Observations Along the Road

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

“The theater is our lifeline to humanity — Without it we’d all be Republicans”

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Sep 14, 2014 @ 4:41 pm PDT

moon-over-buffalouserpic=yorickI’ve written before about how much I enjoy farce. Be it “Lend Me a Tenor” at the Pasadena Playhouse back in 1992, Black Comedy” at the REP in 2006, a revival of Noises Off” at the Pasadena Playhouse in 2003, Don’t Dress for Dinner” at REP in 2006, Is He Dead?” at ICT in 2009, or many others — you can always depend on farce for a laugh. So when I saw that Wasatch Theatrical Ventures (FB) was doing Ken Ludwig‘s farce “Moon over Buffalo” at the Grove Theatre Center (FB) in Burbank (where we had seen an excellent production of “Inherit the Wind” earlier in the year), the only question was when I could fit it into my schedule. Luckily, I was able to find space on closing weekend — so last night saw us in Burbank (where it was hot hot hot) seeing a farce (we where much luckier than my cousin, who was in the Rose Bowl taking her daughter to see some unknown boy band).

What makes a good farce a farce? The director of last night’s show, Kiff Scholl (FB1, FB2) wrote in the program that a farce has a number of rules: (1) lots of doors; (2) lots of confusion; (3) lots of physical comedy; and lots of improbably plot twists. What he doesn’t mention is that a good farce also needs good timing, a good comprehension of what is funny and what is not, and what is supposed to be funny and what is not. The latter is important: the actors shouldn’t be playful in a scene that in the stage reality isn’t funny, but in the real-world is. In essence, what this means for a farce is that the audience is in on the joke, but the actors don’t see it at all. In fact, in the farcical world, the absurd is perfectly normal, but it isn’t quite to the level of absurd (at least Ionesco absurd) yet. Confused yet.

Good writing is also important. The title of this post is one of the quotes from this show. I didn’t write down others, but did some searches post-facto. Here are some other lines to give you a taste:

  • “This is Buffalo, New York. It’s like. Scranton without the charm.”
  • “What? Bad news in this company? The House of Usher Repertory Theatre?”

You’re probably wondering what Moon in Buffalo is about. As with any farce, giving too many details will spoil the jokes, so here is how Ken Ludwig (the author) describes it on his web page about the show (slightly augmented):  “In the madcap comedy tradition of Lend me a Tenor, the hilarious Moon Over Buffalo centers on George and Charlotte Hay, fading stars of the 1950’s. At the moment, they’re playing Private Lives and Cyrano De Bergerac in rep in Buffalo, New York with 5 actors. On the brink of a disastrous split-up caused by George’s dalliance with a young ingénue (Eileen), they receive word that they might just have one last shot at stardom: Frank Capra is coming to town to see their matinee, and if likes what he sees, he might cast them in his movie remake of The Scarlet Pimpernel. Unfortunately for George and Charlotte, everything that could go wrong does go wrong, abetted by a visit from their daughter Rosalind’s clueless fiancé Howard (a TV weatherman from Buffalo) and hilarious uncertainty about which play they’re actually performing, caused by Charlotte’s deaf old stage-manager mother Ethel who hates every bone in George’s body.” Add to this a stage manager Paul, who is Rosalind’s former boyfriend, and Richard, who is both George’s lawyer and who wants to be Charlotte’s lover and next husband, and …. well you get the idea.

In farce, performances are key. Performances without the right timing or humor will torpedo a show. Luckily, the cast in this show gets things right. In the lead position are Mark Belnick (FB) as George Hays and Kimberly Lewis (FB) as Charlotte Hays. Belnick (who doesn’t need to act (if you follow his previous link), but loves to act) captures the hamminess of the character well — it is said of him in the show that he “is a walking ham — they should stick cloves in him and serve him with pineapple.” He handles the physical comedy well and excels at the requisite overacting the character calls for. As his wife, Charlotte, Lewis also captures the long-term actor well. She’s at her best in her interactions with Richard (her lover) and with George.

In the second character tier are Keri Safran (FB) as Rosalind Hays, Chuck Raucci as Howard (her fiancee), Paul Galliano (FB, FB2) as Paul (the stage manager and Rosalind’s former beau), and Carol Herman (FB) as Ethel (Rosalind’s hard-of-hearing grandmother). Safran handles Rosalind quite well — she has the timing and ability to play the daughter of an acting family who wants to get out of the family business, but the universe is conspiring to not let her escape. Raucci captures the clueless weatherman well, especially as someone who has no idea what he has gotten into. Galliano kept reminding me of perhaps a young cross between Bob Saget and John Stamos — handsome with good comic timing and reactions. Lastly Herman captured the befuddled old woman well.

