Sunday, September 26, 2010


THE BUS STOPS HERE! Don't miss it: The Huntington Theatre Company refuels Inge's classic comedy BUS STOP and its season is off to a roaring start!

I must admit, I had my reservations, having never seen a theatrical production, and was only familiar with the dull 1956 Josh Logan movie in which Marilyn Monroe played Cherie.

Here under Nicky Martin's pitch perfect direction, Nicole Rodenburg plays a sexy, feisty version of nightclub singer Cherie who has fallen into the clutches (literally) of a lovestruck cowboy who's dragged her onto a bus bound for Montana-- and matrimony. The action takes place at a bus stop diner where the passengers have been stranded overnight in a snowstorm, giving Inge the opportunity to explore the need for love in all of its guises. This cast--without exception- is extraordinarily winning and skilled, and makes the creaky formulaic premise truly entertaining and sympathetic, if not wholly believable. From Karen MacDonald and Will Lebow who provide ballast as seasoned lovers, to Noah Bean as Bo Decker, the hilariously out of control lovesick cowpoke in hot pursuit of his gal. And then there's the adorable Ronete Levenson as the naively exuberant Elma, who steals the show as a latter day Juliet in a sides-splittingly funny re-enactment of Shakespeare's balcony scene.

I also couldn't take my eyes off James Noone's evocative set with its snow falling faintly in the background, collecting in snowbanks that look like clouds, as though this bustop were floating in the center of the universe.

I was absolutely onboard--and I'm urging you to catch the bus.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


It's #1 at the box office and deserves to be: THE TOWN--Ben Affleck's un-valentine to CharlesTOWN Massachusetts. Ben grew up right next door in Cambridge, but says it was a world apart; this movie proves him right. Based on the novel PRINCE OF THIEVES by Chuck Hogan, the film zeros in on one particular square mile of Boston as a breeding ground for bank robbers. Ben plays Doug MacRay, and Jeremy Renner (THE HURT LOCKER) is his hair-trigger foster brother; they are part of a gang of work-a-day crooks who topple a bank, take the teller (Rebecca Hall) hostage, elude the FBI (Jon Hamm) who's closing in on them, and wrestle with the dynamics of this inbred neighborhood and the local bosses who control them.

Ben directs THE TOWN with a surer hand than his last effort GONE BABY GONE, which he also co-wrote with Aaron Stockard, and thus inherits some of the former film's problems. These guys don't know how to write women--Rebecca Hall as Claire the bank teller who takes up with Doug, may as well be an amnesiac; she seems to have no past, and functions merely as a catalyst for Doug's evolution. So their relationship lacks real heat and tension; it is the film's one major flaw.

But here's what's great about THE TOWN: Affleck captures the claustrophobia of this neighborhood, and the scary elders who have a chokehold on it. Jeremy Renner is explosive as a limited guy who uses his temper to force those close to him to stick. Blake "Gossip Girl" Lively is a revelation as Renner's blowsy drugged out sister and Doug's sometime squeeze. She has perfected the "I slept in my make-up" look (and apparently, the actress did), but the performance is more than skin deep. Best of all is Ben Affleck in one of his most convincing portrayals. He's leaner -and so is the performance; he's "acting" less, but revealing more. He's subtle and vulnerable and tough and funny. Sorry to say, the only person I didn't buy, was Jon Hamm as a hard-boiled FBI guy...he just doesn't convey that hungry, relentless killer instinct, which would have juiced up the tension between him and his prey the way, say, Tommy Lee Jones did when he pursued Harrison Ford in THE FUGITIVE.
But the plot builds to a taut climax, and the action sequences have real energy, particularly one car chase that garnered spontaneous applause from our premiere audience! There are a few killer lines of dialogue, and several quieter and very effective scenes involving tense conversations played for maximum suspense. Ben knows just where to put the camera and how long to stay with a scene; he's developing a rhythm for this terrain. He's become the teller of dark tales from Boston. The question is how long he'll stay in this neighborhood... perhaps next time around, a light romantic comedy set in the Back Bay?
Who knows--I'm just so happy he's out there doing it all, in his and my hometown.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Last night Jon Hamm and I got to first base. Unfortunately he was wearing a hat at the time and his girlfriend, Jennifer Westfeldt (looking fierce in higheeled ankle boots), was not far afield--and what a field: Fenway Park, between first base and home plate where a red carpet was rolled out for the premiere of Ben Affleck's new movie: THE TOWN, as in Charlestown. That's where the movie was set and shot last year. Ben chose Fenway for the premiere because a scene in the film was shot there, and Ben and Matt (Damon of course), are Red Sox fanatics. In fact, Matt who showed up with his family to support Ben, mentioned that he and Ben had actually both shot at Fenway before--when they were teenagers with stars in their eyes and were hired as extras in FIELD OF DREAMS!!!

