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2010 in review

In Uncategorized on January 6, 2011 at 9:53 pm

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Minty-Fresh™.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 2,400 times in 2010. That’s about 6 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 2 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 23 posts.

The busiest day of the year was March 31st with 28 views. The most popular post that day was Review of You Can’t Take It With You by 6th Street Players .

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were opticalillusionsgallery.blogspot.com, studentloansinterest.org, student-loan-consilidation.com, facebook.com, and search.aol.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for jessica holt, jay karnes, julius ceasar, brutus stabs caesar, and la boheme.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Review of You Can’t Take It With You by 6th Street Players October 2009

2

Review of Marin Shakespeare Company’s Julius Ceasar by Dave Fickbohm September 2009

3

Review/Theater; The Dupe As Principal In Moliere’s ‘Tartuffe’ October 2009

4

Interview with Jay Karnes by David Fickbohm of Theaterkat August 2009

5

Oliver by 6th Street Playhouse in Santa Rosa August 2009

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The Solitary Man Movie

In Uncategorized on June 27, 2010 at 6:24 pm

A man has it all.   He is married to his college sweetheart, he owns several very successful card dealerships, his daughter is married, he has a wonderful grandson.  Then things start to fall apart.   He goes to the doctor for a regular checkup and is told he needs to have further tests on his heart.   He does not have the tests.   He starts cooking the numbers at the car dealerships.   Obviously this works for a while then the auto manufacturers catch him.   He loses his dealerships, he divorces his wife for a younger woman, and starts cheating on her, etc.   There is an interesting finish where the viewer does not know how he ends up.   Michael Douglas is wonderful, Susan Saradon is great.   There is a wonderful supporting cast.

Review of Hamlet by College of Marin

In Uncategorized on March 16, 2010 at 3:50 pm

Once again Jim Dunn takes up the gauntlet of directing the greatest of the Bard’s plays. In doing so, he has re-established a high water mark.

Not lacking in innovative ideas that exploit the unique opportunities and challenges that Hamlet provides Dunn nonetheless remains focused on conveying the story with clarity. What better way to introduce new audiences to the melancholy Dane, and to engage those of us who are not newcomers, than by making it all so understandable, and human? Complicit in his achievement, I should add quickly, is his Hamlet, David Abrams.

This is not to say that the play has been stripped of its complexity or enigma. At the core of Hamlet is a central question: is the boy nuts? To answer the question directly is to wreck the play. Dunn and Abrams may have a point of view, but they keep it well obscured. Hamlet has moments of trenchant clearheadedness and others of unbridled rage. Whether the former are informing the latter, or the latter, the former, that is the question.

This Hamlet is short on pomp, and Abrams’s speeches similarly are presented without the sense of portentousness that often accompanies them. “To be or not to be” may be the most important existential dilemma expressed in all of literature, but it is also a young man’s wrestling with his own fiber. In a recent interview, Abrams said “The challenge is not trying to please people, but trying to be my Hamlet.”. The result is a performance that feels human, rather than one in which we witness an actor tackling the greatest and most challenging role he is likely to confront. Still, his performance has no lack of amplitude.

The remainder of the cast includes several high points. David Kester is a dynamic Claudius. Charles Isen is wonderful as Hamlet’s father and player king. Ian Swift is an excellent windbag of a Polonius, which is both very funny and also affecting. Ariel Harrison’s Ophelia starts off mildly, in her major scene with Hamlet she comes across mightily as she sings and shreds her hair enroute to her downward spiral.  Spencer Acton is an excellent Laertes, showing a range of emotions.
Seating is onstage in the main theater so get to the show early.  Upon entering the theater, one is confronted by Ronald Krempetz’s dark and foreboding set. The set serves as both the exterior and interior of Elsanor.

 
Patricia Polen designed costumes of great and thoughtful subtlety, unconstrained by period but exactingly reflective of the text. Deneb Irvin lit the show very effectively.
Any production of Hamlet carries with it the burden of Hamlets past. This one felt at once fresh and yet faithful.

INFORMATION

What: Hamlet by William Shakespeare

Who: College of Marin Drama Department

Where: College of Marin’s Main Theater

When: March 4, 5, 6, 12,13,19,20 at 7:30 p.m.

Matinees on March 13, 14, 20, and 21 at 1:30 p.m.

TICKETS: Order online; by telephone; at the door.

COST:  $10-$15

Phone Information: 415 485 9555

WEBSITE: http://www.marin.edu/departments/performingarts/drama

Rating: Four stars out of five

Book Review of Ford County by John Grisham by David Fickbohm of Theaterkat

In Uncategorized on November 3, 2009 at 7:57 pm

John Grisham had some story ideas that he didn’t think could sustain full-length novels. So he did what he wanted to do. No publisher was going to argue with that?

