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”

No Title – Oops!


Early Logo

Early Logo

Here I am hook sliding into the weekend and instead of my usual bereft of blog topics, I find myself the proud holder of an unusual surfeit of things to write about. So let’s get started then and in no particular order here we go. First up, I thought that we had theater tickets tonight. I was wrong; they are not until much later. I had discovered this error only after, I had showered and changed. More is the pity. What being all dressed up and no place to go, I took Anne out to dinner, instead of dinner and the theater. We walked up Clayton to Katy’s Pizza. Passing the Esquire movie theater, we both looked longingly for any likely show to substitute for the one that wasn’t there, but it was to no avail. Hollywood was off on another of its irrelevant riffs. Dinner at Katy’s was among a young and intensely intelligent WashU clientele. I never felt more pleased at being post-intelligent.

I have held in reserve this week the news and have not yet reported about last Saturday’s show. It was the third and final show of this season of Ignite! It was a musical, called “Georama”. In the mid-1800s, American artist John Banvard created the first georama, a 3,000 foot long scrolling painting celebrating the beauty of the Mississippi River, arguably the first ‘motion picture’. I missed the exhibit of his georama at the Saint Louis Art Museum, a couple of years ago. I think that that exhibit inspired this play. Barvard’s georama was a great success then and once paired with P.T. Barnum became an international one too, but Barvard and Barnum had a love-hate relationship that provided most of the tension in this play. John’s wife Elizabeth and their relationship acted as a counterbalancing influence. Present in the audience was John and Elizabeth Bonvard’s great-great-great-grandson. In his thirties, with a full bushy beard and a shaved scalp, he looks the spitting image of his more famous ancestor’s pictures.

There was news today, that the company was the first pick of college grads as a place to go to work, beating out the likes of Google. This news was somewhat sketchy, originating from an employment agency, but good press is always valued. I was in one of our shops, a hanger, this morning. I was part of a cattle call that my boss had sent out. I and about half-a-dozen twenty some year olds were standing around, waiting. The young guys were discussing the various comic book action hero movies, both past, present and future. None of these movies held much interest for me, but it was amusing hearing these young bucks critiquing them.

GoPro Selfie


GoProing at the SLAMmer

GoProing at the SLAMmer

This selfie is recycled from a Facebook post from last weekend, but since it represented a fair amount of work, I’m using it again here. The problem with using the GoPro as a still camera is that you can’t see what you’re shooting until after the fact. I’m sure the same problem exists with making movies. All those beautiful high-definition GoPro movies must involve many retakes to produce. In the case of this photo, it led to many takes before this one acceptable shot. Anyway, I rode in the park on Saturday, all by myself. I could not coax my better half out. This separation at least left me with enough time to experiment with the GoPro. I like riding with Anne, but I also enjoy a little me time on the bike too. This month being April and April having thirty days, Anne has decided to jumpstart her summer training program, by going thirty for thirty. She actually started on the last day of March, because next Tuesday, she’ll be an election judge and there just aren’t enough hours in the day to do that and exercise. So, next Tuesday she’ll have already earned her bye.

Meet Me in St. Louie, Louie


Crocuses

Crocuses

The beautiful, but also intelligent Jay sent us a link from the HuffPo entitled, “26 Reasons to Appreciate the Hidden Gem of Saint Louis”. This piece was a love fest directed at the Lou. I liked it so much that I shared it on Facebook. Its sentiment was appreciated, but you could tell that it was written by a foreigner. The people of Saint Louis do not refer to their city as Saint Louie. Except possibly in the context of a certain song about the fair and then only if you are Judy Garland singing it.

The other glaring tell was the reference to the Missouri Botanical Gardens as the ‘Botan’. I have never heard that nickname before. Now, I have heard it referred to as ‘The Gardens’ or MoBot. The first nickname shows deference to its stature around town and around the world. The second nickname is even it the garden’s web address, (mobot.org), but never Botan. We went to the Botan today and re-upped our membership there. According to the HuffPo article almost everything is free in Saint Louis. While this is mainly true and you can get into the gardens for free sometimes, we prefer the convenience of going when we like to. The crocuses were out, along with a few other harbingers of spring.

We went from the gardens to the second reading in this year’s Ignite! festival. Today’s offering was a commissioned play. It also was Saint Louis centric. The play involved the Saint Louis art scene and fundraising scene. Again referring back to that HuffPo article, Saint Louis is rated as one of the most generous cities in America and one that is a great supporter of the arts. Fundamentally, the play is about race, in the form of a mixed race couple that had split up before, but during the course of the play is thrust back together again. They are left to hash out old differences and see if they can reunite. The mcguffin that gets the action rolling is a charity project to build a statue of Dred and Harriet Scott outside the courthouse building that condemned them back to slavery. The title of the play, “Every Reason to Hope and Believe” comes from an Abraham Lincoln quote about the Dred Scott decision. We met the author, Laura Eason, after the reading. After speaking with her, I learned that she had written the Reps main stage adaptation of “Tom Sawyer” that we had seen. She also wrote the fourth episode of this season’s “House of Cards”.

