CAUTION: My girl, Carol, speaks her mind in a strong, brassy and vibrant fashion. If you are offended by straight talking, adult oriented language (sometimes, there's a "very" in there), please be aware that you may well find it here. Carol shoots from the hip and tells it like it is, pulling no punches and taking no prisoners. That's why I love her & why I hired her. If it's not your bag, let's part still friends and salute our differences in tastes (I'm sort of a strong strawberry flavor...) ~*~Katrina~*~
As the Anus Twitches
I wrote the headline spoof off ATWT two
hours before TV Guide online broke the news on May 12 about Sarah Brown
(ex-Carly, GH) joining the CBS soap in a new role, to air this summer.
Psychic hotline, suicide hotline, hotline to just bitch
stream-of-consciously, doesn’t matter to me...
SO MUCH FOR “NEVER”
It never fails. Actors are a typical, predictable lot, much like the rest of the cocktail set.
They almost always want to be the villains. They almost always think they can write, direct and produce better. And, they always, always, always leave soaps vowing they’ll never darken daytime again, with the usual bleating about moving onward, upward to primetime, pilots, movies, indies, world domination.
With the exception of Amber Tamblyn (ex-Emily, GH), Vanessa Marcil (ex-Brenda, GH), Josh Duhamel (ex-Leo, AMC) and a very handful of rare other ex-patriots, they always come crawling back to their former training ground, conveniently ignoring that tail (attached to the pink elephant standing in a corner) between their legs, talking by rote about missing the family atmosphere, the steady paycheck, the solid, steady work and chance to show off on-stage, gaining a new-found appreciation for what they had tossed aside for greener pastures. After having failed in the mainstream industry save for a few forgettable guest appearances in a few low-rated nothing sitcoms and failing drama wannabes, and having dabbled in music, art, construction, redecorating, teaching, fooling themselves into believing they chose this alternative lifestyle.
Eva LaRue (Maria, AMC) did it. So did her co-star Cameron Mathison (Ryan, AMC). Finola Hughes (ex-Anna, GH & AMC) tried again, before leaving (but she’ll be back). Tyler Christopher (Nikolas, GH) surprised everybody, including – I hear – his successful recast, with his much-heralded return. So did Stephen Nichols (ex-Stefan, now). I’m sure before I die, Genie Francis will reprise Laura, after the ABC Daytime executives screwed her over front and back.
And, this just in: TV Guide Online broke the news of ATWT’s casting coup on the morning of May 12: Sarah Brown (ex-Carly, GH), who swore up and down that she was done with soaps, so she could pursue her directorial dreams and conquer primetime/film, has accepted a reported free agent-type job as a new character, to debut this summer. This after failing to snag the GL recast role of Dinah, which eventually went to Gina Tognoni (ex-Kelly, OLTL), who also swore up and down that she was done (just with her tired ole role as hysterically wacky Kelly, since the actress told SOD she wanted new experiences).
This is the same Sarah Brown who swore up and down that she left of her own accord, own pre-determined schedule, own personal agenda having nothing to do with a rumored altercation on the set with then-newly appointed executive producer Jill Farren Phelps (who took over for Wendy Riche, another person Brown reportedly did not get along with) over disagreement about impending character assassination... only to later, when enough time had elapsed, fans forgot about the exit-induced rumors and it was deemed safe IMHO, did Brown reveal that she left in part over creative differences in the sudden re-characterization and rewritten history of Carly.
Moral of the story being, everything spoken for public record is suspect, nothing is cast in irrevocable stone, and newsflash! ABC Daytime presidents, fan base members and the soap press aren’t the only ones in the daytime industry to bullshit the party line for politically expedient purposes.
A little naiveté in me dies each time an actor goes public with a firm exit and a handshake, only to return making nimble but lame excuses and kissing network butt all the way. I suppose they can’t say why they came, went and came back again due to some pride, a lotta office politics dictating only the happy, shiny, pretty view inside soaps (by now, a laughing stock for more than the obvious storytelling reasons), and the bottom line: they’re probably broke and jonesing for a steady paycheck and a limelight. The first actor who does admit to any of this, however, will cause me to join that convent I’d planned to as a 14-year-old.
I ain’t holding my breath.
FOUR DAYS BEFORE “AND THE EMMY GOES TO...”
It’s amazing what happens to cynical viewers like me when something like the Daytime Emmys comes along. I’m eight years old again, eagerly anticipating the televised awards ceremony with the joint enthusiasm and giddiness of awaiting Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. Yet, for up to the hours before 9 p.m. (Pacific time), May 21, we can’t stop ourselves from pontificating along with gushing on who will win, who should win, who got left out, whether the ever-changing system is rigged and why NATAS pulled another last-minute, seeming cover-up against the press.
I’ve read posts, articles and commentaries galore about these very subjects, with the most glaring concern this year being the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS) just ruling that the press will no longer be privy to the contents of the nomination submissions and the judging of those submissions—an action that reverts a controversial open-book policy from only a handful of years before.
