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Monday, February 11, 2019

Yes! But is it Art? Nude/Naked/Naked/Nude

Sorel Carradine and
Bjørn Johnson
Nude/Naked by Paul Hoan Zeidler asks the eternal question: What is Art? Of course, the answer is still and always blowin' in the wind.  The winds of time are winds of change and the question asked here advances the idea, perhaps, that it's up to us to embrace or condemn what may appear as perversion: pornography or high Art. Zeidler, directing his own work, asks and answers his own questions. 

The question of morality and nude photos goes on and on with Robert Mapplethorpe's sensational black and white photos and before him Ruth Bernard's spectacular photographs. The questions that Zeidler asks are validated and hyped by the reference to Bennett Duquesnes's (pronounced Do Kane) (Bjørn Johnson) altercation with a protester at an exhibit of his work in a Pittsburgh gallery ten years prior.  In 2009, Youtube and the internet were well underway then, but in 2019 the flurry of Instagram videos and virtually instantaneous broadcast of any event where one person has an iPhone, the salacious will always take precedence over the mundane.  Trolls are standing by to hack and condemn just about anything.
 
Sorel Carradine and
Jonathan E. Grey
Zeidler's polemic turns to how tabloid mentality is truly rampant in the United States today. Through the device of recorded 'television and radio' shows that are broadcast with static intervals to depict the quick changing of stations: Right Wing and Religious talk radio broadcast strong condemnation of the photographer's work.  This all because of an unfortunate and somewhat inexplicable shooting of a student of Bennett's, Julian Simic (Lucas Alifano), by Addy's boyfriend, Stevie (Steven Tyler Howell).  A thin device of Julian's being an obnoxious drunk and an easily available hand gun boost Bennett and Addy back into the spotlight.
As Julian's girlfriend Darcy,  Asia Lynn Pitts, (who does double duty as a sneaky journalist) finds her way out of the melee that we eventually see in flashback, which tended to confuse the story somewhat for me. 
Because of their new notoriety, Bennett and Addy, who have been virtual partners, bringing them to attention and success in the past, the whole issue of "naked vs nude" rises and forces them to defend their relationship as well as the art that they collaborate on.  
 
Is Duquesne's relationship with Addy, (Sorel Carradine) his daughter 'unusual?'  Or are they dedicated artists truly collaborating as photographer and model to further the concept of the human body as worthy of capture?  Both are artists.  The visceral response collides with a rational look at the intention of the photos of Addy published ten years earlier in a book: "Thirteen, Fourteen, Fifteen", a nude survey of her adolescence, which, to me, makes not only the idea of the 'art photos' valid, but also exacerbates the limbic reactions by those who find "nakedness!" unacceptable, with the term 'naked' rising to the surface in a pejorative way.  Fascinating.  

An attempt by Hank (Jonathan E. Grey), Bennett's attorney, to calm things down... smoothing the waters so to speak, spins out of control because of Bennett's unwillingness to find a compromise. He repeats the phrase, "It's in the photos," over and over again when the issue is about the relationship with Addy (and referring to other less controversial photos made in Syria) and how the photos were made. 

The relationship between father and daughter is not all together clear and events from Addy's past at the age of thirteen unfold. The issue of her parents' divorce adds to the texture of the piece. Indeed, the issue of 'texture' becomes a point in their collaboration.

Clearly, Zeidler is taking aim at the under educated and less sophisticated 'Right' with the radio and television voices which were somewhat muddled and too obviously provocative, to me.   

A final scene with Bennett and Addy excitedly discovering a dagger of light that has slashed through the living room with Addy quickly stripping to the nude and Bennett doing his best to shoot her movement choices reflects the absolute collaboration of their Art Making.  

A delicate conclusion is poignant and gives pause to the relationship the two have shared for the elapsed ten years between Addy at the age of thirteen and her now adult reaction to her own world and the world of her father and their art. 

Provocative and well done.    

NUDE/NAKED by Paul Horan Zeidler
McCadden Place Theatre
1157 N. McCadden Place
Los Angeles, CA 90038
Tickets and information
323 468 1008
Closing soon. 


Sunday, February 3, 2019

McDonagh's Cripple of Inishmaan / Fripple Frapples

  Martin McDonagh is an artist of many talents.  I was recently reminded that McDonagh is not only a playwright, but an Academy Award nominated screen writer/producer/director. He has been called 'a bloody and outlandish storyteller,' witness his self referential film, "Seven Psychopaths" where the main character, a screen writer named "Marty", is  pals with crooks who kidnap dogs for the reward money. His written by, produced by and directed by screenplay, "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" shows his triple threat of creativity. Cripple's director, Steven Robman, reminds us that this author and his work are an 'enormous gift.'  Indeed.

 Antaeus Theatre Company's presentation of The Cripple of Inishmaan  is substantially less bloody than McDonagh's  "Seven Psychopaths" but has its moments. The most honest moments of the play, however, turn on the quirky rural culture where survival is a day by day activity. The deep and visceral connection that each of the characters have with their community and with one another is complicated. Secrets are revealed from time to time.  

Inishmaan is a wee Aran island community off the west coast of Ireland where the local news is broadcast regularly by Johnnypateenmike (JD Cullum) for tips of food. He prefers eggs to fekkin' peas!  
Julia Fletcher and Kitty Swink
Photo by Geoffrey Wade Photography

With Antaeus tradition of  double casting, the theatre is fortunate to have depth and breadth in their talent larder so as to invite comparison, giving  audiences the opportunity to return to see how energies and attitudes may shift a bit from a Mallow to a Frapple.    

