Monday, September 27, 2010

Theatre Reviews: Krapp and Crap

If I had more time in my life, and a workstation, and well, a couple other things, I would write theatre reviews as I left the theatre or as soon as I got home. I would take notes, I would keep the program to refer to it, I would spend time on it.
I do these things occasionally, but rarely, and so this space is often left for the truly good, and the truly bad.

The first play I went to see last week was the first of my season subscription with CanStage, Fernando Krapp Wrote Me This Letter.
I'm thinking this was not the season I should have subscribed for as they plan to "test the limits of theatre" and a bunch of other not-appealing words from the program. I read The Star review, we were both there opening night, and I agree with like two things, the rest it's like he was on another planet. I agree with the 2.5 out of 4 stars and with the line "Ashley Wright gives a panto-level buffoon performance as the eponymous Krapp". I thought the actor playing The Count stole the show, getting huge applause during and after the show and stealing every scene he was in. The Star says: "Ryan Hollyman lacks any class whatsoever as The Count". Did you stay for the curtain call when he got the biggest ovation?
I think crowds in Toronto are too cheap with their standing ovations in general. On this occasion, opening night, with the author (from Germany!) in attendance, only about half the audience stood, the rest, including me, stayed steadfastedly seated.
I thought the performances fine in general, even the story was interesting, and most of my 2.5 stars are for bringing something new, in this case German new-wave theatre, to Toronto, and for making me think.
That being said, I'm still thinking a week later. The play makes no sense, starting off with an arresting story and beautiful sets and ending with an alternate reality (I think??) and people talking through vocoders.
The problem is the play cannot be understood, at least not from the script, and that as a device works rarely, and not here.

The second play I saw last week was The Great Farini Project. I had really wanted to see this and was looking forward to it all week.
The premise made it seem like "The Prestige" with one acrobat daredevil trying to out-fox the other. There were adds all over the gay village, alluding to the gay themes, and it sounded great. Also advertised was the high wire tricks and flying over the audience, what's not to love.
Well, I'll tell you what's not to love.
The piece was mainly dance. There was no plot. There was little dialogue. It opened with each man dancing individually, and occasionally together, stoping to recite what seemed like random words to each other, I can't imagine they were scripted. So 10 minutes of individual dance, then 60 seconds of one saying "Anarchy!", and the other saying "Potato!", and repeat. Then back to the dancing for 10 minutes, then more words. This took up the first hour of the play, during which no plot was revealed, no dialogue spoken more than a sentance long, and no dance moves of note were displayed. I quickly fell asleep.
I must have been snoring as I was awoken when one of the actors threw a ball at my chest which bounced off and slid under my seat. In my defence, the guy beside me was sleeping too. Now we were in the front row, but how was I to know this would be beyond terrible?
Once awoken, I watched as the actors mounted some gizmo, about an hour into the "play" and hovered over the audience, which was amusing. There was no reason for doing so, and no "plot" was revealed, but at least it woke me up.
Now the Star of course called the play "Delightful". It goes on to say "Wyatt's... resonant voice is prone to sibilance." Even after I looked up the word in the dictionary I still don't understand what it means. Basically the review also gives 2.5 out of 4 stars yet does nothing to explain why the review is not higher, writing away their own criticism with "in fairness, given the physical stress of the dancing, it’s a wonder they have breath to declaim anything, especially when they must compete with a pastiche score of this and that." Using yet another word that is beyond definition. Helpful.
The problem with such a poorly acted, non-plotted, boring mess, is that it turns me off going to unknown plays. I see listings and think of how terrible this one was and it makes me not want to go. For the record, this was the second worst play I've ever seen, worse than XXX Live Nude Girls, which at least didn't pretend to be unpretentious, and not as bad as If We Were Birds, which has to be the worst play ever written, and the winner of a Dora Award, of course.
One last thing. For the first 15 minutes of this play, I was watching one of the lead actors and wondering why they give him a prop hand of a tiny doll. He was supposed to be an acrobat so why the prop hand? When he took off his coat, I realized it was his real hand. I would suggest putting it more out there in future, getting it out of the way early on to stop people from guessing. Also I was thinking that having a hand like that has probably held him back in life in social situations and I was overcome by a "Who the fuck cares?" Your hand isn't perfect, who cares? And I wanted to give that to him for a moment, to transfer it from my brain to his like Dumbledore and his pensive in Harry Potter, that no one minded, that no one cared, and that hopefully if it had ever held him back, it would never do so again.
Which got me thinking of my own maladies. Could "Who the fuck cares?" be applied to myself?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Victoria - Part Two

