1. Who writes the descriptions of MSNBC television shows that appear on the screen when the INFO button is pushed? "The forever-wired host Chris Matthews..." and "Analysis by the quick-witted host (Lawrence O'Donnell)"... Really?
2. When did "prideful" replace "proud" as the adjective of choice in sports to describe people who believe in themselves?
3. Does anybody actually have the home phone number of their banker, as shown in those Webster Bank ads?
4. On The Food Network's Chopped, NEVER talk back to the judges.
...while making it look quite easy, in a well directed show, with a fairly funny script: That's The Mystery of Irma Vep at Playhouse on Park.
The actors, Rich Hollman and Sean Harris, play all the characters in this spoof of every horror film and murder mystery anyone has ever seen. Even in this most unsubtle of comedies, the two display deft touches of timing and chacterization each time they (re)appear on stage -- no matter the costume, the accent, the gender, or even the incredibly short time in which they have to make such changes! As directed by Peter James Cook, the actors give their all but, even granting the limitations of the spoof form, the script, I feel, doesn't carry its part of the load.
I learned (at the always engaging talkback after last Sunday's performance) that the play's been around for more than two decades and began at the playwright Charles Ludlum's own company and was first performed by the Ludlum and his partner for their friends. That history explains to me why, while an enjoyable romp, the play isn't as tightly constructed and, as a result, not as exhilarating a theatrical event as, say, The Complet Wks of Willm Shakes (Abridged), which POP produced with these two performers previously.
Oh, I quibble. The performances are indeed remarkable, and the show certainly enjoyable, and, since an evening of laughter is never something to sneeze at, you should take advantage of the kind of quality night out that we've all come to expect at Playhouse on Park.
...at the Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, which is an adaptation of the Shakespearean tragedy into a six-person ensemble -- always with the Bard's words -- set in a veterans' hospital in middle America during the Vietnam War. Macbeth and Banquo are wounded soldiers, Macduff a draft dodger, and the three witches, Ladies Macbeth and Macduff, and various other characters (like the Porter), all rolled into a trio of nurses.
While a fascinating, and fairly compact evening of theatre (less than two-hours no intermission), I'm not sure that, as a whole that the play really makes sense. Under what circumstances (tied to career/personal advancement), would a vet kill a political figure in an American VA hospital? I just don't get it.
That said, the play works best quite often when the nurses converse, while doing their nurse-ly duties...or in phone conversations, etc...THEN, the juxtaposition of the familiar with the Shakespearean really illuminates both the language and the actions. Unfortunately that didn't happen enough for me. The actor who achieved this synergy most frequently by far throughout was Jackie Chung, the "pregnant Nurse/Lady Macduff/Porter." A wonderful performance: at times controlled, manic, funny, casual...excellent.
Two (perhaps very nitpicky/idiosyncratic) things popped into my head as the evening progressed:
1) The rant by Sally Kellerman's Hot Lips to Col. Henry Blake (in the wake of the shower incident) from the film M*A*S*H: "This isn't a hospital; it's an insane asylum!"
2) A skill the nurses need to practice more, given that they are asked to make up a hospital bed or two throughout the play is how to do hospital corners! It's 1969 in a VA hospital; I think good crisp hospital corners would be mandatory.
A couple days ago, Martha had in fact asked if we had a copy of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, which I had read a couple years ago,because she wants to read it. I said that I'd find it for her. My bookshelves, much to her chagrin, are unorganized AND stuffed to the gills, making easy retrieval unlikely, so when she expressed interest I told her I'd get it for her. Which I did last night, taking it off the bedroom bookcase and dusting it off.
This morning, remembering that I had in fact found it but hadn't given it to her yet, I spent a good deal of time looking to see where I had put it. I looked all over our bedroom and was confused that I couldn't spot it right away since not enough time had passed that other things (clean laundry, mail, stuff for the new semester, my laptop, other books, etc.) might've covered it up.
I looked on the bookshelf to see if, after getting it, I had just put it back on the shelf, but it wasn't there -- and I was struck by how I couldn't even find a place where the book had been. (But then I remembered how crammed my bookshelves can be, so that tight-fittedness wasn't out of the realm of possibility either!)
So I looked all over the house (the kitchen, family room, dining room, living room, and basement) thinking, maybe, just maybe, on the way to giving it to her I put it down to do something else.
I thought back to last night and remembered being puzzled that the cover, which I couldn't now describe to Martha, was different than the one I was expecting (i.e., the one seen above).
Then, looking in the basement again, I found it -- with the correct cover -- on a bookshelf.
Clearly I had never found the book last night. Clearly I had never dusted it off last night. Clearly I had never seen a cover I didn't recognize last night.
It must have all been a dream. An incredibly vivid dream.
...for, aside from learning today that the distance from my house to the WW I Memorial at the top of Walnut Hill Park in New Britain is the distance from "Rainy Day Woman" to "Brand New Leopard Skin Pill-box Hat," the walk inspired me to "create" the following cento --- the original sampling!**
A Petrarchan Blonde on Blonde Cento Sonnet
and seems like the mirror of your balcony wond’ring where you are, with
pockets well protected and streetcars, sayin “I’ll go
out and say a prayer for the cracked
bells and washed-out horns at
your feet while phony false alarms furnish
me with tape deep inside my heart.
I just can’t do what I done before…”
But you said, “Don’t forget everybody
must give these promises you left
with your silhouette, when the sunlight high-
way blues is
so stuffy I can hardly
whisper, ‘Not even you can hide, you see, but this time I’m not
gonna tell you why.’”
**A cento is an ancient poetic genre made up of lines and parts of lines from other texts. In this case, all come from the lyrics of Dylan's 1966 album Blonde on Blonde. My favorite cento is Ausonius' Vergilian one about a marriage night: Taking a sword out of its sheath takes on a whole new meaning!
A win in [tonight's] BCS national title game would give LSU coach Les Miles a $5.88-million
salary increase, CNBC’s Darren Rovell
reports. That’s thanks to a clause in his contract guaranteeing him a
minimum of $1,000 more per year than the highest-paid SEC coach should he win
the national title.
is a professor of English at Central Connecticut State University and the host of "Frank, Gil, and Friends" on Tuesday mornings on WFCS 107.7 FM New Britain/Hartford and www.wfcsradio1077.com. Raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, he earned his H.A.B. and M.A. degrees at Xavier University and his Ph.D. from The Catholic University of America. His books on Ava Gardner and Frank Sinatra belie his academic interests in American Puritans (like Cotton Mather and Edward Taylor) and the late 18th-century writers The Connecticut Wits. He has been married for 25+ years, has two daughters.