December 23, 2009

Brief Thoughts on the Year in DC Theatre

RIP Journeyman Theatre Ensemble and Catalyst Theatre, well before their time. JTE got a Helen Hayes nom in '06, and Catalyst took Best Ensemble for "Arturo Ui." Several factors, particularly the economy, contributed to their demises. There are likely a few similar small companies that are on life support, many of which have also done solid work in the recent past. Some other companies are resorting to safer choices, known quantities, more musicals, and jobbed-in shows. With some exceptions, innovative productions are more likely to be seen at Cap Fringe.

A few fortunate companies have managed to distinguish themselves even in this climate, most notably Constellation Theatre and Forum Theatre, graduating to the mid-to-upper echelon of the theatre scene and establishing Mr Dove and Ms Stockman as the next generation's Shalwitz and Zimmerman. Kudos also to Landless Theatre, another small company that seems to be making strides in attracting the holy 35-and-under demographic. American Century put together some solid productions this year, particularly "Seascape" which was the best thing I've seen them do.

One hopes to see Washington Stage Guild, in limbo for nearly 2 years preparing for their new home and dealing with the passing of their founder and artistic director, back in action. Similarly, Washington Shakespeare Company is preparing to move to the new space in Rosslyn next fall, although it will require a sustained fundraising effort both to move there and to stay.

Lots of theatre companies are hunkering down in the wake of the economy, focusing on their core company members. Consequently a lot of actors that could count on steady work are suddenly finding themselves rather unemployed, filling their days understudying, doing readings, producing Fringe shows, and seeing other peoples' shows. Or just me.

Best shows I saw this year: Arcadia (Folger), Crazyface (Constellation), Seascape (American Century). I'd probably include a couple Forum shows if I was actually able to see them =)

What I don't particularly like is how the Post and CityPaper, in their theatrical year-in-review articles, listed a "Worst Of" list along with their "Best Of". Really, what is gained by "Worst Of's?" Of course, I speak as a co-director of a play that was included in the Post's "Worst Of" list in '08. Considering what we went thru in getting the show together (as a last-minute replacement for another cancelled show), all the cobbling together, all the compromise, all the crap reviews, tiny audiences, sweltering conditions and the fortune we lost on it, the Worst Of listing was just another kick to the ribs, six months after the corpse had been buried. Maybe this is atypical of the other "Worst Of's", or maybe not. Still, enough already.

October 17, 2009

In Search of my Great-Great-Great Grandfather - Part Two

On a cold and sodden Saturday I ventured down to Fredericksburg in an attempt to locate the grave of my Great-Great-Great Grandfather Maj. Robert Henry Gray of the 4th Maine Volunteer Regiment, who fell at the Battle of the Wilderness on May 9 1864. Mortally wounded, he died en route to Fredericksburg and is presumed to be buried there.

Included as an appendix to my transcript of Maj. Gray's 1862 diary is a 190x letter to his son from a colleague, Frank Farnham. In this letter, Farnham gives a likely clue as to where Maj. Gray was buried, and may still now lie. I used this letter as a basis for my search.

I marched with my regiment through Fredericksburg a few days after he was shot.
This would be, presumably, about May 11.

We halted outside a city cemetery which is on the right hand side of the road leading out to Spotsylvania (The National Cemeteries are on the left of this road now).
He presumably is referring to the Town Cemetery on the corner of Washington and Williams; Williams St is the only road he can be referring to. It connects with Rte 3 which is the Old Plank Road running Westbound out of the city. If facing westbound, the City Cemetery is on your right, and the National Cemetary is further down on the left.

I looked through the large gates, set in the stone wall front of the cemetery and saw many tombs and monuments and one new-made grave.
The walls of the cemetery are red brick now. The Fredericksburg Ladies Memorial Association created the Confederate memorial cemetery in the land adjoining the City Cemetery in 1867, and presumably the brick walls surrounding the entire cemetery were built then or soon after.

The cemetery itself is quite fascinating: the Confederate cemetery is arranged in a large rectangle with two diagonal paths (subtly evoking the Stars 'n' Bars) with a memorial statue in the center.

Some of the Confeds are still interred in the City portion of the cemetery. Overall, the graves of the soldiers were in pretty poor condition, covered in moss and eroded by nature and time; some were virtually unreadable.

The large gates and the imposing sandstone archway on Williams St, which I presume are the ones he looked through, appear to be original (1844). The City gate is locked, due to the deteriorating condition of the sandstone, so all enter through the Confederate gate on Washington St.

"Hello" I said "here's a Yankee got in among the FFV's"
(An FFV is a First Family of Virginia. I only know this because I was in a production of '1776' once. )

A few days afterward, I met a member of the 4th Maine, and asked about your father. This man (whose name I never knew) told me that a few days before the regiment was ordered into a hot place, that the other officers got off their horses on account of the danger, but that your father kept his saddle and led the regmt into the fight and as pierced with several bullets that he was placed in an ambulance and died on his way back to Fredericksburg and was buried in the city cemetery as he was one of the first officers to fall in that might, much against the wishes of the rebel proprietors of the cemeteries, and that he was the only Union soldier buried there. So I told that it was your father's grave that I had seen.
He bases his conclusion that the grave he saw was Maj Gray's entirely on the word of that unnamed soldier; not particularly the most watertight case on which to go on, but worth a try.

Alas, I must report that I was unable to find Great-Great-Great-Grampa's grave. There were many possible reasons, even if that was his grave that Mr Farnham had seen.

It's highly unlikely that the Yankees who buried him had a stone marker, so perhaps there was some other identifying marker of a temporary nature (even the Confederate graves initially had wooden markers until the 1880s) which was lost or discarded by the unhappy 'rebel proprietors.' If this is the case, he's still in the City Cemetery, somewhere in view of the sandstone entryway, but unmarked.

The Frederickburg National Cemetery was created in 1867 for the fallen Union soldiers killed in the various battles nearby, Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania, Wilderness, Chancelorsville, etc. Out of the more than 15,000 soldiers there, the identities of 85% of them are unknown... this being the time before soldiers wore dogtags. The register at the National Cemetery does not list Major Gray among the known fallen. So if they did re-inter him there, they likely had no idea of his identity, and he is now one of the many, many unknowns with only a number to mark his remains. (The number on the pictured stone indicates the lot number, 67, and that there are two unknown bodies buried there.) The same appears to be true of his brothers, Madison (fell at Fredericksburg, Dec '62) and Augustus (Cedar Creek, Oct '64). No stone - with their name on it at least - marks where they lie today. That astounds and saddens me.

