Wednesday, September 28, 2005

An unusual situation

Style didn't have space to run my review of the Barksdale's latest show in this week's edition. So I'm posting it below for those who might have been there with me or who might otherwise be interested in my thoughts. Don't tell anyone it's here though, or it might not see print ever. I'm sure I can trust both of the people that read this blog (which has seen more activity in the past two days than it has in the past 6 months!)

Here it is:
Deceptively Simple and Stunning
"The Drawer Boy" starts off Barksdale Theatre's season with a rustic and resonant comic saga
by David Timberline (521 words)

“The Drawer Boy,” the season-opening production at the Barksdale Theatre, could have been a charming little culture-clash comedy. The frequently hilarious first act starts out that way, with Miles (Brett Ambler), a somewhat pretentious young actor from Toronto, intruding on the simple lives of Morgan (Joe Inscoe) and Angus (David Bridgewater), two aging Canadian farmers. Miles seeks to observe rustic living as part of researching a play and Morgan, in particular, preys on the city-slicker’s gullibility with most entertaining results.

But playwright Michael Healey had more on his mind when he fashioned this deceptively simple, ultimately powerful tale that has become one of the most frequently produced plays in the country. It seems Angus received a severe head injury while serving in World War II. As a result, he has virtually no short-term memory and he depends on Morgan to fill in the blanks in his life. Morgan tells a bittersweet story about how Angus received the injury – but is it true? Miles translates the story into a theater piece and when Angus sees it, the lock on his memories starts to dissolve, throwing Morgan into a panic. Has Miles broken the chains that bind Angus or sown the seeds of disaster between the two life-long friends?

In getting to the answers, we discover three compelling characters – and director Jack Welsh has assembled three of the most talented Richmond-area actors to portray them. Bridgewater has the bravura role in Angus and he brings all of his considerable talents to bear. His expert timing makes for sparkling comedy early on but it is the wonder and pain he projects as bits of Angus's memory return that make his performance stunning. Ambler also delivers a fine performance, never allowing Miles to be reduced to a mere fop. He gives his character remarkable backbone as the situation around him unexpectedly redoubles in intensity.

But it is Inscoe who has the most difficult role and he responds to the challenge with the most finely tuned and exquisitely nuanced work I have seen from him in his distinguished career. The veteran of numerous films and TV shows excels at portraying the genial Southern gentleman types (he was Anticus Finch in last year's "To Kill A Mockingbird") but his Morgan is all hard lines and sharp angles, with a hint of downright cruelty. As his tightly controlled world starts to unravel, however, Inscoe subtly reveals the vulnerability and affection that lies beneath the domineering façade.

Welsh guides his troupe with an assured hand and he wisely employs a dialect coach (Amanda Durst) so that all of the actors sport pitch-perfect Canadian accents that never waver. The show is generally up to the Barksdale's exceptional technical standards, though I might quibble with some of lighting designer Lynne Hartman's choices, her nights being perhaps a bit too bright. But the 1970's era rustic set designed by Mercedes Schaum and complete with working plumbing is a standout.

The opportunity to watch three exceptional actors at work may draw you to "The Drawer Boy." That the show is a surprisingly comic and complex masterwork makes for sweet icing on the cake.

The Drawer Boy
Barksdale Theatre, The Shops at Willow Lawn
8pm, Thursday - Saturday, occasional matinees and additional evening performances
Through November 6th
Call 282-2620 for details.

More funk

In the shower yesterday (at Sir Chubalot’s house – it’s not what you think, really), I realized that at least one of the things that has contributed to my funk lately is that I’m tired of being a parent of young kids. It’s one of those realizations that don’t usually escape the subconscious, having to fight through the guilt, pain, and other associated emotions.

I think it was triggered by an interaction with an insipid teenager and ruminating on the fact that any minute now, Sage is going to be a teenager. And Bryce is right behind her. Both of them need regular help with homework these days but, even more important, I think they both need help transitioning into the semi-adulthood of teenager-dom. I know they have a wonderful mother around to help them as well, but I want to be there too, for my sake as well as theirs. The boys just naturally draw a lot of focus and that means interactions with the girls tend to be shorter, less focused and often more heated than they need to be.

Don’t get me wrong: I love my boys and sometimes the biggest lift I get all day is going home and having Mason say, “Hi Daddy!” But diapers have been as aspect of my life for something like 10 of the last twelve years and frankly that’s enough for anyone. But even more than the sheer logistics (which is a lot), there’s the feeling of not moving forward. There are a lot of ways that I feel I’m moving into some ‘next stage’ what with school and a new job and everything. But then there’s the domestic situation that remains largely the same: juggling nap times and bed times and meal times and having to find coverage for the boys if we should want to do anything at all of a grown up nature. And it’s not like the ‘self-sufficient’ girls don’t need their share of parental presence to get through their days. It all just gets tiring.

