Observations Along the Road

Theatre Writeups, Musings on the News, Rants and Roadkill Along the Information Superhighway

Stew for the Week: Lemurs and Lions and Iron, Oh My!

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Nov 16, 2014 @ 1:39 pm PST

Observation StewAs you can see by my previous two posts, yesterday was a busy busy day. So today, while I eat lunch, let me share with you some news chum stew items for the week:

  • Public Media Losses. Last week, I had to report the sad news that Tom Magliozzi had past way. This week brings news of the loss of another public media personality — this time from the public television side. Yes, Jovian, the lemur better known as Zooboomafu, has passed away.
  • Cast In… Iron. Sometimes, the best thing is the simplest. Consider the cast iron pan. I have quite a few of them, inherited from my grandparents. You’ve probably heard bad things about cast iron, but here is the truth.
  • Irvine. When you hear the word “Irvine”, what do you think of? Robert Irvine of Restaurant Impossible? UC Irvine (one of the blander UCs out there, although it is a good school)? A very homogenized Orange County community? If you’re old enough, you will think of Lion Country Safari, which used to be in the Irvine hills. Here’s a look back at Lion Country Safari.



Nottingham II – Faire Harder

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Nov 16, 2014 @ 11:45 am PST

userpic=faireThis weekend is the 2nd Annual Nottingham Festival (FB). For those not familiar with the Nottingham Festival, it is an attempt by Faire Folks in Ventura County (especially the folks behind Actors Rep of Simi Valley) to bring back the feel of the Renaissance Faires as they existed in the days when the Faire first began at Paramount Ranch in Ventura. They did a Kickstarter about 2 years ago with plans to bring back a multi-weekend faire. They haven’t gotten to that point yet, but they did bring back a one-weekend faire last year, and another one-weekend faire this year.

Last year’s Faire had its problems. There were loads of logistic problems: the Faire opening and entry was a clusterf*k, and the layout was less than ideal. I’m pleased to say that this year the problems were gone. There were no long lines at entry; the only problem was finding the Kickstarter table for those of us that got passes this year. The opening of the Faire entertainment was good, and modulo the iPad ticket code scanners occasionally acting up, entry was a breeze.

The layout of the Faire was also much much improved. Last year, the food vendors were in this narrow corridor that was a chokepoint. This year, the food vendors were moved to the middle of the main area, where there was space for lines to form without crowding. The narrow corridor was turned into an additional vendor space. The food choices were good, although some of the ran out of food early (especially the meat pies and the cookie vendor). Hopefully that has been corrected today; they should have more food next year.

Relocating the food also meant relocating the Masters Area. Unlike what RenFaire has become, Nottingham exists for a love of history. They have a Master’s Pavillion where famous historical masters speak about their expertise. We heard an interesting talk from Michaelanglo, for example. The new location was very good.

The vendors formed an interesting mix, but more are needed. There were quite a few clothing vendors (including Hearts Delight), some leather vendors, one glassware vendor, numerous jewelry vendors, and a few woodcraft items. There were no wand vendors or pottery vendors. Hopefully, as Nottingham grows and the word spreads about it, the vendor choice will grow.

Entertainment was good: there were a variety of shows, and it looks like that variety was growing. We saw the Country Garden Dancers and Wren of Iniquity; I believe Nicole’s former group, the Parrot Cove Morris, was also performing. In the shows, I also ran into a friend from college days (Mike Urban) that I hadn’t seen in years — an unexpected boon!

One of the great things about Nottingham is that it is small. It isn’t the gigantic thing that Southern has become — it is managable. Further, it hasn’t become wacky. We did our usual looking for WTF costumes. There were precious few — a couple of iridescent fairy wings, barbarians in metal bras. But the outlandish just wasn’t there — there were no Jack Sparrows; there were no Camelot style costumes. This made things much enjoyable.

Nottingham is growing right, and I look forward to attending next year. They’ve also been good to their Kickstarter supporters — we’ve actually gotten tickets included two years in a row, although this year we didn’t learn about it until after I had bought two tickets. That’s OK — we just brought two friends with us and introduced them to the faire!

P.S.: This year … no blisters. Thank you, Five Fingers.

