Jul 21, 2008

Airline Theater

Lynne Meadow's flight from Rome last year was marred by some unwanted drama, apparently, and now the on-sabbatical artistic director of the Manhattan Theatre Club has filed suit against Continental Airlines (h/t ArtsJournal):

Ms. Meadow claims she followed [Chris Boone, the flight attendant named in the suit] into the galley, where he said, "From the moment you 'shushed' me during takeoff, I knew there would not be enough attendants on this plane to take care of you." Mr. Boone, she said, would not hear her explanation and told her, "The authorities will deal with you on the ground." At that, she began to cry and was comforted by other flight attendants, the complaint says.

Worse yet, this happened in business class! I'm flying coach to Europe next week; here's hoping no one on the staff makes me cry.

Jul 19, 2008

Too Good To Be True...

...and yet it is. Recently received from a contrite patron who attended the musical I was part of a few months back. Addressed to the director, Yvonne Conybeare:
RE: The Devil and Tom Walker
Friday, May 9, 2008 performance

Dear Ms. Conybeare,
I write - tardily - to apologize to Michael Durkin, Justin Flagg, Erik Gratton, Rebecca Hart, Sarah Hund, Michael Jerome Johnson and Robert Kendt for my rude and inexcusable behavior in failing to turn off my cell phone, thus interrupting an otherwise thoroughly enjoyable and thought provoking performance on the evening of Friday, May 9, 2008, when I enjoyed The Devil and Tom Walker along with my fiancee, Barbara Lommen, my son, John Bargiel, and his good friend, David Vining.

It is my hope that we will again have the privilege of witnessing a performance at The Metropolitan Playhouse when next we visit New York (at which time I faithfully promise to turn off my cell phone).

Yours very truly,
Charles (Chuck) S. Bargiel

I can only hope that Vanessa Redgrave received a similar apology from a few matinee patrons of Year of Magical Thinking, whose cell phones marred the most intimate moments of the show the day I saw it. Come to think of it, is it odd that I remember that rude afternoon, but can barely recall Mr. Bargiel's ringtone ruckus at a show I performed in? Is it possible that such interruptions have even more impact on fellow patrons than on performers? Maybe an apology to the entire Devil and Tom Walker audience that night would be in order--but then, with this kind apology Mr. Bargiel has already gone well beyond the heedless hordes of ringers that plague our playhouses. We'll leave it at that.

Jul 17, 2008

"Rafta Rafta" Headed for Main Stem

Just got word from a pretty reliable source that Rafta Rafta..., Ayub Khan-Din's intergenerational comedy about a South Asian family in Britain, which closed a successful New Group run at the Acorn last month, is prepping a move to Broadway. To the best of my knowledge (a.k.a., a quick IBDB search), this would be the first New Group move from Off- to Broadway, though the company is among the producers of Avenue Q and Scott Elliott has helmed his share of Broadway productions. Maybe moving a hit will work better for Elliott than going directly to Broadway with ambitious fizzles (Threepenny Opera) or shrugging revivals (Barefoot in the Park).

Jul 16, 2008

A Dreamer Examines His Facebook Page

Are Facebook updates a form of writing? When they're done by a published playwright, they can be. For the past I-don't-know-how-long, the estimable Pulitzer winner John Patrick Shanley has been sharing the content of his dreams, in a sort of public-journaling fashion, with his Facebook friends. To wit:
John Dreams: A teacher of bones tests me, a kind policewoman, an old love asks for time and a kiss.

John Dream. People from the internet were in prison putting on a play.

John Dream. A fashion show in the French countryside of subtle green plaids. I didn't want to get too close.

John dreamt he told Frank Sinatra he hoped the singer would enjoy the rest of his life.

John dreamt he was fishing with Tom Hanks. Suddenly, well known people have shown up in John's dreams. This has happened before.

John dreamt he was singing country western songs in the shower with Amy Adams. He knew more lyrics, but she was quick to pick up cues. They were clothed.

John dreamt he was flying low, ate some passion fruit, and was reminded it was for those less fortunate than he.

John dreamt he was able to get along with a difficult guy.

John dreamt of a region in the far North, where the remains of things and the remains of people were difficult to distinguish.

John dreamt he dropped a big chunk of pot at the feel of a policeman. Then he was scared. Then he realized it was a dream.

John had a dream he slept on an island the size of a dinner plate. When he woke up (in the dream) he took the island with him.

The Tom Hanks one reminds me of Shanley's quixotic self-directed feature Joe Versus the Volcano, which I recall enjoying inordinately at the time, and which ends up with Hanks playing a ukulele on a raft at sea...or did I dream that?

That oddball fable, incidentally, is the only film the playwright/screenwriter has directed--that is, until his new film of Doubt, starring Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman and--ahem--Amy Adams, now in postproduction. I had a report from the set some months ago that Streep is magnificent as Sister Aloysius, and that she seems to have a kind of ESP; a consultant on period vestments was apparently watching Streep prepping for a scene on a monitor, some distance from the set, and seconds after the consultant would point out to colleagues some small detail of the costume that was off--an untied wimple, that kind of thing--the actress, though entirely out of earshot of the consultant's critique, somehow intuited each note and made the adjustment, right before their eyes.

