Saturday, January 31, 2009

Don't criticize what you can't understand

I never really had strong feelings about New Yorker film critic David Denby, as some subscribers do. He was less entertaining than Anthony Lane, but not unreadable; and yes, he was occasionally out of his depth, but aren't they all? If he'd been writing about theatre perhaps I'd have been more sensitive to his shortcomings, but his movie reviews never really rubbed me the wrong way.

I recently saw his new book Snark in an advance-copies-for-review pile and I rolled my eyes: another writer tries to stretch half of an idea into a book-length Comment on Modern Culture. No thanks. The "pseudo-scholarly take on a pop-culture 'trend'" angle was especially unappetizing. I don't want to hear that particular lecture from anybody, but especially not from Denby. Although, as I said, I never had a strong reaction to his work in general, I had a dim memory that he was a writer whose insightfulness diminished as his subject broadened. That is, writing about one particular film, he did okay; writing long articles about the Meaning and History and Future of Film in Our Culture, as I remember him doing once or twice, he seemed sloppy with his "argument" and generally out of touch. (I think I hated this one, but I don't want to bother rereading it to recall the specifics.) Certain paragraphs and sentences still had the ring of truth within them, but the way they were strung together seemed false and tin-eared, inclined to generalize in unsupportable ways.

So I guessed from all that that Snark would be an unsatisfying, probably irritating read. But this Wonkette post -- about his attempt to take on Wonkette -- is really pretty horrifying. I'm actually embarrassed for David Denby.

I know it's not for everyone's tastes, but I love Wonkette, which I discovered belatedly toward the end of this election season. It got me through those last couple months, and it continues to help me cope with knowing that, for example, Peggy Noonan and Maureen Dowd and Bill Kristol and Richard Cohen and other such columnists are out there, and other people take them seriously. (That Noonan takedown makes me laugh every time I think about it. On the other hand, the very fact that Denby apparently describes Dowd as "the most gifted writer of snark in the country" is conclusive evidence that he has no clue what he's talking about.) Wonkette is the only place I can stand to read about the Blagojevich Affair. And the reader comments actually add value, which is a rare and impressive achievement. The funny thing is, Denby isn't off-base when he describes the site as "proudly idiotic." That captures something central to what they're doing over there. He just doesn't get how that approach is functioning -- how it manages to be crude and smart at the same time. The crudeness of the approach points out how crass the level of "serious" and "mainstream" political coverage and discourse actually is. When provoked enough, the Wonkette editors will explain that (much better than I just did), and it's impressive to me how thoroughly they understand what they're doing.

I wouldn't have expected the nuances of "snark" as employed at Wonkette to be apparent or appealing to Denby -- if we were friends, I wouldn't be sending him links to my favorite posts. And his not getting it would be fine, except that he's apparently so certain he does. And that's embarrassing. Normally Wonkette's post titles are (proudly!) hyperbolic, but in this case, "The 'Wonkette Part' of David Denby's Book Really Just A Bunch of Major, If Not Libelous, Errors" is accurate. Quite an achievement.

I'm not convinced that "snark" and its effect on "our conversation" is analyzable, or worth analyzing. But if you want to read more on the topic, read Adam Sternbergh's review of Denby's book in New York magazine. It's the only review I'd bother to read, because Sternbergh -- of the late, lamented Fametracker team, part of TWoP's extended family -- knows whereof he speaks. He's convinced me "snark" might be worth analyzing after all, if it's done by someone who knows what it is and how it works. "Snark is not a honk of blasé detachment; it’s a clarion call of frustrated outrage." Couldn't have said it better myself -- but then, I keep forgetting! I'm a blogger and not a writer.

With bad press like this, who needs good press?

I see Speed-the-Plow has recouped its investment. Looks like that PR campaign worked -- thanks, New York Times!

I love how that blurb begins, "Perhaps it’s true that even bad publicity is better than no publicity." It's like Patrick Healy (who wrote it) never saw this article... or this one. Bad publicity? No no no. This (which we discussed back here) is bad publicity.

Speaking of bad buzz for the Roundabout -- did Todd Haimes insult Ben Brantley's mother or something? The Pal Joey review was bad enough, and now this utter loathing for Hedda Gabler. I'm not saying he's wrong, in either case -- I haven't seen either, so I can't comment on that. But he's unusually gleeful about how much he hated Hedda. And yet he loved the Ian Rickson The Seagull, as he reminds us here ("one of the best revivals I have ever, ever seen") -- and it sounds like his objections in the case of Hedda are identical to complaints I heard from others who saw The Seagull.

