Sunday, June 29, 2008

A Week's Respite--And A Thanks

Everything is ready for our week at the lake.

Last weekend, we took care of much of the preparation, and late last week we tidied up a few loose ends.

Everything—food, clothes, toys, sporting gear, incidental items—is packed in hampers, ready to be loaded into the cars early tomorrow morning.

Last weekend, Andrew’s older brother took care of Andrew’s and my living arrangements for the next three years. He went up to Boston, and arranged for us to rent a basement apartment in a house owned by one of his former Stanford classmates.

Andrew and I will have our own entrance. The apartment has three small rooms: a living room, a small kitchen, and a bedroom (plus a bath). Only the living room has windows, but Andrew’s brother says it will be perfectly sufficient for our needs. The apartment is in a very safe neighborhood and in a location convenient both for my daily trek to law school and Andrew’s daily trek to work.

I’m pleased Andrew’s brother took care of the housing situation for us. He told us, months ago, to leave the apartment search in his hands, and we were happy to do so. Because he lived in Boston for four years while obtaining his undergraduate degree, and because he knows former classmates living in Boston, and because he knows persons working in the Boston offices of Wall Street firms, he said it would be easy for him to locate a suitable apartment for us with a few phone calls.

He was right about that—and we thank him for looking out for us.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

A Weekend Hard At Work

On Friday night, Andrew and I moved over to his parents’ house for the weekend so that we could help get some things done around the house and yard before everyone arrives next weekend.

We were very, very busy.

We mowed and trimmed the lawn.

We trimmed bushes and shrubbery.

We did touch-up painting on windows and garage doors.

We cleaned the outside deck off the kitchen.

We cleaned upstairs bedrooms and bathrooms.

We waxed the kitchen floor.

We cleaned the downstairs family room.

We did laundry.

We visited five food stores, buying food for our upcoming week at the lake, and we packed the non-perishables in food hampers.

We packed our own clothes for the lake.

We packed the dog’s things for the lake (Science Diet, heartworm pills, playthings).

We gave the dog a bath.

By the time all this had been accomplished, the weekend was over. Andrew and I are looking forward to going to our offices tomorrow, because we will be able to get some rest.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Lorca's Grave

Our Saturday and Sunday were nice.

On Saturday, Andrew and I went over to Andrew’s parents’ house. We did yard work in the morning and washed the cars in the afternoon. Needless to say, we played with the dog all day and kept him amused (and he kept us amused, too).

Andrew’s mother gave us a lunch of sesame chicken and a salad that was one-quarter diced tomato, one-quarter diced cucumber, one-quarter diced green onion and one-quarter diced hard-boiled egg.

In the afternoon, in addition to washing the cars, Andrew and I ran some errands for his Mom and Dad, making a trip to the local garden center and making a trip to the local home-improvement center. We picked up a few items for some work we have planned for next weekend.

Andrew’s mother gave us steak for dinner Saturday night. She served the steak with baked potato and steamed broccoli, before which she gave us one of her most elaborate garden salads. For dessert, she gave us pineapple cheesecake, homemade.

Andrew and I have been working on our Southern England itinerary for the last couple of weeks. We are exactly halfway through our upcoming trip. On Saturday night, we worked on day nine, which will be spent in Plymouth.

We have been talking on the phone and exchanging email messages and exchanging IM messages every night with my sister and Andrew’s brother, selecting adventures that will be of interest to everyone.

Much of Saturday night was spent choosing which particular boat cruise of Plymouth Harbor to take (we settled upon one that includes Plymouth Sound and the Plymouth Naval Dockyard), deciding how much attention to devote to Plymouth Hoe (an entire afternoon), trying to figure out whether there is any possible way to finagle a tour of The Royal Citadel (there isn’t, short of joining The Royal Marines), and trying to find something to do in Plymouth in the evening (we chose a new play to be performed by an experimental theater troupe).

Andrew and I are having a wonderful time organizing our itinerary, and everyone is getting very excited. I think ours will be a marvelous trip.

Yesterday, after church, Andrew’s parents, our landlady and Andrew and I spent the afternoon and evening out. We attended a matinee performance of William Gillette’s “Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure” and an evening performance of Thomas Kilroy’s “The Secret Fall Of Constance Wilde”. Between performances, we ate Shepherd’s Pie for dinner at a British restaurant downtown.

