Friday, March 30, 2007

Charles Burnett's Killer of Sheep Gets Theatrical Release

Salon film critic Andrew O'Hehir has pointed out today that Charles Burnett's mid-1970s film, Killer of Sheep, is being released at the IFC, which means this is the first time this brilliant film has experienced a theatrical release.

Yes, you read that right: a 30+ year-old film is getting released in theatres for the first time.

Killer of Sheep was the first film shown to us in Professor Ray Carney's American Independent Film Class when I studied at BU. It was a bizarre experience, since there was (is) no real "story" per se. Seemingly without plot, Killer of Sheep explores a black L.A. ghetto in the mid-'70s through the eyes of Stan (played by Henry Gayle Sanders), a sensitive man growing detached and numb from the physical and emotional toll of working at a slaughterhouse.

Throughout the movie, you see Stan working at the slaughterhouse, coming home with no energy to sleep with (let alone talk to) his wife and following his friends around as they attempt various scams (one of which involving an attempt to sell a car engine). Interspersed are montages of young children from the neighborhood playing in vacant lots, train lots, rooftops and back alleys.

The movie, shot on location in Watts on a budget of less than $10,000, is one of the most honest and accurate portrayals of being poor in the U.S. without being the type of sentimental and angry "issue" movie that Spike Lee is known for. (Based on the films of Mr. Burnett's that I've seen, I will assert that the work of Mr. Burnett is 10 times more subtle, accurate and important than the work of Mr. Lee, which is why he's been mainly ignored.)

In his excellent essay in Salon, Mr. O'Hehir writes:

"There is a clear political agenda behind 'Killer of Sheep' and the rest of his work that only an idiot could miss, but Burnett is profoundly uninterested in boosterism or propaganda or false optimism. He has belonged to the long tradition of prophets without honor, but he may finally be getting his due. In his peculiar and lonely fashion he's not only the most important African-American director but one of the most distinctive filmmakers this country has ever produced."

Emphasis mine.

What's interesting about Killer of Sheep is that it's simultaneously more hopeless and depressing than most films about poverty (it doesn't give the slightest hint that Stan's life is going to change), it's also more optimistic and life-affirming, because you realize you're not watching angry stereotypes (like in Do The Right Thing) but very believable people that are portrayed without judgment (it's also very funny in spots). It doesn't pander or insult the audience's intelligence (it's pretty much showing the world as it really is with minimal commentary). Mr. Burnett doesn't flatter or assault the audience; his characters are neither victims nor heroes. There is a message to the movie (I suppose), but it's not a message of "We will overcome this" so much as one of, "We'll survive."

(Yeah, it's not too surprising that this movie didn't get mass distribution.)

This may not be the most fun film going experience, but Killer of Sheep is one of those movies that you should see if you have an appreciation for film as art form.

Have a good weekend, folks. I'll resume plugging the living hell out of Suburban Peepshow on Monday.

Killer of directors,

James "Justifiable Homicide" Comtois

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

On My Fucking Radar

Here's another show on my radar (I'm hoping to see on Friday night; our night off from rehearsal). Apparently it sold out its opening night (in an 80-seat theatre), so buy tickets as soon as possible:

Working Man's Clothes Productions in association with The Thursday Problem proudly gives birth to a new breed in small play festivals...


a new breed in small play festivals


March 28th-April 27th

at the Ohio Theatre and Galapagos Art Space

Soho Thinktank, Galapagos Art Space, Working Man’s Clothes Productions and Jeffrey Schulman present a voyeuristic journey through eight playwrights’ most private places and a sincere examination of our most basic carnal desires, opening Wednesday, March 28th at 8 p.m at the Ohio Theatre (66 Wooster St. btwn. Spring and Broome).