In the last character tier were Sarah Randall Hunt (FB) as Eileen and Paul Michael Nieman (FB) as Richard. You can tell this is the third character role tier because all actors have three names :-).  Hunt seemed a little bit cold in her first few scenes as Eileen, but in her last scene you could see a wonderful personality and warmth shining through, so I’m guessing the earlier scenes were intentionally cold given the craziness of the characters. Nieman seemed appropriately blustery and forceful as the lawyer who wanted Charlotte. Neither character was involved in the actual mechanics of the farce much, although they may have been precipitating catalysts.

In general, the strong comic acting combined with the good direction from the aforementioned Kiff Scholl (FB1, FB2) combined to produce a funny show that, for the most part, enhanced the material.

Turning to the technical: The set (designed by Adam Haas Hunter (FB)) worked reasonably well to create the green room with the requisite lots of doors. The lighting by Michael Gend (FB) set the mood well, and the sound design by Daniel Hoal (FB) was mostly reasonable, although the mood music was a bit loud.  The costumes by Michael Mullen (FB)worked well for both Cyrano and Private Lives, as well as the Green Room scenes. Mike Mahaffey was the fight director. Erica Lawrence/FB was the stage manager. “Moon Over Buffalo” was produced by Racquel Lehrman and Victoria Watson/FB of Theatre Planners. (FB).

Alas, the last performance of “Moon over Buffalo” is happening as I type this; alas, this writeup was delayed due to this morning’s MoTAS meeting.

[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:  Next weekend brings  Bat Boy: The Musical” at CSUN for the Friday night before Slichot (9/19). This is followed by “What I Learned in Paris” at The Colony Theatre (FB) on Sat 9/27, and “The Great Gatsby” at Repertory East (FB) on Sun 9/29. October currently has two shows (three if you count Yom Kippur on 10/4): “Don’t Hug Me, We’re Married” at the Group Rep (FB) on Sat 10/18 (when Karen is at PIQF), and “Pippin” at the Pantages (FB) on 10/25. November is back to busy, with “Big Fish” at Musical Theatre West (FB) on Sat 11/1, “Handle with Care” at The Colony Theatre (FB) on Sun 11/9 (shifting to avoid ACSAC and opening night), a trip out to Orange Empire Railway Museum to see my buddy Thomas on 11/11,  “Sherlock Holmes and the Suicide Club” at REP East (FB) on Sat 11/15, the Nottingham Festival on Sun 11/16, and “Kinky Boots” at the Pantages (FB) on Sat 11/29. I may also see some theatre when I visit my daughter Erin in Berkeley between 11/20 and 11/26. Right now, I’m looking at The Immigrant at Tabard Theatre (FB) in San Jose, “Harvey” at Palo Alto Players (FB) in Palo Alto, or “Rhinocerous” at the UC Berkeley Theatre Department (FB). As for December, right now I’m just holding one date: “She Loves Me” at Chance Theatre (FB) in Anaheim on 12/20. 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.

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News Chum Stew: DNA, Pools, Tarantino, Politics, Mel Brooks, and more

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Sep 13, 2014 @ 1:27 pm PDT

Observation StewIt’s Saturday at lunchtime, and you know by now what that means — it is time for some tasty news chum stew. Let’s see what we find floating in the broth this week:

 

I Come To Mourn a Click-Wheel…

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Sep 11, 2014 @ 11:48 am PDT

userpic=ipod…not to praise it. During its revamp of the Apple Store this week, Apple quietly and without ceremony removed the iPod Classic from the line up. There have been wistful reminiscences, but most have just been nostalgia. The belief from much of the world — especially the connected and early adopters — is that one no longer needs to carry all your music in your pocket. Who needs storage when you can have streaming. In my opinion, these folks have “drunken the kool-aide” of the music industry. Here’s why this is deluded thinking:

  • Not every location can stream. You can’t stream music when you’re on an airplane, in a subway, or far away from modern communications. Often, these are the times when you most want your music.
  • Not everyone has unlimited free bandwidth. Streaming often uses limited cellular bandwidth or requires you to pay for wireless (if free wireless is not available, such as on an airplane). This is one reason why the cellular providers don’t want phone manufacturers to put lots of storage on phone and to have bandwidth heavy apps. They make money off you.
  • You don’t physically possess your music. When your music is in the cloud or streamed, you don’t own it — you lease it. The cloud storage provider could delete that music at any time, and you would have no recourse. When you have the music stored on your device you possess it. You can copy it. You can make backups. You can make CDs or cassettes or other physical media. It is yours to edit and play with.

Further, the death of the iPod Classic is a movement away from the single purpose device. Single purpose devices can be devoted to doing one thing very well. Multi-function devices, such as phones, often do multiple things at varying levels. The 128GB of storage on your phone may sound large, but it means your music is competing for space with your photos, text messages, videos, and applications. So why don’t they give you more storage? They would rather you back up your data to the cloud (using bandwidth, possibly using storage you pay for, and making it susceptible to security breeches).