The Sherlock Holmes play was sort of fun. Park Square Theater, wisely, offered a modern adaptation that tightened the text and quickened the pace of the original drama, surely too creaky for present-day audiences. It was an engaging production and an engaging afternoon, although I doubt that any of us would ever want to see this play a second time.

“The Secret Fall Of Constance Wilde” at the Guthrie Theater, on the other hand, was a major disappointment, if not an out-and-out disaster.

There may or may not be a decent play lurking in Kilroy’s material, but no one could possibly make a judgment about that question based upon this production, given that it was so severely misguided.

There are only three speaking parts in “The Secret Fall Of Constance Wilde”—Lord Alfred Douglas, plus Oscar and Constance Wilde—but the three speaking actors were completely overwhelmed by four puppet characters that engaged in an onstage pantomime throughout the performance. This dumb show was inane, if not offensive, and it destroyed whatever credibility and rhythm the play and the performance managed to build now and again.

Andrew said that the puppet device had been borrowed from English National Opera’s production of “Madame Butterfly”, unveiled in London in 2005, which used puppeteers to portray the child of Cio-Cio San. However, the puppeteers in “Madame Butterfly” were onstage only for a small portion of that London production. By contrast, in Minneapolis, the puppeteers were a constant, never-ending (and irritating) presence. Whoever came up with such a dumb idea?

The answer to that question is Marcela Lorca, the director of the production. Lorca is a choreographer, not a stage director, and her stage skills—such as they are—are restricted to movement and the visual aspects of a production. In terms of illuminating a text and developing a theme, she is totally at sea, and it showed, in spades, throughout the performance.

“The Secret Fall Of Constance Wilde” is a text-driven play. Further, it is a very site-specific play (late-Victorian London and its literary world) and very time-specific (the 1890’s). At the Guthrie, we were served up “Contact” with dialogue, given an ambience that was pure Los Angeles and Oh-So-Very-2008. This made utter hash of the play’s text and themes.

It was a major and obvious mistake for the Guthrie to have offered this assignment to Lorca (whose native language is Spanish; she is Chilean), and it was a major and obvious mistake not to have scrapped the puppeteers. “Constance Wilde” was the worst rot I have ever seen on the stage of the Guthrie.

The production was also miscast. The actor portraying Oscar Wilde should have been replaced, because he never for a moment suggested that he was in possession of a brain, let alone great wit. The actress portraying Mrs. Wilde was not quite such a cipher, but a competent director would surely have worked with her on the character (and the text), and would have helped her expand upon what is merely a one-note portrayal.

Apparently there was a lot of behind-the-scenes controversy during the rehearsal period for this production, and many people at the Guthrie strongly believed that Lorca should have been replaced very early in the rehearsal process. Lorca was never able to come to terms with the subtlety of the text and she was never able to evoke the time and place in which the drama is set.

For some reason, Joe Dowling, Artistic Director of the Guthrie, decided to stick with Lorca, and the sad result is there for everyone to see onstage. Coming from America’s leading theater company, “Constance Wilde” is an embarrassment.

This production should have been buried.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Elwood P. Dowd

Andrew called me at my office this afternoon, and wanted to know whether I felt like doing something this evening after work.

“Like what?” I asked him

“Like see ‘Harvey’, as we thought about doing last weekend” he answered. Andrew was referring to the fact that he and I and our landlady had planned to catch a performance of “Harvey” last weekend—until our landlady had learned that word-of-mouth about the production, within the Twin Cities theater community, was decidedly negative.

“How will we get home?” I asked him. I was referring to the fact that bus service home would have ended hours before the conclusion of a performance of “Harvey”.

“We can catch a ride home with my Mom and Dad” was his response. Andrew was referring to the fact that, this being Friday night, his parents would be in town for Friday night’s subscription concert by the Minnesota Orchestra.

“Let’s do it” was my answer.

So Andrew called his parents (Andrew’s Mom and Dad were home this afternoon; his father had taken the day off) to make sure that they were planning to attend tonight’s Minnesota Orchestra subscription concert (which they were, since this is the final week of the season).

In fact, Andrew’s parents had been planning to drive into town very early and to have dinner downtown before the concert, owing to a major downtown bicycle event that would require several street closings and play havoc with downtown traffic for several hours in the late afternoon and early evening.

The result: Andrew and I went to see “Harvey” tonight—plus we had a wonderful dinner before the show.

We ate dinner with Andrew’s parents at an exceptional seafood restaurant. It was a very elegant and very fashionable establishment, with fine silver, fine glassware, fine cutlery, fine linen, and stately but understated décor. It was a magnificent restaurant.

