Saturday, June 30, 2012

"Space: Above and Beyond"

1995-1996
This show, which has been likened to STARSHIP TROOPERS (the Heinlein novel, not the movie) survived only one season on FOX. I was able to survive four episodes before its lack of intelligence beat me down. But it's not awful, and may have improved a bit by the end. The pilot is kinda fun, featuring guest star R. Lee Ermey as...c'mon guess...you'll never get it...a massage therapist!! Just kidding, he's a drill sergeant. And the episode "R&R" is fun, mostly because of guest stars Coolio and an uncredited David Duchovny as a smooth-talking android pool shark.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

"The Longest Trek"

The Longest Trek (My Tour of the Galaxy)
-by grace lee whitney
1998
Seen through her own eyes, grace's life is thought-provoking and often horrifying. A stage/screen actress/singer most famous for playing yeoman janice rand on season 1 of STAR TREK, most serious fans know that her life spiraled into drug/sex addiction after she left the show. The book is partly a tale of redemption, as she finally got clean and appeared in several TREK movies, plus one memorable episode of VOYAGER. The book ranges much further than her career, as she shares how her adoption paved the way for the decades she would spend trying to fill the holes inside her, and how her religious upbringing poisoned her sexuality. She reminisces about performing with billie holiday, phil silvers, and marilyn monroe.
The most disturbing part centers on how she left the show. She tells of being raped by one of the show's executives, then a week later finding out she'd been written off. Though she goes into great detail, she refuses to name the assailant. Tellingly, she refers to him as "The Executive". Her conspicuous, continuous use of improper capitalization speaks volumes. Her inference is unmistakable. In addition, she spends an entire chapter refuting gene roddenberry's secular humanist philosophies (though that could just be the result of a fundamentalist's uncomfortable association with a show that takes religion out of humanity's future).
The book is a hopeful testament from a human who has confronted the very worst parts of her dysfunctional past, and dedicated herself to honesty and making amends. So it feels a bit heavy-handed to be critical. But for all the strides she's made in self-awareness, it feels like she still has a long way to go. There are moments when you might find yourself thinking, "grace...are you LISTENING to what you just said?" The great gift of this book is that i feel i understand alcoholics and addicts better than ever. There is a tendency to mystify addiction, to give its victims a certain kind of "free pass", as the physiological/genetic component lends itself to the notion that these people aren't responsible for their behavior. On a certain level, that's probably true...just perhaps not in the way most of us think. We ALL have those holes in our spirits that addicts spend a lifetime trying vainly to fill...indeed, i think ultimately the line between "addict" and non-addict is pretty blurry, if not non-existent altogether. Grace herself is wise enough to point out that the more rabid TREK fans use the show as a lush uses a bottle...the only difference being that STAR TREK doesn't lead to vehicular manslaughter. The blind spot in her awareness is the understanding that her new "clean" life, with her devotion to god and Alcoholics Anonymous, is just another stage of ongoing addiction. God and AA haven't solved her addictions, they've simply replaced them, providing a new escape and a new set of coping mechanisms.
It's fascinating to think of how TREK might have developed had rand never left. Most people aren't aware of how central she was to the original vision. In gene's words, she was the "miss kitty" to shatner's marshal dillon. The book's cover is an early publicity photo featuring just her, bill, and leonard. Although a part of me can't help thinking that it was right to cut janice, as kirk's celebrated (and enjoyable) libido might have been stunted with the presence of an ongoing shipboard romance...yet too, rand was great when she was given the chance, and perhaps a more rand-y TREK would have been less feministly-regressive.
I heartily recommend this book for trekkers and non-trekkers alike. It's a fascinating look into how horrifically broken we all are...yet so unwilling to let our hopes, and our humanity, die.

"Crusade"

-created by j. michael straczynski
1999
Brief exposure to this short-lived spinoff (or its parent show BABYLON 5), will leave you feeling violated by mediocrity, with only one question...how can the talent gap between these writers/directors/actors and those who made it into the STAR TREK universe, be this chasmic? Are there really so few capable of producing TREK-level work, that the runners-up wouldn't be out of place in a high school drama department? One senses that it's not the actors' fault...gary cole especially deserved so much better.

