Saturday, September 6, 2014

Back In the Saddle, Again.

Yes, You Are Seeing Double. The 'Fares' of Langhorne Players' Production of "Bluebird"
Next month will mark the first anniversary of my mother's passing. Uncle P's life has changed so drastically in such a short time that it seems both much longer and hardly a minute later at the same time. Of course, this probably only proves that time is an illusion. There can only ever be now. ("Whoa! Dude, too heavy..."  "Shut up, ya bloody wanker!"*)

Most of the inside of my house looks almost nothing like it did 11 months ago. It is very much starting to finally feel like my own place with my own distinct sense of style. That's helped a lot. I've also recently taken on a boarder (something I didn't want to do - I'd grown accustomed to being alone), but not something I regret. He  is a friendly acquaintance I first met while performing as Cassius in Julius Caesar in 1997. He needed the place, I had the room and I certainly like the extra money. Our schedules are different enough that we aren't often home at the same time and even when we are, we seem to get along quite well. He likes to boast that he is sharing a house with a gay man. I like to complain that he leaves the lid (not the seat) of the toilet up (toilet seats have lids for a reason - I don't want to have to fish anything out of mine, thank you) and he claims an inefficient freezer in a former home has left him with a habit of only filling ice cube trays half-way. But I will break him. Mwah-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! No, seriously. It's working out well... so far. And yes, being a 12 year-old bartender means I must have a full ice bin at all times. Thanks again. Dad!

To tie all of this in with this post's title and the sprawling publicity photo above, despite the crazy crap that's been going on since she passed, I know Mom would be very upset to know that I'd put the thing about which I am most passionate on hold for so long. I was contacted by a director I knew by name only, at the suggestion of my very own Q (who knows me well enough to know it was time, as well). I was asked to come in and read for one or possibly two small roles in a play I'd never heard of, Bluebird by British playwright Simon Stephens. I got both parts and joined a show already two weeks into rehearsals with a bit of trepidation. Yes, they weren't huge rolls, but they were obviously important to the story and both have some hefty monologs. Thank His Great Noodly Appendages for my "Line Nazi" K, who always gets the job done! (LOVE you, Honey!). We officially opened last night (Friday) and while it was good, I still had a flub that almost threw me. 

Tonight, however, I was feeling particularly 'on,' as we say. I was calm and collected; focused and and firing on all cylinders. The performers among you will totally understand the feeling. Even better, two performances in and I am still finding new things about these two characters, both of whom are as different as can be, yet have so much in common. Bluebird is mostly set in a London Bluebird Mini-Cab and revolves around it's driver and a single night of fares who both inform and reflect his own story. I play Robert (a middle-class father returning to the scene of a crime on the day the perpetrator is being released from prison) and Andy (a tough-guy bouncer with a heart of gold, on his way home to his family after a rough night). Stephens' spare dialog is delicious to work with and immediately made me decide Andy was Cockney, which really gives him some delicious linguistic energy that's so very fun to play (and his very dirty mouth doesn't hurt - I love swearing on stage - it's very liberating)! Robert is much darker and sadder (and very drunk) - still a good exercise in character and mood, which is not as 'fun' to play, but equally satisfying. *And while I don't actually say it, "Shut up, ya bloody wanker!" seemed the obvious response in a post that has somehow turned out to be about dichotomy; death; life; theatre; acting; change and growth.

"Dude! What'd I say?"  Yeah, I know, but I'm not going to stop, because if there is one thing I have had reaffirmed these past few weeks (and especially tonight), it's that theatre can and should be transformative, for both performers and audiences. I can't speak for the audiences of any work in which I am involved, but as stressful and wonderful (I've not only made many new friends, but reconnected with one I hadn't seen in 30 years) as Bluebird has been, it reminded of why I do what I do. It is my 'religion' and it feeds my 'soul,'  however you decide to define either. And I am so very glad to be feeding so satisfyingly. Of course, I used to have to add silver to my hair to age me. Now I have to spray it darker to 'youthen' me. And don't get me started about mascara in my goatee!

Depending on when you are reading this, there are still 9 performances left. Be forewarned, this will not be everyone's cup of tea, you should pardon the metaphor. It's dark and spare and doesn't have a lot of action (almost the entire show is set inside the cab - cleverly designed and executed by the director and a fellow cast-mate, so it's never static for too long) but every 'episode' - no matter how brief - informs, echoes and/or foreshadows the bigger picture that is ultimately Andy's path to a sense of closure and self-redemption. Chewy, yummy actory stuff and exactly (as Q knew) what I needed, when I needed it most. For info and tickets, visit www.langhorneplayers.org.

Well, there's a ramble for you, eh? One of Andy's admonitions is "Enjoy the sunshine!" This is my sunshine. It is warm. It is friendly. It is good. Thank you to Mr Ken Junkins, who saw something he liked and trusted me to do what needed to be done.  And forever and forever thank you to Q for knowing this was the right project to ease myself back into and K for the line drills. Small enough to not have the line-load of 'Prospero,' but still artistically challenging and rewarding, I am so happy I agreed to do it.

Things are really starting to look at least a little bit better. At least, I hope so. Change is both inevitable and good. While embracing change isn't always easy, stagnant water both looks icky and stinks!

Here's a bit more about Bluebird and the London company that developed the original production:



I'm not saying it's all roses and lollipops. Hardly. There's all sorts of nonsense still going on that you would think I was making it all up if I told you. But the newest sense of normalcy seems to be a thousand times better than the worst possible scenario. 

Shameless Self-Promotion/Nonsense/Philosophizing over.

More, anon.
Prospero

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Kaiju New and Old, Among Other Nonsense

One of the many things I do love 
about the Day Job is that we follow an academic schedule. If schools are closed for a holiday, we usually are, as well. This Labor Day weekend will mark the start of Hell Week for Uncle P's return to the stage for the first time since my mother passed away, "Bluebird" which also marks my debut with the Langhorne Players. I am appearing as two very different characters in Simon Stephens' fascinating 1998 play about a night in the life of a London mini-cab driver and how his various fares relate to and inform his own story. I love both characters and love that I get to do two different accents in the same show. K came over tonight to help with lines (she is half--jokingly referred to among our circle of friends as the "Line Nazi"). I came in two weeks late and while I find both characters so compelling, memorization and short rehearsal periods only work well with shows I've done before or know really well. Thank goodness she came and helped. I feel so much better about opening in less than 6 days!

But that's not really what this post is about and I apologize for rambling (sort of).

Because I really want to talk about finally seeing Guillermo del Toro's Kaiju V. Giant Robots movie, Pacific Rim. I must say, I think del Toro was given short-shrift hen it came to reviews of yet another visually stunning movie from the genius who has given us Pan's Labyrinth The Devil's Backbone  and the Hellboy movies. And while del Toro always tries to make his films be about more than amazing visuals, when it comes to the Kaiju genre, there really isn't a lot of room for compelling characters, though co-writers del Toro and Travis Beacham (Clash of the Titans) do their best. The very fine Charlie Hunnam ("The Sons of Anarchy") leads a cast which includes Idris Elba (using his own accent, which only makes him sexier); Charlie Day ("It's Always Sunny in Philadephia"); "Torchwood" alum Burn Gorman and del Toro (and genre) favorite Ron Perlman in a very funny cameo as a dealer of exotic Kaiju parts. Amongst the explosions and destruction, there are plenty of moments that illicit the requisite relief laughter and moments of heroic sacrifice. You really can't ask for more from a Kaiju movie, and those who love the genre will totally get it.. *** (Three out of Four Stars)



Growing up in the 60's and 70's, there was plenty of Kaiju (though I didn't learn that word until much later) on TV. Toho Studio's "Godzilla" movies and their many spin-offs were regular Saturday afternoon fare on UHF channels (if you know what UHF was, you're probably as ancient as Uncle P) and after-school programming always included ' TV show, "Ultraman." A benevolent alien pursues a monster to Earth, accidentally colliding with Science Patrol Officer Hiyata. Fusing with Hiyata, Ultraman is evoked using the Beta Capsule (which resembled a red, glowing vibrator, if memory serves) and Hiyata is transformed into a gigantic, Kaiju-killing machine:



For del Toro, Kaiju is obviously an extension of his desire to adapt H.P. Lovecraft's "At the Mountains of Madness." I do hope a studio finally realizes that it would have to be a hard R, and would still make tons of money. Have they forgotten The Exorcist and The Silence of the Lambs? Both iconic films and iconic Horror,

More, anon.
Prospero

Friday, August 29, 2014

My Summer Guilty Pleasure

Howard Stern, Heidi Klum, Nick Cannon, Howie Mandel & Mel B
Wow. All month, I had noting to say? Well, I did, but said most of it on Facebook. Still, I missed posting here and am glad to do so again.

You all know by know how much I love AGT. And it's mostly because, unlike "American Idol" or "The Voice," anyone can audition with any sort of talent. It's a throw-back variety show with singers; dancers; musicians; acrobats; magicians and and any other number of performance artists. I love it. 

