Thursday, May 27, 2010

My Thoughts on a Second Viewing of "The Twentieth Century Way"

Back from my second viewing of The Twentieth-Century Way at Boston Court and it was incredible.

Since many of you seem to like pictures of me holding stuff and looking dorky, here's another for your collection. :P These are the sweet postcards and program from the show.

Read my first thoughts on the play here

I will admit openly, that the first time I saw this play, I was suffering from a bizarre neck ache, stomach troubles, and really had to pee through most of it, so I couldn't fully enjoy nor appreciate nor concentrate on its inner workings. This time, I made sure to take some Pepto, watched what I ate, and peed thoroughly beforehand.

I was ready.

As I watched the play, I started forming a sort of diagram in my head to keep track of everything going on:

Picture the play like the concentric circles of an eye - the innermost part is the closest "circle" to the truth, in which the actors call themselves by their real names near the end of the play. Although within the context of the play "Will Bradley" and "Robert Mammana" are still characters, not true representations of the actors themselves. The second, or "iris circle" (the colored part of the eye) is the main phase in which the actors work as Brown and Warren, where reality and fiction begin to blur. On the outermost "circle", or the outer rim of the eye lie the myriad of characters both actors portrayed during the course of the play. They were the farthest from the "inner truth," but all three circles blurred and overlapped during different parts of the play's progression.

Confused yet? I guess you had to be inside my brain. It all made sense to me.

With this handy diagram fixed in my mind, it was easy to follow the play's dizzying progression from circle to circle, then back again.

Anyway, this second viewing was bloody brilliant. After several more weeks of performances (I saw the first show after opening night), Will and Robert were even more "in tune" with each other and the balance was absolutely perfect. The first time I saw it, sometimes one would overreach and another would underreach, trying to find a harmony. It was the same teeter-totter thing I saw happening at the beginning of Nevermore's run that finally got smoothed out after a half-dozen or so performances. I absolutely loved seeing how the two actors were even more synched with each other now, and since I didn't have the general malaise I did upon first viewing (and I had most of my half of the row to myself!), it was an absolute treat to see it again. I sat third row this time, and I think this is my new favorite spot. Second was a little too close and I missed some of the action that I could plainly see in the third row. So make a note, future Boston Court Theatre-goers - the third row is ideal.

After the performance, there was a Q&A. Boston Court Brian suggested I attend this certain show, since I was too shy to ask my excruciatingly dorky question the first time I saw the show. Honestly, I hadn't fully formulated the question in my head yet upon first viewing, so this was my opportunity. Since I am a pretty shy person at (most) times, I carefully typed out my question and had it at the ready. At this Q&A, we were honored by the playwright, Tom Jacobson's presence as well as director Michael Michetti, and I wish I would've been able to think of something intelligent to say to Mr. Jacobson besides, "Your play was amazing," but I didn't, so I kept quiet. The boys (Will and Robert) were backstage changing into street clothes, and the audience was kind of shy until they came onstage.

They arrived to loud applause, and, much like when I met Tommy Kirk at the Hollywood Show in April, I knew that in my case, she who hesitates becomes too shy, so the moment Michael asked if there were any questions, I raised my hand.

"Will and Robert, you were amazing," I said, "Will, I noticed that you uttered the name of the dreaded Scottish play three times onstage."
(Will gave me this cute faux shocked look and grinned. I attempted not to swoon.)
"Did you have any superstitious feelings towards saying that onstage?"
Alas, I did not have the foresight to record Will's answer to my (pointlessly stupid) question, so I shall paraphrase by saying that he said since it was within the context of the play, he didn't feel it was unlucky to say onstage...although he did joke about going outside to turn around a few times after saying it. Heh.

So YAY! My dorky question is now answered! I felt badly, because I meant the question to both Will and Robert, and I felt he was sorta left out of the answer.

The Twentieth-Century Way is one of those plays I would love to own a copy of, since it's so dialogue-heavy, and one would glean even more of its meaning from reading the words directly. Some of the lines are so amazingly brilliant and so true about actors and their craft, my mouth gaped open a few times. I'm no actor myself, but I've read up on their "calling" enough to know that the playwright has them down to an utter tee.

