Sunday, September 16, 2012


I Hate Theatre....

I guess if you are still thinking & talking about a production afterwards the producers, director, cast and crew have done their job. Good or bad. I have never experienced this script before but knew the storyline and found it intriguing. Personally, it was not gritty or dirty enough. My skin did not crawl. I left thirsty. Something left me bugged about Bug playing locally at the Balagula Theatre. Call it differences in acting styles, the clash of those styles, or the inability to bond those styles into one common thread. Good or bad?

Curtain. When one has open minutes alone on stage you better hit the basics. Who, what, when, where, etc. We should learn a lot about Agnes, Rachel Rogers, in those opening moments. The tech/light glitch might have thrown her off. You know you are in trouble when the actor is more concerned in finding her placement in the doorway than playing within the drunken moment. Worried about the picture and not the story. The self has gotten in the way. And Peter, Zachery Dearing’s one note performance leaves nowhere to grow and expand through this delusional world. You need an overflow of emotions and layers for this play.There are some great moments but some are rushed and we do not get the build or the layers that explains the pain and hurt these characters are facing and creating. They don't mesh. They clash.

The internal character transitions, getting from point A to point B, are missing in part. Clearly, the big moments have been identified but you just do not get there without some traveling, building, and foreshadowing. Paranoia, fear, control, loneliness, on stage all are knots. Show me how you tied that knot. Again, I think this is conflict of individual styles and not brought under control and managed by the director’s eye. Flat responses to open ended questions do not progress the action or the story. You have so much more to tell us about the story and your character. Some might blame the set or the space. I fault the blocking.

The stage space at Balagula is tight and small. Positive or negative? I like actors that eat their scenery, know their space and the environment. Play in it and play with it.  Why was the ex-husband Goss more comfortable in the space than Agnes who lived there? Was it hot and uncomfortable before you turned on the air conditioning? I did not see that. You just had some stage direction to turn the a/c on which you accomplished. The set should make a statement and compliment the play, tell us something about the characters, create an environment, give the actors a reason to play. Generally, I am getting tired of incomplete sets and shotty craftsmanship. One production, somewhere else in Lexington, left me so bored I was counting all the woodscrews holding the flats together. I guess there was no time for wood filler or tape and paint to cover the magic of that less than professional set. Attention is in the details.

I have seen more complicated technical shows at Balagula with more sound and light ques with complex changes and transitions. Maybe it was my seat in the house but why was the sound of the phone-ringing coming from the air conditioner and not from the phone itself across the room? Light glitches in the opening really? I know, I know it’s live theatre and anything can happen and usually does. But Bug seems like a technically easy show and the crew needs to be as prepared as the actors are. Maybe more. I am assuming the actors don’t drink before and during the show and maybe that is a good rule for the tech crew. And what was that spider web radar-tracking ring above the stage? Sorry, I didn’t get it. Save that money for the set which the audience and cast are involved in and not a ceiling cover. And those posts? Embrace the posts. Use the posts. Some shows at Balagula have used them effectively. Those that don’t immediately create an obstacle.
Lastly on the set and the artistic design. Just plain flat. No detail. No finish. This set had two walls. One can explain away the third wall, but what about the fourth wall? Yes, that wall. The fourth wall. I might have seen two or three brief moments played with and to the fourth wall. Why were the actors afraid to use the fourth wall? I fault the blocking.

So overall it is a good show with a relevant script worth seeing. I’m not a reviewer or a master of the critique but I like good theatre and I want to see local actors, directors, producers, and designers doing their best. Polished, in tune, in the moment playing the moment. Characters void of self but full of emotion and thought. Well rounded theatre with an edge and a bite.
But, I really do hate curtain speeches and theatre.



Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Day I Went To Church At One World Trade Center & Memorial

I have an emotional attachment to Ground Zero, the North Tower, South Tower, the World Trade Center complex. We always went downtown with every trip to New York City. On this visit I was not prepared emotionally or prepared as a tourist.
We were not ready for our journey into the Memorial. You still need a pass? Where do you get a pass? You got a pass a month ago? Walk 12 blocks round trip to get passes. Back in line. Security as tight or better than any airport. Pass and ID shown seven or eight times. Scan, X-Ray, searched, pat down, they have wands, tasers and guns. And still not even a glance of the memorial. It seems to be hidden, tucked away and wrapped in a blue tarp. Only people working in the offices above have a view of the memorial. Unless you are the hovering construction or security helicopter way up above. A commercial airplane flew over the main tower at One World Trade Center. You looked up and held your breath. It just flew over and went away.

Like cattle, we arrived at the final gate and had to wait our turn so the exiting visitors could leave. They were still silent and reverent. They had experienced something breath taking inside. Finally.........
You had to stop. Take it in. It's a beautiful sunny day. You think it is quite. A simple plane of grass and concrete walkways stretched out lined by trees and benches. You approach the South Tower first. Laid to rest in a fountain that falls into a hole in the middle of the imprint. Surrounded by the names of the heroes that were taken from us that day.

You walk around the massive imprint and you want to read and touch every name. But you stop to remember and reflect. Watch the people around you as they hug, cry, cross themselves, laugh, marvel, pray and hope.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Maine, a wicked pissah.

