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Posts tagged ‘dramas’

Media Log: FEBRUARY THEATRE SPECIAL

I had the opportunity to see a lot of theatre in the last week, both on Broadway and near home in Rhode Island. A reminder, I usually give theatre a simple SEE IT  or SKIP IT recommendation based on content not performance. In cases where good material is performed badly, I’ll add an additional note.

Take Me Out

TAKE ME OUT, writer Richard Greenberg. In 1993 the novelist Richard Lefcourt published a popular book “The Dreyfus Affair” not about the famous French Dreyfus Affair but about a gay, inter-racial  romantic affair between two major league baseball players. Although amusing enough, Lefcourt, whose primary occupation is television scriptwriter, clearly wrote a novel looking for movie rights. His actual knowledge of baseball seemed slight and as far as I can tell he is also a straight guy who failed to capture gay sensibility with any substance either. Lefcourt’s readers were sort of told: Dudes, just move those yummy, round tits down under a schlong and it’s the same thing. It aint. Also not the same thing is the 2003 play TAKE ME OUT by Richard Greenberg (and I confused these two for years) but it’s about a professional baseball player coming out of the closet. Fortunately instead of trying to tackle everything about baseball and gayness the play draws its dramatic energy from issues about all kinds of  intolerance. There actually isn’t any sex in it, which is ironic because many of the scenes call for full male nudity. The dialogue comes off too polished and overly theatrical for my taste, however the characters and the social commentary are complex. TAKE ME OUT won a Tony Award for best play. The cast at the production I just saw at 2nd Story Theater in Warren, RI was as talented as any you’ll see on Broadway.  SEE IT.

COMPANY, music and lyrics Stephen Sondheim, book George Furth. COMPANY is sometimes referred to as Broadway’s first successful “concept” musical. That’s historically arguable, but COMPANY was very influential in moving musical theatre away from the grand and formal Rodgers and Hammerstein book form. Instead COMPANY is a plotless musical about married couples done sort of in vignettes or review style. The common thread is the bachelor character Bobby who is a friend to each of the couples and a prism for their modern upper-middle class angst. COMPANY is my favorite musical on any stage, largely for Sondheim’s brilliant music. SEE IT for the music alone but be warned that the current production at Black Box in Mansfield, MA has a weak cast.

If you are reading this in the New England area both of these shows have their last performances this weekend through Feb. 19th, 2012.

Merrily We Roll Along

MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG, music and lyrics Stephen Sondheim, book George Furth. Another great Sondheim work, and underrated for decades, is MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG currently in revival at Encores in New York City. The concept here is to tell the story of three bickering friends in showbusiness starting at the end of the story and moving backwards twenty years to when they first met as idealistic young people. So we begin at the bitter end, and end at the hopeful beginning. The first Broadway production of MWRA in 1981 was an historic flop for Sondheim. It closed after two weeks. The music was brilliant but the concept was confusing to audiences. Over 30 years Sondheim and his collaborators have tinkered with the show. One of the big things that changed is the nexus of the story-  it’s gone from being a critique about artistic integrity to being more a reflection of how adult friendships change over time. I’m still  interested in that story but I think dramatic efficacy gets lost in backward plotting. I love MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG because it’s unique but I don’t know if the concept will ever really work. SEE IT.

Nick Jonas, How to

HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING, music and lyrics Frank Loesser. If Merrily We Roll Along is an intellectual musical H2$ is the opposite. H2$ is what everybody’s talking about when the say that musicals are dumb stories surrounded by sometimes good music. I love Frank Loesser’s score and I think there are sometimes brilliant subtleties to this broad comedy about a window washer who climbs the ladder of business. I did not have the opportunity to see this revival’s first cast with Daniel Radcliffe and John Laroquette. What they have now on Broadway with Nick Jonas and Beau Bridges is pretty bad, particularly Jonas. To me the character of Finch is supposed to be an opportunist but not necessarily conniving. The comedy is in that everybody at the company keeps promoting Finch because he stands in the right place at the right time. Jonas seems to think that the way to play Finch is to play Nick Jonas playing Finch and he just comes off as smug. Jonas’ vocal performance also isn’t ready for Broadway.  SEE IT somewhere but skip the current production on Broadway.

Media Log: 01.20.2012

New Show on Fox: Alcatraz

(television) Alcatraz. I kind of thought I was going out to Alcatraz to find what was new from the producers of Lost. Lostwas an ensemble show about seemingly normal people crashing into an impossible situation and, by the end, confronting paranormal forces. What’s behind the disappearance of the prisoners of Alcatraz Island, and their reappearance fifty years hence, may also turn out to be paranormal. The first two episodes that premiered this week are closer in genre to tv cops shows than to Lost. Alcatraz early on seems like it’s part of a trend in cop tv cops that are built around a single story telling concept: Numb3rs – every week mathematics are used to solve a crime, Without A Trace – every week somebody goes missing, Person of Interest – the good guys try to stop a bad guy before the crime happens. My problem with this kind of show is that often the characters are slaves to the gimmick and things get worn out very quickly.  Alcatraz – the cops have to stop a new/old criminal every week. Maybe Alcatraz will reach a little higher over time but right now the gimmick is already a bore, the dramatic situation of the cast is illogical, and the crime solving has been implausible. I’m not done with Alcatraz yet but I am, so far, disappointed… Golden Girls, DOROTHY’S NEW FRIEND (S3, Ep.15) Dorothy is befriended by a local novelist and starts brushing off the other girls to rub elbows with intellectuals. She learns to value her friends when the novelist turns out to be a snob and an anti-Semite. This is a pretty funny episode as normally only simple-minded Rose goes full retard.