Other stars on the red Carpet-- writer,director,star Ben Affleck of course, gorgeous Gossip Girl Blake Lively who confessed she had to beg Ben to audition her for the part which she eventually won, the talented Brit Rebecca Hall (VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA) smashing in a gown by Italian leather house Bottega Veneta--did she actually say that? The top of the gown did appear to be made of red leather...! And Chris Cooper who raved about Affleck's directing skills, and Jeremy Renner (THE HURT LOCKER)who said he had absolutely become a Red Sox fan.

But getting back to Jon Hamm. He couldn't have been nicer. Or more beautiful, despite the hat which he said he was wearing because he didn't like his hair. He does however "love" Boston. Loves our boy Ben whom he found very funny, and said he'd gotten an appreciative note from Scott Brown after Hamm nailed him in that infamous SNL skit. AND...he agreed to pose for the above photo with yours truly.

I have been covering this beat for 28 years. I have never asked for a photo with ANYONE on a red carpet, ever. But this week is my birthday. Jon (that's what I call him) asked if I was turning 25. Then my camera crew snapped the photo. I think my birthday celebration just started.

Monday, September 13, 2010


Publick Theatre's production of Tom Stoppard's THE REAL INSPECTOR HOUND is a real dog. Bow wow. And it's not just because I've recently been in court on account of my unfortunate encounter with a creature of the canine persuasion. (See THE CASE OF THE WAYWARD WEIMARANER blog post). No no no. If the playwright saw this flaccid attempt at his crackling whodunnit, Stoppard would put a stop to it. Perhaps that's too easy. Perhaps he wouldn't recognize it at all.

Let's begin with Moon and Birdboot, critics watching the show within the show. Barlow Adamson and William Gardiner deliver their lines like they were delivering dead orchids to a funeral. The pacing is off. The diction sloppy. There's no energy. The show which usually breezes in at just under an hour, has now been stretched into two lumpy acts, the momentum lost, the whip cracking wordplay now simply, whipped. Two performers standout: Gabriel Kuttner as Magnus, a deadpan wit on wheels. And Sheridan Thomas as the haunted housekeeper Mrs. Drudge; she moves like lead, and acts with lugubrious abandon. Georgia Lyman looks great but that's it. Anna Waldron as Felicity is practically non-existent. The timing is off. The thing had absolutely no impact. I was nearly asleep. How I longed for the cast that played it the first time I saw it at THE NEXT MOVE THEATRE, 30 years ago. Yes, it's that vivid in my mind.

The real show started afterwards, and I know I'll be thinking about it 30 years hence. YOU MUST GO TO COPPA on Shawmut Ave. in the South end, Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonette's latest culinary adventure. It's a romantic, rustic, dark, little corner Italian bistro. Try everything. We had pizza with zucchini flowers, and small white bowls of gnocchi with lamb and mint and white bean ragout. Then luscious orechiette pasta with broccoli rabe and fresh tomato, not to be outdone by fusilli mare, twisted curls of pasta with seafood; and a small slice of rabbit pate, and a succulent little beef heart crostini. We finished with a dollop of fresh fig sorbetto, glasses of sparkling Lambrusco, and two divine espressos. We were lucky to have Mark Voss as our server who is gorgeous and charming. We wafted out into the night, fully satisfied.
Theater? What theater?

Thursday, September 9, 2010


Life is a CABARET-- but not quite--at the A.R.T.'s production of the Kander and Ebb musical presented at their ultra flexible, glammo theatre space turned nightclub, Oberon. It's the perfect setting for this show--better than artistic director Diane Paulus' smash THE DONKEY SHOW last season which turned Shakespeare into A disco-fevered Midsummer Night's Dream. This is sort of like The Donkey Show with Nazis.

