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Archive for January 2010


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Photos: J. Macdonald


Written by Lesley Valdes

January 28, 2010 at 4:23 am

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Blue Door

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Blue Door

Kes Khemnu and Johnnie Hobbs, Jr.

Blue Door
Tanya Barfield
The Arden
Jan. – March 21

When things fall apart we ask the big questions. Who are we? Where are going? How did we get from here to there. Transitions are the hard parts. In life just like music. Tanya Barfield’s work the Blue Door calls up the ancestors, much the way that an August Wilson play does.

There are only two men on stage at The Arden at all times but spirits abound. Good thing Walter Dallas is directing. The artists on stage are the gifted Johnnie Hobbes, Jr. and extraordinary Kes Khemnu. Hard to believe Hobbes is making his Arden debut. The veteran of so many August Wilson plays, Hobbes here takes the part of Lewis, a math professor at the pinnacle of success. He’s an African- American in an upper crust white college who’s letting his demons suck the life out of his achievements. It’s the eve of the Million Man March. Lewis is not marching. His wife has left him. Alone, plagued by his demons, Lewis spends a sleepless night, wrestling memories.

Simon, his dead brother, challenges him to beat back the demons, bring up the ancestors. The Blue Door is a duel between siblings.
The Blue Doorholds things. Things African- Americans want to say to whites. Whites want to ask of blacks. Feelings of discomfort and dislocation, the self-consciousness of being alone in the midst of others. It says things that are painful, things that are smart, things that are funny, very much to the point of now. Lewis is mordant, a man tied in knots with his inability to enjoy himself; Simon is playful, loose. He has an an earthy physicality that layers back in time. Funny that the ghost is so much more ‘present’ than the earthly man.

Lewis is so in his head, he has blocked the racial pain and injustice his family experienced, misunderstood the pain his father inflicted on him– blinded himself to the triumphs.
Don’t clip your own wings, the ghost brother says in the Blue Door.
Don’t clip your own wings.

Written by Lesley Valdes

January 26, 2010 at 3:23 am

The Poet’s House

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Photos: L. J.Valdes

Here is Elizabeth Bishop’s house. The one she rented in Key West.
Someone else rents it now.
It sits across from the very, very run-down cemetery.

On the gate the sign reads: Should we have stayed at home? Wherever that is.
Impossible not to think of her One Art.
Lost continents, homes.

Written by Lesley Valdes

January 24, 2010 at 3:49 pm

Key West Winter

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The cries of rooster are the sounds of the southernmost tip of the USA. Teddy Roosevelt proclaimed the Keys a bird sanctuary. It’s a crime to shoot or kill a bird, any bird, even a chicken (take that Purdue!). The roosters, are descendants (rampant) from the Cuban settlers’ predilection for cockfights….You’ll find them everywhere on the island. Cock-a-doodling without regarding for dawn or darkness. Their internal clocks are completely screwed up. You’ll get used to it. Or not.


Written by Lesley Valdes

January 22, 2010 at 4:28 pm

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Gagarin Way

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file0384Gagarin Way
Amaryllis Theatre Company in a co-production
with Inis Nua Theatre
The Adrienne, Sansom & 21 Streets
Jan. 20-Feb. 7, 2010

It takes a long time to get going and some of the accents are confusing. But Scotsman Gregory Burke’s dark and darkly comic play Gagarin’s Way is worth a look. The play is being produced by Amaryllis Theatre with Inis Nua at the Adrienne on Sansom Street. It concerns a botched kidnapping and the empathy and outrage the crime produces in the kidnappers.

Gary (Jered McLenigan) and Eddie ( Jared Delaney) are mixed up fellows, factory workers wanting to make a political statement that to the rest of us isn’t gonna make a whole lot of sense. There’s a security guard who wishes he hadn’t come back for his hat. A corporate exec who is not what they took him for. He sounds English but like the rest of them is Scots. Given the range of accents, I never did get straight what country we were in, it sounded like Ireland but no, I found out later it was Scotland. Only Gary sounds a Scotsman; the stuff coming out of his mouth is, intentionally, tough and thick,
Only the hostage, Frank, (Brian McCann) speaks consistently, a Surrey English the character has trained himself to enunciate.

Burke’s play ranges far and wide. Politics, cosmonauts, the Sixties. Philosophy. Anger. Rage. No intermission. A good thing but it needs trimming. The actors give their all and then some in the side venue of the Adrienne.

Amaryllis is devoted to accessibility for all. Inis Nua (pronunce: Inish New-a) to contemporary plays from Ireland, Scotland, Wales, England.

The accents sound self- conscious, not always, just often enough. The hardest to ‘get’ is McLenigan’s. He’s the guy with a chip and surely psychosis. He enjoys violence. Gary’s voice is thick and rough. He talks mean, which is credible. The part has some book talk which could be credible, the Irish (and English) know their reading matter and the stuff about Sartre and Genet would interest a violent mind. Still it gives pause…

If you can make it through the first- half hour, the production should repay the effort; McCann (Frank) is superb as the steadfast hostage from Surrey, the irony as secure as the Surrey accent. Kevin Meehan (Tom) is convincing as the fumbling youth. Delaney (Eddie) goes in and out of conviction ( and accent) as a failed socialist, anarchist, wannabe sensitive.

