Saturday, December 12, 2009

A Delightful Dalliance

Love’s Labour’s Lost has never been on my short list of favorite Shakespeare plays, or even my long list. Is it even a play? A group of silly people share what passed for clever repartee at some point, and these barely connected and thoroughly unlikely scenes are eventually wrapped up at the end with a death and a promise. Sketch, revue, entertainment. A variety show? At any rate, I’ve seen it once or twice and remained unimpressed. Until Friday, December 11th.

Last night I fought the cold wind all the way to Pace University’s Michael Schimmel Center for the Arts to see the Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre of London touring company perform Love’s Labour’s Lost. I’d been to Schimmel once before for a film showing during the Tribeca Film Festival (Fellini’s “Spirits of the Dead” in which Terence Stamp seemed to be playing Peter O’Toole, but perhaps it was really himself in a Poe-ish sort of way).

The performance space had been transformed, replicating, to the greatest extent possible on a standard proscenium stage, the Globe. The staging gave us Shakespeare’s play as it was intended, ­ not because Shakespeare wouldn’t like what we do now, but because the sort of space used last night was what the King’s Men (the theatre company of which Shakespeare was a ‘sharer,’ actor, and playwright) had played in, the standard theatrical architecture of Elizabethan England. The stage juts out roundly, goes up to a second level, and provides hiding places in the way of trees painted on curtains, a ladder climbed behind such a “tree” to the second level, a balcony for the musicians available to do double duty (but that would be another play), and of course the balcony of the theatre itself, generally reserved for spectators (“gallery” in the real Globe), was also used by the musicians. Actors entered from any aisle in the orchestra available to them, the small balcony on the stage, and two routes from either side of the stage, a door up left, a door up right, and a double door center. And, of course, two pillars afford the actors more space to play around as well as seating areas. At the actual Globe, the pillars would have held up the roof sheltering the stage from inclement weather. The groundlings, in what would now be the orchestra, would just get soaked.
This isn’t theSchimmel – this is the real (new) Globe Theatre stage in London.

The Schimmel does not have the best acoustics, so actors turned away from my area (house right) were a bit difficult to hear. Yes, no miking. Remember that? Just actors’ actual voices. I loved it. These actors played to the entire house, left, right, and center. They even played to the balcony although no one was seated there.

So that’s the layout, which was exciting in and of itself, knowing that this was how the plays were originally seen. The old Globe was noisier, of course, without our modern rules or expectations of people actually paying attention to the play instead of socializing. Those audiences were as raucous as the performers, not to mention the nut shells crunching on the floor of the groundlings’ area. Since I’m feeling particularly dorky, here’s a sketch of the 16th Century Swan:

Actors were not celebrities then. Actually the descriptions of actors at the time were pretty rude. And, of course, all those marvelous female parts were played by boys. Some changes are definitely for the better. (Yes, I’ve seen several all-male productions, and they work brilliantly, differently, quite excitingly. Still, I do like to see women playing women.)
For more on the new Shakespeare's Globe in London and this production, go here:
For more architectural details, go here:

Back to last night and LLL, when I realized I’d never seen it done well before. The players last night did it absolutely right, full of gambols and romps, singing and dancing, live music (not as background, the music was frequently cued and stopped by the characters themselves), raunchy sight gags and routines, and just plain fun.

The story – slight. The characters – rough sketches of later ones. This is young Shakespeare, brash, bold and bawdy, trying out his verbal skills, allowing his slight characters to be transformed into people by the company of actors.

It is said that the primary romance between Berowne and Rosaline in LLL is a precursor to, or just plain practice for the later, precisely drawn, bickering lovers Benedick and Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing. I like to think Berowne failed the challenge offered by Rosaline at the end of LLL, and it takes years to become Benedick to Rosaline’s Beatrice. Much Ado’s characters are more sophisticated, matured by life, but do bear some resemblance to these younger, sillier creatures, so I’ll go with that theory.

By the traditional labels, this play should not be called a comedy because the lovers do not end up together at the end. Years ago my friend Matthew posited that the moment those clever, witty, sassy, courageous women in Shakespeare’s plays are married or betrothed, they shut up. They stop speaking at all, or they only speak what their husbands ordain. The ladies in LLL say “no” to the young men and therefore ­-- not betrothed and still free --­ they keep on speaking wittily. Hmmm.

Pre show, the actors and musicians milled about the theatre, chatting with the audience in the half hour prior to the curtainless start. Some of the actors carried deer – a male deer and a female deer – and played a mute puppet show implying a bit of wooing. The female deer declined, but the male deer was persistent and flattering. Little did we know that the deer were Chekhov’s gun.

In the opening of the play, four young men with nothing better to do make a vow to live together for three years, abjuring all contact with the feminine sex (and naturally making laws to punish women if they come anywhere near them during that time – including cutting out their tongues! Hmmm again.) in order to devote themselves to “study.” Berowne (delightfully if not altogether articulately played by Trystan Gravelle, with an often indecipherable accent, but a marvelous wit and soaring vocal range) is the outlier; he recognizes how absurd and impossible is the pledge required by the King of Navarre (a little dorky and a little clever, sweetly played by Philip Cumbus). Nonetheless, peer pressure wins out, and all four friends sign the pledge – the other two were physically and verbally similar, almost indistinguishable, and they would have been utterly so had I been farther away from them. Both, however, were extremely funny, so cheers to Jack Farthing’s “Dumaine” and Will Mannering’s “Longaville.” Cheers to their fabulous names as well.

That’s the set-up.

Main plot line: the imminent arrival of an embassage from the King of France led by said King’s extremely marriageable daughter, the Princess of France (sharply played by Michelle Terry). The Princess is accompanied by three ladies, Rosaline (Thomasin Rand), Katherine (Siân Robins-Grace), and Maria (Jade Anouka). By the King’s new rules, these ladies cannot enter his court, so he houses them in a field, like cattle. Naturally each of the young men falls in love with each of the women, but they must be mum on this or break their vow.

Second plot line: Don Adriano De Armado is a lilting bumbling Spaniard, hilariously played to the rafters by Paul Ready. It was his entrance that really made the production kick in for me. His body and voice bounce about uncertainly, he’s sweetly absurd, with a pose he copied from an aristocratic portrait. He’s in love with the “country wench,” Jacquenetta (a hilarious Rhiannon Oliver with a voice in sweet counterpoint to her rough character), which is also against the King’s edict – no one gets to consort with females for the three years of the King’s pledge. Meanwhile, Costard the clown (played to the vulgar hilt by Fergal McElherron) is found guilty of treason for “being with a woman” (yes, that same Jacquenetta) and is left in Armado’s custody for punishment. Armado frees Costard to deliver a love letter to Jacquenetta.

Plot lines entangled: Berowne uses Costard to send a love letter to Rosaline. Costard mis-delivers the letters. This is the catalyst for confusion on which this play resides.

It’s all terribly silly. What makes this production work is the way in which the silliness is performed. From lewd jokes, hiding in plain sight, dancing and cavorting, leaping, spying, disguises and deceptions, even hunting the stag. The ladies hunt:

and that charming deer we saw in the pre-show is the victim. Not to mention the four young men. Of course, the young men break their vows, break each other’s balls over it all, woo the young ladies, who consider them untrustworthy, having witnessed them breaking vows. Oh what a tangled web.

The spell is broken by the arrival of a messenger informing the Princess of France that her father is dead. The Princess and her entourage instruct the King and each of their wooers that a betrothal, while presently impossible, may be wrung from the ladies if the gentlemen perform certain stallion-breaking duties over the next twelve months and a day.

And then everyone dances and sings!

The costumes are period and perfect, the use of the stage – nay, the whole theatre – is engaging. At the end of the interval, during which the ladies picnicked onstage, each of the four came into the audience offering slices of fruit on metal plates. Sweet. And I do believe this is the first time I’ve laughed at Holofernes’ (Christopher Godwin) manipulation of the English and/or Latin language(s), or at the performance of the Not-Quite-Nine Worthies. Dominic Dromgoole, Artistic Director for Shakespeare's Globe, directed this production, and although I doubt I can pronounce it correctly, I will remember that name and go see whatever else he offers.

So what if it’s not a play. It’s a frolic, a mere dalliance, a trifle, and a delightful one.

Love’s Labour’s Lost by William Shakespeare. Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre of London at the Michael Schimmel Center for the Arts, Pace University, NYC. 11 December 2009.
~ Molly Matera, dancing off. Thanks for stopping by.

Friday, December 11, 2009

This isn't your parents' Streetcar

Wednesday night we saw the Sydney Theatre Company’s production of “A Streetcar Named Desire” at the BAM Harvey Theatre. Liv Ullman (a Norwegian) directs Australian actors in this very American play, creating a celestial evening Tennessee Williams would have swooned over. It is nothing short of brilliant. In the ladies’ room after the performance, I heard one of the ushers say that they change it up a bit every night. Unlike the Hamlet presently running on Broadway, this production is apparently not set in stone, but insists on living on the edge. No wonder it sold out long before it opened.

Cate Blanchett’s Blanche is ethereal and earthy. Not ethereal like early Kate Hepburn and not earthy like Anna Magnani. This Blanche is ethereal and earthy at the same time, in gradations, moment to moment. The voice of Blanche Dubois flows from deep modulated tones to breathy metaphor; she rumbles gruffly in lust or anger, then lightens her voice to gossamer. Her body, imprisoning her fragile spirit, is grounded on the earth whether she likes it there or not. Blanche flirts, she flaunts, she cowers and cringes, she floats, she flees.

