scarlettina: (Reality Check)
A couple of remarks on Facebook this morning got me thinking about contrasts and distinctions.

1) An acquaintance of mine posted a single phrase: I need a girlfriend. The conversation that ensued was . . . enlightening. A couple of his female friends advised that he work on himself and that love would come. (This has been my occasional thought about this acquaintance, as it has often been about myself.) Some of his friends asked him what he could possibly need a woman for; girlfriends, they said, were all whiny, needy and expensive. And this acquaintance of mine said, "You mean it doesn't get better? At least the last one had the body of a goddess." At which point, I thought, "Ah, you're not looking for a girlfriend; you're looking to get laid." There's a difference. It also made me remember one of the many reasons I've never dated this acquaintance of mine. He reveals himself too often to be exactly the kind of man who doesn't see women as real people. We are useful for particular things, but mostly we're adjuncts to men, from his perspective.

2) I saw a production of "Cabaret" last night, and remarked upon the fact that a couple of people laughed at the end of the song "If You Could See Her," with its horrifying, deliberately anti-Semitic punchline. I said that I wasn't sure whether or not they laughed because they were shocked or because they actually thought it was funny, that in the current political climate it's hard to tell. A friend responded that it's an old show, and that when he saw it in the 1980s, people laughed then, too. I responded, "I don't think the age of the show has anything to do with it. It's a shocking moment, signaling a major cultural shift in the play." He said, "The age of the show was in reference to your thought on current politics." But the more I think about this exchange, the more I think he really didn't get my point. Did he think I thought the show is contemporary? Is he not aware of my more than passing interest in theater and awareness of at least some of its history? Possible, certainly, but I'd be surprised if that were the case, given how long we've known each other. Art--good art--remains relevant despite the passage of time. It will provoke different conversations in every era. Either he missed my point, or he really thought I had no idea what I was talking about. The longer I know this man, the more we butt heads about particular issues, the more I think he hasn't been paying attention, which is . . . disappointing. Or maybe it's just that we've lived such completely different lives that we don't know how to communicate with each other--a thought that has never occurred to me until just now.
scarlettina: (Airplane)
The apartment, our beautiful oasis in the city, has signs near every water faucet reminding us that California is experiencing a severe drought and to please conserve water. Despite these reminders, which my family has verbally acknowledged, I can’t get any of them to actually act like we’re living in a water-deprived area. Michele insists on running the laundry every other day; on the days we don’t do laundry, we’re running the dish washer. By the end of our second day here, I stopped dropping reminders; they will do what they do.

Golden Gate Park: a learning excursion
We started our second day in a leisurely fashion, with breakfast in the apartment. Michele and Valerie kept talking about wanting to go to Golden Gate Park, which is a little like saying one wants to go to Central Park. If you don’t know where in the park you want to go, you’re basically throwing a dart at a dartboard while wearing a blindfold. You could land anywhere, which is what we did. We actually disembarked from our first ride on public transport in a residential neighborhood adjacent to the park. When I asked them what they wanted to do in the park, they kind of looked at me blankly. By the time we’d walked a while—still in the neighborhoods, not in the park yet—we were all hungry and decided to stop for lunch before venturing further. We found a pleasantly commercial area that had strong Asian influence and had lunch at a Thai place. Lunch was delish—we ordered and ate too much food. Then we headed over to the park.

As it turned out, Michele wanted to go to the Botanical Garden. It took us 20 minutes to walk from where we were to the garden gate, where we discovered there was a fee. Michele was ready to abandon the idea when I stepped in to treat the family. I was damned if I was going to waste the afternoon because of an entrance fee. As it turned out, it was money well spent. The garden is large and lush and beautiful, with sections marked out by region. I saw kinds of plants I’ve never seen before. Many flowers were in full bloom and I took some marvelous pictures. I could have spent a lot more time in the garden, but for two facts: 1) We were traveling by a transit system with which we were not yet familiar, and 2) we had a date for the evening.

Beach Blanket Babylon
My cousin Susan is my late cousin Paul’s widow. We are still getting to know her, this as a result of the fact that she and Paul were only married a little more than a year before he died. The whole thing was wonderful and awful all at once. But I knew the moment that I met Susan that I wanted to keep her in my life. She’s a lovely woman, she clearly adored my cousin Paul, and we share many interests, including theater.

And theater is what brought us together for our Sunday evening entertainment. Susan had gotten us tickets for Beach Blanket Babylon, a long-running revue that’s a sort of staple of San Francisco tourist entertainment. The story is thin as tissue paper: Snow White is seeking love around the world and needs advice and help. Along the way, she encounters a variety of celebrities and personalities drawn from pop culture, music and politics who variously showboat and offer counsel. The content of the play evolves each year as news changes and people get their 15 minutes of fame. The costumes are hilarious, the send-ups clever and funny. But what’s most distinctive about the show, besides the absolutely stellar vocal pyrotechnics—these people have chops--is the headgear. The wigs and hats are not to be believed. Some of them tower above the performers, twice as high as they are tall. The wigs are oversized and exaggerated. Some of them have moving parts. It’s all very silly and highly entertaining. We had a perfectly marvelous time.

I did want to note that for all the show’s irreverence, there was one thing that I thought was handled very well. When we arrived, the pre-show music being played as Prince. Throughout the show, Snow White kept talking about finding her prince. Eventually she decides that she’s worthy of a king and she ends up with Elvis. My suspicion is that, at some point during the show, Prince was going to show up. I heard later, as we exited the theater, someone who had seen the show before say that Prince was, in fact, one of the celebrities usually skewered. It’s obvious that the director altered the script as a result of Prince’s (insanely untimely) death to keep things fun and tasteful. They played Prince music as we left the theater as well. Good on them for handling his passing with taste.

We had dinner at an Italian restaurant just a couple of blocks away called DeLucchi’s. The food was absolutely delicious and we just rather reveled in each other’s company. I couldn’t get enough of Susan, and as it happened, we already had plans for me to see more of her the next day. We retired happy, well fed, and delightfully entertained.
scarlettina: (Trouble get behind me)
Sunday morning, it was clear that what I thought were allergies to the dog were combined with a cold I'd picked up on the plane. I was not happy about having a cold around my immuno-compromised cousin. Paul was feeling a little better--not great, but in less pain and better rested. I had hoped, this trip, to go with him to Placerita Canyon Nature Center, where he's a docent and amateur naturalist. He wasn't up for a hike; he was saving his energy for our plans later in the day. So that morning, I went by myself and texted him my impressions. It's a sere and beautiful place, wildlife abundant if you keep your eyes open. It's also home to several injured birds who act as ambassadors for visitors, including a raven, a turkey vulture, and a red-tailed hawk. (Man, those guys are big--I always forget! I loved its tan, feathery bloomers.) I was there about an hour, wandering the trails, watching the bird life, keeping an eye out for butterflies (Paul's particular passion). In the end, despite having water with me, the heat took more out of me than I expected, so I headed back to the house.

Well, I tried to, anyway. Paul and Susan had allowed me to use Paul's Lexus Hybrid. What I didn't understand about driving this magnificent piece of machinery is that if the key fob isn't within a certain proximity of the steering wheel, the car just shuts off. I didn't know this and, without thinking about it, opened the door, got into the car, and put the key fob into my pocketbook on the passenger seat. Turns out, the passenger seat is too far away for the car to recognize. So I pulled out, and then the car just . . . stopped. It took a kind stranger to help me figure out what was wrong. It was a combination of user error, security protocols and, perhaps, a little bit of design sexism acting together. At any rate, problem solved, I headed back to the house.

