Confessions of an American Amateur Theater-Reviewer: Preliminary Confessions #1 | Color Struck

Posted in Theater Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 19, 2017 by gregnett
masks

Comedy. Tragedy.

 

Confessions of an American Amateur Theater-Reviewer
PRELIMINARY CONFESSION #1

I have often been asked—by myself mostly, and in my head at that—how I first became an amateur theater reviewer; and have worried, undeservedly, about the opinion of my acquaintance—again, myself mostly; it being reasoned that I should rely primarily upon my worldly experiences and incorporate them here, by way of serialized installments that are hopefully not too indulgent—thought that often tends to be the case with writers—simply for the sake of adding an element of mystique around what it is that I’m doing: theater—rather, old stage play—criticism. This, however, is only a small portion of what actually goes “into it the process” — obviously. True it is, that for ten years (2007-2016) I actively pursued a film career and on occasion did partake in going to the theater, mainly for the fact that it provided me with a small break from my craft (screenwriting and filmmaking) and the frustrations that go along with it: but, so long as I experienced the theater from this angle, I was effectually guarded from all the positive aspects the theater offered, even more so by the long periods between visits where the time away was spent toiling away at what at the time I thought would be bring me pleasure (happiness). It was not for the purpose of creating pleasure, but of mitigating pain, pain of the worst degree, that I later returned and began to use the theater as an occasional sedative for my creative desires. In the thirty-first year of my age, a most painful realization of life, which I had first experienced about ten years before but for something entirely different, barreled into me with the force of ten-thousand dump trucks. This area of my life, as I have stated before in an earlier blog or two, will be expanded upon this summer when I summarize my first ten years (a decade!) living in Los Angeles—and my career ups-and-downs will be one of the many highlights. However, during the period of grief and dejection (that is, from 2011 to 2013 roughly) the theater, even reading (my own work included) pretty much flat-lined: for the two following years I could only resuscitate them at intervals: but now, under more favorable circumstances, from cheerfulness of spirit, the “pain” now yields no other remedy but the theater and any other communal event as well as a renewed passion to write again—though in a different format than I originally had planned. As for those salad days—which brought about this “complicated” relationship between theater and me, and in themselves are quite interesting, as well as the situations that produced them—I’ll have to anecdote about them at a later point in the future and too then answer fully what is the first preliminary question. For now, we turn our attention to Color Struck.

 

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County where Zora grew up in Eatonville

 

Title: Color Struck (1926)
Playwright: Zora Neal Hurston
Time Period: Early Modernism (Harlem Renaissance)
Plot: Several black couples travel by train to a regional cakewalk competition.
Dope Line(s):

[Scene 1]

 JOHN
Yes, I want you to love me, you know I do. But I don’t like to be accused o’ ever’ light colored girl in the world. It hurts my feeling. I don’t want to be jealous like you are.

[Scene 2]

EMMA
Oh—them yaller wrenches! How I hate ‘em! They gets everything they wants—

[Scene 2]

EMMA
He went and left me. If we is spatting we done had our last one. Ah, mah God! He’s in there with her—Oh, them half whites, they gets everything, they gets everything everybody else wants! The men, the jobs—everything! The whole world is got a sign on it. Wanted: Light colored. Us blacks was made for cobble stones.

 

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Florida gator.

 

That’s just the way it is, things will never be the same—at least that’s how I remember the chorus to Tupac Shakur’s Changes going. Makaveli makes short work of Bruce Hornsby’s original record, adding heft with an ever-jabbing bassline that pulsates behind the sample, as he unleashes a barrage of unfiltered lyrical content depicting the miserable conditions that African-Americans were left stranded in, in the aftermath of the trickle-down Reagan Era 80’s and the gas-guzzling post-Bush Sr. 90’s… And on that note I’d like to say: Happy Black History Month boys and girls and aliens. I’ve decided to crack open this nut from the early 20th century in honor of. Remembered more for her seminal work, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston’s stage play Color Struck had been buried deep underneath a mountain of greater works from the time period until it was unearthed in the 1970’s and extracted still ripe from the pages of the now defunct Fire!! Magazine (published in 1926; only one issue ever pressed), immediately anthologized, and has been hobbling along ever since.

 

fire-magazine

Fire!! [R.I.P.]