Stanley is indeed brutish. He’s of the earth, and therefore he’s actually appealing to Blanche on one of her repressed levels – except, of course, that he’s a grown man and not a 17-year-old boy. Boys are Blanche’s weakness. Boys like and unlike her romantic and tragically deceased husband, Allan.

Look, I circled right back to celestial Cate’s Blanche. Everything about this production does that, but not in the way that “Jude Law’s Hamlet” or “Ian McKellan’s Richard III” did. No one is stepping back to let Ms. Blanchett have all the focus; they’re all not just on the mark − they’re active, right there in our faces, right there in Blanchett’s face, challenging her for the stage. Ullman fills the stage with hearty, solid, not-in-the-slightest-bit-ethereal actors from Blanchett’s home theatre company (of which she is co-Artistic Director), the Sydney Theatre Company (a.k.a. STC). And what a company it is.

“Stella for Star” is embodied by Robin McLeary. She didn’t act for a moment. She just was Stella. She’s the polar opposite to Blanche, smaller but not petite, she moves with grace but not delicacy, she thrives on the new surroundings, the brutish husband. Blanche needs to be waited on and Stella needs to wait on … someone. At the end of the play her choice is clear. She will mourn for her sister, but she will wait upon her husband.

Across the board, we do not compare any of the actors on stage for those we have associated with the roles for multiple decades. Vivien Leigh, Marlon Brando, Karl Malden, Kim Hunter – no matter how riveting they were (and they were), they do not haunt the stage, the theatre, the cast.

Joel Edgerton is Stanley Kowalski, a working man, and proud of it. All American. Blanche keeps referring to his “officer’s” uniform, but Stanley Kowalski was a Master Sergeant, not an officer. Sergeants take offense at being called “officers.” Blanche would have dated officers, “gentlemen.” Stella married the Master Sergeant and entered an entirely different world. Blanche’s caste system is rigid; Stella, with her husband, is all-American in her belief in a classless society. Blanche would snicker at the term and wave her fragile, graceful hands.

Joel Edgerton is rude, crude, brutish, and perfectly reasonable. The man should be able to use the sole toilet in his home when he gets home from work. I always felt that Napoleonic Code would keep me away from Louisiana for all time, but it makes common sense when Edgerton’s Stanley says it. Practically like equality of the sexes.

Mitch, as played by Tim Richards, is physically solid and psychically delicate, like the soul-mate he will doubtless remember Blanche as in his romanticized reminiscences in years to come. Mitch, who lives with his invalid mother, no longer in the first blush of youth, shy around ladies, is softer than the men in his immediate social circle. Blanche may wish to appear as the belle, the butterfly, light as a feather, but she is socially masculine in her relationships with the opposite sex. The Mitch Blanche meets, if not virginal, would only make love when in love. The Mitch she leaves behind veers toward cynicism but breaks down in tears as his and Blanche’s dreams are broken.

Tim Richards’ Mitch is solid, fit, dresses much better than the other men in his social circle, as if he wishes to be or imagines himself above it. Stanley, Mitch’s co-worker and fellow survivor of the 241str division, is at the center of that social circle. Stanley is captain of the bowling team, his home is where the poker game is, Stanley is the Alpha Male. Tennessee Williams may never have heard that term, but he wrote the epitome of the Alpha Male in Stanley Kowalski. Kudos galore to Joel Edgerton for personifying both.

As in another production of Streetcar, the opening is alive with secondary characters – in this production, Sara Zwangobami as Rosetta and Mandy McElhinney as Eunice Hubbell start the play on a high note with their raucous laughter. We don’t know what they’re laughing about, but we’re sure it’s juicy. We don't see much more of Rosetta, but Mandy's Eunice is another earthy Williams woman, living a full life in that upstairs room.

The last production I saw that started at such a high point as this one went downhill quickly. In this production, though, Cate Blanchett walks across the stage, classy, sensitive, desperate, and opens up reality to include more than one dimension. Two or three, maybe more. The woman is sheer lithe power while appearing light as a feather, fragile as an eggshell. And, she beats out every man or woman I’ve ever seen in the sheer perfection of appearing drunk on stage. I mean really drunk, fighting that losing battle to remain upright, to enunciate (and she enunciated perfectly, mind you, not a syllable lost), to keep her head level atop her neck. Blanchett was as Sisyphus toiling against the rock. The beautifully, rationally, truthfully staged scene preceding the penultimate scene of the play was terrifying because we all knew what was coming, even if this was our first Streetcar. The fencing, physical and verbal, between Stanley and Blanche is blatantly sexual. Who’s the cat, who’s the mouse? Both are drunk, unkempt, feline in their movements. You know you’re going to see someone’s bare bum eventually.

Stanley the Alpha Male takes what he wants at the moment, regretting nothing. We sit and watch helplessly, knowing Blanche should leave now, leave, go upstairs to Eunice, don’t be alone with Stanley. Just the fact that she’s in Stanley’s bedroom (not the more public, presumably ‘safer’ kitchen) when Stanley comes home begins the ugly dance that ends as fated, followed with an incredibly beautiful stage picture after the act: Stanley face down on the bed, naked but for his brown socks; Blanche sitting on the edge of the bed, her back to us, her head and shoulders hanging down, perfectly sober now, and broken. This moment appears after a fade to black, then back up, as gradual as the sunrise. The scene disappears in the same sad tempo. It is devastating.

Sound, lighting, musical choices, costumes: All clicked, were mostly seamless and potentially unnoticed. The lighting design by Nick Schlieper had the quality of a black and white film through a rain-soaked window – nothing was crisp in this un-air-conditioned New Orleans, everything was just a little soggy. Set design by Ralph Myers was all that was needed, the smidge more provided by the direction and acting in the space. The fire escape (a necessity in a Tennessee Williams play), the upstairs window, the bathroom at stage center. Osborne may have been the original ‘kitchen sink’ playwright, but Tennessee made magic with a bathroom. Happily we do not see Blanche bathing not ten feet from the audience and buck naked. We only saw Stanley in that tub on poker night, given a cold shower by his buddies before the infamous scene of Stanley crying “Stella!” toward that upstairs window where we see a silhouette on the shade. Kazan and those who came after him made that scene about Stanley. But Wednesday night the scene, like the rest of this production, was not about Stanley. The figure we see on the shade is not Stella. It is a sagging Blanche. Her silhouette is more emotive than most actors’ faces.

And oh my, that young man. Any woman who’s ever taken an acting class (OK, any woman of my generation) has tried to do that scene between Blanche and the young man collecting for the newspaper. Wednesday night, for the first time, I saw Blanche’s dead husband Allan, not in the boy, but in Blanche. He was in the room of Blanche’s mind, and I was an eavesdropping peeping Tom, and I am ashamed. I’ve never seen that scene as beautifully and heartbreakingly rendered.

I hear tell that a certain New York magazine complained that Liv Ullman’s production cut the closing line about “7-card stud.” Semi-purist as I am, I so do not care. That line was Stanley’s story. This production belonged to Blanche. I want to be unable to speak at the end of this play. I want my breathing to be affected, I want to be unable to hoot or holler or even cry ‘Brava.” The final scene closed on Blanche going to her next visit, not on Stanley. This production was Blanche’s story. The light focuses on her face in her view of her world, and the moon, then softens to darkness.

Cate Blanchett is Artistic Director with Andrew Upton of the Sydney theatre Company. Helluva company. Every performance was sterling. There were no echoes of some company who appear to have sent their second string to Brooklyn. Each character was fully realized and would have made Tennessee weep for joy. He wrote poetry as prose and waits for actors to understand that. Everyone in the STC got it, and gifted it to us. Thank you.

[I’m only slightly bothered that a bunch of Aussies totally entered into and inhabited and embodied what I have always considered uniquely American characters in a play by a uniquely American playwright. Olivier tried it but failed. These actors that no one in the U.S. has ever heard of (besides, Blanchett, and even she is not as much a ‘star’ to American audiences as, say, Jennifer Love Hewitt) have accomplished what many an American actor has not. It’s kind of embarrassing, from the American POV. From an audience POV, however, frabjous frakking day!]

In the BAMbill (BAM’s playbill), Liv Ullman wrote a lovely “Letter to the cast, designers, and crew” (as opposed to Directors Notes that so frequently do not resemble the production they allegedly describe) in which she gave a little history (without dates) and some praise to Tennessee Williams. But there’s something lacking.

The cast and crew have bios. All of the people who created this production are there, and they deserve goodly space for their professional bios. I searched and searched looking for “Tennessee, for “Williams.” Nothing. The playwright did not rate a bio? So that’s the flaw in this production: the missing bio of the brilliant tragic dramatic funny melodramatic playwright, the man who created the greatest women in the American theatre of his generation and probably many more. I am appalled. Tennessee Williams graciously gave us extraordinary ordinary people, magical language, great stories. Reading Tennessee Williams' plays, I fell in love with his voice, his lyricism, his truth (which is not reflected in film versions of his plays, and often wasn’t even reflected in the performance scripts from the Broadway productions, to the shame of American society as it was – I have no doubt rightly – understood and interpreted by Elia Kazan). Give the man a bio.

That’s my negative. Not the production. A post-production issue. As for the play, I’d say, “Swim the East River to BAM” to see this if I didn’t know it was sold out. Instead, find out what city they play next and go there.

A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams, Directed by Liv Ullman, from the Sydney Theatre Company to BAM, Wednesday December 9, 2009.

~ Molly Matera, signing off. Thanks for stopping by.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

An Education - opening a season of Sixties Films?