For that afternoon, Paul and Susan had secured tickets to an L.A. Theater Works production of "American Buffalo" by David Mamet. I'm a big fan of LATW; I listen to it on my local NPR affiliate regularly. I'm also a fan of Mamet, the rhythm of his language and his astonishing character work. I was very excited about going when Paul and Susan told me of the plan shortly after I arrived on Friday. From this remove, I think that perhaps Paul was determined to attend this performance as a result of my enthusiasm more than anything else. We met some of Susan's friends at the theater, generally lovely people, alert and interesting, and watched the play. It was a good production--radio theater is always fun. About halfway through, it was clear that Paul was having a hard time. I offered to him that, having seen a production in Seattle, I would be fine with our leaving if he needed to go. He wouldn't hear of it. We stayed until the end. They retired immediately upon our return home.

Monday morning, Susan had an early appointment. She had arranged for friends of hers--Wendy and Hugh--to take me to the airport. Paul and I had about 20 minutes to talk, just us, and we talked about sort of inconsequential things: my work on Ancestry.com tracing our family, my showing Susan how it worked, that sort of thing. He gave me a piece of petrified wood that had belonged to his father, gathered on one of his innumerable travels. But there wasn't enough time, real time, to say whatever we might have said of any substance. I think we both had it beneath our skin.

Paul's got my Aunt Shirley's eyes, this sort of placid, striated blue. These days, they're understandably sad and, as a result of his chemo, lashless. The chemo has also left him beardless and mostly bald, except for a stubble of white around the sides. I can't remember my Uncle Larry, his father, ever having white hair, but Paul's got his other features. I could see both of his parents in his face; it was disconcerting, like three people looking at me all at once. It was almost painful to see, and I understood that all four of us wanted more connection somehow, and there just wasn't that much time left to have that in any substantial way.

When the doorbell rang, we both paused, and then I went to get it, because there was really nothing else to do. Wendy and Hugh came in; Paul got up to greet them. He always been taller than me, but with a slight, comfortable slouch. These days, it's a tired slouch, and he's walking like an old man for the first time that I can remember. I hated to see it. We gathered my things. I wanted so much to hug and kiss him goodbye, but with him being so vulnerable and me with my cold, it wasn't the smart thing to do. I told him point-blank that I love him and that I'd be in touch. And then I left.

And without expecting it at all, once we got to the car, I just disintegrated. I totally hadn't expected it, but I guess I'd sort of been pushing it down all weekend. I cried almost all the way to the airport. Wendy and Hugh were remarkably kind. Wendy's a lay minister and was really good with me, just talking through what I was feeling and helping me pull myself together for the flight.

People leave. People just . . . end. I've known it, really understood it, since I was 11 when my father died. It's never easy and it will never stop. I hate it.

But I'm glad I took this trip, as hard as it was. I'm the only family on the west coast interested enough to visit Paul now and was glad to do it. I just wish that there could be more visits with him healthy enough to be present and active. I don't want my next trip to southern California to be for a funeral. I may not have a choice.
scarlettina: (Spirit Steps)
Ah, one of my favorite days and nights of the year--Halloween! This year's link list is below, and you can find all previous years' links list at the Halloween tag.

A Walk in the Dark
Last night, after a delicious dinner at Trace (taking advantage of Seattle Restaurant Week--$30 for three courses at some of the schmanciest places in town), [livejournal.com profile] varina8, my friend SA, and I went to see "A Walk in the Dark," a play put on by Seattle Radio Theater at Town Hall. What great fun the show was! Set in 1941 on the night of an air-raid black-out drill, it told the story of Jack Riley, a Philadelphia radio man who lands in Seattle on Halloween to start a new life and a new career as one of the announcers on a local radio station. Riley is in for an . . . interesting, ghost-story-filled adventure. Chock full of Seattle history and starring local on-air personalities (at least two of whom were recognizable to anyone who has lived in Seattle for any length of time--John Curley and Jim Dever), it offered a lovely spookiness perfect for the night before Halloween.

And you can hear what we saw right here online. Turn down the lights, cuddle up with some cheap Canadian whiskey, and enjoy!

I ended up taking my own walk in the dark afterwards. I took a bus that I thought I knew the route for, and ended up walking about a mile home because it didn't stop where I thought it did. Still, it was a lovely evening, dryer than it's been in a while, and I enjoyed the darkness and the quiet.

Traditional Halloween links
This makes the eleventh year I've posted a Halloween links list on LJ. There's always good stuff online for those who know where to look.

National Geographic offers a slide show of the Top 10 Ghost Towns. I've been to Bodie in California, but this list gives me places all over the world to visit.

The American Folklife Center offers an essay on The Fantasy & Folklife of Halloween, a scholarly take on the holiday.

Halloween creeps in where local tradition rules the living and the dead: How Halloween is changing Day of the Dead festivals.

If Jews celebrated Halloween: Brilliant, funny, loving extrapolation on keeping a kosher Halloween.

Five ways Halloween has changed since you were a kid: I knew about most of these, but a couple were new and disappointing to me. Give me a good scare and a good, carved jack-o-lantern any day.

We ain't afraid of no (Chicago) ghosts: From the City of the Big Shoulders, WBEZ in Chicago offers up two ghost stories (article and audio file).

And then there are the ghost stories offered by Snap Judgment, one of my favorite storytelling features on NPR. Check out Spooked V: Innocence Lost for great storytelling and screams in the night....

A good Samhain to all who celebrate, and a happy, fun, spooky Halloween to everyone else! BOO!
scarlettina: (Angel)
Theater: Saw three one-act plays at ACT last night in the most excellent company of [livejournal.com profile] varina8 and EB. The plays were an uneven set: Steve Martin's "Patter for the Floating Lady," Woody Allen's "Riverside Drive," and Sam Shepard's "The Unseen Hand." I felt like the most cohesive piece of the bunch was the Allen's, about a New York screenwriter's encounter with a vagrant who's been stalking him. As the vagrant becomes his peculiar ally in his resolution to end an extramarital affair, the absurdities multiply. The Martin, about romantic relationships as portrayed in a magic act, was a little surreal; the Shepard, set in the near future (I think) about a Texas loner and his encounter with an alien, was A LOT surreal.

Reading some of the commentary about the Shepard, I am struck by how critics laud him for his breaking of theatrical convention, his resistance to dramatic structure and so forth. Personally? I think they give him way more credit than he's due. EB wondered what he'd been ingesting while he wrote it. I wonder what, exactly, the thinking is behind producing it. Certainly, it's challenging for all involved, but I left the theater so bound up in WTF that everything else about the evening kind of got lost. Well, art is not successful if it doesn't make you think. On the other hand, if it mostly has you thinking, "What the hell did I just see?", the question has to be what, exactly, it's successful at.

