Tuesday, September 20, 2011

It's a scandal, it's a outrage

So this is apparently real:
PITTSBURGH (AP) — A Pennsylvania school district has decided not to stage a Tony Award-winning musical about a Muslim street poet after community members complained about the timing so soon after the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
The show: Kismet. And although I read this story thinking "There has to be more to it," there isn't, at least not according to the public reports. School district officials didn't find anything objectionable in the content, but the dropped it anyway, because Kismet has Muslim characters. And by the way, by "so soon after the tenth anniversary..." they mean in February. February of 2012.

Now, I'm not sure high school students should ever attempt to put on Kismet, because the music is difficult. But the idea that mentioning the existence of Baghdad or Islam - in a cartoonish way, in a 1950s stage musical - would be somehow inappropriate would never have crossed my mind. (Unless it was decided that the content, cartoonish as it is, was insensitive to Muslims, but we are very far away from that sort of thinking here.)
[School superintendent Thomas] Fleming said sensitivity about the play is understandable because of Flight 93's demise in nearby Shanksville, and because the sudden death of a drama student in a car crash affected students last year.
Oh Lord, it's like the "Ground Zero Mosque" nonsense all over again, smaller and dumber. I don't care where you are; if you're offended by the mention of Arabia, you shouldn't be humored. And that last part might be relevant if (a) the show were being canceled altogether, because the drama students are too upset to put it on regardless of its content, or (b) the show were about a car crash. It does not explain why they have to switch to a different show because someone realized that the guy who sings "Baubles, Bangles and Beads" is a Muslim (and so were the terrorists!).

When I read the brief story in the Johnstown Tribune Democrat, I gathered that what Fleming must have been trying to say is that he feels the kids have been through enough already, and they're trying to protect them from futher turmoil. They're educators, after all:
"We’re in the business of trying to do what’s best for the kids – not to do anything detrimental if we can avoid it."
Yes, think of the lessons they might learn if the performance were allowed to go on.

But wait! This is the best part:
The play has no inappropriate content, [music director Scott] Miller said, but he and other members of the performing arts committee decided to switch to "Oklahoma!" after hearing complaints.
I'd like to think of this as a sly act of rebellion on the part of the "performing arts committee." I just hope nobody tells those concerned community members about Ali Hakim until opening night.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Dressing for yet one more spree

Bernadette Peters in Follies: yes, please! I was looking forward to this show for months - we made it our first night out without the baby. My review is posted at Verdicts, Commonweal's new books-and-culture blog. Read it here.

Looking back at what I wrote about the Encores! production four years ago, I see this version has many of the same high points and low points. The high points are not quite as exhiliaratingly high, but on the other hand, I like this Buddy and Phyllis better.

The biggest disappointment, for me, was Elaine Paige, who I thought did a lousy job with "I'm Still Here." Looking back I guess I shouldn't have been surprised; she sang it exactly the way you would expect it to be sung by someone who has spent her career singing Andrew Lloyd Webber music and Tim Rice lyrics. She seemed determined to sell it on the strength of her belting alone, which meant every time she got to the release ("I've gotten through Herbert and J. Edgar Hoover..."), she lost track, as an actress, of what her character was saying, and the lyrics got lost in the noise. Plus she had a pop-twang in her voice that doesn't quite work for a musical written and set in 1971 and referencing song styles from the decades before that. Also, she has a very unflattering costume. It's this bright blue dress with a fur wrap around the shoulders and a slit up the leg that makes her look the shape of a slice of pizza standing on its pointy end.

Even if I loved her performance I think I would have been turned off by her bio in the Playbill. I swear, this is what it says:

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Yours taste buds will sore

Our go-to pizza place is called Luigi's. It's close and fairly consistent, and a good compromise for our respective expectations when it comes to pizza (you can't get a good Old Forge-style tray around here anyway). I did not know, until I looked at the menu just now, that this establishment is officially called "Luigi's Gourmet Grill." The pizza is tasty enough, but "gourmet" might be raising expectations a bit too high. "Grill," too, come to think of it. I'm pretty sure they use ovens. Perhaps that's why, online, it is also known as "Luigi's Gourmet Pizza" or just "Luigi's Pizza."

