Sep 28, 2007

I'll Never Get Anything Done...

...if YouTube keeps offering distractions like this (h/t Sheila).

"Mo'" or Less

In 1994 I walked from my Echo Park digs to Dodger Stadium to take my $15 nosebleed seat at "The Three Tenors." The concert began while the limos were still gridlocked at the entrance, and the folks who paid $1,000 for on-the-field seats were still filing in an hour into the show. It was a great night for populist kitsch, if not for opera, though a lot of operatic repertoire was sung. Three Mo' Tenors is, well, something else entirely.

Sep 27, 2007

"Judas" Priest

As someone deeply interested in theater and theology, and the intersection of the two (indeed, I think I've had several of my most "religious" experiences in and around live theaters), A Jesuit Off-Broadway is like catnip in book form. This fascinating and entertaining book is by James Martin, S.J., the priest who edits the journal America and who a few years ago found himself roped into the role of theological advisor, and soon company chaplain, for Stephen Adly Guirgis' The Last Days of Judas Iscariot at the Public Theatre.

I had the pleasure of meeting Fr. Jim recently (in conjunction with that big Time bombshell on Mother Teresa's "dark night" of doubt, about which Martin is something of an in-house expert), and also of attending a special benefit reading of his book at the Public earlier this week, at which members of LAByrinth and of the original Judas company were cast in the unexpectedly awkward roles of themselves, repeating quotes they'd given to Fr. Jim through the course of the play's development about their craft and their spiritual paths.

Though it's not a dense or scholarly work, the book seamlessly and accessibly binds together reflections on Christology, interpretation of Scripture, the divergences and similarities among various spiritual traditions, the punishing vagaries of the acting life, the role of priests in unlikely places and, perhaps most movingly and fundamentally, the unavoidable bond between the sacred and the theatrical. I was particularly struck by the unsettling yet inspiring concept of "spiritual poverty," one of Fr. Jim's favorite ideas (indeed, this is likely the next book I'll check out). A Jesuit Off-Broadway also contains just about the best, most succinct description of how it feels to find one's vocation, in any walk of life: Eric Bogosian recalling his first stab at acting in college and saying simply, "I loved it so much that it hurt." Highly recommended reading, even if you don't share my enthusiasm for what David Cote would call wretched goddism.

Sep 25, 2007

Me at Mo's

I try as much as possible to keep the blogging and journalizing separate from the musicking and songsmithing, but I'd feel remiss if I didn't mention my appearance tomorrow evening, Wed., Sept. 26, at 9 p.m., at Mo Pitkins in the East Village, for a CD release show. In addition some of my usual bandmates, some of whom have flown across the continent to play with me, I'll be joined by a bona fide music star.

End of plug.

When Nerds Woo

Damn, now I guess this proposal idea is already taken.

They're Baaaaack

"They" being the irrepressible Evidence Room crew, headed by the fearless Bart DeLorenzo. I wrote about the group breakup last year, and last time I was in town Bart updated me about directing the new Donald Margulies at South Coast, and hinted at something else coming soon. Now it's official: The Evidence Room will team up with the upstart Unknown Theatre (an up-and-comer that came up after my time in L.A., as far as I know) to present the LA premiere of Martin Crimp's Attempts on Her Life. It'll be co-directed by Bart and Unknown artistic director Chris Covics, and will star members of both companies. The press release I received mentions no date apart from "November," nor does it specify a venue (we might assume it'll go up at Unknown's Seward St. space in Hollywood), but it promises "a wild theatrical adventure not to be missed." No doubt. Updates will certainly up here. It's good to have the old gang back.

"Sligo" A-Go-Go

Adam Rapp growing up? Not.

(Photo of Paul Sparks & Marylouise Burke by Sandra Coudert; h/t TheaterMania.)

Axle of "Evel"

L.A. composer/creator Jef Bek gets up his Evel Knievel rock opera at last. Wish I could be there to see it. I was in L.A. a few months ago, though, and talked to Jef about it.

Sep 21, 2007

Rapp Raps Back

Not really, actually. Given his most recent flogging by the NY Times, Adam Rapp is remarkably circumspect about critics, in an upcoming American Theatre profile (not online yet):
Criticism is really unevenly distributed in this town. Obviously the power of the Times is discouraging. It's killing new plays, demolishing one after another. Charles Isherwood and Ben Brantley have a lot of power. I would like to think that Michael Feingold, Jeremy McCarter and David Cote and people who are really interested in new work would have an equal distribution of power. But we're so governed by the Times. Everyone is so afraid to talk about it, which is what I hate. Now that I've been demolished by them, I'm not going to be afraid to talk about it.

On the subject of being "demolished," Rapp says "it's a good feeling...I feel like an underdog now...Having a certain amount of success can be a poison to anybody." The notoriously prolific Rapp, who will have had three premiere productions by the time 2007 rings out, also tells reporter David Ng that he's working on a trilogy "like Coast of Utopia," except not: All three plays are set "in the same decrepit hallway, except they each take place in a different time period." No sellout, that Adam Rapp.

