GIANT the MUSICAL at the Public Theater

Hi y’all!

So I know it’s been a while since Kate and I have posted much of anything. I blame the wackiest finals month ever and the fact that I actually took the holidays seriously this year. HOWEVER, that doesn’t mean that Kate and I haven’t been getting our fill of best of culture — high, low, and deranged.  We’ve got some catching up to do…

One of my goals of the fall Off-Broadway season was to catch Giant at the Public Theater. I knew very little about this musical. In fact, I didn’t even know it was originally an ultra-famous movie starring Elizabeth Taylor. Heck, all I knew was it had something to do with Texas. (Oh, and that Bobby Steggert was in the cast… God help me if I don’t know where Bobby is performing at all times…) I eventually learned that it was the BIGGEST musical ever performed at the Public and the theatre world was getting its underwear in a bunch just talking about it.

Giant follows two generations of a powerful cattle-herding family, beginning in the 1920’s and stretching past World War II. Wealthy cattleman, large-estate owning, country-bred, land-lover “Bick” Benedict (Brian D’Arcy James) fall for East Coast rich girl, cosmopolitan, well-read, and semi-Socialist Leslie Lynnton (Kate Baldwin). Go figure! They marry in the matter of days and Bick brings Leslie back home to run his estate. But beware the weird pervert/outcast, worker guy who feels entitled to the same wealth as Bick and sets his sights on making life as difficult as possible for them! The first act is largely about Leslie growing used to country living and coming to terms with Bick’s other “lover” — no, it’s not a cow– Texas.

Continue reading “GIANT the MUSICAL at the Public Theater”

“Frida Liberada” at Urban Stages

Talented, fearless, and a visionary, Frida Kahlo was an art pioneer. Her life was filled with tragedy: a debilitating accident, infidelity, and illness, events well-documented in her self portraits. Frida’s life is also portrayed in the one-woman show Frida Liberada, currently playing at Urban Stages’ Outreach Octoberfest.

The play, written by Brigitte Viellieu-Davis, begins not with Frida’s life, but with her death. Frida, played by Diomargy Nuñez, enters from the back of the house, singing in Spanish about dying and finding peace with God. This Frida is dead and knows it, eager to share the story of her life with the audience. And share she does, speaking about her childhood and her tumultuous relationship with Diego Rivera–while playing all the characters.

But the most interesting character is Frida herself. Nuñez is an active, exuberant version of the aritst, singing, laughing, and moving about the stage through Lydia Fort’s clean direction. Three upstage panels show Frida’s paintings as she knew them. This Frida is alive and well–on the stage, and in our imaginations.

Frida Liberada plays until November 2nd at Urban Stages. 

#33- The Perks of Being a Wallflower

What’s It About: After the suicide of his best friend, a high school freshman is taken in by a group of seniors and explores the usual teenage stuff- drugs, rock n’roll, love, dating, Rocky Horror Picture Show, panic attacks, good books, etc.

Why: It’s been on my radar for a while, but recently, when I’ve been speaking to high school kids about books, they all seem to love it. Figured it would help me remember what life was like almost a decade ago (jesus.)

Thoughts: I surprisingly found myself deeply invested in the characters and plot. It’s a really great example of how YA Lit can tackle complicated issues and open adolescent minds to novel styles of storytelling. The writing is honest and deceivingly simple. I think I’d feel confident that my future students would have a lot to pull from it.

Also, weird surprise ending is weird and surprising. Let’s leave it at that.

Fun Home… The Musical

The musical adaptation of Fun Home, a graphic novel by Alison Bechdel that I reviewed a few months ago, is one of the most anticipated new works heading to the Broadway stage. Bechdel’s novel is a truly an incredible literary experience that uses its multi-genre form in ways very few writers have achieved (but more on that later). Bechdel has gained quite a following, both for Fun Home and for her work as a lesbian cartoonist. Seeing the Fun Home world on stage would definitely be something to look forward to. Performances sold out far in advance and I was only able to get tickets à la Cancellation Line.

NB- The performance of Fun Home that I saw last night was part of the Public Lab series at the Public Theatre. It is being revised on a daily basis. So tonight’s show will likely include revisions that I did not. And tomorrow night’s show. And the next. And the next. Until November 4th. So please keep in mind that mine was a singular experience and is in no way indicative of the play’s progress.

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Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator by Ryan Holiday


Ryan Holiday is a liar. As a media strategist for American Apparel and other clients, Holiday specializes in media manipulation. His work went beyond the standard press release, though: Holiday would “leak” unauthorized photos, falsify inter-office memos, and create controversies out of thin air to get press for his clients. Holiday would do anything to make a story for the blogs—and as it turns out, so do the blogs themselves, which puts readers at a dangerous disadvantage.

After watching the brave new world of online media beat him at his own game, Holiday writes Trust Me, I’m Lying to detail his strategies to manipulate blogs, analyze the economics and workings of new media, and criticize the insincerity and inaccuracy of online reporting. Holiday writes with a clear and easy-to-follow manner, first describing the tactics blogs and marketers use to hook readers (and advertising revenue) from titillating thumbnails to exaggerated headlines. The second part of the book analyzes what happens when blogs go wrong, such as Shirley Sherrod’s firing because of a misleading, well-edited YouTube video by a political blogger. While Holiday offers no real answers for the future of our new media, Trust Me is a wake up call to consumers and creators of online media—if you think he’s telling the truth, that is.

Alan Cumming’s Scottish General (And Company)

A retraction from my previous post about Alan Cumming’s “one-man Macbeth” — it actually has a cast of three. Cumming’s backline support consists of two other actors, Myra McFadyen and Ali Craig. They play the hospital attendants to Cumming’s crazed patient, who is doomed to repeat Shakespeare’s dark verse anew.

Cumming’s interpretation of the text is fascinating to behold. His switch from character to character occasionally feels like an exercise in madness, as he assumes the pose of a character he has just finished speaking to moments before. More often though, Cumming is an engaging figure, with his dimwitted King Duncan and sensual Lady Macbeth providing vivid layers to well-known characters. His Macbeth though was far less interesting, and I could not understand his motivations for the crown and his ultimate resignation to his fate.

The production, helmed by directors John Tiffany and Andrew Goldberg, is just as inventive as Cumming’s performance. Video monitors above the stage help to personify the Weird Sisters, and the set, designed by Merle Hensel, provides all sorts of surprises, including a bird trapped in a vent that Cumming later uses for a disturbing blood ritual.

What I found most interesting about the production was the relationship between Cumming’s madman and the the attendants. They watch his ravings from an upper window, dress and carry him to bed, and even provide lines upon occasion. It’s almost a take on theatre itself–we can do a show alone in a cell, but why should we?

Macbeth played as part of the Lincoln Center Festival at the Rose Theater, July 5-14.

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