Anyway, I am looking at the menu because I want to share with you some text that appears on it, just beneath the restaurant name and above the stock image of a gondola. (Luigi's goes in whole hog on the "Italian" clip art on its menu, pizza boxes, awning, etc., despite the fact that -- as far as I can tell -- every single person who works there is Hispanic.) I know you will find this sample of found poetry as mesmerizing as I do:
Walk Up & Enjoy Your Favorite Foods, Prepaired as the Day Arrives.
We Use Only the Finest Ingredients,
Yours Taste Buds
Will Sore & Bring You Back Time After Time.
We Will Be Happy to Assist You.
The other thing I love about Luigi's is that there is a sign, printed on 8.5 by 11 paper and posted on the wall in several places in the small eat-in area, urging customers not to loiter too long. Except it doesn't simply say that. It begins "Here at Luigi's, we are all family..." -- which is about as far from describing reality as is calling the place a "gourmet grill" -- and it goes on at great length about how one should be thoughtful and make room for other patrons/family members. There's something a little deranged about it, and I always wonder whether it was actually posted by the management, or (as I suspect, especially given the complex English syntax) typed up, laminated, and posted by a nosy patron who is perhaps the only person in the world who likes to hang out there. Luigi's: come for the decent pizza; stay for the perplexing signage.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Krup you

Previously on Restricted View, we noted with approval that Stephen Sondheim does not like it when someone levels a negative judgment against a work of theatre that he or she has not seen. When John Lahr did so with Sweeney Todd, according to the account in Finishing the Hat, Sondheim complained to the editor and "then wrote Lahr himself a letter, saying that although it was his privilege to give a show both barrels of his contempt, I thought he ought to see it first."

Maybe that Stephen Sondheim ought to have a talk with the Stephen Sondheim who wrote this crankypants letter to The New York Times, unloading both barrels of his contempt in the direction of the new Broadway-bound production of Porgy and Bess and everyone connected with it (all women, incidentally) based on what he read about it in Sunday's arts section. Because that seems like something the Stephen Sondheim who complained to John Lahr might think twice about doing!

For what it's worth, I read Patrick Healy's piece on the new Porgy and Bess with interest, and without forming a strong opinion. I know and love the score, or at least the score's highlights, but I haven't seen the show and can't evaluate the judgments of Diane Paulus et al. one way or the other. They certainly sounded plausible to me. Perhaps they're totally wrongheaded, but if so, the proof will be in the pudding, and I'm curious to see how it turns out. Sondheim seems to have been set off by the perceived disrespect for DuBose Heyward (the letter reminded me that "Ira Gershwin wasn't all that great" is one of the tiresomely repetitive motifs in Finishing the Hat), and he may have a point there. But he went on from there at great length in many surprising directions. For one thing, I'm pretty sure I've heard him say things about the shortcomings of opera in general that line up closely with what Paulus et al. said in Healy's story, making his touchiness here seem odd. There's also the fact that he has been sanguine, even defensive, about revisionary takes on his own work that seemed to me much more obviously misguided than what the Porgy team is undertaking at ART. And then there's the fact that attacking fellow artists -- in such personal terms -- without letting their work stand on its feet first is, as they say in French, kind of a dick move.