Ooh, there's a question for Mr. Jacobson - does he secretly wish to be an actor and is he getting his frustrations out by discussing the craft and actors themselves through his writing of this play? Does he act at all himself? Which does he prefer - puppetmaster or puppet? (And I use my "actor as puppet" theory/metaphor very loosely and in an affectionate way, as I know they're the ones who interpret what the writer has written.) Durned. I always think of this stuff after I get home. Ah well.

So there! I've done it! I've gotten my burning question answered. I earned my ticket tonight and had an absolute blast doing it! Hoorah! :D

All in all, a fantastic night. :)

The Twentieth-Century Way has (no surprise) been extended by two weeks and will now close on June 20th. Anyone who's in the L.A./Pasadena area reading this, you can get tickets here. Don't miss your chance to see this amazing play! :)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

My Thoughts on "Re-Animator: The Musical"

I attended a preview/reading of Re-Animator: The Musical tonight by invite of Stuart Gordon himself and it was pretty freaking good!

We all got settled in the theatre - I sat 3rd row center, and my friend Andy (who created Poe's nose for Nevermore and is doing SFX for this show) and Kayla, his girlfriend (who also did makeup for NM) sat right behind me.

Stuart came out and introduced the show, then all the actors filed onstage in black in front of microphones, as it was a reading, and not the full show with props and costumes. The awesome Mark Nutter sat down at a keyboard on the left hand side of the stage, with Stuart manning all the sound effects (including playing Rufus during the basement scene, which was one of the highlights of the show!) and the story began.

The musical follows the movie pretty closely, but adds in two deleted scenes - the one of West, Meg, and Dan in the hospital hallway where Meg says she'll marry Dan and West interrupts, and part of the hypnotism scene between Hill and Halsey. A lot of the lines are lifted right from the film, so I was lip synching along, because I am an utter dork. *dorks*

Now, let's run down the list of actors, as I know you guys will wanna know who played whom. How about a cast list:

Let's get right down to it - Herbert West played by Graham Skipper - this kid was cuuuuuute. He's this dark, little, brooding dude (heh), who does these wonderful wide-eyed stares.

Check out this vid of him from his comedy troupe, FUCT:

Cute, eh? He's not your mother's Herbert West, but he's still darling all the same. I think with the lab coat and props, he could really work well.

Dan Cain played by Chris L. McKenna - this kid was fantastic! Great, great voice, attractive in that "Dan" sort of way, and really sparkly onstage. I feel like I've seen him before, but that might just be that I saw him on Saturday.

Ah, yes,'s that video I promised:

(Yes, that's me shrieking giddily. :P)

McKenna and George Wendt (who played Halsey) were also in Gordon's King of the Ants. I knew Chris looked familiar - he was the main character who got ridiculously beaten up during the course of that (very bizarre) film.

My favorite, and the standout of the show was William Atherton as Dr. Carl Hill. Holy SHIT, he captured his creepy vibe perfectly and really had the audience eating out of his hand. He could sing half-decently, and his little gestures were hilarious and worked well with the character. Great, great stuff.

Also, a close second was Meshach Taylor as Mace, the security guard. He got some hilarious songs and a few really funny moments. His main song reached more into Mace's character and why he loves his job so much as a security guard at a morgue...*cough* necrophilia *cough* XD Sarah Glendening as Meg was also good.

My two favorite songs were the one above from WOH, and this awesome and creepy, "I Give Life" song, that I was hoping, hoping Dan and Herbert would get a little closer during and maybe even kiss, but alas, it was not to be. The musical focused more on the lovers (Dan and Meg), which was a bit of a disappointment. The love triangle between H, D, and M wasn't really touched upon, when it really could've been mined for ideas. I think if I had my way, it would've been The Twentieth Century Way with zombies. XD Even a few little glances between H&D or maybe a vaguely suggestive song would've been ideal.

