Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Halloween happenings

What a great week! First, I went to Jacktober on Friday. It's a new street festival in Jackson (this is its first year) featuring bands, beers, and brats. We hung out there during lunch, enjoyed the weather and the music, and then moseyed back to work. (I also bought a Jacktober T-shirt. I love the logo - a stien whose lid looks like the capitol dome. It's designed by a local guy, an art director at an ad agency here.)

On Friday night, hubby and I went to a rockin' Halloween party. I was a flapper; he was a Viking. (The cutest Viking ever. He got second place in the costume contest. And he would have gotten first, too, if that chick hadn't shown up as an oompah loompah. Some people have no shame. ~sigh.~) But it was a seriously fun party. One of my best friends and her husband throw a pretty big shindig for Halloween every year. He is a personal trainer, so they usually have all of these buff people walking around their party, dressed quite convincingly as super-heroes. This year, we had a Super Man, a Wonder Woman, and a Bat Girl. It's enough to make a girl body-conscious. UNLESS you are a girl with a seriously awesome flapper costume, with tons of red fringe, a boa, and fishnet stockings. Even the super-heroes were telling me I looked good. Woo-hoo!

Last night, dinner (and way too much of it) at Nagoya. I'm becoming a huge dumpling fan - pork, beef, chicken, veal - almost to my own detriment. I must learn how to control this obsession. Fabulous edamame and shrimp tempura as well. I went with some of the cast members from New Stage's production of The Crucible. (I actually horned in on their dinner. Well, I can be like that sometimes.) But I did find them to be lovely people with some incredible over-dinner stories to tell.

Tonight - handing out candy by the boatload to any trick or treater that darkens my door. The cats are totally freaked out. (It's their first Halloween, so they are not used to such excitement!) They are alternately running around wildly and hiding, mouse-like, between the stuffed chair and the ottoman. Poor dears. I feel like telling them, "It could be worse. I could have dressed both of you in costumes." Mwah ha ha ha ha!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Alabama Shakes lineup

The Alabama Shakespeare Festival has released their season for 2006-2007, and it is good. Here's what's on tap:

Crowns by Regina Taylor - Oct. 13 - Nov. 5
Beauty and the Beast - Nov. 10 - Dec. 23
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl - Jan. 12 - Feb. 10
Gee's Bend by Elizabeth Gregory Wilder - Jan. 19 - Feb. 11
Henry VI (part A) by William Shakespeare - Feb. 23 - May 17
Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller - March 2 - April 7
Henry VI (part B) by William Shakespeare - March 16 - June 8
Richard III by William Shakespeare - April 13 - June 10
Thinking of You by Peter Hicks - April 20 - May 20
Fair and Tender Ladies - June 1 - June 24
Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe - June 22 - June 30

While I think it is a wonderful lineup, I am disappointed with how the runs are scheduled. Look closely, and you'll notice that selections for a weekend in Montgomery are very limited. For example, I'd love to see Death of a Salesman, Richard III, or Doctor Faustus, but NONE of the runs of these shows allow any two of them to be seen in one trip. (Which seems stupid, since these are the shows with some of the most name recognition.) Similarly, you cannot see Henry IV parts A and B in the same weekend, because they only offer either one or the other each weekend. POOR PLANNING for those of us who want to make a trip to Montgomery to see shows! Usually, I come into town and see at least two shows before I leave. With the current scheduling, I'll probably stick to just one. It's not like ASF to make a mistake like this. Pooh on them.

Anyway, I'll probably be making the trek twice for Death of a Salesman and Richard III, since those are two of my favorites. But it irks me that I'll have to expend twice as much time (and gasoline) on what I'd normally make one trip for.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The witch hunt is on . . .

I just caught a matinee performance of The Crucible at New Stage Theatre. If you're not familiar with this Arthur Miller masterpiece, it is set in the late 1600's during the Salem witch trials. The script explores the mass hysteria and mob mentality that ruled the small community of Salem, Massachusetts, when several young girls started accusing local citizens of witchcraft.

I thought this was a great production. First, the set was really well done - spare (almost Puritan! Ha!) with a beautiful drop of backlit woods. The mere suggestion of walls and ceiling, rugged furnishings, and spot-on costumes provided all the environment that the audience needed to see the world of old Salem. Also, I love the pre-show and intermission music. Airy a capella voices, almost angelic. Wow.

