Monday, June 16, 2008
Best featured actor in a musical:
Repeat after me: I will never make Raul Esparza my pick again, as he caused me a miss in best actor in a musical last year. Still, this was the only category in which my "should win" pick differed from my "will win" pick with the former actually winning. Congratulations to Jim Norton!
Book of a musical:
Well, I assumed they'd give it to "In The Heights," and I was wrong. At least "Passing Strange" got recognition somewhere. And I actually thought Stew's disguise glasses when he was up for best actor were funny, though I guess some thought they were disrespectful.
Scenic design, costumes, lighting and sound design of a musical:
There was a voter favorite this year, but I was wrong to put my chips on "In The Heights." Nay, it was "South Pacific," which won all of these categories. Very sad that it came at the expense of "Sunday in the Park With George," though, which was completely shut out. Side note: scenic design of a musical is the only category I got wrong both this year and last year.
Costume design, lighting and sound design of a play:
"August: Osage County" ruled the night, but not in these categories, contrary to my expectations. A big kudos to "The 39 Steps" for collecting a few Tonys. I withhold my opinion on the costumes in "Les Liaisons Dangereuses" until I see them for myself next week.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
In The Heights (will win)
Passing Strange (should win)
Honestly, I won't be too upset when "In The Heights" wins best musical on Sunday. It's certainly the show on the list that will have the longest shelf life and absolutely has the superior score. The book, however, is weak, almost to the point of being laughable in some parts. "Passing Strange," though not as accessible--which is why voters will go with "Heights"--is stronger overall. "Xanadu" got its victory in its nomination, and uh, why is "Cry-Baby" on this list again?
August: Osage County (should and will win)
Rock 'n' Roll
The 39 Steps
This actually is a very strong list. In fact, "The Seafarer" would have been a worthy contender against the ultimately bloated "Coast of Utopia" trilogy that dominated last year. Tracy Letts' "August," however, already deservedly has a Pulitzer behind it and is an utterly thrilling three-and-a-half-hour show, no small feat. Whether it's as strong a show when its peerless cast leaves remains to be seen, but in the big picture, nothing else comes close.
Best Revival of a Musical:
South Pacific (will win)
Sunday in the Park with George (should win)
Again, a strong list, with the exception of the tinny "Grease" revival, there by default. "Gyspy" is wonderful because of its cast and, because, well it's already a darn wonderful show. "Sunday," however, is a beautiful yet flawed show that, through great performances and dazzling visuals, is elevated by Sam Buntrock's production. Still, voters are going to go with the first appearance of "South Pacific" on Broadway in more than half a century. That's not a bad thing, as it's a lovely production.
Best Revival of a Play:
Boeing-Boeing (will win)
Les Liaisons Dangereuses
Macbeth (should win???)
OK, here's where I'm at a disadvantage, as I've not yet seen "Boeing" nor "Liaisons." Based entirely on valued opinions of friends who did see it, I'm certainly looking forward to it, and it very well might be the most deserving show on the list. Out of the two I did see, the easy advantage goes to "Macbeth."
Best Book of a Musical:
Cry-Baby, Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan
In The Heights, Quiara Alegria (will win)
Passing Strange, Stew
Xanadu, Douglas Carter Beane (should win)
Seriously, yes, I'm pulling for a "Xanadu" Tony. Beane turned what could have been a deplorable mess of a show that debuted in the summer doldrums to a fun, witty, suprise hits with the critics. I've already said my thoughts on "Heights'" book, but voters have a tendency to get sucked up in the zeitgeist.
Best Original Score:
Cry-Baby, David Javerbaum and Adam Schlesinger
In The Heights, Lin-Manual Miranda (should and will win)
The Little Mermaid, Alan Menken, Howard Ashman and Glenn Slater
Passing Strange, Stew and Heidi Rodewald
The less said about Cry-Baby, the better, and the stuff that was added to "The Little Mermaid" for its Broadway run ranged from forgettable to cringe-worthy. While Stew and Rodewald's score deserves praise, Miranda's is the one I'm looking more forward to buying.
Best Lead Actor in a Play:
Ben Daniels, Les Liaisons Dangereuses
Laurence Fishburne, Thurgood
Mark Rylance, Boeing-Boeing (will win)
Rufus Sewell, Rock 'n' Roll
Patrick Stewart, Macbeth (should win???)
Again, my lack of seeing "Boeing" impairs my judgment here. It's pretty thrilling to have Rylance on Broadway period, so I was tempted to give him my "should win" anyway. But Stewart's Macbeth was definitely one of the best performances I've seen in a while. Fishburne also was excellent, but his show just didn't have the arc the others did. And Sewell, though also good, is probably long forgotten by voters.
Best Lead Actress in a Play:
Eve Best, The Homecoming
Deanna Dunagan, August: Osage County (should and will win)
Kate Fleetwood, Macbeth
S. Epatha Merkerson, Come Back, Little Sheba
Amy Morton, August: Osage County
What a category! As the ultimate drugged-out mother from hell, this is Dunagan's to lose, and she very well might from her own co-star. In the off chance that they split the vote, expect Best to come swooping in. But that's not going to happen. It's all Dunagan's. Side note -- I'm also truly excited to see what Estelle Parsons does with the role when she replaces Dunagan in a matter of weeks.
Best Lead Actor in a Musical:
Daniel Evans, Sunday In The Park With George (should win)
Lin-Manual Miranda, In The Heights
Stew, Passing Strange
Paulo Szot, South Pacific (will win)
Tom Wopat, A Catered Affair
Voters will swoon for Szot's heavenly baritone, even though I thought Evans was the standout of the year. Miranda and particularly Stew both, while fine, are stronger in their writing than their acting, and Wopat is giving a great performance in a mediocre show. No nearly about it; this is Szot's, thought.
Best Lead Actress in a Musical:
Kerry Butler, Xanadu
Patti LuPone, Gypsy (should and will win)
Kelli O'Hara, South Pacific
Faith Prince, A Catered Affair
Jenna Russell, Sunday In The Park With George
Yes, the naysayers are already predicting the upset of the night, and of the list, O'Hara seems the best poised to do the unthinkable and topple what some--and I'm not just talking the LuPonatics--already are calling the definitive Rose. Yeah, most of those people weren't old enough to see Ethel Merman, and neither am I. Still, it's not gonna happen. In fact, they should go ahead and give LuPone two Tonys to make up for that whole LaChanze thing a few years ago. This is a sure a thing as Big Brown's Triple Cro.....oooh, not the best analogy.
Best Featured Actor in a Play:
Bobby Cannavale, Mauritius
Raul Esparza, The Homecoming (will win)
Conleth Hill, The Seafarer
Jim Norton, The Seafarer (should win)
David Pittu, Is He Dead?
Not one of these shows is still around, so the "Tony voters won't remember" rule is mostly out the door, with the exception of Cannavale, who was great but even I barely remember that "Mauritius" was this season. Pittu was good, but considering the lead actor of his show, Norbert Leo Butz--who was better--didn't even get a nod doesn't bod well for him. Sadly, I think the two gents from "The Seafarer" might split their votes, although Norton was easily the best thing on stage at The Booth. That means this finally will probably be Esparza's year. I hated The Homecoming but can also appreciate that his performance is not undeserving, too.
Best Featured Actress in a Play:
Sinead Cusack, Rock 'n' Roll
Mary McCormack, Boeing-Boeing
Laurie Metcalf, November
Martha Plimpton, Top Girls
Rondi Reed, August: Osage County (should??? and will win)
Again, McCormack is my wild card here. Metcalf was funny and much better than her material, but see what I said about Pittu, as the same applies with regard to Nathan Lane's snub. Martha Plimpton, of whom I'm usually a fan, would not have been my pick to honor out of the "Top Girls" ensemble at all, and the show was mostly ignored by the nominators, so her chances are slim. Cusack's performance was strong but not strong enough to overcome the fact that her show is ancient history. That leaves Reed, who was a standout among aces as the tactless hurricane of an aunt who could both ease the tension and deliver a late-show bombshell with aplomb.
Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical:
Daniel Breaker, Passing Strange
Danny Burstein, South Pacific
Robin De Jesus, In The Heights
Christopher Fitzgerald, Young Frankenstein
Boyd Gaines, Gypsy (should and will win)
I wouldn't complain if a Breaker, Burstein or De Jesus upset happened, but Gaines has done wonders with the usual throwaway role of Rose's beleagured and peptic-challenged beau Herbie. As for Fitzgerald, I'm making the prediction that "Young Frankenstein" will be walking home empty-handed. It's not exactly a big gamble.