The iPod Classic was a simple device. It played music, video (and a few games). It had a simple interface which was notable less for the click wheel, and more for the fact that you didn’t have to look at it to use it. This made the device usable by the visually impared — something that is not true for smart phones today, which have no tactile feedback

Did the iPod Classic have its problems? Sure. There are those that complained about the hard disk, but the hard disk is suitably reliable if you realize it is a hard disk and treat it carefully. SSD may be more robust to vibrations, but it has more significant wear issues over time. There are iPods from its first introduction that are still being used. How long does your SSD device last?

There is a complaint about sound quality, but that comes from people who want lossless audio. You could store lossless audio on the iPod, but space limitations rapidly hit you. There is the Pono player coming out that encourages lossless, but it has a horrible form factor and doesn’t solve the space problem: you have 64G internal, and up to 128G on an SSD card that you can swap for different libraries.

Apple has written off the true music collector. Had they come up with a simple update to the iPod Classic that moved it to the lightning connector and a 500GB or 1TB drive, they would have had a significant sales bump as all those people currently owning Classics replaced them. They opted not to, because they see their future in streaming and leasing music, not selling music and supporting the listener.

As for me? I truly love having my entire music collection with me at all times. It allows me to listen to all of it — and to all of it I do (I have playlists that help). My iPod is with me on the van in the morning, in the background playing while I work, providing podcasts on the way home, and playing music to put me to sleep. It plays and is used in environments where a phone cannot stream — on the LA Metro underground, on an airplane, and in other isolated locations. As such, I’ve already got a backup iPod Classic 160GB in the shipping stream — I’ll alternate it with my current player, which I play 8-10 hours daily, and which has 34,606 songs (and 34,899 tracks overall). I’ll look into other players if they offer the same storage and can move my iTunes metadata. Of course, I could always just upgrade the drive to 240GB. Once I have a backup, that might be an option. That might just do me for a while…

…a few months, at least  :-).

Music, Rhythm, and Feet

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Sep 10, 2014 @ 11:47 am PDT

Earth/quaked with Savion Glover | Muse/iqueNormally, I pick the shows that we see. So when my wife points to an ad for some shows and says “Get tickets for this”, I do it with nary an additional question. Recently, this happened with an ad for Muse/ique (FB), a counter-cultural orchestra event. She was reading the LA Times when she saw an ad for a concert event with Savion Glover (with a half-off discount code). She brought it to me and asked me to get tickets. I did, and Sunday evening saw us on the lawn at Beckman Mall at CalTech for a concert titled “Earth/quaked: Dance Changes the World“. I’m very pleased that I went. I do, however, need to apologize in advance for two things: First, I apologize for for the delay in this writeup — I’ve been busy with MoTAS business the last two nights. Secondly, I apologize for the briefness of the summary of the show and lack of complete credits — the closest thing to a program that was provided was a fan with some information, and I’m going from memory for the rest.

Let me start with some observations about the setup, which was remarkably civilized. One hears “concert on the lawn”, and one things this means bringing blankets and folding chairs. Not for Muse/ique (FB). There were tables set up on the lawn in distinct seating areas: upfront for the special patrons, in the middle for the premium assigned seats, and even tables of 6 for the festival seating (where we were) in the back. You could buy food at the catering tent in the back, or you could bring your own food in. Unlike the Hollywood Bowl or other such venues, there was no bag check — no limitations on bottles or what you could bring in. Further (and this really surprised me), no one ever asked to see my ticket! Each of our festival seating tables had a small bag of hard candy and a few fans that served as the concert program. Very, very, civilized.

The show itself had a wide variety of music, presented by the Muse/ique Counter-Conventional Orchestra. I’m going from memory, but the compositions (in order were): A medley by Lennon/McCartney, A medley from “West Side Story” (Bernstein), a clip of Bill “Bojangles” Robinson dancing with Shirley Temple, a recording of Mr. Bojangles sung by Sammy Davis Jr., a composition or two by Alan Steinberger, a longer medley of music by Duke Ellington (one of his suites), concluding with a long medley of Vivaldi. Starting with Mr. Bojangles, Savion Glover joined the orchestra. Glover, if you recall, was the man behind “Bring in ‘da Noise, Bring in ‘da Funk“, and his dancing during this show exemplified his philosophy of tap: that tap dancing is a form of music and that one can create music with the feet. Bojangles was straightforward emotional tap, but by the later numbers (especially in the Vivaldi piece), Glover’s feet were a part of the orchestra. Of course, being the back we could only see the dancing through the few big screen monitors that had been set up; but with Glover, this is dancing meant to be heard. I’ll also note that there was one segment that featured a display of artwork by davidkremers, a visitor in Aerospace at Caltech…. which was accompanied only by the sounds of Glover’s feet dancing.

