Posted in based on a novel, based on a play, cheating, cinema, comedy, comedy-drama, committment, couples, film

Isle (sic) Seats

T and B sit in aisle seats at our “in-house theater” where movies are the entertainment.

Here on our little island home, we let Showtime® or Movies!® or TMC® (among others) regale us with cinema past present and future.

Serendipitous

A little tremor passed through me when I picked up the December 3rd issue of The New Yorker to find a reprint of a Nora Ephron piece from 2006. The shudder was the thrill of serendipity.

I had just seen Heartburn and here she was chatting about cooking and food. In the article, Serial Monogamy, she acknowledges that the roman à clef upon which the film is based is a thinly disguised version of her second marriage. The ups and downs and downs of this union are played out by Meryl Streep as Rachel Samstat and Jack Nicholson as her not so faithful husband, Mark Forman.

I never take serendipity lightly or for granted but frequently have no idea what to do with it. This is such a case, a reinforcement as it were of its very randomness.

Cooking

Ephron’s story stirred another chord of memory for me. My mother had been working on a Meditterean cookbook for some time. Her manuscript sits in my closet and I wonder if I should try some of her recipes.

I wonder, but mostly I feel guilty because I know I won’t make any attempt to replicate her best-loved dishes. Then, perhaps, I should just acknowledge that I am too random a cook to follow anyone’s directions. And that I am better off not messing with her signature.

Leaving a bad taste

There are few scenes of cooking in a Woody Allen feature, notably the hilarious lobster bruhaha in Annie Hall and the feasts whipped up by the title character (portrayed by Mia Farrow)  in Hannah and Her Sisters. Allen is a frequent guest in our home–not in person, of course, although I did run into him in the neighborhood once. We generally  find his movies interesting, thought-provoking, and brilliant. We have admired his genius. 

Unfortunately, Allen has had a substantial  helping of problems of late, landing in the fire for alleged sexual misconduct of a heinous variety. His films are suggestive of a guilty verdict.

For instance, I found Play It Again, Sam funny, brilliant and moving upon a recent re-viewing. Then we came to a truly objectionable  scene in which Allen and Diane Keaton appear to exalt the virtues of rape. Is there a point, beyond being outrageous to this? How does Keaton react to the impropriety of the script, I wonder?

In Manhattan, Allen’s man-child character is dating an underage, if extremely mature Mariel Hemingway. This has always made me cringe and turned me off this film, despite its many lovely images of the city, and some very smart dialogue.

Hot Water Indeed

Then there’s Hannah and Her Sisters, a wonderful study of love and relationships in their many permutations, marred  by the introduction of pedophilia. It’s brought in as a small bit in which Allen’s Mickey, a comedy writer and show runner, is battling his network–and his assistant,  played by Julie Kavner–over including a segment in which this taboo is prominent.

Really?  The presence of this in this iconic movie has fuelled and given credence to  the allegations against Woody Allen.

 We are left with a few pictures we can whole-heartedly endorse in the backlist of Allen’s output. Broadway Danny Rose may be his most romantic venture of the earlier works.

It is a critical no-no for a critic to confuse the art with the artist, of course, but the crisis challenging Allen fans looms large.  His early oevre seems to feed into the #MeToo-related issues that plague him. Thankfully, the more recent films are here for us to reaffirm his intense dedication to the art of the cinema and his astonishing talent.

Posted in #whatdoyouthink, actors, African-American playwrights, artist, based on a novel, based on a true story or event, based on a true story or event and historical documents, based on true events, brutality, chronicle, deep South, empowerment, ensemble acting, famous, film, Fox Studios, historical drama, history, honky, husbands and wives, KKK, meditation on life, movie, new work, opinion, poignant, race, racism, riff, sci fi, serious, serious subject, showcase, timely, TV, Valentine's Day

Serially entertaining

Actors and screen-writers are busier these days than they have been in some time. There are “streaming” shows, 100s of cable outlets producing both series and movies, and of course Hollywood and the Indie scene all requiring their talents and services.

We are the beneficiaries of all this production. We will be enlightened, entertained and excited by the films they produce.

What better way to spend Valentine’s Day than binge watching Divorce?

Gifted, the movie with Chris Evans and Mckenna Grace, and not so incidentally Octavia Spencer, Jenny Slate, Lindsay Duncan, and Elizabeth Marvel, is touching without being maudlin. It is generally intelligent, with a sterling performance by young Ms. Grace, and until we saw it last night on HBO, I had not heard much about it.

