Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Hang In There...

My sister and I have this fascination (along with millions of others, I'm guessing) with abandoned places. And in particular, abadoned amusement parks. There's something particularly sad and creepy about a decaying theme park, once a place of happy shrieks and laughter, now silently rotting away, all but forgetton except by a few folks like Uncle P., who love them.
The family of a friend of mine owns a vacation house in the Pocono Mountains near Winona 5 Falls. The first few times I spent a weekend there, we went exploring the then-abandoned amusement park on the other side of the brook that runs behind the house. It was creepy and fun. The park has since been revitialized and while I haven't been there in quite some time, my friend tells me it's been up and running for a while now. Now while I am happy that the park is once again home to amused shrieks and laughter, it actually makes me sad that the creepy old place is no longer a creepy old place.
Of course, as with so many of my posts, the link between abandoned amusement parks and the actual point I'm trying to make is tenuous, at best. I simply wanted to let you know that I have not abandoned you or the blog. I'm still having PC issues at home and won't get to take it in for repair until the weekend, so I'm left to blog from work on my lunch hour. And forced to do so using an antique version of Explorer, so I can't format the way I prefer or even properly embed videos... argh!
Anyway, I hope to be up and posting regularly again after the 4th. Until then, hang in there. I'll be back. Until then, please enjoy this quirky little clip of a trip to an abandoned Korean amusement park (sorry about the music, but turn down the volume and enjoy):
More, eventually.

Monday, June 28, 2010

A Fond Farewell to Winters, TX

And so I'm back from Winters, the fictional Texas town in which Del Shores places his hilarious play, Sordid Lives.
As you know, I've spent the last two months or so there with the amazing group of actors on your right.
It is thanks to these very talented folks that the JTMF production of Sordid Lives was such a rousing success and they deserve to be praised again.
They are: (standing from L) Glen Calhoun; Mike Lovett; Heather MacHenry; Rob Sampson; Tracy Hawkins; Matt Donohoe; Jennifer DeVenio; Doug Edelson and Uncle P,* (seated from L) Kathy Garofano; Alice Weber; Damian Gaeta and Nicole Patrick. If you need actors, don't ask them - they're mine and I don't want to share.
I'm still having PC problems at home, but I'll hopefully be back up and running with my usual nonsense, soon.
More, anon.
*And no, I'm not actually a giant, I just play one in cast photos...

Friday, June 25, 2010

Opening Night!

It's Opening Night for the JTMF 8th Annual Fundraiser featuring Del Shores' Sordid Lives. Uncle P is having PC problems at home (I'm pretty sure I've got one of those damned Facebook viruses), so I'll be posting from the day job f until I can get it fixed.
I hope I see some of you at the show. If not, have a great weekend. And remember kids, there's no Zombie Zone this week.
More, anon.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Funniest Parody You'll See This Week

I was lucky enough a few years ago to catch Jackie Hoffman's hilarious performance in the Broadway production of Xanadu, in which she very nearly stole the show.

Jackie is currently appearing as Grand Mama in the critically reviled production of The Addams Family on Broadway, along with Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth. How jealous can one get?

Jumping on the Gaga-haters bandwagon, Jackie is "Old Lady Gaga" in the latest parody of Gaga's (admittedly lame) video for the song "Alejandro."

I have to admit, I'm a fan of "Modern Family" star Jesse Tyler Ferguson's hilarious club version, but there's something both sexy and creepy about Jackie's performance in the below video (via) from comedy group The Battery's Down. And let's not mention all the hot Broadway dancers she's brought with her, shall we?

Yes, I am very tired. yes, I have my own show to worry about. Still, it's nice to take a little break and celebrate other performers' work. Enjoy.

Final dress for Sordid Lives is tomorrow and I have never been so happy to be almost finished with a show. I've loved just about every minute of it, but I am soooo tired!

More, anon.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Uncle P Goes AWOL

There's something almost Soviet about this military poster (from I'm guessing the '60's). Those are some pretty harsh consequences, but I'm willing to risk it for art's sake.

Truth be told, I'm going into "Hell Week" for Sordid Lives and I simply won't have time to say "Boo!" let alone write a coherent and semi-interesting post. I will be posting during the day on the JTMF Blog, though there will not be a Zombie Zone post next week.

