Friday, August 24, 2007

Au Revoir, Mes Chéris

I just want to let y’all know that I’m heading off to Maine tomorrow, where I’ll be for the next week (sans computer).

There will be no posting of any kind until after Labor Day.

Until then, I hope to do very little, aside from drinking blueberry beer (tastes like freakin’ blueberries, people) and staring at the ocean.

Anyway, I’ll natter at y’all when I get back.

Votre putain,

James “Uh, I’m Sorry, I Don’t Speak French” Comtois


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Generic Update

Sorry I've been kinda quiet these past couple of days. I've really just been super-busy with script-writing (it just dawned on me that I actually have to write six -- SIX! -- scripts before the end of the year) and prepping for my week-long Maine vacation starting Saturday. So yes, next week, I'll be even more absent from these pages.

As I write the pilot episode for my entry in Vampire Cowboys's upcoming Saturday Night Saloon (which begins in September), Pete and Patrick are going over the final preproduction details for The Blood Brothers Present: An Evening of Pulp Horror, which opens Thursday, October 11 at the 78th Street Theatre Lab.

I'm very curious to see who will be the lucky (poor?) soul who has to direct my pieces.

Anyway, I'm stalling enough as it is. I really should get this freakin' script finished before Friday. I may be back to blather about something tomorrow. We shall see.

Dragging his feet,

James "Ditherer" Comtois

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Monday, August 20, 2007

Jimmy's Fringe Roundup

I've finished reviewing the Fringe plays I needed to review for Martin (...Double Vision, Len and Ernest and On Air Off!), so I spent this weekend seeing three plays by buds o' mine, all of which I found fun and enjoyable.

The first one was Mr. Mac Rogers's Hail Satan, a story about a cowardly milquetoast, Tom, who joins a company where all his co-workers are honest-to-gosh worshippers of the Cloven One. Through a series of truly bizarre events, Tom ends up being caretaker and surrogate father to the Devil Incarnate, a girl named Angie.

Hail Satan made my "Top Ten" list for 2004 when Gideon Productions staged it at ManhattanTheatreSource. This is the second time I've gone to see ostensibly the same production of a play after it's been remounted (the first being Vampire Cowboys's Living Dead in Denmark).

With only some slight variations on the casting (Mac passes the torch on acting duties as Tom to Matthew Kinney, who played a different role in the 2004 production) and to the show itself (this version is again directed by Jordana Williams), I still stand by my original assessment that this is an extremely well-crafted funny and scary play that offers its audience more "meat" than most Off-off shows. It assumes its audience consists of intelligent adults (honestly, I've found this trait within Off-off theatre to be more and more rare).

The show I saw had a slightly more flippant tone (Mac's girlfriend, Sandy, pointed out that this was even an anomaly for the current run), going a little more for the laughs than when I saw it in 2004. I'm not saying this is good or bad, nor am I saying this production didn't succeed in making me feel squeamish and queasy, it's just something I noticed seeing Hail Satan the second time around.

I'm also really pleased to see that Sean Williams and Laura Perloe have reprised their roles as Charlie, the boss and head of the cult and Angie respectively. They play their parts with pitch-perfect precision, at this point making me find it difficult to picture those roles played by anyone else.

Rather than get into the details of my thoughts and feelings on Hail Satan again, you can read my online dialogue with Mac about the first production online here (just to warn you: it's very long).

I think the script very much succeeds in tapping into fears (of parenthood, of responsibility, of sudden changes within people's personalities) that are common not only to Mac himself, but I'm sure with many people in the audience (myself included), hence me finding it a successful "horror" play.

* * *

On Saturday, I went to see Adam Szymkowicz's latest, Susan Gets Some Play, a very funny 40-minute meta-comedy play-within-a-play about, well, actress Susan Louise O'Connor trying to find a boyfriend (or at least a romp in the hey). It's as simple as that., it's not really as simple as that.

