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Archive for the ‘theater’ Category

This is what’ll happen if you ain’t giving your girl what she needs.

Posted by kozemp on January 28, 2016

This is not going to be particularly polished, or even coherent, because I desperately need sleep, and my knee hurts like hell and has taken on a shape more reminiscent of a softball than a human joint, and there is a small blue bottle sitting on the kitchen counter that is going to fix ALL of those things all at once, but once again I am in the position of needing to get something down while it is still fresh in my mind.

I just came back from the world premiere of The It Girl, by Amanda Schoonover, Brenna Geffers, and Anthony Crosby, at the brand-new Drake Theater. (Technically, I suppose, at the Louis Bluver Theater at the Drake, but I can be more interested in splitting that particular hair later.)

I am struggling here to accurately describe what the show IS. I can pull out the old English Major Douchebaggery merit badge and go on at exceptional length about what the show says, and what it is about, and how it presents those things, and how well it does it, and how important the things it’s saying are, but I am really stuck on a basic description of what you get when you sit down.

The best I can come up with – and partially because I don’t want to spoil the joy of discovery that comes with watching the show become what it is in front of you – is that it’s a about the life and career of silent film star Clara Bow. This is a bit like the way I once talked about describing LA Confidential, where as soon as you say that you want to add “but it’s SOOOOOOO much more than that.” And it is. But I can’t tell you what any of those things ARE because knowing it would ruin a lot of the magic of it.

What I can tell you is that the execution of all the things I’m not telling you is fucking amazing. Amanda Schoonover is astonishing as Clara, whipsawing across the silent film star’s life with an energy I could scarcely believe from 15 feet away. (The Louis Bluver theater is, to put it mildly, very intimate.) I want to see more of her Clara, and when you see this show and realize exactly what that means, and what it is, and that’s it’s ME saying that, you’re going to retroactively understand just how effusive my vague praise here is.

The fact that the previous paragraph requires a time machine to fully work is a good sign that it’s close to blue bottle time.

It is not, strictly speaking, a one-woman show, and Anthony Crosby… it took me a little while to sort of realize what he’s representing here, but it’s so cool and understated and I love the way it ends up working. Take care to pay special attention to “understated” there because, trust me, the desire to take what he’s doing and hammer the audience with it can often be too powerful to dismiss. I’ve seen shows that do that. I’m pretty sure that at least once I made a show that did that. The fact that this show doesn’t is just another thing that’s so great about it.

And then you get to the end… sort of… and the conclusion of Clara’s story feels earned in a way that biographies never seem to manage because real life just doesn’t work that way, does it? But it does here, and it’s heartbreaking.

And then…

Shit, you know what it’s like? Remember at the end of The Ring, when Rachel pulls Samara’s body out of the well, and there’s the big dawn scene of “hey, we fixed everything, now let’s go home and enjoy life?” And then there’s still 20 minutes of movie left that turn your soul into jelly? The It Girl has a moment like that, a moment where it’s clearly all over and you’re ready to release all your built up tension and head home and then Aidan says “you helped her?” and suddenly everything jumps to another level and you are trapped in this thing and it won’t let you go. It’s transcendent. I wish I could tell you more about it but I refuse to. You’re going to have to trust me on this one. I don’t use words like “transcendent” lightly.

I haven’t even talked about how great the script is, how like all the best period pieces it’s actually about right now, and how sharply it addresses the horrifying truth that 90 years later showbusiness still chews women up and spits them out. I could go on for days about that too. This show is so great it makes me angry I didn’t do it.

Put simply, like a wise man once said: it is unique, and unique is always valuable.

You must, must go see it.




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Make me a drink.

Posted by kozemp on May 1, 2015

I am kind of furiously banging away at this one on a self-imposed late night deadline, because I really need to get some sleep but I also need to get this down while it’s still fresh in my mind, before said sleep smears the edges of my recollection. Which means this may not be the most polished thing I’ve ever written, but by the end you’ll understand why that’s necessary.

