Archive for Hollywood

Los Angeles: An Armchair Perspective, “3-Pointer Plus the Foul”…

Posted in The City: Los Angeles with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 13, 2018 by gregnett
cozy-armchair

You see, it’s like this actually…

It’s fall in Los Angeles—and the days are warm and the nights are cold. (Sounds poetic.) I was a bit under the weather for the past few weeks and needed some time recuperate. So forgive my absence—if something like that concerns you. Continuing from my “armchair,” I’d like to share with you four more observations of Los Angeles.Enjoy!

Backwards Cap, No Mortgage

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‘Sup, bro?

There’s a saying down in Texas: “All hat, and no cattle.” At face value the saying could simply be read as one who dons a large cowboy hat—obviously—but possesses no livestock (re: cattle). It too is analogous with the Gen-Xer term poser: one who tries (way too) hard but still doesn’t “get it,” a person who brags endlessly about their doings and accomplishments but has in fact built their person on a mountain of lies to make themselves look better… I think you can see where I’m going with this. I affectionately apply the saying “Backwards cap, no mortgage” to my fellow Angelenos.

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Apartment “amenity” in LA…

Take away the sun, the view, the beach, the marijuana, the Benz, and the women—do that, and, well, you’ve left the contemporary Angeleno with holding nothing but a cup in his/her hand because no one here owns much of anything (re: property). Yes, there’s a spoiled, entitled, robber baron mercantile class living their best version of life here in La-La Land (and California at large) but for the other 85% they’re living in a de facto renter state. Even as far back as the seventies California has had problems with affordable housing. The rule book has been completely thrown out now though. Los Angeles, by way of Forbes magazine, has been listed as the worst American city for renters beating out San Francisco, New York and Miami. Since 2013, L.A. has been the most rent-burdened city in the country. Roughly 60% of Angelenos spend upwards of 40% of their income on rent. The ballpark for rent for a single-person unit averages $1,516 per month, while a family unit averages between $2,172 and $2,483 per month. And these are the rental prices for units that don’t come with refrigerators or stoves!

Jonestown Redux

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“We all agree… We all agree… We all agree…”

Here. Drink this. Taste good, doesn’t it? No? Don’t like it? Well, like, what’s your problem, bro?

If for nothing else, living in Los Angeles has taught me one thing: that it’s just best to agree with everyone, all the time, on every issue, regardless out outcome, or context, NO MATTER WHAT! If you are on the receiving end of this, you may be sitting there scratching your head like, WTF!

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Never take your eyes off your cocktail…

It’s been said that in New York people stab you in the front and in Los Angeles people stab you in the back… Well, you can imagine my shock and horror upon hearing this as someone who grew up in a flyover country (Louisiana). It made my drive west a wee bit stressful. Thankfully, I’m happy to report that there are no pulling of knives in Los Angeles; however, there is plenty nodding of heads. It’s like Jonestown all over again.

Now, I can’t speak about the so-called “pretentiousness,” or “phoniness,” or “fakeness” of Los Angeles; because, well, for one, I’m not sure that that’s a fair assessment of the city, and two, I’m not even sure that that exist. Nevertheless, I can speak about Angelenos need to agree—vehemently—with one another, because that’s actually palpable. It’s a borderline obsession even. Like any American city L.A. has its good and bad. So, no way am I suggesting to you that the city lacks any dissidents. You’re just hard-pressed to find them out gallivanting around.

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When you try to fit in…

I think this need to constantly be in agreement comes down to a few factors. One: people here are way too nice. It’s true; Angelenos, no matter how overworked, over-taxed, and over-burdened they are, they somehow manage to always turn on their smiles. And smiles are infectious, especially if the people smiling at you are easy on the eyes. Two: it’s biologically and socially (and possibly metaphysically) rewarding—in the sense that our perception of such an effort could be recognized by someone else, who, in kind, could improve one’s lot in life. Studies have shown that whenever there’s scarcity or limited resources people tend to show this type of behavior (group-think). And as I have mentioned above, with close to 40% of our income already being allotted for rent, going against the grain could potentially lead to homelessness or yourself as your only friend. It used to be that people would fight over crumbs; well, in L.A. people nod their heads for them. Lastly, it may be holistic. At the end of the day, Angelenos just want their apartments, their jobs, their “things,” their “person” to come together and form like Voltron—and for all of it to be the absolute best ever! Even though it may just be “okay.” Just remember to keep comments like that to yourself; and God help you should you say them out loud.

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You know, if my advice is worth anything…

 

Dirty Sole

As a wee lad I grew up in a poor black neighborhood. How poor was it? Well, in my neighborhood of yore people were so poor that if their kids didn’t have brand-new (“tennis”) shoes to wear to school they didn’t send them… What do brand-new shoes have to do with getting an education? The hell if I know; it never made much sense to me either.

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Custom-made for the streets of LA

Avoiding the socioeconomic reasoning of so terrible a logic, it did shape my outlook on footwear. And, man, people in Los Angeles—Millennials especially—love them some dirty sneaks. I kind of wish I could do a re-do on grade school for my childhood classmates. If only they had grown up in Los Angeles they’d probably be doing a lot better in life. (Maybe a few of them are.)

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Lookin’ goooood….

At first I used to think it was a Hipster thing, but they’ve moved on to wearing that really old style of Oxford which has now gone mainstream. And all the means is that the Hipsters have most likely moved on to another type of shoe. Trendsetters.

And let me be clear: I’m not talking about a little scuff marks here, a scratch there… It’s like a full-on competition to get the shoes as dirty as possible. I’ve even seen couples out-and-about with matching dirty sneakers. It’s fascinating. I’ve even drunk the Kool-Aid (heh heh) on this and have several pairs of dirty sneakers (Converse) in the closet.

Table for “1”?

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Just me tonight…

L.A.’s billed as a party town, but there’s a suburban and outdoorsy vibe to the place also. But for Yups, though, L.A. lacks a true happy hour scene due to the gridlocked nature of the roadways during evening rush hour. So when the dinner rush hits—usually right around 8PM—larger groups looking for a bite to eat get top priority. This town gives a big F.U. to the single diner.

And it’s always awkward walking into a restaurant alone. The host/hostess looks at you all weird and the first place she/he turns to when scanning the dining room to accommodate you is the bar. I kid you not. Every damn time! I’ve been here for eleven years and not once have I ever been offered a table when I walk enter a restaurant alone. What if I was a recovering alcoholic or didn’t drink alcohol at all? Then what?

alone 1

Kevin knows…

I’m sure this happens to single diners in every metropolitan American city, but Los Angeles really bungles this one bad. And if it’s not the host/hostess screwing you over, it’s the “server” (waiter) who’s pissed he/she has to wait on one person—because when you’re working for tips the more heads the better, amirite?