Today was our load-in at the actual theatre. No more rehearsals in cramped, ill-equipped classrooms! Yay!!!!
Our set has no walls, just furniture, most of which we pulled from stock. I drove up to Anything But Costumes to pick up some props, and by the time I got to the theatre, the cast was leaving. The real coup of the day was getting a real casket, prie-dieu and a wheeled catafalque. You have no idea what a relief that is. And my producer (bless her), spent yesterday morning scouring the gigantic Columbus Market and found what may actually be the easiest and best solution to our prosthetic limb issues (yes folks, it's that kind of show). I'll let you in on the magic, after you've seen the show. All this bodes well for the few things we're still missing (I'm having some computer issues which are affecting my ability to record the sound plot,* but I know there are solutions available, so I am not panicked yet.

My producer and I were talking about how we are curiously relaxed. as opposed to some past JTMF events. But we realized (as we did last year), we've been doing this for eight years now and if we aren't on top of things by now, we should just give up.

Okay - it's late and I still have to cut up fruit and make my lunch for the day job, tomorrow.

More, eventually...

JTMF Is On YouTube!

A special thanks goes out to the JTMF's dear friend John Maurer of Maurer Productions for shooting and editing this wonderful promotional video for our production of Sordid Lives next weekend.

Please feel free to share with as many people as like.

And yes, Uncle P speaks.

I'll be back with another post, later tonight.

Please watch and share.

More, very anon.

Friday, June 18, 2010

In Praise of My Cast

I love the smarmy look on D's face in this picture. I also love that everyone seems to be having such a good time while gathered around a casket. It certainly says "black comedy," doesn't it?

This picture was taken in April at the funeral home next door to our producer's house. The lighting was terrible, so it didn't get used as an official publicity photo for the show, but it has a certain skewed quality about it that I really like. From left to right that's K; Alice W.; D; Glen C. and Nicole P*, all of whom I have worked with before (this is D's 6th show with me and Thespis only knows how many shows K and I have done since we met in 1989).

These 5 people were the first I invited to play with us this year and each of them said "Yes," immediately. That left six roles left to fill. Heather M. and Tracy H. also immediately said "Yes," when I asked, Jenn had worked with us on The Odd Couple and said she wanted to do so again, so she was in and Snoop Doug (the whitest gay Jew -- and a dear friend who will totally agree with this statement -- in all of NJ) was the only ever choice for Brother Boy. That left two roles open at auditions, both most ably filled by Rob S. and Matt D.

I have worked with some talented folks in my day. You may remember how I gushed about last year's JTMF cast. Well, I am gushing again. This cast has brought their "A" games from the beginnning, and they continue to play, grow, explore and invent with every rehearsal. We have load-in and costume parade on Sunday, and then just 4 more rehearsals before we go up. Yikes! Still, if they are having half as much fun as I am, then that should translate to a whole lot of fun for audiences.

The worst part about a JTMF show is its brief run. I always feel that the show is just getting where it should be, and then it's over. Of course, that's part of the beauty of live theatre; each performance happens only once, and can never be exactly replicated again. Try that with your Blu-Ray edition of Avatar.

Tickets for the 8th Annual James Tolin Memorial Fund AIDS Benefit featuring Del Shores' Sordid Lives are still available at, by phone at 609-570-3333 or at the Kelsy Box Office, one hour before curtain. For more info, please visit

More, eventually...

*You can find out all of our real names at the JTMF site and blog, but I like the semi-anonymity afforded here.

Meg's Dad Rocks!

My very sweet friend Megan is coming down from Connecticut next Sunday to see Sordid Lives and have lunch and a visit with me. I'm very excited to see her, as it's been at least a year, though we send one another silly emails and links to pictures of hot boys like a couple of adolescent girls (she just turned 30 and I, as you know, am older than dirt). She's staying overnight at another friend's close by, making the most of her time in NJ.

Anyway, she and I were IMing earlier this evening and she mentioned her Dad had a blog. Now, she had told me before that he was doing a big charity cross-country motorcycle trip, but I forgot about the blog. I immediately visited it and was most pleasantly surprised. It's best to explain in his own words:

This is the beginning of an adventure. I am planning a cross country trip by motorcycle in the spring of 2010. Sharing that adventure with others is one of the goals.

In 2009, I have been concentrating on the trip planning and riding my 2008 Honda Shadow Spirit 750. As a senior, one of my concerns was how many miles could I travel in comfort considering the changeable weather and traffic conditions. So far I have done well, logging three trips of 650 miles, 210 miles and 500 miles. With this experience, I know my limits and can more realistically plan for the trip. Particularly helpful in the trip planning was the website Motorcycle Touring for Beginners at

Free Spirit

As far as I can tell, that is the only time he signs an entry. The pictures are often breathtaking and "Free Spirit's" writing is funny, poignant, instructional and inspirational. I'm now following Free Spirit at his blog, Coast to Coast and highly recommend his very well-written travelogue. You can also link to Coast to Coast from my blog list on the lower left side of this page. Meg's dad is currently in Utah, which means his trip is almost over, but you can (and should) start at the beginning.

