The Full Catastrophe

Am I not a man? And is a man not stupid? I’m a man, so I married. Wife, children, house, everything. The full catastrophe. – Zorba

Ill-Matched Lovers, Quentin Massys, 1465

Ill-Matched Lovers, Quentin Massys, 1465

As part of this year’s ‘Ignite!’ season, we went to hear a reading of the new play, “The Full Catastrophe”, by Mark Weller. Adapted from the David Carkeet novel of the same title, this is a tragicomic story of the verbally disturbed Wilsons, Dan and Beth, of Saint Louis, MO (Ladue actually) and their troubled marriage. In order to save their marriage, they hire linguist Jeremy Cook to act as a live-in marriage counselor. Cook has only recently lost his longtime gig of studying preschooler’s speech patterns and has just snagged this new job with the mysterious Pillow Agency. Roy Pillow the strange founder of the Pillow Agency, author of the Pillow Manual and creator of the Pillow Method has as his main dialog contribution the line, “The Horror. The Horror.” He repeats this line throughout the play, all Kurtz-like, as from Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness”.

This is Jeremy’s first case. To say that Jeremy is a little off-kilter himself is a bit of an understatement. He comes to the subject of interpersonal relationships with the same understanding that a visiting space alien on his first trip to earth might have. Still, he is able to diagnose the problem with this linguistically troubled marriage right off the bat as “complementary schismogenesis” or the mutual creation of division, but once diagnosed he seems at a total lost at how to cure its woes.

Part of Jeremy’s problem is his own tortured history with love. Years ago, he let his one true love, Paula, walk out of his life and has come to regret it ever since. Tension in the Wilson household comes to a head when news arrives that the summer camp that Dan and Beth had planned on housing their son, Robbie in, has suddenly closed. They had planned on spending their summer together, jetting off to Italy, renewing their lost passion for each other and saving their marriage. Beth is heard yelling at and accusing Dan, “The summer is ruined! The summer is ruined!” Not knowing how to relate to, let alone counsel Dan and Beth, Jeremy’s big moment comes when he helps the kid do a homework assignment that is requiring him to write a sentence ending in a preposition.

The linguist tells him to imagine a little boy who is upstairs in his room waiting for his father to come read him a story. He goes to the top of the stairs and waits. He hears his father coming, but when he sees the book his father has chosen, he’s disappointed. So he says to his father, “What are you bringing that book that I don’t want to be read to from out of up for?”

New Spring Crocuses

New Spring Crocuses

New Spring Crocuses

We started today walking through the botanical gardens. Even with the time change we got there relatively early, before the crowd arrived. Today is another beautiful early spring day, just like yesterday was. There were plenty of birds about. We could hear woodpeckers, making rat-da-tat-tat noises in the early morning still. I got some photos of them. There were only a few flowers that were just starting to come out, witch-hazel; always an early bloomer and the above pictured crocuses were two that we saw. Afterwards, we tried out a new to us vegetarian restaurant, The Tree House. I had the vegan biscuits and sausage gravy, which were interesting.

After we got home, we quickly re-launched on our bicycles for Forest Park. Being only the second nice day in the last month, the park was mobbed again. We quickly bailed from the trail, because that was a total zoo, only to discover that the roads were worse. Our schedule only permitted a shorter than normal ride, but by its end we were ready to escape from Forest Park.

Tonight was a date night, with the usual dinner and a show. Actually it was a double date night with Don and DJ too. Dinner was at another new to us restaurant, the Robust Wine Bar & Café in Webster, not to be confused with the other one on Washington. Last night we were headed to the Trailnet supper, when we passed the Washington Ave. branch of the Robust Wine Bar & Café and confusing that night’s agenda with tonight’s, Anne announced, “Here we are!” Tonight’s show was at the Rep, The Winslow Boy. Based upon a true story, here is the Rep’s synopsis of the play:

When young Ronnie Winslow is expelled from military school for stealing a five-shilling postal order, his father wages an exhaustive fight to clear his son’s name. What begins as a private matter quickly becomes a larger question of the rights of the individual against the power of the state. Though the legal battle jeopardizes his health and the reputation of the entire family, Arthur Winslow is determined that right will prevail, no matter what the sacrifice.

All-in-all, this has been one busy weekend, with lots of biking, lots of culture and lots of eating too. It just goes to show what good weather can bring. I may have to go to work tomorrow, just to get some rest.

