Playwright/Fight Director: Qui Nguyen Director: Robert Ross Parker Scenic/Lighting Designer: Nick Francone Costume Designer: Jessica Wegener Sound Designer: Patrick Shearer Puppet Designer: David Valentine Producer: Abby Marcus Press Rep: Jim Baldassare
Featuring: Elena Chang, Noshir Dalal*, Jon Hoche*, Kelley Rae O'Donnell*, Melissa Paladino*, Maureen Sebastian*, Andrea Marie Smith, Paco Tolson*, Temar Underwood
*Appears courtesy of Actors Equity Association
They're describing it as "Star Wars meets Laura Croft: Tomb Raider." I can't freakin' wait.
Although a very small wisp of a movie, I really enjoyed Michel Gondry's Be Kind Rewind. Very whimsical, very silly and overall very likable, despite its flaws (and it has plenty: with so many subplots and through-lines that get dropped or forgotten about, it's far from the tightest film out there). And you can tell immediately it's by Gondry; it's got his sticky little fingerprints all over it.
I left the theatre grinning.
And I wouldn't mind seeing the full versions of the characters' "sweded" films.
Zack, the former artistic director of the Subjective Theatre Company, after touring the country for months, has decided to land in Des Moines, Iowa. The Des Moines Register has written all about his plans for the city here. Check it out.
And Zack told me he made that pose just for me. I believe him. And am quite flattered.
I had a great time seeing Temporary Distortion'sWelcome to Nowhere (bullet hole road) last night for the second (or third, if you count me seeing the excerpt from last May's "Tiny Theatre Festival") time. The show does live up to repeat viewings. This time around, I roped in a few folks to see this mesmerizing show with me.
Here's one of the video portions of the piece:
It's playing for a couple more nights at PS 122, so you should definitely check it out before the company takes the show to France.
Tonight Pete and I are seeing Michael Gardner's stage adaptation of Dostoevsky's Notes From Underground at the Brick in Williamsburg. As far as I know, there's no video excerpt available.
I don't suppose many of my readers find it too surprising that I decided to spend Valentine's Day not by wooing some local nymphet or treating a handsome middle-aged British lady of affluence to a $50 prix-fixe dinner but by staying home alone to watch Wes Craven's damn-this-feels-like-a-snuff-film The Last House on the Left.
Hey, what can I say? I'm a romantic. I'm sure it shows throughout the entries of this blog.
The Last House on the Left, the debut feature by the creator of the Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream franchises (and produced by Sean S. Cunningham, creator of the Friday the 13th franchise), could be seen as either a prime example of trashy grindhouse exploitation that crosses the line of decency, a film that manages to transcend its drive-in roots by exploiting the public's postwar anxieties (Mr. Craven has stated in interviews that he wanted to convey that sense of violence he saw in news footage of the Vietnam War), or both (a film that works as pure trashy exploitation and as "art").
Obviously, I find it to be in the third category. Although using the infamous tagline in its trailers and posters, "To Avoid Fainting, Keep Repeating: 'It's Only A Movie, Only A Movie, Only A Movie...'" it has higher ambitions than being "only a movie" (or rather, only a midnight movie offering cheap thrills).
Last House On The Left is a tough, bitter little sleeper of a movie that's about four times as good as you'd expect. ... Wes Craven's direction never lets us out from under almost unbearable dramatic tension. The acting is unmannered and natural. There's no posturing. There's a good ear for dialogue and nuance. And there is evil in this movie. Not bloody escapism, or a thrill a minute, but a fully developed sense of the vicious natures of the killers. There is no glory in this violence. And Craven has written in a young member of the gang ... who sees the horror as fully as the victims do.
(Note: although relatively tame compared to a few scenes, the following clip is not exactly work-friendly.)
Spoilers begin here. In the film, Mari Collingwood (played by Sandra Cassell) celebrates her 17th birthday by attending a Bloodlust concert with her friend, Phyllis (Lucy Grantham). Her parents give her a gift, a peace symbol necklace, before she leaves. Traveling to the city, Mari and Phyllis hear a radio report of a recent prison break, involving a man named Krug (David A. Hess), his son Junior (Marc Sheffler), his girlfriend Sadie (Jeramie Rain) and his partner Weasel (Fred Lincoln).
Upon arrival in the city, Mari and Phyllis stroll the streets, seeking someone who might sell marijuana. They run into Junior and ask him if he has any weed. Since he's been told by Sadie to bring home some girls if he wants to get high (Krug keeps Junior addicted to heroin to control him), Junior tells Mari and Phyllis he does. He leads them up to an apartment, where the group of psychopaths entrap the girls.