But He Looks Nothing Like Lucy Liu

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Nov 16, 2014 @ 10:12 am PST

Sherlock Holmes and the Adventures of the Suicide Clubuserpic=repeastAs an author, you hope that your literary creations live on after you; if this occurs, your memory stays alive long after the body is gone. When we think of Oz, we think of L. Frank Baum (even if, as is the case for Wicked, the real author is Gregory Maguire). When we think of Sherlock Holmes, we think of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Doyle’s Holmes has proved remarkably adaptable to many mileaus, as we currently see on our TV screens with both the BBC “Sherlock” and the CBS “Elementary” (which I enjoy). Sherlock has also seen many adaptions for the stage, many of which I have written about (as Repertory East Playhouse enjoys doing Sherlock stories). One of the most recent Sherlock stage adaptions was commissioned by the Arizona Theatre Company in 2011.  There, as the result of a bet between an artistic director and a playwright, a new play was born. The story, as told in the excellent Play Guide for the play from ATC, is this: The artistic director of ATC and author Jeffrey Hatcher were visiting Minneapolis, and went to see one of the many Sherlock Holmes plays. At intermission Hatcher was poking holes in the logic of the play, since of course a Sherlock Holmes play has to have airtight logic. Hatcher said to the ATC director something like, “Well I can write a better Sherlock Holmes play
than anyone.” And he said, “Prove it.” The result: “Sherlock Holmes and the Adventures of the Suicide Club“, a production of which just opened at Repertory East Playhouse (REP East) (FB) in Newhall (and which we saw last night).

To build his play, Hatcher took Doyle’s creations and transported them into a different story, adapting both to create a new hybrid story. This has been done a lot with Sherlock Holmes, to varying results. The Sir Arthur Conan Doyle estate has tried to keep a lid on all stories that use Holmes; I could find no statement that this new play was officially licensed from the estate. I’ll note that it no longer matters, as the Supreme Court just ruled that Sherlock and the characters are in the public domain (so let the Holmes/Watson slash fiction begin, ugh). In any case, the story in the play is not canon. [I will note that the play does require credit be given to the Arizona Theatre Company, so I'll do so here.]

For this play, Hatcher combined the basic Holmes characters and settings (Holmes, Watson, Mycroft, 221-B Baker Street) with a collection of short stories by Robert Louis Stevenson written long before Sherlock Holmes. These stories dealt with an organization called “The Suicide Club“, and involved an investigator, Prince Florizel of Bohemia, and his assistant, Colonel Geraldine, having a series of adventures involving the club. I’ll let you read the Wiki page on the stories if you want, as most of the elements of stories remained in the plot of the play. As I noted, Hatcher transformed Florizel and Geraldine into Holmes and Watson, shifted the action to 1916 in London, and brought in some elements of the surrounding geo-political situation. Hatcher drew on his experience as a TV writer for such detectives as Columbo.

As with any Holmes story, you don’t want to give away the plot. Dramatists Play Service, who licenses the play, describes it thusly: “In the heart of London, behind the impassive facade of a windowless house, some of Europe’s most powerful men gather to play a game. The game is murder, and this is The Suicide Club. But the club has a new member, Sherlock Holmes: brilliant, brooding, the greatest detective in the world. Why does Holmes wish to die? Can his friend Dr. Watson save him? Or doesn’t Holmes want to be saved?”

Now you know the background. As with any stage production, assessing it requires looking at three parts (four, if it is a musical): the story, the performance, (the dance and music,) and the technical side. How well did Hatcher do creating this hybrid? Was it a Frankenstein monster, or a long-lived organ transplant?

To me, the story was about 85% there. A friend of mine (who attended with us) noted that a good detective story should be dropping clues along the way as to the final outcome. He didn’t see such clues in the first act; neither did I. He thought that hurt the presentation of the story; I didn’t. I did notice that the story had lots of scene changes (unlike other Sherlock plays), and a lot less of the deductive Holmes reasoning one has come to expect from the play. In fact, there was a lot less Holmes/Watson interplay than one usually sees. This added to the graft-i-ness of the story. But if you set those expectations aside, the story itself was a good one. It had many twists that I didn’t see coming, and although I had figured out some of the end game, I didn’t completely figure it out until the reveal at the end. That’s why I assessed it at 85%; I think an author more skilled in the world of Sherlock Holmes could likely have done better. As such, I don’t think that Hatcher won his bet with the ATC director; this wasn’t a better Sherlock play than anyone else could have written. It might be a good detective story, but the question was “a Sherlock play”.

