Wednesday, May 30, 2018
Sunday, May 20, 2018
The play opens with a brief hint of the storm, done by sound and light cues, as the order of the first two scenes has been reversed, so that we begin with Viola (Jordan Christine Knapp) arriving in Illyria. The production uses modern dress, and Viola is in a yellow rain slicker, hat and boots. What’s interesting about that, of course, is that these are rather manly items of clothing, or at least neutral as far as gender is concerned, so when she later appears as Cesario, there isn’t as drastic a change in her look as there usually is. When Orsino (James Calvert) appears, he has a drink in hand, and is accompanied by Curio and Valentine, who sing for him. As this is a modern setting, Valentine answers the phone, and delivers his message to Orsino from that phone conversation (by the way, the phone is from the eighties, not a cell phone), rather than having come from Olivia’s home.
When we first meet Maria (Mary Chalon), she appears to be quite business-like and serious, both in her dress and demeanor. Nearly Olivia’s entire household is in dark clothing, perhaps following Olivia’s lead in mourning attire. That is, except Sir Toby Belch (Gary Lamb) of course, who wears a lighter colored suit. When Olivia (Taylor Hawthorne) says, regarding Viola as Cesario, “Let him approach,” she shares a look with Maria, then happily puts on the veil. So her ongoing mourning is clearly a bit of a ruse, which is interesting. Maria also dons a veil, to help in Viola’s confusion as to which is the lady of the house. Jordan Christine Knapp is absolutely fantastic as Viola in this scene. On her “Excellently done,” we see Viola’s disappointment, which is great. She sees that what she thinks of as her competition for Orsino’s affections is striking. We really see Viola’s love for Orsino in this scene. Knapp can do a lot with just a look or expression, and does so throughout the production. She is something of a joy to watch.
Also particularly good in this production are Lance Davis as Sir Andrew Aguecheek and Barry Gordon as Feste. When Toby and Andrew enter at the beginning of Act II Scene iii, they sing a line from “99 Bottles Of Beer On The Wall,” obviously not in the original play. And in fact, most of the music used in this production is modern. For example, in that scene, Feste sings “Three Coins In The Fountain” rather than “O Mistress Mine.” When Feste enters for that scene, he is drinking from a flask, making him feel more like one of the boys in this production, rather than more aloof and separate. There is a key reason for this, that being that he also takes on the role of Fabian since that character is cut from this version. Everyone is quite good in this scene, and I love Toby’s delivery of the “cakes and ale” line. On Andrew’s “I was ador’d once too,” Toby and Feste exchange a look, which is nice. And then during the scene with Viola and Orsino, Feste sings “Some Enchanted Evening.” He has a really good voice, by the way.
Because it is a modern dress version, the characters don’t generally carry swords. So for the duel between Andrew and Viola, Toby has to force a sword into Viola’s hand. Hers is much longer than Andrew’s, but when Andrew taps his dagger against Viola’s sword once, it is enough to cause Viola to drop it, thus making a quick end to the fight. Sebastian too is without a sword, but easily disarms Toby. There is, as expected, a lot of humor to these would-be fights.
The character of Malvolio can sometimes steal the show, and there are a few moments when John Rafter Lee as Malvolio does go a bit over the top. But he is also a total delight, even before picking up the letter written by Maria. He rolls his “R” at one point, getting a big laugh from the audience. Even though the focus is on Malvolio in the scene where he reads the letter, one of my favorite moments is when Andrew realizes Malvolio is talking about him. His delivery of the “That’s me” line is perfect. Malvolio says “Here is yet a PS” rather than “Here is yet a postscript.” And he makes a great effort to smile. In this modern dress version, Malvolio later wears yellow and black socks with garters, his pants carefully rolled up. In that scene, he chases Olivia about the stage until Maria steps between them. Malvolio is a character you love to hate, but then often feel some sympathy for by the end. In this version, he appears in a straitjacket, standing center stage, rather than locked in a cage or dark space. Of course, being in a straitjacket, it seems odd for him to ask for pen and paper, for how would he be able to write? And his line “By this hand, I am” likewise feels odd. But there follows a touching moment when Feste undoes the straitjacket from behind him.
