Displaying Category: Play

Andy Warhol: Good for the Jews?

Andy Warhol: Good for the Jews? ticketstubA friend invited me to this one-man show at Theatre J largely because it is performed by her favorite writer/director, Josh Kornbluth who co-wrote and co-directed the film Haiku Tunnel. It's a great little film, so I agreed to go along, knowing pretty much nothing about the show except that it centers on Andy Warhol's Ten Portraits of Jews of the Twentieth Century.

It was a pretty good show, especially considering it was the premiere and clearly still in the works. After the show, four of the people behind the show (including Josh) sat down on stage to ask the audience questions about how the show worked and what might be done to improve or clarify sections. That was when we learned that the order of the sections of the show had only been settled on that morning, so it was understandable that Josh needed some prompting from the director at various points. I actually didn't mind at all, it lended a certain credibility to the whole thing.

As the show progresses we learn things about each of the ten subjects of the portraits. These vignettes ranged from very simple segments (about Albert Einstein) to much longer and involved stories that intertwined with Kornbluth's own life experiences. Those were the best parts, when a story about his own childhood bore a striking connection to one of the portrayed historical figures and their own life works. Personally, I really loved the story behind Martin Buber's "I and Thou" relationships and how this tied into one of Kornbluth's formative childhood experiences. Not only was it touching and telling, but it got me thinking about my own "I and thou" relationships.

There really isn't much talk in this show about what it is to be a Jew or what it means to be a Jew, but you do come away with a sense of the cultural significance of being a Jew and pride in being a part of the same religious and historical community as the ten Jews portrayed by Warhol. Also, the show is pretty funny.



Passion ticketstubI still hate Sondheim.


Merce Cunningham Dance Company

Merce Cunningham Dance Company ticketstubThis is my first time seeing a modern dance performance live with my only other exposure (that I can remember) being YouTube videos. I was directed to this particular performance by the Merce Cunningham Dance Company by a friend who is knowledgeable of such things and I was also intrigued by any dance performance set to the music of Radiohead and Sigur Ros.

The first segment was called "Split Sides" and started out with six people on stage rolling a die to determine the mix of the program. What costumes, what lighting cues, what music goes first, and so on. So certainly an interesting randomization feature. The music that we actually heard was very unusual and not at all what I was expecting. I thought there would be a recognizable song or two (and maybe they would be if I knew either band better), but instead it was mostly just a mix of sounds. Some of it was decent, some of it might have even been offensive. The action on stage, while occasionally timed to the audio, was not really following it in any traditional way. I've been trying to figure out how to describe the physical performance by the dance company and I'm still struggling with it. I did like and enjoy the experience of watching the performance. There was a lot going on and a lot of interesting shapes and forms and structures and things like that, but it was tough in the sense that my mind kept grasping for story or symbology or some sort of meaning to it all. I could understand that there really isn't any of that in the performance... it's more like abstract art... but I couldn't stop my mind from searching for those things. Maybe it just comes with exposure that eventually the mind calms down and just enjoys what its seeing and stops thinking about it so much.

The second segment was called "Sounddance" and was also enjoyable to watch, unfortunately the audio was a lot more painful to listen to, consisting of mostly atonal sounds that nearly caused physical pain. I'm not saying that to be critical because I expect that was the point of the audio, but this is how I found it. Again, I liked the performance and I liked what was going on, I just didn't really "get" any of it. I understand there's nothing really to get, but I kept trying... Eventually I think I did let go and enjoyed it as abstract art, which made what was happening a little more digestible, I think.

There won't be a rating for this performance as this is my first such show and I don't really feel qualified to provide a numerical rating given my limited exposure. I will say that it was fun.

Spring Awakening

Spring Awakening ticketstubSpring Awakening is a sort of pop/rock musical following a group of teenagers in 1890s Germany as they struggle to cope with the physical and emotional trials of puberty. So basically, topics including wet dreams, masturbation, sex, pregnancy, suicide, physical and sexual abuse, and abortion. You know, easy stuff like that...

Obviously the point here is that these aren't easy topics, not for the kids, and clearly not for the parents. And that's kind of the genius of it all. It's a show targeted at both groups simultaneously. A fun pop/rock tryst that feels naughty for the kids and provides all sorts of subject matter they can relate to, and a sort of blatant in-your-face wag of the finger to parents begging them to talk with their kids about the complexities of growing up and sexuality and anything else, really. Communication is vital to the healthy development of any child, and don't you forget it! Or else... And then we see all the bad that can happen when parents refuse to have all those important talks with their children.

It's a touring show, so if it comes to your area I would highly recommend a viewing, whether you're a parent, a teen, or neither... it's a great show. Just keep in mind, it does have mature content including some nudity and a fair bit of swearing to say nothing of the aforementioned themes. If you want a taste of the music and staging, there are plenty of videos on YouTube.



FalsettosFalsettos is a decent musical about a Jewish family going through some "rough spots," as they say. I emphasize the Jewishness because it seems to play an important part throughout the show. In fact, the opening song is about four Jews bitching. It wasn't really clear what they were bitching about or the extent of said bitching, but I guess it was important to set the tone that there are some disagreements in this Jewish family unit.

The basic premise of the story is that a man, leaves his wife and 11 year old son for another man (inexplicably named Whizzer). The wife starts seeing her ex-husband's psychiatrist, who she soon marries. The son is an insomniac struggling with what "love" means. It sounds complicated, but there didn't seem to be any real depth there. We're simply told how things are, but not really shown anything to make us feel what the characters must be feeling.

The music was fine, I mostly heard drums, piano, and clarinet. I usually like to hear some guitar in my musicals, but the lack of didn't really hurt it. The vocal performances were fine and I was very satisfied by the excellent balance of vocals and music so as to prevent one from overpowering the other.

The show ends with the son's bar mitzvah taking place around the hospital bed of the dying Whizzer. We're never really told of what he is dying, but it's clearly something gay people get. This act was set in 1981, so I wouldn't think the reference is to AIDS, but that or something similar seemed to be the implication. It all seemed too contrived for me to take it seriously. I'm not suggesting there needs to be reality for something like this, but it was contrived enough that I wasn't really buying into it and therefore had a difficult time getting into the whole thing emotionally. Sure, it was sad, but I didn't really feel moved.