Andrew Hamm: the Bipolar Express

Ruminations on theatre, music, and just about anything else that crosses my bipolar brain.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Orson Scott Card (of all people) on Iraq

Card's Hatrack River website is swiftly becoming one of my favorites. I missed this strong article in January. If you liked the Lieberman piece, you'll love this one.

An excerpt:

"I'm a Democrat -- a Scoop Jackson, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Joseph Lieberman Democrat. The kind that believes freedom is worth fighting for -- both our freedom of other peoples as well.

"The kind that places the interest of the American people and, yes, of the world at large over the temporary political advantage that can be derived from attacking a President in wartime.

"So when I watch Democratic leaders completely ignore the security interests of the United States in order to engage in cheap sloganeering ("bring our boys home!") and demagoguery, I am filled with shame and rage.

"Are they really so completely ignorant of history that they do not realize the golden opportunity we have, and the disastrous consequences of not seizing it?"


"The Left always wants someone to "do something," but never wants to do anything that works. And never wants to admit that President George W. Bush has ever done anything right.

"Well, he has; and the Democrats right now are doing something dangerously wrong. Every word they say strengthens and encourages our enemies, while discouraging and weakening our friends and allies in the Middle East. They are the best weapon Al Qaeda and the murderous Iranian and Syrian governments have against us. Every time they open their mouths in their misleading and deceptive attacks on Bush and demands for unilateral withdrawal from Iraq, they are helping ensure the future deaths of Americans and others, at home and abroad.

"It is one thing to raise legitimate questions about how a war is being waged. It is quite another thing to agitate openly for surrender to an enemy that will not accept our surrender, but will, scenting victory, continue to murder Americans wherever they can."

Card for President. Perhaps he should be Doctor Doom's running mate...

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Joe Lieberman in Monday's "Wall Street Journal"

Liberal Independent Senator Joe Lieberman, a personal hero of mine, continues to be one of the only people in Washington D.C. who makes any kind of sense. Read his Wall Street Journal opinion piece from Monday, "The Choice in Iraq."

An excerpt:

"What is remarkable about this state of affairs in Washington is just how removed it is from what is actually happening in Iraq. There, the battle of Baghdad is now under way. A new commander, Gen. David Petraeus, has taken command, having been confirmed by the Senate, 81-0, just a few weeks ago. And a new strategy is being put into action, with thousands of additional American soldiers streaming into the Iraqi capital.

"Congress thus faces a choice in the weeks and months ahead. Will we allow our actions to be driven by the changing conditions on the ground in Iraq--or by the unchanging political and ideological positions long ago staked out in Washington? What ultimately matters more to us: the real fight over there, or the political fight over here?"

Joe: You are The Man. I couldn't imagine myself ever voting for you, but I'm glad people did.

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Cheney Escapes Death; Liberals Disappointed.

Just a few highlights from the comments over at the Huffington Post's coverage of the suicide bombing aimed at the Vice President today.

"Darth sure does manage to spread a litle cheer everywhere he goes."

"Get ready for a day of Bush/Cheney Derangement Syndrome."

"Better luck next time!"

"Dr Evil escapes again...damn."

"Calls up images, though, doesn't it? A little black Darth Vader helmet spinning, careening through the air, to fall to earth....."

"How do we know they missed him? Has anybody seen him in person? You know how Bush Public Relations fakes everything like that fake Thanksgiving where Bushlie took plastic turkeys to the troops?"

"F#$% Cheney. It's called poetic justice. This no good MF is complicit in sending thousands to their deaths via bomb blasts and you expect sympathy for the cretin. Karma's coming to get that rat basturd."

"So Cheney is personally responsible for the deaths of 14 innocent people...and then he waddles off to lunch!! What a piece of shit!"

"Jesus Christ and General Jackson too, can't the Taliban do anything right? They must know we would be so gratefull to them for such a remarkable achievement."

"The start of a new season of "Fear". Must be sweeps month. The mass media is out of steam on Anna Nicole and so now the ever-popular terrorism and al Queda is filling the airways. Seems that even when the congress is not in his pocket he keeps going back to the only card he has left in his hand. And the media just laps it up and never asks any hard questions. Pathetic."

"Maybe Bush ordered the attack. After all, he has a telephone relationship with the Taliban.It could actually be revenge because, as some believe, it appears Cheney tried to have Bush asassinated on the morning of 9/11."

