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Archive for February, 2010

Since Oscar season is thankfully drawing to a close (there really hasn’t been a who-will-win suspense in the major categories in the least few years), I wanted to comment on the “It’s Time” meme Mark Harris served up (among other concepts) in a recent issue of New York magazine.  Not so much about the concept, but about great performers who never received recognition from the Academy.

Inspired by TCM’s annual 31 Days of Oscar, Nathaniel over at The Film Experience posted a contest (now over) on the very subject: a gripe about a multiple nominee who has never won the prize.  His own list includes current stars Michelle Pfeiffer, Julianne Moore, Glenn Close, and Sigourney Weaver, along with cannonical performers Barbara Stanwyck and Judy Garland.  Yes, he’s a self-described “actressexual”.

Since I never win things like this, I figured I’d post my own entry – after the jump.  The only changes I made were capitalization, since I tend to use lower case in most, if not all, personal email.

After my rant, comment on who you think is missing a competitive Oscar.

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Holy frak!

I really had no expectations of this when I started to follow her on Twitter, but holy frak!  Four-time Emmy winner Valerie Harper!  Me!  I mean, I’m seeing Looped & all in a few weeks, but seriously!  Deep, deep breaths.


The queening out is passing.  At least a little bit.  I will be pulling out the old Mary Tyler Moore and Rhoda DVD‘s now.  And counting down to seeing Looped with Valerie as Tallulah Bankhead.

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From the BBC’s adaptation of Simon Doonan’s memior, Beautiful People is a delightful pastiche to growing up gay & fabulous.

And, being young, gay & fabulous, auditioning for the school musical is a must.  I even did it once.  Alas, not meant for the stage am I.  Here’s the show’s great musical moment on the way to school that audition morning, blending a marvelous set of showtunes.

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The talent is outstanding: Douglas Carter Beane, John Lithgow & Jennifer Ehle.

The barbs are vicious, pernicious & delicious.

The play, however, is a disappointment.

Mr. & Mrs. Fitch, Carter Beane’s new play at Second Stage Theatre starring Lithgow & Ehle, isn’t nearly the sum of its parts.  The play is a two-person show, focusing on a married couple where the husband is a gossip columnist and the wife, well, helps him, I suppose.  And needing to make that supposition gets to the core of my problem with the play.

Carter Beane, a Tony winner for his satire The Little Dog Laughed and writer of the hilarious book for Xanadu, has clearly been sharpening his talons and hording zingers to unleash.  Probably the wittiest writer for the main stage these days, he never had a problem writing as if he were the person scribe for Bette Davis.  The problem isn’t the dialogue.  Its the plotting and characterizations.  While The Little Dog Laughed was a specific set of circumstances he was reacting to (that being a closeted mainstream screen star), here Carter Beane is more focused on an environment (this time the celebrity gossip mentality that has overtaken news).

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She’s an actress looking for a break.  No, wait, she’s actually a good performer.  No, wait, she’s a former prostitute.  No, wait, she loves the book and really, really wants to be in the play.  Uh, no, wait, she’s undercover for his fiancee.  No, wait, she’s got revenge in store.  Um, well, wait, no, she’s something else entirely.  Or is she?

Do I care?

No, not really.  I just want to revel in the promise of something interesting.

David Ives’s new play, Venus in Fur, brings forth a maddeningly complex female lead role that requires and showcase the full range of an actor’s capabilities.  And, in this instance, the performer more than covers her ground.  Nina Arianda makes a smashing debut as the dizzyingly complicated Vanda, completely overshadowing an intelligent composition about the power of subjugation.

The play itself is akin to the movie Adaptation.  Its about an adaptation of the famous novella, Venus in Furs by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, with two performers, the writer of the stage adaptation of the novel (who is, conveniently, also directing the play) and the aforementioned Vanda, both the actress and the female lead he’s attempting to cast.  Wes Bentley, of outdated American Beauty fame, plays the writer/director who is overwhelmed by Arianda’s Vanda.

If Sacher-Masoch’s name rings a bell, it should.  This very novella caused his name to be coined into the term masochism.  (Side note, sadism, the S in S&M, is derived from the Marquis de Sade.  Living nearly 100 years apart in two very distinct cultural eras, its fascinating the two names became a singular term.)

Like the book, the play focuses on the delicate understanding of the desire to be subjugated, to be dominated, and the pleasure the pain of restriction creates.  Upon opening (rather elegantly with a drop of the stage curtain to the floor with a thunder roll at the ever creative Classic State Company), the audience sizes up the remnants of an audition day.  The writer/director, Thomas chats idly with a supposed significant other (we later learn to be his fiancee) when a whirl of energy in the form of Vanda enters the room.

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Since President’s Day is really a celebration of two presidents, I figured I’d post two musical highlights.

First up is the iconic “Happy Birthday” from Marilyn Monroe to President Kennedy.

One more after the jump.

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I’ve seen her stop the show twice (on the same night) as the Queen of the Night in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte.

I’ve seen her in that same run as Pamina in Die Zauberflöte.

I’ve seen her go breathtakingly lovesick and mad in the title role of Lucia di Lammermoor.

I’ve seen her commit virtual suicide as Gilda in Rigoletto.

I’ve seen her sing with the Met Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, where she performed Grossmächtige Prinzessin (from Ariadne auf Naxos) twice and had five returns to the stage due to applause.

And now, I’ve seen Diana Damrau take the stage as the title fille, Marie, in Donizetti’s La Fille du Régiment at the Met.

And she was, as expected, lustrous, dynamic, and her usual magnificent self.  One of the more skilled actors in opera, particularly at the “name” level, Damrau gave yet another excellent performance.  While the production debuted two seasons ago with the marvelous Natalie Dessay in the role, Damrau brings a very different, more tomboyish take to the opera.

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