Susan and her best friend Jay try to find Susan a boyfriend by holding auditions for an imaginary production in hopes of finding Mr. Right; or at the very least, a date or make-out session. They end up auditioning as many people as they can, including a "guest celebrity" and people from the audience. Hell, the usher even gave out raffle tickets for the chance to win a date with Susan (alas, I didn't win).

Ultimately, Susan isn't wild about this duplicitous process of finding a boyfriend (in one scene, she admits to having asked Szymkowicz to write this play for her, but now she feels cheap and on display), and is even less wild about all her co-stars milking their make-out scenes with her.

To quote Monty Python: It's silly.

There are multiple in-jokes with this show, including references to Szymkowicz's earlier work (there's a scene deliberately mimicking the New York production of Nerve), as well as jokes on insufferably self-referential New York theatre and the ignorance non-theatre-makers have on the process of putting on a play in the city (my molars would grind when a character would refer to the auditions as "play practice," which I'm sure was intended).

And oh yes, there's a cool non sequitur song and dance number to boot.

That Susan Gets Some Play doesn't take itself too seriously and doesn't alienate the audience with the numerous in-jokes (most of them are either fairly inclusive or not distracting enough to be jarring) makes it work. It's incredibly slight run-time (under an hour) doesn't hurt, either.

With the help of the cast Moritz von Stuelpnagel's direction, Susan Gets Some Play is thoroughly unapologetic with its simple yet whimsical premise, which is one of the main reasons why this show is so light and enjoyable.

* * *

Finally, Sunday was when I went to go see Nosedive Central member Anna Kull and Justin Perkins's show, Dressing Miss Julie, a campy riff on August Strindberg's play on class, gender warfare, and upward mobility (or the lack thereof), Miss Julie.

The premise for Dressing Miss Julie is this: while the two actors play Miss Julie (that's been rewritten to include modern references to other plays), there are two giant bells in the audience, that said audience has an opportunity to ring at any point in the show. Whenever an audience member rings one of the bells, the actors stop, remove their clothes, switch them, and resume the show where they left off, playing the opposite roles.

The idea for doing this is to play with the idea that not only is class interchangeable, but also gender. I'm not sure how seriously we in the audience are supposed to take this premise by watching Dressing Miss Julie, as the role-changing seems to be more of an entertaining device rather than a philosophical thinking point. But in the end it doesn't matter: this show is a whole lot of fun.

While watching Dressing Miss Julie, a funny thing happened. I realized I didn't care one bit for Jean or Miss Julie's problems, regardless of who was playing which part. I was paying attention to the differences in how Justin and Anna would play each role, watching how they would immediately dive into each part and pick up where they left off whenever the bell would ring. I noticed how much the two actors resembled paper dress-up dolls, smiling and dancing in their underwear, as they would change roles.

I also kept checking the time, not out of boredom or restlessness, but because at the beginning of the show, Anna and Justin point out that they have the space for 70 minutes, meaning that, whatever point they're at in the script, after 70 minutes, they would have to stop. They mention this because, although the audience is welcome to ring the bell as many times as it wants, any more chimes than 10 puts the show at risk of going over the 70 minute mark. Fortunately, the day I saw Dressing Miss Julie, they got all the way to the end.

* * *

Anyway, I'm still hoping to catch a few more shows at the Fringe this week, although looking at my schedule, it's pretty much a crapshoot.

Lurking on the Fringes,

James "Sexy Lecher" Comtois

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Friday, August 17, 2007

Thank You, Miss Snyder!

Mac just brought this to our attention from Miss Lauren Snyder, who has written very nice things about both The Adventures of Nervous-Boy and Suburban Peepshow.

Thanks, Laurie! This really means a lot.

It's also nice to see that Mac doesn't seem particularly offended that he's seen as a Nosedivian.

Patrick warned Mac that we've adopted him against his will. Mind you, this isn't out of love for Mr. Rogers or anything.

