Mae Brecht’s Sex


Earlier this week we drove down to Niagara-on-the-Lake to see the Shaw production of Mae West’s Sex at the Jackie Maxwell Studio Theatre, directed by Peter Hinton-Davis.

I thoroughly enjoyed the production. The play itself contains very little actual sex but is about the manipulative power of sexuality, reputation & commodification of sex – i.e. sex for sale as opposed to sex for pleasure (neither of which are proper). I loved the use the Brechtian stage techniques that gave the play a non-Broadway sensability. In fact the production values were, as one would expect from Shaw, excellent. Starting with the perfectly curated house music that set the time period, the costumes were exquisite, the use of suitcases – literally living out of a suitcase for the first scenes – was fun & the choreography of their use was well handled by the cast.

The musical numbers were lively or compelling when need be, & well-performed. I love on stage musicians. The saxophone, tuba, & banjo had the feel & sound of Brecht-Weill’s work. The cast also clearly enjoyed these opportunities to bust loose. I fact these were the only times I felt the cast actually enjoying themselves.The decision not to ‘camp’ it up was a good one but it also drained this production of energy. The text was, for the most part, treated too soberly & slowly. I think if it had been delivered a bit quicker it would have been stronger. The plot was sturdy, the subtext of women struggling to have agency over their sexuality was powerful – a struggle still continues today. 

In fact I think the ultimate ‘obscenity’ in the eyes of the powers-that-be was Mae West’s fearless control of her sexuality & the financial success she had achieved as a writer/performer. The censors were pissed that she was a woman making money. If it had been a male playwright he would have probably been lauded for being so progressive.

I found that the performance of Diana Donnelly in the lead as Margy was lacking in spark. She never felt invested in the character except for her scenes with the excellent Fiona Byrne’s Clara. Margy’s monologue in Act 2 about sex was Diana’s best moment. Kristopher Bowman as Roc never felt threatening, perhaps he wasn’t meant to be threatening. André Sills as Lt. Gregg had a charming sexual presence, despite a cartoonish British accent.

It’s impossible to separate this play from its author & the place it has in the history of censorship. Then it was seen as the eroding of the moral fibre of the American family values – perhaps it succeed as today, nearly 100 years later, it is innocuous; but women are still being shamed for taking agency over their sexuality.  

http://blog.modernmechanix.com/when-mae-west-went-to-jail-for-sex/?fbclid=IwAR3JR1DrQGT14Ddn3Tu3Hr-oIZznL6JUP7vjBLDkft2tLdfO0wTHRpvF1rk

other reviews:

Costume Warehouse Tour – Me? Caped Crusader https://wp.me/p1RtxU-3vQ

Henry VIII – ‘Abject Object’ https://wp.me/p1RtxU-3vW 

Our Father Issues  https://wp.me/p1RtxU-3CB

Cape Breton (Liberation Army) Day 7 https://wp.me/p1RtxU-3Gj

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy ice-cream in Washington at 2020’s capfireslam.org – sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

Grand Hotel

I enjoyed the Shaw production of Grand Hotel though the music itself is not very memorable. I didn’t leave the show haunted by any of the melodies but by the wonderful performances. Director Eda Holmes had her hands full with set of strong, compelling characters – at time it was more traffic cop with all the blocking needed to move everyone, sometimes all at once, on the stage. 

Based on the 1932 all-star film the plot moves with clockwork perfection. Multiple characters with different needs, motivations & secrets interact over 24 hours in a plush hotel. Staff is attentive but have their own stories tell as well. I loved the telephone operators. As ballerina Elizaveta Grushinskaya, Deborah Hay demonstrates some real ballet barre chops. Vanessa Sears as Flaemmchen gives ‘Girl In The Mirror’ real longing.

This is very much an ensemble piece. It’s almost as if the writers counted words to make sure each principle character had their fair share of lines. All were strong singers and dancers as well. Parker Esse’s choreography captured the energy of 1929 without it feeling like a museum piece. It was also clear that the cast loved what they were doing. The energy in ‘We’ll Take A Glass Together’ was palpable. Michael Therriault as Otto Kringelein shows amazing physicality in this number as well. The spinning bar was a delight.

