Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Review

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

M: The Monster Explains

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Multimedia Assignment

English: A left arrow that can be used for nav...
English: A left arrow that can be used for navigations (in slideshows, for example) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Possible multimedia products

Three videos of your own reviews. Write a script and practice it before shooting.

An audio slideshow of campus art objects – sculptures? buildings?? – about which you make judgments.

Video interview – two to three minutes long - with local artist or critic or reviewer. (Great opportunity to ‘add value’ to your play review by doing an interview with a member of the cast or  crew.)

A Storify on an artist or art topic

Man on the Street interviews about a piece of art. (How about several interviews in front of the wolf statue in front of the library?)

Some of you have production skills and experience. What are your ideas??

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Drama: Two Sample Reviews

Latina Review

There’s a line to offend everyone in Enrique Urueta's “Learn to be Latina.” 

A play that carefully and hilariously teeters on the brink of our comfort zones about racial stereotypes, Latina is filled to the brim with witty one-liners that causes the (although you give complete performance details later, right here give me brief information, particularly its Berkeley location) tiny basement theater to roar with laughter.

The storyline is a highly entertaining satirical survey of ethnic representations in popular culture. In the most ridiculous and baffling way, record industry producers try to turn a mopey singer-songwriter, Hanan (Carlye Pollack), into a Latina superstar.

There’s only one problem: Hanan is in no way Latina—she is Lebanese.

The three industry drones, sensibly named Bill, Will and Jill (Andrew Calabrese, Jon Nagel, and Emily Rosenthal), explode in synchronized horror upon extracting this information from Hanan during a seemingly routine interrogation session. After making bomb-dropping sound effects and collapsing onto the floor for fear that Hanan was going to be a suicide bomber, they come to their senses to realize the only way she can be  marketable is by simply changing her ethnicity. No big deal. 

Shakira and Salma Hayek, they say, are both Lebanese and Latina. Yet, at some point, the mixed race concept fades into the background and into the foreground we see the transformation of the singer-songwriter from the unmarketable Hanan to the pop Latina superstar Hanán.

In order to officially seal the ethnic gap, in arrives the record company’s “ethnic consultant,” Mary O’Malley (Melanie Salazar Case). Case’s performance is boisterous, rowdy and infectious stage persona(s) that makes you forget you are in the basement of a pizza parlor and someone just spilled some beer on your shoes.

Though her performance is by no means polished, her stage presence far surpassed any of the other actors, and when her voice fills the room with her various obnoxious accents, including that of the glorified sock-puppet Latin expert, Calcetina, she commands the small, awkward stage with ease.

Yet, as much as I appreciated Calcetina’s quick wit and sassy Latin vibes, it (or she) added another dimension of surrealism that was not supported by any other aspect of the play. Sure the play is full of unbelievable occurrences, the most obvious being a frail, pale white girl passing off as a Latin pop star, but the sock puppet –serving as Case’s sounding board or perhaps alter-ego -  was simply too bizarre to buy into.

Citing various conflicting sources of Latin culture, including Chiquita banana, Gloria Estefan, and J. Lo, Mary commences “Project Latina” on Hanan, with her ending up like an over-exposed, wannabe chola who still cannot get the accents quite right.

And just when you think the play is getting a little too intense, the play is relieved a number fabulous choreographed dance interludes, featuring ‘N*Sync and Shakira, that made me tear up from all the laughter.

Hanan also falls in love with the much-abused “Office Bitch,” Blanca (Marilet Martinez). The sexual tension between the duo is present since the first interaction, but Hanan initially passes on the offer. Yet, at some point in her vulnerable transformation, she finds solace in the truly Latina Blanca and a clandestine relationship ensues.

Though a same-sex relationship always proves enticing and controversial to viewers, Blanca and Hanan’s was plagued by cheesy, played-out (no pun intended) sexuality questioning lines including the classic: “So what does this mean?”

The ending of the play (????? Rephrase) gives us a generally predictable taste of humanity, with Hanan’s dignity and relationship to her former self is restored and proper humiliation is attributed to the record company employees.

Overall, the provocative, subversive, and hilarious stabs at race, gender, and sexuality all come together in the actors’ gritty performances that force the viewer to at least temporarily break down the armor of political correctness that exists in our society and allows us to laugh at very barriers that separate us all.

