Sunday, July 09, 2017

Ah Wilderness at the Goodman Theatre

The Goodman Theatre's new production of Eugene O'Neill's Ah Wilderness directed by Steve Scott hits a sweet spot of balance all around.  As the odd comedy out in the work of  Eugene O'Neill it stands alone as a beacon of what kind of family life Eugene might have wished for had he not been cursed with the tortured family we see in works like  Desire Under the Elms andLong Day's Journey Into Night.

The audience enters to see a pleasant blue-sky like screen functioning as the front curtain.  That rises at the opening of each act to expose a full stage scrim that gauzes over our view of the sea front cottage that contains most of the action.  It is this opening visual that  colors our view of the action.   It imparts a slightly misty and nostalgic tone to the innocent world of 1906.  Even without the scrim the earth and sky colors predominate to reinforce that slightly faded sepia memory ambiance.

We then embark on the maturational pains (both literary and sexual) of young Richard Miller played to naive perfection by Niall Cunningham.  The Miller family definitely has problems. There is a father who can't really communicate with his son about sexual matters, an over protective mother, and an uncle who drinks more and more often then he should.  Yet it is not a family that is fully lost to dysfunction and addiction.  The alcoholism that will destroy O'Neill and his real family is here treated with humor.  Love and sex, (which for the real O'Neill was filled with cruelty, divorce, abandonment, and infidelity) is here moderated by sensitive satire and youthful romanticism. Young Richard blunders comically through his first sweetheart and a proverbial prostitute with a semi-heart of gold to come out of his hangover with a reservoir of hope.  The final tableau places his loving parents--arm in arm--gazing at his reclining form on the beach.  There has been some pain, yet lessons have been learned.  The happy ending was certainly not in the future for O'Neill, but clearly it remains the wish of every parent for their offspring.

In sum, director Steve Scott had his finger on every pulse. He guided a uniformly excellent cast of true professionals and backed it up with a visual ambiance that was perfectly attuned to the script. My wife and I loved it.      

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Chicago R & R

Had the opportunity to take a short trip into Chicago earlier this week to visit with some good friends  (The Herolds's) who were on their way to a new job and home in Ohio from Hawaii.  You shall have to ask them why anyone would exchange Hawaii for Ohio.  :)

We had some good views at the Art Institute's just opening Gauguin  Exhibit.  It is fascinating and we hope to make another visit in a couple of weeks.  Beautifully arranged.

We had some good eats at Miller's Pub  (an Italian Omelet), the Greek Islands (Braised Lamb Shank), and the Art Institute Cafe (Lime Shrimp Taco's)  

Tuesday morning found us aboard Chicago's First Lady for a top notch architecture tour guided by a docent from the Chicago Architecture Foundation.  We had not taken this cruise for a number of years and wow has the riverscape changed.  Lot's of new buildings, the expanded Riverwalk itself, and a pristine day made for a marvelous sailing.  Nothing still quite as impressive as the Chicago Skyline as viewed from the mouth of the river.

Hate to say it but the Trump Tower is an eyeful no matter your political leanings.

As is the European Renaissance inspired Wrigley Building.

Yet for just plain look at me originality the 1967 Marina City twin towers still get my vote for  a striking form that has lasted over the years.  

No doubt the older structures emanate  solidity and comfort,  but the new mirror clad behemoths  are just plain dazzling as they blend into and reflect the cloud puffy sky.  

 Flanked by some compatriots the Sears (or Willis) Tower still gets the prize for tallest of them all.

To get more information on The Chicago Architecture Foundation's walks and cruises go to

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Summer Baseball is Here

Nothing like a little of America's pastime to ratchet up our summer excitement.  We traveled to see to our grandson play in a few games last weekend and I brought my camera along.

He plays a bit of first base.

and catcher.  

Then to top it off he pitched two innings.

  He did walk a couple, but only gave up one run so we counted it as a success.

It was also a pretty good day in the batter's box. 

Here he is legging out a double.

Going for second


He's my man!  Congrats.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

THE BERTIE PROJECT—a perfect summer read!

When the events of the world seem to be spiraling into a sewer, there is no greater calming factor than a quick read novel by Andrew McCall Smith. In his 2016 The Bertie Project, he offers a lovely trip into and through the beguiling lives of the folks around 44 Scotland Street in Edinburgh, Scotland

Bertie's mother has returned from her stay in a Middle Eastern harem to reassert her iron-fisted control of Bertie and his father Stuart. Bertie is handling the return to language lessons, yoga, and analysis with equanimity but Stuart has begun an extra-marital fling as a tiny little sign of independence. Meanwhile handsome Bruce is getting a makeover from his new found Australian Amazonian squeeze. Big Lou, the local coffee house proprietor, finds that the MD she has met seems to want her to wear a matron’s uniform  to more than a costume party. And then to top it all off Angus, the artist and part-time poet gets defenestrated in his own home.

Domenica, his wife, handles the philosophical twist on all of these events while the absurdity of the situations puts lip gloss on the faces of all. Serious as it may be, we can’t but help laughing at the predicament of Angus sailing out of a window and landing upside down in a tree for instance. In another comical situation, we have Bruce and Aussie superwoman Clare in a tiny clothing store changing room trying to stuff Bruce into too-tight “hipster” jeans. Meanwhile Bertie moves calmly through the storm without telling a single fib and proving once again that naïveté is charming when coming from total innocence and a generous heart.

Of course it’s old hat for McCall-Smith, but it’s more like a a nice old Harris Tweed cap than a silk topper. The ending once again ties all up and leads to a poem by Angus at one of Domenica's dinner parties. It continues to reinforce that love in the small moments with your friends may be all there is to keep you sane amidst the swirl of hatred and gratuitous violence of the world at large.

Read it if you need a bit of a lift from depression.

Some Additional Nuggets
p.106  We need people to wear their uniforms of identity  from policemen to head waiters. It helps preserve order and confidence in the pillars of civilization.

p 134  We need rituals that make us members of something.  Once again they affirm the order of the universe. "Acts make you pause for thought. . ." but ritualistic performance moves beyond you as an individual and into the corporate. There is no immediate purpose to it other than binding you to others doing it and to the species as a whole.

p 197  The problem with doing the right thing is that it spoils all the fun.

p. 240  The Winston Churchill martini.  "Pour in gin and bow in the direction of France."

Angus’ poem

Innocence glimpsed in others reminds us
Of the time when our own consciences were clear.”

When we lose we think we lose forever, but that is not true.  Think of love at those times because it always returns to say that I was always there but you just didn’t hear me at the moment