The next morning, the Krug's gang throws the girls into the trunk of its car and they drive into the countryside as the gang intends to leave the state. Their car breaks down and, unable to get their car fixed, they take the girls into the woods to torture them. Despite Phyllis attempting to make a break for it and Mari trying to befriend Junior (by giving him her peace symbol necklace and offering him drugs through her father, a doctor), both girls are ultimately tortured, raped and killed.
At Mari's home, Mari's parents have traveling guests, who turn out to be Krug's gang, looking better dressed than before. The couple agrees to let them stay over night. However, Mari's mother Estelle (Cynthia Carr) eventually sees Mari's necklace around Junior's neck. She and her husband John (Richard Towers) realize that their houseguests killed their daughter and plan their revenge, which is doled out quite savagely for a middle-aged square couple (Mari's father attacks Krug with a chainsaw while her mother lures Weasel outside to perform fellatio on him to bite off his penis...yes, you read that right...and slice Sadie's throat). Spoilers end here.
Cheery stuff, I know.
Oddly enough, this incredibly graphic and savage movie is a remake of a 1960 Ingmar Bergman film called The Virgin Spring (Jungfrukällan), which is in turn based on a 13th century Swedish ballad. The plots of both films are identical: two young women venture out on their own and are confronted by a gang of sociopaths, one of whom is retarded. The gang tortures, rapes and kills the two girls, then through pure coincidence, winds up staying at one of the victim's family's house. The parents discover that their lodging guests have killed their daughter, and exact revenge.
Having explained this, these films couldn't be more different in style, tone and even content. On how radically two different the films are, the staff of the Onion AV Club writes:
"Wes Craven's low-budget thriller Last House On The Left exploited turn-of-the-'70s anxieties about teen freedom in the post-counterculture era by making two 17-year-olds' trip to the city to see a rock concert a descent into Charles Manson-inspired hell. But their kidnapping and eventual murder backfires when their hippie-ish killers happen on the girl's square parents, who put two and two together and exact violent revenge. Craven's film couldn't be any more a product of its time, but more than the modern trappings, explicit violence, and gone-memorably-awry fellatio scene set it apart from its surprising source: Ingmar Bergman's 1960 film The Virgin Spring. Set in medieval Sweden and based on a ballad from the era, Bergman's film concerns, at least in part, the shift from pagan values to Christian forgiveness, and it ends with an unexpected miracle. Craven's film also deals with shifting values, but offers less hope that the times to come will be kinder.
Despite there being several elements that patently do not work - the "comic relief" portions with the sheriff and deputy trying to find a ride after their squad car gets stolen is jarringly out of place, the soundtrack is at times distractingly inappropriate - The Last House on the Left deploys a sense of docu-realism via its low budget, hand-held camerawork, amateur acting (meant in a good way; i.e., natural), realistic violence and semi-improvisational dialogue (a docu-realism that would be seen again two years later in Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chain Saw Massacre) that prevents it from being easily dismissible as cheap trash.
I wanted to remind you all one last time, dear readers, that Nosedive Productions is having its semi-annual fundraising party this Saturday (February 16) from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. at the Vampire Cowboys Battle Ranch on 111 Conselyea Street in Williamsburg.
We've got a few all-new video comedy sketches, the poetry of Brian Silliman and the magic of the Amazing Amazini lined up for the evening, as well as dirt-cheap drinks ($2 beers and $1 Jell-O shots).
All this for a measly $5 cover.
And of course all this money will go to our upcoming production of Colorful World in May.
* * *
One of my (admittedly self-serving) goals for writing the entries on horror films was to tangentially plug Nosedive's Blood Brothers show in October. In other words, I wrote them in September and October as seasonal tie-ins to Halloween and our upcoming Halloween-based event. So, when October came and went (as did The Blood Brothers Present: PULP), the urgency to write about my next favorite horror film dissipated substantially.
Another reason why the series went on hiatus was because a number of the really good, noteworthy classic horror films - such as The Shining or Alien - have been written about to death. Or at least, I realized I had (have) nothing new to bring to the table with those films. (How many times do you need to read the phrase, "Haunted House in Outer Space?")
Then I was genuinely hamstrung by the movies that aren't necessarily great (or even necessarily good) but great fun: A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Lost Boys (despite having such lines as, "You may be a vampire, but you're still my brother," this is my personal favorite vampire movie, if the truth be known) and Near Dark (a better vampire film, although...he gets "cured" of vampirism by a blood transfusion? A blood transfusion?! I mean, come ON, people!). Ultimately, this line of thinking prevented me from writing about the Friday the 13th or Nightmare on Elm Street movies (as much as I have a guilty pleasure in watching a few of them, regardless of how poorly made they are). I was, after all, trying to set some form of standards (horror films that I can call "art" with a straight face).