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner


Guess Who's Coming to Dinner Movie Poster

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner Movie Poster

Last night was a date night, with dinner and a show. We dined at Cyrano’s, which was unusually crowded. There was even a wait, a first, plus there wasn’t a chair to be had in the bar. Still, we got in and out, with plenty of time. We even had sufficient time before the show to exchange tickets for some of the forthcoming shows at the box office window.

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner is a new play that was based upon the Academy award-winning screenplay, written by William Rose. In both the movie and the play, parent’s Matt and Christina Drayton are a couple whose liberal attitudes are challenged when their daughter brings home a fiancé who is black. In addition to best screenplay, the 1967 film of the same name also won best picture and Katharine Hepburn won best actress for her role in this picture. Her co-star and close friend, Spencer Tracy, was gravely ill during the filming of the movie and died just ten days after shooting ceased. Lead, Sidney Poitier, was on a roll back then, with starring roles in back-to-back best pictures. His In the Heat of the Night role helped that movie, win best picture in 1968.

It has been a long time since I had seen the movie, so I only faintly remembered the bare outlines of the story. Combine this fact with the fact that the Reps season’s January slot is usually reserved for their more artsy, read less commercially successful productions and I was expecting a scold. Last year, was the worst year for race relations in the thirty plus years that I have lived in this city. When I saw this play on the schedule, I thought that it was added to the schedule in response to the problems in Ferguson. It was actually picked last spring, before the difficulties began. I’m pleased to say that I was very happily surprised with the play. It was an excellent show.

Dan went bi-coastal today. He landed in NYC early this morning or late last night, depending upon your perspective. The boy who never sleeps meets the city that never sleeps. All I know is that he is attending a wedding in Virginia. I will go on record here saying that if Dan would ever brings someone home, I would welcome them.

The Boxing Report

Galleria Christmas Tree

Yesterday, the day after Christmas was Boxing Day. In times gone by the landed gentry would get a box of Christmas gifts to each of their servants. In modern times this tradition has morphed into kids going to the mall to spend their Christmas money. This is what the boys did in part. I got to come along to make up for any monetary shortfalls. Dave got a PC laptop and Dan ordered a Mac laptop. Surprisingly, the Mac was the cheaper of the two, but not by much. Last night at the Rep, we saw Ring of Fire, a musical revue and biography of Johnny Cash. It was a full house, which is unusual for a Rep show, this late in its run. Anne and I both enjoyed it. Here is a synopsis of the show:

Featuring a company of multi-talented performers and over 30 hits from his iconic songbook, this spirited musical takes you on a journey through the life and career of The Man in Black. Exploring love, faith, struggle and success, songs such as “A Boy Named Sue,” “Daddy Sang Bass,” “Folsom Prison Blues,” “Jackson” and “I Walk the Line” tell the story of Johnny Cash in a salute to this unique American legend.

Midsummer Night’s Eve

Midsummer Night's Eve Backdrop

Midsummer Night’s Eve Backdrop

If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumbered here
While these visions did appear.

This verse is the beginning of Puck’s final soliloquy in Shakespeare’s comedy, “Midsummer Night’s Eve”. The play is over and Puck is saying goodnight to the audience. The preceding hours, ones full of love, foolishness, and magic are now past. After the applause the house lights come up and we the audience file out of the theater and into a cold November night. It is not midsummer’s eve outside, although the moon is still close to full. All of summer is now gone. Even fall is beginning to lose its grip as we find ourselves racing pell-mell down towards the other solstice, the darker, bleaker solstice of winter.

I questioned why the Rep had chosen this play to produce, what it being performed out of season. Anne first remarked that the Rep doesn’t run in the summer, which is true. Then later she mentioned that most of this production’s run had occurred in the run-up to All Hallows Eve. Now there is a tie-in that I can understand and would have gotten right-off, if we had seen the play a week earlier. Its costumes and merriment fit right in with the spirit of Halloween, but one week hence and forever looking forward, while going sixty, I did not make this connection, because it was already receding in my rearview mirror.

The photo with this post is a picture of a picture that was on display in the folia. It accurately captures the current season and is suggestive of the woods in the actual set, but they are different. Maybe it was someone’s existing picture that inspired the concept for the set? I don’t know, but I like its perfect symmetry, except for the moon, whose light, which oddly is also symmetric. The picture is like a pair, both the same, except that one casts the light that they both reflect.