I'll be posting on the ZZone tomorrow (though not next Saturday, the 26th) and I'll be back here Sunday, but I wouldn't expect a whole lot more until after Sordid Lives closes on the 27th (unless the JTMF YouTube vid is ever finished...). See? Now you know I'm tired when I get really bitchy. I'm sorry. The man is doing us a favor... When the clip is finally online (dear Lord, please by tomorrow), I will post it here; on the JTMF blog; the JTMF Facebook page and my Facebook page. I am excited to see it, especially after seeing the same videographer's final edit of Psycho Beach Party. You'll know as soon as I do.

More, eventually.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


I suppose I have to say something about the single most influential Horror movie ever made, considering it is the film's 50th Anniversary.

Not many 50 year-old movies still hold up, let alone 50 year-old horror movies. And trust me, there were some awesome horror movies released the same year: Roger Corman's The Fall of the House of Usher; Ingmar Bergman's The Virgin Spring (Wes Craven's inspiration for Last House on the Left); The Village of the Damned and The Innocents were all released the same year.

But it was Hitchcock's experiment in low-budget, artistic filmmaking that caught the world's attention and changed movie-going habits forever. Of course, none of those other movies had a half-naked John Gavin, either...

The last time I seriously sat down to watch Psycho was at least 10 years and with my then significant other, R. R was almost as big a movie buff as I was, though I did introduce him to The 5000 Fingers... and he nearly tore my arm off when we went to see The Blair Witch Project. We were curled up on the love seat in my living room, and came to the conclusion that Psycho is as perfect a movie as you might find. Turning convention on its ear and requiring audiences to see the movie from the beginning caused a sensation in June of 1960 and Hitchcock's most well-known and most widely seen film would go on to influence filmmakers from Tobe Hooper to Brian DePalma, while putting an all-too human face on a genre that had previously been dominated by supernatural elements.

If you've never seen it, you should (and What the Hell???!!???). If it has been awhile, see it again. Then watch it again and look for all the things that less-talented folks have emulated, ever since.

I did learn two things about the movie that I didn't know before: It was the first time a toilet was seen on screen, and budgetary concerns forced composer Bernard Herrmann to score the film using only stringed instruments, resulting in one of the most famous music cues in film history. Both the toilet and score can be best appreciated in this exceptionally well-known (and certainly over-blogged) sequence:

See what 47 separate edits, sound FX and chocolate syrup can do for your movie?

Of course, if you're anything like Uncle P (and Lord help you, if you are), you love Hitch and satirical send-ups... Mel Brooks takes on the Master's greatest films in 1977's High Anxiety and mostly nails it in one of his last funny movies:

Oh, Madeline Kahn, how I miss you!

Personally, I can't think of a more influential horror movie, ever. Often copied (the less said about Gus van Sant's execrable 1998 remake, the better) in structure and pacing, but never quite matched, Psycho is one of those films forever enmeshed in the 20th Century Pop Culture psyche. It may have ruined Anthony Perkins career, but it set the stage for an entire genre which still endures. How many films do you know that hold that claim?

More, anon.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

I'll Be Back on Friday

Uncle P is tired, ya'll! These past several weeks spent investigating the lives of folks in Winters, TX have left me just about ready to fall asleep while putting my toys away...

Tomorrow is the show's first full run rehearsal... I am cautiously optimistic. Tonight was really productive (once I lit a fire under their heinies) and there was some really solid, creative work done.

This is my last week to spend the majority of my attention on their performances and we need to make the most of our time. For some reason, some of them are holding back (I think they're afraid of going too far, but too far in theatre is easier to fix than not far enough -- especially in a piece like this) and I need to convince them to let go and play even more. I laughed harder tonight, than I ever have while watching that "chapter." I just hope they keep that up.

I'll be home late tomorrow through Thursday, so I have no idea if I'll be posting or not. Until I do, I'll leave you with one more entreaty to purchase tickets or make a secure donation via PayPal.