The reunion scene is handled well, with a nice stage picture, Viola and Sebastian at opposite sides of the stage, with Orsino and Olivia between them, slightly upstage. Orsino says “thy women’s clothes” rather than “thy women’s weeds.” Because Fabian is cut, we lose the funny bit where Olivia takes Malvolio’s letter from Feste to give to Fabian. And Feste repeats “greatness thrust upon ‘em” rather than saying the slightly varied “greatness thrown upon them.” Malvolio delivers his curse out to the audience, as we are all complicit in his mistreatment, a nice touch. Though the rest of the music used in this production is modern, the play does conclude with its traditional number, sung by the entire cast.
This production of Twelfth Night runs through June 10th. There is one ten-minute intermission, coming at the end of Act II. Parson’s Nose Theater is located at 95 N. Marengo Ave. in Pasadena, California (at the corner of Holly and Marengo).
Sunday, May 13, 2018
Friday, May 11, 2018
Orsino (Liam Brennan) steps downstage, and the musicians above cease playing, leading him to speak the play’s first line, “If music be the food of love, play on!” Viola rises from a trap door in the floor, as if rising out of the sea. As I mentioned, this is an excellent cast, but Paul Chahidi as Maria is especially good. On “he’s drunk nightly in your company,” she takes Sir Toby’s drink from him. On “in this company,” Andrew (Roger Lloyd Pack) nods at the audience, getting a laugh. The exchange between Andrew and Maria is wonderful. When Viola appears as Cesario, she is dressed in man’s attire, but still wears the long wig. On “a woman’s part,” Viola gives a little nervous laugh. Feste (Peter Hamilton Dyer) carries a pipe and drum, and plays both in his first scene. Olivia is in mourning attire, a black veil over her face. Her line “Take the fool away” is delivered simply and gets a big laugh. There is a moment when it seems Toby (Colin Hurley) might be having a heart attack, and the others all rush over to aid him, a nice moment showing that he is cared for. Of course, his ailment turns out to be something else entirely, leading to his line, “A plague o’ these pickle-herring.” And the others quickly step away from him. There is some humor in the way Olivia moves about the stage, almost gliding under her skirts. Olivia is particularly funny after Viola exits. On “he left this ring behind,” Olivia struggles to take her ring off. She is absolutely fantastic in this scene.
Samuel Barnett as Sebastian wears a similar wig to that worn by Viola, which works well. Malvolio tosses the ring at Viola, and it bounces off her chest. Viola’s reading of “I am the man” is delightful. Feste sings “O Mistress Mine” without accompaniment on his instruments. It’s a touching moment, and the camera gets close on him. There is some funny business as Malvolio enters to scold the merry group. Toby gives a nice pause before resuming his singing in response to Malvolio. I love Maria’s delivery of “I know I can do it.” I love the joy she takes in making sport of Malvolio. Andrew’s reading of “I was ador’d once too” in this version feels like the beginning of a story that he wishes to tell; but Toby, either not hearing that or not caring, doesn’t reply. We see Orsino begin to take a fancy to Viola on the lines “And dallies with the innocence of love/Like the old age.” For this song, Feste is accompanied by the musicians above. During the song, Orsino sneaks looks at Viola. Malvolio is great as he imagines himself above Toby. And when Malvolio finds the letter, Toby, Andrew and Fabian move the bush that conceals them closer to him. Malvolio takes a long time before he concludes that the “M” means Malvolio. Malvolio exits joyfully, then comes back a moment later for “Here is yet a postscript.”
The musicians above perform before the play resumes after intermission. This act begins with Feste leading most of the cast in a song. They retreat off up center, and Viola enters for the first line of Act III. Olivia is wonderful when she in vulnerable in asking about the ring. And I love how excited Maria is when she comes to Toby and Fabian to describe Malvolio. And her delivery of “He’s coming, Madame” to Olivia is hilarious. Olivia adds an “O” in “Here, wear this jewel for me; ‘tis my picture,” saying “O, ‘tis my picture,” pretending to discover in that moment that her picture is contained therein. A delightful moment. The play moves at a quick pace through these scenes. The forced duel between Viola and Andrew is hilarious.
Olivia is fantastic when protecting Sebastian, believing he is Cesario. And she kisses him. She then faints before Sebastian says “What relish is this?” And her surprised “O” is perfect when Sebastian agrees to be ruled by her. Malvolio is locked up below the stage, his head appearing behind bars just above the trap door. Olivia says “Blame not this haste of mine,” then signals for the priest to come in, a nice touch.
