Friday, November 27, 2015

Donald Trump: Raging Id

Donald Trump Free of Hairspray
We have reached the point where Donald Trump is no longer a joke, but a threat to civilized discourse and the political process. He has become the raging id of the American public like the invisible monster in Forbidden Planet which is really Walter Pidgeon's subconscious. No matter what outrageous, childish thing he says, his supporters still favor him. Many pundits are saying none of the traditional rules of politics or even civility apply to Trump and the media lets him get away with all kinds of incredible lies, distortions, evasions, and exaggerations. (Where in New Jersey did he personally see thousands of people cheering for the Twin Towers falling? He said he personally saw this, not film of it on TV.)

I've concluded that a certain percentage of US voters wants to be like Trump. They want their racist, sexist, entitled white male identity to go unchecked and unchallenged. Like schoolyard bullies, they want to be able to make fun of disabled people, foreigners, women, gays, anyone with a difference or expressing an opposing viewpoint, without being called on it by the teacher and made to stand in the corner. They want say Merry Christmas instead of Happy Holidays and not feel guilty about it--and they want to force everyone else to say Merry Christmas. (Trump said at a rally-"When I'm president, everyone will say Merry Christmas" How is he going to accomplish that? With a Christmas micro-chip implanted in our brains and we get a shock if we say Happy Holidays?)

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Roundabout to Present 'Holiday Inn' and 'Cherry Orchard'; Streaming Stars at the Drama Desk Jubilee

Holiday Inn with Bing Crosby, Marjorie Reynolds,
Fred Astaire, and Virginia Dale, will serve
as the basis of a new Broadway musical.
Roundabout Theater Company will present a new stage version of the 1942 movie musical Holiday Inn. The score features such Irving Berlin classics as "Cheek to Cheek," "Easter Parade," and "Shakin' the Blues Away." Previews begin Sept. 1, 2016 for an Oct. 13 opening. Press materials indicate the plot will follow the original film relatively closely. The story focuses on crooner Jim who wants to quit the show-biz rat race and settle down on a Connecticut farm and only do shows during the holidays from New Year's to July 4 to Christmas. He falls in love with singer Linda (Marjorie Reynolds) but fears she will be stolen away to big bad Hollywood by his former partner Ted (Fred Astaire). How will they handle the minstrel show sequence for Abraham Lincoln's birthday? In the original film, Crosby as Jim wears blackface and forces Linda to don it also so that Ted will not recognize her (Ted showed up on New Year's Eve and danced with her but was so drunk he didn't find out her name, but he would remember her face). This leads to a whole production number with Crosby, Marjorie Reynolds and the entire white chorus in blackface singing the praises of Lincoln while offstage the housekeeper Louise Beavers joins in. It's pretty offensive and indicative of the casual racism of the era. When they would show the movie on TV when I was growing up, the local Phila. station would usually cut the offending number. They'll probably cut the whole thing. This production premiered at Goodspeed in 2014.

Monday, October 26, 2015

NY Tabloids Shrink Theater Coverage

James Earl Jones and Cicely Tyson are click-worthy enough
to get their show The Gin Game a full review in the New York Post.
Credit: Joan Marcus
In the past year, several publications and services such as Associated Press and the Village Voice have drastically cut back on their theater and arts coverage. Except for NY-1, TV stations no longer run reviews at all. That disturbing shrinking trend continues. Not even Broadway is safe from this neglect. Both the New York Post and the Daily News, two tabloids losing millions of dollars a year, have reduced their reviews and features of the stage. This strike me as very weird considering Broadway is the single largest tourist attraction in the city, taking in more annually at the box office than all sports franchises combined. But, evidently, reviews are not getting enough clicks on line unless a major movie star is above the title. Years ago, I had thought the Internet would lead to more theater coverage, not less. What we are getting is more unpaid, unprofessional reviews and less major media consideration of the theater. As a result, a major portion of the city and nation's cultural life is being marginalized.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Cutting the Cable, Part II

When I cut cable, I'll still be able to watch
The Judy Garland Show on GetTV
You never know when your 15 minutes of fame will come. Yesterday I received a call from a TV news producer who read my last blog about cutting the cable cord and she wants to interview me about it. She just happens to be in Queens on this coming Monday, doing a story at JFK, so she asked to come to my place in Jackson Heights afterwards. Hopefully it will all work out.