There’s have been times that I’ve gone out to eat and have asked for a table and I have been told that the open tables I see in front of me are reserved for large parties; some even sit open for another forty-five minutes while I sit at the bar checking the clock on my cell phone. I’m like, I could’ve eaten and have gone by the time those with reservations were set to arrive. And it’s always nope! You can’t sit there because if we don’t sit the maximum amount of people at the open tables we’re all gonna die…. Best bet hitting a restaurant in L.A. is to make an Open Table reservation online for three, then asked—demand!—to be seated and immediately order your meal. (Food menus are online now.) When the “server” finally realizes that you’re the only one sitting there and comes by to ask why, lie (sorry) and tell the “server” that you’re friends are stuck in traffic. Works every time.

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Oh, and another thing…

Well, I’ve gotta run! Be on the lookout for my next installment later this month. Happy Halloween!

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Los Angeles: An Armchair Perspective, The Sidewalks of Los Angeles…

Posted in The City: Los Angeles with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 10, 2018 by gregnett
cozy-armchair

You see, it’s like this actually…

… are freakin’ disgusting! And I say this as a person who moved to Los Angeles from New Orleans where tourists treat the streets of the French Quarter like it’s their own personal waste receptacle, and the city itself determines the success of each Mardi Gras by the amount of trash picked up off the ground—literally weighing it by the kilo—by prison trustees on Ash Wednesday (the day after Fat Tuesday) morning. So, I know what it’s like to have to high-step over and zigzag through random objects left on the ground.

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Fresh squeezed!! My favorite!!

But I’ve never seen filth on the sidewalk to the level it is in Los Angeles—and an entire populous so laissez-faire about the aesthetics of the sidewalks they (we) traverse… And the condition of the sidewalks is just the tip of the iceberg to what’s going on in this here mega city! (More on this later in the series.) Los Angeles proper is the quintessential 21st century urban obstacle course bumf*ck bonanza.

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So smooth… NOT!

Honest to goodness, I can’t even tell you the last time I walked in a straight line down a city block… If it’s not people obstructing my way; then some random object (that has no business being there) is. You know, Angelenos love to bitch & moan about the need for more HOV lanes and less billboards on the freeways, but forget all that noise: what’s up with these goddamn sidewalks?

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Post-apocalyptic.

Some make the argument that this is what Big City Livin’ is all about—but have you seen the sidewalks of Taipei or the city-state of Singapore, or Geneva? (You can eat off the ground in any of those three cities. Whenever I drop food on the ground in L.A., I say a small prayer to myself and just kiss my food goodbye.) So, I have to strongly disagree with that sentiment/analysis. This comes down to a matter of personal responsibility and civic pride. I do my part by not throwing trash (or anything else for that matter) on the ground. As for my fellow Angelenos, well…

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Sad reality…

I mean, we all look down nowadays because of our cell phone addiction—so how could Angelenos not notice how filthy the majority of the sidewalks have become? At this point it’s negligible what we’ve allowed to happen to the second largest city in the United States. I feel like this city should be a showpiece… About that: I’m always within earshot of a conversation where I can’t help but overhear an Angeleno talking to their friends visiting them from out of town where they deploy “the excuse” on why the streets of L.A. look like shit. (Excuse my French.) It goes something like, “Things are getting a lot better—don’t mind the trash.” Or “It’s improving. You should’ve seen how this area used to look.” Or “This neighborhood doesn’t usually look like this, there must’ve been a festival yesterday or something.” Or failing those comments, they simply laugh it off… What does this kind of response say about the psyche of the people living here?

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Anybody need a new mattress and box spring set??

I was out over the weekend with an acquaintance of mine and I happened to chat up a group of four from Orlando who were in Los Angeles for the first time. Their travel agent got them a great deal at a downtown Los Angeles hotel, and they were shocked at how filthy the streets of L.A. were. One of the young women—paraphrasing here, but pretty close to her exact words—commented to me on the condition of L.A.’s sidewalks to this effect:

“At first we thought they were filming a movie, because there was just trash everywhere and random people walking around. But the more we walked around, the more we started to realize that every street was like this. I got scared and eventually we went back to our hotel and just swam in the pool for a while. We looked on the internet to find some spots that were safe because we didn’t feel like there were any near our hotel.”

What the young woman is referring to is L.A.’s infamous Skid Row and the surrounding downtown area currently under revitalization but is still being treated like a junk yard/outdoor homeless shelter.

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Sidewalks of LA…

Mind blown, yet?

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Darn outdoor patios…

Here’s what you’re guaranteed to encounter when walking the streets of Los Angeles: broken pavement, cigarette butts, soiled baby diapers, memory foam, cleaning products, various household appliances (especially bent ironing boards), street musicians, (illegal) street vendors, celebrity/superhero impersonators, construction equipment, old mattresses, furniture (sectional couches especially), used travel luggage, flight itineraries, porn magazines/flyers, business cards/flyers, loose strips of paper, empty plastic bottles (OMG!), outdated computer monitors, children’s toys, jumper cables, worn tires, old televisions and flat screens, discarded food containers (my favorite is the empty potato chip bag), used syringes, bloody tampons, loose coins, receipts, valet tickets, (gang) graffiti, aerosol cans, homeless encampments, stray animals, clipboard activists, Jehovah witnesses, protest mobs (there’s like one every weekend), parking meters, dog shit, human shit, pigeon shit, puddles of “liquid”, illegal immigrants, clapboards, outdoor patio/sidewalk seating areas, newspaper stands, mailboxes, dog bowls, trampled-on/half-eaten pieces of food, cardboard boxes, milk crates, soiled blankets/bed sheets, felled tree branches, random articles of clothing, baby strollers, mannequin heads, shopping carts, shards of glass, etc… Basically, the streets of Los Angeles have become a de facto landfill—if I haven’t driven that point home any further. Admittedly so, the sanitation department of Los Angeles is fighting a losing battle, one they’re none too concerned about because they’re all union! (And stressed the hell out.) Union meaning—we’ll get to it when we get to it, and better to let it pile up first so we don’t lose our job or government contract staying on top of this madness.

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When it rains, the sewer grates look like this…

Photos tell a much better story, so I’ll cut this blog post short and leave you with a few extras. And mind you, none of these were staged and all of them were taken at random while I was out running errands… As mentioned above, Angelenos have turned a blind eye to filth piling up on the sidewalks, or again they laugh it off and opt to deploy “the excuse” when cornered on this issue. But trust me: they’re fully aware of this issue.

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Watch your step—literally!

After being out here on the west coast for more than a decade, I’ve learned that most people find that the best solution to this problem is to just run away from it. So the more affluent Angelenos—and the ones willing to pay a premium on rent that is already exorbitant and unaffordable—have ran to the very outskirts of L.A. (Santa Monica, Orange County, San Gabriel Valley, South Bay to name a few areas) cramming themselves into every nook and cranny of the outlying region so as not to have to face this very issue while those unwilling to pay a king’s ransom for rent are left to zigzag their way through this filth. But even the perimeter of Los Angeles is now starting to succumb to the Filth Monster, and soon there won’t be anywhere else to run should you (we) want to continue to live in southern California. Me, I’m off the opinion that the sidewalk issue—along with others—will get worse before it gets better. So, if you still feel like L.A.’s the place for you: be on high-alert, do some extra squats at the gym, and be prepared to high-jump and side-step your every destination.