Rus Blackwell as John Proctor was a revelation. He was fabulous. Fabulous. I believed every word he said, and he turned in such a layered performance that probably half of the women in the audience want to have his babies now. I just can't say enough how impressed I was with him in this production. It's a good thing, too, because Proctor carries the majority of the production's weight. You cannot have a good production of The Crucible without a good Proctor.

Other standouts for me: Turner Crumbley as Reverend Hale was spot on. His character also does a lot of heavy lifting in the script, and Crumbley's rendition of Hale as one of the lone voices of reason in Salem resonated. Rachel Dunigan as Tituba was strong as well, and Joseph Frost as Governor Danforth and Gary Gusick as Judge Hathorne were both imminently hatable. Lesley Sheblak, who played Mercy Lewis, should have been given a bigger part. She did so much with the lines she'd had that I wished I could have seen more of her during this production. Lastly, Larry Wells was wonderfully slimy as Reverend Parris. (Wells does a wonderful job playing slimy guys. I'm not sure why; he's a perfectly nice guy. I'd love to see him play something really off-type for him to see what he'd do with it.)

I thought a couple of layers were missing, though. First of all, I didn't feel that we saw Elizabeth Proctor crack. I mean, I know that she's the long-suffering wife, I know she's cold and repressed. And I went there with her in the early scenes and ate it up. But in the scene at the end, right before Proctor is to be hanged, I really wanted that facade to crack. I wanted her to break down, to realize that her husband would be dead within the hour and to accept some of the blame for his infidelity. To try to apologize and make up for the past several months of beating him up. To tell him that she loved him, and mean it. To understand that she was carrying a child that would never know its father. That last scene is Elizabeth's confession scene, but it felt as though she still had a wall around her heart. Maybe I'm a sucker for over-acting, but I kept waiting for big, heaving sobs that never came. (I mean, Danforth is right. If you don't cry at this point, when the hell do you cry? The woman really is made of stone, for God's sake. No wonder Proctor cheated on her.)

Also, the relationship between Proctor and Abigail was not the way I'd have played it. In my head, when I read The Crucible, I thought a long time about the relationship between Proctor and Abigail. I thought that they were both sort-of round pegs in square holes. The repression and hypocrisy of their society chafes at both of them. They are both individualists. In addition, Abigail is something of a wild creature. She is passionate, impulsive, charismatic. She is also capable of almost anything (i.e. you never know what she will do next). And I think these qualities attract Proctor to her like a magnet to polished steel. I think there needs to be immense physical attraction between Abigail and Proctor, even months after their affair has ended. You have to believe that Proctor found Abigail so intense and desired her so much that he would risk everything - his good name, his marriage - to have her. And he still desires her, somewhere in his heart. And the same with her. But they didn't play the sex in this production. Maybe I'm base, but I would have played it to the hilt. There is a scene where Abigail and Proctor meet in the woods, after she has accused his wife. It's late, and she shows up in her dressing gown. There's a point when she even lifts her gown to show him the marks on her leg, left by vengeful "spirits." (Women didn't go around hitching up their dressing gowns in the late 1600s. There is more than just showing bruises going on here.) I think even at this point, the two still feel strong physical desire for one another. Proctor is fighting it, but Abigail wants him to give in to it. It's destructive, and it's just plain wrong, but I think it has to still be there.

I can totally understand why they chose to produce this show now; it's very topical. Aside from the Halloween tie-in, the social issues of the play are particularly pertinent right now as well. (One line, spoken by Governor Danforth, smacked of President Bush's "you're either with us or with the terrorists" mantra.) It's perfect synergy. After all, stripping people of their rights is pretty spooky, no? Hopefully, this show will encourage a little debate in Jackson. I know we talked about it after we left.

The show runs through October 29, and I highly recommend it. Tickets are $22 and can be had by calling the box office at 601-948-3533.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Rambling.

I participated in the Over the River Run in Vicksburg over the weekend. Wow. Five gorgeous miles over the old Mississippi River bridge. The weather was clear and sunny, not too hot. The course was beautiful and (thank heaven) flat. There were ample water stops and course monitors, and it wasn't too crowded. And after running literally over the river and through the woods this year, this race is deifinitely on my calendar for next fall. After the run, there was a huge lunch (barbecued chicken, burgers, chips, potato salad, fruit, the works) and a live band. The goody bags were great, too (performance-fabric T-shirts! Yay!). The whole event was just really well planned, and the staffers were so helpful and friendly. Thank you, Ameristar!! I'll be bringing all my friends next year!