Best Featured Actress in a Musical:
de'Adre Aziza, Passing Strange
Laura Benanti, Gypsy (should and will win)
Andrea Martin, Young Frankenstein
Olga Merediz, In The Heights
Loretta Ables Sayre, South Pacific
Like LuPone and Gaines, Benanti has done wonders with a long-established role and deserves the acclaim for it. Her closest competitor will be Merediz, who does great with the killer number in "Heights."
Best Direction of a Play:
Maria Aitken, The 39 Steps
Conor McPherson, The Seafarer
Anna D. Shapiro, August: Osage County (should and will win)
Matthew Warchus, Boeing-Boeing
Standard Warchus disclaimer. McPherson more than did justice to his own work, but Shapiro's win will be part of the one zeitgeist of the night I'm fully behind. As for Aitken, I'm glad she got nominated. Pity there's not some sort of ensemble award, as "The 39 Steps" certainly deserves something.
Best Direction of a Musical:
Sam Buntrock, Sunday In The Park With George (should win)
Thomas Kail, In The Heights
Arthur Laurents, Gypsy
Bartlett Sher, South Pacific (will win)
This probably was the toughest category for me to predict. Not for me to pick MY winner, mind you, as I've already given my thoughts on Buntrock. But I really don't know what the voters will be thinking. With they give a lifetime achievement to the 90-year-old Laurents for giving up his grudge against LuPone and, for the most part, faithfully recreating what he had already done wonderfully well? Will Kail benefit from straight-ticket voting? No, I think Sher will finally get his enchanted evening this year after two recent misses. How come my only two song references up to this point have been with "South Pacific"?
Rob Ashford, Cry-Baby (should win)
Andy Blankenbuehler, In The Heights (will win)
Christopher Gattelli, South Pacific
Dan Knechtges, Xanadu
Damn straight I'm advocating a "Cry-Baby" win. Despite the show's shortcomings, Ashford's choreography was fantastic throughout. It won't win, though. After the stomp-stomp-jump-on-a-chair nonsense from "Spring Awakening" won last year, I'm convinced that this category is not given the consideration it deserves by voters. Still, Blankenbuehler's work is a hundred times better than that and is certainly deserving of the Tony it will get.
Jason Carr, Sunday In The Park With George
Alex Lacamoire and Bill Sherman, In The Heights (should and will win)
Stew and Heidi Rodewald, Passing Strange
Jonathan Tunick, A Catered Affair
Sunday's sparse orchestrations were the weakest aspect of the entire show, and "A Catered Affair" will be ignored here. The contest here is between "Heights" and "Strange," but "Heights" had the nuance and polish that will give it the edge here.
Best Scenic Design of a Play:
Peter McKintosh, The 39 Steps
Scott Pask, Les Liaisons Dangereuses
Todd Rosenthal, August: Osage County (should and will win)
Anthony Ward, Macbeth
I almost was tempted to give my nod to McKintosh merely based on the hilarious chase scene he developed, but the towering Oklahoma home of the Westons wins the day, here.
Best Scenic Design of a Musical:
David Farley and Timothy Bird & The Knifedge Creative Network, Sunday In The Park With George (should and will win)
Anna Louizos, In The Heights
Robin Wagner, Young Frankenstein
Micheal Yeargan, South Pacific
OK, as a resident of Washington Heights, I can say Louizos' design is spot-on, from the unisex hair salon to the spurting hydrants. Wagner's sets are one of the best aspects of "Young Frankenstein." And Yeargan's work is absolutlely lovely. But if anyone besides the Sunday team takes this one home, that will be the travesty of the night. You know, if they actually aired this portion of the awards on television.
Best Costume Design of a Play:
Gregory Gale, Cyrano de Bergerac (should win???)
Rob Hoswell, Boeing-Boeing (will win)
Katrina Lindsay, Les Liaisons Dangereuses
Peter McKintosh, The 39 Steps
Gale's costumes were dazzling, but this is the first time I've typed "Cyrano" tonight, so we know what that means. If Christina Applegate could dazzle her boss by creating nifty flight attendant uniforms in "Don't Tell Mom The Babysitter's Dead," then I'm sure that Hoswell can...OK, I really need to see the darn show.
Best Costume Design of a Musical:
David Farley, Sunday In The Park With George (should and will win)
Martin Pakledinaz, Gypsy
Paul Tazewell, In The Heights
Catherine Zuber, South Pacific
Pakledinaz actually made some lovely touches to his costume design for "Gypsy," such as Rose's paint-splattered coat. But Farley's dual role of creating the lush dresses and quirky 80s outfits is the standout in the group.
Best Lighting Design of a Play:
Kevin Adams, The 39 Steps
Howard Harrison, Macbeth (should win)
Donald Holder, Les Liaisons Dangereuses
Ann G. Wrightson, August: Osage County (will win)
If Tony voters should deviate from their straight-ticket voting for August, this should be the one, for Harrison's crackling design for the fascist landscape in the Macbeth revival. They won't, though.
Best Lighting Design of a Musical:
Ken Billingon, Sunday In The Park With George
Howell Blinkley, In The Heights
Donald Holder, South Pacific
Natasha Katz, The Little Mermaid
Blinkley and Holder are both deserving, but remember: In design, it's color AND light, not color OR light. Oh, and as for Katz, she should just be glad to be part of their world. Boom! Two non-South Pacific song references.
Best Sound Design of a Play:
Simon Baker, Boeing-Boeing (will win)
Adam Cork, Macbeth (should win???)
Ian Dickson, Rock 'n' Roll
Mic Pool, The 39 Steps
Well, Dickson would certainly win the award for LONGEST sound design, considering the extremely long vintage-rock-underscored scene breaks in "Rock 'n' Roll." Cork gets my vote, though, even though he had to underscore that silly witch rap. But I'm guessing voters will want to fly with Baker.
Best Sound Design of a Musical:
Acme Sound Partners, In The Heights (should and will win)
Sebastian Frost, Sunday In The Park With George
Scott Lehrer, South Pacific
Dan Moses Schreir, Gypsy
I'd forgotten how long this list was. I'm completely out of things to say. Except:
Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre:
Stephen Sondheim (should have a long time ago and will win)
Duh! Happy watching on Sunday. For fun, you can flip to a different channel and actually watch the Nielsen share drop from the effect, I hear.
Monday, June 09, 2008
I was a bit late to the party, but—much to my own surprise—this absolutely gets my vote as best new musical of the 2007-2008. I’ll go into that more in my pre-Tonys write-up, but song/bookwriter Stew, despite his protestations of how he wants to eschew the musical theatre form, has created the most human, touching journey to hit a Broadway house this year. As stale as the “finding yourself” journey can be as material for a show—and none of what Stew’s autobiographical youth (the equally Tony-worthy Daniel Breaker) is particularly earth-shattering—“Passing Strange” and its protean ensemble give it the urgency and authenticity that it seems like a fresh concept. There's not a weak link among the ensemble, but special mention should go to Eisa Davis as the youth's mother, who manages to make a three-word line--"I love you"--into a an upsettingly gut-wrenching moment. Given what I had heard, I was prepared to appreciate, but not particularly like, this show. How wrong I was. I also was fortunate enough to attend a close-captioned performers, so I didn’t miss a syllable of the largely smart lyrics.
No, No Nanette
Why am I even mentioning this limited-run Encores! production that is long gone? Because it really needs a transfer, that’s why. What an absolutely lovely performance of an unabashedly dusty play. Beth Leavel channeled Judy Garland to the point of eeriness, Michael Berresse gave his best triple-threat performance since “Kiss Me, Kate” and Sandy Duncan—well, let’s just make a deal. If this can’t transfer, find Ms. Duncan something to do on Broadway soon, yes? Loved that she used her Playbill bio to finally put that glass eye rumor to rest, too.