More, anon.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Overdue Thanks from a Proud Theatre Geek

27 years ago, I made my Shakespearean debut as the villain Claudius in Hamlet. I was crapping my pants scared. First Shakespeare and I'm in Hamlet? Playing 20 years older than I was (as I did in almost every show I ever did for a very long time) and cast opposite a woman who was actually 20+ years older than I., as one of the most famous villains of all time? This was no Bye Bye Birdie, my friends. This was Theatre.

I remember it being a rather intense production, The principles were cast from a Spring acting class taught by a wonderfully eccentric and often brilliant professor, who was directing the following fall. Each of us met with Sir (a name Q and I will always remember fondly) once a week over the summer to work on technique, diction and vocal production, with occasional character work thrown in. It was that summer that Sir helped me truly figure out what my voice was capable of, and how best to use it on stage. He also taught me the intricacies of playing a villain ("You must believe that your actions are not only for your own good, but the common good") and the value of advance planning as a director (though my personal directing style was much more influenced by another wonderful teacher who I promise to talk about soon).

If you haven't figured it out by now, that's Uncle P on the right, entreating Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to take Hamlet back to England with them. I know the young man in the middle was a British exchange student named Pip (he was with me when I got my ear pierced), though I cannot for the life of me remember the name of the brunet or who played whom. That was 27 effing years ago... I remember those faux-fur costumes were hot as hell and I went out and spent $120 on boots at some trendy store (which my father threw-out when I moved to California, briefly). I remember the massive revolving set and the performances of several cast members; Rich M. as Horatio; Terry D. as Laertes; Steve O. as Hamlet; Lillian B. as Gertrude; Rich W. as The Player and the Gravedigger... I remember the actress who played Ophelia (Betty... something...) took her mad-scene costume outside and rolled around on the ground, getting a massive grass and mud stain on her ass, which we could not look at without bursting into hysterical laughter... I remember good times and laughter to combat all the sturm und drung that is Hamlet; a very intense experience for such a young actor and in the end, a production that was actually quite good for college theatre. It was also the first time I actually understood Shakespeare without having to fight to get it (another gift bestowed by Sir). I recently reconnected with Steve O. via Facebook. Steve shared pictures from the production, which I never knew existed. And there I am...

Today, the gray hair and the goatee are real, though the perm (thank God) is a thing of the distant past. What isn't gone are those feelings of accomplishment and the lessons learned (not to mention the friendships made) over the course of one production.

The casual theatre-goer knows only what he or she sees on stage, at the performance he or she attends. Like most movie audiences, they see only the finished product (in as much as live theatre can ever be considered 'finished'). What they don't see are the months and months of planning and preparation; casting and rehearsing; prop gathering; costuming; set-building; lighting design; etc., etc. that go into that finished product. They also don't know the kind of camaraderie and even sense of family that happens among small groups of people with an intense, albeit (by definition) temporary, common experience. It's why real theatre people do theatre.

Yes, we get artistic satisfaction. We get applause and kind words from strangers (especially if we're any good). We still get to play make-believe long after every other profession in the world (Pro Wrestling nonewithstanding). If we are very, very lucky we make lots of money, become famous and win ultimately meaningless awards. Because if we love doing theatre, we love it for all the same reasons Trekkers love "Star Trek" and X-Philes love "The X-Files." It boils down to a sense of belonging, I think. Its time spent being yourself among like-minded folks, all the while creating something completely artificial to present to a group of judgmental strangers in order to seek approval. We get each other, us Theatre Folk do. Just as any other bunch of geeks get one another.

So, from a still very proud Theatre Geek, this post is dedicated to Dr. Harold Hogstrom. Teacher; adviser; director; inspiration. My TSC contemporaries will either agree wholeheartedly or call me mad (though I doubt the latter). None of them will argue that Sir had a profound effect on all of us, in one way or another.

Thank you, Sir (with love)...

Yeah, I went there. And yeah, I know I'm totally ripping off "Glee," but I don't care. The older I get, the more I realize how influential Sir would become, long after I was no longer his student. And thank you, Steve, for sharing those amazing pictures.

More ramblings, anon.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Two Weeks From Tonight

You know what that image means. I'm up to my eyeballs in the show. I put up a guest blogger's post over at the JTMF blog, but don't have a whole lot to say here, tonight. Shocking, isn't it?

But it's probably a good thing. I wrote about 10 pages of notes for the new screenplay the other night, and this is the perfect opportunity to implement some of them. The show becomes all-consuming starting Monday and tomorrow I have an appointment with the costumer to find a dress, PJ's and a frilly robe for Doug, who is playing Brother Boy (and no, that's not really Doug in that linked picture).