 

Man, there are some painful revelations that I’m having in my 30s. My brethren and I have been up shit creek for so long, much longer than any of us would care to give thought. And the more I dig up artifacts (sheet music, newspaper articles, corn mix boxes, etc.) from our past, the more I realize how much “baggage” we have still to “unpack”—and skin is one of them. Why we haven’t let this go, why we’ve allowed this to divide us, confounds even the most astute and the most militant amongst the Diaspora—Willie Lynch Theory or nah. Color struck—the stage play’s title defined—is the attitude/allure that darker-skinned African-Americans have for lighter-skinned African-Americans’ (and whites’) skin tone. It’s an old saying amongst Blacks believing that those with lighter skin complexions and Eurocentric features (blue eyes, hawk’s beak nose, “good” hair, washboard asses) are the epitome of Beauty thus more desirable—and what one should aspire to emulate. Further, it is a colorism within one’s own race—an “intra-racism”, if you will. For one to be color struck it is to be stung with an arrow equivalent to Cupid’s; it roils forth the same sort of reckless whirlwind passion of that of star-crossed lovers (Boom! Tie-in to last month’s review) — but rooted in a heated jealousy. The skin “issue”, unfortunately, seems to be generational at this point—which is a bit of heavy-handed foreshadowing on my part. So not to ruin it all by stating it now, I pause to say: One Love to my departed sistah Zora… Oh, and please allow me the honor of nitpicking (critiquing) your work.

 

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Zora. Zora. Zora.

 

The first two decades of the 20th century were an interesting time for Blacks in America. What’s billed is a renaissance (Harlem Renaissance; mid-1910’s to mid-1930’s) but if one were to do dig a little deeper one would we see that there was an aggressive—and admittedly successful—effort on (white) America’s part to industrialize and indoctrinate socialize Black people. Another notable takeaway of the time period is the outright, feverish eagerness on the gens de couleur libres’ part to be “recognized by” and “accepted into” the white (WASP) Elite—and the bulk of the North’s efforts (and moolah) benefited these Uncle Toms. Gens de couleur libres (free people of color) is the term that was applied to people of African descent—a large portion of them being of mixed race—who had never been subjected to the harsh conditions of plantation life. By the 1920’s this group had already become a silent “black aristocracy” primarily in my home state of Louisiana (New Orleans) — referred to there loosely as Creole (“light-skinned” African-Americans). However, these gens de couleur libres did reside in other parts of the country and just like the former slaves had migrated North and West during The Great Migration (mid-WWI more or less through the 1950’s). The 1920’s is also the same period of time in which the black aristocracy’s “power structure” started to become undone via American legislation (Plessy vs. Ferguson [1896; the ripple effects carried into the 20th century], the stripping of personal wealth, the removal/refusal of aid to institutions) and hate crimes (race riots, arson of black businesses, murder) — though a good of bit of their “power” was salvaged by graveling at the feet of the white Establishment for crumbs. Today, there is still a small, insular group of Blacks (again mostly “light-skinned”) who relish the fact that their family’s lineage as gens de couleur libres can be traced back to before the Civil War (spring of 1861 to the spring 1865).

 

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Creole Man, circa 1860s

 

Again, none of this is to be divisive—or to point the finger. I mention the above only for context, in hopes that a generalized outline of the times (Color Struck’s setting: rural Florida 1900; and the same locale 20 years later) will give one an understanding, and add body and texture to where Zora’s story unfortunately falls short…

And how could she know that her play would still have possible relevance in the 21st century? Maybe in her mind the idea of Black people still squabbling 90 years later over something as arbitrary as skin tone would seem downright cuckoo. Surely a non-issue like that one would’ve already worked itself out in all that time… Hold up; let me fall back. I’m being way too presumptuous. Besides, there’s no need to speculate on what Zora’s thoughts might’ve been. The fact of the matter is that there’s no real way of me—of any of us—ever knowing, so…

 

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Jim Crow rail car, late 19th century

 

Color Struck is an easy enough story to follow. All that I’ve mentioned above along with the arrival of immigrant groups from Europe (Irish, Italians, Jews, etc.) and a smaller, second Industrial Revolution which took in its grasp many blacks and whites (and Mexicans and indigenous) shifted the United States’ economic power and focus to the North (factory work) and to the West (expansionism) as well, decimating the South’s rural economies (agriculture by way of livestock and free human labor) in the process. The effects of which were deeply felt in the state of Florida where Color Struck’s story takes place. Several black couples are traveling from Jacksonville to St. Augustine by train to a regional cakewalk dance competition—which is basically the best thing smokin’ seeing as there ain’t much to do now that most of the jobs are gone and small gatherings such as these play an integral role in keeping what little community there is left together. As for this cakewalk, it is a leftover from plantation life, it being a mockery of whites’ ballroom dancing at first—but then taking on a life of its own. I’d go into greater detail describing it but then I’d be robbing you of your own personal scavenger hunt (Google/Bing). I’ll say this much: just think Soul Train line. And if I have to explain what that is—then I give up…

First impressions: Boy, things sure have changed. Who travels by train nowadays? This means of mass transit always fascinates me because so much literature—Black or otherwise—from this time period starts off this way: someone or a group of people en route to a destination by rail line. More so the uncommon here, as this particular railway car is packed to the brim and segregated by race (Negroes). However, there’s still a noble, affable air in the setting, and to Zora’s credit, she presents what is the opening scene in a very matter-of-fact fashion. One could easily mistake it for a passage in a William Dean Howells novel—which it clearly isn’t, and in doing so, one would also be denying Zora her proper respect.