The plays are as follows:

"The Impotence of Being Ernest," by Joshua Hill, directed by Julie Rossman

"Marriage Play," by Bekah Brunstetter, directed by Diana Basmajian

"Arms and the Octopus," by Casey Wimpee, directed by Isaac Byrne, assistant directed by Nosedive's own Cat* Johnson

"Wood," by Justin Cooper, directed by Steven Gillenwater

"Sharpen My Dick," by Greg Romero, directed by Cole Wimpee

"Candy Room," by William Charles Meny, directed by Thomas Caruso

"The Saddest Thing in the History of the World," by Kyle Jarrow, directed by Matthew Hancock

"1.1-1.7," by Eric Sanders, directed by Stephen Brackett

Tickets for fuckplays are $15 and can be purchased here or by phone at (212) 868-4444. For more information, visit

Liking to swear,

James "Naughty Boy" Comtois

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Blurbs and Assessments

Yesterday, I had asked a couple of the folks at Nosedive Central to come up with a couple sentences/blurbs about Suburban Peepshow describing in their own words the more serious or philosophical elements of the show to help me rewrite the program notes. Since I've rewritten the notes to my liking and didn't use everything that the crew gave me, I figured I'd share with you their blurbs/assessments of the show.

One of the things we've realized is that, although yes, this play is a full-on flat-out comedy catering to the lowest-common denominator, we do flatter ourselves into thinking there's at least some "there" there.

So, here's what the gang has come up with:


"The failing of a norm in society; that of two people marrying and staying faithful and together for the rest of their lives.

"The horror of complacency that is the middle class life or even that of just corporate America (in suburbia or otherwise - middle America, etc.) The robots creating robots, creating robots....

"Every so often, we need something to shake us awake - from a carnie barker to a chubby guy dancing. (OK, that might be speaking to the humor more.)"


"The alienation caused by the cookie-cutter lifestyle of the suburban family and the rat race of the corporate work environment.

"The ennui of a steady sexual partner vs. the fantasy of an affair (which comes up in many different contexts).

"Forming a new identity to disguise yourself/pass in the corporate world/escape your family, etc."


"Suburban Peepshow is both a play AND a satire of that same play simultaneously. It goes looking for the kernel of truth at the center of all the clichés surrounding both the nuclear family and theatre itself. And because there's a little truth at the base of every joke, it uses comedy as its mining tool."

Well put, guys!

Although now that I'm thinking of it...crap. Some of you folks reading this may be under the false impression that I've written an intelligent and thoughtful script with deep meaning that will make audiences think. Rest assured, dear reader: nothing could be further from the truth.

I'm really looking forward to folks seeing this. Get your tickets here.

Giddy as a schoolgirl,

James "Pert" Comtois

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Monday, March 26, 2007

volume of smoke

"Tragedy is nothing new ... You just wait until the next generation comes. The same will happen to them, soon enough. And the next. And the next."

-The Reverend Wife, volume of smoke

volume of smoke, a post-mortem/autopsy of sorts written by Clay McLeod Chapman and directed by Isaac Butler, recounts the Richmond Theatre Fire in 1811 that killed 72 people in a very fractured yet cohesive narrative.

The script, which is based on interviews conducted with survivors of the fire in an unpublished 19th Century manuscript, weaves 20 different interconnected stories and testimonies about the fire and the chaos that ensued, with the points of view ranging from the actors on the stage, to a little girl's excited recounting of going to the theatre, to a musician stuck in the orchestra pit while the fire took place, to the theatre-owner's guilt about the event and erecting a church on the site to alleviate said guilt.

A cast of six - Katie Dietz, Abe Goldfarb, Daryl Lathon, Ronica V. Reddick, Brian Silliman and Molly Wright Stuart - play the multiple roles and recount the same event from multiple angles.
Some of the stories recounting the fire are sad. Some are funny. Some are horrific.

Some standout stories/testimonies were: a man taking his wife to the theatre and wanting to hold off on leaving until everyone else left; the musician in the orchestra pit watching - and hearing - the fire ravage the instruments; a man walking blindly over bodies in the hopes of finding an escape route; a woman explaining that no dessert dish compares to the sweetness of that first breath of fresh air upon escaping that burning building; and a preacher believing the fire was indeed God's work and condemning acting yet using the tools of an actor to deliver his sermons.

It is a bit hard to describe volume of smoke because it's a fractured narrative yet linear (the first third deals with the theatre before it catches first, the middle part is all about the fire and the third part deals with the aftermath); it's experimental yet frank and straightforward. The play deals with one simple event (a devastating fire and its aftermath) from multiple angles, sometimes all at once.

Despite by difficulty in describing volume of smoke, I can say that seeing it is very worth your while: well written, well acted and well directed.

I've always been a fan of fractured narratives that focus on a cohesive theme, using varied methods to convey a unified idea. The production of volume of smoke does this quite well.

