Friday, January 18, 2008

WILS and Peppermint Creek

No, not both of those together, but I figured that since I'm so far behind on my writing and the list of what I want to blog about keeps getting longer and longer, that I'd blog about one old thing and one new thing.

WILS End-of-year show

Jim Fordyce is a regular guest on Jack Ebling's Friday night WILS 1320 AM radio show where they talk movies and entertainment each week. On the final Friday of the year, Jack was off watching the MSU Bowl game, so Jim invited me to join him to talk about theater.

Now, despite having a degree in journalism and having been a media person all my life, I've never been on the radio or television before. (I managed to substitute the 200-level broadcast course with a graduate-level journalism law and ethics course--I was pretty dedicated to print journalism then and now.)

I found I enjoyed it a great deal, though as usual I overprepared and left with a whole list of shows that I wasn't able to talk about. If I ever find my notes, I'll write here about the shows that I had listed as some of the most intriguing shows of 2007. They weren't the ones that I would have called the "best," but they were ones that stuck with me because of the interesting things that they either attempted or achieved. They were the sort of shows that keep me constantly fascinated by the theater that goes on in town.

And if you would like to hear what we did talk about on that snowy afternoon, Jim has posted a recording of the show here. It's the Dec. 27 show.

Peppermint Creek: A New Brain

Last night I went to see A New Brain. It's a very well-performed show that frequently had me tearing up. It's a very intense show--as are most of PCT's shows--and was often heart-wrenching, not unlike William Finn's other show, The 25th Annual Putnum County Spelling Bee.

Of course, now that I've started to write this, I realize I'm really not ready to write about it yet. I'd prefer to do some more thinking first. A few random observations about it, though:

  • Just to be contrary, I don't think I would call this a comedy at all. I would call it an absurdist drama.
  • Nathanial Nose, the actor who plays Roger, the main character's lover, called it a comedy without a punchline. That's actually a pretty good descriptor as well.
  • William Finn has a thing about fat. Then again, he's from New York, so I suppose it must be excused. It was interesting because I'd recently read an article at Utne Reader about attitudes toward fat and had been contemplating about how little this cultural obsession had made it into our arts. How quickly wrong I was shown!
  • There were times, especially in the beginning, when it was hard to hear the voices of the singers despite the fact that I was in the front row. The music was just a few notches too loud--even for how strong these voices were.
  • There are some wonderful alterations in the music from beginning to end.
  • It's easy to see why some believed that William Finn might be the successor to Sondheim. There were several elements that seemed Sondheim-inspired, even though he isn't quite as dark and quirky, nor does his music seem quite as difficult to sing. The vast majority of the play, however is sung.
  • I appreciate how very real and relatable (yes, I know, that's not a word--but you know what I mean by it, right?) all of Finn's characters are, even when they are stereotypes.

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