Angels in America: The Opera
I rarely mention the things I see out of town, but I feel I should give mention to the premiere of “Angels in America: The Opera” by the Fort Worth Opera, which I saw in late May. First of all: Kudos to the company for taking on and, for the most part, excelling at this challenging piece. The cast did it justice, so my following criticisms are no reflection on them. That being said, Hungarian composer Peter Eotvos has condensed Tony Kushner’s modern masterpiece to a two-and-a-half hour opera that remains true to the spirit of the source and offers a few stunning moments, but largely, is far too muddled to ever stand on its own. The atonal, Schoenberg-esque yet almost conversational music fits the dialogue but is just too alienating after a long period of time, making the entire show non-stop tension with no release. As one patron a few rows behind me remarked at intermission, “I want an aria!” The structure is also problematic. While the “Millennium Approaches” segment sets up the various storylines perfectly, the truncated “Perestroika” segment nips them all, dedicating most of the second half to Prior’s dream. Other characters largely disappear and the key plot point of WHY Prior was able to survive also is omitted. In other words, the whole opera would be befuddling to anyone without a working knowledge of the source material, making this opera a nice footnote to it, but ultimately, not much else.
Monday, May 12, 2008
A Catered Affair
In the Heights
Spoilers: Boy, if anyone had told me this time last year that not only would I be putting "Xanadu" as a pick for best musical, but that I didn't think it was the weakest choice for the slot, I'd have thought he/she was a crazy. No, it, along with "In the Heights" and "Passing Strange," are locks. "Young Frankenstein" might slip past "A Catered Affair," though.
Best Revival of a Musical
Sunday in the Park with George
[no fourth choice]
Spoilers: Yeah, "Grease" will get the fourth slot. Because there's no other choice. As Homer Simpson said: "Default! The two most beautiful words in the English language."
August: Osage County
Rock 'n' Roll
The 39 Steps
Spoilers: Actually, I think this is how it will go down.
Best Revival of a Play
Is He Dead?
Spoilers: "Boeing Boeing," just judging by reviews, will probably take one of the slots, in most likelihood, the one I gave to the long-closed "Is He Dead?"
Best Director of a Musical
Sam Buntrock -- Sunday in the Park with George
Annie Dorsen -- Passing Strange
Thomas Kail -- In the Heights
Bartlett Sher -- South Pacific
Spoilers: I left out Arthur Laurents. Yes, the "Gypsy" revival is exquisite, but how much of that is really due to any directorial vision that hasn't been used before? If anything, it would be a credit to him finally getting over his Patti LuPone grudge. But, the Tony voters won't leave out Laurents. He'll get it over either Dorsen or Kail.
Best Director of a Play
Maria Aitken -- The 39 Steps
Rupert Goold -- Macbeth
Anna Shapiro -- August: Osage County
Daniel Sullivan -- The Homecoming
Spoilers: Again, "Boeing Boeing" will probably be in one of these slots. I'm guessing Aitken's.
Best Leading Actress in a Musical
Kerry Butler -- Xanadu
Patti LuPone -- Gypsy
Kelli O'Hara -- South Pacific
Faith Prince -- A Catered Affair
Jenna Russell -- Sunday in the Park with George
Spoilers: Nada. This is how it's going down. Bank on it.
Best Leading Actor in a Musical
Daniel Evans -- Sunday in the Park with George
Cheyenne Jackson -- Xanadu
Lin-Manuel Miranda -- In the Heights
Paolo Szot -- South Pacific
Tom Wopat -- A Catered Affair
Spoilers: "Passing Strange" (which I haven't reviewed just yet) owes a lot to its creator and lead actor Stew. He might slip in here, perhaps past Miranda, Jackson or even Wopat. Leaving off Jackson, however, would be a mistake. I saw the show in an early preview when he was not yet in it -- and believe me, him being in it made a world of difference. And I'm not that huge of a fan.
Best Leading Actress in a Play
Deanna Dunagan August: Osage County
Kate Fleetwood -- Macbeth
S. Epatha Merkerson -- Come Back, Little Sheba
Amy Morton -- August: Osage County
Anika Noni Rose -- Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
Spoilers: The August ladies are locks, as is Fleetwood. And probably Rose. Merkerson made an otherwise problematic revival of "Sheba," but might be overlooked here in favor of Eve Best ("The Homecoming") or even Frances McDormand ("The Country Girl") or Laura Linney (Liaisons..."). Never underestimate the potential for starstruckness. Personally, I wouldn't mind seeing Claire Danes ("Pygmalion") on the list, but it's doubtful.
Best Leading Actor in a Play
Norbert Leo Butz -- Is He Dead?
Laurence Fishburne -- Thurgood
Nathan Lane -- November
Patrick Stewart -- Macbeth
Charles Edwards -- The 39 Steps
Spoilers: Edwards is a long shot. Ian McShane, for "The Homecoming," will probably be named in his stead. Fishburne also is iffy, but like Merkerson, he gave a performance that elevated a mediocre show into something worthwhile. And what I said about McDormand also goes for Morgan Freeman ("The Country Girl,") as incredibly disappointing as his performance was. Kevin Kline ("Cyrano") also would be a worthy nominee, although his show might be long forgotten.
Best Featured Actress in a Musical
Laura Benanti -- Gypsy
Eisa Davis -- Passing Strange
Olga Merediz -- In the Heights
Mary Beth Peil -- Sunday in the Park with George
Loretta Ables Sayre -- South Pacific
Spoilers: This was an incredibly tough category to narrow down, and it killed me not to include Jackie Hoffman ("Xanadu"). But -- she'll probably be on the list in place of Davis, who I thought gave a very understated yet devastating performance. Karen Olivo ("In the Heights") also is a contender, although she doesn't get the killer number that Merediz gets. In a weaker year, Jessica Molaskey ("Sunday....") would have made the list, but unfortunately, there's just too many other greats out there in flashier parts. And a "Young Frankenstein" gal might slip in.
Best Featured Actor in a Musical
Daniel Breaker -- Passing Strange
Danny Burstein -- South Pacific
Robin de Jesus -- In the Heights
Boyd Gaines -- Gypsy
Tony Yazbeck -- Gypsy
Spoilers: Yazbeck is the long shot here, but I had to include because he made me enjoy the one scene in "Gypsy" that has always bored the crap out of me. One of the "Young Frankenstein" guys might slip in, or even Tony Roberts ("Xanadu").
Best Featured Actress in a Play
Sinead Cusack -- Rock n Roll
Elizabeth Marvel -- Top Girls
Sally Murphy -- August: Osage County
Rosie Perez -- The Ritz
Marisa Tomei -- Top Girls
Spoilers: Once again, it's the ladies of "Boeing Boeing." Cusack is the most likely candidate for a bump, followed by Perez.
Best Featured Actor in a Play
Raul Esparza -- The Homecoming
Ciaran Hinds -- The Seafarer
Jim Norton -- The Seafarer
John Pankow -- Cymbeline
Tim Treloar -- Macbeth
Spoilers: I really went off the deep end with this one. Pankow and Treloar both gave wonderfully memorable performances as some of Shakespeare's more amorphous, forgettable characters. But they ain't gonna get nominated. And neither is Hinds, for that matter, despite his great delivery of what probably is one of the best monologues written in ages. Yeah, look for "Boeing Boeing" and/or "Liaisons" people to fill out this category.
Best Book of a Musical
A Catered Affair
Spoilers: While I thoroughly enjoyed "In the Heights," it's book was quite weak. While I enjoyed "Young Frankenstein" not so much, it had a better book. But "Heights" will get the nomination.
Best Original Score
A Catered Affair
In the Heights
Spoilers: "Cry-Baby" won't get it. "Young Frankenstein" will. I picked "Cry-Baby" only because it had a few memorable songs I enjoyed, while I couldn't recall a single of "Young Frankenstein's" a mere week after seeing it. Go Mel Brooks and his tape recorder.
In the Heights
Spoilers: "Cry-Baby," despite its deep, deep flaws, was fairly widely praised for its choreography. But, it might be the victim of a shut-out. "The Little Mermaid" might slip in here, or "Young Frankenstein."
And, to keep this post from being ridiculously long, here's a brief rundown of the categories they won't televize. Just call me CBS.
A Catered Affair
In the Heights
Best Scenic Design of a Play
August: Osage County
Best Scenic Design of a Musical
A Catered Affair
In the Heights
Best Costume Design of a Play
August: Osage County
Best Costume Design of a Musical
Sunday in the Park with George
Best Lighting Design of a Play
August: Osage County
Rock 'n' Roll
Best Lighting Design of a Musical
In the Heights
Sunday in the Park with George
Best Sound Design of a Play
August: Osage County
The 39 Steps
Rock 'n' Roll
Best Sound Design of a Musical
In the Heights
Tuesday, May 06, 2008
OK, so on a dare -- I won't say from whom -- I did something that might have been really, really stupid. Time Out New York, you see, does this annual issue very subtly called "the horny issue," and as a part of that, they like to shoot photos of ordinary New Yorkers naked. Naked in what is acceptable for publications that don't come in plastic wrappers, that is. Think a risque Rolling Stone cover or such. Something that would be work-safe to view everywhere but Chick Fil A.
