broadsideblog

Posts Tagged ‘entertainment’

Broadway, baby! Seeing “Blackbird” and “Hughie”

In art, beauty, culture, entertainment, travel, U.S. on March 27, 2016 at 3:15 am

By Caitlin Kelly

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Living in New York is, too much of the time, really hard and really expensive: rents, transit, gym memberships, groceries.

Unless you’re a 1 percenter, so many of its costly pleasures dangle forever out of reach, but one tremendous luxury within my reach, thanks to the Theater Development Fund, is access to affordable theater and music tickets.

Over the years I’ve lived in New York, it’s allowed me to enjoy excellent seats to popular musicals like Billy Eliot, Carousel and South Pacific and astonishing performances of plays like August: Osage County, Skylight, Awake and Sing! and Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, starring Robin Williams, a work that won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize.

Seeing favorite actors and actresses live has been  a privilege in itself, faces and names we “know” from film or television, like Lauren Ambrose (of HBO’s Six Feet Under) and Edie Falco.

Theater brings a specific and immediate intimacy impossible to achieve through any screen.

 

This week brought me a $36 ticket, (regular price: $138), to see “Blackbird” at the Belasco with Michelle Williams and Jeff Daniels reprising his role from 2007. I scored a fantastic seat, third-row aisle, in the mezzanine (first balcony) with terrific sightlines.

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The Belasco, at 111 West 44th street, opened in 1907 and is exquisite, a jewel box in its own right. The walls are painted in deep-toned murals, the coffered ceiling emblazoned with heraldic symbols and its lamps are stained-glass.

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Buying tickets through TDF, or the other discount options (like the TKTS  booths), means grabbing whatever’s on offer and jumping. You need to have read some reviews or have a good idea when you have only a few minutes to decide which ones are worth your time and hard-earned money.

But Blackbird? Hell, yes!

This play, which runs 90 minutes without intermission, is emotionally exhausting — even the playwright’s name is Harrower. Indeed.

 

It’s been performed worldwide, from Milan to Singapore to South Africa to Tokyo. A new film, starring Rooney Mara, (who starred in “Carol” and “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”), is due out this year.

In it, 27-year-old Una returns to confront now 55-year-old Ray, who had sex with her when she was 12 and he was 40. It sounds weird and sordid but unpacks layer after layer of emotion, fear, damage and desire one might imagine possible.

It’s full-throttle theater, with both actors modulating rage and disgust and fear, the still and silent audience along with them.

You wonder where they summon the stamina to tear through it all, while swept up in the intensity. In one scene, they’re on the floor of a messy conference room, both of them throwing piles of trash into the air.

And eight shows a week? No wonder it’s a limited run of 18 weeks, which is still a really long time to grind it out full-throttle in this work.

I love Michelle Williams’ work and her willingness to tackle tough characters. If you’ve never seen the 2008 film “Wendy and Lucy”, it’s a grim portrait of a young homeless woman and her dog, a far cry from her 2011 portrayal of Marilyn Monroe.

As Daniels told Time Out New York:

This is not a safe choice. The tourists who come in are going to get their ears pinned back. As they should. The arts should do this.

Here’s Daniels — one of my favorites from HBO’s series The Newsroom and much other work — on what it was like to return to this role:

As drama, the fateful meeting of Ray and Una was as compelling now as it was then. Unapologetically raw and full of terrible truths, the play confronts the audience from the first page on, never letting up, never letting go, tearing into those watching it as much as it does those of us on stage trying to survive it. Still, I was hesitant. Most roles are been there, done that. What cinched the decision to return was that Ray still terrified me.

Every actor knows you can’t run from the ones that scare you. It’s not the acting of the character nor is it the dark imagination it takes to put yourself through all of his guilt, regret and shame. To truly become someone else, you have to hear him in your head, thinking, justifying, defending, wanting, needing, desiring. The more I looked back at the first production, the more I saw what I hadn’t done, where I hadn’t gone. I’d pulled up short. Found ways around what was necessary. When it came time to truly become Ray, I’d protected myself. He’d hit bottom. I hadn’t.

From the first day of rehearsals for the new production, it was exactly the same and entirely different. Michelle Williams and I had the script all but memorized ahead of time, which was essential, considering the stop-start, off-the-beat rhythm of Harrower’s dialogue. The key to any play, especially a two-hander, is the ebb and flow, the back and forth between the actors. If ever there were a need for that elusive elixir called chemistry, it was now.

 

I saw “Hughie” two nights later, at the Booth Theater, built in 1913. I think it’s not nearly as beautiful as the Belasco.

