Thursday, April 28, 2011

ROYAL IDIOT/ROYAL WEDDING



Let's begin with the royal idiot, shall we? That could only be Donald Trump who has trumped even Charlie Sheen in playing The Court Jester: Trump is now officially the village idiot. When I first heard he might actually be contemplating a run at the White House, I admit I thought (as one who is never afraid to think outside the box) that's SO crazy it just might work!!! Well, a nano-second later, it turns out--it was just crazy.

By insisting that the president produce evidence of his birthplace, Trump confirmed his own citizenship in the land of Kookville. And now Trump wants to take a closer look at the paperwork!!??? The man is clearly inscrutable. Maybe Trump flunked geography and history. Or perhaps he's cynically courting the wacko fringe element that still thinks the world is as flat as the hair on his own head...in which case, he's alienating everybody else, but-- along with H.L. Mencken and P.T. Barnum-- believes the numbers are on his side. Maybe no one ever did go broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people, and perhaps there is a sucker born every minute, but don't we want a president who at least thinks those are open-ended questions? Obama nailed it when he indirectly lumped Trump in with "carnival barkers"; in fact that is Trump's forum: the circus. And we all know how I feel about circuses. (see my last blog)

Onto The Royal Wedding!! I will be setting my alarm for 4 o'clock in the morning and watching in my pajamas as Kate Middleton takes that 4-minute walk down the aisle of Westminster Abbey with the eyes of half a billion people on her. I remember watching Diana's wedding -- in a hotel room while vacationing in France. None of our accommodations up to that point included TV's, but that night in the little Alsatian town of Colmar, the room didn't have much, but it did have one giant television, and I was glued all morning!! I will be watching ABC, with Barbara Walters and Diane Sawyer-- history and beauty-- as my guides. OK. I know... I'm nuts. But I'm not running for president. Pimm's anyone?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

MOVIE: WATER FOR ELEPHANTS



I've always hated circuses. Wouldn't cover them on TV for 25 years. It's not just the confined and lonely animals, it's whatever darkness and sadness is under all that makeup... BUT I really enjoyed WATER FOR ELEPHANTS--maybe because it didn't hide the darkness, and somehow still captured the magic that circuses promise: exotic beauty and fantastical feats, romance and escape.

Robert Pattinson is no vampire here---he's very moving as Jacob Jankowski a lonely young veterinary student fresh from a family tragedy who is left searching for a life. He is instantly drawn to the luminous Marlena played by the porcelain-skinned Reese Witherspoon, sad beneath her radiance and imprisoned by a brutish husband played by the threatening Christoph Waltz. Jacob and Marlena meet over a wounded animal and it connects them as they tenderly begin to yearn for one another. Every shot of them in this illusory world is bathed in golden light-- the kind saved for flashbacks. I'm sorry to say I felt the hot flashback coming on within the first five minutes and I wish it hadn't felt so trite. And the plot strains-- why would a young man quit Cornell, denying himself the fruits of an Ivy League education and run off to join a circus in the middle of the depression-- especially when his parents gave everything they had so he could go to college? Finally the ending rushes too quickly toward conclusion-- or maybe I just didn't want it to end.

But the middle, the glorious middle, takes its time as these two lovely creatures slowly unfold to one another. Pattinson and Witherspoon generate real romantic heat and catch you up in their dream. Best of all, they discover an elephant who understands Polish! I loved this. I'm Polish and tomorrow is Easter and I just finished decorating and coloring eggs with hot wax and the head of a pin, just the way my babcia did over a 1oo years ago, and her grandmother, and so on. I guess I'm having a bit of a flashback myself, and dreaming of chocolate for bunnies...
--not to mention WATER FOR ELEPHANTS. See this!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

THEATER: SONS OF THE PROPHET

SONS OF THE PROPHET is set in Lebanon, Egypt, Nazareth, Bethlehem, and Jordan--not too far from the Poconos. That's right--it's Pennsylvania!-- where the playwright grew up, and the mess of characters and circumstances here seem no less tangled and painful than the conundrum in the middle east. Oh, and it's a comedy. Sort of.

This world premiere right in our own backyard is written by the witty Stephen Karam who gave us the hilarious and frenetic SPEECH AND DEBATE which circumscribed some of the vicissitudes of teen life. Here he serves up a roiling cauldron of wounded souls: the action begins with an accident, and keeps on careening. The injured man's two gay sons- one suffering from a mysterious illness, the other congenitally missing an ear, are taking care of their elderly ailing uncle and they're all related to Kahlil Gibran, author of THE PROPHET. There's a pushy depressive book publisher, a callow but sexy TV reporter, and a football player from a foster home. They're all seeking stability in a turbulent world, searching for meaning and connection to soothe the sting of the random cruelties this flesh is heir to.