The Fripple Frapples bring McDonagh's scenes immediately to life.  Within each well honed character the engine that drives the story emerges. Robman's finely tuned direction sets the pace and rigor of the show beautifully.  There's a lilt and a flow to the language that McDonagh's Irish accents embellish.  Some nuances are subtle. Often the message is more direct.  Be honest. Stay true. Pay your debts.

My previous review tells the basic story: Billy, (Matthew Grondin) suffers from birth defects that have plagued him for all of his sixteen years. Taken in by two odd "Aunties": Eileen (Julia Fletcher) and Kate (loopy Kitty Swink) who run the general store on the island of Inishmaan. Early on, Bartley's (Joey Millin) longing for his 'sweeties' and a telescope factor in the most amusing way.  

All of his life, Billy has muddled through insults and the issues of his being deformed. In addition to his physical woes, he is all together plagued by (and smitten with Bartley's sister, the crusty russet maned rascal,  Helen (Abby Wilde). Helen makes it very clear that she'll brook no nonsense from anyone, including the local Catholic clergy whom she brags that she's pegged with eggs in retaliation for having her arse groped at choir practice!

Billy longs to escape the ties that bind him to Inishmaan and when hearing from Johnnypateenmike of a Hollywood film production on the neighboring island of Inishmore, he coaxes Babbybobby (Seamus Deaver) to ferry him across the seas, along with Helen and  Bartley to get into the movies. Billy's goal: to escape Inishmaan and to become his own person: even a famous Hollywood actor. (How hard could that be?)

Johnnypateenmike's life's goal has been to see his Mammy (Anne Gee Byrd!!) deadTo that end, he encourages her to drink... a lot. The business of his owing her a hundred pounds for many years factors in an ironic way. 
Matthew Grondin and Phil Ptoctor
Photo by Geoffrey Wade Photography

Scenes with Dr. McSherry (Philip Proctor) attempting to treat dear old Mammy are hilarious. Later, while dealing with injuries sustained by Billy, we hear that misdeeds are debts that must be paid.


Deception and emerging secrets slowly evolve to share personal revelations and a wee bit of redemption.

John Iacovelli's rustic set reflects the rugged coast of InishmaanProjections and lighting by Kaitlyn Pietras and Jason H. Thompson are perfect.   

Antaeus Theatre Company presents

The Cripple of Inishmaan by

Martin McDonagh

Directed by Steven Robman

Kiki and David Gindler Performing Arts Center

110 E. Broadway

Glendale, California 91205  
Through March 11, 2019

Tickets and information 

818 506 5436

info@antaeus.org

The play is double cast. Check the Antaeus website for information for each cast. See them both for an education in well done theatre.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

INISHMAAN at Antaeus Yalla Mallows

THE CRIPPLE OF INISHMAAN, Martin McDonagh's wonderful Irish story, echoes the actual filming of Robert J. Flaherty's 1934 "documentary," "Man of Aran." We are transported to the westerly side of the Emerald Isle to the Island of Inishmaan, the middle of the Aran Islands.  Inishmaan  is all a buzz to hear the local news via the bombastic JohnnyPateenMike
Stephen Caffrey
Photo by Geoffrey Wade Photograph
(Stephen  Caffrey) whose daily rounds of reporting the news are paid with goods from those on the island who don't find his stories boring.  
We find him in the general store of Kate and Eileen (Rhonda Aldrich and Julia Fletcher) whose banter enlivens us to the accents and rhythms of the play in such a way as to fall in love.  They are the adopted "aunties" of Cripple Billy (Ian Littleworth) whose parents were lost at sea just after his difficult birth.  Sadly his birth defects have made him  a target for bullies and cast him as a loserBilly is a reader and is plagued for his efforts by the relentless local
Ian Littleworth and Emily Goss
Photo by Geoffrey Wade Photography
Hellion: Helen (pretty Emily Goss) whose potty mouth and genuinely scary demeanor pretty much have the rest of the residents of Inishmaan on guard. Her poor brother, Bartley (Sebastian Fernandez) falls victim to her rants and attacks through out. His desires for "sweeties" (thus the cast names of Yalla Mallows and Fripple Frapples) is sweet and endearing in it's silliness.

We meet BabbyBobby (John Bobek) as he prepares his curragh to sail to the neighboring island, Inishmore, where Flaherty's filming is going on. Helen and Bartley hope to be in the movie and Billy sees his chance for fame as well. 

A hilarious side story blossoms wth Johnnypateen having attempted to kill his Mammy (Anne  Gee Byrd),  with drink over many years. His being in debt to her factors in as the story progresses.  Long suffering Dr. McSharry (John Allee) attempts to curb the alcohol with little effect.

John Iacovelli's superb set with projections by Kaitlin Pietras and Jason H. Thompson bring the rustic scene together perfectly.  

There's little subtly in director Steven Robman's movement and rhythms .. the feeling of the Auld Sod permeates the show with a distinct feeling of authenticity.  JohnnyPateen's bombast sometimes  goes well over the top, but we find, in time, that as he is the catalyst for all of the goings on that it's appropriate and funny.  What with the simplicity of the characters and the odd interchanges, it's a play that one can appreciate for its superficial romp and then, re-examine for the beauty of the language and the sincerity of the bittersweet  characters.  

As my ancestors come from just up the way from the setting of the play, I'd have loved a live preshow with bodhran and pennywhistle to guide us into the theatre, but recorded music sufficed and begorrah, a good time was behad be all. 

Antaeus Theatre Company presents
The Cripple of Inishmaan by
Martin McDonagh
Directed by Steven Robman
Kiki and David Gindler Performing Arts Center
110 E. Broadway
Glendale, California 91205
Through March 11, 2019
Tickets and information 
818 506 5436
info@antaeus.org
The play is double cast
Watch this space for another review of the Fripple Frapples soon.