Friday, May 22, 2015

The Goodman Theatre's "The Little Foxes" is a True Classic

When Ben Hubbard speaks these words in the Goodman Theatre's lush production of Lillian Hellman's The Little Foxes,  he is not talking about the post Civil War South or the 1930's, he is speaking about now. 

"The century's turning, the world is open. Open for people like you and me. . . There are hundreds of Hubbards sitting in rooms like this throughout the country.  All their names aren't Hubbard, but they are all Hubbards and they will own this country some day. "   

If you don't believe this read the following story about the billion dollar big bank fines that are in the news as I write this.

That kind of prescience  or long distance echo is what defines a classic and the Goodman Theatre need not feel defensive in answering the question, "Why do this old play now?"   The complicated and detailed set, complete with a see into dining room,  beautifully captures the atmosphere of the new-moneyed South.  We even have rain streaming down the giant windows as the storm inside builds.  One small quibble or is it foreshadowing?  Alexandra and Bertie run out into it without coats or gear while Cal takes an umbrella and the arriving brothers shake off their coats and hats when they enter. 

But that is small indeed when placed against the beautiful performances by this experienced mainly Chicago  cast.   Ben and Regina are superlative snakes as they twist and turn the screws on the hapless Oscar, his criminal wastrel son Leo, and the helpless Horace.  The "Negro" servants. Addie and Cal,  see it all and re-emphasize the old saw that "they also serve who stand and wait."  The racial underpinning of the play is far more evident today as the older and now more politically incorrect language (and stage action) jumps nastily from the stage.

We could easily have done without the overly loud and portentous music at the beginnings and ends of each act, because we do get the idea without double exclamation points.  But again that is a small pixel in the overall picture.

Finally will Alexandra and Addie escape the clutches of murderous Regina and wily Ben?  Given the stacking of the current deck, the outcome is not at all certain.  Elizabeth Warren is playing a hand that contains a lot of noise, but Ben and Regina are powerful foes.  They know the game. They are clever, resourceful,  unscrupulous, and resilient.  Most importantly they, like the big banks,  can afford setbacks because they have the money.     

Kudos to all in this thought provoking and excellent production.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

August Wilson's Two Trains Running Goodman Theatre 2015

The Goodman Theatre's 2015  production of August Wilson’s Two Trains Running was beautifully acted and Wilson’s musical prose was allowed its full due in director Chuck Smith’s tasteful rendering . 

You will want to see it if only for its fully detailed and basically loving picture of a group of African-Americans living out their ordinary lives amid but outside of the front line of the racial turbulence of the late sixties.  For the most part their presence and ultimate passing will be unnoted in the annals of the upheavals of the times.  It is not accidental that the thriving business in the neighborhood is a funeral parlor and the restaurant that delivers life (both real food and emotional support) is down to a menu of beans and coffee.  

The diner setting, by the way, seemed to me a bit too large,  too clean and too unused for a location twenty feet away from an encroaching urban renewal rubble pile. The booths looked like they had rarely been occupied and the windows were too large and too clean.  It certainly filled the stage, but this is one of those shows that needs a smaller scale. Designers,  when forced to put it on the stage in a large theatre, are hard pressed to keep it from looking more palatial and roomy than it might have been.   

Nevertheless the world inside the diner is depressing—though not filled with the total bleakness of Harry Hope’s bar in Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh.  Memphis, the proprietor,  seems to have a thing about keeping things clean even if it is Risa, the slow moving waitress,  who seems to be doing all the work.  Inhabitants and customers  all share the dream of a better situation down the line.   Unfortunately most of their yearnings seem to hinge on striking it rich in the numbers racket or cornering the siphoned gasoline market.  Memphis wants a better price for his restaurant and does get it, but it is clear that the community it served will be destroyed and won’t be automatically replaced by a new building somewhere else.  Risa and Sterling want love or acceptance though there may be little future for the couple if he continues to steal rather than working for a living.  Hambone just wants his tiny fair pittance of ham.  There lies the rub.  These wasted,  down and out lives rove in vast numbers through the streets of our inner cities.     

The last scene of this long play has to strain a bit to reach its conclusion.  Sterling leaves with no explanation and I thought he was setting out to get an engagement ring rather than liberating some meat.  Admittedly it is hard to top the romance novel embrace in the next to last scene that garnered cheers and applause from the audience on the day we saw the show.  Thus, when Sterling  returns to hold up a ham to place in Hambone’s coffin, it seems too obliquely tied to that racial locomotive steaming  all too slowly toward the promised land.  We are left with a too small helping, delivered too late for its namesake, and too few portents of a better dinner that might be waiting at one of the next stops.        


Saturday, March 14, 2015

Bye Bye AZ for another year.

We took our last walk in Sabino Canyon on Friday and as usual it did not disappoint.  

Here are a fw of the things that caught our eye.  On the bird front there was no activity in the raven nest but we did manage to see one of the finches sitting on their tiny nest.  Neither one of these produced much in way of pictures.  For that we had to wait until we got on the path behind the dam where the Coopers Hawks live.  I did get a great shot of one of them sitting majestically in a tree near their nest.

New on the scene was this pair of House Finches

And of course the Cactus Wrens were on their stations.

In  spite of our constant trekking in the past two months we even saw a few new flowers.
This is called Mexican Vervain
Jan was thrilled to discover this one on the Bluff Trail. It is the Coulder Hibiscus and it a beauty.
We've seen Baby Bonnets below, but this shot was pretty enough to lobby for a return viewing. .

The butterfly watch turned up an Empress Leilia   

and an Echo Spring Azure munching on a Fiddleneck.

And our Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillar was still hanging around. 

We will especially miss the path in the Riparian area that takes us to the little pond behind the dam
We'll off for now and hope to rejoin the blogosphere sometime after we return to the Midwest. 

Friday, March 13, 2015

Gila Monster Day at Sabino Canyon

We don't need guides to take us around the canyon anymore.  We can stumble about all by ourselves and still find something to look at that intrigues, excites us, or more likely stumps us.

We started off the day with a good looking Triangle Leaf Bursage.  No problems there.

After some looking in our books this seems to be Dogweed, but there are a hell of a lot of yellow flowers out there.

For instance this may be Desert Senna or it may be some other DYF (damn yellow flower.)

There are a lot of whites too and it doesn't help if two flowers literally on the same Chickory plant sit side by side and don't look any more alike than a Doberman and a Spaniel.

Sometimes identification does get easy though.  This here nasty fellow is a Graythorn Bush and you do not want to tangle with it.

 Another one we are getting pretty good at is Mustard Evening Primrose

And this is Odora with a bit of Lupine thrown in for color

 Jan thinks this is cat claw acacia.  I am not convinced. Answer will have to wait for next year.

No dispute on this one. We have been following the Pipevine on which the Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly lays its eggs for several weeks. We saw the eggs and now we are seeing the caterpillars. They are a bit scary looking but don't worry--they're only about an inch long.
You want worry, try this one on.  At the end of our walk and only about 1/4 of a mile from the crowded visitor center, we spied this creature lumbering along just off the trail . The Gila monster is indeed a scary beast.  They are poisonous and if they get ahold of something they don't release it easily. Keep your hands in your pockets and keep your distance.


Great finish to a great day.
Moral: Don't put your camera away until you are back at your car.