It's so wonderful to hear from the rank-and-file of the party of tolerance, peace, and compassion. [/sarcasm] Seriously, let's just take this opportunity to remind ourselves that the right doesn't have a monopoly on ignorant, self-righteous assholes.

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Monday, February 26, 2007

The Andrew Hamm:PMRM Blog Chooses a Candidate!

Those who followed this blog over the past year know, of course, that I'm a fairly politically engaged person. The more the campaigns begin, the more disgusted I am by the idealogical idolators on both sides. To quote Homer Simpson: "How many times do I have to tell you: Democracy doesn't work!"

Having decided that General Zod may be a bit extreme for me to back, I'm going slightly more moderate with my support for... Doctor Doom.

Far from being a Beltway insider, Doctor Doom isn't even American; he's an evil dictator from Latveria, a fictional country in central Europe. This is just the kind of fresh insight we need in Washington as America moves into a new phase of technological world influence.

I'm convinced that Victor von Doom is the man America needs, and my wholehearted support of his candidacy has nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that one of his robots is in my office right now with orders to vaporise my spleen if I write anything other than wholehearted support.

Vote Doom in 2008! Doctor Doom for America!

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Andrew's Top Ten Superhero Movies

I've been geeking it out bigtime lately, with the December releases of Superman Returns and Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut inspiring quite a lot of comic movie viewing. I thought "Why not create a pompous and self-satisfying list of Superhero Movies?" So here it is. This is my Top Ten, and it does not purport to be anything deeper than that. So read, enjoy, and discuss.

Here were my rules: the movies in question needed to be either based on comic books, have comic books based on them, or be unquestionably comic-inspired. Note that I haven't yet seen V for Vendetta, though it's sitting on my DVD shelf (thanks, Ichabod).

10. Darkman. Sam Raimi kicks off the list with this masterful, over-the-top Liam Neeson vehicle. Yes, long before Kinsey and Schindler's List, Neeson played Doctor Peyton Westlake, whose face and feelings were stolen by evil gangsters. Unable to feel pain, fueled by adrenaline, and prone to serious furniture-chewing, Darkman followed the original Batman film, faring much better than Judge Dredd in trying to establish a new superhero franchise (two made-for-cable movies starring The Mummy's Arnold Vosloo followed). Awesome visuals, a great new superhero character, Larry Drake and Frances McDormand, and one of the great chase scenes of all time (a helicopter chased by a guy swinging from a rope behind it). But it's Neeson's unashamed super-overacting that makes this film work; a masterpiece of melodramatic voice-acting necessitated by a series of face-obscuring masks. Take that, Shatner! If you're a fan of Spider-Man, see this one as soon as you can; it presages director Raimi's best mainstream work.

9. The Incredibles. Pixar's animated classic was a massive Fantastic Four ripoff, there's no doubt about it, but it's such a great film that I can't find it in my heart to take offense. How this film can be so family-friendly while simultaneously sophisticated is a marvel, though I suppose I shouldn't be surprised; it's directed by Brad Bird, who directed The Iron Giant, one of animation's best films ever. Believe it or not, The Incredibles covers more than a few of the same issues as adult works like Watchmen, Kingdom Come, and Squadron Supreme, and serves as a fairly good primer to the world of reading modern comics. All four principals are excellently developed, as is the villain, and Edna Mode (voiced by Bird) is one of my favorite film characters ever. The voice acting is topnotch, and Bird's combination of retro design and storytelling is part of what makes him one of the best directors in the history of animated film.

8. Daredevil: the Director's Cut. I think Karen and I were the only two people who even liked this film. Not liked, loved. I'm no big Ben Affleck fan, but I found this film to be superb, full of drama and pathos, and loaded with great acting performances. I love the visual style of the film, I love the score to pieces, and the representation of Daredevil's sonar-sense is one of my favorite movie effects of all time. Affleck's performance is more than credible, and Colin Farrell personifies Bullseye's brilliant mania. Jennifer Garner is strong as Elektra (at least this time). The soundtrack rocks (introducing us all to Evanescence) and is perfectly in line with the tone of the movie. The director's cut DVD is superior to the theatrical release, returning a cut subplot, fleshing out some characters, and making Elektra a bit less of a ho. It's possible that my love for this film is due to my having very limited knowledge of Daredevil; I've read very little.