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Sofa-microwave-old T-shirt combo!

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Rando dog food!

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I’ve banged a knee on so many of these…

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An old desk… seriously??

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Like, you had to walk past a dumpster…

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Gross!

Til Next time….

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Oh, and another thing…

 

Los Angeles: An Armchair Perspective

Posted in The City: Los Angeles with tags , , , , , , , , on June 13, 2018 by gregnett

It’s midway through 2018 and it has sort of been a meh year. To be honest, the summer crept up on me out of nowhere and if it wasn’t for a calendar alert reminding me to book a flight for my summer vacation I would’ve kept right along doing what I was doing: nothing!

cozy-armchair

You see, it’s like this actually…

And it’s okay to veg—I tell myself this, of course, to wipe away any potential shame or guilt that could arise in moments of prolonged idleness… It was about this time last year coincidentally that I got the sense that 2018 was going to be rather tame—and boy was my prediction accurate! No major complaints though, nor do I have anything to bitch about. Perfect health (sans one knee and one wrist), great job, money in the bank, roof over my head, vibrant aura, full stomach, clear mind, halfway decent sex life—I’m good!

The lull—if it I should even call it that—has more to do with the behind-the-scenes, day-to-day, re-re-branding, and strategizing of my life post Hollywood burnout. That aside, the creative juices continue to flow, spilling right over from last year’s effort and into this year’s… About that.

I might as well come clean: I scrapped my book idea. (Sadly, this isn’t the first time I’ve done that.) It dawned on me, while proofreading, how uneven it was: some posts were clearly better than others that just never really seemed to jell properly. On top of that, I had real life chomping at my heels (hint: FEMA). A valiant effort, but not one where I would feel comfortable about shaking people down for two dollars a copy, or going into the red to self-publish a book and then releasing it for free!

So I’ll just move right on along to Phase Two: which is my newsletter. (They’re all the rage right these days.) And if I haven’t mentioned this before, well, I’m doing it now… (On my desk at home is a stack of rezis from cartoonists, illustrators, satirists, writers, poets, etc. Oh, and I’m terrible at selling myself, as you can see.)

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You know, if my advice is worth anything…

Since my last post (December, 2017) I got to thinking about my time here in Los Angeles. I’ve been here for a little over a decade now and I haven’t spoken much about what it’s like to live here in the City of Angels. People have asked me, but I would casually avoid the What’s it like to live in LA? question. I wanted to nip this in the bud last year (June, 2017) on my ten-year anniversary—but forgot. And then there was my U.S. cities series, and I could’ve easily slipped my opinion of L.A. into that, and, well… I’ve only written about one city (San Francisco; more to come though). Then Confessions of an American Amateur Theater-Reviewer got in the way; plus, the idea of talking ish about my (adopted) city makes me feel queasy… But, then again, La La Land is too fascinating a subject not to discuss. Still rolling around the idea in my head, I said to myself that I were to express my opinion on what it’s like to live L.A., it’d have to be written—and from an armchair perspective. Something tangible and relatable, but at the same time slack and not so scripted… And maybe then one could get a gauge on how I feel about living in L.A. after reading all I had to say.

Well, gosh darn it!, here it is: a new series (titled above) for you, the handful of readers who come to my blog from time to time—and something that I can refer people to who are constantly asking me with the what’s it like…? question(s). Now please bear in mind that this is Los Angeles through my eyes, and that overall slant of this series (and blog) is tongue and cheek (satirical?). So don’t be put-off or offended by what you read here (de facto trigger warning, I guess). Seeing as I’ve been here for more than a decade (11 years) I have ten bullet points (observations?, topics?, areas?)—plus one more!—I’d like to share that I feel are unique to the Los Angeles metropolitan area. Some of them might be familiar to you; some not so much, bordering on absurd and nonsensical… Because you’ve heard about the materialism, the narcissism, the balmy weather, the celebrity culture, the Ray-Bans®, the street gangs, the bad traffic—all of which are true, and the potential for overlap is likely. However, I’m hoping to be slightly “adjacent” to what’s already floating around out there.

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Oh, and another thing…

I’ve got a bit of writing and operations work to do for the back half of this year, so I’ll try to bang all ten (11) of these out two per month through the end of December. The first one’s a good one too! And I’m not just saying that because it’s my writing… It’s one that will make Angelenos grin widely because it’s sooo true, and everyone else outside of the SoCal bubble scratch their heads like, WTF!

2017 – Movie List*

Posted in Movie Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 27, 2017 by gregnett

*Of the movies I’ve seen… And, of course, no one has asked me for my opinion.

I’m way down as far as my usual numbers. I try to see anywhere between 50 and 60 films in a calendar year, but this year I managed to see a little over 30 films. I felt like a lot of the movies this year were meh and passed on the bulk of them. Also, I did a ton of writing and going to the movie theater was the last thing I wanted to do when I had any free time. The current numbers look to be the same for next year (2018) and into the future for reasons I won’t go into.

So like last year: here’s yet another obligatory “list.” I find these to be my favorite movies to hit the theaters in 2017. Ten films worked last year, so ten films it is this year—with my take on each in ten words, in true tongue-in-cheek fashion. I don’t rank one above the other and am merely listing them by the 2017 American release date. Again, I enjoyed all of them! See you in 2018. Peace!

 

 

Ten words: Why the hell did you attend? Have you any self-esteem?

 

Ten words: Nam. Kong. Creedence Clearwater. And the most racially-diverse cast ever!

 

Ten words: Husband and Wife both have affairs but they are refreshing.

 

Ten words: A man’s lust for indigenous poon gets law enforcement killed.

 

Ten words: Steve and Rob are back… New Orleans next time around?

 

Ten words: Navel-gazing hipster existentialism à la spelunking in giant cardboard boxes.

 

Ten words: An engaging CIA thriller—but with the usual doomsday device.

 

Ten words: Who knew that a rape could be so damn funny?

 

Ten words: No indigenous people were killed; an idiot becomes town savior.

 

Ten words: Poker takes a back seat to all the daddy issues.

Confessions of an American Amateur Theater-Reviewer: Preliminary Confessions #3: Continued | The Life of Lady Godiva

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

Comedy. Drama.

Confessions of an American Amateur Theater-Reviewer
PRELIMINARY CONFESSION #3: Continued…

So then, Theatre, the oft-neglected redheaded stepchild, you who are treated only slightly better than a destitute orphan, and cries out the most for attention of all society’s institutions, at length I’ve been away from you: the time was come at last that I should no more sit in anguish in your tiny, wretched seats; no more vague monologues, and wondering afterwards what the hell the “playwright” was trying to get across, etc. Too many have doubtless since then followed in my footsteps. However, with whatever alleviation the years have provided us, it seems we are still bound together by a subtle link derived from a common root. I, therefore, who mentioned just a month earlier, as it were, in the writings of this confessional, expressed that I would be highlighting a few of your positives rather than continuing to harp on all of your negatives.