Wine tasting: Before curtain, the theater offered a wine tasting. They offered four wines: three from WA state and one from South America. The first was Ryan Patrick Naked Chardonnay, a light dry white aged in steel. I'm not generally fond of Chardonnay, but this was so light and subtle that I liked it well enough. My favorite of the four was the second wine they offered, called New Age--a torrontes from Argentina. It was a little sweeter with a subtle fizziness; I've never had that sensation before--not as obvious as champagne at all. It was a pleasant wine and I think perhaps it could be served as a dessert wine or as a light sipper with little trouble. I know it sounds like candy in a bottle but it was a mild sweetness, not a bold sweetness, and really very good. I must go seek out a bottle for myself. (Note to self: Looks like Cost-Plus World Market has it.) They also offered two reds for tasting. The first was Sauce, a Columbia Valley red blend. I'm not generally a fan of red wines, but of the two, I liked this one better. Based on the information at the Sauce website, the notes I took at the tasting appear to have gotten jumbled, but the one thing I know for sure about this wine: the merlot flavor was strong and velvety here, cut enough by the other flavors that it didn't overwhelm the taste experience for me. The second wine was called Righteous, also from the Columbia Valley, another blend, this time of three red varieties, but the merlot in it was so big I thought it overwhelmed the other flavors.

Tribute: On behalf of David Magazine in Las Vegas, [livejournal.com profile] skidspoppe asked me to write a tribute to [livejournal.com profile] jaylake. The piece can be seen here. In the wake of this news, I found myself looking at the last picture of Jay that I took before he died. It shook my heart more than I expected. I really though I'd see him against before he died.
scarlettina: (Movie tix)
Well, it was really Locus Awards Day for me, given that I didn't attend the Friday night party, but it's always touted as a weekend so there you are. I went to the theater on Friday night instead, so that's where I'll begin.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay at Book-It Repertory )

As for the Locus Awards, I arrived in time for the 11 AM panel, "Adventures in Transrealism: Mixing It Up with Speculative Fiction Based on Personal Narrative," with Christopher Barzak, Terry Bisson, James Patrick Kelly, Nisi Shawl, and Gary K. Wolfe moderating very well indeed. It was a good, but far too brief discussion of the subject. I took some notes and the conversation provoked some interesting ideas. Quote of the panel: Nisi Shawl, talking about research: "To learn about serial killers, I did some online dating." We all nearly fell out of our chairs at that one.

The banquet got under way after the autograph session (I picked up a copy of Karen Joy Fowler's "We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves," at the recommendation of Astrid Bear). The food was actually rather delicious and the company excellent (I shared a table with [livejournal.com profile] davidlevine, [livejournal.com profile] kateyule, [livejournal.com profile] claireeddy, Liz Argall, Curtis Chen and others). Connie Willis, acting as M.C., was very funny--as usual--and kept things moving, for which we were all grateful. After her monologue, the traditional Hawai'ian shirt shaming, and the trivia contest, the inductees to the Science Fiction Hall of Fame were announced (Brackett! Frazetta! Miyazaki! Kubrick! Stapledon!), and then the Locus Awards were bestowed with much ceremony and delight. Quite a bit of fun.

I spent the rest of the afternoon running around Seattle with Claire and Kate showing them the thrift store treasures of Seattle. Shopping was done, city sites were seen, dinner was had (at The Hi-Life--always a goodness). I collapsed at the end of the day with great satisfaction.
scarlettina: (Movie tix)
Just saw "Truth Like the Sun" at Book-it Rep with [livejournal.com profile] bjcooper. The show flips between the era of the Seattle World's Fair and 2001, and follows the man who runs the fair and then later the reporter who tries to learn what he might really have been up to all those years ago. Strong performances and a crackling pace made this a terrific evening in most excellent company.

I found myself spouting off World's Fair trivia before and after the show. How did I become such a fair geek? I had a marvelous evening.

ETA: It's more than 6 hours later, the next morning, and I'm still thinking about this play, which means I need to go pick up a copy of the book upon which it's based. The themes of the play have stuck with me--how truth is always there but always subject to perspective, nuance and context. And despite the Seattle Times' review of the play as a good one, not a great one, I think it's a very successful production. And I thought Chris Ensweiler, who plays Roger Morgan, the main character, was terrific.
scarlettina: (Movie tix)
Saw this play last night at Seattle Repertory Theater with [livejournal.com profile] ebourne. I figured that since I'd never seen it--not even the Burton/Taylor film--and since it's Albee, I really ought to; it was a hole in my theatrical education. The script is amazing and the performances were all brilliant--courageous, full-throated, completely exposed. It was perhaps one of the best productions I've ever seen in Seattle.

And to be perfectly honest, I'm glad I never have to see this unpleasant exercise in human cruelty, truth, illusion, and consequences ever again. I feel about it the way I feel about A Clockwork Orange and Unforgiven: I can appreciate its artistry, its relevance, the truths that it portrays, but I didn't like it. At. All.

I note that the cast got a standing ovation--well-earned and well-deserved--but only one bow. They deserved more. But by the end of the play I was so exhausted and found the company of the characters so distasteful that I couldn't muster any more enthusiasm and, I suspect, neither could my fellow audience members.

When I got home last night, I did a little reading about it on the Web. It was interesting to find this nugget in the Wikipedia article about the play:

It was also selected for the 1963 Pulitzer Prize for Drama by that award's drama jury. However, the award's advisory board — the trustees of Columbia University — objected to the play's then-controversial use of profanity and sexual themes, and overruled the award's advisory committee, awarding no Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1963.

Rather than giving the Pulitzer to anyone else that year, they gave no award at all. Wow. Quite a distinction in the annals of theater.
scarlettina: (Movie tix)
No secret to anyone who reads my Live Journal: I kind of adore going to the theater. I recently received a catalog from Seattle's 5th Avenue Theater touting their 2014-2015 season. I rarely subscribe to the 5th's seasons, mainly because they never provide a full season of shows I really want to see, and given the prices--it's an investment; they're always all musicals--I just can't justify the cost. This year they're offering season subscriptions for either seven or five shows. As I look at the catalog there are only four shows I very much want to see: Kinky Boots, Carousel, Jacques Brel and Something Rotten! The other three shows--A Chorus Line, A Christmas Story and Grease--I just couldn't care less about. If I don't subscribe now, I'll need to buy individual tickets, which will probably end up costing the same as subscribing. It's too bad that I can't add this season's Porgy and Bess to the group I want to see next season and make a subscription that way; that'd do it for me.

::sigh:: Such misery! Such suffering! Why, oh, why can't it all be perfectly arranged just for me? (I drape my hand dramatically across my forehead!)

I'll probably end up ditching Carousel (which I haven't seen since I was a kid) and get tickets for Kinky Boots, Jacques Brel and Something Rotten! And Porgy and Bess. I'll just spread the cost over the stretch of months and won't feel it as much. It's just that keeping track of when tickets go on sale is kind of a pain in the ass. (I missed the window to get tickets for The Lion King at the Paramount, and I'm still kicking myself about that.)

On an added note, if you've never been to the 5th, it really is a special experience. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places, and it's just gorgeous inside. You can read more about the theater at Wikipedia, where you can see a couple more pictures of the place.
scarlettina: (Movie tix)
I really want to make notes about these two shows before I'm too much farther away from the trip to New York City. I did promise to write about them.

