Friday, October 22, 2010

I Gotta Crow!

If you haven't yet picked up your print copy of today's Times-Picayune, may I suggest you do so before I buy out all the extant copies? Ted Mahne's review (previously posted online) is now available on recycled tree bark (on page 11 - almost all of page 11) and sporting a new headline (and, yeah, I'm sorry a tree had to die for this and all, but ... fuck it).

The review now says, "A STELLAR DEBUT" in big, big, bold, capital-lettered print. It also has one of those subheading-things (I don't know what newspaper people call 'em), crowing, "Bravura performances, sure-handed direction make 'Frozen' a memorably intense drama." And then, like as if they wanted to put a humongous drippy-wet cherry on top, they used one of my photographs of the cast and spread it out to cover four columns.

I'm sorry to be carrying on like this and acting so full of myself, but, dammit, "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and ... people like me."

Besides, the show will have closed after tomorrow night; I will not have recovered my monetary investment; and I will have returned to my usual gray and pointless existence ...

Until then, I'm feeling all testosterone-y, and I don't want to give it up just yet. So, pardon me, but ... well, GET OFF MY RUNWAY!

Oh. I forgot. My cast, my stage manager, and my lighting man all helped to make this blood-rush possible.

Oh and yeah! And Richard Mayer, too - the owner of the Shadowbox Theatre. Him, too. Yeah.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

What Can I Say?

Our first review for Frozen (from the Times-Picayune) has just been published online. Among other things, the reviewer Ted Mahne says:
The city’s newest theatrical troupe, the Crescent Theatre Collective, has made its debut this month with a startling production that pounces on the audience with a story that is as horrifying as it is heartbreaking. With playwright Bryony Lavery’s “Frozen,” the company’s trio of fine actors offers a scorching examination of the nature of grief, crime and punishment, vengeance and forgiveness. ...

As “Frozen” reaches beyond Shakespearean levels of tragedy, the quality of mercy is quite strained indeed.

In the newly improvised space called the Shadow Box Theatre, director Glenn Meche uses a sparse but essential production in presenting Lavery’s story and argument. He also has the finest cast to handle the piercing work.

As Agnetha, Liz Mills mines the deeply hidden passions behind the psychiatrist’s crisply clinical approach to her subject. In what could be a one-note role, Mills captures the character’s complexity, slowly revealing the vulnerability behind the façade.

Keith Launey gives a gripping performance as Ralph, as he underplays the part with an eerie, low-key silence, exposing the horrors of his actions in the banality of his sheer ordinariness. Precisely because he underplays the part, the explosive bursts are all the more powerful.

At the drama’s emotional core is Diana Shortes as Nancy. Tightly wound and seemingly in complete control, her struggle is vibrantly real and heart-wrenching. In the stark lighting, her raw emotions are revealed with the slightest inflection, a gentle catch in her throat, a withdrawn sob or, at last, an attempt at reaching out to another person. Among her final scenes with Launey, when a sense of forgiveness is at hand, the playwright throws a significant curve questioning the entire premise of the sharply written psychodrama.

Its intensity makes “Frozen” not an easy show to view. But fans of serious drama should head to the ever growing theater scene along St. Claude Avenue to take in three bravura performances, guided with pinpoint directorial precision.
(Full disclosure: I did not pay Mr. Mahne for this review.)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Director's Note

From the program for our production of Frozen:
Some years ago, I encountered a book that turned me topsy-turvy. That book was called The Return of the Prodigal Son and was written by Henri J. M. Nouwen. It’s a short book, a meditation on the painting by Rembrandt that hangs in the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia. What had me flummoxed during that first encounter was Nouwen’s discourse (re the painting’s Gospel source) on the true nature of forgiveness, its cost, its consequence, and the fact that it need not be merited. I confess, it took me some months to absorb that possibility into my bones.

Forgiveness need not be merited? How can the forgiven one deal with that? Yet another price we pay for living on this plane.

Since then, I’d never expected to encounter another treatise on forgiveness that was as “unforgiving” as that one had been. Of course, I did encounter one again as soon as I opened the cover of the published text of Bryony Lavery’s play FROZEN.

In this drama we are presented with three individuals who must confront the terrible aspects of forgiveness: Agnetha Gottmondsdottir, a psychiatrist specializing in brain disorders of serial killers; Nancy Shirley, the mother of a murdered child; and Ralph Ian Wantage, the pedophile who slaughtered Nancy’s ten-year-old daughter.

The forgiveness meted out in the play is cold and detached, more Eastern than Western, yet the price paid for it is still dear. Forgiveness may heal the victim, but what harm might it bring about in the one being forgiven, and who should (must?) assume responsibility for the outcome?

The play also posits the question of self-forgiveness, perhaps the most difficult state to attain; and a question left hanging at the end of the play.

