best book of a musical, best revival of a play, theatrical event, lead actor in a play, lead actress in a play, lead actress in a musical, featured actor in a play, featured actress in a play, featured actress in a musical, featured actor in a musical, direction of a musical, scenic design of a play, costume design of a play, costume design of a musical, lighting design of a play, lighting design of a musical.

Where I went wrong:
Best original score, choreography, orchestrations
Truly, is there straight-ticket voting for the Tonys? Orchestrations I'll concede, but how nice that the stunning "Mary Poppins" choreography (the "Curtains" piece wasn't as showy as it could have been) came so soon after that award was given. And, let's see what song the Julie Wilson du jour is still sticking in her cabaret in 60 years: "The Bitch of Living" or "Another Winter in a Summer Town."

Best revival of a musical
I should have gone with the odds on this one. I didn't mind being wrong on this one, although it's a pity that "110 in the Shade" went home empty-handed.

Lead actor in a musical
Wow! Upset of the night. Raul Esparza's more rabid fans are already sharpening their claws, so David Hyde Pierce, God bless him, might want to increase his security detail for the next few days.

Director of a play
I said in my predictions I was probably wrong here. So, in a way, wasn't I really right?

Scenic design of a musical
In this case, it was overestimation of a zeitgeist that never really happened. Ah, well. Poppins deserved it. The house even upstaged some of the actors.

Friday, June 08, 2007

My final Tony predictions

As one of the fraction of a percent of Americans who won't be watching the finale of "The Sopranos" Sunday night, here are my final Tony predictions. Unlike my wish list earlier this year, I'm trying to factor a bit of reality in with whom I would truly like to see win.

Best Play
The Coast of Utopia
The Little Dog Laughed
Radio Golf

I didn't see "Radio Golf" and enjoyed both "Frost/Nixon" and "The Little Dog Laughed," but none come close to the beauty of Tom Stoppard's eloquent albeit a bit pompous trilogy.

Best Musical
Grey Gardens
Mary Poppins
Spring Awakening

"Grey Gardens" has a troubled first act and will get its due elsewhere. "Curtains" is fun but uneven overall. "Mary Poppins" is lucky to be nominated. "Spring Awakening" is the real trail-blazer here.

Best Book of a Musical
Curtains, Rupert Holmes & Peter Stone
Grey Gardens, Doug Wright
Legally Blonde The Musical, Heather Hach
Spring Awakening, Steven Sater

The book is the weakest part of "Curtains," and although I haven't seen "Legally Blonde" yet, I feel pretty secure in counting it out. It's a squeaker, particularly since both are adapted materials, but I'm going with teen angst over middle-aged angst here.

Best Original Score
Curtains, Music: John Kander, Lyrics: Fred Ebb, John Kander & Rupert Holmes
Grey Gardens, Music: Scott Frankel, Lyrics: Michael Korie
Legally Blonde The Musical, Music & Lyrics: Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin
Spring Awakening, Music: Duncan Sheik, Lyrics: Steven Sater

If "Curtains" wins anything, it will be this as a sentimental nod to the late Ebb. But with "The Revolutionary Costume for Today," "Another Winter in a Summer Town" and, yes, "Jerry Likes my Corn" are the most effective pieces written for a musical in some time. The rockers lose this round.

Best Revival of a Play
Inherit the Wind
Journey's End
Talk Radio

Didn't see "Translations." "Inherit the Wind" was a dutiful but overall uninspiring presentation of a war horse. "Talk Radio" had little to offer outside of the superb Liev Schreiber. That's no small feat, but "Journey's End" was a triumph all around. Absolutely no contest here.

Best Revival of a Musical
The Apple Tree
A Chorus Line
110 in the Shade

The real contest here is between "Company" and "110 in the Shade." Kind of like last year, when Doyle's "Sweeney Todd" lost to the old-fashioned but winning "Pajama Game." Look for the same to happen to Doyle's show this year.

Best Special Theatrical Event
Jay Johnson: The Two and Only
Kiki & Herb Alive on Broadway

Didn't see Kiki & Herb, but Jay Johnson's show got mostly great reviews, and deservidly so.

Best Performance By a Leading Actor in a Play
Boyd Gaines, Journey's End
Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon
Brían F. O’Byrne, The Coast of Utopia
Christopher Plummer, Inherit the Wind
Liev Schreiber, Talk Radio

This is one of the toughest ones. O'Byrne has been rewarded for much better work in the past, so count him out. Gaines is excellent but has the least showy part of the bunch. Plummer's a powerhouse, but the overall production he's in is mediocre. Same for Schreiber. Langella's Nixon is a master class in acting and is the last man standing here.

