Oct 9, 2007

Seen & Enjoyed

If I'm not assigned to write about a thing, I tend to, um, not write about it. Guess that's the whole deal with blogging--it's designed to air unsolicited thoughts. And I guess I still haven't quite caught that bug, though I stand in awe and admiration for some who clearly have.

But sometimes I do want to record my impressions, if only for my own memory's sake. Herewith a quick roundup of stage-type things recently witnessed in a non-reviewing capacity.

Xanadu. While it's true that we as a culture may be over-entertained, or at least seem to have an endless appetite for fluff and puff and escapism, it's actually quite rare to find a genuine bit of frothy fun that is actually, irreproachably delightful, and not merely a faux-delight or wannabe delight or would-be delight. I don't know how they did it (except, for starters, keeping it short), but I must bow in gratitude to the re-creators of this jury-rigged romp for getting it exactly, precisely right. I defy anyone not to enjoy themselves at this Grecian/Californian roller-disco backstager romance. (I wasn't assigned to review it, but I did have a lovely chat with the librettist, Douglas Carter Beane.)

100 Saints You Should Know. Maybe I'm just a sucker for any play that takes religious faith (and religious doubt) seriously, but I found this drama by Kate Fodor disarmingly tender and subtle. Maybe too subtle at times; the dramaturgy occasionally felt a bit slack, and the plotting arbitrary. As my companion pointed out, the characters and their situations seemed overly generic. I concede some of that, particularly in the play's first act. But by play's end this liability seemed to me to be an asset; it gave the piece the faint patina of fable, which seemed right. My companion and I did agree that the character of the bitterly, teasingly precocious teenager, Abby, was a triumph of both writing and acting (by the extraordinary Zoe Kazan). (I did talk to Fodor, too--how do you think I snag these tickets, after all?)

Dear Mme. In the process of reporting a piece for The LA Times about Erik Sanko's brilliantly macabre marionette show The Fortune Teller (coming to UCLA Live next month), I've pretty much fallen in love with his work and his aesthetic. So I was very enthusiastic about the premiere of Dear Mme, a 20-minute piece for marionettes and string quartet, commissioned by Kronos Quartet and performed last weekend as part of BAM's Next Wave festival. Like Fortune Teller, Dear Mme is an exceedingly appealing and haunting work that somehow magically evokes nostalgia for novelty, if that makes sense--Sanko cites such old, half-remembered forms with such care and seriousness that he almost makes us believe there's a whole world of puppet/chamber-music pieces out there, waiting to be revived and performed...and we want desperately to see more of them.

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