I finally finished reading Heart of Darkness. Now I know what I should have read in high school instead of Red Badge of Courage. Conrad has an amazing capacity for descriptive writing. I loved his passages about the environments that his characters lived in and traveled through, and his characters were so well delineated that it felt like they were standing in front of me. Even though I read this book very fitfully (I stopped and started alot; it was a very busy time for me.), I really enjoyed it.

I also saw Cinderella Man, and it was great. Synopsis: scrappy New Jersey heavyweight James J. Braddock begins a promising career, but due to injury and bad luck, his boxing star burns out rather quickly. During the Great Depression years later, thanks to his former manager, he has an opportunity to make an amazing comeback. Paul Giamatti was wonderful in this. He has a knack for embodying varied characters that continues to impress me. I never feel like he's putting me on. I remember reading a Stephen King article (he writes the back page in Entertainment Weekly) that remarked that Russell Crowe almost seemed able to change his face and the shape of his head according to what role he was playing. As odd as that sounds, it is very true of his performance in this film. While his personal behavior sometimes appalls me, there is no denying that Corwe is a very talented actor. Renee Zellweger is good in this, too, making the three primary performers all really strong. The fight scenes weren't too gory, and the ultimately uplifting message of the film made it a feel-good flick for me.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Fair game.

Yesterday, we went to the Mississippi State Fair! What fun! The weather was perfect, and we rode tons of rides. (Including the Mega-Drop. I managed to get out three expletives in the time it took us to drop from the top to the bottom.) I also always take a run down the huge yellow slide. (I know, I know, but I've been sliding down that slide every year since I was a girl. It's TRADITION! And, once you get bigger, you build some serious speed on that thing.) We ate fair food (I had a yummy biscuit filled with syrup, an all-beef hot dog, and a twisty ice cream cone! I'd advise bottled water, though. You never know about the fair . . . ) We admired all the gorgeous antique cars set up at the Trade-Mart, which we love to do. There are some really beautiful machines in there. We talk about which ones we'd look good in, and what kind of car we would restore if we had the chance (and knew anything, anything at all, about restoring cars).

I sang a song in I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change about a woman waiting in line for the restroom. Now, every time I find myself waiting in line for the ladies' room, I think of it. I think, "Hmmmm . . . I have a song for this!" So far, I haven't started singing yet, but maybe someday, if the line is REALLY long . . . we'll I can't be held responsible for my actions in a situation such as that.

After the fair, I freshened up at home before meeting one of my dearest friends for pedicures. What a fun little luxury! We chatted while our feet were massaged, then headed out for a little shopping. Geez, everything seemed to be on sale. (Isn't that the way?) We had a little dinner at Up the Creek before parting ways. It was so good to see her and talk with her again. I have many friends and even more acquaintances, but nothing ever seems to compare to someone who has known me since dirt. We've been friends since junior high, and in addition to the charming conversational shorthand we've developed over the years, she's just one of the best all-around people that I know. Thank God for the sanity she brings me.

Oh, I also saw Memoirs of a Geisha this week! I'd read the novel, and I was pleased to see that the movie followed the book very closely. The film was absolutely beautiful, with arresting shots of the geisha as they went about their daily tasks and beautiful pans of the gorgeous faces of the actresses. There were also a few nice shots of (what was supposed to be) the Japanese countryside. The film follws Chiyo (Sayuri), a young girl from the country who grows to become one of the most celebrated geishas in pre-war Japan. I know that there was a big stink when the film came out that some of the actresses cast were Chinese, rather than Japanese, but I say phooey on that. You cast an actor to play a role. I've seen plenty of straight actors turn in wonderfully nuanced performances of gay characters. I've seen plenty of older actors play roles that were younger than they were, and vice versa. So what? The director's job is to find the right actor for the role, and that actor may or may not be the exact nationality referred to in the script. The point is, does this performer tell the story?