I give it 4 out of 5 stars for its overall entertaining qualities.

Impact Theatre, La Val's Subterranean, 1834 Euclid Ave., Berkeley. $12-$20.

As an editor, Id say, Okay. This is a start. Give me another draft. When you write easily and vividly (as you do) there is sometimes a temptation to settle for the superficial and the snarky. (Cf. Maureen Dowd)

The Maids Review
            The last time I saw two sisters so ready to sexually ravage each other I was at a house party in the Mission.  Thankfully, the latter was caused by a mind-baffling concoction of drugs and alcohol.  But for the former more background; explain in the text, not just the headline that you are talking about a particular performance of a particular play, there was no excuse for the inappropriate ????? hmmmm; thats a moralistic word; is your objection to the play that it undercuts common decency and morality (and incestuous, mind you) romantic tension between the blood-bonded girls. 
            Solange (Reo Jones) and Claire (Janelle Neczypor) star together in the 19XX's I believe this date is readily available Jean Genet and who is he???? play, "The Maids."  On top of performing in this studio-rendition by whom; more background on the what/why of this performance of the popular was it? production, they successfully managed to make me squeamish in my seat.  Couldnt this be the point? Is there value in being made uncomfortable? Does it make you rethink, and possibly reinforce, fundamental notions of morality??? Are they going to make-out now?  I could never quite tell. 
            As the two servant girls played out their obscure fantasies for belittling, humiliating, and ultimately murdering their master, Madame (Layci Nelson), they had moments of sincere lust towards each other.  Whether it was the sensuous tone in their voices or the grazing of faces and hips with tight embraces, the sisters were displaying some serious lasciviousness for each other in ways that sisters are not supposed to.
            I couldn't quite decipher if the girls realized that their love was far more than sisterly, or if they were simply sexually confused and frustrated virgins looking to experiment.  It would seem possible, as they have lived in confined servant quarters together for most, if not all, of their lives.  You are now suggesting a possible thread of meaning a viewer might consider. Now play the intellectual a bit. What value, if any, lies in a work of art that caused at least one playgoer (you) to analyze its action thus. Engage with the play. Take it seriously. This is a famous/infamous play by a famous/infamous playwright. Varea would not have chosen it unless he thought it had weight and value. Search for that value before you dismiss it. They dream of milkmen but only have access to each other. 
            During the play Claire shouts: "we shall be that eternal couple, Solange, the two of us, the eternal couple of the criminal and the saint."  In response, Solange comforts and soothes Claire, by caressing and kissing her legs and feet.  I'm not sure if it's just me, but that is the last way that I would comfort and soothe my own sister.  And most importantly, I would never refer to us as an eternal couple! Probably safe to say this is in no way a realistic play, that it begs to be read as some kind of commentary on society at large
            All the while uncomfortable (looks were exchanged in the audience) at Solange and Claire's behavior - it was this bizarre sexual tension between the sisters that kept my attention for most of the production.  Sadly, and in no fewer words can I say that, "The Maids" is one of the driest plays provocative choice of words; what do you mean by dry? I have seen in my life. 
            I'm almost puzzled as to why Genet's "The Maids" was chosen to be the Performing Arts and Social Justice's Senior Project and directed by Roberto Varea. Ask him! I allowed you that freedom The cast is minute and the scenes are minimal.  But it is the script that is flawed.  For a thriller there was no anticipation and for a comedy there was no humor.  It was simply a mild self-liberation piece written by a man that greatly needed it himself. Provocative! But what do you mean? He was a famously out gay man. He was a petty criminal who almost went to jail for the rest of his life.
            Varea owes the success whoa! Youve been trashing the substance of the play, both its believability and its larger implications; how can it be a success??of his "Maids" not to the production itself, but to the work of Jones and Neczypor, whom delivered this piece perfectly. Hmmmm? As we noticed in comparing the film version of the play with this version, the character of Madame can be presented in very different ways. Thus, our actors need NOT have made their interaction so sexual. How then can their delivery be perfect? If I read you correctly, the play failed entirely to make sense, either in the moment or as a commentary on some human universal. Reconcile what seems to be a contradiction in your review. Their sheer commitment to the characters and their mental capacities to deliver every line was what garnered my applause.  
            As for the creepy vibes they gave me, they might as well have just made-out. 