Waiting for Godot
On the Wednesday afternoon that we were in NYC, we went to see Waiting for Godot, starring Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan, with Billy Crudup and Shuler Hensley. Now, Becket is tough stuff to take--hard work to interpret, hard to sit through if done poorly. I remember reading Godot in school and being left with not much of a positive impression. As has been bruited about in the press, the director took a comic approach to the script so, despite the ruins on stage both human and architectural (the set looked like an abandoned demolition site, with bits of random architectural detail; Vladimir and Estragon looked like a couple of homeless men with a Chaplinesque character about them), there was a lot of humor in the production. Mostly the humor comes from the absurdity, as Vladimir and Estragon wait for Godot who will, it is expected, make some kind of change. (In fact, the idea of waiting for Mr. Godot becomes a punchline because, really, the endless waiting is enough to drive anyone crazy.) While Estragon complains about his poorly fitting shoes and Vladimir coddles his poor, unhappy friend, they encounter Pozzo and Lucky--and the moment they do, the metaphors come thick and fast: God's relationship to Man, the relationship between the rich and the poor, and so on.

As [livejournal.com profile] davidlevine said, it's a terrible script; what makes it work is the business that the actors and the director bring to it (video clip)--the soft touch, the comic approach, the recognition of and the humor in the absurdity of life. Very Shakespearean in this respect. The only thing that makes any of it bearable for Didi and Gogo is each other's company and affection. And for me, that was the point: life may be pointless, but we're in it together and together we can make it meaningful.

Stewart and McKellan are having a marvelous time on stage--two veteran actors having fun being showmen. There's a lot of wordless physical comedy here. Stewart in particular mugs and shrugs and double-takes his way across the stage. McKellan spends his time being entertainingly bewildered and miserable. As Pozzo and Lucky, Hensley and Crudup respectively bring strong performances to the mix. I found the relationship between the two characters pretty hard to take. They are there to illustrate man's inhumanity to man (and all the other metaphors I mentioned above), and they make their point--excellent performances both. But Stewart and McKellan are the draw here and they were totally worth seeing. The play was funny, layered but in the end inescapably dark. Still--because of its performers and direction--an excellent afternoon.

As Stewart and McKellan said goodbye to New York City at the end of their run, they tweeted some last pics of themselves around town. The set is delightful.

In a separate post, I want to talk about the relationship between Pippin and Waiting for Godot. I've thought about it quite a bit. It's there, if you look for it.

A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder
One of the things I really wanted to do this trip was see a show I'd heard nothing about from friends. This show fulfilled that desire. The reviews were all good. Turned out that this musical was a kind of a caper, based on the same source material as Kind Hearts and Coronets. Set in Victorian-era London, it follows the adventures of one Monty Navarro who, it turns out, is 9th in line to the D'Ysquith family fortune and earldom. In revenge for the family's miserable treatment of his mother, Monty murders his way to the title, beguiling his new family, philandering his way between two women and having the time of his life. The perfect word for this show is that it's a romp; the New York Times called it daffy, and I can't argue with that assessment. I laughed my head off.

Its true star is virtuoso Jefferson Mays, who plays most of the members of the family D'Ysquith, men and women both, in a performance that makes him the hardest-working and the funniest man on Broadway. Bryce Pinkham as Navarro is by turns charming and dastardly. The two leading women, Lisa O'Hare as Sibella and Lauren Worsham as Phoebe, bring marvelous operetta voices to their roles, both with excellent comic timing--completely delightful each in their own very different ways. The show was a lot of fun, a light, merry diversion and a great choice for a final show to see during that week.
scarlettina: (Movie tix)
A week ago today, we went to see Pippin at The Music Box Theater. Now, before I say anything else, I want to put my reactions into context: it should be said that "Pippin" was never a favorite show of mine. Sure, I liked the songs that became hits--the ones that everyone knows, at least if you grew up on Long Island when the show first premiered--"Magic to Do," "Corner of the Sky," and "No Time at All." But the first time I saw it, it left me with some rather unfavorable impressions. I found it a boys' show, about a man's journey, with women portrayed as nothing more than props, temptations, distractions, or traps--Berthe being the one exception, overshadowed by all the other negative messaging. I also disliked the ending rather severely, with the hero feeling trapped but happy, a lion in a beautiful cage, presumably that of his love--trapped by a woman, kept from his ambition because of her. Years ago, I argued with one friend--a male--about this ending and my interpretation; he violently disagreed with my response to the show but, in the end, our responses are our own and nothing he said altered my opinion. I am not surprised that his interpretation differed from mine. The show, from my perspective, espoused his, and we'd never see eye to eye.

So when [livejournal.com profile] davidlevine said he wanted to see the new production on Broadway, I agreed mainly because the show is so important to him, and quietly figured we'd have a spirited debate about it afterward. So skeptical was I that I didn't do much in the way of research about the current production beforehand. I knew that it featured a sort of New Vaudeville approach, featuring acrobatics and aerialists along with some of the classic Fosse choreography. But my first delightful surprises upon arrival were that Annie Potts was playing Berthe and Terrance Mann, whom I'd first seen on Broadway in "Cats" decades ago, was playing Charlemagne. My mind began to open to the idea that I might enjoy the show after all.

The show opens with tiny powerhouse Patina Miller as the Leading Player. She is all sparkle and charisma with a giant voice and a feline energy in the role. No wonder she won an Tony. And the show swung into action. David, knowing the show very well, noticed things that I never would, like the cutting of one of Charlemagne's songs. I noticed that the original choreography for the Manson Trio was recreated for Miller in all its hip-grinding, joint-popping glory (and credited in the program--in fact, under the choreographer's name are the words "in the style of Bob Fosse"). My God, the muscle control required for that work! Just watching it made my muscles ache. Annie Potts was, predictably, charming and spunky as hell, with a genial presence tempered with an undercurrent of delicious fun. And at 62, there she was up on a trapeze with the best of them--careful, perhaps, and well-supported, but her gumption cannot be denied. Terrance Mann was there showing them all how it's done: by turns magisterial, mischievous, lecherous and wise, you could tell he was having the time of his life. He could have done this performance in his sleep, but the fun of watching Mann is knowing that he's wide awake, having a blast, and blowing away everyone else on stage.

One of the challenges of "Pippin" for me is giving a damn about Pippin himself. This is a hero's journey, and he's a particularly naive and tender hero, so wide-eyed that he's clay, willing--wanting--to be molded to greatness. It gave the actor, Matthew James Thomas, not much to work with. He brought earnestness and eagerness to the role, an appropriate naivete. When the role allows him to pop, pop he does--but I think it's the role itself that doesn't let an actor really shine, because while Pippin has ambitions of greatness, his reach exceeds his grasp. That, really, is part of the point, so Thomas has a particular challenge to meet. He meets it, but because Pippin is in so many ways himself unremarkable, the role doesn't give an actor a lot to do--except toward the end, when the emotional journey comes to a head. He meets the challenge. He doesn't outshine it; he plays his role well enough for the spot he's in.

[SPOILERS]
The biggest change in the show, though, is the end. This production uses an alternate ending. Pippin never declares himself happy but trapped. He declares independence from the razzle-dazzle of ambition. And then the show ends with Theo, the son of the woman with whom Pippin falls in love, alone on stage singing "Corner of the Sky" being slowly surrounded by the Lead Player and her troupe. It's a very circle-of-life moment, with the fireworks of life tempting another child into their fire.