The orchestra at Muse/ique was under the direction of Rachael Worby (FB), the artistic director of Muse/ique. It was a very large orchestra featuring the following artists: VIOLIN I / Roger Wilkie, Agnes Gottschewski, Grace Oh, Mei Chung, Shelly Shi, Hana Kim / VIOLIN II / Tammy Hatwan, Neel Hammond, Alwyn Wright, Simeon Simeonov / VIOLA / Shawn Mann, Rodney Wirtz, Brett Banducci / CELLO / Kim Scholes, Joo Lee, Ginger Murphy / BASS / Mike Valerio, Geoff Osika / FLUTE / Sara Weisz, Sal Lozano / OBOE / Jennifer Johnson / CLARINET / Amanda McIntosh, Damon Zick / BASSOON / Anthony Parnther, Samantha Duckworth / HORN / Kristy Morrell, Amy Sanchez / TRUMPET / Marissa Benedict, TJ Tesh / TROMBONE / Mike Hoffman / TUBA / Blake Cooper / TIMPANI / Theresa Dimond / KEYBOARD / Alan Steinberger / PERCUSSION / Jason Goodman / DRUM / Jamie Tate / ELECTRIC BASS / Mike Valerio… and of course, as Worby noted, / FEET / Savion Glover :-).

There were no technical credits, which is too bad because the sound designer ensured that the sound was clear throughout the mall, and the lighting designer used LED lighting very effectively to convey mood.

This was the end of the Muse/ique performances for the summer, but they do plan on activities over the year. Next summer’s program will focus on Leonard Bernstein, and we plan to be back. For future reference, they do appear to list tickets on Goldstar.

[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:  This coming weekend bring “Moon Over Buffalo” (Goldstar) at the GTC in Burbank. The remainder of September brings  Bat Boy: The Musical” at CSUN for the Friday night before Slichot (9/19),  “What I Learned in Paris” at The Colony Theatre (FB) on Sat 9/27, and “The Great Gatsby” at Repertory East (FB) on Sun 9/29. October currently has two shows (three if you count Yom Kippur on 10/4): “Don’t Hug Me, We’re Married” at the Group Rep (FB) on Sat 10/18 (when Karen is at PIQF), and “Pippin” at the Pantages (FB) on 10/25. November is back to busy, with “Big Fish” at Musical Theatre West (FB) on Sat 11/1, “Handle with Care” at The Colony Theatre (FB) on Sun 11/9 (shifting to avoid ACSAC and opening night), a trip out to Orange Empire Railway Museum to see my buddy Thomas on 11/11,  “Sherlock Holmes and the Suicide Club” at REP East (FB) on Sat 11/15, the Nottingham Festival on Sun 11/16, and “Kinky Boots” at the Pantages (FB) on Sat 11/29. I may also see some theatre when I visit my daughter Erin in Berkeley between 11/20 and 11/26. I’d love to get down to San Diego to see either (or both) of “Bright Star“, the new Steve Martin/Edie Brikell musical, at The Old Globe Theatre (FB) (September 13-November 2), or “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” (based on the Disney film) at The La Jolla Playhouse (FB) (October 25-December 2), but I’m not sure either would work in the schedule.  As for December, right now I’m just holding one date: “She Loves Me” at Chance Theatre (FB) in Anaheim on 12/20. 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.

 

 

Thoughts on War

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon Sep 08, 2014 @ 11:31 am PDT

userpic=war-not-healthyFor the last few weeks, I’ve been thinking about war. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about some situations going on in the world that might draw us into war. I was thinking… and thinking… and so wrote the first version of this post… and promptly sat on it for a week. Today, while perusing news.google.com over lunch, it highlighted an article from Fox News titled “An open letter to Barack Obama: World War III is here“, by that noted political historian, Larry Gatlin of the Gatlin Brothers (i.e., a country singer). However, as his attitude appears to be echoing something I’m hearing from some on the Conservative side of the spectrum, and because it fits within this post, I’d like to explore it in this post:

Ukraine. This, perhaps, is the most “traditional” potential World War. We have one government (Russia) annexing or taking territory belonging to another country (Ukraine), ostensibly to protect the interests of their people in the area. To those familiar with Europe, this looks a lot like the early days of WWII, where Germany was having a lot of territorial ambitions against neighboring countries. At that time, the US stood mostly aloof. Not quite neutral (we were on the side of the Western countries — UK, France), but we weren’t putting troops on the ground. In fact, we didn’t do a massive troops-on-the-ground effort until our territory (Hawaii) was attacked and war was declared against us.

