Sunday, August 28, 2005

Quantum Ethics

Tonight I saw Copenhagen, which was intense served up with a side of intensity. And fries. The first 20 minutes or so were rather rocky. Every other line was "It was 1935 when I helped Von Barenburg discover interspatial hemowhatsits in Minsk." I mean, it would go year, name, science city. It was definitely the Star Trek/ER jargon syndrome. Plus, I'm unnerved when people reference dates in casual conversation.

But, gosh darn it, it did take off. And it got me biting my lip over things like intentions, and what it means to be a good person, and how the heck a great voyage of wonder and scientific discovery turned into the big boom. The biggest boom. Also, I like Bohr's (Terry Hamilton) big soft face, and I like Heisenberg's brill-cream head and puppy dog eyes.

The play is basically a bitterly protracted argument about why Heisenberg visited Bohrs in Copenhagen during the occupation, and about why the Nazis didn't get the bomb. Many worthy points were made, but I'd like to make just one, on behalf of Kurt Vonnegut: Any reason for not dropping the atom bomb on a major city is the right reason.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Japanese Schoolgirls Rule

…Can’t… use… internet. Must… blog… in… word. How I hate the stone age. This won’t be fixed till Tuesday and I am not best pleased.

Anyway, finally made it out to Saint Charles to see Mikado 2005. At this point, I must confess that I like Gilbert and Sullivan. I am, in fact, a Gilbert and Sullivan FAN. The music from the Act One finale of the Mikado works on me like cocaine. I consider it a basically perfect piece of entertainment. On top of this, I have actually been fantasizing for years about a modern day Japan version of the Mikado, replacing the Victorian love of kimonos and pagodas with our present anime and school-girl-panty-dispensing-machines obsession.* You see why I had to truck it out to the superburbs.

I was very, very pleased. In terms of sets and costumes and gimmicks, they had practically everything my heart wanted: a glowing white Tokyo-style box set for the first act, men’s chorus of salarymen, women’s chorus of… well… schoolgirls…but wearing the classic Sailor Moon style uniforms**. Harajuku finery in the second act. Nanki-Poo as a punked-out pop idol. Karaoke. Karate. Bliss.

The music… well, Sullivan’s melodies are intact, but they’ve been rescored for four-piece rock band. Could have worked fine, but they were off stage, and the sound system was a bit wonked, so they sounded thin and fuzzy. They also modernized the style of the music, which worked sometimes, and which didn’t work sometimes. I guess I’m just attached to the big, fat orchestra sound. The cast was also only eight men and six women, so I kept wanting to jump in and add heft to the soprano chorus.

I think my pickiness on this subject is really a compliment- I want them to do this production with a huge cast and all the marbles.

More on the set: There were two screens flanking the stage, showing a rotating selection of Japanese advertisements- just getting into the whole Tokyo constant madness thing. The screens also displayed really excellent jokes during some of the numbers- Ko Ko’s Powerpoint presentation of “I’ve Got a Little List” being by far the best. The modernized staging gimmicks they came up with for the various songs were by and large brilliant.

In summation. Tiny heart, tiny heart, tiny heart. Noble Fool really understands how to fetishize a foreign culture without being offensive. They showed a bunch of “yellowface” clips from movies during the opening chords, as if to say “Hey, this isn’t Japan! It’s Victorian England as filtered through Victorian England’s version of Japan filtered through our version of Japan as a way of mocking the Eternal Bureaucracies, and also, having fun. Also, great tunes!” The splashy production is not about Japan, but about the way we view Japan. The play itself is… well, it’s still my beloved Mikado.

*In my head, it is a hugely-budgeted movie, with physics-defying Moulin Rouge style musical numbers. It stars Jack Black as Ko Ko. Oh god, it’s a good movie.

**Non G&S people, this is a funny sentence because they were Japanese Schoolgirls in the original version too. It just meant something different back then.


Friday night I went to see Lavander Cabaret once again. Still fantastic, but not quite as good as the first time. The MC, for instance, was different (or at least a different persona), and he worked too gosh-darn hard. I like a chill MC, with a little darkness in his soul (Jack Midnight for instance, or Sasha from "Don't Spit the Water"). Tonight's cute theme was the movies- great idea, but if you're going to introduce acts with trailer, for pete's sake, don't use the full length versions!

Still, a great show, and I am for sure going to be attending their Pajama Party next month.

Monday, August 15, 2005


I promise you, I'll write something about the Crazy Locomotive tomorrow.

Just one thing. They said it was a crazy locomotive, and you should believe it was a crazy locomotive.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

I saw more plays than you, if you count the one I watched in my dreams...

After almost a month of slacking, I am now going to see plays in my sleep.

This Saturday, I combined a Centerstage late night review with the Stages new musical theatre festival at the Theatre Building. And of course, the one play I dreamed about. Let's go backwards from the top, shall we?

Don't Spit the Water: Ah, how I love the bastard arts. This was very much like the burlesque shows I've seen, only without any naked girls. Guys- it's still totally worth it! It's a game show, essentially, where you try not to laugh. You try especially hard because your mouth is full of water. Three extraordinarily wacky comedians each get a crack at three contestants, who are normally plucked from the audience. (This week, there was a trio of NPR comics on as contestants, which caused that familiar 'Who's the straight man' phenom. There's a reason why audience participation comics never pick people who REALLY want to do it.)