And this is what made this production of "Pippin" work for me. It went to a universal theme that everyone--not just men, but women, too--can recognize and grab onto. We all start out with hopes and dreams. Life, however, is what happens while you're making other plans. None of us can escape that cycle of dreaming. It's always there, with all it temptations, and what this production is saying is that love is its own end and we all navigate the distractions and the barriers thrown at us to find it, to embrace it, and to overcome the things that hide it or downplay it. For me, it was a far more satisfying conclusion. It had none of the misogyny that spoiled earlier productions for me. And it made the show feel, for me, far more complete. It's interesting to me that the Wikipedia article about the show says that Stephen Schwartz, wh wrote the show, actually finds this end more satisfying as well. I need to go research this assertion and see if I can learn more about his thoughts on it.

We ended the evening with a stint at the stage door, where I got autographs from many of the actors on my Playbill, including Annie Potts, Patina Miller, Matthew James Thomas, Erik Altemus (who plays Pippin's brother Lewis), and Rachel Bay Jones (who plays Catherine, Pippin's love). I had hoped to met Terrance Mann; sadly, he did not make an appearance.

The evening was a surprise and a delight for me, unexpected, but very welcome indeed.
scarlettina: (Movie tix)
I recently noted that I ought to be posting about the more pleasant things I've been doing lately, so here's a quick overview of some of my recent passtimes:

Book-It Rep production of "Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus": For those unfamiliar with Book-It Repertory Theater, it's a local company that specializes in book adaptations for the stage. Shortly after I came to Seattle they won my heart with their production of "Jane Eyre" (material about which I am notorious hard to please), and became my favorite local company. Their works never disappoint. If I dislike what I see (which is rare), at least it's always interesting and thought-provoking. If you follow my theater tag below, you'll see reviews of their other productions. Anyway, the production of Frankenstein that I saw last Friday night falls under the "liked it well enough with quibbles" category. The adaptation was very faithful to Mary Shelley's novel, presented as Victor's recollections told to a sea captain who finds him stranded in the Arctic. The play is graphic and was presented with some lovely stage magic to portray severed limbs being reanimated with electricity, as well as the autopsy of a body on stage. All the performances were good ones, especially Connor Toms (whom I saw in Seattle Rep's production of "Red") as Victor, and Frank Lawler (who was my supervisor more than a decade ago at Microsoft/Expedia) as Walton, the sea captain. I disliked the lurid make-up applied to the actor who played the creature; and I really disliked the director's choice to hide a male nude body in full silhouette but to pointedly display a female body fully lit later. That particular choice really angered me because the moments were analogous to each other; the inequity pissed me off, and when I received Book-It's survey asking me about my experience, I made a point to mention it. That said, however, it was a good show--not the best of theirs, but I was satisfied and entertained.

Cosmos: Watched the first episode of Neil deGrasse Tyson's reboot of "Cosmos" and enjoyed it quite a bit. I remember Sagan's portrayal of our cosmic address, and it was fun to see this update. I'm looking forward to more episodes.

Smashed pennies: I don't remember whether or not I mentioned it, but I find myself once again on the Board of Directors of The Elongated Collectors. One of my roles is to administer the annual coin design challenge, in which we choose a theme and challenge the club membership to submit coin designs based upon it. This year's theme celebrated space exploration and science fiction. Of course, being the administrator, I couldn't submit a design! But I was delighted to receive the entries and run the Board's vote for the winner. We chose a pretty nice design, I think, and I've written the newsletter article to announce the winner. From here on out, my role on the board will be to cast votes and voice my opinion as needed; no further hard work required. I'm OK with that. This was fun enough.

H.M.S. Surprise by Patrick O'Brian: Just completed this book, the third in the Aubrey/Maturin series and am completely hooked. It's all [livejournal.com profile] ironymaiden's fault! While I'm searching for a copy of book 4, I must figure out what to read in the meanwhile.

Knitting: I mentioned last week that I've taken up knitting and I recently finished my second piece, a charcoal-gray infinity scarf with metallic thread running through it. I'm pretty pleased with the result and I learned quite a bit while doing it. My next project will probably be a hat, mostly to learn more techniques rather than because I really want to make a hat. In the meanwhile, here's a picture of the completed piece:

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scarlettina: (Movie tix)
I've attended many an entertainment this month and haven't mentioned a number of them (though I did cover Ender's Game and Music's Darkest Harvest). I'm falling behind on my LJ duties as cultural (and personal) chronicler. What have I seen lately?

Sugar Daddies at ACT: Sasha, a rather socially innocent college-age woman attending culinary school, helps a 70ish man out of the street when he's nearly run down by a truck and finds herself befriended by him. Suddenly "Uncle Val" is buying her clothes, taking her to the opera, and coaching her in demeanor and decorating. When her neighbor Ashley--another older man who finds himself charmed by her--recognizes Uncle Val and implies he's not the benevolent friend that he presents himself to be, our heroine protests. And then she begins to realize the insidious nature of Uncle Val's friendship and presence. The play, by Alan Ayckbourn, was another one of ACT's sturdy, excellent productions. I felt as though I could have predicted that Uncle Val wasn't the wholesome character he presented himself to be. I was glad when Sasha began to recognize what was happening to her as a result of their relationship. In some respects, the story followed a familiar formula, but the production found ways to make it, if not fresh, at least entertaining enough for an pleasant evening's pastime.

Peter and the Starcatcher at the Moore Theater: I attended this show by the good offices of [livejournal.com profile] shellyinseattle in the company of her, her mom and her daughter, and enjoyed myself enormously. The show is basically a sort of prequel to Peter Pan. Lord Leonard Aster has been tasked by the Queen to transport a mysterious chest across the sea. He enlists his daughter Molly to help him. They are Starcatchers--people who retrieve and care for star stuff that has fallen from the sky. They split forces, each taking a different ship to get to their destination, as a way to fool pirates after their mysterious star stuff. Along the way, Molly befriends three boys being shipped off as slaves, and also realizes that though she thought her ship was the decoy, it actually contains the chest with the star stuff in it. When their ship is captured by pirates, mayhem and adventure ensue. The show has been marketed locally as an entertainment for kids (though its subtitle is "An Adult's Prequel to Peter Pan"), and the child with us enjoyed it well enough, but there's a lot of meat on the bones for adults to enjoy and, in some respects, I think there's more for the adult crowd than for children. Impressionistic in production, broadly performed (for the kids, I think), it sets that stage for Peter and Wendy down the road. The evening's showstopping performance was by John Sanders who played Black Stache, the captain of the pirates. He was funny, smooth and charismatic as the man destined to become Captain Hook, and his performance made the show for me. Megan Stein as Molly was appealing in a feisty, well-scrubbed, tom-boyish-becoming-a-woman way. It wasn't a show I might have seen by myself, but I had fun with it, am glad to have seen it, and am grateful for the gift of the ticket.

The Atomic Bomshells . . . LOST IN SPACE! at the Triple Door: The Atomic Bombshells are a local burlesque troop who regularly perform at the Triple Door, among other venues. This show was a science fiction-themed romp across the galaxy with music, dance, strip-tease, and some aerial arts. The comedy was broad, the striptease mostly good though occasionally not as nuanced as I prefer. One guest star was Waxie Moon, who blew me away the first time I attended a show during the Moisture Festival. I wasn't quite as choked up by this performance as by the last one, but the reception he received demonstrated that he's clearly a local star. [livejournal.com profile] varina8 and I had fun, the meal was delicious (the Triple Door shares a kitchen with Wild Ginger, one of the finest Asian restaurants in town), and we had a good night overall.