So what should the US do here? This is an old-fashioned war — government armies against government armies over specific territories. But it is also a war that really doesn’t involve US interests, and history might say we should stay uninvolved unless attacked. NATO is a complicating matter — if Ukraine is a NATO-signatory, then we are obligated to defend her. So how does a desire to avoid war balance against a design to prevent history from repeating itself?

It is important to note that as this is government against government, sending in bombers could be viewed as an act of war against a particular government, making the conflict worse.

Syria/Iraq. Here we have a very different war, but also a war with World War echoes. Here we have a fundamentalist religious group, terrorist in nature, not associated with a specific recognized sovereign state government attempting to take territory and establish a new sovereign state (caliphate). Along the way, they are conducting religious and ethnic cleansing of anyone not of their fundamentalist persuasion. They haven’t (yet) attacked American soil, but they have attacked and killed American citizens. In fact, these latter atrocities have incited many conservatives to call for full-out war against the group (ISIS/ISIL).

A major problem here is the nature of the warring parties. Whereas one can control a government and get them to retreat, one cannot wipe out a terrorist group. We can reduce their effectiveness, but there will always be pockets that will come back (look at the Taliban as a good example). It is like trying to wipe-out gangs in a city–as long as there is one member left, it can come back. There is also no clear victory condition, as the governments that remain in the area are often no better and certainly no stronger. That, in fact, was the problem with the previous Iraq/Al Quaida war: there was no clear victory condition — in fact, one can argue that we never “won” as Al Quaida still exists.

Troops-on-the-ground and a World War is not the answer here — we’ve already seen how ineffective that is in the area. This is not a traditional war where grunt soldiers are effective. In fact, normally we wouldn’t care about this conflict except (a) we don’t ever want to permit ethnic cleansing to occur again; (b) being a terrorist group, they will continue to attack America; and (c) there are interests in the area to protect. [Yes, two journalists were killed. Journalism -- especially front line journalism -- is a risky job, and people get killed in risky jobs] Perhaps the approach here is what we are doing — surgical airstrikes, drone attacks, and perhaps specifically-targeted special forces. We might offer various groups safe-haven, but given current attitudes towards immigration… This may be a case where the answer is to evacuate those at risk who want out, then lock the doors and let the fighting take place in the arena.

 

Saturday News ABCs: Ada, Brands, Crap, Dentists, and Economics [...and Fillipenko]

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Sep 06, 2014 @ 3:58 pm PDT

Observation StewIt’s Saturday, and it’s hot outside, so what better than some nice cool, umm, stew that’s been simmering on the stove all week:

  • On The Wings of Ada. When I was getting out of college, object oriented programming was just entering the lexicon, primarily through the facility of Ada, the supposed DOD standard programming language. Here’s an interesting article on the Boeing 777, and how it flies on 99% Ada… and why Boeing feels that was a great decision for the aircraft. Here’s an interesting line from the conclusion: ” The trend towards more reliable hardware and software are revolutionizing aviation and can be found in aircrafts other than the 777. The systems in the cockpit talk to the other systems through the programming language, and in new airplanes, such as the Beechcraft 400A, the Learjet series, and some English jets, the language of choice is Ada.”
  • Branding Ain’t Just For Cattle. If you grew up in California, you knew there were two state University systems: The University of California (which were all UCxx, except UC Berkeley, which views itself as the University of California), and the California State University. It seems that the Cal State campuses are now concerned with branding, and each has their own identity. Some are xxxx State (e.g., Sac State, Long Beach State); others are California State University xxx (e.g., CSUN), and others have other identities (Cal Poly, California State College, and the Maritime University). Others are confused, such as CSULA which is worried about being confused with UCLA, at least in terms of acronyms. Of course, no one asks the California University in Pennsylvania.
  • In The Pipes. What’s something you depend upon everyday, but probably never think about? The answer is the sewer system, and here’s an in-depth exploration of the Los Angeles sewer system. The city alone has over 6,700 miles of sewer pipes, some going back to the 1880s. More importantly, the city doesn’t know where all the pipes are. Archival data is being gradually imported into a publicly accessible online directory called Navigate LA, which is managed by the Bureau of Engineering, but there are still plenty of gaps. One major part of the sewer system that has not been accurately mapped is the only way to access them: manholes (or the more proper term, maintenance holes).  (Note: the site displays a lot better in Chrome)
  • Be a Dentist. If you recall the song from Little Shop, Dentists love pain. People still thing of the dentist as painful, but they don’t realize how good they’ve got it. Here’s an article that explores what it was like to go to the dentist in the days before Novacaine. There was the belief that cavities were caused by worms. Often, practitioners would try to smoke the worm out by heating a mixture of beeswax and henbane seed on a piece of iron and directing the fumes into the cavity with a funnel. Afterwards, the hole was filled with powdered henbane seed and gum mastic, which may have provided temporary relief given the fact that henbane is a mild narcotic. Many times, though, the achy tooth had to be removed altogether. Some tooth-pullers mistook nerves for tooth worms, and extracted both the tooth and the nerve in what was certainly an extremely painful procedure in a period before anesthetics.
  • Quitting Smoking. This week, the CVS Drugstore chain stopped selling cigarettes. Given that they make 3% of their profit from ciggies, one might wonder why? The simple answer is Obamacare. More specifically, there’s more money to be made from healthcare than nicotine. This article has more. In short, CVS is rebranding as CVS Health, expanding its “Minute Clinic” network, and making groups with doctors to package prescription coverage with health plans. This emphasis (which is growing) is undercut if they sell cigarettes. So out go the cigarettes. Now, if they could only get their pharmacists to be efficient!
  • [ETA] Looking at the Stars. [When I wrote this up earlier today, I knew there was one article at work I had forgotten about. This is it...] No, I’m not referring to the nude pictures unleashed this week on the Internet. Rather, I’m referring to an article I saw earlier this week about UC defunding the Lick Observatory, and how it has got astronomers pissed. This includes the brother of a co-worker, and someone that my wife did science camp with when she was younger — Alex Fillipenko. Basically, the UC budget has been cut, and so UC is cutting funds for their only student-operated observator. This is the only observatory where UC students can schedule time and do research, and learn about the stars. As someone who works in the space field, this has me annoyed; as a UC grad and the parent of a future UC grad (although different UCs), it expresses a wrong attitude.