 

jimcrowcar2

Early 20th Century satire

 

A fairly sizeable cast—I say five or six—have some weight against the story but it is the character Emmaline Beazely (called Emma throughout) who is the most fleshed out. She’s traveling with her boyfriend John and a few others. She and John though are “dark-skinned”, John himself being a shade lighter (not “light-skinned”). And John—well, I guess they still make guys like John: kind, considerate, loyal, gregarious. So it was a bit disconcerting to see him to have to bear the grunt of Emma’s wrath for the majority of the proceedings. Skimming Zora’s bio afterwards, I learned that this was a recurring figure of hers: a strong (somewhat broken) woman whose only love is of the selfish-angry-hurt variety. In today’s world that kind of “acting out” (characterization) has to have some sort of context, I feel. Because here her rage swishes back and forth around the rim of the cup so much that it made me speed through the middle parts of the play a lot quicker than what I would’ve liked to just to see what this pain (and resentment) was rooted in. And then I get to the end of the play only to see that Zora opted to go the Manchester by the Sea route—which is to say absolutely nothing, implying basically that Emma can’t “beat it”, whatever it is… A bit of a spoiler on my part I guess. But the actual ending, I cannot lie, I never saw coming (dope writing!).

Tossing Zora a bone here, and to connect the pieces to my own review, what I believe Emma’s anger is rooted in is basically the world around her: a “thriving” but not yet failing—though silent to some—black (“light-skinned”) aristocracy which because of her skin tone and/or her lot in life she can’t gain access to, and a rural Black community that has gone to seed, a community Emma possibly feels trapped inside of with no tangible means of escaping. And there won’t be any help from the other side (the rural white South) this time around either because they have their own to look after seeing as the U.S. government has its empirical claws clutching at things elsewhere. Yes, there are “light-skinned” Blacks who are still milling about like Effie, a mulatto girl loosely playing the foil to Emma, whose misfortunes are one in the same but Emma still sees her—and the people with skin like hers—as a threat. To Emma, it’s as if they’re encroaching on what little resources there are left (men, money, employment) and if she drops her guard even for one second people like Effie are going to make off with them. And any of these, maybe all, are potential areas of concern for one looking to adapt this play for television or film, or the stage.

 

 

white-colored_passengers

Reminders

 

As for the elephant in the room on whether or not this play holds up, the short answer: No! The long answer is a bit more complex and sort of takes away from the overall “spirit” of this theater review series. But in this case seeing as I’ve started off the blog post foreshadowing my sentiments, and it also being Black History Month—on top of other things—I figured: “Hell, I might as well say how I really feel and tack it on as best as I can to my conclusion.” Yes! Hell, yes! I think there’s a lot here that’s still relevant. Not just Black people but America at large seems to have fallen under some sort of weird, perverted colorism, the fallout of which lands often times in large clumps on the minds and spirits of those with really dark skin pigmentation who can’t cheat their skin tone without having to go through with a horrific skin-bleaching process which ends up doing more harm than good. We’ve gotten way too obsessed as a society with wanting to be hazel, and chestnut, and caramel, and brown (not in reference to Latino), and bronzed, and olive (existing as black and green in nature but as light brown in American lexicon; okay sure, whatevs), and tanned… and vice versa so as not to get any darker. A nation as diverse and as narcissistic and as morally bankrupt as our has cross-pollinated itself to the hilt thanks to the internet which has now made cultural appropriation the easiest it’s ever been to commit in human history, not to mention what has been imprinted on all of our psyches since this country’s inception (Native American Holocaust) up to and through the Civil Rights Movement (1950’s through the end of the 1960’s; true equality for East Asians, Hispanics, the indigenous Native Americans, African-Americans, Central and South Asians, and the rest of Eastern Europe and Africa) and into today. We are all color struck, we are all in awe of each other’s natural skin and features that cosmeticians and surgeons from the Upper West Side of Manhattan to the pricey enclave of Beverly Hills neighboring my beloved Los Angeles have amassed a miserly fortune off our insecurities (neurosis).

Getting off my soapbox and back to Zora, I think that her legacy is in serious jeopardy. In an Age where more and more people are favoring video content over the written word, I fear that her work may get left behind simply because this generation of content providers trends towards lazy and many of them aren’t going to want to put in the work necessary for a story like this one—and many of her others—which doesn’t lend itself over easily to contemporary story conventions. And that’s sort of the other big knock on Zora: her lack of theme. And then, of course, the cardinal sin anywhere in the universe: telling a story that has no plot. More reputable critics have said that her plays and novels are “morality tales” but that to me is like when a filmmaker makes a painfully-bad movie where nothing happens and should anyone ask why that is, the filmmaker defends his/herself by saying that “It’s Art! You just don’t understand.” It’s an answer like that that makes me want to key their car… I mean no disrespect, but that’s the case here: no theme really, and no plot. All in all, if Color Struck is on your reading list—read it. If it’s not, yet something’s compelling you to read it, you’ve been warned.