The script handles multiple characters without becoming confusing or muddled. The layers of story telling were intricate &, for a change, logical. I can’t speak to the historical accuracy of the play though. My only negative comment is that the sound balance for the chorus scenes: multiple characters singing different view points with the chorus having their own songs – became rather muddy – as if the band felt it had to play louder to be heard – result: singers & lyrics drowned out.

1929 Berlin was simmering between the wars & there is little sense of what was to be, when people come to the Cabaret. A thoroughly entertaining production I’d recommend. 

Other recent reviews:

Long Day’s Journey Into Night: “a ghost haunting the past” https://wp.me/p1RtxU-30f 

Coriolanus: “My rage is gone” https://wp.me/p1RtxU-31K 

The King and I: “The King and My Memories” https://wp.me/p1RtxU-31Y

Julius Caesar: “Honourable Women” https://wp.me/p1RtxU-33T

The Hound of the Baskervilles: “Entertainment Afoot”

https://wp.me/p1RtxU-34I

The Tempest: “Brave Spirits Indeed” https://wp.me/p1RtxU-35S

http://buddiesinbadtimes.com/event/hot-damn-its-a-queer-slam-feat-janice-lee/

Entertainment Afoot

The Shaw Festival production of Hound of the Baskervilles is top-flight entertainment. Well staged with a great ensemble cast it delivers a fun, fast-paced adaptation of the the Doyle novel that chills and even surprises in ways that will please the most dedicated Sherlock fan. Sounds too good to be true? Trust me I was anticipating a muddled mess like the Shaw production of Dracula last season.

With Sherlock it is hard to say who the lead is Sherlock or Watson. Damien Atkins, as Sherlock, heads a sharp ensemble cast, with Graeme Somerville as his Watson. Both were good – I found Atkins a bit young but enjoyed him all the same. Somerville gives us the ‘Nigel Bruce’ Watson, as opposed to the Jude Law take on the character.

The staging was perfection. The use of projection & scrims was precise & as effective as their use in Stratford’s current Coriolanus. I love the rolling stairways in the chase scene & the clever use of trap. The moors were perfectly created & properly moody. Sadly, in this preview production, the hound itself was not a success. John Gzowki’s music was so good I hoped to find a cd of it in the gift shop – no such luck.

The text brought in elements of the Sherlock mythos not in the novel. It stuck to the essential points of the Hound’s plot & characters but did insert some new scenes – a dinner party that was not in the novel but which worked perfectly giving a more romantic edge to the story. It also introduced layers of villainy that were satisfying. I was gratified that there was no nods to the current modernized Holmes. A fine production that I’d recommend to anyone.

Other summer reviews:

Long Day’s Journey Into Night: “a ghost haunting the past” https://wp.me/p1RtxU-30f 

Coriolanus: “My rage is gone” https://wp.me/p1RtxU-31K 

The King and I: The King and My Memories https://wp.me/p1RtxU-31Y

Julius Caesar: Honourable Women https://wp.me/p1RtxU-33T 

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Me and My Lamp Post

The Shaw Festival production of Me and My Girl: Directed by Ashlie Corcoran was a sheer delight. Well-paced, effectively staged it held my attention from beginning to end – even through the repeated curtain calls. Great songs helped – though only a few of them are that well-known: The Lambeth Walk & Leaning on a Lamp Post – thanks to my English heritage they had some resonance.

A cracker-jack ensemble dances, sings, moves sets with clockwork precision. Lead Michael Therriault as Bill Snibson brings a great sense of fun plus a Tommy Steele glint to his role of the commoner who gets turned into a Lord. As Sally, his girl friend  Kristi Frank is fresh, fun & believable. Élodie Gillett’s Jacquie Carstone is sexy, predatory & sweet at the same time. Jay Turvey’s Parchester with his very Gilbert & Sullivan-esque theme song “The Family Solicitor” managed to steal the scene every time it was used.