The set by Tim McMath and costumes by Sydney Maresca are excellent, the former managing to be both sparse and simple yet beautiful and evocative of the time period and the latter also accurately and handsomely suggests the period. Both give the stage a nice sepia toned look.

Although Mr. Chapman's writing may not be for everybody, it's certainly right up my alley. He has a unique voice and style that I find very captivating and appealing (as seen in his Pumpkin Pie Show) that some may find off-putting (possibly one of those rules of the game when you're dealing with such a unique voice). His work is similar to that of a campfire storyteller, something you don't see too often in theatre nowadays (with rare, singular exceptions - the fascinating-on-paper yet insufferably-boring-in-execution Faith Healer comes to mind). I'm quickly becoming a fan of his work.

volume of smoke runs through April 7 at the 14th Street Y Theatre. For tickets click here.

Preaching to performers,

James "Fire Marshall" Comtois

Photo: (left to right) Molly Wright Stuart, Ronica V. Reddick and Daryl Lathon in volume of smoke. Photo by Aaron Epstein.

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Friday, March 23, 2007

Nosedive's Suburban Peepshow Opens In Two Weeks

You know what's a good movie?


That's a good movie. I like that. I like that a lot.

You know what else is a good movie? Cabin Boy. That's a good movie. A deep movie. Smart movie. I like that a lot.

You know what else is a good movie? Top Secret. Now that's a good movie. A tight movie. Real sharp. I like it. Like it a lot.

But you know what's a good PLAY?

Suburban Peepshow.

That's a good play. A really good play. Written by a hottie. I like that. Really like that a lot.

But it's not as good as "Trailers." Now THAT'S a good play. Smart play. Written by some eye candy.

I like that. I like that a lot.

Your scratching post,

James "Meow Mix" Comtois


Nosedive Productions

The lovably malicious folks who brought you The Adventures of Nervous-Boy


Suburban Peepshow

a new play written by James Comtois & directed by Pete Boisvert



a new play written by Mac Rogers & directed by Patrick Shearer

The Red Room, 85 East 4th Street (west of 2nd Avenue)

April 5-28, Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $18. Space is limited.

For tickets call 212-352-3101 or go here.

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

On Directing "Trailers" By Charlie Willis

I wanted to direct your attention over to Patrick's blog, where he's been chronicling his experiences directing Mac Rogers's curtain raiser, "Trailers," which will play before Suburban Peepshow.

Check out Part I here.

Part II is here.

I sat in on rehearsal for Mac and Patrick's curtain raiser on Monday night and man. It's a whole lotta funny (as is Peepshow, which I sat in on last night).

I really hope you guys can check it out.

Bringin' the funny,

James "Unpleasant Clown" Comtois

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

"It is time the 'serious' theatre learns this lesson..."

Matthew Freeman has pointed out some amazing required reading for playwrights and theatre-makers at the Guardian Unlimited. Anthony Neilson writes about the biggest sin in theatre, which is boring the audience.

Mr. Neilson writes as his thesis:

"Boring an audience is the one true sin in theatre. We've been boring audiences for decades now, and they've responded by slowly withdrawing their patronage. I don't care that the recent production of The Seagull at the Royal Court was sold out. To 95% of the population, the theatre (musicals aside for now) is an irrelevance. Of that 95%, we have managed to lure in maybe 10% at some point in their lives, and we've so swiftly and thoroughly bored them that they've never returned."

However, this is what struck me more:

"I can't tell you how often I've asked an aspiring writer what they're working on, and they reply with something like: 'I'm writing a play about racism.' ... You can be fairly sure the play, should it ever be finished, will conclude that racism is a bad thing. The writer is not interested in exploring the traces of racism that may lie dormant within their [sic] psyche, nor in making the case for selective racism (just to be 'provocative'). This is the writer using the play to project their preferred image of themselves; the ego intruding on art; the kind of literary posing that is fed by the idea of debate-led theatre. And if you think that example sounds naive, substitute the word 'racism' with 'George Bush' or 'Iraq' or 'New Labour'. Sound familiar?"

Emphasis mine.

Check out the whole thing here.

