OFF THE WALL
Okay, I've been good--well, relatively good--lately, writing versus animating everything. But I thought I would share this one, the most recent. No(h) Japanese prints were harmed in the making of this film, PRISONERS OF A BROOKLYN BATH(ROOM).
I don't care who or what is in vogue or popular. I've always loved William Inge because he deals with what I feel is a natural theatrical topic, as well as a difficult subject to explore--human longing. While Arthur Miller examines our moral sense and its collisions with justice, and Williams examines our survival in a brutal world, and Albee our, well, our defense mechanisms in a hostile society, Inge (who at one time was mentioned with equal reverence) was the prosaic poet of our dreams, desires and disappointments. In plays like PICNIC and COME BACK, LITTLE SHEBA, his characters want to follow their hearts but are perhaps too frightened of their own feelings to act upon their passions--rather like the majority of us. If current audiences are too "hip" to find such ordinary frustrations and inaction off-putting, I would counter that perhaps Inge's emotionalism cuts embarrassingly close to the bone. His work straddles a fine line of comedy and pathos, but is rarely slick, sardonic or biting--which is what many more audiences seem to trust today. (Tracy Letts seems to combine both successfully in AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY.) But to really find what motivates us or what holds us back, those small private fears that loom large in our own inner lives, Inge achieves achingly lovely and painful theatrical moments. In some aspects, he is our American Chekhov. And like Chekhov, he is hard to do well.
That said, you may wish to check out BUS STOP, one of his classics, now being performed by Brooklyn's Gallery Players through March 29th. If not the ultimate production, it nonetheless is a loving exploration of ordinary folks, road travellers stuck at a diner until a blizzard lets up and they can move on to their ultimate destination. (Like Chekhov, you have arrivals and departures and the folks that stay behind as the stuff of all drama.) It is not a searing, dark night of the soul--rather, it is regular people trying their damnedest to get through a long and somewhat awkward night together. The piece is probably best known as the film vehicle for Marilyn Monroe in the 50s, but while that film narrowed the focus to only one of the principal threads (and probably couldn't spend too much time on the alcoholic professor interested in underage girls, given the Eisenhower era), the play has many more layers, subtextures and currents. New York City only gets views of Inge once in a blue moon, given what's popular, so you may wish to take advantage of this opportunity to see some authentic American theater literature done with warmth and affection.
BUS STOP by William Inge, directed by Heather Siobhan Curran, now playing at The Gallery Players, 199 14th Street, Brooklyn, btwn. 4th & 5th Avenue (R train to 9th Street; F train to 4th Avenue), Thursdays-Sundays through March 29th. Tickets $18. Thurs, Fri & Sat Eves at 8 pm, Sat at 2, Sun at 3. www.galleryplayers.com for more information and ticket reservations. (Above: Pictured (l to r): Brad Lewandowski, Shawn Parsons, and Alisha Spielmann in The Gallery Players’ production of Bus Stop by William Inge. Photo by Bella Muccari.)
Thursday, March 05, 2009
CONVERSATIONS ON RUSSIAN LITERATURE
As I've written before, being a blogger does not come with the same responsibilities as being a reviewer--one doesn't have to cover everything, and one is entitled to promote one's own or one's friends' projects. (Although I think it's important to disclose the context of your "review," just to let the reader know what they're reading.) Of course, you don't get free tickets as part of the job when you do it for your own blog. And if you don't like a production, you can simply keep your mouth shut.