Hey, speaking of Chekhov: I loved The Cherry Orchard at BAM, and you can rest assured there were no distracting shenanigans going on with the accents. (Well, except for Charlotta Ivanova: I'm still not sure what kind of accent she was trying to do. It sounded German by way of France. But that character is so inexplicable generally that her weird accent seems appropriate.) You'll get more details soon, I hope, but in the meantime, I recommend it.

The same goes for the Atlantic's The Cripple of Inishmaan, which I can't quite get around to really reviewing in detail. Very funny, very good cast, excellent evening out. More details as soon as I can manage it!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Listen to what the man said

Did you see Paul McCartney on The Colbert Report this week? If so, answer me this: What happened to his sense of humor? Did he lose it in the divorce? He did this interview like he lost a bet or something. I elaborate at Hey Dullblog.


Pick up a copy of Babytalk magazine at your pediatrician's office to read my sister Amy's excellent essay on expecting a girl (after having two boys). The online version of the article is truncated, but there's a .pdf here. And don't forget to check out the Mother Load blog for more adventures in parenting.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

You may be right

Ron Rosenbaum is one of those writers who, I think, writes too much. By which I mean both that he writes too many articles and essays, leading him too often to apply his considerable critical skills to topics he's not suited for, and that his individual articles and essays tend to go on too long. So when I see a new Rosenbaum piece at Slate, I go back and forth about whether I should read it: it will almost definitely be too long, and I might end up sorry I bothered. I couldn't pass up the piece featured today, however: When I saw a photo of Billy Joel and the headline "The Worst Pop Singer Ever," I just had to check it out. I'm so glad I did.

Who knew Rosenbaum would be so passionate, so informed, so insightful, about the insulting badness of Billy Joel? This piece is worth reading not because it's saying something that needs to be said -- I have no burning desire to see Billy put down, and bear no ill will toward his fans -- but because Rosenbaum gets it so right, and good critical writing is a joy to behold.

I know people who love BJ. Never understood it, but that's their prerogative. Even Rosenbaum admits to liking a few of his songs, and I can join him in his affection for "The Longest Time." I personally have a soft spot for "Don't Ask Me Why." And back when I was playing the piano all the time, I enjoyed poking through my sister's old Billy Joel sheet music book as a warm-up for my fingers. But Billy Joel the personality, and the phenomenon, has always rubbed me the wrong way, and Rosenbaum expresses it perfectly:
Anodyne, sappy, superficial, derivative, fraudulently rebellious. Joel's famous song "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me"? Please. It never was rock 'n' roll. Billy Joel's music elevates self-aggrandizing self-pity and contempt for others into its own new and awful genre: "Mock-Rock."

...I think I've identified the qualities in B.J.'s work that distinguish his badness from other kinds of badness: It exhibits unearned contempt. Both a self-righteous contempt for others and the self-approbation and self-congratulation that is contempt's backside, so to speak.
Yes! That's it precisely! That quality comes out in every personal appearance and interview, which only makes the music harder to listen to. Who hasn't heard Billy Joel complain about the burdensome popularity of "Just the Way you Are"? How can you not be annoyed by a songwriter who seems to hold his own fans in contempt for liking the schlock that makes him rich?

This piece, true to form, goes on longer than it needs to, but it doesn't run out of steam. I'm especially happy that Rosenbaum didn't overlook the shallow "contempt for the Catholic religion" that saturates "Only the Good Die Young" -- because seriously, Billy, up yours.

The music itself doesn't get much analysis from Rosenbaum. But it reminded me of a few of the things I've always disliked about BJ the composer. First of all, Rosenbaum quotes blogger Jeff Jarvis, who wrote (in a context too convoluted and lame for me to bother explaining): "If I can't get 'Allentown,' the original, I'm not likely to settle for a cover." Rosenbaum is quoting it to mock the notion that BJ is some paragon of authenticity, and that's certainly true. But to me it's also risible because I've always found Billy Joel songs much more tolerable when covered by other artists. The main reason, as Rosenbaum has helped me to realize, is that cover versions present the music without the thick, unappetizing coating of "unearned contempt" that BJ brings to it. But it's also at least partly because I dislike the production and instrumentation choices on many of Joel's recordings. The cheesy keyboards on "Just the Way You Are"; The shallow tinniness of "Pressure" and "Goodnight Saigon"... Just his bad fortune to be recording in the '70s and early '80s, I guess. But pretty much any re-recording is going to be an improvement.

