Tag Archives: comedy

Boeing, Boring: Boeing Boeing at the Lucille Ball Little Theatre, Jamestown, NY

Oh, reviewing pen, it’s been a while. Mostly because I haven’t been able to sit for the length of an entire play for a while, but also because the only play I’ve seen since Cabaret in NYC was a local production of Spamalot. But tonight, I dug my reviewing pen out and headed to Jamestown, NY to see the Lucille Ball Little Theatre of Jamestown’s presentation of Marc Camoletti’s Boeing Boeing.

I’m almost sure I’ve seen this play before, but I’m not sure where – London, Edinburgh, New York, Buffalo – and other than broad strokes (a playboy trying to keep three flight-attendant-fiances in his orbit) I didn’t remember much about the plot. It falls into the strange realm of what I think of as “French living-room plays.” Like Art and Carnage. Which is weird, because neither of those are farces, and they’re both by the same playwright.

Boeing Boeing is a farce, though. It’s a farce set in the 1960s, at the dawn of newer, faster plane technology. One expects the play to have a certain “snap,” so to speak. Noel Coward with more ennui. Then one looks up the play’s running time. Two and a half hours.

Um.

There’s a line in Boeing Boeing that goes, “No panic, no problem.” But this is exactly the problem. While the actresses playing the fiances – Amanda Melquist (Gloria), Carla Kayes (Gabriella) and particularly Holly L.J. Weston (Gretchen, the passionate German) – inject their scene with dimension and energy, both male leads (Vince Liuzzo as the playboy Bernard and his older brother Carl Luizzo as Robert) seem far too comfortable, too lackadaisical. Occasionally, their back-and-forth rises to a fever pitch, but for the most part it’s the women who set the pacing for each scene – which would be fine, if not for the fact that Bernard is the protagonist. There’s a hint of this early on, when Betsy Trusel’s Berthe brings character-acted comic relief as Bernard’s frustrated domestic servant. Slick and charming, Bernard only becomes “real” in contrast to his demanding cook and cooing (but surprisingly steely) fiances. Other than occasional fluster when two of the women might interact, in which cases each Liuzzo takes their character from 0 to 60 in the blink of an eye, the characters contribute to the show’s biggest problem: pacing.

Often times, I watch plays and wish the writer’s words had been given more room to breathe. In this production, I spent more time wishing someone would deliver CPR to the script. Weston had a lock on the urgency of her character’s lines, and Kayes hit all the right beats with her domineering and frustrated Italian, but more often than not, Luizzo, Luizz and Trusel seemed to linger over lines that would have benefited from a dash of Basil Fawlty.

Costumes and set, both credited to large teams in the program, were spot-on for this naturalistic play. In a moment that took me by complete surprise, Berthe actually lights a real cigarette on stage. (Some history: while I was reviewing in Edinburgh with The British Theatre Guide, laws were passed to ban smoking from the stage – even herbal cigarettes. Thinking back, I don’t recall a single time when I saw a real cigarette being smoked on stage But Berthe’s ciggy was definitely made of real tobacco.)

I wish the production left a more positive impression on me, but its by-the-book approach to a classic text paired with timing that never quite worked up to the pacing necessary to really give me a good chuckle. While much of the audience seemed entertained, laughing on cue, when the interval finally arrived I had to take the state of my back into account, and leave the second half of the show unwatched. I simply didn’t receive enough meaty enjoyment from act one to make the literal pain in my lower back worth staying for act two.

Note: Tickets were purchased for this performance.

 

MIRANDA – A Britcom I’d Like To Share

mirandahart

Courtesy BBC America website

What’s Miranda, you ask? It’s a BBC comedy show currently airing on Hulu, starring the fabulous Miranda Hart (who you might know from Call the Midwife), as the titular character. Her trials and tribulations are slightly generic – annoying mum, crush on an unattainable guy, friend who’s a bit mad, annoying toff boarding school chums – but in many ways, including some serious shattering of the 4th wall, the show is un-generically hilarious.

I started watching it after recommendations from multiple friends. And loved it. And wanted to share it with one of MY friends.

The only problem? My friend is hard of hearing, and the Hulu version of the show doesn’t include captions.

We were both surprised; after all, Hulu tends to be decent with captions, as do British stations in general. That whole accessibility thing. But there we had it. My friend couldn’t enjoy a laugh-a-minute, female-centric comedy show with me because it didn’t have captions.

After posting on Facebook, I found out that Netflix was sued last year because of the lack of captioning on its films; I’m surprised that Hulu hasn’t faced that yet (though it may be that Miranda is part of their back catalogue, in which case I really hope they get around to it). Netflix, in case you’re wondering, doesn’t carry the show either on streaming or as a DVD rental option.

For now, my friend’s choices are to either buy the DVDs (erm, no) or else to…not watch the show.

Which is really a pity, because Miranda is a really fun show, and now it’s missing out on a potential viewer before she could even start to love it.

Edit: There has been some confusion over the shop’s network, but I can now confirm it is not on ITV, it’s on the BBC. Apologies for the error.

Why It’s Not Okay To Call A Nine Year Old Girl A Cunt

$1D7FBBEA90888EAI didn’t think my blogging-brain would be dedicated to telling people, today, that calling a nine-year old girl a cunt, in any context, is not okay.

But apparently some people need to read this.

First of all, if you’re not aware, this appened a little after the Oscars.