We just need to claim as many dependents as possible on our taxes.

Grinning like an idiot,

James "Giddy Little Theatrical Schoolboy" Comtois


On Air Off! Review for

My review of the play On Air Off! is now up on

* * *

On Air Off! plays like a slightly incomplete episode of The Twilight Zone if Rod Serling was still alive to write it today. Although it ends very abruptly (as did many Twilight Zone episodes), this is... [keep reading]

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Open Letter to the L Train

Dear L Train,

What the fuck is your problem?

Have you recently broken up with the J Train and are now hitting the bottle? That would make sense, and obviously you have my sympathies, but events in your personal life are clearly affecting your performance at work.

Is there something you're not telling us? I'm willing to believe that a stalled train can shut down 80% of the entire route. But you've been offering this excuse three times over the past four days. That's the equivalent of needing time off from work to go to your grandmother's funeral three times.

Is the staff just uncovering multiple terrorist plots? Are people just getting more sick while riding you? Are you going through some midlife train crisis where you realize you'd rather be the Staten Island Ferry? What gives?

Now, I mean, I don't want to harp on this, and I do know there must be some trouble at home, but you need to get your act together.

Seriously, what the fuck?

That guy who rides you,

James "Do Your Job!" Comtois


Thursday, August 16, 2007

In The...

..."Making Me Spit Milk Out of My Nose" Department.

Laughing like a ninny,

James "Ninny Ninneson" Comtois

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

"All Your Friends Are Make Believe"

And here's our third and final video sketch! Written by and featuring Yours Truly, with the voices of Pete Boisvert, Becky Comtois and Christopher Yustin. Shot & edited by Marc Landers.

Directed by Matt Johnston.

Feeling sore,

James "What Happened Last Night?" Comtois

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Len and Ernest Review For

My review of the play Len and Ernest is now up on

* * *

Len and Ernest is a 50-minute two-person show that's ultimately all buildup and no payoff. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. This is not a play about revelations or conclusions: it's about... [keep reading]

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...Double Vision Review For

My review of the play ...Double Vision is now up on

* * *

Barbara Blumenthal-Ehrlich's new play ...Double Vision has flashes of moments where its characters reveal honest emotion and compassion, but constantly opts to bulldoze... [keep reading]

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Monday, August 13, 2007

Another Video!

Written by Yours Truly, directed by Pete Boisvert & Marc Landers, shot & edited by Marc Landers.

Featuring Pete Boisvert as the cop, Ben VandenBoom as the dealer, Marc Landers as the runner, and Becky Comtois as the prostitute.

Writing for the New CW now,

James "Onward & Upward" Comtois

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Our first video sketch is up! "Nosedivisil."

Written & directed by Becky Comtois, shot & edited by Marc Landers.

Featuring the bulk of the Nosedive monkeys, Steven Squibb as the Model Scout, Courtney Weber as the Singer and Matt Johnston as the Business Professional.

Check it out!

Making Matt Johnston cry,

James "Business Professional My Ass" Comtois

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For Those That Couldn't...

...make it last night, you can always go here to leave a little somethin-somethin.

Ah? Aaahh...?

Always closing,

James "C'maaaahn" Comtois

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Friday, August 10, 2007

And Oh, Yes...

Happy Fringing, Everybody!

Thinking you can wait on the Fringe,

James "Come To Williamsburg Tonight!" Comtois

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Tomorrow Comes Tonight!

It is ON!

For those that missed the Nice Guy Eddie's drinkathon (or, for those that did come but still want more), Nosedive Productions, as part of its insane fundraising campaign, is having a fundraising party at the Vampire Cowboys' Battle Ranch on 111 Conselyea, Second Floor in Williamsburg (2.5 blocks from Lorimer stop off L/G train, 1.5 blocks from Graham stop off L train) tonight, August 10 from 7:30 p.m. until midnight.

