Monday, December 31, 2018

The Movies, Books, Theater, Concerts, CDs I've Seen/Read/Heard So Far In 2018

Updated Dec 1, 2018

KEY: star rating is on the four star scale
          meaning of "/" or "\"
          *** is three stars out of four
          ***/ is three stars leaning towards  3 1/2
          ***\ is three stars leaning towards 2 1/2


BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS
(Increasingly, I am sampling books, reading 10%, 20% even 40 or 50% before deciding to move on. The books below are only the ones I've read completely. That also explains what looks like generous grading -- more and more, if I sense a book is not going to be among my favorites, I stop reading. Too many books; too little time!)


1. Pietr The Latvian by Georges Simenon (1931) (Maigret #1) ** 1/2
2. Enter Talking by Joan Rivers with Richard Meryman (1986) *** 1/2
3. The Common Good by Robert Reich **
4. A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis (1961) ***
5. The Carter Of La Providence by Georges Simenon (1931) (Maigret #2) ***/
6. The Triumph of Christianity by Bart Ehrman ** 1/2
7. The Late Monsieur Gallet by Georges Simenon (1931) (Maigret #3) ***
8. A Wizard Of Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin (1968) *** 1/2
9. Coffin, Scarcely Used by Colin Watson (1958) ***
10. Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics by Dan Harris and Jeff Warren w Caryle Adler **
11. The Throne Of Caesar by Steven Saylor ** 1/2
12. A Long Way From Home by Peter Carey ***
13. Bump In The Night: A Flaxborough Mystery by Colin Watson ***
14. The Woman's Hour by Elaine Weiss *** 1/2
15. Space Odyssey by Michael Benson ** 1/2
16. Circe by Madeline Miller *** 1/2
17. Something Wonderful: Rodgers and Hammerstein's Bway Revolution by Scott S. Purdum ***
18. Rocket Men by Robert Kurson ** 1/2
19. Factfulness by Hans Rosling with Ola Rosling and Anna Rosling Rönnlund ** 1/2
20. Bob by Wendy Mass and illo by Rebecca Stead ** 1/2
21. Can Democracy Survive Global Capitalism? by Robert Kuttner ***
22. The Emissary by Yoko Tawada ***
23. Beneath A Ruthless Sun by Gilbert King *** 1/2
24. Endling The Last by Katherine Applegate *** 1/2
25. Barracoon by Zora Neale Hurston ***
26. The Boy From Tomorrow by Camille DeAngelis **
27. Imperial Twilight by Stephen R. Platt *** 1/2
28. The Mandela Plot by Kenneth Bonert ***
29. Gentlemen Formerly Dressed by Sulari Gentill **
30. Calypso by David Sedaris *** 1/2
31. Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson *** (but *** 1/2 in terms of influence)
32. Lincoln's Last Trial by Dan Abrams and David Fisher ** 1/2
33. Small Country by Gaël Faye *** 1/2
34. The Street Where I Live by Alan Jay Lerner *** 1/2
35. Island Of The Mad by Laurie R. King ** 1/2
36. The Button War by Avi ** 1/2
37. The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje *** 1/2
38. Conan Doyle For The Defense by Margalit Fox ***
39. Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik *** 1/2
40. I'm A Free State by V.S. Naipul *** 1/2
41. Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively ****
42. Skippy: Daily Comics 1925-1927 by Percy Crosby *** 1/2
43. Fly Girls by Keith O'Brien *** 1/2
44. Farmer In The Sky by Robert Heinlein (1950) * 1/2
45. Citizen Of The Galaxy by Robert Heinlein (1957) ** 1/2
46. The Divided Earth by Faith Erin Hicks *** 1/2
47. Skippy: Daily Comics 1928-1930 by Percy Crosby ***
48. Skippy: Daily Comics 1931-1933 by Percy Crosby ***
49. The Spy Of Venice by Benet Brandreth ** 1/2
50. Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein (1959) ** 1/2
51. The Complete Terry and the Pirates 1934-1936 by Milt Caniff ** 1/2
52. Toaff's Way by Cynthia Voigt ***
53. The Serial Garden: The Complete Armitage Family Stories by Joan Aiken *** 1/2
54. The Sea Queen by Linnea Hartsuyker *** 1/2
55. Childhood's End by Arthur C Clarke ***
56. Playing To The Gods by Peter Rader *** 1/2
57. Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter ** 1/2
58. If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin ***/
59. Marilla Of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy ***
60. Little Man, Little Man by James Baldwin and illos by Yoran Cazac (1976) *** 1/2
61. Transit by Anna Seghers (1944) *** 1/2
62. The Dinosaur Artist by Paige Williams ** 1/2
63. The Dactyl Hill Squad by Daniel José Older **
64. Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes (1943) *** 1/2
65. The Assassination Of Brangwain Spurge by M.T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin ** 1/2
66. A Knife In The Fog by Bradley Harper ** 1/2
67. #SAD: Doonesbury In The Time of Trump by Garry Trudeau *** 1/2
68.  Dear Evan Hansen: The Novel by Val Emmich with Steven Levonson and Benj Pasek and Justin Paul **
69. The Library Book by Susan Orlean *** 1/2
70. What If It's Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera **
71. The Fifth Season by N.J. Jemisin (Broken Earth Trilogy Vol. 1) *** 1/2
72. Red Moon by Kim Stanley Robinson ** 1/2
73. The Reckoning by John Grisham *
74. Knights vs Dinosaurs by Matt Phelan ** 1/2
75. Astounding by Alec Nevala-Lee (bio of John W Campbell and sci-fi) ***
76. The Hidden Witch by Molly Knox Ostertag * 1/2
77. Perfect by Max Amato (eraser vs pencil picture book) * 1/2
78. The War Before The War by Andrew Delbanco ***
79. Wolves Of Eden by Kevin McCarthy *** 1/2
80. Aladdin (a new translation by Paolo Lemos Horta) ***
81. God in the Qu'ran by Jack Miles ***
82. We The People by Erwin Chemerinsky ** 1/2
83. The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin (Broken Earth Trilogy, Vol. 2) *** 1/2
84. The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo *** 1/2
85. The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin (Broker Earth Trilogy Vol 3) *** 1/2
86.









CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS (A strong emphasis on the ones I like, so don't think I love everything I listen to -- I just don't bother really listening to the ones I don't )

1. The Alan Parsons Project -- Eye In The Sky (1982) **
2. Dinah Washington -- The Fats Waller Songbook aka Sings Fats Waller (1957) *** 1/2
3. Nina Simone -- Mood Indigo: The Complete Bethlehem Singles ***/
4. The James Hunter Six -- Whatever It Takes ***/
5. Lee Wiley -- West Of The Moon (1956) ** 1/2
6. Petula Clark -- Living For Today ** ("While You See A Chance" cover nice)
7. Kendrick Lamar et al -- Black Panther soundtrack ***/
8. They Might Be Giants -- I Like Fun ** 1/2
9. Fall Out Boy -- Mania ***/
10. Anderson East -- Encore **
11. Jimmy Buffett -- Buried Treasure Vol. 1 **
12. Josh Ritter -- Gathering ***
13. Gaz Coombes -- Matador (2015) ** 1/2
14. Paul McCartney and Elvis Costello -- Flowers In The Dirt demos (1985) *** 1/2
15. Boz Scaggs -- Some Change (1994) *** 1/2
16. Various Artists -- Blade Runner 2049 Soundtrack
17. Jo Stafford -- Autumn In New York (1950) **
18. Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams (2015) *** 1/2
19. Tracey Thorn -- Record ***/
20. Joan Baez -- Whistle Down The Wind ***
21. Thelonius Monk -- The Complete Prestige 10 Inch LP Collection ****
22. Thelonius Monk -- Thelonius Monk Trio (1954) ****
23. Thelonius Monk -- Monk (1954) *** 1/2
24. Thelonius Monk -- And Sonny Rollins (1954) *** 1/2
25. Curtis Roush -- Cosmic Campfire Music ** 1/2
26. Kronos Quartet and Laurie Anderson -- Landfall ** 1/2 (not enough Laurie)
27. Steve Winwood -- Greatest Hits Live ** 1/2
28. Philip Phillips -- Collateral **
29. Carmen McRae -- Book Of Ballads (1958) ****
30. The Eagles -- Hotel California (1976) ** 1/2
31. Carmen McRae -- By Special Request (1955) ***
32. Brian Fallon -- Sleepwalkers **
33. Paul McCartney and Youth as The Fireman -- Electric Arguments (2008) ***
34. Mabel Mercer -- Merely Marvelous (1960) ***
35. MGMT -- Little Dark Age **
36. The Moody Blues -- Days of Future Passed (1967) **
37. John Oates -- Arkansas ***
38. John Moreland -- In The Throes (2013) ***
39. Jo Stafford -- Starring Jo Stafford (1953) **
40. Glenn Gould -- Bach: The Goldberg Variations (1981) ****
41. Franz Ferdinand -- Ascending **
42. Merle Haggard -- Mama Tried (1968) ***/
43. The Clash -- The Clash (1977) *** 1/2
44. Simple Minds -- Walk Between Worlds ** 1/2
45. Andy Gibb -- Greatest Hits (1980) **
46. Kacey Musgraves -- Golden Hour ** 1/2
47. Jimi Hendrix -- Both Sides Of The Sky **
48. Tim Christensen -- Honeyburst (2003) *** 1/2
49. The Four Lads -- The Singles Collection 1952-1962 * 1/2
50. Cecile McLorin Salvant -- WomanChild (2013) *** 1/2
51. Meshell Ndegeocello -- Ventriloquism ***
52. Don McLean -- Botanical Gardens * 1/2
53. Ashley McBryde -- Girl Goin' Nowhere ***
54. Paul McCartney -- Memory Almost Full (2007) ***
55. The Fratellis -- In Your Own Sweet Time ***
56. Elizabeth Mitchell -- The Sounding Joy (2013) * 1/2
57. Kurt Elling -- The Questions **
58. Jack White -- Boarding House Reach **
59. Toto -- Greatest Hits: 40 Trips Around The Sun * 1/2
60. Brandi Carlisle -- By The Way, I Forgive You *** 1/2
61. Sonny Rollins -- Way Out West (1957) ***/
62. Habibi -- Cardamom Garden * 1/2
63. Ben Harper and Charles Musselwhite -- No Mercy In This Land **
64. Born Ruffians -- Uncle, Duke and the Chief **
65. Bettye LaVette -- Things Have Changed ***
66. The Meters -- Rejuvenation (1974) *** 1/2
67. Patrick Wolf -- Lupercalia (2011) ***
68. Rick Springfield -- The Snake King ***/ (heretic!!)
69. Rhye -- Blood **
70. Vivian Leva -- Time is Everything **
71. Calum Scott -- Only Human **
72. Scotty McCreery -- Seasons Change ** 1/2
73. The Clash -- Give 'em Enough Rope (1978) *** 1/2
74. Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong -- Cheek To Cheek: Complete Duet Recordings *** 1/2
75. Vance Joy -- Nation Of Two **
76. Tom Williams -- All Change **
77. Tom Rogerson -- Finding Shore **
78. Tal National -- Tantabara ** 1/2
79. The Clash -- Combat Rock (1982) ***
80. Donna Summer -- Bad Girls (1979) ** 1/2
81. Donna Summer -- The Wanderer (1980) * 1/2
82. Janelle Monáe -- Dirty Computer *** 1/2
83. Mandy Patinkin -- Diary, January 27, 2018 *** 1/2
84. John  Prine -- The Tree Of Forgiveness ***
85. Frank Turner -- Be More Kind ** (but "The Lifeboat" lovely)
86. Joshua Hedley -- Mr. Jukebox ***/
87. Sting and Shaggy -- 44/876 **
88. Mary Chapin Carpenter -- Sometimes Just The Sky **
89. Sonny and Cher -- The Beat Goes On: The Best Of Sonny and Cher ** 1/2
90. The Magic Numbers -- Outsiders ** 1/2
91. Charlie Puth -- VoiceNotes ***
92. Jason Aldean -- Rearview Town ***/
93. Josh Rouse -- Love In The Modern Age *** 1/2
94. Beach House -- 7 ***
95. Nellie McKay -- Silver Orchid *** 1/2 /
96. Courtney Barnett -- Tell Me How You Really Feel *** /
97. Old Crow Medicine Show -- Volunteer ** 1/2
98. Maddie Poppe -- Songs From The Basement **
99. Jennifer Warnes -- Another Time, Another Place **
100. Shawn Mendez -- Shawn Mendez ** (but "In My Blood" v good)
101. Kanye West -- Ye ** 1/2
102. Leon Bridges -- Good Thing ***
103. Arctic Monkeys -- Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino *** 1/2
104. Willie Nelson -- Last Man Standing **
105. The Temptations -- Psychedelic Shack (1970) *** 1/2 \
106. The Temptations -- Meet The Temptations (1964) ** 1/2
107. The Temptations -- Sing Smokey Robinson (1965) ***
108. Kelly Willis -- Back Bein' Blue ** 1/2
109. Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore -- Downey To Lubbock **
110. The Temptations -- The Temptin' Temptations (1965) ***
111. The Pointer Sisters -- Our Hits ** 1/2
112. Dierks Bentley -- The Mountain **
113. Lynyrd Skynyrd -- Pronounced Leh-nerd Skin-nerd (1973) ***
114. The Meters -- Fire On The Bayou (1976) ***
115. Neko Case -- Hell-On ***
116. Betty Buckley -- Hope *** (title track great)
117. Brad Mehldau -- Seymour Reads The Constitution ** 1/2
118. Benjamin Jaffe -- Oh, Wild Ocean of Love ***/
