Thursday, January 17, 2013

Other Desert Cities - SpeakEasy Stage

Everyone has their own version of the truth. That truth is culled from conversations, past accounts, honed by self-experience. Nurture or nature, perhaps both create the end result. And so it is in Jon Robin Baitz 2011 play, Other Desert Cities.
Set in 2004 and in 2011, Brook Wyeth, daughter of two successful Hollywood actors - staunch Republicans who count the Regan and elder Bush family as dinner companions – arrives home for Christmas with a tell-all family memoir six years in the making. It describes her truth, which as the program notes say, ‘turns out to be a lie’. So fear not, I will give no more away.
The early scenes are dominated by false bonhomie, over the top, humor largely at the expense of Jewish mothers, Republicans and rather strangely, ‘The British’. This is of course to lull the audience into believing they are watching a sit-com type comedy of the sort that can only last one one season using stereotype acting and dialogue. Brooks alcoholic aunt brings another stereotype to the stage and her shrieks and antics contribute further to audience mood ripe for plunder.
For my part, I found myself reaching for the non-existent remote for a channel change until Baintz adds the first twist in a scene with Brooks and her brother. Previously only hinted at, we discover that an elder brother not only committed suicide, but had taken a minor role in a Venice Beach terrorist cell, complicit in bombing a military recruitment office in which the janitor perished.
The rest of the play deals with the fallout from Brooks manuscript and her belief that her parents drove her brother away when he needed help and are culpable in his taking his own life.
It’s tough to be a witness a family self-destruct, swaying between accusation, recrimination, hatred, loathing and despair. It must be even tougher to act it night after the night. The cast manage reasonably well, but for me, there seemed to be too much standing around, gazing blankly, angrily or with some other form of facial emotion, whilst the on-stage character sullied forth with their monologue.
I know from my own experience that some truths are best kept in the family, if not inside one’s own mind, just in case they be not the truth at all.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Invisible Man Makes a Worthy Apearance

"I am an Invisible Man," the opening line in Ralph Waldo Ellison's classic American novel, hangs in the air, waiting for a challenge, reverberating through the slowly quieting audience.
A black man stands on stage, clad in a white singlet, surrounded by a set representing his Harlem basement hiding place in the 1930's.
And so begins nearly three hours of fast paced, racy and at times difficult to grasp dialogue, ripped from a age and place few have traveled or even care to acknowledge.
Perhaps high schools teach Ellison's novel. If not they should, difficult as it may be, his work depicts a history that is uncomfortable and, like my adopted nation, still a work in progress.
With powerful and sustained cast performances, sets so incredible that I so want to photograph them as backdrops, it not only blazes to life in the Huntington Theater's production, but drives deep into the emotional core.
At times during the performance I felt deeply ashamed, none less so than when the Invisible Man speaks directly to the audience, fully exposed under house lights. Perhaps it's the fading echoes from the sins of our fathers, for surely all of our ancestors have acted themselves at some point in history in ways that  we today  regard as misguided.
I wish I could have slowed down some of the scenes, replayed them as with a book or a DVD, to grasp more fully the eloquence of both words and actions.
The final line from the Invisible Man rings as true today as it did then,

“Who knows but that, on the lower frequencies, I speak for you?” 

Theater at its best and equal to any I have seen in London or New York.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Lost and Found Two

Originally uploaded by traces
to see more click here
There is something about abandoned vehicles that draws me to them.
The patina of rust, faded paintwork and gap-toothed grills. Seats sagging with the imprint of miles driven. Slumping tires, slowly wheezing air from a past age. Stories left unwritten, tales of near misses, places visited and lives changed that can now only be imagined.
Slowly nature coddles their once solid form in its creeping embrace, as if to trap and eventually devour.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Shipwrecked - Story telling at its best

Shipwrecked by Donald Margulis is based on the story of Louis de Rougemont (hint - this is not his real name), who leaves home and his sickbed at the age of sixteen to travel the world. Taking passage as crew of pearl diving ship, he and the faithful ship's dog are washed up after a storm on an uninhabited tropical island.