Better late than never I suppose!
On our last day of vacation and our last day in Victoria we decided to go to a castle and the historic military site Fort Rodd Hill.
The castle was outside of town and we were told it was about a 2 km walk from the nearest bus stop. We got on the bus, told the driver where we were going, rode for about half an hour until the driver said "Last stop, everyone off!" When we asked him about our stop he started cursing a blue streak and saying he would have to drive us back now. He said it was all the confusion from the people on the bus, and two people had gotten on since we did...
Anyway, he drove us back, we walked down an incredibly steep hill, and found the castle!

I don't remember what it was called but it doesn't matter as it was a private function and they wouldn't let us in. Nice.
From there we wanted to walk over to Fort Rodd Hill. When we asked how to get there at the castle the woman had to get help to give directions and I thought "This isn't good".
Walked back up the steep hill and down a road to nowhere for about a half an hour and I started to feel dizzy. I hadn't eaten and we had been doing a ton of walking everywhere and my body decided to quit. I sat down on the side of the road and saw some blackberries, which I thought I could eat to keep my blood sugar up and not feint.
I could barely stand but I started grabbing berries left and right, I must have had over 100. They were so perfectly sweet, I loved them. I think Sarah was just watching in amazment, oh and taking photos:

When finished I sat down, then lay down, and almost passed out but didn't. I felt quite weak but we were almost there, and we were in the middle of nowhere so I had little choice, and we marched on.
Fort Rodd Hill is where they defended Canada presumably against the Japenese if it had of come to that.

I had never seen a lighthouse actually attached to a building before, it's a good idea. Why don't they all have that? A plaque said this was the first one on the west coast.

Inside the fort a recreation of barracks life:

I had to sit down quite a lot as I was still weak but Sarah had energy for the both of us, and was climbing around.

As I was saying...
Oh, actually in this shot I said she should look like she was defending Canada, so she shook her fist.


My last photo, from the mall across the street from our hotel.

We went back to the hotel room and had a quiet night in with Swiss Chalet and watched "The Sound of Music". An amazing time!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Jury Duty