And so, dear reader, another positive for you to consider:

(3) The “live”, actual performance. (And its variations.) It’s been said in so many ways, but here’s mine: “There’s just something cathartic and spiritually uplifting about group laughter. When an entire room of people—who are more or less strangers to one another—watching a performance get the joke, it does something to you deep down in your core.” Look, I get it. I understand completely. It’s hard getting up off the couch for just about anything these days—even the remote! But an evening at the theater is the chance to partake in an experience that can’t ever be duplicated. Literally each performance is different! You can’t help but fall prey to the spectacle when you consider that. Just imagine the sacrifice and collective group commitment it takes to put a play on—and then having to do it all over again just a few short hours later, or the very next day. It’s for that reason alone that I can’t all the way buy into the notion that “Theatre is dead.” No, sir; it is very much in the moment—one that can’t ever be recreated.

I now pass to what is this month’s main subject. And forgive me, dear reader, for such an abrupt shift which you should already be accustomed to by now in this blog series. Again, I ask that you turn your attention to September’s stage play, The Life of Lady Godiva.

 

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A portrait of Lady Godiva by John Collier

 

Title: The Life of Lady Godiva (1966)
Playwright: Ronald Tavel
Time Period: Late Modernism (Theatre of the Ridiculous)
Plot: A bawdy retelling of the heroic tale of Lady Godiva, an 11th century noblewoman whose famous naked horseback ride through the streets of Coventry saved the town’s residents from having to pay the oppressive taxes levied on them.

Dope Line (s):

GODIVA
With some things, the sooner they’re over, the better.

SUPERVIVA
Pity we have to resort to these deceptions. Still, at any rate, it’s a good thing hooers can’t think and don’t have feelings.

GODIVA
Skip the religious bit: —I had this convent pegged for what it is from the start.

 

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Even back then…

 

We need to talk. Or, rather, I have a confession to make… Whoa, a confession within a confession. That’s like, sixteen confessions… (A lame Deadpool reference; I know, I know.) No, seriously; in all honesty, I made a boo-boo. For the few of you who read this blog, you’ll see that the timing of this blog post is off by one week. I’m not all that bummed out about it; well, at first, I was—but then I realized that I was late with the first one… And rather than rushing to the press, I decided to just drop the review a week later (today!) and live with the outcome. My tardiness with this month’s blog post came up out of the fact that I got too comfortable and lost track of time. To explain: It’s been ages since I read Equus and Camille, both of which were damn good—and Romeo and Juliet (also good) aside, I’ve struggled to get through the other plays I’ve chosen to read for this series. And putting them down then going back to them didn’t help me any. So, after The Nether I decided to switch up how I do things, and consolidated the bulk of my reading and research down to a few days. And this time around I knocked out the reading in two days (over the course of back to back evenings) and then spent the following weekend digging up facts. Admittedly, it gave me lots of free time to work on other things and even jot down a substantial amount of notes. And I guess that’s partly why I was so bummed out at first about missing my (self-imposed) deadline. The Theatre of the Ridiculous—which The Life of Lady Godiva is a part of—is all but forgotten in this day and age, and it was interesting to see how big of an influence it had on other artistic mediums. For instance, glitter—which many of the TOTR’s productions used in excess—was later appropriated by the likes of Glam rock.

 

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All that glitters…

 

And with all of the richness, style, and complexity this Theatre movement (and play) has packed into it, I didn’t take advantage of the extra time I had nor did I compile my notes for this review in any sort of serviceable fashion… There’s just too many layers to peel back on this Theatre movement to lay it down here and have it be suffice. Plus, I have other logs over the fire as far as upcoming ventures, ventures that have more of a chance at generating revenue for me—so you know how that ish goes. This could very well be lazy on my part, but I would like to throw a few recommendations on Theatre of the Ridiculous your way; that is, if you find this subject matter fascinating:

Ronald Tavel: His Life & Works [web address]

Eight Plays from Off-Off Broadway [book]

The New Underground Theatre [book]

Return to the Caffe Cino [book]

The Off, Off Broadway Book: The Plays, People, Theatre [book]

Off-Off-Broadway [wiki page]

Theatre of the Ridiculous [wiki page]

NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project [web address]

Theatre of the Ridiculous [book]

Warhol Screen Test #2 [video segment]

Warhol Screen Test #2 [video segment]

Flaming Creatures (1963), dir. Jack Smith [feature film]

 

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Flaming Creatures movie poster

 

And this is only skimming the surface… Man, there’s so many things to consider, so much I wanted to tell you, because The Life of Lady Godiva; well, there’s not much to speak of… At best, it’s an amalgamation of things ranging from medieval fairy tales & legends, old black & white Hollywood films to Shakespearean witticism, (60’s) pop culture, Wildean plot scenarios, pomp (camp) and sexual debauchery (cross-dressing, homosexuality, bestiality, BDSM). (Throughout TOTR’s canon, you just come across re-imaginations and re-workings [see, it isn’t just Hollywood] of historical narratives and fictional works, or of the time [1960’s] murder investigations that went unsolved, adding transvestites, sex-crazed women, animals, and sex toys where needed.) Godiva cycles through Art Nouveau, Elizabethan era décor, British Edwardian era aesthetics (Gibson Girl look), Brooklyn kitsch circa early 20th century, and even peddles out a few Hispanic (Dominican) stereotypes. The music is just as anachronistic, going from Liszt to The Rockettes.

 

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TOTR Promo

 

Now I want to be fair to this stage play (and the TOTR movement as a whole), but then there’s my own subjectivity to consider. It goes without saying, but the script is the “bones” and the play itself is the “flesh.” But the “bones” here are quite brittle. It’s the head-scratcher of all head-scratchers that I’ve faced thus far in this blog series. The playwrights, directors, and performers involved in this movement went out of their way to be messy and scatter-brained on purpose. And it shows! On top of that: this could very well be the most self-aware movement of all time. Any number of the plays, Godiva included, could give The Rover and the rest of The Restoration a run for its money on who can dole out the most asides during a scene.

 

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Ronald Tavel

 

Which brings me to Ronald Tavel himself; an integral part, perhaps the key component in the TOTR’s holy trinity, the other two being John Vaccaro and Charles Ludlam. No longer with us, Tavel has the proud distinction of being the only person to ever write with Andy Warhol. He and Warhol parted ways over, what else, creative differences (re: not being given his due credit), and if my notes serve me correctly, The Life of Lady Godiva is one of the first plays Tavel worked on after his separation with Warhol. (He had produced several plays prior to his time working with Warhol.) Tavel’s familiar bag of tricks (anachronistic use of language, sexual wordplay evoking homosexual imagery, repeated lines [dope writing!], Shakespeare references, pop songs, ad slogans) are all on display in Godiva, a re-imagining of the legend of Lady Godiva of Coventry, only this time around with—trigger warning!—rape and an attack on religion folded into the mix. (Why do so many creative types take potshots at Christianity?)

