Wednesday Wordplay – Warhol, Freud and Facebook crushes

Inspirational Quotes

I was always looking outside myself for strength and confidence, but it comes from within. It is there all the time.
            — Anna Freud

When we are unable to find tranquility within ourselves, it is useless to seek it elsewhere.
            — Francois de La Rochefoucauld

A dog is the greatest gift a parent can give a child. OK, a good education, then a dog.
            — John Grogan, An Interview with John Grogan, 2008

Stress is an ignorant state. It believes that everything is an emergency. Nothing is that important. 
        — Natalie Goldberg

We have, I fear, confused power with greatness.
        — Stewart L. Udall, commencement address, Dartmouth College, June 13, 1965

A person has three choices in life. You can swim against the tide and get exhausted, or you can tread water and let the tide sweep you away, or you can swim with the tide, and let it take you where it wants you to go.
        — Diane Frolov and Andrew Schneider, Northern Exposure, Northern Lights, 1993

Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will.
        — George Bernard Shaw

They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.
        — Andy Warhol, “The Philosophy of Andy Warhol

The world is full of women blindsided by the unceasing demands of motherhood, still flabbergasted by how a job can be terrific and torturous.
        — Anna Quindlen, O Magazine, May 2003

I like manual labor. Whenever I’ve got waterlogged with study, I’ve taken a spell of it and found it spiritually invigorating.
        — W. Somerset Maugham, “The Razor’s Edge”, 1943


Urban Dictionary

 

time vampire

Something or someone who literally sucks your time like a vampire sucks blood.

My computer broke again, I spent all night working on that fucking time vampire.

 

text-hole

Someone who texts on their cellphone in really inappropriate places, like movie theatres, concerts, plays, or during sex.

1. The movie was great, except right during the best scene, this text-hole in front of me lit up his phone and started texting away.
2. We were humping away, and she started texting her friend. She was a certified text-hole.

 

Leno Giver

When someone retires from a legendary television franchise, passes the torch to a worthy successor. Then he gets bored and starts a new show which sucks and then asks for their old job back by firing the successor.

He’s a leno giver.

 

Facebook crush

A crush on a FB friend is characterized by the unexplainable urge to revisit the friend’s Photos tab repeatedly and checking to see if other friends have written new messages on their Wall. Usually afflicts users who are only somewhat acquainted.

"I’ve got a Facebook crush on a guy I was going to rent a room from, but in the end we just friended each other."

 

friendly review

A positive review you give to a movie, book, TV series or CD that you don’t like but which a friend has recommended to you, usually because you don’t want to hurt their feelings.

Rod: I watched that movie The Departed last night which John lent me.
Tom: What did you think?
Rod: I hated it.
Tom: Oh boy, he loves that movie. What did you tell him?
Rod: I told him it was great.
Tom: You gave it a friendly review, huh?
Rod: Yeah, you know what hes like.

REVIEW: August: Osage County (Broadway in Chicago)

The classic American drama of our generation

 August: Osage County - by Tracy Letts

Broadway in Chicago presents:

August: Osage County

 

by Tracy Letts
directed by
Anna D. Shapiro
through February 14th (more info)

Review by Barry Eitel

After closing a little more than 2 years ago at Steppenwolf, Tracy Letts’ American neo-epic August: Osage County makes a triumphant return to Chicago. Its vacation has been pretty productive. The play moved to Broadway, then London, picked up a Tony Award for Best Play as well as the Pulitzer Prize in Drama, and a feature film is in the works. Now the show is on tour around the nation. August occupies a slightly larger space for its homecoming, the massive Cadillac Palace Theatre. Headed by the voracious Estelle Parsons, this touring August retains the intensity of the original, hitting the snowy streets of the Loop with the force of a tornado.

August: Osage County details a few days in the life of the American theatre’s newest favorite dysfunctional family: the Westons. Think of every social taboo present in Eugene O’Neill’s canon and slam into a single, three-act play. Add pedophilia and T.S. Eliot, and soak in alcohol. Letts’ whirling story sucAugust: Osage County - by Tracy Lettsceeds so well because it’s a churning cauldron of the worst kind of secrets, yet each one blows us away as we hear it painfully revealed on stage. If one wanted to peg a genre for the masterpiece, it could simply be described as a murder mystery. But that glosses over the addiction, the familial power struggle, and the utter loneliness the play dwells on. If anything, August harkens back to the sweeping epics of ancient times, played out in the 21st century on the arid plains of Oklahoma.