Best Performance By a Leading Actress in a Play
Eve Best, A Moon for the Misbegotten
Swoosie Kurtz, Heartbreak House
Angela Lansbury, Deuce
Vanessa Redgrave, The Year of Magical Thinking
Julie White, The Little Dog Laughed

This is another difficult category, perhaps even more so than leading actor in a play, as I could see anyone in it taking home the Tony. Though she's somewhat of a dark horse with a long-closed show, but the early buzz has White the victor, and I couldn't be happier. See what I said about Brian F. O'Byrne for Lansbury. And what I said about Liev Schreiber for Best. I missed "Heartbreak House" and haven't seen "The Year of Magical Thinking," but I'll go out on a limb and say that Kurtz is the possible spoiler here.

Best Performance By a Leading Actor in a Musical
Michael Cerveris, LoveMusik
Raúl Esparza, Company
Jonathan Groff, Spring Awakening
Gavin Lee, Mary Poppins
David Hyde Pierce, Curtains

Another tough category. Lee and Pierce are both great, but it's not going to be a good night for comedy. Cerveris should have won last year for "Sweeney Todd" and is doing excellent work again this year, but the fact that his show was mostly shut out of nominations doesn't bode well for him. That leaves Groff and Esparza. Hmm, seems familiar again: Devastating performance of the central character in a Doyle-directed Sondheim revival versus a fresh face in the season's biggest hit. But even Pierce has gone on the record as saying Esparza should win. Let's hope they get it right this year.

Best Performance By a Leading Actress in a Musical
Laura Bell Bundy, Legally BlondeThe Musical
Christine Ebersole, Grey Gardens
Audra McDonald, 110 in the Shade
Debra Monk, Curtains
Donna Murphy, LoveMusik

Ebersole has all but been promised the Tony all season, but an upset is looking less and less out of the question. McDonald received across-the-board raves for her work as Lizzie Curry and could score her fifth Tony. Murphy is pitch-perfect as Lotte Lenya. But in the end, I think Ebersole will and should still prevail. Monk has some brassy showstoppers, but I don't see her winning here. And poor Bundy is a guppy among sharks.

Best Performance By a Featured Actor in a Play
Anthony Chisholm, Radio Golf
Billy Crudup, The Coast of Utopia
Ethan Hawke, The Coast of Utopia
John Earl Jelks, Radio Golf
Stark Sands, Journey's End

Despite not being in the third part of the trilogy, Crudup's performance is one of the most memorable and effective in the show. This is one of my least certain picks, though, having not seen "Radio Golf." Sands also could eke out a victory.

Best Performance By a Featured Actress in a Play
Jennifer Ehle, The Coast of Utopia
Xanthe Elbrick, Coram Boy
Dana Ivey, Butley
Jan Maxwell, Coram Boy
Martha Plimpton, The Coast of Utopia

It's a toss-up between Ehle and Plimpton, so I flipped a coin, and Ehle won. While both Elbrick and Maxwell are deserving of their nominations, the gravitas of "The Coast of Utopia" will overshadow the melodrama of "Coram Boy." As far as Dana Ivey, I didn't even remember "Butley" was a part of this season. I think the Tony voters might feel the same.

Best Performance By a Featured Actor in a Musical
Brooks Ashmanskas, Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me
Christian Borle, Legally Blonde The Musical
John Cullum, 110 in the Shade
John Gallagher, Jr., Spring Awakening
David Pittu, LoveMusik

In this case, the fresh face wins out. Ashmanskas, Borle and Pittu are all talented and hard-working actors who've finally earned their due with this nomination, but neither will beat out Gallagher's tortured Moritz, one of the best performance's "Spring Awakening" has to offer. Cullum is fine but doesn't have much to do in his show.

Best Performance By a Featured Actress in a Musical
Charlotte d’Amboise, A Chorus Line
Rebecca Luker, Mary Poppins
Orfeh, Legally Blonde The Musical
Mary Louise Wilson, Grey Gardens
Karen Ziemba, Curtains

No contest at all here. d'Amboise got decidedly mixed reviews, and Luker and Ziemba just aren't given much to work with in comparison with Wilson.

Best Direction of a Play
Michael Grandage, Frost/Nixon
David Grindley, Journey's End
Jack O'Brien, The Coast of Utopia
Melly Still, Coram Boy

The real contest here is between Grindley and O'Brien. "Journey's End" was nearly flawless, while "Utopia" had some rough spots. I'm probably wrong here, but I'm sticking with Grindley and hoping it doesn't jinx him.

Best Direction of a Musical
John Doyle, Company
Scott Ellis, Curtains
Michael Greif, Grey Gardens
Michael Mayer, Spring Awakening

The best musical doesn't direct itself. Right, Martin Scorsese?

