Saturday, November 20, 2010

Watched Larry King last night at the gym...

And apropos of his guest, I can but say this, "Where does Aldous Snow end and Russell Brand begin?"

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

H4 P2

“There lives not three good men, unhanged in England. And one of them is fat and grows old."

You and me both Jack, you and me both.

Y'know I enjoyed "Henry the Foutth Part II" down at the Midway Studio last weekend, I really did. I think you have to see both parts in quick succesion to realize just how deeply in denial Falstaff really is with regards to his "friend" Prince Hal's intentions. And that is how Robert Walsh plays Falstaff, childish and given to the sad belief that the good times can just roll on despite all obstacles....That nothing bad is about to happen regardless of all the countless portents and warnings.
I don't know what it is about Robert Walsh but when they pad him up as Falstaff he gives off a faint dissolute air of Kris Kristofferson...Mind you thats a good thing in my books.
My only complaint about the second part of the play is that from my vantage point I couldn't see the look on Walsh's face when Bill Barclay's King Henry the Fifth lowered the boom on him. But by all indications from the rear, to the last Falstaff just didn't get it.
The Phoenix came down hard on Bill Barclay's Prince Hal, calling him"sinister" at one point. Quite frankly though, to an American audience unschooled in British dynastic politics, Hal's plan to repudiate his low born friends to seem all the more resplendent a monarch comes off as perfectly malevolent.
Orson Welles opined that neither Hal nor his father are nice people as we understand them. Henry the Fourth is a coup-plotter and an epic self justifier, his son a brutal opportunistic power hungry man.
"Realists" of the worst and most modern type said Welles, no wonder the late director saw these plays as more akin to tragedy than anything else.
To an American aud, Henry the Fourth isn't about the rise of a Glorious Young Ruler, it is the story of a cruel manipulative young man, less King Arthur and much more Sammy Glick.
Whenever that comes thru, I count it a good production.
But anyway there are still some performances left do go see them.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