How much do trailers tell you about the theatre you’re in? When I saw District 9 a few months back, the trailers were full of action, movement, violence, and I couldn’t tell you what movies were being advertised. I doubt I saw any of them. Saturday afternoon at the Kew Gardens Cinema on Lefferts Boulevard, my favorite Queens movie house, I saw the following four trailers:

  1. The Single Man. Colin Firth. 'Nuf said. And Julianne Moore. 1960s England. Glamorous, artificial. Before I even saw that it was based on a Christopher Isherwood story, I knew what it was about. And I’m dying to see it.
  2. Broken Embraces looks complicated, emotional, lifelike, fascinating. Before that moment when the luminous Penelope Cruz appeared on the screen, the name Amodovar sparked my interest. Her presence sets it on stunning. I’m dying to see this film too.
  3. The Young Victoria. I like costume dramas well enough but not especially. Part of this advertisement was that Julian Fellowes, the screenwriter of Gosford Park (one of my top ten for sheer pleasure ever), wrote this film. Cast looks fabulous, and Victoria’s (that’s Queen Victoria to you) history is interesting, so this trailer actually made me want to see this one.
  4. Me and Orson Welles. May be interesting. May not. The fellow playing Orson appears like Orson. Plotwise it seems fluffy; but tough to tell.

The trailers executed their functions well. I enjoyed all of them, so I ought to have a good winter of weekend films on Lefferts Boulevard.

I wasn't at the movies to watch the trailers, but to see An Education. I’ll see anything with Carey Mulligan. I have seen her Nina on stage, her Sally Sparrow on “Dr. Who” (don’t laugh, “Blink” is an excellent episode), and it was she that first caught my eye in a review of this film when it opened at the Toronto Film Festival back in mid September. My how time does fly. Was it fun? That’s a subject for another blog.

An Education
Carey Mulligan plays 16-year-old Jenny. Alfred Molina is marvelous, adding a depth to the traditional father figure at a turning point in social history; Cara Seymour plays her mother, who handles, understands, and loves her husband, and quietly encourages her daughter to a different sort of life. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her before, and she was marvelous. Emma Thompson is perfect (I recall the NYT review saying her work here was practice for her inevitable performance as Margaret Thatcher, and it was right on the nose), and Olivia Williams did the best work I’ve seen her do in a role that could have been a stereotypical understanding high school teacher. Not high school -- whatever the Brits call 10th grade. Dominic Cooper, whom I last saw as a schoolboy in History Boys, is all grown up here, classy and slimy at the same time. As he was in History Boys. Helen (sometimes referred to as “Aunt Helen”) was lived, not played, so perfect was she, by Rosamund Pike. And of course, Peter Sarsgaard as Jenny’s David. Charming, sweet, and sleazy.

This film takes place in 1961-2. Primary question for me is: Is this a story? A complete story, with a beginning, middle and end. It has fabulous characters, scintillating scenes, beautiful cinematography by John de Borman. Nick Hornby’s screenplay is sharp and soft, beguiling and seductive. And Lone Sherfig’s direction was so good I didn’t even notice; quite seamless (until the end). The film I saw was a landscape of a time with detailed and interactive portraits: of young girls who desperately desire the sophistication of Paris; of a loving and not at all dumb mother who, 15 years later, would be living an entirely different life, even if with the same husband; a loving and stifled father, as easily seduced as his daughter; two con men with different styles and morals; an extremely conservative principled principal; and a literature teacher willing to take an extra step. These are marvelous portraits, brilliant and enticing. They go a long way to making this film seem like a story.

Bored, stifled, clever Jenny wants her Life to begin. She wants her Life to be in France, she wants to be sophisticated, she wants to listen to music, but not the music her father listens to. Sound like 1961? Jenny does well in school (except for Latin), she plays cello in a small school orchestra, and a lovely young boy is politely besotted with her. While waiting for a bus in an incredible deluge, along comes a charming man in a fabulous little car to give Jenny and her cello a lift. The young man is amusing, he draws her out, he doesn’t seem to be in the slightest bit predatory. When David steps into Jenny’s life a second time, I groaned. Jenny is swept up in a musical romance, and joins in with David’s schemes to get her parents to allow her to go out with this blatantly older man.

David’s cohorts are Helen and Danny. The first time we see Jenny with them is just shocking. They are sophisticates, she is a child. But then Helen helps to transform her into a young woman – on the outside at least.

Rosamund Pike’s Helen is beautiful in face, figure, and fashion sense, charming, dense, insensitive with no such intent. She is so incredibly charming in her stupidity that when Jenny gets a “B” in her Latin course, Helen comforts her by saying that she’d read that within 50 years, no one will be speaking Latin, “not even the Latins.” How sweet is that.

Danny (Dominic Cooper) is brusque yet closer to honest than Peter Sarsgaard’s David. Personally I generally find Peter Sarsgaard rather sleazy, so unfortunately his David did not surprise me.

Jenny’s home is dull and colorless, despite her mother’s warmth. Her father is not a bad guy, but he’s essentially insulting. Mind you, in his time his attitude was the norm. As far as Molina’s “Jack” is concerned, all his daughter can hope for is his wife’s life, but she’d best get her A levels so she can go to Oxford. There she’ll become qualified to teach (Olivia Williams’ scenes as the lit teacher who probably had the same dreams as Jenny are exquisitely painful), but more qualified to meet someone appropriate to marry. In the years following these happenings, women would break out of these absurd societal shackles, but Jenny doesn’t know that yet. Her home is stifling despite the love in it, her French records are shouted down, and the cello that brings her to David’s attention is a tool to her father, not an instrument. The excitement and color of evenings out with David and his friends are a great contrast to Jenny’s home life, and she falls into that lush life like a Parisian Apache dancer. We see David’s charm, we understand. But please, he’s a sleaze and she’s jailbait. How this affair plays out is fated from the start.

An Education is based on a memoir, not a story. This shows at the ending, which I found rather disappointing. Too much or too little, but not quite what a story needs. Realistic as a memoir would be, and yet not dramatic and crushed into a few scenes with snow and spring buds to alert us to time going by. Denouement can feel awfully long.

This film is beautiful. The acting is superb. The cinematography of gray, rainy London is in stark contrast to glorious sunny Paris. It’s all gorgeous, evocative. Even the tea and biscuits that deservedly had their own shot near the end were dull, almost monochromatic. The scenes with the foursome – Jenny and David, Helen and Danny – are sharper and brighter and louder than the rest of Jenny’s life. They live the lush life. For a while Jenny lives it with them, at a price.

See this movie. I want to talk about the ending. Oh, and the score is excellent. A little classical, a little jazz, a little rock’n’roll. Just what a 1962 story needs.

~ Molly Matera signing off -- thanks for stopping by.

Monday, November 16, 2009

INSIDE OUT at BAM, 12 November 2009

I went to BAM again last night. This time there were clowns. Not evil dancing glaring clowns that haunt one’s dreams, leaping over the dreamer, sneaking up behind me in my cubicle – oh, no. Never mind. That’s the temp-with-too-much-to-prove.

The program “Inside out” by Cirkus Cirkőr, a marvelous circus troupe from Sweden, opened at the BAM Opera House Thursday night. My friends and I were safe in our first row of the first mezzanine seats – the tall white Clown could not come all the way upstairs to get us. No, he stayed in the orchestra, pulling ordinary non-circus folk from their seats onto the stage. Or were they ordinary?

This was not a play for which the program identifies the players in some definitive way. Members of the troupe have specializations, of course, yet I regret I cannot tell you who did what. There were at least two clowns. One was a tall skinny man in white – white clothes, whiteface on his hands, arms, face, neck, and wild & crazy white Alfred Einstein hair. And acrobats. And a master juggler, a tight rope walker, trapeze artists! And, per the program, “equilibrists.” All 8 directed with loving, daring, heartfelt care by Tilde Björfors.

Accompanying and part of this troupe is a fabulous band called “Irya’s Playground,” led by Irya Gmeyner (singer) and Pange Öberg (bass). Yes, of course I bought their CD. Irya’s singing is lyrical and moody and in tune with the physical life on the stage. And the drummer (Erik Nilsson) who accompanied the mad antics of the juggler in the second half drums like an acrobat run amok. (And excellent as that juggler was, that’s my one negative note – the juggling section was a few minutes too long.)

I don’t even know how to describe “Inside out.” I was as excited as a child at her first circus, I marveled, I gasped, I cried out in dread (really!), I cheered and clapped and hooted. This is a circus story with a theme. On my way home, I read the director’s notes with pleasure, happy to continue the experience with a director’s intents proven to match the final product – now that’s a rare feat! Director Tilde Björfors likens Circus to Life.

The show had a theme of life and death inside and outside the body. The visuals immediately set us up for more than fun and games with DaVinci’s Vitruvian Man painted on the floor of the stage. (Yes, this is exactly why the mezzanine offers more than orchestra seating ever can.) This image
is repeated with a large hoop put to astonishing effect by a male acrobat. Other elements of the human body – the inside, that is – are repeated on the curtains, the set pieces, in odd shapes coming to life throughout the evening.

One performer is “odd man out.” She’s an old woman, an acrobat, a comedienne. Not attractive. Not balanced literally or figuratively. Not in sync with the rest of the performers – although they put themselves in sync with her at various points in the evening. We see her journey, and that of a younger woman, in line with the stage pictures of the heart, the vena cava, blood cells red and white, and the struggles between them. Cirkus Cirkőr shows the heart literally as the pump maintaining life, in harmony with the heart metaphorically as repository of love and courage.