Through, let's just say, circumstances somewhat beyond my control, I am now one of the candidates to be one of those New Yorkers this year, and TONY is hosting an online poll to determine who it's gonna be.
Now, as anyone who has read much of this blog will be able to tell, I don't post that many photos of myself, and in almost all that I do, I'm usually fully clothed. On the other hand, I really like to win things. So, what the heck? I'm just putting it out there in case anyone wants to throw a few votes my way, or -- for those of you, which is most, with much, much more powerful blogging powers than mine -- want to throw me a little promotional bone.
Here's the link. Luckily, there are many, many people on there far more attractive than me, so I'm probably safe. In fact, I fully expect to be the Mike Gravel, or Sam Brownback if you're more Republicanly inclined, of this race and hope they don't publish the actual results. Still, thanks to my last name starting with a "b," I am the first one on the list. Let's just see where this goes, right?
And to make this seem a little bit less sleazy, I'll try to pull a positive out of it: If, for whatever reason, I come out ahead, as penance, I'll donate $100 to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Voting runs until May 22, and multiple votes are permitted. And don't send my momma this link!
Sunday, May 04, 2008
Warning: Viewers of MTC's revival of Caryl Churchill's opus on the havoc capitalism ravages on the feminine mystique, might go through several stages: confusion, denial, acceptance and disappointment -- if they last long enough. I haven't seen a mass exodus of audience members as I did during my preview performance since that Earth, Wind and Fire musical nightmare. And it's a pity, because "Top Girls" actually is a brilliant work that had me thinking about it for days. So whose fault is it? The audience? Or this production, directed by James Macdonald? Upon reflection, I'd have to say a little bit of both. The first scene, in which a recently promoted career gal Marlene (Elizabeth Marvel), in fantasy, toasts her success with a bevy of semi-historical and literary figures, is meaty but confusing with continuous crosstalk and initial vagueness to whom these characters actually are. Yes, this three-hour marathon requires a little work in return from the audience, and many were more interested in catching the early train out of Penn Station. Still, while the cast, particularly Marvel and Marisa Tomei, are mostly stellar, Macdonald makes some confusing choices, largely switching around the traditional double-casting between the first-act characters and the real-life people in Marlene's life. Verdict: Not for everyone.
More history lesson than theatrical work, George Stevens Jr.'s maiden voyage into writing for the stage could have been deadly dull in the wrong hands. Fortunately, he tagged Laurence Fishburne to bring the story of former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall to life. There's not much of a conceit around the piece: Marshall walks into a vague lecture hall-type setting and tells his life story from beginning to end. That's it. But it's an interesting and worthwhile story, and Fishburne tells it well. Perhaps its time to retire that old canard about an actor who can make reading the phone book exciting. Fishburne does it for what's almost a Wikipedia entry, although fortunately, Stevens peppers it with enough anecdotes to elevate it above that level. In front of me, when I saw, was a mesmerized boy of about 14 or so. Perhaps that's a stronger commendation than I could ever give on here. Verdict: Recommended.
A Catered Affair
This catered affair should have come with strong coffee. "A Catered Affair," Harvey Fierstein's new musical about a struggling Bronx momma determined to give her daughter the wedding of her dreams whether she wants it or not, is marvelously acted but so low-key that it can at times be coma-inducing. Faith Prince, as the mother Aggie, is heart-wrenching and doing her best work in years, and Tom Wopat, as her unassuming husband, provides one of the few truly cathartic moments with his song, "I Stayed." Oddly enough, Fierstein's own character, "confirmed bachelor" Uncle Winston, is the most awkwardly written, cloaked in anachronistic righteous indignation about his own aloof placing in the family unit. Verdict: Not for everyone.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Much ink already has been spilled--largely by the New York Post's Michael Riedel--about the behind-the-scenes troubles with this starry revival of Clifford Odets'...well, it's hard to say masterpiece, since he himself referred to it as a superficial work. But brushing all that aside, and keeping in mind that the performance I saw was an early preview, my verdict is that this revival, directed by Mike Nichols and starring Morgan Freeman, Frances McDormand and Peter Gallagher, is not a disaster. Merely a disappointment. Freeman, no stranger to the stage, just seems ill-at-ease as washed up, alcoholic actor Frank Elgin. The telling moment happens early on, when Elgin is brought in by director Bernie Dodd (Gallagher, back in full Sky Masterson mode here) to wow the show's writer and producer. Unable to read well from the script, Dodd encourages Elgin to improvise. Unfortunately, the audience never gets that wow factor the writer and producer are supposed to see. From there, it all gets a little unintentionally meta. Dodd is waiting for that spectacular performance from Elgin why we wait for the same from Freeman. But all we see is a competent, never thrilling, performance. The McDormand/Gallagher scenes sizzle a little more, but without a strong core, it's not enough. An integral scene also was cut out of the performance I saw, although it has since been restored. Best wishes to the cast and crew to get this together before opening, but sad to say it had a long way to go upon my viewing.
I posted my thoughts on this show following the first preview at City Center last summer, and although much of what I said still holds, time has only made it better. Among the improvements: Tony Yazbeck's scene as Tulsa, always my least favorite in the show, is actually enthralling now. Patti LuPone has a better wig. Oh, and her performance, thrilling at City Center, has blossomed even further: frightening, sexual and raw, single-minded force. Also even better is Leigh Ann Larkin, so at the end of her rope as frustrated Dainty June that "If Momma Was Married"
Sunday in the Park with George
Attention all producers looking to land helicopters onstage or fly cars over the audience: It is quite possible to use modern technology to create stunning visuals that add heart, not spectacle. From George's (Daniel Evans) first stroke to the creation of the act-closing tableau, Sam Buntrock's London transfer, now presented by Roundabout at Studio 54, is an exercise in dazzling understatement. Critics already have given the leads (Jenna Russell is the dual role of Dot and Marie) who came across the Atlantic with the show, but the supporting ensemble are equally strong, particularly Mary Beth Peil as George's snooty and aloof mother and Jessica Molaskey as the silently suffering wife of George's artist acquaintance, the alter ego to what a weaker Dot would have become. Between this, Gypsy and South Pacific, It's going to be a tough race for best revival this year.
Monday, April 21, 2008
My intentions are now to post semi-weekly, keeping theatre reviews on the weekend and kind of a weekly column-type posting during the week. I much prefer the long-form of writing, and I've determined that -- by and large -- my autobiography is just not interesting enough to sustain a blog!
I work much better under regular deadlines, even false deadlines, so with luck, a regular schedule will keep me posting much more regularly, too.
So, I'll be back in a few days to catch up on some more reviews, then perhaps even more reviews this weekend (I'll be checking in on the folks in Texas this weekend). Then, after that, I'll start the regular schedule. So thanks to those who've stuck with me!
Monday, April 14, 2008
One doesn't have to be a cockeyed optimist to think, going into this revival of the Rodgers & Hammerstein classic, not seen on Broadway in more than six decades, that it would be lovely. Just the promise of the now-too-rare full orchestra playing the overture is enough to guarantee that. Fortunately, Lincoln Center's revival, headed by Bartlett Sher, is much more than that. Great leads: Just try to resist that lump in the throat while Paulo Szot sings "This Nearly Was Mine," and Kelli O'Hara is wonderfully understated as self-described hick Nellie Forbush. Even greater supporting cast: Danny Burstein seems to channel a wacky Hanna-Barbera sidekick--in a good way--to his Luther Billis, and Loretta Ables Sayre makes a smashing debut as the ambitious Bloody Mary. Sure, the show is dated, drags in quite a few places and is almost ridiculous in the number of reprises. Still, this revival is no dusty time capsule. Without any attempts of updating or misguided parallels to the present, the piece itself remains relevant, particularly in a time when nightly news reminds us just how many people are still "carefully taught."