Parker Esse’s choreography was also scene-stealing thanks to an amazing ensemble who shifted from energetic Broadway hoofing to tap with ease. I loved the Lamp Post dream ballet. It was clear that everyone was enjoying the show. They loved to dance, to sing, to entertain & the audience was drawn in to the show & kept captivated to final bow. Highly recommended.

 

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A Bloodless Dracula

Made a day trip out to Niagara-on-the-Lake to see the Shaw Festival production of Dracula adapted by Liz Lochhead. Much like Hamlet, in this day & age, it is impossible to see Dracula for the first time. And like see various productions of Hamlet one comes to see what they have done with various production values, performances & subtext.

This version features great performances by Allan Louis as Dracula; Marla McLean as Mina; Cherissa Richards as Lucy; and Graeme Somerville as Renfield. Each invested their characters with real emotion & clearly relished some of the juicy text without over-acting. The others were strong though I found the supporting servants, nurses etc relied on campy comic accents giving us laughs in a text that needed all the tension it could get.

I was disappointed in this rather bloodless production in which the over 25 set/scene changes proved most of the action. I realize dramatizing the novel, told in letters & journal entries presents challenges. Lochhead streamlines the story & keeps it moving along but inviting characters so shoehorn in social commentary about the times was distracting & didn’t add, for me, any resonance to the play. The same with the mildly Oscar Wilde humour that was added. I would have rather seen one of the stage versions that popped up in the early 1900’s.

I was not disappointed by the score by John Gzowski. Moody without being used to create emotion. I would have bought the cd if there was one. Costumes (finally a Dracula cape I would actually wear), lighting, the constantly changing sets all worked well. Allan Louis made a most robust Dracula, one who clearly didn’t really need his ‘superantural’ powers to bend women to his will.

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El Amor De Pomp

I have some Elgar as an lp to cd transfer that includes Pomp & Circumstances Marches, Crown of India Suite, & Serenade for Strings. Elgar has never really grabbed me – unlike, say, Vaughn Williams. I find Elgar to be elegant but on the dull side. I’ve had these pieces in my collection for decades mind you but if I have to do a fast cull they would be the first to go. Sad thing about classical music sometimes you can’t even give it away.

De Falla is another story altogether. My MHS cassette recording of El amor brujo (“The Bewitched Love”) was one of my favourites – the alto singing the ‘lead’ was deeply emotional & I was super happy to find that recording finally reissued on iTunes. It was backed with Nights in the Gardens of Spain – a transporting impressionist piece I also love.  This in on an mp3 collection along with a selection of his orchestra works. All of which are rich in romantic Spanish emotionalism.

I added to it Borodin: orchestral work & his complete work for piano – this is the Russian equivalent of Da Falla -stirring, romantic and satisfying. The Polovtsian Dances are another of my early classical loves & I can see Cossacks dancing every time I hear this. I added a set of Russian Melodies: all those, by now, cliche moments, that one hears as background music to create an instant Russian feeling.

Finally Oscar Levant’s Gershwin as played by him in various movies. Hollywood at one time longed to be more than just Busby Berkley & there are endless classical music movies. Levant is a solid pianist & was always the perfect sardonic best friend – a male Eve Arden – who handled that dialogue with finesse & could really play that piano – unlike John Garfield playing violin with someone else’s hands.

Rustic

‘The retro pulsion should keep us in orbit till we can figure out what to do.’ J’hhon looked to P’rak. ‘You look worried.’

‘No more than you do. Even if the ship can withstand this pressure I’m not sure we’ll have enough power to get away. We may have to land.’

‘Land!’ J’hhon had never touched ground other than the floor of his ship. ‘You mean leave the the ship?’

‘Yes.’ P’rak was amused by J’hhon’s apprehension. ‘Comes a time …’

‘What can you tell about the planet?’

‘The refract analysis isn’t done yet.’

‘Have you scanned the surface below us?’

‘You aren’t going to be any wiser for it I’m afraid. It is a Rustic Four civilization.’

‘Four! Are you sure?’