The site of the battle is well-kept, although suburban encroachment onto the battlefield tended to wreck any sense of the era. The tour guide occasionally pointed out significant events by saying "over there, down that street, around where that blue truck is..." I wonder if the residents know how many dozens of Union soldiers died in their backyards.

October 12, 2009

Doctor Who Geekery Report - Unreleased

Upcoming Region 1 DVD releases:
3 Nov 09: The War Games (yay!), "The Black Guardian Trilogy" (Mawdryn Undead, Terminus, Enlightenment)
5 Jan 10: The Keys of Marinus, The Twin Dilemma

Forthcoming release announced, date to be determined:
Frontier in Space
Curse of Peladon
Planet of the Daleks
Monster of Peladon
Remembrance of the Daleks (Special Edition)

The 48 remaining releasable Classic Series serials with no scheduled or announced DVD release, in order of Dynamic Rankings (as of 10/12/09).
The Rankings are utilized to suggest, though not to specifically reflect, fan demand.

Top 10

  1. The Seeds of Doom
  2. Terror of the Zygons
  3. The Dæmons (requires new re-colorization)
  4. Terror of the Autons (requires new re-colorization)
  5. Kinda
  6. The Ice Warriors (requires reconstruction of missing eps 2 & 3)
  7. The Masque of Mandragora
  8. The Tenth Planet (requires reconstruction of missing ep 4)
  9. The Crusades (requires reconstruction of missing ep 2 & 4)
  10. The Face of Evil

Middle 28
Frontios, Day of the Daleks, The Mind of Evil (requires colorization), Snakedance, The Ambassadors of Death (requires recolorization), Planet of the Spiders, Planet of Fire, The Sunmakers, The Moonbase (requires reconstruction of missing eps 1 & 3), Greatest Show in the Galaxy, The Awakening, Death to the Daleks, , The Reign of Terror (requires reconstruction of missing eps 4 & 5), The Android Invasion, Revenge of the Cybermen, The Ark, Nightmare of Eden, The Happiness Patrol, The Krotons, Colony In Space, Meglos, The Creature from the Pit, The Chase, The Mutants, Planet of Giants, Dragonfire, The King's Demons, The Horns of Nimon

Bottom 10
Invasion of the Dinosaurs (requires colorization of ep 1)
The Gunfighters
The Silver Nemesis
The Sensorites
The Space Museum
Paradise Towers
The Dominators
The Time Monster
Time and the Rani

October 7, 2009

In Search of my Great-Great-Great-Grandfather

My Great^3 Grandfather Robert Henry Gray is buried somewhere in Fredericksburg, VA, and I'm on a mission to find him.

Robert was one of four brothers from the tiny town of Stockton ME (near Belfast), who fought in the Civil War. Of the four, Robert, Clarendon, Madison & Augustus, Clarendon was the only one who returned. Madison fell at the Battle of Fredericksburg (Dec 13 '62) age 18, Robert at the Battle of the Wilderness (5 May '64) age 28, Augustus at the Battle of Cedar Creek (Oct 19 '64), age 16. Clarendon saw virtually every significant battle of the Civil War, from First Bull Run to the surrender at Appomattox.

Robert's Civil War story is actually pretty spectacular. He signed up in '61 with the 4th Maine Volunteer Regiment, Company I, and was quickly made Sergeant. At First Bull Run he was wounded and captured; he escaped back to his lines with only a newspaper map for a guide, floating across the Potomac on a fencepost. He received prompt medical care, and was promoted to 2nd Lt. After Fredericksburg he replaced the slain 1st Lt, and was promoted to Major after Gettysburg. On the first day of the Battle of the Wilderness he was shot from his horse by three Rebel bullets, and died being transported back to Fredericksburg.

Many years ago my father transcribed his 1862 diary (which is kept at the Harvard library), and my uncle and namesake Bob presented the family with an annotated version a few years ago. It's a pretty interesting look into the day-to-day minutae of a soldier's life. A lot of the time he was at Camp Knox in Alexandria, and frequently was downtown, so I may have traced his footsteps over the past three years. Through most of the year he was ill with dysentery. That year marked the birth of his daughter Alice and the death of his brother Madison. While not forthcoming with deep emotional insight, one can read between the lines... typical Yankee terseness. Also, quite a lot of "when will these poor Secech's see the error of their ways" type stuff.

According to a letter written in the first decade of the 1900's by his comrade Frank Farnham to his son, Frank Boynton Gray, Major Gray was hastily buried in the Fredericksburg town cemetery (as was brother Madison 18 months earlier), the only Yankee officer buried there. An email inquiry to the Fredericksburg National Cemetery (a memorial cemetery for the fallen Yankee troops) suggests that they were not re-interred, so they're likely still there. The question is are their graves marked?

My intention this past weekend was to go to the cemetery to see; I was going to an audition in Staunton on Saturday, so I took the back roads back thru to Fredericksburg. After staying in Staunton for lunch with some colleagues, by the time I arrived in F'burg it was after 5pm and the sun was starting to descend, giving me only a good hour of exploring at best; plus I was under strict instruction from Al to find a legendary icecream stand called Carl's (every bit as good as its reputation promised). So my next available weekend (after this coming weekend's Baltimore wedding) will see me back down to F'burg for another look.

On the drive from Staunton to Fredericksburg, I did stumble across the Wilderness battlefield site, which I stopped at for about 20 minutes. My research afterwards that evening showed that I wasn't on the part of the field where he fell, so I may go back there as well.

Why am I so interested in finding and communing with my Great-Great-Great Grandfather? After all, I'm a pacifist. I think there's something about the Gray brothers' story that I find inspiring. Not the killing and dying, but I just wonder how I'd react in the circumstances they were in. Would I have the wherewithall to react like he did? Would I find such courage under fire? Do I carry some of that in me, being his descendant? Who knows.

More reports to follow after I go back and attempt another search.

RIP Traip Academy?

According to this article in the Portsmouth Herald, serious discussion is happening about the closing of my beloved high school, plucky little Traip Academy.

This is particularly troublesome to me, given that I just went to my 20th reunion this summer. Traip also underwent a major renovation in the 90's in which the original "Main" building was torn down and a new structure built to connect the two other buildings, and it seems a waste to close a building that recently had so much money poured into it.

The kids would be sent to Marshwood High School in the neighboring town of Eliot, which has the capacity to accommodate Traip's entire student body (currently numbering a fairly paltry 280).