With the stroke of a P.E.M. or the Return of Rebecca Cathcart-Monet

"Pem" said a voice over the telephone.
"Pem?" I drawled in stupified response "Vas is dat?"
"The Peabody Essex Museum silly! We are GOING!"
"B-but why?" I faltered.
"Cuz you have never been there and I need to inhale some art! I'm taking my floatplane, meet me at 9am Sunday in Salem on the Grand Canal" she rapped.
"Who am I to defy a whim of iron like that?" I thought as I fired up the Black Beauty and roared up Route 128 for yet another fateful rendezvous with destiny.
The Grand Canal in Salem is lovely in the late Autumn, its ancient stones grey with dignity, it's water still tinged red with the reflections of autumn's last foliage. A very definite Ray Bradbury-ish "Martian Chronicles" vibe can be felt.
Promptly at nine AM Rebecca brought her canary yellow SPAD S.XIV float plane for perfect landing on those placid pellucid waters.
Out of the cockpit she sprang resplendent in flying helmet, scarf and goggles "Buy me breakfast ya flatlander cheapskate" she trilled as I was forcibly dragged by the collar to the nearest dinner.
Rebecca is a woman of simple even puritanical tastes, all she wants is a house with an epic courtyard. How else to explain her intense affinity for the foyer of the Isabel Stewart Gardner Museum or the Yin Yu Tan House at the P.E.M. with it's tiny fountains and exquisite centeredness. The tiny precisely laid out rooms all opening out into a large almost theatrical space...Nothing hidden everything within the line of sight.
That would seem to be Ms. Cathcart-Monet's natural setting.
How she adapts all this to the winterly blasts in her home town of Niftyborough New Hampshire is another matter.
From there it was a quest across three floors to find "Cleopatra's Barge".
I of course thought this was some contemporary relic of the old budget busting Liz Taylor film circa 1964, but whatever it was Ahab did not seek the whale half so zealously as Rebecca sought the barge.
Turns out the damn thing is an authentic stateroom to a mid-19th century luxury yacht, with fine wood paneling and painted landscapes on the backs of the chairs. The whole thing was a symphony of restraint compared to the ostentation that would characterize the yacht style of the gilded age.
So of course, it spoke to Rebecca...
From there it was off to the Korean art with it's subtle designs and then the "Moon Bed" which is best described as Rebecca's childhood of gigantism by way of dreamland.
By the way, Asian outsourcing goes back to the beginning of the 19th century when enterprising American merchants hired Chinese artists to mass produce facsimile paintings of the late General Washington for sale in the USA.
Who knew?!
This is what you learn when you trail behind Rebecca Cathcart-Monet at a major museum, the woman has taste and with that in hand the whole experience can be mastered fairly easily.
Indeed Ms. Cathcart-Monet can enter a huge hall devoted to maritime art and unerringly lead one to the smallest yet most compelling display, the very toolbox of John Haley Bellamy, a local folk artist of the late 19th century noted for his elaborately carved wooden eagles. But It isn't so much the toolbox as her relationship to it, the artist's modesty, the enduring value and rarity of his work and his status as a notable in the local arts scene.
Taste is Destiny, Rebecca has that in abundance, to spend a day with her in a museum is to further one's education and broaden one's horizons, the arts have no better friend or vigilant guardian.
Ah but even we suffer the pangs of hunger after a while and after a brief stroll around town and a visit to the world's most dangerously stacked bookstore we memorialized the whole afternoon with a picture of the statue erected in honor of Elizabeth Montgomery star of "Bewitched".
A fitting end to a day given over to good taste in extremis.
On our way to the tavern at the Hawthorne Hotel we passed a sort of museum/boutique dedicated to the infamous Lizzie Borden murders.
Well of course, Salem as a town has given itself over to the Halloween tourist trade, but for the life of we couldn't figure out what Salem had to do with a grisly pair of ax murders than went down in Fall River?
The only link we could discern was that Elizabeth Montgomery played the part in a notorious TV movie adaptation back in the 1970's.
And on that suitably bizarre note we ate lunch and repaired back to the Canal where I saw Rebecca's floatplane taxi down the canal, her scarf snapping crisply in the wash.
And once again I had the same thought as last time "In the name of Ghod almighty how do I ever top this?"

Friday, November 05, 2010

Henry IV Part 1 (the Coveted Crown)

Sell the house sell the car sell your dog but get down to the Midway Studio in South Boston for this adaptation of Shakepeare's history play flawlessly executed by the Actor's Shakespeare Company.
Allyn Burrows (whom I last saw tearing up the boards out in the Berkshires at Shakespeare & Co) has found a new home both as Artistic Director of ASP and as "Hotspur" the mercurial rebel and nemesis of the allegedly dissolute Prince Hal (a superb Bill Barclay).
Robert Walsh - CHECK! Loved the man's Falstaff, caught the old knight's slightly childish tinge quite nicely and pratfalled with gusto through-out.
I've always been of the opinion that Falstaff's immaturity is his downfall, he is warned that Hal will one day repudiate him and yet like a child he responds only with cruel mischief (he falsely claims to have slain Hotspur in single combat) thus when King Henry turns his back on him, well...all Falstaff can do is cry.
Its hardly an original theory...but it suits my American character (who could less about who is King of England when Hal's friendship with Sir John Falstaff hangs in the balance).
One of the pleasant conceits of this adaptation is a short prologue depicting the deposition of King Richard II (Marya Lowry) and the ascension of Henry Bolingbroke (Joel Colodner) to the Throne of England. My point being if anyone wants to stake all on an actress playing Richard II, get the abovementioned Ms. Lowry, I at least will be in the front row opening night.
Can't wait to see part II on the 13th quite frankly...

ASP has found a home in Boston, I hope audiences respond there is a crying need for a dedicated classical theater company here in too chilly Boston.