"Sliders"

1995-2000
Appalling.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Stargate SG1, season 10

FOUR STAR
-200
A 200th episode that is both tribute and spoof...a self-spoof and spoof of the entire sci fi genre. And it works. Great googily, it works. An unabashed fan of SG1 might need tissues (for laughter's tears or ejaculate, could go either way). The Hollywood producer (Willie Garson, SEX AND THE CITY) of "Wormhole X-Treme", an action TV series designed to get the public used to the idea of a stargate's existence, is turning the show into a movie. He is allowed to interview the members of SG1 for creative input. Their input is mostly awful or egotistic, but pretty hysterical (particularly the segments based on STAR TREK and TEAM AMERICA). For one moment in time, SG1 goes where no other sci fi had (or could) go. If that's not enough, how about some Richard Dean Anderson! He always tended toward humor, so he fits right in. Don Davis lends his voice to a puppet, and Isaac Hayes voices the puppet Teal'c. Veteran sci fi director/producer/actor/writer Peter Deluise does a fantastically filthy turn in front of the camera. Then, after virtually everyone gathers to go through the gate, the episode ends perfectly, as one of the spoof supporting actors rattles off some words which seem pompous at first, but are a quote from Isaac Asimov. After all the laughs, you might get a little lump in your throat. Brilliant.
NOTEWORTHY
-The Pegasus Project ***
SG1 travels to the Pegasus galaxy, for a combined op with Atlantis personnel. A packed, tightly-written script, plus the coattail effect of the superior chemistry of SGA, make for a dandy little ride. The entire Atlantis cast is present, as Rodney goes with SG1 on the Odyssey to sabotage the ori supergate back in the Milky Way (don't even try to make sense of the logistics). Daniel stays on Atlantis, to track down Merlin's anti-ori weapon.
-Uninvited ***
Extra-dimensional worms unintentionally freed by use of personal alien cloaking devices cause mammals to mutate into into super-predatory beasts (it's getting harder and harder to tell SG1 from "Keeping Up With the Kardashians", i know). This one's just fun, mostly because it takes Beau Bridges out of SGC and into a cabin in the woods, with antsy subordinates. Beau is a fantastically gifted actor, but anyone gets boring playing the same note over and over. Never mind the plot holes, and just enjoy.
-Counterstrike ***
A huge shot of juice arrives, courtesy of Vala's grown daughter Adria, a genetically-engineered recipient of ori knowledge and power, played by Morena Baccarin (FIREFLY, V). These costumers know their bidness.
-The Quest **
We're left to wonder whether this could have been four stars under the right hands. A breezily likeable adventure, as the team (with Rod Loomis of BEASTMASTER and BILL AND TED, plus Ba'al and Adria, in uneasy alliances) must pass a series of tests to survive an ancient maze. The visuals and sense of fun are almost palpable...but there's just a bit too much loosey gooseyness, and it teeters on the edge of the unforgivable sin of "showing their underwear", dropping us out of the illusion they're creating and making us remember that this is just a group of actors playing. Plus, they had gold in Adria as the final season villain, but they're pissing it away...in large part because they've taken out the contact lenses that made her so spooky. I have no doubt this came as a direct request from Morena...and i have sympathy, i'm sure those things must be staggeringly uncomfortable. But she's suddenly no longer fire and ice. Great to look at, fine acting, but...lukewarm water.