7. Hellboy. Guillermo Del Toro is quite the Hollywood hero right now with Pan's Labyrinth, but I could have told you he's a visual storytelling genius years ago. There are visuals in this movie that will haunt me for the rest of my life; Kroenen in particular is one of the most viscerally disturbing things I've ever seen. Del Toro gets Hellboy's lunchpail approach to paranormal investigation just right; casting Ron Perlman as H.B. is nothing short of genius (Bruce Campbell would have been pretty funny, though). The movie deviates substantially from Mignola's comic, and answers questions Mignola still hasn't addressed in print form, but it was all done with his input, so it's all good. Del Toro has a great grasp on the look and feel of Hellboy, and it all comes out as a hell of a fun movie, the perfect mix of goofy and gory, frightening and fantastic. Also, anything with Jeffrey Tambor in it rules.

6. Spider-Man. I'm a huge fan of James Cameron, and was crushed when he gave up on this project, but now it's impossible to imagine anyone but Sam Raimi directing this. The Spider-Man franchise has become the unquestioned gold standard for modern superhero movies. Raimi builds the entire film around the inextricable links between the Peter Parker's personal life and hero life, just as Sten Lee did the original comic and Brian Michael Bendis does with Ultimate Spider-Man. Raimi gets it, the central issue that the Spider-Man mythos is much more about the man than the mask. We can all identify with Peter Parker, the awkward lonely outsider who feels unworthy to even ask the girl he desperately loves out on a date. Spider-Man makes the viewers feel like they should be heroes in their own lives, that power of any kind carries responsibility to use it for the betterment of all. The stupid plastic Green Goblin mask is more than compensated for by the upside-down-kiss-in-the-rain scene.

5. Batman Begins. Finally, we have a director who wants to tell a Batman story, not manipulate Batman into looking like something they want (Bat-Scissorhands? Rubber nipples? Come on, guys.). Finally, we have a Batman who has the physical and emotional presence to be plausible as Batman and Bruce Wayne, something neither Keaton, Kilmer, or Clooney could do. And finally, we have a story that understands the central truth of Batman, that (unlike Spidey) Batman is his real identity and Bruce Wayne is the mask. Christopher Nolan weaves a powerful origin story, one that justifies Batman's superhuman skill and drive while leaving very human vulnerabilities. Christian Bale is the perfect Batman, strong and confident, stoic and devilishly determined, but still a badly damaged child at his core. Using character templates from Frank Miller's Batman: Year One is a stroke of genius. Batman is DC's antihero hero, and he should be closer to the Punisher than Captain America. When Batman roars, "Do I look like a cop?" we think he just might let Flass drop, and we're a bit disturbed by how much we wanted him to. Perfect.

4. The Matrix. Here's the choice that you're going to scream about. Make no mistake, The Matrix is the most influential sci-fi movie since Star Wars. Look at nearly every single action movie since its 1999 release (including many of the films on this list) and you will see filmmakers finding ways to justify their heroes having mad martial arts skills. Look at the same movies and you'll see wire work, CGI, and camera moves taken straight from the Wachowski brothers' masterpiece. That would be enough to put The Matrix high on this list, but what makes this film stand out is the essential nature of all the whiz-bang. Like Star Wars, The Matrix is a story that would be impossible to tell effectively without every ounce of technology and choreography it used. It's that rarest of the rare: massive effects technology being used purely in service to story. The fact that it's whiz-bang amazing is almost secondary, or rather the effects are whiz-bang because it's a whiz-bang effects story. The characters and the acting are flat in places, though I want to go on record as saying I really like Keanu Revves' performance in all three films. But the film's cyberspace-superhero imagery is like nothing before, and no one has come close since.

3. X-Men 2. Bryan Singer channels Chris Claremont, then leaves us hanging. Not that I didn't love Superman Returns, but I sure would have liked to see Singer's Phoenix story, especially since the X-Men 3 Phoenix effect had absolutely no visual similarity to the one established in this film. But this story is awesome, epic and complex, full of twists and turns and unlikely alliances, and loaded with great action (something Singer isn't always great at). Singer knows something a lot of other comic book movie-makers don't: how to tell a story with a lot of characters. While Wolverine is unequivocally the star of all three X-Men films, the second has interesting storylines for all of the primary and secondary characters. And he even has the sense to get Cyclops, a chronically static character since the 1960s, out of the way for a while.

