Thursday, February 27, 2014

Two Shows Under One Bridge

When someone reviews a book or a play I’ve written, it always fascinates me when they write the review based on what THEY would have written. Warning: I can’t stop myself from thinking in those terms when watching the new musical The Bridges of Madison County playing at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre on Broadway. I will admit to not having read the novel by Robert James Waller nor have I ever really watched the film adaptation with Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood. So I did not walk in with expectations of what I’d see on stage.

What I did see was a beautiful operetta of a single moment in time, captured in the heart and minds of Francesca – a middle-aged mother and wife that has grown weary of her life and a handsome stranger passing through town as he photographs landmarks for The National Geographic. The performances of Kelli O’Hara and Steven Pasquale are far and above what I witnessed the two of them do together last year in Far From Heaven.  They smolder, they glisten, they are two souls brought together by fate that can’t deny a certain passion. They sing amazing soaring songs written by the always incredible Jason Robert Brown and say funny dialogue to each other penned by Marsha Norman (who also adapted The Color Purple for stage).  

I love their duets and solos and would listen to them sing those over and over. I totally can buy into the reasoning of the creative team for casting the leads as younger people who still have that opportunity in life to choose a different path. I can even forgive them for (God forbid) making us stare at two beautiful people on stage all night long. This “love” story (if we can call it that) makes for an amazing chamber piece of theater. I’d prefer to believe it’s not really love – it’s a power neither can deny – but being jaded, I’m not sure I’d leap to the word love so quickly. But this operetta is exquisite.

Then there is a completely different musical going on at the Gerald Shoenfeld Theatre at the same time. You see (and this is where I gave my warning above), the creative team have also written an old-fashioned musical comedy where Gladys Kravitz sits with binoculars and watches the young lovers from her window. I LOVE me some Cass Morgan in a show, but the comedy of Marge and her husband completely removed me from the heart of this story. We also get Francesca’s family: two adult actors playing her teenagers which only points out how young Kelli O’Hara actually is. Hunter Foster is a Broadway name that I personally have enjoyed on stage time and again, but here he is saddled with an underdeveloped character of the husband – unsure if we’re to like him or wish that Francesca would leave him and run away with the photographer Robert.

Bartlett Sher has made a huge name for himself as a director with a vision. That vision was muddled in this production with extra cast members endlessly moving sets back and forth, walking and stopping midway across the stage and always watching the main action – as if to show us what a small town this really is in Iowa where everyone knows everything about each other (or perhaps to remind the audience to pay attention to the main story happening on stage and try to forget these extraneous characters have been dropped into this ½ opera ½ musical comedy).

Anyone that reads my reviews know I’m not usually so harsh. I strongly feel there was a
Streep & Eastwood 1995
missed opportunity with this show. There are truly moments of greatness that have been bogged down with an unclear focus. I would have much preferred a two person musical that did not feel the need to give us three false endings to show us where the story kept going and going. The story should be about our lovers lost in a moment in time one weekend. As Robert points out to Francesca when giving photography advice, he says you must zoom in to capture the moment. If only the creative team would have listened to Robert’s advice.  

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Fat Guy's Clothes Closet

This blog was started under the name "it ain't over 'til the the fat guy is skinny" - because I knew this fat guy would never see that elusive word: skinny. Everyone has their views on how to live a healthy life, what to eat, etc. I've heard them all. You can't mention you are dieting without someone giving you advice/two cents.

I have battled my entire adult life. I've gone up and down constantly and no matter what people say, I know the weight that is best for me to hang out around (and laughably - it's still considered fat). So like I do every 2-3 years, I make weight loss a concentrated effort and I usually achieve it...knowing it will be back again.

Changing eating habits are so difficult. Sometimes, I think it's harder than quitting any other addiction because you need food and it's always around you - no matter where you look. We schedule events around going out to eat and food is constantly on my mind. But I admit I do feel better when I make it a priority. There is a confidence I can see that I gain when I'm not (as a friend pointed out) constantly tugging at my shirt to pull it away from my body. Noticing that pants are falling off of me. (But not to worry because I have every size in my closet.) I use what works for me to kick start me (Nutrisystem) and try to make it a main focus in my life. I've actually dropped 20 pounds since the start of 2014. Forcing myself to MOVE on a treadmill or walking. Monitoring it with Fitbit. Doing what I can - all the while knowing I have so much further to go.

But I look at famous people who have private chefs and motivating fitness gurus who lose weight and everyone cheers. They make the rounds on talk shows to display their new bodies. And then months go by and Oprah, John Goodman, & Jonah Hill (to name a few) have packed the pounds back on.

It's a cycle that not everyone can understand. But I do. Trust me. I get it. If you have a great metabolism and can eat whatever you want, I applaud you. Good for you! But there are many people in the world that no matter how they try - they can eat the same thing you do and gain weight you'd never see. To those people I say - I feel your pain! I'm right there with you. And while I may be patting myself on the back for my weight loss for now...I'm well aware of the cycle that I'm in. 

And no, I'm not looking for an expert to tell me how to keep it off this time - but I do appreciate the occasional "good for you" even if I'm aware it's a phrase I'll be hearing again in another three years.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Love in a Box

It was all about a box.

Original Box
A particular box that my parents own and keep all their records. (Birth certificates, important documents, etc.) There is nothing special about this box. A metal box with college/university pennants all over it. But for me and my siblings, it holds years of memories - a lifetime of love, hard work building a home, everything that went into my parents' relationship. 

My sister and I used to jokingly fight over who was going to get 'the box' when my parents were no longer around. When my father passed away over 10 years ago, we started laying dibs on it then...naturally to lighten the mood over his loss. Even when I was visiting my mom this past holiday season, I pulled the box out of the closet to check on my inheritance.

Enter my little brother. 

Somehow he searched the internet and found that exact box online. And then he purchased it for our sister and sent it to her this week. She opened it up (which also includes a lunchbox so I may need to fight about that one) and was completely overwhelmed by such a gift. Yes, a simple box moved her that much. 

I thought about how incredible it was for my brother to not only find it, but give that kind
The gift
of gift. The box connects us as a family. My sister moved out when my brother was 7 years old and then I left home the year after that so while age and distance may seem vast, you find things when you are a family that bring you closer together. For us, that box is one of those things. 

And here on this day of love, I wanted to write a blog about a different kind of love. Valentine's Day does not have to just be about when you declare your love for a romantic partner. It's also when I say how much I love my family and I'm happy to call them mine.

But just so they all know, my name is on the bottom of the original box.