119. Ry Cooder -- The Prodigal Son *
120. Ruen Brothers -- All My Shades of Blue **
121. J Balvin -- Vibras ***
122. Birch Pereira -- Western Soul ***/
123. The Temptations -- With A Lot O' Soul (1967) *** 1/2
124. Panic! At The Disco -- Pray For The Wicked ***/
125. Parquet Courts -- Wide Awake! **
126. American Aquarium -- Things Change **
127. Kasey Chambers -- Campfire ***/
128. Kamasi Washington -- Heaven and Earth *** 1/2
129. The Temptations -- In A Mellow Mood (1967) *
130. Frank Sinatra -- Standing Room Only ** 1/2
131. Jerry Reed -- The Unbelievable Guitar And Voice Of Jerry Reed (1967) ***
132. Elvis Presley -- The Searcher (documentary soundtrack) ** 1/2
133. Nas -- Nasir *** 1/2
134. Lynyrd Skynyrd -- Second Helping (1974) ***
135. Tom Rush -- Voices ***/
136. Rufus Wainwright -- Northern Stars ** 1/2
137. Various Artists -- Universal Love: Wedding Songs Reimagined **
138. Sugarland -- Bigger **
139. The Temptations -- Wish It Would Rain (1968) ** 1/2
140. Paul Simon -- Graceland: The Remixes *
141. Van Morrison -- You're Driving Me Crazy w Joey DeFrancesco ** 1/2
142. The Temptations -- Diana Ross and the Supremes Meet The Temptations (1968) * 1/2
143. The Temptations -- Cloud Nine (1969) *** (side one ****; side two ** 1/2)
144. 5 Seconds Of Summer -- Youngblood **
145. John Coltrane -- Both Directions At Once (1963) *** 1/2
146. The Last Poets -- Understand What Black Is **
147. The Temptations -- Puzzle People (1969) ** 1/2
148. Booker T and the MGs -- UpTight (1969) ** 1/2
149. Joan Armatrading -- Not Too Far Away **
150. Françoise Hardy -- Personne d'autre **
151. Arthur Buck -- Arthur Buck **
152. Kadhja Bonet -- Childqueen **
153. Ray Davies -- Our Country -- Americana Act Two **
154. Various Artists -- Baby Driver Volume 2: The Score For A Score **
155. Death Grips -- Year Of The Snitch ** (could be the soundtrack to The First Purge)
156. Don Flemons -- Black Cowboys ** 1/2
157. Corey Harris and Henry Butler -- Vu-Du Menz (2000) *** 1/2
158. Buddy Guy -- The Blues Is Alive And Well *** 1/2
159. The Temptations -- The Temptations' Christmas Card (1970) ** 1/2 but "Silent Night"
160. Gaël Faye -- Rythemes et Botanique (2017) ** 1/2
161. Gaz Coombes -- World's Strongest Man ** 1/2
162. The Temptations -- Sky's The Limit (1971) ***/
163. The Temptations -- Solid Rock (1972) ***
164. Chastity Brown -- Silhouette Of Sirens ** 1/2
165. Ike Reilly -- Crooked Love ** 1/2
166. The Rails -- Other People * 1/2
167. Ben Rector -- Magic **
168. Mike and the Moonpies -- Steak Night at the Prairie Rose **
169. The Milk Carton Kids -- All The Things That I Did And All The Things That I Didn't Do *1/2
170. The Poppy Family - A Good Thing Lost: 1968 - 1973 ** (but nice voice)
171. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever -- Hope Downs ** 1/2
172. Ron Sexsmith -- Carousel One (2015) ***/
173. Cowboy Junkies -- All That Reckoning ** 1/2
174. Van Morrison -- His Band and the Street Choir (1970) ** 1/2\
175. Scott Matthews -- The Great Untold ***/
176. Martin Courtney -- Many Moons **
177. Mary Gauthier -- Rifles and Rosemary Beads *** (esp "Bullet Holes In The Sky")
178. Matt Costa -- Santa Rosa Fangs **
179. Ray LaMontagne -- Part Of The Light **
180. Lori McKenna -- The Tree **
181. Otis Redding -- Dock Of The Bay Sessions (1968/2018) ***\
182. Ruel -- Ready ** 1/2
183. Rev. Shawn Amos -- Breaks It Down (2017) **
184. Corey Harris -- Daily Bread (2005) (weak prod; liked "The Peach")
185. The Free Design -- Kites Are Fun (1967) ** 1/2
186. Ashley Monroe -- Sparrow **
187. Billy Price -- Reckoning **
188. Beth Nielsen Chapman -- Hearts Of Glass **
189. Birds Of Chicago -- Love In Wartime * 1/2
190. Birdtalker -- One **
191. The Bookshop Band -- Accidents and Pretty Girls (2017) **
192. Bombino -- Deran ***
193. Bobby Sanabria -- West Side Story Reimagined ** 1/2
194. Brent Cobb -- Providence Canyon **
195. Clay Parker and Jodi James -- The Lonesomest Sound That Can Sound **
196. Ron Sexsmith -- The Last Rider (2017) *** 1/2
197. Boz Scaggs -- Out Of The Blues *** 1/2
198. The Free Design -- You Could Be Born Again (1968) * 1/2
199. Bettye Lavette -- Things Have Changed ***
200. Charles Lloyd and Lucinda Williams -- Vanished Gardens **
201. Cale Tyson -- Careless Soul ** 1/2
202. Nathaniel Rateliff -- Tearing At The Seams ** 1/2
203. Punch Brothers -- All Ashore **
204. The Jayhawks -- Back Roads and Abandoned Motels ** 1/2
205. Matthew Sweet -- Tomorrow's Daughter ***/
206. Rodney Crowell - Acoustic Classics ** 1/2
207. The Coup -- Sorry to Bother You ** 1/2
208. Gorillaz -- The Now Now *** /
209. The Free Design -- Stars/Time/Bubbles/Love (1970) **
210. Bettye LaVette -- Child Of The Seventies (1972) ***/
211. Jim Lauderdale -- Time Flies ** 1/2
212. H.E.R. -- I Used To Know Her ** 1/2
213. Gene Clark -- Sings For You (1967 unreleased demos; put out 2018) **
214. Drake -- Scorpion *** 1/2
215. Gene Clark -- With The Gosdin Brothers (1967) **
216. Lucy Dacus -- Historian **
217. Various Artists -- African Scream Contest 2 *** 1/2
218. Washington Phillips -- And His Manzarene Dreams (1927-1929 recordings) ** 1/2
219. The Left Banke -- Walk Away Renee/ Pretty Ballerina (1967) *** /
220. Various Artists -- Restoration: The Songs Of Elton John **
221. The Vines -- In Miracle Land *** 1/2
222. Amanda Shires -- To The Sunset **
223. Angelique Kidjo -- Remain in Light *** 1/2
224. Brad Mehldau -- After Bach ** 1/2
225. Engelbert Humperdink -- His Greatest Hits (1974) ***
226. Zuli -- Supernatural Voodoo (2015) ** 1/2
227. The Left Banke -- Too (1968) ** 1/2
228. Virginia Wing -- Ecstatic Arrow **
229. Henry Butler and Steven Bernstein -- Viper's Drag (2014) *** 1/2
230. Years and Years -- Palo Santo ***
231. The War and Treaty -- Healing Tide **
232. Wallows -- Spring EP ** 1/2
233. Buffalo Springfield -- Buffalo Springfield (1967) ***
234. Buffalo Springfield -- Buffalo Springfield Again (1967) ***\
235. Margo Guryan -- Take A Picture (1968) ** 1/2
236. MC5 -- Kick Out The Jams (Live) (1969) ***