‘No mistaking it.’

‘Have you ever come across anything this primitive? How could they manage a cos swirll?’

‘An anomaly perhaps. Remember the Fraks with their lascom. They were a Rustic 2. So …’

The ship rocked.

‘What is it?’

‘We’ve been hit by a power burst of some sort.’

‘Weapons? They have inter-time weaponry too?’

‘No. It was the cos swirll. One of the band’s bushed against us.’

‘Brushed? I thought they were fixed by the the field?’

Another burst shook the nav cab.

‘They must have greater control than …’

The ship spun and dropped.

‘We’re being pulled down to the surface. The retro pulsion isn’t strong enough to resist this.’

The pressure on the ship increased.

‘We’re being crushed. What can we do?’

‘Communicate?’ P’rak hit the life alert that would broadcast their presence, their intentions.

The side of the nav cab split a small crack and then with a gush of atmosphere it was ripped open. The two occupants were instantly crushed, their bodies stains on the deck.

 

Chapbooks available: http://wp.me/P1RtxU-2f6

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kiss314257567_1162384753819933_3271661288579707843_oon going 🙂 when new podcast are posted:  Disability after Dark  iTunes

June 9-10: attending: Capturing Fire 2017 – flight & hotel booked already

https://capfireslam.org

check out these poets from  Capturing Fire 2015 & 2016

August 31-Sept.3 – I have my ticket already

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https://www.facebook.com/events/526940540845331/

November 1 – 30 Participating NaNoWriMo

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http://nanowrimo.org/

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Back Of The Shelf

samprules2

Started a new set of prompts – I love lists of things – this one will prove to be endlessly productive for another couple of years – 227 Rules For Monks. These are the 30 nissaggiyas: 1 Not to keep an extra robe more than ten days at a time.

Back Of The Shelf

moldy tub

back of the fridge shelf

saved to save money

now lost to decay

too much food

we can’t eat it fast enough

bought in bulk

to save money

money is lost

when we can’t eat fast enough

when we eat fast enough

the time we save

is spent shopping for more

nothing that lasts

and when it does last

it can’t be used anyway

dispose don’t save

all those empty containers

that take up more space

than we have to store what we need

it’ll come in handy

well if it hasn’t come in handy in a year

it’ll never come in handy

the surplus is comforting

but not profitable

share don’t save

the money you save

only pays off someone else’s bills

we reduce reuse

never have enough in the long run

while those that make

what we have to reduce reuse

get fat bonuses

and the prices keep going up

to cost us more than we save

so when we run out

when the planet gives its last gasp

don’t blame me

save your breath

even if there’s no profit in saving it

that is

if anyone can still breathe

on the back shelf

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Copy Cat Fight

samprules2

Started a new set of prompts – I love lists of things – this one will prove to be endlessly productive for another couple of years – 227 Rules For Monks – 9 Not to make believe that a first bhikkhu has committed a pārājika by deliberately accusing a second one who shows similarity with the first.

Copy Cat Fight

no one could believe their eyes

it was if the likes of this

had never happened before

two people arrived

wearing almost the same thing

same colour same garments

different cuts

claiming they didn’t know

what each other was planning to wear

didn’t go to the same designers

didn’t plan to arrive

within minutes of each other

aren’t sleeping together

didn’t have the same ideas

at the same time

aren’t embarrassed at all

didn’t mean

to pull attention from the others

besides

isn’t not a sin

to be so similar

being original

isn’t all its cracked up to be anyway

no they’ve never met before now

they aren’t interested in meeting

or being photographed together

different agendas

different lives styles

nothing

understand this

absolutely nothing in common

please stop using our names

in the same sentence

we don’t agree on anything

ever

except of course

these coincidentally similar outfits

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“The Flypaper of Life”

Made a last minute decision to see something on stage – the first show, on a day & time suitable, was Sweet Charity at the Shaw, Niagara-on-the-Lake. We didn’t see any shows in their last season – nothing appealed. I’ve never been a fan of Shaw – too much social conscience for me, I suppose.

