Thursday, October 4, 2012

Every now and then I get to leave the house.

When I was a kid, my mom made special efforts to get us all cultured and stuff. We went to any and every play that was put on in the Golden Triangle, and often when we went to Austin we would see something at Southwestern or at St. Edward's. Among the ones that stand out:

My first concert, Billy Ocean at the Beaumont Civic Center. Lots of fainting black ladies. I was saucer-eyed. I think I was 10.

The Wizard of Oz at the Port Arthur Civic Center, where mom says we watched the special effects guy much more than the play.

Some retelling of Hamlet featuring a flatulent Claudius, at some theater in Austin. There were maybe 20 people in the audience, and we were 6 of them, but we walked out during Act I.
And now, even though I have to remind myself to do it, I like getting out there to see what Houston has going on.

Rossini's Otello, presented by Opera in the Heights

So it turns out that Rossini's opera gutted the character of Iago, which is kind of a disappointment. In this case, it made the opera strain even more than operas normally do to make sense. Why does Othello believe Iago? Why is Iago such a meany? Why don't these people just talk things out like normal humans? But plotholes are a feature of opera, not a bug, I guess.

My biggest beef with the production was the director's choice of setting. She decided to "update" the story by setting it among mafiosi in 1985 Venice. I didn't think this added anything to the production, and it certainly had a deletrious effect on the costumer, who interpreted the setting with clothes from 1995 New Jersey. [Most distracting to me were Desdemona's d'Orsay pumps. How can you stomp around onstage for 3 hours in d'Orsays?] Lackluster sets, always a problem at Lambert Hall, did nothing to redeem the setting or the costumes.

In spite of this, I have to tell you that Opera in the Heights is almost a miracle. The singing is absolutely first rate, especially Elmiro, sung by bass-baritone Joseph Rawley; he was enthralling. I was also amazed at what they were able to pull off in such a tiny space. The 27-piece orchestra was crammed, cheek-by-jowl, at the side of the stage, and in order to get to the bathroom you had to walk between the harp and the piano. But all of the musicians played beautifully.

To be honest, I didn't even think I liked opera--I went along with someone out of a sense of obligation, and when I saw that the piece would run 3 full hours, I nearly bailed. But I enjoyed it immensely, and I will absolutely go back for Bellini's I Capuleti e i Montecchi, opening in November.

David Mamet's November, presented by the Alley Theatre (sic)

David Mamet is known for being hilarious and profane. I heartily endorse this, of course. November is about a lame-duck US President on the eve of an election, trying to hustle money for himself and his campaign. There are only five members of the cast, and the Alley produced the play in the round, on the Neuhaus Stage. The dialogue was very funny. Some bits were groaners, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. One peeve: the audience felt like they had to titter every time an actor dropped an f-bomb. Grow up, people. Fuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuck.

I'm skipping Death of a Salesman at the Alley, mostly because it's such a bummer, and the hoary old Christmas Carol they do every year. I've also seen Santaland Diaries (and it wasn't half as fun as rereading the book), so the next thing I'll see at the Alley will be Clybourne Park.

Agatha Christie's Black Coffee, presented by the Alley Theatre (sic)

I saw this one in August. I thought that production was a little sloppy, and it definitely wasn't peak-form Agatha Christie, but it's always fun to see something in the Summer Chills series. And truthfully, the theater was glacial that night.


  1. I'm big fan of Opera in the Heights. love this post. xo
    ~ Herman Swan