The White Clown is clearly the emcee, not to mention an equilibrist extraordinaire, and was bouncing around the orchestra since the audience began trailing in. The White Clown lead performers onto the stage, moved props around and connected a bicycle to cables that appeared to provide power to the lights. As the audience settled, he leapt into the aisle and pulled a man up onto the stage, tossed the poor guy’s trench coat to the floor, and put him into the bicycle. This audience member is Tom, and the White Clown makes Tom pedal to create the light. Tom became engrossed with the Clown’s balancing act on too many layers of angled chairs, and the lights went out. The Clown cries out “Tom!” piteously, and we hear an “Oh, sorry!” followed by furious pedaling until the spot comes up on the White Clown balanced on the very top chair.

The entire troupe is so on, taking part, watching, inviting the audience to marvel at their prowess, the leaps and bounds, the balancing, the joy. And occasionally the odd old woman wandered on, did something amazing, then something clumsy, and all the while the White Clown ushered her here and there solicitously. When she stumbled yet again, he caught her. Up she got to walk a tightrope on the ground, and down she went. He moved her. Lifted her arm. It flopped back down. She appeared dead.

Finally the White Clown addressed the audience talking about life and death, until he noticed someone in the aisle. He cried out to the woman, “Are you leaving?” and leapt into the house to lead her on stage. This is Christine, and the White Clown pulled her into the world of the circus people. Part of said world is, of course, make believe, and the old woman isn’t dead after all.

A marvelous scrim is painted like a circus tent, with a slit set where the tent’s flap opens and closes for exits and entrances. This simple effect made me absurdly happy. The first part is carny and fun and sets up the second part where the emerging themes come into focus. Sets are struck, dances are danced, drinking and merrymaking took place, and the old woman pulled the heart out of Christine’s chest.

Entertainment in the Interval, before the White Clown shouted, “Is anyone still in the toilet? No? Then we begin!” consisted of watching the thin white-faced man chat with members of the audience, then lead two slim men up to center stage, inviting them to sit on two chairs. Back the Clown went to the audience, house left this time, and brought up a couple. Perhaps a couple – the young man was androgynous such that only the mustache convinced me he was male − barely. The woman with him was in a short skirt and patterned stockings, and I wondered what the Clown would do that would make her outfit totally unsuitable. The Clown and the Juggler settled these two into chairs, then moved them all around. They manipulated the limbs and spines of the four audience members until they were leaning and lying on one another. Then the Clown removed each of the four chairs so the only support those people had was each other. This seemed interestingly in line with one of the evening’s themes, then the Clown gently pressed on that support system until all four were sprawled on the ground.

The stage is filled with shapes that don’t appear connected to a circus − globules, blood cells, the right atrium, nightmares come to life in the fantastic voyage inside our bodies. The inner journey is on video and onstage, blood corpuscles traveling through the veins and the vena cava, dropping onto the stage where red and white battle one another. Hearts are ripped out of chests, then carried outside in one character’s arms. Eventually the heart grows into a set piece on and in and through which the characters leap, crawl, fight and play. All this and acrobatics, too.

Director Tilde Björfors explains her study and love of circus and science by quoting DaVinci: “Art and science are two sides of the same coin, and both widen the world.” We do not see the science, but these performers do. Each prop is so carefully placed, each jump, leap, toss, so carefully balanced and safeguarded, that we cannot help but see a dedicated form to all that these performers do. This piece is scripted, each moment is judged and timed. Each magical act plays a part in expanding on the theme of the evening.

We have fears – and acrobats appear not to have them – but they can be overcome, one by one, so we can carry on and take the next step. To where? Wherever we need to go: To live more fully. To walk a tightrope. To trust your partner to catch you when you’re hanging upside down fifteen feet in the air.

This is not Cirque du Soleil; this is simpler, smaller. It does not overwhelm with lights and colors and death-defying feats. There are feats galore, and they amaze. This Cirkus is gentler, tells a story, and teaches us that the heart has many functions, and that courage is not the lack of fear, but overcoming it in order to accomplish something. The art of Cirkus Cirkőr is not to make it all look amazing, but to engage our hearts with their journeys. And they did.

I don’t know where the show is going next, but if it wanders your way, go see it. Meanwhile, check out the trailer at the company’s site for teasers galore: . Björfors says that “Circus is about life and death.” That’s how I think about theatre. Thursday night on the BAM Opera House stage, Theatre and Circus were the same.

~ Molly Matera signing off. So many somersaults to do!

Friday, November 6, 2009

"Quartette" n'est pas "Les Liaisons Dangereuses"

Quartette is a play by Heiner Müller, in French with English supertitles projected above the BAM Harvey stage. It is allegedly based on Les Liaisons Dangereuses, although Müller admits he never finished the original novel when he wrote this play in 1980-1. Since I know the story, I didn’t think the supertitles would be necessary. As it happens, though, the production was “conceived and directed” by Robert Wilson. The result is, while somewhat linear, not a straight line. Or a single line. In fact I suspect many sections of the line were erased.

I spent far more time reading brief but repeated text than I had expected, although my ear picked up more of the French as the evening went on. As M said, this evening fulfilled my opera quota for the year. No, they weren’t singing. But Isabelle Huppert’s monologues and, for want of a better term, dialogue, were certainly arias, as were those of her male counterpart (in more ways than one), Ariel Garcia Valdès.

The opening drew us in with elements visually and aurally interesting. A scrim showed a landscape painting with somewhat clothed musicians in the foreground (Frans Wouters’ “Le Concert Champêtre”). Before it, Mlle. Huppert crossed the stage extremely slowly; an old man sat at the head of a table, a slim young woman with an exceptionally long braid bouncing along her back danced in giggling; and a young man entered, pointed his dancer foot at the old man, and “shot” him. Shortly after this, the old man took out a pistol and shot the young man. Visual and sound designs were sharp and engaging. We were in for a treat.

But soon the opening passed into the next staging, and the next. Not scenes, as such. Stagings. Watching Huppert, in her deep purple off-the-shoulder dress, very pale makeup, and distinct red lips, speak French exceedingly fast (but not so fast that we didn’t know she was repeating the same few lines over and over again) is really only fascinating for a little while. (It is entirely possible some heterosexual men and/or homosexual women will disagree with me on that point.) Apparently Mr. Wilson consistently has one of his characters appear in Kabuki style, and last night it was Valmont: a red devil of a creature, who was sometimes green, and once off white. His vocalizations sounded like those of someone using a machine to disguise his voice during a particularly loud obscene phone call.

In case you don’t know “LLD,” this story is about sex. Carnal, illicit, lusty, ex-marital, blackmailing, controlling sex. Huppert’s brash laugh was frequently followed by a wink to the audience or a long curling tongue. The play is filled with audacious images, quite a few of which are amusing and/or affecting. This to assure you I did enjoy some of the evening.

Huppert plays the Marquise de Merteuil (except when she appears to be playing Valmont), Valdès the Vicomte de Valmont (except when he appears to be playing Merteuil or Madame de Tourvel). Three other performers play with them – Louis Beyler, Rachel Eberhart, and Benoît Maréchal. These three people were welcome additions to the stage, but it is difficult to say who they played. One of the men is young, very fit, and presumably represents Danceny. The young woman is sometimes Cècile, the virginal convent-trained niece Merteuil wants Valmont to seduce, and sometimes Mme. de Tourvel, whom Valmont wishes to seduce. One of them is an old but remarkably spry man, and no one knows who he’s playing. He’s a hoot, out there dancing in his white nightshirt while men and women in black (a.k.a. stagehands) change the drapings and set pieces rather too often.

Mlle. Huppert and M. Valdès habitually looked anywhere but at each other. While each spoke to someone outside his or her line of sight, other characters would appear behind or beside them. Perhaps the young man, with a length of thick chain around his neck, grimacing as he pulled it tight. Perhaps the young woman, laughing delightedly, or looking at the young man when he was suspended upside down from a noose.

In the second half of the play, shouts of Vengeance! recurred. These came from Valmont when played by Valdès. And Merteuil spent more and more time in what appeared to be a bathtub. Perhaps. This is how I knew that Mr. Wilson, if not Mr. Müller, had a good idea of how the original story turned out in other dramatizations.

Luckily the sound design included the cracking of a stick somewhere offstage. Its repetition jolted me into wakefulness at regular intervals. I never completely nodded off, but it became increasingly difficult to focus my eyes, despite the vibrantly colored images appearing on the stage.

Not vibrantly colored but alive, a lonely fish traveled from stage left to stage right in a tall aquarium while Mlle. Huppert traversed the perpendicular upstage, repeating “the whore is dead” (in French, of course). The fish probably wondered why its sea was moving across its earth. It was seasick.

I have read Les Liaisons Dangereuses, the epistolary novel by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos. Mille pardons, en anglais. I experienced Christopher Hampton’s play on Broadway with the delicious Alan Rickman as Valmont and Lindsay Duncan as Merteuil. I have seen four film versions of the story (only one in French, and two set in the time period of the novel). These are barely a dent in the number of adaptations of this novel out there, yet perhaps I should have left it at that. Productions like this one make me feel quite stupid. I feel sure, had I a bit more energy, I might have deciphered some of the symbolism Mr. Wilson presented, although I’m equally sure re-reading the novel would not have helped. Perhaps, to comprehend one work conceived and directed by Robert Wilson, one must have experienced the entire oeuvre. In which case, where (or when) is one supposed to start?

I feel downright déclassé, but I believe I would have enjoyed the Duplex Cabaret Gala far more.

~ Molly Matera, signing off. Thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

All right, all right, I’ll say it: “The Royal Family” Rules!