Music: Latin Brass: Barrippi Mompo (John Evans)

Changes to California Highways: June-August 2014

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Sep 06, 2014 @ 10:30 am PDT

userpic=roadgeeking

When I was in college, I used to use the Labor Day weekend to do big programming projects. This year… its updating the highway pages. Life gets busy as you get older, especially when you have other hobbies (such as theatre and theatre reviews) getting in the way.

Updates were made to the following highways, based on my reading of the papers (which are posted to the roadgeeking category at the “Observations Along The Road” and to the California Highways Facebook group) as well as any backed up email changes. I didn’t review the the AAroads forum this time — it hasn’t been bringing much useful information, and a third of the year would be a lot of posts to review. I’ve given up on misc.transport.road. This resulted in changes on the following routes, with credit as indicated [my research(1), contributions of information or leads (via direct mail) from Mike Sinclair(2)]: I-5(1), I-10(1), Route 12(1), Route 60(1), I-80(1), US 101(1), Route I-680(1,2), I-710(1).

Reviewed the Pending Legislation page, based on the new California Legislature site. As usual, I recommend to every Californian that they visit the legislative website regularly and see what their legis-critters are doing. Noted passage of the following items:

(more…)

A Face We Rarely See

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Aug 31, 2014 @ 12:12 pm PDT

An Adult Evening of Shel Silverstein (REP East)userpic=repeastUnderneath my outside face
There’s a face that none can see.
A little less smiley,
A little less sure,
But a whole lot more like me.
(Shel Silverstein, “Everything Thing On It“)

My first introduction to Shel Silverstein was through music when I was a teenager, and I didn’t even know it. Songs like “A Boy Named Sue”, “Boa Constrictor”, “Unicorn” and others were all written by Shel Silverstein, and I didn’t know it. Of course, we all knew one Shel Silverstein song, thanks to Dr. Demento. How many of you can recite a few lines, if not the entirety, of “Sarah Cynthia Silvia Stout Would Not Take the Garbage Out”? As I got older, I was introduced to Shel Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree” (despite its mixed messages) and his poetry books. I also discovered the Shel Silverstein wasn’t only a children’s author — he drew numerous cartoons for Playboy (which every teen boy, umm, reads), and if you’ve ever read “The ABZ Book” or looked at “Different Dances“, you know Shel worked at many different levels. So I knew the adult side of Shel, but what I didn’t know was that in addition to being an artist, author, poet, and songwriter, Shel was also a playwright. He wrote loads and loads (from what I’ve read, over 100) of short one-act plays and scenes. In 2001 (after Shel’s death), New York’s Atlantic Theatre Company collected ten of Shel’s more adult one-acts into a two-act production called “An Adult Evening of Shel Silverstein“. The resulting production has been very popular with small theatres around the country; for the last two weekends, Repertory East Playhouse (REP East) (FB) has been presenting it as part of the short-run, more adult fare that they run during late summer.

