Saturday, April 30, 2005

Review - Theatre - Beehive - the 60's Musical


Cher and I attended the Country Dinner Playhouse production of “Beehive – The 60’s Musical” to celebrate our one year anniversary. As it turns out, it was opening night. The playhouse is an arena around which the audience is seated. The food was good though certainly not anything to rave about and the service was terrible. The table next to us however, got some of the best service I’ve ever witnessed. Our waitress seemed more interested in flirting with the single customers and other waiters than taking care of her customers.

For those of you who don’t know, Beehive is essentially a thinly guised musical review of the 1960’s. It showcases the lives of 4 girls growing up in the 60’s and uses the music of the popular female performers of that era to carry the story. The music is primarily Pop and R&B. It features songs like “My Boyfriend’s Back” by the Angels, “Remember” by the Shangri-Las, “It’s My Party” by Leslie Gore, “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” by Brenda Lee, and “The Beat Goes On” by Sonny and Cher.

The most memorable performances were that of Mary Louise Lee and Lisa Payton. Both women’s talent was palpable. The other performances were good though not memorable. The thing that struck me about all of the actors was that they were all much too old to be playing teenage girls. I suspect that this is due, in part, to the fact that the playhouse is an equity house. I theorize that young, well developed talent is in short supply and therefore generally goes first to those theater companies with deep pockets. This leaves older, more experienced actors without work and, as such able to work in those productions with lower budgets.

We enjoyed the show. It was certainly not up to the level one would expect of one of the major theaters in town but it was certainly better than average. Lisa Payton’s portrayal of Tina Turner is the highlight of the show. It is downright impressive. Some of the songs that follow are less well suited to the people performing them and the finale seemed flat and unrecognizable given the context of the other songs.


04.30.05 - Pictures of the Happy Couple

Cher and I

Kisses for Cher!

Review - Theatre - Valparaiso


On Friday, April 15th, I attended the 7:30pm performance of Don DeLillo’s Valparaiso at the Eugenia Rawls Courtyard Theatre on the Auraria Campus in Denver, Colorado. It was performed by the students of the College of Arts and Media at the University of Colorado at Denver.

I arrived early wanting to be certain that I got a good seat never having attended a performance in this theatre before. As is my custom, I sat just right of center two thirds of the way back on the main floor. I noticed immediately the television monitors to the left and right of the stage hanging at or about the same level as the proscenium arch and thought to myself, “Uh oh… this is a CAM event”. I then remembered something my instructor had said about all CAM productions needing to have elements of film/video, theatre, art, and dance. I’ve never been comfortable with the type of hodgepodge productions that often result from such an amalgamation of disciplines so I steeled myself for a bumpy ride.

The intro music was odd and felt out of place. By odd I mean that while it was obviously an original composition it failed to hook the audience in and make them feel comfortable as they took their seats – I couldn’t identify with it. The music was too loud while the audience was gathering and it climbed to uncomfortable levels as the house lights dimmed and the curtain was drawn. This created a nervous feeling in my guts which was only strengthened by the liberal use of multiple spotlights and moving gobos as we, the audience, entered the dying mind of the lead character.

The performances, other than that of the lead, seemed bigger than life and more like melodramatic caricatures than real people. In retrospect, I suspect this was by design but, as I sat there watching, it left me trying actively to achieve a state of suspended-disbelief which proved to be distracting. The actresses each appeared to be strutting about the stage like Prima Donnas trying to outshine the others without listening or responding to any but the most obvious of cues from their peers on stage. The one performance that stands out, aside from the lead, was that of the talk show host DelFina. When she first entered from one of the VOMs after a less than inspiring introduction I thought, “Oh this is going to be terrible.” However, after a scene that was far too drawn out and cumbersome, she really impressed me in that she successfully turned the corner from mindless drivel to plot moving action as she riveted the room and carried the emotional moment of the lead’s death.

The costumes were modern if a bit stylized for some scenes and the vernacular was common. As the entire play takes place in the mind of a dying man in the moments before his death, it’s not surprising to find continuity in the costumes and speech. The setting is entirely realistic and it is juxtaposed against characters and events that seem progressively more surreal as the play progresses.

The story arc is a bit limited. It opens and ends with the lead’s death while everything in the middle is the thrashing of his oxygen-deprived brain. Thematically it could be inferred that women are cruel, uncaring creatures to be used for worship and/or sex and that in doing so we (men) are left ultimately unfulfilled and alone. However, I’m uncomfortable with that perspective. I would rather infer that life is short and should never be taken for granted. I would rather look to it as a model for what not to do – a modern morality play of sorts. In retrospect, all of the cues were there and the writing of the play seemed innovative, even interesting. Where the play failed was in the execution - the play just didn’t work for me.