Friday night was date night, with dinner and a show. Me and my baby both played dress-up. My costume included a sports coat, while hers a skirt. Dinner at CJ Muggs was fine, but later, when I fell asleep in the first act the date went south. I woke up during intermission and stayed awake and enjoyed the second act, but the damage had been done, for which I am truly sorry, dear.

If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That we have but slumbered here
And let these visions disappear.

One Man, Two Guvnors

One Man, Two Guvnors Program Cover

One Man, Two Guvnors Program Cover

“One Man, Two Guvnors” was the first offering of this season at the Rep. It is an adaptation of “Servant of Two Masters” an 18th century Italian comedy. This adaptation resets the time to 1963 and the place to Brighton, England. It has been all the rage in London for years now. It was a very funny play, full of slapstick, jokes and impromptu. We both enjoyed the play very much.

Usually, before each performance of the first play of a season, the Rep’s artistic director, Steve Woolf comes out to speak to the audience, but because “Two Guvnors” featured a British rock quartet, who performed a warm-up set instead, there was no opportunity for that this year. This is the Rep’s 48th season. Woolf was still to be seen in the wings, still sporting his characteristically loud sweater. I hope that Steve can continue to direct the company through the Rep’s 50th season and beyond, he has built a great institution.

At one point in the play one unrequited lover is trying to express to his true love, the feelings of loss that he had experienced, when he thought that through one of the play’s many subterfuges that his true love had died:

Stanley: I’ve never felt worse. I felt like the floral clock in winter.
Rachel: That’s exactly how I felt! All the flowers dead!
Stanley: And yet the mechanism of the clock is pointlessly turning!?
Rachel: The hour hand pointing to a dead geranium!
Stanley: The minute hand stuck on a long-gone begonia.
Rachel: Stanley, I really don’t want to go to Australia.
Stanley: Oh. Thank Christ! I never did. I can’t stand bloody opera.

Anne mentioned to me after the play that in 1972 she had been in Brighton and taken pictures of the very same floral clock there. I’ve seen those photos too and I searched for them this afternoon, but alas to no avail, too bad. This highly enjoyable show was preceded by an equally enjoyable dinner. We ate at Cyrano’s. I’ll skip over the main course to what is really the main course there, dessert. We shared an apple-blackberry pie. As Anne said, a pie prototypical of this week’s changing seasons, a pie still part summer and also part fall. 

Dinner and a Show

Cultured Pearls for a Cultured Girl

Cultured Pearls for a Cultured Girl

That’s my showgirl there, all dolled up and ready to go out with her guy. She’s got her new never been worn before outfit on and my mother’s pearls. My dad sent them to her, with the proviso that I post a picture of her wearing them on this blog. The necklace, earrings and ring [Not shown, I blame the photographer.] are all cultured pearls, purchased in Japan, almost sixty years ago, about ten years after the war. I did manage to get her pearly whites in the shot though. Dinner was at CJ Muggs one of our three favorite pre-Rep dining spots. The show, this season’s finale, was “Noises Off”:

Disasters abound as a frantic, sleep-deprived touring company of actors rehearses and performs their fictional farce, “Nothing On”. Too many doors, too many sardines and not near enough time combine to create a riotously funny situation on and off stage for both cast and crew. Michael Frayn’s intricately crafted mayhem is hailed as one of the greatest comedies ever.

We had seen or at least had try to see “Noises Off” years ago, when it was performed at Maplewood-Richmond Heights High School. This was back in the day when Dave was attending Rochester and as fate had willed, he was flying in the night of the performance. We figured that we could at least watch the first act, before we had to go to the airport. We enjoyed that act so much that it was with some reluctance that we headed off to the airport. We were halfway there, when a text arrived alerting us that his flight would be delayed. We turned the car around and caught the third and final act of the play, but missing that crucial middle act led to a lot of confusion on our part.

When we heard that the Rep would be producing “Noises Off” we were extremely pleased about that. It would give us a chance to fill in the missing act. As an aside, this production’s company includes Joneal Joplin, the hardest working actor in Saint Louis. The Rep structured the play as two acts, with one intermission. In addition to the play itself, the liner notes for the play within a play, “Nothing On”, are hilarious too.

Take back your mink
Take back your pearls
What made you think?
That I was one of those girls
Sung by Adelaide and her Debutantes
From “Guys and Dolls”