Jun 30, 2006

Farewell Clinch

Well, this is the weekend when the Evidence Room turns into a pumpkin at midnight, figuratively speaking. I had a chance to catch its final production of Cherry Orchard on a brief trip to L.A. last week, and I must say I found it neither farcical nor furious but quite moving, sad, deceptively "messy" in the mode of Robert Altman or (tread lightly, here) Renoir. It created a convincing whirl of indirection and not-listening which seems latent in all Chekhov but which I've never seen brightlined as clearly as here.

That's in contrast to the kind of genteel ensemble playing I've seen in productions at South Coast, or Oregon Shakes, or A Noise Within; the rewards of that approach can be a lulling sense of verisimilitude, in which the shocking brutality and irreconcilability of the characters registers all the more strongly.

But I found director Bart DeLorenzo's approach, which was more disjointed and impassioned, and thus more contemporary in feeling, to be almost constantly disruptive, disturbing, engaging, surprising. After a slightly wobbly, queasy first act, the second act brings all the production's choices home, no more so than in the climactic speech of Tom Fitzpatrick's Gayev, his reverie drowned out by the sound of filled-up boxes hitting the alley blacktop behind the theater.

And the final non-proposal between Lopakhin (Don Oscar Smith, in a role that culminates an extraordinary career at ER) and Varya (Uma Nithapalan) broke my heart, in large part because to me it's tragic that the two main forces behind ER's split-up, DeLorenzo and Alicia Hoge Adams, are similarly unable to come to terms.

I know that's not precisely the way many folks see it, but then such analogies and resonances are never precise. I had many such resonant moments at that space on Beverly Blvd., both shared with others and held quietly to myself. That seems to sum up the genius of the best work there, at least for an avid theatergoer: Boisterous yet thoughtful, provocative but reflective, its work made room for both thought and feeling, outrage and contemplation. It's a special place, to understate the case, and I pray some of that vibe can remain under the Adamses' leadership—and that Bart and co. can recreate it somewhere else.

On a final note, the hyperactive lovers Ryan Templeton and Will Watkins (pictured above) are my new heroes, not least because they so happily contradict Ranevskeya's final benediction: "My life! My youth! My happiness! Farewell!" And let me contradict the final lament of the butler, Firs (the brilliant Lee Kissman): "They've forgotten me." No, we haven't, and we won't.

What Constitutes a Premiere?

That's what I wondered when I saw this item about the "world premiere" of Beckett's Eh Joe in London, starring Michael Gambon. Hmm. I distinctly remember it going up onstage at the Mark Taper Forum back in 1989 or 1990 (listed here). So which is it? Can a Beckettophile help me out here?

Jun 28, 2006

The Real Thing

My feature on L.A.'s underground-comedy hub the Fake Gallery here.

Blood Will Out

My review of the new Scottish play in the Park here.

Jun 23, 2006

Son of a Lubitsch

I'm a big Ernst Lubitsch fan, so I really looked forward to Hourglass Group's stage adaptation of the 1932 classic Trouble in Paradise. My review is here.

Jun 19, 2006

A Doll's "House"

My review of Richard Greenberg's The House in Town is here.

Jun 18, 2006

Mildly Funny!

This was always a pet peeve of Les Spindle, my erstwhile colleague at Back Stage West: inaccurate blurbing of reviews. It never got my hackles up much, but Isherwood's piece today in the NY Times is a prickly but pretty unperturbed glance at the practice. (Never seen him joke about his namesake in print—that may be a first.)

Jun 17, 2006


I haven't checked in with Manohla Dargis, the former LA Weekly writer who now occupies the bully pulpit at the NY Times, for awhile. Her writing is as individual as ever—so idiosyncratic at times, in fact, that I can't quite believe she's writing for the Times. I mean that in a good way...mostly. But I was brought up short by this, in her review of Nacho Libre:
You hear the quotation marks in the delivery and the thought that goes into every phrasing. That gives the lines chew — Mr. Black's arrhythmic use of the word "whatever" verges on the Brechtian — and it also works to the film's liberating vision of identity as a performance space, an existential wrestling ring, if you will, in which each of us, if only given the opportunity, can cavort freely in the mask and colored tights of our choosing.

"Chew"? "Brechtian"? "Identity as a performance space"? Maybe she should be reviewing theater.