237. John Coltrane -- Ballads (1963) ** 1/2
238. The Magpie Salute -- High Water I ** 1/2
239. Mary Halvorson -- Code Girl **
240. Manic Street Preachers -- Resistance Is Futile **
241. Mon Laferte -- La Trenza ** 1/2
242. Moses Sumney -- Black In Deep Red, 2014 (EP) ***/
243. Natalie Prass -- The Future and the Past ** 1/2
244. Agnes Obel -- Late Night Tales **
245. Aisha Burns -- Argonauta **
246. Ben Howard -- Noonday Dreams **
247. Alessia Cara -- Know-It-All ** 1/2
248. Buffalo Springfield -- Last Time Around (1968) *** 1/2
249. King Princess -- Make My Bed ** 1/2
250. Let's Eat Grandma -- I'm All Ears **
251. The Beths -- Future Me Hates Me ***
252. Amine -- Good For You **
253. Anna Burch -- Quit The Curse **
254. Anna Tivel -- Small Believer ** 1/2
255. Lindsey Buckingham -- Law and Order (1981) ** 1/2
256. Shannon Shaw -- Shannon in Nashville **
257. Eminem -- Kamikaze ***
258. Gruff Rhys -- Babelsberg ** 1/2
259. The Interruptors -- Fight The Good Fight ***
260. Paul McCartney -- Egypt Station
261. Madeleine Peyroux -- Anthem *** 1/2
262. Richard Thompson -- 13 Rivers ***
263. Shakey Graves -- Can't Wake Up *** 1/2
264. Paul Simon -- In The Blue Light ***
265. Willie Nelson -- My Way *** \
266. Bobbie Gentry -- Ode To Billie Joe (1967) ****
267. Logic YSIV ***
268. Beta Radio ***/
269. Kathy Mattea -- Pretty Bird **
270. Bobbie Gentry -- The Delta Sweete (1968) *** 1/2
271. Gilbert O'Sullivan -- Gilbert O'Sullivan ** 1/2
272. Mandy Patinkin -- Diary: April/May 2018 *** 1/2
273. Richard and the Young Lions -- Vol. 1 (fun Nuggets-era sound but weak lyrics) **
274. Bobbie Gentry -- Local Gentry (1968) ***/
275. Bobbie Gentry and Glenn Campbell -- Bobbie Gentry and Glenn Campbell (1968) ** 1/2
276. Richard Swift -- The Hex ** 1/2
277. Bobbie Gentry -- Touch 'Em With Love (1969) ***
278. Bobbie Gentry -- Fancy (1970) ** 1/2 (but great title track)
279. Bobbie Gentry -- Supper Time: The Lost Jazz Album (1970) my own title ***/
280. Mandy Barnett -- Winter Wonderland ** 1/2
281. Bobbie Gentry -- Patchwork (1971) *** 1/2
282. Michael McDonald -- Season Of Peace: The Christmas Collection * 1/2
283. Eric Clapton -- Happy Xmas * 1/2
284. The Monkees -- Christmas Party ** 1/2
285. Tamino -- Habibi EP ** 1/2
286. John Hiatt -- The Eclipse Sessions ***
287. The Mamas and the Papas -- If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears (1966) ** 1/2
288. Bobby Timmins -- Holiday Soul ** 1/2
289. Martina McBride -- It's The Holiday Season *
290. David Ball -- The Greatest Christmas * 1/2
291. CeCe Winans -- Something's Happening! A Christmas Album *
292. Engelbert Humperdink -- Warmest Christmas Wishes * 1/2
293. George Strait -- Classic Christmas ** 1/2
294. Hall and Oatest -- Home For Christmas (2006) **
295. The Mamas and the Papas -- The Mamas and the Papas (1966) ** 1/2
296. Crosby Stills and Nash -- Crosby Stills and Nash (1969) ***
297. Crosby Stills Nash and Young -- Deja Vu (1970) *** 1/2 \
298. The Ronettes -- ...Presenting The Fabulous Ronettes featuring Veronica (1964) *** 1/2
299. Kelley Stoltz -- Natural Causes ** 1/2
300. The Mavericks -- Hey! Merry Christmas ***
301. William Shatner -- Shatner Claus * 1/2
302. Rodney Crowell -- Christmas Everywhere **
303. Roseanne Cash -- She Remembers Everything *** 1/2
304. Rod McKuen -- New Carols For Christmas: The Rod McKuen Christmas Album (1971) ** 1/2
305. Rubén Blades -- Una Noche Con Rubén Blades ** 1/2
306. Aaron Watson -- An Aaron Watson Family Christmas **
307. Culture Club -- Life ** 1/2
308. Bob Dylan -- More Blood, More Tracks official revised early version of BOTT incl on boxed set *** 1/2
309. David Archuleta -- Winter In The Air **
310. The Gibson Brothers -- Mockingbird **
311. Gwen Stefani -- You Make It Feel Like Christmas **
312. John Klein -- Let's Ring The Bells All Around The Christmas Tree (1964) * 1/2
313. K.C. and the Sunshine Band -- A Sunshine Christmas * 1/2
314. Kris Wu -- Antares **
315. Diana Ross -- Wonderful Christmastime (1994) * 1/2
316. Pentatonix -- Christmas Is Here * 1/2
317. Pistol Annies -- Interstate Gospel ***
318. Alec Benjamin -- Narrated For You ***
319. Tyler The Creator -- The Grinch **
320. Old 97s -- Love The Holidays **1/2
321.  Tony Bennett and Diana Krall -- Love Is Here To Stay *** 1/2
322. Jill Scott -- By Popular Demand ***
323. The Struts -- Young and Dangerous *** /
324. Prince -- Piano and a Microphone 1983 ***
325. The Beatles -- White Album official Esher Demos on 2018 boxed set ***
326. Frank Sinatra -- Sings For Only The Lonely (1958; 2018 stereo mix) *** 1/2 but unnecessary
327. Mumford and Sons -- Delta **
328. Queen -- A Night At The Opera (1975) ** 1/2
329. Neil and Liam Finn -- Lightsleeper ** 1/2
330. Various Artists -- Gonna Sing Gonna Shout: Bluegrass Gospel From The Pen of Rick Lang ***/
331. Wayne Shorter -- Night Dreamer (1964) *** 1/2
332. Wayne Shorter -- Juju (1964) *** 1/2
333. Wayne Shorter -- Speak No Evil (1965) ****
334. Bob Dylan -- More Blood, More Tracks New York demos of BOTT via boxed set ****
335. The Lemon Twigs -- Go To School ** 1/2
336. Elvis Costello -- Look Now *** 1/2
337. Rosalía -- El Mal Querer ** 1/2
338. Paul Williams -- Elmer Otter's Jug-Band Christmas (1977) **
339. The Go-Go's -- Beauty and the Beat (1981) ***
340. Hawktail -- Unless **
341. Hozier -- Nina Cried Power EP ***
342. Marianne Faithful -- Negative Capability ***
343. Will Hoge -- My American Dream ***
344. Jess Sah Bi and Peter One -- Our Garden Needs Its Flowers (1985) **
345. Ingrid Michaelson -- Songs For The Season ** 1/2
346. J Cole -- COD **
347. Melissa Ericco -- Sublime Sondheim **
348. Mariah Carey -- Caution **
349. Robyn -- Honey **
350. Straight No Chaser -- Holiday Spirits (2008) ** 1/2
351. Rozalén -- Cuando El Rio Suena (2017) ***
352. Rhett Miller -- The Messenger ** 1/2
353. Loretta Lynn -- Wouldn't It Be Great ***
354. Michael Langoria -- Merry Christmas Darling * 1/2
355. Mike Love -- Reason For The Season * 1/2
356. Mitch Ryder -- Christmas (Take A Ride) *
357.







