More effective than Ambien at quadruple the price

I’ve seen lots of people fall asleep at the theater. It happens all the time. Sometimes, people eat a heavy meal before the show. Or they’re not use to staying up so late. Or it’s a 3+ hour Shakespearean marathon. Other times, the material is so weak that it can’t hold your attention. You sitting in a nice, cozy, dark theater. You’ve had a long day. What’s happening on stage isn’t very interesting, so you might as well take a little nap. It’s okay. Just don’t snore. That rude!

But it’s an entirely different story if you fall into such a deep slumber during the first act that you actually sleep through the intermission and continue to doze through the second act. That’s when you’ve got a real problem on your hands.

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Notice all the empty seats?

Such is the case with the Roundabout’s production of The Language Archive currently in previews. The second act was actually pretty interesting. It had some nice, dreamy fragments that worked and a satisfactory conclusion. But by then, it didn’t matter. It was too damn late. It’s like a car that was driven over a cliff and on the way to the bottom of the ravine, the driver decides she’d like to turn around.

main_imgThe first act was a lumbering grind. I mostly blame the playwright, Julia Cho. The dialogue is stilted and stiff. It didn’t sound like people talking to one another. It sounded like actors reciting pre-rehearsed lines. There were a lot of false pauses. And it wasn’t the fault of the poor actors.

At the same theater last season I saw Dana Ivey in The Glass Menagerie and it was the polar opposite of this. The dialogue flowed smoothly. It sounded like spontaneous, natural conversation.

And beat me over the head with a big metaphor bat. He studies languages but he can’t talk to his wife. I get it. His lab assistant can’t confess her feelings for him because she has a problem communicating. Yet, she works in a language lab. Oh, the irony! The old bickering couple have a secret language that can only be used when they’re able to communicate with each other. I get it. Okay?

This thing is directed by Mark Brokaw, who knows his shit. Sometimes, the material just doesn’t come together.

Next.

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Favorite spam email subject line of the week:

Naked pictures of Gwyneth Paltrow will give you iron, man.

Tee-hee.

Vegetarians: Do NOT Read This Post

Saturday brought, what is likely to be, the final blast of sunny, hot weather until next year. We gassed-up the Toyota and headed down the Jersey shore for the annual Seaside Heights Que by the Sea festival. It’s the state barbecue championship, although you don’t have to be from New Jersey to enter. There were vendors from all over the tri-state area. Awards were given for best chicken, ribs, pork, and brisket.

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There were over a dozen award-winning booths just like this one. How does one decide?

The event is sponsored by the Kansas City Barbecue Society. I have no idea who that is. For all I know, it could be some guy in his garage with a certificate he printed himself. No matter. If a Kansas City Barbecue Society-sanctioned event includes this…

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…then count me in! 4-Year Old Daughter said, “Daddy, that’s gross.” I spoke to the chef and he said that that pig will turn for 12 hours. The meat they served that day was cooked the previous day and the guy above was served up the next day. Now THAT’S a reason to get out of bed in the morning!

Regular readers know that I’m nuts for ribs, but I decided to deviate slightly and get the brisket. I dribbled a little BBQ sauce and a little hot sauce on it. Not a lot. You don’t want to mask the flavor of the meat. Baked beans on the side (of course). It was so good that I told Mrs. Wife I wanted to go back the next day for more. I wasn’t kidding. I’d have done it. She put the kibosh on that idea. She’s too sensible.

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This is an industrial-strength smoker. The streets were lined with them and the fragrance of smoking meat permeated the air. It made me woozy. Someone should develop a perfume that smells like a barbecue festival. Men would find you irresistible. It’ll work. Trust me.

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When 8-Year Old Daughter heard that we were going to the barbecue festival, she shrieked with delight. She likes ribs just as much as I do. The apple never falls far from the tree. And just for the record, she said that as good as these were, they’re weren’t as good as Uncle J’s ribs back in Cleveland. And she’s right about that.

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Take a look at this blog. She posts one photo per day. No text. The consistency of the quality is pretty amazing.

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Today’s Guest Blogger: Mark Twain

I paid a visit to the Morgan Library for the Mark Twain: A Skeptic’s Progress exhibit. There are manuscript pages from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Life on the Mississippi, as well as letters, notebooks, drawings and other stuff. When I go to manuscript exhibits I’m inevitably disappointed. I try to read them but the handwriting is always illegible and I get nowhere. The Morgan displays their handwritten manuscript for A Christmas Carol every holiday season and it’s a mess.

Take a look at one of the display descriptions. Hang in there. It’s shocking.

