Monthly Archives: May 2010

Autarky in the E.R.:Gruesome Playground Injuries, Review’d

No time to blog, Dr. Jones; I gotta catch a bus up to New York to reconnect with my NEA theaterfolk.

But: Hey, remember that scene from 1992’s admittedly unmemorable Lethal Weapon 3, wherein Mel Gibson and Rene Russo’s two tough LAPD cops fore-play by comparing their battle scars? My review of Woolly’s Gruesome Playground Injuries, which develops that premise into a full-blown “unsentimental, nonlinear anti-romance” spanning 30 years, is right here.

And now I shall return to collaborating with G-Weld on the Broadway musical adaptation of Die Hard with a Vengeance. Happy Memorial Day, God bless you all, and God bless the United States of America.

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Too Much Monkey Business: Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds at DAR Constitution Hall

Matthews, Goodall, and Reynolds at Constituion Hall Thursday night

Fifty years ago, British primatologist Jane Goodall arrived in what is now Tanzania to observe the behavior of chimps in the wild, discovering them to be creatures of far greater intellectual and emotional sophistication than the scientific community had believed. Twenty years ago, Dave Matthews put a band together in Charlottesville, one that became enormously popular while affirming the frat boys who formed his core audience early on are no more sophisticated than anybody thought.

Okay, so it isn’t just frat boys (current and expired) who dig Matthews’s slurry, swampy, rhythm n’ stew: Like it or not, Matthews is pop’s biggest draw of the 21st century by total tickets sold. At DAR Constitution Hall last night, Matthews marshaled his cult for good, performing a career-spanning acoustic-duo gig with frequent sidekick Tim Reynolds to benefit the Jane Goodall Institute’s conservation efforts. Continue reading

Palm Springs Ephemeral

So, I’m in an unlikely place for the next 22 hours or so: a spa hotel in Palm Springs. I’m seeing a lot of wonderful friends this trip of old and recent vintage, but none of them save for the two brides are at this wedding. S’okay: Everyone I’ve met so far has been lovely, even the girl who called me “JFK Jr.”, and I’ve brought plenty to read. There’s a bar at the pool, and you can get massages or facial treatments or play golf (maybe, no, hell no) if you’ve got the dough and are into that stuff.

I can’t decide whether Don Draper would bring Betty on vacation here or one of his mistresses. It’s definitely a hipster kind of place, whatever that may mean to you. There are guys wearing fedoras, and I like all the music I’ve heard coming from the pool area and in the restaurant where I drank my pot of French-pressed coffee this morning, and I haven’t felt compelled to comb my hair since before I got on the plane two days ago. Continue reading

Hamlet Syndrome? Not hardly.

“Cast thy nighted color off,” Hamlet’s mom Gertrude, hastily remarried to his fratricidal uncle Claudius, begs of her mournful son. She might have been speaking to Joseph Haj, director of the Folger’s slick and unencumbered new gloss on what we’re used to thinking of as the Bard’s most psychologically complex play.

James Kronzer’s blocky, all-white set offers the first clue of what we’re in for, a visual metaphor for the production’s clean simplicity. Elsinore? Try Apple Store. Deposed King Hamlet’s ghost (a suitably traumatized Todd Scofield) has scarcely begun lobbying his son for vengeance before we see it isn’t just the castle that Haj and star Graham Michael Hamilton have lifted from the shadows: It’s the once-overgrown psychological landscape of the melancholy Prince himself.

Clear-cutting decades or centuries of accumulated inference — Hamlet’s Oedipal lust for Gertrude, his existential disdain of action for action, his self-awareness as a participant in a fiction — this feels like Hamlet for beginners, but that’s no slight. Unburdened of contradiction and played almost as a straight-ahead potboiler — close as it can be without cutting out Hamlet’s iconic half-dozen soliloquies, anyway — the show feels fresh, like a revelatory solo acoustic take of a song you’d thought you could never stand to hear again. Continue reading

Unreal estate. Mortgage-backed insecurities. And so on.

Looks a bit like a headstone, doesn't it?

I spent a couple of hours last week on the phone with two money lenders, one in California and one in Michigan. I’ve known I would eventually need to refinance the mortgage on my one-bedroom condo since I first got my mortgage. This, everyone assured me at the time, would be no big deal.

I’ve been putting it off, at my own expense, obviously, because I find this nexus of subjects — real estate, money, permanence — at once tedious and unfathomable and kind of morbid. I know people who spent years boning up on this stuff before buying a residence, or, you know, diving into the market — mature, financially responsible adults who pay attention to interest rates and property values the way I pay attention to what bands are coming to town. For them home-buying is a long-term, consuming occupation, the way planning a wedding is for other people. (Well, a lot of the same people, probably.) While mastering some 101-level finance is surely due diligence for the biggest monetary commitment most folks of my socioeconomic pedigree ever make, it never interested me. Yes, I do know. And I’m sorry. The brain wants what the brain wants. Continue reading