 

 

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Black family on TV, late 1980’s

 

And one last thing on colorism as it pertains to Black people. As I mentioned at the top of this blog post by way of Tupac, recalling his lyrics and frustration over the fact that nothing ever changes. Well, I can concede that the air around the skin “issue” has improved somewhat, although I still have to consider where we all are in the macro- sense… But every time Black people have come close to putting this “issue” behind them the Media not so sneakily places it back out in front—why is that? The photos above and below this paragraph I leave to you to dissect on your own. Still, I can’t help but say, “Come on, Black people. We should know better.”

 

 

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Black family on TV, 2010’s

 

 

Rating: 2/5 stars

 

 

stage-chair

‘Til March…

Confessions of an American Amateur Theater-Reviewer: Preliminary Confessions | Romeo and Juliet

Posted in Theater Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 24, 2017 by gregnett
masks

Comedy. Tragedy.

Confessions of an American Amateur Theater-Reviewer:
PRELIMINARY CONFESSIONS

These preliminary confessions, or introductory narrative of earlier adventures which laid the foundation for my approach to theater criticism, has been deemed necessary to highlight, and for these main reasons:

1. To be out in front of that question — “How did a nice and easy-going fellow such as yourself—who has no theater background at all—get it in his mind to want to write criticism on the stage plays?” — A question which, if not somewhere plausibly resolved, could tinker with that degree of sympathy which is necessary in any case to a reviewer’s purpose.

2. As an awakening perhaps to the current cultural landscape. Take for instance: The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus’ final performance of The Greatest Show on Earth is this coming May (2017), a live-action showcase that has been apart of Americana for 147 years. It seems like every time I “pay attention” to the news I see a report pointing out how Americans are slowly succumbing to the techno-industrial beasts commonly known as digital and virtual enslavement “entertainment.”

3. As a way of creating some new interest in the theater. My own criticism aside: if one can get pass the pretentiousness and ticket prices of Broadway and its ilk, or support the local “smaller” theater boxes, one would see that the theater is an amazing place to socialize and that there is still quite a bit of creativity being used. Allegedly, Hollywood just had two record-breaking years back-to-back. And when the money comes that easy, it is hard to find originality…

[The above preliminary confessions will be answered in later installments. For now, we turn our attention to Romeo and Juliet.]

 

Image result for rosemary

Rosemary for remembrance

 

Title: Romeo and Juliet (1595)
Playwright: William Shakespeare
Time Period: Early to Middle Renaissance
Plot: An ongoing feud between the Montagues and Capulets has forced the Prince of Verona to issue a death sentence to the person of either family who instigates the next brawl. Young Romeo Montague and young Juliet Capulet secretly wed in the background of this age-old conflict between the two families.
Dope Line(s):
[Act 1, Sc. 2, Ln. 55]
ROMEO
Not mad, but bound more than a madman is,

[Act 2, Sc. 2, Ln. 66-68]
ROMEO
With love’s light wings did I o’erperch the walls,
For story limits cannot hold love out,
And what love can do, that dares love attempt.

[Act 4, Sc. 5, Ln. 46-48]
LADY CAPULET
But one, poor one, one poor and loving child,
But one thing to rejoice and solace in,
And cruel death hath catched if from my sight!

 

Image result for balcony romeo and juliet

That Old-Old-Old  Old School Balcony Game

 

What can I possibly say about Romeo and Juliet that hasn’t already been said? Not much, really. The work speaks for itself. Romeo and Juliet has been adapted—just film alone—more than 30 darn times for Christ’s sake! And somewhere north of 290 plays and 500 movies wouldn’t be in existence if it weren’t for William Shakespeare. He is to Stage and Film what the Notorious B.I.G. is to Hip-Hop and wall murals. The characters and language of Romeo and Juliet are all solid—but there are some contrivances though. I mean, four centuries ago a lot of the goings on of this play may have been the ish but now in the year 2017 anno Domini, someone’s got to take on the ungodly task of nitpicking the great bard’s work—just a wee bit. Seriously, how often does one run into someone who’s in a position of authority who can’t read? And then that same person turns to the next person walking by, who just so happens to figure into the plot, to read to him what is on the sheet of paper he’s holding? Be honest: that’s a little too convenient…

And that’s sort of why I chose R&J to kick off my monthly theater review series. Just about everybody on the planet has heard of it. And, personally, I wanted to refresh myself with the material. In middle school, my English textbook only had excerpts. It showed up later in high school in two forms: the cheesy VHS copy of some British theater company doing their rendition which I was forced to watch in English III—and the Aaliyah movie. That’s what we called Romeo Must Die in the hood when I was growing up: The Aaliyah Movie. Sad but true. But in our defense: it was her feature film debut, and that movie had banked its fortunes on Black people showing up at the box office. And so: that’s what we called it.

