Tuesday, August 21, 2012

POST-OLYMPIC BLUES - the summer's too hot to handle

Summer is baking away like my attempt at souffle.

I keep reaching for the remote thinking the Olympics is a regularly scheduled TV show.

When I was forced at gunpoint to read Thornton Wilder's OUR TOWN in high school, I scowled like the devil. What a pile of crap.

As a young more conscientious adult, I saw a televised production of OUR TOWN and hit the library the next day to secure a copy of it. I loved it. Oh impatient youth.

I spent the first half of the summer as Howie Newsome the milk man in The Amherst Players' production of OUR TOWN. It's a checkpoint on my bucket list - cast in "Our Town".

We had a great little run - two weekends - and I met a warm group of wonderful actors and theatre folk. Oh, and I won a bottle of wine in a basket raffle drawing at the theatre.
                                     The cast of "Our Town".  As always I am bottom left.

I'm cast as "Factotum" - all the bit parts - in The New Phoenix Theatre's Curtain Up production of Mr. and Mrs. Nobody, by renowned British writer Keith Waterhouse (novel: Billy Liar), and directed by his son, New Phoenix's Artistic Director Robert Waterhouse. I'm privileged to be part of the production.

My bro wires me shows he thinks I will like. He sent me HBO's Luck and I savored each of the nine episodes. I don't see a lot of tee-vee programs, but I loved this horse racing drama that was cancelled after one season when a third horse died during the production of the series. I'm fan-boy.

Is there any one else in all the world who can not find a reason to like Entourage?

I was crawling through the second floor of a junk store (a rapidly disappearing enterprise) when I found a rolled up tube of cardboard underneath a pile of rubble and reached in it to find a beautiful Van Gogh print of The Bridge in pristine condition. The cashier charged me 50 cents for it. I put it in a green frame and it is  -

I went to a lecture on antique glass bottles at a local library and afterwords they had a drawing for an antique milk bottle. I wish I was as lucky with Mega Millions.

Watched another Norwegian documentary about 1990s black metal music. Until The Light Takes Us is dark and cool and grim. It's available on Netflix instant viewing.

I'm listening to Saint-Saens' Carnival of The Animals.

And reading recently resurrected Magnet magazine issues.

And thinking about a quote from the recently passed Phyllis Diller: "I am such a bad cook, my TV dinners taste like radio."

Close 'er up big dummy.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Book Review: THE BEST AMERICAN SHORT PLAYS 2010-2011, edited by William W. Demastes

The latest in a long line of collected short plays of a given theatre season The Best American Short Plays 2010-2011 (Applause Theatre and Cinema Books) offers 21 short dramatic and comedic plays by generally unknown playwrights that all evolve - according to the editor, theatre writer William W. Demastes - around the theme of love. An argument may be offered that all literary work is thematically based on love. A bad pun may be suggested that given this diverse collection, love is a many splintered thing.

If love is in the air throughout these 21 works, it is coy in Lorin Howard's slight The Subtext of Texting, in which lovers fail to communicate their true feelings while texting cute cliches and smiley faces to each other. It is neurotic in G. Flores' The Coyote Stratagem, in which a chalk circle with imaginary barbed wire is drawn on a garage floor as a means of creating boundaries and communication between two parties in a dissolving relationship.

Love is strange in Janet Alward's amusing Creatures, in which a man confesses to his girlfriend at a drive-in movie (showing a horror film) that he is indeed a werewolf. And it is perverted, if not entirely absent in Lindsay Marianna Walker and Dawson Moore's creepy Six Dead Bodies Duct-Taped to a Merry-Go-Round, in which two guys traveling in a truck with a cargo of human corpses contemplate a lewd act.

Lisa Soland's Thread Count successfully bridges a modernist narrative with an old-fashioned corny tale of a country bumpkin on a sightseeing tour of New York City. It offers zippy Neil Simon-like exchanges between her and a Macy's Department store sales clerk. It's unabashedly romantic, while chartering a satisfying and emotional drive that proves a play need not be sappy to be wholesome.

The crowning offering is Gabriel Rivas Gomez's Scar Tissue. In this psychological, minimally staged extravagance - it includes percussive sounds, projected images and several scene changes - a renowned heart surgeon, coping with the death of her soldier daughter in Afghanistan, plans a life-saving and complicated operation on a returned soldier who suffers from post traumatic stress. The taut play reaches a fever pitch of emotion that is disturbing, even heart wrenching.

For a theatre director or producer looking for plays to fill the gaps in a production of one-acts, this collection is a bountiful of pleasing oddities. Each work offers something worthwhile, if at times only an amused notion. The collection runs the gamut of the most serious drama to the most irreverent topical trinkets like text messaging and active profiles of deceased people on Facebook.

While some come dangerously close to sitcom level, others may very well be the early work of an exciting new voice in the theatre.

this review was first published at blogcritics.