The visiting show doesn’t bring together any of the original cast. The Steppenwolf Theatre actors have all moved on to their own projects. Although a remount of the original cast would be spectacular, perhaps it is better that Steppenwolf has focused on continuing their commitment to great theatre of all colors. August’s mother has been doing some great work since her son moved out-of-state. Case-in-point: Letts as “Teach” in the current production of another Chicago playwright, American Buffalo by David Mamet. (our review ★★★★)

The touring production really succeeds in pushing the brilliance of the writing. It is obvious that the Oscar-owning Parsons, who has played pill-popping matriarch Violet Weston on and off since the play’s move to Broadway, has a keen insight to Letts’ characters. She has gotten plenty of practice at self-destructing night after night onstage, and the experience shows. Parsons’ Violet is part nagging mother, part tigress, part wandering spirit. She can violate and disgust the audience one moment, then pull out a flood of pity the next. Although she has the stature of a little old lady, Parsons has the heart of Greek god. Throughout the play, Violet finds the toughest resistance from her daughter Barbara (Shannon Cochran), who may be on a path to Violet’s life of drug-induced isolation herself. Fighting bitterly against an actress as brutal as Parsons is a momentous task, but Cochran remains ruthless. It’s a delight for us to witness these two actresses battle on-stage, like two fierce, starving animals placed in a cage where there’s only room for one.

 

August: Osage County - by Tracy Letts August: Osage County - by Tracy Letts
August: Osage County - by Tracy Letts August: Osage County - by Tracy Letts

Unfortunately, some of the other actors can’t find their stride in Letts’ potent language. Emily Kinny, who plays the 14-year-old pot-smoker Jean, comes off as strained and stilted. When the pressure cooker starts to bubble, she can pull out some excellent work, but she congeals quickly when the stakes aren’t as obvious. Jeff Still, who plays Barbara’s estranged husband and Jean’s father Bill, has a similar problem. Amy Warren seems to be pulling from Kristin Wiig in her interpretation of Karen, the oft-ignored third sister. She rides the comedy too hard instead of depending on the text. Luckily, the tenacity of Libby George (Mattie Fae), Paul Vincent O’Connor (Charlie), and Angelica Torn (Ivy) picks up the others’ slack.

As it has been said over and over again in the press, in college classrooms, advertisements, and the blogs, August: Osage County is the classic American drama of our generation. It need not be said again.

 

Rating: ★★★½

August: Osage County - by Tracy Letts

REVIEW: Awake and Sing (Northlight Theatre)

Dynamic ‘Awake and Sing’ nothing to sling oranges at

 Nussbaum, Gold, Whittaker

Northlight Theatre presents

Awake and Sing

 

By Clifford Odets
Directed by Amy Morton
At the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie
Through Feb. 28 (more info)

Reviewed by Leah A. Zeldes

On Broadway, the original, 1935 production of Awake and Sing ran for 120 performances and fixed Clifford Odets‘ reputation as a playwright to reckon with. Chicago audiences were not so impressed. "They threw oranges and apples. I was hit by a grapefruit," recalled Group Theatre actress Phoebe Brand.

Nussbaum, Lazerine, Troy, Gold v From today’s viewpoint, it’s hard to see why — except that, if you still had the price of a theater ticket in Depression-era Chicago, you likely weren’t too sympathetic to the play’s anti-establishment attitudes. The message blurs somewhat in Northlight Theatre‘s powerful revival of this blackly humorous hard-times drama, yet the play still stands on the side of the working class, documenting the warring of capitalism vs. socialism, plodding resignation vs. revolutionary fervor, and long-range hope vs. live-for-today fatalism among them.

Titled for the line from Isaiah, "Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust, and the earth shall cast out the dead," the play recounts the Depression-era struggles of three generations of the Bergers, a lower middle-class, Jewish family, all crammed into a Bronx apartment. We come on them quarrelling over the dining-room table, clashing over politics and personal lives in a manner no less heated for its habitualness.

Central to nearly every dispute, Cindy Gold’s feisty, belligerent Bessie Berger dominates the play, much as her character does her family. Bossy and bitter, Mama Berger rules her clan with fiercely protective, unsentimental tough love. She pinches pennies and prods and castigates her household, doing as she believes she must, while proudly keeping her home spic and span, her children healthy and always a bowl of fruit on the table, if only apples. "Here without a dollar you don’t look the world in the eye. Talk from now to next year — this is life in America," she asserts.