Boring my readers,

James "Senile Grampa" Comtois

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Men of Steel

It is obviously very tough to write a review for a Vampire Cowboys show, since I've become such a die-hard fan of their work. I mean, apart from writing, "Seriously folks, go see this show. Right. Now," there's not a whole lot left to say. But that isn't fair to the cast, crew and company to only write that, so I will expand.

So let's start from the beginning...

Many of you who either read this blog or know me know that I've had superheroes on the brain, seeing as how the script I've been working on for the past several months has been about superheroes. Many of you also know that I've known Qui Nguyen and Abby Marcus for a while now and have been a big fan of their and Robert Ross Parker's theatre company, Vampire Cowboys, for a while now as well. In fact, whenever a Vampire Cowboys play is going up, it's always a play I know I'm making the extra effort to go see, come hell or high water.

So when it was announced that Vampire Cowboys's latest, Men of Steel, would be an epic play about comic book-style superheroes, to paraphrase Richard Jeni, to say I was psyched to see it is kind of like saying the Atlantic Ocean is damp.

With the high level of expectation I had, Men of Steel, did not disappoint. In fact, this very well may be the best play that Vampire Cowboys has staged to-date (even with the absences of mainstay actors Dan Deming and Andrea Marie Smith); it's certainly the most ambitious script that Mr. Nguyen has written for the company.

Men of Steel opens in Chicago with Captain Justice (played by Jason Liebman), the greatest superhero the world has known, being arrested by the Chicago PD and his former partner, Liberty Lady (Melissa Paladino). See, Captain Justice experienced a personal tragedy and crossed that line that superheroes never cross in exacting revenge. Said personal tragedy may or may not have been instigated by Maelstrom (Temar Underwood), a vigilante crime-fighter lacking any superpowers but making up for it with plenty of gadgets and cunning (think a cross between Batman and Rorschach).

Meanwhile, in Brooklyn, two bumbling friends, Damon and Lukas (Paco Tolson and Noshir Dalal) decide to clean up their streets (which are completely ignored by the likes of Captain Justice and other super-types) as "Los Hermanos Manos" and, like Captain Justice, get themselves into some trouble with their inept crime-fighting.

Finally, in Mobile, Alabama, we meet Bryant (Tom Myers), a sweet-natured, mildly retarded and oft-abused drag queen who is superhumanly impervious to pain. Rather than fight crime, he uses this power to take a job letting frustrated men kick him repeatedly in the ribs. (In case you haven't guessed, this sequence is where the humor - which had been in abundance up until Bryant's story - disappears). He too, gets into a spot of trouble.

This is all the set-up for the second act. I won't reveal where this goes or how these multiple characters cross paths, since that's most of the fun of the show's finale.

Men of Steel is fun and engaging from start to finish, especially for us geeks who have such a fondness for superhero comics. Even for those of you who have never read a Spider-Man comic or played with a Star Wars action figure or even owned a LEGO set (you'll get the reference when you see the play), this is a great show. Mr. Robert Ross Parker's direction of Mr. Nguyen's script was (as it always is) lively and inventive and the cast (including Sharon Eisman and Jeremy Sarver), many members of whom are Vampire Cowboys regulars, is in-step with the company's aesthetic.

Despite the fun and silliness of the play's deliberate comic book style, Mr. Nguyen does bring up some interesting philosophical musings on what a world with superheroes would be like. Aside from Bryant's rather intense origin story, in another scene, a woman from Brooklyn explains the ghettoizing effect that superheroes have on the outer-boroughs:

CAMILLE. I'm pissed off because every single thug, criminal, and lowlife that once lived over there [in Manhattan] has come here [to Bushwick] because they know they can run freely without interference. Because everyone has gotten so dependent on heroes, no one is keeping an eye out anymore. Cops are getting drunk in the middle of their shifts ... Boys here are getting killed left and right tryin' to take up the slack that you officers have let go and that the heroes ignore.

Another thing that's interesting about Men of Steel is that there's very little fighting (relative to a Vampire Cowboys show). Don't get me wrong, there are some absolutely spectacular fight sequences (choreographed by Marius Hanford); but they're really used to bookend the piece.

Mr. Nguyen and Mr. Ross Parker lampoon the superhero genre nicely but also honor it as they clearly have a lot of love and affection for said genre, understanding the campy aspects yet relishing in them regardless (which is what make superhero comics so much fun to begin with). Yes, it's funny. Yes, seeing a grown man wearing tights and a cape is a bit silly. However, you don't mock the characters as you watch them: you genuinely care about them and take their conflicts seriously.