MOVIES TV MOVIES TV MOVIES TV MOVIES TV MOVIES TV MOVIES TV MOVIES TV MOVIES TV MOVIES TV MOVIES TV MOVIES TV MOVIES TV MOVIES TV MOVIES TV MOVIES TV MOVIES TV MOVIES TV MOVIES 

(Not TV movies, of course, but movies and TV -- and TV movies if it comes to that. Mostly I only list TV shows when I've tackled an entire season at once or reappraising an entire series after it's over This doesn't really capture my ongoing watching of current TV.)

1. Downsizing ** 1/2
2. Of Mice And Men (1939) ** 1/2
3. I, Tonya ***
4. Paddington 2 ** 1/2
5. The Post **
6. Black Panther **
7. The Greatest Showman **
8. The Founder *** 1/2
9. Obit ***
10. Good Time *** 1/2
11. Machines ** 1/2
12. Dunkirk ****
13. Una Mujer Fantastica *** 1/2
14. Foxtrot *** 1/2
15. Dawson City: Frozen Time ***
16. Bad Lucky Goat ***
17. Loveless *** 1/2
18. God's Own Country *** 1/2
19. The B-Side ***
20. Love, Simon ** 1/2
21. Logan ***
22. Patti Cake$ ** 1/2
23. The Lost City Of Z *** 1/2
24. Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story ***
25. Only The Brave ***
26. A Quiet Passion ***
27. The Breadwinner ***/
28. Happy Death Day ***
29. Land Of Mine *** 1/2
30. Columbus *** /
31. Frantz ** 1/2
32. Get Out ***
33. Brigsby Bear **
34. Risk (Laura Poitras documentary) ***/
35. A Quiet Place ** 1/2
36. Ready Player One *
37. Lean On Pete ** 1/2
38. The Endless **
39. Blockers (esp Ike Barinholtz and Miles Robbins) ***
40. Annihilation **
41. Captain America: Civil War **
42. Le Corbeau (1943) ** 1/2
43. Isle Of Dogs *** 1/2 (prod, score, voice, screenplay)
44. Miracles For Sale (1939) *
45. Deadpool 2 **
46. Solo: A Star Wars Story **
47. At The Circus (1939) *
48. Summer 1993 *** 1/2 (direction, lead perf)
49. Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase (1939) * 1/2
50. Yes, My Darling Daughter (1939) * 1/2
51. The Guardians ** 1/2
52. 7th Heaven (1927) w Janet Gaynor (w Noam at Moma)
53. Klute *** 1/2 (at Metrograph w Noam)
54. Who We Are Now *** 1/2 (plus lead perf)
55. Les Parents Terrible (1948) *** (at Quad w Noam) (Jean Marais miscast but excitingly shot)
56. Cuatro Corazones (1939) (at Moma w Noam) ** 1/2
57. Won't You Be My Neighbor? (Mr Rogers documentary) ***
58. Killing Eve Season One *** 1/2
59. The Incredibles 2 ***
60. Halelujah (1929 all-black film about man turned preacher but always tempted by harlot) ** 1/2
61. The Royal Rodeo (1939 short) no stars
62. Whitney ** 1/2
63. Sgt. Madden (1939) ** 1/2
64. American Animals *** 1/2 (screenplay)
65. Lady Of The Tropics (1939) *
66. Sorry To Bother You ** 1/2
67. Teen Titans! Go To The Movies ** 1/2
68.  5th Avenue Girl (1939) ** 1/2
69. Mission: Impossible -- Fallout **1/2
70. Eighth Grade *** 1/2
71. McQueen *** (shame the music isn't the original tracks for the shows)
72. RBG ***/
73. BlacKKKlansman ***
74. Wings Of The Navy (1939) * 1/2
75. Crazy Rich Asians * 1/2
76. The End Of The Fucking World S1 ***
77. Museo (w Gael Garcia Bernal) *** /
78. Fahrenheit 11/9 ** 1/2
79. Detectorists S3 *** 1/2
80. Jack Ryan S1 **
81. First Man (sound design) ***
82. The Old Man and The Gun ***/
83. Mid90s ** 1/2
84. The Sisters Brothers ** 1/2
85. Beautiful Boy ** 1/2
86. A Star Is Born **
87. Free Solo ***
88. Monrovia, Indiana (Frederick Wiseman doc) ***/
89. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald ** 1/2
90. Roma *** \
91. Amazing Grace ****
92. Can You Ever Forgive Me **
93.











THEATER CONCERTS THEATER CONCERTS THEATER CONCERTS THEATER CONCERTS THEATER CONCERTS THEATER CONCERTS THEATER CONCERTS
(The names after the shows are the people who joined me at the performance.)

