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Sunday, February 9, 2014

"More sinned against than sinning"...King Lear @ BAM

Back in college I had to do a comparative research paper on the subject of Shakespeare's King Lear and the chapter of the King James Bible known as the Book of Job. Saturday afternoon I kept that paper in mind as I sat and completely enjoyed Frank Langella's interpretation of the medieval king who in an act of  hubris and  ultimate power decides to divide his kingdom between his three daughters, so he can retire with his hundred or so knights and followers and free himself from a world cares.

Not so fast. In his act of fancy, which everyone can see is folly, everyone except Lear until it is too late and his "thankless" children turn on him, this once powerful King, who could beckon, summon, and dispatch with a wave of the hand, falls from his high perch of royalty and sinks into the mud of his land where the realization of his wantonness drives him mad. Unlike the Bible story of Job, Lear brings these sorrows upon himself. In so doing we, as the audience, get to witness a most extroverted and public introspective interrogation of what it means to be human.

Rising fumes of smoke and falling mists of vapor all combine to create a magical atmosphere where the play unfolds under the sure and steady direction of Angus Jackson. Truly a fine set and costume design scheme full of earth tones and odd geometric shapes indicative of a country still emerging from the rough hewn dark ages where pagan gods are worshiped and astrology is the most advanced science.

Robert Innes Hopkins' thrust of a set seemed an extension of the deconstructed BAM Harvey itself.  A wooden slat platform in-lay centered midst a multilevel mash-up of stone and brick masonry served double duty as the playing stage for the first scenes and as the divided map of England. Once the platforms are pulled up after Lear is banished to the heath by a callous and sadistic Reagan in cahoots with the cold and calculating Goneril, this map becomes metaphor and allows the copious deluge that follows to be contained.

The performances from lead characters to silent servants are all nuanced and relished by each actor. It was a joy to see a player with a line or two make the most out of each breath. I think I could write an entire paper entitled "The Cordelia Problem" where I would join the debate and express my own ideas about this character. The actress, Isabella Laughland, ably portrays her as valiant, honest and wronged as I have seen her mostly played in the past. Which leads to the shock of Lear's incredulous rebuke. I often wonder how it would look if Cordelia, young in spirit and most like her father, is haughty, defiant and openly scorns her sycophant sisters by refusing to act anything like them. Principled and disdainful of hypocrisy, as Lear himself probably is, Cordelia's own wanton act would mirror that of her father and thus no move to appease him is made. After all, she is her favorite. An act so miscalculated as this would be all too recognizable to a modern audience where well mannered people understand the danger of expressing one's unfiltered thoughts in a court of kings. So, one tragedy begets another, and another. From Edmund's duplicitous deceptions, to Gloucester losing his eyes and so on to the sad conclusion.

I don't know why I love Lear so much. This production made me love it more and  is truly worth the ticket price.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

I Can't Imagine Tomorrow : White Horse Theater Company

In a parlor of the Players Club, a rare and wonderful one act by Williams is staged by Cyndy Marion and the White Horse Theater Company. Directed by Marion, this two-hander made full use of the opulent space while continuing White Horse's commitment to bring us each bit of a canon seldom seen.

What Cyndy does well, she did well last night. Gathered her audience in an interesting old New York space where the fading of the wall paper and portraits of the Boothes, busts of the Barrymore's and Mark Twain captured the ghosts of theater past. Her two actors, Nancy Wolfe and Joe Cassese, were almost upstaged by those ghosts haunting their surroundings and seemed almost stifled by their presence. I was fully entranced by the magic spell of "Dragon Country" weaved by Ms. Wolfe, and so invested in Mr. Cassese in his "ice cream suit". Their acting style walked a razors edge between realism, and presentational theater. They were taking the material very seriously, as if these words needed some kind of reverence. What I know of Tenn, my impressions of him, is that he is irreverent in the most manipulative and devious ways. This is his innate genius.  And last night, that shown through due to the brilliant efforts of the cast and crew working this sparse text with great artistic instinct and flair.  