Why should one see an 82-year-old play on Broadway? 15 Reasons:

  1. Rosemary Harris. Unlike my friend “M,” I was not enjoying the double déjà vu pleasure of seeing Rosemary Harris as the Matriarch of the piece, Fannie Cavendish, after having seen her as leading lady Julie Cavendish in the mid-1970s revival. Nevertheless, seeing Rosemary Harris do anything means unalloyed joy. Seeing her as the Grand Dame of the Royal Family of the NY Theatre is to die for. She is grace, she is humor, she is wit, she is style, she is passion. She is fluid, she is life. She is why some of us wanted the theatre to be our lives.
  2. Tony Roberts. As Oscar Wolfe, the family’s manager, Roberts takes the stage discreetly and quietly. He is the calm at the center of the chaos that is the Cavendish family. Oscar is the non-actor in the maelstrom, and Roberts steps back and underplays this deviously caring role beautifully.
  3. Jan Maxwell. Take a deep breath and watch her fly. As Julie Cavendish, Jan Maxwell holds her own with Rosemary Harris. However generous Ms. Harris may be – and she is extremely so – this is no easy feat. Playing the role Harris played over 30 years ago may be daunting to lesser mortals, but Maxwell does it with style and grace. She poses, she soothes, she seethes, she’s the sane one in a madhouse, and she’s utterly mad. Her voice and diction are clear as a bell throughout the evening. She’s delightful and powerful, driving the play’s storyline from start to finish.
  4. John Glover. As the impoverished, perhaps not has-been but never-was brother of Fannie, Herbert Dean, Glover is a bundle of nerves unable to get work for himself or his wife. He ages handsomely but not gracefully, unwilling to let go of his leading man status. Needy and obvious, Dean’s annoying -- and yet, and yet, he’s a member of the family, and he adores them all. The Royal Family becomes our family, and the wayward uncle is part of it.
  5. Reg Rogers does a mean John Barrymore. He embodies the maddest of the Cavendishes, Fannie’s son Tony. Rogers’ Tony is never still, he fences, he leaps, he dances, he whirls. He’s utterly delightful (and put me pleasantly in mind of an old Star Trek “villain,” the Squire of Gothos a.k.a. “General Trelane, Retired” as played by William Campbell). Rogers is physically marvelous, bursting with energy and technical prowess, and a big heart; but a little more elocution would be welcome.
  6. Larry Pine. As Gilbert Marshall, the long lost love of leading lady Julie Cavendish, Larry Pine discreetly shines as the businessman who went off and made a massive fortune in South America when Julie turned him down 20 years before. He comes back just when Julie desperately needs his personification of solid, steady, and sane, and therefore quite disrupts royal family life. Pine is refreshingly normal, then rather frighteningly so. The man’s a pro at aplomb.
  7. Kelli Barrett. The younger generation, Julie’s daughter Gwen Cavendish, is an exuberant, energetic, melodramatic ‘ingénue’ who can hold her own opposite the powerhouses on the stage. She’s sweet, fretful, spoiled. Barrett’s Gwen has the grace of her grandmother and the strength of her mother, and her very own gumption. Barrett has power. She’s someone to watch.
  8. David Greenspan. What a delight he is playing “Jo,” the family retainer/butler/majordomo/whatever-the-family-needs-him-to-be. He’s quiet, witty, the perfect foil to the staid maid and the wild family. His voice penetrates the madness just when it is needed.
  9. Freddy Arsenault. Arsenault makes a sweet Broadway debut as Gwen’s beau Perry, the society boy/stockbroker, as opposite to the Royal Family as he can be. The role doesn’t make an impact, but his on the mark performance shows he’s got the stuff.
  10. Ana Gasteyer. It’s been difficult to make up my mind about Ana’s Kitty Dean, Herbert’s wife. She has hilarious moments, and all in all I’d say she did a marvelous job of playing the dislikeable and disliked character. In a family of great actors with cultured voices and styles, she’s an outsider. The one who married in and cannot act although she thinks she can. She’s a sad creature really – but Ms. Gasteyer’s tones are so sharp we flinch to hear her speak. Which makes me think that maybe, just maybe, she was quite brilliant.
  11. John Lee Beatty. Of course the set is his and perfect and magnificent, and of course
  12. Catherine Zuber’s costume design works perfectly in the space.
  13. Doug Hughes directed with love, reverence, joy, controlled abandon. A fine piece of work with staging more than pleasing to the eye, and reminiscent of the black-and-white comedies I loved.
  14. Let us not forget the playwrights: George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber -- sparkling wit, brilliant characters, the fastest-paced 3 hours you could wish. Just say the family names out loud and embrace them: Tony Cavendish, Julie Cavendish, Fannie Cavendish, Gwen Cavendish, and the late patriarch whose portrait oversees all in the living room, Aubrey Cavendish. Cheers to the brilliant playwrights! “The Royal Family” makes one yearn for more – the madcap of “Stage Door” (film version, please!), the culture clash of “Dinner at Eight” and “You Can’t Take It With You,” one of Kaufman’s collaborations with Moss Hart. Ah, the days of large casts – so much better than helicopters.
  15. And finally, Panache.

A marvelous piece of work at the Manhattan Theatre Club. Go.

~ Molly Matera, signing off. I must go watch the Yankee/Phillies game now.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Hamlet and the Met

My friend Marcia was in town from Minnesota, so we used my corporate ID and visited the Met gratis. On the advice of a museum-savvy friend, we were determined to see the Vermeer exhibit. Unfortunately, a great many other people were also seeing the Vermeer exhibit, making it almost impossible to get a clear view of the paintings. What we could see was thrilling. I’m not a big fan of static exhibits – that is, the still visual arts as opposed to performing arts – but seeing original Vermeers up close was a startling pleasure. No reproduction in any medium can do justice to the colors, to the lure of the light source in each painting. And looking at the similar paintings grouped in the exhibit, Vermeer still stands alone.

However, those glorious colors were obfuscated by too many people. Marcia and I were happier with the marvelous Egyptian wing. It’s immense, it’s always there, and in one afternoon’s visit you cannot make a dent.

The Egyptian wing is quietly accessible, simple and remarkable. I wondered as I wandered if any of the ‘art’ of the 20th - 21st centuries could weather over 3000 years as these pieces of history have. Imagine the extraordinary few of those days with the good and frightening fortune to create masterworks of painting, sculpture, architecture, and engineering while the majority were relegated to picking, pushing, pulling, dragging and hauling. The work has survived, colors fresh and vibrant, details amazing. For those of modern times not among the fortunate few who work for their art and not at any subsistence jobs, remember this: After you design, execute, and decorate a temple, you will not be buried underneath it!


  • The golden sandals that would be a bitch to wear in the summer’s heat -- yes, I can be that dense. It took me several minutes to realize the gold sandals were reserved for the dead. Never mind.
  • The ‘dollhouses’, the toys, the entire villages and ships created in miniature to populate the tombs. Those have lasted all these years so we can marvel at them. The living in Egypt did not have that opportunity after all, since these survived because they were sealed in airless sepulchers.
  • The colors, preserved, on the transported walls, the statues, the metalwork. To hell with paint chips, I must go back for postcards to save for the next paint job at home.
  • Around each corner we marvelled at the precision, the delicacy, and extraordinary imagination required to create beauties & horrors, dreams & nightmares.

Mind you, I can always do without mummies and statues. I dislike life-size and slightly larger than life statuary. Creepifying. Put me in mind of the stadtmuzeum across the strasse from the laundromat in Göttingen, Germany. There my minimal German was insufficient to read the legends on the exhibits in a room of mostly photos, black-and-white WW2 era, that appeared to be concentration camp survivors. Nonetheless, I could figure it out. They were photos of survivors of camps, but they were German survivors of Soviet camps. Nowhere in that museum of this university town were the German concentration camps mentioned.

Escaping from that appalling room, I stumbled into a long gallery of statues mounted on pedestals. Not Aryan, more like Norse god figures. Larger than life, but human. Creepifying.

Statues. Bah.

Note: yes of course my laundry was still where I left it, safe, no watchers needed there. It was Germany.

Back to NYC October 2009. We took the 79 crosstown bus to the B’way IRT, then had a pleasant dinner at “Room Service,” a Thai restaurant on 8th Avenue. It may not have been better than the many others along 8th Avenue in the 40s, but it was much prettier. From there we moved on to Hamlet at the Broadhurst. My second time, Marcia’s first.

I had looked forward to seeing the play a second time, assuming I’d see changes, the cast moving into a comfort zone, building upon the solid story-telling it had already accomplished. Alas, the performance felt as if it hadn’t progressed in the three and a half weeks since I saw the play in previews. Geraldine James had found her footing (OK, her lines, all of them), but she still hadn’t created a memorable, distinct Gertrude. Claudius was not any better than he had been -- I still want to see Richard Johnson again. Nor had Laertes gained any depth, although his final scene with Hamlet does work. Horatio seemed to have stepped back into the shadows, when I wanted more of him. And Ophelia was just as bad as she had been, and the underscoring of her song in the ‘mad scene’ was just as infuriating.

Second time around, the still excellent Jude Law stood out in a way he oughtn’t. Yes, he’s Hamlet in Hamlet. That doesn’t mean the rest of the characters who people the story should be drawn in duller colors. So what’s that about? Direction. The same man who underscored Ophelia’s mad song must have directed the actors to give Law stage, when Law is perfectly capable of taking it if he wants it and seems rather to wish to share it. Calling Michael Grandage: Empower the rest of your cast to challenge Mr. Law. They’ll have more fun, and so will the audience.