 

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Classic Gibson look

 

Tavel keeps the story of the original legend mostly intact, having his characters talk it up for a bit until it’s time for Godiva to take her famous naked horseback ride through the streets of Coventry. However, included in Tavel’s version is a horse/buggy (Don’t ask!) that’s well-endowed, a transvestite nun, a bizarre dream sequence, and a Vegas-style chorus line at the play’s climax (?). It all sounds so fascinating presenting it this way, but the amount of asides and cracks at witticism (mostly of the sexual variety) make the play fall in on itself.

 

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Who are you wearing?

 

Coventry Convent is the locale of this play and a head nun who goes by the name of Mother Superviva (transvestite; man in drag) is in charge of all the madness. The story progresses when Godiva—that’s Lady Godiva—pulls up outside the convent along with her man servant Peeping Tom (yes, that Peeping Tom; originally played by Charles Ludlam) after their horse/buggy (Don’t ask!) breaks down just shy of the convent door. We learn that Leoffric, the lord of Coventry—who we will see later in the play donning full S&M garb—is stifling the townsfolk with a burdensome tax debt and Mother Superviva has asked Godiva to save them. (There’s some business about Godiva wanting to become a nun but that bit of info is tossed to the side and forgotten.) Leoffric shows up not long after Mother Superviva has spoken to Godiva about the town’s situation, and Godiva quickly confronts Leoffric on this matter. Leoffric agrees to remit the tax but only if Godiva rides through the town at high noon ass-naked—because that’s what the history books and God have destined for her to do.

 

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Cross-dress much??

 

And that’s what’s so peculiar about the Theatre of the Ridiculous: Tavel and his ilk are okay with this level of self-awareness and senseless plot structure… The play hums one moment and then is choppy the next—on purpose!—so it doesn’t boggle the brain the way a play like In the Summer House would, but, then again, it does. And, in a weird sort of way, it’s kind of clever… The passing of time until Lady Godiva’s ride is handled with divertissements (diversions in the form of short dances) in which characters call attention to themselves and the progress (evaluation) of the production itself, and a dream sequence that takes place in Godiva’s mind, which, upon waking from, Godiva is violently raped. The rape is then quickly pushed aside to make way for a big, Vegas-style dance number ending with Godiva reviving herself somehow! and finally riding off on her horse/buggy (Don’t ask!) through Coventry, ass-naked! Again, to talk about the strangeness of this play, the actual ending, or conclusion, is given away long before the play’s final curtain which is kind of clever and funny.

 

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More Lady G

 

Does this play hold up? God, no! But there’s definitely some fun to be had in reading this, and there’s definitely something thought-provoking about the play’s underlying message.  As is the case with the majority of works that bitch-slap Religion, Godiva is no different in pushing for the acceptance of all forms of sex/sexualities (and genders?), and figures Religion to be the bulwark holding back the siege… I think it’s fair to say that’s been achieved, sort of? I mean, religion has just kind of stepped aside on this issue, right? Seriously, I don’t know; I’m asking… The back fourth of this play lets escape a line to the effect that, “Someday Porn will be accepted but nudity will never be understood.” Which is hella deep when you think about it, especially as it pertains to the female form. It’s crazy to think that Tavel knew back then (1966) what is essentially a reality now. Hell, the word porn is used nowadays to describe photos of food and climate disasters; yet we go ape-shit when we see a woman walking around without a bra on. Men rarely if ever show their junk in movies, but women going “topless” is somehow bold, or provocative, or taboo, or blasphemous—all at the same damn time. And possibly a necessary career move to get to the “next level.” But boobs on film never really cause outrage nor do dildos or blow-up dongs. But just let a young woman start breastfeeding her infant child in a restaurant, the looks she gets… Man, we humans are a terrible lot; so much of what we do doesn’t make sense… Sex in America will never be handled properly… So good on Tavel for being quite the soothsayer.

As for me, boys and girls and aliens, I see feudal Japan in my near, near future. That’s because here at #TINWIPA, we believe in Diversity™ and we haven’t ventured east yet. So next month’s stage play will be a hidden gem from one of the legendary masters of Kabuki Theater.

 

 

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‘Til October…

 

 

Rating: 3/5

Confessions of an American Amateur Theater-Reviewer: Preliminary Confessions #3: Continued | The Nether

Posted in Theater Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 20, 2017 by gregnett
masks

Comedy. Drama.

Confessions of an American Amateur Theater-Reviewer
PRELIMINARY CONFESSION #3: Continued…

As someone who came from a family of mostly low-income, blue-collar (and “no-collar”) workers, started out in Music (guitar and piano) in grade school, detoured into Art (cartooning) and organized Sports (Basketball, Football, Baseball, Volleyball, Soccer) with flights of fancy into Interior Design and Graphic Design during middle school and junior high, then back into Music (songwriting) after my short-lived attempt at going to college, and finally into Film (producer/writer-director; more so screenwriting) at the start of adulthood—not only did my “career” choices steadily creep away from what mommy dearest had envisioned for her baby boy, but I too was left with a bit of a moral dilemma: does my current (and now mainstay) passion—writing; whatever the medium—make any significant contribution to the world in this day and age, or any of my past “creative” endeavors I left behind? This quandary has been the pebble underneath my heel for quite some time, and as recently as this past fall when I made the decision to go forward with this (slightly tongue-in-cheek) confessional, combining bits of my life with unscientific observations of modern day society as a way to discuss the medium of Theatre (stage plays), I had to sit in deep thought for a half day or so and reflect on why was I even bothering to write any of this—anything at all—down in the first place… Cleansing my brain of all the toxic negativity American culture is currently steeped in as well as my own self-doubting and self-deprecating ways, I regained the confidence needed to see this endeavor to the end. I’m never one to re-invent the wheel, and I’m sure, dear reader, that you may have heard many of these reasons before, but here are a few reasons on why the Theatre should matter. To you, dear reader, I would like to point out a few of the positives:

(1) The Cost. Both tangible and intangible. First-world problems about sums it up—if I were looking for the proper expression. While over a $7-dollar slice of cherry pie at a “roadside” diner, I expressed one of my many observations (grievances) about contemporary life in good ol’ Oosa (U.S.A.) to a group of my closest of friends: which is that “diner prices”, “fast-casual prices”, and “restaurant prices” are all now within $4- to $5-dollars of one another; the idea of a “cheap meal” is a thing of the past. The mere fact of eating out is expensive, certainly a lot more than enjoying meals at home. I also find that the costs for Entertainment are just as relative… Music festival tickets, professional sports tickets, Vacations (air travel plus room & board), movie tickets, comedy shows, nightclub venues (definitely for men) are within $15- to $20-dollars of one another, more in fact for the popular draws (MSG shows, Lakers tickets, Coachella, Broadway musicals, Travel to a locale during a special event, say Mardi Gras) — so there’s definitely enough griping to go around when it comes to spending what’s in your wallet. Those of us here in the “First World” with mad time to fill should definitely reconsider our stance on not attending the Theatre. If anything, most playhouses are slashing ticket prices—or giving them away for free—just to get people’s asses in those tiny chairs. Do you think Coachella or the Staples Center where the L.A. Clippers and L.A. Lakers play would ever consider doing that? As far as the intangible: much of the other areas of Entertainment have been extremely corporatized which, in essence, is predicated on maximizing profits whereas the Theatre (sans Broadway; though the medium too would like a larger bottom line) — bad material and all — seems to be more about how we (Society) are driving the culture. And you can’t put a price on that!