On a related note, I have been thinking that I want to catch Land of the Sweets, this year's burlesque Nutcracker, also at the Triple Door, but I must find company with whom to attend, and we must acquire tickets sooner rather than later, methinks.

Thor: The Dark World: The second Thor film has our goldie-locked, muscle-bound hero fighting off the Dark Elves, lead by Christopher Eccleston in make-up that renders him nearly unrecognizable as Malekith, a dark elf bent on universal domination. Malekith's secret weapon, gossamer stuff called aether, possesses Jane Foster, Thor's human love, and thus doth the battle begin. Everyone in this film is good, taking it exactly as seriously as needed to completely sell the story. Eccleston and Tom Hiddleston, who is delicious as Loki, are marvelous fun to watch, and the remarkably pretty Chris Hemsworth sells Thor so effectively that I bought him hook, line and sinker. But then, I really enjoyed the first Thor film as well, mainly on the strength of Hemsworth's performance. As one friend pointed out, the movie features a lot of kick-ass women, which really pleased me. I was delighted to see how much screen time the women got and how bad-ass they all are. Though I have to say, if Thor's going to fall for someone, I want her to have a little more substance than we've seen from Jane Foster. I dig that he likes her because she's "clever," as he says; it's rare for men on screen to want a woman because she's got brains. But because they get so little on-screen time together, I feel like their attraction is driven more by chemistry than character and that bothers me. I understand that this film isn't about Jane and Thor primarily, that it is about Thor, Loki, their screwed-up family dynamics, and the battle against Malekith, but well, I want my stories well-rounded. And then I stop and think--wait, it's a comic book . . . and reveal my prejudices despite having just spent an evening reading Captain America: Man Out of Time. :: sigh :: This being a geek thing: very complex!
scarlettina: (Portlandia)
Left Thursday afternoon to head south for a weekend in Portland. [livejournal.com profile] davidlevine and [livejournal.com profile] kateyule met me at the train station and we were off to dinner and the theater. We saw Clybourne Park at Portland Center Stage, an excellent production of a Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize winning play. We attended both the talk before the show, from which we got some background about the play and some insight into how the production was designed and created, as well as the post-show discussion with a couple of the actors. The production itself was excellent--from the sets to the performances, it was a top-notch experience.

Friday I spent the day at the Portland headquarters of my new employer, lovely, spacious offices in a downtown tower with spectacular views. I admit I was a little envious. I wanted to meet as many of the Portland team as I could and I got some good work done while I was there as well. Friday evening, David barbecued some salmon and asparagus, and Kate made tabouleh and a delicious fruit salad, and we stayed in to watch the Ian McKellan Richard III, which I'd never seen.

Saturday, we went to the Oregon Potter's Association's Ceramics Showcase at the Oregon Convention Center, where we saw a fantastic display of the potter's art. Kate bought a lovely little bowl. I was tempted by several things, but was disciplined about not buying . . . until we went to another event at the convention center, A Gathering of the Guilds, which included vendor/members of the Portland Bead Society, and I was doomed. I bought some lovely art beads that are destined for pieces to be created later this spring, I suspect. (Also showing at the event were members of the Creative Metal Arts Guild, Oregon Glass Guild, Guild of Oregon Woodworkers, Northwest Fine Woodworkers Guild, and the Portland Handweavers Guild. My goodness, we saw some beautiful things!) David split off from Kate and I to spend some time at the Stumptown Comics Fest, from which he brought back some very cool books. We had dinner with D and B at Bar Dobre, where the food was American and Polish and all delicious. (Go to the site and just look at the menu!) All of us had a hard time choosing food; in the end we each got something different and shared tastes with each other. I particularly enjoyed the chicken liver pate and the potato pancakes, but it was all good and I recommend the place without reservation.

This morning, well, I'll cover the news I received this morning in a separate post; suffice it to say it was the hardest kind of news to receive, a death in the family. And with that news tucked away, we went off to The Original for brunch with [livejournal.com profile] jaylake and [livejournal.com profile] radiantlisa. It was another excellent meal, with a menu that can't be beat. I was astonished by the creme brulee French toast and quite enjoyed the wild mushroom and chevre omelet. Also tasty was the candied bacon. I had little bites of other things too; it was all marvelous, and the company quite fine. I was glad that Jay and Lisa could make time for us. With everything going on, I know that their time is at a premium.

After a brief walk around downtown, David and Kate dropped me at the train station and I headed back to Seattle. I'm not ready for the week ahead. There's too much going on and not enough time to unwind and assimilate everything that happened this weekend--and I have a lot to think about. One hour at a time, I guess. It was, on balance, a lovely weekend away, even with the tough stuff that surrounded it. I'm glad I took the trip.
scarlettina: (Creating yourself)
It was my first fairly uncommitted weekend in a while, and for once I felt like I was able to relax and rejuvenate a little bit. That's not to say that previous weekends weren't good--they were; they were just very busy, with little time for me to unwind.

This weekend started with seeing "Grey Gardens" in the company of EB, the musical based on the documentary about Edith Bouvier Beale and "Little Edie" Beale, the society shut-ins abandoned by their family in a crumbling mansion until Jackie Onassis, Little Edie's first cousin, more-or-less rescued them. I saw the HBO film based on their story several years ago and had a rather dramatic reaction to it. It's a story of peculiar and co-dependent relations in isolation and abandonment and, given my own sensitivities about those particular issues, it had a pretty strong impact on me. When I got my subscription to Seattle's ACT Theater for this year, I had misgivings about seeing "Grey Gardens" but then decided that there's no use in not confronting all the feelings that the story provokes in me; obviously there's food for thought there. And while the show is, by any measure, a difficult one for me (and in general, I think; it's not exactly uplifting), it's a good play, and the performances were top shelf. I enjoyed it as much as I could, even while having my moments of grim reflection alongside.

Saturday was a day of housecleaning and organizing. As I said over on Facebook, seeing a show about two shut-in ladies, their 52 cats, and all the garbage they live with gives a girl pause. My big accomplishments were cleaning the top of the fridge, vacuuming, and beginning to clean out the upstairs closet. That last job is by no means finished, but it's less intimidating than it was, and now I have stuff to take over to Goodwill.

Sunday began with me going into Capitol Hill to meet my usual suspects for a morning of writing. In the wake of finishing and delivering a short story project (upon which more another day), I spent the morning reacquainting myself with my novel and its issues. Writing commenced. There may be something here. And for the first time, it occurred to me that there may actually be a series here. We Shall See. And i spent the rest of the day grocery shopping, cleaning, and just mellowing a bit.

The only other things that went on this weekend were plans for the future. I'm going to Portland partly for business and partly for pleasure next weekend so plans got rolling for that. I'm trying to figure out my NY trip for this summer. I've RSVPed to the Seattle International Film Festival invitations to the Donors' Premier and the Members' Preview. (That first week of May will be busy!) I tried to get plans rolling to attend the SFWA readings in Kirkland on Tuesday evening. And I picked up my Locus Awards membership for June.

