Super Bowl thoughts

February 6, 2013

At its peak the viewing audience for Super Bowl XLVII reached 164 million. The “game” was watched in 232 countries around the world. Ads cost 3.5 million dollars per 30 second slot (about $120,000 per second). Beyonce’s half time show cost upwards of $1.5 million (a relative bargain at $2000 per second) and was 5 months in the planning/rehearsing. We got Alicia Keys’ lounge interpretation of the national anthem (what about this song necessitates odd pop interpretations? it’s an anthem, not a top 40 confection) and, the irony of Jennifer Hudson singing America the Beautiful in front of a chorus of children from the elementary school where the New Town massacre occurred. What beautiful America watches 22 children murdered (along with countless others, day in and day out, by its armed citizenry) and does nothing about it? But let’s move on, there’s a game to play.

The first half was an adrenaline rush blowout. The Ravens, who at certain points during the season looked laughably inadequate, coalesced into a ruthless and powerful machine under Joe Flacco’s precision and unshakable calm. The 49ers were tight and twitchy, their tempers flaring as their wunderkind, Colin Kaepernick, misread most everything, including his hyped pre-game press. A late second quarter melee after an interception by Ravens safety, Ed Reed, had both teams going ultimate fighter. Finally, some action. Ravens’ cornerback, Cary Williams, viciously shoved an official but got only got a five yard penalty (that was negated by a 49ers penalty), enshrining the thuggery that has become the calling card of professional sports. Then it was half-time and Beyonce, who killed it, out whoring Madonna to take the Pepsi crown (proving she can sing AND is the most valuable piece of ass this side of Kim Kardashian). Then into a second half that continued the Ravens’ roll with Jacoby Jones’ NFL record setting 109 yard kick-off return: a blowout in the making.

And then the lights went out. What?

Yes, the lights went out on the most watched television event of the year. With millions of dollars at stake, millions of Nacho engorged half drunk spectators wondering if their beer supply would last, millions in corporate earnings riding on multi-million dollar Super Bowl ad campaigns, and millions of kids everywhere learning first hand that violence, profanity and sex are the birthright of all americans, the lights went out. A perfect synthesis of violence, sex and media, undone by faulty infrastructure.

Has there ever been a more perfect metaphor for the decline of American culture? I think not.

The Super Bowl of the 21st century has become a celebration of thuggery as the ultimate expression of american capitalism. The utter lack of sportsmanship on the field. The touting of aggression between the brothers coaching the two teams. The Ray Lewis Evangelical Show. The unapologetic celebration of sexual commerce during halftime. The surreal plunge into the banality of television commentary. It was all spectacularly entertaining; the best Super Bowl I’ve ever seen. And at the same time, profoundly disturbing.

During the 34 minutes of dead air waiting for half the lights to come back on in the Super Dome, all I could picture was this very same dome during Katrina, half lit, filled with misery and waste, and millions tuning into then out of that ultimate reality show. 8 years on and thousands of people are still displaced, their homes still in ruin, yet we gladly spend millions upon millions of dollars…on a game. It’s Orwell’s Ministry of Truth brought to you by CBS and Pepsi. Historical revisionism with snacks and a booty show.

The lights eventually came back on. The game actually got interesting, and then not so much. Commercials were aired: buy a Jeep, honor a vet. We gorged. We drank. Fun was had by all.

Somewhere, Rome is burning.

 

 

Radoslaw Rychcik/Stefan Zeromski Theatre
In the Solitude of Cotton Fields

posted by: dirtybombpdx

Are self-hating fags by definition homophobic? Toward the end of In the Solitude of Cotton Fields a video montage plays showing bestial acts, acts of violence, drag queens, gay sex, cocks, tits, some psuedo-nihilistic captions and an animated Madonna from Who’s That Girl. I think it’s meant to be scary and shocking, and possibly some sort of commentary on present morality, but what it most definitely is, is banal (and way too long). Like the entirety of the show, everything goes on far too long and is at too high a decibel level. The two actors look cool enough in their retro black suits, white cocks, I mean socks, and loafers, and are quite self-possessed, taking turns rattling off their esoteric “poetry” about cruising each other in the dark.  But all the screaming into the mics and forced laughter and Polish and tears are, aside from my bleeding eardrums, sadly laughable and totally HOMOPHOBIC. Or could this possibly be a parody ala Spinal Tap? (certainly the volume was at 11). Was I punked? I think, unfortunately, it was all meant in earnest and is basically a circle-jerk for the actors and director. Everything about the piece is tired, from the suits to the bass and drum score (played live by Natural Born Chillers, so 90′s), to the idea that gay love by definition must be aberrant or torturous or nihilistic (so Reagan 80′s). Good god, no wonder most of the planet runs screaming from anything labeled performance art. Really? You want me to pay you money so you can scream in my face and tell me I’m damned? I’m just glad the cute one stripped so I could see his uncircumcised penis. Because like all self-hating fags, all I really want out of life is anonymous cock.