Joe Gianono's minimalist score perfectly captured the enigmatic mystery of this short story on stage. Debra Leigh Siegel's lighting ensured an intimate atmosphere would endure through out. Outstanding effort, and I can't wait for the next offering.

Everybody Loves February

It has been a very cruel season for many of my loved ones who have lost parents to the ultimate equalizer: death. There is much mourning these dark winter days. My heartfelt condolences to all those who have lost someone dear these first few weeks of 2014.

I know I have set myself a tough row to hoe when I indulge in poetry while continuing my less than artistic efforts as a civil servant. I am no Melville. Though the romantic notion that my work will be discovered for the brilliance that it is after I am long gone once captured my imagination. Yet now, to me, it is a vain and shallow pursuit. My work is my work. I do it as I go mad, not to stave off madness, for madness is in us all and we are on our way there to one degree or another. And as Shakespeare so aptly put it "Madness in great ones must not unwatched go..." but madness in the mediocre is common place. Cliche almost. That being said I put up a work in progress. Seldom do we get to see the poets process. This is a very raw free write. Thank you for your time and patience.

Outlived My Uselessness

Was a latchkey kid
Baby sat by the T- vid
Tutored by the radio radio
Radio first love you know
Listened to the Beatles 
Sitting in a tree
With cousin Brucie

Yeah, yeah, yeah
Tested anything 
Tasted Everything
Went dumpster diving
Roof walking
Truth talking
With a trans perverse
Universal street hoe
Led Zeppelin
In the first row
All the shit I
Didn't know
With the Pink Floyd
Elton John
On steroids show

Springsteen on Thanksgiving
Seeger in my dreams
Woodie Guthrie on steam 
Yes, Tull and ELP
At Bob Dylan I fell asleep
Deaf dumb and blind
Inside my mind
Who taught me to be free

Crispus Attucks and Dr King 
Let Freedom Ring
Of thee I sing
Up on my knees
Lord hear my pleas
Don't with your
Beauty tease 
Me with welfare cheese
Leave me my dignity
Let me with wise eyes see
Who taught me To be free
Hear what I listen to hear
My courage conquer my
Telling it on the mountain clear
My voice tremble through my tears
Raise a glass with my peers
Have a few Kelso beers
Remembering James Baldwin

Jumping down the
Fire escapes
Running wild though
The trauma scrapes
Dropping acid on the
Taking hash
With the 
Wasted cash
Dancing naked
With a fresh stash 
In the rain
Soaking in all the water
From the drain
Staying up
To listen to the birdies sing 
feeling at home 
In the graveyards 

Perpetration of a heist
Hijacking your attention
An extension of my intention
Of interjection in your direction
The accumulation of frustration
Pointed in all directions
Regardless of introspection
Rejecting your rejection
Diseased with your infection

You cannot shut me out
I am what you are all about
Rough hewn and unshorn
My body will never be tame
Brooks Brothers will never hang
The same on my frame
Disheveled but cool deranged

I lived so long
Loved no wrong
Wronged no love
Risen above
the towering stink of hypocrisy 
Asked corruption to marry me
Calling its intrinsic bluff
In an effort to rebuff
And throw away the bad
And live purer with
The other half

Sinking stinking
Slinking low
Gotta go
I know 
Change is the game
Nothing stays the
Same faster then
The speed of light
Day passes night
In flight
And fights
With sight
Might making right
Of an America
Constantly in search 
Of itself
On the shifting sands 
Of itself
Of eternity of itself
Not ever finding 
Elusive America
Dragon country
Of permutations
Of ammunition
For contrition

No career path
No good with that math
The infinity of the last laugh
Spent my very last sigh
On your good bye
I have lived so long
Gotten all the past wrong
Now I have a new song
Sober as the land is long
Staying up to here
The birds sing
Watching the dawn
In russet mantel
Best messed with
The rest
Unless, unless
I have finally 
Out lived

My uselessness 

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