~ Molly Matera, signing off. Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Where the Wild Things Are

Spike Jonze has made a few standout films that refuse to follow Hollywood’s overly beaten track, peopled with unusual characters, which is doubtless why actors on top lists appear in his films. In addition to the wonderful work done by Jonze and his co-screenwriter Dave Eggers, Maurice Sendak’s world is brought to life by wonderful actors.

Naturally when I heard Where the Wild Things Are would be made into a film, I began to complain of its imminent ruin. Until Spike Jonze’s name came into the story. Now that could be interesting. I felt certain he would be faithful to the children’s book experience. That Maurice Sendak more than endorsed Jonze’s vision of his book is terrific, but then Sondheim endorsed the very odd film version of “Sweeney Todd,” so original authors aren’t always the best judges of a film. Happily, Sendak’s take on the script by Jonze and Eggers as well as Jonze’s overall vision was on the mark.

I had initially been concerned with the very young children waiting on line for the 7:20 showing I attended on Saturday night – this film was potentially pretty scary. But, as one woman on line with a toddler and a 5-year-old said, “Oh they’ve seen Lord of the Rings, they’ll be fine.” Oh, OK. Well she was right, they were. The kids at that showing were great, lively, fascinated, totally involved in the story. This cannot be said of some of the accompanying adults, one at least of whom answered his cellphone and had a conversation during the film!

Visually thrilling with depth of characters of humans and non-humans alike, this film is a delight start to finish (about 90 minutes later). Just take it for itself, then go home and revisit the book that inspired it.

Wild Things has heart and soul and life. It adores the child’s imagination that gets him into trouble as it helps him through difficult days in ways that adults may not emulate.

Max Records as Max is marvelous, a real joy. Yes, he’s a beautiful child, but more than that, he’s a real little boy. When he cries at the destruction of his igloo, his tears make us cry with him. I used to build igloos myself, in the front yard of the family home in south Queens. I love igloos. I was luckier than Max – I had friends to share it, and to fight at my side with whoever might destroy it. Alas, not so for poor Max. Trials and tribulations build to his breaking point. When he bites we are aghast, yet immediately on the defensive when a perfectly nice guy (a simple and very fine Mark Ruffalo as the boyfriend) objects to such behavior. Max is our sibling, our family, and we’ll chastise and fight him, but protect against any and all interlopers as well. Max is …. us.

The physical characters of the wild things are spectacular, moving, emotive, and as human as any human. First, though, the humans: Catherine Keener, clearly a Jonze favorite, is a working mom, tired, loving, angry, real. Pepita Emmerichs in her brief screen time makes an impression as Max’s sister Claire. She has just the right balance of self-involvement and the need to be one of the teenage group, then adds a vital moment of concern for her little brother, only to be overridden by her desire to be the same as the other teenagers. That her brother Max is not the same as anybody isn’t necessarily easy on her. Of course, all little brothers are torments and embarrassments to the elder sisters, as any elder sister will tell you. Again, Mark Ruffalo is quietly on target as mom’s boyfriend.

Let’s go where the wild things are, a remarkable, frightening, exhilarating place for Max’s adventure. And while we go there, you naysaying parents out there, let’s remember this is fantasy and not a blueprint for raising children.

In the other place, the creatures to which some wonderful actors have been transformed are enchanting.

James Gandolfini voices Carol, Max’s first wild friend who reflects Max’s own violent responses. Therefore the two bond almost immediately. The exaggerated echoes of Max’s behavior are clearest in Carol, to children as well as adults. Gandolfini is so expressive as Carol, he’s funny, delightful, warm, infuriating, angry, selfish, and terribly honest. Sounds like a child.

Paul Dano as Alexander the Goat is just heartbreaking, desperately trying to be part of the inner circle, any inner circle. It’s true, no one listens to him.

Judith is so very annoying, and perfectly played by Catherine O’Hara.

Ira is amazing creation, I hadn’t a clue it was Forest Whitaker. What a lovely, full characterization.

As for the quiet and shy bull voiced by Michael Berry Jr. – silence works. The few times that bull spoke, or didn’t speak, or sighed, he had our full attention. I wished for more of him.

Chris Cooper voicing Douglas, the steadfast friend of Carol even when – no, no spoilers here. Douglas is the friend we all want, and Chris Cooper is the actor we all want to play him.

Finally Lauren Ambrose: The golden girl can do no wrong. Voicing KW, whom Carol clearly adores, she feels like the heart of the film; she is mom, loving, understanding, and tough. Neither Carol nor Max can put anything past her. It is her presence that creates the extraordinary scene of the creatures sleeping together in a pile. She envelops the little community, and Max.

The only characters about whom I felt nothing in particular were Bob and Terry, the owl friends of KW’s that so alienate Carol. And we get that, don’t we. Neither Carol nor Max nor the audience can understand a ‘word’ the owls say, so we feel left out along with Carol and Max when all the other wild things seem to communicate with those interlopers.

The visuals are achingly beautiful and occasionally terrifying – that tiny boat in a great sea, the storm, the landing, the initial viewing of those wild things. Ominous ‘monsters’ becoming children – and adults -- we recognize, and then the dark forest opening into clearings, sand dunes, and the sea. It’s a whole world, where the wild things are. Oh, and then the Fort, the tunnels, it’s all delicious. The creation of the where is glorious and gorgeous. I have no desire to see any “making of” for this film, I fear they’d be spoilers in themselves. I loved the magical mystery tour of Spike Jonze’s vision.

Since the book Where the Wild Things Are is not of my childhood, but rather a ‘classic’ introduced into my adult life, it’s easy to understand the comments that this film is for adults more than for children. Just wait, though, until you’re in an audience filled with children. This is their story. They get it, they love it. And, of course, it’s for children of all ages.

~ Molly Matera, turning off the computer, but not the light. I have reading to do.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Morning After

It is no way 6:44. It's so dark. Why does my hip hurt? Why are my slacks on the floor? And pantihose? At the same time? Why is everything on the floor?! Damn (2 syllable form), Maddy makes a fine Manhattan.

I hate the morning after.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Time is Relative

Each weekend is another proof that time is relative. I’d made a list and only achieved the easy ones. Again. Not on the list was watching movies on cable and DVD. The best laid plans….

Some time back, it came up in conversation that I had never seen The Departed in its entirety -- that I had seen scenes, and usually the same ones, as often happens when channel surfing. That I had never seen the entire film was appalling to my friends, and Matthew did something about it. The next time we met, he handed me his copy of the DVD. Saturday I finally sat down and committed to watch it. I had thought I’d iron – the stack is so high it’s toppling. Or clean the broccoli.

I watched the film. It was not possible to iron or clean broccoli or chop anything. That would have been foolhardy, and possibly as bloody as the film.

I tip my hat to Mr. Scorsese, to screenwriter William Monahan , and to the incredible cast. DiCaprio, Damon, Nicholson, Winstone, Wahlberg, Sheen, Baldwin, etc. etc. etc. It doesn’t just sound like a dream team, it is. I don’t generally care much for bloody films about guys playing gangsters. This film has gangsters, cops, robbers, feds, thieves, moles, killers, cheats, office politics, a shrink, and lots of bloody violence. Nonetheless, this film just doesn’t fall into the usual categories. We watch two young men living lives of similarities and contradictions, and follow their paths through the maze of the Irish mob. The points where their paths meet are obvious and not obvious, expected but still frightening, and involve older men who manipulate and shape them. To state the fine performances would be merely to list all the actors Scorsese cast, a much longer list than I've offered already. There’s nary an off moment in this film, not a point in any scene that allowed my mind to wander, to compare, to even question. Emotional involvement was total. And I had no idea how long the film ran until I read the box.

See? Time is relative.

~ Molly Matera, signing off. Thanks for stopping by.


The most valuable player per Molly Matera.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Random Thoughts on a Friday

I have been negligent. I had intended to write something in (on?) this blog on a more regular basis, at least several times a week. But there are gaps. Since I’ve no expectation to see another play until November, there would be an awfully large gap if all I wrote here were reviews, so…..Random Thoughts Day. Do any of us wish to be working our subsistence-to-have-health-insurance jobs? Of course not. What better day for jotting down random thoughts than a brisk autumn Friday. Molly muses….

I’m a late bloomer. I only just discovered Tim O’Brien. Good golly. In the Lake of the Woods is a horrific tale exceedingly well told. What is reality? What is truth? What is sanity? O’Brien questions me. I love it. Now I have to read all his works. He has an excellent essay in the Atlantic’s fiction issue:

The bartenders at “Still” (3rd at 17th) may be swell guys, but they’re not bartenders. I’m sure they can pull a bottle of beer out of a bucket of ice, but when one requests a Manhattan, bartenders should not head for the vodka. I was only there for a charity event and a friend’s stint at guest bartending. Luckily I had coached her on the ingredients. She recognized right away that, despite the professional’s directions, the ingredients I’d mentioned were brown, not white. So, “Still” for swill and Boston games, and that’s all.

I recall a moment from decades ago when I was visiting London. It was on a tour – not a tour in which I was working, a tourist’s “If It’s Tuesday This Must Be Belgium” kind of tour: bags outside the hotel room by 6 or 7 in the morning, and never knowing where you really were. My mother and I were the northerners on a tour bus with mostly alum of Duke University. Hoping to return back home with a British accent, I ended up with a southern one instead. One evening in a hotel bar – don’t ask me which hotel or which city, but I’m sure it was England, not Scotland or Wales. Definitely not York, they were friendly if incomprehensible there – I ordered a mixed drink. I was not much of a drinker then (don’t choke), and all I really knew was rye and ginger. Seemed simple enough. The bartender, whom I would now consider quite rude and perhaps incompetent, asked belligerently, “Do you see it?” I wondered what I had done. Was asking for rye whiskey an insult to his county, his country, his manhood? Rye is in England, honestly, in the south, it was one of the Cinque Ports once upon a time. Assuming I was, in some unknown way of the ugly American, in the wrong, I did not tell him where Rye was. I just accepted whatever he gave me. Which had no rye or ginger ale in it. I didn’t like it. Oddly worrisome is that, although this occurred almost thirty years ago, I remember the moment so clearly.