At its very core, Re-Animator is a love story...which Meg has almost nothing to do with.

So, overall, I'd see the musical to see the full effect (complete with Andy's awesome SFX) and to hear a few of the songs done "properly," but it's a tad blasphemous for us purists* (most of you reading this) and I kind of couldn't get over hearing Herbert sing the way they had him singing. I would've liked him a bit more..."broody singing," if that makes any sense. He also shouted out, "Oh God!" at one point, something Herbert would never do, unless he were speaking about himself. I hope the beginning is changed up a bit, because it drags ever so slightly. This show was not very canon in a lot of ways. But again, it's a musical, and it's an interpretation, so I guess that's okay.

After the show, I got to talk to Mark Nutter, the composer, whom I think is super cool. Check out his super catchy Baby Shredder song. Also spoke with Herbert West himself, Graham Skipper. That boy is even cuter close up. I love the little chunky, funny dudes, and he's both (watch above video). I also like that they cast a chunky West for some reason, just for a change.

Got in a few words of gush to William Atherton, because I had to. He just made the show. Ditto Meschach Taylor.

I'm ever hopeful Re-Animator: The Musical will have a life outside of the (tiny) Steve Allen Theatre, where it's premiering**, but I guess it has to start somewhere. Hopefully, it'll come to a half-decent theater so I can see it properly. :)

Here's the promo poster for the show that was just recently released:

*I actually mentioned to Stuart afterwards that the time West and Cain re-animate their first corpse in the morgue in the musical was incorrect. It's not 10:03pm, it's 10:33pm. But who's counting? ;)

**Well, it's happening. Here's hoping the show's been tweaked a bit for us purists. The lack of William Atherton also dismays me, but they've still got the cutie Skipper kid and the promise of gushing blood is always great, so if someone wants to send me a comp ticket, I'll go and review it for the fan contingent. HINTHINT.

Monday, May 10, 2010

My Thoughts on "The Twentieth Century Way" at Boston Court Theatre

Back from seeing The Twentieth Century Way at Boston Court Theatre and it was fantastic.

I arrived at the theatre in good time and was greeted by Executive Director Michael Seel. As I've said previously, this theatre is so welcoming and always makes you feel comfortable and that they're glad you're there. I took a seat in their comfortable lobby and waited for them to open the theatre proper.

The programs are this beautiful color of blood red I love the photograph on the front. Somehow, it looks vaguely familiar and I'm thinking it may have been used on an edition of E.M. Forster's Maurice, but I'm not quite sure. After the doors opened, I made a beeline for the front and ended up second row center, which is fast-becoming my favorite spot in the theatre.

View of the stage from my seat

I have struggled with what to say about the play itself all evening and into this morning. The end result is that I really can’t explain it very well and I feel idiotic for not being able to do so. The play’s main themes are about acting and actors themselves, and they really struck me in the gut (and heart) to the extent of being stunned into this semi-stupified silence. I am still processing everything I saw and many of the themes are still being mulled by my dulled brain. Below is a semi-coherent mish-mash if only to try and work out on paper (on screen?) what my thoughts truly are.

This confusion is not to say I didn’t like the play – I loved it, but I can’t fully explain it. You cannot realize the frustration of this, especially to someone who prides themselves on writing at least half-decently a fair amount of the time.

But the words seem stuck between mind and page in this case.

Photo by Ed Krieger

Playwright Tom Jacobson weaves a highly intricate plot that follows two actors, Warren (Robert Mammana) and Brown (Will Bradley) in the 1910s who convince the Long Beach police department that they can catch gay men in “vile” circumstances by posing as homosexuals themselves. But this is only the basic framework for the play as a whole. As in any play, the actors are caught up as "puppets" in the roles created by the playwright, bound to speak whatever he has designated them to say. Jacobson uses this "godlike" power to his advantage, which is both fascinating and mischieviously delicious to watch. Will Bradley’s character, Brown is “forced” to utter the name of the dreaded “Scottish play,” Shakespeare’s Macbeth, not once, but three times during the performance, which is a well-known theatrical curse for actors that is only cured by bizarre and intricate rituals to relieve the bad luck this name brings about. Jacobson almost mocks the stereotypes of an actor, having his actors play a multitude of characters who spout on about different acting techniques and reciting passages from Shakespeare. But the actors are still bound to the page, and the “puppeteer’s” direction, vessels by which the writer's words are conveyed.