Let’s turn to the performance side of the question. This production was, in many ways, a REP family affair. Sherlock stories tend to bring the people behind the REP to the stage: In this case, the REP Executive Director, Ovington Michael Owston (FB), was Watson; the REP Artistic Director,  Mikee Schwinn/FB, was Holmes; and the REP Board president, Bill Quinn/FB, returned to the stage to play two minor characters. Additionally, another REP regular, J. T. Centonze (FB), was also back on stage. This didn’t hurt the production; rather, it is one of the times that REP gives the feeling that it is a true repertory company made up completely of people who love being on stage (something, I’ll note, that I could never do, so they have my respect).

As the leads, Schwinn and Owston dropped comfortably back into the characters (having portrayed them on at least two previous REP Sherlock outings). The two are good friends in real life, and that comfort is visible on the stage in the unspoken interplay between the two. Although there were a few line hesitations (not surprising given the amount of dialogue, limited rehearsal, and the fact that this was the 2nd performance), they were quickly forgotten when viewed in the overall. These two are just fun to watch.

Supporting the leads were a variety of different characters. The ones that stand out in my memory are Collette Rutherford (FB)’s portrayal of the club secretary, Jessica Lynn Parson (FB)’s portrayal of Christiane DeLabegassier, and Joey Prata/FB‘s Prince Nikita Starloff. To go into more detail about why they stood out might reveal plot. Rounding out the remainder of the cast were Joe Roselund (FB) (Mr. Williams/Mr. Roundy); J. T. Centonze (FB) (Mr. Richards / Mycroft Holmes); Bill Quinn/FB (Mr. George / Inspector Micklewhite); Paul Nieman (FB) (Mr. Henry), and Nancy Lantis (FB) (Mrs. Hudson / Mrs. O’Malley / Older Woman). The production was directed by Kimbyrly M. Valis (FB). An interesting note discovered while building the links is that Valis is a Holmes purist — I’m curious how much that influenced how she had the actors portray things on stage.

On the technical side, REP did its usual excellent job. The sound design was by REP regular Nanook/FB ; lighting design was by William Thomas Andrew Davies/FB (as REP regular Tim Christianson/FB was unavailable). I’ll note this is the first time I’ve seen extensive use of the LED light bars that were acquired for “Return from the Forbidden Planet“. Projections were by Rick Pratt (FB) and served to augment Mikee and O’s set design. Costumes were designed by Tonya Nelson (FB) and were courtesy of No Strings Designed CostumesVicky Lightner/FB was the stage manager. “Sherlock Holmes and the Adventures of the Suicide Club” was produced by Mikee Schwinn/FB and Ovington Michael Owston (FB).

Sherlock Holmes and the Adventures of the Suicide Club ” continues at Repertory East (FB) until December 13.  Tickets are available through the REP East Online Box Office, as well as through Goldstar.

Repertory East (FB) has announced their 2015 season: “Avenue Q” (January 16-February 14) , “Doubt” (March/April), “Dinner with Friends” (May-June), “Jesus Christ Superstar” (July-August), “Diviners” (September-October), and “Deathtrap” (November-December). Subscription packages start at $81 for a Flex Pass (4 shows), or $120 for all six shows.

One other note: Last night was the tree lighting in downtown Newhall. Had we known this, we would have picked a different night. Everything was packed, and had not a little birdie (thank you Johnny) told us about this at the last minute, we might not have made the show. As it was, we arrived around 6pm, walked down to a fast-food Mexican place (because the places next to REP had no seating until after 7pm, and the show started at 8pm), still didn’t get to order until 6:40 PM (due to the backup), and didn’t get our food until 7:15 PM. We made it back in time, but next time we’ll avoid the crowds.

[Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience. I've been attending live theatre in Los Angeles since 1972; I've been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I'm a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.]

Theatre continues next weekend when I visit my daughter Erin in Berkeley between 11/20 and 11/26, starting with “Harvey” at Palo Alto Players (FB) in Palo Alto for Friday 11/21. That will be followed Saturday afternoon with The Immigrant at Tabard Theatre (FB) in San Jose, and the Dickens Fair (FB) on Sunday in Daly City. Who knows, I might even squeeze in “Rhinocerous” at the UC Berkeley Theatre Department (FB). After I return, it is “Kinky Boots” at the Pantages (FB) on Sat 11/29. As for December, I just ticketed “She Loves Me” at Chance Theatre (FB) in Anaheim on 12/20, and we’ll probably go see Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at Nobel Middle School just before ACSAC. Right now, there is only one show booked for January 2015 – “An Evening with Groucho” at AJU with Frank Ferrente; additionally we’ll likely have the first show of the REP East (FB) season: “Avenue Q“.  As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, and Musicals in LA, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411.