It's all little bits and pieces of things, but this is what results in Having A Life, something I very much believe in.
scarlettina: (Fantastic!)
Executive Summary
Friday: Morning at Shark Reef; lunch at New York, New York; picked up Zumanity tickets; a visit to M&Ms World to smash pennies; Paris for dinner at Mon Ami Gabi (excellent) and penny smashing; and then a visit to the Bellagio to see the Chinese New Year decorations at the Conservatory (which was smaller than I expected). Nearly 15,000 steps today, and boy, my feet are sore!

Saturday: Breakfast at EAT, a terrific little place; morning at The Mob Museum (The National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcemnet), a museum a thousand times better than we expected; lunch at Mob Bar--delicious food and excellent service; a brief stop at the Pinball Hall of Fame; and in the evening, the Cirque du Soleil caberet show, Zumanity--very adult, very entertaining, with eye-popping feats of strength and gymnastics. GREAT day!

Sunday in Vegas a visit to Bauman's Rare Books; lunch at Grand Lux Cafe; and then it was off to drop the rental car and head to the airport.

The company was excellent, delightful--I couldn't have had a kinder, more entertaining travel companion.

Highlights in Detail
The highlight of our first day in Las Vegas was, honestly, dinner at Mon Ami Gabi at Paris Las Vegas Hotel. French cuisine served in a wood-paneled room with knowledgeable, accommodating waitstaff, this meal--variations on steak frites for each of us, with sides of magnificent sauteed mushrooms and spinach--may have been the best we had throughout a trip filled with good food.

We visited M&Ms World mainly because I wanted to smash pennies in the four smashing machines (I only did 3--I didn't like the designs in one of them). But seeing the multitude of M&Ms licensed merchandise was entertaining, and tasting the many different flavors of M&Ms was a treat. Raspberry M&Ms! Who knew there were raspberry M&Ms? Delish!

We saw Chinese New Year's decorations at the Conservatory at the Bellagio and at the Venetian, lovely, whimsical garden celebrations of the coming Year of the Snake. When I think "conservatory," though, I think of the one in Volunteer Park in Seattle. These were more like small indoor gardens, no more than one large room. They were colorful, though, and very pretty.

EAT served us the best breakfast we had there. A small, unassuming place, the food was perfectly proportioned and delicious. Highly recommended.

One of the top two highlights of the trip was our visit to The Mob Museum--the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, which was absolutely amazing and totally worth the trip. With lively, engaging exhibits, snappily written captions and descriptions, it details the history of organized crime in America with style and authority. We figured we'd spend the morning there, but after a stop at Mob Bar (where the food was, again, delish), we went back to finish the tour and even then didn't have enough time to really properly finish the entire museum. I had a blast there and would totally go back to devote more time to it.

The other real highlight of the trip was Cirque Du Soleil's Zumanity. As Cirque shows go, it's far more adult and far more intimate than any I've seen before, but no less eye-popping or entertaining. We saw a lot more skin, but we also saw individual acts that just knocked our socks off. Highlights for me included:
-- the host--a female impersonator who had me fooled for the better part of the show until I realized that she was very, very big for a woman, and that she never showed the kind of skin all the other women in the show were showing.
-- an acrobat of little-person stature who flew and tumbled over and across the stage suspended from a stretch of silk fabric.
-- two female acrobats and their opening number performed in and out of a small transparent pool.
-- an African American dancer who was just remarkable.
-- the comedy duo and how they very lovingly, very funnily worked with people they brought onto the stage.

We wound up the trip with a visit to Bauman's Rare Books at the Shoppes at the Palazzo. Both [livejournal.com profile] skidspoppe and [livejournal.com profile] lisagold used to work there, and so I felt an obligation to go--but what a trip it was! They keep not only rare books but rare documents as well. I stood there looking at a document signed by Abraham Lincoln and, after reading so much about him, actually got choked up at being in the same space with such a piece of history. I mentioned Skids' name and was gifted with their book on book collecting. The people there were lovely. Great conclusion to the trip!
scarlettina: (Movie tix)
This could be a "Five Things" post as I'm woefully behind in logging the entertainments in which I've indulged, but it's just going to be capsule reviews.

Ben Affleck is exactly my kind of pretty, so when I first heard about Argo, I made a note to add it to the list of movies I wanted to see. Once I heard what the film was actually about, I wanted to see it much, much more--and I'm glad I did. Short version: it follows the frankly hare-brained scheme that one crack CIA operative came up with to rescue six diplomatic employees from Iran during the hostage crisis of 1979/1980. The movie was something of a flashback for me. I remember the news story from that last year in high school; I remember news broadcasts counting the days the hostages were held; and I remember the fashions with an almost uncomfortable fondness. Affleck is excellent as the stoic CIA guy Tony Mendez. John Goodman is, as always, excellent as the Hollywood make-up guy who helps Mendez put together the vital details of his scheme. Alan Arkin is suitably cynical and effective as the Hollywood macher who lends credibility and Hollywood muscle to the plan. But Affleck's ability as a director is the real star here, because he's put together a tense, suspenseful flick that also very effectively conveys not only the story of what happened, but why it happened. He recreates news footage of the events and creates credible people with human concerns and motivations. I enjoyed it far more than I expected it. Definitely recommended.

I realized recently that I've seen much less theater over the last year than I usually indulge in. I know exactly why and decided that I needed to remedy the situation, so a couple of nights ago, I purchased a ticket to see Seattle Repertory's production of American Buffalo by David Mamet. The play interested me, first, because it's Mamet and, second, I admit, because it turns on the fate of a buffalo nickel; the combination of two of my favorite pastimes in one play proved irresistible to me. I attended the show on Wednesday evening. The story centers around three men--Don, a junk shop owner, Bobby, his dim teenage assistant, and "Teach," his misanthropic, scheming buddy--and what happens when Don decides that a man who purchased a buffalo nickel from him didn't pay nearly what the coin was worth. Together these three guys conspire to steal the nickel back, as well as whatever coin collection they might find in the customer's home, to reap what financial rewards they might. What ensues is a violent, profane, occasionally funny but ultimately solemn dance around trust, confidence, and competence. Teach is a violent man, and his insistence on being part of the robbery is what really gets things moving. Mamet's language for these men is base and choppy, its meaning conveyed more by context than by actual, uttered speech, almost a rhythmic chant of not-quite-coherent words. It's a marvel to watch the actors make effective communication out of this clipped patois of incomplete thoughts and pretzel logic. All the actors were very good, I thought, but I occasionally wondered if some of the comedy in this human tragedy got a little lost in the execution specifically of Teach's role, with its emphasis on the violence of his character rather than on both that and his inherent, unfounded confidence in his own abilities. Still, I enjoyed the show and am glad I saw it. The set deserves special notice. Starting at the stage and rising four storeys into the fly, it's a scaffold that stores the shop's junk and that the characters chase around, up, and over. It's a masterpiece of set design, one of the most crowded, cluttered spaces I've ever seen in a production, really remarkable, and a great metaphor for the mess these men create around themselves as they hatch and attempt to execute their plan.

Yesterday I attended the Science Fiction and Fantasy Short Film Festival at the Cinerama. The festival was two sessions of two hours each, and I purchased a combination ticket for the entire event. Once there, I met up with [livejournal.com profile] oldmangrumpus, [livejournal.com profile] snarke, and some of the friends with whom I used to do radio theater. And, of course, it being a science fiction event, I ran into some other friends as well. We saw a total of 21 short films, all of a generally high quality. I admit that overall I preferred the first group of films to the second, though they were all worth seeing. While I won't review every one, there are a few that deserve mention:

Small Time is an Irish tale about a student who discovers time travel and what happens when an unscrupulous professor steals his discovery. Funny, clever, and entertainingly executed, this short won the People's Choice Award for the festival, following in the footsteps of another time travel tale from a couple of years back.

