Friday, May 29, 2009

Voice Lessons

Justin Tanner. Voice Lessons. Starring Laurie Metcalf and French Stewart. Zephyr Theatre. 5/22/09.

Voice Lessons is billed as a romantic comedy of sorts. Perhaps it is, but it's real strength is as a showcase for amazing talent in acting and writing. Tanner's weird, pathetic characters are brought to vibrant, disturbing life by three incredibly talented actors and anyone fortunate enough to sit in that tiny theater for 65 minutes to watch the show unfold is fortunate indeed. The run has been extended until June 28, so if you can, I highly recommend that you rush out and see it while you can.

The show itself is a strange little piece about a troubled woman (Metcalf) who appeals to a local voice teacher (Stewart) to turn her from a community theater bit player into a rock star. Her unorthodox behavior and lack of talent soon result in more talking than singing as both characters become unravelled and quickly surmount normal social boundaries.

The piece isn't particularly queer and is only sort of campy, but it showcases excellent acting and characterization. It takes an everyday situation and exaggerates it to the extremes in a way that is fabulously compelling to witness. It definitely made me want to see more of Tanner's work (I missed Oklohomo a couple of years ago and I've been regretting it ever since). I already knew Metcalf and French were fabulous, and I would gladly go see them anywhere in anything, so this was just an extra special treat watching them demonstrate their craft masterfully.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

New Fun at Sacred Fools!

I should go see these:

Madness in Valencia
MAY 22 - JUNE 28, 2009
Fridays & Saturdays at 8pm
plus Sunday Matinees May 24 & June 28 at 2pm
PREVIEW: Thursday, May 21 at 8pm - $12.50

Call 310-281-8337 or Buy Tickets Online

Lust, love, madness, nobles, peasants, high and low humor, and mistaken identities abound in this delightfully earthy play. A contemporary of Shakespeare, Lope de Vega's hilarious play is for anyone who’s fallen in love at the wrong time - and asks, aren’t love and madness really the same thing?

Starring Juliette Angeli, Joseph Beck, Jay Bogdanowitsch,
Wil Bowers, Paul Byrne, Craig Calman, Brandon Clark,
Matthew Garland, Michael Holmes, Vivian Kerr,
JJ Mayes, Laura Napoli & Tyler Tanner

Understudies: Jennifer Fenten & Paul Plunkett


the return of MAGNUM OPUS THEATRE: "Abi's Choice"
Fridays @ 11pm, May 29 - June 26

and the start of the SERIAL KILLERS PLAYOFFS!
Saturdays @ 11pm, May 30 - June 27
and Saturday, July 11 @ 8pm
Playoff shows include "A Cat Wrote this Play" and "Seamen! The Musical!" which are awesome and "Vatos in Space!" which sounds fabulous

Monday, May 18, 2009

Fools! Infidels!

Teenagers from Outer Space, "Toast to Our Brother," and "Island Sunrise." Outfest Legacy Project Screening Series. UCLA Film & Television Archive. Hammer Museum. 5/17/09.

The Outfest Legacy Project's tribute to Tom Graeff was awesome! I totally expected there to be huge crowd of '50s scifi fans with lobsters and Rocky Horror-like responses. Instead he audience was a couple dozen queer film enthusiasts (including some cute girls! yay!). The whole event was fabulously entertaining and educational and you (in a vague, general sense) are all fools for missing it!

The thing I found most notable about this screening of Teenagers from Outer Space was the large amount of Gargon action. There were totally more giant lobsters than I remember in previous viewings of the film.

The fabulous Gargon

I learned lots of things at this screening, including the fact that David Love, star of Teenagers from Outer Space, aka Chuck Roberts was Graeff's boyfriend at the time of filming; he disappeared completely in 1959. Ooh! Mystery!

David Love, star and boyfriend to the director

In addition to Teenagers, which is totally better on the big screen, we also watched Graeff's short film about fraternity life, "Toast to Our Brother," which wasn't as homoerotic and campy as I had hoped, but it was still pretty entertaining. It was fun to watch footage filmed on the UCLA campus in the '50s. The short "Island Sunrise" was even more educational; it was intended to be a showcase of the talents of Chuck Roberts and it was strange and depressing short supposed to be about eternal love. It was apparently set to the song "Ebb Tide" but this particular screening was done to Erasure's version of the song, which I suspect gave the whole thing a very different feel.

But the most exciting tidbit that I learned at this film screening was that the last film Graeff worked on was Wizard of Mars, a 1965 scifi version of the Wizard of Oz. According to IMDB the tagline for the film is "Three EARTHMEN and a GIRL encounter the horrors of MARS!" Doesn't that sound awesome!?! We definitely need this for bad scifi night! Of course, it could be as dull as Robinson Crusoe on Mars but I think it's worth checking out.

The Mission Inn

Wow! The Mission Inn is like a cross between the Winchester House and The Madonna Inn!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Tim Miller on Meat and Marriage

Tim Miller. Lay of the Land. Highways Performance Space. 5/16/09.