Best Choreography
Rob Ashford, Curtains
Matthew Bourne and Stephen Mear, Mary Poppins
Bill T. Jones, Spring Awakening
Jerry Mitchell, Legally Blonde The Musical

Jones might ride the rising "Spring Awakening" tide, but really -- is the spastic hopping in that show really superior to the dazzling nod to old Broadway on display in "Curtains"? I'd put the cutesy "Mary Poppins," which features an upside-down tap dance from the proscenium, in before it, too, and it very well might win. But I'm sticking with "Curtains."

Best Orchestrations
Bruce Coughlin, Grey Gardens
Duncan Sheik, Spring Awakening
Jonathan Tunick, LoveMusik
Jonathan Tunick, 110 in the Shade

Tunick's reworking of a lovely classics beats his own reworkings of a great writers songbook.

Best Scenic Design of a Play
Bob Crowley & Scott Pask, The Coast of Utopia
Jonathan Fensom, Journey's End
David Gallo, Radio Golf
Ti Green and Melly Still, Coram Boy

"Utopia" could win on its opening visuals alone, but its design is lovely through-and-through.

Best Scenic Design of a Musical
Bob Crowley, Mary Poppins
Christine Jones, Spring Awakening
Anna Louizos, High Fidelity
Allen Moyer, Grey Gardens

Cat food cans and old newspapers? I love what you've done with the place, Moyer!

Best Costume Design of a Play
Ti Green and Melly Still, Coram Boy
Jane Greenwood, Heartbreak House
Santo Loquasto, Inherit the Wind
Catherine Zuber, The Coast of Utopia

With enough period costumes to clothe a small Russian city, Zuber is the clear winner here.

Best Costume Design of a Musical
Gregg Barnes, Legally Blonde The Musical
Bob Crowley, Mary Poppins
Susan Hilferty, Spring Awakening
William Ivey Long, Grey Gardens

"Spring Awakening" has that drab, oppressed look, "Legally Blonde" is blindingly bright and "Mary Poppins" is both in just one scene. But Long's revolutionary costumes carry the day.

Best Lighting Design of a Play
Paule Constable, Coram Boy
Brian MacDevitt, Inherit the Wind
Brian MacDevitt, Kenneth Posner, and Natasha Katz, The Coast of Utopia
Jason Taylor, Journey's End

As great as "Journey's End" was, the most frequent complaint was how damn dark it was. The "Utopia" team gets this one.

Best Lighting Design of a Musical
Kevin Adams, Spring Awakening
Christopher Akerlind, 110 in the Shade
Howard Harrison, Mary Poppins
Peter Kaczorowski, Grey Gardens

Hey, someone had to hang all those bulbs from the season, if if they weren't using all of them.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Eurydice in wonderland

Here's an idea: Instead of putting Greek gods on roller skates, why not put them on a tricycle hauling a baboon?

Well, it wasn't "Xanadu," but Greek mythology is getting an equally jaw-dropping, bizarre treatment down the street at Second Stage Theatre's production of Sarah Ruhl's "eurydice," now in previews. It's an attempt by the Pulitzer Prize finalist (though certainly not for this show) to tell the story of Orpheus from the point of view of the unfortunate and rather amoebic character of his eponymous wife.

Now, thematically--dealing with the dangers of attachment to what is lost--the play has a lot going for it. Somewhere in between Eurydice's encounters with The Nasty and Intersting Man, her dead father, a chorus of stones dressed up as chimney sweeps and the trike-riding Hades himself and the ultimately bleak conclusion, this is all lost, however. Eurydice and her father's banal chitchat of their former lives and Orpheus' incomprehensible pronouncements--something about sending notes with worms and sucking himself through a straw--drone on for too long to the point where I was about ready for a cup of that mind-erasing water myself. Still, Maria Dizzia as the titular character and the Charles Shaw Robinson as her father are standouts in the cast of largely unknown actors.

The set catches the whimsical nature of the play quite well. It looks something like a towering public washroom, tilting at the angle of optical illusion and back by a water-gushing elevator.

The sound design, however, is overpowering to the point of making "Coram Boy" seem subtle by comparison. Ear-splitting tunes pop in at inopportune times to the point of making the audience uncomfortable. I sure feel sorry for anyone wearing those listening aids, because if they weren't deaf before...

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Seeing Deimos after Phobos

Forget Willy Loman, King Lear or Brick Pollitt. If I were an actor, my dream role would be Mike Hogan. No, not one of Sandy Duncan's kids from that sitcom, but the brother of the powerhouse role of Josie Hogan in Eugene O'Neill's "A Moon for the Misbegotten." Think about it. You come on stage, put on a pair of boots, bounce a few lines off a fantastic actress and then go sip coffee in the green room until curtain call.

I kid, mostly because I don't have a whole lot to say about the revival of "Moon" now winding down at the Brooks Atkinson. While I certainly respect O'Neill, his works are not always the most pleasant experience for me, particularly because a few things hit too close to home. Double this with the fact that I already saw an excellent production of this on Broadway just seven years ago.

