Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Monday, September 27, 2010

angels in america

It's on, people, for real. We open 'Angels In America: Part 1 (Millennium Approaches)' at Vintage Theatre this weekend, and it looks like opening night is pretty much sold out. There should be some tickets left for Saturday night and Sunday afternoon if you hurry. (Details below.)

We open Part 2 (Perestroika) next Saturday, and run it in rep with Part 1 through November 7.

I'm playing Roy Cohn, lawyer, alleged criminal, homophobe, racist, and closeted homosexual, and thus far we're having a ton of fun. The cast is excellent (including Craig Bond and Haley Johnson, both of whom I worked with on 'A Streetcar Named Desire') and we are working with a great director (Bernie Cardell) who has really stuck to the truth of playwright Tony Kushner's vision.

Some of you might remember I was in a production of this show in 2003, when I played Louis, the angsty, troubled law clerk. Well, this is a very different role, and in some ways a lot more fun. Roy was a real guy, but he was a unique, larger-than-life man with a huge ego and, as some friends of his told biographer Nicholas Von Hoffman, a complete inability to be embarassed. If the piece has a villian (aside from AIDS and the Reagan administration's shameful lack of a response to the crisis) then it is surely Roy.

The show is really coming together and I think this has the potential to be huge. If you're going to be in town, reserve seats soon, because once this thing starts rolling, I have a feeling tickets are going to be scarce. Ordering tix online saves you big $ (I think it's $15 online as opposed to $23 at the door) so do it that way if you can.

Hope to see you there!


Angels in America

by Tony Kushner

Directed by Bernie Cardell

A Masterpiece of Modern Drama

Angels in America is at once a love story, a comedy, and a sweeping epic of a play that follows two couples. Louis Ironson is a homosexual living with his AIDS-stricken lover, Prior Walter. Joe Pitt is a Republican law clerk living with his Valium-addicted, agoraphobic wife, Harper

Winner of the Tony Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Angels in America explores our desire and fear of change, identity, and intimacy against the backdrop of the AIDS crisis and Regan-era New York City.

Craig Bond - Prior Walter
Kurt Brighton – Roy Cohn
Michelle Grimes - Hannah Pitt
Haley Johnson - Harper Pitt
James O’Hagan-Murphy – Joe Pitt
Tyrell Rae – Belize
Andrew Uhlenhopp – Louis Ironson
Crystal Verdon - Angel
Experience your humanity…the Angel is coming!

Special Event: Dinner with the director, Bernie Cardell
Join Vintage Theatre on Saturday, October 16 for Part I @ 2:30, dinner @ Harry’s (next door to theatre) with Bernie Cardell, and then come back over to Vintage for Part II. Tickets are $60 each – seating limited to 30.

Vintage Theatre presents

“Angels in America"

October 1 – November 7

Part 1: Millennium Approaches

Fridays @ 7:30 p.m. and Saturdays @ 2:30 p.m.
In Repertory with
Part 2: Perestroika (beginning October 9)

Saturdays @ 7:30 p.m. and Sundays @ 2:30 p.m.

Tickets are $23 at the door, $18 in advance

$15 when Parts I & II are purchased together.
303-839-1361 or online at vintagetheatre.com

Vintage Theatre, 2119 E 17th Ave in Denver.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

howl - james franco

Here's a scene from a new film starring James Franco as Allen Ginsberg. Ginsberg was not my favorite of the Beats (I'm more of a Kerouac man, meself) but it looks like a really interesting film.

As someone in I think a NY Times review said, Franco is good-looking to the point where we don't give him credit for being able to act. But I think he acquits himself well here, at least in this short clip. If you've ever seen video of Ginsberg, the mannerisms and syntax are really dead-on.


Dinner theatre is one of those ideas that makes sense in concept but which is inexplicably weird in practice. The idea of relaxing at a table, eating, having a cocktail or coffee--all this smacks of a comfy living room atmosphere for taking in a show.

And I'm sure that the actors who double as servers make bank, but I still can't help but feel sorry for them. Doing a show is hard enough. It requires concentration, believe it or not; so does waiting on a full section.

It is just strange to me that older people (predominantly dinner theatre's demographic) would be willing to shell out $40 or $50 for mediocre food and musicals which are often not a whole lot better. Maybe there's something about having many of the decisions made for you already--the limited menu, the show, the set times when things happen. Or maybe there's something to be said for planting your ass in one seat for the entire evening's entertainment--dashing from a restaurant to make a show can be traumatic.