I've been in email contact with my lighting designer, though we won't meet until next Sunday. We try to be as simple and minimalist as possible, so we have no walls on stage, just furniture (and the show lends itself to that, quite well). Some hard-to-find props have already been found, and there are solutions available for the ones we don't have, yet. In fact, if you are in Central NJ, and find yourself in need of some weird or special prop for your stage production or film, then I highly recommend Anything But Costumes in Flemington. Good prices and an outrageously inclusive collection of period furniture, props and set-dressings make ABC an invaluable resource for theatre and film companies throughout NJ.

Tickets are still available for the upcoming JTMF production of Sordid Lives, June 25, 26 and 27. If you are unable to attend, but would like to support us and our causes, you can make a safe and secure donation via PayPal at out website,

Catch me tomorrow at The Zombie Zone.

More, anon.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Happy Birthday, Frances

Thanks to my dear Stephen at Post Apocalyptic Bohemian, I am reminded that today marks the birthday of probably the single most identifiable gay icon of the 20th Century, Judy Garland.

As someone who spent his adolescence in the late 70's, I've never fully embraced the whole Judy thing. I mean, I get it. She was a beautiful and talented young woman tragically exploited and enabled by the studio system into a spiral of self-destruction. A story we see again and again in real-life Hollywood. Does no one learn from the past?

According to LGBT mythology, the Stonewall riots were an almost direct result of Garland's death. The Stonewall was supposedly packed with fans who had come to mourn the loss of their heroine when the infamous raid and resulting riot took place.

I think this is the thing: Dorothy never really feels like she belongs, throughout the whole movie. When she's home in Kansas, she's dreaming of somewhere far away. But when she ends up somewhere far away, all she wants to do is go home. She makes new friends; has a glamorous makeover; kills two witches and exposes (well, her dog does, anyway) a fraud, while helping her new friends discover they've already had their fondest wishes, all along. Is there any one of you out there that cannot relate to at least one aspect of this story? I doubt it. No wonder gay men embraced this movie (and Garland) so much. And let's not even mention the Ruby Slippers...

Personally, I think Garland's best performances came well after The Wizard of Oz. I am especially enamored of her in Meet Me in St. Louis, in which she sang several of her signature songs:

And then of course, there's this from 1950's Summer Stock:

If you're a Baby Boomer, I hope you get it. If you're a Gen X'er or younger... well, you have no idea what you missed.

More, anon.

The Gayest Things You'll See This Week

First, I had a weird keyboard issue that made my PC crazy last night, and I didn't get to publish until I was at work today, using archaic versions of Windows and Explorer. I have since updated and added links to my last post about The Point, so check it out.

Second, I guess I'm a bit late in wishing everyone a Happy Pride Month, but June is far from over and there are plenty of events to attend, promote and just talk about.

Of course, if I can ask your indulgence yet once more, tickets are still vailabel for the JTMF Annual AIDS Fundraiser featuring Del Shores' Sordid Lives. What better way to celebrate Pride than to spend an evening laughing while helping several good causes?

And now on to tonight's post (it's about time!). Both of these clips are via Towleroad, and both are exceptionally positive. First, a remix of Katy Perry's 'California Gurls,' from Unicorn Brady, here is 'Washington Boys and California Gurls:'


And by now you should know how I feel about most so-called 'reality' shows. Most of them revolve around people who are willing to stoop to almost anything for their 15 minutes. I will, however admit to a certain love of "America's Got Talent." Unlike "American Idol" (which has failed to generate more than one or two genuine stars), "AGT" is open to anyone, any age with any kind of talent. Often, "talent" is left open to interpretation and some folks are admittedly awful. Sometimes one is amazed and occasionally, one is stunned. I haven't seen this week's show (it's DVR'd), but when I saw this, I had no choice but to share. I am both amazed and stunned. Ladies and germs, I give you Prince Poppycock:

Holy crap! If he's smart, Poppycock (AKA John) will do something really outre by Philip Glass or an aria from The Fly. Oh, how I have grown to love summer TV! When "The Closer" comes back, I'll be a very, very happy TV zombie.

I'm tired... the show is getting closer and I am growing madder...

More, anon.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Forgotten Gems: "The Point"

Wow... long time since I've done one of these, eh? Every so often, something from my youth rears its head in unexpected ways and places. And I'll tell you how this post came a bout, in a bit.