After many years and rescuing a similarly shipwrecked native woman, her son and her father, he returns with them to their own land where he rides on turtles, fends of marauding pillagers with the aid of stilts and acrobatics, marries the woman, fathers two children and eventually returns home thirty years later with a fantastic tale to tell. It becomes a serialized sensation and he is hailed as a hero, adventurer and raconteur. And then comes the Oprah moment go see it or if you really can't, just Google it.

This Lyric Stage Company of Boston production is the best of their season, so far. The three actors are a tour de force and two of them playing multiple roles with comic voices and timing to match are simply outstanding. The show runs until 20th December - see it and experience the true art of the story.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Let it snow

Cool walk in Minuteman National Historic Park after a night of wet and heavy snow. The building is the Hartwell Tavern and dates from the time of the American Revolution. In the summer it is open to the public and features demonstrations of musket firing, weaving and the games people played.
Today there was simply solitude.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Left Behind to Rust in Peace

Had a trip outside of Boston for Thanksgiving and found a great place to photograph the final resting place of many transportation artifacts. From Buggies to barrows, buses to Buicks this place has it all. I know as a conservation minded person I should be appalled by the dumping, but I really like the way nature reclaims - muting colors, eroding strength, and masking presence. In 50 years time, if the land does not become a housing lot, then this particular transformation might well be complete.

Leaving home

Early morning is not my favorite time of day, especially when it means a trip to Logan for the first flight out of the day.
A week ago was different.
From home - 13 miles northwest of Boston - to departure lounge in a little over 90 minutes thanks to a lift to Alewife 'T' Station and then a $1.75 ride to Terminal B. True, a limo takes half the time, but at a cost of $85. Automatic check-in, quick baggage handling, even quicker security check - does it get any better?
Well yes, because after grabbing a Starbucks coffee and rounding the corner to the departure gate, this is the sight that met my gaze. OK, the sun was a little higher than first viewing by the time I grabbed my camera, found a spot to minimize through-glass reflections. You could call it a glowing send off.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Tapes and Gatesgate -not.

Recently released tapes of a 911 call to Cambridge police identifying a possible crime in progress are surprisingly innocuous. No racial profiles or slurs, deleted expletives, or over dramatization. Simply a female caller, expressing her concern and uncertainty. So why does the story continue to have legs?

We could point the finger at Professor Gates and Officer Crowley or President Obama and Governor Deval Patrick and everyone else who hitched their wagon to this particular sideshow caravan. We all know the lingering discomfort of being in the wrong and failing to admit it, whether at home, at work in a car or on the street. We also know the feeling of panic from being in the wrong place at the wrong time or the right pace with the wrong people around us, whatever our race or background.

First as a visitor, then work visa holder, legal resident alien and now US citizen I am deferential to the police when they ask to see my identification. I can not be certain, but I think this would be as true in my home as it has been when outside. As the scorpion who stung the frog carrying it across the pond said when asked 'why?' "it's in my nature". It's who I am, just as those involved at all levels are who they are.

It will take more than a beer and a White House photo opportunity to resolve the underlying issues of acceptance, tolerance and respect that exist in all countries and for all nationalities, races and religions, but the ones that triggered this media firestorm - they're no Gatesgate.

Tall ships come and go - memories linger

Without doubt attendance at the Sail Boston tall ships events exceeded downplayed and downsized expectations. The events' pre-911 visit to Boston in 2000 attracted more than 100 ships and 7.5 million visitors.

With organizers marooned by the City's lack of security funding,
Sail Boston cast adrift the pride of show Parade of Sail event. This year's visit, limited to only 40 ships, had been expected to attract only 500,000 visitors but due to good weather and perhaps the fact it was 'free', the organizer estimated 3.5 million people took time to view the ships dotted around the harbor wharfs.

With fewer ships open only 5 hours per day, there would be a real crush if everyone attempted to snag a tour. In fact it would mean that 87,500 people would have to get on board each ship over the 5 day event period. That's 3500 per hour, or 1 person per second.

Many, like myself, chose to view at a distance and still enjoyed a rarely seen and spectacular sight.