(2) A great if not better option to go on a Date. An excellent venue for Social-gathering. Another man is less likely to test your manhood — meaning you won’t have to “defend her honor” — while one a date at a theater versus the food court at the mall or right outside the men’s bathroom at a sports arena. (What is it with American men wanting to get into fist-fights outside the one room in a public facility that’s there so humans can relieve themselves?) I’ve hit on this before but the air in the theater is quite pretentious and in that setting, it’s rare that tempers flare—just think of the cost incurred to get into the building. No one’s trying to get kicked out! Theater patrons go out of their way not to speak or make eye contact in general, so there’s never any worry about a scuffle happening. Hopefully, the date is to see a comedy (or a musical) which allows for lots of playful hitting, knee-grabbing, and eye contact which is crucial early on in any courtship. (You can thank me later.) As far as it being an excellent choice for social gatherings, well consider the alternative: digital screens. Earlier Millennials and prior generations know what I’m talking about; face-to-face interaction is something we still pine for. It’s my own personal theory for why so many of us feel so aimless walking around nowadays—that and the economy. Hell, if the date is going well you might be so inclined as to talk to the other couples seated around you—between acts or coming back from intermission, of course. Who knows, that same conversation could potentially lead to some networking. With the average age of the theater-goer currently sitting at 54, the Baby Boomer you’re trading barbs with just might put you in the run-in for his/her position when they retire or bring you aboard so as to groom you along seeing as one so cultured as you is at the theater on a Saturday night… Sure beats firing off résumés online, or figuring out if you possess any of the skills for the “jobs” listed on Craig’s List.

Well, dear reader, that will have to suffice for now. I would like to turn our attention to August’s stage play, The Nether.

virt_world2

They’re out there…

Title: The Nether (2013)
Playwright: Jennifer Haley
Time Period: Postmodernism (Transrealism)
Plot: A young detective investigates the inventor of an online virtual realm where morally questionable acts involving young children are being carried out behind the anonymity of “Shades” — human avatars that could potentially be real and what, if any, ethical ramifications this may have regarding the real world.
Dope Line(s):

[Scene 5]

MORRIS
It’s more than that, Mr. Doyle. It’s sound, smell, touch. The Hideaway is the most advanced realm there is when it comes to the art of sensation.

[Scene 13]

IRIS
People come to things on their own time. We offer a place where you may dismantle everything the world has told you about right and wrong and discover pure relationship.

[Scene14]

DOYLE
It draws people who are—broken—I know that, but—I don’t judge them—they are part of us, too—they are part of the world—God does not judge them—why should we?

virt_world1

Ones & Zeroes

The Eagle has landed! I’ve been back home for a little more than a month now and both my body and sleeping pattern have adjusted back to west coast time. It’s the bank account that’s jet-lagged. But no worries, the system wasn’t built for folks like moi to keep it all. So spend it all I shall, whenever it does touch my hands… For those of you who have been with me, you might get the sense that I’m in good spirits—well, I am! One needs to be whenever one is blind-sided by life, in many more ways than one as of late. (Some things are just too personal for me to say here.) So who cares if this month’s play trivializes pedophilia, or has no clue on how real criminal investigations are run, or is ignorant as to how mental illnesses work; in real life, I’m being cleaned out by my own government for a fraud I didn’t commit with the paperwork to prove it, and my country’s president(?) is instigating World War III, at home and abroad. To hell with morals, screw decency. Pour big globs of debauchery and bad behavior all over the mob; just see if we push back—we won’t! We’re plebs for a reason! I’m a hundred percent sure now there’ll be a purge soon.

The Nether received rave reviews—spoiler alert!: this gets only a “meh” from me. And it pains me so to say that because this playwright is my contemporary—or would be if I could ever get over the hump and make an impact on Pop Culture—and a fellow Angeleno by way of San Antonio, Texas. Troubled waters lie ahead… I know readership is low for this blog, but I also know that Millennials and Gen-Xers love to “Google” themselves (sounds dirty, doesn’t it?) — so only time will tell how playwright Jennifer Haley will receive me… But for those #TINWIPA faithful—oh, how little of you there are—you know exactly where Big G (to those special two in Las Vegas, Cousin G) draws the line when it comes to taste and decency, so I must remain firm… I believe it was Roger Waters of Pink Floyd who said it best: “Leave them kids alone”. And with a few days (weeks?) left before the official start to the new school year here in the States, I wanted to see what the kids were doing. And by kids, I mean the playwrights currently making names for themselves in the Theatre world. Overall this series is geared towards old stage plays but I wanted to reserve at least one slot for a modern stage play, and The Nether has the proud honor of being on my inaugural list.

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Small on scale, big on dreams…

I couldn’t have been more than twenty-five or so pages in when I had to read the word “molestation” having had the notion be implied to me in a number of ways in earlier scenes… The majority of them featuring the play’s protagonist Detective Morris—a woman!—who works ‘em hard and fast; a sort of tough, no-nonsense and perhaps overworked public defender in an unknown city, world, and time. We are far out into the future and the Internet/internet we affectionately slave all of our time away on is now like those old Nokias of my high school days—gone! A major upgrade has been made to the web and it even has a new name, “Nether” — thus the riddle of the play’s title is solved. Yes, the world many of us fear where humans can no longer tell what is real and what is fake is alive and kickin’, and if weren’t for what this play was trying to peddle, I would have had no problem in finding this sort of world-building inventive. But, ideally, we get to see none of this brave new world only glimpses rather, because much of this play’s narrative involves overtly-dramatic interrogation scenes—the stockiest I’ve seen this side of a film festival circuit. (Interrogation scenes are common with new filmmakers looking to make their first short film. Just about any space can be turned into an interrogation room and then all you need is a few props and two committed actors to sell the drama.) And like so many before in this series, the story unfolds bit by bit, the heaviest of all the exposition being front-loaded so as to lace the back end with lots of navel-gazing and soap-boxing. However, Haley has decided to break her story line in two (which isn’t a bad idea in itself): one part is in the “present” featuring the interrogation room drama, the other in the “past” taking us inside the Nether—but still in rooms and the occasional foyer. And back and forth we go, watching as the two converge… And it’s the story that takes place in the Nether region (pun intended; forgive me) that makes me pause for concern.