September 16, 2010
10:19 a.m.
I'm at jury duty right now. I talked to a lot of people trying to find out what to expect and a lot of people know someone who did jury duty or were called and had a reason to get out of it, but very few people actually went. My goal here is to document what's happening to me without giving away any case details or anything so I avoid being thrown in the hoosegow.
About 7 or 8 weeks ago I got a letter in the mail saying I may be selected for jury duty, this was like a pre-letter and asked for just a few things like my name and occupation which I filled out and sent back to the Sheriff. Who knew Toronto had a Sheriff?
About a month after that I got a summons in the mail saying I had been selected for jury duty and I had to go to the courthouse today at 8:30 am.
I talked to my boss about it and she commented I would probably make google-y eyes at the accused which is entirely true, I very likely will. And at the lawyers, the judge, and any other man in a 100 foot radius.
I had this fear that I would wake up late this morning. My plan was to be here at 8:15 and I kept picturing what would happen if I was late. Would I get thrown out and have to go in to work? Would the judge yell at me? Would I have broken some law?
I worried all night about that, got little sleep, and woke up at 8:35, five minutes after I was supposed to be here, and proceeded to have a heart attack. I ran around getting dressed and realized I should have picked out an outfit the night before. What does one wear to jury duty. Not something too fancy or the Defense won't pick you. Not something too casual or the Crown won't pick you and the judge might yell at you. Ultimately I still don't want to do this but if you're up for something human nature dictates that you want to have a shot at getting picked. Who wants to be left off the team? It's like high school gym class all over again, and I was always picked last.
I raced out the door and saw it was pouring rain. Luckily I had just acquired a nifty Vancouver olympics umbrella so I grabbed that and was off.
I considered taking a taxi but I couldn't find one going the right direction and traffic was terrible so I knew it would still take a long time and I'm not getting paid to do this. You don't get paid until your 11th day of service, and then you get $40 per day, yahoo. I hope that's tax free.
I took the streetcar/subway combo and it took forever so I got here about 9:20, over 30 minutes to travel 1.9 km. Thank you TTC.
I saw people walking in and thought maybe there were other late people too and that I could blend right in but they had already checked in and had gone for coffee, d'oh. The woman did look at her watch but she still checked me in and told me to take a seat.
Oh yeah, I forgot, there's only one entrance to this building and every time you enter your bag must be scanned and you have to go through a metal detector.
So I sit down in a room with about 500 people and there's a man at the front of the room talking about procedure. I look around and see a shelf with games and magazines and a woman doing a puzzle. The man at the front mentions something about stepping out for five minutes and I may have missed something but it seems like we can go for smoke breaks at our own discretion. This is something I asked my friend from London, Ontario who had jury duty on Monday and he said it was like a job and they told you when you could take breaks. I can see people in Toronto being less respectful of the courtroom setting and just walking out whenever anyway, plus how do you keep track of 500 people so I'm glad this worked out this way. I have common sense and will go during a low point anyway.
The man at the front finished talking and everyone who couldn't serve was instructed to hold up their summons and a clerk would collect them and call the people by name. It turns out many people in here have been here since yesterday or even Monday so I guess I can consider myself lucky.
The people who had a reason they couldn't serve all lined up at the front of the room to wait to explain their reason to the judge so I took this opportunity to grab a coffee and a cigarette. There's a cafeteria in here and you're allowed to bring in food, someone else had told me you were not.
Out into the pouring rain, smoke, and then through the metal detectors and back.
Once the people at the front of the room finished, they let the people who had started yesterday or Monday check in which was another line, another wait. And thats where we are now, it just turned 11 am. My iPod is still on B.C. time for some reason. Will update later in the day.

11:28 a.m.
Still sitting here. Now the people who were excused have moved out into the hall and are being talked to. I still have not been asked to do anything, nor had the possibility of doing anything. I'm waiting to see what the next step is so I can go for another smoke.
A lot of people are reading books, I've seen about three women playing on Gameboys, a lot, in fact most, are just sitting and looking forward. Some people brought laptops, there is wifi but it costs money. There are stations for laptops if you brought one. I didn't, although I could have brought my iPod charger with me. Will do that tomorrow.
They just shut the doors, that can't be a good sign.....