In the production’s main flaw, John Musial’s overly spacious set gives us little impression of the family’s financial struggle. Bessie may be a notable balabusta, but there should be overt signs of shabbiness, patching up, making do, and the cramped confinement of the characters should be mirrored in a constrained space. Musial’s solution — an overhang above the stage — is annoyingly distracting to the audience in the theater’s higher tiers without giving us the sense of overcrowding it was meant to do.

Lazerine, Francis Francis, Whittaker

When her restless and unhappy adult daughter, Hennie, gets sick, Bessie’s first thought is for a doctor. When Hennie turns up pregnant, Bessie immediately begins conniving for a husband for her — running roughshod over Hennie’s own desires but intent on her greater good.

Likewise, she actively opposes her 21-year-old son, Ralph’s, romance with a penniless and orphaned girl — unknowingly allying with her father, Jacob. Though more sympathetic, Jacob also fears Ralph will barter away his potential for an early and indigent marriage, and tells him, "Go out and fight so that life shouldn’t be printed on dollar bills."

Bessie rages at her father and bullies him, yet makes him a home and brags about his brains to an outsider, the janitor Schlosser, portrayed by Tim Gittings. Veteran Chicago actor Mike Nussbaum plays a restrained Jacob, a feeble, old "man who had golden opportunities but drank instead a glass tea." He’s still fixed on Marxist idealism but always a talker, not a doer. He frets at his daughter’s domineering ways, but gives in to her, even as he urges Ralph to defiance.

Ralph wants to make something of himself, but in Keith Gallagher’s hands he’s a moony dreamer, like his henpecked father, Myron, prompting Jacob to tell Ralph, "Boychick, wake up!" Myron Berger, played with mousy bewilderment by Peter Kevoian, went to law school for two years but wound up spending his life as a haberdashery clerk.

Audrey Francis’ fitful Hennie is hard to fathom, giving us few clues as to what motivates her. It’s as if she gave up on life before the play began and just lives on bile. Since she doesn’t know what she wants from life, she’s a pushover for any strong personality, from her mother to Moe Axelrod, the cynical, one-legged war veteran and small-time racketeer who becomes a family boarder. Jay Whittaker’s alternately snarky and passionate Moe provides a keen counterpoint to the mulish and strident Bergers.

Gold, Gallagher Gallagher, Nussbaum at table, h

Straddling the Bergers’ inner and outer worlds is Loren Lazerine‘s smugly complacent Uncle Morty, Bessie’s brother, a well-to-do garment manufacturer, who hands out largesse to his struggling relatives as if he were giving a dog a treat. On the other hand, we have Demetrios Troy’s inchoate and inarticulate Sam Feinschreiber, the greenhorn who marries Hennie and who shows us Bessie’s innate charisma by being almost as devoted to his fierce mother-in-law as to his disdainful, unappreciative wife.

Director Amy Morton ably brings out the realistic depth of these characters, in all their clannish divisiveness, and effectively highlights Odets’ rich and street-smart language. There’s plenty to mull on in this intense production. Yet for all that Artistic Director B.J. Jones writes in the program of the 1930s economic crisis in which this play was born and the current one that inspired him to mount it, Morton’s vision focuses less on the stress and politics of the world events outside the Bergers’ apartment than on the overwrought family dynamics within it.

Perhaps she feared conservatives armed with fruit.

 

Rating: ★★★★

 

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INTERVIEW: Playwright Lisa Loomer

Playwright Lisa Loomer discusses her new play, Distracted, currently playing at American Theatre Company through February 28th.

Interview by Keith Ecker 

th_tn-500_loomerwm151222666 It’s hard to keep up with Lisa Loomer. The prolific playwright’s work has been produced around the globe in such countries as Germany, Mexico, Israel and Egypt. She’s the recipient of a New York Foundation for the Arts grant, two grants from the National Endowment for the Arts as well as a handful of awards. In addition, her plays The Waiting Room—which is about the effects of cosmetic body modification on women—and Living Out—a piece that explores the relationship between a Salvadoran nanny and the Anglo lawyer for whom she works—are both taught in women’s studies and Latino studies programs.

Always one to gain inspiration from personal experience, it is only natural that Loomer would incorporate this idea of busyness in a play. Her piece Distracted, which is receiving its Chicago premier at American Theatre Company, explores the themes of sensory and information overload in our society, and more specifically, Attention Deficit Disorder. The conduits for the story are a husband, wife and their fidgety 8-year-old son. It’s part of the ATC’s 25th season, which explores the identity of the American family.