1. At Home At The Zoo: Homelife and The Zoo Story (at Signature w Luis) ***/
2. Escape To Margaritaville (w Franny) **
3. Broadway By The Year: 1947 and 1966  (w TJ) ***
4. Lobby Hero (w Michael Cera) (w Noam) ***
5. Frozen (w Luis) **
6. Rocktopia (w Luis) *
7. Angels in America (w Garrett)** 1/2
8. Mean Girls (w Cohen) ** 1/2
9. The Sting (w Harry Connick Jr.) (w Noam) **
10. Mlima's Tale (w Noam) ** 1/2
11. Children Of A Lesser God (w Joshua Jackson) (w Noam) ** 1/2
12. 
Sancho: An Act Of Remembrance (w Vincent) ** 1/2
13. The Metromaniacs (w Noam) ***
14. Summer: The Donna Summer Musical (w Cohen) *
15. The Seafarer (w Zoe) **
16. Henry V (Public Mobile Unit w Zenzi Williams) (w Noam) * 1/2
17. Saint Joan (w Noam) **
18. Travesties (w Tom Hollander and Seth Numrich) (alone) *** 1/2
19. My Fair Lady (w Lauren Ambrose) (w Noam) *** 
20. Summer and Smoke (w Marin Ireland at CSC) (w Noam) ** 1/2 
21. Broadway By The Year: 1956 and 1975 (w Luis) ** 1/2
22. August Wilson Monologue Competition at the August Wilson Theatre (w Noam) ** 1/2
23. Paradise Blues (Dominique Moriceau play at Signature) (w Dave Cohen, Zoe, Noam) ** 1/2
24.  Our Lady Of 121st Street (revival at Signature) (w Dave, Zoe, Noam) ** 1/2
25. Dance Nation (at Playwrights Horizons) (w Joanne) ** 1/2
26. Margo Price at Lincoln Center Out Of Doors ***\
27. The Gospel at Colonus at Shakespeare in The Park ** (this perf, not the show)
28. The Nap (w David Cohen) **
29. Bernhardt/Hamlet (w Noam) * 1/2
30. On Beckett (Bill Irwin) (w Joanne)  ***
31. What The Constitution Means To Me (w Cohen) **
32. The Winning Side (Werner von Braun play) (solo) *
33. Oklahoma (at St. Ann's Warehouse) (w Noam) **
34. Mother Of The Maid (w Glenn Close at Public) (w TJ)  *
35. Shake and Bake: Love's Labour's Lost (w Sam Dolson) ***
36. The Lifespan of a Fact (w Noam) **
37. India Pale Ale (w Noam) *
38. Thunderbodies at Soho Rep ***
39. The Ferryman (w Dave Cohen)
40. The Mavericks at MusikFest Cafe in Bethlehem, PA (alone) *** / (seated audience not as fun as a sweaty standing room bar space.
41. King Kong (on Broadway, w host Joanne) *
42. The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui (at CSC w Raul Esparza; guest Noam) ***
43. Mike Birbiglia's The New One (w guest Noam) ***
44. American Son (w Kerry Washington; guest Noam) * 1/2
45. The Hard Problem (w guest Noam) ** 1/2
46. The Prom (w guest Noam) **
47. Met Opera: Il Tritticoro (w Placido Domingo; host Stephen) ***
48. Eve's Song (at Public ) * 1/2
49. Almost, Maine (high school prod at Notre Dame Catholic girls school)
50. Alec Benjamin -- at Mercury Lounge ***
51.



KEY: star rating is on the four star scale
          meaning of "/" or "\"
          *** is three stars out of four
          ***/ is three stars leaning towards  3 1/2
          ***\ is three stars leaning towards 2 1/2

Updated October 31, 2018

Friday, December 14, 2018

TV and Film Must Watch List

MOVIES 2018 STILL TO SEE

Anna and the Apocalypse
Araby
At Eternity's Gate
The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs
Ben Is Back
Bisbee '17 (doc)
Blindspotting
Bohemian Rhapsody
Border
Burning
Capernaum
Cold War
Crime and Punishment (doc)
Custody
The Death of Stalin
The Favourite
Green Book
The Green Fog (Guy Maddin)
Happy As Lazzaro
Jane Fonda in Five Acts (doc)
Jeannette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc (Bruno Dumont)
Leave No Trace
Let It Fall: Los Angeles 1982-1992 (John Ridley)
Mary Queen Of Scots
Minding The Gap (doc)
Mom and Dad
The Mule
Nico, 1988
Permanent Green Light (Dennis Cooper)
Pope Francis (Wim Wenders doc)
Reversing Roe (Netflix doc)
Shirkers (Netflix doc)
Shoplifters
Skate Kitchen
Sollers Point
Spiderman: Into The Spiderverse
Support The Girls
Sweet Country
The Tale (HBO)
Three Identical Strangers (doc)
Vox Lux
Western
Wildlife
You Were Never Really Here
Zama


RECENT-ISH TV SHOWS NEED TO SEE

Adventure Time
American Crime (three seasons, ABC)
The Americans
American Vandal (Netflix)
America To Me (Starz doc)
Archer
Atlanta
Avatar: The Last Airbender
Babylon Berlin (Netflix)
Better Call Saul
Big Mouth
Black Mirror
Blue Planet II (BBC America)
Bob's Burgers (FOX)
Bodyguard (Netflix)
Bojack Horseman
The Bridge (Hulu)
Brooklyn Nine-Nine (NBC)
Casa de los Flores
Corporate (Comedy Central)
Counterpart (Starz)
Dear White People (Netflix)
The Deuce
Drew Michael (HBO standup, no audience)
Elite (Netflix high school drama, Spain)
Fargo
Fauda (Israeli-Palestinian) (Netflix)
Fleabag
Forever (Amazon)
Game of Thrones
GLOW (Netflix)
The Good Place
High Maintainence (HBO)
The House of Flowers (La Casa de las Flores, Mexico) (Netflix)
Howards End (Starz)
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (fX)
Homecoming (Amazon)
Kidding (Showtime)
Kid Gorgeous at Radio City: John Mulaney stand up (Netflix)
The Little Drummer Girl (AMC)
Lodge 49 (AMC)
Mindhunter (Netflix)
Mr Inbetween (Amazon)
My Brilliant Friend (HBO)
Nanette: Hannah Gadsby standup (Netflix)
One Day At A Time (Netflix)
Patriot (spy guitar) (Amazon)
Pose (fX)
Random Acts Of Flyness (HBO)
Rectify (Sundance)
Rick And Morty (Cartoon Network/Adult Swim)
Salt Fat Acid Heat (Netflix cooking show)
Silicon Valley
Six By Sondheim
Sorry For Your Loss (Facebook Watch)
The Staircase (Netflix doc)
Steven Universe (Cartoon Network)
Succession (HBO)
Tamborine: Chris Rock special (Netflix)
The Terror (AMC)
Tig Notaro: Happy to be Here standup (Netflix)
Veep (HBO)
A Very English Scandal (Amazon)
The Vietnam War (PBS doc)
Wild Wild Country (Netflix doc)


VINTAGE SHOWS I NEED TO SEE FOR THE FIRST TIME
OR RE-WATCH (BECAUSE IT'S BEEN SO LONG)

Alan Partridge
An American Family (1973 PBS documentary)
Anne Of Green Gables (1985)
The Avengers
Baseball (Ken Burns)
Blackadder
Brassed Off
Broken Trail (2006 TV movie)
Buffalo Bill
Civilization
Cosmos
Danger UXB
The Day After
Eleanor and Franklin
Elizabeth R
Gulliver's Travels (1996 miniseries)
Jazz (Ken Burns)
The Kids In The Hall (1988 sketch)
The Jewel In The Crown
Leonard Bernstein's Young People's Concerts
Mr. Show
The Paper Chase
Party Down
Planet Earth
Reilly: Ace Of Spies
The Rockford Files/Maverick
S.C.T.V. (1976 sketch)
Shogun
Sons Of Anarchy
St. Elsewhere (1982 drama)
Tattingers (1988 light drama)
Victory At Sea
The Waltons (1971 drama)
The World At War




Wednesday, December 12, 2018

THEATER: "Network" Has A Star, But No Show

NETWORK * 1/2 out of ****
BELASCO THEATRE 

Mediocre talents fail in dull, uninteresting ways. They mount a play, you shrug and forget it the next day. Bold, visionary talents fail in spectacular fashion. What were they thinking, you wonder, jaw agape? But at least you know they were thinking, striving, doing something or at least trying to do something. Director Ivo van Hove and his team of collaborators fail in marvelous fashion with this stage adaptation of Paddy Chayevsky's all too prescient film Network.