Another positive is that sitting at a table is more conducive to conversation. Also, having more time to be sociable than is possible at a traditional theatre is a plus.

Still, my experience with Boulder's Dinner Theatre, to see their production of Shout was pretty good overall. Here's the review in full; the link above is to the Post's edited version.


“I’m just a person trapped in a woman’s body.” --Anonymous

If there were any doubt that “Shout! The Mod Musical” is a jukebox musical--that is, little more than an excuse to sing along with a selection of fun, recognizable songs brought together by only the flimsiest of storylines--the fact that the characters don’t even have names should be a dead giveaway.

Welcome to swinging London in the 1960s, where, with tongue firmly planted in cheek, women are reduced to the colors they wear: Green, Orange, Yellow, Blue and Red, each of which represents a different personality type.

Austin Powers, your table is ready. And the ladies are feeling randy, baby.

Naturally, the show is slathered top to bottom in neon-bright color, as though a unicorn snorted a troll doll cut with cotton candy then threw up an entire bag of Gummi Bears. Riffing on the miniskirt and the sickly-sweet color scheme, costume designer Linda Morken as well as scenic designer Amy Campion seem to have thoroughly enjoyed their work.

The story, such as it is, is set around a British fashion magazine called “Shout,” which purports to provide women with fashion, hair, makeup and romance advice while the gals randomly dance and sing, as people were apparently wont to do in the 1960s.

There are a number of “Laugh-In”-type comedic moments between numbers, but when they’re not singing the ladies mostly ask for advice from columnist Gwendolyn Holmes (in hilarious voiceover segments by Barb Reeves) which is invariably vapid and shallow.

When one girl is uncertain about her boyfriend, Holmes’s voice intones: “Perhaps clear up what’s in your head by clearing up what’s on your head! A new hairstyle!”
But the reason for this exercise is the music, and the fact of the matter is these women can sing.

They cover songs mostly from that peculiar subset of 1960s music that is more pop than psychedelia, more teeny-bop than ground-breaking, a largely British strain of pop-rock that, while embedded with some hints of awareness of a changing world, also largely played it safe.

This is the sugar-coated 1960s, if you will.

Boomers as well as the living will no doubt bounce along with irresistibly catchy songs like “I Only Wanna Be With You,” sung by Orange (Shelly Cox-Robie). And Ellen Kaye as Blue performs Petula Clark’s “Don’t Sleep in the Subway” with a genuine warmth, boundless charm and a killer smile.

But the big guns don’t come out until near the end of the first act when Joanie Brosseau absolutely destroys (in a good way) Dusty Springfield’s “Son of a Preacher Man,” alternately eliciting Springfield’s smoky allure as well as her raw sexual power.

That’s followed by a hilarious rendition of “Goldfinger” sung by Alicia Dunfree (Yellow, natch) but featuring the entire cast contributing various 007-type sound effects and stylized Bond-girl dancing and pistol-packing poses. Dunfree also gets to sing Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made For Walking,” which hardly seems fair.

As Red, Julia Perrotta gets off lightly in a way. Her character is meant to be something of a dingbat, and as an actor she has tremendous comic timing, so it’s a natural fit. But we also get to see her sweet side, as well as a rich and powerful singing voice on display in “To Sir With Love.”

Accents are inconsistent at best, and the story isn’t much. But the singing is what we’re here for, and it is across-the-board wonderful.

And to be fair, the storyline does eventually get around to slagging the idiotic columnist Holmes, portraying the women standing up to crumbling societal strictures in the form of the magazine’s advice. But the creators’ claims that the show is somehow all about women redefining themselves as liberated and strong like the singers they cover are wildly overblown.

On the other hand, to see just how far we’ve come in terms of gender equality, pick up any women’s magazine at the grocery store checkout.

Better yet, don’t.

Friday, September 24, 2010

reasonable assertion


Ya know, this actually does sound reasonable.

Sunset Boulevard

Ann Crumb as Norma Desmond in the Arvada Center's production of 'Sunset Boulevard.'

Here's a review from last week of the Arvada Center's 'Sunset Boulevard.'

When we picked up the tickets and press kit on the way in, the publicist there gushed, 'It's Andrew Lloyd Webber's best show!'

