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Haiku Review: The Bridges of Madison County

14 Feb

Well hello there!! I know, I know, it’s been a long time. What can I say, I wandered. But now I am back, awakening this here blog from its long slumber.

I see that the last time I posted it was about ‘Far From Heaven’*, and my final thought was that I couldn’t wait to see the Kelli O’Hara and Steven Pasquale in ‘The Bridges of Madison County’, where they could play a couple who actually wanted to make out with each other instead of the sexless duo of ‘Far From Heaven’. Well, funnily enough on Wednesday I saw Bridges, and BOY HOWDY ARE THOSE TWO GOOD AT PLAYING A COUPLE WHO WANT TO MAKE OUT WITH EACH OTHER. Dayamn!**

But, as we all know, my general philosophy is never to talk about something when I could butcher an ancient form of Japanese poetry about it instead. So without further ado, some Haiku for ‘The Bridges of Madison County':

It is freezing out
But on mid-45th street
It is steamy hot.

For real, Francesca.
Dump your family and their cow.
You’ve seen Robert’s abs.

So, we all agree
Whitney Bashor is a star
In the making, yes?

If the teenage boys
look like that, Iowa cows
Are full of Muscle Milk.

You know that a show
Has hit your heart when the tears
Start to hit your boobs.

Jason Robert Brown
Between this, Parade, 13…
Uch, I can’t even.

A great love story
For eternity and more
Is me and this show.

*Go back to my haikus about Far From Heaven, the first one absolutely applies here too. That Kelli O’Hara, man. She just sings right to your heart.
**I thought of a line I love regarding this particular heat, but it is far too filthy to post in public and I don’t want to scandalize my proper WASP ancestors. So if you’re curious and you see me around, ask me and I’ll tell you.

Haiku Review: Far From Heaven

2 Jul

Kelli O’Hara
Sings on a stage and I feel
All of the feelings.
 
 
 
The 1950s:
Awful social policies
But awesome dresses.
 
 
 
Elegant outsides
Hide inside pain, but with songs!
So take THAT, Mad Men.
 
 
 
Oh man, I was a mess of ugly crying at the end of ‘Far from Heaven’. I have to say I was skeptical when I first heard it was becoming a musical; it seemed to me like the movie was built around a minute subtlety that I thought would be hard to transfer to the larger scale of a stage. But I thought the same thing about ‘Once’, which only goes to show that I know nothing. Because dang, did they capture it. Kelli O’Hara singing at the end, this beautiful creature trapped in a world where she has everything but any freedom or real human connection, just kneed me right in the feelings.
 
One of the pet causes I developed during grad school was trying to make people understand how the music in a musical functions dramaturgically, adding depth, shading, and meaning to the storytelling of a theater piece (as opposed to just adding something pretty while the action halts, an unfortunate misconception that many people have). I will happily break down how Epiphany from ‘Sweeney Todd’ illustrates the ingredients of a mental breakdown, or talk about how ‘Les Mis’ uses a repeated melody to underline two characters’ connection, at pretty much the drop of a hat. ‘Far From Heaven’ has another beautiful example. Kelli O’Hara plays Cathy Whitaker, a suburban housewife with a picture-perfect life; a beautiful house, an admiring social circle, two children, and a seemingly loving marriage to a successful businessman. But as it begins to unravel, the only person that she finds herself able to talk to is her black gardener, Raymond.
 
Cathy’s songs in the first act are lovely, the melodies pretty and the rhythms precise. But when Cathy takes Raymond’s offer of a drive into the countryside and she begins to open up to him, her song changes. The rhythm relaxes, loosening into something with a gentle swing to it, as she tells Raymond the truth about her life and her feelings. It’s the first time we’ve heard anything like this from Cathy, and we know by hearing it that something is different; that being with Raymond allows Cathy to relax in a way she can’t in the rest of her life.
 
It’s a lovely moment, a musical illustration of a connection that might be hard to enact on the larger scale of the stage. And I’m sure there are others – Scott Frankel and Michael Korie are smart smart writers who engage the heart as much as the head. I look forward to listening to the album. And to buying dresses from the ‘I know they’re representative of a crippling social repression and living as a beautiful object to be displayed but they’re still fucking GORGEOUS’ tie-in fashion line that I seriously hope the show launches, because dang.
 