There was a very sweet, very authentic jug band as an opener. They played a lovely song with the refrain "You may leave- but this'll bring you back." And I will find it, and I will purchase it. The jug band's best moment: their bassist disassembled his instrument and used its top half to swiffer up the water on the floor.

Finally, I must say a word for the host: Sasha, a pitch-perfect inept Russian schlockmeister, with a mute, traumatized, sweet-faced sidekick named the Noob. Also, the announcer, the urbane Big Dummy. Also, the Interrogator, who might be my favorite gimmick comedian ever. Heh heh. "Mustache."

Earlier that day I caught two concert performances of new musicals during TBC's completely insane festival. I mean, theatre at 9am? On a Saturday? Anyways, fun and interesting, but I haven't found the new musical I can root for yet. "The Devil and Dexter Webster" had some nice tunes, and might make a good late night production with generous helpings of kitsch. It could definitely afford to lose a few songs.

I also saw a double bill of one-acts. "The Big Ending/ The Big Beginning." Very odd. The first one was about a musical producer with a brain tumor that caused him to hear music all the time. The second one, written by a different team, was about the first one. Really- about a struggle to get the first one produced (except it was not written by the people who actually wrote it, but by a dead guy). Number one was all right- even had a song I wanted to take home. Strong performance by the squishy faced lead. Number two was awful. Broadly caricatured, and yet not funny. Even performers who did a decent job in number one were transformed into indigestible hams by number two. Just a pointless, dumb 'satire' of musical theatre production.

On that subject: oh Stages festival, what do you have against producers? Everything I saw today had a producer villain-- or at least a producer main character who was a total jerk. In the case of "Devil and Dexter Webster," a producer was actually Satan. What gives?

Finally, at maybe 10am last morning (I slept till noon), I went to one of those apartment plays that are in vogue now. I went while sleeping. It was quite good, even though I was the only audience member. My dream actors really gave it their all- I woke before intermission, but I think it concerned a ram-rod matriarch with a vicious secret, a disabled, possibly murderous daughter, and a good hearted sister trying to hold it all together. Straight-up southern gothic.

God, I should probably go see a movie or something.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Are we naked, or... OK, we're naked.

This is shaping up to be the weekend of non-traditional dance performances. "The Living Canvas," now playing at Victory Gardens, is basically naked people covered by projected images. How naked? Completely naked. This show wins Way Off Loop's Full Frontal Male prize (previously held by "The Judas Kiss") for having the human penis on display pretty much all the time.

But, true to its little program philosophy statement, "The Living Canvas" is totally non-prurient. It's nifty and arty and playful, not sexy. And at times, it's sublime nifty. A naked human body seen under certain kinds of projections, moving, the projections moving, sculpted by light, flattened out by patterns..... can just look amazingly cool. Bodies don't always look like bodies. Depth is played with in funny ways. Sometimes- under a leopard print projection, for example- the performers seemed tatooed all over. Sometimes they seemed totally flat, as if they were made out of the pattern. You could swear, sometimes, that you had to be watching something on a screen.

The show comes off best when it just plays with that awesome central conceit. The performers change with their projected environments, but they can also move from one field of patterns to another. Like the delightful moment when a wave of water projections washed up on a shore of sand projections, spurring an adorable beach scene. The more serious arty bits dragged a little. And one number- a war protest piece- just didn't hit me right. Naked people are so blatant, and photojournalism of atrocities is so overwhelming... projecting one on the other is a bit unsubtle.

I think the show could have used a little tightening, and a better beginning to end flowthrough... it's also a bit much to ask audience members to join in... but the pieces that work and the sheer beauty/weirdness of the images makes it worth seeing.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Are we dorks, or are we cool?

So, tonight I saw something called "Party Girl" at the Hothouse. It was mildly perplexing, because it has something to do with this club scene that I know nothing about. I sat next to the clubs reporter from New City, and I kept trying to read her notes, to find out if what I was looking at was cool or not. Like, are they making references to weird after-hours party practices? What is that thing with the plunger?

Plunger aside, it's not like there were any great mysteries, or anything deep going on. We had a number of characters- drunk chicas, b-boys, janitors, queer police officers with a penchant for ballet, and a soundtrack of what I'm pretty sure is house music. They kicked around, acting silly, dancing in groups, and rubbing their crotches. Some of the characters were pretty great- like the convict in the prison outfit who would dance his heart out, then stand stock still and glare at the audience with unbridled hate. But most were not funny enough. And the sexual/violent overtones of a lot of the pieces went too far for a fluffy dance show- like the hazing/gang initiation of a pig-tailed wannabee, or the notable abuses of power by a lesbian cop. A really promising bit, where a cute audience member got a lap-dance from about 10 gorgeous, muscular looking men, went south when it moved away from its performative aspect and became mostly about fondling the volunteer.

Thing being, the kids didn't really have the chops. They were clearly having a lot of fun, but I'd say 80% of them had no snap. No placement. There's probably a technical term for it, but I mean that special quality in a dancer that causes onlookers to think "Hey! She really just put her foot there, just now, into space. I noticed it." They also kept trying things that were just a smidge beyond them technically.

Now, in a fun-fun dance show, I don't require technical ability. Hell. I love the Belmont Burlesque, even though the Bombshells can just about do a two-step. But they've got wit! And they make the hoochie-coo culture they're drawing from really appealing. And that's the thing. I could get drunk, I guess, and enjoy this show. I even enjoyed it sober. Perhaps it's that I don't know jack about club culture. But the party girls didn't make me want to learn.