I know I saw the delightful animated film The Point when it first aired in 1971 on (I believe) ABC, though if you know better, please let correct me. The original airing was narrated by Dustin Hoffman, who also voiced the father. Subsequent airings had different Narrator/Fathers, including Harry Nilsson and Alan Thicke. Ringo Starr narrates the version currently available on DVD.

I was not yet an adolescent when The Point tried to make me understand that being different was okay; that there will always be those who love us, unconditionally and that each of us has purpose in life.

Oblio (Mike Lookinland -- Bobby on "The Brady Bunch")* is a round-headed boy born in a land of pointy-headed people. After a misunderstanding, Oblio is banished to the Pointless Forest, where he and his faithful dog Arrow encounter all sorts of beings in all different shapes and sizes and learning exactly what 'The Point' is. Oh, how I loved this movie...

The animation is very much a product of its time, though director Fred Wolf does a terrific job with the Norm Lenzer's script, based on an original story by the film's songwriter, Harry Nilsson. The movie generated two minor hits for Nilsson: "Me and My Arrow" (which later went on to be the theme for a car commercial) and "Are You Sleeping?" Both songs are pure 70's "Love, Peace, Flowers, Beads, Happiness," but I always associate them with this sweet little movie's oh-so-positive message.

Were we really that innocent 40 years ago? Of course, they were saying the same thing in the 70's about the 30's and in the 80's about the 40's, etc. It doesn't matter, I suppose. We were all innocent, once. Real life changes that... and that's kind of sad, actually.

I was visiting my usual cyber-haunts when I found a silly cartoon on Jonco's Bits and Pieces, which immediately brought The Point to mind, and a wave of nostalgia passed over me. Uncle P suddenly found himself transported back to his youth in The Time of the Hippies. I was 10 years-old and had no idea why a shirtless Speed Racer made my heart race, why Batman and Robin were so appealing or why I already felt "different." I just did. The Point is one of those great little movies every kid should see, if only so they can learn that being different isn't such a terrible thing at all.

So what brought this on? A stupid panel cartoon I saw on another blog that was captioned: "Triangles and Squares know that Circles are pointless." How could that not have gone right to "The Point?"

*Remind me to tell you about my friend Jon and 'The Brady Bunch Game,' some time. It's a little sick (okay - a lot sick), but pretty damned hilarious. And there's a hilarious cemetery story to share about him, too. Hmm.... I sense a JLG post in the fairly near future. I'll be seeing him on my birthday at Coney Island, for the first time in 27 or 28 years. Yikes!

More, anon.


I'm currently working full time, directing a play and trying to maintain 3 blogs. Yes, just further proof that Uncle P is off his ancient rocker (no, not Keith Richards).

That's the late, great Rue McClanahan as Madame Morrible in Wicked. I wish I could have seen her play that part - she was certainly perfect for it.

I'm tired, but if you want to read me quoting people about Rue (actually, they're from two of her "Sordid Lives" co-stars and quite lovely), then you can do so either by clicking here or on the James Tolin Memorial Fund Blog link to your left.

I am coming close to being Director Zombie, with more and focus on the show, than anything else (thank goodness the day job is slow this time of year).

The show isn't quite soup yet (nor should it be), but all the ingredients are prepared to dumped in the pot... Yum!

More, anon.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Review: "Splice"

As I am sure you all know by now, Splice is director and co-writer Vincent Natali's personal take on Mary Shelley's tale of an obsessed scientist who creates life. In fact, in a rather amusing nod to it's inspiration, the scientists are named for two actors from James Whales' masterpiece The Bride of Frankenstein, Colin Clive and Elsa Lanchester.

Splice starts off with a literal birth, shot from the newborn's point of view - an exceptionally traumatic event which ends well when the newborn is saved by Clive and Elsa, it's "parents." Well, "his" parents, I suppose as they name the curiously phallic (seriously, it's a huge penis) beastie 'Fred' and introduce him to the equally phallic "Ginger." A sort of french kiss imprinting ensues and the scientists celebrate. And so ends any happy thing for the rest of this icky and silly movie that both could have and should have been better than it was.

Of course, the big evil pharma that Clive and Elsa work for only wants the protein these things create to synthesize the next big miracle drug... or something. We know they're an evil corporation because the "Bottom Line" is their only interest. Obsessed Elsa pushes her totally p-whipped boyfriend Clive into conducting secret, illegal experiments using human DNA, just to see if they can. Apparently, Horror and Sci-Fi just don't exist in this world, and no one has learned the ancient and oft repeated cautionary: Don't Play God, Dumbass! But no, they create a "child," whom Elsa later names Dren (another double-joke involving the exceptionally unlikely acronym of their lab's name). Dren, with her ostrich like legs, prehensile toes, impossibly huge eyes and poison-stingered tail is certainly a curious (and beautifully-rendered) creature, even if she too, starts out looking like a walking penis. (I swear... ask D.) And there are plenty of other disturbing elements of this movie that put the ick in icky, that I'll get to later..

