What Do You Do on a Friday Night Alone…?

I blog. Or as I already know and you will soon find out, I ramble.

Had an interesting week. I almost did something theatrical. I missed out on a ticket to the final preview of the legendary flop of the season Glory Days, the one-night stand at the Circle in the Square that came into town against everyone’s better judgment (as per the bloggers and chatterati… then came the reviews… ouch). The one performance flop is that rare phenomenon – a show with either the arrogance or blind faith that they will be a hit, not seeing the writing on the wall during previews, rehearsals, try-outs, etc. The most recent one night closure was The Confederate Widow Tells All in 2003. Aside from that, many flops try to push as far as they can, like Urban Cowboy’s rescinding their initial closing notice to run a few more weeks. Amour’s 17 performances comes readily to mind. In spite of that show’s drastic failure, it still copped several Tony nominations, including Best Musical – once again proving that anything is possible. (I believe Rags, with its 4 performance run in August 1986 holds the dubious distinction of shortest lived Best Musical nominee). It was surprising to see the musical fold so abruptly, you’d think they would have tried to eke out some sort of a run however brief. It was deemed ineligible for Tony consideration, which I think is more because the nominators didn’t have time to see it as opposed to its actual quality, however poor.

Freed the house from the shackles of the oppressive Cablevision and their evil optimum for Verizon FiOS… (Let the Marxists among you bask in the irony of that statement). So far, so good. The internet is a faster and more reliable connection. On the amazing front – I get TCM, FXM, IFC, Showtime, Sundance, and every show I ever wanted on demand. Oh the goodies. I have season three of Weeds and season four of Entourage at my disposal. (I can actually watch a first-run episode of Weeds, what? Choir of angels is that you hosanna-ing on high? Yes. Wondrous). Seriously, its just nice to feel further in the digital age. Hell, we even got wi-fi going on in here. This is some impressive technology, folks. Not to mention as all this exciting new-age digital technology was being installed, my parents were having the windows replaced. All of this happening on one of the wettest days in recent memory. Yeah, we all got all sorts of wet.

I’m uber-psyched for Sunday morning brunch. I look forward to meeting other bloggers and having a generally kick-ass sort of day. There’s a poll. I can tell you’ve all devoured the idea with ravenously reckless abandon (all two voters… one of which was yours truly…). Oh well.

Did anyone catch the 30 Rock season finale…? Ohhhhh my. Some interesting goings-on with our favorite Lemon. Only wish there were another Stritch appearance. (Does anyone else share my enthusiasm for wanting Jack to encounter Nathan Lane, Molly Shannon and Stritchie in a good ol’ fashioned Irish-Catholic Walpurgisnacht?) I’m also looking forward to the season finale of The Office next week. Oh what a weird and tragic year for the sitcom in general. Hopefully we can be spared an encore with the negotiations involving SAG & AFTRA.

I have to admit I’m surprised at myself. May 4-7 came and went and I didn’t even think to blog about my beloved 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Been a crazy week folks, a crazy week. Hopefully, next week brings nothing but good things.

Tony nominations will be revealed shortly, as will the recipients of the 2008 Theatre World Award. It may surprise you, but I’m more excited for the latter than the former. Perhaps that’s because I’ve actually attended the Theatre World event in the past and it is a good time had by all. You get a feel of that community that industry professionals talk about when they work in NY theatre. Nothing but positive energy all around – and since there are no nominees, there’s no sense of competition. As I’ve said before, when it comes to the Tonys, I’m interested in the plays and revivals, but not the new musicals. Sad to say it, but not one title that has opened this year has made me go “I’ve got to run and see this!” That’s already not true of next season, because Billy Elliot is opening at the Imperial. I am uber-psyched for this one (Elton John’s score, while hardly Sondheim, or even Schwartz, is his best theatre composition yet). And the fact that they aren’t dumbing down the show’s political undertones and anti-Thatcher sentiments makes me even happier. Other shows have got to learn: trust your audience once in a while, sometimes we can be insightful, intuitive and understand context and subtext. Then again, if we live long enough, someone might write a musical adaptation of The Hottie and the Nottie. I realize that you are laughing, but that laughter is tinged by your underpinnings of fear because you and I both know it could happen.