I find myself being ‘friended’ on Facebook by old friends and acquaintances from Queens, people I have not seen, or thought of, in decades. Nor, I regret to say, have I missed any of them. Do I want to revisit those times? Not particularly. Well then, you may well ask, what am I doing on Facebook at all? Ach, all this self reflection, can it be good for the soul? For the harmonies of body and mind? I think not.

I tell you, I feel light as air since I finished that long dreaded ‘capsule endoscopy’ on Tuesday. I’ve no results yet, it’s just over, so I feel better already. Recipe for a stressful day: Walking through the danger zone of federal and city cops in lower Manhattan while wearing testing paraphernalia that could pass for a bomb. I wonder if those monitors taped to my belly could sense that as the capsule wended its way through my GI tract. It really didn’t matter that I had a letter from the doctor that said, and I quote, “To Whom It May Concern, Today, Mr(s). ______ is undergowing [sic] a diagnostic capsule endoscopy. For this reason equipment is attached to the patient’s body and should not be removed before the study is over.” I must have an honest face, because my body looked pretty strange, yet I didn’t have to hand that letter to anyone. No law enforcement professional or amateur stopped me despite the blinking black box (the size of two original SONY Walkman glued together) strapped to my waist. No one in the streets around the Municipal Building, the Brooklyn Bridge, or City Hall so much as took a second look. What a weird city.

Finally, and apropos of nothing, there’s a not new movie opening this weekend in NY, Chicago, and probably LA: “Trucker.” I saw it a year and a half ago at Tribeca Film Festival and loved it. Michele Monaghan actually learned to drive that truck and has a trucker’s license. If she continues to give performances like this one, she shouldn’t ever need it. And Nathan Fillion – will the world please see him as the film star he so clearly is? Check your local movie schedules for a gutsy movie. And have a great weekend.

~­ Molly Matera signing off. Thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

“Decreation” —BAM Opera House, 7 October 2009

What have I to say about dance? I cannot dance. I’m a klutz. I do not have dance training. My function in Darlene Casanova’s dance class was comic relief. So what dare I say about The Forsythe Company’s “Decreation” at the BAM Opera House?

William Forsythe’s “Decreation” is a quarter hour too long, too loud, and too much.

After its alleged 65 but more like 75 minutes played upon the nearly bare black stage, a woman, a stranger, turned to my friend Rob and said, “So, not so much.” That’s it.

My friend Matthew compared it to a hilarious song from “Evil Dead: The Musical” called “What the Fuck Was That?!” Yup. That’s it.

The stage, as previously stated, black and bare, contains a podium, several microphones, and chairs. On a large table way up left covered in white paper, several glasses and a wine bottle are at the ready. Right center a woman positions herself behind a camera. One might think the camera’s view was projecting onto the front of the podium. One would be incorrect. It is an illusion. Sound interesting? I beg pardon for misleading.

People sit in the wings. People move about the stage. A small blonde woman stands behind the podium and argues with a man. The man responds. The argument is taken up by multiple men saying the same non-things. Meanwhile another man here, a woman there pervert their bodies awkwardly, ugly forms making grotesque sounds. The similar-looking men talk to the blonde woman and each other, and dance with one another. Other men and women manipulate each other into painful and grotesque postures. Sounds come from them as if they’d suddenly developed Tourette’s.

Meanwhile the blonde woman continues to argue with the specific man who is voiced by several men. The man and a woman and a man and another man and another man continue the same argument between the broken bodies, inchoate sounds continuing and repeating. All of it repeating. And repeating. And twisting, and then repeating again. In English. And German. “Fuck” is the same in both languages. It gets a laugh.

Pina Bausch used repetition in movement and choreographed sequences over and over and over, until those of us lucky enough to be in her audience were so tense we wanted to scream STOP; then just before we did, Bausch changed it up. It was exciting. Exhilarating. Three and a half hours of Pina Bausch’s creations flew by.

Mr. Forsythe did not achieve that tension. I’m afraid “Decreation” was … tedious. Not bland, and for many moments not dull. I sometimes wondered if this was going to take me down a path, almost felt an inkling of comprehension – then it was gone. No flight, no emotional trail to follow. In the last ten minutes or so, the dancers removed the white paper covering from the upstage table, then carried the dull round table downstage. They gathered around it, and a woman appeared on top of it. Different dancers slithered onto the table with her, chanting, shouting, whispering, in English and in French. If this was what it was all leading to, it came about 20 minutes too late. And what was that guy doing under the table, lighting matches? The dancers are highly skilled artists, their control and physical discipline remarkable. The “script” may wish to be innovatively repetitive, but it felt almost sophomoric, rather like college theatrics of the late 1960s and 1970s.

I’m told Mr. Forsythe usually choreographs ballet, and I’ve no idea why he was driven to this anti-ballet he calls “Decreation.” Well, wait. Perhaps that was it.

~ Thanks for stopping by. Molly Matera signing off, shutting down the computer, but not the light. I MUST finish Tim O'Brien's "In the Lake of the Woods" before I sleep tonight.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

"HAMLET" at the Broadhurst Theatre, 29 Sep 09

Last night I saw a movie star play Hamlet. He wasn’t the first movie star I’ve seen attempt it, and I honor all who try. It’s not just a great role; it’s a killer -- generally over three hours of leading a story along, carrying that burden with very little offstage time, of total exhaustion after each performance. If you’re doing your job.

Last night Jude Law did an exemplary job. His Hamlet is surly, angry, hopeful, juvenile, responsible, dramatic, powerful, virile, funny. He cowers like a child, he glides like a panther, he’s hot, he’s cold, he’s cool.

Law’s Hamlet connects, he engages, and for any actor who wants to join in the fun, he’s right there. For instance, conversations between Hamlet, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are the best I’ve seen. The three sit cross-legged on the floor as if in a college dorm room, comfortable, relaxed. He pauses after his first “Were you sent for?” honestly awaiting an answer. Simply, conversationally. The agonizing silence extends as his old friends know not how to respond without hurting or angering him. Understanding comes, and disappointment. This is the way Law’s Hamlet plays a scene. He is just a guy, unsuited to his fate, taking action only when he must: a man without a plan. As he says – “Time is out of joint; O cursed spite, That ever I was born to set it right.”

The play opens on the cold dark ramparts of Elsinore, with a pleasingly good Barnardo (Michael Hadley, who also plays the Priest, both men warm living beings), Marcellus (Henry Pettigrew playing multiple roles very well), and Matt Ryan’s pure Horatio. Their interaction is realistic, clean, and the beginning of the story they offer us is clearer than usual, without sounding like exposition. This augurs well.

The opening court scene is nicely staged, and we all search out the main characters. Geraldine James as Gertrude is center with Kevin R. McNally’s stately Claudius. Polonius, delightfully played by Ron Cook, is deferentially upstage of them, awaiting his summons. The Laertes is serviceable, the courtiers more so – Osric is introduced, so we know we’ll see him again. The predicted 3.5 hour length leads us to believe we’ll have close to full text tonight, and so far so good. There are a few women onstage, but it’s easy to find the youngest, sweetest-looking as Ophelia, and we look for her eyes to seek out Hamlet as ours do. He stands with his back to the audience, facing his mother, who directs all her looks and words to him. The Ophelia, oddly, is disengaged.

Law’s Hamlet converses softly, fiercely, tragically, comically, pastorally. He connects with all – except the Ophelia, but more on that anon. He takes the stage for his soliloquies, and into each he breathes fresh air, clean lines, vivid images. This man does not merely know how to woo a camera. This man’s voice and mind and body gather a live audience into his heart, and we will go with him anywhere. I find myself smiling at his gorgeous deliveries, happy to experience them. I’ve seen him onstage before, but hell, this is Hamlet he’s assaying. Hot damn.

Ophelia, as played by the RADA-trained (read Juilliard in an English accent) Gugu Mbatha-Raw, is a disconnect. She has no relationship with her brother Laertes. She has no relationship with her father Polonius, and she has no feelings for anyone around her, including Hamlet. She is a puzzlement. I go to every Hamlet with the desire to like the Ophelia. Alas, I missed Lauren Ambrose’s turn in the Park last summer, but I did see Pernilla Ostergren’s Ophelia in Bergman’s Hamlet at BAM in the late 1980s. She was marvelous, gutsy, thoroughly believable. Of course the play was also in Swedish, so I couldn’t hear any mangling of verse that so oft offends. Ms. Mbatha-Raw did not mangle the verse. She is merely … not there. There is no there there. She has clearly had proper schooling in scansion; she knows how to speak the verse. From the moment we see that she doesn’t even look toward Hamlet in the opening scene, we could feel the emptiness there. Is this young love? No, Claudius seems right on that point. Not with Mbatha-Raw as Ophelia, there is no love or feeling of any kind. Her mad scene was a schoolgirl’s attempt to not overact, so she merely showed off a well trained voice and sang. Perfectly, clearly, to underscoring!!! Who underscores Ophelia’s mad song? Clearly this is director Michael Grandage's choice, but it is an inauspicious one and stands out in this otherwise strong production. Appalling scene. A great disservice has been done to all future audiences, for Ms. Mbatha-Raw can always state that she played Ophelia to Jude Law’s Hamlet at the Donmar Warehouse and on Broadway. Why why why.