That said, I am writing today about the final weekend of CONVERSATIONS ON RUSSIAN LITERATURE AND THREE OTHER PLAYS, an evening by my friend, David Johnston. Blue Coyote has been his home for a few years now, always giving solid and often gifted support. This production is no exception, an evening that ranges from entertaining to breathtaking. Johnston's writing ranges from wittily sophisticated to disturbingly thought-provoking. PLAY RUSSIA is a giddy poke at Chekhov, sending up almost all of the major works while enjoying the discomfiture of pronouncing long, tongue-herniating names and surnames. FOR THOSE OF US WHO HAVE LIVED IN FRANCE is comprised of three intertwining monologues by three unlikely stagemates: Mary Queen of Scots, Henry Kissinger and a Virginia housewife, all of whom are letter writing, to be able to visit France. MOTHRA IS WAITING is the backstage tale of a sister act that appears to be heading for a breakup. All three display sharp, witty lines and afterimages that will grab you, along with some splendid performances (David Lapkin makes a particularly amusing Kissinger, and Tracy Gilbert is quite touching as she waits to be rescued by her giant hero).
But the second act is the play, CONVERSATIONS ON RUSSIAN LITERATURE, which is not only more than worth the price of admission but is one of the most satisfying plays to be seen in New York at this time. The setting, a vodka-soaked summer evening in a Russian park, plays host to what appears at first to be a discussion about beloved books between an American woman and an older Russian gentlemen. The fact that we are actually watching a very delicate negotiation between representatives of two powerful nations is only gradually revealed as the intellectual dance progresses through a minefield of personal, political and artistic beliefs. Director Gary Shrader has given a stunning production to Johnston's brilliant words, and the performances of Jonna McElrath as the American and Frank Anderson as the Russian are full-bodied and superbly shaded. This is a totally absorbing forty minutes of theater that will make you question governments and how much the personal competes with the professional, with "we the people" the beneficiaries (or victims) of the results. This is a production that deserves a much longer run.
“Conversations on Russian Literature Plus Three More Plays” continues through March 7 at Access Theater, 380 Broadway, at White Street, TriBeCa; (212) 868-4444.
Tuesday, March 03, 2009
SEARCHING FOR INTELLIGENT CONSERVATIVES
I miss William F. Buckley. George Will can't carry the mantle alone, although he does so admirably.
I am a liberal or a moderate-to-liberal. But I enjoy a well-expressed point of view and feel we all learn from and grow from good, considered discussion.
I am so tired of Rush Limbaugh stomping his feet and whining like the big fat idiot baby that he is, throwing tantrums and tirades. To oppose socialism and to fear we're going in the wrong direction is one thing. But to say he hopes the stimulus plan fails and encouraging others to cause its failure is to encourage the failure of the country. He was the first to say we must support our leaders no matter what when HIS candidates are in office, but clearly, he just wants to be right, to have his own way. Well, where's YOUR patriotism now? And how disappointing that the leader of the Republican party, Michael Steele, who wisely chastised bad and self-serving behavior, recanted because he's afraid of a bully. Rush is entitled to his opinion, naturally, but that doesn't make his behavior off-limits for criticism.
And as for the lovely Ann Coulter . . . what a shame such a steel-trap of a mind is so mired in hate-mongering. She has a great brain for facts and figures, but so twists and distorts things to feed her own ego. She mistakes negative attention for positive reinforcement.
These are people who would rather be right than have things better. Or rather, THEY are doing well, so the hell with anything that would make life better for the rest of us--we got ours, so therefore something is wrong with all of you. In a most brutish way, they've gone extreme Darwin on us (and even Darwin wasn't recommending survival of the fittest as an excuse for selfish extremism.)
There are liberals as well who favor less government--but who also favor fair chances for all, who favor a generosity that the religious right gives lip service to but does not support with their actions.
On the other hand, the late great Buckley, and those who follow in his wake, would propose alternatives and would enter into the discussion with respect and intelligence, recognizing a need to solve problems over a need to be right.
In this day and age, pundits need to get over their egos--something else that grew overinflated over the past 8-10 years!
As if you thought there'd be no animations today . . . !
At the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA, you can see the original paintings which, in the flesh, reveal a far greater skill and artistry than the magazine cover reproductions that graced the many Saturday Evening Post covers over the years. His fame is well-deserved.
But on our visit one summer, we saw the wonderful, whimsical work of his son out in the gardens and walkways of the museum, terrific gargoyle creations that seemed like they could talk to you.
And now, one of them is . . . enjoy!