Friday, December 28, 2012

Control Freaks Gone Wild

There are many reasons why I avoid holiday productions of A Christmas Carol.  Chief among them is that if I want to be exposed to greedy, selfish, hypocritical fucktards who lack compassion, I need look no further than the United States Congress.

Are you as sick and tired as I am of all the petulant partisan political posturing and pompous pundits' teeth gnashing over the fiscal cliff crisis? Are you disgusted with Tea Party Republicans who (like spoiled, manipulative adolescents) keep threatening to eat worms and die if people don't give them what they want? Or hold their breath until they explode?

Would you like to see John Boehner fried by a super villain who owns a tanning salon (where is Lex Luthor when you really need him)? Mitch McConnell placed in stocks in front of the United States Capitol?

At this point, I don't really care whether Boehner's political impotence is self imposed or if he's merely a victim of his party's rabid dysfunctionality. I've long since passed the point of getting angry about the hypocrisy of conservatives with regard to guns, sex, drinking, or income inequality.

If President Barack Obama stands his ground, he United States may very well go over the so-called fiscal cliff on January 1st. Conservatives can play hard to get, make all kinds of unreasonable demands, and act like total douchebags if they want to (one of Eric Cantor's few talents). But at a certain point, someone is going to call their bluff. The results won't be pretty.

For all their talk about not negotiating with terrorists, it's interesting to see how politicians behave when holding others hostage. Many people wonder why Obama hasn't been more forceful in his approach toward dealing with the GOP leadership's attempts to sabotage the nation's economy. The bottom line is that there is a constitutional process which must be followed in order to get things done. Under Boehner's pathetically flaccid leadership, Congress has yet to present Obama with anything even resembling a signable bill.

Obama has threatened to blame Republicans in his upcoming inaugural speech and State of the Union address if they fail to act. I hope he points one finger at Boehner and another at McConnell and tells the nation that "These are the two motherfuckers who keep screwing each and every one of you."

* * * * * * * * *
On October 23, 1967 a new musical based on the film The World of Henry Orient opened at the Palace Theatre.  The show had music and lyrics by Bob Merrill (New Girl In Town, Take Me Along, Carnival!), who had also collaborated with Jule Styne on Funny Girl, Sugar, Prettybelle, and The Red Shoes. Don Ameche starred in the role created onscreen by Peter Sellers.

Henry Sweet Henry flopped, closing after only 80 performances (others in the cast include Louise Lasser, Pia Zadora, Carole Bruce, Priscilla Lopez, and Baayork Lee). Ironically, the performer who got the most attention was a tiny little woman named Alice Playten, who had a voice like Ethel Merman. Here she is, performing "Poor Little Person" (choreographed by Michael Bennett) on The Ed Sullivan Show.

During Henry Sweet Henry's out-of-town tryout, Playten only had one song, an anthem to political viciousness and unbridled ambition entitled "Nobody Steps on Kafritz." Take a moment to savor the blood-curdling audio track (you might feel a perverse desire to start goose-stepping in rhythm to Merrill's song).

If Mitt Romney's abortive campaign for the White House reeked from a sense of entitlement, try to remember how desperately Meg Whitman wanted to become Governor of California in 2010.  Then imagine Whitman starring in a musical inspired by Greek mythology.

One of the more delightful entries in the recent San Francisco Olympians Festival was Athena! The Musical, a nifty one-acter written by Roberta D’Alois and Marilyn Harris Kriegel (who kept their script short and furiously funny, with laughs and venom flowing freely from start to finish).

As a leading figure in Greek mythology, Athena was noted for her wisdom, her courage, and her ability to inspire warriors. She could also be a jealous, conniving bitch. As the play's co-authors explain:
“We chose to write about Athena because, while neither of us are virgins, we share personal attributes that Athena is known for. Just as she sprung from Zeus fully formed, we both have been grownups since early childhood. We’ve been known to give the men in our lives headaches. Reading about these two strong and stubborn women [Athena and Arachne], we found ourselves drawn to explore the dark sides of the attributes we admire. Although our play is set in modern times, it resonates with the ancient themes of competition, jealousy, privilege, and power from the original myth.”
Emily Barber's poster art for Athena! The Musical

We've all been exposed to ruthless control freaks (Margaret Thatcher, Martha Stewart, Cruella de Vil) who will stop at nothing to accomplish their goals. In Alois and Kriegel;'s musical, Marley Nathena (Kim Saunders) is a filthy rich Silicon Valley CEO who who likes to throw her money around.

Imagine Betty Bowers as a political predator. Better still, imagine Cora Hoover Hooper laughing all the way to the bank while letting her ruthless business tactics and bottomless checkbook (at least $25 million) pave her way to landing the top spot on the Republican party’s ticket.

Two male party hacks (Richard Wenzel and Andrew Chung) are willing to do almost anything to lure Marley's money into their campaign coffers. But when they spot a naive and intensely likable small town Mayoral candidate named Rhea Weaver (Camerone Galloway) -- who they're sure will poll better than the wealthy and slick but unlikable CEO -- they have to find a way to get Marley to put her money behind Rhea.

Unfortunately, Marley don't play those games. Soon one of the men is hurt in a strange automobile accident. Then the chartered plane carrying Rhea to an important political event mysteriously falls from the sky.

Oops! Accidents happen, dont'cha know!

One of the nicest things about Athena! The Musical was its brevity. The show's creators made it only as long as it needed to be, with Rebecca Longworth's direction setting an appropriate pace for Marley's soul-crushing climb to the top of the ticket.

* * * * * * * * * *
What happens when you’ve got a loving husband, 3,000 daughters, and Zeus’s wife won’t stop nagging you to perform a nearly impossible favor? Meghan O’Connor’s one-act play entitled Tethys, or In The Deep examines what happens when, after the war between the Titans and Olympians has ended. Hera approaches Tethys and asks her to relocate the constellations of Ursa Major (the Big Dipper) and Ursa Minor (the Little Dipper) so that she will never have to see those pesky bears again. As O'Connor explains:
"I want to explore the power dynamics between an ancient, powerful Titan and a young, fiery Olympian. I want to explore what it is like to be replaced, even when you’re talented.  I want to explore Tethys’s marriage. She has a good husband and 3,000 daughters. But is that enough?"
Playwright Meghan O'Connor

With the precision of a rabid control freak, Hera asks her friend to do something so that the bears never be allowed to touch the waters belonging to Oceanus (who is married to Tethys). O’Connor asks her audience to judge who is more rational:
  • A loving husband who wants nothing more than to spend his retirement enjoying peace and quiet. 
  • A goddess of the deep ocean and mother of rivers (often depicted as having wings attached to her temples) who has strong nursing instincts.
  • A jealous control freak and power-hungry bitch who can’t leave well enough alone.
Poster art for Tethys by Cody A. Rishell

Annie Paladino directed the reading of O'Connor's provocative script with Juliana Egley as Tethys, Tonya Narvaez as Hera, and Tavis Kammet as Oceanus. Needless to say, Hera's meddling reminded me of some annoying people from my past (like the physician who expected my business partner to hop on a plane and fly 3,000 miles so she could argue with him about the placement of a comma).

No comments: