Don Bridges Australia Claudine Jones San Francisco
Jamie Zubairi London Michael Bettencourt Boston
Chandradasan India Ned Bobkoff Buffalo Ren Powell Norway
Steve&Lucille Esquerre New Orleans      

From Frigid San Francisco Bay Area, where we are attempting not to use our energy-hogging furnaces & hence a bit crabby:  we are hopelessly tangled, living in the wondrous, yet horribly expensive, Bay Area.  We want only to eat our fresh produce, walk in our (as of this hour) un-earthquaked neighborhoods and venture out to experience Film & Theatre.  We apologize & are humbled by the treasures available to us.

This does not include, in my opinion & that of my partner & film buddy, the three hour film Yi Yi, which gets First Walk-Out honors this year. A line down the sidewalk does not a happy experience guarantee.  As I was trudging back up the aisle, seeing hundreds of faces staring at the screen, I felt like I was playing hooky. I had just escaped from a massive detention hall where the inmates were being tenderly & lovingly battered to death by endless quotidian details of some boring peoples’ lives.  The excuse given that the last hour goes faster seems fatuous.   Cut the damn film!  All The Pretty Horses was long, too, but engrossing. A woman at my gym said she doesn’t want to see it cause she loved the book too much. My response is that I think it’s far better to get to see a movie first and retire to a lovely book than to go to a movie expecting miracles. They always hash up the book. They did it with Gone With the Wind. They’ll always do it. So I agree:  if you love the book, beware.  Books are the subject of Finding Forrester and my partner the poet sez it pleased him to seeing the art of writing treated seriously, unlike Wonder Boys which didn’t impress him at all. The trick, he maintains, is to listen to the language. Those two guys in that apartment were in love with words & it shows. We are divided on Cast Away.  My son dismissed it as a FedEx commercial,  my partner thought it too sappy, but I was happy during the opening credits & remained so.  I like that it was not ‘castaway’, but ‘cast away’. I’m getting testy about scenes of rain-soaked characters, though.  House Of Mirth manages this well; the characters actually react as though they really did not want to be getting wet, which I believe to be a universally true reaction. Of course, areas where the rain is warm are exempt.  If you are caught wearing unsuitable clothing, you should have planned better.  As well received as was Malena, story of a wartime Sicilian woman, I reacted badly to it. It’s classic:  wrongly accused, independent woman gets revenge & redemption. I just couldn’t get past the sight of her five inch heels on cobble stones (running in some scenes, no less) & clingy dresses in a light breeze. I felt like somebody should trip her.  Where is that coming from?  I know it’s probably historically accurate that those shoes were worn (just watch Ginger Rogers dance), but it just irritates the heck out of me.  Oh, I’m undergoing severe pain & grief here, however, I simply gotta dress up.  Come to think of it, did we make Erin Brokovich to talk about PG&E’s culpability or to see cleavage?  Sara Jessica Parker has said that she is too modest to ever do a nude scene, so she cavorts on the small screen in Sex in the City wearing the most absurd footwear (what we used to call CFM’s: Come F--- Me’s), and as little clothing as possible. .  (I watched ten minutes of Hollow Man on DVD; men are really getting free & easy with showing us everything they own! Too bad the movie was reprehensible. I digress.)   In  State and Main we get to see various parts of Ms. Parker, but not the essentials, just enough to get the idea across. David Mamet’s likable cast is stuck in upstate New York and I was SO glad to be with them. An earnest & well crafted Traffic is doing that West Wing thing again; what we could do in politics with Good People running things.  Answer is the same, very little.  In the same vein I mention Thirteen Days cause I’m old enough to remember Where I Was When Kennedy Was Shot.  I don’t remember Kevin Costner being around.  The actors playing the doomed brothers are quite touching, not doing  a Vaughn Meader. (Still have my First Family LP) The wondrous team of Guy Ritchie, Brad Pitt & assorted real & imagined hoodlums from Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels hit us with Part II in Snatch.  I’ve not been so fascinated by an actor’s teeth in quite a while and Brad is actually able to restrain himself when required.

Politics surround us in the Bay Area, so I embrace the chance to see a theater piece with local performers/creators such as San Francisco’s Culture Clash.

Their current show, Mission Magic Mystery Tour, presented by Brava! for Women in the Arts, runs us through the present cellphone mania back through the history of the Mission District where they live & where they first came up with the germ of an idea for their plays on Cinco de Mayo in 1984. Richard Montoya, Ric Salinas and Herbert Siguenza materialize before us in so many incarnations, male & female, that is literally a shock when only three guys come out for bows.  They’re temporarily using Eureka Theatre, until Brava Theatre Center is back.  As the guys say, their one-week experiment has had a long run—16 years—and for myself, I say, ese, pero no, hombres, your play doesn’t suck and I look forward to the next one. A lugubrious space in a small church is fitting for Reverse Thunder , a “classic” piece in that it is culled from Diane Ackerman’s epic poem on the subject of Suor Juana de la Cruz, feminist before her time & martyr to the cause.  A noble effort by the Staged Hereafter troupe, but unnecessarily long; I have made it my literal benchmark that if my butt goes to sleep, the first act needs cutting.

The opening night crowd at Berkeley Repertory Theatre production of Bridget Carpenter’s Fall were much happier than you would think from the SF Chronicle’s needlessly negative headline.  Of course the headline on the jump is positive.  It’s a technically demanding show & the sense of security was always there, no stumbling, although some tea was spilled and the actress standing there probably thinking ‘rats, hope the dancers don’t slip in this, better schmush it around with my shoe just in case’ stayed right in character. I happened to be sitting two seats away from the playwright and there were lots of smiles & handshakes afterwards.  Some fairly good champagne, too.  I heard, but can’t confirm, that the lead actress Megan Austin Oberle is quite a bit older than her fourteen year old character;  couldn’t prove it by me,  she had it down cold. A fine ensemble night.

What’s up next:  we have our own Bill Irwin returning to SF in June with his adaptation of four of Beckett’s short prose pieces Texts for Nothing to close out the American Conservatory Theatre season  We like Bill, even though he was underused in Midsummer Night’s Dream.  At the moment we’ve got Glengarry Glen Ross running.  Kathleen Turner’s doing her non-Tallulah Tallulah .  Haven’t seen it, but the radio spots don’t enthrall me. Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues has been extended again through March 4, changing casts just for fun.  It’s a girl thing.  Mamma Mia still singing away, but Copacabana got the rare empty chair rating.  That’s ok, I don’t relish driving to San Jose anyway. When they get the light rail going, I consider it, but unless it’s a show with God in it, I’m not doing two hours in traffic just to get there. An interesting group called Word for Word is doing Oil!—Chapter One: the Ride, Upton Sinclair’s novel about the oil industry. If you’ve never seen a verbatim staging of a story or novel, these folks convince.  It’s hard when casting an eye on the listings to overlook some things: Young Zombies in Love, a rock musical at Next Stage Theater, My Own Private Sukiprata, mythical Asian nation, at Noh Space, I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change musical at Theatre on San Pedro Square, Indiscretions (Les Parents Terribles) Marin Theatre Company, and I almost can’t resist the music of Zigaboo Modeliste at Bimbo’s 365 Club. You will definitely stay warm there.


 © 2001 Claudine Jones ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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