Many of you may be thinking writing about Vampire Cowboys's latest show is a conflict of interest, as the members of the company and Nosedive Productions are friends and have collaborated many times in the past (and will most likely do so in the future). To that I say "tough." I see absolutely no conflict of interest. Why not? Because I do expect a certain level of (high) quality whenever I see a show of theirs. Since I was not disappointed - in fact, my expectations were exceeded at times - I find no "conflict of interest" from telling readers of this space that yes, this play (and company) is absolutely worth your time and money.

Seriously folks, go see this show. Right. Now.

Men of Steel is playing at Center Stage until April 8. For tickets click here.

Faster than a speeding bullet,

James "The Comedian" Comtois

Photo: Temar Underwood as Maelstrom (left) and Jason Liebman as Captain Justice. Photo by Jim Baldassare.

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Monday, March 19, 2007

St. Patrick's Day Weekend

We folks at Nosedive Central just had a pretty jam-packed weekend, starting with celebrating Steph and Patrick's birthdays on Friday, continuing with going to see Vampire Cowboys's latest play, Men of Steel (about which I will be writing for my next entry) and going to Stone Soup's fundraiser party on Saturday and concluding with recording self-made music for Suburban Peepshow on Sunday, a recording session that proves that we may all in Nosedive in fact be legally retarded. Either that or we're geniuses of Chopin's level.

History will decide.

Though seriously, folks; we're getting pretty psyched for you to see Suburban Peepshow. It should be a whole lot of fun (at least, it's a whole lot of fun for us making it).

Even though it was a simultaneously drunky and productive weekend (actually, I think every productive weekend for Nosedive involved copious amounts of alcohol), I have to join in with Isaac and Matt that I am not a fan of St. Patrick's Day (and yes, this is coming from a professional drinker); I'm pretty much unable to drink at any of my favorite (hell, even all of my not-so-favorite and downright despised) bars because they are all mobbed elbows-to-asses with drunken and hostile little green-clad muppets. New Year's Eve isn't this obnoxious (there's at least a sense of merriment and fun with New Year's).

Actually, Mr. Freeman says it best:

"Essentially, the city turns into a frat house. It's joyless and chaotic, like New Year's Eve, only prejudiced."

Well said.

Anyway, my review of Men of Steel will be up either later this evening or tomorrow, depending on how much I get done today.

Having nothing against leprechauns,

James "Part Scottish" Comtois

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Friday, March 16, 2007

Random Things For Friday

Bloggers like to do "Friday Random Tens," but as I've mentioned before, I don't have an iPod or listen to that much music, so I guess I'll just offer ten random things for Friday (a "Weekly Roundup," if you will)...

* * *

1. I finally rented Tideland by Terry Gilliam last night. Although it's a better movie than The Brothers Grimm, I can't really say I'm a big fan. For one thing, even though it could best be described as Alice in Wonderland meets The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (I'm not kidding), it's pretty slow, plodding and dull. There are some interesting scenes in it (like the one where the girl first meets her neighbor, who's a mentally retarded young man with epilepsy and they visit his homemade fort/submarine), but for the most part I was just thinking, "Where the hell is this going?" while watching it. A lot of the time I was just creeped out (and not in a good way).

2. I wanted to take this time to wish Nosedivians Patrick and Steph happy birthdays. I'm looking forward to partying with you guys (and the rest of the folks at Nosedive Central later this evening).

3. As previously promised, here are a handful of photos from my San Diego trip. A couple of them are from the zoo. Sorry they're not better; as I had mentioned before, I can't take pictures worth a damn.

4. For all you Star Wars geeks out there (like me), this made me laugh. (Hey, I did say this entry would be random, didn't I?)

5. In addition to being excited about seeing Men of Steel by the Vampire Cowboys, I'm also very much looking forward to seeing Isaac Butler's direction of Clay McLeod Chapman's play Volume of Smoke in the near future, possibly next weekend. I'm also looking forward to seeing this, written by Mr. Matthew Freeman and directed by Mr. Matt Johnston in April.