How Quickly They Forget

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Nov 14, 2014 @ 11:50 am PST

userpic=ahmansonThe LA Times today has a series of articles on the 50th anniversary of the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion. However, in their desire to glorify the past, they have made one glaring omission: They completely forgot about Edwin Lester and the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera.

Reading the articles gives the impression that the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion was the home of the Philharmonic, Opera, and Dance; all theatre was under the purview of the Center Theatre Group, and was at the Ahmanson and the Taper. That, of course, is completely false.

Wikipedia has a good page on the LACLO; so does Broadway LA at the Pantages and the Philharmonic Auditorium. LACLO, founded by Edwin Lester, started in 1938 and shared space with the Philharmonic at the Philharmonic Auditorium. When the Chander Pavillion was completed, the LACLO moved there with the Philharmonic. The LACLO pioneered the notion of a “tour” to the West Coast; often Broadway productions that did not tour to the West Coast would import the production for the LACLO with the original Broadway stars. LACLO also started a number of shows that either made it to Broadway, or attempted to make it to Broadway and failed. These included Song of Norway (1944), Magdalena (1948), Kismet (1953), Peter Pan (1954) and Gigi (1973). Among the aborted shows that I recall included a version of Gone with the Wind with Pernell Roberts, and “Sugar” with Robert Morse.

The LACLO is the reason I’m into theatre — my first live theatre was “The Rothschilds” at LACLO in 1972 with Hal Linden. My parents were LACLO subscribers, and they soon added me to their subscriptions. This is when I fell in love with the theatre.

LACLO operated in parallel with the Center Theatre Group; often CTG productions were bonus shows for LACLO. I recall this being the case for my favorite show, “Two Gentlemen of Verona”, which was my first show at the Ahmanson. In general, the LACLO did musicals; CTG did plays.

According to Wikipedia, during the 1950s and 1960s the LACLO was the most financially successful musical theatre subscription organization of its kind. However, in the 1970s the organization’s audience size began to decrease and by the 1980s the company was experiencing serious financial difficulties. The company’s last production was of John Kander’s Cabaret in 1987.  Wikipedia doesn’t note that what did the company in — beyond the quality of 1980s theatre — was the growth of alternate houses such as the Shubert (which opened in the mid 1970s) and the Pantages (which opened in the early 1980s).

The Broadway LA folks (who claim to be the successors to the LACLO) note that in 1981, the Nederlander Organization bailed out the financially-ailing Los Angeles Civic Light Opera. In their words: “While many of these productions continued to light up the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and the Ahmanson Theatre at the Los Angeles County Music Center, as available windows for booking shows at those venues became smaller and smaller, the Nederlanders eventually opted to utilize the Pantages to house the LACLO season of shows.” The translation: Once the Nederlanders got control, they slowly moved more and more productions to the houses they controlled (and of course, never to the Shubert theatre in Century City).  And thus, the LACLO faded from view at the Music Center, to be replaced by Nederlander tours at the Pantages. All that was left was the mailing list.

[Edited to Add: Over on Facebook, Ron Bruguiere provided some additional clarification to the above, noting: "In your blog, you neglect to mention Feuer and Martin. They took over CLO from Edwin Lester in 1976, lasting until 1980. The subscribers were extremely unhappy in 1977 with Liza Minnelli in “Shine It On” which when it opened in NYC, was known as “The Act.”  1981 is when the Nederlander organization begin producing the CLO productions, and the blue-haired ladies let it be known that there was too much blood in “Sweeney Todd,” the subscribers were very displeased, and subscriptions fell off. By 1987, when CLO closed, the subscriber base was greatly diminished."]

Still, any look back at the contributions of the Music Center must acknowledge the LACLO. For many many years, the LACLO was the outlet for musical theatre in LA — even after CTG started. It wasn’t until the death of Lester and the Nederlanders taking over the remains of the LACLO that the Ahmanson became a musical house.

As we look back on 50 years of the Dorothy Chandler, let’s remember the days when musical theatre could fill a 3,150 seat house that actually had great accoustics as well as glamour. Let’s remember the contributions of Edwin Lester and the LA Civic Light Opera.



Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Nov 09, 2014 @ 6:22 pm PST

Handle with Care (Colony Theatre)userpic=colonyNormally, when I write up shows I’ve seen at the The Colony Theatre (FB), you’re getting the write-up just before the last show. That’s just because that’s when our season tickets happen to be. However, for the Colony’s current show, our season tickets are just before the start of the Annual Computer Security Applications Conference in New Orleans (you are going, aren’t you — advance registration closes November 14), so I had to change the date. Due to a busy theatre calendar, this means we saw the new Colony show “Handle With Care“‘s second performance. So, for a change, you can act upon my recommendation to go.

I should warn you that the advertising for “Handle With Care” (written by Jason Odell Williams (FB), directed by Karen Carpenter (FB)) is misleading. The elevator pitch advertising calls it a “Jewish Christmas Play”. Sorry, but the only real connection to Christmas is that it occurs on Christmas Eve, which really isn’t that major of a plot contrivance. The short description on the Colony website is just a little better:

Magic can happen in the unlikeliest places ─ like Christmas Eve in a seedy motel, where fate and bizarre circumstances bring together a young Israeli woman who has little command of English, and a young American man with little command of romance. Is their love an accident? Pure coincidence? Or is it destiny that’s been generations in the making? It’s a wonderful new play about love, communication, fate, and the importance of GPS-enabled tracking devices.

GPS-enabled tracking devices? C’mon, again, not a major plot point at all.

Let me give  you a better description of the setup. Ayelet, a young Israeli woman with little English ability, has been convinced to visit America with her safta (grandmother in Hebrew), Edna. Edna wants Ayelet to visit America to get her over the depression from the loss of a long-term boyfriend (along with some other reasons, which reveal themselves during the story). After visiting a number of towns in Virginia, they end up in a seedy motel in Goodview, VA. Shortly after arriving, Edna dies, and Ayelet makes arrangement to ship her body back to Israel. She contacts DHQ, a shipping service, and they send Terrence, one of their drivers, to pick up Ayelet and take her and the body to the airport to fly back to Israel. While waiting for Ayelet to pack, Terrence goes out to fuel the truck… and loses the box containing the body. All of the above you learn during flashbacks during the story. When the story opens, however, you just have Ayelet distraught and upset in rapid-fire Hebrew, and Terrence, who knows no Hebrew at all, trying to explain what happens. To help him, he calls in his Jewish-but-Secular friend Josh, because (of course) all Jews know Israeli Hebrew fluently. Josh himself is coming off a bad loss — again, we learn the details during the play — and he thinks Terrence is trying to set him up.

OK. Now. You have the setup. You have the short description. Ready. Set. Go.

Now that you know the story but not all the twists, let’s assess the story. There are two ways to look at it. For audience members that know not of Jews (yes, they do exist in LA) or Israelis (yes, they too do exist in LA), a lot of this play will go over their heads. They’ll be confused by the Hebrew, they won’t get some of the Jewish jokes or the jokes about Israel. Still, they’ll be amused by how the story plays out.

For folks like me in the audience, who know Judaism well, know a smattering of Hebrew, and know Israelis well — they’ll like the show ever more. From my little knowledge,  the director (who also directed the show off Broadway) captures the Israeli mannerisms well. This may be because the lead actress, Charlotte Cohn (FB), not only played the role off-Broadway and is married to the playwright, but is also Israeli (and Danish).

Now, for folks that speak Hebrew fluently… I have no idea. My Hebrew isn’t that good; I’m at the level of Josh in the play (or worse). I’d be curious how well the Hebrew Ayelet speaks fits the story — the few words I could hear seemed to work.

In the end, what “Handle With Care” turns out to be is a very cute story about people finding love, perhaps where they didn’t expect it. However, what it isn’t is a Christmas story. Sure, it happens just before Christmas, serving to limit the availability of DHQ drivers. Sure, It’s a Wonderful Life is on the TV, but that’s just so people can impersonate Jimmy Stewart. There’s no real connection to the holiday; and certainly no clash of the holiday titans. Go to this show because you want to see a cute, Jewish/Israeli themed love story. Go to this play because you want to see a story that paints Israelis as real people — just like you and me.