Sarah Polley's Elsa is woman of only the best intentions, who can't allow morality to stand in the way of scientific progress. Polley, usually a fine actress and director, plays the role a little too intensely, bordering on the silly, at times. Brody's Clive is a mopey nerd who only goes along with it because he knows he could never really get a girl as hot as Polley in real in life. That's really the only thing I could think might have been the character's motivation for going along with his gal's plan, even as the situation grows more and more dire. Then there's Dren, played as a child by Abigail Chu and as an adult by Delphine Chaneac, a chirping, clicking and super-intelligent sub-human in a dress. Assisted by both make-up and digital manipulation, Dren is just attractive enough to make us want to be empathetic, but dangerous enough to be wary of. The FX here are creepily effective and one of the movie's only two strengths, though Chu and Chaneac both give remarkable physical performances, even through all that fiddling with their appearances.

Despite a silly and exceptionally early montage, Splice starts out as a slick take on a classic Sci-Fi Thriller. Sadly, the plot stalls in the second act (D told me it all made him uncomfortable, in the way that being around specials needs children make some people uncomfortable. Ouch!), including a scene during which I turned to D and whispered "Puttah on de Riiiii..." and the ickiest sex scene since One Night in Paris. The third act simply degenerates into a not-particularly scary or even exciting monster hunt. What should have been a seat-jumping thrill ride, instead becomes over-thought, over-wrought psycho-drama. What Splice really lacked to make it successful, was any sort of real suspense or surprise. Borrowing heavily from those that came before (and not ironically or in recognizable homage), Splice references plots and visuals from Alien; It's Alive; Species; Jurassic Park; The Fly and dozens of other better movies, but debases those films' plot devices by tying them all together rather sloppily.

While unlike D (who turned to me after it was over and said "I so hated this movie! I never want to see it again"*), I didn't hate Splice, but I didn't really like it. It wasn't bad, exactly. It just wasn't very good, either. It's a shame, because I really like the previous work of the folks involved and so I suppose I somehow expected more. It seems like every one was more interested in a paycheck than in making a good movie, which is sadly more and more the case.

Oh, I mentioned two good things about the movie. You know I love film scores ( a full third of my music collection are soundtracks and scores). Well, the score by relative newcomer Cyrille Aufort is immediately going on my Amazon wish list. When, like with Avatar, the most effective thing about the movie is its score, you know something went very wrong. Natali's Cube was a promising debut. Let's hope Splice is simply a sophomore slump. Splice is rated R for language , gory violence and sexual situations. *1/2 (One and a Half out of Four Stars), for the score, effects and physical acting only. Save your money and wait for it on cable.

*D, bless his heart, likes some pretty bad movies, so you know if he hated it, it's bad.

More, anon.

Friday, June 4, 2010

3 Weeks from Tonight

Sordid Lives opens exactly 3 weeks from tonight, on June 25th, and I am starting to get anxious, as I always do this time of year. There is still so much work to be done: Six billion and four props to be found; sound cues to be found and recorded; lighting to be designed; running crew to be assembled; furniture to be found and/or made; costumes to be approved; costumes to be found... not to mention rehearsals, themselves. It seems every time one thing gets crossed off the list, 3 more get added.

And that's hardly to say that every one of those items will be done by just me. Our amazing Producer and Stage Managers work their asses off, even if they think I don't appreciate them. I do. And I love them, too - and they know that, or we all wouldn't still be doing this after 7 years. And don't get me wrong. I am NOT bitching. My readers who've spent much of their lives in the theatre (and I know there are several of you), know exactly what I mean.

Tom Stoppard, in his screenplay for Shakespeare in Love; makes one of the most amazingly astute (and hilarious) jokes about live theatre. When pressed by his backers for proof that their investment will pay off, Globe Theatre owner Phillip Henslowe (Geoffrey Rush) assures them that it just happens. "No one knows. It's a mystery." How true...