This leads me to my other valuable insight about Billy Joel, one that is driven home by listening to covers and unavoidable when you're picking your way through his songs on a piano. The man needs a writing partner. He's a McCartney without a Lennon (though he thinks he's got Lennon's "Working Class Hero" attitude down). Or a Lennon without a McCartney, maybe. The point is, his songs don't have the interior tension they need to hold my interest. Put very simply, they almost all have terrible middle-eights. As an experiment, think of any Billy Joel song that comes to mind, and sing it through in your head. Notice how it falls apart when you get to the bridge, meandering awkwardly for several measures until it finally returns to the verse/chorus. Bernadette Peters does a lovely take on "(S)He's Got a Way" (on her album I'll Be Your Baby Tonight), with a delicate piano arrangement backing her up. But the delicacy just makes it more obvious, when she gets to the middle, that the song should have gone through several more drafts: "He comes to me when I'm feeling down, inspires me without a sound..." You've always hated that part, right? Now it all makes sense! Let's try another one: "Leave a Tender Moment Alone." You know the part that goes "But it's not only me / breaking down when the tension gets high..." You don't know what's going on there, but it makes you uneasy, doesn't it? "She's Always a Woman" -- the song starts to go haywire in the "Oh, she takes care of herself" part, doesn't it? Aren't you relieved when it returns to the verse/chorus, the part that feels solid and secure? Even "Just the Way You Are" starts to stumble with "Well, I need to know that you will always be..." "This Is the Time" -- that one has only the chorus going for it. And then there are the songs like "Piano Man" that are nothing but chorus (which is fine, except do you need to go on for five-and-a-half minutes?).

The funny thing about Rosenbaum's article, and my response to it, is that we know all these songs well enough to analyze them in depth. Billy Joel is an indelible part of our cultural heritage. I think he could have been the world's most successful jingle-writer. With a songwriting partner, he could have been a pop-music treasure. With a better attitude, he could have been lovable, at least, like Elton John (before he started writing musicals). But then I guess he wouldn't be Billy Joel.

Friday, January 23, 2009

It's as if we always knew

Lately The Colbert Report hasn't been as sharp as it once was, and I haven't been watching as regularly. But their sendoff to the Bush Administration was sublime. Not least because it gave us all another reason to worship Christine Ebersole. In case you missed it:

While we're sharing videos, I suppose I ought to link you to this frightening (yet unsurprising) Patti LuPone freakout, caught on (audio) tape by, apparently, some other scofflaw Gypsy audience member who is lucky not to have been caught in the act by La LuPone. I've come across this a number of places, but my favorite writeup was by J. Kelly Nestruck of Canada's Globe and Mail, who joked that the picture-taker had been "Patti Lu-Pwned." Hee.

As for my thoughts, well: no sympathy for the picture-taker, obviously. But I do feel sorry for the rest of the audience (even if I doubt Patti's assertion that "every single one" of them was exhibiting "respect" -- come on, I've been in Broadway audiences before). If I pay a lot of money to see a Highly Acclaimed Performance, and the star breaks character in the middle of a solo number that happens to be the emotional and dramatic climax of the show, and it's not a medical emergency, I'm going to be annoyed. Of course, that's exactly why I never did pay money to see this particular Highly Acclaimed Performance on Broadway. And at least some of the people in that audience (including whoever was taping the audio) probably felt they got exactly what they came to see. "This is the theatre!!" You know, on second thought, I'm not sure she did break character. Doesn't that just sound like Momma Rose?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

In pre-revolutionary Russia, accent uses you

Welcome to the Obama years, everybody! Soon all our problems will be solved! Meanwhile, one thing I'm looking forward to enough to spend money on it is The Bridge Project, now underway at BAM.

I'm especially excited about The Winter's Tale, which I've never seen onstage. It's surely one of the oddest plays in the Shakespearean canon; "exit pursued by a bear" is but one of its interpretive challenges. So I am very eager to see what this cross-Atlantic cast and creative team will make of it. I am a bit more apprehensive about the first of the two plays, Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard, but only because Chekhov is like the proverbial little girl my grandmother used to cite: when it's good, it's very, very good, but when it's bad, it's horrid. I have seen The Cherry Orchard performed once before, at the National Theatre in London in 2001. It wasn't one of those scarring bad-Chekhov experiences, but I honestly don't remember much about it, except that my friends and I bought student rush tickets and were disappointed to learn that the several Redgraves in the cast were all taking that performance off. I hope for better luck this time around.

