Thursday, October 21, 2004

Sonia Flew Reviews are all in...

Carolyn Clay weighed in on Sonia in today's Phoenix. She was delighted and has not a bad word to say. Her conclusion:

Still, this second act brings more than just the backstory. There is also, at last, the opportunity to pry open that window to the past. Slipping through it with sorrow and grace, Sonia flies. And so does Melinda Lopez.

I would say that most all critics treated Sonia Flew with grace and care, In fact, it may have been treated too softly. I loved about 96% of Sonia Flew. My own, personal opinion was that the ending of the play subverted much of the fantastic groundwork Lopez laid during the first two hours. (I'll go into more of my feelings once the run is over.)

Otherwise, the play is thoughtful and deftly structured, with even the concept of actors doubling for the roles helping to layer meaning. Really the only thing I could say is to second Will Stackman's notion in his review:

In "Sonia Flew", for once a newly developed script doesn't need pruning or rewritten scenes, but perhaps only a bit more detail, a slight loosening here and there. The force of the action would not be diminished by taking just a bit more time, which could be well spent contemplating this drama.

Agreed. Some of the isolated monologues for Sonia are incredibly awkward. She turns quickly to the audience, right in the middle of a scene, to talk about...Snow? More breathing room could integrate these passages more smoothly. I sensed that even the actress seemed a bit uncomfortable with the transitions. And there are some transitions of emotion that happen far too quickly. In certain spots people fly off the handle or make pronouncements that really should have some time to build.

The Wimberly is fantastic. I sat in the Mezzanine and, (Thank You God,) the seats are designed with enough room for ex-linemen like myself. I set out to the production wanting to write a little post about the experience of coming after a day's work into the city and trying to find parking, etc. However, I was lucky enough to pull up and find a metered spot right on Tremont!

It was sad to see the Leland Center all dark though. Ahhh memories, (good and bad.)

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

New Eugene O'Neill Posts....
"If those sweethearts won't face German bullets, they'll take French ones! "

With regard to the Reservists who refused orders in Iraq this past week:

I was watching Stanley Kubrick's brilliant Paths of Glory, and I think that everybody should see that film if they are pondering about the dilemna that the Reservist action presents.

The movie was playing on AMC and John McCain was actually co-hosting the presentation. I remember seeing the film a long time ago, before I served in the US Army.

There are many instances where there are corollaries, but the one that most stands out is the scene where the General orders an artillery sergeant to fire on their own troops. The Sergeant tells the General over the phone that he cannot fire on friendly coordinates without a signed written order. The General screams and screams, but the sergeant will not relent.

These reservists had deadlined equipment, allegedly. "Deadlined," for those of you without service background means that the vehicle or equipment is not supposed to go anywhere. Now, we all know that in combat you have to move whether the equipment is 100% or not, but the point is...if the convoy got into to trouble, because of the deadlined equipment, who would have taken the brunt of the blame. The officers who ordered them to go? Wrong. The Sergeant who deadlined the equipment? Yes. I know it seems messed up, but just read Catch 22 to try to understand.

The platoon of Reservists proved a valuable point, but one of the first things they say in basic is "Ours is not to reason why, but to do or die."

Should they be punished harshly? There is a horrifying logic that would say that they should.


What Is Next - The ART Audience will be called "flip-floppers."

Globe Reviewer Thomas Garvey is dead on about the earlier works of August Wilson in his review of Up You Mighty Race's production of Joe Turner.

My own preference is Ma Rainey's Black Bottom as the playwright's highest achievement. Ma Rainey is controlled craft bursting with the looseness of experimentation and jubilation of a playwright finding his unique voice. Joe Turner moves toward the tipping point of losing dramatic thrust and true conflict in the search for spiritual roots.

Though Ma Rainey's singing is not quite the par of the fire breathing theatrical coup of Herald Loomis's vision; Levee the trumpet player's situation and dramatic arc, which finishes in a stunning look at the truth of the situation of black americans in the 1920's, far overshadows Herald Loomis' arrival at the end of the play.

I will agree with Thomas Garvey that both represent better work than the current, but still powerful, Gem of the Ocean.

However, Mr. Garvey seems to have been watching too much Fox News and appears to want to pick political fights in the arts review section of the globe:

"Turner" feels like "community" theater in more ways than one. The audience on the night I attended was almost entirely black -- which never happens at the Huntington -- so for once it didn't feel as if I were watching Wilson under glass, with all the other nice white liberals. Instead, a direct connection between actor and audience slowly built to the play's riveting final scene. (Italics Mine)


WTF! While his observation of the ethnic makeup of the Huntington's normal audience base is on target, I think we all could have done without the white house talking points. "Nice White Liberals," are fighting words during this election period. I know that he is probably using the word in its pure definition which derives from the Latin root: liber. However, I hope that Mr. Garvey would be aware of how politically charged that word is in the current state of public discourse.

His positioning of the white audience of the Huntington being a safe distance from the black players on the stage is the classic structure for the "limousine liberal" tag we have heard played over and over through this campaign season.

It is an irresponsibly flip comment that indicts a great amount of people who make the development and commissioning of August Wilson's work possible.
I do applaud Mister Garvey's attempt to convey the communal experience he had while watching a play that is usually seen with predominantly white audiences. And he is right to point it out for two reasons. First, it is the truth. Second it is informing his readers that they can experience great theatre beyond the ART and the Huntington.
I think Mr. Wilson would agree that Up You Mighty Race would be the ideal place to see his work performed.



Tuesday, October 19, 2004

New Post on the O'Neill Project.

With Gem of the Ocean going on around town, along with Jo Turner's Come and Gone being performed by Up You Mighty Race, I can't help thinking about that time period. 1908-1911. Especially as I read O'Neill's early plays.