Sep 19, 2007

Half a Dead Sheep, Plus Grant's Desdemona

Again, there's always entertaining reading in The London Review of Books. Catching up with a recent issue, in a review of Nigel Cliff's The Shakespeare Riots: Revenge, Drama and Death in 19th-Century America, I discovered a bit of audience feedback that makes the rude watering of Mike Daisey seem polite:
At Cincinnati, during the performance of Hamlet, a sportive gentleman threw half the carcase of a sheep upon the stage: but this seems to have been a mere ebullition of amiable vivacity, not an expression of opinion.

The review contains many such pearls. Cliff's book is about the trans-Atlantic rivalry between the Shakespearean actors Edwin Forrest and William Charles Macready, which climaxed in an infamous riot that left 26 dead in Astor Place. As the critic Michael Dobson notes, there's nothing to commemorate this atrocity at the spot. And I suspect there is no photograph or playbill to commemorate the following historical tidbit, in an image almost as hard to conjure as it is to shake:
Awaiting action against the Mexican army in Texas in 1845, the young Lieutenant Ulysses S. Grant played Desdemona.

So that's who's in the tomb.

Bad Children's Art

Warning: This hilariously mean site almost made me choke on my sandwich.

Who Knew?

Time Out's Adam Feldman at Spotlight Live. Dude can really sing.

Sep 18, 2007

The Ethics of (P)Reviews

I made a point of staying out of this controversy, because I'm of two minds about it, and I know both parties. Today's piece by Terry Teachout, though it doesn't explicitly reference the Hunka/Jacobs kerfluffle, seems in this context a salutary air-clearing. Money graf:
Old-fashioned print-media critics like [Chicago Tribune's Chris] Jones and me no longer have a monopoly on drama criticism. Not only are theater-oriented blogs, message boards and chat rooms thriving, but the Web sites of a growing number of newspapers now permit readers to post their own reviews à la, and to do so while the shows in question are still in previews. With playgoers "publishing" their opinions of new shows whenever they please, is there any reason for producers to keep on holding critics at bay until the last minute?

Maybe not--and maybe that won't be such a bad thing.

Sep 17, 2007

"Stones" to "Rock"

My review of Marie Jones' new Rock Doves is here. I was disappointed, in a word; I was among the few critics in L.A. who liked the Taper production of Stones in His Pockets

Sep 14, 2007

Give Him a "Break"

My review of Danny Hoch's uneven but exhilarating Till the Break of Dawn is here. I also spoke to him for a brief TDF piece.

Sep 12, 2007

Classics Dept.

The weight of this sad time we must obey,
Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.
The oldest have borne most; we that are young
Shall never see so much, nor live so long.

The final quatrain of King Lear rang with particular resonance last night, on the 6th anniversary of 9/11, and not least because the actor playing Edgar in the RSC production at BAM, Ben Meyjes, is among the few apart from the show's billed star, Sir Ian McKellen, to stand out in Trevor Nunn's otherwise rather dreary, exasperating production. As for Sir Ian, I was thrilled to see him take on the role, but I felt none of the role's tragic heft. It's a very physical, very watchable, yet somehow hollow performance, in a production that has formidable scale but very little theatrical life.

I'm afraid I was also underwhelmed by Chuck Mee's Iphigenia 2.0 at Signature Theatre Company. I like Mee's aesthetic in principle, and in practice I loved his Berlin Circle (later staged as Full Circle) and Big Love. But I felt, with the stakes and passions as high--as Greek--as they're pitched in Iphigenia, where's the language? So much of the dialogue is pedestrian, serviceable, or, as is Mee's wont, "found" text, and it's just not up to the task, frankly. Director Tina Landau hosts a good, jagged party, and Kate Mulgrew wrings a lot out of the very little she has. But why put an actor as good as Rocco Sisto in a military outfit and give him nothing particularly penetrating to say, and no obstacles to push against? And does anything Tom Nelis' Agamemnon say or do after his stirring opening speech make a lick of sense? Iphigenia 2.0 is a short jaunt next to Lear's long drag, but it felt similarly tedious.

Sep 11, 2007

"Kinsey" Report

My review of Mike Folie's new play Alfred Kinsey: A Love Story is here.

Sep 7, 2007

Gimme Five

My review of David Rhodes' solo show Rites of Privacy is here. Time Out's Adam Feldman seems to not disagree.

Sep 4, 2007

An L.A. "Defense"

Not to sound a monotonously boosterish note here, but amid the great news that the Lark Play Development Center's first "Playwrights of New York" (PONY) playwriting fellowship is going to go to Carson Kreitzer, I haven't seen mentioned the playwright's strong, dark, feminist play Self Defense (with the chillingly dismissive subtitle "the death of some salesmen"), which ran memorably at L.A.'s Actors' Gang in 2004 and provided an uncharacteristically meaty acting vehicle for the formidable Cynthia Ettinger. The piece was overshadowed for another reason: It was based on the heavily interpreted case of Aileen Wournos, the serial killer executed in 2002, which was also the subject of a few other media products around the same time.