Tuesday, February 26, 2008

reading lists and Pulitzer gossip

Michael Phillips, formerly theater critic for the L.A. Times and the Chicago Tribune (and a bunch of other papers before that) and presently film critic for the Trib in Chi, told me three weeks ago in Pasadena that *August: Osage County* by Tracy Letts (*Bug*) is "just the sort of play that tends to win the Pulitzer." And the man's words carry some weight: He was on the Pulitzer jury three times, chairing it once.
*Osage* is a three-hour examination of a dysfunctional Oklahoma family whose patriarch has gone missing. Terry Teachout in the WSJ called its entire first act a pretentious piece of exposition that could and should have been cut.

One of Bobo's L.A. writing instructors: Charles McNulty of the L.A. Times, formerly of the Village Voice; really insightful and meticulous; chaired the Pulitzer committee this year (I remember his saying that David Lindsay-Abaire was one of the five). He brushed off my oh-so-clever question about revealing this year's winner, but did say that there was "quite a bit of divergence of opinion" among the five jurors this year. Hmmm ...

Other stuff Bobo wants to read. (Can he borrow your copies?)

Conor MacPherson, The Seafarer -- guys get drunk on Christmas Eve; since it turns into a Faustian bargain, can you guess the identity of the bad guy?

Christopher Shinn, Dying City -- the twin brother of an Iraq war widow's dead husband shows up, unannounced, at her door; two actors play three roles

Sarah Ruhl, Eurydice -- an elevator with rain is the only way to travel to and from the underworld; a retelling of the Orpheus myth, only this time Eurydice isn't so sure she's like to return with him -- she might prefer staying with her dead father instead. Inspired in part by the death of Ruhl's own father from cancer.

David Harrower, Blackbird -- Ray sexually abused Una when he was 40 and she was 12; 15 years later, they meet again (Edinburgh Fringe, Aug 05; London's Albery Theatre, Feb 06; Manhattan Theater Club, April 07)

Charles Busch, Our Leading Lady -- about the actress who was onstage the night JWB assassinated AL at Ford's Theater

John Patrick Shanley, Defiance -- part 2 of the trilogy that began with Doubt: now we're at Camp Lejeune in N.C. in 1971 -- racial tension during the Vietnam War

Caryl Churchill, A Number -- What if you found out you'd been cloned and there were more of you? (opened at the Royal Court in Oct.)


  1. Add:
    Yasmina Reza, God of Carnage -- opens on West End next month. Married couple invites another couple over after their sons get in a fight. Reza herself directs Ralph Fiennes, Janet McTeer and two others.
    *Art* has made $330 million (!) since its '94 premiere. Bobo would sure like some o' dem royalties.

  2. Bobo (if that is your real name),

    So I've been thinking over this (not constantly of course) for some time. I don't know why I feel so strongly about this that I wanted to write in, especially considering I had been drageed to every show I'm about to talk about (I'm not a huge fan of theater and my girlfriend drags me to more shows than I'd like to admit to my friends).

    Also I'm sorry for posting this so long after the fact. I didn't know how else to e-mail you. So this is a little off topic but since we're on the subject of awards...

    You gave last year's Best Actor Award to Reed McColm for his shaking hands instead of Carter J Davis for his role in Humble Boy. I saw both shows and, even though I'm sure Mr. McColm is a good guy, I thought that Carter's performance was leagues better than anything I've seen in theater. It was so good in fact that I talked about the show for weeks and even dragged my friends along to see it. When my girlfriend told me that he was coming back to town for Long Day's Journey Into Night I was the one who bought the tickets.

    I don't follow theater. I barely care about the Oscars. So I'm not sure why I got so upset when I read that you thought Reed's performance is better.

    But I can say that if you are doing another round of Best Theater this year you remember Carter in Long Day's Journey Into Night and compare that with his performance in Humble Boy and that one about Books. I've never met the guy but I can only imgaine that, like Daniel Day-Lewis, he's nothing like who he palys.

    I hope writing in will make my weird fascination with this go away. All I can say is that if Carter ever gets into movies I'll be the first in line.

    Hope this isn't too out of left field. And thanks for your time.

    -Richard M.

  3. and add:
    Teresa Rebeck, Mauritius -- two sisters squabble over Dad's stamp collection; stamp dealers and collectors are also in the cast of five; NY cast includes F. Murray Abraham, Bobby Carnavale, Dylan Baker

  4. Richard M.,
    My actual name is Michael, and I really want to thank you for your comment. I think both actors would be happy to know that someone (even "just" an occasional theatergoer like yourself) was so caught up by several stage performances that he is still mulling them over months afterwards.
    I don't recall my exact criteria for choosing McColm over Josh (_his_ actual name, by the way: Carter J. is a stage name). Maybe I was influenced by McColm taking over that part on short notice after not just one but two actors had dropped out of the role for various reasons. I completely agree that Davis was great in three varied roles in Humble, Journey and Great Books. I do plan to do awards again this June (or so), and I tend to favor the Oscars model over the Golden Globes' -- that is, rewarding individual performances in particular productions, as opposed to recognizing the body of work that an actor might do in two or three performances in a given season. Most of all, I sort of throw up my hands (as a lot of people do) when it comes to the precise niceties by which one perf can be judged as superior to another; I'm in it mostly to recognize a bunch of good work by nominating those performances, and let others argue long and drunkenly into the night about which was better, A or B.
    I agree that Carter J. Davis is one very talented actor. I very much hope that we'll see him around here again.
    But most of all, I'm psyched that guys like you are going to theater. Don't be ashamed of it, or think that it's not a "guy" thing. My opinion, instead, is that going to theater is kind of a human thing: We all crave storytelling, especially when it's intelligent storytelling that helps us sort out some of the issues in our own lives.

  5. Bobo, I believe we saw Churchill's "A Number" at the state AACT competition in Walla Walla early 2007. Very nice piece. I feel it recieved less notice than it should have as it was first in the line up. A nice display of acting and regional English accents by the guy that played the 3 clones.

  6. also add:
    Douglas Carter Beane, The Little Dog Laughed
    Christopher Durang, Miss Witherspoon
    Lee Blessing, Body of Water (though I distrust amnesia as a plot point)

  7. Saw Miss Witherspoon in Seattle and thought it was strange but very pointed in its satirical content. Don't know how it would be received here, and having read pieces of it, I think it plays FAR better than it reads...as is the case with most Durang plays.