In my mind this is where we were going to Maine this year. I had been before and still thought of it as a rocky point on a soft beach with dark cold waters. A hard place with soft edges. The land of thousands lobster traps dotting the sea's edge. Vacationland. Dirigo. I guide. I direct. The state of Maine is in rehearsal. A fishing hamlet. 

This year's adventure we are encamped at a hippy tree house cabin in the woods. Two miles off the road into the woods perched on a hill with the water just visible through the trees. A tease. One deer. One bigass fox. A hummingbird. And mosquitoes at dusk. Camp Barkley. Thanks Pat and Bill.

So many little towns all within thirty minutes of camp. All connected to the sea. I'm intrigued by the art of fishing. The life of fishing. Living within the sea life.

The towns have the essentials plus something they can call their own. Whether it is an ice cream stand, a lobster shack, or a firehouse. Each town, and every shack, claims to have the best lobster rolls in town. Red's Eats in Topsham wins all around. Be prepared to stand in line and do not give into the temptation of going across the street to the shacks with the shorter lines.

Everyone in Maine is trying to be their best. Whatever their "regular" job does to fill time, everyone runs some sort of business out of their home. It seems they all have several occupations and interests. Maybe it's seasonal, living by the sea, and having to deal with tourists.
A friendly lot with an almost southern hospitality to them. An accent that's distinct and hard. Like Boston but these guys are Mainers. Assuming you are natives, they assume you know all the streets and people in town. They like their firehouses and they are usually the centerpiece in all the towns. The homes are attached to the barns, every town has an abundance of churches, and they honor dead boats with an open and public burial.
The sounds, smells and tastes are all distinctively Maine. And because of all the land fingers and inlets you can always find a good sunrise and a good sunset.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Let's Have a Drink!

....I wrote this almost two years ago but never posted it online. With today's procedure looming and while I'm fasting and drinking water, I thought what the hell let's throw it out there in the cyberworld. So from late in 2010 I wrote the following comments and I'll comment and give an update on the back side....

Hi, I’m Ralph’s pancreas.

These last six months have been an interesting journey. The last two months have been hell. Worrying and trying not to worry. What is this annoying organ and what is it doing to my body? In addition, the one question everyone asks at least once in their life, why me?

I've been thinking about my history of drinking and how it has put me in this medical situation.  But I got intrigued with all the parts and how they worked. Here is what we know as of today: I have pancreatitis. I have the beginnings of a hiatal hernia. I have a cyst, neocyst, neoplast, a noid or whatever they want to call it in the duct work to my pancreas but it appears to not be blocking any functionality. No stints, for now, they don't work and can lead to other complications. The one thing I heard loud and clear, you have to stop drinking alcohol. And I drank a lot. A LOT!

My doctor has told me for years to stop drinking. I guess I should have heeded that message when the blood pressure issues started. But I didn’t. I felt great. Let us have a drink. I thought of high blood pressure as an emotional reaction. I am calm. I’m laid back. Few things upset me and if they do, I tend to let it roll down my back. I’m not vengeful but I never forget. Let’s have a drink.

Many times I felt that my issues were petty and not of global importance. People around me were dealing with cancer, blood disease, tumors, divorce, adultery, raising children, unemployment, foreclosure, and even death. Where do I fit in? Or do I? I grew to understand from others who were writing and blogging about their personal tribulations. The failures and successes that wove through their stories intrigued and inspired me.

Since July 25 of 2010, I have had NO alcohol in my system. No beer, no wine and no (gulp) bourbon or any liquor. Wait, I did have a bourbon ball at Christmas time. God it was good. But no beverages.  For me, I think, that is impressive. Every day was a holiday, let’s celebrate, its happy hour somewhere. Good morning drinks that has fruit juice so they are healthy. Beer goes with anything and bourbon is the blood of the gods. Wine just nudges you to Point B from Point A. I didn’t need it. I wanted it. I liked it. Robert Downey Jr. said it best when he said that he had the barrel of the gun in his mouth and he liked the taste of the metal.

But being over 50 and you do the math and for over half of this life a drink was is my hand. Can I drink again? Will ask the doctor. Will I drink again? Will ask myself. I quit cold turkey. No help and no support. The first week was easy because I was in the hospital playing the morphine button. The rest of the time has been a social issue. Time of day, people I was around and or the situation. I went to a wedding where 200+ people were drinking including minors and I thought if I can get through this evening, I can get through any occasion. I did and no 12-step program was involved.
 “It is not I who become addicted, it is my body.”
But we make choices, things are set in place, is there a wild card? So again we wait, watch the symptoms and do another MRI. There's no magical pill or surgery only adjustments.

I am thankful for what I have. Who I am. For my wife, family and friends. And I'm thankful for the things I touch and those that touch me.

........So today June 6, 2012. The cyst has more than doubled in size in the past two years. Pancreatic attacks have increased with frequency and more pain. Sometimes putting me down for a day or two. Today they go down the throat, again, to do an endoscopic ultra-sound and biopsy on the cyst that sits at the head of my pancreas. They don't want to remove the cyst because in most cases it aggravates the pancreatitis and leads to other problems. I was told a year ago it was not cancerous. I hope that is still true. I sure could go for a big breakfast right now but I'll wait and drink my water and dream of bacon.  See you on the flip side with some good news. I hope and pray.