2. Superman: the Movie. Richard Donner's messianic ode set the stage for all the other films on this list. Come on, Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder? A complete delight, and a very tough act for Brandon Routh and Kate Bosworth to follow. Bosworth, in particular, was just doomed from the start. Some aspects of it look quite dated today--not the effects; I'm completely captivated by the flying, the heat vision, and the Kryptonian technology. But the cinematography and dialogue style are very 1977. All of this film's failures, and there are more than a few, are more than canceled out by John Williams' score, perhaps the most perfect fit in movie history. Only Superman could have that theme. The Salkinds have a long and storied history of creating B-movies, and they pretty much destroyed this franchise immediately after beginning it, but what a beginning.

1. Spider-Man 2. Simply the best of the best, just a magnificent film in every way imaginable. Sam Raimi appears on this list three times, and just seems to get better with every film. But this is the superhero magnum opus to date. No comics character has ever had his dual identities so dramatically tied together, and no superhero movie has ever dealt so touchingly with the personal consequences of having superpowers. As great as the first Spider-Man film is, this one is a huge step forward in every way, from supercool action to the delicate simplicity of a girl-next-door crush. Spider-Man 2 is a perfect movie. Fantastic acting from all of the leads, a great screenplay, and wonderful effects. The scene with the New York subway riders passing the unconscious Spidey back through the car is iconic, a moment of connection between the superhuman and the supremely human. Spider-Man 2 makes us look at the heroes in our lives and the hero in our own hearts.

Honorable mentions, either really good superhero films or great films that just aren't genre-specific enough:

Mystery Men. An unbelievably funny movie, only missing the list because I just couldn't bump anything. Thanks to Chris Anthony of Shakespeare Festival L.A. for reminding me of this gem.

Robocop. Better than a lot of the movies on this list, but more pure sci-fi than superhero film. Boy, Paul Verhoeven would be a great director for The Punisher or Deadpool.

Superman II. Both versions are great. Donner's is more pure, but I kind of miss the Lester comedy. Kneel before Zod!

Batman. Michael Keaton is just terrible casting. So, I still insist, is Jack Nicholson, who's too little Joker and too much "Just Jack."

Batman Returns. A very strong film, probably #11 or 12 on this list. Too many characters, though, and I get tired of every Tim Burton film looking and feeling like every other one. (Except Big Fish and Pee-Wee's Big Adventure.)

X-Men. Singer wisely treats the X-Men's story more like sci-fi and less like a comic book. He juggles all the characters far better in the second film.

X-Men 3. Phoenix is terrifying, and the action is among superhero movies' best ever. Could have used about 20 minutes more character development.

Aliens. If Ellen Ripley isn't a superhero, no one is. Game over, man.

Superman Returns. A very good movie, and a welcome return. But Superman having a child out of wedlock betrays a serious lack of character comprehension on Bryan Singer's part.

Hellboy Animated: Sword of Storms. The launch of a new series of straight-to-DVD Hellboy movies bodes well for the series.
So that's-a my book. Pretty good, eh Steve?
Let the complaining and arguing begin!

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Saturday, February 17, 2007

Style Weekly: "Doctor Faustus" is "A two-man cast of thousands"

A Two-Man Cast of Thousands
“Doctor Faustus” is promised a budget empire of hair dryers and Helen of Troy

Style Weekly
February 17, 2007
By Amy Biegelsen

As the name suggests, Richmond Shakespeare usually  sticks to work by the Bard, but its performance of “Doctor Faustus” is timely for three reasons.

First: Christopher Marlowe, who wrote the play in the late-1500s, was a contemporary of Shakespeare’s. (Some historians go so far as to suggest they were the same person.)

Second: Assuming for the moment that Marlowe was his own man, he was a good friend of Sir Walter Raleigh’s, whose colonial experiment at Roanoke Island, now in North Carolina, was not nearly as successful as the one we are celebrating this year with the—all together now—400th anniversary of the first permanent English settlement at Jamestown.

Third: The main character, Dr. Faustus, sells his soul to the devil in exchange for magical powers, making the story an ideal conversation piece for the Acts of Faith Festival, an examination of theology and drama various Richmond churches and theater groups participate in from January through March.

The production succeeds at making the play easy to talk about despite the challenge of interpreting the flowery English. But the cast manages to harness the emotional currents that flow through the words and illustrate the ideas for the audience despite their arcane syntax.