The Four of Us
Playwright Itamar Moses certainly found a way to shut me up. I had a couple of key criticisms about his latest, "The Four of Us," now being put on by Manhattan Theatre Club at New York City Center Stage II, and in a sudden, last-minute postmodern moment, he had his actors make those exact criticisms for me. Touche, Mr. Moses! It might beg the question of why you didn't just fix them, but no matter. In all, "The Four of Us" is an enjoyable if sometimes pedantic of two budding writers, one finding sudden success and the other finding sudden jealousy. Gideon Banner and Michael Esper are winning as the two writers playing out the non-chronological vignettes that shape the writers' imbalanced friendship. And scenic designer David Zinn makes great use of the small stage space, with an Alice-In-Wonderland-like wall of doors that open to reveal small set pieces to indicate different locales.
That's right, I wrote out the title. The curse seems to have lost its charm, because this production of Shakespeare's most accessible yet trickiest tragedy is actually -- gasp -- good. Director Rupert Goold moves the action to an underground bunker in a decidedly Russian setting, although all references to Scotland remain intact. Patrick Stewart is equal parts tortured, terrifying and pathetic as the power-hungry anti-hero. Kate Fleetwood makes a dazzling debut as his lady, a steely, sexy devil-on-the-shoulder. And special standout honors go to Tim Treloar, who manages to flesh out the amorphous character of Ross into something memorable. Yeah, there are a few odd choices. Like why does Banquo get up and walk offstage after he is murdered? And do we really need to see the porter urinate into the sink? But overall, it's a production well-deserving of the critical praise it has received.
Thursday, April 03, 2008
In talking about Ryan's first role, I realize that what I said came out wrong. I certainly didn't mean any malice. I agree it was a dumb thing to say, and I apologize.
Not exactly contrition, but it's something. No more of this. I promise.
Also, I've never really gotten why People magazine always identifies everyone by age. Always, says Mike, 24. (gotta practice now before D-Day in August)
Monday, March 31, 2008
Oh, and a special note to Chad on there: You're cute. Call me!
Sunday, March 30, 2008
I didn't win anything, of course, but it's nice to get away every once in a while and also nice to see some of the changes made to the area for the better. The Boardwalk, at least the key sections of it, looks much improved since I was last there about two years ago. And those tacky elephants in front of Trump Taj Mahal are mostly gone! Also, it was strangely cathartic to do the trip I'd done so many times in reverse, having the late-night drive home be toward, not away from, the city I love.
Also of note this weekend was a great blogger meetup in Midtown, smartly organized by Esther of Gratuitous Violins. It was great to meet Esther and Steve of Steve On Broadway, along with a huge number of theatre-focused bloggers with whom I was not familiar, and I look forward to exploring their sites. Lots of great theatre chat at the table, or rasping in my case, since I have virtually no voice left thanks to a persistent cold. Here's hoping it becomes a regular thing!
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
I haven't made a habit of watching the obsequious Leno in years, so I'll let the brilliant Jeff Whitty recap the show (complete with clip). But basically, Leno used an appearance by Ryan Phillippe to spend several minutes teasing him about playing a gay character on a soap opera 12 years ago, at one point asking to turn to a camera and make "his gayest face." Whitty called out Leno a while back about his jaw-droppingly offensive, straight-from-the-70s "Brokeback Mountain" jokes, drawing from dated gay stereotypes.
See, I don't think Leno is homophobic in the least. From all accounts of comedians who know him, he is a genuinely nice guy to all. He does a lot for charity, and unlike a lot of his fellow late-night hosts, he still does comedy shows. It's just that Leno's comedy--as well as that of the tonight show writers--hasn't exactly evolved much in the past 20 years or so.
I saw Leno live in Atlantic City a few years ago. The material, for the most part, was pretty much like a "Tonight Show" monologue: a few chuckles here and there, but mostly easy jokes about easy targets, like Michael Jackson, Robert Blake, Bill Clinton and President Bush. He even had a long bit about the problems his parents have working a VCR. Yes, this was 2004, and he was making VCR jokes, and not even jokes about how hard it was to program a VCR. Just how difficult it was for his parents to use the fast-forward and rewind functions.
So, rewind back to when those sorts of jokes were relevant--this predates even Phillippe's soap appearance, by the way--and "having to play an icky gay guy" jokes are, well, no less offensive, but a little less anachronistic. Remember, that was a time when gay representation on television was mostly the old friend with AIDS who showed up to visit the Sugarbakers or that guy planning Dorothy Zbornak's wedding.
In other words, I don't think Leno was being purposefully hateful like those folks I linked to yesterday. Just lazy and predictable. Who knows? Perhaps he thought showing that old Phillippe jeans ad was his penance to the gays. I think I'll thank him just as Whitty did -- by showing MY gayest face.
Anyone care to join me?
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
But no one beats the unhinged rantings of Olivia St. John. Yeah, I thought that was a General Hospital character who got killed off ages ago, too. No, but sadly, this Olivia St. John is a spiteful homeschool advocate who, in the course of one column, manages to turn back the clock 60 years to the belief that all homos are shady men in the bushes waiting to grab little Timmy on his way home from school.
When will these people ever have the nuts -- the ones not cut off by Chuck Norris, I guess -- to just come out and say what they believe? They want all gay people dead. Executed. The end. They cloak it in some nonsense about Christian compassion, but there is no compassion in their words. They never call for any sort of reasoned debate, just hysterics backed up by tainted research. When people are murdered--like the poor gay kid in California who was shot dead by a bully at school--they don't have a damn thing to say, probably because they're quietly rejoicing.
So go ahead, Olivia St. John. Pull your kids out of school. Keep them away from the homos and the darkies and whoever the hell else frightens your insular worldview. In a few decades, you'll be your own little isolated island of bile while the rest of the world moves on, the Ruby Ridge of the future. We'll still send the garbage trucks and water lines your way. But none of us will talk to you.
Sunday, March 23, 2008
Gus Van Sant, Vince Vaughn and Anne Heche, take note. It is possible to recreate Hitchcock without it being an utter travesty. This farcical production, a London transfer presented by Roundabout now playing at the American Airlines Theatre--soon moving to the Cort--reduces the old Hitchcock spy thriller into the hands of a cast of four with tongue-in-cheek reverence that only occasionally seems to overstay its welcome. Charles Edwards is the dashingly handsome hero Richard Hannay, Jennifer Ferrin is the trio of women he charms and Cliff Saunders and Arnie Burton are, well, everyone else. Often four or five people in the same scene, in fact. Watching the actors flawlessly walk the tightrope of bouncing between different hats, purposefully bad accents and minimal props gives the show a kind of magic-show thrill that propels it past what could have, in the wrong hands, seemed like a too-long high school group improv.
Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan, take note. It is possible to recreate John Waters without it being, well, "Hairspray." Considering this show is still early in previews, I'll be perhaps overly kind, not speaking so much to specific performances, but I smell trouble. In fact, I'll just point out what is likely to be the fatal problem to this show. "Hairspray," for all its faults, was buoyed around two interesting characters. In "Cry-Baby," however, the most fun characters are peripheral, buoyed around two characters who are bland, bland, bland to the point that they completely fade away during the ensemble numbers (not really the fault of the actors, either). Good-girl Allison and bad-boy Cry-Baby -- he's bad, I guess, because he wears a leather jacket and doesn't sing in barbershop quartet format -- are little-developed beyond expository back-story and as a result are overshadowed by secondary and tertiary characters. It's telling that the highlights of the score, most of which sounds like something thrown together from Jim Jacobs' cut songs, are largely in the hands of cast standout Alli Mauzey, who plays Lenora, a psychotic stalker obsessed with Cry Baby. There are some good points. Harriet Harris is, as usual, a highlight, Rob Ashford's choreography is mostly on-target -- although I'd say lose or cut down the tap-dancing-on-license-plates bit--and there are a few witty moments in the lyrics. Ultimately, though, I see this going more the way of "The Wedding Singer" than the obvious comparison. Considering the reviews "Young Frankenstein" received, it looks like the 2007-2008 season is shaping up to be the year of the sophomore slump.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
At any rate, one of my goals during that time was to get one of my drawings published on the page where they featured small black-and-white versions of the artwork that readers sent in. Now, I've never been great at drawing. True, I did win a best-in-show ribbon for a painting of flowers at the Brazoria County Fair, but that's when I was five, and my skills kind of never got past that level. But oh, I tried and tried.
