Thomasina in Tom Stoppard's mind bending time warping play, ARCADIA, observes that when you stir rasberry jam into vanilla pudding it will first swirl in streaks but ultimately will turn the entire pudding pink. If you stir the pudding in the opposite direction, the jam will not separate back out again.
--LIFE MOVES ONLY FORWARD--NEVER BACK!--
Carre’s latest work is typical for him. It avoids the violence and mad chases
and escapes that stoke traditional spy thrillers.Le Carre’s action is generally more internal than external and his main character, Nat,simply seems to be looking back on his long and
apparently successful career at “The Office” where he has faithfully addressed
the continuing threats of hostility between the post World War II powers.
As the book
opens, Nat has apparently retired from
the service and returned to London where hehas been assigned to a make-work supervisory role for a moribund local
well until a man named Ed appears on the scene. Ed is, like Nat, a badminton lover
and appears to want to test his mettle on the court with Nat. Nat, who
currently holds his club’s singles championship, feels he must accept.The matches are hard fought and both men
retire to the bar for a replenishing pint after each competition.
course of their apres-match conversations, Ed reveals strong opinions about
Putin, Brexit, Donald Trump and the current politics of Germany, Russia, and
the USA. Ned, the professional spook,
somehow ignores the warning signals that would perhaps have been quite obvious to
him if he were still in a foreign appointment. When a local operation exposes
Ed’s non badminton intersections with Ned’s life and the intersections with the
entirety of Her Majesty’s intelligence services you have a muddle that fuels
the reminder of the book. Along the way Le Carre has a good go at explaining plenty
of tradecraft and exposing the internecine squabbling within the upper echelons
of the government.
I felt the ending
was a bit flat and abrupt. It seemed
more like a setup for the next novel than a tying up of this one .What we do know at the end is that you can
put an old pro out to seed, but he can still run an exfiltration with the best
of them.It’s a fine cerebralread.
It seems as though each day gives us a slightly different view of what is happening in nature all around us. The sunrise each morning always seems to have just a little different cast and it changes by the minute.
As it gets higher the eastern sky clears and stronger rays find the northern still cloudy peaks of the Santa Catalinas.
A definite first in the four years we have been looking out of our window each morning was a large red tail hawk taking the early rays on the back condo fence.
We headed out to the canyon several times and caught a second sighting of our ground squirrel peeking out from his burrow.
The rain early in the week left a lot of puddles on the trail.
They make for nice reflections of people
The unusual water also attracted this white crowned sparrow for a drink and a bath.
As far as I could tell the Roadrunners stuck to the brush.
And finally the most definite signs of a new year coming were with the tiny yellow flowers of the Fiddle-Neck. They are so new that they have not yet bent down to the curve that gives them their name. They are indeed small. the flower is around an eighth of an inch across.
The set features two mesh walls with a central exercise area and the audience arrayed on the other two sides. Some productions have ringed the entire playing area with mesh or screens. I prefer this solution as it gives you a clear unimpeded view of the actors.
Wolves by Sarah Delappe is ostensibly a simple show with a
simple set. Nine members of a girl’s club soccer team in an unnamed American
city go through practice warmups and a string of personal conversations about
everything from menstrual blood to the Khmer Rouge.It has been one of the most produced plays of
the past year and this production was by the U. of Arizona’s Repertory Theatre (ART)
and features students in their School of Theatre.
The girls in
the cast prance in like prize polo ponies and start their pre-game warmups amid
a vocal mashup of voices.There is some Irony
here as the last show I saw in the Tournabene Theatre was Top Girls and Caryl
Churchill is probably the modern master of overlapping dialogue.
ear soon becomes accustomed to this real and sophisticated form of natural
speech. That enables you to see how
these adolescents are revealing their individuality and rank within the
boundaries of the Pack (Remember the title is The Wolves.) All the while each girl is also working on
attaining or retaining their acceptance within the pack or team.The metaphor is potent. The girls are also facing
the universal trial of integrating into the world of adulthood, which is
represented by the invisible coach, college scouts, their parents, the fans who
watch the games, and the audience in the theatre.
are identified only by their shirt numbers and in the group spirit of the show
I will not highlight any of them. They are all game, talented, and well suited
for their roles. It is only fair to keep them equal as they are all ultimately
fighting the same fight.
does not stop me from putting together a profile of each of them by virtue of
behavior and comments. I was particularly conscious of categorizing them to
keep them apart while they were trying to do the same thing within their group.