“Following the Equator (1897) is Twain’s recounting and fictional reworking of his “round-the-world” lecture tour, most of which was spent in and en route to Australasia, the South Seas, South Africa and India. He was already a severe critic of British and European imperialist and colonialist policies, but seeing their consequences firsthand only intensified his anger and conviction that Western ideals of human progress were a sham. He was especially enraged by whites’ hypocritical use of religious and “civilizing” rhetoric in the brutal exploitation of native peoples.

Still, as fiercely as Twain condemned Christianity and the West (the deleted passages regarding white rule are harsher than those published), he was equally unsparing in his evaluation of other cultures and religions. He regarded all religions and societies as systems of superstition and control ingeniously disguised as theology, ritual, and political ideology, the better to ease and exploit humanity’s fear of death and the unknown.”

Wow! That’s pretty accusatory stuff! I happen to agree with Twain. (Hope that doesn’t cost me any readers.) The book is full of illustrations. Take a look at this beauty:

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This is how Twain saw the introduction of European society to Aboriginal Australia. On the platter, the “savage” is offered Law, Opium, Disease, Whiskey, Tobacco and Religion. There’s also a whip and a pair of shackles. Twain equates religion to, among other things, opium. Now, where have I heard that before? Who knew that Twain was such a Lefty?

The exhibit is open through January 2nd.

The Mahster Thespian

This isn’t the first show I’ve seen this season but it damn sure is the funniest. The revival of David Mamet’s A Life in the Theatre is still in previews. I’m not sure how the critics are going to treat it but I had a great time.

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Patrick Stewart is a pretty amazing actor. In addition to his big, fun paydays as Captain Picard and Professor Xavier (the same character, really), he’s an accomplished Shakespearean stage actor. I saw him a few years ago in London in Antony and Cleopatra, which was good, and two years ago as Macbeth in New York, which was great. I thought he was too old to play Macbeth but he pulled it off.

Here, he plays an old windbag of an actor who has spent far too much time backstage and not enough time with civilians. Overly dramatic and sensitive to criticism, he takes himself and his craft far too seriously. His young colleague, played by T.R. Knight from Grey’s Anatomy, suffers his tantrums, hurt feelings and long, long, looooonng soliloquies about the theater and life, but develops a real affection for him. Some of the scenes are only a few lines long, but they’re perfectly placed little comedic bombs.

On the surface, Mamet seems to be making fun of actors. But the play is actually a love letter and a big wet kiss to the profession. It’s got a beautiful ending. As he walks off the stage, Patrick Stewart, in character, repeatedly, and with great hammy flourishes, wishes a good night to the imaginary audience he’s been playing to. Finally, just as he’s about to disappear into the wing, he turns to the audience, breaks character and quietly says, “Good night.” It’s an unexpected, effective fourth wall moment.

Written in 1977, this is one of Mamet’s earliest plays. Do you know how Woody Alan’s early stuff is a lot funnier than his later stuff? That goes for Mamet, too.

Autumn in New York

Today is the first day of autumn. I tried living in a part of the country that doesn’t have a change of seasons (unless you consider hot and really fucking hot to be seasons) and I just couldn’t do it. I need to swap my wardrobe out. I like my sweaters and coats and my scarves that are right out of a Dickens novel. Here comes thick stews and tossing The Daughters into a pile of raked leaves, all-day pots of hot coffee and Sunday football.

It was a sweltering, punishing summer to be in New York City but it was a good summer for the New Jersey shore. Hot with little rain to ruin the weekends. But that’s all over now. These guys are going to have to find something else to do with their time.

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We had some brutal storms. There were a few hurricanes that pass by too far out to sea to do any damage, but in their wake they left deadly riptides. There were a few drownings this summer. Just imagine. You go to the beach to cool off for an afternoon and end up being pulled out to sea. If you’re ever caught in a riptide, you should swim parallel along shore until you’re out of it, and then back in to land. Too many try and swim directly in. If you get into a fistfight with a riptide, the riptide will kick your ass.

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Mrs. Wife knows her way around the Jersey shore. She know how to avoid the Garden State Parkway traffic snarls by taking local roads and knows which beaches are the least populated with out-of-towners. (They’re snidely referred to as Bennies. I have no idea what it means.)

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This place will close in a few weeks. For me, there are two things that signal the true end of summer; when Lighthouse closes for the season, and the Feast of San Gennaro in Little Italy. Once the last sausage and pepper truck rolls out of town, get out your gloves.

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But that’s not a bad thing at all. I posted this video last year around this time. It’s Billie Holiday’s rendition of Autumn in New York. I have no idea who put this together but it’s simply beautiful. When I watch it, it makes me all goopy inside for New York.

Glittering crowds and shimmering clouds
In canyons of steel
They’re making me feel—I’m home