The word I used to describe it to anyone who would listen was horrible. I would have happily left at intermission and requested my money back had I not been required to sit through the entire show for the purposes of this critique. There was too much happening on stage at any given time - The various actors playing both in front of and behind the scrim, the swirling lights, and the four (!!!) TV monitors. So much of it, like the art displayed on the center monitor, seemed arbitrary and irrelevant. The actors were not well matched to each other and their performances seemed overblown and unbelievable. The light and audio cues seemed abrupt and too intense and did not compliment the performance. In short, I’d like those two hours of my life back. To anyone who might have endured this performance, I extend my condolences.


Review - Film - The Merchant of Venice


The Merchant of Venice

Cher and I attended "The Merchant of Venice" Wednesday, March 30th at the Starz Film Center on the Auraria Campus in Denver, CO. The theater itself is cobbled together of used theater equipment and while not sumptuously appointed, it proved to be clean and fairly comfortable – though it did not have a big screen, Dolby Surround Sound, or stadium seating. I found myself harkening back to the ‘80s. The staff was commendable for being friendly, efficient, and professional.

Now to the film... The lighting, cinematography, and scenes were rich and sumptuous. The costumes were impressive though unremarkable. The story is set in Venice at the height of it’s power, 1594. Everywhere there are bare chested courtesans and masked revelers. Anti-Semitism is at it’s height as well. The Jewish people are reviled and sequestered in a part of town referred to as the ghetto. To leave the ghetto, a man must wear a red hat signifying that he is a Jew. The film makes a point of showing over and over that it was common practice to harass and even spit on the Jews outside of the ghetto.

Al Pacino plays Shylock a Jewish lender who agrees to lend money to Antonio (Jeremy Irons) on behalf of his beloved friend Bassanio (Joseph Fiennes) that he may be given the chance to woo the witty and lovely Portia (Lynn Collins). Shylock is among the most tragic of characters in all of Shakespeare’s plays. He evokes both sympathy and disgust. To revenge himself for being spit upon and called a dog by Antonio, he agrees to lend the money under the terms that, should Antonio default, he should yield up a pound of his flesh in repayment. Pacino’s performance, albeit somewhat drawn out labored at times, is brilliant on the whole. His collapse at his moment of anticipated triumph is heart breaking. Shylock, in the classic tradition of Oedipus, is offered many opportunities to avoid tragedy but elects instead to pursue his revenge – which leads to his undoing.

Antonio is the wealthy merchant of Venice. He is honorable, noble, and generous to a fault. He loves his friend Bassanio and when Bassanio comes to him to request funds to woo the lovely Portia, he does not deny him. Despite the fact that he is currently without the funds, he extends his credit that Bassanio might have the opportunity. He does this for the love of his friend Bassanio. Tragically, his ships fail to come in and he honorably submits himself to the Duke for judgment. Mr. Iron’s turns in yet another solid, if unremarkable, performance - which, is something I respect – the willingness to step back and let others shine.

Joseph Finenes is the naïve and love struck Bessanio. He plays a likeable and dear friend to the noble Antonio. His performance was also solid and not overblown. He was believable, genuine, and fun to watch. I buy his affection for the lovely Portia. Lynn Collins’ portrayal of Portia is the most memorable of the production. She is uncommonly lovely, smart, witty, and mirthful. Her performance is subtle and every bit is spot on in my opinion.

On the whole,there are some really entertaining moments interspersed with long moments of development that might have been condensed. This is balanced by the rich visuals and strong ensemble performance along with the impressive performances turned in by Al Pacino and Lynn Collins. It is not critical that you see this one on the silver screen for it would be just as, if not more, pleasing in the comfort of your own living room. It’s a production worth seeing – neither the best or the worst I’ve seen.


Thursday, April 28, 2005

04.28.05 - Life Update

Hello folks! It’s been a wacky month as I’m sure you can guess given the infrequency of my updates of late. Hopefully things have smoothed out for a while and I’ll be able to devote more time to the Blog. I’ve got a bunch of reviews written and ready to post although they are on my other computer so I’ll have to wait until I get home from school to mess with those – some movies, a couple of plays, and several books. I even got off my but and created some ½ monkey icons for the reviews because some of them warrant a ½ monkey one way or the other. I’ve also got some new pictures to post once I get permission from my photographer.

