Monday, May 18, 2009

Extremely Passive Resistance

I like to think of it as a kind of civil disobedience, a violence against the tyranny of the 40-hour work week, undiminished over time by technology and efficiency to maximize profit, if I take the last half hour of today to spout copious hot air about the nearly-a-dozen plays I saw this month. I guess I'm exactly what the nefarious so-and-so's at the American Theater Wing want, a ready victim for their plot to pack people into seats by means of a petty pageant. Sign me up!

I'm actually going to have to consult my datebook for this roundup, and no, I don't have a palm or an iphone or a PDA (PDA? really you're going to call it that?) or anything and I'm not being a luddite but if I ever get that busy that I need one, I'm moving to Tristan da Cunha in the south Atlantic Ocean.*

Know what, this is going to go out of order, because where the fuck is my datebook. I do have some programs in my J. Peterman Counterfeit Mail Pouch**, so that's a starting point. On top of the stack umbrella, because the weather in NYC the last week has not been notably better than I imagine it to be in Tristan da Cunha. [Things sometimes get posted rather a long time after they're written.] Beneath the umbrella, the first program to come to hand is 9 to 5, which is slightly regrettable. Not the show, I mean, though that too. But that being the first is regrettable because...

I don't remember how it started, but there was a discussion of god-knows-what in comments at Parterre, and I mentioned to someone or other that Lucia Popp is the only opera singer I'd never heard anyone in the mad swirling vortex of reflexive disdain that is opera fandom say anything bad about her. This was remedied in short order, naturally, but why's I mention it is that Dolly Parton is the Lucia Popp of the opera world in that sense, though probably no other. Nobody doesn't like Dolly Parton.

So it feels like kicking a puppy to say much that is honest about 9 to 5. There are positives. Megan Hilty sings country music idiomatically and does an imitation of La Parton that sends terrified phonemes fleeing her merciless grasp. That was supposed to mean it's accurate, but I have a feeling that is not at all clear. Stefanie Block has a right set of pipes, and Alison Janney an irresistible presence and infallible comic timing. And then there are the songs and the book. The book is the biggest mystery as to "why did this happen?" because there's nary a punchline that isn't in the movie, and I assume everyone remembers the movie clearly because it is, 20-whatever years later, a perfect frippery, and still iconic in its way. The songs are just lifeless, which is absolutely confounding given the vivacious talent that penned them. I don't know what happened. The show felt about 3 hours long. Even the classic theme song was somehow sapped for the stage. Alas.

Next program: Joe Turner's Come and Gone. My first August Wilson play, I will admit, and while there was enough deeply personal mythology in the work that I'd gladly explore more of the 10-play Pittsburgh Cycle, it's a bit emotionally disjointed, I'd guess as much because of the piece as because of the production. An hour and a half of mostly dryish naturalism suddenly lurches into the realm of the spiritual and the abstract and the, well, somewhat-difficult-to-follow as the first act ends, and again as the play ends. The cast is uniformly fine, though nobody but Roger Robinson as Bynum Walker, a spiritually off-the-grid shamanic figure, had the certainty of artistic purpose we love to see and throw awards at. Happily, he's nominated to be thrown at.

Oh hey actually since I wrote all that a week or two ago, I'm going to go ahead and post it and pick up with some more stuff I saw when I'm feeling more writey. It's something to do during the four months in the opera desert stretching from here to September...

*where my dating life will remain much the same as it is now.
**No, they didn't make it up for Seinfeld. It was a real company, except now egli e spento and all. Except maybe not?


Brian said...

Not to fall into the whole knee-jerking business, but believe you me there are legions of Dolly Parton haters out there. I had a boss who loathed Parton because she believed the singer to have made antisemitic comments in 1994. In fact it was a conversation that arose in response to "9 to 5"'s inglorious run in LA last Fall. Little did my boss know how unnecessary it was to wish failure on that particular venture.

Dick Teurehalle said...

Yup, there it goes again. That's the title song lodged in my brain for the next week.

Does it open the show, by the way? I can't imagine any other way to start a show of '9 to 5' than with the lights going down and that keyboard riff starting.

Nah, name doesn't work. I'm going back to mooning over Marzelline.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I love Dick Teurehalle.

It beats that song cycle Schumann wrote for Clara - Dick'd Her Labia.

Is there anyone really who doesn't like Beethoven? Is there anyone really who doesn't like Dolly Parton? Seriously - she puts the "wig" in Ludwig.

I haven't seen 9 to 5 yet, but I feel I should go to support my Dolly.

John Woods said...

Ha! I love Dolly Parton.