As the show opens, the Kit Kat Dancers(you won't be able to take your eyes off Jordy Lievers as Helga),half naked ambi-sexual showgirls/guys, slowly invade the space. Then Amanda Palmer as that creepy Emcee hits the stage to sing the emblematic "Willkommen" (and vee know the Nazis vill be comin')--and it's auf wiedersehen. Palmer, lead singer of the Dresden Dolls, has a name-- but lacks the acting and vocal chops of a true theatrical performer. She's strangely unexpressive, imitating a performance rather than fully inhabiting a character. Aly Trasher is dynamic but not quite charismatic as a blond, curly-haired Sally Bowles, an English tart trying to make it onstage and off in Berlin. When she meets a young American would-be novelist stiffly played by Matt Wood, the show almost goes kaput. The actor lived up to his last name. I honestly didn't know what he was doing there.
No; it was A.R.T. stalwart Tom Derrah who blew everyone off the stage in a poignant tragic-comic turn in drag as Fraulein Schneider. That man can SING. His timing is impeccable. His scenes with Remo Airaldi were remarkably tender and the source of what little emotional engagement there was to be had.

So life is a Cabaret sometimes, but last night, on the first night of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, it was more like an undercooked noodle pudding--a little lumpy, and in need of some seasoning.
Happy 5771!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


I testified under oath in court today because four years ago a dog bit me. It happened on the very day I decided to start "walking" outdoors for exercise. On that lovely October morning a frisky little Weimaraner charged and took a chunk of my thigh in its jaws. In shock, and vowing never to exercise again, I stumbled home and eventually discovered that the dog had a long history of nibbling on passersby, and was owned by a Russian couple named Boris and Natasha. Could a moose named Bullwinkle be far behind?

A little worked up, I told my emotional story on the stand and was asked if the owner of the pesky pooch was indeed present in the courtroom. "Yes, your honor," I proclaimed, "that man there"-- and pointed a finger at the stone-faced Boris. Three other bitees told their stories, one witness for the prosecution going so far as to lift her pant leg all the way up to reveal a high heel, a naked gam, and a telltale scar on her upper thigh. As judge and attorneys leaned over the witness stand to get a closer look, I found myself daydreaming about Marlene Dietrich.

4 hours and many whispered deliberations later, the judge awarded damages to the damaged one, while the wily Weimaraner remains on the loose in Waltham, where it has been banished. Yes "banished." Sounds medieval, you say, but believe it or not it's what passes for a solution in towns that haven't yet figured out what to do with an unruly pup. In this case it seems downright unneighborly since the canine in question has reportedy begun sinking its canines into a fresh batch of unsuspecting Walthamites.

When all is said and done, I am happy I had my day in court, but the case of the wayward Weimaraner has weft me with a wittle case of weltschmerz. Woof.

Friday, September 3, 2010


Well, it's 11PM and we're in the teeth of the storm!
--Or is it the gums?

I just flipped on the news and have been informed by damp reporters in shiny rain gear that it is, indeed, raining. The wind reportedly is "howling." Some boats are being "jostled." "Two" people have checked into a shelter in Barnstable; one of them may have stubbed his toe. Otherwise, no reported injuries. People on the Cape are lined up on the beach in their lawn chairs and cars eating cheese and crackers, waiting for the show: Hurricane Earl!!!

Wait just a minute. Earl is no longer a hurricane. Earl began petering out this afternoon, from category 3, to 1, to mere tropical storm status and every meteorologist in town knew it. But that didn't stop every major TV station from sticking to its pre-fab story, ramping up the drama to support that story, and even pre-empting regular programming to provide non-stop coverage of what they KNEW was going to be a non-event.

Do they think we're idiots? We had more rain last week! This is not only irritating, it's lying. I know I'm naive. I still cling to the quaint notion that we should be able to count on THE NEWS to report the facts and not spin a story for maximum drama. The last time I checked they weren't giving out Tony's for the weather report. Once again, they made a big muddy mountain out of a soggy little mole hill.

My forecast for tomorrow? The news is all wet.