2014 Ignite!


Ancient Trilobite Fossils

Ancient Trilobite Fossils

The Saint Louis Repertory Theater’s festival of new play readings began its third season last night. This year’s first of three plays was entitled, “Ten Questions to Ask Your Biology Teacher about Evolution”. It would be fair to say that Anne was all over this play like a fruit fly on a banana. There are four actors in the play, the biology teacher, the questioning student, the principal and the student’s mother. Evolution is on the curriculum, but fundamentalist Christianity was posing the ten questions. The setting is the contemporary rural Midwest. Arguments were made, but in the end no one was swayed, at least in the version of the play that we heard.

After these readings there is a Q&A session that Seth the producer always leads. The playwright is brought out and is the audience here. Seth always asks the same questions:

  • What do you remember best about the play?
  • What do you think that the play was about?

The first question usually elicits responsive answers that either quote memorable lines or reiterate important plot points. By the time that the Q&A gets to the second question most of the respondents are off on their own tangents. Sometimes the playwright is relatively silent and it is all Seth, but this night’s was highly interactive. Following the formal Q&A, wine and cheese is brought out and the playwright and all the actors are available for more one-on-one Q&A. As per usual, everyone was flown in from NYC for an intense three-day gig. Did I mention that this deal only costs the audience $6?

The typical Broadway play takes eight years to mature. In the intervening eight years these proto-play evolve. In these readings we see them in their relatively immature and highly malleable form. Just this week, a happy rationalist’s ending with the Christian student seeing the Darwinian light transformed into the stalemate that we saw. The more 1-on-1 Q&A gave us even more of the thought process on this and many other points.

We both enjoyed the play. There are still two more to go in the festival, but in the end only one will likely be produced by the Rep. As an aside, a NYC vulture audience member approached the playwright with an offer, just in case his wasn’t the one picked up by the Rep. I love seeing the seamier side of show business, especially up close and personal.

The ten questions refered to in the play are real questions. Intelligent design creationist Jonathan Wells has written the insidious “Ten questions to ask your biology teacher about evolution.” These questions try to encourage students to doubt and distrust evolutionary theory. Here is a link to where these questions are posted along with ten scientific answers. They are published there by the National Center for Scientific Education.

Other Desert Cities


Other Desert Cities

Other Desert Cities

Friday night was the date night of the year, being Valentine’s Day. Anne and I braved freezing rain and icy roads for dinner and a show. Dinner was at our favorite Webster restaurant, Big Sky Café. Eschewing my favorite, their pot roast, we shared the night’s special, a three course dinner for two:

  • Fire Roasted Pepper Puttanesca chilled salad of fire roasted red peppers, marinated tomatoes, white anchovies, Kalamata olives & fresh oregano with red chili vinaigrette
  • Duo of Rib-eye Roast and Arctic Char CAB bone in rib-eye roasted whole then sliced with black pepper port fig reduction and fresh herb seared arctic char with cherry fennel relish served with sweet potato au gratin and grilled asparagus
  • Gooey Butter Fudge Brownie with fresh raspberries and white chocolate ice cream
Red Lipstick Kiss

Red Lipstick Kiss

Puttanesca is Italian, from puttana ‘prostitute’. The sauce is said to have been devised by prostitutes as one that could be cooked quickly between clients’ visits. My date knew this. The gooey butter dessert is a local Saint Louis delicacy. We snagged a great table by the window. Looking out, we could see three locomotives egregiously idling across the street. You could feel their sub audio vibrations throughout dinner. They were pulling a line of tank cars, as far as the eye could see. They represent a small part of big oil’s revenge for being denied their Keystone pipeline. They were still idling when we passed them again, on our way home. We would have been cold at our table, except for an opportunely placed space heater. As cold as we would have been, the young lady at the adjoining table would have been even colder. She was wearing a bright red string strapped dress and a big pendant similar to the pictured red lipstick kiss. After dinner, when we got up and left, we surely left the dining room’s median age half of what it was before.

We have season tickets and normally we catch the shows at the end of their runs, but we had to switch nights and were surprised to find that last night was an opening night. Dan’s friend Valerie was there handing out press kits. I joked with her about getting on the distribution list, because after all, I’m a blogger. Here is a synopsis of the play:

Other Desert Cities is a play by Jon Robin Baitz. The play’s name refers to a road sign on the I-10, which indicates that the freeway is headed towards Palm Springs and “Other Desert Cities”. Events occur around the Christmas 2004 holiday, when the family of Polly and Lyman Wyeth gather in Palm Springs, California. Their daughter Brooke Wyeth returns home after six years. Polly’s sister Silda is also visiting, after having left rehab. Polly and Lyman are Republicans, while Silda and Brooke are liberals. Brooke announces to her family that she is about to publish a memoir dredging up a tragic event in the family’s history. That event is the suicide of her late brother Henry, who had been involved with the radical anti-war underground. The play teeters between comedy and intense family drama.

We ended up getting our exact same seats, imagine that. Anne said the set reminded her of my parent’s house, but for me it reminded me of a Sunset Magazine cover. It was way too Southern Californian for my folk’s home. We saw Mister G at intermission. This was his first ever Rep show. I wonder what he thought of it, because it certainly was not his usual Muny fare.