I also re-read Marc Acito‘s How I Paid for College and the recently released sequel Attack of the Theater People this week. (I am an incredibly fast reader: I’m already well into book three: Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris, a first person plural narrative about the goings on in a Chicago ad agency on the skids). It was fascinating to revisit the first book, since I hadn’t read it in about two and a half years. I was still in New Paltz at the time and we had a wonderful independent bookstore in town called Ariel’s (that sadly closed my final semester of college) and I happened upon the title accidentally. When I noticed “musical theater” on the cover, it sounded like it would be an interesting time. It certainly was. The characters created, while on the broad side, bring to mind many of the theatrical people I knew both in high school and college. While extreme in their actions (ohhh the reveling in crime), at heart the characters genuinely care for another (in spite of their severe aversion to monagamy). As the title suggests, you follow protagonist Ed Zanni’s highly illicit heists and capers to secure his tuition for Juilliard (master-minded by his nerdy sidekick Nathan Nudelman, who, really, is the hero of us all – and the character with whom I most identify, minus the interest in dubious financial practices). The follow-up takes us two years down the line to Edward being rejected from his third year at Juilliard by Marian Seldes, who wants him to discover life and rediscover the raw truth that was present at his audition, but never in his classwork. Many of the old crew are along as he unwittingly becomes involved in illegal insider trading, masquerading as a British vee-jay for a party planner and once again fights off his mortifyingly unbearable ex-step-mother Dagmar. A lot of the gang is along for the ride, The Music Man with a deaf Harold Hill, Starlight Express is a major plot point (and hilariously described by Ed) and we get a few new additions, the most notable being Willow the sprightly, not quite there, but lovable actress (sort of the Juilliard equivalent to Luna Lovegood). It’s too involved and farcical for me to describe, just pick up the book.

In spite of all the fun to be had, it’s Acito’s two wonderful choices in the later chapters that left the greatest impression on me. In lamenting the then-current state of the fabulous invalid, his protagonist encounters an older woman who ushered in Broadway theatres for years and years, and magically recounts the moment when the opening night audience gave itself over wholeheartedly to My Fair Lady. It’s magical. Plus, Ed and Paula have what I call musical theatre zen when they second act Barbara Cook’s A Concert for the Theater. I especially relate on the latter, having seen Ms. Cook’s Mostly Sondheim a few years ago, she remains one of my all-time favorite solo performances. Everything that he feels, my friends and I felt as well (even at 75, she could still hit the B natural in “Ice Cream” and how). However there are certain questions that I have for Marc: what happens to Mr. Lucas? Why is Kelly’s mother missing from the story this time around? and when does the third book come out? (oh, you’ve got to…)

For reasons I won’t reveal here, I’m in a very bizarre mood. When I get into this particular mood I usually spend money to make me feel better. Needless to say, a brand new laptop is suddenly looking really, really lucrative right now… Oh boy, temptation is a wonder, ain’t it?

But should I see No No Nanette on Sunday instead? Oh, the decisions… And I just realized I forgot to pick up a MegaMillions ticket for tonight. Well, maybe next time…