The play tackles identity, mortality, prejudice, history, and death, not to mention the way the human drama is currently being packaged and commodified in a culture whose links to the past seem ever more vestigial. I worked hard to connect the dots. All the characters were annoying, and none of their issues seemed weighty enough to support the gravitas Karam was going for. A stronger cast might have helped. Joanna Gleason stands out for an unusually kooky performance as her character becomes increasingly unhinged. The rest of the cast seemed a bit stiff--many of the jokes didn't land. Nor was I really moved. But I recommend you see it; Karam is onto plenty-- he just hasn't wrestled it all to the ground yet.
SONS OF THE PROPHET presented by the Huntington Theatre Company through May 1.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

THE NORTIES!!!!!


OK THEATER BUFFS-- This is it! The Elliot Norton Awards (yes, that's Mr. Norton reading his Boston Herald with me on the back page!!!) Boston's version of the TONYS--has just entered the 21st century and launched its WEBSITE!!!http://www.nortonawardsboston.com

AND we have just announced our NOMINEES for the 29th Annual ELLIOT NORTON AWARDS to be held Monday night May 23rd at The Paramount Theater! I will emcee and the entire theater community will gather to honor the outstanding achievements of our very talented and resilient theatrical community over this past year.

AND this year the winner of the Elliot Norton Prize for Sustained Excellence goes to distinguished director SCOTT EDMISTON! Congratulations Scott!

Join us as we honor Scott and all of our award recipients to be announced on this gala night!
Check out our website for all the information on nominees, how to buy a ticket, who's on the committee, past winners etc. etc. etc.

See you on May 29th!!! Get your tickets now!!!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

SNOOKERED


I heard the news today, oh boy. Snooki is headed for Rutgers and will regurgitate whatever comes into her head to the tune of $32,000. It's the students idea, and their reason is-to quote the president of the student group who hired the Snookster- "to show that students here aren't dying from just reading books 24 hours a day."

Oh yeah? Well I'd like to see some statistics on that. I heard kids there have been holed up in libraries and dropping like flies in between the stacks. Snooki might just be the answer. I mean, you can't read a book and vomit into your shoes at the same time. I hope she doesn't get all serious and start telling us about the quantum mechanics of "the pouf," or suggest turning her body into a solar collector that could power most of New Jersey.

At the very least, the school's brand is certain to be Snookified; post Snooki, what hard-drinking, party animal wouldn't want to attend Rutgers, further diminishing the threat of death by bibliography. She'd better not mention that she's written a book, though--then they'll know they've been snookered.

Monday, April 4, 2011

THEATRE: MERCHANT OF VENICE


I just saw THE MERCHANT OF VENICE starring F.Murray Abraham and it was remarkable for one reason. It's not that this is a gleaming "Theatre for a New Audience" production directed by Darko Tresnjak with a cast decked out in dark suits and cocktail dresses, clutching their cell phones while syncopating Shakespeare's iambic pentameter. The set is cool-- broad striations of metallic white light on huge back panels with the stage framed by metal scaffolding. The contemporary context was arresting while shedding no "new millenium" light on the text.

And it's not that F. Murray Abraham's Shylock isn't fully imagined or believeable, or that his performance is anything less than intelligent and even accomplished. As the Jew who lends a desperate Christian a loan secured with a pound of flesh, Abraham is confident, almost cocky in his delivery, racing through the "Hath not a Jew eyes?" speech faster than a Hasid on a Harley; he's also sometimes inaudible. "The villainy you teach me I will execute" he spits out; even though the line may indicate Shakespeare's true sentiment about who's ultimately at fault here, it's a fiercely unsympathetic portrayal.

No. It's just that we forget everyone else onstage as soon as Portia makes her entrance in the dazzling person of one Kate MacCluggage. Her gorgeous physicality - a tall strawberry blonde with high cheekbones and svelte but muscular carriage, plus a voice full of music and authority- results in a Portia who is passionate and cerebral, clear-eyed and humane. The woman fills up the stage; her climactic and mesmerizing "quality of mercy" speech brings it all together, and the whole package is quite simply, breathtaking. Where has she been all our lives?

So see THE MERCHANT OF VENICE on the Paramount mainstage as part of the Arts Emerson inaugural season through April 10!