Strange and "Strangerer"

George W. Bush, in the midst of a debate with John Kerry over foreign policy, repeatedly tries to kill moderator Jim Lehrer. And then it gets really weird, in Theatre Oobleck's The Strangerer, just opening at the Barrow Street Theatre. A preview piece here.

(Photo by Kristin Basta)

Jul 15, 2008

Facebook Update of the Day

From a director pal:
Yvonne Conybeare is using stage management tactics with the kids at bedtime. I yell "30 minutes to lights out" and they answer "thank you 30 minutes," etc.

Spidey Scents

I guess this means it's actually happening. Just got this in my inbox:





Directed by Julie Taymor,

Music and Lyrics by Bono and The Edge of U2


Peter Parker: male, 16-20’s, great Rock voice, can be nerdy with understated sex appeal, good sense of humor

Mary Jane: female, 16-20’s, beautiful girl next door, strong pop/rock singing voice

Principal Woman: female, 25-35 years old, Amazing Rock vocals, think Sinead O’Connor with a Middle Eastern /Bulgarian/Greek/ twist. Foreign, world music types are great, foreign accents are great! All ethnicities.

JULY 28, 2008




NEW YORK, NY 10013


Please prepare 16 bars of a pop/rock song that shows range. Please bring sheet music. Also a photo/resume stapled together, IF YOU HAVE ONE. IT’S COOL IF YOU DON’T!


Jul 14, 2008

Iggy, Dinah, Soupy's Boys, and the Cyborg

Indulge me yet another non-theatre-related diversion, if you will: Another stunning YouTube from the days when punk met daytime TV (a la the Patti Smith one I posted before). More documentation of this odd collision, and Bowie's idiosyncratic explanation of where his and Iggy's sounds come from, here.

Jul 10, 2008

Ouch! File

I've been catching up lately with the work of an old L.A. favorite, solo performer/essayist/Renaissance woman Sandra Tsing Loh. Her latest play-soon-to-be-a-book is Mother on Fire, which among other things is a fascinating cross-section of a struggling post-boomer class of college-educated creative people who fall a few salary zeroes short of "bobo," a defiantly downmarket class I know all too well--firsthand, you might say--whose concerns and discontents are conspicuously under-represented in the well-heeled chattering classes. There's a lot of great Loh material worth linking to (a great place to start), but this interview in the Pittsburgh Post & Gazette last year is frank, funny, and illuminating (including on the topic of why this class of average arty-smarty folks is so poorly represented). And then, near the end, this passage packed a sting of recognition:
I've come to a point in my career that my art is just a burden that my friends have to shoulder, where you go, "I'm doing another play!" And they go, "Oh no!" How useful is it really to make art and who really cares? We always had that thing of writers sending out short stories to literary magazines that nobody reads. I have to have art that speaks to my community, so I'm reexamining the whole notion of how great it is to be an artist. Not that I don't enjoy it.

Her interlocutor puts it well: Loh's "lack of self-pity is striking." I'd call it devastating.

A Booth Grows in Brooklyn

Where I was this morning: at the opening of a new TKTS booth (not that one, alas). Coverage here and here.

(Photo by G. Paul Burnett.)

Jul 8, 2008

Tedious but Not Brief

I was actually up for another production of Midsummer, but alas, Dog Run Rep's ambitious new production didn't do it for me.

Jul 7, 2008

Critical Second Thoughts

The LA Times' Charles McNulty revisits some of his reviews over the past few years and confesses some errors of emphasis, if not quite misjudgments. Somewhat disarmingly, he admits that if anything, he has erred on the side of being too nice, and relentless blurbers have only made his effusions sting more:
In a morning skirmish with adjectives, as my review of "Curtains" at the Ahmanson Theatre was already past deadline, I concluded by saying that for all its faults, the musical has a delirious showbiz quality that's "irresistible." That final word, blurbed as it inevitably was in newspaper ads, overstated my feelings. What I meant to say was "hard to resist"--and the distinction, hairsplitting though it may sound, was a source of purgatorial torment to me.

In a related essay, the Times' Kenneth Turan reminds me why I don't miss reading him.

Theatre Art File

For a stage adaptation of the Neil Gaiman/Dave McKean graphic novel, at the Bootleg Theatre in L.A.

Jul 2, 2008

Queer as Rap

I'm not the only critic for whom the words "gay rap opera" did not add up, at least not to any promising sum; a well-placed colleague of mine confessed to me that the idea of Bash'd "sounded godawful." So I was as surprised as anyone how damn good, and how entertaining, it is. My review here. Other reviews, incidentally, have mostly been raves, but I noticed The New Yorker's unattributed blurb (not online) raises the specter of racism in the LGBT community, as if hip-hop tropes are solely the province of black culture and resistance. I had thought that debate might be settled by now, but I guess not.

In other news, I saw the solo show Explicit Vows, too.

(Photo by Carol Rosegg.)