Thu, Aug 31, 2006

: Oregon Shakespeare Festival: King John

Definitely one of the best productions with some phenomenal acting. The story seems extremely complicated and intimidating but it’s really not. Basically King John has taken over power and there are questions as whether or not he’s the rightful king. Some think his 9-year-old nephew has a stronger right, so he orders the boy killed. The boy is not actually killed, but the King thinks he was and grieves and struggles with his quest for power. His heart soars when he learns the boy was not killed. But meanwhile the boy, depressed, kills himself, and when the King finds the boy really is dead, his health deteriorates. It’s a sad, somber play that deals with serious questions, and with wonderful speeches and drama, is highly recommended for viewing. Surprisingly, even though it seems steeped in complex history, this was the easiest of all four plays I saw to follow!

Topic: [/theatre]

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Wed, Aug 30, 2006

: Oregon Shakespeare Festival: The Merry Wives of Windsor

Easily the worst of the plays at the festival this season. It’s mostly silly, but the exagerations of the performances seem to demean and take the play even lower than it should be. I also have a serious objection to an OSF policy of being racially blind during casting. While I certainly don’t think race should be a main factor in casting, it should be considered when characters are related. This play has a lot of characters already and I was completely confused when a black daughter had white parents and other racial confusions — I didn’t understand some of the relationships and had characters confused even after the play was over. This really hurt a lot of my understanding of the play and left me quite frustrated. If I could have asked for my money back, I would have on this issue alone, as I thought the production was shockingly poor. It’s just all confusion and trivialities.

Topic: [/theatre]

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: Oregon Shakespeare Festival:The Winter’s Tale

A superior play and production, with a fantastic set of tree silhouettes in the background, brilliantly lit for different moods: sunset, cold winter, dark night, etc. The play is one Shakespeare’s most melodramatic and fanciful, with a magic ending. The plot deals with a king who becomes convinced that his wife has been unfaithful with his best friend, and despite everyone trying to convince him otherwise, he refuses to believe her baby is his and he orders her executed. This so upsets the gods that sixteen years of winter follow. Meanwhile, the king’s daughter is not dead — she has been hidden away and is now a beautiful sixteen year old, and of course is ready to be romanced by a prince, except that she’s not royalty — until, of course, it’s revealed that she is, and with her father remorseful and delighted to discover his daughter is alive and well, all is forgiven and happiness is restored. I really liked this play and the forced happy ending as the absurd elements fit together well. Great job and some really amazing acting by several characters.

Topic: [/theatre]

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Tue, Aug 29, 2006

: Oregon Shakespeare Festival: The Two Gentlemen of Verona

This was a play where the production was better than the play itself. The play is a light comedy without much substance; it’s about two friends (the “gentlemen” of the title) who are easily wooed. One, after getting engaged to his girlfriend, promptly falls for his friend’s newest girl and tries to break them apart. Meanwhile, his girlfriend disguises herself as a male servant and spies on him, with, of course, much hilarity. What was ingenius about this production was the clever modern visuals. For instance, when the boy first meets the girl, she and her friends and family are all preppily dressed for a tennis match (they are, after all, the elite of Verona, so it fits). As the play continues, we see them playing crocket, getting massages at the spa, etc. The modern settings through you for a minute, but are delightful and refreshing. My favorite was the bandits of the forest who are all dressed as goths and punks!

There’s also a key roll played by a real dog, where one of Shakespeare’s most colorful characters has hiliarious conversations with the dog. So overall, this was excellent. My only complaint was the poor performances by the two gentlemen, who, especially at the beginning, delivered Shakespeare lines in wooden voice as though reciting poetry. Quite shocking that they should be so bad; they did better in scenes of interaction, though I still felt it was a bit of bad casting.

Topic: [/theatre]

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Mon, Aug 28, 2006

: A Maiden’s Grave

Author: Jeffery Deaver

Terrific story about a hostage situation, with typical Deaver twists (though these are mostly predictable). A group of escape criminals take over a schoolbus with two teachers and eight girls of various ages — the children and one of the teachers are deaf, all out on an outing. The main character’s an FBI hostage negotiater who is older and wise but not perfect. We really get into the head of the deaf teacher, learning what it’s like to be deaf, and the whole novel is filled with tension and hard to put down. Excellent.

Topic: [/book]

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Thu, Aug 24, 2006

: Barcelona vs Chivas of Mexico

The first half was so-so gamewise, but the atmosphere of being in a huge crowd of 92,650 screaming fans was amazing. In the second half both got going as Ronaldinho came on the field and every time he touched the ball 92,650 people would leap to their feet and cheer! It was really wild, crazy stuff. Lots of fun, great goals, and a peaceful conclusion as it finished with a 1-1 draw.

Topic: [/soccer]

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: The Twelfth Card

Author: Jeffery Deaver

Pretty good Lincoln Rhyme novel about a killer tracking a young African-American girl in Harlem, for reasons unknown, but possibly related to a mystery involving an ancestor of hers from 140 years early. Unfortunately, a lot of the mystery which is so interesting in the beginning, fades over the long novel, and by the time we get to the dull and mundane ending, we hardly care. Still, it’s not a bad novel, just not one of Deaver’s better ones.

Topic: [/book]

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Fri, Aug 18, 2006

: Snakes on a Plane

Funny, gory, lots of snakes on a plane. Pretty much what I expected. A bit crude in places, but overall a lot of fun. Not really scary or anything, just hilariously silly.

Topic: [/movie]

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Fri, Aug 11, 2006

: The Night Listener

Lame gimmicky story that I’d heard about prior to the movie: I knew it was about a radio talk show host talking on the phone to an abused 14-year-old who, it turns out, might or might not actually exist. The host, played by Robin Williams, is progressively gay, and much of the story is about his dreary love life (he just got dumped so we get to be depressed with him), which seemed off-topic and more an ad for the gay lifestyle than part of the story (every scene shouts out, “This is normal! This is normal!”). The mystery — is the kid real or not — is milked for as long as possible but becomes more and more far-fetched as we go along, and in the end, there’s nothing much to it. We find out the answer and the film just ends. Lame and disappointing.

Topic: [/movie]

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Sun, Aug 06, 2006

: MLS: New England vs. Chivas USA

Too hot for a good game, and I was distracted by the 90,000+ people at the stadium, but there were some decent moments and a couple good goals. The game finished 1-1.

Topic: [/soccer]

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Sat, Aug 05, 2006

: L.A. Trip

Today my step-brother Dave and I drove down to Los Angeles (I stayed at Dave’s in Northern California last night). We’re going to the big soccer game tomorrow. Today we watched the All-Star game at a bar in Santa Monica and tonight we went to a movie. Great fun.

Topic: [/travel]

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: Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

Wins silliest title of the year, but the movie’s not bad. Extremely uneven, with some of the jokes falling flat and running too long (like the prayer scene at dinner), but overall it’s relatively harmless stuff about stupid people driving race cars.

Topic: [/movie]

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Thu, Aug 03, 2006

: Oregon Shakespeare Festival: The Importance of Being Ernest

Of course it’s a terrific play but I was really impressed by this performance, which got a lot of fresh humor from non-vocal scenes. (For instance, the butler, setting a table for tea to the tune of piano playing off-stage, was hilarious.) I wish we’d had time to see other plays, but at least I got to see this one.

Topic: [/theatre]

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