Kittery is falling victim to the State of Maine's plan to consolidate the various school districts, as well as the downsizing of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard whose 'navy brats' comprised a sizeable chunk of the students. Kittery's school system is overbudgeted and underpopulated, and it's a legitimate argument that the consolidation plan makes sound financial sense.

Except that many Traip teachers would likely lose their jobs, likely including some that were teaching back when I was there. That's a more pressing concern to me than any sentimental attachment I have to my old alma mater.

But still, those sentiments still matter to me. Traip's drama club shaped my artistic aesthetic, which is why prefer serious drama over musicals. Traip was where working backstage on a one-act cutting of Agnes of God as a freshman forged the direction of my life. Traip was where we learned to make do with meager resources, ancient equipment, occasionally indifferent teachers, and cramped facilities, because it taught us how to deal with adversity and how to transcend it.

Before the renovation, we had to eat lunch in the gym because we didn't have a cafeteria. We had the smallest gym in the state, we didn't have an auditorium (just a stage in the gym), we frequently had to walk outside between buildings in the dead of winter, our athletic fields were halfway across town, etc. The memories of teachers who died too young linger with me: Ms March, Ms Ryder, Mr Whitten, etc. still wander the halls in my mind.

Still, sentiment for times long past aren't enough to justify keeping the place open. Alas for Traip Academy, which soon might join the other shuttered Kittery schools that I went to: Wentworth-Dennett (grades 2 & 3) and Frisbee (grades 4-8).

I hope that if they do close it, they at least keep the building in use. Traip could be the long-delayed new community center, an adult-ed center, a performing arts center, or, hell, all three.

September 25, 2009

John's Five Our Towns

In February 2010 I'll start rehearsals for the fifth production of Our Town that I've done in my career. I won't pretend that Our Town is the greatest play ever written (or even the best play Thorton Wilder wrote), but I think it's a charming and special piece, and many of the productions marked tangible upticks in my slow & steady growth as a professional actor. I more-or-less fondly remember all of them.

OT #1 - University of Maine, Orono ME, 1991: Constable Warren

Not that happy a memory. The production was kinda by-the-numbers and uninspired. The actor playing Doc Gibbs, from NYC, found the play uninteresting and the characters boring, so he took it on himself to shamelessly mug out of a compulsion to inject some life into it. I played the Constable, and spent a hour applying very unconvincing old age makeup to accompany my unconvincing performance. Yawn.

OT #2 - The Players' Ring, Portsmouth NH, 1993: George Gibbs

The first play I did upon returning home after graduation, and the first show I did at the Players' Ring, my virtual second home for about eight years, and my first time working with its founder Gary Newton, the closest to a theatrical mentor I ever had. My first show with Theatre on the Rocks, a community/semi-pro group I'd go on to work closely with for many years, and my first time working with several cherished friends and colleages including Bruce Allen (father of Susan, who was Mrs Gibbs in OT #1), Anne Rehner, Tina Cunningham, Mike Pomp and Bill Beaman. A few of the cast are no longer with us: Fred Bresette, Frank Frisbee, and if memory serves, Barbara Randall.

My turn as George Gibbs pretty much marked the beginning and end of my career as a male ingenue. I got the role in what was pretty much the standard fashion at the Ring at the time: I was the first age-appropriate male to show up at the audition (luckily I was also the only one). No disrespect intended, but the role of Emily should've gone to the girl who walked in second.

The Ring was a nice place to do Our Town. The theatre was an intimate thrust stage with red brick walls, timber posts & beams, etc., which did much to create the turn-of-the-century atmosphere. Theatre on the Rocks was a community group at the time, and it kinda had the earmarks of a community theatre production in terms of acting, and I was hardly an exception. What I remember most was the two boys (Wally Webb and one of the Crowells) constantly busting up during rehearsals; when Rebecca and George wax philosophical over the full moon, they'd stand in the open loft over the stage area and drop trou.

OT #3 - Centennial Hall benefit, North Hampton NH, 1999: Simon Stimson

This was intended as a benefit production for the renovation of Centennial Hall into a performing arts space; it had stood virtually empty for decades. The upstairs hall had no working lights or any sprinkler system, and both deficiencies bore bitter fruit. After a tech rehearsal, Bruce Allen (playing the Stage Mgr) fell down the dark back stairs and broke three ribs. Then on the day before the first show, we were shut down by the town Fire Marshall. Some last-minute scrambling led to our moving to the nearby middle school, and our first run-thru was our opening performance. Bruce, who has endured more physical ailments than most mortals could, performed admirably, all but propped against the proscenium arch since he could barely move.

I'd heard that many of my colleagues were doing an Our Town, and I was a little pride-wounded about not being asked or approached. I got the director's number and called her - pretty uncharacteristically bold for me - the role of Simon Stimson was still open, and she cast me over the phone. The cast was a mixture of amateurs (George was the shopping-cart collector at BJ's... I can't even remember who played Emily) and semi-pros, and some of the latter behaved better than others. The director, though never to be mistaken for Elia Kazan, had to brave more than a few instances of diva fits and actors feeling obliged to direct the play for her. Meanwhile I stayed quiet, giving more than my share of piggyback rides to the young'uns.

I loved playing Simon. I played him rather dark and over-the-top, and it was a nice character stretch for me, going out of my typically squishy comfort zone.

As far as I know, the renovation of Centennial Hall is still ongoing, ten years later.

OT #4 - Peterborough Players, Peterborough NH, 2000: Man in Audience, ensemble of the dead, understudy for the Stage Manager, Mr Webb and Doc Gibbs

This was my first professional summer stock season. At the time, I was mourning the passing of Gary Newton, and had been accepted into the Actors Studio MFA Program at the New School in NYC, facing a future watching James Lipton ask Sylvester Stallone what he'd want to hear God say... I deferred enrollment a year, and eventually declined altogether, though I would move to NYC the next summer. Gary had written recommendation letters for both Peterborough and the Actors Studio shortly before passing.

This was a very special production. Thornton Wilder was staying at the McDowell Colony in Peterborough when he wrote the play, and he used P'boro as his inspiration for Grovers Corners. He also oversaw its first post-Broadway production at the Players' grand old barn. I'd taken a day-trip up to the town a few months before, and was struck by just how beautiful the town was, and still had the same character as it did when it was written and was set. I discovered one of the town's old cemeteries, which I am sure had to be the one Wilder had in his mind when he wrote Act III.

Venerable actor James Whitmore played the Stage Manager (I have to confess I didn't know who he was when I first heard his name), but I was most excited about working with Mary Beth Hurt as Mrs Webb - she was Robin Williams' wife in The World According To Garp, one of my favorite movies. Jayne Houdyshell, who has since gone on to a Tony nomination and several Broadway roles, played Mrs Gibbs.

George and Emily were played by Peterborough's principal set of ingenues, Kraig Swartz and Savanne Martin, who at the time were past 30 years old. To their credit, they were more than able to convincingly play teens (for a counterexample, see William Holden and Martha Scott in the 1940 film, who look practically middle-aged). Director Gus Kaikkonen threw in a few shout-outs to Peterborough; the hymn sang in the wedding was written by a turn-of-the-century resident. The set looked like a bare stage, but it was illusory; the designer built walls that evoked and extended the rough-hewn wood of the ancient barn onto the stage.

James Whitmore (dubbed Jimmy-B, for "Jimmy Bigtime", by the interns) had his own dressing table made up specially for him offstage, rather than in the dressing room with us. Fair enough, venerable old actor's prerogative. I've got a nice pic of all the male castmembers (save Jimmy B) on Facebook somewhere. Meanwhile, we interns were reflecting on how cool our lives were as we sat at a cast party - along with the big names in the cast, Mary Beth's husband Paul Schrader (screenwriter of "Taxi Driver," among others) was there, and we felt like rock stars.

As one of the Act III dead, a curious tendency of mine came to the fore. It also occasionally happened in OT #3 as Simon as well. Sitting perfectly still and staring straight ahead, narcolepsy would kick in and I would regularly fall asleep; every rehearsal, every performance (except the one where a spider crawled up my neck). As far as I know I never snored, and I never missed a cue. It also spilled over into my offstage world one night, as I briefly nodded off while driving. A similar situation, sitting still facing straight forward into bright approaching lights. Luckily I didn't crash.

Jimmy B would return regularly to Peterborough in following years, including a recent reprise of Our Town, before he passed away last year.

OT #5 - Everyman Theatre, Baltimore MD, 2010: Howie Newsome, Sam Craig, Man In Audience

I'm really looking forward to this production, though not necessarily the commute. This is the first time I've earned EMC points for actually being onstage in a featured role (as opposed to ensemble and/or understudy), and the pay is quite decent. The option's (narrowly) open for me to do dialect coaching - I did a research project on the Northern New England dialect in grad school, and put it to use a few yrs back in Desire Under The Elms. I'm also going to be assigned one of the young'uns in the cast to mentor. Lord help the wee lad.

So counting OT #5, I'll now have played or understudied every adult male role, except Prof. Willard and Joe Stoddard. Maybe I can check them off for OT #6, if the trend continues, on Broadway in about 5-10 years.

August 27, 2009

How Howdy Doody inspired Doctor Who: A Geekery Report

In 1954, the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Company) got the rights to create their own version of Howdy Doody, with their own characters and copies of the original puppets. The original emcee, a faux-Mountie named Timber Tom, was played James Doohan (Scotty from Star Trek), and an occasional guest host was Ranger Bob, played by one William Shatner. The Canadian Howdy Doody also featured the TV debut of Robert Goulet as Trapper Pierre.

Among the puppet characters was a "Mr. X," voiced by Claude Rae, who zipped through time and space in a machine called a "Whatsis Box," teaching children about history. Mr X's tenure on the program was short-lived when numerous parents complained that he was too scary.

The CBC's Supervisor of Drama Production at the time was one Sydney Newman, who would later move to England to head the Drama departments of ABC-TV and eventually the BBC, where he very likely had Mr X and his Whatsis Box in mind when he formulated the concept of Doctor Who.

from the IMDB entry on James Doohan:
"James Doohan was originally cast as Timber Tom but wanted more money than the CBC was prepared to pay and so was replaced by Mews, who couldn't appear for the first week of the show and was temporarily replaced as host by William Shatner as Ranger Bob."

July 26, 2009


Bad Hamlet received the audience award for Best Experimental Production in the 2009 Capital Fringe Festival!

Thanks to Sarah, AnnaLaura, Ian, Matt V, John RK, Felipe C, Ty H, Anne N, Anne V, the Fringe organizers and staff, friends, loved ones, supporters, and of course, everyone who came to see it.

Keep your ears open about a future remount!

July 17, 2009

Press love for BAD HAMLET

Trey Graham (CityPaper) raves!
(Glen Weldon, also of the CityPaper, chimes in with his own capsule rave in the comments!)
"A Fringe Must-See..." "tremendous fun..."
"Bottom line? The notion that all the best writing is re-writing gets an admirably lucid, singularly entertaining proof
here." (TG)

"What could easily have come off as an intellectual exercise is given flesh — and not the too too solid kind — by a script that doesn’t merely note the differences between the text, but gets them to comment on one another. Smart, deft and fully realized." (GW)
Chris Klimek (Washington Examiner) lists us as one of the Ten Shows You Won't Want To Miss...
...and then raves in DCist!
"Pass with your best violence," Hamlet challenges Laertes in the play's climactic duel. But that line was, we learn, a replacement for one in the 1603 text that better describes Bad Hamlet: "Pass with your most cunning display." (CK)
Kaysha Gurell (DCist) also raves!
"One solid option, Bad Hamlet, ... is sure to impress you, just as
it did us." (KG)
Jessica Pearson (DCTheatreScene) more or less raves!
"Bad Hamlet is incredibly interesting...
fascinating... powerful and wonderful to watch." (JP)
The Two Hours Traffic blog says nice things!
"This is definitely a must see if you are a Shakespeare junkie like me." (2Hrs)
Nelson Pressley (Washington Post) doesn't hate it!
"The earnestly acted show [isn't] a nuanced consideration of the implications on character and theme -- but that's OK." (NP)
Karen Shod? ("Karen's FYI" posting on DCTheatre Newsgroup)
Well, you can't please everybody...
"Interesting concept marred by amateurish presentation." (KS)
(That's her entire review. She got a press comp to write six words.)

July 2, 2009

BAD HAMLET at the Capital Fringe Festival

The Adequate Players present the World Premiere production of


Adapted and Produced by John Geoffrion
Directed by Sarah Denhardt
Stage Manager - AnnaLaura Wensel McKowen
Sound Design - Ian Armstrong
Fight Choreographer - Lorraine Ressegger

Hamlet (1603 Quarto) - John Robert Keena
Hamlet (1623 Folio) - Matt Volner
Ofelia/Leartes/Corambis - Ty Hallmark
Ophelia/Laertes/Gertrude - Anne Veal
King/Polonius/Ghost - Felipe Cabezas
Queen/Claudius/Player - Anne Nottage

The Bodega - at The Trading Post
1013 7th St NW, Washington DC, 20001
(Nearest Metro: Yellow or Green line to Mt Vernon Sq/Convention Ctr)
We apologize to patrons with disabilities, but the Bodega is not wheelchair accessible.

Saturday July 11 @ 11pm
Sunday July 12 @ 1:15pm
Friday July 17 @ 10:30pm
Sunday July 19 @ 4:45pm
Wednesday July 22 @ 7pm

This production presented as a part of the 2009 Capital Fringe Festival

$15.00 (patrons must also purchase a Fringe Button to see any Fringe shows)
Order here or call 866.811.4111

BAD HAMLET is an experimental performance piece that explores the similarities and differences between the two published versions of Shakespeare's Hamlet: the familiar version published in the 1623 Folio, and the unauthorized "Bad" Quarto published in 1603. The latter, a shorter, leaner, less poetic version of the story, has only recently been given its due. But simply to perform the Bad Quarto isn't enough: how do the two versions compare, complement or contrast with one another? Reading only gives the merest hint; Shakespeare’s plays were written to be performed, and thus we’ll take this literary comparison to the stage.

BAD HAMLET is a condensed, stereoscopic version of Hamlet in which the two texts are performed simultaneously; sometimes overlapping, sometimes in a Shakespearean 'tennis match,' with two Hamlets, two Ophelias, two Gertrudes, two Claudii, two Polonii, two Laerteses, and the Quarto's Player and Ghost, all under an hour, performed by a cast of six in a minimalist setting.

As a stereoscope takes two nearly similar photographs and combines them to create a 3D image, our goal, by simultaneously performing two versions of the same play, is for the subtle and not-so-subtle differences in the two texts to create a meta-Hamlet that provides additional depth and dimension to the emotions, motivations, and poetry of one of the greatest works of English literature.

May 26, 2009

Doctor Who Geekery Report: Unreleased

Upcoming Region 1 DVD releases:
7/7/09: The Rescue, The Romans, Attack of the Cybermen
9/1/09: The Deadly Assassin, Image of the Fendahl, Delta and the Bannermen

Release announced, date to be determined:
The Keys of Marinus
The War Games
Frontier in Space
Planet of the Daleks
Mawdryn Undead
The Twin Dilemma
Remembrance of the Daleks (Special Edition)

The 50 remaining releasable Classic Series serials with no scheduled or announced DVD release, in order of Dynamic Rankings (as of 5/26/09).
The Rankings are utilized to suggest, though not to specifically reflect, fan demand.

Top 10

  1. The Seeds of Doom
  2. Terror of the Zygons
  3. The Dæmons (requires new re-colorization)
  4. Terror of the Autons (requires new re-colorization)
  5. Kinda
  6. The Ice Warriors (requires reconstruction of missing eps 2 & 3)
  7. The Curse of Peladon
  8. The Masque of Mandragora
  9. The Tenth Planet (requires reconstruction of missing ep 4)
  10. The Crusades (requires reconstruction of missing ep 2 & 4)

Middle 30
The Face of Evil, Frontios, Day of the Daleks, The Mind of Evil (requires colorization), Snakedance, The Ambassadors of Death (requires recolorization), Planet of the Spiders, Planet of Fire, The Sunmakers, The Moonbase (requires reconstruction of missing eps 1 & 3), Greatest Show in the Galaxy, The Awakening, Death to the Daleks, Invasion of the Dinosaurs (requires colorization of ep 1), The Reign of Terror (requires reconstruction of missing eps 4 & 5), The Android Invasion, Revenge of the Cybermen, The Ark, Nightmare of Eden, The Happiness Patrol, The Krotons, Colony In Space, Meglos, The Monster of Peladon, The Creature from the Pit, The Mutants, The Chase, Planet of Giants, Dragonfire, The King's Demons

Bottom 10

The Horns of Nimon
The Time Monster
The Gunfighters
The Silver Nemesis
The Sensorites
The Space Museum
Paradise Towers
The Dominators
Time and the Rani

May 16, 2009

News Flash: Pinter died. FIVE MONTHS AGO.

Harold Pinter died the day before Christmas. I'm astounded that his passing has gone, from what I can gather, completely unrecognized by the DC theatre community. Though I didn't expect candlelight vigils, one would think that his passing might have warranted, at the very least, a playreading series. I considered taking the reins on such a project but for my assumption that other more likely candidates would already be working on it.

I can think of two companies in particular, both of whom I've worked with at least twice, to whom they owe Pinter a huge debt. Neither of these companies did a thing to recognize Pinter, and neither have a Pinter play in their upcoming season.

I mean, come on, even Arena Stage threw The Heidi Chronicles into their 2007 season to mark Wendy Wasserstein's passing the year before.

What the heck?

In other news, American playwright William Gibson died in November at the ripe old age of 94. In addition to The Miracle Worker and Golda's Balcony, he wrote quite a few other notable plays that unfortunately didn't have the same pulling power; hopefully some of these might be due for revivals. Goodly Creatures, anyone? A Cry of Players?

May 4, 2009

Doctor Who Geekery Report: The Claws of Axos (1971)

The Claws of Axos (13 Mar - 4 Apr 1971, w: Bob Baker & Dave Martin, d: Michael Ferguson)

I must sing the praises of what in my mind is one of Jon Pertwee's most under-appreciated serials, The Claws of Axos.

What I find most fascinating in this serial are the actions of the Doctor. What modern viewers must do nearly 40 years later is forget all the serials that come after, and consider only what we've seen of Pertwee's incarnation up to this time, a season and a half into his tenure in the role. He still bitterly resents his exile on Earth, things are still very tense between him and the Brigadier, and this season he is faced with the arrival of his adversary The Master who, as of the end of the previous serial, posesses one crucial thing the Doctor desperately wants: his freedom.

At this point in the series the Doctor's primary focus is bypassing the Time Lords' block on his mind so he can get his TARDIS operational; typically his other pursuits are at odds with his UNIT colleagues, often only helping when their purposes intersect or he has a personal stake. (Why was he at the Inferno project? To siphon off nuclear power to his TARDIS. Can anyone be surprised at the Doctor when, informed that the research station has their own nuclear reactor, he conveniently requests that the TARDIS be brought along?) Given the rather mercenary nature of his relationship with UNIT up to this point, plus his increasing annoyance with human society (Mr Chinn, et al), when he announces that he's abandoning Earth to its fate, it's not entirely inconceivable that he's serious. Not only that, but a proposed alliance with the Axons and the Master against the Time Lords! Can we entirely trust that he's just duping them? The Doctor's given circumstances at this point in the series are such that his potential to turn evil - or at least amoral - have never been higher.

Also fascinating is the Doctor's relationship with the Master. What gob-smacks me is the Master alone in the Doctor's TARDIS in ep 3. He comes across the mess the Doctor has left the console... and fixes it. He puts the console back together (after of course his immortal line where he compares it to a second-hand gas stove). Nothing speaks to their unspoken mutual respect or the hinted past friendship than this action (and nothing is more missed in Anthony Ainley's moustache-twirling pyschopathic characterization). And of course this has some of Roger Delgado's best moments, "Sticky-tape on the windows," etc.

And this is all mere background for perhaps the most technically ambitious production the show had seen up to this point, or for many years after. Director Michael Ferguson and the design team pulled out all the stops, and not only the interior of the Axon ship. Note that the complex studio sequences (particularly episode 4's overload of the Axon brain and the climactic battle in the accelerator control room) are all done on video, as opposed to film. This suggests that the sequences were recorded mostly live, given that they didn't have the post-production time back then, nor the time to set up individual shots. It's still impressive, although not without a bit of camp, nearly forty years later.

This is far and away Bob Baker & Dave Martin's most ambitious Doctor Who script, and in my opinion a lot of this can be credited to the fact that it's their first. There's something about first-time writers and/or first-time directors coming into the show with ambitions beyond the usual pale, not letting their imagination be hampered with BBC bureaucracy and technological limitations. See also Lovett Bickford's work on The Leisure Hive or Paul Joyce's cinematic envelope-stretching Warrior's Gate.

Claws of Axos is also very much a study in human folly, but presents it with a delicious bit of irony. The altruistic scientists want to distribute Axonite worldwide, but the greedy conservative MP's led by Mr Chinn attempt to monopolize the distribution to Britain.

Forget Pigbin Josh. Forget Bill Filer's atrocious American accent. Forget the giant Axon penis-eye. Forget that the accelerator explosion was too small. Forget the obvious zippers on the back of the Axons in their 'beautiful' forms. This was an ambitious, gripping, visually dazzling go-for-broke adventure that succeeded (mostly) brilliantly.
John's Grade: A-

May 3, 2009

Doctor Who Geekery Report: The Visitation (1982)

The Visitation (15-23 Feb 1982, w: Eric Saward, d: Peter Moffat)

I dug out the DVD of The Visitation this morning. Although it's quite well-regarded I never quite warmed to this story, and re-viewing it did little to further endear me to it.

There are a lot of decent ingredients to this story: a few good lines, an impressive looking monster, one particularly good supporting character (Richard Mace), some decent location shooting, the destruction of the Doctor's signature prop, and an interesting premise (aliens at the heart of the Plague and Great Fire of 1666), but it's all undercut by a lack of decent plotting, scripting, directing, etc.

John Nathan Turner saddled the period's writers with having a TARDIS crew of four to attend to (the Doctor, Adric, Nyssa & Tegan). Compare with the far more effective "Kinda", which found a contrivance to keep Nyssa asleep in the TARDIS for all four episodes, and Tegan trapped inside her own mind. The crew harkens back to the early days of the program when three companions were necessary to complement Hartnell's elderly, occasionally infirm persona, and each companion had their particular function: Ian was the man of action, Barbara the nurturer, and Susan the glass-ankled innocent. But here, the Doctor is more robust and the three companions lack distinction. Although Nyssa and Adric had scientific ability, it was rarely put to use. Tegan's character served very little purpose but to whine. (Ironically, in this story, Adric is the glass-ankled one!) All three do very little except get caught, escape, look for the Doctor, etc.

A comparatively gripping opening 'teaser' sequence in which a family of generic Restoration gentry get wiped out by unseen aliens starts the first episode off with momentum, which is promptly halted by a tedious story-padding scene of the Doctor and Co. recapping the previous story, setting Tegan up for her return and then her subsequent bitching out the Doctor when the TARDIS lands some-when else. They then spend the next three and a half episodes wandering around rather aimlessly, pausing every 23 minutes or so for a weak and utterly pointless cliffhanger ("Doctor, where are you?" "Oh, not again..." "No! Don't open that!")

Save for Mace, who's all but operating in a vacuum, the supporting characters have no distinction (they're not helped by the fact that Saward has them under mind control for most of the story). One yearns for a Holmsian double-act, or, well, anything memorable.

Quite a lot of obvious effort and expense went into the Terleptil costume, but then little effort went into making the Terleptil a memorable character. Apart from an offhand reference to the Terleptils' love of beauty (certainly not supported by the ship's bland design), the Terleptils are a pretty generic race. Saward tries to get us to generate some sympathy for the Terleptil; he's an escaped prisoner, an outcast among his own people, disfigured, etc. The ingredients are there, but are undercut by indifferent writing, directing, and production design. He doesn't even get a name. Or, as it turns out, clothes.

If anything, an introductory scene featuring the team of Terleptils escaping and crashing, something to establish their characters, their backgrounds, their intentions, etc, might have gone a long way toward engendering the sympathy Saward intended. Instead we get five minutes of a domestic scene featuring characters who are promptly killed off. (If he had to go with the family, instead of being killed couldn't they have been captured, forced to do terrible things under mind control, and then liberated at the end, perhaps with the father sacrificing his life or something? That would have at least been interesting. That's arguably what Robert Holmes would have done.)

I can hypothesize that in his early drafts, Saward had set the action in the middle of London. But of course to re-create plague-ridden London in 1666 would be cost-prohibitive, so the producers had him set the action to an unnamed village outside the city (with a population, apparently, of five), only moving into London late in Episode Four so the climax, i.e. the Great Fire, could occur.

This was Eric Saward's debut on Doctor Who. One wonders what JNT saw to inspire him to hire him as script editor, other than that he wrote a story on time that fit in the budget.

Well, at least it's better than Time-Flight, but I'm not in a hurry to watch it again. At least Time-Flight is so awful that it's entertaining. This is just plain boring.

My Grade: C-

April 20, 2009

The Definitive Piercing Analysis from a Random Facebook App

What does Jesus think of you?
Jesus thinks you're a Sanctimonious Prick
He's tired of your shit. Nobody thinks you're different, or interesting, or cool. Certainly not the Saviour of all Men. Jesus wants you to quit being such a tool.

John's comment: the Ayn Rand image was just the crown on the sin qua non of Facebook quizzes. Love it!

April 15, 2009

iPod album shuffle of the Day: "Asia" (1982)

My iPod is set to album shuffle (and has been for several months; currently on song 6171 out of 7965), and today's album carrying me thru my drizzly morning commute was Asia's 1982 self-titled debut.

During my tweens this was one of my favorite albums, back before I discovered the progressive heavyweight bands that came to dominate my playlist in undergrad and after. Asia was a supergroup consisting of members of three leading prog bands that at the time had gone on hiatus: guitarist Steve Howe and keyboardist Geoff Downes had left Yes (who had broken up in '79 and were about to reform without them), drummer Carl Palmer had left Emerson and Lake (who then promptly re-formed with Cozy Powell... a theme?), and John Wetton was the bassist and vocalist of King Crimson before they evaporated in '74 (and had since, all together now, re-formed without him). Hell, even Roger Dean (who had a virtual monopoly on prog rock album artwork) designed the cover.

As the band's pedigree suggests, Asia is awash in the intricate stylings of the genre, albeit liberally peppered with hooks and pop references (i.e. the Spectoresque "Be My Baby" drumbeat in "Heat of the Moment"), but lyrically... well, nobody put it better than master critic Robert Christgau: "After listening to two lyrics about why they like their girlfriends, three about "surviving," and four about why they don't like their girlfriends, I'm ready for brain salad surgery."

I can't deny that Asia is full of catchy, hooky, guilty pleasures, but acknowledging so doesn't overshadow the sense that they're consciously dumbing down their songs to reach a mass audience. When you consider the artistic heights they had reached in their earlier bands, there's an inescapably condescending air pervading this album, which as an adult prevents me from embracing it the way I did as when I was twelve. It's like if the Beatles tried to write "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" after they'd done Revolver & Sgt Pepper. (also guilty: ELP's "Black Moon," Howe and Steve Hackett's "GTR", and any Yes song with Trevor Rabin in it)

And a side note - putting a year in a song lyric is almost always a bad idea. "And now you find yourself in '82 / The disco hotspots hold no charms for you" confines the album to a specific era, freezing it in time (and makes me feel really really old to think that this album came out twenty-seven years ago. I've dated people younger than this album).

(In the meantime, my shuffle has now landed on Yes's Tales From Topographic Oceans, which is either the peak or nadir of progressive rock. For me it's a bit of both, sometimes over the course of a single song. Still, the contrast between this and Asia is startling, and further confirmation of my above opinions.)

April 13, 2009

"Hope I Die Before I Get Old"

Not really.

Here's a list of rock stars (or personalities associated with pop/rock music) over the age of 70.
Taken from

1. Les Paul, guitar pioneer, 93 (born 9 June 1915)
2. Ravi Shankar, Indian sitar legend, 89 (born 7 April 1920)
3. Bert Weedon, early UK rock guitarist, 88 (born 10 May 1920)
4. Ed Cassidy, drummer for Spirit, 85 (born 4 May 1923)
5. Jim Marshall, the "Father of Loud", 85 (born 29 July 1923)
6. Tuli Kupferberg, beat poet and member of the Fugs, 85 (born 28 Sep 1923)
7. Earl Scruggs, 85 (born 6 Jan 1924)
8. BB King, 83 (born 16 Sept 1925)
9. George Martin, Beatles producer, 83 (born 3 Jan 1926)
10. Chuck Berry, 82 (born 18 Oct 1926)
11. Mose Allison, 81 (born 11 Nov 1927)
12. Fats Domino, 81 (born 26 Feb 1928)
13. Burt Bacharach, 80 (born 12 May 1928)
14. Hubert Sumlin, Howlin' Wolf's guitarist, 77 (born 16 Nov 1931)
15. Scotty Moore, Elvis Presley's guitarist, 77 (born 27 Dec 1931)
16. Petula Clark, 76 (born 15 Nov 1932)
17. Little Richard, 76 (born 5 Dec 1932)
18. Yoko Ono, 76 (born 18 Feb 1933)
19. Quincy Jones, 76 (born 14 March 1933)
20. Willie Nelson, 75 (born 30 April 1933)
21. Marshall Lytle, one of Bill Haley's Comets, 75 (born 1 Sept 1933)
22. John Mayall, UK blues rock pioneer, 75 (born 29 Nov 1933)
23. Loretta Lynn, 74 (born 14 April 1934)
24. Leonard Cohen, 74 (born 21 Sept 1934)
25. Carol Kaye, LA session bassist, 74 (born 24 March 1935)
26. Bobby Vinton, 73 (born 16 April 1935)
27. Jerry Lee Lewis, 73 (born 29 Sept 1935)
28. Johnny Mathis, 73 (born 30 Sept 1935)
29. Julie Andrews, 73 (born 1 Oct 1935)
30. Glen Campbell, 72 (born 22 April 1936)
31. Engelbert Humperdinck, 72 (born 2 May 1936)
32. Kris Kristofferson, 72 (born 22 June 1936)
33. Buddy Guy, 72 (born 30 July 1936)
34. Bill Wyman, 72 (born 24 Oct 1936)
35. Charlie Daniels, 72 (born 28 Oct 1936)
36. Mary Travers, of Peter, Paul & Mary, 72 (born 9 Nov 1936)
37. Shirley Bassey, 72 (born 8 Jan 1937)
38. Don Everly, 72 (born 1 Feb 1937)
39. Roberta Flack, 72 (born 10 Feb 1937)
40. Merle Haggard, 72 (born 6 April 1937)
41. Dick Dale, 71 (born 4 May 1937)
42. Vic Flick, 71 (born 14 May 1937)
43. Trini Lopez, 71 (born 15 May 1937)
44. Eddie Floyd, R&B singer, 71 (born 25 June 1937)
45. Tom Paxton, 71 (born 31 Oct 1937)
46. Frank Ifield, 71 (born 30 Nov 1937)
47. Paul Stookey, of Peter, Paul & Mary, 71 (born 30 Dec 1937)
48. Paul Revere, 71 (born 7 Jan 1938)
49. Allen Toussaint, 71 (born 14 Jan 1938)
50. Etta James, 71 (born 25 Jan 1938)
51. Duane Eddy, 70 (born 26 April 1938)
52. Herbie Flowers, 70 (born 19 May 1938)
53. Peter Yarrow, of Peter Paul & Mary, 70 (born 31 May 1938)
54. Ben E King, 70 (born 28 Sept 1938)
55. PJ Proby, 70 (born 6 Nov 1938)
56. Gordon Lightfoot, 70 (born 17 Nov 1938)
57. JJ Cale, 70 (born 5 Dec 1938)
58. Scott McKenzie, 70 (born 10 Jan 1939)
59. Phil Everly, 70 (born 19 Jan 1939)
60. Gerry Goffin, 70 (born 11 Feb 1939)
61. Ray Manzarek, of the Doors, 70 (born 12 Feb 1939)
62. Neil Sedaka, 70 (born 13 March 1939)

April 12, 2009

Still More Piercing Analysis From Random Facebook Quizzes

Which Beatles Song Are You?
You are I Am The Walrus.

You are the true iconoclast. You possess the perfect union of intuition and knowledge. You are independent and very involved in your thoughts. Avoid the tendency to have envy and contempt of others.

Which element are you?

You are Wood, an interesting element indeed. Made of tough stuff, you are. You have an outer shell that can protect you from most things and, unlike Metal, your shell is one built on logic and experience instead of one hastily put up to protect you from being hurt (though it functions in that way as well). Wood has the least personality of the elemental personae and is the most effected by the other elements (needs air to breathe, water to drink, earth to grow from, fire destroys it). Though to balance all of that out, you can heal far more easily than the rest (which is good, because if you do fall, bouncing back will be horrendously difficult). You are stable, stubborn almost, but smarts and common sense are your roots that keep you in place. Your place in the world: You are the wizened old soul whose mere existence proves that anything's possible..

John comments: How ironic, most drama critics say the same thing about my performances.

What Old Movie Star Are You?

Bette Davis
Short and to the point. Temperamental. Smoke when you get nervous or distracted. Good at whatever you do. Doesn't waste time. You either have strong friends or strong enemies. You have proven that nothing can stop you and you can do anything. Don't care what people say about you. You are ultimately capable of murder.

John comments: I changed my answers several times, and each time I wound up Bette. I think the fix is in.

March 20, 2009

Piercing Analysis from Random Facebook Apps, Vol. 6

Which President Are You?

Calvin Coolidge
You are shy and quiet. You are very funny, but not at all the clown. If it would mean you not being in it, you would like to watch a conversation go smoothly. Though sometimes oblivious to what is happening, people look up to you. You are compatible with Ronald Reagan.

(John says.... Reagan? Seriously?)

Piercing Analysis from Random Facebook Apps, Vol.... uh, 5?

What Shakespearean Character Are You?
(A different quiz from last year)

You have a tremendous sense of humor, but sometimes you go a little too far with it. You veer into cynicism too frequently. A popular person, you know how to please crowds, but they don't ever seem to please you.

Which Punk Rock Star Are You?

Joe Strummer (The Clash)
You seem really involved in politics or social problems and you want to do a lot about. Charity concerts or other actions - that's your way to fix the world. You show, that punk rock exist beyond sex, drugs and alcohol. But you still know how to rock. Good for you.

February 19, 2009

Been Busy

So, yeah, I've been away a while. All is well.

Just wrapped "The Cherry Orchard" at WSC; billed as the last performance at Clark St, it more than likely won't be. The bank that was financing the redevelopment of the area went bust, and the Arlington Arts Council's budget was slashed. The vote is coming soon on the proposed renovation of the empty former Newseum space in Rosslyn which would potentially be WSC's new home. WSC's Board is resolute and our fingers are crossed, but I fear at least one more sweltering summer and frosty winter in the warehouse.

Since April '07 I've done seven productions, of which six were at Clark Street, and I feel like the directions from my house to there is now encoded in my midbrain. I accepted a role in American Century's "Native Son," and I hope I don't forget not to drive out to Crystal City.

Early in the Cherry Orchard rehearsal process, the cast and crew went up to NYC to see the "The Seagull" on Broadway. I doubt I'll see a better production of a Chekhov play in my lifetime. It was also my first time back in the Big Apple since I moved out in May '04, and I forgot what an energizing experience it is. I'm beginning to hear the siren call, and it's tempting. I'm going back March 2-8 with Al, to see more shows. I'm dragging him to Uncle Vanya (directed by Austin Pendleton, my old acting teacher), and he's dragging me to see Billy Elliott. He'll be working the Chelsea Art Fair while I go off to see the Bridge Project's production of The Cherry Orchard at BAM Harvey (NYC apparently has gone Chekhov crazy).

Oh yeah, Al. Did I mention Al? (sigh)

Went to Leagues. Used my standard monologue, from Pinter's "Silence." I do it well. Arena Stage called, inviting me to participate in their 10-minute student playwriting thing; a potential foot in the door, but my NYC trip made that impossible, alas. Got an upcoming audition for Rorschach's summer season next week. Fingers crossed.

Field Report: A Delicate Balance, Arena Stage

(Still alive and blogging.)

Saw Edward Albee's "A Delicate Balance" at Arena last night on a comp ticket. Not sorry I went. But like most productions from DC's Big Two (Arena and Shakespeare Theatre Co), they tend to mute down the emotional intensity as not to upset the (largely geriatric) audience, while amping up the production values so donors and subscribers would know how their money was spent. I commend the cast for not being thrown by the din of dropped change (you'd think everybody paid with pennies), snoring, coughing fits and listening device feedback.

As matriarch Agnes, Kathleen Chalfant, the big name in the cast, was even-keeled to a fault. The pointed barbs at milquetoasty husband Tobias, alcoholic sister Claire and quadruple divorcee daughter Julia were largely devoid of sting, almost as if she was marking it through; clearly and distinctly spoken, but flatlined. Of course, maybe it was a bad night. Still, being a Broadway star and all, pencil in her Helen Hayes nom next year. (I'm hardly objective but Audrey Adams who played my Agnes in the community production I directed 10 years ago was more effective.) Terry Beaver, though, does deliver as Tobias, particularly his Act 3 explosion, and the rest of the cast do just fine.

Like recognizing like, the audience had no trouble identifying with Toby and Agnes, giving harumphs of recognition at the minutae of the upper-class life that Albee was adopted into, but came away a bit befuddled by it all. What did it mean? "What is this 'terror' of which they speak," they mutter while their mutual funds and 401-K's evaporate. I found it utterly ironic that the most timely line in the play, when Julia demands that Agnes explain her displacement at the hands of Harry and Edna, was cut: "Don't they have a house anymore? Did the market go bust without my knowing it?" Ah, we can't upset the delicate sensibilities of our patrons, for whom art is not a mirror of the soul but something tasteful to hang over the setee. Another cognac? Why yes please.