And the performers in Memoirs of a Geisha definitely do. Ziyi Zhang (Chiyo/Sayuri), Li Gong (Hatsumomo), and Michelle Yeoh (Mameha) all give their characters a wonderful depth and subtext, and I really enjoyed them. I know that some critics also huffed about the movie being Westernized, with the actors all speaking English, etc. Wha . . . ? The movie is based on a book written by Arthur Golden, a middle-aged white guy from Tennessee. How can you get more Western than that? Anyway, I personally found the film to be a visual jewel with fabulous performances. I recommend it.

Friday, October 06, 2006

On an evening out.

I had so much fun yesterday! It was a great day, for several reasons:
1.) We got the air conditioner fixed!
2.) I went out with friends.
3.) I saw a show.

Here's the skinny:
Last night after work, I went out with a great group of folks to La Cazuela's. It started out as a quasi-business meeting, but we ended up staying there long after business was concluded, and it was a hoot. We are going to try and meet again without pretending that we are getting any work done. Oh, by the way, the sangria swirls at La Cazeula's are definitely worth a try.

After dinner, I went to the Millsaps production of Equus, and I'm glad I did. First, let me set the scene. The center platform, which serves as both the psychiatrist's office and the stable, was on a turntable, and the actors were all seated on stadium-style seating on both sides of the stage. I have no idea what budget the Millsaps Players had to create the set and costumes (particularly the horse costumes), but I thought that the production values were amazing. I was very impressed, also, with the lighting.

The standout performer of the evening was David Lind as Martin Dysart, the psychiatrist who tries to decipher why Alan Strang, a boy of 17, would blind five horses with a metal spike. Dysart's character is so important because he is the character that holds the play together. He serves as the voice of the playwright and puts many of the actions in the play into his own perspective. It's a pretty hefty role for a sophomore, and I thought Lind did a wonderful job with it.

I must say a word, however, about the audience at the show. There are some revealing scenes in Equus, and I imagine that they are difficult enough for the actors to present without having their friends sniggering in the audience. I was very disappointed by the immaturity of some of the audience members, and I imagine that I have no one but Millsaps students to blame. Shame on them. (And that's not something I usually say.)

Anyway, after the play, my friend and I headed to Cups to discuss the production and catch up with each other. We ended up closing the place down; we had a wonderful time talking and laughing and telling stories. (And my coffee was sooooo good.)

Next up - pedis and dinner on Saturday with one of my oldest and dearest friends!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Today's forecast: hot and humid.

News of terror: our air conditioning is on the fritz. So, we have to replace the heater. I know that sounds counter-intuitive, but apparently the controls for the air conditioner run through the control panel of our heater, which is 10 years old and has given us no end of fits since we moved into our house. To replace the control panel on the heater, which I've been told is shot, would be in excess of $600. We can replace the entire heater for about $1200 (AND it would be under warranty for five years thereafter). Considering what a pain the heater has been, we are opting for replacing the heater. (Argh. We are hemorraging money.) In the meantime, as it is still quite warm in Mississippi, we are sitting around in our underwear alot, trying not to move.

Oh, I finally got to watch The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe this week! I had been wanting to see it for ages, but it was one of those things that I never got around to. I happily report that it was great! Casting of the four children, especially Georgie Henley as Lucy, was wonderful. They were very natural and honest, and they didn't seem to be using their youth as a crutch. I thought the special effects were fabulous. To be honest, it's one of the best Disney pictures I've seen in a long time. The only thing that left me wanting more was some of the editing at the end. I felt that, once the four children understood their role in Narnia's future, the story moved a little too quickly, without fleshing out some of the relationships and exchanges between the characters and Aslan. It made the latter part of the movie a bit truncated. Other than that, though, I can highly recommend the film.

Also, the Mississippi State Fair began in Jackson today and runs through Oc­tober 15 on the State Fairgrounds. On tap are concerts, rides, food, and exhibits. My faves include the antique car show at the Trademart, the free biscuits, and the rides that don't make me throw up. (I also take darn good Wild West photos, so if you need a saloon floozy or a Pony Express Rider to pose with, I'm your gal.) I haven't settled on a date yet, but I'll definitely be there! If you've never been, it's a fun place to go for an evening or even for lunch (as long as you don't have anything too strenuous to do for the rest of the day!). For more information about the fair, you can call (601) 961-4000.

Tomorrow night, I'm off for Mexican food and then to see Equus at Millsaps! Full report later.