This takes stamina, especially with only two actors. David White plays a sophomoric Doctor Faustus who forgoes the answers offered up in philosophy, science, law and religion in exchange for magic, at the cost of his soul. Graham Birce’s Mephistopheles, sent by Lucifer, conjures an array of apparitions—the pope, Helen of Troy—to make Faustus think he has supernatural powers. Birce plays all those roles, too.

The stars of the show, though, came and went before the audience ever arrived. Tony Lombard and Angela Pirko, the stage manager and prop mistress, help tell the story by resourcefully concocting wry caricature markers out of the mess in Faustus’ study.

Faustus makes out with Helen of Troy, represented by a long-necked Styrofoam wig form, and builds a spirit-summoning machine out of Christmas lights and a hair drier. Props are tucked under the mattress, beneath the bed and up Mephistopheles’ pant legs. The audience becomes kids in front of an Advent calendar, waiting to see what crafty prop stunt the actors would pull next.

In this production, Mephistopheles is selling Faustus, not with fantastic displays of magic, but with the much more economical use of illusion. With two actors and some Styrofoam playing a cast of thousands, it’s a trick that works just as well on the audience.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Style Weekly Review of "Doctor Faustus"

Style has been very kind to us this year, with a full-page picture of Grant as Scrooge, a full-page picture and review of Julius Caesar, very positive reviews of both shows, and now another full page for Doctor Faustus. Heck, the cover even says "Doctor Faustus" at the top (must have been a slow news week). And the reviewer clearly liked the show.

But--and I really don't like to nitpick when a reviewer liked our work, especially when the writer has been kind to us in the past--it's a little frustrating that the piece spends more words on Christopher Marlowe's friendship with Sir Walter Raleigh than it does on the acting. And while I'm very grateful for the contributions of Angie Pirko and Tony Lombard to the show, both directors had more than a little to do with the props and the set dressing, and neither is credited with having done, well, anything. It's not an ego thing (I have plenty of that with or without reviews), it's about a theatre review that doesn't have the slightest idea what a stage manager does.

So now I'm in the opposite position of David Timberline's "People Hate Critics" thing a few months ago. I don't want to complain when I'm getting a good review. But is it too much to ask that a theatre reviewer not credit the stage manager with major aesthetic directorial choices? Trust me, Tony had more than enough work to do stage managing, and he did contribute ideas during the process. But I'm going to go out on a limb and say that it's much more likely that the directors made those choices, and I don't think it's unreasonable to expect a professional theatre reviewer to know that.

Here's the link: A Two-Man Cast of Thousands. Judge for yourself.

Oh, I'm gonna get in trouble.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Goodbye, Abnormal Jean

I can’t help but find the story of Anna Nicole Smith’s death tragic, not so much because of her death as because of the way it framed her life, a kaleidoscope of approval-grasping and self-destruction. Smith wanted to be Marilyn Monroe, and I guess she got what she wanted: money, fame, beauty, sex, scandal, and premature death. There was no way for her life to end other than this, sacrificed on the altar where we worship wealth and celebrity.

In life, Anna Nicole Smith was a walking, talking, giggling and jiggling tabloid headline: Playmate of the Year, gold-digger, trophy wife. Fluctuating weight, unpredictable scandalous behavior, drug abuse. Reality-television train-wreck, and finally grieving mother. In death, she becomes an icon of Warholian celebrity. She has become the poster child for the TV-age American Dream: fame and fortune as a goal, not a result of talent or achievement. Make no mistake, Anna Nicole Smith had no talent whatsoever. Her notoriety was based solely on her ability to remain notorious. Next up: Paris Hilton, whose only contribution to society is her prominence in society's so-called "high" regions.

Most interesting to me has been the wall-to-wall coverage of Smith’s passing by the television media, which has portrayed her in death as some combination of Marilyn Monroe, Mother Theresa and Mary Magdalene. Perhaps this is a post-mortem apology for treating her entire life like a series of punchlines to jokes you wouldn’t tell your mother. It’s all fun and games until someone loses their life.

Now sit back on your couch and watch as we learn nothing whatsoever from her life or her death. As we increasingly celebritize destructive behavior, the behavior has to become more and more destructive in order to titillate. Jerry Springer, Maury Povich, and their ilk will continue to make dysfunction and amorality into disposable entertainment. Ozzy Osbourne’s family gives way to Gene Simmons’, which will give way to Marilyn Manson’s, and eventually, I promise you, Charles Manson’s. American Idol will continue making fifteen-second celebrities out of people with dreams bigger than their talent or self-awareness. And no one will pay any attention whatsoever to what happens to these people when the red light on the camera turns off.