6. And yes, I'm looking forward to seeing this as well.

7. One of the reasons why I haven't been offering substantial posts this week (even though I promised otherwise) is because I've been up to my eyeballs transcribing a roundtable interview I conducted on mortgage fraud (yes, mortgage fraud) for work. The interview took an hour and it's extremely time consuming to transcribe an hour's worth of people speaking. With a little luck, when I'm done with it I can resume writing 1,500-word entries on why you all need to see Suburban Peepshow (I'll give you a hint: because it's the Most Important Play Ever and the fate of the world depends on it).

8. A few weeks back I had started to write an entry on the nature of copyrights and trademarks but it became this unruly unending document. I'm hoping I can broach the subject on this page at some point in the not-too-distant future, but it's looking as though it's either a subject I have either far too much or far too little to say on the subject (which seems to be the case with many a blog entry; a number of times I can either sum up everything I have to say on the subject in three or four sentences or I need seven or eight pages just to get started).

9. Rehearsals are going quite well so far for Suburban Peepshow and Mac's curtain-raiser, "Trailers." I'm looking forward to people seeing this. Here's to hoping I can get off-book soon for my one scene that has dialogue.

10. Did anyone see the pilot for Raines last night? If so, what did you think?

And that's my random ten. Have a good weekend, everybody.

Blathering all over the map,

James "Chatterbox" Comtois


Thursday, March 15, 2007

God Damn You, MTV

Why, dear God, WHY won't you release The State on DVD?

Getting all lathered up,

James "Sexual Healer" Comtois

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007


The podcast interview I did with NYTheatre along with Kiss and Cry author Tom Rowan is now up.

You can now listen to me stammer incoherently and provide half-truths about The Adventures of Nervous-Boy.


James "Radio DJ" Comtois


You Know What I'm Excited To See?


Vampire Cowboys Theatre Company presents

Men of Steel

Written by Qui Nguyen

Directed by Robert Ross Parker

fight director: Marius Hanford

set & lighting designer: Nick Francone

costume designer: Jessica Wegener

sound designer: Patrick Shearer

Featuring Noshir Dalal, Sharon Eisman*, Jason Liebman*, Tom Myers, Melissa Paladino*, Jeremy Sarver, Paco Tolson, Temar Underwood

*appears courtesy Actor's Equity Association

March 15 thru April 8, 2007

(thurs, fri, sat, & sun @ 8pm)

at Center Stage, NY

(48 West 21st Street, 4th Floor)

Click here for tickets.

Donning his cape,

James "Fancyman" Comtois

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Prepping For Peepshow

Now that rehearsals for Suburban Peepshow are underway and I've finally reacclimated myself to New York from San Diego (I didn't realize it would take as long as it did), I figured I'd let you guys know a little bit about what's going on with this new show...

* * *

During this competent dramedy…I experienced bizarre hallucinations, nausea, confusion and an irritability verging on dyspepsia. … While sitting through yet another living-room drama about the endlessly fascinating troubles of suburbanites, you find yourself longing for pirates to crash through the kitchen window or zombies to shamble through the front door and chew the protagonist's face off.

—David Cote, in his review of Rabbit Hole for Time Out

This quote from Mr. Cote — along with Steven Soderbergh’s film Schizopolis and Blake Edwards’ A Shot in the Dark — rattled around in my brain for quite some time just before and during the writing of the play that my company Nosedive Productions is about to stage in a couple of weeks.

Writing Suburban Peepshow was surprisingly fast and painless, which is rare for a guy who often spends his time gnashing his teeth and biting his knuckles while sitting in front of the keyboard wondering what to write next. I had the idea for the opening scene one morning and was giggling like an idiot to myself, making sure I would write it down just to get it out of my system once I headed to my day job.

By the end of that day, I had written about 20 or so pages, really just going along for the ride and seeing where the characters would take me.

The next day, I wrote another 15 pages.

On the third day, I finished the rough draft.

All the while I was writing the script, I continued giggling like an idiot to myself.

Our previous play was The Adventures of Nervous-Boy (A Penny Dreadful), a pitch-black comedy that delved into the realm of horror. For those of you who saw that play and are now expecting to see Nervous-Boy 2: Anxious in Vegas, I’m afraid that you will be sorely disappointed. Suburban Peepshow is a full-on flat-out silly comedy.

