Douglas McLennan: April 2010 Archives

Actors are sometimes criticized for not using their bodies to their fullest -- for "acting from the neck up." But Arwen Anderson makes a virtue of confined physicality in Lydia Stryck's luminous and affecting new play about, among other themes, the healing process, at the Magic Theatre.

In Stryck's An Accident, a two-hander directed by Rob Melrose and also starring Tim Kniffin, Anderson plays a woman hospitalized with memory loss and a broken body after being run over by a car (driven by Kniffin's character, named Anton.) It's a challenging role. For 80 minutes, the actress has to lie mostly on her back with her body hidden under bedsheets. Movement-wise, she only really has access to her face, head and neck.

Anderson's performance, which makes vivid use of her expressive eyes, eyebrows and mouth and wide-ranging vocal modulations, never resorts to mugging. It's a subtle and beautiful piece of acting, reminiscent of the actress Billie Whitelaw being physically confined in various plays by Samuel Beckett.

I've seen Anderson act in many shows in the past and have generally found her to be a solid, dependable and rounded performer. But this is the first time I have been swept away by her virtuostic talent.
April 29, 2010 10:25 AM |
Given that part of the mandate of lies like truth is to highlight important cultural trends, it would be remiss of me not to blog about the latest craze sweeping the Bay Area cultural scene: unusual manifestations of bacon.

It's almost impossible to go anywhere these days without encountering the delicious pork product's presence in unlikely contexts. My local candy store sells bacon-flavored chocolate. At a dinner party the other day, someone brought homemade bacon-infused caramels. Even the arts are bringing home the bacon: At a choral rehearsal last Sunday, a fellow singer passed around a Tupperware container full of chocolate chip-nut-bacon cookies. They were extremely tasty.

I can't help but think that the bacon fanaticism is just a passing fad which I suspect people in this most health-conscious of places will tire of when they realize how many extra calories they're consuming thanks to that extra bit of more-ish smoky crunch in their breakfast cereal and beer. But the trend is very much part of Bay Area culture. We embrace this kind of thing here. Creating unlikely mashups in everything we consume from foodstuffs to theatre is in our DNA. This month bacon-riddled truffles are all the rage. Next month it'll be naked virtuoso violin-playing trapeze.

PS This just in from my friend John in Michigan. His son Michael sent him the following story, which pretty much sums up the case for bacon. I guess it's not a Bay Area thing after all - the passion is global.

Bacon Tree

Pancho and Cisco are stuck in the desert wandering aimlessly and starving. They are about to
just lie down and wait for death, when all of a sudden Pancho

"Hey Cisco, do you smell what I smell. Ees bacon, I theenk."

"Si, Pancho, eet sure smells like bacon. "

With renewed hope they struggle up the next sand dune, & there, in
the distance, is a tree loaded with bacon.

There's raw bacon, there's fried bacon, back bacon, double smoked
bacon ... every imaginable kind of cured pork.

"Cisco, Cisco, we ees saved. Ees a bacon tree."

"Pancho, maybe ees a meerage? We ees in the desert don't forget."

"Cisco, since when deed you ever hear of a meerage that smell like
bacon ... ees no meerage, ees a bacon tree."

And with that, Pancho staggers towards the tree. He gets to within
5 yards, Cisco crawling close behind, when suddenly a machine gun
opens up, and Pancho drops like a wet sock.

Mortally wounded, he warns Cisco with his dying breath,

"Cisco ... go back, you was right, ees not a bacon tree!"

"Panch, Pancho mi amigo... what ees it? "

"Cisco ... ees not a bacon tree. Ees




Ees a ham bush...."
April 28, 2010 10:26 AM |
In Fado music, the singer's voice and command of the stage should cut the audience to the core. I don't speak Portuguese, but when these elements are in place, I feel like I understand the meaning of the words being sung at the deepest level. The most powerful performers, such as Amalia Rodrigues and Cristina Branco, have a way of connecting with people that is entirely visceral. Even the peroxide-topped Mariza, for all her populist appeal, can carry a song by dint of her searing voice and queenly aura.

Such is not the case, as far as it's possible to tell from a single performance, with the Fado star Ana Moura. Moura was in town last weekend for a show at the Palace of Fine Arts as part of the San Francisco Jazz Festival's Spring Season.

The singer is gorgeous of course, with long dark hair, high cheek bones, limpid eyes and a nimble figure. She looked beautiful in the two identically-shaped tight-fitting, floor length gowns she wore during the performance. But her voice is way to sweet for a Fado singer. She sounds like she's singing about happy things rather than the bitter-sweetness inherent in the Fado-centric word "saudade", which stands for longing for or missing someone or something in Portuguese.

Moura also lacks stage presence. She has an annoying habit of wiggling her little hips and shoulders up and down and from side to side. She also - inexplicably - spent half of Saturday night's performance standing sideways to the audience and pitching her gaze slightly downwards as if concentrating hard on pocketing the black in a particularly crucial game of snooker. The singer has an undoubtedly lovely profile, but all of her energy got lost in the wings.
April 27, 2010 10:27 AM |

Me Elsewhere


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