-The Shroud ***
Daniel, having been turned into a prior by Adria, is captured by SG1. He claims to have resisted her brainwashing, because Merlin's spirit cohabits in him. He has a plan to destroy the ori, but it will involve huge risk. Do they trust him? Richard Dean Anderson guests, and the chemistry is very nice. The writers have some sharp moments.
-Family Ties **
Comedic force of nature Fred Willard (WAITING FOR GUFFMAN, D.C. FOLLIES) comes thisssss close to brilliance, but the writing can't quite rise to his level.
-Dominion ***
Even without the spooky eyes, Morena bares impressive teeth. The smooth Cliff Simon gives us Ba'al's only ominous moment of the season. This tale of possession and dueling kidnappery is a beaut.
-Unending ***
The series finale to the longest-running american sci fi show ever. Is that SG1's only claim to fame? Perhaps....but this swan song simmers. Many diehard fans were disappointed, but being largely free of expectation allows me to see the good qualities more clearly. The dying asgard leave all their technology to humanity, but it comes with a price - automatic trackability. Onboard the Odyssey, hunted relentlessly by ori ships, only slipping into a time dilation (a bubble wherein everything moves exponentially slower) saves them. Sam needs time to come up with an escape...and instead of the usual "voila!" typical of second-rate (and occasionally first-rate) sci fi, months, years, then decades of failure go by. As a result, we're given what SG1 almost always lacked: in-depth character study. They all react to the frustration and isolation in believable ways. Landry dies of old age. Daniel delivers a searing rebuke to a romantic overture by Vala, a stunning performance that NO ONE in their right mind would have thought Shanks capable of when the series began. The producers also popped for a CCR song, and it fits in righteously.
POST-SERIES CABLE FILMS
-The Ark of Truth ***
Epic series finale delivered. It's a firecracker (though it teeters on the edge of testosterone-overdose). SG1 searches for an ancient device that will enable humans to see the lies of the ori. They are captured by Tomin, who switches sides when they demonstrate that the priors are fallible (ending a charming character arc by Tim Guinee). They're all off to the ori galaxy on the Odyssey. Julian Sands (A ROOM WITH A VIEW, BOXING HELENA) returns as the demonic high prior. Adria has ascended and taken all the ori power. A misguided bureaucrat unleashes the replicators. Hell breaks loose, with cookies at the end. Happy now, fans?
-Continuum ****
The second cable movie, and final installment of the saga. You'll scratch your head, imagining it to have better writers and a more expansive budget than "Ark of Truth" (you'll be wrong on both accounts). Ark feels like episodic TV, but Continuum feels like a silver screen gem. Ba'al, facing execution, executes a plan that sends him back to 1939. Jackson, Carter, and Mitchell end up in a current timeline where the Stargate program never existed. They try in vain to convince Earth that a goa'uld invasion is coming. The Antarctica cinematography is awesome. Alternate timeline Teal'c and Vala are given juicy realities. Beau Bridges is brilliant. William Devane and Don Davis reprise their series roles. The redoubtable Richard Dean Anderson is back, in both timelines. Stunningly good.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