The reactions to “Husband, stay” are wonderful. Viola is so amazed that she checks her hands for rings when the priest mentions the rings, which is nice. You feel for Andrew when Toby calls him an “ass-head and a coxcomb and a knave, a thin-fac’d knave.” Olivia’s delivery of “Most wonderful” is fantastic. Orsino mistakenly first delivers his line to Sebastian rather than Viola. Feste remains downstage right to sing the final song as the others exit. Then, before the end of the song, they re-enter, and the company engages in a playful dance.
This production of Twelfth Night was released as a two-DVD set on April 25, 2015.
Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Aunt Julia And The Scriptwriter was published in 1977. The edition I read was the Avon Books version, originally published in the 1980s. I believe my copy is from 1990, as there is a sticker on the cover which reads, “Now the major motion picture ‘Tune In Tomorrow.’”
The prologue is done as voice over, and begins with “Once upon a time.” The film seems to use the story of Romeo And Juliet to deal with the subject of racism, as in the prologue we are told, “There lived two families, alike in dignity, differing only in color.” On one side of a rock spire is a group of light-colored seals, the Capulets; on the other, darker colored seals, the Montagues.
In this version, Mercutio is a brown seal, a part of the Montague family. Interestingly, Mercutio immediately makes two Hamlet references. As Benvolio is being chased by a Capulet, Mercutio says, “Benvolio, I knew him well” (a reference to Hamlet’s line to Horatio about Yorick). Then, as the Capulet catches up to him, Mercutio suddenly steps in and delivers the first line of Hamlet’s most famous soliloquy: “To be or not to be, that is the question.” Then, during the brawl, Mercutio quotes Jaques from As You Like It, saying “All the world’s a stage.” The brawl itself is mostly dull and silly, but the one seal trying to use a sawfish to open the belly of another seal made me laugh. And as the ocean starts to bubble, signifying the Prince’s entrance, Mercutio quotes from Macbeth (sort of): “Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble.” The Prince rises from the water to issue his warning to both families that their lives will be forfeit if they disturb the peace again. They will be banished to Shark Island. (The Prince, if you’re wondering, is green, not cream or brown.)
Benvolio is portrayed as rather weak and cowardly, which is not ever how I’ve viewed that character. Mercutio tells Benvolio about a party that’s happening that night, a party they should crash. They spy Romeo on a distant rock, and Romeo’s father asks Mercutio – not Benvolio – to see what the matter is with him. Both Mercutio and Benvolio go to cheer him up, and they do so with a song. Romeo says he’s lonely and wanting love, so Rosaline has been omitted from this telling. Mercutio convinces Romeo to crash the party with him. There are some odd jokes with some of the play’s lines, as when Romeo says “Let’s party” and Mercutio responds “Partying is such sweet sorrow.” They disguise themselves as Capulets and join the party, after Romeo sees Juliet. Paris is cut from this version, and the Prince himself expresses an interest in Juliet, inviting her to dance, and then asking her father for her hand in marriage. It is then that Romeo and Juliet meet. The Prince sees them together and becomes irate, forcing Romeo to flee. When Romeo lands in the water, his pale disguise washes off and everyone recognizes him.
Romeo hides from Mercutio and Benvolio. This film doesn’t quite understand the language of the play and has Mercutio say, while looking for Romeo, “Wherefore art thou Romeo?” A shame, as this movie is aimed at children, and it’s going to teach them an incorrect definition of “wherefore” (it means “why,” not “where”). Juliet climbs atop the spire, where we saw her at the beginning, and that is where we have the balcony scene. So it’s not as dangerous for Romeo, since he’s not on Capulet land. And again, the filmmaker doesn’t quite understand the play, for he has Juliet ask, “Romeo, Romeo, where are you, Romeo?” Rather than his name, she mentions his color: “But it’s only his color that’s my enemy. Oh, what’s in a color? A fish of any other color would still smell as sweet.” Romeo makes himself known below, promising to be any color she wants. They do get back to the name, however, as Romeo tells her, “my name and my color are your enemy.” Romeo proposes and tells Juliet to meet him at Friar Laurence’s church. Juliet says, “Parting is such sweet sorrow.” Juliet’s father has set her wedding to the Prince for the next day, which doesn’t give Romeo and Juliet much time.