I'm going to have to disagree. I gave it 3 1/2 stars, but only because in the context of what they were trying to do, it was as fine a show as it could be. There was tremendous singing, an amazing set piece (the old woman's mansion, which rolls on and off-stage) and nothing really wrong with the production itself--it's just extremely weak material, to me.

I dunno--are there any 'Sunset Boulevard' (the musical) fans out there? Is there anyone who can tell me what I'm missing, if this is such a great Lloyd-Webber show? Because all I really felt was a desire to pick up the original film--even though Ann Crumb was amazing as Norma Desmond.


It’s classic movie night at the theatre.

The clacking of a projector, the black and white Paramount logo projected onto a scrim, ominous music swelling dramatically--all these remind us early on that Hollywood is truly the lead in this show.

As if the title “Sunset Boulevard” weren’t enough to make that clear.

But it’s a cozy feeling as the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical begins, almost like settling in to watch a film from Hollywood’s golden era as narrator and protagonist Joe Gillis strides on stage to tell us a story about a man who always wanted a pool, the blue ripples now projected onto the scrim evoking the view from below the surface.

The unglamorous story of the Hollywood has-been was rarely told prior to the release of Billy Wilder’s 1950 film of the same name, with Gloria Swanson memorably playing the role of silent film star Norma Desmond. Picking up her story well into her decades-long downfall brought about by the advent of sound, Wilder showed the nastier side of the Hollywood game.

In the Arvada Center’s production of the musical, only the second time a regional theatre has been granted the rights in the past 14 years, the role of Desmond has been taken up by Broadway veteran Ann Crumb, who strikes a perfect balance between an overweening sense of drama and barely-concealed madness.

The book sticks closely to the original story, with aspiring writer Joe Gillis (Kevin Earley) stumbling upon Desmond’s crumbling mansion one night as he seeks to evade debt collectors. He is rather brusquely invited in by Desmond’s servant Max (Stephen Day) who thinks Joe is there to help with a grisly chore that foreshadows one of Michael Jackson’s peculiarities by nearly half a century.

When Desmond discovers Gillis is a writer, she decides to hire him to edit her script for a film about Salome, which would of course star herself as the 16-year-old seductress. Although her proposed project is of course ridiculous, Gillis realizes that he doesn’t really have any other prospects, despite the fiancée of a friend wanting him to flesh out a short story he wrote long ago.

Scenic designer Brian Mallgrave’s set is gorgeous, with a massive two-story piece representing Desmond’s manse, evoking a cluttered and gloomy sort of languishing Hollywood glamour, much like that in the original film. Three portraits of Desmond dominate the dark walls, overlooking a two-level black tile floor, an organ, a fainting couch and a grand staircase perfect for a diva’s entrance--and eventual exit.

The power of Crumb’s presence as Desmond cannot be overstated, and not only by way of her tremendous singing voice--she is riveting in every line she speaks as well. It’s as though audience members are wary party-goers keeping an eye on a particularly overdramatic drunk: what’s going to set her off next?

To know a diva is to love her as much as she loves herself--whether or not you want to--and Desmond portrays this all-consuming hunger and need perfectly.

As Gillis, Kevin Earley also exudes tremendous power, with a rich, majestic voice and a stage presence that counters that of Crumb with just enough strength. Stephen Day as Max is also a magnificent singer, and evokes vibrant shades of emotion in his songs, especially those he sings adoringly about Desmond.

The problem is that when we aren’t watching the slow-motion train wreck of Desmond’s life and career, the ensemble and their sub-plots seem disconnected and paper-thin by comparison. Although Lloyd-Webber has predictably given us bravura songs and a subject with a surfeit of pathos, his book writers never really got around to filling out the story satisfactorily.

The second act barrels along toward Crumb delivering that famous line from the film, but the show doesn’t seem to end so much as simply stop.

Problems with the material aside, director Rod A. Lansberry has created a dour and grim world evocative of the noir-ish look of the original film with some stunning performances that nearly obscure the thin façade upon which the show--and of course Hollywood itself--are built.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Mena relaxing on what I suppose must be her bed.

It's been a while since I posted here, and I hope you'll forgive me but it's been a pretty traumatic week.

Lost one of the doggies, Mena, last Wednesday, and it's still very weird going on with life. She was only 12 and seemed perfectly healthy until a pair of masses on her spleen that had metastasized up to her heart burst open and bled out. We had no idea they were there; she was running around and playing fetch three days prior to her death.

There was nothing to be done; she was bleeding internally for a couple of days, but even if I had gotten her to the vet immediately there was no surgery or anything that could save her. Once there are masses on the heart, it's pretty much over.