As I’ve noted before, in the lead position was Charlotte Cohn (FB). Cohn knows this story well —  she’s a Danish-Israeli Jew married to a “lapsed” Catholic-Protestant (the playwright). She brings a lot of fun and passion to the part — you can see she enjoys playing this character and bringing this young woman to life.  She’s just fun to watch. Playing off her, as Josh, is Tyler Pierce (FB). Pierce gives off a very affable air that works well for the character; he’s believable as a relatively non-practicing Jew.

Rounding out the cast are Jeff Marlow (FB) as Terrence and Marcia Rodd (FB) as Edna. Marlow is fun to watch as Terrence — he radiates a youthful joy and innocence (or perhaps it is stupidity) that is both infectuous… and annoying to the other characters. He screwed up, is confronted by something and someone he doesn’t understand, and is grabbing for something to hold on to. Rodd’s Edna is the opposite: centered, strange, and clearly driven by some purpose that neither the audience (nor Ayelet) comprehends (until it is made clear in the second act :-)).

In short: this piece is well performed and directed.

Turning to the technical side: The scenic design by David Potts was very nice — we were sitting on the right side (as opposed to our usual center), and I appreciated that he had the attention to detail that was only visible to those on the side (i.e., real fixtures in the bathroom). Potts created an excellent run down motel set (aided by the properties and set dressing of John McElveney (FB) and scenic art by Orlando de la Paz). I also noted that he had different levels of snow on the roof of the motel depending on the particular day. The sound design by Drew Dalzell (FB) (based on an original design by Jill Du Boff (FB)) was also quite nice — I particularly enjoyed the use of Eli Eli in Act II and I’d love to find a copy of that recording. The lighting design by Jared A. Sayeg (FB) worked well to establish the mood, and the costumes by Dianne K. Graebner (FB) seemed to fit the characters. Mary K. Klinger (FB) was the production stage manager. The Colony is under the artistic direction of Barbara Beckley.

Handle With Care” continues at The Colony Theatre (FB) through December 14, 2014. Discount tickets may be available through Goldstar or LA Stage Alliance.

[Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience. I've been attending live theatre in Los Angeles since 1972; I've been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I'm a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.]

Upcoming Theatre and Concerts:  November is busy, busy, busy. This week brings a trip out to Orange Empire Railway Museum to see my buddy Thomas on 11/11, the Nottingham Festival (during the day) and “Sherlock Holmes and the Suicide Club” at REP East (FB) (in the evening) on Sat 11/15. I’m also seeing theatre when I visit my daughter Erin in Berkeley between 11/20 and 11/26, starting with “Harvey” at Palo Alto Players (FB) in Palo Alto for Friday 11/21. That will be followed Saturday afternoon with The Immigrant at Tabard Theatre (FB) in San Jose, and the Dickens Fair (FB) on Sunday in Daly City. Who knows, I might even squeeze in “Rhinocerous” at the UC Berkeley Theatre Department (FB). After I return, it is “Kinky Boots” at the Pantages (FB) on Sat 11/29. As for December, I just ticketed “She Loves Me” at Chance Theatre (FB) in Anaheim on 12/20, and we’ll probably go see Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at Nobel Middle School just before ACSAC. Right now, there is only one show booked for January 2015 – “An Evening with Groucho” at AJU with Frank Ferrente; additionally we’ll likely have the first show of the REP East (FB) season: “Avenue Q“.  As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, and Musicals in LA, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411.

News Chum Stew

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Nov 08, 2014 @ 10:17 am PST

Observation StewIn contrast to previous weeks, I found lots of articles of interest this week. I was so busy I couldn’t assemble them into a themed post, so you get a kitchen sink of stew:

  • Numbnuts. Although it is old news by now, I do want to comment on the passing of Tom Magliozzi of “Car Talk”. I have memories of paying bills while listening to Car Talk in the late 1980s, and I would still listen to it, off and on, until they went to repeats. Car Talk opened up public radio to be more than music and news, and it was just great. Supposedly, Ray will be doing a tribute show to Tom today; I plan to download that podcast and listen to it.
  • 1980s Sitcoms Gone Warped. I happen to be a big fan of TV themes. Having been a teen in the 1970s, I grew up with the sitcom, and the particular type of sitcom opening where the characters were introduced with this odd look at the camera. Yesterday, I learned of a wonderful and warped parody of all those openings called “Too Many Cooks”. I found the video on YouTube and it was great. Here’s an article that discusses the parody and provides the video.
  • Like Sand in the Hourglass. You go to the beach, and you think the sand is endless. The truth, however, is much worse. We’re running out of beach sand.
  • Held Up By A String. This seems like a regular occurance: An article about the future of Bob Baker’s Marionette Theatre in Echo Park. This time, the concern isn’t the property. The property was sold and a new development is going up, but they are building around the theatre and incorporating the theatre. However, Baker himself is in hospice, and the concern has never made money. I have vague memories of going there when I was a child in the 1960s — this is an LA treasure.
  • Milk Chocolate. If you’re a chocolate lover, you tend towards the dark chocolate, and look down on milk chocolate. However, there can be great milk chocolate, and here’s an article on some awesome milk chocolate.