So, then.

Just after I started my slow, cautious foray back into doing theater stuff however many weeks or months ago it was – it is one of those things that already I cannot remember precisely when it happened – I was looking at the Theater Philadelphia website and saw that Theatre Exile was doing Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.

I saw that and had a curious, strangled reaction, for a bunch of reasons.

I instantly bought a ticket all the same, and here’s why:

A little while later I was having lunch with an old theater friend and I mentioned the play, saying, “have you ever actually SEEN it?”

He scrunched up his face for a second and then said, “you know, I don’t think I have.”

“Me neither,” I said. “I mean, I’ve seen the movie, and read the script a bunch of times.”

“I’ve done scene work from it,” he said.

“Right. But have you ever actually seen it performed?”

I paused.

I will admit that back when I was actively doing theater stuff I would occasionally bang on Theatre Exile for tackling really interesting and really challenging material and then having a bad tendency to back away from the parts that made it really interesting and challenging – for metaphorically, and occasionally literally, turning down the lights at the important bits. However, I will also admit that when I would call Joe Canuso “my nemesis” and shake my fist at the mention of them – I literally used to do that, for Chrissakes, I’m cringing at the thought of it – the joke came out of a combination of burning jealousy and sincere admiration. Joe and Theatre Exile seemed to have tastes that ran very similar to mine, except they also had a relative abundance of things I lacked. Important things like experience, and money, and decorum, and good sense. They were doing the sorts of shows I wanted to do, only better.

You can see how that would drive me crazy.

At any rate, once I made the decision to slowly and cautiously start working my way back, and to start out by just seeing as many shows and as many people as I could, and once I saw that Theatre Exile was doing Virginia Woolf, my reaction to the whole thing was summed up in what I said next to my friend at lunch:

“I’m not about to miss THAT.”

This is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Straight off and for the record: I saw Theatre Exile’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf at Plays and Players tonight, and it. Is. ASTONISHING.

It’s not just that everyone in it is great. (They are.) It’s not just that the execution of the tech across the board is great. (It is.) And it’s certainly not that Joe Canuso’s direction perfectly – oh god so perfectly – avoids all the things I’ve been running into as I get back into this thing, all the artificial, presentational things about theater that I absolutely fucking loathe. The actors talk TO each other. They look at each other. They get in each other’s faces. They touch. They flirt. The characters and the performances are so real and the direction is so dead-on and so right that… I… I almost can’t describe it. It’s like you’re not there. The proscenium and the seats and the lights and the other people in the audience melt away and you’re just in this room with these four people and you wish you weren’t, because the performances of these wretched, horrible people are so transcendent, but at the same time you can’t look away for even an instant. When Honey stumbles around in a drunken stupor I literally had a second where I was freaking out that she was going to fall off the stage.

The sheer reality of the whole endeavor is terrifying.

The agility of the show, of the totality of acting and directing and design, just amazes me. Most plays – good ones, even great ones – are like an aircraft carrier. They’re powerful, but they’re tough, and lumbering. And that’s not surprising, or even bad. It takes a lot of work and more concentration than most folks can comprehend from a whole lot of people to put on a really good production. A lack of maneuverability, after a fashion, is okay. This? This is not that. Christ is it not that. This is like someone turned a Formula 1 car into an Edward Albee play. The show, the whole thing, it turns on a dime, and it changes gears faster than you can blink, and it goes from zero to a hundred and back again in seconds without breaking a sweat.

Believe me, were it not way past my bedtime on a school night I would rave on and on about every amazing thing in this production, even though I have neither metaphors nor superlatives enough to accurately describe it. The closest thing I’ve got is what I was able to say to Joe Canuso before I had to rush out and catch my train home so I could type this up and get to bed at a decent hour (which I have failed to do).

I found Joe, shook his hand, and just said, “it burns the paint off the walls.”

As a friend of mine put it: this is what theater is supposed to be.

It is extraordinary.

You must, must, must go see it.


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