Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Two Misses and a Hat Hit

As my beloved California self mutilates and summer strikes its first vicious blows naturally my thoughts turn to the world of entertainment. What better remedy for a bout of budget blues than a musical, a film, and…a musical?! Perhaps it’s mood, maybe it was bad choices, or then again it could be things used to be much, much better in the past because so far my summer has not been sizzling with hits.

Let’s start with Spamalot. I received a sudden call, “Would I like to go to opening night?” Well, ye-ess! And who else did I spy walking in to the theatre? Billy Crystal, Ed Begley Jr., the ubiquitous Joanne Worley and even Eric Idle. Unfortunately the star sightings were the highlight of my evening. Comedy, as someone once noted, is all about timing and this whole production seemed off. Or maybe it’s that jokes about body gas and poking fun at the French (who strangely had Scottish accents) no longer make my grade.

One very hot Sunday I tried to calm the aftershocks of Spamalot by seeking culture of a higher brow, the new Stephen Frears film, Cheri, based on two novels of French author, Colette. Of course Colette actually was the Jacqueline Susann of her time, churning out potboilers and what passed for soft pornography at the time. Since the sixties they have matured into literary classics. But what a dreadful film! Frears achieved the worst performances ever from Michelle Pfeiffer and Kathy Bates, the stiffest delivery and most clich├ęd expressions imaginable. The choppy editing and a voice over framing device ruined the occasionally intriguing beauty of the landscapes and interiors. I suppose the film was educational—how not to convert a novel.

This evening, however, I had some slight reprieve from the summer blahs, attending Regina Taylor’s
Crowns at the Pasadena Playhouse. This very musical although not quite “a musical” play features African American women and their relationship with their hats, usually their church hats. Sure, it was yet another recent play in which characters tangentially interact while facing the audience and telling their histories. Still, some moments of dialogue and soliloquy were moving while a pleasing array of spirituals took me back to childhood choir practice. The play also reminded me of my own grandmother’s hats and hat boxes, costume jewelry, and her fox stole and alligator purse, both featuring mouth clamped on tail.

Three weeks back from Seoul and somewhat adjusted to the mixed plate of LA arts, I once again hit the summer trail. It’s on to Fresno and CSU Summer Arts where I’m certain to be aesthetically refreshed if bodily wilted. Will I be cool enough to dance?

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