It is my greatest wish that FROZEN will pose these questions, and others, to you, as it did to me, as it moves deliberately and inexorably from its beginning to its end. Watch it and listen to it closely. It is a different play from other plays. To me, it is a Way of the Cross. Or a Mass for the Dead.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Whew ... !

You can all relax now and get some sleep. Frozen opened tonight. We had an appreciative audience. Diana, Keith, and Liz were in top form and, frankly, astounded a few of those who were attending. As for me, as tired as I've been the past few days, tonight I can't seem to sleep. I'll probably just go sit out in the patio for a while and relive it all in the moonlight. G'night.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

One More Day, Then ... Rest

FROZEN
by Bryony Lavery


Liz Mills, Keith Launey

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Countdown Continues

FROZEN
by Bryony Lavery


Liz Mills, Diana Shortes

Monday, October 11, 2010

Countdown to Opening Night

FROZEN
by Bryony Lavery


Diana Shortes, Keith Launey, Liz Mills

Friday, October 8, 2010

Theatre Tips

Since so many people will be attending our production of Frozen, which opens next Thursday, October 14th, at the Shadowbox Theatre on the corner of St. Claude and St. Roch, I thought it might be a good idea to post some FAQ's cadged from a website for the Circle in the Square Theatre's Broadway production of the "new American play" Lombardi. Sadly some of these FAQ's have disappeared following some typical Noo Yawkah snark, but can still be found reposing here.

I believe these little suggestions can do wonders for our New Orleans audiences:
I’ve never been to a ... show. What should I expect?
Attending a theatrical performance ... is thrilling. You will experience world-class talent—both on the stage and behind-the-scenes—performing live, just for you.

What do I need to do before the show starts?
Purchasing a ticket is required for a live theatre performance and it will be for a specific date and show. ...

What happens when I get to the theatre?
An usher will greet you, ask for your ticket, and ... give you a printed program. Be sure to arrive early enough to read it, so you have an idea of what to expect during the show.

What is expected of me once the curtain goes up?
Please don’t talk! The actors will be performing live for you. It’s important that you listen very well so that you don’t miss anything and so that you don’t disturb others around you. Let the actors know that you appreciate the show: Laugh at the funny parts, applaud when you like something, but remember to respond respectfully and appropriately. The actors are right in front of you and their performance will be affected by your reactions.

What is expected of me when it’s over?
When the performance is over, it’s important to show your appreciation by applauding for the performers. Please stay in your seat during the curtain call when the actors come onstage to take their bows. Wait until it is over and then exit with the rest of the audience. It’s okay to stand and applaud if you really loved the show. If you want to give the actors your highest praise, you can give them a standing ovation.
See you soon, playgoers!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

One Week From Today!

Bryony Lavery's meditation on forgiveness and its repercussions is a remarkable play, terrifying, heartbreaking, and at times as funny as the shocking rediscovery of the mundane can be. Performed by a remarkable cast, Diana Shortes, Liz Mills, and Keith Launey. Get your reservations here. They're cheap. Um, make that reasonably priced.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Like a Virgin

I fell cleansed, all my sins washed away like oil off a pelican being scrubbed down with Dawn.

Late last week, my new (newer? most recent?) computer ran one of its monthly self-tests to see if anything was wrong with it. I'm not so sure that's a good idea, someone or something testing itself for problems. Whenever I've taken the trouble to run any kind of self-test on myself, I usually find I have some new variety of clap I've just read about or whatever cancer is being spotlighted on the cable news cycle this go-round. I know other people who find nothing to worry about at all, who find they're doing better than they or anyone else had any reason to hope they'd be, but I'm not one of those.

And neither, it turns out, is my new (newer? most recent?) computer. He took one look at his innards and screamed for me to call 911 like Bobby did that time his Medtronics misfired and he started flopping around the living room floor like a hard-hooked prize bass. Of course, because of that little history, I wasted no time and called the number for Hewlett-Packard support. The nice lady who answered the phone asked me if my little PC had given a code for what ails him (sort of like, "It hurts here in my tummy, mommy, no, lower, lower, yeah, there - oh, ow!")

Good thing I called! When the lady had looked up the symptoms, I mean the code, she came back on the phone, saying, "OMG! (That's what she said.) OMG! You're due for a hard drive failure. Back up! Back up everything you have. Do it STAT!"

Luckily, I had good insurance, so she put a call out for an ambulance - I mean, a technician - to come to my aid and replace the defective part. (Something Medtronics seemed in no hurry to do for Bobby on that other occasion.) The part arrived Friday, the technician came yesterday; and since then, I've been sitting here letting the little fellow take it easy and receive his nourishment intravenously through my Internet connection. That's where my backup is, you see. This has happened before, and after the last time, I invested in a reasonable-cost subscription to one of those sites that don't exist on our plane of existence, but rather in the ether ... out ... there. So all I had to do was flick the metaphorical IV switch and wait.