Grisham took seven of his unused plot ideas and turned each of them into a sharp, lean tale free of subplots and padding. At an average length of slightly over 40 pages, these narratives are shorter than novel but longer than conventional short stories.

For a fledgling author, me, this format would be a tough sell; for Grisham, it’s a vacation from whatever grueling work goes into the construction of fully rigged best sellers. The change invigorates him in ways that show up on the page.

“Ford County” is Grisham’s only short-story collection. That doesn’t mean he’s put his novelistic instincts aside. The book begins on a light note and ends with a teary one; in between it’s full of suspense that hinges on the bending, breaking and subversion of Mississippi law.

In the hive of criminal creativity that is Ford County many citizens seem poised on the brink of trouble. Yet Grisham often approaches that trouble in wryly humorous fashion, as he does in “Blood Drive,” the book’s opening story. He begins with an emergency: a local named Bailey has been injured in a construction accident in Memphis, and Bailey needs blood donors. Exactly what happened? Nobody’s sure. What work was Bailey doing? Good question. His mother always said he was an assistant foreman, but he turns out to have been a mason’s helper instead.

Soon three stalwarts have been recruited to make a hasty run from Mississippi to Memphis. And it takes remarkably few words for Grisham to sketch them perfectly. “A hero quickly emerged,” Mr. Grisham writes archly of Wayne Agnor, whose ownership of a pickup is his main qualification for the job. The second volunteer is Calvin Marr, conveniently unemployed and eager to see what Memphis is like. The third, the guy nobody wants, is Roger, and his father seems to volunteer Roger for the job just to get rid of him. Would Roger’s drug history make him a good blood donor? “Needles certainly wouldn’t intimidate him,” Grisham writes.

Off they go, assured that Roger has quit drinking until Roger produces his first six-pack of beer. (“I did,” he explains. “I quit all the time. Quittin’s easy.”) This leads to drinking, driving, a high-speed escape from a police car and eventually a visit to a Memphis strip club. By the time the three men get to a hospital — one of 10 in Memphis, and not necessarily the right one — it’s after 3 in the morning. Donating blood isn’t possible. Besides, nobody bothered to find out whether Bailey was the injured man’s first or last name.

As “Blood Drive” begins living up to its title, Grisham leads his group down a slippery slope toward life-changing legal consequences. He also leads them into so much trouble that Bailey is the character who emerges least scathed.

Then it’s on to “Fetching Raymond,” another story about a road trip, this one as mysterious in purpose as the Bailey rescue mission was clear. Three no-account Graneys, Inez and two of her sons (one of whom “still lived with his mother because he’d never lived anywhere else, at least not in the free world”), are headed for an unnamed destination. They are making what is apparently a regular pilgrimage for them all. They’re going to visit a third brother, Raymond, at the prison where he has been spending his family’s scant resources, learning big words (“what the hell is a stipend?” a brother asks), hiring lawyers, firing lawyers and doing some truly terrible writing. Raymond has also insisted on becoming the rare white Delta blues singer on death row. The death row angle is slipped almost casually into what has until then been a fairly upbeat dysfunctional-family tale. But Grisham can give his story an unexpected twist without need of a heavy hand.

His novels sometimes moralize; these short stories don’t need to because they transform their agendas into pure, vigorous plot.

The closing piece, “Funny Boy,” is a poignant account of illness, bigotry and unexpected tenderness, none of it presented as editorializing and all of it incorporated into action. “Fish Files,” like Grisham’s most recent novel, “The Associate,” offers an illuminating, blow-by-blow look at the process whereby legal ethics crumble in the face of temptation. A small-town bankruptcy and divorce lawyer gets a potentially lucrative call from a New York hotshot. This causes the Ford County lawyer to access his inner Jimmy Buffet and start dreaming how he can escape to the tropics. He doesn’t exactly intend to swindle, forge or lie; things just kind of work out that way, as they often do when Grisham pulls the strings. And if the story winds up as less than a full-fledged drama, it also becomes much more than a well-wrought diversion. Grisham knows how to make himself eminently readable.

 In “Ford County” he’s careful to be exacting and informative too. Also in “Ford County”: “Casino,” in which a Ford County entrepreneur finds it convenient to call himself part of the Yazoo Indian Nation for reasons of casino development and winds up reaping the consequences; “Michael’s Room,” the book’s only faint show of preachiess, in which an unscrupulous defense lawyer who has won a courtroom victory for a pharmaceutical company is given a Dickensian look at how he has affected plaintiff lives; and “Quiet Haven,” the book’s sneakiest story. Why would a nice young man seek work at nursing home after nursing home and keep changing jobs so regularly? The answer isn’t hard to guess, but it’s the tactics that matter.