Last night saw the first 6 of the 12 finalists for this season and I was very pleased by the winners. In no particular order, they are:

SONS OF SERENDIP:



DAVID AND LEEMAN:



(BTW - Leeman is a friend of a friend)

MIGUEL DAKOTA:



(A cutie who MUST lose the knit cap)

MIKE SUPER:



MARA JUSTINE:



(A Broadway Belter in the making)

And last,but hardly least, my current favorite, EMILY WEST:



Next week's shows will determine the last six of the final 12. While there are several acts I hope go through, I'm really hoping to see the adorable and hot CHRISTIAN STOINEV and his equally adorable Chihuahua Scooby, move onto the finals:



Of course, as usual, I am torn. There so many great acts this season. Next week's Semi-Finalists include magician MAT FRANCO; singer JAYCOB CURLEE; dancers BLUE JOURNEY and cellists EMIL & DARIEL (who stole their act from by beloved Serbs, 2CELLOS) and all of them have their merits. But if it was up to me, the winner would probably be chosen from among this week's 6. Only one of my personal favorite acts have won (last season's Konichi Ebina), so I'm keeping my fingers crossed this year. I'll let you know who I would have picked after it's all over.

And while my all-time favorite AGT contestant dd not win, I do hope that the gorgeous, funny and very talented Prince Poppycock is doing well.



If you've never seen him, it's well worth the 15 minutes.

More, anon.
Prospero

Saturday, August 9, 2014

August Horrors

As the summer movie season draws to a close and all the major "tentpole" movies have been released, smaller studios are ready to waltz in and make a quick profit on relatively inexpensive genre films. While October might seem the logical time to release a horror movie, by mid-August, genre fans like Uncle P are looking for something darker and weirder to get them through the often artsy Oscar bait with which we are about to be inundated (not that there's anything wrong with artsy Oscar bait movies... there are plenty of those that I love). But once a Horror fan, always a Horror fan.

First up is the modern Southern Gothic Jessabelle. Directed by Kevin Greutert (the Saw series). Jessabelle concerns a young woman (Sarah Snook) who returns home after a car accident paralyzes her and kills her boyfriend. Moving into the first floor bedroom previously occupied by her late mother (something Uncle P is actually about to do), Jessie discovers a series of VHS tapes made by her apparently  psychic Mom., predicting what's going to happen to her. 



Yikes!

Next is from Quarantine director John Erick Dowdle. As Above So Below explores the catacombs beneath the City of Lights, an ossuary created to house the many thousands of Parisian corpses which could no longer be contained in traditional cemeteries via a group of young archaeologists looking for a missing part of history. Combining elements from and with any number of Gates of Hell movies,. As Above So Below looks like good a old-fashioned claustrophobic nightmare.



I would NOT go down there. Would you?

And then there's the curiosity known as The Congress. Robin Wright (The Princess Bride) stars as a version of herself in a film that comments about the illusions of beauty, reality and Hollywood. And while there are some who might argue that The Congress isn't a Horror film, imagine yourself trapped in an animated world where anything could happen. I think Ethel from The Twilight Zone might sympathize.Wright is joined by an amazing cast which includes Harvey Keitel; Jon Hamm; Kodi Smit-McPhee and Danny Huston. 



I'll be happy to see one of these films this month and delighted if I were able to see all three (as unlikely as that is). 

More, anon.
Prospero


Thursday, August 7, 2014

Mini Retro Review: "Oculus"

Now on DVD and OnDemand, last year's forgotten little Horror Movie That Almost, Oculus (Latin for 'eye') has a lot going for it, despite a plot that needs more attention paid to it than Inception

Kaylie (Karen Gillan - Amy on "Dr. Who") and Tim (Maleficent's Brenton Thwaites) are brother and sister who ten years ago, survived a supernatural event which killed their parents, involving an apparently haunted antique mirror. Dad (Dazed and Confused's Rory Cochrane) and Mom (Katee Sackhoff, best known for "Battlestar Galactica") are slowly driven to violent insanity by the mirror which thrives on the souls of its owners. Think "The Shining" if the Overlook was a mirror. Told simultaneously in and while jumping back & forth between the past and present, Oculus is chock full of both creepy scares and gross-out gore (Uncle P will NEVER bite into an apple again). Determined to prove the mirror is to blame, Kaylie brings it and Tim back to their childhood home, along with a plethora of tech (no idea how she afforded all that) to document what she says is proof the mirror is to blame. Tim, having spent ten years in a mental institution, being told what he saw wasn't real, wants nothing to do with his sister's obsession but gets drawn in, nonetheless. The cast is fine (kudos especially to Annalise Basso and Garrett Ryan, who play young Kaylie and Tim, respectively). I'm surprised this twist on an old trope wasn't embraced by the genre community.