Friar Laurence lives in a cave, and as Romeo approaches him, we have another reference to Macbeth. The Friar is making a sandwich and says, “Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble, eye of newt, leg of deep-fried chicken.” Friar is at first reluctant to wed them, but eventually agrees, thinking the marriage will bring peace between the two families. And Juliet arrives right then. We get a brief scene of the wedding ceremony, without dialogue. There is an unnecessary reference to Titanic. And apparently all the creatures of the sea share the belief that Montagues and Capulets shouldn’t be together. While the Nurse and other characters are cut, there is a little fish character added, the only character other than the Friar that seems to be on their side (though he says, “This is all going to end in tears”).
Benvolio urges Mercutio, “Maybe we should go, Mercutio,” as we see Capulets gathering nearby. Mercutio continues to tell jokes about the Capulets, and says “I care not for Capulets.” The Prince goes to Mercutio and Benvolio, demanding to know where Romeo is. It’s interesting, because the Prince is essentially playing three roles – his own, Paris and now Tybalt. Romeo enters and Prince confronts him. The Prince then goes after Mercutio. Romeo tries to stop the fight, and we actually get some of the play’s dialogue, with Mercutio asking “Why the devil did you come between us” and Romeo answering “I thought it was for the best.” Mercutio does make the joke, “Look for me tomorrow, and you will find me a grave seal.” Mercutio then falls off the cliff and into his sea, presumably to his death (but remember, this is a children’s film). Romeo fights the Prince, and both tumble from the cliff. Both are okay, however. The Prince then acts as the Prince again, banishing Romeo to Shark Island. Romeo obeys. And even though Juliet tells the Prince she loves Romeo, he says that she is to marry him that night.
Juliet goes to see the Friar in despair. The Friar first says she’ll have to go through with the marriage to the Prince, but then comes up with a better idea. He creates the potion to make Juliet appear dead. She drinks it on the spot there in the cave, which is weird. And is that Mercutio nearby, still alive? You bet. Well, the wedding guests have gathered, and Friar enters carrying Juliet. He says, “Juliet is dead,” leading to the mot surprisingly funny line of the film. The Prince responds: “Oh, women. It’s always something.” Benvolio sees this and immediately leaves to tell Romeo the bad news. The Friar actually sees Benvolio and knows he is under the wrong impression, and so follows Benvolio to Shark Island.
Benvolio, not Balthasar, arrives on Shark Island with news of Juliet’s death. Romeo dives into the water to return home. For some reason, just before the final scene we get a diversion involving a shark and a reference to The Terminator. Then the Friar goes looking for Romeo, saying, “Wherefore art thou?” Again, “wherefore” means “why,” not “where.” Romeo walks past the mourning Capulets toward Juliet’s body. Then when Romeo kisses her, he too appears to fall dead, from the potion still on Juliet’s lips. So, yes, it’s a bit different from the play, since neither is really dead. The Friar then takes on the role of Prince, telling both the Capulets and Montagues to see how their hatred has harmed their children. “We are all punished,” he says. Montague and Capulet embrace next to what they believe are the corpses of their children, and the families unite in their despair. Mercutio shows up, riding a wave in, and quoting Hamlet (sort of), “To surfer the slings and arrows.” Juliet wakes first, and then Romeo a moment later. I’m sad to report that the film actually ends with someone shouting, “Wherefore art thou, Romeo?” A mistake.
The DVD includes The Making Of Romeo & Juliet: Sealed With A Kiss, which features footage of the recording of some dialogue, plus some information on how the film was put together. Wow, did director Phil Nibbelink really animate the whole thing himself? That’s insane. This is approximately six minutes.
The special features also include the film’s trailer, as well as a TV spot.
Romeo & Juliet: Sealed With A Kiss was written and directed by Phil Nibbelink, and stars Daniel Trippett as Romeo, and Patricia Trippett as Juliet.