Here’s a screen grab of @BlackGirlNerds’ RT of the original tweet from @TheOnion:

 

Capture

This isn’t okay. It’s not okay because – contrary to all the guys (and so far, lest you think I’m exaggerating, they have – with one exception- all been guys) – this isn’t satire, it isn’t on par with the way women are picked apart by the media, and it isn’t funny. It’s also f*cking racist (nblo.gs/IFrim).

“Cunt” is a word that’s used to silence women. It’s regarded (rightly or wrongly, and I lived for a while in a country this isn’t the case, so my opinion on its use is somewhat more liberal than most people I’ve encountered in America) as one of the worst words our American-English language has when it comes to reducing women to their gender and excluding them from the conversation. (Interestingly, a major plot point in Netflix’s new “House of Cards” revolves around one character calling another this word, and even there, it was uncomfortable – but there, it was being used by fictional characters to prove a point, not flung by an anonymous intern at a child.)

An anonymous writer for a major satirical publication calling a woman (or a nine year old child) a “cunt” after a program in which a host known for racist and sexist “jokes” has been standing in front of America telling just those for three hours?

That’s not humor. It’s reinforcing the power dynamic of Hollywood and putting Wallis “in her place” for standing out. For being a child with distinctive early talent and the personality to express it. Intended as such or not, the message when reading The Onion’s tweet is, “keep your head down and your mouth shut, or we’re gonna shame your ass back to where it belongs.”

I leave it to you, dear readers, to imagine where The Onion’s anonymous Twitter-updater would think this should be.

There’s also a wave of people saying (again, I’ve seen mostly guys saying this) that it’s dumb for people to focus on one tweet as opposed to focusing on discussion of Anne Hathaway’s attire and how it did or did not ascribe to fashion culture and its demands.

Uh, fuck you. Women deal with this kind of discrimination every single day, we are not okay with it, and if you paid attention to campaigns like @EverydaySexism or @MissRepresentation (or, say, almost any piece of feminist writing for the last 30 years) these “nice guys” would see constant and vitriolic indictments of the ways in which media misogyny hurts women and girls in society. It’s not okay, and Hathaway has already been in the spotlight for inappropriate sexual commentary in the past, and as fans and women, plenty of people have had issues with it then, so don’t hold this up now as some kind of thing we ought to be paying more attention to than we already are.

If for one second you think it’s acceptable to tell me that The Onion’s tweet about Quvenzhané Wallis is less worth getting upset about than the hard time Anne Hathaway (a personal favorite, as celebrities go) got for her dress…well, shut up, save your breath, and learn how to be offended by more than one thing at a time.

As far as the people who say that raging about this because of Wallis’ age isn’t okay because it sends the message that it’s okay to use this word against women (as opposed to children): Uh. No. That is also not okay. But it’s especially disgusting that this word was used to attack a talented young woman of color on a night that should have been all about her professional accomplishments.

In some ways, The Onion’s “satirical” (read: chauvinistic and from within the power structure, not attacking or challenging that power structure, i.e. not fitting the definition of satire) is proof of what feminists have been arguing for years: that media slamming of women creeps ever more obviously into the limelight and becomes more “acceptable” with every airbrushed magazine cover that’s published.

What else is disgusting about The Onion’s attack on Quvenzhané Wallis? (Aside from the blatant misogyny and undercurrent of racism, which is better explored in the multitude of tweets @BlackGirlNerds has been RTing.) I could go on about it all day.

But following after a three-and-a-half hour session wherein Seth MacFarlane made clear his feelings on my gender and other races, let’s leave it at this:

This is probably the last time I’m going to bother watching the Oscars, and while they’ve now (as of noon today) issued an apology on Facebook (not that I can find a link to it on the front page of their website, where it belongs) I don’t think I’ll be reading much of The Onion for a while.

Is it because I have no sense of humor? I like to think not. It’s because I’m sick of reading things that denigrate my gender and having to take a step back and try to see things from the POV of the “satirist” in order to laugh. I’m tired of it. I want to watch comedy that’s actually funny, not comedy that spews insults and terms of abuse in order to prop up the insecurities of the comedian.

Update: While I haven’t posted this entry yet, The Onion has issued an apology for their tweet. It can be read at “http://www.theonion.com/articles/the-onion-apologizes,31434/” and undercuts the argument of anyone who thought this tweet fell under the umbrella of satire:

“On behalf of The Onion, I offer my personal apology to Quvenzhané Wallis and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the tweet that was circulated last night during the Oscars. It was crude and offensive—not to mention inconsistent with The Onion’s commitment to parody and satire, however biting.

No person should be subjected to such a senseless, humorless comment masquerading as satire.”

Damn straight.

(At the same time, a friend who called their offices to complain mentioned they’d redone their message machine to include a note to those inclined to rant re: reading the first amendment, so it would appear the spirit of apologetic remonstration is spreading through their offices in uneven fits and starts.)

“Portlandia” – “Little Britain” for Americans

Since Time Warner switched our cable channels, I got to DVR PORTLANDIA, Fred Armison’s show on IFC. It’s kind of a riot. As a sketch comedy, it’s most closely related to Matt Lucas and David Walliams’ LITTLE BRITAIN, but without the nasty (and sometimes stomach-churning) edge.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, at first, but between Aimee Mann’s appearance as a version of herself forced to work as a housekeeper for two obnoxious hipster/yuppies and a Japanese-themed sketch that involved two raver-looking Japanese girls (I can’t remember the name of the subculture at the moment but may look it up and amend later), I’m definitely a fan.