Good Things That Are Bad

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Nov 08, 2014 @ 10:12 am PST

userpic=don-martinHere’s a collection of articles and opinion pieces that all seem to fall within the theme of things that are good, while really being bad:

  • Dogs. We all love our dogs. Our friendly canine companions have been shown to be good for our mental health and well being. But are they good for the environment?
  • Fake Grass. Here in California, we’re in the midst of a bad bad drought. The DWP (Department of Water and Power) is offering incentives for people to rip out their lawns and replace them with less water-hungry alternatives. Some go with fake grass (the modern-day equivalent of Astro-Turf). But is fake grass good for the environment?
  • Anesthetics. One of the things that makes modern medicine possible are anesthetics. But — especially in the elderly — they have their drawbacks — memory-loss. Here’s why.
  • It Does a Body Good. We’ve been taught that “Milk Does a Body Good” and that you should drink cows milk every day to get Calcium. The problem? Too much milk doesn’t do a body good. In fact, a recent study found that, in both women and men, higher milk consumption correlated with higher rates of death. And in women, those who consumed more milk were also more likely to have fractured a bone, not less. The fault may lie with lactose. In fact, fermented dairy products may be better for you — yogurt, buttermilk, sour cream, and possibly cheese.


We’ve Been Through Some Crappy Times Before

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Nov 05, 2014 @ 11:43 am PST


You say the last election didn’t turn out like you planned.
You’re feeling blue and clueless, you just don’t understand.
You’re sad, sulky, sullen, moping and morose.
You’re woefully weak and weary, semi-comatose.
You stare at your computer screen devoid of any joy and hope.
You’re so depressed, you can’t get dressed, your noose is up a rope.
Just remind yourself, when you can’t stand it any more:
That we’ve been through some crappy times before


Starting last evening, I’ve been seeing the cries of woe and misery from my progressive friends. Meanwhile, those conservatives that I still talk to are cheering their victory. Both are wrong to cry or celebrate for their side, because this really isn’t a long-term victory for the Republicans or a long-term loss for the Democrats. This is an opportunity for the nation, and it may be a good thing. It may also be good, in the long run, for the Democrats, and perhaps even for the Republicans. Hence, this lunchtime musing.


We’ve been though some crappy times before.
Slavery, unbridled knavery and the civil war.
Don’t stop caring, stop despairing, get up off the floor.
Because we’ve been through some crappy times before.


Here’s why I’m not worried. First and foremost, the Republicans do not have a supermajority (67%) in either house. To overrride a veto, a supermajority is required in both houses: 290 in the House (at best, if all the uncalled races went R, they would be at 259), and 67 in the Senate (at best, they are at 55). That is a very rare occurrence; only 10% of Presidential vetoes have been overridden. This means if the Republicans want to pass any legislation that has a chance of becoming law, they must make it sufficiently moderate that the President will sign it (or that they can get sufficient Democratic colleagues to come over to their side to override the veto). This is much better than the 2012-2014 Congress, where we couldn’t even get laws to the President because they couldn’t get out of Congress, even if they were moderate.

I’ll note that one article I read today believes it to be a myth that more might get through Congress. They claim the problem was not the Democratic Senate, but the much more conservative Republican house under John Boehner. However, all this means is that we won’t be worse off then before, but the more moderate Senate might still veto the bills (or the Dems filibuster them), and the President would surely veto them.