The One Where I Celebrate Dysfunction…

I’ve only just begun watching the acclaimed HBO series Six Feet Under, the dysfunctional drama with the family that runs the funeral home (created by Alan Ball). It’s a result of my having gotten obsessed with Weeds and Entourage over the past year; finding these well-written and compelling shows that have the freedom to go where network TV fears to tread. Unfortunately, I don’t have HBO or Showtime, so I tend to miss out on these, but thank God for the DVDs (and for specialty retailers who periodically sell them for next to nothing). It took a couple of episodes to adjust to the entire “death” aspect of the series (thankfully they dropped those awkward funeral commercials after the pilot) and I still get unnerved during the opening scene, but regardless, I’ve become hooked. It’s taken in a matter of fact, business-like matter, such as I assume it is in the “death-care” industry. Each episode starts with the death of one of their clients, which range from the random to the absurd to the devastatingly tragic. After which point, we switch back to the Fisher family and their latest foibles. The characters and stories are so well-defined, you can’t help but feeling for these people. However, they still manage to find a lot of irony and humor in the macabre and absurd (such as those fantastical elements, with the ghosts and subconscious revelations). But you know me, I love the dysfunction. The Royal Tenenbaums, Arrested Development, Weeds, August: Osage County and now this. And does the awkward come in spades… My goodness. I’ve only just started the second season, so we’ll see where this is going to progress. I already can figure out where certain characters are headed and it should be very interesting, to say the least.

The entire ensemble is stellar: Peter Krause, whom I’ve enjoyed since Sports Night (anyone?), Lauren Ambrose (has teen rebellion ever been presented in a more attractive guise?), the outstanding Rachel Griffiths (with one of the best American accents I’ve ever heard from any foreign actor) and Michael C. Hall. (Dexter will be soon) But the highlight to me is Frances Conroy as Ruth Fisher. Every time she is in a scene, she inadvertently steals my focus, my attentions and my emotions. She takes this little moments and turns them into something both incredibly genuine and real; and for that the pay-off is tenfold. Watching this woman perform, I could tell that she must have had some stage experience. Lo and behold, in searching, I discovered she was a graduate of Juilliard and also that she appeared in eleven plays on Broadway, most recently in 2000 in The Ride Down St. Morgan. I would relish the opportunity to see her perform live in NY. I also think she should appear on The Office as Angela’s mother. Yes, think about that idea for a moment… I wish I could have seen her Birdie Hubbard in the LCT revival of The Little Foxes (the one that starred Stockard Channing – and again, more dysfunction!)

I can tell you the date I realized how much I enjoyed the darker aspects of familial humor. January 20, 2002. When I saw The Royal Tenenbaums (which remains one of my all-time favorite movies). I realized something was up when afterward I told my friend “I absolutely loved it.” And she in turn gave me a look of condescension, “Well, I hated it.” She’s since seen it again and changed her mind (HA!).

Other shows on the agenda: The West Wing (I’ve never watched a single episode in my life), The Office (UK), It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and the fourth season of The Bob Newhart Show. Then there’s also the first season of The Sopranos, of which I’ve only seen one episode. I also am supposed to catch up with the second season of Lost and also take in The Wire, as the list continues to grow and grow and grow…

None of this reality crap for me. Who has the time?

Strike Three, Ball Four…

The Encores! Summer Stars series has taken an interesting turn of events with the casting of my beloved Jane Krakowski as Lola in a revival of Damn Yankees. Trying to find a replacement for the legendary Gwen Verdon is virtually impossible, but I think that Krakowski is an exemplary choice. The only reason I decided to mention this is that 30 Rock came back tonight and she was woefully absent from the hilarious take on reality TV competitions (MILF Island? Oh yes). Sean Hayes will be playing Applegate (the role originated by the incomparable Ray Walston to Tony-winning effect). No word yet on Meg or Joe Hardy.

Also back was a phenomenally awkward and exceptionally written episode of The Office that showcases a dinner party at which George and Martha would balk. It’s been months… and such welcome relief amid all those terrible reality shows that, well, just suck. Thank God the writer’s strike is over. Now all we have to do is fear the potential actor’s strike. Great. Good. Excellent.

“You are! She is! She is the devil! I’m in hell! Blahhh, I’m burning! Help me!”
~Michael Scott

Oh, and I must offer congratulations to Moon Lady on the arrival of her latest little love Camilla!!!