Then one day, when I was 8, I got a letter notifying me that they would be publishing one of my drawings. Validation! And just in time, especially because the older you got, the better your drawings had to be to get in. I eagerly waited for the magazine to see which one they choose, and when it arrived, I realized it was the crappiest one I had ever sent in: a scribbled out, asymmetrical Christmas tree that looked even more pathetic with the green and all the decorations sucked out of it by the loss of color. Yet there it was. My name attached to it.
I bring this up because, many, many months ago, probably after drinking, I sent in something to Overheard in New York. And suddenly, they've decided to publish it. And looking at it, I'm realizing that it's not that funny. And I also apparently signaled to them that I wanted my full name posted by the quote.
The quote itself is pretty old, as indicated by the location of where it was overheard: a show I reviewed more than six months ago. It made a bit more sense then, when the U.S. dollar wasn't quite as pathetic as it is now, albeit still stronger to the Chilean peso. Considering that the top quote on the Overheard in New York site is from a Yankee's game, I'm guessing that it was just a matter of catching up.
Which reminds me that I sent in something else shortly after that one. If it ever appears, I hope this one, something I overheard in the audience while attending The Tyra Banks Show (yes, I went to that -- shut up). I think it went something like this:
Female intern: Wow, those makeovers Tyra did were really amazing, weren't they?
Guy in audience: Yeah. When are they going to give you one?
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
But all excuses. As penance, here are one-sentence reviews of every show I've seen since I last wrote a show review:
Crimes of the Heart: Kathleen Turner makes a respectable directorial debut, the kind that an American Idol judge would call safe but just a'ight for me, dog.
Oroonoko: The show's already opened and closed with little fanfare, so all that really needs to be said is that there is a delightful riff by one of the female character on the uselessness of the king's penis.
Applause at City Center: I will never penny-pinch and buy the $20 nosebleed seats at this venue again, as the pole at the front of the balcony was the star of the show for me, although the dot that kind of looked liked Christine Ebersole sure sang pretty.
In the Heights: Even as a mere two-year resident of Washington Heights, I feel comfortable in saying this show is about as representative of the neighborhood as "Brigadoon" is of Scotland, but it still is a darn entertaining night at the theatre.
Dina Martina: Off the Charts!: After hearing my sister play it on the piano for years in the 1980s, finally someone made the theme from "Ice Castles" listenable again!
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof: Anika Noni Rose, as Maggie the cat, more than makes up for a mostly miscast everyone else, and hearing James Earl Jones boom out the word "poontang" more than makes up for the disappointment in director Debbie Allen's failure to include an interpretive dance number.
Wednesday, March 05, 2008
Why do people shoot video of things that everybody and their brother have already filmed, usually at a much higher level a quality than the average tourist can do? Why do we take grainy photos of the Eiffel Tower, the Empire State Building or the Golden Gate Bridge, all landmarks that already have been shot from every concievable angle known to man? And these are photos and videos that no one really wants to see, by the way. Is it just some crude way of marking our territory?
Yeah, I do it too. Here's the video I shot of the famous Bellagio fountain, spurting to Rachmaninoff.
Tuesday, March 04, 2008
OK, I'm officialy 80.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
As I mentioned once before, I've diddled around on one of the dating sites out there. Actually, I have no idea why I was being coy and didn't mention the site's name in that last post. It's chemistry.com.
Anyway, they've suddenly altered their policy. See, it's a very intricate process to actually get to have direct communication with anyone on that site, which probably explains why I, the king of ADD and no follow through, have met precious few people from it (not that that's necessarily a bad thing). Here's how it used to work: They use whatever matchmaking wizardry they glean from the initial quiz you take and show you five matches. From there, you look at the photos and read their profile and decide if you want to get to know them better. Then, they look at your profile and decide if the feeling's mutual. Then, you compare your "relationship essentials," do a few short answer questions, swap insurance information, submit to a full genetic screening and share potential names of your firstborn, and then you can communicate directly.
Here's the kicker. At any point in time, if one of you decides that he isn't feeling it, you can abort at any time. The other person has no means to respond, unless you were dumb enough to include your cell phone number or something like that in your profile. A passive-aggressive person's delight. Potentially frustrating, for sure, but no pressure. Pretty brilliant, actually.
But they just changed it. Mostly, the process is the same, except with the photographs. Now, you no longer can see a potential matches photograph until AFTER you've confirmed initial interest. On the surface, it's an admirable if not a bit too utopian of a move. Sure, we should be judging potential matches on more than their hotness. (Side note to anyone using that site: Show a LITTLE forethought when choosing a photograph. We all have our good angles, but that's rarely on the south end of a beer-spitting hat or of you rafting the Colorado River, shot from the top of the Grand Canyon.) Nobody actually does that, of course, but it's an admirable goal, nonetheless.
One problem, though. Before, you could pretty much just fill in the blanks yourself if a potential match put you in the reject pile. "Eh, our profile's just didn't mesh." "He's probably already found a boyfriend on here and just didn't close his account yet." "His last boyfriend's name was probably Mike, too, and that would just be freaky to him."
Not now. If someone clicks that initial interest button but hits the eject button after the photos materialize, there can be only one reason. He hated the photo. He thinks you're hideous. Likewise, if you succumb to shallowness--if someone sounded good on paper but in their photograph looks, as my high school band director used to say, like Lurch--you're doing the same thing to them. Oh, well. Self-esteem and good karma were nice while they lasted!
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Despite the crackerjack reporting done by WND on this case, which apparently consisted of watching this guy's YouTube video, the mainstream media has not yet picked up on this breaking story. Not even a Drudge siren yet. But just wait. This guy's going to prove his case by using a polygraph test. Basically, we'll be holding him to the same standards as one of the fine ladies and gentlemen who would appear on MTV's "Exposed."
Using WND's same standards of journalism, however, let me attempt to play a bit of devil's advocate, here. Using my imaginary reverse aging machine to determine what the man in question, Larry Sinclair, looked like in 1999, when he was a spry lad of 37 or so, let me just say -- not a chance. Sorry. Even if Obama had been trolling around upscale Chicago lounges in his limo for crack and tricks, perhaps thinking that Y2K was just going to end it all anyway, the odds of him picking up someone that looked like Sinclair, even a de-aged-by-eight-years Sinclair, are zero. There's a reason the guys from the escort services don't look like that. Not exactly a high-demand item, let's just say. The chances, in fact, are probably about as big as the chances that Sinclair would be able to get past the velvet rope of an upscale Chicago lounge.
Now, some might say WND is just throwing whatever slime it can, hoping some of it eventual sticks to the wall, particularly since another top headline on the right is "Obama mentor identified as communist." And there's another whole story about Obama's campaign, surprisingly enough, refusing to comment on this.
But nay. Go on, WND. Pursue this story and prove us all wrong. By the way, here's a scoop: Mike Huckabee and I once shot up crystal meth in a Wheeling, W.V. Knight's Inn, followed by seven hours of reciprocal fisting and a room service order of squirrel taquitos. Truly. I look forward to seeing your interview request in my inbox tomorrow.
(Sorry for the graphic imagery, but hey -- they started it!)
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
I'll never forget the first night I did it. I, a kid of I guess 12 or 13 at the time, was spending the night with two friends, and they apparently were old pros at it. I watched them do it to each other several times, but I was too terrified to do it myself. Finally, I succumbed. And wow.
They did it in the second way described in the article. We were never as hardcore as to throttle each other or wrap telephone cords around our necks, for goodness sake. We didn't even call it choking, as we didn't consider it as such. I don't know that we called it anything. Basically, the "victim" would bend over, take about five or six deep breaths and the hold the final breath, as the other person tightly gripped their stomach, like a frozen Heimlich maneuver, and lifted them off the ground. When the "victim" finally released his breath, you knew he was out.
I'll admit: It was pretty euphoric. No, there was nothing sexual about it. But the hallucinations and dreams experienced when one was out were pretty vivid, sometimes scary, not that I could describe a single one of them almost 20 years later, of course. And when we woke up, after what was probably only about 30 seconds to a minute but felt like hours, there would be a bizarre tingling sensation left in the head.
Adults knew we did this. Not my parents, of course, but some other adults heard us talking about it. Hell, I even remember one Boy Scout camping trip in which we were doing it in one of the leader's vans while two leaders were in the van with us. We kind of got an idea that there might be a bit more danger than we thought to it when one kid, at one of my slumber parties, started to have a seizure after we put him under. Finally, one teacher heard us talking about it and told us what we were really doing to our brains in depriving them of oxygen, even though we were pretty much over it by then anyway.
