Tuesday, January 24, 2023

One Bad Day (review)

Spoilers ahoy!
One Bad Day is the latest total immersive theatre piece (by phone) by my friend Stepy Kamei (who played the title character in my adaptation of Carmilla: The Radio Play).  Her previous, about the great poet Sylvia Plath, was among my top ten of 2022.
This one contains another interesting premise behind it, but also a phone call with someone near the end of their life.  Someone who is now famous, sadly, for her death more than anything else.  More, it came at a startling time in American history.  Astronauts had landed on the Moon mere weeks earlier.  In the wake of what happened, the war in Vietnam became many times worse, followed by the Watergate Scandal which rocked American trust in our government to the foundations.
This person was Sharon Tate.
An actress of some talent, she appeared a variety of films including The Fearless Vampire Slayers and Valley of the Dolls.  She married Roman Polanski and they were expecting a child together when members of a cult called "The Family" headed by Charles Manson broke into their Benedict Canyon home and killed everyone there (except for a caretaker who was in the guest house, and heard nothing).  It was a shocking, horrific crime followed by others.  The investigation and trial can be read about in the non fiction book Helter Skelter and at least two different films more or less based on it.
But this experience focuses on Tate, on this very optimistic and happy person, someone charming and kind and generous.  Kamei brings this person to life, not in a cloying sort of hallmark movie way, but simply as a person who was like that.  A breath of emotional fresh air amid cynicism.  She was someone I wanted to spend more time with, an anodyne against angst and despair.
But of course, I also knew what was going to happen to her.  And that was horrible.
I was actually alive when these events happened, but was a child.  For me, it was very much like a trip back in time.  And it felt like exactly that, to the point where I felt shaken at the end, and more than a bit disturbed--a fine a testimony to the power of a performance as one could ask for.
One Bad Day is part of Nothing in the Dark Productions, As of this writing there are still performances scheduled for Jan 25 through 27, January 31 through February 3, and February 7 through February 10, 2023.

Sunday, January 1, 2023

Top Ten 2022


Always a difficult list to put together.  Always.  I struggled, as ever, no least because of my rule that no one theatre gets more than a single listing on this per year.  Plus I wanted to add at least two or three more plays.  Some of the criteria are quality of performance and production, but also my view of the scripts.  
So here it is.  In no particular order...

  • The Rage Fairy from Ballview Entertainment was one of the amazing, surreal pieces of theatre I've ever witnessed.  Imagine if you will an apocalyptic version of Alice in Wonderland with a feminist lens.  
  • Metamorphoses from The Noise Within, a glorious retelling/re-imagination of Greek myth told with startling power, which moved me very deeply.  I myself hold theatre is the correct medium with which to tell myth.  In fact, I think LOTR should have been a cycle of plays not a trilogy of movies!  This production demonstrates why.
  • End Game from CityGarage, as ever a difficult choice because this theatre company does amazing shows all the time.  I will only do one production from any one company for this list in a given year so I had to choose--and this one remained the strongest on offer, by a hair.  This weird dreamlike meditation about endings might simply have resonated more because I'm in my sixties.
  • We Should Meet in Air from Stepy Kamei, a friend of mine, startled me at the power of it, a seeming phone call to me from Sylvia Plath.  That is all it was.  Yet it was wonderful, and I was totally sucked in, and the knowledge I had this was on Sylvia's last birthday hit me in the end like a gut punch.  Immersive theatre at its most intense.
  • Asexuality! The Solo Musical from the Hollywood Fringe Festival is a one person musical which of all things should not work (rarely does) but in this case is a tour de force, complete with a glorious open ending--which of course is not really an ending because there really isn't any such thing, is there?
  • Rapunzel Alone from the 24th Street Theatre marks a powerful re-telling of a fairy tale in almost grimly realistic terms during WWII, yet with puppets and gentle, fierce power.
  • The Unsackable Man from ZJU combines something I love--Moby Dick by Herman Melville, the nearest thing the USA has to an Illiad or Mahabarata--with something I loathe, i.e. professional football.  The result shouldn't work.  It does.  OMG it does to a degree and in ways beyond anything I would have imagined, up to and including all the nuances of the original in the end.
  • A Midsummer Night's Dream from the Open Fist proves what a startling amount of interpretation lies even in some of Shakespeare's "lightest" texts.  To be sure, this is also one of his best (there are some clunkers, to be honest) but this production asks a simple but profound question which gives a fascinating new context--namely, whose dream is this?
  • Battlesong of Boudica from School of Night, one of the most fantastical and utterly theatrical offers an actual historical/mythological ritual enacted with masks and dance and puppets and drums--complete with a single mistake by the title character which changes the outcome.  One little error.  But mostly, this is a tale of rage kindled by a lack of honor, humility, kindness, or anything really save greed, arrogance, and fear.  Topical, don't you think?
  • The Children at the Fountain takes place just a few years from now, and deals with consequences, with courage taken to the highest and most beautiful (horrible) level.  And handful of people, in one little house, make a choice.  A series of choices.  I'm a huge believer in how the intimate and individual is what what shapes the collective and the grand.  This demonstrates that.  And broke my heart.