Thursday, February 25, 2016

A Divided America

This has to be the craziest election year I can recall. Allow me to start with a positive. Obviously people are not satisfied with our government which accounts for such extremes happening in both parties. I myself wish we could do away with the two party system and perhaps congress and the rest of our government could actually accomplish things. It was sort of clear we were heading this way when the Tea Party was created, but I'll admit I didn't expect the Democrats to be splitting as well with a candidate who offers some pretty extreme ways of thinking outside of his party...almost as much as the GOP front runner, but minus the hate. However, this is an example that people are NOT happy with the current state of our party systems...on either side.

Now I can't be as positive. I'm frightened. Scared for where our country is headed, how we look on the global stage, and if we are due for another civil war of some sort. I completely agree with government reform, but I also prefer to have someone in the White House that actually knows something about politics. It's an awesome thought to bring in a businessman to help run the government, but wouldn't that make more sense as a cabinet position? Not the leader of the free world.

It feels like the slogan of American Pride truly means bigoted pride. Diversity is a bad word (oops...I use it all the time). Keep others out. Build a wall. It will all be great even though I'm not telling you how I'm going to make it great. Americans are caught up in the celebrity of this candidate and seem to think we are voting for American Idol and not the president of our country. It truly baffles me.

Of course, part of me also believes this man isn't really a republican or a democrat. He is whatever he needs to be depending on who he is dealing with. So he could very well get the nomination, end up in the white house and change all his views on everything. That's also frightening no matter which side of the issues you sit on.

I grew up in Texas and saying I wanted to smack someone wasn't meant to be literal. However I tweeted it once about someone I was watching (on reality TV) and was sent a private message admonishing me for my words when I have a platform of adversity, diversity, equal rights, first I thought the person was over-reacting, but realized my tiny little corner of social media must get to some people and they didn't approve of my word choices.

Amplify that by millions and you have Donald Trump. The man wants to punch a protester in the face. He makes fun of people with disabilities and attacks women. He enjoys name calling as if he's on a 5th grade playground. He makes horrible remarks and his audiences rally and cheer reminding me of that movie The Running Man...which was a reality TV Game Show where Richard Dawson whipped his crowd into a frenzy. That's what we'll have with Trump in Washington. A reality star who could care less if he says the wrong thing. He'll call it being PC, I call it being a responsible leader. Perhaps it works in the private sector, but this is not who I want running my country. If someone from across the world can send me a private message because I want to smack someone that is acting a fool on HGTV, imagine how others are going to view a President Trump.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Humans Invade Broadway

Tonight before seeing Stephen Karam's The Humans on Broadway, I was standing in front of a restaurant when a man approached me and said "why do people say 'I'm sorry' for bumping into you? And why do they say it when someone dies?" Then he pulled out a paper and told me to read it. It said no matter how rich you are or what you gain in life, we are all the same once we die. (I figured at this point he was going to ask me for money, but he walked away.) Midway through The Humans, the dad makes a toast and says everything that we have - goes...suddenly I saw that man from earlier on the street. 

Perhaps I had my own Stephen Karam experience on the street, except that mine wasn't a 70 year old Chinese woman that lived in the apartment above the one in which this play is set. I'll return to this strange "did that really happen" moment later.

The play garnered raves off-broadway last fall, quickly moved into the Helen Hayes this winter, and has added the Blake family to the long list of dysfunctional stage families that have come before.  I went into this play completely in the dark about it (as dark as the stage continues to grow through the evening). I was told it was another family dinner drama - only this one comes with many laughs. I actually thought for the first 45 minutes I was watching a comedy. Jayne Houdyshell is a master at delivery. As the matriarch, she dishes it out to her family in such a real and natural way, you can't help but laugh at her. Reed Birney as her husband is also one of the most realistic actors in New York today. Every choice he makes comes from a place of truth and you believe you are witnessing a man from Scranton, PA who is in NYC having Thanksgiving at his youngest daughter's duplex apartment in Chinatown. 

The play covers it all. College loans, lesbian breakups, colitis, dementia, turkey, monsters, dreams, dead-end jobs...the list could go on and on. Yet this group of six actors pulls you in so much that you feel you are LITERALLY (great joke with this word in the play) peering through the ripped open wall of David Zinn's set. Sarah Steele as the youngest daughter (who reminds me of Renee Zellweger) lives with an older boyfriend (Arian Moayed) doing the best he can to welcome his quasi-inlaws to his home. Along with the older sister played wonderfully by Cassie Beck we ride a roller coaster through this play as more and more secrets are revealed. We can't forget Lauren Klein who spends much of the play sleeping on the sofa, or slumped in a wheelchair, or having a dementia enraged tantrum...and she plays it all brilliantly.

I feel Joe Mantello directs everything on Broadway now - and that's because he understands the dynamics of people and how to make it as realistic as possible. That's the biggest take away from this evening is that it all feels completely organic in real time.

And then...

I've used the word realistic often, but actually, there is a huge unrealistic element looming over this play. Call it ghost, paranormal, dreams invading reality, or the fact the playwright wanted to write a thriller...there is another element that for this audience member turned it into a different play. I keep reading the word terror when writers describe this show, but I never felt terrorized. I felt somewhat cheated by the last ten minutes of the play after an incredible evening supplied by an amazing cast and director. I understand the symbolism Karam was going for, but it felt too cliche and 'on the nose' for my taste. Life can't be wrapped up in a pretty bow and as the stranger told me on the street, we are all the same once we die. But I still live in reality and call me nuts, I sort of like my theatrical experiences to stay in that lane if that's the lane they start in.