What's the bitchiest part of the letter? Tough call, but I think it's this, which left me wondering, "What did Audra McDonald ever do to you?":
[Audra McDonald] says that Bess is “often more of a plot device than a full-blooded character.” Often? Meaning sometimes she’s full-blooded and other times not? She’s always full-blooded when she’s acted full-bloodedly, as she was by, among others, Clamma Dale and Leontyne Price. Ms. McDonald goes on to say, “The opera has the makings of a great love story … that I think we’re bringing to life.” Wow, who’d have thought there was a love story hiding in “Porgy and Bess” that just needed a group of visionaries to bring it out?
Who'd have thought there was a tetchy letter-writing crank hiding in Stephen Sondheim that just needed an article about a bunch of women experimenting with Porgy and Bess to bring it out?

Monday, August 1, 2011

Safe at home with our beautiful prize

"Since Celia's baby was born, she had a new sense of her mental solidity and wisdom. It seemed clear that where there was a baby, things were right enough, and that error, in general, was a mere lack of that central poising force."

- George Eliot, Middlemarch

So, the happy ending: We have a son! His name is Martin George. He was not quite as enormous as predicted. And he's wonderful.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

In a little while, just a little while...

A couple years ago I bought a journal from Ex Libris Anonymous as a gift for a friend who was expecting. The good people at E.L.A. make journals out of discarded old books, leaving a few key pages of the original inside along with the blank paper. The book I bought was Mother and Baby Care in Pictures by Louise Zabriskie, RN, a sort of proto-What to Expect when You're Expecting published in 1935 (this edition was from the '40s). I spent some time browsing before I wrapped it up for my pregnant friend, and it was so terrific I found myself wishing they'd left more pages intact. Although this review of the book from 1935 suggests that I should be grateful to have missed pages 68-71. Imagine, giving people detailed information on what the labor and delivery process involves! That might fly with your "younger generation," but no "old family doctor" would stand for it. Parents-to-be should be either zonked on drugs or barred from the hospital entirely, the way God intended.

I had a feeling I'd find this book helpful someday, so I scanned a few illustrations for future reference. And now that my own pregnancy is nearly at an end -- and by that I mean the baby is arriving tomorrow -- let's take a moment to see how I've done.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Funny enough

It was the reviews that convinced me I needed to see Born Yesterday on Broadway. My initial reaction was something like, "Eh, there's a movie, and the movie has Judy Holliday, and I'm very happy with that, thanks." But reviews like Michael Feingold's made it sound like something much more exciting than a run-of-the-mill revival of a reliable old comedy was happening at the Cort. And you know I love Feingold. So I went, and I'm sorry to say it was pretty much what I would have expected if I hadn't read any of those reviews. Fine, entertaining enough, but not especially good.

I should say that Jim Belushi was out last night, and perhaps that threw everyone else's game off more than I could detect. But his understudy, Bill Christ, was just fine, and the problems I had with the production wouldn't have been fixed by a stronger presence in that one role. Basically, I didn't see the "snappy" and sensitive direction Feingold saw; what I saw was much more in line with what I've come to expect from Doug Hughes after A Man for All Seasons and Inherit the Wind. If you want to make an old play feel fresh, I don't think Hughes is your man. In this case, there was a void where much of the emotional content should have been.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Tony memories

So little attention was I paying in the run-up to the Tonys last night that I didn't even know the show had moved from Radio City to the Beacon until it began. From where I sit, the move was an upgrade -- the broadcast actually seemed professionally produced (as befits a show that pays tribute to live theatre). The performers seemed able to hear the orchestra! What a difference that makes.

In terms of professionalism and general skill, the opening "It's not just for gays anymore!" number was the best I've seen, maybe ever. On the other hand -- well, here's what I said last year: "I just don't think the motto of the Tonys should be 'Broadway: It's Not So Bad!'" Alas, so much for what I think.

Some other thoughts, as I watched:

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Oh, is that on tonight?