Other Images for An Adult Evening with Shel SilversteinBefore I start describing the ten scenes and the performances therein, a few notes from the research I did to write this write-up. As I noted, a lot of theatres have presented this play, and it is interesting to see how they have adapted Shel’s child-oriented artwork to attract the adult market. I’ve captured a few examples to the right. These show that the licensing doesn’t provide an image for the show. The most common image seems to be an adaptation of “The Giving Tree” (his best known work); most seem to imply a heavily sexual nature to the show. Most seem to be designed to discourage children, demonstrating that Shel’s current association is with his children’s books. I’ll note the Playbill in the center is from the original Atlantic production. So how “adult” is this show? Will it scare the horses? There’s a fair amount of adult language in the show, but no actual nudity (there was more nudity on stage in Frankie and Johnny or The Graduate). Although in one scene the language may be a bit raunchy, most of the language is stuff that kids over 12 these days know from the  playground or pay-TV. What is adult in this show are the concepts. There are notions and ideas in this show that will fly right past a child; they won’t see the humor and they won’t get the point. Those familiar with Shel’s adult work know that he used shock and strong images to make significant points about society. It is those ideas that make this show wrong for kids.

So let’s look at the scenes and performances in the show. REP East only listed the scene names, but luckily Dramatists Play Service and Wikipedia provide more information:

  1. One Tennis Shoe. Harvey (Jeff Johnson/FB) needs to broach a delicate subject with his wife. He claims Sylvia (Bridget Pugliese (FB)) is becoming a bag lady, but she protests that her Bloomingdales’ shopping bag doesn’t make her a bag lady. No, says Harvey, but the picture frame, couch cushion and single tennis shoe retrieved from the garbage do. Not to mention the cold cooked oatmeal in her purse. The leads in this scene created a believable couple, but what I found more interesting was the reactions to the argument from the unnamed actors and the waiter in the background.
  2. Bus Stop.Irwin (George D. Cummings (FB)) stands on a street corner with a sign reading “bust stop.” When Celia (Erin Rivlin (FB)) passes, he stops her and proceeds to run through the entire list of slang for her breasts, but Celia turns the tables on him with a lengthy and demeaning list of her own. This is perhaps the most NSFW scene, at least in terms of language. It is almost guaranteed that you will hear slang terms for either breasts or the penis that you have never heard before. It is a classic turnabout, and Erin and George have lots of fun with it.
  3. Going Once. In a simultaneously comic and chilling monologue an auctioneer (George D. Cummings (FB)) shows off a woman (apparently Annie (Erin Rivlin (FB))), who is putting herself up for auction to the highest bidder. This scene is a commentary on how women were often viewed in the 1960s and 1970s (I certainly hope that isn’t today’s view), and could be viewed by some as misogynistic (although if you read through Different Dances, you’ll come away with the impression that Shel Silverstein thought that way at one time). How much would you pay for a women who would do anything? Good performances by both leads, but even thought the body is sold, not much is revealed. You have to pay to see more :-( .
  4. The Best Daddy. Lisa (Fiona Perry (FB))’s got the best daddy (Randy Aronson (FB)) in the world. After all, he bought her a pony for her birthday. Too bad he shot it dead. Or did he? Maybe it was Lisa’s older sister.Very strong performances from both; I really enjoyed Perry’s reactions to her father as he worked the expectations.
  5. The Lifeboat is Sinking. Jen (Hannah L. Endicott/G+) and Sherwin (Jason Endicott (FB)) sit safely on their bed, but Jen forces her husband to imagine they are on a sinking boat in the middle of a terrible storm. Waves fill the boat with water; there are no life jackets; and Sherwin must decide whether he should throw his mother overboard or condemn them all to die. The scene raises great questions about your priority in life, and who do you value more: your spouse or your parent, your spouse or your child? Given the great performances by newlyweds Hannah and Jason Endicott, one wonders if this triggered such a discussion in real life.
  6. Smile. Bender (Brent Christensen (FB)) and his henchmen (Jeff Hyde/FB, Nanook/FB) drag Gibby (Michael Keane/FB) into a room and throw him to the ground. Gibby protests that he hasn’t done anything wrong, but Bender and the others know better. They have found the man responsible for the ’70s smiley face and the phrase “Have a nice day,” and they’re going to make him pay. Loads of simulated physical violence by Christensen, Hyde, and Nanook (which they do so well), and Keane cowers quite well. A good commentary on how trite phrases can drive people crazy.
  7. Wash and Dry. Marianne (Beth Ann Sweezer (FB)) stops by the laundromat, but she’s horrified to discover that her laundry hasn’t been cleaned. George (Ben Marcus/FB – Week 2; J. T. Centonze (FB) – Week 1) counters he never agreed to wash it. “George’s Watch and Dry,” he says. “You gotta pay attention.” A very good commentary on the prevalence of fine print these days; one wonders what Silverstein would make of shrinkwrap agreements. Good performances by Marcus as George and Beth Ann as Marianne.
  8. Thinking Up a New Name for the Act. Pete (Mikee Schwinn (FB) hits on the phrase “Meat and Potatoes” as the perfect name for their vaudeville act, but Lucy (Amber Schwinn (FB)) doesn’t like it. They get into a terrible fight, and Lucy kills Pete. A police investigation, trial and execution quickly follow. The only words in this farcical sketch are “Meat and Potatoes.” A very well performed scene, especially as the actors could not depend on the dialogue (“meat and potatoes”) to convey the message–it had to be entirely through their performances. I believed they conveyed the message well; additionally, the fact that the leads were husband and wife permitted them to take certain, umm, liberties in action that other actors might not be afforded. Supporting the leads in the smaller roles were Barry Agin (FB) [Judge]; George D. Cummings (FB) [Priest]; Hannah L. Endicott/G+ [Prosecutor], Jason Endicott (FB) [Sergeant], Jeff Johnson/FB [Executioner] and Michael Keane/FB [Inspector].
  9. Buy One Get One Free. Merrilee (Alexis Crane (FB)) and Sherilee (Kelly Bader (FB)) are offering the deal of the century. “Buy one, get one free,” the hookers sing to a tempted Lee (Barry Agin (FB)). It’s a golden opportunity. And it all rhymes. This is perhaps the most traditional Shel Silverstein piece with the nature of the rhymes, but the subject matter is clearly not for children. Good performances by both Alexis and Kelly, given the large amount of dialogue.
  10. Blind Willie and the Talking Dog. Blind Willie (George Chavez/FB) – Week 2; Billy Davis/FB – Week 1) sings the blues and asks passersby if they can spare a nickel or dime to help him and his hungry dog (Jeff Johnson/FB). But his dog can’t understand why Willie refuses to use the fact that he owns a talking dog to make some real money. A wonderful performance by George (who can sing quite well), and Johnson played the dog quite well (although I hear his costume is a bitch).

