Sunday, November 13, 2011

Family and other strangers


Went to see an old pal, the ever versatile John Glover, in new play with the deceptively poetic title of "The Atmosphere of Memory" at the Labyrinth Theater. Actually, Labyrinth would be a more suitable title; as the play got lost within its own structure and direction. Far from poetic, it is a raunchy, outrageous meant-to-shock farce with some juicy monologues. However, only one actor played all its farcical possibilities: diddle diddle dumpling my friend John!
The premise is a disturbed man wrote a play about his family to dispel his childhood ghosts. We see his stage family, their rehearsals and performances mixing dozens of old theatrical styles, much as the director Pam McKinnon does. His actual mother, a formerly well known and flamboyant star, plays the mother in the play. (She is portrayed by Ellen Burstyn) When the real life father (John Glover) shows up – an absolutely uncontrolled, unrefined self-satisfied man who was out of their lives for years, the real family delves through their outrageous past and makes of course, great revelations.
One scene which ought to have been a laugh riot, when real life sister asks to have her role removed from the play and playwright is caught between her and the love of his life who portrays her on stage, is performed for its drama, not its humorous aspects. In fact, most of the play is played more for drama than the outrageous farce of misfortune, and therein lies the flaw. A good play is buried under all the shrubbery in which it got lost.
Then saw the tact revival pf A.R.Gurney’s "CHILDREN" on a night when the author was there for a talk back. The mostly silver haired audience loved this production, Many of them were long time Gurney fans. The four character play was impeccably presented with the cool aloofness one expects of a wasp family – even when all hell breaks loose it doesn’t come close to an average family reunion in a Jewish or Italian family. Much of the subsequent discussion was about if this world of privilege and old family values still exists anywhere, and the consensus was, maybe in little pockets.
But the play had that charming agelessness of family drama – from "Oedipus" and "King Lear" through "Life With Father", "All My Sons" and "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" to the hectic hateful family plays currently engorging our stages.
One person wondered where the young audiences were, which gave Mr. Gurney an opportunity to talk about his work with younger writers and actors at the Flea Theater. Most delightful of all comments was by a man who had come into the wrong theater. He and his brother were supposed to be across the hall where his brother’s friend was appearing in a play – oddly, their ticket seats were empty in this theater, they were seated, and did not realize their mistake in time to move on! Gurney acquired a new fan with this production, judging by the man’s further comments. Real life comedy of errors in the audience which we all shared!

Enjoyed the innocence and charm of My Week with Marilyn in which the author recalls his early career and relationship with this iconic film star. It is a sweet tribute and not, one hopes, a falsified portrait of a real person. Personally, although I am a fan of Kenneth Branagh, I could not relate to his Sir Laurence Olivier, and the woman playing Vivian Leigh looked less like her than I do. Maybe they think no one remembers the actual appearance of these stars. As for performance, his Olivier was nobody I could relate to the screen or stage actor I remember. Never the less, much enjoyed the film

Don’t understand all the anger over Anonymous. It’s a delightful “what if” explanation of how the Shakespeare plays might have been written. It does not pretend to be history – it is supposed to be a play, and it plays well. The cast is energetic and believable even if the story is not, and it captures your interest.
Elizabeth’s costumes are magnificent and the settings seem to have the grungy look one expects of old England. My main complaint is that Derek Jacobi had too little to do.

I am far more outraged at all the authors jumping on other people’s writing to create films and TV series of their own, as well, of course as books. GRIMM, ONCE UPON A TIME are using fairy tale plots to create TV fantasy terror these days.
Novelists are using real life people (now deceased) as well as story-created characters by famous authors such as Jane Austen’s Darcy et al to launch new tales about them. What happened to creativity from the ground up? Is it so much easier to ride on someone else’s character tails?

Lots of people in neighboring states were left electricity less for weeks due to freak snow storm - nature’s own Fall drama..
Don’t know how I could manage my biz without electricity, telephone and the all mighty computer. All my current scripts and recently printed books are on my computer. Poems in the works are on my computer. Bookkeeping is on my computer. Phone numbers are stored in my phone – don’t remember anyone’s number because never dial them. Couldn’t get check from my bank one day because computers were down and tellers did not know how to give me a bank check under the circumstances.

Thank goodness I still know how to write so I can put pen to paper and keep my brain from exploding with all the things wanting to be transcribed for my memoir, should my machine go belly-up, rather than slogging slowly along.
We are too dependent on machines. Kids use them in exams. They use them instead of thinking or working out problems. A case in point, a costume designer pal of mine, wrote me of the following incident.
“I had to visit the AppleStore yesterday to clear up a problem with the new computer and while waiting for help was fiddling around with that iPad everyone is salivating over. Clicked up "Numbers," Apple's complicated and annoying spreadsheet replacement for their former AppleWorks app, Apple's intuitive, excellent original app that I guess somebody who never did a spreadsheet felt needed improving (translation, $$$ for Apple). I spoke with 4 employees, not one could figure out how to put numbers in a couple of columns and add them together. Never mind anything more complicated. At least 40 minutes of fooling around and 4 employees' time (not to mention mine) just trying to add 2 and 2 in each of two cells and get a sum. Finally they told me they didn't know this program, based on Excel (never mind it is Apple's own software made by Apple), couldn't help, and suggested I take a workshop to find out how to input 2+2 and get a sum. I showed them a pencil and a piece of paper. So while China's young people are spending their time trying to find the cure for cancer, our engineers are creating new and exotic ways for people to attend workshops to relearn how to add 2+2. Very scary how the young people (and not just the young people) are transfixed by these gadgets to their own detriment. Pointing this out only causes blank stares with the message "unreasonable old fogey who doesn't want to learn." Does anyone doubt why America is in decline.” Judanna Lynn
I have grown grandkids who cannot tell time on a clock with hands – they expect the clock to tell them the time digitally.
Banks urge us to use on line banking. Meanwhile, in the last month alone, three pals have been hacked, and my machine’s Norton security has notified me of several critical attempts to break into mine.
I don’t want to go back to the old days – its great to take a paragraph or a page and shift it elsewhere in my manuscript with two clicks of my keyboard. But I do think our brains should store basic information, or we need paper backup. If electronics failed – could we navigate our lives?
Lightning Source is doing great business these days – couldn’t get short run book published in over two weeks. Revolting! Therefore, final and finest of my fairy tale book series, “Goblins Genies and Trolls, Oh My!” is not ready to send and orders are coming in for Christmas!
Happy Holidays to all!

1 comment:

  1. You have a very interesting blog. I am stopping by from Grandma Bonnie's Closet.