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Jennifer Haley

Side note: Early on in my mind before I keyed in on what type of story this was going to be, I envisioned this play as a feature film, a fast-paced thriller where we cut back and forth between the different interrogation scenes all of which would be even more intense and amplified, and the majority of the “action” would take place in the Nether, requiring Det. Morris to jump back and forth between the virtual world and the real world while in pursuit of the truth/bad guy. Either world, Det. Morris would be running down some corridor, or turning over her shoulder and seeing ones and zeroes in everything around her, and always having a feeling that the world—either one—is on the verge of collapsing in on itself as she races towards some stock, arbitrary countdown to save a little girl from a pedophile which she would do—heroically, of course. And, as always, just in the nick of time. But then, the little girl would be lost to the Nether world forever, perhaps never being real at all, which would add some emotional weight to the story because the audience would’ve grown attached to her by then. And as the little girl turns to pixels, she would give Det. Morris a code that would show her the location of the server or the bad guy—or both. Det. Morris then would haul ass there, talk it out with the bad guy for a bit, then waste him… Again, this was all in my mind, and I was only about thirty or so pages in—and even then, I was giving this play too much credit.

Instead, as written, much of the suspense is telegraphed in advance; so people like me are far out in front of where Haley is trying to go with her story. Now I’m a fan of disjointed timelines, but it really serves no purpose here other than to drag out the story. And when stories start to drag that’s when I start to ask questions, especially when they take place in the future and technology (as well as surveillance) should be better than what’s currently on the market. I start to ponder questions like: Why doesn’t law enforcement have its own team of white hats to aid Det. Morris in finding out who the inventor is and tracking down his location? Why can’t the government just shut down the Nether (internet) seeing as there are “kids” involved and platforms allowing pedophiles to congregate could potentially become a societal issue which in the world of this play it clearly is? Egypt’s government did it (in 2011) and the U.S. has the Patriot Act (which if the President wanted to he/she could technically shutdown the Net) so some future politician/bureaucrat must surely have access to the Nether (internet) kill switch, right? Does Det. Morris have a superior officer, and if she does, why isn’t she or he monitoring her behavior? For that matter, shouldn’t Det. Morris have a partner to at least try to ensure that she doesn’t cross the line, and if she does decide to, at least there’s someone present in her life with a firm moral compass for the case she’s been tasked with trying to solve to perhaps prevent her from doing so? Why does Doyle’s lawyer—if he even has one—allow his client to keep being brought back in for interrogation? Hell, why is Doyle’s lawyer not present, considering what’s at stake (pedophilia charges)? Did Doyle even contact his lawyer before deciding to speak to and cooperate with law enforcement? Nothing was in writing, so what if Det. Morris reneges on her side of the deal? … I can go on and on and on. (No wonder Americans have no idea about how the Law works. Just look at the material they have available to them.)

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The room.

I guess one would find all of this cringe-worthy and unsettling (and possibly riveting) to see this acted out on stage: where and older man gets fresh with a little girl. Me, I would’ve walked out. Forgive me, I picked this at random from a best-of list and assumed it was going to be about dreams… Anyhoo, Det. Morris is knee-deep in a gentleman’s ass by the name of Doyle. He has been spending time in a realm known as “The Hideaway.” This realm exists in the Nether and was created by Papa, the kind of evil guy who believes he’s smarter than everyone in the room. She’s in his ass also, though spoiler: he goes by a different name, Sims. Both of these men suffer from mental illness but that never gets discussed nor does their sexuality really, considering it ranges from homosexuality to pedophilia. Papa (Sims) has created “shades”, avatars that allow users in the real world to be on his platform anonymously—and they nor he can be traced for some reason. The eerie thing is that some users take the form of little girls who then “play” in a little girl’s bedroom with another user who is usually an adult male or a male creature of some kind, and when the men have had enough “playing”, their next task is to bludgeon the girl (it’s always a girl, am I right?) to death with an ax. (Depraved, sadistic, nihilistic material; I can’t believe I read this.) There’s also a “crossing over” option available to users which means that they may possibly stay there in the Nether forever but it isn’t fully explained and dealing with all that was going on, I just had to let it go.

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Sadistic weapon of choice

Now I’ll say this much: Haley nails the sci-fi elements, though a lot what she offers up sinks under all of the navel-gazing from some her characters (Papa/Sims). One little girl, Iris, is Det. Morris’s way into finding out who the inventor is and the scenes involving Iris are some of the most inventive, and by inventive I mean disturbing… And that’s pretty much crux of this story: a man has created a “cyberplace” for other perverts and degenerates to get their rocks off online and he’s been brought in for questioning, and while in questioning he defends his right along with other pedophiles/pervs to be exactly who they are… Gross!

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Talk!!!

I guess that’s the thing with modern stage plays. The ever present “shock value” that turns a lot of people away—myself included—from the Theatre. Someone is always vomiting on themselves or someone else, or getting completely naked (always a busty white woman) for no effin’ reason, or getting mutilated, or coming up with the most heinous act imaginable just to see if they can make an audience cringe then crafting a “story” around it afterwards, not even bothering to see if the “story” itself is concrete. Then me, poor me, I come along and ask a few questions, wondering why something is, and I’m told to “Relax… It’s just art, bro!” Okay…

There’s no sense in asking whether this play holds up or not; it was only written four years ago. Rightfully so, the play does deal with a relevant topic: online virtual portals where things like child pornography can potentially be traded and discussed. (Yikes! Yuck!) From the looks of it, this play has opened all sorts of doors for Haley, and I tip my hat to her: congrats! But having read The Nether, I’m left scarred so there’s no way in the world I can see what else she has going on… Well boy and girls and aliens, I see you next month with a classic work from one of the founding fathers of the LGBT theater movement.

 

 

stage-chair

‘Til September…

 

 

Rating: 2.5/5

Confessions of an American Amateur Theater-Reviewer: Preliminary Confessions #3 | Dame Lorraine

Posted in Theater Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 16, 2017 by gregnett
masks

Comedy. Drama.

All this talk of myself, and my railing at society but what of Theater? For that I have reserved my concluding words: it’s actually much worse than I thought—though I’ve already expressed that sentiment. But, to this hour, I don’t think my dear reader has ever heard me make mention of Theater’s finer qualities—with any extended detail, that is. And you will, though not now, as I would like for us to quickly turn our attention to July’s stage play, Dame Lorraine.

 

d1

Dame No. 1

 

Title: Dame Lorraine (1979)
Playwright: Steve Carter
Time Period: Postmodernism
Plot: An African immigrant family, mired by past transgressions, gather in the Harlem apartment of their physically disabled patriarch for the return of a family member recently set free from prison in hopes of finding closure with what got him incarcerated more than two decades ago.
Dope Line(s):

[Act 1]

ANGELA
I shouldn’t have come. Why did I come here?

[Act 1]

DORCAS
I never thought to see you in this house again. I ain’t want to see you here … but I too glad you come. You have to understand … we had to stay here and my place was with him. I just a woman. You have to understand. I was doing what I thought best.