Here the work does begin to look a bit like a typical war movie. Common types jump out. First there is the division by
position (stryker, goalie, forward, etc,) then there are behavior types like
leader, sidekick, bad girl, bright one, bulimic, and of course there must be a newcomer.
In this show she has the additional difficulty of living in a yurt that the
girls all call a “yogurt.” It is
intriguing, however, that when they do jog off in formation for the playing
field they do submerge their individual trials for the team. They focus off
stage not on each other and metamorphose into a machine that exists to play and
As the team
moves through the season, complications like an abortion, an anxiety attack, or
a disabling injury arise.A problem here
is that these small crises don’t impact every team member at the same time or
with the same intensity. The playwright finally does have to resort to an
outside tragedy (a literal deus ex machina) in order to move us to the finish.
In spite of this expected “let’s all pull this out” ending, the play still does
put its fingers on the pulse of young girls growing up and trying to figure out
who they are and how they going to deal with the world and its attitudes toward
women. It remains an inventive and compelling evening for the audience and a
challenging outing for a director and young actresses. And now It’s time to go out and score some
parts of several years in Minneapolis working on a degree at the University of
Minnesota, I have heard most of the jokes tossed around in the wild and wacky production
of The Norwegians at the tiny Live Theatre Workshop in Tucson.C. Denly-Swansen’s ninety minute
intermissionless work moves rapidly, but ultimately succumbs to its origination
as a ten minute play that has been extended beyond the capacity of its core
The fun of
the setup is all in the first forty minutes or so.A woman from Texas (with none of the popular
Texas attributes of old cowgirl, ranch life, hosses, six guns, blond tresses,
etc.) travels all the way up I35 to hire two Minnie-Sotan Norweigian hit men to
dispense with her ex-boyfriend.While
the dour northerners interview her before accepting the contract, the woman
(Avis Judd as Olive) meets a sleek blond with a fowl mouth and a vicious
twisted sneer in a bar.It turns out
that she also has put out a contract on her ex and as she is from Kentucky and
has had a horse, she is ready and waiting to round off on the Norwegian punch
lines. Her name is Betty; she is played with monstrous gusto by Samantha
Courmier and she has a couple of roof raising monologues that skewer Minnee-soda
winters, Norwegian foods, sex practices, and philosophy.She is just plain delightfully over the top and
scary at the same time.
The two hit
men make a kind of Martin and Lewis pair.Steven Frankenfield’s Gus is the unsteady action guy who apparently
wields the Twins baseball bat that has lines on it for the kills. He has had a
previous unfaithful wife and now wants some real action, but doesn’t have much
to offer personality wise (but then what Norwegian does?}His partner is the philosopher king and
manager.His tag as he claims Norwegian
invention of all philosophies and even baseball is “We’re Norwegians.” They stand alone and imperious master of all
things. Keith Wick as Tor (named for the
Norse God of Thunder)has mastered the
dialect with that first phrase or syllable emphasis and is pretty much
hilarious every time he opens his mouth.
Roberto Guajardo says in his brief playbill notes “You probably won’t come away
from this production with any new insights,” but it should put a smile on your
face. I agree there were smiles aplenty, yet there just didn’t seem to be an
end.The show just stopped as if the
author had finally run out of ammunition. In the final minutes there are a number of
suspenseful blackouts and on about the third of them the lights came up and the
actors started taking their bows. The guy sitting next to me said out loud “Is
that it?”I was as surprised as he
As I was finishing my comments on a play reading of Brian Friel's Molly Sweeney I noticed in my Blog history that I started writing on it in February of 2005. That makes this February my fifteen year anniversary as a blogger. Not a bad run.
It may also be noteworthy that the first entries were from a bitter cold day in Watertown, WI at the Ebenezer Moravian Church Cemetery where the funeral of my cousin Ronnie was taking place.
Both of my parents and a slew of my Kopp family relatives are buried there and one of the photos I took that day went on to win a prize in a later Buchanan Center of the Arts photography show. Here is that photo from 2005, titled "Vet Goes Home." It Is dedicated to Ronnie's wife Joyce and my cousin Pat who loved her brother and who I know still follows my facebook page.