Point being: This is nothing new, nothing underground and nothing restricted to a fringe group of kids. The kids I refer to earlier who did it with me pretty much all were honor students by the time we got to high school.
That being said, some of the comments below the article are pretty appalling (and kudos to the author for calling them out). The attitude that it's just Darwinism, that the kids who die from doing this are just stupid and getting what they deserve is ridiculous. By that logic, a kid who doesn't know how electricity works and dies after sticking a fork in an outlet also got what he deserved.
Oh, and anyone who takes any of the above paragraphs -- particularly numbers two, five and six -- out of context for prurient purposes? God'll get ya for that, Walter.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Not to mention that I didn't get the Aretha article, either. Why can't both Tina Turner and Aretha Franklin be queen? And does this make Beyonce the Thomas Cromwell of soul?
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Thanks again to all for the kind thoughts during all of this. My sister recently sent out her annual request for donations for Relay for Life. I know I'll be donating this year.
Monday, February 11, 2008
I had just finished drinking a bottle of water in a very warm building before walking outside. Almost immediately, the bottle turned into mush in my hand. Now, if I remember my Charles' Law -- Or was that Boyle's Law? Or Murphy? Burke? Somebody like that. -- cold makes things contract (except that rebel substance water). In other words, the air inside the bottle had shrunk to the extent that the poor plastic had nothing to support it.
So thanks, Winter, for the high school chemistry refresher! You can go now. Really. Houseguests and fish and all that.
Thursday, February 07, 2008
The thing is, he's the level of celebrity you can never be sure about. You certainly can't go up and ask. If it's not him, it's not like you just asked if he was Anderson Cooper or even Paul Rudd. He's not going to say, "No, but I get that a lot." In all likelihood, he's not going to know who Richard Brookhiser is and think you're quite odd.
On the other hand, if it is him, you're immediately suspect for recognizing him, too, especially when you don't exactly fit the average National Review demographic. Honestly, I probably wouldn't have even thought it if I hadn't seen him on Colbert last night, although I've been familiar with him since we had to read his Washington biography back in freshman university political science.
Supposedly, Matt Damon works out at my gym when he's in town. Why don't I ever see him, darn it? Ah, well. I wonder: If a conservative writer works out at Crunch, specifically doing ab crunches, does that make him a Crunchy Con?
Wednesday, February 06, 2008
But I understand porn spam even less. First of all, it's not like people who want porn are sitting around and waiting for an email telling them where to find it. What's more, the subject titles are never enticing at all.
Take the last few days' sampling. Sexyandtallns wants me to "see [presumably her] wide gaping holes." Charming. Grocer promises me "real university students forced to stripp (sic) of their clothes -- 2 pics!" Wow! Two whole pictures? Of a college student undressing, probably the hardest thing to ever see? Sold. Betty Klay offers a "round butt for u to play with." How about a round of mini golf? And Cassie Carrter, whom I seem to get something from every damn day, wants to show me "MidWestern Chicks Flashing Their Tits For Free." Darn it Cassie, if they were from the Pacific Northwest, I might have considered it, but the Iowa chicks just don't do it for me.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some horny women to whom sweetsarah0 says are incredibly eager to beat me. Geez, don't these people have any demographic research at all?
Tuesday, February 05, 2008
This is the first time I've ever voted in a presidential primary where it actually mattered. I just missed the 1996 primary because I was too young, although I was old enough for the general election (not that the primary really mattered by the time it got to Texas, anyway). In 2000, I threw a vote to Bill Bradley, whom I really liked but was already long gone from the race. In 2004, there was a really tight race in my county for sheriff that was going to be decided in the Republican primary, so I held my nose and voted in the Republican primary, skipping the presidential section (and ardently stopping the election volunteers from stamping an "R" on my voter's registration).
With that behind me, I look forward to eating hummus and watching the returns tonight. I even switched a show ticket I had so I could be home for it. Isn't that incredibly dorky? If it's a bad night for the greased-up Wink Martindale clone, as I hope it is, it will all be worth it.
A side note: CNN was at my polling place this morning, but as they obviously were there to gauge Latino voter opinion, they paid me no attention.
Thursday, January 31, 2008
Consider the reviews this show racked up--take a look at the filleting Ben Brantley gave it--I was expecting something along the lines of Shamu's Super High-Kicking Spectacular at Sea World. After seeing it, I'll just say: Leave the guppy alone. OK, no more fish references. But really, I didn't see anything so egregiously awful to warrant the thrashing the show received. No, there's nothing visually stunning like "The Lion King," the songs added to the production are dull to cloying, the scenery is bit garish -- oh dear, I'm doing it, too. OK, it's really NOT a great show, I'm afraid. Charming nostalgia, yes, and fun actors in broad parts, yet nothing to elevate it above a really good theme park production. But I had fun, the same way I have fun whenever I catch "King Ralph" on basic cable. And the tourists lapped it up. Having never seen "Beauty and the Beast," I had never seen the inside of the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre until seeing this show. I have a feeling the theatre is going to be uncharted waters, er, territory for a lot of New Yorkers for several years now, too.
August: Osage County
A tonic to crabs in every way. Reviewers, friends and amateur critics had talked up this new work by Tracy Letts up so much that I was afraid I couldn't help but be disappointed. Well, I wasn't. It's a brilliant dark comedy, wonderfully constructed from beginning to end acted by what is sure to be the finest ensemble onstage this season -- and that's high praise, considering my thoughts on "The Seafarer" and "The Homecoming." The insane fire from Deanna Dunagan and Amy Morton (a killer Nurse Ratched earlier this century) as a drug-addled battle ax and her mini-me-in-training fuel this three-and-a-half-hour marathon without a single sputter. Francis Guinan, playing Uncle Charlie, the most normal and grounded member of the clan, turns a rambling recitation of grace into a hilarious monologue. And I swear that I went to church with Rondi Reed's Aunt Mattie Fae growing up. If I had any quibble with this show, it's that Letts made it fit just a little too perfectly. It's OK to have a superfluous character or two. Just ask anyone who's ever played the brother in "A Moon for the Misbegotten."
Jerry Springer: The Opera
Oh, Linda Balgord. You may have turned Queen Elizabeth into Cruella de Vil last season, but all is forgiven after hearing your wonderfully shrill soprano shreik out every vulgarity thinkable onstage at Carnegie Hall. There's something oddly thrilling about seeing the lowest form of entertainment melded into some sort of Orff-ian masterwork--complete with a Klansmen chorus line, something to be topped only if someone invented a NASCAR engine that roared Prokofiev. Well, thrilling for the first two hours at least, after which the conceit started to wear a bit thin and the allegory began to bloat. But that's what concert stagings are for, yes? Here's hoping a leaner version of this finds a permanent home in New York at some point in time. A note about the Catholic protestors outside: I had intended to give a little freedom of expression blast here, but honestly, the withered showing the protesters had was so sad, I don't have the heart. Besides, one of them was even kind of cute.
Sunday, January 27, 2008
At any rate, he made it through the surgery fine last week, but as Sophia Petrillo said, "No one looks good after surgery." Like many older patients after surgery, there were some delusion problems, which is a difficult thing to see. At one point in time, he was convinced he was in Louisiana at an LSU game. When I called to check in last night, however, I got the good news that he was passing gas. Yes, that's good news, because it means the intestines are active again and that he can eat again. And with food back in him, he's doing much, much better, and with the morphine cut down, the delusional spells are pretty much gone. And he might be able to go home sometime this week. So things are looking good at this point.
Honestly, though, I've been in so many conversations about bodily functions in the past few weeks that I feel like I'm in a Rob Schneider film. My three sisters and I were in the Best Western near St. Luke's in Houston, eating breakfast and talking loudly about urostomy bags and all sorts of other unseemly things that we barely even noticed the lone, horrified other woman trying to eat in the breakfast room. Hope she enjoyed her biscuits and gravy.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Click for the full image, of course. These were taken in and around the city's lovely Castle District, right on the Danube (crossed by the Chain Bridge). Oh, and doesn't the Hungarian parliament look a lot like that Thames Productions logo?
