Saturday, April 23, 2011

The House of Blue Leaves

Earlier this week, I went to see a preview of the new revival of "The House of Blue Leaves," the John Guare play that was first produced in 1971. I'd never seen a live production of the show, but I had seen a televised performance from the 1986 production that starred Swoosie Kurtz and John Mahoney. Ben Stiller, who played the son in that production, now plays the father, Artie, and Edie Falco plays his wife, Bananas, with Jennifer Jason Leigh as his girlfriend, Bunny.

First the superficial details: the set is gorgeous. Unfortunately, it is also needlessly filled with obstructions, particularly if you are sitting, as we were, in the fifth row on either the right or left. Performances disappeared behind furniture, in doorways, into alcoves, and even, frequently, behind other performers on the stage. Get seats in the balcony or center orchestra if you go. But, you really should go. While Ben Stiller is a bit stiff in the early scenes, he loosens up and becomes more confident as the show goes on. Edie Falco and Jennifer Jason Leigh seemed miscast (shouldn't they switch roles?) but, in fact, they are both fantastic. Falco makes Bananas simultaneously absurd and tragic; Jennifer Jason Leigh manages to own her role as a superficial, celebrity-obsessed social climber. Some early online reviews claimed she was a complete failure in the part, but at the performance I saw, she got the biggest laughs.

I did have some issues with the direction. I know they were going for a darker version of the play than previous incarnations. But it didn't always work. In particular, the slapstick staging in the second act seemed out of place next to the more naturalistic tone. Also, it seems an odd choice to bring a greater sense of realism to a play that constantly addresses the audience as if the characters expect their lives to be lived on a stage. But the performances, particularly by the women, make it worthwhile.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Obviously, my vow to blog again didn't quite take hold

Twitter and Facebook continue to keep me from my once very active blogsite, because, after all, why try to form fully realized thoughts and paragraphs when you can just link and blurt in 140 characters?

But tonight up doing laundry and heading to--well never mind where I'm heading to. But it made me think, I really should try to get back to the blogging habit. Blogging actually seemed to help me get around to more serious writing, and as I'm now working on another manuscript, it seems like this will be good practice again for keeping that tiny section of my brain working.

On Sunday, the 24th, Season Two of TREME begins on HBO. I know a lot of people had mixed feelings about Season One. I liked it at the time, but my feelings faded after the season concluded. Season Two covers some events that I was a part of in "real life" so the past few months I've been on the phone with fact checkers wanting to get everything right--or at least wanting to seem that they want to get everything right. This past Sunday I got to see the first two episodes of the new season and I have to say--its pretty great. It feels looser than last season, and has so much more humor, even as it moves into one of the grimmest periods of the recovery, including the murders of Dinneral Shavers and Helen Hill.

And here's another reason to start blogging again--I just passed the one year mark of my horrendous week in the Tulane Hospital. There is hope.