blank[et]

September 19, 2010

Danielle Kelly + Noelle Stiles: Blanket
Blanket Space, 1100 NW Glisan
posted by: dirtybombpdx

Non-narrative solo performance is extremely difficult to pull off, but especially so at 45 minutes in length. Having heard (and seen) so much about this show and the art installation aspect of it, I have to admit, I was sadly under-whelmed by the “blanket space”. The soft sculptures hanging in the space at 11th and Glisan are lumpy pastel sacks that, in their messy whimsy, would be pretty light fare if shown in a gallery setting. A few of the sacks are wired for sound and when touched create an interactive music-scape (an original score is credited to Unrecognizable Now). Given the opportunity to explore the interactivity between dancer, object and sound, the resulting score, like the space, is less than dynamic, and ironically, feels completely unoriginal (Yanni-esque, actually. I felt like lighting a scented candle). The choreography, though not completely uninteresting, at times borders on parody. The opening 10 minutes (it may have been less, but felt twice that long) has Ms. Stiles seated on a puffy chair with a giant stylized pillow on her head and right arm as she slowly (way way too slowly) looks for the most comfortable way to sit. I nearly laughed and/or walked out. The piece takes a tremendous amount of effort on Ms. Stiles part and I applaud her commitment. But though there are some interesting shapes and cadences to be had mid-floor, overall there is very little of compelling interest.  I’ve seen a fair amount of contemporary dance of late and I’m realizing how very difficult it is to come up with something compelling AND original (then again, the same could be said about any of the creative mediums).

butt-clenching art

September 17, 2010

John Jasperse Company
Truth, Revised Histories, Wishful Thinking & Flat-out Lies
PSU, Lincoln Hall

posted by: dirtybombpdx

Let’s have, like, an offensive rap song (but we’ll use it ironically) blast the audience while the dancers…well, who cares what they do, because I’ll be doing this really funny comedy bit in the middle of it all. Then there will be this butt-clench spotlight dance with the women in sequined shorty dresses. Yeah, I like it. And the rest of the choreography will be derivative to the point of banality. Yeah, I’m smelling a fellowship here. Then some more comedy…wait, is anything really that funny anymore, I mean, with the economy and the war and global warming and everything? Oh right, yeah, the butt-clench dance…30 seconds of funny (or mildly funny…I heard a chuckle, or was that the AC kicking on). And since, like, the butt-clenching is so genius and everything, I’ll have them butt clench in the pink/red blossom, matching swim-wear and umbrella beach scene – the scene with the muscle-stud cabana boy delivering pink cocktails. Now that’s comedy. Somebody will laugh. Right? Now for the art part. Hmm, hold on, it’s coming to me. Okay, I’ve got it, I’ve got it: titties and sweaty ass-holes, oh and men in body-stockings smelling girl’s crotches. Deep. The money’s gonna pour in. And the smoke machine, Jesus, I’ve never seen such good smoke. Maybe it could be a metaphor for something. Yeah, that’s what it is, a metaphor, a really good, thought-provoking metaphor followed by a lot of silence – a whole lot of silence. Then some more cheesy jokey stuff, or whatever, and then we’ll make everyone leave the theater for intermission*. They won’t know what the fuck is going on. We’ll get a standing O for sure. Should there be more smoke?

*some of us didn’t come back.

Nature Theater of Oklahoma

THE WORKS at Washington High School.