I think of these memories as I despair what Facebook and the blogosphere has often become in these times of vanity and vitriol. I for one would not object if they became once again the vehicle for sharing our lives with family and friends.
Sweeneyby Brian Friel (A staged reading at the Rogue Theatre 2-2-2020
With a big
name production of Brian Friel’sMolly
Sweeneyscheduled to be directed by
Robert Falls at the Goodman Theatre this spring,we were eager to attend a staged reading of
the play at Tucson’s Rogue Theatre a week ago. Friel, who has often been called the Irish
Chekhov, had a long and distinguished playwriting and literary career.We remember fondly seeing his Dancing at
Lughnasa some time ago.
Sweeneyis the story of a middle aged Irish woman,
blind almost from birth, who is given minimal sight in an operation by a
surgeon looking to rejuvenate his career. The original show features three
players doing related independent monologues without interacting. They are Molly,
of the title, Mr. Rice, the surgeon who does her eye operation, and Frank, a
man with a thousand failed causes, who marries Molly and tackles the task of
trying to re-educate her to the sighted world.
Griffith did make a few changes in the casting for this staged reading.She used a four actor cast and doubled Mr.
Rice, Molly’s father and others with actor Joseph McGrath. Actor Two, played by
Ryan Parker Knox tookon the over
zealous Frank and others. Actor Three, Carley
Elizabeth Preston, read Molly Sweeney. I
assume, in order to add another female voiceto the mix, Griffith chose her fourth actor, Bryn Booth, to read a
number of minor women’s voices. She also chose to add interaction and reaction between
the players during the reading. This added a nice theatrical dimension to the
now on the script, I can see that it lays
out a number of views of a significant shared event in the characters’ lives. The
result is a kind of “Rashomon” effect that shows the event from each individual’s
descends into a psychiatric rabbit hole after her operation, and for her the
central question becomes whether she is better off remaining in her dark but
familiar existence or adopting the new. The surgeon and the husband start out
with firm beliefs that restoring Molly’s sight is unquestionably the right and
moral path.They want to fix a deficit in
her that they see as a return to normality because they and most of the rest of
humanity have had a sighted existence all their lives.
husband, and do-gooder extraordinaire, whose enthusiasms run to importing
Iranian goats to make cheese on off shore Irish islands, has failed at all his
projects up to now and seems to take on Molly at the age of 40 as another of
his socio-moral commitments.Mr. Rice, the
surgeon, his life put into shambles by his wife running away with a colleague, has
retreated to an Irish backwater to lick his wounds. But, like most surgeons, he
believes that operating is the right and proper thing to do. If it restarts his
career along the way that is simply another good thing.
teacher faces similar issues on a somewhat smaller canvas. Many of us feel that
one of our responsibilities is to take students from darkness into light by
moving them to some degree or other out of their comfort zones.Is this an unselfish goal or are there
ulterior motives? Is it always best for
the student? In the play we see that for
Molly the darkness was the norm and when it was changed the results were not
positive.Changing her way of seeing broke
her world beyond repair instead of fixing it.As my wife observed, an obsession on one person’s part, even though
noble and moral, might not affect others in the same way. Given that
“Obsession” was this year’s Rogue Theatre theme, this reading certainly
supports the themes of some of their earlier productions-- especially the
adaptation of Moby Dick which we saw last month.
There were other
interesting observations made during the discussion period after the conclusion
of the reading. One man said that the story had a clear Icarus feeling. Getting
too close to the sun can create a heated brilliance that destroys and melts
commented on the feminist implications in the play since itdepicted how men (Dr. Rice, Frank, and
Molly’s father) continue to foist their sense of what is right and proper on a woman.
The critic, Michael
Billington, in a Guardian review of an earlier production, also reiterated a
general critical comment that most of Friel’s work centered on Irish attempts to
escape from darkness.
what does Molly have to lose?Maybe
everything, say some. Frank is less self
aware in the sense that he simply reacts by setting off to Ethiopia on another
probably hopeless adventure.Dr. Rice
seems to have a better perspective at the end by at least saying.“I’m sorry, Molly.”
conclusion this was a project well executed that also provided thought
provoking comment about the text from the audience.It is one good reason why the work that the Rogue
Theatre does is so satisfying.