La Vampire Boheme

The Brown Shoe Diaries Halloween Movie Club. Track down today’s movie and post your comments.   Good?  Lame?  Scary?  Not scary?  Bring it.


Today’s recommended feature is:

Let Me In (2010, d. Matt Reeves)


I think it’s bad that vampires have lost their pseudo-European offbeatness.  Dracula was a genuine weirdo who slept all day in a creeky coffin.  The Count on Sesame Street suffers from a common manifestation of OCD, uncontrollably counting things, and yet he is never compelled to clean his cobweb quilted castle.   Lestat and Louis from Interview With A Vampire want the same legal rights afforded to corporeal couples, but they also want to live as artists in The French Quarter and raise their immortal daughter on human flesh.  Now, because of Buffy, Twilight and oodles of copy-bats,  vampires have become all vamp and no bite.  They drive Volvos and wear Burberry.  I understand Twlight’s hip Cullen kids are frequently spotted living-it-up at Seattle Marriner’s night games (although they are invisible on the Diamond Vision screen).  Maybe all that is why it seemed relevant to the fillmakers of Let Me In to set it in suburban New Mexico, early 1980’s.  Perhaps they wanted to construct a feeling  of innocence and nostalgia.  Maybe they wanted to take us back to a time when vampirin’ wasn’t cool.

 

"Is that dress a Vivienne Westwood?" - Let Me In

 

12 year old Owen’s nerdy kidness will be familiar to all because we all knew one or were one like him.  His hair is greasy.   He looks permanently sewn in to his oversize, dirty, fake-fur parka. He’s smaller than his classmates and frequently the object of ridicule and pummelings on behalf of a trio of school bullies.  Owen and his single mother live in a rundown apartment complex.  He has little to do but spy on his neighbors through a toy telescope.  One snowy, winter evening Owen watches a barefoot girl, about his age, moving her box of possessions into the unit next door with the help of an unkempt, middle-aged man. Slowly, over several night time encounters in the apartment courtyard, the girl, Abby, starts up an awkward friendship and juvenile romance with Owen, over the objections of the man.  Owen begins to figure out that Abby is not what she appears to be but rather an ageless vampire in the body of a twelve year old.  The unkempt man  is not Abby’s father either, but rather her longtime mortal consort, dating back to his own childhood.  His duty is to look after Abby by going about the murders of young men.  He collects their blood in a plastic bottle and keep his vampire mistress fed.  Eventually the man’s nocturnal activities are accidentally exposed.  He dies and  the trail of murders leads back to the apartment.  Abby must move on,  although she helps Owen in a final violent showdown with the school bullies.

 

Let The Right One In - these sweaters were more Dale Of Norway

 

 

Let Me In is a loyal remake of the sucessful Swedish movie Let The Right One In from 2008.  In terms of story and tone the two movies are nearly idential and both are great, although I think the American remake offers some important improvements.  I find the child actors in the American remake to better actors, and there is a more convincing, eerie chemistry between them.  Also, the Swedish version employs an ill fitting sub-plot about a group of local alcoholics who are both victims of the vampire misdeeds and the source of public exposure.  In Let Me In, that group is swaped out completely for a gritty homicide detective who is putting together the clues of the murders.  This makes it more crime-thriller.  Also, the American version of this movie folds in an interesting homoerotic subtext that brings some texture not present in the first version.  Owen is confused about his male image, particularly in his associations with the bullies, whose taunt him as a wimp and call him “little girl.”   Abby is confused with her feelings toward Owen, saying that she is neither a girl nor or boy.  And the man stalks active young men for Abby, when more yielding victims could be easier prey.

A mild objection I have is over the choice of setting for Let Me In.  It makes sense to me that vampires who burn up in sunlight travel to long Swedish winters where they might not even see sunlight for a few months out of the year.   Los Alimos, New Mexico averages 310 days of sunshine a year.  Look it up.

Both movies succeed in telling a compelling and sad story that leaves fascinating mysteries to the imagination.  Why does the man object to the children’s friendship?  He may be acting like a  jealous lover or he could be protecting Owen from Abby and the circumstance that befell his own youth.  Does the middle-aged man risk the danger in murdering young men because that’s what Abby prefers, or is he acting out on some projected self-loathing, or even sexual frustration?   Does Abby really love Owen or is she killing him softly, selfishly grooming him to become her new life paramour?   The viewers are challenged with these unanswered questions and by the  morality in our sympathy toward Abby.  She is a pretty, 12 year old girl, who is also a human predator.  Yet, her station is to live forever, from consort to consort, in an unforgiving existential transience – a shattered, improverished eternity.  The Cullen’s are Whole Foods.  Abby will always be strictly whole blood.


Let The Right One In (2008, d. Thomas Alfredson)