Short Time Companion

In 1986, Paula Vogel’s brother, Carl, invited her on a trip to Europe—because of time and money, she declined, not knowing that he was HIV positive.  He died two years later.  As an act of expiation, she wrote The Baltimore Waltz in 1990, a tragicomic daydream of what that excursion might have been. Continue reading “Short Time Companion”

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The Play About the Babies

A writer for Vanity Fair once declared that Lolita was “the only convincing love story of our century,” perhaps because he had not yet seen Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?  George (Tracy Letts) and Martha (Amy Morton) have spent a lifetime playing games—Humiliate the Host, for example, or Hump the Hostess—verbally whipping each other night after night for decades.  “I swear,” Martha tells George, ”If you existed I’d divorce you.”  Later, in front of their guests, Nick (Madison Dirks) and Honey (Carrie Coon), George asks Martha what she would like to drink: “Rubbing alcohol for you?”  But these are more than the petty cruelties of an unhappy couple.  Towards the end of the play, Martha sighs, “[He can] make me happy and I do not wish to be happy, and yes I do wish to be happy.” Continue reading “The Play About the Babies”

The Streets Is Ours!

Brian Friel may be the most overrated living playwright, but the Irish Repertory Theatre is making a convincing if modest case for him with their revival of The Freedom of the City.  Following the deaths of three Irish protestors, the city of Londonderry tries to make sense of what happened.  They are lionized by a balladeer (Clark Carmichael) and damned by an English judge (John C. Vennema).  A local priest (Ciaran Byrne) frames their struggle in political and teleological terms, while an American professor (Christa Scott-Reed) turns them into an illustration of a sociological phenomenon.  These songs, dialogues, and lectures are interspersed throughout the play as we see what really happened when several low-level patriots fled tear gas and accidentally found themselves inside the mayor’s parlor. Continue reading “The Streets Is Ours!”

The Secret Sits in the Middle and Knows

About halfway through Craig Wright’s Grace, Sam (Michael Shannon) explains his job to Steve (Paul Rudd).  He works for NASA, helping to purify the information they are receiving through probes in the solar system—“radio waves, X-rays, gamma rays, all kinds of energy” interfere with the information, so it is often corrupted by the time it reaches the earth.  Steve, friendly but not too bright, replies, “I loved Apollo 13.”  Sam, undeterred, explains further: “That’s what space is to most people, it’s Apollo 13.  Tom Hanks.  2001.  It’s ‘outer space.’  To me, in my job, space is space.  It’s distance.  Space is a tremendous distance that you have to get information across in time.  That’s the problem with space.  How can we know what we need to know—in time—when what we need to know has to come from so far away.” Continue reading “The Secret Sits in the Middle and Knows”

Ahem…All the World’s a Stage

Last year, the New York Shakespeare Exchange debuted with an excellent production of King John—to this day one of the best Off-Off-Broadway shows I have seen.  At first, it was a little disheartening to learn that artistic director Ross Williams had chosen to follow it up with a comedy in the style of Shakespeare instead of one by the Bard himself.  Those of us who have suffered through the criminally popular Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged) know that spoofs of these kind are often reduced to lampooning the most surface aspects of Shakespeare’s plays—and even more highbrow attempts, like Arthur Phillips’ shallow and narcissistic novel The Tragedy of Arthur, still tend to fail in both spirit and tone. Continue reading “Ahem…All the World’s a Stage”