shredded!

I was on my board in the Atlantic yesterday. With no warning, the biggest wave of the day appeared. I turned to shore as it lifted me up. For a moment, suspended, my mind had time to register the words "Wow, i'm really high". I braced myself for a world of pain and saltwatery sinus, expecting to be flung down and tumbled underneath as several waves had already done. My expectation was fulfilled. The water pushed my feet straight up in the air and carried me completely upside-down for twenty feet or so, the crown of my head dragging unrelentingly against the sea floor. When i escaped neptune's grasp, i felt around my skull. In a path running from front to back, a swath of hair had been scraped clear away. My chin hair too. I would have headed back into the cheeky surf for more, but red trickles on my forehead had rendered me prime sharkbait. I headed for the bungalow, where my best gal made me a poultice and oiled my feet...

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

M*A*S*H, season 10

FOUR STAR - none
NOTEWORTHY
-That's Show Biz ***
This two-part season opener is long on heart and an innocence reminiscent of early seasons. A USO troupe is forced to lay over in camp. Legendary stripper Brandy Doyle (played by legendary hoofer Gwen Verdon) falls for Potter. Klinger endlessly emulates hack comic Fast Freddie. Winchester poo-poos an accordion player (Amanda McBroom), and is chagrined when she reveals herself to be a concert pianist payin' the bills (TREK fans might become moist when they recognize her from the TNG episode "Measure of a Man"). One plot line that looks retro but has the whiff of late-series maudlinity, involves a singer falling for Hawkeye, who rebuffs her because he doesn't want to "take advantage". You won't know whether to reach for the barf bag or tissue.
-Identity Crisis ***
One of two episodes David Ogden Stiers would direct. Joey Pantoliano (RISKY BUSINESS, THE MATRIX) is a soldier who has switched dog tags with a dying comrade who was due to be shipped home. He is counseled by Father Mulcahy. The presence of a priest on the greatest television half-hour of all time has never heretofore been irksome. But as the soldier tells Mulcahy he just doesn't want to kill any more, Mulcahy pushes him to resume his "duty". The offensive hypocrisy of anyone who wears that collar along with soldier garb has never felt more noxious. M*A*S*H dropped the ball by never devoting an episode to the obvious conflict of interest inherent in the phrase "army priest".
-Wheelers and Dealers ***
Potter must take a remedial driving course. His instructor is Sgt. Rizzo (G.W. Bailey, in the 8th of 13 episodes over five seasons). This is the first time G.W.'s appearance is seamless and spot-on. BJ is miserable that his wife had to take a job, and takes it out on everyone with undue aggression at the camp poker game, and then at the pinball table.
-Communication Breakdown ***
If getting to your tent from the shower naked be a rite of M*A*S*H passage, Charles finally belongs.
-Follies of the Living, Concerns of the Dead *
Ehhhhhhhhhhhhhunh.. Before i get to the vomit-inducing part, let me say that there was some merit and perhaps even bravery in exploring the idea that people in a state of fever may be perceptive to realities that "normal" folk are not. Fair enough. Now...the only sane reaction to this episode is dragging yourself to the IMDB page to find out who was RESPONSIBLE. Not only who created it, but who gave it permission to breathe. There ain't a woodshed big enough. In a nutshell...Klinger has a high fever, and is able to talk to the "ghost" of a deceased soldier. Horribly, the creative footprints lead right to Alan's size 13s. Not just as director, but writer too. This isn't just mawkish prostrating to superstitious ignorance, either. At the end, the soldier joins a parade of the "deceased" heading off into the mist, they know not where. All the "dead" are soldiers...never mind the fact that the majority of war deaths are civilian. Alan should have known better. Somebody, anybody should have known better.
-Blood and Guts ***
Rita "Odin-be-praised-she-didn't-change-her-name-to-Hanks" Wilson!
-The Tooth Shall Set You Free **
Baby-faced Laurence Fishburne, anyone?
-Heroes ***
The camp is at the center of a press storm when a famous ex-boxing champ dies while on a morale tour. The man had been Mulcahy's boyhood hero, and William shines, particularly in the speech he gives at the comatose man's bedside.
-Sons and Bowlers ***
One rewrite shy of greatness. A serviceable plot about bowling is paired with a plot about Hawkeye finding out his father is being operated on for cancer. We are allowed to see more nakedly than ever how genuinely insufferable he could be. Charles accidentally becomes his confidant, and the two of them, alone and together, have some profoundly touching moments.

Friday, June 15, 2012

hornsby dream set list

There are few musicians i hold in higher regard than Bruce Hornsby. As a pianist, he has a style so distinctive that it's impossible to miss when he does guest appearances for other artists ("I Can't Make You Love Me", "The End of the Innocence"). As a composer, he has written more than a couple songs that rank among the most beautiful and resonant i know.
One criticism of his songs is that they can tend toward murkiness...that his melodies lack sharpness, or can be swallowed by the production/arrangement. I confess, sometimes that does pertain. But if you've ever dismissed his work because of a few songs that didn't hit you right, you might be missing one of popular music's few bright lights. His songs are jazz-influenced, and his shows are unplanned - the band sometimes doesn't know what they'll be playing until the first notes start. I don't always agree with what's considered his "best"...so here's my:
BRUCE HORNSBY DREAM SET LIST
-On the Western Skyline
-The Way It Is
-Swing Street
-Sunflower Cat/It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry
-The End of the Innocence
-Fortunate Son/Comfortably Numb
-Madman Across the Water
-Halcyon Days
-Lady with a Fan
-Lost Soul
-Imagine
-Nobody There But Me
-Dreamland
-What the Hell Happened to Me
-Down the Road Tonight
-The Show Goes On
-These Arms of Mine
-Gonna Be Some Changes Made