Well the biggest news for those of you who haven’t heard is that Cher and I have decided to get married. The lucky date is Friday July 15, 2005. We have yet to pick a location though the flagstaff amphitheatre is the current favorite. It will be VERY small - our parents, our siblings, our children and Paul and Jen. There will be a reception sometime after at Paul and Jen’s. I’ll be mailing those of you who have any chance to attend the specifics as we sort that out. Another cool point, my stepfather John is a Pastor and he’s agreed to do the wedding – very cool. We’re very excited and looking forward to a wonderful life together.

Next on the list for me is school. I’m still doing well but, as the end of semester nears, I’m experiencing the inevitable anxiety that goes with finals week. After some serious soul searching, and a discussion with financial aid, I’ve decided not to pursue a double major in Music. I will reach my maximum allotment for undergraduate financial aid prior to the completion of my Biology degree so I’ll be paying for about a semester and a half out of pocket. That being said, I think it’s unreasonable to drain the family resources to cover another degree at this time. I can go back and pick it up later if I’m still interested.

I’ll be taking a full load this summer. I’ve decided to knock out one of my Science classes this summer – General Biology I. Summer semesters are shorter than normal and as such, that class will be about six hours long. I’ve also decided to take Music Theory which is co req’d with Ear Training and Sight Singing and Piano Class - I figure that will be more entertaining for me than Music Appreciation. Finally, I’ll be taking my first Online class ever, College Algebra. I’ve failed Algebra so many times I couldn’t tell you exactly how many but it’s at least four. It’s not that I don’t understand, it’s just that I can’t stand the redundant homework assignments. Hopefully sitting at home cranking out the tunes and working on my computer will mitigate some of the homework issues. In any case, I’m going to have to learn how to get through math because I need to get to calculus II before medical school.

We are preparing for Josh’s fishing trip and he is very excited. He’ll be gone for about 12 days in June assuming they don’t elect to use him as bait or that he doesn’t kill his fellow fishermen via some unknown disease given that he has KP duties as well. I’m certain that he will never forget the experience. We’ll miss him while he’s gone.

I took my laptop apart and blew all the dust out of it. It is no longer overheating!!! Yay! It’s also paid for finally, now that it’s dreadfully out of date. Ah computers… Thankfully my tower is fairly modern having been recently upgraded. It could still use a sound and video upgrade but it’s definitely serviceable for most everything I do. I’d have to add a big flat screen to the list of wants but, at this point, it’s no more than a want.

My car died at the end of March. The faithful 1995 Ford Taurus’s transmission quit after hauling my butt for over seventy thousand miles (many of them rough drives through the mountains). It was a good car though I never liked it. My sister would point out that I never liked what it represented. You see, at some point during the death throes of my last marriage, my ex-wife decided I should sell my F150. The truck had belonged to my father and I inherited it after his death. I had put a considerable amount of my inheritance into the truck and it was my pride and joy. In an effort to save my marriage and keep my ex-wife happy, I sold the truck and gave half of the proceeds of the sale to her. I took the other half, purchased the Taurus, and spent the rest on minor things. It didn’t save the marriage though looking back I’d do it again. Money and stuff don’t matter to me as much as the people and relationships in my life. So, as much as I missed and still miss that truck, I know that one day I’ll have another and that if need be, I’ll sell it too.

On the vehicle front, Cher and I are trying desperately to purchase a motorcycle of some kind. We are most interested in the Kawasaki Nomad 1600 at the moment though we have also been looking at the Yamaha Venture, and the Honda Goldwing. Chances are we’re not going to get the financing for any of those this year so were looking into used bikes that can comfortably support two up. If anybody has any ideas, let me know.

On the guitar front I got some new goodies in addition to the nifty new axe. I got a Roland JC120 which is, in my opinion and that of many others, the finest “clean” amplifier on the planet. It also has a Stereo Chorus which is magnificent. In addition to that, I got a BOSS GT8 guitar effects processor. This little baby is incredible. It can emulate the sound of all of the popular amplifier setups of the past 50 years and it can combine the sounds of these amps in virtually any combination. In addition, you can set up two different amp and effects configurations accessible with the handy foot pedals. I’m very psyched. I look forward to playing some open mics around town over the next few years once I get some material together.

Well, that’s enough for now. I’ll get the other material up after I get home. Thanks for checking in and I’ll try to be more regular with the updates.