But I keep telling myself she had a good life--and she did; she came from the shelter after being picked up on the street and was maybe 25 pounds underweight when we got her. She had no idea really of how to be a dog. In such a way that I conjecture that she was a street dog for a long time, or maybe a farm dog who got out. Playing fetch was a brand-new concept, as were sit, and stay.

Her street-life came out in that she was always very clear with other dogs that she was not to be fucked with. She never started shit, but no matter how big or tough other dogs seemed, she always marched right up to check them out, and essentially challenge them to start something if they wanted.

But once the initial posturing was over, she loved to play. She would do that puppy thing where dogs spin completely around in one hop, or she would bump into the other dog with her flank in hopes of getting them to chase her. She did that her whole life, and while she used to hop straight up in the air when we were getting ready to go somewhere, almost getting high enough that she was face-to-face with me, she had somewhat mellowed on that in recent old age.

And she loved people, all people all the time. When we first got her she would bolt all the way across the track at the old Fort Collins High School to go greet some new arrival, just out of sheer enthusiasm for life.

But platitudes and memories are cold comfort. She was a sweet, sweet, gentle girl and I miss her a great deal. There is an absence in my life and my house and both Sabi and Ben feel it too.

I'm just spending a lot of time with those two, remembering to gather rosebuds while I may.

Pet your dog or your cat for me today, please, right now, if you read this. Tell them how much you love them for me.

Miss you, honey.

She was always terribly lady-like and proper.

Mena (l) and Sabi (r) looking like they're up to something.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

wet section or dry section?

There's nothing like the deaths of thousands of your fellow Americans and an anniversary that has become near-holy in this country for...making some quick ca$h!!!

Yesterday, on the anniversary of 9/11, total class acts Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin held a commemoration of the tragedy in Alaska--and they only asked for $65-$200 per person.

And what's a more American way to celebrate than to get yer drink on? Tickets were allocated to separate 'wet' and 'dry' sections so if attendees felt that such a somber moment was getting a little too somber, they could lighten up with a beer.

American beer only, I'm sure!

And hats off too to Ticketmaster for not bowing to the shifting winds of what's considered classy versus tacky, and slapping nearly a ten dollar surcharge on each ticket. Hey, if Imam Glenn can make some dough off of the deaths of nearly four thousand Americans, why not Ticketmaster too?

As Sarah Proud and Dumb stated on her Facebook page:

'Palin declared there is “no better way to commemorate 9/11 than to gather with patriots who will ‘never forget’” at the pricey event.'

Just make sure you 'never forget' your wallet!

Way to stay classy, Republitards.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


This band has been the soundtrack of my life lately. The brainchild of Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlitt, Gorillaz is, as far as I know, the first virtual band. It's a group of animated characters voiced by Albarn et al, namely Russell, Murdoc, 2D, and Noodle (below, l-r).

Albarn, former lead singer for Blur, has spoken often of the ridiculousness of celebrity culture, and in creating Gorillaz his intent was to subvert the cult status and near-worship of people who make music. By having artist Hewlitt create characters to be the 'celebrities,' Albarn cleverly sidestepped the fandom he surely dealt with when Blur exploded in the late 90s. Gorillaz has featured musicians as diverse as Tina Weymouth (Talking Heads), Mos Def, Snoop Dog and many more, all afforded the relative anonymity of playing behind cartoon characters.

But a side-effect (or perhaps the intent) of the invention of these characters is that it opened up a world of possibilities.

Here's an older song, '19-2000,' which has been on my workout mix for months now. (The Soulchild remix is a better version, but this was the best video available.)

But now check out this video ('Stylo,' from the new Gorillaz record 'Plastic Beach,' featuring Mos Def and Bobby Womack). This is an example of what the forward-thinking Hewlitt and Albarn are capable of, and how the future might look, in terms of blending live-action with animation.

Plus Bruce Willis is in it.

Gorillaz - Stylo from mario ucci on Vimeo.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

saints, bitches.

Who Dat, indeed?


Oh, the truth hurts.

'i have read your website and it is obviously that your a foggot'

That is the phrase emailed from the heart of West Virginia to David Thorne, proprietor of the delightfully trollish blog site 27bslash6.

I have occasionally kept up with his posts, and I stand in awe at his glib, utterly heartless rudeness disguised as cluelessness. But he uses his powers for good; he tangentially berates only those who come asking for it.