 

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Romeo Must Die (2000),Warner Bros. Pictures

 

Again, I have to pause to say that this story really is the Energizer Bunny. There won’t be anything this century written—my work included—that will come close to it. This thing is Teflon™. I guess that’s why Universal bought the rights to Rebecca Serle’s novel When You Were Mine which has now been green-lit to be a film titled Rosaline. Sony’s going in big also but with a 300-style version titled Verona. So yet another spin-off, reboot, remake, sequel, prequel, requel, whatever the f—! to obstruct the road for originality in Film. But, oddly enough, Shakespeare adapted Romeo and Julietguffaw!—from a really old-ass poem: The Tragicall Historye of Romeus and Juliet (1562) so it all comes back around I guess…

 

Image result for map of verona

Verona

 

Shakespeare’s Verona. A lot like my New Orleans. Romantic but at the same time crime-ridden and shaped like a crescent—somewhat. It’s late in the summer (July?) and there’s an ongoing feud spilling over into the streets.

Between who?

Two families of great stock who absolutely loathe one another.

And how long has it been like that between them?

For those involved, they don’t care to remember… And they are the Capulets: Lord and Lady Capulet, Juliet, Tybalt, Greory, Sampson—and others; and they have beef with the Montagues: Lord and Lady Montague, Romeo, Benvolio—and their supporters. Prince Escalus wants this put to rest and issues the punishment of death to the next person who starts things up again…

And how could you not love the opening sequence of R&J. There’s great banter, great action, and, aided by prologue, you get a great sense of the world and the setting, a great deal of tension, an onslaught of characters (which I love!), and what we should be paying attention to as far as theme—ending meaningless quarrels with someone or groups of people.

 

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Rapier-fighting

 

Now I’d like to move things along and get to Juliet who at this point in my life I’m shifty about. I get that she’s thirteen, but boy oh boy, she’s smart one moment and then foolish the next (great writing!). Confession: I’m an aspiring screenwriter and I can admit that publicly. Now as much as a decent writer I like to think I am, I still haven’t gotten over the hump and on my way to writing episodes of television or making feature films. I just had to stop my review for a moment because there’s this one thing I’d like to highlight that runs rampant in my business (I still work in film). Something I see the so-called “pros” do all the f’ing time—and that’s having characters “arrive late.” I guess there must be some screenwriting book that every writer in the business treats as the Bible or it’s one of these goddamn screenwriting “rules” that these same screenwriters honor as the gospel—but I strongly disagree with this notion: having characters “arrive late” or having a scene begin “late.”

Here’s why: IRL if I were to show up late to a production meeting or just show up late in general to work, I could potentially lose my job. Because being late in real life makes adult human beings believe that I can’t be trusted or that I’m irresponsible—and punctuality is a key indicator. Now the weird thing in my biz—and maybe in all industries—is that no one will give me ish about it to my face. But when I suddenly find out why I can’t crew up on the next production, all I have to do is think back to the time I showed up to set twenty minutes late, phone call or not. It isn’t so much that I have a quarrel with scenes beginning “late”; I get that that’s necessary sometimes. But it’s the announcement of a character in a scene saying to another character that they’ve arrived “late.” One, it’s wasted dialogue; two: fire his or her ass. Or just don’t bring up the fact that the character is late at all and get down to business. Damn near every episode of television I watch or movie I go to see it has to have the same-old obligatory scene where a character says “You’re late.” to the person walking in late. It’s only brought up once and never mentioned again (anywhere!), and nothing ever comes of it because characters in movies (and television) don’t get reprimanded at work unless it’s in the third act of a Romantic Comedy. So moratorium on that nonsense in 2017, please!!

My suggestion: crib from Shakespeare. It isn’t like that isn’t a thing already. The simple fix to that problem is right there at the beginning of Scene 3, Act 1. Lady Capulet and the Nurse enter together into what I guess is Juliet’s part of the house, looking for her:

[LADY CAPULET: Nurse, where’s my daughter? Call her forth to me.]

And Juliet enters “late”—which, like I said, isn’t a bad thing in itself:

[JULIET: Madam, I am here. What is your will?]

