We saw the play “Georama” last night at the Rep. Last year we attended a reading of this same play at the Rep’s series, Ignite! It is a musical. 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. It was interesting to see how this play had evolved. For example, in the reading Elizabeth played the viola. In last night’s play the viola had been reduced to just a prop.
January is leaving like a lamb, but then it really hasn’t been that rough a winter. We went cycling yesterday and I definitely overdressed for the day, if not the season. Pictured are snow drops, found in Tower Grove Park and in the upper left-hand corner is a honey bee, which probably flew over from the neighboring botanical gardens. We heard on the street that the magnolias are blooming too. On Friday, we had Rep tickets, “The Lion in Winter” that tale of a royally dysfunctional family, Henry and Elinor, Richard and John and that other son.
After viewing the “Saint Louis Modern” show, I started to wander around the rest of the museum, just to see what new elements of the collection were now on display. I found this painting and was attracted to it by its nautical theme. While I was viewing it and taking its photo, one of the museum’s guards approached me and asked, “Do you like it?” I assented and she began to regale me with her history with the painting. She first found it downstairs in the decorative arts part of the museum, it was part of a period room display, but it had been so poorly situated that no one could really see it. She had asked an electrician to at least throw a spot on it, but was evidently surprised and pleased with herself to find it now on display in one of the museum’s main halls. She just wanted me to know. I call it an art education.
This painting also serves well for discussion of the Rep’s Christmas show, “Peter the Star Catcher”, which we saw yesterday afternoon. “Star Catcher” is a “Peter Pan” prequel that was co-written by the humorist Dave Barry. Barry offers us part “Pirates of Penances” and part “Pirates of the Caribbean”. It was funny, the jokes were good — no they weren’t, they were bloody awful, but let’s not split rabbits. All of the characters were there by the end of the play, Peter, the lost boys, the mermaids, the Indians, the pirates, the croc, Nana, Smee, Captain Hook and even Tinkerbell, all except Wendy. In her place we have Molly, played by the only female actor in the company. The play is the story of how these characters came to become themselves, in “Peter Pan”.
You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,
But I shall be good health to you nevertheless,
And filter and fiber your blood.
— Next to last verse from Song of Myself
Anne and I went out last night to celebrate my not being let go. We did dinner and a show. Dinner was at Big Sky, my favorite Webster restaurant, where I had my favorite Big Sky dish, the pot roast. Big Sky is all about American comfort food. The show, “I and You”, was in the Studio Theater, which is a nice way of saying the basement of the Loretto-Hilton. Here is the Rep’s synopsis of the play:
Anthony is an effortlessly popular “A” student; Caroline is a prickly cynic, homebound with a serious illness. This unlikely duo sits in Caroline’s room, trying to cobble together a homework report on Walt Whitman’s epic poem, “Song of Myself” in one night. As they work and procrastinate, argue and compromise, the teens begin to uncover each other’s hidden depths. Full of surprising humor and emotion, “I and You” explores bravery in the face of an uncertain future and the unique, mysterious connections that bind us.
“Prickly cynic” is one way to describe Caroline. I might have gone stronger there. Anthony motivations are less clear and his selfless persona aside, this unknown engendered suspicion in both Caroline and me. Lauren Gunderson has convincingly captured modern American teen speech with her writing. I can hardly wait to begin invoking some of the lexicon. The play’s title is derived from the homework assignment, they are supposed to report on Walt Whitman’s use of pronouns, which is eventually explained with such extemporaneous flair that I wish that I could have been an English major. This one-act, two person, 90 minute play can at times seem like a slog, but its ending makes it all worthwhile.
Anne and I had Rep tix on Friday night, the play was “Angel Street”, but is more commonly known as “Gaslight”, which was its original, British title. When the play came to Broadway, its title was changed to “Angel Street”. The play is set entirely in the parlor of a large London Victorian town house, on Angel Street. The lady of the house, Bella Mannigham, is being driven out of her mind by her husband Jack. The insidious techniques that he uses on his wife have entered our lexicon as the term gaslighting. On Saturday, not much happened, but today, Anne and I went for a bike ride in the park.