The assignment for Black History Month can include the excellent Get Out, Jordan Peele’s genius defies and reinvents the “horror” genre. It should also feature a viewing of Birth of a Nation, perhaps both in its regressive D.W. Griffith 1915 version and Nate Parker’s 2016 “remake.” The contrast between a paen to the Ku Klux Klan and to Nat Turner’s slave rebellion may prove edifying. Add Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave (although not our personal favorite) to your list of films for 2018. (In the New Yorker, Vinson Cunningham expresses a different view, especially of Parker’s film.)

Art is meant to engender controversy, stimulate and even incense and enrage. We should not be passively diverted in its presence. It is here to help us ponder life’s (and history’s) biggest issues.

Thanks to films and serial dramas we have a lot to consider and enjoy. And we are treated to some terrific performances in the bargain.

Posted in based on a novel, drama, reimagined classic novel, The Pearl Theatre Company

Mind your manners

1extendMay27

14. Pearl_Vanity Fair(c)Russ Rowland
(L-R) Tom O’Keefe, Brad Heberlee, Zachary Fine, Kate Hamill, Joey Parsons, Ryan Quinn, Debargo Sanyal in Vanity Fair(. Photo (c) Russ Rowland

We like to believe that we are a classless society; that myth goes hand-in-glove with the narrative of American exceptionalism. Actually, a story in which overcoming one’s birth and breeding and using one’s abilities to rise above is timely and relatable.

Thackeray redux

08. Pearl_Vanity Fair(c)Russ Rowland
(Back: L-R) Brad Heberlee, Debargo Sanyal, Tom O’Keefe (Front: L-R) Zachary Fine, Kate Hamill. Photo (c) Russ Rowland

The subject or perhaps object of Masterpiece Theatre envisionings, William Makepeace Thackeray’s socially-astute novel, Vanity Fair as reimagined  by Kate Hamill, now finds a place in a theater adaptation as wellClass and birthright are important themes here as they were in Hamill’s adaptation of  Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility.

Tales from the drawing room

Vanity Fair, under the direction of Eric Tucker, at the Pearl Theatre already extended through April 30th May 14th, is both a comedy of manners and a costume drama (designed by Valérie Thérèse Bart.)

Hamill (along with Tucker) has tread similarly social astute ground in the well-dressed and zany drawing room play she wrote based on Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility.

The kernel of the Thackeray is expanded and expounded. The characters maintain their identities, while Vanity Fair has them dance to hip hop and then waltzing. It’s a morality play, even though the Manager (Zachary Fine) asks us not to judge. “There are no morals here,” he narrates.

That wicked, wicked girl

10. Pearl_Vanity Fair(c)Russ Rowland
(L-R) Debargo Sanyal, Joey Parsons, Kate Hamill, Ryan Quinn, Tom O’Keefe. Photo by Russ Rowland

Becky Sharp (Kate Hamill) proves the point, being at once protagonist and anti-heroine. Her character (in the sense of rectitude) is questionable; her behavior imprudent. She is an ambitious opportunist. Yet, she marries for love. Her affections are drawn to Rawdon Crawley (Tom O’Keefe) despite his being impecunious. His prospects are tied to the possibility that his Aunt Matilda (Zachary Fine, again) will include him in her will.

In contrast to the aggressive Becky is her sweet schoolmate, Amelia Sedley (Joey Parsons), whose acquiescence to every nasty turn of fate is met with guileless trust. Amelia’s love is a solipsistic fellow named George Osborne (Debargo Sanyal) whom she marries, ignoring the heartfelt admiration of William Dobbin (Ryan Quinn.)

02. Pearl_Vanity Fair (c)Russ Rowland
(L-R) Brad Heberlee, Joey Parsons, Tom O’Keefe, Kate Hamill. Photographer: Russ Rowland

Rounding out the cast is Brad Heberlee, who like his cohorts in the ensemble takes on a variety of roles. His best is as the bumbling and extremely sheepish Jos Sedley at whom Becky first aims her attentions.

Adapted to the stage

Adaptations of this type are risky, dare I say it,  ambitious business, but Hamill manages to capture the spirit of the original in a modern context with wit and charm. She also creates an extremely theatrical theater experience.

The pace, under Eric Tucker’s able direciton, is swift. The actors, despite often intermingling speeches, offer clearly defined personae.  There is music, and singing (Kate Hamill has a very pleasing voice,) including some originally composed by Carmel Dean. Sets (by Sandra Goldmark) are both elaborate and minimal; their versatility enhancing the event that is Vanity Fair.

For more information, please visit the Pearl website.