[Act 3]

PICTON
I sorry I do this thing to you. I sorry I plant all them bad flowers in you. I ain’t never want to see you cry. I beg you forgiveness. Before God, I beg you forgiveness.

 

har1

Harlem 1970s

 

Coming to you live from New York, from inside an undisclosed location in Brooklyn. But this here story takes place in Harlem circa 1979. No, seriously. I’m in NYC for this one. #TINWIPA goes on the road from time to time… I’m out here on the east coast celebrating my B-Day; this little thing I do where I pick a different city to toast to my getting old. I’m torn between Madrid or Tokyo for next summer and it just might come down to an old fashioned coin toss. But enough of that, I wanna talk Dame Lorraine, part three of Steve Carters’ Caribbean Trilogy (Eden, 1975; Mountain Dew, 1977), all of which could fall anywhere along the timeline of the twenty-six plays Carter’s alleged to have written. (This pompous S.O.B. claims to have some of his plays “hidden” in a trunk somewhere.)

Fair warning: this is the Kill Bill edition boys and girls and aliens, and I’m going to swing the Hanzō around mightily for this one. With that bit of business out of the way, I have just one question: Are black content creators being held at gunpoint and forced to produce material that showcases the most horrific and disturbing images (and sounds) of the Black experience in America, or are they doing this of their own free will? But then to ask that question is to immediately ask another: What is it about Black (and Brown and Asian) suffering that (white) audiences find so enamoring? These two questions always jump to the front part of my mind whenever I encounter material like this. To me, both of them are rooted in the question: Who is this film/play/book/song/installation for?

 

d2

Dame No. 2

 

In today’s world Carter clearly wouldn’t be in touch with his audience; as is the case with whites who lord over the images and representations of people of color. Film and Literature—Theater too it seems—constantly get it wrong whereas Music, Fashion (model representations aside) and Sports hit the nail on the head every damn time. When black youth is the face of sports culture (Lonzo Ball, Dak Prescott) and the backbeat to corporate commercials (Lil’ Yachty, Kendrick Lamar) and the pulse of online buzz (Black Twitter, Beyonce’s Beyhive), I start to wonder what’s taking the others so long to join in on the fun… Black people, I can surely attest, are done with the suffering narrative; they go the other way every time. People like Misty Copeland and Kevin Hart have broken new ground, and so have the Migos and Future and that last dude that was President of this country, yet the biggest movie “made” for black people (and for whites to feel guilty about) this calendar year is Detroit? Yes, the ’67 Detroit riot is an important moment in (Black) American History and long overdue perhaps, but you guessed it: more Black suffering. What about the current cultural zeitgeist known as Turn Up culture? Will it ever see its day on the big screen, or on the best sellers list, or on stage (Hamilton doesn’t count). I feel like I already know the answer so why bother…

 

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More Harlem 1970s

 

For someone like Steve Carter, I get the feeling that he thought very highly of himself while in his prime. I mean, to be a part of the Negro Ensemble Company he would’ve had to… Still, I’m not ready to put him or his contemporaries—and mine also—on the same level as sadists, but I can’t seem to grasp why their need to go overboard in their indulgences of black suffering. In Carter’s case, an African family is trying to weave back the family fabric torn apart twenty-seven years ago when the oldest of eight sons initiates a gang rape scenario on his young sister only to be caught in the act by his father who he then beats within inches of his life thus making it hard for the man and his wife to survive in Harlem, New York which at the play’s point in history (1979) was figuratively falling to pieces. And rather than having them move on, Carter puts them all back under one roof where they await the brother’s return as if he were the Prodigal Son.

 

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The Harlem Globetrotters

 

Like The Rover, the plot points don’t easily connect and that’s marred even further by syntax—but that’s the gist of what happened for the family involved in this story to be where they are at the start of the play. We enter the home of Picton Moulineaux through the eyes of his daughter Angela Moulineaux (who as raped as a pre-teen) and her bi-racial boyfriend Salvatore “Sal” Buongusto (half black, half Italian; bigotry abound because of this). Rightfully so, she wants nothing to do with this place but since her father is on his deathbed and the coincidental release of her oldest brother King Moulineaux from prison, Sal has put it to her that she should work some things out with her family as it will help things in the intimacy department between them. (Picton named all of his sons with titles traditional of the French royal court like Prince, or Earl, or Marquis). Things happen glacially, and the back and forth took some figuring out… Again, this is that irksome thing I hate about writers who have no actual story and are merely holding things off for shock value: they have characters withhold key information until the very last minute possible or avoid answering direct questions and just monologue instead; it was In The Summer House all over again. However much a mess this play is though there was an opportunity for me (and now you) to learn what a Dame Lorraine is, so there’s that. And seeing as I’ve spoiled the bulk of the play, you can read for yourself how Picton goes into great detail for what he calls a Dame Lorraine which aids in giving the play its title. I would like to talk about the actual Dame Lorraine character that still exists today…

 

apollo

Old school Harlem

 

The Caribbean’s rendition of the cakewalk as discussed in Color Struck, is the simplest way of putting it. Mockery of the ruling French elite that became a thing of its own and can still be seen today in Caribbean carnival culture, hence all the photos of portly black women. More than one character exist and the photos throughout are of the modernized version of Madam Gwo Tete. When returning to the barracks (slave quarters) the slaves would emulate what they had seen while servicing French high society’s elaborate parties and coronations, exaggerating different portions of their bodies, however, for comedic effect. For Madam Gwo Tete it was humongous breasts then later an even bigger ass, the ass originally belonging to Madam Gwo Bunda. So, should you read Dame Lorraine, you’ll have a better understanding of what Picton means when he talks about seeing a performance and his mumbling off of various words attached to the word “Madame.” Lastly, all of the Dame Lorraine characters don masks so as not to make out the “respectable citizen” behaving so lewdly behind underneath the costume.

 

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Dame No. 3

 

I didn’t necessarily have high hopes for this play though I did hope that it would be decent. It being my B-Day month I wanted to select something from a black playwright and about an issue I’ve been thinking about a lot lately: Family. There’s not much to glean from here other than the fact that I would never do any of the heinous acts committed in this story to my own blood… I’ve always enjoyed the dynamic of families coming together for an event, light or tragic, in one location and maybe not this story but something much milder will always be relevant, especially if it charts the fragmentation of daily family life and the overall looseness of what constitutes a family in the 21st century. Stories like that never get old whereas Dame Lorraine, I couldn’t be happier if it’s never mentioned past this point. Well, that’ll have to suffice. I’m in New York City for the first time ever! and there’s an entire city filled with tall skyscrapers and moving about are 8 million people with 8 million stories—and I need to go finish seeing what that’s about! I’d love to tell you what’s up for next month but my laptop is Los Angeles but I’m sure it’ll be better than this play. Happy Birthday, me! Thank you, New York!

 

 

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‘Til August…

 

 

Rating: 1.5/5