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January 19, 2008:

SUGAR RUSH

Bruce Kimmel Photograph bk's notes

Well, dear readers, it is late and I am having a sugar rush. I ask you, where else on all the Internet can you read such a sentence at 12:09 AM? Nowhere, that’s where. I got home late, and I had to have something sweet to get rid of the taste of some not-so-hot salsa I’d had earlier, so I stopped at Von’s and got a little piece of their birthday cake (they sell individual squares of what can only be called birthday cake). I ate half of it and now I am having a sugar rush and now I feel twitchy and bitchy and manic, up on the ceiling so call a mechanic, but alive, but alive, but alive. What am I, Margo Channing all of a sudden? Well, perhaps having a sugar rush will help me to write these here notes in a hurry. Speaking of a hurry, yesterday was quite a busy little day. I got up early, began writing, which was very slow going in the morning hours. Then Mr. Cason Murphy and Miss Marlana Filannino came over and I taught them some music and they’re off learning it for Monday’s informal reading. That took two hours. I then went back to writing and finished several more pages, exactly seven and a half, to be exact. And with that, I am now halfway through the book, as I’m assuming it will be a very similar length to my last book, manuscript page-wise. I’m entering very crucial territory in the book and am having to spend a lot of time ruminating on certain things as those certain things will impact where the book is going. But, I’m having a really good time writing it. I then shaved and showered and toddled off to the Dena of Pasa to see an opening night. I arrived, as I always do, at five so I could have a leisurely supper at El Portal, a restaurant that’s close to the Pasadena Playhouse. I had my usual combo-platter and it was quite good, although the salsa was really hot. I then toddled over to the theater to pick up my ticket, so that I could then go peruse books at two nearby bookstores that I like. So, I get my ticket and I look at it as I’m walking away from the little table where they give the “VIP”s (opening night guests) their tix. And my seat is in the peanut gallery in row EE. Now, I have been on the Pasadena Playhouse opening night guest list for over ten years. At the beginning, I always had fifth row seats. Then a whole new group of people came in to handle the opening night seating, and I suddenly found myself towards the back of the theater for almost every show. And it was fine – it’s not a huge theater and if that’s where they wanted me, that was fine (amusingly, for one show, the head of the Playhouse saw where they’d put me, and suddenly an usher gathered me up and moved me down to a much closer row). Well, being up in the balcony in the fifth row, even though it’s a small balcony was the straw that broke the Kimmel’s back. I turned around and went back to the table and talked to the gentleman who’d given me my ticket. I told him that I’d been on the list for a very long time and the seating situation had gotten worse and worse and now they have me upstairs and I can’t see anything from that far away – then I mentioned that I’d worked several times with the artistic director of the theater and recorded several shows and that I just felt that if they knew about it they wouldn’t be so happy. I told him that if they couldn’t do better I was just returning the seat and that I’d go home. He asked me to wait and he went and spoke to someone. That person came up to me quickly and was very sweet and apologetic and asked if it would be okay for me to wait until seven-thirty to actually get the ticket – and that he’d definitely take care of it. I said fine and toddled off to the bookstores. The first bookstore has become such a dreary mess that I couldn’t even stay there for five minutes. So, I walked the block to Book Alley, a wonderful store loaded with interesting books. Only, Book Alley is no longer. Gone. Kaput. Finito. I hate when that happens – there are just so few independent used bookstores now, it’s pathetic. I walked around and killed time until seven-thirty, at which point I came back to the playhouse. Before I even went up to the table, the guy found me and gave me my new seat – in row K. I was much happier. And from now on, when I RSVP I am going to tell them that unless they have me downstairs not to bother putting me on the list.

The play was Austin Pendelton’s Orson’s Shadow, which I gather has had a handful of productions, including one off-Broadway. It’s about Laurence Olivier, Vivien Leigh, Orson Welles, Kenneth Tynan, and Joan Plowright during the time when Orson directed (or attempted to direct) Mr. Olivier in Rhinoceros by Eugene Ionesco in early 1960. I believe Mr. Pendelton states in the dreaded program notes that he made up a lot of this. That’s fine, but it doesn’t excuse the sloppy chronology. For example, they go on and on about how Orson is still editing a film for Universal and how thrilled Universal is with it, even though they haven’t seen the final product yet. Well, whatever the point of that is, the fact is Touch of Evil, the only film Mr. Welles made for Universal in the 50s came out in 1958, two years before the action of the play. There are little things like that that are just annoying. I found the play very slight and without much point, but, that said, there are some very amusing scenes and lines along the way, and the strong cast helps sell the material as best they can. The audience was very responsive to the comedy material, and seemed involved for the non-comedy material, but the play is a good fifteen minutes too long (it runs two hours and fifteen minutes PLUS intermission), and it just never goes anywhere. And I really didn’t care for the characters stepping forward and talking to the audience to fill us in on things. Scott Lowell is good as Kenneth Tynan, although his accent is a bit all over the place. Bruce McGill, while not actually going for any sort of Welles impersonation vocally, is excellent as Welles, and Pendelton has given the character some terrific lines. As Olivier, Charles Shaughnessy gives the best performance of the evening – he’s really got Olivier’s cadences down and he’s got his posture and facial expressions down perfectly, too. There’s one very long scene of a rehearsal for Rhinoceros in which he’s brilliant. Libby West as Miss Plowright, does what she can with a very undernourished role. Sharon Lawrence is fine as Miss Leigh but the writing just isn’t as strong as it is for Welles and Olivier. Nick Cernoch as Sean, a stagehand, gets a lot of mileage out of his one-note part. The production is good, with solid direction (save for some pacing issues), although I wasn’t crazy about the lighting or the sound.

What am I, Ben Brantley all of a sudden? Aren’t I having a sugar rush? Don’t I feel twitchy and bitchy and manic? Well, why don’t we all click on the Unseemly Button below because it’s really late now and I simply must get my beauty sleep.

Today, I shall write more pages, perhaps have a little meeting if time permits, and then it’s off to see Porgy and Bess and Carmen Jones on a double bill. It will be a very long movie evening, and I’m quite certain the notes will be up late.

Tomorrow, I think that other than writing, I have a fairly clear and open day, although I must practice at the piano for at least a couple of hours. Then on Monday, I have a busy day of writing, errands, and then our informal reading.

Well, dear readers, I must take the day, I must do the things I do, I must, for example, write, write, meet, and see a long double bill. Today’s topic of discussion: What are your favorite Orson Welles, Vivien Leigh, and Laurence Olivier films? Let’s have loads of lovely postings, shall we, as I come down from my extreme sugar rush.

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