Now, mystery comes from the Greek mysterion, meaning "religious truth via divine revelation, mystical presence of God..." (via) It wasn't until 1908 that the word fell into popular use for a "detective story". But there it is, once again. Theatre as religion. The ancient Greeks took that quite literally, and their plays were tributes to their gods; regaling their mythologies to the masses so that they might better understand themselves and the world around them. From these early comedies and tragedies, sprung Theatre (in all its forms) as we have come to know it today. And while "Theatre" has come to mean many things to many people, it still remains a rite of worship of sorts, for me. I never feel so alive as I do when the curtain goes up. And to do so as part of such an amazing cause, makes it so much more meaningful.

You all know by now, that I am hardly a "religious' man. In fact, I'm not afraid to say that I think just about all of it is pure hooey. Most holy texts support the moral values of good living; provide a code of ethics by which most sane people agree to abide and provide a sense of comfort in regards to the relative brevity of our own existences. I try to remain an existentialist and a humanist. My maternal family's German pragmatism offers no other sensible solution, I think. Still, I do believe in feeding my soul. Now that's not to say I think there is a "soul" that gets judged after you die (or reincarnates; moves on; haunts the place where you died; gets a pair of wings and a cloud; burns in a lake of fire or moves a level closer to rejoining the Collective Conscience). I'm talking here about the kind of thing which brings one joy; gives one a sense of purpose and makes a positive difference in the lives of others. A JTMF show does all that and more., and I am never prouder to be a member of the Theatre Community than I am at the end of each June.

If you want to make a difference and are in the Northeast, please come to the JTMF 8th Annual AIDS Benefit featuring Del Shores' Southern-Fried "Black Comedy About White Trash, "Sordid Lives. Performances on June 25th and 26th include our themed reception - this year featuring a Texas Barbecue - and a Silent Auction of goods and services from local and national donors and merchants. Tickets are $25. Bidding opens at 7:00 PM; Curtain at 8:00. The performance on Sunday, June 27th is offered at a reduced ticket price, but does not include the Reception or Silent Auction. All ticket sales go to the Open Arms Foundation of Hillsborough, NJ and the James Tolin Memorial Scholarship for Performing Arts students at Mercer County Community College, where James was a Theatre Major.

Tickets are available online via the JTMF website; the Kelsey Theatre website; by phone at 609-570-3333 or at the Kelsey Box Office one hour before curtain.

If you want to help but can't attend, you can make a safe online donation via PayPal here.

I really do hope to see you there. It would be very cool to meet some of you.

More soon,

P.S. - Uncle P will be seeing Splice tomorrow night (don't worry, I have a ZZone post all ready to go), so watch for my review on Sunday. And hopefully, sometime early next week I'll be posting our podcast, radio interview and YouTube video here; on the JTMF Blog; on my Facebook wall and on the JTMF Facebook page.

More, anon.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Worst Gaga You'll See This Week.

Okay - I'll admit it... I have become a Lady Gaga fan. Her often hilarious (and sometimes poignant) lyrics and infectious dance beats combined with her outrageous theatricality - not to mention her outspoken views on LGBT issues - have made her a favorite and I look forward to hearing her next CD, whenever that may be.

And there are endless (and endlessly amusing) parodies of her songs and videos out there. Most of them are quite clever. Some of them are even very good. Many of them, are downright terrible. But Michael K over at dlisted, has found what may be the worst Lady Gaga 'tribute' ever made.

Remember this gem from a few hundred posts ago?

Well, I really think Merna may have actually escaped from the psycho who was holding a gun to her dog's head, gained a few pounds, ironed her hair and managed to get into a community college's Video Production class in order to make the video embedded below. Just a warning, it ain't pretty...

Talk about 'Bad Romance.'

I know that not every theatrical, film or video project with which I've been involved was what one might consider 'good." Some of them were downright awful. None of them, however, approached the craptitude of what you have just witnessed (and thankfully, they all took place before YouTube existed). I don't know if the poor girl is delusional or clueless. And honestly, who are any of us to judge? But, really? As a certain 60's space doctor often said, "Oh, the pain... the pain!"

I know I've been away for a few days, but as the JTMF production of Sordid Lives grows closer (now, just about 3 weeks away), I find myself with less and less time for other things. I'll be posting tomorrow (we have the night off) and have tons to post about on Saturday's Zombie Zone. After that, it will be catch-as-catch-can until after the 27th.

And just a head's up - if you're in the New York area in mid-July, please join me and my friends on Sunday, July 18th at Coney Island for my Birthday Blowout. We're meeting in front of The Cyclone at 1:00. Hope to see you there!

More, anon.