My wife and
I saw the Arizona Theatre Company’s production of Athol Fugard’s Master
Harold and the Boys last week. The production was held at Tucson’s Temple
of Music and Art, which is a difficult facility at best.Finding parking is a chore, there is no
elevator to help even the marginally disabled to access the balcony, and
interior creature comforts like bathrooms are woefully inadequate for an
auditorium of this size.
Harold and the Boys,
written in the early 1980’s, is one of many seminal Fugard works to deal with South African Apartheid and
it has strong biographical underpinnings.Fugard grew up with close relationships to his family servants and his
mother did indeed own a tearoom like the one in which this play is set. It was only accidental that our viewing was
close to Holocaust Remembrance Day as the South African government did not go
quite so far as mass extermination of the black population. However, their subjugation of that population over
a long period demonstratedtheir wholehearted
commitment to white superiority and that is the sad message that the play
front curtain what you see on entering the theatre is a serviceable café or “tea
room” dressed in basic earth tones. A juke
box anchors stage right and a counter and exit to the kitchen holds down stage
left. The restaurant’s street entrance is up center on a couple of levels. The text calls for falling rain throughout and
you can see that nice effect clearly from the set shot I took prior to the
curtain.For further weather underscoring
the production began with a thunderclap and lightning.A comedy this was definitely not going to be.
Harold is a three
hander. At the opening Willie, a black man played by Odera Adimornah, is on his
knees scrubbing the floor. He spends a great deal of time in that position
during the show. Sam, another black man played by Ian Eaton, is arranging
tables and getting the tea room ready to open for business. He is upright and moving
most of the time and is clearly the dominant person of the pair. They are
joined shortly by the third cast member. Hally is a young white high schooler
and the Master Harold of the title.He is
the son of the female owner of the café. We admittedly were in that uncomfortable
balcony three rows from the back and we found that we had a hard time
understanding the actors. They were loud enough, yet their diction and speed of
delivery coupled with some unfamiliar idioms made a fair portion of the dialog unintelligible.
I must also admit
to wishing that Oliver Proses’ Hally had
been played a few years younger and a bit more likable in the early going. Proses’
voice was unpleasantly shrill and already tinged with a sense of superciliousness.
Right from his first entrance he handed
over his coat without even looking at Sam. He clearly had an expectation that someone
would take it from him before it hit the floor. Signaling this character trait
so early narrows his potential character progression and even constricts the development of the rest of the play.
Kent Gash was however quite successful in developing the vertical underpinnings
of the work. Willie, the slower and more deliberate worker, spends most of the
show on his knees scrubbing the floor. Hally arrives and takes a seat center
and is served his meal by the always moving and upright Sam.Hally is positioned like a royal presence and
if given a scepter and crown would look like a king. Sam, as noted, was standing and serving most
of the time. He is also the one who is attempting to instruct Willie in the
finer points of ballroom dancing much in the same way that he has been Hally’s mentor
and substitute parent since he was a child. The critical story of Sam flying the kite he made for Hally years ago remains
a pivotal symbol in the play. The irony
is well pointed as we discover that young Hally watched the kite flying while
sitting on a whites only bench that Sam could only stand beside.
In spite of
the slow development of the first hour, the show still strikes an overall
sympathetic chord.When the climactic
break does occur and Sam attempts to keep Hally from blaming his father for the ills of his life, Hally strikes out against Sam rather than himself and in so doing finally
severs the bond of his childhood. From now on he will be Master Harold to Sam. We
see clearly how both self hate and racial superiority are insidiously and slowlyinculcated in a culture. From Gone With the Wind to the recent
film about Harriet Taubman we see a similar pattern. The youthful bond between young whites and their
black playmates or caregivers is eaten away as the children grow and slowly begin
to adopt the ethos of the adult society around them. The poison seeps in like the
lead in the water pipes of Flint, Michigan.The world “without collisions” that is alluded
to in the ballroom dancing
episodes remains like one of Langston Hughes’ “dreams deferred.” The final image of Sam and Willie awkwardly dancing
to the music on the juke box points sadly and clearly to their continuing
plight and our own guilt in it.