Thursday, June 14, 2012

SeaQuest DSV 2032, season 2

FOUR STAR
-Dream Weaver
Mark Hamill! Mark HAMILL!!! No really, this one's worth extra exclamation points. Mark (JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK, THE STAR WARS HOLIDAY SPECIAL) plays a blind super-genius scientist, who turns out to be an alien in hiding from tyranny and repression on his home world. Kent McCord (ADAM-12, AIRPLANE 2) is an astronaut who helps fight an alien assassin come to kill Mark. Mr. Hamill gets his suave on (and pulls it off without a single slice of cheese). And how wonderful to experience nasty aliens the way they were meant to be (in cheesy rubber costumes). Also a wonderful episode for Kathy Evison, as Helmswoman Henderson. If she keeps wearing tank tops, i may have to amend my forthcoming comment about the number of new cast members who have any juice. That's not simple objectification...if she weren't a thoroughly charming performer, the contents of her uniform wouldn't merit mention.
NOTEWORTHY
-Daggers ***
The two-hour season debut. A prison is overthrown by genetically-engineered super soldiers. The rebuilt Seaquest takes on a new crew, with five familiar faces. The only new ones with any juice are the DeLuise brothers. Peter is the childlike, hulking prototype for the "daggers", and Michael is a crew member who got out of military prison by agreeing to have gills grafted into him. The only painful loss is Stacy Haiduk's Commander Hitchcock. The show is still trying to sell the idea that a 21st-century science vessel could be a haven for spirituality...which can't work, given the percentage of scientists who were already non-believers forty years earlier. But it's a fun ride.
-The Fear That Follows ***
Kent McCord and the aliens are back! Native Americans and a meddlesome, violent military too. Good storytelling and visually lovely.
-Sympathy for the Deep *
Don't let Tink die! Help Tinkerbell live! Clap as hard as you can, and say "I do believe in spooks, I do believe"!!!
-Vapors ***
It's Deluiseriffic! Brothers Peter and Michael are joined by brother David and father Dom (yes, THAT Dom!). Adorable, funny, well-paced, with priceless dolphin scenes. The writing staff went out to lunch during the last five minutes, but whattayagonnado?
-By Any Other Name ***
The crew and sub are attacked by...KILLER TREES!!! The campiest, most over-the-top episode in DSV history. And that ain't all bad.
-Lostland **
This shiny, happy bit of dipsy wipsery has an IQ of 80, not least of which for the double standard which allows Chief Ortiz to run around topless, but not Helmswoman Henderson. C'mon people, it's 2032, isn't it time for humanity to be no longer crippled by bodily shame?
-Watergate **
Seaquest meets Neptune. And Minerva. Plus a ghost horse. And future pop star Dawn Robinson of En Vogue playing a, um, pop star. Channeling some nasty deity. This may be the episode at which the cast turned to heavy drinking.
-Splashdown **
Two seasons, two finales, and yet again...the Seaquest is destroyed! Not surprisingly, this one's overblown, simplistic, and "lite" (like way too much of Spielberg's work post-CLOSE ENCOUNTERS). But if you're going for broke, this is the way. The sub is kidnapped by a UFO and taken to a water planet, where they are forced to take sides in a war. Kent McCord and Mark Hamill are back. The action is big, the ship is destroyed, and everyone killed except for Lucas and Dagwood in a lifeboat (plus Darwin). It took a hearty constitution to get through two whole seasons of this show...but, having come this far, i admit to a perverse curiosity to know what happened in the abortive season 3, with Captain Michael Ironside (STARSHIP TROOPERS, THE NEXT KARATE KID). Farewell, Mr. Scheider. You did well, as always. That said, being eaten by a shark would have been the more poetic way to go out.