3:31 p.m.
I'm back in the juror lounge.
I haven't been asked to keep anything confidential, no one has mentioned anything like that, so I assume I can go into general details.
My group of jurors was called around noon and we had to go up to the courtroom. At this point the judge and accused were there so to show respect for the court, no reading, no texting, no nothing. Sit there and look straight ahead. It felt like I was the accused.
They began with reading what the people were accused of and they got a chance to plead guilty or not. The accused were two people, an older white man and a late 40's brown woman. They were accused of conspiracy to commit murder and coercion to commit murder, both pled not guilty. From there the judge told the court the trial would take eight weeks and be over in the middle of November.
The judge then asked if there was anyone who couldn't be a juror for a few reasons, and after each reason a bunch of people went up and plead their case to the judge.
The reasons I remember were:
- can't speak English or not a Canadian citizen
- health or hearing
- financial difficulties (a LOT of people went up for this)
- anything else
All this took about 2 hours and when the people were giving their reasons to the judge they were trying to whisper and be discreet for the most part so I couldn't hear a thing. Still we couldn't read or do anything.
I had a smoke and came back in through security, then I called work, where I was told that I had too much work to be allowed on a murder trial, then my mom and when I finally found the cafeteria the line was so long I didn't have time to wait in it. I grabbed a muffin by the checkout and ran back to the courtroom.
Its a good thing I didn't get to eat as the next part was the nerve wracking part.
They put all the jurors into a container and pulled out names. It was like some lottery from Hell and every time they called a name everyone held their breath.
The first 20 were called, not me, and they went through each person with the lawyers getting a chance to oppose everyone. Out of the first 10 people maybe 2 got through and by the end of the 20 they had 6 jurors.
What surprised me most during this was how quickly it all seemed to happen. One second these people were sitting with us and the next second they were on a jury for two months.
Another 20 called and they had their jury and the rest of us were dismissed. Back down to the jury room for 30 pointless minutes and they let us go home at about 4 pm.
I'm due back tomorrow at 9:30 for another go.
Btw it took me an hour to get home from Dundas and University on the TTC. If it wasn't raining, that's less than a 30 minute walk. And when you do get on the driver spends the entire ride yelling at everyone to move back, even though it's full and you can't. I hate the TTC.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Victoria - Part One

We took the ferry from Vancouver to Victoria. It was a huge boat, a cafeteria, a gift shop, and big enough for several cars and even a bus to drive on.

We took the city bus to Victoria from the ferry dock, about 40 minutes. It was a double-decker which was cool but with all our bags we couldn't go upstairs. In fact the bus was so full we barely fit downstairs so I ended up holding the bags in the doorway through each stop and turn. Fun!
Once here we checked in to our hotel. I actually miss the hostel a bit, it was right in the village and there were loads of people around.
Anyway, we went downtown and saw the B.C. parliament which was pretty impressive.

You'd think there'd be loads of postcards with that on them but they were all really crappy for some reason, like the back of a statue or a huge tree in the way.
From there we went to the Art Gallery which was open 'til 9. They had an exhibition on of the work of Kent Monkman called "The Triumph of Miss Chief" or mischief. I loved it to death.

The exhibition catalogue was $60 so we went back to the hotel and I looked it up online, hoping to get it cheaper or be able to buy it later when I had some money. Turns out the book is now out of print and selling for over $1000 online! Yikes! So we went back the next morning and I bought the book.
Also of note, Kent Monkman will be performing as Miss Chief at Nuit Blanche in Toronto so I MUST go see that and get him to sign the book.
From there off to Craigdarroch Castle which Sarah really loved.

It was quite nice.
Off to Chinatown for lunch and shopping, we stumbled upon Three Fan Tan Alley and had an amazing lunch of rice and roast pork.

We came back to the hotel to recharge and I also needed to recharge my camera battery which I forgot to do earlier.
From there back downtown to Miniature World. The displays were fantastic and the detail incredible. Here's a scene from WW2 Germany, you can click to enlarge the photo.

Exquisite detail in this living room.

Walking down the street we found a couple of cats (of course) so I played with them for about 15 minutes. Sarah suggested I should keep cat treats in my bag at all times and that's such a good idea I think I just might. Oh, I also got a new bag from Mountain Equipment Co-op. The old one is looking a bit weathered.

I knew there were a couple of Emily Carr sites in Victoria and while looking for the world's largest totem pole we happened to come across Carr's birthplace. I took a few photos mainly for my mom but when we tried to stop in and look at the giftshop we found the place was shut, it closes at 4 apparently, and we had just missed it.

We did end up finding the world's largest totem pole, it wasn't easy to find. It's hidden in a park and we had to ask a lot of people for directions. Note Sarah on the right at the bottom.

As we were walking back to the Museum we came across a peacock, which I thought was the most unusual thing ever. I stalked in for about 10 minutes while Sarah stood carefully back at a safe distance. As we turned the corner we saw a few more, I guess they live in the park.

Sarah and I both got to give a squirrel a nut from our hands. Neither of us had ever done that before, that was pretty cool.