Ah, but the Presidential appointments will never get through, you say. I can’t guarantee they will get through, but they actually are more likely to get voted upon. This time, in the Senate, it is the Democrats who control the power of the filibuster, being the minority party. They won’t be stopping votes, and the Senate is required to vote on appointments. They don’t do they, they can legitimately be called on the carpet for not doing their Constitutional jobs. It may also push the President to appoint more centrists (which are a better reflection of the country at large, vs. more party-oriented ideologues)

Ah, but you say the Republicans won’t allow the filibuster. My friend, Rich Wales, over on Facebook, addressed this concern: “While the GOP senators could indeed abolish the filibuster (by simple majority vote at the beginning of a session of Congress, if I recall correctly), it would be a phenomenally short-sighted and stupid thing for them to do. First, it would gain them nothing in terms of enacting their party’s agenda — because even if a bill could sail through the Senate as well as the House, the President still has his veto power, and the GOP is not going to have enough votes in either house to override a veto. Second, even the most fanatically single-minded Republicans know they will not always be in power on Capitol Hill. If they abolish the filibuster in the Senate, they will effectively be abolishing it for all time — and when the Democrats one day regain control of the Senate, it will be their turn to be able to ram anything they want through that body, and a GOP minority won’t be able to stop (or even appreciably slow down) a Democratic majority. Even if the Republican leadership in the Senate are bound and determined to abolish the filibuster, enough Senators with a broader view of things are likely to oppose the idea that a rule change’s chances of passage are small. Go to Wikipedia and read about the “Gang of 14″ for a reasonably recent example of how Senators went to great lengths to avoid invoking the so-called “nuclear option”.”


Intolerable intolerance has swept across the land.
The gospel thumping homophobes have got the upper hand.
They are peeping though the windows and they are creeping through the door.
But we’ve been through some crappy times before.

We’ve been through some crappy times before.
McCarthyism, Prohibition, and the World Wars.
We’re up a the creek, the boat is leaking, still we will reach the shore.
But we’ve been through some crappy times before.


But “It’s the Republicans”, you say. Consider this. During the primary elections, many of the more strident Tea Party candidates were defeated in favor of the establishment Republicans. None of the Republicans elected to the Senate, to my knowledge, were Tea Party. Combine this with the fact that in order to do anything, they have to be moderate, not Tea Party, to get their actions signed by the President. This is not a Tea Party take-over; it may be an opportunity for a rebirth of the Republican party for the moderates.

More significantly, most of the Republicans elected were elected because the electorate was dissatisfied with a Congress that was doing nothing. If the new Congress continues to do nothing, what will happen? That’s right — they may not keep their seats. That happened to many Tea Party candidates.


We hear reassurances that everything is fine.
It’s been a while since we were a canary in this mine.
When you think it’s really bad, it gets a little worse.
But keep on looking forward, though we’re going in reverse.

We shout out that the emperor is not wearing any clothes.
He lies so much that you could hang your laundry from his nose.
The fox is in the hen house and the wolf is at the door.
But we’ve been thought some crappy times before.


This election is also an opportunity for the Democrats. Using the election as an excuse, they can adjust their leadership to move away from the polarizing Reid and Polosi. Both are good people, but bring a lot of baggage. They also have the opportunity to distance themselves from the President, if he remains unpopular. They can easily blame the Republican Congress for not taking any action. Congressional inaction is no longer the fault of the Democrats.

This election also provides the Democrats with the opportunity to groom and identify additional candidates. Hilary is great, but Hilary brings with her significant baggage (and I don’t just mean Bill). This election could very well be setting the stage for a Democratic victory in 2016, whereas retaining the Senate might very well have led to a Republican victory in 2016.


We have been thought crappy times before.
Indiscretion, floods, Depression, Vietnam and more.
The sun has set but don’t forget another day is in store.
Because we’ve been thought some crappy times before.
Yes, we’ve been though some crappy times before.
Yes, we’ve been though some crappy times before.


Another day is in store. It is important to remember that control of the House, Senate, or the Executive Branch is like the weather. It always swings back and forth. When it is hot, you know it will eventually be cold…. and then hot again. When we have Democratic leadership, you know that will swing to the Republicans…. and then back again. It has been this way throughout the nation’s history, although some of the cycles have been longer than others. As long as the Democratic party is one of the two major parties, they will eventually be in control of both houses again. In fact, it is likely that will happen when we have a Republican president. The electorate loves having Congress as a check for the President, not a rubber stamp.

Lyrics from “We’ve Been Through Some Crappy Times Before”, Austin Lounge Lizards, available on “The Drugs I Need“.

P.S.: Courtesy of Amy Angel on FB, here’s another interesting take on the subject.