One of the actors I'd be sorry to miss in these productions is Richard Easton, whom I saw at a restaurant a few weeks back. I pointed him out to the husband and told him to consider it an advance actor-sighting -- "You don't recognize him now, but you will!" Easton is one of the many reasons I have high hopes for this ambitious project. Take, for example, his remarks about repertory theatre in this New York Times article: “'You give a more total performance in each role,' [Easton] said, 'because you don’t have to spend all your expertise in either one.'” I thought that was pretty insightful.

Less insightful and promising was this passage from the same article:
The project treats accent as many theaters now treat race, as an opportunity to rethink great roles. In “The Winter’s Tale” the actors’ backgrounds are exploited for effect: Europeans play the urbane Sicilians, North Americans the rustic Bohemians. In Chekhov’s “Cherry Orchard” the distribution is less programmatic; Mr. Mendes is even allowing some American actors to experiment with British accents, and vice versa.

In doing so he invites the wrath of critics who still think that color-blind casting, let alone accent-blind casting, violates the supposed realism of the stage. “It’s important that the agenda is set not about how people talk,” Mr. Mendes explained. “Theater is not film; it’s a poetic world. If it weren’t, everyone in ‘Cherry Orchard’ should be using a Russian accent.”
Well, no; they'd be speaking Russian. To have your characters speaking English with Russian accents would just be stupid. And as I know Sam Mendes is a smart and capable director, I can't quite figure out why he would say that, or why anyone would quote it uncritically.

I sincerely hope that this article is doing a disservice to The Bridge Project in describing how it plans to deal with the "accent" question, because what's described above is a self-contradictory mess. It's not "accent-blind" (and shouldn't that be "accent-deaf"?) to use real-life nationality to determine how you cast characters in Shakespeare's fairy-tale world. And it's not "accent-blind" if you're "allowing" actors to "experiment" with nonnative accents (egad!). I also hope it's Jesse Green (the author of this article) and not Mendes who thought of likening so-called color-blind casting and the use of accents in performance, because the comparison is misleading and not at all apt. Everything about those two paragraphs distresses me.

Setting aside the issue of race, which is much too complicated in itself to shed any direct light on the question of accents: the reason Mendes and his company have to think about accents at all is that they do have meaning. They signify something to an audience -- maybe different things to different audiences. The challenge is to figure out how they're affecting these particular incarnations of these particular texts. If everyone onstage is speaking in the same accent, or even the same group of accents, the audience will know the accent isn't meant to carry weight. If everyone onstage speaks in his or her native accent, the audience can probably be convinced to ignore that too. But if you're mixing up British and American accents for the sake of it, or if you're using the accents to divide one group of characters from another, you're asking the audience to pay attention. It's an insult to the intelligence of theatregoers to suggest that accent is a trivial detail and it's about time we got over it.

Really, if you must make a comparison, accents function much more like costumes than like actors' ethnicity. You could have everyone onstage dress in a similar, simple style -- say, all black. That would signal to the audience not to pay attention to how the actors are dressed. You could have the cast wear street clothes and accomplish the same thing (with more difficulty). But if you have everyone dressed in completely different styles and historical periods, you're deliberately calling the audience's attention to the costumes, and in that case you better know what you're doing, or you'll end up with a confusing mess.

That said, I have more faith in Sam Mendes than I do in NYT arts reporters, so here's hoping that faith is rewarded. I'm seeing The Cherry Orchard tomorrow, and looking forward to filing a report!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Mamet, revived and reviewed

My review of this season's double serving of Mamet revivals is in the current issue of Commonweal -- and, lucky for you nonsubscribers, available online as well! I'm afraid American Buffalo closed shortly after I saw it, and long before this column made it to print. But Speed-the-Plow was by far the better of the two, and it's still alive today (and now starring William H. Macy)!

Here's a taste of my take:
American Buffalo’s cast, directed by Robert Falls, proved unequal to the challenges of Mamet’s script -- like the characters, the actors might have profited from more deference to the text. Cedric the Entertainer (known primarily as a standup comic) and John Leguizamo (who has similar roots) brought plenty of stage presence to their respective roles as Donny and Teach, and former child star Haley Joel Osment made a touchingly vulnerable Bobby. But Mamet’s highly stylized interpretation of natural speech has an internal rhythm that none of the actors could capture. The characters’ exchanges were stilted, stripped of the mesmerizing pulse that drives them on the page; and the play, which is nearly all talk, remained limp until Teach’s violent explosion near the end.