God, I really wanted to like Nature Theater of Oklahoma’s Romeo and Juliet, and for much of the time I did. The two performers were odd and engaging and very funny and then a chicken danced. What’s not to love? The set was old school minimal: a painted backdrop and tin cans for footlights. The actors took turns out front, first Juliet then Romeo, then back and forth, as each tried to retell the story of R&J though neither could quite remember the tale. Nature Theater asked scores of people to relate the tale of Romeo and Juliet and this show is a product of those mis-remembered story-lines. It’s a funny conceit and the actors are hilarious (though once again, expletives provide many of the punch lines), but it goes on for an hour and a half (a good 30 minutes too long) and degenerates into the actor’s (now together on stage) tired plea for love. BORING! But the capper that sent me fleeing from the theater was the hack interpretation of Shakespeare’s gorgeous balcony scene from R&J (done in the dark, with maximum pretension, after the curtain call). Holy crap, a serious lack of judgement that completely erased any love I was feelin’ for ya.

there’s still time…

September 16, 2010

The Wooster Group

thru Saturday, Sept. 18, 4:30-8:30pm

Burnish Hall, Portland Center for the Performing Arts

Billed as an interactive 360 degree war film, the Wooster Group brings to Portland an exhilarating distillation of their unique theatrical imperative. Digitally video’d by 12 cameras and projected in-the-round by 6, the narrative is controlled by whoever sits in the center seat. As the “driver” spins in the center chair, the narrative (such as it is) plays out wherever he/she chooses to face. A grouping, around the center chair, of stools that also spin 360, allows the audience to follow the action (or not – several muted narratives and blurred images play on the rest of the 360 degree screen even as the “driver’s” vision is highlighted). There’s something for everyone, from porn to melodrama to Monty Python-esque comedy. It’s all ostensibly about or against war, but it doesn’t really matter what it’s about. It’s so odd and fun and uniquely engaging that the subject matter is almost beside the point. And, as a bonus, you get a lesson in social psychology. Watching what the “driver” chooses to view is at once irritating and fascinating (especially the speed at which the porn gets passed over). On more than one occasion I wanted to knock the “driver” from his perch and spin in the chair as fast as possible…but I didn’t (hmm).

Daisey St. Gare

September 13, 2010

Mike Daisey: The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs

Gare St. Lazare Players Ireland: First Love

How to reconcile the divergent worlds of Steve Jobs and Samuel Beckett in a single night of theater? It sounded like a good idea when I set out to see Mike Daisey’s The Agony and Ecstacy of Steve Jobs then raced across town for Conor Lovett’s performance of Beckett’s First Love. Though there were bits and pieces in both that fleetingly held my interest, in retrospect, sipping on a martini in my backyard would have been preferable to either experience.

First up was Daisey’s Steve Jobs obsession. I’ve seen Daisy a few times now, and although I always laugh out loud at his big rubbery facial expressions and booming voice, I also always find myself irritated by his faux-profundity and lack of editorial zeal. Two hours is too long for material that, if you have any interest in the news of the world, will be far too familiar. The story of Jobs and Apple is not obscure. Other than using my computer for its most basic functionality, I have little interest in the world of computing, yet I still know the story of Steve Jobs and the impact of technology on our society (as I’m sure most people did in the audience Saturday night). And while I couldn’t have named the city in China, Shenzhen, that produces 50 percent of the electronics the world uses, I was familiar with the scale of production there and had read of the suicides associated with the prison-like conditions of the massive factories. Daisey wants us to be shocked at this information and scolds us for consuming the product yet ignoring the conditions. How is this any different from the sweat-shop produced products that we Americans have been for consuming for 50 odd years now? Daisey even travels to China to interview the workers, yet all we really get from it is that he’s a big fat guy in a Hawaiian shirt who sticks out in a crowd, oh and that some of the workers are as young as 10 years old. Really? Shocking. Isn’t this same story we’ve heard about Walmart and Nike and on and on going all the way back to Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle? So what’s new? What little insight Daisey does give us isn’t original, but his stand-up schtick is funny in the typical stand-up way: most of the laughs are generated, not by wit, but by Chris Farley extremes or tired expletives. Were it an hour long, I might say it was entertaining, but at 2 hours it’s a trial.