I can't think of a year when I've been less excited about the Tony Awards than I am now. I have been a bit distracted from paying attention to the Broadway scene this winter and spring, so that accounts for some of my lack of enthusiasm. But even when I have made it to the theatre I seem to have seen all the wrong shows, at least if the Tony nominating committee is to be trusted. And you know, I'm not certain that they are. In past years, I've managed to see at least a couple of shows that gave me something to be excited about -- I may have seen only one of the nominated Leading Actor in a Play performances, but if I could feel good about that nomination, I had a reason to cheer. This year, even the shows and performances I have seen aren't inspiring me to root for anyone special. (Here is the official list of nominees.)

For example, I saw Arcadia, which I thought was quite good. It has a big cast with several very strong performances -- in general I thought the British cast members were stronger than the Americans, and if I were to recommend individual actors for Tony nominations, Billy Crudup would probably be the last name on my list. And Billy Crudup was the only member of that cast to be nominated. Hooray?

I also saw That Championship Season, which went completely unacknowledged by the nominators. Not even a Best Revival of a Play nod! Ouch. I didn't think it was great, but it wasn't an embarrassment either, and I'm surprised it was so completely snubbed. Maybe the American Theatre Wing took my griping too much to heart? Last year I complained about the celebrity-worship on display at the Tonys -- Catherine Zeta-Jones winning an award immediately after her completely horrifying live performance of "Send in the Clowns" was a low point. In a conversation on Facebook, I griped, "Next year they're going to skip the plays altogether and just hand out Tonys to any movie star they can get to show up. And then do a tribute to Glee, because why the hell not." I have been proven wrong. To look at the list of nominees, you would never know that such stars of film and teevee as Daniel Radcliffe, Kiefer Sutherland, Chris Noth, Dan Lauria, Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, and Robin Williams all had major roles (and positive reviews!) on Broadway this year. I guess that's progress? Of course, there's still the chance (very high) that the broadcast will make the most of any famous faces it can find. And I wouldn't rule out a random tribute to Glee. But when it comes to the actual nominations, I'm wondering whether the committee leaned a little too hard in the opposite direction.

Speaking of Robin Williams: last night I saw Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo. His performance didn't blow me away, but it was solid and disciplined, and a nomination wouldn't have been a mistake in my opinion. I'm glad one other actor, Arian Moayed, did get nominated, even if he's really more of a "leading" than a "featured" performer in that play. But why on earth wasn't the play itself nominated? No love for Rajiv Joseph? There's extra room in the Best Play category. I didn't see any of the shows that actually were nominated, so I can't say whether it's better than any or all of them, but it's certainly good enough to get recognized. It's better than, say, God of Carnage. And when we have a new, notable American play running on Broadway, why be stingy with the recognition?

I think the main reason I'm so grumpy about what did and did not get recognized (despite my failure to see many of the favorites) is that one show I did manage to see is Sister Act. And it was terrible. So bad I scrapped my plans to review it, because what's the point? It's not even bad in an interesting way, it's just why-is-this-show-so-insulting-to-my-intelligence bad. Yet somehow the nominating committee found room for Sister Act in nearly every category set aside for musicals. I will grant them a Best Score nomination; some of those 1970s R&B pastiche numbers are pretty amusing. But Best Book is an outrage, and honestly the whole thing should have been overlooked in embarrassed silence. I just hope it doesn't actually win anything.

So: was it an off year for Broadway, or just for the Tony powers-that-be? Or was it just an off year for me? I'm not sure, but I do know I'm barely motivated to tune in tonight. I still will, of course, and there's always the hope that the broadcast will be surprisingly professional and enjoyable!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Into the words

I got Stephen Sondheim's book Finishing the Hat for Christmas (obvs), and I spent a lot of that snowed-in vacation reading it. But I didn't feel moved to attempt a full on review, because it strikes me as a fans-only sort of book. You know if you'll like it. You'll like it if you think you will. Just having an authorized print edition of all these lyrics is a treat; the commentary (and the memorabilia) is a bonus. But I wouldn't bother recommending the book to someone who wasn't already convinced of Sondheim's significance and at least somewhat familiar with the shows included. I don't know what such a person would get out of it, especially without the music to go along with the words -- better to listen to a few cast albums. And as a book, it's not a masterpiece -- it's interesting but repetitive, not as tightly conceived or edited as it could have been. A candy store for a fan, and I'll be in line for the next volume, naturally. But I'm not sure non-fans should feel compelled to pay attention.