The menu offered nothing but the freshest seafood, flown daily to Minneapolis. The menu changes literally each day, depending upon that day’s availability.

We ordered Oysters Rockefeller, followed by Rainbow Trout accompanied by sour cream-and-onion mashed potatoes and steamed asparagus with Hollandaise Sauce. For dessert, we ordered Crème Brulee.

It was a superb dinner.

After dinner, Andrew and I headed over to Theater In The Round for a 7:30 p.m. curtain, while Andrew’s parents walked to Orchestra Hall for the 8:00 p.m. concert. Both performances were scheduled to conclude at roughly the same time, 9:45 p.m., so we did not have to worry about anyone having to wait when it was time for us all to meet up again and head home.

I’m glad Andrew and I saw “Harvey”. Neither of us had seen the play before—or even the film version, for that matter.

The play is very old-fashioned, and very predictable, but for all that it remains an enjoyable and durable vehicle, and I can understand why “Harvey” is periodically revived by professional companies.

“Harvey” is a play that lends itself particularly well to amateur performance, because its characters are all “types” rather than individuals, and therefore lie well within the talents of amateur performers. “Harvey” is, I understand, one of the most frequently-performed plays by high schools and amateur theatrical societies, and this is easily accounted for.

The Theater In The Round production was OK. There was a little over-acting, and a little under-acting, and some of the jokes and some of the situations were staged a little too broadly and a little too obviously, but the material came through, all in all. It was not a bad way to spend a Friday night.

Tomorrow Andrew and I are going to go over to his parents’ house to do some yard work and wash the cars and get a “dog fix”.

On Sunday, we will be doing the “theater day” we had planned but cancelled last weekend, but with some modifications to our original plans.

We will make it an “1890’s Britain” day, and attend two plays about events, imaginary and otherwise, from that time and place.

First, we will catch the Sunday matinee at Park Square Theater of “Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure”. In the evening, we will catch “The Secret Fall Of Constance Wilde” at the Guthrie Theater. Between shows, we will maintain the chosen theme of the day by having dinner at a British restaurant downtown. Our landlady will join us for this “theater day”, and so will Andrew’s parents.

It should be fun.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Summer Travel Plans

Over the course of the last ten days, Andrew and I—and everyone else—have made our travel plans for the summer.

Over Memorial Day weekend, Andrew and I consulted with his brother in Denver about summer travel. We consulted with my sister about summer travel while we were visiting my family in Oklahoma (one of our graduation gifts to my sister is a summer trip). We have been consulting with Andrew’s parents, too, about summer travel. They are keen to go somewhere.

We have continued to consult with everyone about travel plans, nonstop, for the last ten days, and on Sunday we made our decision.

The outcome of the consultations: we will take only one trip this summer, but we will make it a significant one, and all six of us will go together. Our destination will be Southern England.

Andrew’s brother, who loves Great Britain, will be delighted with this vacation, even though he has already seen practically everything we plan to visit (and seen everything more than once in the case of most attractions).

My sister initially seemed cool on the idea of Southern England, but when she started reading about what we might visit there, she became more and more enthused to the point that now she is ready to leave tonight.

Andrew’s parents look forward to a couple of weeks in Southern England, both because they have not visited Southern England in many, many years and because they heard about the many interesting Southern England travel experiences Alex and Andrew enjoyed in years past. They will be able to experience these pleasures themselves this year with their sons, with the added advantage of not having to worry about hotels and transportation and such, since Alex and Andrew—those two old travel pros—will take care of all the planning.

I will be delighted to visit Southern England, because I have never visited any part of the U.K. except for London.

Andrew is perfectly happy to visit Southern England again—he says he is content to visit everything a second or third or fourth time, and that I will love everything we plan to visit, and that my sister will love everything, too. He also says that his parents will enjoy this vacation very, very much, and that Southern England is perhaps the best destination we could have chosen for our time period, the first two weeks in August, when it will be better to be in the English countryside than in London.

We will depart Thursday evening, July 31. We will spend eighteen full days in the U.K., and fly home on Tuesday, August 19.

Andrew and I have been assigned the responsibility of confirming opening days and times, as well as researching the histories, of the many sights on our list. We will do that over the next month or so. We will enjoy doing that.

We will visit abbeys, cathedrals, churches, castles, museums, towns and villages, historic attractions, and see a great deal of the English countryside.

It should be a lot of fun.