Boom! Done! I get that screenwriters want to quickly establish tension in a scene but I think that the “You’re late” approach is the laziest way of going about it. Shakespeare does this magnificently—showcasing how one can be late and still get tension out of the scene. And not only is there tension off the bat in this scene, but he also makes room for his other characters (the Nurse) thus adding dimension to them and he lays down a good dramatic beat to build up to the main character’s entrance: Juliet.

And why couldn’t she have picked a better choice in men?

If we’re playing favorites, I’d have to say that my favorite character in this whole ordeal was Lord Capulet—and Juliet or the Friar would be my second. Lord Capulet too is aloof at times but the man makes a ton of sense. It’s weird reading this play again, especially post-Twilight Series (and its ilk) and now as an adult. (Teens in this generation have a weird fascination with death, am I right?) No father in his right damn mind living today would allow his daughter to hang out with a guy like Romeo. And I have to give him a few brownie points. He wears his heart on his sleeve—admirable—and is a bit brash, suave when needed. But he’s also long-winded and the type to flaunt money and status around (the Apothecary) which is a big #TINWIPA no-no. I have to whisper when I say this just in case there are some R&J diehards lurking about: ((whisper)) I think Romeo is a sociopath or a psychopath—or both. ((end whisper))

In looking at my notes for him I’ve written, “So he kills Tybalt, Paris who is his own homie’s cousin, and himself. And Lady Montague dies off stage over him being exiled. Then Juliet takes her own life, and his actions could possibly get Friar Lawrence, the Apothecary and Balthasar all whacked! Why do women swoon over him? Is this love?”

 

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Charnel House Climax

 

And that’s sort of the gist of what happens here. It’s the classic, tragic love story that’s been sampled more times than Isaac Hayes’s “Ike’s Mood”. Aside from the many passages foreshadowing Romeo and Juliet’s untimely demise (all amazing), it’s kind of the story of how Romeo makes a mess of things in Verona. He gets involved with his cross-town rival’s teenage daughter. They secretly get wed and fornicate behind everyone’s backs. He then gets deep-sixed to Mantua due to the resolve on Prince Escalus’s part, only to come back to Verona and poison himself, not before slaying another person. Uh, romantic? Okay…

All in all, I think Romeo and Juliet will stand the test of time—it’s that good. It’s a fairly easy story to follow, but you read this one for the language and metaphors… If yet another story could be spun out of this yarn, the Rogue One version of this would be what took place between Scenes 3 and 4 of Act 1. I’d pay hard-earned cash to see what one could come up with for how Romeo, Mercutio and Benvolio got in with that crowd of maskers, torchbearers and drummers who end up performing at Lord Capulet’s party.

 

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

 

stage-chair

‘Til February…

Confessions of an American Amateur Theater-Reviewer

Posted in Theater Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 21, 2017 by gregnett
masks

Comedy. Tragedy.

TO THE READER. — I here present you, courteous reader, with my new monthly theater review series which I have extremely high hopes for at this point in my life: according to my application of it, I trust that it will prove, not merely an interesting series, but, in a considerable degree, useful and instructive. It is in that hope that I have drawn it up: and that must be my apology for breaking through that delicate and honorable reserve, which, for the most part, restrains us from voicing our opinion of the Arts in public—without the cloak of a screen name or avatar, that is. Because nothing, indeed, is more off-putting to my fellow Americans, than the idea of some guy on the internet offering up his unwanted opinion of something, and washing away that mellow congenial glaze, which time, or overexposure to Pop Culture, has accumulated over them: accordingly, the greater part of American confessions proceed from wife-beating athletes and musicians, psychotic murderers, and corrupt politicians: and for any such acts of gratuitous self-humiliation from the likes of those mentioned above, who over time somehow manage to regain sympathy with the decent and self-respecting part of society, one must surely overlook what I intend to jot down here for all the internet to see—my gratuitous humiliating act—because all can be so easily forgiven, right? And all of this I feel so passionately, and so nervous am I, that I have for many months hesitated about going forward with this, or posting any other blogs with criticism, to come before the public eye, and opted to keep my thoughts to myself: and it is not without an anxious assessment of the reasons, for and against the series, that I have, at last, decide to say fugg it!

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The Negro Ensemble Company

For my own part, without breach of truth or modesty, I may affirm, that my life has been, at least in part, like that of a philosopher’s: from my birth I showed signs of being an intellectual creature: though intellectual in the highest sense my pursuits and pleasures have not always been, especially in my younger days. If going to the theater is one of life’s sensual pleasures, then I am bound to confess that I have not indulged in it sparingly, and my current task has not yet been endeavored by any other critic, it is even more true that I have struggled with the elitism of the theater crowd with a religious zeal, and have, in some minor degree, accomplished what I never yet heard attributed to any other amateur theater reviewer—I will untwist, then re-twist and then untwist again, the plots of famous stage plays, lesser known ones and even a few contemporary pieces to see if the stories, subtexts and overall surface messages “hold up” in the 21st century and then provide criticism on them without ever having seen them acted out. Fun, valid criticism shall be the aim of this series, and a new stage play (one only; each from a different period in time) will be posted on the third Sunday of each month—hopefully. Again, I am really excited about the potential of this series. And for those who stick it out, I think it will be a very positive experience. First up is an oldie but goodie. Shades of this particular work can be seen in just about every love story today, sometimes to the detriment of the author who doesn’t want to draw any comparisons to it. If not this Sunday—as this is the first one and I’m just getting this series off the ground—then definitely on Monday I will be posting my inaugural series review of Romeo and Juliet.