Tuesday, April 3, 2018
Often, the references are to Shakespeare characters that Jules wants to play. Jules tells her boyfriend, “I want to play Cleopatra, with Peter Brook directing me” (p. 21). Then she tells us: “Last night I had dreamed I was standing, naked, on a stage. I was playing Hermione in The Winter’s Tale and I had forgotten my lines” (p. 28). And later she tells us, “I noted, sourly, that an actress who had played my fellow supermarket cashier in an afternoon soap (parts for which we were both miscast) had joined the Royal Shakespeare Company and was rehearsing Imogen” (pages 67-68). And there are even Shakespeare characters that Jules dishonestly says she has played. “I played Cordelia to his Lear” (p. 85), she says of Paul Scofield. Later Jules tells us, “I popped a grape into my mouth and told him how I had worked for RSC, up at Stratford” (p. 218). When asked what roles she played, Jules responds: “Imogen. Hedda Gabler.”
There are some other Shakespeare references as well. At one point, Lila (the famous actor) tells Jules, “Get this – they wanted me to wear yellow pantyhose!” Jules replies, “Like Malvolio” (p. 36). Malvolio, of course, is tricked into wearing yellow stockings in a vain effort to please Olivia in Twelfth Night. Moggach also writes: “‘Don’t know yet. She’s on the wagon. Doctor’s orders.’ He lit his cigarette. ‘There’ll be trouble ahead, you mark my words.’ He looked up at the blue sky. ‘Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow! You cataracts and hurricanes, spout till you have drench’d our steeples, drown’d the cocks!’ He started coughing. ‘Drown’d the cocks!’” (p. 41). It is interesting to me that Moggach chose to keep apostrophe D in “drench’d” and “drown’d,” but changed “hurricanoes” to “hurricanes.” Jules also tells us, “Once you are famous all the world’s a stage, and you can never be alone” (p. 99), a reference to a famous speech from As You Like It. At one point she quotes from Julius Caesar. Moggach writes: “I knew I was heading in a dangerous direction, but I couldn’t stop myself. Some demon inside me pushed me on. O judgment! thou art fled to brutish beasts, And men have lost their reason” (p. 223). The lines are from Antony’s famous speech.
Jules tells us her story from prison, and there is a moment when she talks about the magazines available to her there. “Yesterday, however, I chanced upon a copy of Newsweek. It described some Trevor Nunn production of Othello where Ian McKellen played Iago. The English names gave me a jolt, then a patriotic glow. I’d met McKellen once, years ago. In this production, apparently, he had realized that Iago’s strength lay in his indispensability. Newsweek said he gave an electrifying performance. Othello was as simple a soul as Lila. He had no idea how deeply he was in Iago’s power, simply because Iago had made himself indispensable – quiet, efficient, and watchfully anticipating Othello’s every need. When the play opens, Iago is as humble as a stand-in. But though he starts out as Othello’s servant, he ends up as his master. That’s because, like me, he has brains” (p. 162). Of course, it’s interesting that Jules equates herself with the villain of the play. Moments later, she tells us, “I hadn’t become an Iago yet – that would come later – but I was undeniably useful” (p. 163). Toward the end, she tells us: “I try to take two showers a day. The other inmates think there’s something wrong with me. They think I’m like Lady Macbeth. What, will these hands ne’er be clean?” (p. 379). And then she tells us, “At night we have to put our hand against the glass as proof of our continuing existence. Good night, sweet ladies” (p.382). I’m guessing that’s a reference to Horatio’s line at the end of Hamlet.
And some references are to Shakespeare himself. Moggach writes, “in whose digs he had stayed when he had toured the country, playing Shakespeare and Shaw in the days before the TV set, as he put it, had become a twinkle in anybody’s lounge” (p. 40). Then she has Lila tell Jules, “I used to see the map and I’d think, they’ll all talk like somebody in a Shakespeare play” (p. 46).
Interestingly, considering how many Shakespeare references there are in this novel, it seems the author doesn’t quite completely understand Shakespeare. She makes a reference to Romeo And Juliet that indicates she doesn’t understand the line she is referring to. Moggach writes: “I imagined myself the Juliet I had never played, and now never would. Wherefore art thou, Trevor?” (p. 29). The word “wherefore” means “why,” not “where.” Juliet isn’t asking for Romeo’s location; she is asking why he has to be a Montague. And if Moggach meant that Jules was asking why Trevor is Trevor, there wouldn’t be a comma after “thou.” Basically, either author Deborah Moggach or her character doesn’t understand Juliet’s speech (it seems it is Moggach that doesn’t). As you might guess, this momentarily pulled me right out of the story. However, the edition I read is an early edition, and perhaps that was corrected later.
The Stand-In was published in 1991.