Next up was Conor Lovett of the Gare St. Lazare Players Ireland, in a theatrical interpretation of Samuel Beckett’s short story, First Love. I couldn’t wait to see this production. I love Beckett, but was unfamiliar with this piece. Walking into the BodyVox space and seeing the elegant, haunting set (a large rectangle of blue light and two up-ended wood benches, like spectral witnesses to the proceedings), I felt sure I was in for an amazing night of theater. Lovett walks onstage with no fanfare and begins. His wee frame is accentuated by his Duckie Brown suit and large sturdy shoes that make him appear even more elfin. His bald head glows in the light and his eyes dart furtively around the space. I hold my breath. He speaks, it’s halting and labored. He looks at us and smiles. What do you think? I’m not sure what to think. I wait. He is masterfully controlled. He smiles again. Another long pause. More halting, labored explication. I start to lose track of the story. His delivery is so premeditated I can’t tell if it’s a choice or an affectation. The audience is restless, people keep shifting in their seats. The theater is too warm. The woman in front of me has fallen asleep. I try to focus. It’s a bleak story without light and little humanity – none, actually. Lovett pulls one of the benches down, sits on it for a few seconds then stands it back on end – the only time the benches are touched (I liked that). The story isn’t inherently theatrical and was unpublished until 1971. Since Beckett is one of our most gifted and celebrated playwrights, you’d think if he’d intended this as a theater piece, he’d have said as much. I loved the script, actually, and would have loved much more to sit and read it than to suffer through the tedious hour and a half I spent watching Lovett’s self-love fest. He’s obviously a talented guy and I’m sure when he first started performing this piece it was wonderful. But his current performance is so mannered and knowing that I can imagine it not altering one iota with or without an audience. There is nothing spontaneous or “live” about it. In fact, it seemed as though he was even a little pissed that we, the audience, weren’t all that taken with his “celebrated” performance. I never saw a character on stage, just an actor quite full of himself and completely unwilling to invite us in.

Glorious Oz

September 13, 2010

Dayna Hanson: Goria’s Cause
Winningstad Theater

I don’t know that the American Revolution is a subject I need to see explored…again, but with a break dancing animatronic George Washington, real cherry pie, smokin’ hot dancers, and a bald eagle with serious self-esteem issues, I’ll go along for the ride.

Billed as a preview performance (meaning they’re still working it all out), Dayna Hanson and her collaborators have fashioned our nation’s march toward independence into an art house explosion. It’s a bit like Oz: sort of recognizable, but then again… There’s a rockin’ onstage band, funky costumes, some terrific choreography, crazy sight gags, childhood remembrances, the aforementioned pie, and a loose, organic feeling to most everything that happens. The actor/singer/dancer/musicians – cause everyone on stage sings, dances, acts and plays – are miked and for much of the show they talk over or around each other, sub-title what’s happening, disagree, elaborate or just make crazy noise. It’s a great effect and keeps everything feeling very spontaneous (though, obviously a tremendous amount of work and rehearsal supports that spontaneity).

The piece is essentially danced based. There are several significant passages of pure dance and most, if not all, of the transitions are choreographed and danced in some fashion or other. About three-quarters of the way into the show, a gorgeous trio takes place: two soldiers harass a woman in a white bonnet and long blue dress. It’s unsettling, sometimes frightening, yet mesmerizing and conceptually, quite resonant. The show could use more moments of similar depth and coherence.

There are also several songs throughout the show (and nearly continuous underscoring by the terrific band), but one song in particular stands out. A rock and roll number about the significance of what’s going down, Betsy, we need a new flag, that again, brings the show into focus.

The final tableau, sung a capella, is achingly beautiful.

As this show finds its deeper truths and hones its political perspective I can see it becoming a stunning piece of theater.

I think tomorrow, Monday the 13th at 6:30 may be its last showing. Don’t miss it. Go.

prima donna

September 11, 2010

Opening Night Of TBA 10: with Rufus Wainwright and the Oregon Symphony

The first time I saw Rufus Wainwright he was just a boy with his piano singing his heart out and charming the pants off his audience (I think literally so for a couple of his smitten fans). That was in 1998. Twelve years on and he’s still charming, singing and playing, but inevitably, there’s some taint on the dazzle. No doubt he’s still a very engaging presence and a gifted composer/lyricist, but to judge by last night’s dirge, sorry, I meant TBA Festival opening night extravaganza at the Schnitz, Mr. Wainwright’s celebrity is starting to impinge on his talent.