The Wheel is a story told in verse about a brother and sister, each with their own . . . issues. The brother is given the responsibility to monitor the wheel that keeps the world turning; the sister is a bad seed who has sibling rivalry issues. When the sister decides to take matters into her own hands, mayhem ensues. This flick has a beautiful steampunk edge and a dark, gothy sort of charm.

The Narrative of Victor Karloch is a Henson-funded film made using puppets, a tale of 19th-century, eldritch adventure. The puppetry was absolutely outstanding and made me wish that [livejournal.com profile] puppetmaker40 and [livejournal.com profile] maryrobinette were there to see it. With voice performances by Christopher Lloyd and Elijah Wood, the production just came to life. In general, we don't get enough Christopher Lloyd, I've decided.

Zing peeks in on the doings of the Grim Reaper who gets his come-uppance when he offs a little girl's kitten and she comes calling. The child was clearly a cousin to Boo in Monsters Inc, perhaps a little too familiar. But I still laughed at this beautifully animated little parable that sends a message I couldn't agree with more: don't mess with little girls when their kitties are on the line.

88:88: What can you do when the aliens come for their nightly visit? Attempting to keep them from getting what they want takes quite a bit of work.

Giant Monster Playset: Beware of mysterious gifts that show up on your doorstep. They look like innocent playthings . . . but they spawn unspeakable terror. I couldn't help but laugh at the cleverness of this little film; the audience definitely agreed with me.

Foxes: Another entry from Ireland, set on the edge of a bleak, cookie-cutter suburb, the story follows a photographer and what happens when she discovers and starts photographing a pack of foxes roaming the neighborhood. Though I found it predictable, I thought its photography was beautiful and evocative.

You, Me, and We portrays a group therapy session for clones with social anxiety. I just liked the conceit of the thing. It didn't have any plot in particular; I was just pleased with the idea of it.

Cats in Space: that's pretty much the whole concept in one title. Cats, space, low-budget special effects. It was an goofy little crowd-pleaser, which is pretty much all it had to be.

A few other of the movies left impressions. I'll leave links in case your curious: Tumult, The Gate, Cheap Extermination, Lucky Day Forever (bleak, depressing, and weirdly true), and A Lost and Found Box of Human Sensation (which I saw at SIFF last year and which I believe was nominated for an Academy Award).

Les Miserables

Sat, Dec. 29th, 2012 10:30 am
scarlettina: (Movie tix)
When I heard the news about Les Miserables being adapted for the screen, I was on the fence about it until I heard that Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe had been cast as Valjean and Javert respectively--and then I couldn't wait. I was certain it would be epic. I saw the movie last night. There were things about it that I loved and things about it that I really hated. Despite what's going to look like a lot of criticism, I really enjoyed the movie and may see it again, but I do have issues with it. I'm going to go on at some length here, so I'm cutting this post for flist mercy. And spoilers ahead, for them as cares.... )

So while I really did like the movie for many reasons (perhaps all of which I haven't articulated here and may not be able to for some time), I also had my obvious criticisms. Chalk it up to my loving the material enough to want it to be if not perfect then at least as strong as it can possibly be.

Do I recommend seeing it? For all my complaints--yes, absolutely.

This review is dedicated to Phil, with whom I would have adored tearing this movie apart with. It just wrong that he's not here for this.

The Addams Family

Sun, Oct. 28th, 2012 11:07 pm
scarlettina: (Movie tix)
In a stroke of luck and kind friendship, I found myself treated to dinner and the theater tonight by [livejournal.com profile] bjcooper and her partner TC. We had a light but delicious dinner at Sazerac, to which I really want to return to sample more of their excellent (and remarkably affordable for downtown) menu. The bacon-wrapped dates were wonderful and the chicken liver pate was delicious--that was just a bit of everything we had.

At Seattle's historic treasure, The 5th Avenue Theater, we saw the road production of The Addams Family, which was very good--not great, but very good--and a lot of fun. Soon after the show began, I realized that it was following the model of "La Cage aux Folles"--child of an unusual family wants to marry the child of a usual family; this is what happens when the two families meet. While the twists and turns are different, the structure is the same. It's not deep but it works. We thought the actor playing Gomez was terrific (but then it's a great part and a great character--he had a lot to work with). I thought that the actress playing Morticia was rather lackluster. She seemed to flatfoot most of her performance; she was missing a certain je ne sais quoi, a certain snap--she didn't have much in the way of stage presence and it told in the performance. For my money, the performances really worth watching were the previously mentioned Gomez, the actor playing Uncle Fester for his clear relish in the role, and for his clever, momentary bits of brilliance, the actor playing Lurch with his sonorous, gorgeous basso voice.

And of course, the company was excellent. I quite enjoyed myself.
scarlettina: (GWTW: Pleased as punch)
[livejournal.com profile] davidlevine was up for the weekend and, being the writerly/artsy types we both are, we took in the pleasures that society and Seattle had to offer. Here are the highlights:

I've never been much for pork, but I've always been one for good company, so when Kuo-Yu Liang and his wife invited me to join them for their annual pig roast and birthday celebration* (Adrian's), I accepted. D & I went, spent some time with Greg and Astrid Bear, [livejournal.com profile] shellyinseattle, and others, and learned about roasting a whole pig in a wooden/metal crate surrounded by hot coals. The results of said roasting were spectacularly good and the party a pleasant way to pass the afternoon.

We spent the evening seeing "Chaps!" at Taproot Theater in Greenwood. I've never been to Taproot before, so I had no idea what to expect. What we got was an entertaining evening in an intimate theater setting. "Chaps!" is set in 1944 in London at studio B at the BBC. The production team awaits the arrival of an American troupe of cowboy performers for a special radio presentation with an in-studio audience. When only the group's manager shows up with costumes and scripts, the troupe having gotten lost in transit, the Brits decide to put on the cowboy duds and gamely make their way through the repertoire. The pretense of Brits trying to imitate cowboys quickly fell away in polished performances that became more of a revue of cowboy music of the era than the fish-out-of-water comedy it was supposed to be. In the end, though, it didn't really matter. The cast was talented and put on a great show. We left with smiles on our faces. I'll be watching Taproot for more performances in the future. They're pros and I want to see what else they can do.

On Sunday after D departed, I met [livejournal.com profile] ironymaiden and [livejournal.com profile] varina8 to see Melissa Etheridge at Woodland Park Zoo's ZooTunes. We spread the ground cover to the left of the stage and had a great time. Etheridge, a year older than me, looked terrific; mostly what I liked about her was her frank and direct comfort with herself, her age, her appearance. She looked like a stylish, rock 'n' roll mom who played kick-ass guitar and belted her guts out. I was surprised, though I shouldn't have been, at how much of her catalog I know given how long I've been a fan; it was an unexpected pleasure of the evening. And she rocked the park. I'd say she blew the roof off--except there was no roof, it being an outdoor show and the weather being picture-perfect for same. We had a great time, and I'm delighted we went.



* I originally typed "celeration" and found myself wondering fleetingly what such a thing might be: the state of being celery?

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