Like this dear fellow who thinks David is a foggot. Here's the first two emails of the exchange; do yourself a favor and go read the rest.

From: George Lewis
Date: Thursday 2 September 2010 6.51pm
To: David Thorne
Subject: No Subject

I have read your website and it is obviously that your a foggot.
From: David Thorne
Date: Thursday 2 September 2010 8.07pm
To: George Lewis
Subject: Re: No Subject
Dear George,
Thank you for your email. While I have no idea what a foggot is, I will assume it is a term of endearment and appreciate you taking time out from calculating launch trajectories or removing temporal lobe tumors to contact me with such. I have attached a signed photo as per your request.
Regards, David.

facebook user = narcissist? moi??

Neat! They wrote an article about me! (via)

A study from York University in Canada (yeah, but what do they know about narcissists, eh?) measured facebook users' levels of narcissism, defined as ‘a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and an exaggerated sense of self-importance.’

Shocking results follow:
Those who spent more time updating their profile on the social networking site were more likely to be narcissists, said researchers.

Facebook provides an ideal setting for narcissists to monitor their appearance and how many ‘friends’ they have, the study said, as it allows them to thrive on ‘shallow’ relationships while avoiding genuine warmth and empathy.

'Avoiding Genuine Warmth and Empathy?!?!'

Those fuckers stole the title of the third volume of my autobiography!

That was going to follow 'Volume 2: Attention-Seeking Behavior' and precede 'Volume 4: Bi-Polar Disorder and Alcoholism as Expressed Through the Theatre.'

Of course, for subjects the researchers chose people aged 18-25, a known hotbed of narcissism--especially these kids today. Don't make me yell at anyone to get off my lawn, because I will.

Perhaps the saddest finding was that the study:

...also suggested that those with low self-esteem also checked their Facebook pages more regularly than normal.
Proving once again that Trey Parker and Matt Stone are actually from the future.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

david cross on teabaggers

America-hating--teabagger style.

weirder and weirder

via (thanks to Harry Shearer and HuffPost for pointing this out.)

So the leader of the Florida church that is planning on burning Korans on 9/11? Turns out he's more of a cult leader than a church leader (the difficulty of making such a distinction being something I will leave for another time.) From an article in Der Spiegel:

Various witnesses gave SPIEGEL ONLINE consistent accounts of the Jones' behavior. The pastor and his wife apparently regarded themselves as having been appointed by God, meaning opposition was a crime against the Lord. Terry and Sylvia Jones allegedly used these methods to ask for money in an increasingly insistent manner, as well as making members of the congregation carry out work.

Not only that, in Cologne, Germany, Jones was recently kicked out of an evangelical church, the Christian Community, for reasons related to his extremism as well as financial irregularities.

This is just the guy we need presenting an American fascist face to the world when it comes to Islam:
...a 58-year-old former hotel manager with a distinctive mustache, is also the author of a polemic book titled "Islam Is of the Devil."
Where's the right-wing outcry against this idiot? Where's the Christian outcry against this idiot?

Oh, they're probably all working for no wages at his furniture import business, living in sub-standard housing, having already been bullied into handing over all their worldly possessions to Jones. From Shearer's piece quoting the Times of London:

"He (and his second wife Sylvia) left Germany in 2008 after one of their three adult children... along with a former church elder... accused them of financial and labour (sic) abuses... (the Florida church) is funded by TS & Company, a furniture shipping business owned by the church, which buys vintage pieces from Europe and sells them at profit in the U.S. The workforce is comprised of the Jones's disciples, who work for no wages and live cost-free in tatty properties owned by the (Joneses)."

Wonderful. Onward Christian soldiers.

ADDENDUM: As Fred Kaplan of Slate points out here, Republicans being such staunch supporters of the troops (in lip-service, at least) it is strange indeed that there isn't more of a push-back against the Terry Jones from people like McCain, et al.

Restore Truthiness

Oh. My. God. Yes. In case you missed Colbert last night, they were referencing this meme, started on reddit last week. Redditors are trying to recruit Colbert to stage a mock-rally in response to Glenn Beck's loon-a-palooza last week. Restore Truthiness, indeed.

Jim Jarmusch

Jim Jarmusch's version of the adage: 'Real recognize real.'