Somewhere in America, some pretty young blond-haired blue-eyed girl is starting today on her dream to become the next Anna Nicole Smith.

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Sunday, February 04, 2007


How 'bout that Peyton Manning! he's finally not Dan Marino!
I feel bad for Brian Urlacher. Unless the Bears get a real quarterback (or Rex Grossman grows up a lot), he might not be back here again.
Four turnovers in the first quarter, eight total, sloppy sloppy sloppy. But that's part of what made it so exciting! And it was only 2 points away from my prediction. I am so smart! S-M-R-T!
You go, Tony Dungy!

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Prince's Super Bowl©® Halftime Show

I can't possibly be the only person in America who thinks this image is just as filthy as Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction.

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Super Bowl©® XLI Is Here!

This is it! Your destination for useless chat about Super Bowl©® XLI, or Forty-One, whichever you prefer!

Watch the game with a laptop on your, you know, lap and stuff! I'll be at the Creasy party chiming in with whatever nonsense myself and the local partying yokels have to share. Tune in early, open the Comments window, and refresh often.

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Times-Dispatch Review of "Doctor Faustus"

Well, it's still incredibly hard to find the link to the Doctor Faustus review on the T-D website, but I'll link to it instead of the blatant copyright infringement of typing it complete.

Director Gives Doctor Faustus Energy

My favorite paragraph:

"...In the adaptation by the Atlanta Shakespeare Company's Jeff Watkins, and filtered through the sensibility of Richmond Shakespeare Theatre, it's a pared-down, souped-up showcase for two actors, a small menagerie of stuffed animals and some sock puppets. There's also a portable commode, Christmas lights and a nod to the movie Groundhog Day."

I'm just so glad she makes reference to the sock puppets and the commode.

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Saturday, February 03, 2007

Richmond Times-Dispatch: "Director gives 'Doctor Faustus' energy"

Director gives 'Doctor Faustus' energy

Richmond Times-Dispatch
Feb 3, 2007
By Susan Haubenstock

"Whimsical" is probably the adjective least used to describe Christopher Marlowe's "Doctor Faustus."

Based on accounts of a 16th-century astrologer who sold his soul to the devil, the play is an Elizabethan tragedy written by the originator of that form, very dark, with much musing on the tortures of hell.

But in the adaptation by the Atlanta Shakespeare Company's Jeff Watkins, and filtered through the sensibility of Richmond Shakespeare Theatre, it's a pared-down, souped-up showcase for two actors, a small menagerie of stuffed animals and some sock puppets. There's also a portable commode, Christmas lights and a nod to the movie "Groundhog Day."

The production, part of the Richmond area's Acts of Faith Festival, shows the influence of master of play Andrew Hamm, who has a strong flair for physicality. Under his direction, the two actors, Graham Birce and David White, fling themselves and each other around the parquet stage with great energy.

Birce, in particular, manages to twist his body into a virtual corkscrew to play Mephistopheles, the demon who both recruits and serves Faustus on behalf of Lucifer. Birce is an electric performer, loaded with energy and capable of enacting dozens of characters, each with a unique voice and physical presence.

For all its wackiness, the serious aspects of "Doctor Faustus" are still in place, though the adaptation cuts much of the text. The iambic pentameter is spoken carefully and well under the coaching of master of verse Julie Phillips.

The dilemma of a man choosing earthly pleasures in exchange for eternal torture is hard to beat when it comes to drama. And Faustus has second thoughts about his infernal bargain, and third and fourth ones, so the conflict is always simmering.

Hamm and Phillips include a note in the program referring to the hubris of young teenagers, that moment when they are sure they know everything and their parents are dolts.

White's Faustus is just that kind of smart aleck, though he's supposed to be a learned man who's studied law, medicine, religion and logic.

He's decided to reject them all in favor of magic, and so he conjures up Mephistopheles, who becomes his seducer, his slave and his torturer.

Only in the final scenes does White get to act like an adult, and by then he's consumed by fear and regret -- and yet unwilling to repent.

Friday, February 02, 2007

"Doctor Faustus" Opens!