It's a $7 cover, with $2 beers and $1 Jell-O shots.

There will also be video sketches played for your amusement and the band Aldenbarton for your entertainment.

See you there.

Looking for singles,

James "I Mean The Dollars, Not The Ladies, Actually" Comtois

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Thursday, August 09, 2007

More Worthwhile Reading!

This time, from Nosedive Central's own Charlie Willis:

"The general public is working under the assumption that you can make a decent living at it, as long as you're talented enough. Unfortunately, this is shared by many young people going into college programs, or just starting out following graduation from said programs. In their heart of hearts, they think they'll be the lucky one who will 'make it,' or manage to transubstantiate their theatre work into a film/TV career. And maybe about 12 of them do."

Quoting more often than writing shit myself,

James "Hey, Screw You, I've Had a Busy Week!" Comtois

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Something Wrong?

Mr. Freeman sums it up nicely:

"[L]et's stop talking about theatre as if it's broken. Let's look at the increasingly diverse and exciting work being done all over the country, celebrate it, and try to get more people to see it."

Kind of stumped on a closing and nickname,

James "Hey, It Happens" Comtois

Recent Online Conversation Between Myself and Frequent Nosedive Actress Marsha Martinez

MARSHA MARTINEZ: Buy me a panda. Please. It’ll solve ALL my problems

ME: Will it now?


ME: Well, tell me what your problems are...

MARSHA: A lack of pandas.

Deliberately wasting your time,

James "No Cheese" Comtois

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Monday, August 06, 2007

Party with Nosedive this Friday!

Hey gang. Little Jimmy Comtois, the hostess with the leastess, is referring to herself in the third person to remind you that Nosedive Productions, as part of its insane fundraising campaign, is having a fundraising party this Friday in Williamsburg at the Vampire Cowboys' Battle Ranch.

She hopes you can make it.

It's on 111 Conselyea, Second Floor in Williamsburg (2.5 blocks from Lorimer stop off L/G train, 1.5 blocks from Graham stop off L train) Friday, August 10 from 7:30 p.m. until midnight.

It's a $7 cover, with $2 beers and $1 Jell-O shots.

There will also be video sketches played for your amusement and the band Aldenbarton for your entertainment.

It'll be fun. You should go.

A pretty little princess,

James "Tiara" Comtois

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Friday, August 03, 2007

Seeing Theatre, Not Seeing Trends

Well, I guess I should at least spend some time on this site blathering about theatre theory, even though I've been drifting further and further away from that for some time. The reason for this is because a.) I've gotten pretty thoroughly tired of hearing/reading/writing my own opinions about theatre (or Theatre) and How It Should Be Done, and b.) I've written about it pretty extensively in the first year or so of this blog and aside from a handful of variations and exceptions, my viewpoints haven't changed all that much, aside from the fact I like to believe I'm a little more open-minded and lenient as to what constitutes "good" theatre (or Theatre).

Anyway, here goes.

On average, I see anywhere between one and nine plays a month (over the year it averages to one or two plays a week). I'm not saying this to brag or to show that I'm super theatre-literate or anything like that. But it doesn't really offer me much time - or evidence - to think of or make any statement of The State Of New York City Theatre.

I only have enough time and cranial space to either love, be okay with, or despise the shows I've seen at any particular week, especially since I'm often writing 400-800 words on each show, either for Jamespeak or

Again, I'm not saying this to brag or get on any sort of "Aren't I Such A Good Little Do-Be Who Sees Lots Of Theatre" soapbox: I'm trying to explain that, from my vantage point, seeing as much theatre as I can in New York (more than some, not as much as others), I'm seeing almost no unifying connection between the shows that indicates any sort of total New York aesthetic.

In other words, I've currently been too busy seeing and writing about individual plays to be confident enough in assessing the Overall State of Theatre. (I am enjoying the Title Case in this post, aren't I?)