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Monologue anyone?

I Bring You San Francisco: But Next Time I Might Trek To Oakland

Posted in Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 5, 2017 by gregnett

Hello world!

I didn’t expect for this to be my first blog post of the new year—and because of that juicy little tidbit, I’m dropping this one in silence. They pretty much all are — without buzz — but this one is definitely going up without any promo.

My goal was to finish a stage play over the coming weekend and have that be my first blog post of 2017—and also work in the direction of where this blog is going. (I’ll still be “paying attention” but to a few mediums, or maybe just one, that may or may not be sliding into oblivion.) So, in a sense, this is a small “teaser” of what to look out for from moi.

It seems like all my best ideas come to me when I’m in the shower — I know, right! — and so I decided to run with this blog post instead. Last year I wanted to get in shape as well as clear my mind of a few things. I’d been runnin’-n-gunnin’ since I moved to Los Angeles now almost 10 years ago and hadn’t stopped to smell the roses. I came up for air momentarily back in 2010 but then I went right back “underground.” The fact that I’m back to posting “stuff” on FaceBook and Twitter (and here) shows that I’ve found my groove thang.

Well, I can now say that I’m 65 lbs. lighter and that I’ve also figured out how to handle my life sans movie career. (I came to L.A. off the heels of Hurricane Katrina but decided to stick around to make a go at becoming a filmmaker.) I’ll unspool that yarn later this summer on my 10-year anniversary date. But what I can say for now is: Don’t feel bad for me. They don’t call it The Boulevard of Broken Dreams for nothing…

Anyway, what I wanted to do this year was travel: dedicate this entire year to moving about the country. So far on deck I have Las Vegas (lived there for a year), back home (New Orleans) and, as of yesterday morning, New York City. In reach are Palm Springs, San Diego and Oakland—but I’m not sure about those yet.

Ideally, this would all be documented. I’d go into more detail but seeing as this is the first vomit—and very impromptu at that—I haven’t the the foggiest idea on how to approach this… There must be some new angle, I constantly tell myself… Oh, and as crazy as it may sound: I actually wanted to visit Los Angeles first.

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Edge of Clarion Alley – Early September, 2016

To be brutally honest: my time in L.A. hasn’t been the smoothest. The instability and the hoping & wanting and the yearning for “things to happen” kept me indoors and damn near destitute. I’ve lived here for so long yet I’ve never taken up the sights. Luckily, the universe was kind enough to bless me with a great opportunity at an even greater company — still in the entertainment biz, go figure — and I was so overcome with joy that I burned one of my first paychecks on a trip to San Francisco last Labor Day weekend to kick it with my “brother” for a few days.

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Fuzzy Interior Shot, Brass Tacks – Fillmore Neighborhood, I think??

Again, this is a test run—and I would’ve happily let this quick little escapade north fall into obscurity but why the hell not. I’ve been to San Francisco before (2006; 2009?) but now to leave you with some sort of observation about last year’s trip, and what’s to come:

Sorry, not sorry: San Francisco is white—and also Asian. But white people have a lion’s share of the action. I don’t say that to be divisive. I say that merely because that’s what I saw. And I’m not talking about shopping mall white. I mean, uncomfortably white. There are virtually no black and brown people walking around. I was in town for 4 days and I saw maybe 5 black people 3 Hispanic people (an affluent Hispanic couple with a small child) total. I even walked into a Soul Food restaurant only to see one other black person dining there (I have a photo of the meal on my Twitter).

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Interior of Clarion Alley, Early September 2016

Now you might say: Well, G. You were there in ‘06 and ‘09. Wasn’t it like that then? And so, what?

And to that I respond: I guess… It was 2006; I don’t remember any of it. Only that I played Texas Hold ‘em in a really dark bar in the Tenderloin… I don’t remember too much about ’09 either… I was there for an NFL game and those tend to draw a more diverse crowd. Plus, I was drunk and wasn’t all that concerned with my surroundings… And so, what nothing…

And the whole time I was walking around laughing to myself in between violent spats of hyperventilation, and I didn’t even have the heart to tell my “brother” (we grew up together, he’s white; long story) what’s making me so giddy and anxious. I was saying to myself as we walked around, “No wonder so many (white) Angelenos have mad love for this place. It’s nothing but them up here—and Asians.” Seriously, if you don’t like brown and black people don’t move to L.A. — I recommend you go with San Francisco instead.