Monday, June 11, 2012

jacqueline

WOMEN 66
I met her online, in the “platonic only” section. She had lived in semi-seclusion for three years, since the accidental subway death of her life partner. She was starting to re-emerge into society, one baby step at a time.  We met after a month of correspondence, walking around Jersey City near her home on a celebration-of-art day, when all the galleries were having open houses. It was nice. The next week, we listened to music, talked, and relaxed at her home. Within a month i laid my hand on hers. I asked whether that was okay, and she replied that she hadn’t moved her hand away. She soon asked whether i wanted to go to her bed. Within a week or two, our cuddling became naked and sexual. I told her that we could go at any pace she wished, and one night she revealed that even before we met, she had looked at my photos and dreamt that i would bring strong, sexual loving into her life. She said she wasn’t ready for a real relationship, and needed to know i was okay with that. She wouldn’t be able to visit my home, as being around people was more than she could handle. Plus, i could never drop in on her unannounced, and no sleepovers. I told her that Vanessa’s shadow still hung over me, and that i would be fine with her conditions. She gave herself over to sexuality with eagerness, yet not quite joy. She was a bit self-conscious about her body, because in her teens she had been committed and given drugs that halted her natural growth for a while. I told her truthfully that she was as womanly as anyone could want. I loved her breasts, they were delicate and beautiful. Our embraces were long and sexual, full of powerful genital contact. It felt strong, healing, and synchronous. She liked lying on her back with me on my side facing her, her legs draped over me (i knew this was going to be one of her favorite penetrative positions). A month later, she revealed that she might be ready for a committed relationship. She lamented that i wasn’t more of an orphan, for she didn’t want to have to deal with my family. It was an interesting perception of my life, as i knew i was much less attached to my family than most. My mind started to spin once she revealed her newfound thoughts. Vanessa’s lingering presence notwithstanding, i knew the kind of woman i could have a true love affair with was one who was ready to run into life's light with joy and abandonment. Jacqueline was years away from such grace, at best. She didn’t think much of my concerns, and after a spout of conversation that resolved nothing, she pulled our naked selves together. After hesitantly relenting for a while, our endorphin-rich bodies entwined, i tried to talk about my misgivings again. She pulled me to her, my penis furrowed between her vaginal lips. I had to use my greater strength to keep her from bringing me inside. I held that moment for an eternity, then pulled gently and forcibly away (as it turned out, for good). I spent the next month writing and calling, trying to make her understand. She casually mentioned that her period was late. She wasn’t concerned, because her periods had always been irregular, and moreso now that she was forty. I asked whether she wanted me to bring a pregnancy test, and she said no. As time passed and no period came, i grew more and more distressed, particularly when she said that if she were pregnant, she wanted to have the child, as it might be her last chance. I told her i didn’t think she was ready for a child, and if she truly wanted one in a few years, there was always adoption. She wouldn’t hear it, and for the better part of two months i lived in a state of semi-misery. Right around the time she finally relented to taking a test, her period came. She'd simply skipped one. All the agony i went through was made more poignant by the fact that we'd never experienced real penetration or ejaculation. I was never angry with her, as others thought i should have been. I made allowances for her deep wounds...but the episode damaged me. I told her i could still be her friend, and even hold her, but she maintained that she couldn’t be physically intimate without romance. Parting seemed the easiest, most gentle path. In the years since, i think of her once in a long while. I always return to our last moment of sexuality. I dream of being there again, and allowing her to pull me inside...a fantasy that's sad on about fifteen different levels.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Twain by the Tale