Outside the museum more totems, I think this was the largest cluster we had seen, they tend to be solitary or at least far more spread out.

After dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory we went back and took some photos of the parliament buildings at night and then off to home and bed!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Vancouver - Part Three

Woke up and walked over to the Museum of Vancouver.

We wanted to walk over the bridge to get some photos of the view below, it's quite stunning:

Once there we paid admission and found there was three exhibits, one just on shoes which we skipped past:

Another on inner city farming, which also went by quickly, and the final one on the history of Vancouver from 1910-1970.
Here's Medusa getting her hair done:

And we watched this video about how poor Dorothy's life ambition was to get a new kitchen appliance.

We ran into a couple of locals in period costumes:

Back to the hostel to rest and recharge. We went back to Little Sisters and this time one of the women from the movie was working there, Sarah took her photo with her dog, Buddy:

From there a dinner not worth remembering, and off to drag bingo!

What fun! What prizes! What a hot black man who sat beside us that Sarah and I spent the night flirting shamelessly with! He looked like Denzel Washington.
But alas, we didn't get the prize, and we didn't win bingo either.

The main queen's co-host was named "Summer Clearance".
Tomorrow a travel day to Victoria, the weather should be fine!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Vancouver - Part Two

Today started off a bit slower. I think as the days go on we will get slower and slower and get up later and later.
We got up this morning and took our little ferry over to Granville Island for some breakfast.

Sarah had eggs Benedict and I had an English muffin with egg, tomato and cheese which sounds plain but the English muffin was made from scratch, there was a ton of real cheddar cheese and it was just about the best breakfast I've had for a long, long time.
From there we took the bus to the Van Dusen Botanical Gardens. It was kind of cool. Two minutes into a path we saw a coyote. They are really quick and hard to photograph so I was lucky to get this shot.

Also as soon as we walked in we saw a spider's web. It took me a minute to figure out how to photograph it without zooming in on the background but my camera came through. I love my camera.

They had a maze that was actually a little challenging. Here's the entrance:

When I got out I sat and waited for Sarah to emerge, little did I realize I should have brought a packed lunch - it took her a little while.

Some amazing flowers and statues.
Here's a cool monkey statue and what I called the 'middle finger plant' on the right as it looks like a hand giving the finger.

More monkeys:

The plants here are HUGE!:

Some turtles having a sun:

Some people reading:

Part of the rose garden:

From there we walked over to the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre and looked at an exhibit on Canada and the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.
It was professionally done but the Olympic part didn't really interest me. They did have a couple of good ads for the purification of the German race from that period.
This one shows the typical German on the left, and the typical Jew on the right:

This one says that supporting the mentally handicapped will cost each citizen 50,000 Deutschmarks over the course of their lives.

Sarah developed a massive headache so we came back to the hostel to lie down. I thought I'd work on the blog while she napped but soon I was fast asleep too.
We awoke around 5 and headed over to the Vancouver Art Gallery which was admission by donation Tuesdays after 5 pm as they only had two of their four floors open with exhibits. The top floor was something like 'Modern Artists Interpret Emily Carr' with Carr-esque works alongside some of her own originals. I was thinking to myself 'My mom would love this...." but not even photos were allowed.
The second floor was modern eye-witness or something like that. This exhibit included a lot of photographs which I love. One of my favorites was by Philip-Lorca Dicorcia and was taken in the early 90's during a time when there was a lot of scandal in America about what public money was funding what art projects. This artist applied for and got a grant to photograph male prostitutes and pose them in artsy film-style backdrops. They have names like 'Daniel - Florida - $25". It's sheer brilliance and hey, people like me pay taxes too.

From there a quick dinner and then back to the hostel to blog.
It's 11 pm now, Sarah is asleep in the bed above me and one of our neighbors in the room is a really hot guy so it's all good. I'll be off to bed as soon as I post this. Tomorrow is our last full day in Vancouver, we're going to the museum, an Indian restaurant for dinner and drag bingo tomorrow night featuring 'dirty' prizes. I can't wait!