Jun 16, 2006


It's Sheila Callaghan's city; we're just living in it. Great piece in the Times today. Now I guess I should actually go see her show. ADDENDA: Has this guy heard about the play? Good thing you changed the names, Sheila. I imagine this fellow is beyond help.

Sonic Youth

My review of Spring Awakening here.

Jun 15, 2006


This seems historic, in its way.

The Homecoming

My review of The Water's Edge, by fellow Brooklynite Theresa Rebeck, is here.

Jun 14, 2006


My review of Burleigh Grimes is here.

Jun 13, 2006

Now That's Kitchen-Sink Naturalism

It was only a matter of time before two SoCal obsessions, acting and real estate, came together. You've heard of model homes—why not acted homes?

Jun 12, 2006

Blind Taste

Here's an extraordinary ideas for a night out: dinner in a pitch-black room, served by blind waiters. Only in Vienna.

A Note for All Time

From one of my editors:
I had the occasion to send this note recently to a writer and wanted to
share it with you.

Never use the phrase "of all time" unless there is competition from ancient Egyptians, Paleolithic cave people, Jurassic lizards and/or Big Bang residue. "Of all time," despite its ridiculously widespread usage these days, does not mean the same as "within the past century" or "within my lifetime." If our leaders would recognize that there is more to history than what they personally could remember of it, the world would not be nearly so fouled-up.

Duly noted.

Tony Up

My thoughts on the Antoinette Perry Awards here.

Jun 9, 2006

Mountains Come Out of the Sky

A good friend loves to recount how her junior high jazz choir once did a rendition of Billy Joel's word-crammed "Running On Ice." Just imagining that, hearing that in my head, is a nice shorthand for cheesy, Guffman-esque entertainment-gone-wrong. (Should I call it enhurtainment? Enterpainment? You get the idea.)

Then I saw this. And now I have a visual, and a whole new song, that will spring perkily to mind whenever someone mentions "show choir" or "SATB" or "pops concert." As the song puts it so well: "24 before my life and even in the valley." Lord help us all. (Hat tip: Matt.)

Daft Headline Watch

"College-Educated, Young Adults Consider 'Place' First When Choosing Locations" (a wire release)

I do that, too! I also consider "food" first when I'm choosing meals, and "clothing" first when I'm choosing what to wear. Good to know I fit the demo.

The World's Funniest Joke?

Only the Brits would try to make it scientific.

LaBute Lite

My review of Some Girl(s) is here.

Jun 7, 2006

Another Reason To Miss the Coast

The rain is coming down, and though I take some comfort in the song that keeps playing in my head (Fred Astaire signing "Isn't it a lovely day/To be caught in the rain," which if memory serves was the climactic tune of Tracy Young's brilliant Dreamplay), I just found another reason to miss the West Coast: Mark Swed's lovely tribute to the Ojai Festival. I only went three times, but I won't soon forget the performance of "L'Enfant et Les Sortileges" I saw there, or Dawn Upshaw singing Harbison's "Mirabai Songs," or the way the light broke the clouds at precisely the crescendo point of the slow moment in Ravel's Piano Concerto, or simply the sight of a living composer (John Adams) taking out his wallet and paying for his family's breakfast.

Schadenfreude Watch

So Hairspray won't hold in Vegas, joining Avenue Q as another failed B'way transplant. Hmmm...are the producers of Spamalot reading this? Is it too late for a sit-down run in L.A.? Just asking.

Jun 5, 2006

Drop Tuning

An annual tradition at MIT: dropping a piano off of Baker House. (Reminds of this classic at Centre Pompidou.) My question: Did anyone record the audio?

Getting It

When the The Onion interview with Paul Rudd turned to the subject of critics and why they've been so cruel to poor little Julia Roberts, his Three Days of Rain co-star, I found myself nodding in agreement at this eminently sane approach:
You know, people are always quick to say the critics obviously didn't get it. Or the ones that gave good reviews, they obviously got it, but the ones who didn't, didn't get it. And I just think, "No, they totally got it. It's just that this is what they got from it."

That's a remarkably grown-up attitude. This, on the other hand, has a whiff of the schoolyard:
But I think that you have to look at a critic's physical appearance. Sometimes on TV or something, I see these critics, and the way they wear their hair… or they'll have a mustache without any irony, and I think, "This guy's aesthetic criteria is so completely different from mine. What I think is cool is so not what he thinks is cool." You go, "What kind of music is this person listening to?" And then I go, "All right, you know what? We have different tastes." So it just puts their critical analysis in a different light.