This is a thin review. The play has many admirers. You are entitled to your own personal disquiet but take the production more seriously. Try to figure out what explains the fact it has has endured over the years. You were supposed to read - and were entitled to quote from - Jean Paul Sartre's introduction to the first published version of the play. As he points out, the play is supposed to represent the resentment the working class feels for its bourgeois masters. He says underneath the servant's smile is hatred - and freaky and pathetic desire to pretend to be the master when the master's away. And in spite of the characters' murderous - we can say revolutionary intentions - the playt does not end with the 'victory' of the struggling masses. Quite otherwise. Engage with the play's message even if you do not agree with the message or the success of the director in conveying the message.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Effect of TV on Acceptance of Homosexuality by Straight America

Vox says the effect is clear.

 HRC also offers this helpful guide to coming out. If you, yourself, are considering doing so, it's well worth a read!
Of course, every unique coming out story helps along the cause of LGBT visibility. But it also seems likely that fictional coming out tales featuring film and television characters had a dramatic influence on the push for equality, too. As my colleague Todd VanDerWerff noted in the A.V. Club. "I think it's undeniable that the relatively rapid normalization of gays and lesbians within American society (a struggle that continues, I should add) has been helped by how many popular sitcoms in the '90s had a gay character. … If people on TV didn't seem too upset by it, then why should the viewers be upset?"
To celebrate National Coming Out Day and to celebrate how far we've come in a relatively short time, here are three memorable TV coming out moments.

1) Ellen

"What's his name?" "Susan."
It's no exaggeration to say that television — and, really, American culture at large — was fundamentally altered on April 30, 1997. On that night, ABC aired Ellen's now famous coming-out episode, "The Puppy Episode." The two-parter was the highest-rated episode of DeGeneres's series, pulling in a record 42 million viewers. It even won an Emmy and a PeabodyEllen would be canceled one year later, largely due to low ratings, but in part because of this episode. In spite of the backlash Ellen received for her decision to televise her coming out, it's impossible to deny her legacy: within a few months of Ellen's cancellation, NBC aired Will and Grace, a show featuring two out-and-proud gay men.

2) Will and Grace

"I think you're missing the silver lining, here. When you're old and in diapers, a gay son will know how to keep you away from chiffon and backlighting."
It's hard to imagine a world where Will and Grace would have made it to TV without Ellen. And the series subtly acknowledged its debt to Ellen when she appeared in season three as, of all things, a nun.
Although the series was named after its main characters, it was supporting players Jack and Karen who quickly became fan favorites, due to their larger-than-life antics. Jack, played by the inimitable Sean Hayes, was out. He was proud. And he didn't give a damn about who knew it — except for his mother, whom he kept in the dark. In one of the most memorable episodes of the series, Jack's friends encouraged him to finally come out to his mom, which resulted in some terrific TV. The comedy of the situation came from how absurd it seems that anyone — let alone his own mother, who, as Karen points out, isn't headless! — couldnot know that Jack's gay. And yet, there are many LGBT people who, for reasons they can't always explain, go to great lengths to hide in plain sight. Though he might have seemed so obviouslygay, Jack's coming out helped tell that story.

3) Six Feet Under

"What …. part of you isn't my son? You're all my son."
"You know, Rico, I'm a homo." And with that, David Fisher (Michael C. Hall) came out on Sex Feet Under, one of the most beloved and acclaimed shows of the 2000s. Viewers knew David was gay the entire time, knowing full well that he and Keith (Mathew St. Patrick) were more than "racquetball partners," as David liked to put it.
David slowly begins to come out toward the end of the first season, and the entire journey makes for fantastic television. The scene that has stuck with me all these years later is when David finally has the coming out conversation with his mother (Frances Conroy).
The writing of this scene is absolutely brilliant, weaving together themes of gayness and death. At one point, David accuses his mother of looking at him like she looks at a corpse — "It revolts you, but you make yourself bear it." Hall's and Conroy's performances are masterful, which is why this moment remains authentic more than a decade later and why David and Keith remain some of the most powerful portrayals of gay men ever seen on television.