Jim Jarmusch is one of my favorite directors, not only for his films (Broken Flowers probably being the best-known) but also for the way he makes them. He is notorious for his independence, and not in a 'Look at me! I made an independent film under the aegis of Disney or another once-removed major studio.' Jarmusch doesn't make pretend independent films. They are gritty, raw, unpolished and imperfect--just like real people are. He often shoots overseas, but even when he films in the U.S. he gets his funding from overseas companies more interested in the art he can create rather than meddling and trying to pump up the bottom line.

(Sidebar: Who the fuck told accountants they had the same vision and artistic capabilities as an auteur anyway? If studios really believe that countless layers of producers can create great art, why not hire them to direct and save a bunch of money eaten up by director's salaries? Especially if making money is the only goal. But I digest...)

At any rate, he has a stark and strange vision; somehow, by putting people in these aggressively weird situations he brings out the humanity of people at their most naked and honest.

Watch 'Dead Man' if you haven't seen it before, and look up 'Down By Law,' especially if you are a Tom Waits fan. He's never been much of an actor, but Jarmusch captures the essence of the man in this piece in a way that is more authentic and valuable than any 'actory' version of the character would have been.

And remember: Don't let the fuckers get ya.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

fine. i'll go somewhere else then.

Sigh. You can't do anything in this town anymore. Stupid nanny state.

Denver Post theatre preview

Here's the Post's Fall Arts theatre preview of upcoming shows to look for in 2010--including our little production of "Angels in America" at Vintage Theatre!

John Moore did a short interview with an actor or director for each show, and for ours he picked on Haley Johnson, who is playing Harper. She was also my Blanche when we did A Streetcar Named Desire, and of course I write for the Post as well, so the two of them had a glorious opportunity to badmouth me here. (They were actually quite restrained, considering. :D )

Monday, September 6, 2010

that's how we made movies back then

via reddit.

Carrie Fisher and her stunt double on set during filming of "Return of the Jedi" chilling between takes.

Nerd legend tells us the ladies proceeded to make out for like hours right after the cameraman left the room, getting the swirly metal bits on their costume bras caught on one another.

Epic, man.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Saturday, September 4, 2010

uh, i'll just have a beer, thanks

An unusual flight of whiskeys


From the ‘Gee, I sure wish they hadn’t thought of that’ file. Here’s a guy who distills whiskey from the urine of diabetics. Yes, you read that right.

Because sufferers of type 2 diabetes have a very high concentration of sugar in their urine, James Gilpin realized it would be possible to distill whiskey from it, sugar being the essential ingredient for making spirits.

Gilpin is apparently a student in something called design interactions (some of his other projects sound interesting too) so I doubt that this project is meant to be terribly commercial. It’s probably more of a statement on consumption in wealthy western societies, resource management and waste.

God, not to mention sugar. How much frickin’ sugar to you have to ingest--and, obviously, not process properly--in order to leave a ‘scale build-up’ in the toilet bowl?

At least the result is delicious, delicious whiskey. Made from the tears of birthday cakes.

I’m also gonna pass on that Big Gulp and king size Snicker’s bar, I think.

It's all right, I guess. But it does have a bit of a whang to it...

album art

This guy is an artist. This is some awesome shit--musicians hand-painted onto their albums. Here's a few of my favorites.

Reefer Madness

My latest piece for the Denver Post.

If there's any one thing I could have added to this, I would have pointed out that while it is a silly show, and while times have changed a great deal, I would remind people that the hysteria surrounding marijuana in the 20s and 30s was essentially the basis for our modern drug laws. Other reviewers have suggested that this show is hardly worth a titter, what with marijuana dispensaries sprouting up, and weed being (rightly) deemed so mild to us civilized, modern folk.

But this glosses over the fact that there are still hundreds of thousands of Americans in prison over negligible amounts of weed. There are countless people who have lost their jobs, been kicked out of school or the military or had their lives otherwise irretrievably damaged because of this innocuous plant that the powers of racism, big business and plain old temperance freaked out about nearly a hundred years ago. The legacy of the idiots who made the film "Reefer Madness" in 1936 is still alive and well today, in the idiots who oppose loosening our modern prohibition and failed war on Americans who use non-prescribed, non-alcoholic, non-tobacco drugs.

A smug attitude of 'Oh, we're so much smarter now' completely glosses over the plight of those affected by these wrong-headed and stupid laws, and frankly is incorrect, given the rest of our draconian and illogical drug laws--including, in many states, marijuana laws. Satire is important because it points out the uncomfortable, and this show does exactly that.