Tim Miller is good at what he does. What he does is perform political performance art that melds the personal with the political. Lay of the Land is his meditation on the current state of his own civil rights, primarily in relation to marriage. It feels as if it should be performed at protest rallies in front of huge crowds rather than at Highways surrounded by rich supporters (we went to Highways' 20th Anniversary Benefit performance, so the audience was full of Miller's and Highways' friends and family). This show will be great at college campuses and for audiences where everyone doesn't already know Miller and his work. In this case he was preaching to the converted, but it's still a good show to watch. Miller displays excellent skill weaving stories together and advocating for civil rights.

What I was impressed with in this particular performance was an awareness of race that I don't remember from Miller's earlier performances (I could be wrong). Some of this was problematic because it implicitly (if not explicitly) compares Don't Ask, Don't Tell and marriage rights to slavery, Japanese internment, and the genocide of Native Americans. I can understand that this is important in establishing a history of oppression and unequal citizenship, but sometimes I wonder if such comparisons help or hurt in making a case for our civil rights. But overall, I'm glad Miller is at least talking about race and marking his own whiteness, which he did.

Overall, Lay of the Land is a strong piece advocating for marriage rights using Miller's own queer body as the site of the story and the state of the union. Bring anyone and everyone who isn't sure about marriage rights.

Friday, May 15, 2009

How we remember our past tells us who we are

SITI Company. Antiogne. The Getty Villa Malibu. Villa Theater Lab. 5/15/09.

The SITI Company does amazing work. Any chance you get to see them is worthwhile. I'm sure when it's finished, Antigone will be fabulous, but right now it has its good points and its bad points. Tonight's show was a work in progress, basically a staged reading showing what they had been working on while in residence at the Villa. Right now, it needs editing; the script was wordy and awkward and the whole thing ran a bit too long.

Despite some trouble with the script, the show itself promises to be striking when it's ready. The performers are good at what they do and make an excellent ensemble with fascinating physical control and aesthetic choices.

In the script as it now stands, they've adapted Sophocles' Antigone to focus on contemporary politics surrounding warfare and personal versus civic duties. I find that this minimizes the emphasis on the relationship between Antigone and Ismene, which I think is just as important as the conflict between Antigone and Creon or Antigone's relationship with Haemon. I'd like to see more emphasis on the relationship of the sisters in this particular production, and less time spent on the history of the curse on Oedipus' house.

Overall, I think this show will be lovely in the future and I look forward to the final result.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

On My Calendar

Looking ahead, I have a crazy schedule of shows to see, and I'd thought I'd share my wacky plans. Let me know if you want to join me. I already have tickets for/plans to see:

The SITI Company doing Antigone at the Getty Villa

Tim Miller's new piece, Lay of the Land at Highways Performance Space

Laurie Metcalf and French Stewart in Voice Lessons by Justin Tanner at the Zephyr

A big queer tribute to Tom Graeff, director of Teenagers from Outer Space at the Hammer.

Plus, I'm trying to figure out when to see:

Our Town at The Actors' Gang

Louis and Keely Live at the Sahara at the Geffen

Serial Killers playoffs at Sacred Fools

Plus, in June there's:

The Wooster Group in La Didone at the REDCAT - opera + scifi = awesome!

Scott Turner Schofield at Highways June 12-13

a new Magnum Opus at Sacred Fools

and Pride (June 12-14) and Outfest (July 9-19), of course.

Monday, May 11, 2009


Octavio Solis. Lydia. Mark Taper Forum. 4/28/2009.

I didn't go in expecting much from Lydia. The advertising for the production was pretty terrible; it just suggested the show was a family drama set in Texas on the U.S./Mexican border. I was glad CTG was doing something that wasn't by and about white people, but I didn't have much hope for the show itself. Fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised.

Lydia tells the story of a Mexican-American family that has been devastated by a car crash that left its youngest member brain damaged and helpless. When a beautiful young woman joins the family to care for the injured daughter, all of the family's secrets and pains are slowly revealed. All of that sounds fairly mundane, but what makes this play exciting is that it gives voice to the disabled daughter and addresses all sorts of issues of sexuality. Its portrayals of sexuality are risky and disturbing so that they challenged me as an audience member. I'm still unsure how I feel about the gender roles in the play; they were far from perfect with Celia as the damaged and idealized daughter and Lydia as the beautiful young woman who brings change. The girls act as foils for each other surrounded by angry, repressed, violent men. My reaction to the play was complex and conflicted; it made me want to think and didn't supply me with easy answers about how I felt about it. I found the fact that this play challenged me to think about it particularly refreshing; I admire the play very much for that.

There were things I didn't love; Celia's sing-song voice irritated me and I found some of the dream/memory scenes problematic, but overall the play was more complex and interesting than I expected, and I found myself recommending it to people. If you have time to catch it before it closes this weekend (May 17th) it's definitely worth seeing and thinking about. I'd love to know what other people thought.