So, it was no longer October, I couldn't write about a movie such as Alien and I couldn't write about a movie such as A Nightmare on Elm Street, according to my neurotically self-imposed guidelines. I had painted myself into the proverbial corner.
However, I realized last night as I spent my Valentine's Day finishing up the third season of Homicide then watching Wes Craven's Last House on the Left (yeah I know, I'm a romantic), that I was (am) far from done with the series.
In fact, I still have more than a few more I'd like to write about.
One of the (implied) goals with writing about schlocky horror films was (is) to champion the genuine artistic merit of what many consider to be lowbrow trash and beneath contempt. Although some of the films I've written about (Halloween, An American Werewolf in London) are prime examples of films that have mastered style, craft and technique (but not a whole lot more), a number of them (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Dawn of the Dead, Audition) have substantial things to say to its audience (in addition to providing visceral thrills). In other words, legitimate works of art.
Since I've always been an admirer of artworks that can simultaneously deliver on the high- and lowbrow goods to an audience, really good horror films often bring out the best of this combination. (Who would have thought that The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is saying something insightful and unique about our collective culture? Maybe our hearts were in our mouths while watching it the first couple times to first notice.)
Regardless, I plan on revisiting the series at least a few more times on this site, returning, of course, with the aforementioned Last House on the Left.
Stay tuned, cats and kittens.
So that's it for me for this week. Have a good weekend, folks. I hope to see a bunch of you at the Ranch this Saturday.
My first play to review for Martin for the year was supposed to be tomorrow, but it's review dates have been pushed back a week. I was expecting this to be a jam-packed week, but with the show to review being pushed back and tonight's scheduled production meeting also being pushed back, it's looking as though next week (with seeing Eddie Izzard on Monday, Welcome to Nowhere on Wednesday, Notes From Underground on Thursday and the play to review for nytheatre.com on Friday) will be my jam-packed theatre-going week (or live performance-going week).
Until then, I'm getting a lot of time to engage in my latest addiction: Homicide: Life on the Street. Yeah, I just started the show last week. I'm already halfway through the third season. Although it has some convolutions and the signs of stupid network tinkering, it's pretty damn good.
And can someone tell me why Andre Braugher hasn't been picked up by just about any and every television show and film as their leading man since? I mean, he's absolutely amazing.
Yes, Isaac and Nosedive, I'll get to work on The Wire soon, I promise. Just think of this as primer.
And yes, I did indeed enjoy myself at last night's sold out production of Blue Coyote's Happy Endings.Matthew Freeman's entry within the evening, "The White Swallow," is a particularly silly beast.
In the meanwhile, we have this to look forward to (I plan on attending the opening night party, but seeing the show next week).
With Happy Endings, Blue Coyote commissioned nine playwrights - Blair Fell, Matthew Freeman, David Foley, Brian Fuqua, David Johnston, Christine Whitley, John Yearley and fellow Plays and Playwrights 2007 alums Boo Killebrew and Stan Richardson - to create short plays about the lives of sex workers.
Blue Coyote's Happy Endings runs from Tuesday, February 12 through Saturday, March 1. Tickets can be purchased here.
Congratulations to Isaac Butler and the rest of Rapid Response Team for successfully creating and mounting an excellent re-launch show last night. Some highlights for me included the Groundhog Day's song (which soundly uncannily like a track by Mike Doughty), the numerous superhero references (including talk of Super delegates and Brian Silliman's poem about Dr. Octopus), Clay McLeod Chapman's story about a family of child molesters, told from the point of view of a man posing as a 12-year-old, and of course, the closing song.
(Yes, the title of this post is a line from the show that made me giggle uncontrollably throughout the rest of the evening.)
And let's not forget Mr. Mac Rogers' excuse for being late to rehearsal (he had an acting gig at a Renaissance/S&M fair).
I'm very much looking forward to seeing the next RRT show, which is a “live” commentary on the Oscars (so yes, it goes up on Oscar night).
"I ended up at a friend's party...We settled down in the kitchen under the bright light, making 4:00 a.m. conversation and, as all theater artists do, I asked the traditional question: 'What are you working on?'
"My friend's face fell. ... She corrected a moment later, and told me carefully that she wasn't going out for anything now—that she was giving it up. ... After 15 years of working in theaters all over Seattle, she'd felt the fire go out of her from the relentless grind of two full-time jobs: one during the day in a cubicle, the other at night on a stage.