I was surprised, then, by all the serious reviews of Finishing the Hat I saw, and by how they continued to trickle out throughout the spring. I was finally moved to write about it myself by reading Judith Flanders's take in the Times Literary Supplement.

First, she says this, which I think is just right:
[I]t is a partial autobiography of a life in the theatre told in the interstices of a very useful – and enjoyable – collection of his lyrics, combined with introductions and running commentaries telling us why a song didn’t work, or why a replacement did. This part of the book is a revelation and a pleasure, setting out Sondheim’s beliefs and principles, and outlining, in a way academics mostly fail to do, how a show actually works.
There were places I wished he'd said more, and places where I disagreed with his judgment (I will never be convinced that the rewritten Merrily We Roll Along is, overall, an improvement on the admittedly flawed original). But I found it fascinating -- as I think any fan would.

Flanders also pinpoints the reason Finishing the Hat left me with a sour taste:

Monday, May 23, 2011

Me in the Guardian

Just wanted to let you know that I've been published on the Guardian's website. Here is my answer to the question, "Is the Catholic abuse scandal over?" based on the latest John Jay report (which is a long and dry but frequently fascinating read). Seeing my writing translated into British punctuation and spelling is the fulfillment of a dream I didn't even know I had. I believe the proper term for how I'm feeling is "chuffed."

In other what-I've-been-working-on news: I have a review of the new J. Courtney Sullivan novel, Maine, in the just-published June 3 Commonweal. Those of you discerning enough to subscribe can read it here. (Short version: I liked it.)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A quick "High"

This past weekend I saw a new play, Matthew Lombardo's High, which I intended to review for Commonweal. This morning I saw an announcement that the play will close on Sunday. Too bad; I didn't love everything about it, but I did admire its serious, no-irony-quotes approach to and depiction of religion. In gratitude, I was looking forward to writing a review that didn't feel the need to say "Wuh-oh, this is no ordinary nun!!!" The show has shortcomings, but inability to stop snickering at the mere mention of religious sisters thankfully isn't one of them.

Anyway, I turned my thoughts into a blog post at dotCommonweal. Read it here, and have a very happy Holy Week!

[Photo by Joan Marcus]

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Some victims are more victim-y than others

I have already admitted my weakness for true-crime television. Not all the time, mind you; just when I'm too tired to use my brain much and too dumb to go to bed instead. That's how I found myself watching 20/20 last night. The show focused on the 2007 murder of Rhoni Reuter, a case that got lots of attention due to the fact that the victim was carrying the child of former Chicago Bears player Shaun Gayle. I say the show focused on Reuter's murder, but really it focused on the fact that Gayle agreed to be interviewed exclusively on ABC.