That movie was a scathing cry from the heart about the commercialization of journalism. A once-sacred area of television was becoming a profit center. Instead of providing a public good, corporations realized they could provide product in the guise of news and make money. A lot of it. Chayevsky saw it happening and created a wicked satire that showed news anchors expressing opinions on air! The more shocking their opinions the higher the ratings. It was absurd, over the top, ridiculous...and now seems quaint in comparison to what TV news has actually become.

At least with the terrific Bryan Cranston present, you're never in confusion as to why they tackled it in the first place. His supporting character -- newscaster turned prophet Howard Beale -- is fatally turned into the star of the show. It's like watching a second banana in a sitcom get their own spin-off; that rarely works and it certainly doesn't here.

For one thing, the adaptation by Lee Hall doesn't give Beale a bigger story or any sort of arc. In the film, he has a mental breakdown and those on-air rants he delivers ("I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!") are terrific thunderbolts. They break up the main story, which is really about an aging newsman cheating on both his wife and his journalistic conscience. (In the film, that character of Max Schumacher is played by William Holden; here it's Tony Goldwyn.) Beale doesn't change or grow -- he has a breakdown and that's about it.

Unfortunately, the same is true in this play. Beale has a breakdown early on...and that's about it. But this time around he dominates the action; in fact, whenever we interrupt his mania for a peek into Schumacher's disintegrating marriage it's kind of a jolt. Oh yeah, that's happening too. And Beale's rants grow increasingly predictable in every way. Playwright Hall jazzes up Beale's show a la the film with an elaborate new presentation. He's given a late night talk show sort of intro (rather than the sober air appropriate to a newsman) and an announcer and crew member urging applause give an elaborate spiel asking us to repeat Beale's catchphrase and then applaud loudly. That's fine once; it's even ok twice. But when they do it again and again and again it goes beyond making some sort of point and just feels lazy. They've made Beale the star of the show but they realize he has nothing to offer. If they're driving home the emptiness of the spectacle, well we got it the first time.





Cranston does what he can with the part. A skilled TV actor (as well as a Tony winning veteran of the stage), the part is in some ways perfect for him (if only it were better). He plays to the camera beautifully and if you feel drawn to watch him on one of the many video screens adorning the stage, well that makes perfect sense. After all, the TV is where Beale comes alive and that's rightly where Cranston pitches his performance.

Fans of the film may be aghast at how tepid the heart of the movie comes across here. Goldwyn and Tatiana Maslany of Orphan Black can do nothing with their doomed romance. And the corporate politics on display barely make an impression as the cameras whirl back around to another spiel from Howard Beale. They are sideshow to the prophet and he is sideshow to the real star of the show and the real tragedy: the directorial vision of van Hove and his team.

For years now, van Hove and a  crack team of production talent have dominated theater and opera. Here it's Jan Versweyveld (scenic and lighting design), Tal Yarden (video design), An D'huys (costume design) and Eric Sleichim (music and sound). No matter what Van Hove tackles, it's sure to have a bold vision, a striking conceit that dominates his take on a classic of stage or screen. You may not always agree with his take on a piece (my personal favorite is his View From The Bridge as boxing match) but by God you had to deal with it.

Here they have come a cropper. As one might expect, this production of Network includes lots of tv cameras, lots of video screens and a stage that usually includes an announcer's desk front and center with a studio booth on stage right. What one doesn't expect is that stage right is dominated by...a bar facing the wall? With a few scattered tables and audience members who eat a meal while watching the show? And a couch from Schumacher's home? Now, the handful of audience members sitting on stage -- almost as if by accident -- aren't a studio audience. That would have made sense, I guess. Nor are they people in a bar or restaurant who might be coached into becoming glued to TVs playing in the bar when Beale goes on a rant. No, they're just sitting on stage, watching the show and eating dinner brought out by wait staff during set changes while we watch them and wonder what the heck they're doing up there.

The bar is used in maybe one and a half scenes, including a very early one where Cranston and Goldwyn sidle up to the bar for a heart to heart and stand in a far, far corner with their backs to the audience (though of course we can watch them on camera). Other than a sex scene that took place either in the bar or somewhere else (I wasn't quite sure), I can't for the life of me imagine why they had the bar onstage in the first place. Making matters worse, the studio booth is so narrow and cluttered (and so poorly covered by the cameras), that virtually nothing that happens in it is dramatically interesting or even visible, except for one brief line by Maslany late in the show. It's literally a jumbled mess that's ignored 90% of the time and a deeply awkward set when van Hove does try and stage some action there.

In short, one third of the stage is taken up by a jumbled studio booth that's hard to see into, the other side of the stage is taken up by an unnecessary bar and theater goers are seated in the midst of this, chowing down on food and drinking wine. If that's not enough, multiple scenes are staged out of sight entirely. You can (almost) always see the actors on a video screen but you also waste a lot of time peering around the set, wondering where in fact the actors who are talking to one another might actually be. One scene is actually set in front of the theater for no good reason, though it was nice to see New Yorkers know enough to not look at a camera and just keep walking, even if Tony Goldwyn and Tatiana Maslany are making out in front of them.

It's so...ugly, such a godawful mess, so unsatisfying and cluttered and so very, very different in every way from what van Hove and his team have done so many times before that it's hard to believe this was staged in London, they saw it...and then kept it intact for New York. What were they thinking? I haven't a clue but undoubtedly they were thinking of something and Cranston's magnetic if wasted turn as Beale let them think they were onto it.

As a final head-scratcher, the show ends, the cast takes its bow, the lights come up...and as the audience gathers its things, the video monitors begin to show news footage of Gerald Ford being sworn in as President of the United States. Huh? Maybe it's a testament to the power of TV or maybe the audience was just intrigued enough by the sheer randomness of this, but most everyone stayed put. Ford was followed by Jimmy Carter being sworn in and he was followed by Ronald Reagan. Well, it's clear where this is headed and you get no points for predicting like I did how the audience would react. George Bush Sr. got some polite applause (since he'd just died) while Bill Clinton received notably modest clapping himself. (His stock has fallen hard in recent years.) George W. Bush was mostly ignored, Barack Obama of course received thunderous applause and Donald Trump even louder boos. (Except for one yahoo in the orchestra who applauded. Tourists!)

It was admittedly a fascinating bit of tracking the popularity of recent US Presidents. But surely if they wanted to make some point connected with the show we just saw, they should have shown footage of Geraldo Rivera and Jerry Springer and Glenn Beck breaking down in tears on air a la Howard Beale and Rush Limbaugh and Lou Dobbs and Bill O'Reilly and Megyn Kelly and Sean Hannity today. Sure, they could have ended with Trump though that seems too obvious to bother. Presidential swearing-in footage? It's just one more missing piece of the puzzle that is this messy, confused, mixed message of a show from one of the most noteworthy talents in theater. Like Beale, van Hove might fall on his face sometimes, but he's never boring.