ChicagoTheaterBlog: American Theatre Company’s 25th season focuses on the American family. How do you think Distracted fits into this theme?

Loomer: Well, I think it fits all too well. Aside from the increasing number of children diagnosed with ADD and the huge rise in the number of psychiatric drug prescriptions written for children, it’s about how we live right now—our world of screens, our fractured attention spans, our need for stimulation and the effects on the family.

CTB: Distracted premiered in 2007. A lot has happened in the U.S. since then, including the election of our first multi-racial president, the collapse of our economy and, of course, the health care debate. Do you think in light of these historical changes, the play has taken on new significance?

Loomer: I think the play is about a society in a mad rush to keep up. I heard it in the State of The Union speech the other night, “We must keep up with China, with India, we cannot be second.” We need our stimulants and other drugs, our ever-changing Windows, our quick cuts, our frenetic rap. They keep us going. And as we fall behind in the world, as we see ourselves as struggling, I think it makes us run even faster. In terms of health care, I’m afraid I do see the drug companies as preying on this need of ours to perform, to be the best.

CTB: Distracted deals with issues related to ADD. What is it about our contemporary culture that has destroyed our attention spans? Is it Facebook, Twitter, 24-hour news cycles, etc.?

Loomer: Well, first of all, let me say that I do not believe ADHD is simply a cultural phenomenon. Scientists have isolated genes that are involved in ADHD. It is quite real, and I would never minimize its impact on the people who have it or their teachers or families. Whether it is a “difference” or a “disorder” is a question that I pose in the play. And I believe that what is a “difference” in the context of one society might be a “disorder” or “dysfunction” in another. That said, I do think that Xboxes and Twitter and the barrage of 24-hour news, etc. has had an effect on our attention spans. It’s harder to sit still, to contemplate, to wait and to pay attention. And what is attention? For me it is the ability to be present with someone without judgment. And that’s even harder to do when you’re distracted.

CTB: What themes are pervasive throughout your work? Why do you feel you focus on these concepts? Is it a conscious effort?

Loomer: I tend to be moved to write when something bugs me. I seem to have written a lot about balance or the need for balance—the balance of masculine versus feminine, nature versus science, Anglo culture versus Latino culture, the powerful versus the powerless, life versus art. It wasn’t conscious, no. But after a while it became clear even to me.

CTB: Tell me about your writing process. Where do you get your ideas, and how do you flesh them out into a full piece?

Loomer: I tend to get ideas by what I see around me. I wrote Living Out when my son was little and I spent a lot of time in the park, listening to both nannies and moms. I wrote The Waiting Room when the dangers of breast implants were in the news and a friend also wanted me to do something on Chinese foot binding and my mother was dying of cancer. I’m writing now about Israel and Palestine because, well, I read the papers and because I get a dozen passionate e-mails everyday from both sides. Once I do have an idea or an impetus or I’m pissed off enough, a character will appear in my mind and start talking and taking action. And then other characters will appear and start to disagree and get in the way. Once I have a first draft, I will say, “Now what does this want to be about?” And I’ll start to shape.

CTB: You’ve done stand-up comedy. Do you still perform stand-up today? How has this influenced your playwriting?

Loomer: I did stand up, political mostly, for a very short time. Mostly, when I did comedy, it was one-person shows in the vein of Lilly Tomlin. I was an actress, and character comedy and working in political-comedy/performance groups was part of being an actress for me. If stand-up influenced me at all, it made me appreciate the value of cutting. Being an actress had a far greater impact on me as a playwright.

CTB: What advice do you have for aspiring playwrights who wish to see their work produced?

Loomer: Well, my advice is always write what you have to write, write what is yours to write and never write to please or be “popular.” Your job is to do your body of work—no one else’s. I can’t tell anyone how to get produced. But I believe that the more you allow your own voice, no matter how strange, and explore your own interests, no matter how controversial, the more satisfying it will be. I also advise living your life so you have something to write about, talking to everyone about everything and going to the theater.


banner_distracted6

distracted is currently play at American Theatre Company through February 28th.

written by Lisa Loomer
directed by PJ Paparelli

January 28 – February 28 (ticket and show info)

Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm
Saturdays and Sundays at 3pm

run-time: 2 hours, with one intermission

kid-friendly?: recommended for ages 14 and up