hat

marzipan hat

I’ve seen the film, Sweet Charity, a few times & also more than one drag and/or burlesque take on Hey Big Spender. I quite like the film, fast forward, as the plot & characterizations are merely there to pin the numbers on. By the mid-60’s The Broadway musical found itself unable to be ‘relevant’ in the wash of pop music: Bob Dylan, Beatles. Then along came ‘Hair.’ Sweet Charity paves the way for shows like ‘Hair’ & ‘Godspell’

The staging is excellent with the serviceable main piece that serves as bridge, subway car, dance hall swing; the costumes are spot-on; the music is serviceable, some fun moments & the orchestra is excellent. Support players are good, never pulling focus, dancing & singing capably.

boat

chocolate bark boat

The lead: Julie Martell is fine with a Barbra Streisand sensibility. She belts without over-signing, which I like, but never gets a song that pulls me into her character – not that she doesn’t get some great songs mind you. A better singer than a dancer, which might be the point with Charity stuck as a dance-hall hostess. Kyle Blair as her prince-charming was good, but needed a little more Woody Allen in his performance.

Melanie Phillipson & Kimberley Rampersad as Charity’s co-hostesses were great fun to watch & I found myself wishing for more of them & their Neil Simon patter. “There ain’t no use flappin’ your wings, ’cause we are stuck in the flypaper of life!” Their duet ‘Baby, Dream Your Dream’ was a show highlight for me.

brown

maple fudge Laura

Choreographer Parker Esse had the biggest challenge in the face of the iconic Fosse moves in the film & original Broadway production. He wisely resisted duplicating, or even paying direct homage to Fosse. There were some fun glints of imagination in the Rich Man’s Frug sequence but on the whole the dance work lacked spark. Energetic enough but none of it made me think ‘wow’ – I’m someone who can be moved to tears by good dancing. Even though I wasn’t captivated by the dancing I would highly recommend the show.

sample

Shuffle

the king

the queen

both were at the table

both were on the table

hand in hand

both

playing the Mortal Coil

looking to discard

looking for a loop hole

a way out

a trick

to bring the house tumbling down

a way to keep

the bridge sturdy and going

to keep one out of each other’s clubs

doing the spade work

to keep each row of roses

perfect and still

the shrill craw of peacocks

as they drag their lumpy tails

across the the dewy lawns

the screech of cooks

missing their tarts

the final insurrection

and off with those heads

or head them off

before they make it to the pass

before they make a pass

at the king

or the queen

before the deal is made

before the dealer’s golden arm

is ready for another poke

as our lives

go up the hole

in daddy’s arm

shoes

college educations

all those tidy possibilities

gone

short

shot up

squandered

misplayed

taking up more space that needed

more suites

more ties

ripping the diamond brooch

off the the queen

lobbing the pieces of my heart

go on take it

take another piece

take another chance

bid now or

too late sold

to the jack of all trades

who didn’t eat

who didn’t even have to bluff

he knew and he took

simple and direct

flex and flushed

the door slam

catching fingers

shaking that ace up the sleeve

out and on to the table

to rest

exposed

between the king and queen

between the devil and the deep blue sea

between you and me

nothing much else matters

expect the games we play

the ins and outs

the red on black

the odd and even

and the odds are

one of us will get even

one of us will make the play

one of us will find his way

to the fridge to make a snack

for the other will find his favorite show on tv

is now on at the same time

as the other’s favorite show

and then where will we be

alone

solitary

in separate rooms

flipping through channels

wondering if the other one

has better channels

has something hidden

has one last chance

to fill in the straight story

to come home to a full house

to give the queen a break

see the future laid out neatly

ah yes letter will arrive

a stack of letters

will shuffle through

the mail slot

and in one of them will be news

of a trip

a long lost relative

a triple threat opportunity

that mean

means

nothing much beyond

the horizon

under the stairs

grandma’s house

those dusty hidden corners

where we’d find cobwebs

and once a dead mouse

do you remember

neither do I

but I’ve been told

I screamed and screamed

when I put my hand on

the sticky little furry spot

couldn’t be calmed down

till someone sat at my bed side

warm milk

and read the gospel of the card

these are the apostles

this is the journey of the magi

this the second time

and here

here is the future

of mankind

playing with a full deck

playing with a full stomach

and I fell asleep

and woke up back in reality

on this side of the looking glass

in front of you

beside me

wearing the same old shoes

shirt

sweater

I know things will be alright

once we cut out the crap

and pick a card

any card

 