I guess this is just a semi-regular recurrence of the feeling I’ve had since I found out that the Lovely Wife was pregnant with Cooper. At that point, the girls were just getting to the point where things seemed to be loosening up. More freedom and flexibility were on the horizon. And then they weren’t.

Holly is going off with the girls in a couple of weeks and maybe that will be a little bit of a breather, having to focus on one generation and not both for a few days. And maybe some semi-regular outings with just me and the girls would be good as well, so I don’t have to spend so much mental energy wondering what the toddler is getting into all the time.

Or maybe I just need more sleep and food.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Rejoining the effort

It’s been kind of a sloppy couple of weeks and I’ve been thinking it’s time to climb back aboard the WW bus and get a little bit serious again. I’ve been on what could be called the “Maintenance Utilizing Vague Points Approximation” (MUVPA) system and it’s generally been going pretty well. I have a very general sense of how many non-core points I’m putting away in a day – like ‘is it more-or-less than double-digits’ – and as long as it’s less, I’m usually OK.

But like most of the things around this whole diet business, it’s highly subject to availability. That is, if nothing that fits in the plan is available, you eat whatever’s around. This past weekend, there was a lot of tasty, rich, home-made yumminess around thanks to the culinary efforts of my wife and her friends. We all gathered at a friend’s farm up in Middlesex County and ate, drank, and caught up after too many months out of touch.

Before going there, I had snuck into a WW meeting on Saturday morning and got the stats back shown below. I was up .8 pounds which really is just fine because I’m hoping that at least some of that is actual muscle mass gain (a boy can dream). But it is the highest weight I’ve been at since officially entering maintenance mode. It’s a little early to be worrying about packing on weight for hibernating so I’m thinking it would be good to rein things in a bit. Mostly because this whole effort was as much about health and long-term well-being and not too much about vanity and fitting into form-fitting T-shirts and making the girls at the gym swoon. Really.

So today was back to salad for lunch and a drawer full of healthy snacks (raisins anyone?) And I’ll be trying to make the lunch-time run with Sir Chubalot at least a once-a-week, maybe twice-a-week event. Speaking of which, part of this redoubled effort has to do with realizing that I was a terrible WW buddy to Knight Chubalot (who is turning into Sir Chubalot Less lately) last Friday. We went out to a show together and I pretty nearly stood on his chest and forced him to drink both a beer AND a frappucino. WW friends don’t make WW friends drink so much fat. So a little reform is in order. If for no other reason than to see if I can still do it.

MAM: 7
Last 4W: 162.6
Last HSW: 163.5

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Blog 'o Funk

Last Saturday I was in the punkiest, funkiest, lousy mood and I tried the Sir Chubalot “master your mood” method of trying to exercise my way out of it. I ran – outside on the actual street instead of in the hermitically sealed gym environment – for about 40 minutes and then did sit-ups and push-ups until I could sit or push no more. So then I was beaten-up, broken-down tired and in a bad mood as well. Thanks a lot, your chubalotness.

Luckily, after cleaning myself up, I spent a lovely quiet evening with my lovely not-so-quiet wife and that was what turned the tide. I know there’s all of this biological research about how we guys are not wired for monogamy, etc. etc. (a play I wrote about recently has the classic line in it: "monogamy is like a 40 watt light bulb: it works, but it's not enough.") But, in terms of actual happiness, there is nothing like feeling like you have someone on your side, someone who sympathizes with you when you have problems, someone who will listen even when you’re bored with hearing yourself talk. Side-by-side with someone you love is clearly the best way to go through life. And there’s the snuggling part, which doesn’t suck either.

Then Sunday afternoon was spent at the James River Craft Beer Festival which I believe Sir Chubalot and I have concluded should be a weekly event. Of course, this would do nothing good for either of our diet routines. Perhaps it would have to be combined with a Saturday fast. Making the whole thing more of a spiritual thing, which god knows I need. Beer could indeed be my salvation.

It’s getting close to another weigh-in as the end of the month draws nigh. Beer festivals notwithstanding, things have been holding steady. I find it remarkable sometimes that this is so.

School is going incredibly well. I have indeed been the uber-geek I was worried I would be. If I had had this kind of academic fervor back when I was an actual student, I would have been dangerous. And friendless. And would have gotten laid even less than I did. So I guess it’s all about trade-offs. We’re studying the general cultural revolution that occurred during the Romantic period. This involves reading poetry of Wordsworth, Byron, and Shelley as well as the philosophy of Kant and Burke. It’s so cliché, I can hardly stop myself from laughing sometimes. I’m so liberal artsy, I can feel the elbow patches growing even on my polo shirts. But I’m loving it just the same.

The new job is slow going. It’s all very new to me and I spent the first couple of weeks basically flailing around purposelessly. Now in my third week, I’m still flailing, but it’s at least there something resembling a purpose to it. I’m not yet making the world safer for more spices and mayonnaise, but I expect I will embark on that mission soon.