Mike Flanagan's direction is perfect for the genre, though his script gets a bid muddied in Act 3. The special effects are on point and there are some genuinely creepy moments. *** (Three Out of Four Stars). Oculus is rated 'R' by the MPAA for: "terror, violence, some disturbing images and brief language."




More, anon.
Prospero 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

"The Joke's On You" Part Deux

The Joke's On You star, Adrian Colon
A while back I posted about a short film starring and co-directed by a young man I met on a very odd Friday night, not too long ago in New Hope. Adrian Colon is a standup comedian from my hometown of Trenton, NJ and The Joke's On You is short documentary about his struggle to make it in an exceptionally difficult field. 

One way Adrian supplements his income is by bar-tending at New Hope's (in)famous Raven Inn. He is funny and adorable and pours my perfect martini, perfectly (Sapphire:* up; in & out;  no fruit). At home, I keep my gin in the freezer, so it doesn't get diluted by the ice. Same thing with my vodka, but I digress.

Uncle P is excited and pleased to announce that The Joke's On You has been chosen to premiere on Friday, September 12th as part of the NJ Film Festival's Fall Schedule! I am lucky enough to have seen the entire film and thought it was just terrific. Adrian's likeability comes across so well and his stand-up is very funny (peeks into his family help explain why). 

I love promoting new talent (especially local talent who also happen to be menches) and I truly hope this award-nominated short goes on to bigger and better things and brings Adrian that much closer to his dream. If you can, please check out The Joke's On You.



*The only gin, darlings!

More, anon.
Prospero

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Review: "Guardians of the Galaxy"

It what will undoubtedly be the weekend's #1 movie (and possibly the summer's - even the 2:30 2D matinee I saw was packed), Chris Pratt becomes a bona-fide movie star;  Bradley Cooper's and Vin Diesel's voices get the most laughs and Marvel has yet another critical and popular hit franchise on it's hands. Is it the 'Best Marvel Movie Yet!'? You can decide for yourself. I'm not going there.

Pratt is Peter Quill, an Earthling abducted by space pirates in 1988, after the death of his mother. In the slightly heavy-handed and deliberately complicated plot, an unlikely band of heroes is brought together to fight against an evil force that wants to destroy the planet (sound familiar?). This time the weapon is powerful stone forged during the Big Bang and the villain, Ronan the Accuser (my beloved Pie Maker, Lee Pace) has some unclear grudge against the prosperous and peaceful people ruled by a severe-looking Glen Close in some wigs that would make Effie Trinket giggle. 

Wrestler-turned-actor Dave Bautista is actually hilarious as a voile-skinned Drax, an out-for-revenge literalist who doesn't understand jokes or irony.  Zoe Saldana (who is fast becoming a Sci-Fi regular) isn't given much of a character to play, though I hope she'll get the chance to develop one in the inevitable sequels. A bulked-up Pace, hidden under weird makeup and an even-weirder headdress, hams it up as the bad guy like Pacino on steroids. And the few lines Close has, are barked out like she just wanted to pick up her check and to go home. But this is Pratt's movie all the way and his goofy charm and egotistical swagger as "Star Lord" are reminiscent of so many great Sci-Fi movie heroes - almost like a hot guy playing Peter Griffin playing Han Solo in the "Family Guy" Star Wars parodies.

Director James Gunn (Slither - one of my faves!) keeps the action moving while managing to keep the many homages and nods from becoming cliches. There are lots of great 70's tunes and 80's references (the 'outlaw' John Stamos, for one) and plenty of cool Sci-Fi gadgets and space ships. "The Walking Dead" alum Michael Rooker; Djimon Hounsou; John C. Reilly; and Benicio Del Toro (looking particularly silly) are also on hand with voice cameos from Nathan Fillion and Rob Zombie.

All in all, Guardians of the Galaxy is fun and faced-paced and loud and bright and so very, very colorful. My eyes were exhausted in 2D. I can't imagine it in 3. In all honestly, it is visually stunning and Gunn's palette works beautifully for a comic book movie with no actual super-heroes. Well, except maybe for Groot.* And while hardly perfect, it is undoubtedly the most fun I've had at the movies all year. **** (Four Out of Four Stars). Guardians of the Galaxy is rated PG13 for "intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and for some language." Make sure you stay for the after-credits Easter Egg, which is hilarious and had to be explained to every teenager attending with their parents. It was hilarious hearing them all. Oh - and Stan Lee's cameo is particularly hilarious.



*If someone doesn't market a desk-top Dancing Groot toy, I will be very unhappy. Because I must have one.

More, anon.
Prospero