O'Neill was a young man during the time period of Gem and Jo Turner and he would shortly be writing plays.

Of course the Curse of the Bambino took hold after 1918, and so all sorts of goings on are forcing me to reflect on and experience that time period.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Sonia Flew Reviews Coming In...

Nothing sneaky going on here. I have a vague suspicion that if Sonia Flew was imported from New York or the South Coast Rep that some of the structural flaws would be overlooked and Lopez would be hailed a little more strongly. However, I have no evidence from these reviews to support that suspicion.

I am waiting to see what the Mirror and IRNE Reviews Look Like, but for now it is on to the Big Dogs...

Ed Siegel liked the performances and gives Martin props for the direction and goes on to say...

"But it's Lopez who deserves the primary credit for the presentation of such an intriguing slice of life. I don't know that "Sonia Flew" is a play for the ages, but it's certainly a play for our age. The first act is in keeping with several recent novels about immigration and assimilation, such as Gish Jen's "The Love Wife" and Jhumpa Lahiri's "The Namesake." "Sonia Flew" is more artful than either of those highly touted books.In Lopez's earlier work you can sense a struggle over her Cuban roots versus her American upbringing. She is still raising questions about ethnocentrism and assimilation, about Castro and capitalism, but it all seems more integrated now -- the writing, the voice, the sense of structure."

I have to say that I have not heard of Gish Jen or Jhumpa Lahiri. I have heard of the American Repertory Theatre though and Mr. Seigel provides his signature trademark by putting a little ART reference in...

"LeBow's comic timing almost always lights sparks at the American Repertory Theatre, and he provides the same service here."

WBUR's Bill Marx congratulates the Huntington, makes a call for more Boston premieres, gives some praise, but had problems with the depth and the structure a little:

Here Lopez is content to present rather than dig into larger themes: the clash between immigrant and mainstream America, the past and the present, parent and child. The ending in particular fizzles because Lopez does not bother to explore the inner lives of Sonia and Zak, to let them articulate what they have learned through pain.

Terry Byrne also liked the play but she also had more quibbles with the structure and the ending:

"But Lopez asks us to make a leap of faith that she hasn't quite earned. In the end, Lopez offers Sonia a kind of redemption that is a relief, but not as satisfying as it should be."


My Own Private Eugene O'Neill Project

When I was in the Army I set about one year reading all of Shakespeare.

I am starting an attempt at the complete Eugene O'Neill now. And if you would like, you can follow along. I will mention when I post updates and I will keep a link to the blog on the right hand side.

My Own Private Eugene O'Neill Project


Thursday, October 07, 2004

Make sure you read Heilpern's column about Rose Rage

Great words here:
Nothing can begin to capture the merciless killing that’s actually happening in the Henry cycle—except the words, the one living, eternal thing, the power and beauty of the language....Far from telling us how battle scenes should be staged, Shakespeare takes great care to instruct us not to stage them. The prologue to Henry V is an inspired, ironic apology: "O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend / The brightest heaven of invention! / A kingdom for a stage, princes to act / And monarchs to behold the swelling scene!"


Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Shakespeare Hitting the Conservative Mainstream!...
Oh...wait a minute...

It's not often that Drudge links to something truly cultural, but he did have a link to this Sun Article under the heading "Billy Bob Thornton: Shakespeare is Bulls**t."

All right, all right. I'll admit I am a fan of Bill Bob's understated acting turns and I still think Slingblade will survive the test of time as a great movie. So perhaps I clicked through thinking that maybe Billy Bob had an actual thesis.

However, I think I may have been seduced by the ever popular notion that intelligent actors are always well-read and culturally literate individuals.

Billy Bob really does apparently think Shakespeare is...well... bulls**t. And he goes on about it for a little bit. Here is just one of the choice passages:

“It’s not that I don’t understand it. But people think if you speak with an
English accent it somehow makes you smarter...I don’t believe in all the flowery language — all of his plays are just a series of soap operas."

No, ....ah...actually ,Mr. Thornton, I think you don't understand it. Perhaps the English accent thing is just a subtext of jealousy since
Angelina Jolie has had so much success as Lara Croft.

Why would Drudge link to it? Maybe if you close your eyes you
could see the President saying just such a thing.

It's settled, let us have a Town Hall type debate between Harold
Bloom
and Billy Bob to settle this Shakespeare thing once and for all.

It should be a saucy event, since both debaters have sordid
histories with younger females. Billy Bob's tempestuous liason with Angelina Jolie is well documented on E! Entertainment, almost nightly. However, Bloom's alleged sexual advances toward Naomi Wolf, the bombshell of the 90's-cool-to-feminist-movement, remains largely unmined for both literary and news potential.

Like Billy Bob said, "it's like a soap opera."

Monday, October 04, 2004

AMEN!

This from Susannah Clapp in the Observer:

The startling diversity of the things you can see on the stage is worth stressing in the face of the frequent attacks on the theatre in the press. When some one announces - often with an air of quiet pride - that they hate the theatre, they treat it as if it were one homogeneous thing. Go to see a crummy play which could have been produced anytime within the last 40 years (as could,
unfortunately, Cloaca last week at the Old Vic) and the cry goes up that 'the theatre' has had it. No one would think of condemning all movies because they thought Godard was pretentious or saying that they didn't like reading, because
Jeffrey Archer's novels aren't all that hot.


Bill Marx wrote me an e-mail about my Moomtaj posting. He rightly pointed out that my barb regarding his review of Moomtaj was off base in that it didn't reference anything he really wrote in his actual review.

My main point of the posting was to look at how the three critics addressed the riskiness of the New Rep. The barbs at the contents of the reviews were more of blogger's license.

In Marx's case I actually was more trying to caricature highbrow ideology, but his criticism is fair. I guess my humor needs work.