All right, enough of her.

My attention wandered on occasion, and I snapped back to the stage feeling great guilt. But why. It’s their job to hold it, not mine to force it. The Claudius was quite disappointing. It’s a marvelous role, so full, so many choices that could be made. McNally began well in the opening, a politico, classy with a touch of smarmy. The audience needs to see why the election went to him instead of the son of the late king, and he gives us that. And for a moment (note, a silent moment) in the play-within-a-play, I thought he was finally taking a stand. But the moment we saw him alone in the magnificent chapel scene, my mind wandered. All the way back 30, or was it 40 years to Richard Johnson playing the role so well in the Hallmark Hall of Fame production of 1970 or so with Richard Chamberlain fresh from his Dr. Kildare scrubs. Richard Johnson was riveting.

Mr. McNally was not, at any time, riveting.

Mr. Law was. And not just because he’s gorgeous. Of course he is, and from the first mezzanine his perfectly lit face’s bone structure is even better than it is close up on screen – honestly. His voice fills the Broadhurst, his body slinks and struts and slumps and collapses and rears up – it’s a fine body.

OK, enough of that, too.

I’m a fan of Geraldine James, but after that well-rehearsed opening court scene, I knew her choices for Gertrude because she telegraphed them. She even blew her lines when announcing (not in a frighteningly chilly way, just plain cold) Ophelia’s death. The woman was thinking on stage instead of being on stage, and I was quite surprised. She was not the original Gertrude of the Donmar production (that was Penelope Wilton), but surely she should know her lines. Throughout, she felt decidedly under-rehearsed.

The main problem of this production was that when Hamlet left the scene, so did the light and the life. The scenes lacking Law’s presence were merely educational, filler, ‘this is what happens what Hamlet’s not here.’ The verse was always clear, the language beautiful, the story continued, but as if with narration, not action. Even if Law's Hamlet was not the focus of a scene, as long as he was there, the other actors woke up and smelled strong coffee brewing. Except Ophelia. I don’t even want to talk about the nunnery scene.

Ah, the Gravedigger scene – so often this “clown” scene falls flat. Not this production. The First Gravedigger is played by Ron Cook after his Polonius' guts were dragged to the nether room. Here he comes, shoveling up skulls from an ingeniously created grave center stage. His last appearance was also among clever scenic executions – the arras behind which Polonius listened to Hamlet and Gertrude’s ‘closet scene’ was translucently downstage of the prince and queen so that we and Polonius looked through the curtain to eavesdrop. On his death, Polonius pulled the curtain down, and after I had a quick flash of Janet Leigh in Psycho, the white curtain tumbled around Polonius like a soft fall of snow. Beautiful.

Throughout, the scenic design was striking – simple, clean lines, texture, light, and dark, and smoke, no mirrors. And snow. Six or so months back, I saw it rain on the Broadhurst stage. Last night it snowed on Hamlet. Lighting was sometimes mysterious, always the right angle, shadowed what and who belonged in shadow. Doors would slide open and closed, tall and short, confining and releasing the characters, dividing them, closing them in. Denmark is, after all, a prison.

I’ve mentioned some negatives here, but may I assure you, I was exhilarated leaving the theatre. This production had the effect of making us stay together to talk about it for something like an hour afterward, as good theatre should. This Hamlet was joyous, it was marvelous. A flawed production – when are they not – but with so many excellent moments and scenes, I’d happily see it again to see how this cast settles in.

Especially if Ophelia’s understudy goes on.

~ Molly Matera, turning off the computer, but not the light. I have reading to do....a play called "Hamlet, Prince of Denmark."

Sunday, September 27, 2009

“In-I” at BAM Harvey Theatre, 23 Sep2009

Directed and performed by Juliette Binoche and Akram Khan
Set design by Anish Kapoor
Lighting design by Michael Hulls
Music by Philip Sheppard
Ms. Binoche’s costume by Alber Elbaz
Mr. Khan’s costume by Kei Ito
Sound design by Nicolas Faure

Remember all those names. Everything about this production was as close to perfect as a live performance – hell, any performance – is going to get. “In-I” is a dance/theatre piece created by the very familiar actress Juliette Binoche and the, to me unknown until now, dancer/choreographer Akram Khan. Theatre is a communal art, and the community that gave us this piece tonight is stunning. A deceptively simple set, extraordinary subtle and enticing lighting design, discreet and emotional music designed flawlessly in conjunction with all the other elements.

The piece begins with Ms. Binoche sitting in a chair looking at the back wall of the set. The lighting design kicks in and we’re in a movie house. She tells us that she went into the dark to find the light and herself. She sees the man she wants to love in a movie theatre, follows him – nay, stalks him – then meets him, woos him, resistant as he is. Initially. We follow them in their first ecstatic night of lovemaking to the reality of the morning after. The story is about love in all its glory, torture, hell, wonder, awfulness, awesomeness. Love sucks. And yet. Those who know me know I don’t believe in love at first sight, but that’s what happens here, for her. That I don’t believe in it tells you how extraordinary the execution of this story was. I loved this performance, production, act of courage.

Ms. Binoche is not a dancer by training until recently, and she has entered into that physical world with great gusto. It is not unreasonable to state that she threw herself into this world 100% and Mr. Khan caught her like the deft, strong, and emotive dancer he is.
Sometimes I felt like a voyeur, the ups and downs of their relationship were so clearly depicted – except real life isn’t graceful.

I’m only sorry this piece had a short run so I could barely recommend it in time for its closing weekend. Wherever it plays around the country, don’t miss it.

-- MM, turning off the computer, really this time.

Reasons to Hate Nature

I get hot flashes and PMS. It’s not fair.

  • I’ve taken to carrying a handkerchief to mop the sweat off. I feel like one of the fat villains in black-and-white movies, always mopping away the sweat of guilt and fear. For years these old clothe handkerchiefs lived, untouched, in a duct-taped cigar box, some frilly, some plain, some for men, some for women, a few that were mine as a little girl. There is still no way I’d use one to wipe anything but sweat, however. But those cloth hankies are handy now that I need them to mop the sweat from my … everywhere -- since it’s generally not considered appropriate for a female to just pull her shirt up to dry her face. Men have all the luck.

If back to nature were a good thing, it would only be hot muggy and disgusting when you’re at the beach. But no, it’s hot muggy and disgusting when we’re in the City, working, on the way to a job interview, an audition.

Nature sucks.

  • Spring = Allergies
  • Fall = Hayfever

And just generally about fall and winter --

  • It’s dark when I get up for work in the morning
  • It’s dark when I leave the office after work.

Yes. Nature sucks.

Eight Things to Remember about Wild Turkey

  1. One can smell it through a closed cup.

  2. Unlike Coca Cola (which can render a filthy grill or a gunked-up car battery clean), it overwhelms the cardboard bottom of a paper cup and seeps through.

  3. Paper napkins under a leaking cup are quickly sodden with a powerful aroma.

  4. One starts to wonder if it will seep into the wood of the desk.

  5. One hopes one has strongly scented Pledge wipes available.

  6. It makes a sore throat feel better while it’s in the throat.

  7. It enables one to feel equipped to go to a bar and continue drinking through the night, despite a sore throat.

  8. Wild Turkey can make one write an entirely different blog from that originally intended.

~ MM, turning off the computer, the light, everything.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

End-of-Summer vacation

Swimsuits cleaned and drying, cat and I are both back, and the home I cleaned before leaving for vacation welcoming. All’s well, just wish there was a pool out back. And the sound of surf instead of traffic out front.

I didn’t shop, I just walked and swam and ate and read and wrote little. The one thing I brought back with me is an earache that showed up Thursday night. I suspect it started brewing after my little body-surfing on that glorious 80-degree day, Tuesday. I dislike 80-degree days in the City, but 80 degrees is heavenly out in Montauk. After swimming in the pool, I walked southerly along the shore. The sea was so inviting as I walked past countless navy blue umbrellas on the adjoining beach resort that I turned around so I could peel off my cover-up and drop it with my hat and sunglasses closer to ‘home,’ near the child’s pool in the photo.

I walked against the tide then, and dove into the first wave threatening to break over me. It was cold, but far from frigid. I’m almost glad I wasn’t able to come in May – then the water would have been unbearable.

I body-surfed in, worked my way back out, body surfed again and again until I was out of breath. Showered the sand out in the external shower before I went back on the pool deck to sit and dry in the sun. Monday had been lovely on my arrival, but Tuesday was the perfect summer day.

After swimming again in the pool and before climbing up the stairs to my room, the tide as ever started coming in. Each day the high tides varied between 7 and 8:30, so the beach was at its widest between 1 and 2:30. In the mornings the mark of the last tide was clear.

As the afternoon grew on, one could watch the beach slowly shrink.

Wednesday, as predicted, was cooler, much cooler. I waited for the sun to warm it up a bit, but the northeast wind was wicked. I read all day, inside, outside. Didn’t go into the water at all. But got some great snaps of clouds:

Thursday afternoon I used the ‘video’ function on the Canon, still without skill. Nevertheless, posted to YouTube:

A very short week – hardly a week, just 4 nights – ending with a pleasant drive back, with one clear thought:

Since I did nothing useful on vacation – and there’s nothing wrong with that – all my work, be it research, writing, editing, outlining, will have to be done as part of my everyday life, as it should be. Nothing to be deferred to ‘when I have more time.’ That’s it, big lesson of the day.

~ MM, turning off the computer, but not the light. I have reading to do.