THEATER 62
-fall 2001
Back at the Pirate Playhouse, changes had been made. Bob Kalfin's replacement had also been fired, and the theater had been renamed the J. Howard Wood (the result of a $500,000 contribution from the widow Wood - i thought the new name egotistic and dull, as did others). The new artistic director was Robert Shelhammer, my buddy from the Kalfin season. He asked me to audition. I was cast in an ensemble presentation of Mark Twain pieces. Our first-time director was local actor Victor Legaretta, a pleasant fellow. Our costumer was Jim Conti, one of the sweetest human beings ever. Amanda was cast as Eve, the Sagenfeld narrator, a precocious four year-old, and a french duelist. Shelhammer played Noah, Bemis the buffalo hunter, a soothsayer, and a french duelist. I was reunited with Joe Myers from BAREFOOT in Bonita, who played old Twain, an irish cop, and a state minister. Kelly Parker played Becky Thatcher, a befuddled interviewer, a donkey, a sassy and sizzlin' redhead, and a french cop. I'd met her a couple years before at a statewide audition, and had fallen for her a bit. I'd held on to her head shot, but she had forgotten me. Now she was living in Lee County, and engaged to Victor. Newcomer Ken Johnson played middle-aged Twain, a building inspector, an american in Paris, and Tom Sawyer. He was warm and talented, and his presence ensured frequent laughter. I played Adam, Prince Hubert, young Twain, a drunk priest, Orion Twain, Huck Finn, and Dubois. The show was a pleasure from start to finish. I had just finished TONY AND TINA’S - i shaved off my mohawk, and was bald opening week (my only hatless, wigless parts were Adam and Dubois). The set consisted of two huge open books that we walked out of, with a backdrop reminiscent of "Starry Night". As Adam, i was a deep-voiced egotist, and my verbal sparring with Amanda was a delight. Robert helped us find some really nice values to play. Playing Orion consisted mostly of listening to Shelhammer's crotchety Bemis tell tall tales, while munching a piece of jerky (my first ever, and i rather liked it). Playing Hubert, the sweet innocent prince, marked my second time performing "The Legend of Sagenfeld" (the first being the narrator in Sandi's T FOR TWO, my final college show). Shelhammer's teutonic soothsayer was a wacky delight. Kelly and Ken played a riotous succession of auditioners vying for "kingdom's sweetest singer"; during rehearsals, they cracked me out of character time after time. In the end, my prince rides to safety on Kelly. I could have ridden her all evening; she was soft and strong, and i was the only one able hear the muted, hysterical cursing that occasionally came from inside the mule head she wore. Amanda was delightful as a four year-old, giving a layered performance she oughtn't have been capable of yet. As young Twain, i read from the weather almanac, and struggled to find the right way to play it (in my defense, it was one of the least theatrical pieces). The end result was uneven - some nights they laughed, others not so much. I also had moustache issues; because of a quick change, i sometimes had onstage slippage. And it was during this piece that i was upstaged by a cat. The theater had adopted a feline named Norma. She was black and white, and not quite a year old. One night, she decided it was time to overcome her shyness, and walked onstage while i was acting - i didn't see her, but the audience sure did. Playing a soused irish priest was a lot of fun (and a teeny reminder of the marathon drunk/stoned-acting i'd just finished in TONY AND TINA’S). At the start of TWAIN, we didn't know which parts we were playing. Because of this, i'd been hesitant to sign on. When the parts were assigned, i was relieved to be playing almost exactly what i had wanted. During the show, i lived in cast housing with Shellhammer, in a beautiful place on the Sanibel backwaters, with gators and Dexter, a delightful old stick-thin cat. Over the next six months, i lived in a succession of houses (and an inn) on the island, most of them quite swank. In Act Two, my first character was Huck. Ken played Tom, and our scene produced one of the more-mimicked lines of the show, "Yeah, bean's good, I done that". I was carrying around a prop dead cat. It was very lifelike, and had been modeled after Norma (which was especially funny the night of her upstaging). Jumping around as the barefoot Huck was wonderful, and Ken was so much fun to act with. My final character was Dubois, the second to Amanda's duelist. We made our entrance from the front, and it was wonderful sharing that final long walk around the building with her. Ken played a traveling american who agrees to be second for an uptight frenchman, played by Shelhammer. We trotted out our most ridiculous french accents. Amanda's duelist was almost too frightened to speak. Kelly played a policeman, and the scene was a delightful, hysterical way to end the show. Early on, i'd pushed for the inclusion of "The War Prayer", an anti-war indictment published posthumously. It would have been topical, as the american war machine was gearing up for an invasion of Afghanistan, in pursuit of Bin Laden (never mind that he didn't happen to be there). I even offered to perform it in the lobby during intermission. Robert said we could never do it, as the "un-Americanness" of it wouldn't have been accepted by the community. One of my favorite moments was backstage, just before Amanda went on as the four year-old. I hid in the darkness underneath the "book" while she passed almost directly over me, not realizing i was there. A couple weeks into the show, i touched her while she was waiting to go on. She couldn't believe she'd never noticed. It was so sweet to play in that theater again. The reviews were quite nice, doting in particular on myself and Robert.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

IMDBing

A link to my reviews which have been accepted on IMDB (the International Movie Data Base): http://www.imdb.com/user/ur21118487/comments.