Here's the piece in full.


It’s hard to explain to the uninitiated just how ridiculously over-the-top the original “Reefer Madness” film really is.

Funded by a church group in 1936 at the height of the race-baiting, anti-marijuana hysteria whipped up by Harry Anslinger and William Randolph Hearst, the film portrayed “marihuana fiends” as sex-maniacs, murderers and finally deranged, amoral lunatics driven insane by the weed.

Beginning in the 1970s, the resurrected film quickly gained cult status on college campuses, the unintentional hilarity of the stilted acting and absurd anti-marijuana claims making it a natural fit for that smoky decade.

And since everything else ever put on celluloid has already been made into a musical, as the world is now officially out of new ideas, Kevin Murphy and Dan Studney decided to make one too--probably while taking bong rips.

But their efforts have been worthwhile. They’ve written 20 hilarious songs, punctuated now and again with reprises of the portentous, minor-key warning of the title song, and a story that doesn’t stray too far from the original exploitation flick.

Equinox Theatre’s production of the show is sharp, and under Colin Roybal’s direction and choreography, the cast mostly strikes the perfect tone--spoken in 1930s, rapid-fire, tough-guy lingo--only occasionally letting the mask slip, revealing self-awareness.

And that’s vital to making a show like this work: the hilarity lies in the characters not knowing that what they are saying and doing is hilarious, and that is a tricky tightrope to walk--the exception being the ensemble of dancing and singing reefer zombies doing their best “Thriller” impression at the top of the show.

Enter Jimmy (Eric Mather) and Mary (Hillary Tae), two sweet kids studying Shakespeare together and making time at the five and dime, because that’s what good, wholesome, white, Christian kids do.


Their underworld counterparts Jack (Arthur Pierce) and Mae (Celia Jones) host an ongoing pot party/orgy at their apartment, with Jack doling out joints to jittery acolytes like mad, giggling Ralph (Adam Perkes) who, we are told, “used to be a college kid.”

Much like “The Rocky Horror Show,” which also drew inspiration from the exploitation films of the first half of the 20th century, “Reefer Madness” is structured around a narrator (Brandon Bill) telling a story of moral decline. He paints the sad portrait of these good kids gone bad, warning of the dangers of listening to “weed-blowing, ginger-colored...agents of evil” like Dizzy Gillespie and Louis Armstrong.

And we also get tidbits of information from ensemble members periodically strutting out with signs held aloft, helpfully pointing out lessons to be learned from various set-pieces we’ve just witnessed: “Reefer makes you giggle for no good reason.” Or “Reefer will make you sell your baby for drug money.”

Again, obviously.

As the leads, Eric Mather and Hillary Tae are mostly pitch-perfect. The hyper-kinetic Mather occasionally slips the chain and indulges himself a bit too much in the silliness of the show--like the natural comedian he is--but his offenses are not grave.

And Tae is the quintessential wide-eyed neophyte--until she’s not anymore; it’s just a shame that her voice gets devoured by the Bug’s barn-like space and by the excellent but obviously full sound of the five-piece band. It’s unfortunate that when it comes to musicals, it seems like the Bug is somehow not quite big enough to justify using mics, but too big not to.

Celia Jones as Mae has no problem with being heard; her voice powers through the room and she manages to remain deadly serious even while singing lines like “You once had all the brains/Now they’re just carpet stains...”

Also of note are Katie Rhoades’ dirty, flirty Sally, and Adam Perkes, who threatens to steal the show as the hysterically bent Ralph.

All in all, Roybal and Equinox have put together an excellent show that one hopes will prompt people to educate themselves on the terrible trend of baby-selling drug fiends ravaging the country, in the wake of medical marijuana becoming widely available.

Or maybe it will just make people giggle for two solid hours--but with good reason.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

freaky cat

via via

Okay, I admit that I look at them, and laugh at them, but I rarely post them. Of course I'm talking about kitty-cat videos, which are ubiquitous as we all know.

This, however, is one of the weirdest, funniest things I've ever seen. The fact that it is a cat making it so is incidental. Watch and be simultaneously amused and creeped out.

And wonder what it is that that cat saw in that window before to make him so damn cautious.

picnic time

If I'd have known it was gonna be that kind of picnic...

movie icon poster

Here's a really cool poster that is making the rounds lately. It is a set of icons meant to represent various films. How many can you name?

The Lohan Special

I can't remember where I found this but it made me laugh.