Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Catching up: Theater, film, and books

OK, my job's been a little crazy since the last time, and I've been busy with a couple of things; for one, I bought a new desk, one of those unfinished-wood things, that could look like something from a college dorm if you didn't do it right. But I did it right and after staining and polyurethaning it looks like an antique. It's now a cozy little corner of my living room for me to do my computing and other stuff.

I missed chronicling the last two shows I saw in the Fringe Festival. The next-to-last show I saw was called "Revenge of the Poisoned Ladies" by a group called Live Action Cartoonists, seemingly based here in DC, but I can't find out anything about them. It was a fun show, goofily humorous and weird all at once. Presented as a horror double-feature, the first act opens with a couple at a table, having a banal conversation, sometimes in what sounds like Japanese. Then one starts telling a story that's really an excerpt from a Japanese epic, of a faithless samurai being stalked by his wife's ghost. The table becomes an integral part of the set, with the actors popping up from behind it, expounding their lines almost sarcastically. It was actually fairly eerie and funny all at once. The second half, which was May Sinclair's story "The Victim" as narrated by two elderly women (actually young actors in drag) was somewhat lesser but was also fun. The troupe did Mad Libs during the intermission.

The very last show I saw was "The Fiddler Ghost," the premiere show put on by local group Old Lore Theater. It's based on a folktale from the British Isles, which interested me. I'm a sucker for fairy tales and folk tales. Interestingly, the show was more of a ballet, with spurts of dialogue, than an actual play. The first part is all dance (with some music from guitar and fiddle) showing aboriginal people being displaced by a militaristic and agrarian society, and being driven underground and becoming the legendary Faerie folk. The second half was more dialog, the story of fiddler Ioro who is haunted by a tune heard from a faerie hill, and eventually goes through the woods to go into their cave and play for them. However, it turns out to be a hell for him; they demand the same tune over and over and won't let him stop. In the last part, the villagers attend to their morning prayers, while Ioro's phantom tries to make contact with them, but can only do so very indirectly.

It was chilling, moving, and enchanting, a great show. I wish both Live Action Cartoonists and Old Lore Theater had websites, as they both do great shows and I wish I could direct others to them. All I can say to DC-area readers is to keep an eye open for them.

And, amusingly, one of the first shows I saw, Molotov Theater's "The Sticking Place," was voted "Best of the Fest" in a surprising upset. I saw THE DARK KNIGHT, which was well-done if almost too grim for its own good. I can't say much about Heath Ledger's performance that hasn't been said already. He's simply amazing. I also saw the great French thriller TELL NO ONE which was a real edge-of-your-seat thriller, given a fairly straightforward treatment, with deft direction and truly impressive acting. I actually had a tear in my eye at the end. I have to see THE MUMMY: CURSE OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR soon because I have to write about it for Scarlet, but I'm not looking forward to it.

And I just finished a fun book that I picked up at random at my local library.

GOODNIGHT SWEET PRINCE is the first of a series by David Dickinson (there's about six or seven so far) about Victorian-era investigator Lord Francis Powerscourt. The mystery is intriguing; a series of blackmail notes have been addressed to the family of the Prince of Wales, and Powerscourt is to investigate, when the Duke of Clarence, Prince Albert Victor (known as "Prince Eddy") is brutally murdered in his bedroom in Sandringham. Who did it? And why? It's a twisted tale, to be sure, reaching back into the Prince's military experience and his many bawdy exploits. The action bounces back and forth between England and Italy, and the there's some interesting twists as well as some very good characterizations. Lord Francis has a romance with the lovely Lady Lucy, borne from an intellectual connection. Quite often I find these fictional romances tiresome and saccharine, but the Francis/Lucy story was quite charming and actually made me think of the sort of love affair I'd like to have someday. If only I could meet a man like Lord Francis, or a male version of Lady Lucy. Sigh. The Italian scenes are well done and there's some moments of real D&C gruesomeness.

It is a daring bit of speculation; the real Prince Eddy died of influenza in 1892. In GSP, that's a cover story cooked up by the royals. That part is well done and fun.

Anyway, that's all for the moment. I swore at one point to do some music reviewing, and I will. I just got a CD of Bartok's "Bluebeard's Castle" and I have a number of other discs I'll review in the future. Plus my to-read list is always metastasizing, and I'm always grabbing random stuff at the library. Sheesh! Why didn't I start this five years ago?

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