Stargate: Atlantis, season 4

FOUR STAR - none
NOTEWORTHY
-Adrift ***
A season-opening barn-burner. Atlantis is adrift and lost in space, with power rapidly draining. Elizabeth needs brain surgery, and only replicator nanites can save her...but at what cost? A mini-fleet of jumpers must blast a path through an asteroid field. One disaster after another.
-Reunion **
Samantha Carter (Amanda Tapping, fresh off ten straight seasons of SG1) is appointed the new Atlantis commander. Ronon discovers survivors from his home planet. He decides to leave Atlantis, but his friends are not all they seem. Gritty performances can't cover writing flaws however, including the greatest of all - SG scribes still don't know how to make an audience care about their characters. They want us to want Ronon to stay, but he's never been allowed to be much more than two-dimensional.
-This Mortal Coil ***
Unsettling and a bit searing. Prompted by strange occurrences and behavior around them, the team begins to suspect that something is amiss. They discover they are copies of themselves, grown in a laboratory to be studied by a subversive replicator sect who think eliminating humanity is the wrong path. The team finds a copy of Dr. Weir (Torri Higginson), and convinces their doomed creators to free them. They meet with their "real" counterparts. This episode will remind you how much the show misses Elizabeth, if you weren't consciously aware of it. Amanda Tapping is a gamer, but this is now two SG franchises in which her chemistry with the group is less than one might hope.
-Quarantine ***
Charming. One of a handful of SGA episodes that threaten to expand the two-dimensionality of the characters...but this far into the series, that can only serve as a reminder that it's probably never going to happen. Groups of people are stranded when the city goes into quarantine. Ronon and Doc Keller almost break the idiotic "nobody-kisses" rule on SGA. Sheppard must break a window and climb four stories up the side of the main tower - the kind of visual idea we don't see nearly enough of (CGI should be used more imaginatively than it generally is, showing us not just "gnarly battles", but images that would be just too dangerous via conventional methods).
-Outcast ***
Sheppard returns to Earth for his father's funeral, accompanied by Ronon. Family dysfunctionality surfaces, including a meeting with his ex-wife (Kari Wuhrer, BEASTMASTER 2). A replicator manufactured by an Earth scientist is loose, and they must hunt it down. Tight, with unexpected twists.
-Trio ***
Rodney, Sam, and Doc Keller are on a diplomatic mission off-world, when they become trapped in a subterranean chamber about to collapse into a chasm. The opening is twenty-five feet above. The episode plays out like a brain twist, as they use materials at hand to devise different methods of escape. Nothing works, including no "miracle" beam-out. Tapping's best SGA, and Jewel Staite is coming into her own. Four stars was within reach, had she offered to take her top off for the local boys if they helped (it would have been the perfect counterpoint to Sam's refusal to even consider the idea). But writing like that might pull SGA out of its perpetual wouldacouldshouldabeen, and we can't have that.
-Midway ***
A barn burner. Guest star Christopher Judge (SG1) falls into the better SGA chemistry seamlessly. He's been summoned to coach Ronon for an IOA interview. They fight, literally. On their way to Earth, they're trapped on the Midway gate station as it's attacked by wraith. All of your initial concerns (a mindless action episode, the SG1 curse) dissipate.
-The Kindred ***
In this two-parter, a plague is spreading across the galaxy, killing both human and wraith. The source is old hybrid nemesis Michael (Connor Trineer, ENTERPRISE). He kidnaps Teyla, having need of her unborn child who has wraith DNA. In a failed rescue attempt, the crew find...Carson! He has no memories of his death, saying he's been imprisoned for two years. He turns out to be a clone, and without Michael's injections, must go into stasis to have any hope of survival. His first moment onscreen brings a rush of relief and joy, as Paul McGillion's chemistry and character work were essential to the first three seasons. Jewel Staite is a fine replacement, but they've brought her along at such a snail's pace, it hasn't filled the gap. A tip of the hat goes out to recurring actor Christopher Heyerdahl, who puts in top-notch double duty as Todd the wraith and the athosian Halling.
-The Last Man ***
Enjoy the last five episodes of this season. It's almost as though the producers said, okay, we know we have limitations. We may not outgrow them, but we'll pull the throttle back all the way, to be the best we can be. The season ends on the most heavy Rodney/Sheppard episode ever, as a stargate accident sends John 48,000 years into the future. Probably the last human alive, he talks to an aged hologram of Rodney, in the remains of Atlantis on a desert planet. Rodney flashes back to the unfortunate events that happened after John's disappearance. We get to see Sam go down with her ship, Ronon and Todd die side by side, Woolsey (Robert Picardo, VOYAGER) take over Atlantis, and Major-turned-General Lorne (the stalwart Kavan Smith, who did 29 episodes over four seasons) take over the SGC. A scheme it took Rodney decades to calculate returns Sheppard home, and a different timeline is set in motion.