So how did this production compare? Not even close, I'm afraid. Kevin Spacey as self-destructive alcoholic James Tyrone makes some bizarre, bizarre choices and is never as heartbreaking as Gabriel Byrne. Eve Best is wonderful as Josie, even though it's difficult to forget Cherry Jones in the 2000 version. But there was one actor who made me particularly glad I caught this production: Colm Meaney as Josie's father Phil. I had completely misinterpreted this character from the impish Roy Dotrice's performance, who I had thought was fantastic at the time but now can see was a bit miscast.

And this production has one other thing going for it: There won't be another "Madigan Men" following it. God, John Hensley was cute, though.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Martha Stewart living much better than me

Martha Stewart -- who my dad used to affectionately call "that woman who makes stuff out of her garbage" -- spoke at an event I attended today. And it made me feel the most inadequate I've felt in years.

Her chat centered around her showing slides from her travels around the world. Call me crazy, but I was the one who never minded flipping through the dreaded vacation photos from other people. Only someone like Martha Stewart, however, could rattle off hikes up Mount Kilimanjaro and ice-climbing in Norway as a matter-of-fact as Aunt Fran's trip to Branson, in a tone as if these were valid travel options for a majority of the audience. Especially little details like -- "This was our visit to Russia. In the background, you can see a friend of mine taking off in a rocket to spend a few days in space."

It reminded me of the brilliance of Ana Gasteyer's portrayal of her. Gasteyer once described it as a playing a woman who thinks she's coming across as warm but in reality is as icy as that Norway climb. For some reason, I find it endearing, however.

What really won me over was when she rattled off her top ten pet peeves about hotels. Things like overfull gift baskets that you're unable to consume before your trip is complete, automatic upgrades to too-big penthouse suites and being put in a two-story room when arriving at a luxury hotel late at night.

Yeah, I hate when that happens.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Life stinks

One of my morning subway distractions is the collection of games I have downloaded on my cell phone, including a version of The Game of Life. It's a bit different than the 70s version of my sisters' that I used to play as a kid, but the premise is generally the same. I realized this morning, however, that I couldn't play this horrendous game anymore. Think of what it promotes:

1) Money is worth something only when you don't spend it. What's the point of the game? To end up with the most cash in hand. How do you lose the cash? By landing on spaces like "Tour South America" or "Backpack through Europe." In other words, it's better not to do these sorts of things in favor of amassing a Scrooge McDuck-sized pile of gold to sit on in your money room in your old age.

2) Marriage is mandatory, and no homos allowed. No matter what I do, I'll always get that little woman head stuck in my car with me when I pass that marriage space. I guess I could get the man of my dreams by disguising myself as a woman at the game's start, but I don't play that way.

3) Who needs college when you can just screw the other guy? One of the changes from the version I'm used to is that you have a choice whether to go to college or not. Going to college starts you out in debt (fair enough), but you get a few more chances for a good job in salary. But not so fast. There are plenty of "switch salaries with another player" spaces, so that yokel who skipped college can drop his $20K a year salary on you at any moment. Besides, the college-skippers usually end up drawing the $100K salary right away, and they get an extra payday space to boot.

4) In picking a career, pipe dream jobs are the best, but avoid serving the community at all cost. Another change is that the money you lose from spaces usually goes to whomever drew the relevant career. The two most lucrative careers on the board that seem to generate the most money? Athlete and artist. And I don't mean any type of artist, like a singer or a dancer. This is the little stereotypical painter with a palette. Yeah, that's promising career. The worst jobs? Teacher and police officer. Nobody ever lands on those spaces.

5) Children are worth a little upon birth but then serve as nothing but drains on your finances. If I recall, in my old version, you got a bit of money for each kid in your car at the end of the game. Not so in this version. In fact, the only purposes the kids seem to serve after birth are to add to the amount you have to pay when you land on the "pay for your children's education" spaces.

6) Life experience has little value. Another new twist is little "Life Cards" that you get with each event, such as the birth of the child, when you run for mayor or your honeymoon. The turn into cash at the end of the game, but the amount is rarely enough to change the outcome, particularly since the person with the most money gets four of them just for existing.

7) Good housing is for losers. The final new twist is the "buy a house" space, in which you randomly draw a variety of house, ranging from the $40,000 split level to the $200,000 Victorian. These have absolutely no value at the end of the game, so the lucky ones are the ones who draw the split level or the mobile home.

So there you go. I refuse to participate in this conglomeration of the ideals of Grover Norquist, Donald Trump, James Dobson, Matthew Lesko, Lorenzo de Medici, Roseanne Conner and Baron Bombast into a one sickening, evil dystopia. I'm sticking with that boxing game where you beat up the different ethnic stereotypes.

Wait, that's not right, either...