Am I seeing a concrete connection between Macbeth Without Words and Universal Robots? The Magic of Mrs. Crowling and Gutenberg! The Musical? Aside from them being plays I've liked that have been performed in New York City, not really, no.

Maybe this is a result of not being able to see the forest through the trees, I don't know. More to the point, I don't really care. I'm not sure I can offer much value to the ongoing discussion of what theatre is and where it's going, but I can see as many plays as possible and comment as articulately as I can on said plays whenever possible.

This is one of the main reasons I've had absolutely nothing to say about the...well, what's the word? Fight? Debate? Dust-up? Slapping-match? Cyber-brawl? I guess pick whichever word you like...that's been happening in the theatre blogosphere based on Scott Walters's "That There Is Some Bullshit" post. The whole thing's just been too far all over the map for me to figure out what Square One is.

Also, since Scott failed (for me, anyway) to offer a convincing argument that there is a pervasive New York aesthetic that spreads scorn to people in rural areas, yet his original post didn't particularly offend me...

(In the way that someone saying that people in New York have purple hair wouldn't offend me. Are there people in New York with purple hair? Sure. I don't have purple hair. As of this writing - unless everyone's decided to play hooky from work and dye their hair - no one I regularly interact with does. I don't even see a lot of passersby on the sidewalk with purple hair, even on St. Mark's, oddly enough. That's not to say that there aren't hundreds of thousands of people in the Greater New York Area walking around with purple hair.)

...I haven't had much to comment.

The original play (or collection of plays) Scott initially refers to is one I haven't seen and, more to the point, one I hadn't even heard of (nor would I have, had it not been for Scott). I'm not really wild about publicly badmouthing a work I've not seen, so again, I can't comment on the quality of the show, except to say that, judging from the promotional materials alone, it doesn't sound like my proverbial cup of tea (I could be wrong, but it seems like leftist agitprop, a genre I'm not wild about).

But who knows? Maybe there was more to the show than that. It's closed now, so we'll probably never know.

I will say one thing in defense of Scott's original post: from what I've seen, New York theatre sometimes (SOMETIMES!) has a tendency to be a bit more experimental in its storytelling techniques than in more rural locations, whereas the theatre I've seen in non-urban areas has tended to focus more on straightforward storytelling.

I'm not even saying I'm 100% right on this, or that this is necessarily good or bad, or that one is better than the other. It's just something I've noticed.

Anyway, feel free to discuss this ongoing topic here, or elsewhere. To be honest, I don't really care.

Have a good weekend, folks. Try not to suck any dick on your way to the parking lot.

Not knowing why I felt compelled
to quote Clerks just then,

James "Hey, It's Friday" Comtois

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Thursday, August 02, 2007

My End of the Barnyard

The folks at Nosedive Central have been filming some video sketches to play at our August 10 fundraiser party, and so far, the rough cuts of two of them and the dailies for one have made most of us giggle.

Then again, we are simple-minded dorks and our own biggest fans.

With a little luck, we should be able to finish filming the third sketch this weekend and have them all edited in their final form by next Friday. At least, we better have them all finished by Friday.

These have been a whole lot of fun to make. The whole process of trying to figure out how to shoot what we need to shoot in a very finite period of time is a new challenge for us and incredibly fulfilling. I'm not saying Nosedive is going to be giving up on theatre (far from it), but I wouldn't be surprised if we tried (a year or two down the road) shooting more ambitious projects.

We shall wee, we shall see.

* * *

I've now acquired my tickets for the Fringe shows to review for and have other shows on top of them to see (including but not limited to Dressing Miss Julie, Lucid, Hail Satan and Susan Gets Some Play), so it's looking as though August will be a full play-going month for Yours Truly. I just hope I can get around to seeing all of them.

Anyway, I'll keep you posted on the Nosedive happenings as they unfold.

Liking to watch,

James "Chance The Gardener" Comtois

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