Yeah, he's fattening up nicely and should be up and about in a day or two or three.

I'm kind of proud of myself for the way I handled all this. I can remember a time I'd have lost my mind and run off in search of a not-metaphorical pistol with which to end it all. But maybe age and endured disasters have taught me a lesson: everything passes, whatever is here for you in the here and now will evaporate, that which you hold lovingly in the palms of your hands will dry into dust and be blown away.

Unless!

Unless you've invested in one of those ethereal companies that back up your shit for you for those times - like these - when this kind of thing happens! That, my friends, that is what I call putting your money on faith in God!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Almost!

First, let me apologize for having left you hanging for so long. I know it's not like me to be such a strong, silent type of guy, but, well, I've been busy. More on that another time.

What I want to to tell you about today is this play I went to see yesterday afternoon at Loyola University and about how a thoroughly pleasant experience can be ruined by someone's careless act or another's crass maneuver of oneupmanship; actions, perhaps inherently harmless, yet powerful enough to produce a rage sufficient to induce one to want to climb up to the nearest clock tower with an arsenal of automatic weapons, there to unleash one's fury on all the little bug-people crawling around below.

My journey from the Quarter to the upper regions of the Uptown milieu started pleasantly enough. The day was beautiful, sunny and cool. I drove with the windows down, something I haven't been able to do for months. I stopped twice on the way to pick up two accommodating friends who were going to accompany me. Unbeknownst to me at the time, the director of the play, who is a friend of ours, had arranged that we would be comped our admission, something I hadn't wanted to do because I believe that New Orleans theatres should get whatever little pittance they can for the work they do. But this was Loyola University, which means it's Catholic, which means it is not state-run, which means "money already in the budget". So no harm, no foul.

Pleasant.

The play was a little piece called Almost, Maine, written by John Cariani, who I used to love catching up with as an actor on Law and Order (author's note: I was unaware of this fact until I just Googled him - the minute I saw his face, I knew). The play is sweet and wise and well worth catching if you're around here and reading this in time.

But, oh, how all good things can turn to dust. It began at the end of the last scene of the first act. A couple are in the process of breaking up when the young man presents his young lady friend an engagement ring. She accepts his proposal, and he sweetly places the ring on the third finger ... of her right hand. I was startled. Her right hand?

'S'up wi' dat? Is this something young people are doing nowadays to separate them from the generations that have gone before? In my day, we occupied college presidents' offices. We trashed and burned classrooms. Is this new complacent generation satisfied with ringing the wrong - right - hand in a proposal of marriage. My God, a girl child knows by the age of eighteen months that the inevitable ring will - must - go on the other hand, the right hand, meaning the left! It's genetic, it's in the estrogen they get from their mothers' milk.

I asked one of my friends, the young one, about this. He was startled by it, too, and unaware of any youthful radical agenda hovering over the nation's college campuses having to do with politically-correct notions of marriage in America. I determined to question my director friend about this - ruthlessly.

And I will.

The other thing that ruined the afternoon for me happened shortly thereafter.

I needed to go in search of a restroom. I found one easily enough and slipped inside. Once done, I made my way between a surging crowd of college boys to the lavatory to rinse my hands. Then, once done with that, I looked around for a paper-towel dispenser or one of those hot-air blower things. I saw a blower on the wall opposite the sink.

Bad design, Mr. Architect. What's that thing they say about "form" and "structure"?

Unfortunately for me, another man - a grown man - had taken his place at the blower and was reveling in the warmth. I patiently waited, as did a student who had washed his hands after me. Then another student and another. One or two more ...

The man wasn't moving. No sooner had the blower stopped blowing than he would press the big button to make it blow again. The man was a fucking heat hoarder! It was evident he was going to stand there until the last kid had gotten fed up enough to leave the room, dripping.

Which is what we all had to do. I can only imagine the thoughts racing through the minds of the people who saw us sheepishly leaving the restroom. A mass of males puddling the vast terrazzo stretches of academe.

Outside, the theatre's now-peckish house manager was irritably ushering the laggard attendees back into the theatre, those attendees being us, the restroom brigade, the members of the Order of the Dribbling Appendages.

Once settled into my seat near the door, I couldn't help but notice the last figure to return, a certain grown man, boasting pink, dry, waterless hands and a sloppy, complacent grin plastered across the lower half of his ugly, fat, pink face.

It took the combined effort of my two friends to hold me down and stifle the growls rumbling in my throat as the second act began.

Luckily for me - and the crowds on that campus - the play ended well, and I was soothed.

Soothed enough to make me momentarily forget my planned excursion to that clock tower.

Another day spared from justice and jail.

(All snarkiness aside, I loved this production. You can find out what I really thought of it here.)
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