"She said what really finished it for her was getting cast in a big Equity show this fall and seeing how the other Equity actors lived—the man whose work had inspired her all her life, living in a dilapidated hovel he was lucky to afford; the woman who couldn't spare 10 dollars to eat lunch with colleagues without doing some quick math on a scrap of paper to check her weekly budget. These are the success stories, the very best actors in the Northwest, the ones you've seen onstage time and time again. Their reward is years of being paid as close to nothing as possible in a career with no job security whatsoever, performing for overwhelmingly wealthy audiences whose rounding errors exceed the weekly pittance that trickles down to them."
Mr. Daisey then explains in precise detail, how and why this has happened.
Temporary Distortion's excellent piece, Welcome to Nowhere (bullet hole road) is getting remounted for four performances at PS 122 in the East Village from Feb. 20-23. Details can be found here.
This play if you recall made it to number two on my list for the best plays I had seen in 2007. Here's what I originally wrote about it:
"A captivating, hypnotic, and mesmerizing work of art, easily one of the best plays I've seen this year. ... I've never seen anything like this on the stage. Sure, I've seen plays that utilize non-linear storytelling, mixed- and multi-media. I've also seen works that act more as installation pieces than conventional 'plays' before. But I've never seen something that employs all these methods that is so compelling, so haunting, so thoroughly absorbing. I loved this show."
Yes, I still stand by this and really can't recommend seeing this enough if you missed it the last time 'round. This is a very limited run (only four performances), so get your tickets as soon as possible.
(That is, it's being performed in a different place. The venue itself is far from new. But I digress.)
Beginning this Sunday, February 10, The Rapid Response Team returns in full force with new short plays, sketches and songs based on the week's news at The Bowery Poetry Club on 308 Bowery between 2nd Ave. and Bleecker Every 2nd and 4th Sunday, February-April (Feb. 10 & 24, March 9 & 23, April 13 & 27).
All performances at 8 p.m. and tickets are $10 at the door.
Special Guests Include Obie-award Winner Kyle Jarrow, The Debate Society, champion slam poet Darian Dauchon, Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz and (as the kids say) MORE!
This show is always a lot of fun and features a number of excellent performers (like my peeps Daryl Lathon, Brian Silliman and Mr. Butler himself) and writers (like my homies Mac Rogers, Dan Trujillo, Clay McLeod Chapman and Adam Szymkowicz).
Hey, gang. I just wanted to give you the proverbial head's-up for Nosedive's upcoming shindig.
As part of our ongoing fundraising efforts and also as part of our ongoing efforts to keep the staff and audience base of Nosedive Productions perpetually drunk, we're having our fundraising party on Saturday, February 16th at the Vampire Cowboys Battle Ranch on 111 Conselyea Street in Williamsburg. The happenin' goes from about 7 p.m. to about midnight.
Cheap cover ($5), even cheaper booze ($2 beers, $1 shots).
Sponsored by the Brooklyn Brewery.
The money raised will go towards the budget of our upcoming play, Colorful World.
This weekend, the Giants won the Super Bowl, Vampire Cowboys concluded their first Saturday Night Saloon Series (where Nosedive wrapped up its Wild West Noir serial, Pinkie) and the Welding Club performed the pilot episode of its sitcom for the stage, 3800 Elizabeth. All in all, a pretty packed weekend for Yours Truly. (Not that I really had anything to do with the Giants winning the Super Bowl. I was with them inspirit only. But you know what I mean.)
Having now finished Pinkie, I have to say, participating in the Saloon series was an incredible amount of fun. I had never written a serialized show before, so I was happy to take the challenge. We may very well see how the show looks all together as one full-length play, although I definitely enjoyed making every episode a distinctly different and (semi-)self-contained story while having each episode serve the overall arc of the giant story.
The other fun and nerve-wracking challenge with writing Pinkie was realizing that I had a definitive cap to writing/telling the story: I had five episodes at 15-25 minutes each to tell the story. And episode five was going up February 2, which meant that, come hell or high water, the story would have to be completely wrapped up long before then. This meant that I ostensibly had to stop "writing" for episode five: no wondering what it'd be like if Blossom and Harry had a scene together, no exploring Stubby's relationship with his "ladies," no forgetting any major threads. The plot had to be resolved at this date, in under a half an hour, No Matter What.
It was a lot of fun.
Many thanks to Abby, Qui, Robert and the rest of the Vampire Cowboys crew for letting Nosedive participate in this. And many congratulations to the other writers and groups who were involved. I'm mildly bummed that I won't be milling around with y'all every month.
So, with the Saloon out of the way and Colorful World still in the pre-production stages, I'll once again direct your attention to 3800 Elizabeth, Aaron Baker and Frank Padellaro's sitcom for the sage, complete with fake commercials and catchy opening theme song, playing every Sunday at the Battle Ranch until March 16.
It's some fun. And it's free. What more could you want?