I know they have to choose a framework for these stories, but it's awfully annoying when the framework they choose is a bad fit for the facts. In this case, the framework was: Poor, grieving, noble Shaun Gayle! His "girlfriend of 18 years" was murdered, along with his baby, and then he had to endure the indignity of being considered the most likely suspect, first by the police and then in the public eye. Now that someone else has been convicted, it's natural enough to structure the story around Gayle's innocence, and that's obviously the reason he wanted to do the show in the first place. But there's a much more interesting story they could have told if only they weren't so committed to flattering Shaun Gayle. (In fact, the writeup on the 20/20 website is more interesting than the program was.) Here's the summary from the press release:
The headlines exploded when it was discovered that the handsome sports legend was the unborn baby's father, and when rumors circulated that he and Rhoni did not have a committed relationship, investigators put Gayle's hero status aside and became very suspicious. Then more confusion: Not only did the famous athlete provide an alibi, but he pointed the finger at someone else -- a Polish model he once dated who, he says, ended up stalking him. For almost two years the case remained a mystery, until police made a startling discovery... There was someone else who had been obsessed with Shaun Gayle -- his real estate agent, Marni Yang. But it's how the police lay a trap for this woman that has everyone surprised, resulting in a secret recording with the killer's own words detailing exactly what happened.
That "Polish model he once dated"? When the interviewer, Juju Chang, inquired, very gently, as to the extent of their relationship, Gayle replied: "We spent some time together." She asked, still gently, for clarification, and he repeated himself. He meant that they'd had sex. And, it turns out, they had sex not many many years earlier (like, before Gayle and Reuter's eighteen-year relationship began), but fairly shortly before Reuter's murder. At least, that's what I read between the lines, because 20/20 didn't ask Gayle to answer the obvious questions like, "Were you cheating on Rhoni? Did you cheat on her a lot during your 18-year relationship?"

Oh, and "his real estate agent" -- the one who actually did commit the murder? He'd "spent time with" her, too.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Catherine, in several convenient locations

If you subscribe to Commonweal -- and for goodness's sake, why wouldn't you? You can get 6 months' worth for just $17! -- you can read my review of Don Brophy's biography Catherine of Siena: A Passionate Life in our latest issue. St. Catherine is one of my very favorite saints and has had my back for some time now, so I was delighted to get this assignment and pleased to be able to recommend the book. It was also nice to have a chance to complain about the prayer card I picked up at her tomb in Rome, which referred to her possessing "the particular privilege of virginity and of patience" but left out some of her more notable, less passive qualities.

I mention at the beginning of the review that Catherine's head is in Siena, along with a thumb, while her body lies in Rome. Turns out my inventory wasn't quite complete, as I noted in a follow-up blog post today at dotCommonweal. (You don't have to subscribe to read that.) Looks like I need to go to Venice!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Credits where credit is due

Whether or not you make it to Kathy Griffin's run on Broadway, I commend to you her Playbill bio, which you can read here (beginning with paragraph 3). Much of it falls under "trying too hard" or "anxious to let you know it's funny" -- compare and contrast with Eddie Izzard's understated joke-bio from Joe Egg -- but there are a few excellent lines. My favorite is this credit: "Neil LaBute's I Hate You But I Won't Say It Till It Can Do the Most Damage (Dead Whore)."

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Goodbye, Liz

Not long ago -- perhaps on seeing the tab cover pictured here -- I said to the husband, "I wonder what tabloids like The National Enquirer will do once Elizabeth Taylor actually dies." They've been reporting from her supposed deathbed for so long that I'm pretty sure I first encountered Dame Liz in that context -- standing in line at the supermarket as a kid, noticing that this lady, whoever she was, was "near death" yet again. I guess now we will find out who takes her place. This graphic, by the way, comes from the Enquirer's website, where they are just giddy with the news: "As The ENQUIRER exclusively first reported Taylor's days were numbered when she was first rushed to the hospital six weeks ago." Yes, well, broken clocks.

Farewell, Dame Liz. I hope they're airing Dancing with the Stars wherever you are. (I note with some sadness her final tweet, from February 9: "My interview in Bazaar with Kim Kardashian came out!!!")

But seriously, folks, a tribute is in order. If you had to choose a Liz Taylor movie to watch this week, which would it be?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

This is why Mom makes you eat the crust

I was always told eating the crust on my sandwich would make my hair curl, which turned out to be a lie. But apparently the crust has a more vital role: it protects your sandwich from "contamination."

'Jamwich' Crustless Sandwiches Recalled

SCRANTON - Giant grocery stores have removed "Peanut Butter and Strawberry Jamwich" crustless sandwiches, manufactured by Pierre Foods, from the shelves after being warned of possible contamination.
I saw that headline and fully expected the text of the article to read, "Obviously. Because they're disgusting." But the truth is much more sinister. You can return your Jamwiches to the Giant for a free refund. The only problem is you'll have to admit you bought them in the first place.