After a delightful preview last night (performed for a teeny-tiny Richmond-inclement-weather audience), Doctor Faustus finally opens at the Richmond Shakespeare Theatre tonight. Graham Birce and Dave White rock the house and heat up the stage. They also act pretty good, too! Come on out for the opening night gala, with champagne and devilish delectables!

The show runs through February 24, Thursday through Saturday at 8:00 with a Saturday matinee at 2:00. It runs about 90 minutes with no intermission. Tickets are $24 for adults, $13 for students, with group rates available for 10 or more. There are after after-show discussions as part of the Acts of Faith festival after the February 9 and 16 performances, but if anyone puts a group together and wats a Q&A after any show, just contact me ( and I'll be there for your group.

Go to for ticket info!

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Thursday, February 01, 2007

Super Bowl XLI Preview!

Time to pick the Big Game itself, the Super Bowl©®. Let's break down the teams and make it look like I have any idea what the heck I'm talking about.

DA BEARS: First of all, let’s get something straight: Rex Grossman is not the worst quarterback to ever play in the Super Bowl©®. Come on, people: he hasn’t even played in the Super Bowl yet. After the game is over, then he could be the worst quarterback to ever play in the Super Bowl.

The comparison I’ve been hearing most is with the 2000 Ravens, who rode a stout defense and tolerated an unremarkable Trent Dilfer to a Super Bowl©® Championship. This is an incredibly stupid comparison for two reasons: First, the 2006 Bears are nowhere near the quality of the 2000 Ravens defense. As strong as they started, injury and attrition have them no better than above-average by now. Secondly, Dilfer was an established, if unspectacular NFL starter for several years in Tampa before coming to Baltimore. Dilfer wasn’t going to single-handedly win games for you, but he wasn’t going to lose them for you either.

I don’t know what the heck to do with Sexy Rexy. For six or seven games this year he has been amazing, especially with the touch on his deep ball. For every other game, he has looked like some combination of Heath Shuler, Akili Smith, and Kip from Napoleon Dynamite under center. He’s not getting a lot of help from a thin receiving corps of Mushin Muhammad and, um, not a whole lot else. To his credit, he has proved his detractors (such as, for example, me) wrong so far in this postseason with solid, Dilfer-worthy play. But his problem on Sunday is not going to be his own ability; it’s going to be the Indianapolis blitz. If I know that Grossman panics under pressure, so does Tony Dungy, and Dungy knows what to do about it.

If the Bears win this game, it’s not going to be Grossman playing the hero. It’s going to running backs Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson, and it’s going to be some canny (and lucky) defenders creating turnovers. Man, I love running backs. Frankly, some amazing, game-changing turnovers are the Bears’ only hope to win the Super Bowl©®.

DA COLTS: The Colts’ defense gave up 173 rushing yards per game in the regular season. That’s bad. However, they gave up only 72 rushing yards per game in the playoffs. That’s good. In fact, it’s exceptional. But I can’t help but view the Colts’ run D in the same light as Grossman’s good passing games: how can you tell what’s trend and what’s aberration?

As much as I love the Bears’ RBs, I think I love the Colts’ combo just as much. Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes are set up much like the Bears’ combo, Benson/Addai as the pounding, punishing downhill runner and Jones/Rhodes as the slashing change-of-pace. Addai is more than capable of another 4 TD performance. But don’t kid yourself: the Colts’ offense is all about Peyton Manning.

I just can’t imagine this guy losing on Sunday. The Bears’ defense has had so many key injuries that I’m frankly amazed that they’ve made it here, and Manning has had two weeks to learn every tendency and every weakness. It helps that he has an amazing corps of receivers. Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne speak for themselves, but it’s H-back Dallas Clark whom I see having a big game across the middle of the field, where the Bears’ defense is thinnest.

DA GAME: The seven-point line in favor of the Colts has been pretty consistent since the Conference Championships. I have high hopes that this is going to be more Rams-Patriots and less Bucs-Raiders. Two or three turnovers by the Bears’ ball-hawking defense could keep it close, but I’m just totally convinced that this game is Peyton Manning’s.

The day, however, is Lovie Smith’s and Tony Dungy’s. Maybe this will finally be the event that gets the proportion of black coaches in the NFL closer to the proportion of black players. This is a great day. I share the sentiment of Herm Edwards, close friend to both coaches: “I'm rooting for both of them. Both of them have already won. They're both already champions.”

Super Bowl©® XLI: Colts 31, Bears 17.

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