The stars of Speed-the-Plow have the opposite problem: director Neil Pepe keeps their exchanges moving at such a rapid-fire pace that the onstage chatter seldom bears any resemblance to actual conversation. The tempo is appropriate, since Speed-the-Plow is, on a superficial level, a gleeful satire of the motion-picture industry, and its characters’ dealmaking banter is fueled by coffee and cocaine. But the snappy dialogue is more than just a series of vulgar one-liners. Encoded in the ironic allusions and insults are authentic questions about integrity and faith.
When I saw Speed-the-Plow I didn't sense much chemistry between Esparza and Piven, so I can't say I'm surprised to learn of Piven's reported unreliability and Esparza's post-Piven backbiting. But my issue with the direction was more basic than chemistry -- when the characters interrupted each other, as called for in the script, it seldom felt organic in even a heightened, cartoonish way. High school drama teachers, if they're any good, teach students to know the unscripted ends of their interrupted lines, so they won't trail off artificially, waiting to be cut off by a scene partner. Too much of the dialogue in this Speed-the-Plow was delivered with the obvious expectation that the line would be interrupted, and not in a "we know each other so well we can anticipate each other's reactions" way, just in a "we're reading from separate scripts in our heads" way. I don't know whether that got better or worse once Piven stepped out. Maybe reading from a script onstage actually made Butz's half of the exchanges sound more natural?

Despite that, I thought Piven was terrific and the production was very sharp. But I think it's unfortunate that Speed-the-Plow tends to be described as a satire of Hollywood and nothing more. It is that, but I think there's much more to it than reviewers tend to communicate. However, I learned in working on this piece that it's very difficult to communicate the deeper, more interesting levels on which Speed-the-Plow operates. It's also quite difficult to find quotable lines in either script that (a) make sense out of context (or are at least complete sentences!) and (b) aren't too overwhelmingly profane. Oh, and the formatting can be weird, too: I opted to follow the printed script for emphasis and capitalization, since I'm a purist like that, but online all the itals are stripped out, so you won't be able to tell.

Have you seen this play (with or without Piven)? What did you think? How does my reading strike you?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Sorry, I thought you were whoozis

On the topic of recognizing people in NYC, this exchange, from the Gothamist interview with Janeane Garofalo, made me laugh:
A lot of the stories you tell about getting recognized around town tend to be embarrassing ones.
Is that really the case? Well it's not like I'm particularly famous. It's not like I'm Drew Barrymore walking around. But oddly it seems if I do get recognized, it happens to be when there's a big dump by my dogs I'm picking up or I slip on the ice or if I'm buying tampons or toilet paper, as crass as that sounds—please forgive me. That is when someone will say—you know what people say a lot actually, "No offense, but you look like Janeane Garofalo." Or "I don't mean to offend you, but you look like Janeane Garofalo." I never really know how to respond to that: "None taken?"
My sighting for the week: Chip Zien! Eating lunch in an UWS restaurant and sitting right in the window, where any crazed Into the Woods fan might come along and spot him. (I did get to meet him when he was in Les Miz -- after much anticipation -- so I managed to play it cool this time.)

Monday, January 5, 2009

Let's hope it's a good one?

How bad is 2009 going to be? Well, judging by how much all my Facebook friends seemed to be dreading its first Monday, I'm not feeling optimistic. Here are some status updates I saw when I signed in this morning (in reverse chronological order, of course):
Chris would rather be (backcountry) skiing.
Allison is at work.... blah!
Richard wishes he was working from home.
Shana made it to work. Phew.
Susan is headed back to work this rainy morning.
Joy is at work :(.
Henry and 2009 officially begins. [sic]
Stephanie is blech.
Shana is fighting the urge to stay in bed for a week.
Sarah is kicking and screaming.
Oh, come on, guys, it wasn't that bad. Was it?

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Tis the season to be jolly

Eventually I'll give you my serious appraisal of the two plays I saw this week. For now I'll just tell you about the exciting circumstances under which I saw them both.

First, spotted in the audience at The Cripple of Inishmaan: Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick! A celebrity twofer! Coincidentally, they were also at the same performance of The Homecoming as I was. Are they following me?

The December 2008 Playbill I got at the Atlantic was highly collectible. On pages 16-18 I found a feature article on Christian Hoff, ousted star of Pal Joey. The pull quote was what caught my eye: "It's taken him until the age of 40 to have his name above the title -- to be a Broadway star -- and he's savoring the moment." Ouch. And on page 49-51 you can read an interview with Haley Joel Osment, in which he explains that he took a semester off from NYU to appear in American Buffalo. I guess it's back to the books for HJO.