P.S. Reader challenge: Apparently they also sell these things in vending machines. How hungry would you have to be before you bought and ate one? Leave your nightmare scenarios in the comments!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Departing from the formula

I direct your attention to a fine "critiquing the critics" post over at dotCommonweal -- written by my colleague Paul Moses, who took issue with Ben Brantley's review of That Championship Season. Paul hasn't seen the production under review, and neither have I, but I think he's right to be surprised by Brantley's attack on the play itself. It's out of character for Brantley to strike this edgier-than-thou pose. I expect this sort of "I am not impressed by your award-winning play" sniffing from Isherwood (see here, for example), but Brantley? And reviewing a play with a bunch of movie stars in it? No women, sure, but still. Very odd.

I certainly won't dispute the observation that That Championship Season is marked by "formal old-fashionedness," nor that it "appears to have been assembled according to the rule book of Playwriting 101, 1952 edition." But I would suggest that this is by design. I'll just repeat what I said in my comment over at dotComm:
I often find that Brantley will make what strikes me as a keen observation, and then go on to draw exactly the opposite conclusion from it. This is a perfect example:
Though littered with four-letter words, “Season” has a clean, mechanical structure in which revelations arrive like well-run trains at a station. Theatergoers who felt hip enough to be lambasted for being middle-class sell-outs but not hip enough for the experimental ambiguities of an Albee play could sit back and enjoy American traditionalism being attacked in the traditional style to which they were accustomed.
He goes on to refer to the play’s “perverse comfort factor.” To me, what distinguishes the play is its discomfort factor — the combination of the old-fashioned, disciplined structure with increasingly unsettling revelations about American values, small-town pieties, and human nature. That’s exactly what he puts his finger on in the quote above, except that he gets the analysis backward. It seems to me the play is designed to let you get comfortable and then make you squirm.

Also: I haven’t seen this production, but I know the play well, and in my opinion this review contains unnecessary plot-spoilers. I guess Brantley figured no one who read it would want to see the show, so he might as well go ahead and ruin it?

Seriously: if you plan to see That Championship Season and you never have before, don't read Brantley's review. I hope to see it myself, so I'll stop there. Hey, maybe this will make tickets easier to come by?

(By the way, dotCommonweal is always a good place to look for me when things are quiet here! Check out what I've been posting lately.)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

This Disney World attraction is a lot more amusing than I remembered

As we prepare celebrate Presidents Day, I hope you'll take this opportunity to reflect on our nation's long, proud, imaginary alternative history. Yes, there have been dark times. But for every Daniel Flintstone, there's a Liam F. Stitches all Americans can be proud of. (Via Wonkette.)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The "Shepherd Me, O God" investigation continues

In August I blogged about something I thought was strange: the use of Marty Haugen's tune for "Shepherd Me O God," his setting of the 23rd Psalm, as background music on multiple episodes of 48 Hours. No scandal broke as a result of my posting, but I'm following up anyway, because now I have evidence. Tonight I turned on an episode of 48 Hours: Hard Evidence (the repackaged reruns that air on Investigation Discovery) about 20 minutes in. Before long, there it was: "Shepherd Me, O God," playing completely incongruously in the background.

The episode is titled "Deep Secret." You can watch it on the CBS website. But for our purposes, just skip ahead to 41:18, and you'll hear it, played on a piano, verse and refrain. There are some embellishments, but it's unmistakably Haugen. (For comparison's sake: here's "Shepherd Me, O God.") If you watch to the end, you'll see lots of credits for outside footage, but no music credit aside from "Music composed by Richard Fiocca." (He wrote the theme music, according to his website -- which you shouldn't visit, unless you like websites that automatically play music and don't even have a mute button.)

So: what gives?