THEATER OF 2018

Homelife/The Zoo Story (at Signature) *** out of ****
Escape To Margaritaville **
Broadway By The Year: 1947 and 1966 ***
Lobby Hero ***
Frozen **
Rocktopia *
Angels in America ** 1/2
Mean Girls ** 1/2
The Sting **
Mlima's Tale ** 1/2
Children Of A Lesser God ** 1/2
Sancho: An Act Of Remembrance ** 1/2
The Metromaniacs ***
Summer: The Donna Summer Musical *
The Seafarer **
Henry V (Public Mobile Unit w Zenzi Williams) * 1/2
Saint Joan **
Travesties *** 1/2
Summer and Smoke ** 1/2
My Fair Lady ** 1/2
Broadway By The Year: 1956 and 1975 ** 1/2
Bernhard/Hamlet * 1/2
On Beckett ***
What The Constitution Means To Me **
The Winning Side *
Oklahoma **
Mother Of The Maid *
Love's Labour's Lost ** 1/2
The Lifespan of a Fact **
India Pale Ale *
Thunderbodies ***
The Ferryman *** 1/2

Thanks for reading. Michael Giltz is the creator of BookFilter, a book lover’s best friend. It’s a website that lets you browse for books online the way you do in a physical bookstore, provides comprehensive info on new releases every week in every category and offers passionate personal recommendations every step of the way. He’s also the cohost of Showbiz Sandbox, a weekly pop culture podcast that reveals the industry take on entertainment news of the day with top journalists and opinion makers as guests. It’s available for free on iTunes. Visit Michael Giltz at his website. Download his podcast of celebrity interviews and his radio show, also called Popsurfing and also available for free on iTunes.

THEATER: "The Prisoner" Can't Get Free

THE PRISONER ** out of ****
THEATRE FOR A NEW AUDIENCE AT POLONSKY SHAKESPEARE CENTER

Legendary director Peter Brook returns with this fable-like story about a young man punished for an unspeakable crime. The story is presented on a mostly bare stage with a minimum of props. The cast includes some actors for whom English is a second language (which makes them one up on me) and so they speak slowly and stiffly. The Prisoner is quiet, elusive and ultimately as tad confounding and one is made to feel a rube for thinking so -- no wonder they applaud us at the end, as if to gently pat us on the head for grappling with their art. It is admirable, of course; how could something involving Peter Brook and his longtime collaborator Marie-Hélène Estienne not be admirable? But it is far from satisfying.

The narrative is so slim I will begin where Brook begins: with his note in the Playbill explaining the show's genesis. He traveled to Afghanistan and saw a man sentenced to an odd fate: he must sit outside a prison and face it, only leaving when he felt justified in doing so. Recognizing prison as a dehumanizing force, the idea was that this man might atone for his crimes, "repair" himself and go on to a productive life, rather than just being punished. Brook was intrigued by this image, it stayed with him and many years later he created this play, co-writing and co-directing it with Estienne.

So we see a young man in the aftermath of a terrible deed. His uncle sees the brutal life in prison and convinces a judge to change the sentence to the one described above. And so the young sits on a hill near some woods, facing a prison. Years pass as he is accosted by or simply encounters locals, an executioner, guards, a fellow prisoner and travelers. As one might expect for such an internal struggle, The Prisoner is meditative, modest and demands your full attention for its 85 minute running time. That attention is not squandered but neither is it rewarded.



In real life, Brook never found out what the "unspeakable crime" committed by the prisoner actually was. For the play, they invented one and more's the pity. An unspeakable crime has a lovely, fable-like ambiguity to it. Instead of a terrible crime, the play plainly states that the young man's father had recently been widowed. When the boy came home, he found his father in bed with the boy's sister -- in a rage, the son killed his dad. Patricide, even over a dreadful crime like that, is a tremendous taboo throughout history. But the incestuous act becomes a tremendous roadblock for the rest of the play.

First it explains what the young man did. Then he confesses his real fear: that it was a crime of jealousy, not rage and that he too wants an incestuous relationship with his sister. Then his sister tells him to stop all this self-flagellating nonsense and come home and be a father to the child she has born from sleeping with their dad. (It's unclear to me but she seems to be offering herself as his lover in the bargain.) When he turns her down, she drops off the kid with their uncle and heads to America to become a doctor. And the uncle tells the prisoner that yes, many cultures look down on incest but when he saw the father sleeping with the daughter, the uncle saw only love.

What the hell? Brook is not making any argument about Afghanistan's culture -- indeed, the show itself is explicitly universal and located nowhere in particular. Why in heaven's name he decided to introduce incest and then make everyone BUT the prisoner seem fine with it -- and to no particular purpose -- escapes me. You're so confused by the slow drip of details (it takes half the play or longer for all this information to get out) that it keeps you from understanding the motives of everyone involved...except the prisoner, who is the only one being punished. I'd be perfectly happy -- if dubious -- to watch a drama where characters argue cheerfully for incest. But The Prisoner doesn't so much argue for it as simply mention it in passing and then furrow its brow over your parochial complaints.

All of this is offered in a scrupulously poetical setting. Very little of it has dramatic heft, though Hiran Abeysekera as the prisoner and Hayley Carmichael as the wide-eyed traveler (and other roles) keep our attention when center stage. Nonetheless, running times matter and when a play is said to run 70 minutes but actually runs 85 minutes, that's telling. Running 20% long is a sure sign of actors indulging themselves or more likely here struggling to find something to play. It would be churlish to say one was a prisoner at this drama -- I'd rather see a failed work by real artists over a failed work of commercial pap any day of the week and Brook is indeed legendary. But whatever insight into human nature and crime and punishment this show strives for remains a mystery.



THEATER OF 2018

Homelife/The Zoo Story (at Signature) *** out of ****
Escape To Margaritaville **
Broadway By The Year: 1947 and 1966 ***
Lobby Hero ***
Frozen **
Rocktopia *
Angels in America ** 1/2
Mean Girls ** 1/2
The Sting **
Mlima's Tale ** 1/2
Children Of A Lesser God ** 1/2
Sancho: An Act Of Remembrance ** 1/2
The Metromaniacs ***
Summer: The Donna Summer Musical *
The Seafarer **
Henry V (Public Mobile Unit w Zenzi Williams) * 1/2
Saint Joan **
Travesties *** 1/2
Summer and Smoke ** 1/2
My Fair Lady ** 1/2
Broadway By The Year: 1956 and 1975 ** 1/2
Bernhard/Hamlet * 1/2
On Beckett ***
What The Constitution Means To Me **
The Winning Side *
Oklahoma **
Mother Of The Maid *
Love's Labour's Lost ** 1/2
The Lifespan of a Fact **
India Pale Ale *
Thunderbodies ***
The Ferryman *** 1/2

Thanks for reading. Michael Giltz is the creator of BookFilter, a book lover’s best friend. It’s a website that lets you browse for books online the way you do in a physical bookstore, provides comprehensive info on new releases every week in every category and offers passionate personal recommendations every step of the way. He’s also the cohost of Showbiz Sandbox, a weekly pop culture podcast that reveals the industry take on entertainment news of the day with top journalists and opinion makers as guests. It’s available for free on iTunes. Visit Michael Giltz at his website. Download his podcast of celebrity interviews and his radio show, also called Popsurfing and also available for free on iTunes.