I still remember where I was when I heard JFK was shot. It was a Californian Catholic classroom. The nun then asked us to put our heads down on our desks and pray. I can still hear Lawrence weeping next to me. It was almost that same hour that “All the Way” begins. This play by Robert Schenkkan opens onboard the flight of Air Force One from Dallas to DC. Lyndon B. Johnson has been sworn in; Kennedy’s body is in the hold and the plane is about to land. Over the next two hours, the audience is transported through the subsequent tumultuous year in US politics, culminating in Johnson’s 1964 election as President. The play takes its name from his campaign slogan, “All the way with LBJ!”
The play’s first act is dedicated to the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Bill, with an emphasis on the legislative procedures involved and is reminiscent of similar congressional machinations that were portrayed in Spielberg’s “Lincoln”. The first act is the stronger of the two and would have been enough of a story to stand on its own, but then it would have told only half of the story. The second act deals with Johnson’s 1964 campaign, where he strived to transform his “accidental presidency” into something more. Its real story though is of the political consequences of the Civil Rights Bill for the Democratic Party. Before ’64 the South had been solidly Democratic. In ’64 several southern states defected to the Republicans and voted for Goldwater. As LBJ predicted, after ’64 the South became solidly GOP. Almost as an afterthought, Vietnam is left nibbling at the periphery of this American tableau.
“All the Way” sports a large cast, featuring most of the political luminaries of the day, including such headliners as Humphrey, Wallace and Hoover. Special attention is paid to Martin Luther King, where his relationship with LBJ is portrayed differently than in the recent “Selma”, which covered events in 1965. Notable absences include Goldwater and Bobby Kennedy. In this sympathetic biography, we see LBJ acting as ringmaster of the nation’s political circus laid bare before us. What carries “All the Way” are the many, some profane, but mostly funny stories and mannerisms this characterization of our 36th President gives us. Throughout both acts, we see Johnson threaten, cajole and flatter his intended opponents, exhibiting whatever facet of the “Johnson Treatment” best suits his purposes and sways his intended subject to his will and sway they do.
Last night’s show was the end of the run at the Saint Louis Repertory Theater. Writing about a show that is over is typically of little interest, but after this production, the show will go on. Later this year, HBO will be broadcasting their version of “All the Way”, which will feature Bryan Cranston reprising his 2014 Tony Award winning roll as LBJ. Since, it is too late now to see the Rep’s production, I’ll recommend sight unseen, HBO’s. It is just that good a story.
Rob, our plasterer and painter finished his work last night. The rooms look beautiful and we have already made plans with him for the next phase, the back half of the house. As soon as he was done and paid, we rushed out the door behind him, for a night on the town, dinner and a show. Dinner was just a quick bite at Houlihan’s, we were running late by then. The show was the Rep’s season finale, “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike”, a comic send up, with overtones of Chekhov. It was good fun.
Stuck in their family home in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, Vanya and his adopted sister Sonia live a quiet existence until their lives are thrown into comic upheaval with the arrival of their B-list celebrity sister, Masha, and her 20-something boy toy, Spike. Add to that a sooth-saying housekeeper, a star struck young neighbor and a rather odd costume party, and the stage is set for mayhem and hilarity in this present-day homage to Chekhov. Winner of the 2013 Tony Award for Best Play.
Dave blew into town, later that night. It will be good to have him home for this Easter weekend. His arrival had been an open question until yesterday though. He had a line of final four tickets for today in Indianapolis, but that deal fell through and his dear old parents were the next best offer. I’ll cook and serve dinner tomorrow, nothing fancy, flank steak, asparagus and new potatoes. Spartan fare for our dining/living room’s still rather Spartan décor. I want to do some work on the floors, before we start to move everything back in again. Speaking of those Spartans, Go Michigan State!
When I was just a boy, I used to collect seashells. After living on Guam and along the California coast, I had a pretty good collection. One of those shells was a Regal Thorny Oyster. It was my favorite.