soon1

September 3-6 – attending – Fan Expo

Expo15

( I’ve registered already 🙂 )

http://fanexpocanada.com

October 18, Sunday – feature: Cabaret Noir: Inner Child Sacrifice

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November 1 – 30 Participating NaNoWriMo

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liquorice shoe 

Resurrection

Resurrection isn’t exactly the Christmas message but I have been digging into my archives going as far back as 1999. To get there I had to dust off some old files on disks (remember those) that were in appleworks, a format no longer recognized by the latest pages. I have to open them in simple text, cut & paste them into pages and then see what is under the dust.

sky01big sky Stratford

Much of the poetry has already been revised, printed and presented. There’s a lot of fiction in them there hills that I’m not sure what to do with. I was experimenting with with plots & styles. So I have a series about a car race across the desert; cowboys; people arguing or talking aimlessly (is there really a difference); a romance novel; even a noir detective. Some of which I may take the nest step with to expand into a full story for NaNo 2014.

sky02big sky Toronto

Lots of things I’ve totally forgotten about events I’ve totally forgotten. Some wrestling with notions I’ve dealt with since in a better way. Some that went somewhere but nowhere at the same time. ‘Improve’ was a prompt word that resulted in a list poem. I like a good list. This one is partially successful – full success results when I stumble into a bit of a story line as the list progress.

sky03big sky Niagara-on-the-Lake

In this one I don’t find a plot other than the contradictory messages we get about self-improvement, which is more than enough. It actually has a sense of resolution as well, which can’t be improved on 🙂

coming

Dec 26 – Thursday – hosting – The Beautiful & The Damned

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June 6-8, 2014 – attending – Bloody Words

samples

Improve

there’s going to be changes

you better pull up your socks

if you don’t watch your step

stop settling for second best

if it isn’t broke don’t fix it

mind your manners

be grateful for what you have

aim for the stars

the more you know the better off you’ll be

it don’t take brains to improve on shit

don’t give up

don’t give me that bullshit

if only you tried harder

doesn’t apply himself

doesn’t pay attention in class

isn’t really there

lives in a world of his own

why improve on perfection

perfection equals death

once it’s perfect where else is there to go

leave well enough alone can’t you

get serious

as if

a little at a time

don’t try to do too much at once

increase the load to build the muscle

give it your all

don’t hold back

work towards a goal

one step at a time

god is in the details

keeping going till to can’t go any further

a book of a millions words starts with one

in the beginning was the excuse

sorry I didn’t mean that

I’ll try harder the next time

honesty it wasn’t me

I have more important things to worry about

sure I could do better by why bother

who gives a shit

who really cares

better marks means better marks

please yourself but do as you’re told

don’t take anything for granted

be the first on your block

be the only one

be the best one so you can be proud of yourself

if you don’t try you can’t win

winning is all

losers are losers remember that

never give a loser a second chance

be hard on yourself

don’t give up or give in

keep going regardless of the cost

never settle anything less than your best

or what I think other’s think is my best

sloppy seconds are better than nothing

careless work

learn to spell

only the good will survive

only the perfect get to wherever it is the perfect get to go

anything would be an improvement

I love what you’ve done with this

my how you’ve changed

you used to be so sweet

now you are a perfect idiot

now you have no faults

meet the Saint who used to be human

to err is human

to improve is to improve

discontent is the seed of progress

greed is not discontent

more more more

better better better

be as critical as you want

nothing will ever be good enough

why start if it isn’t going to be perfect

no one sees the flaws you see

share and share alike

good work is never finished   it only rests

but be prepared for change

snow02nose for details