The article about Osment was headlined "Buffalo Boy." One of the two young men sitting behind me must have been looking at it, because the other one said, "I heard that play was really bad -- Buffalo Boy." There was a pause before his friend replied, "...It's American Buffalo." The first guy was unperturbed, "Whatever it's called. It got terrible reviews." You know, he heard. He didn't actually read them himself, or know anything about the play. Conversations like that make me wonder how anything ever stays open longer than a week.

Last night I went to the first performance of The American Plan, MTC's revival of the Richard Greenberg play. The husband and I were in the first row of the mezzanine, which was nice (you don't want to sit farther back than that, because the mezz is so steeply raked you'll be looking down at the actors' scalps all night). Behind us were a couple of middle-aged guys. They seemed the cranky type. They also turned out to be the type of audience members who react out loud to things every now and then -- the kind that hear a significant line and acknowledge it by going "Hm." Why do people do that?

The mezz was only half-full, and just before the show began I saw the usher encouraging people to move down and fill in the empty seats. So at intermission a couple must have decided to do just that, and settled on a pair of seats two rows behind me. Alas, that was their fatal mistake. I didn't notice them until I heard a woman's voice protest, "...I didn't kick you!" And one of the guys behind me roared back, "Well, SOMEONE kicked me, and if you don't WATCH IT I'll call the USHER over here!"

The woman gasped, "Well!" And her husband (I assume -- I was trying very hard not to get involved, so I didn't turn around) said, "I don't think we want to sit here after all..." I can't really blame him for adding, as he was leaving, "...Not with this jerk."

Of course the guy behind me reacted as though this were an outrageously unjust attack. "Ex-CUSE me?!" He shrieked. "You're a jerk!" the man who actually had been unjustly attacked replied. (He was ignoring his wife's attempts to drag him away from the maniacs in row CC.) Then the jerky guy threatened to beat up the other guy, and the other guy called him "insane" (again, only speaking the truth). It culminated in the jerk behind me shouting, "Well you're a fucking ASSHOLE! FUCK you!" Getting the attention of everyone else in the mezzanine. For a moment I really thought these two late-middle-aged audience members were going to start slugging each other in the aisle. But happily, the not-obviously-crazy man decided to walk away, though he tossed off a final retort: "Fuck YOU. You're a nasty old... fart." And I admit I was cheering inside when I heard that, because, Ha! This guy was totally a nasty old fart.

I don't know what the other old fart who was sitting behind me did while this was going on. He may have been participating in the shouting of insults and threats -- since I was trying not to look in their direction, I couldn't exactly tell these guys apart. Or he may have been pretending he'd found a really interesting Playbill article at just that moment. He certainly didn't try to talk his friend down, and I didn't get the sense either was embarrassed. I suppose this wasn't the first time Old Fart #1 went off at some innocent bystander because of a very minor perceived slight. You'd be pretty used to it if you hung out with him a lot.

I guess the old farts were emboldened by their thuggish behavior during intermission, because the unnecessary vocal reactions got worse during Act Two. Now it wasn't just "Hm," but "Oh Jesus" and "Ohhhhh shit!" and "She's got 'im now" and "...That was a good line." I had assumed these guys were gay (as I normally do when two middle-aged men are at the theatre together), but they reacted to a smattering of "homosexual content" like they were eleven years old, so now I don't know what to think (besides GROW UP, LOSERS). Also, one or both of them had purchased a box of Good & Plentys at the concession stand (Dear Samuel J. Friedman Theatre: Please don't sell those), and they ate them noisily throughout the evening. Rattling the box... Chewing loudly... Rattling the box some more. Normally that sort of thing calls for a meaningful glance or two over the shoulder, on the off chance that the person will realize that he is disturbing people with his behavior and (this is the iffy part) care enough to do something about it. But no way was I shooting any dirty looks at these guys. (The people next to me were similarly stoic.) Who knows what kind of profane tirade that would provoke. So, as usual, I just made mental notes and saved it all for you. Happy New Year!

Friday, January 2, 2009

I don't know how I feel about this

Last night I was watching one of those true-crime shows on Investigation: Discovery, and an investigator who was being interviewed got my attention by saying, "...the victim succame to his wounds."

Yes, succame: that would be the past tense of succumb. I'm equal parts delighted and horrified.