The show is an odd little play, another two-hander, and only 60 minutes — of which about 50 are Whittaker’s. He was terrific.

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The set and lighting were spectacular but I found it, written in 1942 and set in 1928, a bit too dated for my taste, with endless references to dolls and saps.

Have you been to a Broadway show?

Did you enjoy it?

 

Ok, so that movie was worth about $7.63, not the $11.25 I paid

In art, beauty, culture, entertainment, film, movies on April 7, 2012 at 12:19 am
Cover of "The Deep Blue Sea (Nick Hern Bo...

Cover of The Deep Blue Sea (Nick Hern Books)

Sigh.

I love going to the movies, even when I am disappointed. It gets me out of the house, off the sofa and into the current cultural conversation.

Even when I’m not loving the movie, there’s usually something worth my cash. It’s not all or nothing.

I recently saw The Deep Blue Sea, a new film made from a 1952 play by British playwright Terrence Rattigan.

I mostly hated it, because the central character — Hester — is one neurotic mess. I couldn’t, ever, work up much of a head of sympathy for her, even though she’s married to a boring man with a nasty mother. When she runs off with a hottie named Freddie and shacks up with him, we all wait to see if passion beats out duty.

I love the actress Rachel Weisz. I really enjoyed the costumes and production design. Freddie is delicious. One can see why she’d flee to his wiry smooth arms.

But, over the course of the film, it’s immediately clear that:

— this is a period piece. What was emotionally compelling in 1952 is, in this case, much less so

— women, certainly those without children, have more choices now, so watching one who is arguably educated and intelligent make an utter fool of herself over a ditzy-but-cute boy isn’t terribly attractive

— the post-war British period feels too distant and hard to empathize with

this is a play, with theatrical timing, dialogue and structure. It’s not sufficiently cinematic to make an effective transition to film

I don’t resent the difference between my $11.25 worth of expectations and the $7.63 value, or so, I feel I got from this film.  “Value” is pretty subjective whether we love, like or meh a film, book, play, song or concert.

One reviewer on amazon.com slammed my new book by saying she’d only read about 64% of it (on the Kindle) before giving up in disgust. Hey, better than 21%!

Do you ever just walk out of films, concerts or shows you find disappointing?

What’s your breaking point?

The Next Chapter Of “Malled” — A Possible CBS Sitcom

In blogging, books, business, entertainment, journalism, life, television, women, work on August 23, 2011 at 1:08 am

There I was, sitting on the sofa at 10:00 p.m. watching a too-violent movie on HBO, when I read three emails congratulating me, including one from the veteran TV writer who’ll be writing a script based on my new book; if it’s accepted, the next step is to cast and film a network television pilot.

Shriek!

I was hired on September 25, 2007 to work for $11/hr. as a sales associate for The North Face. I quit on December 18, 2009, knowing I had a contract to write a memoir of what it’s like to really work retail. The result, “Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail” was the result, and was published April 14, 2o11.

So, how did all this happen?

And so quickly?

My agent, the day we first met in June 2009 — months before we sold the proposal — said: “You know, this would make a terrific sitcom.” I agreed. I wasn’t surprised by her idea; growing up in family who worked in television and film I know that networks are always seeking good new material.

As the book neared publication date, I began getting emails from a variety of entertainment companies asking who my agent was. I confess, the first one I read I assumed must be a hoax. I quickly learned this interest was real and serious.

On my birthday, June 6, I got on the phone to grill my two agents about the many items in the contract I didn’t understand and which are very different from a contract for a magazine story or a non-fiction book. Then (lucky enough to have family connections in the industry) I called someone in Toronto who referred me to her experienced entertainment lawyer to review it all.

It all felt a little surreal.

I love the irony that, after eight days at a Buddhist retreat discussing and pondering the nature of the self, I was on the phone discussing which actress might play “me” in the show.

It’s a long road to that possibility, but this is the next step.

Fingers crossed!

Two Fistfuls of Gold — What A Sweet Sight, Kathryn!

In entertainment, women on March 8, 2010 at 12:07 am
US director Kathryn Bigelow waves to photograp...

Image by AFP/Getty Images via Daylife

Not just for best Picture, but best Director, for Kathryn Bigelow and The Hurt Locker.

Not sure I’ve seen so lovely a sight on television in a long, long time.

First Oscar ever for a female best director.

I loved her dedication, twice, to all those who fight and serve, from soldiers to firefighters.

May her history-making win not be the last!

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