 
 
P.S. I can’t write a haiku about Steven Pasquale, because I don’t know if his last name has two syllables or three (seriously, every time I say his name I go “Steven Pasqual…ee?” Somebody tell me what it actually is!). But it would be about how he’s very good in this, as evidenced by this gorgeous thing and how I’m glad that he and Kelli O’Hara will be starring in ‘The Bridges of Madison County’ together, so they can play beautiful people who actually want to make out with each other.

Haiku Review (sort of): The Explorers Club

21 Jun

Okay guys, I have a confession to make. I have been attempting to write Haiku Reviews for The Explorers Club for about an hour now, and failing miserably. This can be traced to two different causes:

1. I went to the opening last night so my brain has gone into hangover mode, which is pretty much a dull staring autopilot directing me towards the nearest source of carbs and cheese.

2. It is really hard to write haiku for shows I love. This is a natural outcropping of the idea that it’s just plain harder to write a review for something you love; when there are flaws you can discuss what doesn’t work, how the pieces don’t fit, what they’re maybe attempting. But a good review is more like “man, how good was that? And you know what works about it? Everything.” So my haikus are pretty much a series of me effusively slobbering all over this play in a manner that’s not particularly witty or wise. Because, to put it simply, I just adore this play. I’m a little biased, as the director is a good friend of mine, but even if that weren’t the case I’m pretty sure I would have felt the same way.

It’s a rare and delightful thing when you see something that feels as though it was written just for you. The Explorers Club, which is a hilarious and nerdy-smart comedy about science set in the time of corsets, basically only needs Muppets and Benedict Cumberbatch to be my perfect thing. And it is pure delight – oh my god, you guys, this cast (David Furr! DAVID FURR!! Genius.) and the jokes! – I replay some of them in my head just to amuse myself (charades!! You’ll know what I’m talking about).  I like to think it’s a play I would have written, if I were much much smarter, much much funnier, and much much MUCH better at writing plays than I am. But luckily I don’t need to be any of those things, because Nell Benjamin already is the smartest and the funniest and the best at writing, so I can just be her shrieking fangirl and tell you all that if you enjoy reading this blog, you’ll probably love this play. And you’ll probably see me there, since I’m pretty sure I can convince MTC to sell me some sort of fun pass for its run.

Alright, drooling-on-the-couch-while-hoping-the-aspirin-kicks-in beckons, so I will leave you with this, since I promised a haiku:

 

There’s a new entry
Into the exalted ranks
Of my favorite things.

Haiku Review: Star Trek Into Darkness

28 May

Attractive people
Trading quips and blows in space
What could be better?

Dreamy Benedict
Why do I find you hotter
The colder you are?

It’s worth the money
Just to see Quinto and Pine
Bitch, bicker, and bond.

A space-age future
All kinds of improvements, yet
We still wear mustard?

Lingering Questions about ‘Jekyll and Hyde’, with Haiku Review

16 May

I’ve been sitting on this post for a while, because I was almost ready to roll with it when ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ posted its notice. No matter what I think of a show, that’s always a sad occasion, and my heart goes out to the talented bunch in the show, who all deserve to be in longer-running, better shows.

That being said, am I going to let the show off the hook? Absolutely not! I have been secretly looking forward to seeing it for months, ever since they released their vinyl-scented-Hot-Topic-Haunted-House-sex-orgy promo video. I do love a mix of camp and power belting, if I do say so myself, and the promise of the corsets AND pop stars AND Victorian murder shimmered with the promise of that most ethereal and elusive of guilty pleasures, the ‘fun bad’. I girded my consciousness with two Joe Allen martinis and sat down in my seat, thinking this, maybe, was the moment after all. The moment when I could relive the combination of stunned disbelief and inner joy that I felt when I saw the original production, and knew that I would be re-enacting Jekyll and Hyde’s hair-flipping solo duet (Soet? Dulo?) for years to come. As I have.