Overall, this was a large cast (many of whom are local performers at REP or CTG, as opposed to heavy regulars elsewhere in the LA theatre scene) who were having fun with a short run production. They clearly enjoyed the production, and the direction of Jeff Johnson/FB kept everything running smoothly (it did make more work for me, as I try to find links for every actor, and many took quite a bit of hunting to find anything other than Facebook).

Technically, this was very simple. There was no real set; there were a number of prop pieces used to establish the scenes. Sound design was by Steven “Nanook” Burkholder/FB, who found the few Shel Silverstein CDs out there for interstitial music (I know he used “Freakers at the Freakers Ball”, and I think I heard a few songs from “Inside Folk Songs”). There was no credit for lighting, but I’m guessing REP regular Tim Christianson/FB was involved. “An Adult Evening of Shel Silverstein” was produced by Jeff Johnson/FBMikee Schwinn (FB) and Ovington Michael Owston (FB).

Alas, I saw the last performance of “An Adult Evening of Shel Silverstein“. You could get tickets for “The Great Gatsby, the next production at Repertory East Playhouse (REP East) (FB) [ETA: Which just went up on Goldstar].

[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:  August will end with “An Adult Evening of Shel Silverstein” at REP East (FB). September is filling out. So far, the plans include “Earth/Quaked starring Savion Glover” as part of Muse/ique in Pasadena on Sun 9/7,  “Moon Over Buffalo” (Goldstar) at the GTC in Burbank on Sat 9/13, Bat Boy: The Musical” at CSUN for the Friday night before Slichot (9/19),  “What I Learned in Paris” at The Colony Theatre (FB) on Sat 9/27, and “The Great Gatsby” at Repertory East (FB) on Sun 9/29. October currently has two shows (three if you count Yom Kippur on 10/4): “Don’t Hug Me, We’re Married” at the Group Rep (FB) on Sat 10/18 (when Karen is at PIQF), and “Pippin” at the Pantages (FB) on 10/25. November is back to busy, with dates held or ticketed for “Big Fish” at Musical Theatre West (FB) on Sat 11/1, “Handle with Care” at The Colony Theatre (FB) on Sat 11/8 (shifting to avoid ACSAC), a trip out to Orange Empire Railway Museum to see my buddy Thomas on 11/11,  “Sherlock Holmes and the Suicide Club” at REP East (FB) on Sat 11/15, the Nottingham Festival on Sun 11/16, and “Kinky Boots” at the Pantages (FB) on Sat 11/29. I’d love to get down to San Diego to see either (or both) of “Bright Star“, the new Steve Martin/Edie Brikell musical, at The Old Globe Theatre (FB) (September 13-November 2), or “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” (based on the Disney film) at The La Jolla Playhouse (FB) (October 25-December 2), but I’m not sure either would work in the schedule.  As for December, right now I’m just holding one date: “She Loves Me” at Chance Theatre (FB) in Anaheim on 12/20. 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.