Sunday, July 23, 2017

Summer Fun (and work)

I had a work event last week in Los Angeles and my body clock has been thrown out of whack ever since.  I saw Assassins the night before I left and a new play written by a friend while I was there, but I've been so jet-lagged, I haven't been able to think.  I'll try to put a few thoughts down now.  Well, probably more than a few, since I have three shows and a long-weekend-trip to discuss...

photo credit: Douglas Gorenstein
I figured since Assassins was sold out for the entire run anyway, my review didn't need to happen before it closed.  Well, my reviews probably NEVER need to happen before a show closes, but moving on.  I think I've told you the story of me and Assassins - I didn't live in New York when it premiered, but I was here visiting one week during its run.  I stood in line every day, trying to get a ticket, but never did.  I wore out my cast album cassette, listening to the show over and over and over for years, before finally seeing the Broadway production at the Roundabout.  I've been lucky enough to work over the years with John Weidman, librettist extraordinaire, and I've told him over and over and over how brilliant I think the book scene of John Wilkes Booth and Lee Harvey Oswald in the Texas Book Depository is, and he has been a gracious good sport to listen.  I will insert a gratuitous photo of me and this wonderful writer here, because I can.  :)

The instant single tickets went on sale for the Encores Off-Center concert production of Assassins, I pounced.  I'm glad I did, because the brief run sold out pretty quickly.  I bought my ticket even before they announced the cast, but for me, the show is the star. Of course, once the cast was announced, I was even MORE excited to see it!  What a theater-star-studded extravaganza!  It was almost an embarrassment of riches, but since there were only a few performances, it was probably easier to get people to sign on.

Cutting to the chase, I loved the show.  Of course I did.  But seeing Assassins now, in the current political climate, is almost overwhelming.  It seems even darker and more relentless now, at least to me.  I was holding my breath for nearly the entire show. Thankfully, my crowd didn't stop the show when the Balladeer sang "every now and then the country goes a little wrong" (I've heard that laughter and applause stopped some performances), but there were many rueful and sad chuckles throughout the evening.  I thought Steven Pasquale was sublime as Booth, but it's really probably an actor-proof role, it's written that well.  He sang beautifully, of course, but also commanded the stage throughout his book scenes.  And he and Cory Michael Smith as Lee Harvey Oswald knocked that book depository scene out of the park.  I found the scene even more brilliant and chilling than before - I burst into tears at one point, seeing how one disenfranchised man could change the course of history.  I'm afraid it's going to happen again and again, with the way things are going with our current government.

photo credit: Joan Marcus
The show was brilliantly cast, from top to bottom, with Victoria Clark a riot as Sara Jane Moore, Shuler Hensley as a complex, brooding Czolgosz, and Hand to God's Steven Boyer as John Hinckley.  He is a deadpan, scary, laugh riot, and his "Can I have your autograph?" to Lee Harvey Oswald in the last scene made me laugh and sob at the same time.  But really, everyone was great.  For the first time, I saw the yin and the yang of the Balladeer and the Proprietor, seeing how they were in competition for the souls of the assassins, with the Proprietor winning during "Another National Anthem," another song that is humorous and chilling, all at the same time.  I know some people didn't enjoy Ethan Lipton's performance as the Proprietor, but I found his lounge-lizard characterization very compelling, especially against the all-American appeal of Clifton Duncan's Balladeer.  And having the Balladeer be played by an African-American man highlighted the divide in America even further (hearing John Wilkes Booth call him "boy" made chills run up and down my spine).  I just thought Assassins was expertly done all around and I've had "Everybody's Got the Right" running through my head ever since.  Oh, and the last image of the little boy?  Heartbreaking and just right.

The day after I saw Assassins, I got on a plane and jetted out to Los Angeles for a work event.  I was also fortunate enough to see King of the Yees, at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City.  I know the playwright, Lauren Yee, a bit and have read a few of her plays over the years, so I was thrilled to see one live. I saw a preview performance (the play has since opened), so I'll only offer a few thoughts. 

Photo credit: Craig Schwartz
I found King of the Yees to be warm, thoughtful, imaginative and a lot of fun.  I enjoyed the meta aspects of the playwright being a character in her own play and I enjoyed the universal search of a daughter trying to understand her father.  I thought the acting was terrific and the direction was fantastic - the Kirk Douglas Theatre is a pretty small space, but it was utilized beautifully to make the show feel as large as its themes.  Francis Jue is a long-time favorite of mine and I thought he was wonderful as the father, making 'dad' jokes and trying to bridge the generations.  Even though I was already tired and jet-lagged, I had a terrific time at this show and look forward to seeing more of Lauren's work.

The L.A. trip was a good one, lots of good work was done, and I enjoyed meeting so many interesting and interested people. It was cool to have one of our events at the Theater at the Ace Hotel - an amazing old theater that's recently been restored.  It was gorgeous.  I also had some good food - after reading about the restaurant Eggslut, I was keen on trying one of their breakfast sandwiches.  I thought the bacon, egg and cheese sandwich was terrific; the soft brioche bun soaked up the yummy runny egg and the chipotle ketchup.  Oh, and their cold brew coffee was delicious, too.  I also enjoyed the skirt steak taco at Public School and the crab cakes with passion fruit buerre blanc at Yard House.  I had a whole list of places I wanted to try, but as usual, there just wasn't enough time.  I'll put some fun photos at the bottom.

Wimbledon also played a big part in my L.A. trip - I was so happy that Jet Blue had Direct TV on board so I could watch the men's semifinals on the flight out west, it made the trip go so much faster.  And being out west meant I could wake up early and watch my tennis crush, Roger Federer, win again.  I have to admit there was crying; I knew he could win the major titles again, but I had no idea he could come back from his injury layoff this strongly. I'm just trying to relax and enjoy his run while it lasts.  But the anticipation for the US Open could get to be too much as the summer goes on...

I just want to quickly mention that this jet lag has been kicking my butt and I have been a crabby mess since I got back. I'm happy that I had a reservation to see Indecent  again when I got back.  Seeing it again cheered me a great deal - this time, I sat in the mezzanine (both of my other visits had me sitting very close in the orchestra) and I really enjoyed it up there.  I could appreciate the expert direction even more from up there and I could also hear some things I hadn't heard before, since my focus differed.  I loved the show yet again and hope it gets extended one more time (though I doubt it will), I would love to take my mom when she's here for tennis week.  It's been a long time since I've wanted to return to a show multiple times and I'm enjoying the feeling.  I'm also rather excited that my last two and my next three shows are all written by women - I don't know exactly if that's what will cheer me, but I'm certainly optimistic and looking forward to some new points of view...

No comments:

Post a Comment