The first half of the evening was dedicated to Wainwright’s opera PRIMA DONNA which had its debut at the Manchester International Festival back in July of 2009. The opera had a decidedly mixed reception (I’ve yet to find a truly positive review) and would certainly never have been produced if not for Wainwright’s celebrity. Most critics acknowledged Wainwright’s pop gifts and occasional successful flourish, but on the whole dismissed it as slight and unoriginal. Last night the Oregon Symphony led by Carlos Kalmar, with the soprano Janis Kelly and Megan someone (whose name Wainwright couldn’t quite remember nor did she merit a program mention) performed excerpts from the opera to a somewhat tepid reception. In the snippets performed (an overture or two and a handful of scenes) the opera seems to be something of a pastiche, a little Ravel, a pinch of Puccini, some Massenet, some Strauss, and fleetingly Wainwright himself. Admittedly we only heard excerpts, but even so, it lacked momentum, dramatic urgency, a cohesive style. Most disappointing though was the libretto. I’ve always been a huge fan of Wainwright’s lyrics, at once witty and ironic yet filled with longing and romance. Sadly, none of those qualities are evident in the libretto for PRIMA DONNA  (co-written with Wainwright by Bernadette Colomine). The Met famously pulled out of producing PRIMA DONNA when Wainwright refused to write the lyrics in English. Reading the banal super-titles last night, I’d say Wainwright made the right decision. On the plus side, Janis Kelly sang beautifully as the prima donna though much of the part was too low in her register (she also looked appropriately fetching in her black diva dress). Megan whatshername, as the maid, was fine, though a little harsh in her approach (and in her dress – bad prom reject).  And while I realize that this is just a staged presentation and not the real deal, it was bit hard to believe in La Kelly’s divahood when she sat during an orchestral passage and swigged from a bottle of Poland Springs. Was a pitcher and glass too much to ask for? The intermission could not have come soon enough.

Back from a bathroom break and Rufus was ready to entertain, or maybe just to be adored. Opening with one of my favorites, Oh, What a World, a song that wends its way into a mash-up with Ravel’s Bolero, Rufus looked a little bored and Kalmar didn’t help matters with his sluggish accompaniment. Finally, oh finally, Rufus sat down at the piano and sang the gorgeously simple Vibrate, a song filled with wit and longing and romance. Perfection. Really. Gorgeous. But then came Little Sister from WANT TWO, and, not perfection (Rufus, Kalmar and the symphony again not quite in sync). Then Rufus struggled through two songs from the Berlioz song cycle Nuit d’ete – heart-felt, but under-prepared. Rufus talked some nonsense about this being an open rehearsal and that we were all part of the process. Really? a hundred and twenty bucks to watch you rehearse? bullshit. I couldn’t help but think of Susan Graham’s amazing performance of these same songs with The Orchestra of St. Luke’s at Carnegie Hall in 2003.

Then things really got irritating.

Rufus has been peddling his lame Judy Garland show for a while now, and it’s got to stop. If you want to challenge yourself and push your artistic boundaries by exploring this legendary concert and performance, by all means, do so. But I don’t see any evidence of exploration. Singing the same arrangements in the same keys shows that you can read music and have an admirable vocal range, but it doesn’t show any emotional connection to this music or, truth be told, any real affinity for the performance of it. Judy Garland rarely closed her eyes when she sang. Her connection to the music and to her audience was heart-breaking and profound; an emotional honesty that is rare to nonexistent in these days of ironic commentary. Rufus closes his eyes    a lot. He doesn’t ever really let us in. He’s funny and charming, yes, but we never see inside; he’s never heart-breaking, he’s too busy commenting on his performance, winking at us, letting us in on the joke. It’s all irony all the time. One gay icon aping another. Basically it’s one long, really long, ironic joke. Look, I’m a gay man singing Judy Garland’s songs. Isn’t it ironic? ha ha ha ha. Yeah, it’s ironic, and also a huge bore. You don’t even care enough to learn the words. And asking the audience to sing along, really? Most of that audience only knows your fucked up versions of those songs, if they know them at all. When Garland sang her so slow rendition of You Made Me Love You she looked directly into her audience, sometimes sitting on the edge of the stage and singing to a single individual – incredibly intimate and open. Rufus didn’t look at us once. And The Man That Got Away (next to Over the Rainbow, Garland’s signature song), a jazz infused heart-breaking opera when delivered by Garland, is just another ironic joke to Rufus (and none too funny with Kalmar’s dirge-like accompaniment.) I beg you, rent A STAR IS BORN and fast forward to Judy singing this number in an after-hours jazz club with a 5 piece combo and you’ll understand what a genius performer she truly was. I think Rufus Wainwright is a profoundly gifted individual, but his celebrity is starting to get the best of him (now there’s an ironic Garland parallel worth pursuing). There was some more to the show, but nothing really of note. And then of course, this being Portland, a standing ovation ended the night. Whatever. I guess if your “cutting edge” arts festival wants to open with a night of drag karaoke you’ll probably consider this a success. I just wish there’d been an open bar.