Friday, January 18, 2008
Basically, it's a bunch of videos of Garfield strips--including some from as far back as the strip's early days in the late 1970s, which I used to read constantly in those anthologies when I was about 8 or 9--acted out in the most divinely cheesiest way possible followed by an even more purposefully cheesy video. The first one, which inexplicably turns Garfield and the cast into Final Fantasy VI characters...well, that just won these guys a fan for life.
I think it's the last time I've laughed at Garfield since I grew pubic hair.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
- RingmasterJoseph Farah asserts that one of the presidential candidates is mentally ill, namely suffering from narcissistic personality disorder. It's an exclusive! (for anyone who hasn't already read the Mayo Clinic page on the disorder). Now, he doesn't want to say which one she is...I mean he or she is. Her...I mean, his or her rhymes with Billary Hinton, but he's not going to be so classless as to name who he's talking about. Farah then proves his point by listing the symptoms of the disorder, which applies to pretty much anyone who has ever sought public office higher than state railroad commissioner. Oh, and he ends the column with a record 16 questions in a row. That's called nagging personality disorder.
- Political science mastermind Chuck Norris implores everyone to vote for Mike Huckabee because preventing gay marriage is one of the most important issues facing our country. I assume that because it's mentioned four times in the column. It turns out he's trying to push the gay rights movement back to the 70s because that was the last time his moustache was in style. Chuck Norris doesn't write bland columns. He opens the dictionary and the words assemble into them out of fear.
- The beyond adjectives Ann Coulter mourns her father as anyone would: by bashing liberals. Because, you know, politicizing a death is tacky only if the guy's last name was Wellstone.
- The homo-obsessed dotard Les Kinsolving regurgitates a Wikipedia entry on the Episcopal Church in Colonial times to complain about sodomy.
And so on. And this is the top tier. Some other guy challenged Huckabee to a fist fight, but I can't even remember his name now. It's pretty scary when the most coherent columnist on a site is Pat Buchanan.
Sunday, January 13, 2008
The Biltmore Theatre is hosting two long overdue homecomings to Broadway. First is William Inge's ahead-of-its-time drama itself, more than half a century absent from the Broadway stage. The second is S. Epatha Merkerson, taking a break from what seems like nearly the same amount of time on "Law & Order" to play against type as Inge's frumpy, isolated housewife, Lola. Gone is any of Merkerson's trademark strength as Merkerson putters around the claustrophobic set, starving for whatever human interaction she can find: a buff milkman, a nosy neighbor, even a wrong number. As her recovering, resentful alcoholic husband Doc, Kevin Anderson is wound so tight that when he finally snaps, one almost feels like rushing the stage to protect poor Lola. It's a tense, terrifying moment, all adding up to the most affecting show I've seen since last season's "Journey's End," even though director Michael Pressman's work overall is nowhere near the master level of David Grindley's production of the World War I drama. Much of the ensemble work comes nowhere near the realm of the two leads, grinding some crucial scenes, such as Doc's dramatic second act exit, to a halt. Worse, some, particularly Zoe Kazan as boarder Marie, were having projection problems the night I saw it. Still, said ensemble also gets bonus points for surprise eye candy of the season: Brian Smith as hunky track star Turk.
Yes, I finally got around to seeing this. Thank heavens for $30 standing room seats. Let's just say that, considering this show was cast from a reality show, Laura Osnes was a pleasant find as everyone's favorite prude, Sandy. And Kirsten Wyatt is head and shoulders above all as drippy beauty school dropout Frenchy. And, uh, let's just leave it at that.
Wednesday, January 09, 2008
First of all: Did you know that if you call the non-emergency hotline to report an annoying car alarm, they'll automatically transfer you to 911? Not that it makes the police come any faster, but it's an interesting point. It probably has something to do with reports of a terrorist plot involving car alarms.
I had no earplugs, just my noise-canceling headphones, which I can't sleep in because of my inability to sleep on my back or my stomach for any extended period of time. If the police ever came, I had finally dozed off to dreams of revenge. After a few hours, I actually get used to the noise.
But at least I'm not suffering alone. I had no idea how much bandwidth has been dedicated to these nuisances.
And the best one.
My favorite part of those is the stories of people retaliating against the offending car. The thought crossed my mind last night. In fact, I even stood at the window for a moment with an old jar of satay sauce from the refrigerator, contemplating hurling it down six stories through the windshield. I thought better of it, mostly because I didn't trust my aim at 4 a.m., but also because I didn't particularly want something with my fingerprints on it in the car should my aim have actually worked and should the police have ever arrived.
I'll be ready next time, though. I'm still trying to decide which would be best. Dumping a jar of molasses on the hood and windshield? A dozen or so eggs? Or just an old-fashioned keying? Ooh, I smell a future blog poll question!
Tuesday, January 08, 2008
Pardon this turkey. David Mamet’s latest, a surreal tale of a desperate and unpopular president in the final days of his bankrupt campaign, is fast-paced, witty and funny, but it wears out its welcome before grinding to its hackneyed ending. Kind of like one of those Saturday Night Live sketches that would have been great if they didn’t go on for a few minutes too long. As the Nixon-Bush-Harding lovechild that never was Charles Smith, Nathan Lane is giving one of his career-best performances, handily dispatching the ranting Mametisms. And it’s delightful to have Laurie Metcalf onstage as Smith’s speechwriter. Word has it that rewrites are still going on in previews, so here’s hoping they get it right by opening. Mamet almost seems apologetic in explaining some of the contrived moments, such as blaming a missing Secret Service on how some questionable characters have such unfettered access to the Oval Office. Maybe by opening, he’ll have done the same for some of my burning questions. Like why are we still talking about the bird flu? How does a turkey-raising association have such easy access to the same amount as the cost of the Iraq War? And why would such a moron have been elected president in the first…uh, scratch that last part.
It’s taken a while for the Harold Pinter time bomb to go off inside of me, but I’ve come to the conclusion: this revival of the playwright’s 40-year-old work, directed by Daniel Sullivan, is a damn fine production. Yet when I walked out of the Cort Theatre on Sunday, I was somewhat ambivalent toward it. Pinter is never an easy meal, with his usual stock of nasty characters reacting to nasty situations as no human ever would. Like a freshly made soup, though, I guess it took a few days for the fine flavors of Pinter’s motley, bipolar family—papa Max (Ian McShane); eldest son Teddy (James Frain); his wife, who the family never knew existed for nine years, Ruth (Eve Best); the dim boxer Joey (Gareth Saxe); the vicious pimp, Lenny (Raul Esparza); and pathetic chauffeur Uncle Sam (Michael McKean)—to settle in my mind. Esparza’s a bit uneven at first but delivers when it counts, as Lenny turns more sinister, in the second act, and McShane is winningly horrid. Still, it’s the more subtle performers who really make the show worthwhile. Best and McKean can say more sitting silently in a chair than some actors can express in a soliloquy. Those purposeful silences are wonderfully uncomfortable, the best feeling to have when watching the cancerous but not so unreal family gathering.
Sunday, January 06, 2008
So I'll be waiting for those sounds of the rude world to lull away with the moonlight, thank you very much.
Thursday, January 03, 2008
Yes, just before leaving for the holidays, I finally got around to getting my New York driver's license, simultaneously registering to vote. Apparently, to vote in the primaries here, you have to be registered in a particular party. And there's no way I'm going to allow an R by my name.
I haven't made up my mind yet about my choice, though. I'm watching Barack Obama give his victory speech in Iowa as I type this, and he's still probably my top choice. Yeah, there was that whole ex-gay Gospel singer thing, but--as I apparently never blogged on my thoughts about that--my end feeling about the situation is that it was the singer who was compromising, not Obama. John Edwards just creeps me out sometimes with that Joel Osteen vibe. Hillary Clinton could still change my mind again, and I'd love to see those Clinton-hating veins pop out of the Limbaugh et al foreheads over the next four to eight years. The rest would just be a wasted vote. This is coming from someone who voted for Bill Bradley in the 2000 Democratic primary in Texas.
As for Mike Huckabee? Well, he turns my stomach a lot less than Mitt Romney. I'll give him that. Considering he once called for the quarantine of AIDS patients, this says a lot more about Romney than it does about Huckabee. Plus, Limbaugh and Ann Coulter hate him, so there's a plus.
I guess there could be one silver lining to a Huckabee presidency. It's a lining about the width of a cell wall, but a lining, still. Finally there would have been a U.S. president who shared my name. You know, since that homophobic, doltish dwarf from Massachusetts blew his chance back in 1988.