Tom Reing, Inis Nua’s artistic director, directs the brutal, provocative Gagarin Way. His way (and McLenigan’s) with the final scene in this shoebox of a venue is masterful.

Written by Lesley Valdes

January 21, 2010 at 3:50 pm

Posted in 1, Art, Drama, Good Reads

Becky Shaw at the Wilma

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Becky Shaw
by Gina Gionfriddo
Jan. 6-Jan. 31
The Wilma

Slippery characters trying (sometimes) to be better than they are will keep you laughing at the Wilma Theater as they make their way through a morass of money, class and family. <emBecky Shaw, by Pulitzer finalist Gina Gionfriddo, has parallels to Thackeray’s Vanity Fair, and his anti-heroine, Becky Sharp. It’s a comedy of manners, set in contemporary Manhattan and Beantown (one scene in Providence, RI.). Hell breaks loose when newlyweds Suzanna (Danielle Skaarstaad) and Andrew (Armando Riesco) introduce Andrew’s down- on- her- luck friend Becky Shaw (Brooke Bloom) to Suzanna’s oldest and best pal Max, a money manager.
The set- up is a disaster. Acerbic Max, is a ‘short timer,’ he doesn’t stay with anyone more than three months. He bolts after the first date which includes a robbery. Max’s history with Suzanna’s peculiar family should not be given away here.

Playwright Gionfriddo’s timing is fast and furious, so are the jokes and insights. She writes for Law & Order. The Wilma’s cast is terrific. Jeremy Bobb as Max gets the best lines, gesture to inflection he is every inch the unrepetent, defensive, Max. As Suzanna, Danielle Skraastad is dynamic. She would also make a good Becky Shaw. Her downside: the volume she ought to vary. Too much projection can become a bore. Janis Dardaris plays the diva mother. She could eat a dragon for breakfast and keep the sarcasm going. Armando Riesco plays Andrew, Mr. Nice. Bloom as Becky Shaw undercuts some of her victim/manipulator role. Her final scene is the blurriest of all. Anne Kauffman directs. Mimi Lien’s brilliant dioramas let us spy on bedrooms and living rooms: giving the skinny on evolving class. Love and work love and money, money and class How to get along without them? Becky Shaw at the Wilma makes you think what do we owe the ones we love?
What do we mean when we say we’re socially responsible? Not a minute that’s dreary.

Written by Lesley Valdes

January 7, 2010 at 4:43 am

Posted in 1, Champs, Heroines, Drama, marriage, Theater, TV

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Sometimes at midnight she’d bake a cake.
A dropped spoon, the oven door,
her boyfriend’s: Linda will this ever be done?
Lissa’s: Should we get up?

Black-eyed Linda with milky skin
Black-eyed Linda, she loved Frank Zappa.

Curiosity got the better of us.
What treasures this time dragged
Four flights up: A pie safe? Oak chairs?
Linda spent weekends on her family’s dairy farm.
She spoke of it softly and with a halt.
She spoke like she walked, with hesitation.
The quietness drove Lissa crazy:

“She does it on purpose.
She makes you lean in close.”

Her people were Quakers. Didn’t put much stock in talk.
She wanted the world to slow down.
Both roommates played the flute.
They were friends first at the music school.
They snagged the top-floor in a brownstone.
It was too big for two —so were their characters.
A pianist might work.

Black-eyed Linda, lover of secrets
Black-eyed Linda, lover of hush.

The first time Linda took me to the farm, I was drawn
to the ham, tomatoes, corn at table.
Inside and out, the place was brown and flat.
The animals did not impress.
The only cow I knew was the one my mother drove through
to get eggnog. Everyone in Miami calls it The Cow.
The creature stands on top.

Black-eyed Linda with milky skin
Black-eyed Linda, she loved Frank Zappa.

After music school, she put away the flute.
Mastered botany. Went to The Sun
to write about the garden. Made fine stories. Made
fine homes. One for the ex-husband and ex-boyfriend
to live together. When Linda got sick they lived with her.

Black-eyed Linda in ill-fitting Wranglers,
Black eyed Linda with milky skin.

Before the brain tumor took her beauty,
Before the brain tumor took her life,
She wrote a children’s book about the farm.
Her cousin did the pictures.
A Morning Milking made The New York Times.

Linda had two weddings.
The first was a surprise.
She found a Mexican wedding dress,
a grassy spot by the art gallery,
two horses and my family to witness;
went home for the big ceremony.

Black-eyed Linda with milky skin
Black-eyed Linda, she loved Frank Zappa.

Odd hours, she would call.
Discoveries and stories and silence
that drove me into chatter _

Black-eyed Linda with milky skin
Black-eyed Linda, she loved Frank Zappa.

She was gone.
I found the cousin.
I didn’t know the man.
I knew his Maryland skies and haystacks.

“I remember –
“I miss her too, the artist said.
“You are so different,
“Linda didn’t talk.

“Let’s get this straight, he said.
“We weren’t cousins.”

Black- eyed Linda

Written by Lesley Valdes

January 4, 2010 at 3:18 am