I explained I haven't cut the cord completely as of yet. We have bought a Radio Shack antenna online and I have connected it. We are now able to receive local channels out of the air including the major broadcast networks, Spanish and Chinese channels,  and a bunch of crappy channels showing 30 and 40 year old reruns I didn't know were broadcast including MeTV, Cosi, Antenna, a Game Show Network knockoff called Buzzer, and GetTV which is now showing old Merv Griffin Shows and the Judy Garland Show from the early 1960s. I plan to disconnect cable this week and take all three of my boxes into the Time Warner Cable office and save about $140 a month.

I will have to rely on individual networks's sites to watch my current favorites like The Big Bang Theory, The Amazing Race and Project Runway (I can't find the current Doctor Whos, but if I am patient, it will turn up on Netflix eventually.) But when I was watching the latest episode of Project Runway on Lifetime's websitemy viewing experience was interrupted by an extended commercial with Cate Blanchett for Armani perfume. The downside of catching up with your favorite shows on the Internet without paying for it is the commercials. Geico tried to get around it by trying to be clever. They say "You can't skip this commercial because it's already over" and the guys pretend to be frozen. Then the woman comes in and says "What's going on here?"

The Cate Blanchett ad got stuck and I had to start the whole episode over again. Then, during the runway critique, the audio for a diabetes medication started at the same time. I'm glad they finally got rid of Merline who had improved but I was never impressed with her work.

I'll let you know what happens with the TV interview and the continuing saga of cutting cable.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Contemplating Cutting the Cable Cord

Vicious with Frances de la Tour, Ian McKellen, and Derek Jacobi
is one of the shows that can now be seen online without cable TV.
It's finally happened. Media-obsessed nut that I am, I am actually considering eliminating cable television from my life and just going with Netflix, Amazon, and the Internet. There are several factors in this momentous decision:

1. Too expensive. I live in an area (Queens, New York) where Time Warner Cable appears to have a monopoly. We can't get Fios and I'm fairly sure Optimum, DirectTV and Dish are unavailable. My bundled bill which includes cable for three TVs, internet and phone comes to $190 a month.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

'Crucible' and 'Father' Join Broadway Spring Roster

Frank Langella will star in a play called
 The Father for the second time
Of course as soon as I post a Broadway/Off-Broadway calendar, two new shows announce openings in the spring--The Father with Frank Langella and the sixth Broadway production of The Crucible. The Father is not to be confused with the play of the same name by August Strindberg which also starred Langella in 1996. This one is a new play by French playwright Florian Zeller about a man suffering from dementia. It will be part of Manhattan Theater Club's season at the Friedman previewing March 22 and opening April 12. Arthur Miller's The Crucible previews Feb. 29 and opens on April 12 at a theater to be announced. Ben Whislaw plays John Proctor, Tony winner Sophie Okonedo will be his wife Elizabeth, and Ciarin Hinds is Deputy Governor Danforth. (I played Reverend Parris in college.) Ivo van Hove is directing so it will probably be set inside a wind tunnel or something with everyone dressed as mummies. Van Hove is one weird-ass director. I still remember his Streetcar Named Desire at New York Theatre Workshop where Elizabeth Marvel as Blanche DuBois dove into a bathtub fully clothed and emerged dripping wet and covered with suds, then went right back into the scene without a pause. It was like a Carol Burnett Show parody of an avant-garde production. (His Scenes from a Marriage was brilliant I will admit.) But van Hove's A View from the Bridge is also opening on Broadway this season and received raves during its London run. With the two Miller plays, Long Day's Journey, Fiddler on the Roof, and Color Purple, the season is like a retread of old times--which is also being done, the Harold Pinter play I mean. Broadway is becoming like a college course in Dramatic Literature with very little new work on display. Here's the updated calendar:

Saturday, August 1, 2015

2015-16 Broadway/Off-Broadway Calendar

Holland Taylor is among the stars appearing
Off-Broadway during 2015-16.
Summer doldrums have set in the theater scene with a tepid reception for Amazing Grace (here's a link to my review), and Hamilton providing the only excitement. The Off-Broadway transfer opens officially on Thurs. and it has become the show to see. I hear house seats are impossible to get and even Tony voters are getting limited selections on a few weeknights. So this is the perfect time to look ahead at the fall season and beyond. I've compiled my usual list of Broadway and Off-Broadway openings. The Main Stem is once again dominated by British imports and revivals with very few new American plays, the only three so far are Our Mother's Brief Affair from MTC, David Mamet's China Doll, and a stage version of Steven King's Misery.