Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

29 May 2007

I've Been in Los Angeles for a Week Now

I've been in California for a week now. (I am here for another four.) I have to confess to beginning to feel a little bored. Or maybe I'm feeling homesick. I love my friends here, don't get me wrong, but I just haven't seen that much of them. They all have lives (which should come as no surprise) and I don't, because I am mostly unemployed and all of my worldly possessions are on the other side of the country. Do I sound like I'm complaining? I hope not. Plus, I have set about attempting to remedy this whole not-seeing-my-friends thing by making plans for my evenings.

The weather here is absolutely gorgeous: breezy, a little cool and then really cooling off in the evening—enough to merit a jacket, even. It's lovely.

Did I tell you I saw As You Like It. It was a production done by the Los Angeles Women's Shakespeare Company, directed by Lisa Wolpe and featuring my dear friend Linda, who is on the board of directors. I hate this play, in case I haven't said so before in this forum, and the LAWSC production did little to change my mind. They set the show in the old West—cowboys, guys with guitars, ranch-hands, etc.—which did little to illuminate the text in any way, but was relatively harmless as a choice. (I staged Taming of the Shrew as a beach party, so I don't have anything against textually unsupported concepts, but I like them to feel new or, at the very least, funny.) The show was mostly a bust, but my friend, who played Phoebe (the woman who falls in love with Rosalind, who is posing as a boy) plays the character as a kind of Madeline Kahn in Blazing Saddles-type saloon performer. It's a brilliant stroke of comic performance. She comes in with a thick Spanish accent and a black dancing-girl dress, looking like a hilarious Bernarda Alba. And, as usual, her ability to be severe and at the same time allow the audience to laugh at her is excellent. It's a show-stealing piece of business, accomplished in two and a half scenes. (But if I have to sit through this show again in the next five years, I will know that I've done something evil and the universe is punishing me.)

I've seen two movies since I've been here, too. Waitress is a really cute romantic comedy/drama. I found it very charming with several excellent performances and all surrounding the making of pies, so it is filled with all kinds of really delicious-looking confections. The film stars Keri Russell as a pie wizard and depressed waitress, who is married to the worst kind of lout of a husband (Jeremy Sisto). She finds out she's pregnant early on in the film and curses herself for allowing it to happen. Now, she thinks, she'll never be rid of her creep of a spouse. Then she starts a romance with her married OB/GYN and everything starts to shift. It's an interesting picture about the morality of adultery. It also stars Nathan Fillion as her doctor and Andy Griffith as a crotchety old customer at the diner where she works. The movie is sensuous with an indie feel and a heart of gold. Definitely check this picture out if you can. I liked it a lot.

The same cannot be said for My Favorite Year which I watched on DVD this morning. It's a contrived stagey kind of thing, with bad art direction and some unfunny scenes and (occasionally) some very bad acting. Peter O'Toole got an Oscar nomination for his performance as a drunk aging movie star, and he's fairly good in the film, but he's mostly just doing easy slapsticky schtick. I didn't buy it. He isn't nearly as good in this as he is in The Stunt Man and the film is so over the top and unbelievable, that I found it difficult to invest in the characters as well as the comedy. Joseph Bologna as the star of the television show at the center of the film gives a clever, tongue-in-cheek performance, and it's the only bit of acting I really liked in My Favorite Year. This movie was made into a musical, too, as you might recall. The musical flopped. I kept trying to remember my favorite song from the show today while I was watching the flick, but it just wouldn't come to me. I guess it's no great loss.