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Archive for the ‘Play (Drama)’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: RADIOHEAD-Drill EP (1992).

Radiohead recently released a bunch of their stuff to streaming platforms.  One of those releases was Drill, their debut EP that came out a year or so before Pablo Honey.  Most of the tracks appear to be demos.  And yet, they are very well recorded demos.–they sound quite good.

Three of the four songs were rerecorded for Pablo Honey.  The only one not on the album is “Stupid Car” a quiet ballad.

“Prove Yourself” and “You” sound a lot like the album versions.  The biggest difference is the sound quality and the “Prove Yourself” guitar solo which is much louder and more piercing on Pablo Honey.  “You” sounds pretty identical, right down to Thom Yorke’s powerful scream mid song

The biggest difference comes with ‘Thinking About You”  On Pablo Honey it is a slow acoustic ballad.  But here it is a fast-paced almost punk rocker.  It’s got racing guitars and fast drums.  Honestly I prefer this to the album version.

The impressive thing is just how good these songs sound.  Not only because they were basically demos.  But because this was their first release and while Radiohead has changed drastically over the years, these original songs are still really good.

Fans tend to disregard Pablo Honey, but the compositions, while nothing like the newer work, are solid, well-crafted alt rock songs.  Don’t dismiss this EP, this band is going somewhere.

[READ December 29, 2019] Out of the Cage

Every now and then I get a short play at my desk.  This one looked pretty interesting.

Inspired by the munition women of Silvertown, London during the First World War, this tells the story of women’s courage, dignity and hope, fired in the crucible of war.

During the War, women worked in munition plants (munitionettes, they were called).  Despite their hard work in dangerous places, they were given far less credit and pay than their male counterparts.  (Sound familiar?). Could they possibly stand up for themselves or would they forever be seen as second class citizens.

There are eight major characters in the play

  • Jane Byass: 40’s 4 kids, hard but fair
  • Nancy LongdonL Late 20s upper-class, committed to the cause
  • Dee Jessop: 40s, sick and dying, vengeful
  • Nelly Jonson: 30s forceful and sharp, the only Irishwoman there
  • Annie Castledine: early 20a vibrant and funny
  • Carrie Sefton: Early 20s, tough and engaging
  • Ol’ Mim: 50’s nurturing, tough
  • Lil’ Ginny: early teens, naive

The play opens in Jane’s apartment.  The women are meeting there to discuss what to do about he unfair working conditions.  The first to arrive is Nancy.  The others are mistrustful of her because she is upper class, but she is dedicated to women’s rights.

Dee arrives next, she is bitter and sarcastic, she has been breathing in the toxic fumes in the furnace room.  Her breath is a short as her temper and she is not doing well at all.  Nelly arrives next.  She is the most cynical about Nancy because of the Irish vs. English class wars.  The women descend into bickering but Jane settles them down. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: WEYES BLOOD–Tiny Desk Concert #922 (December 11, 2019).

The new Weyes Blood album has been on many people’s best of the of year lists. I hadn’t heard any of it but I’d read that it was lovely.

When I first listened to this Tiny Desk Concert, I really didn’t think much of it–couldn’t imagine what made this simple folk music so special.

But on a second (and third and fourth) listen, I heard a lot of the components that made it quite a beautiful set.

Nataile Mering sings and plays acoustic guitar.  Her voice reminds me a lot of Aimee Mann.

The blurb says that this set is

simple and restrained — a strummed guitar, two-part harmonies, a brushed beat — but still managed to re-create the majesty and wonder of the band’s latest release, Titanic Rising, one of 2019’s loftiest and most layered albums.

The music here is simple and straightforward–“rooted in ’70s folk-pop traditions, with mystical themes of rambling on to find meaning and purpose.”

“Andromeda,” an astral ode to love, set the tone with the acoustic guitar.  After a minute and a half there is a really cool otherworldly-sounding guitar solo from Stephen Heath.  It is just a slide on an electric guitar but it sounds very cool amid the folky quiet.  There is a very traditional organ sound from Walt McClements  filling in the spaces, but I think what really makes the song transcend folk are the fantastic backing vocals from bassist Eliana Athayde.  Whether it’s oohs and ahhs or harmonies, her contributions are monumental.

“Wild Time” is next and Athayde’s oohs are there supporting Mering’s gentle leads.  Like the previous song the acoustic guitar sets the pace with the keys filling in the gas and Andres Renteria’s drums keeping pace.  This time the standout sound from Heath’s guitar is a buzzing e-bow–an otherworldly insect buzzing around the song.  Near the end, Heath turns that buzz into a proper guitar solo and there’s a brief moment where I think Althayde and Mering are singing different lines at the same time.  The end of the song rings of early Pink Floyd with the piano sound and Heaths now noisy scratchy e-bow filed soloing.

The final song, “Picture Me Better,” is “a heartbreaking remembrance of a friend who died by suicide while Mering was working on the album.”  It’s the quietest song of the bunch.  Renteria leaves and it’s just acoustic guitar and keys with gentle electric guitar notes and Mering’s voice.  This time Athayde’s backing vocals add an otherworldly quality as we get lost in this song of loss and yearning.

It’s quite a lovely set, and if this is stripped down, I do wonder what a full-on, layered album must sound like.

[READ: December 16, 2019] “Sevastopol”

This was a story about writing stories.

The narrator, Nadia, receives a postcard from Klaus.  The postcard is of Sevastopol, although Klaus has never been there–he probably got it from a site like easterneuropeanjunk.com.

Klaus had rented a theater space in São Paulo (the story was written in Portuguese and translated by Zoë Perry) and called Nadia to insist that she come and help him fix it up.

They had met at the museum where she works.  He led a drama workshop and since staff could take classes for free she decided to check it out.  Klaus had directed a play which ran in a local theater.  Nadia hadn’t seen it, but her friend said it was awful.  Nevertheless, Nadia liked Klaus. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ROSANNE CASH-Tiny Desk Concert #893 (September 23, 2019)

I don’t know all that much about Rosanne Cash (I couldn’t recall how she was related to Johnny).  I also assumed that she would be a country artist.  Yet this set is anything but country.  But I guess the key to that is that her voice isn’t country at all, it’s just good.

This blurb also blows my mind a bit about how quickly (or not) they post concerts.  This show was posted in September but was recorded in January–she had to wait quite a while to see it.

Rosanne Cash and her band arrived at NPR to play the Tiny Desk on a freezing cold, bright sunny day in January — one of those brittle, crystal clear winter days when the snow reflects the sun and there’s nowhere to hide from the light. Her intense performance had that same balance of heat and ice.

Cash plays four songs

most taken from her 2018 album She Remembers Everything, have a lot of emotional heat, but they’re shaped and sculpted by the wry wisdom of age and experience. More than at any time in her career, her spirit and approach to performance these days reflects the influence of her father, the legendary country singer Johnny Cash.

“She Remembers Everything” opens with John Leventhal on with Rosanne on acoustic guitar.  Like most of these songs, it feels slow and powerful–kind of bluesy with a dramatic chord progression.  Mid song, Leventhal switches to guitar and plays a great little solo.

When the song is over she praises everyone: “So attentive.  Like a listening room at the NPR offices.”

Up next is “The Only Thing Worth Fighting” which she co-wrote with T Bone Burnett and Lyra Lynn  This song is not so much country as western-sounding.  There’s more nice guitar work from Leventhal.

Zev Katz on bass and Dan Rieser on drums don’t do anything to single them out except for keeping the songs moving properly.  The bass does do some nice lines, but mostly, these are simple songs which need little accompaniment.

For “Everyone But Me” she takes off the guitar.  This is a lovely piano ballad after which she says, “I don’t know if the young people can relate to this song but it means more as you get older.”

The last song is from her album The River and the Thread.  She says the album won a Grammy and the last time she won a Grammy, Ronald Reagan was president.  From this she plays the cool bluesy “A Feather’s Not A Bird.”

This isn’t the kind of music I enjoyed, but I liked this Tiny Desk Concert a lot more than I thought I would based on what I thought I knew about Rosanne Cash.

[READ: August 26, 2019] The Adventures of Barry & Joe

After the election that has sent the country spiraling into a level of hell, Adam Reid wanted to do something to make decent-thinking people laugh.

When I saw first saw this, I assumed that Adam Reid was Adam Reed, the creator of Archer and other delightfully dark cartoons.  It took a while for me to realize that he isAdam Reid who is responsible for The Tiny Chef Show.

Aside from that, I don’t really have any familiarity with him.  So that’s kind of interesting, I suppose. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BILL & JOEL PLASKETT-Live at Massey Hall (April 8, 2017).

I thought I had heard of the name Joel Plaskett before this, but I know I’d never heard of Bill Plaskett.

Sharing the spotlight with his earliest musical influence- his father, the JUNO Award-winning Canadian songwriter, Joel Plaskett performs a powerful collection of songs from both his own catalogue and from Solidarity, the musical collaboration between father and son, live at Massey Hall.

They talk about the prestige and history of Massey Hall as well as how it is a large venue but it still has intimacy.  There’s a big stage, but it projects–you feel like you can touch the audience.

“Dragonfly” opens with just him Joel on acoustic guitar.  After a few verses, the lights come on and the full band kicks in loudly and powerully–Benj Rowland (banjo, bass, accordion, guitar); Shannon Quinn (fiddle) and Josh Fewings (drums).

“Blank Cheque” starts lower and sounds a bit darker.  I love the lyrics: “oh honey, you can’t eat money–it’s gonna take more than luck just to save your neck.”

“Jim Jones” is sung by Bill.  It’s an olde ballad about prisoners and pirates and the goal in Australia.  Bill says it’s a British folk song from the time when convicts were transported to Australia for minor offenses like stealing rabbits from the Lord’s domain.  It’s a song of revenge.  Jim Jones was fictional but Jack Donoguhe had escaped from Botany Bay penal colony.

“Nowhere With You” is a song about all of Joel’s travels with big sing-alongs

“Heartless Heartless Heartless” is darker and quieter–there’s a wonderful moody feeling to the song.  Unlike “Rollin’ Rollin’ Rollin'” which is stompin and stompin.  People get up and start dancing and clapping.  Wow, there’s a lot of cowboy hats in the audience.  There’s a pretty fiddle that runs through this catchy sing-along song.

They talk about the magic in the collective energy of playing shows.  How the audience sends it back to you and you can feel it build over the course of a show.  It’s an awesome feeling.  Bill says it’s wonderful to play with his son in front of so many young people.

“Wishful Thinking” ends the show in a big rock n roll way.  “You can get on your feet again it feels good when you are.”  After some stomping around he starts improvising:

Don’t sing that song in A, sing it in B.
They shift to B and start singing and when they get to “it’s a long, long way to Winnipeg” the singers their notes forever–his dad longer than everyone else.  Joel: “That’s some circular breathing right there.”

The end is funny:

You’re hauling a lot of stuff, you’re taxing the vehicle.  Get rid of some guitars.
What are you talking about?  We need them for the show.
Well, figure something out.
So…

CDs for sale in the back of the hall
Buy one buy em all
Couple bucks cheaper than they are at the mall
Thanks very much we’ll be back in the fall.

It seems like he tries to end the song a few times, but they keep going and the guys from Elliott BROOD come out to sing a few ahhs at the end.

one more thing dude/
thank you Elliott Brood

[READ: February 6, 2018] “Darkness at Seven”

This is the opening scene from Eno’s play Tragedy: A Tragedy.

I really enjoyed this piece although I can’t imagine how it could be made any longer or in exactly what kind of direction it could go next.

Essentially this opening scene makes fun of all tragedy reporting and the generic platitudes that such coverage creates.   There’s Frank in the Studio, John in the Field, Constance at the Home, Michael the Legal Adviser and The Witness.

Frank sets the scene-a location in America, the once familiar sun has set.

John tells us that it’s the worst world in the world tonight.  People are looking, feeling, hoping and believing that they might learn something.

Frank wants to know if the sense of tragedy is palpable.  It is. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JEFF TWEEDY-Live at NPR Music’s 10 year Anniversary Concert (December 2, 2017).

I’m going to be seeing Jeff Tweedy live tomorrow night.  So I prepped for the show by watching this 20 minute session from NPR Music’s 10th anniversary.

There were a lot of performers at this Concert but for me Tweedy’s 20 minutes was the highlight.  He stood on stage with his white jacket and white cowboy hat and he effortlessly played five songs that spanned nearly 25 years. (There’s a terrific version of “Born Alone” which Tweedy sings with Kronos Quartet here).

His guitar playing is simple but effective and works as a perfect backdrop for his the focus of his voice and lyrics.

Thankfully for us and the audience at our 10th anniversary concert on Dec. 2 at the 9:30 Club, Tweedy’s set managed to run the gamut of [his] celebrated career. From his beginnings as a slack, alt-country rocker (playing Uncle Tupelo’s “We’ve Been Had”) and A.M.-era Wilco (with “Passenger Side”) to his recent turn as Mavis Staples’ producer and songwriter (on “Jesus Wept”) and later, Nels Cline-era Wilco (“Locator”).

The constant in all this experimenting is Tweedy’s voice as a singer and songwriter — one that invites a deep trust, even when it courts darkness. Performing solo with an acoustic guitar, his voice was once again at the center of it all.

The first song, “Bombs Away,” was previously unreleased.  The lyrics were thoughtful and stark

“I leave behind a trail of songs / from the darkest gloom to the brightest sun,
I’ve lost my way, but it’s hard to say / what I’ve been through should matter to you.”

When he starts Uncle Tupelo’s “We’ve Been Had” the smoke machine sends wafts across his face.  “Is something on fire?  …  I am cooking!”  The song soars and is one of the more upbeat songs he plays.

He follows with “Locator” from Schmilco.  It’s certainly odd on the record, but this acoustic version lets you see the foundation of the song before all of the cool effects are added.

He plays the pretty but rather downbeat “Jesus Wept” which is something that he worked on with Mavis Staples for their collaborative album.  I don’t know her version, but his is delightful.  When it’s over he says, “I thought I’d pull that one out because it’s such a big celebration….  It’s a fun song.  Can anyone think of a song I should play that’s celebratory?”  [audience shouts out].  Jeff continues, “so you don’t know any of my songs, that’s cool.”

Someone shouted out “Passenger Side” and he plays that.

He ends with “I’m The Man Who Loves You” which gets lots of applause.  He has some fun with fast guitar playing, and he is clearly having a grand time.

I can’t wait to see what he does with a full set.

 

[READ: January 25, 2017] “I Didn’t Win Any Pulitzer Prizes This Year”

This piece was not in the magazine.  It was in the Daily Shouts section online.  I am refraining from writing about these online-only posts in general, but this one slipped past my print-only radar.

Just how do you stretch out a premise like this for an entire essay?

He explains that this egregious omission continues his twenty-nine year streak of not receiving even one of these prizes.

Overlooked in nonfiction: an email with the subject line “Re: (No Subject).”  The Prize committee did not conclude that the email was informative “but its brevity was what pushed it over the edge.” (more…)

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[ATTENDED: March 10, 2018] The Comedy of Errors

Our friends Jonathan and Carrie take their kids to the Shakespeare Theatre regularly and they invited us along for The Comedy of Errors.

I’m not the only one who enjoys performed Shakespeare about 100 times more than reading Shakespeare, and I felt like this show really brought the play (which I didn’t know) to life.  It also made me laugh at how this play is basically the foundation of every mistaken identity slapstick story every written.

The play ran for a little over an hour–perfect for kids (it was listed as appropriate for grades 3 and up).  It’s usually around 90 minutes, so they cut out some stuff, I guess, which was fine.

The story itself is very funny with “two sets of identical twins, mistaken identities, colorful characters and a madcap chase sequence.”

What really impressed me about the production was that rather than having two people in the twins’ roles, they had the same actor (and actress, in this case) play both roles.  Antipholus the main character was very funny.  But Dromio, the servant, was an awesome comic character who stole the show.  I’m sorry I can’t find the woman who played him.  When it came time to have them both on stage, there was lots of very clever misdirection to allow the “double’s” face never to be seen. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BARBARA HANNIGAN-Tiny Desk Concert #698 (January 26, 2018).