gray matter

May 23, 2010

The Gray Sisters by Craig Wright (The Pavillion, Orange Flower Water) is the latest (least?) offering from Third Rail Repertory Theatre. Commissioned specifically for the female members of the company (Stephanie Gaslin, Maureen Porter, Valerie Stevens, and Gretchen Corbett), the play is a spare 90 minutes consisting of 4 one-sided “dialogues” in which each of the Gray Sisters, in her turn, talks to an unseen, unheard character, while the other sisters sit in the dark in silence. It might be an interesting acting excercise, but it isn’t a very interesting play. That the four women are all defined by the men in their lives doesn’t help, nor does the tired abuse angle. Nothing much rings true in the script, but the four actresses give it their all.

The first “dialogue” has Gaslin playing the youngest of the sisters. She’s in a car with her father (though her air-guitar playing and general physicality don’t give much sense of the confined space) and talks at length about the significance of the Indigo Girls and her misadventures in love with an Italian grad student, and sets up the rest of the play by questioning her father about his relationship with one of her sisters. It’s all a bit obvious and ridiculous at the same time given we’re not privy to the father’s side of the “dialogue”. Yes, I can imagine what he’s saying and how he might be reacting, just as Gaslin is forced to do, but for my money, the whole point of acting is reacting, and without anyone to play off of, there aren’t many real moments to be had. And Gaslin seems too old, and her interpretation too knowing, to make the character plausible.

Leaping ahead in time, next up is Maureen Porter as Pam, the lesbian sister. The invisible father from the first scene, Pam’s step-father, has recently committed suicide (remember, the youngest daughter questioned him about his relationship with one of her sisters  – guilty), and Pam, doing yoga (why?) confronts her mother, who is packing to move into a retirement home, with the truth about her dead husband’s abuse. Pam screams expletives at her mother throughout and finally tells her mother that she wants her to kill herself too, because that would make things better for her, Pam. Really? Do nominally sane people actually express themselves this way? And do their nominally sane mothers stand for it? Not having the mother present to respond, we’re left to wonder why this woman who just lost her husband to suicide would allow this onslaught to continue at length and end with no recrimination. Porter is a gifted actress, but she can’t make this fly.  Her emotional ferocity is impressive, but again, it’s acting in a vacuum. Who cares? And truth be told, she’s miscast. The expletive laden dialogue she’s been given doesn’t suit her, it feels forced (she and Corbett should have switched roles). She’s not an actress given to rough edges, and this “character” demands them. But then, it really isn’t a character at all – none of them are. They’re merely ideas, the contrivances of a lazy playwright.

Valerie Stevens, as the abused sister, Anya, is up next. In the previous scene we learned that Anya is married to an abusive, demeaning husband who denounces and ridicules her in front of their children and badgers and harasses her even when she’s on the phone. Yet when he’s got one foot out the door, leaving her for another woman, he stops and listens to her whine on and on about how she’s tried so hard to make it work and how she still loves him and how it’s wrong of him not let her change – it’s her right to change. All thoroughly unbelievable, yet Stevens is mesmerizing. I hate this play, but I love this actress. She’s heartbreaking and fearless. I just wish she’d been given material worthy of her talent.

Gretchen Corbett closes the show by talking to her father’s grave (NOT her sister-abusing stepfather’s grave), and reacting as if he is actually talking back to her. Crazy? Maybe, she’s lives in NYC after all (though you wouldn’t know it from what she’s wearing – very Portland, NOT very NYC) For some reason, the three other sisters are now in a clump, lit and watching her. Why? Where are we exactly? Why are they suddenly present, yet not in the scene?  And why all the gray carpeting, gray benches and gray flats? It looks like the lobby of an office building. Or does everything have to be gray because it’s called The Gray Sisters? There’s no specificity to anything, not to the direction, not to the characters, or costumes, set or soundtrack – it’s all a gray wash. I understand elegiac, but this is opacity, and clichéd at that.

Truth be told, if I were one of the female members of this company I would be pissed. The guys got to do Mamet’s iconic American Buffalo on a soaring, eye-filling set, and the women get to reinforce negative female stereotypes on a cold blank stage. There was a recent NY Times article bemoaning the dearth of quality female roles on Broadway this year while an abundance of powerful, fully realized, show-stopping male roles overwhelmed the Great White Way. Good to know Third Rail is doing their part to keep that trend alive.

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