The sole goal of me writing it was to make myself laugh.

The sole goal of Nosedive Productions staging this is to make you laugh.

When we open on April 5, I hope you have as much fun watching the play as I had writing it and also that you enjoy Mac Rogers’s curtain-raiser comedy, “Trailers,” as much as I did when he handed it in.

Giggling like an idiot,

James “New Girl” Comtois

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Monday, March 12, 2007

Tickets for Suburban Peepshow...

...are now on sale at

Space is very limited, so I would suggest getting them as soon as possible.

(Didn't I just write in my previous post that I would be writing more substantial entries this week? Yeah well, I will be, just not yet. Patience, Young Padawaans, patience.)

Fainting at the sight of impudence,

James "Velveteen Dandy" Comtois


Mortgage Fraud and Pandas

I am indeed back from San Diego, where I had to go for work to attend a conference on mortgage fraud. I'm not kidding. I now know more about mortgage fraud than I ever thought possible.

Fortunately, I did have enough down time from the conference to wander around San Diego, which is a gorgeous city (it was 70 degrees and cloudless the whole time I was there). I also managed to go to the San Diego Zoo. The tiger exhibit was a bust, but the giraffes and pandas rocked. As did the monkeys. I like monkeys.

With a little luck, I'll post a few pictures (although I need to warn you that I can't take pictures worth a damn).

Now that I'm back, I have about 10,000 words or so to transcribe for work all while getting ready for Suburban Peepshow. According to Pete, rehearsals have been going well in my absence, and they've managed to block everything except my scenes, which we'll get working on tomorrow.

Tickets for Suburban Peepshow will be on sale very soon.

For now, I need to get reacclimated to my daily New York routine. I'll be writing more substantial posts later in the week.

Harassin' the pandas,

James "Mortgage Boy" Comtois


Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Brief Jamespeak Haitus...

...while I'm off to San Diego for my day job until Saturday. I'll resume blathering about theatre and blatantly plugging my happenings on Monday.

In the meantime, enjoy these goodies from Nosedive...

* * *

From the Just Say Nosedive fundraiser show, "Celebrity MySpace," featuring Marc Landers, Patrick Shearer, Christopher Yustin and Rebecca Comtois. Filmed by Pete Boisvert.

* * *

From The Blood Brothers Present: An Evening of Grand Guignol Horror, "Vagina Dentata," featuring Cat* Johnson and Desmond Dutcher. Written by Yours Truly, directed by Pete Boisvert and filmed by Ben VandenBoom.

For more videos go here.

Experiencing Fear and Loathing in San Diego,

James "Dr. Gonzo" Comtois

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Monday, March 05, 2007

Dying City

Well I guess Scott Walters can rest assured that we bloggers don't always write nice things about shows we've seen...

* * *

Dying City, written by Christopher Shinn and directed by James Macdonald, is set in a New York apartment in July 2005 and January 2004. Kelly (played by Rebecca Brooksher) is a psychiatrist mourning the death of her husband Craig (Pablo Schreiber), a solider who died in Iraq (the dying city in the title is a reference to Iraq). Craig's gay identical twin brother Peter (also Mr. Schreiber) makes an unannounced visit to Kelly's apartment so they can share in their grief and remember their lost husband and brother. Peter's visit reminds Kelly of the last night she was with Craig before he went to Iraq, which we see in flashbacks.

Dying City is an awkward, boring, heavy-handed, meandering mess of a play. You know you're in trouble when you're more interested in watching the stage rotate. You know you're in more trouble when you zone out for long chunks of time and realize you haven't missed anything when you snap out of it. You know you're in even more trouble still when you find yourself more interested in watching the reruns of The Daily Show that play on the TV set at the midway and end points of the play.

The script's humorlessness is a big problem. In fact, this is one of the most humorless plays I've seen in years. Now, I'm not against serious plays by any means. But there's a difference between watching a work take on serious issues and being forced to listen to two (three) miserable and unlikable people wallow in their own misery and self-loathing for 90 minutes. It's very obvious early on that there is no love between Kelly and Craig and equally obvious that Kelly has no interest in Peter's company, but Kelly is too stiff and tight-lipped to admit this. For the most part, all three characters have only two modes of expression: catatonic and angry.