It has been some time since Tiny Desk has had a classical singer.  As with many classical Tiny Desks. I like to let the knowledgeable NPR person tell us what’s happening.  But I’ll say that her voice is stunning and although I don;t understand the German, it’s pretty fascinating stuff.

The night before this Tiny Desk concert, extraordinary soprano Barbara Hannigan and her accompanist Reinbert de Leeuw gave a beautiful and intense recital at Washington’s Kennedy Center. The songs, all in German, came from a heady period in Vienna, when music was transitioning from the swells of romanticism to the uncharted waters of modernism. Four of those songs make up this Tiny Desk performance. The bonus here is that these impassioned dispatches become even more intimate.

[Hannigan tells us that they will play four songs all from amazing moment at beginning of 20th century when music just started to depart from harmony as we know it.  It sounds tonal but it is representing the end of all things].

Consider the opening song, Alexander Zemlinsky’s “Empfängnis” (Conception). The harmonies are sweet, but almost too rich, like overripe fruit, when Hannigan sings lines like, “Und wie ich sehend meine Arme breite” (And as I open my arms with longing). You can hear the end of a musical era.

An indefatigable champion of new and modern music, Hannigan (who is also a conductor) has given the world premieres of more than 80 pieces. The voice is simply gorgeous — silvery, buttery-smooth throughout the registers, with crystalline top notes emerging from thin air and charged with emotion.

[Hannigan tells us that Alma Mahler (Alma Schindler) married Gustav Mahler and was the most beautiful, intelligent girl in Vienna.  She was Zemlinsky’s student (and probably more), but she married Mahler and he said there was going to but one composer in the family.  The next song was written when she was studying with Zemlinsky].

In Alma Mahler’s “Licht in der Nacht” (Light in the Night), Hannigan taps into the mysterious sparkle of a little yellow star twinkling through black skies as de Leeuw’s piano explores wayward harmonies. Hugo Wolf’s “Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt” (Only One Who Knows Longing) is a hymn to the yearning heart. De Leeuw explains that the key of G minor, in which the song is written, never materializes. It’s all about the longing for G minor.

[Hannigan says that for the Scoenberg piece, poet Richard Dehmel wrote the words.  He was an important poet put on trial for obscenity for his work Woman and World.  Even though he seemed to be talking about reflections in water the imagery was beloved to be quite obscene.  In this song, Jesus is singing to Mary Magdeline, saying “give me your comb and sponge I want to be close to you.”  It is very erotic].

The final song, “Schenk mir deinen goldenen Kamm” (the first music by Arnold Schoenberg to grace the Tiny Desk), offers a double dose of sensuality. Hannigan’s beautiful middle register and creamy phrasing paint the scene: Jesus asks Mary Magdalene for her comb because it will remind him every morning that she once kissed his hair. Hannigan calls the song “erotic” and she delivers on that feeling when, at the end, she cries out the name “Magdalena” with a lustrous, silken tone, touched with anguish.

It’s quite something.

  • Alexander Zemlinsky: “Empfängnis”
  • Alma Mahler: “Licht in der Nacht”
  • Hugo Wolf: “Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt”
  • Arnold Schoenberg: “Schenk mir deinen goldenen Kamm”

[READ: November 20, 2017] What Happened at Brent’s

This little book came to my desk at work and it seemed like a charming diversion.  The only problem with it is that it is set on Hallowe’en and I read it at Thanksgiving (and am now posting about it around Valentine’s Day).

Aside from some of the mannerisms and the language, this book could very easily have been written today and could easily be staged today.

The play is 31 pages (running time 75 minutes).  There are ten characters in the play, all but one are played by children.

Set on Halloween night, a group of 8th graders are having a party.  There are four girls and three boys.  The fourth boy is on his way shortly.  The children are all aflutter because their favorite actress Rita Rose is filming a movie in the town nearby.  They are all infatuated with her and think she is the best. (more…)

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