Photo by Ed Krieger

The play also explores the parallel of an actor wanting to be seen onstage, possessing that keen “look at me” personality, but we as an audience not really seeing them. We are there to watch their every movement, stare hard at their faces, but it’s not truly the actors themselves we see, but the roles in which they hide. This concept was prominent in Twentieth Century Way, as the two actors juggled at least a half-dozen roles each, which were switched between with such frenzy that we as an audience were never made to feel fully comfortable that we knew any of these characters intimately. This is not a sign of poor acting nor poor writing, but a device that keeps the audience from truly knowing the actors or indeed their roles until the final scene when everything is stripped away - literally and figuratively - to the core, and the two actors play “themselves,” fully naked and revealed to the audience. But then again, although they use their real names, they are still on a stage, acting a persona that may or may not represent a facet of their own personal realities.

Photo by Ed Krieger

I was left with many questions to ponder: Is acting a way to get to the core of one's being and reveal the true person behind the role or is the actor avoiding reality and the fear of truly knowing themselves by escaping into these fictional characters? What of the ones who feel "useless" when they are not acting? Does this mean they possess no life (or possibly feel they don't exist) outside of their fictional arena or are they afraid to explore their own reality outside of the safe confines of the stage/screen? Do we ever really know who actors are outside of the roles they they? Is acting a profession or is it an all-encompassing lifestyle? Are we all trapped in certain inescapable roles ourselves that society or our own lives force upon us? Are we all mere players on some unseen stage acting out the drama of our lives for some higher beings' amusement?

I'm still rolling all of this around in my head.

By the end of this play, oddly enough, I felt like I understood actors just a little bit better – why they choose this strange, albeit fascinating profession, and why perhaps some are most comfortable getting lost in someone else's shoes, if only temporarily.

After the performance, we were treated to a brief Q&A with the actors and director Michael Michetti. Most of the questions from the audience dealt with the history of the events in Long Beach and only one really touched upon the ideas set forth about acting and actors that (I felt) was the main crux of the play. Even though my mind was still reeling from what I had seen, I had a question myself for the group, but dared not ask it, since it sounded so pointless. For the record, I was curious to know how Mr. Bradley felt uttering that aforementioned dreaded Shakespearean title onstage and whether he or Mr. Mammana had any superstitious feelings towards its incorporation into the play. My hesitance will leave me forever curious.

Again, my apologies for my near-incoherence. Perhaps a second viewing of this play will render me more capable of some semblance of intelligent thought. Or perhaps it will raise even more questions that I shall have to ponder for another week...

Photo by Ed Krieger

***Squee Mini-Interlude***

It must be noted that Will Bradley and Robert Mammana were incredible. It was amazing (and rather dizzying!) watching them jump from one role to the next with such ease and fluidity. They played off each other perfectly and had great "chemistry," if that's the right word. I had remembered seeing Will in a production of Camelot earlier this year at the Pasadena Playhouse and I was really struck by his fantastic voice. This is only (I believe) his second play here in L.A. and he already acts like a total pro. (He's also quite the cutie, as many of you who read this lj have already noted. ;)). Ruggedly handsome Robert was well-polished and so agile in his delivery, it was an absolute treat to watch him. I wish both actors much success for their (very bright!) futures.

Check out Robert's website here and I'm ever hopeful Will will have an online home (for me to pimp on!) soon as well. :)

Decide for yourself and let's talk about it. The play runs until June 6th, although I'm almost certain it will be extended. Click here for tickets and info. And if you miss it here in L.A., The Twentieth Century Way will also be part of the upcoming New York Fringe Festival in August, so you really have no excuse to miss this thought-provoking piece.

Read about my second viewing of the play here