Also, the device of having Mr. Schreiber play both Peter and Craig does not work. Throughout, Peter exits the stage, usually to take a phone call, there's a pause, a change in the lights, then the actor re-enters in a different shirt as Craig. Yes, it plays as silly and awkward as it sounds (as well as confusing; it took me a few minutes to catch on we were watching a flashback with the brother the first time this device was used). Having the same actor play identical twin brothers treaded into "Patty Duke" territory. Again, this device is not played for comic effect.

Unfortunately, blame can be passed around equally to the script, the direction (the actors often stand motionless while delivering their lines for sometimes up to 20 minutes and the rare scenes that display emotion - such as a bizarre preempted sex scene and the scene where Kelly and Craig fight - are staged too awkwardly and implausibly to take seriously) and the acting (although to be fair, Mr. Schreiber does a decent job playing both straight and gay characters).

I can't help but think that this play may have worked better as a 20- or 30-minute one-act. As it stands now, it has a pretty thin premise that's stretched out for 90 minutes, leeching out any sense of dramatic tension or interest.

Am I being too harsh on Mr. Shinn's play and the LCT's production? Perhaps. I don't mean to be. Contrary to what people may think, I'm not a sadist and do not get pleasure in hurting people. From what I've heard Mr. Shinn is a very nice person and a very talented writer deserving of the attention and accolades he's received. (Full disclosure: I am unfamiliar with his work and this production of Dying City is my introduction to it.)

However, I'm not picking on an amateur production of an amateur first-time playwright, which is why I'm so perplexed at seeing such an amateurish production of such an amateurish script. Maybe Mr. Shinn just had an "off" day (we all have more than our fair shares of those). I will be fair and borrow a few earlier scripts by Mr. Shinn from one of my fellow NYC blogger friends, because he does have a very good reputation and I'm willing to buy that it's deserved. With this play, however, I was underwhelmed.

Dying City is playing at Lincoln Center Theater at the Mitzi E. Newhouse. For tickets go here.

A downer,

James "Sourpuss" Comtois

Ps. To read what other bloggers thought/felt about the show, click on their names below to read their assessments.

Mark "Mr. Excitement" Armstrong

George Hunka

Matthew Johnston

Jamie "Surplus" G.

Adam Szymkowicz

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Friday, March 02, 2007

"Shooting Babar"

I could join the ongoing discussion about Edward Albee's interview in L.A. Weekly.

Or I could just show you one of the video sketches we did for Just Say Nosedive.

Here's "Shooting Babar," directed by my sister (Rebecca Comtois) and shot & edited by Marc Landers. With Yours Truly as Babar and my sister as The Old Lady.

More videos to follow.

Having a problem,

James "12 Steps" Comtois

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

This Monday: Plays and Playwrights 2007 Book Party

To celebrate the publication of Plays and Playwrights 2007, the New York Theatre Experience is launching a book party with the playwrights.

WHERE: The Bubble Lounge, 228 West Broadway (between Franklin & White streets)

WHEN: Monday, March 5, 2007; doors open at 7:30 p.m.


8:15 - 8:45 p.m.:

Another Brief Encounter by Stan Richardson; directed by Tony Speciale, performed by Stan Richardson, Tony Speciale, Adam Rihacek, Jeff Hiller, & Dwayne Mann

Corps Values by Brendon Bates; performed by Joe Curnutte & Andrew Garman

They're Just Like Us by Boo Killebrew; performed by Carly Cioffi, Geoffrey Decas, Boo Killebrew, Ryan Purcell, Jordan Seavey, & TJ Witham

9:15 - 9:45 p.m.:

The Adventures of Nervous-Boy by James Comtois; directed by Pete Boisvert, performed by Mac Rogers, Patrick Shearer, Anna Kull, Scot Williams, Rebecca Comtois

Office Sonata by Andy Chmelko; performed by Brendan Bradley, Bryce Gill, & D.H. Johnson

Red Tide Blooming by Taylor Mac; performed by Taylor Mac

Plus a special performance from LENZ by bluemouth inc.

Hosted by Martin Denton, editor of Plays and Playwrights 2007.

This event is free. Refreshments will be served.

Books will be available for sale at the party ($18). All of the playwrights are expected to be there to personally sign copies.

Call 212-431-4344 for directions and information about The Bubble Lounge.


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