So did the new production deliver? Meh. Perhaps it is the Dramaturg in me, but I found myself more often pondering the many questions the show prompts than delighting in a gothic fun-fest. So I thought I would share a few of my thoughts about the show with you all, followed by the haikus that I wrote in my head during the epic stretches of show when… you know, I can’t even remember. Some stuff happens, I guess. But certainly not character development or anything (how about those female characters? Like the one who sings in a soprano and is loyal and pretty, or the other one who belts and is sexy. Not since Mama Rose has there been such complex characterization).

Anyhoo, here are my lingering questions on the show:

1. Really, they have no better way to store their insane people? The show begins with Jekyll bemoaning the state of his father, who is confined to an insane asylum. But when I say confined, I mean strapped to a tiled wall a few feet into the air like a giant moth. Now this is sort of an interesting visual in a ‘Tom Waits in Dracula‘ way, but you just stare at him and think, isn’t there a better place to store this guy? Like, say, the ground?

2. Okay, seriously, nobody recognizes Hyde? Because he is literally JUST Jekyll with his hair down. And a coat. And yet nobody seems to have any idea who this mystery man is – not the hospital board members who have been following his career, not the lawyer who has known him for years, not the prostitute who is in love with Jekyll but has regular sex with Hyde (and who sings of looking deeply into Jekyll’s eyes, so presumably she knows what his face looks like). Seriously, though, guys. It’s not like he’s wearing a Scream mask or dressed as his dead mother – it’s JUST the hair. This begs the question of how Jekyll has been living before then – has he tried to change his look occasionally and discovered that nobody recognizes him? Did he cut his hair once and have his family call the police on him when they thought he was an intruder? Inquiring minds want to know.

Who is that mystery man?!!? Oh wait, is his hair HALF back?! Does that mean he’s mid-transformation?

 

3. What exactly is that contraption in Jekyll’s lab? Because it looks like the world’s largest beer hat, if it were designed for the gay club Splash. And how exactly does this whole formula work? Jekyll requires a lot of chemicals, and then seems to have a little soda bottle of the formula, which he then droppers into a series of large beakers of a clear (or red, given the disco lighting) liquid, which then turn green. There are eight of those things, which attach to tubes that attach to a neck collar and a sort of android-looking wrist thing, which Jekyll wears the first time. Why do you need eight tubes of the same formula? Wouldn’t one suffice? And if later he drinks the formula, why doesn’t he just do that the first time? Wouldn’t that be easier?

CHUG IT! CHUG IT!!

Wait, is that a water bottle he’s holding?! You’re not even TRYING, show.

4. Does anyone in this show make good decisions? I mean, really, you can’t get a series of victims more responsible for their own fates. The hospital board members are being slowly picked off, and yet only one of them is like, “hey, clearly there’s a pattern here, I should probably leave.” But that’s nothing compared to Lucy, the tragic prostitute, who receives a letter saying she is in grave danger and should leave immediately, with a wad of cash so she can do that. But does she pack her few things (which seem to be primarily white cottony underthings, even though we really only ever see her in red and black leather) and book it out of there? Nope, she decides to sing a power ballad about her hopes for a new life. Now, I am no fan of blaming the victim, but I do think that if you receive a letter explicitly saying to leave immediately because a murderer is after you, then you decided to do some power belting about it instead of just scooting, your impending murder is a little bit on you.

 

And now for the poetry:

 

Just calling it now -
My new nickname for the show
Is ‘Dreckyll and Hyde’.

 

Where is this show set?
According to the accents,
Deep South Aussie France.

 

An epic battle
Between a man and his two
Competing hairstyles.

 

 

Haiku Review: Macbeth

21 Apr

A genius actor
And a cool adaptation
So why am I bored?

Haiku Review: Kinky Boots

11 Apr

Why bother writing?
Just hide your show’s problems in
Drop splits and glitter.

The show’s true title:
‘The Full Billy Elliot,
Queen of the Desert’?*

Some really fun things
But oh my god those accents
Are not one of them.

Odd dude, Charlie Price:
In act 1 he’s a great guy
Act 2, a bigot.

I’d totally wear
The finale’s ‘riding’ look
I am not kidding.

It could be great, but
Cheap muggy pandering
Drowns out potential.

*Partially stolen from my genius sister.

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