This June will be my 10-year anniversary in Los Angeles and I don’t want to spoil what I plan to say then by saying it now, but spending Labor Day weekend in San Francisco renewed my love for Los Angeles times over. I’ll never talk shit about L.A. again—not like I ever did, but just in case.

Multiculturalism™, Diversity™, and Progress™ mean absolutely nothing to that part of the Bay Area. Think about it: in a city full of liberals how can the demographics be that racially lopsided? Rhetorical question, possibly; because I do know the answer—I’m just waffling at this point. Drawing things along racial lines is never my intention, no matter how much I veer off into that territory. So, to right the ship: I think San Francisco is a place people should visit. The city has great food, great view, and decent human beings—but as for me, I would never live there unless I was being paid royally by some tech company. That’s what it would have to take for me to ignore what’s going on there as far as the demographics go—and the cost of living.

Oh! Here’s something: the money rule still applies in San Francisco. Those who are making it are very hush-hush about how. Oh, and the entire city has agreed to spend as much time as humanly possible outside their homes—or it could’ve just been a holiday weekend. And the rent! The rent is sky-high though I do suspect that some—a generous some—are getting a spectacular deal on rent, but it’s hard to confirm. The few people I spoke to about rental prices were very vague—bordering on aloof—about how they came into such nice rental spaces. People will mention that their space is “rent controlled” but that’s about the extent of it.

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Notorious B.I.G. mural, Clarion Alley – Early September, 2016

I’m sure none of this is insightful… I’ve been up to San Francisco three times now and the city has yet to make an impression on me. I’m sure I’ll end up there again because of my “brother”—and be just as bored and panicky as I was the last time (2016).

2016 – Movie List*

Posted in Movie Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 30, 2016 by gregnett

*Of the movies I’ve seen… which no one has asked my opinion on. (I’ve seen over a 100 films this year. That should qualify me, right?)

Here’s yet another obligatory list ranking movies that hit theaters this calendar year, 2016 Anno Domini. A good, safe number is 10. So that’s what I’m giving you — and ten words to go along with them. All are listed by their USA release date. See ya in 2017. Enjoy!

Official poster shows the titular hero Deadpool standing in front of the viewers, with hugging his hands, and donning his traditional black and red suit and mask, and the film's name, credits and billing below him.

Dir. Tim Miller

Ten words: Who knew a violent action flick could be so funny?

How To Be Single Poster.jpg

Dir. Christian Ditter

Ten words: Somewhat passable contemporary dating movie tripped up by stock clichés.

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Dir. John Hillcoat

Ten words: By the book crooked cops actioner. Mackie is surprisingly good.

Miles Ahead (film).png

Dir. Don Cheadle

Ten words: Raw. Dizzying. Brash. Uncouth. Tragic. Just like the man portrayed.

Green Room (film) POSTER.jpg

Dir. Jeremy Saulnier

Ten words: Horror film meets Punk band. An unsettling, grim narrative. Yikes!

Puerto Ricans in Paris poster.jpg

Dir. Ian Edelman

Ten words: Charming, formulaic fish out of water story — but with Hispanics.

Nerve 2016 poster.png

Dir. Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman

Ten words: In a year of studio misfires, how’s this more entertaining?

Snowden film poster.jpg

Dir. Oliver Stone

Ten word: The most heart-warming romantic thriller of the year… Wait, what?

Bleed For This poster.jpg

Dir. Ben Younger

Ten word: Conventional pugilist story but skillfully crafted to avoid unwelcoming comparisons.

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Dir. Kenneth Lonergan

Ten words: Mocks Christianity. Alcohol bandages all of the white people grief.

Tuesday Thinker (The Last One) – Week #2 September 2016

Posted in Writing & Poetry with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 13, 2016 by gregnett
Prison cell sketch by James-in-the-Shell

“Prison cell sketch” by James-in-the-Shell

This will be my last Tuesday Thinker in quote form… Going forward, an actual blog post about life, America, whatever tickles my fancy will be replacing said quotes. Again, the whole quotes thing was never that “original” to begin with. Besides, Instagram pretty much does the same function… Onward, ho!

“The more corrupt the state, the numerous the laws.” — Tacitus

Tuesday Thinker (Double Up) ― Week #5 August 2016

Posted in Writing & Poetry with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 30, 2016 by gregnett
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“‘Lost’ or ‘The clueless art collector'” by Fiona Hernuss

“We are prepared for insults, but compliments leave us baffled.” ― Mason Cooley

 

“It is usually frenetic living, not high energy, that robs my peace of mind.” ― Steve Goodier