Results tagged “brendan kiley” from Drama Queen

So you might think dinner theater Rocky horror would suck, wouldn't you? Well, it didn't. Last week in The Stranger, when Brendan Kiley mapped out his 10 fixes for theater, he dissed Rocky Horror, but simultaneously called for a "boor's night out." Rocky Horror is nothing if not the boors' Halloween--tricks, treats and all.

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I'll admit leniency toward Frank and co. as my parents raised me on a steady diet of, and affection for, cult movies. Where other kids fondly recall helping mom chop apples for pie, or nailing wood to a treehouse with dad, I remember Edith Massey wearing her bra in a crib and feel warm all over. Think I'm exaggerating? We had bootlegged VHS copies of Rocky Horror and Pink Flamingos--both of which we watched until the images started getting grainy--and one of my fondest "family night" memories was when our dad somehow got hold of enough Odorama cards so we'd all have one while we watched Polyester in the living room. (For years, our brother followed my sisters and me yelling, "My name is Francine Fishpaw and I'm an alcoholic! I can eat an entire cake in one sitting!") Mind you, this was all before my Bat Mitzvah, after which, things only got worse. Or--depending on your artistic sensibilities--even better.

The point of all this is really that sometimes it's hard to be objective as a critic. A show yanks your love chain, and even if the effort's just half-decent, you give it a break because it made you feel, well, a little bit warm all over. Of course, that bias can also cut the other way. I reviewed a production of The Glass Menagerie--a personal favorite--that didn't deliver exactly the nostalgia trip I'd hoped for, and I pretty much went ballistic. But in this situation, the audience had as much to do with the production's success as the cast, and they delivered better than a mob of stinkards at The Globe.

Here's today's Rocky Horror review from the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Below: the theatrical trailer for Polyester.
October 14, 2008 8:38 AM | | Comments (2)
A bit late, I know, but I was very busy in synagogue yesterday atoning for all the mean things I've written about perfectly nice people during the past year. 

This week I'm macking on: journalists who drag theater out of its complacent spot as William Shakespeare's publicity machine, and into the bright light of contemporary affairs. The New York Times' Patricia Cohen wrote a chilling feature this week about the nosediving economy's effect on Broadway. The Stranger's Brendan Kiley published a hotly discussed column on how theater can fix itself (and though I might only agree with about half of his 10 fixes, the simplest--beer, babysitting, brash new works--would go a hell of a long way toward putting those coveted young butts in the seats, and keeping the old ones coming back for more). Ellis Henican keeps inviting me on his radio show to look at the election through a dramatic lens. And I'm sure there are plenty more examples I've missed that you're welcome to post below. Anything, anything journalists can do to give theater a makeover so it's no longer regarded as film's boring, uncool older sister (Ugh, that farthingale? So 500 years ago.) is a welcome change. I know it's great, you know it's great, the challenge is getting people to talk about theater as much as they talk about television and film. 

Obviously, it's a tougher goal since you have to actually leave the house to be part of the conversation, but if you can convince enough people they're missing enough of a cultural moment by staying home, or even better, can get inside their homes with a creative, interactive online presence surrounding each show (A good start? See New Paradise Laboratories' posting of auditions for its upcoming show Fatebook, a la The Real World, on its YouTube channel) and then offer them something extraordinary to discuss on their way out the door (and again, back online), you've elevated the entire sociological food chain. Nice work.

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This week I'm hating on: Oliver Stone, who gives you one more reason to spend your hard-earned entertainment dollars at a live, rather than filmed, performance. Why? Because, in the tradition of World Trade Center which was released around the five year anniversary of the attacks, his new film, W., couldn't possibly be released at a worse time. No one wants to see this now, because we've been living it for the last eight years. The right won't be interested because, well, it's Oliver Stone, and the left won't be interested because the wounds aren't just fresh, they're suppurating. Stone is such a pompous jerk that I imagine he thought he'd be doing the left a favor by helping to influence the election. Wrong and wrong. All Stone will have achieved with this film, no matter how good it is, is to remind everyone on both sides of the aisle the reason "liberal" became a dirty word (so self-righteous, so annoying). The worst part is that Josh Brolin, a genius of understated acting, might have turned in a career-making performance with this one, to say nothing of how much fun it would be to watch Richard Dreyfuss tackle the Darth Vader role (Hey, Cheney's the one who joked that his wife said the comparison 'humanized' him). 

Sure, with its epic, dynastic subject, it might be a great movie. In seven or so years. When we're in the midst of President Obama's second term, we're all driving American-made magnetic air cars and laughing about the days when we thought the nation was headed for bankruptcy and war with Iran. Boy, that was a time.

Below: Fatebook audition of "Katizzle Applebizzle from the 'hood of Minnetonka."

October 10, 2008 10:53 AM | | Comments (0)
In this year's presidential election, "political theater" is getting a literal spin. And why not? Elections--and their behind-the-scenes machinations--are always events of high drama. But with this race's epic, historic themes it appears the temptation toward artistic license was too much for editors and pundits to resist. 

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Way back in April, Newsday columnist Ellis Henican interviewed me for his radio show about the Clinton-Obama debate, asking for a theater critic's interpretation of the proceedings (I was a Clinton supporter, and thought the Obama camp was hoping to portray her as Lady Macbeth. It seems ultimately, she managed that feat on her own.) 

Now the thespian angle seems to really be catching on. The Wall St. Journal's Andy Jordan posted a bit of video reportage (see below) from the DNC with this title: "Democratic Convention: Nomination as Theater." And though Jordan is more conversant in the language of film than of stage, he puts in a valiant effort to describe the event's mise en scene. 

Today, a piece by playwright Christopher Durang appeared on the New Republic's site, parsing speech by speech, the DNC's dramatic appeal. The best part, to me, of Mr. Durang's endeavor is that it really serves as a reminder to readers and editors everywhere that neither arts journalism nor theater criticism are as easy as they look. Though Durang is a fine playwright (and something of a Philly local, too; he has a home in Bucks County), Walter Kerr, he ain't.

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On Monday, my friend Dominic Papatola, theater critic for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, will cover the Rebublican National Convention for his paper--a pretty exciting turn of events for a guy more accustomed to the sedate halls of the Guthrie than the Xcel Energy Center's hockey- or RNC-fueled mayhem. I'm hoping his coverage will include more than a few dramatic references, as the Republicans, with their Deus ex Machina--otherwise known as Sarah Palin--and Shavian cast of characters lend themselves particularly well to cynical interpretations of their performance. Not that I'm, you know, biased or anything.

And hey, maybe this shifting of duties will turn out to be a good thing for all those arts critics clinging desperately to their jobs. I turns out our perspective just might be useful after all.

Seen any other examples of political coverage as arts coverage? Send me a link.

Update: Brendan Kiley, an arts writer for Seattle weekly The Stranger, is taking his campaign coverage to a new level--by getting pepper sprayed at protests.

August 30, 2008 10:59 AM | | Comments (2)
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