I’ve heard every excuse and rationalization, and guess, as to NATAS’s motivation. Gold Derby host and writer Tom O’Neil suspects it’s to hide the various and stupendous negligence and incompetence in a system rife with – my take coming – lazy, entrenched, almost provincially blind adherence to doing things just to get them done and because they’ve been done like that for years. I’d almost convince myself that NATAS doesn’t care to improve, because hey, it’s only daytime; therefore, it doesn’t count. (This could explain why a different organization, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences [ATAS], which actually does care about its constituents, suffers from no such free press issues or internal gaffes.) Others in the industry just believe what NATAS tells ‘em: Some of the actors don’t want the press involved in their embarrassing reel choices, as plainly evidenced annually in the pre-Emmy round-ups of every soap opera magazine where more than just some beg off giving details of just what they submitted.
(As an aside, in a recent soap publication, I had the unfortunate displeasure of reading the obnoxious prick answers of an actor who seems to fancy himself the Second Coming, which only adds fuel to my deep wish to see anybody else win the coveted gold in his category.)
However, NATAS has actually taken the complaints and suggestions of the industry, the press and the fans to heart in some cases. Biggest of all, the organization’s move to replace bloc voting by network studios with a preliminary nomination process, as voted by each show. Before, if you had the employee numbers of a one-hour soap, you could practically buy your way into an Emmy nominated sweep, over a half-hour soap without as many on its roster; studio execs could cast their show’s actors as voting members of NATAS to beef up the chances. Now, the initial voting occurs in-house, in that the cast of each soap has a say in who gets to vie for the pre-screening panel, two of its own in each acting category. From there, it’s up to NATAS who winds up as the final nominees.
Another improvement, the judges can view the nomination reels in the comfort, privacy and sanctity of their own homes, where they can take the time to evaluate each and every one, instead of being crammed in one hotel room with a bunch of other judges and forced to watch reel after reel and reel in the dark until the watching’s done. Hardly fair.
Even with the before-and-after flawed-to-better system, I think in the end the best work receives the Emmy, save for a few exceptions (Jacob Young taking it for his over-the-top anger boy turn as Lucky II on GH is the most obvious example to me) that fall through the cracks. If the actor shows range and emotional depth, these two prominent traits will impact the judges most. I don’t doubt last year’s “Best Lead Actor” Maurice Benard (Sonny, GH) walked away with his Emmy due to his front burner storyline – hard not to find one whole episodic reel, despite his complaints about weak material from the previous head writing team – involving another Emmy winner, Nancy Lee Grahn (Alexis, GH), tapping into his character’s myriad fears, obsessions and mental escapes and, when the mood and the co-star are superlative, becoming untouchable as an actor across all genres, capable of reducing grown macho hetero men into weeping heaps (I know, I’ve seen this personally happen).
Come this Friday, Benard will probably be up there again, trembling and commanding the stage with his intense, powerfully real presence. I’d also like to see validation for Chad Brannon (ex-Zander, GH), not just for his consistently ever-present body of work on the soap, but for consistently taking shit from the higher-ups through the mishandling of his character, so the rest of the cast can look better in comparison. It’s too bad Billy Warlock (ex-A.J., GH) isn’t listed up there either but oh well, can’t win ‘em all. As for the rest of the nominees, I could give a shit.
I’m just waiting for the SoapNet co-hosts on the Emmy Preview special to fuck up an actor’s name and designer, then verbally tap-dance like crazy. Oh, and Lisa Rinna (SoapTalk; ex-Billie, DOOL), with her excuse to parade around her enhancements, is always good for a laugh.
JUST A CONVENIENT EXCUSE TO GIVE SOAPSTERS SOME PRIMETIME
Normally, I avoid ABC’s “Hope & Faith” like it’s, well, every other nighttime sitcom on the roster. That network hasn’t been the same since the mid-‘80s...
But because an entire, impressive line-up of super soap stars were scheduled to appear in cameos on May 14 – AMC’s Susan Lucci (Erica), John Callahan (Edmund), Eva LaRue (Maria), Jacob Young (JR), Bobbie Eakes (Krystal), Finola Hughes (ex-Anna), Y&R’s Eric Braeden (Victor), B&B’s Susan Flannery (Stephanie), Ian Buchanan (ex-Joshua, PC; ex-James, B&B; ex-Duke, GH), etc. etc. – y’know... maybe they’d be funny, different from their usually sober soap alter-egos.
Well, Lucci, Callahan, Buchanan and Flannery did not fail to impress me. They have natural comic timing and that all-important ease in front of the camera whether they’re in daytime, primetime or movies. It’s not surprising that these particular actors are renown for their all-encompassing, diverse resumes and as firmly respected veterans in their chosen field.
The rest were overshadowed by Kelly Ripa’s (“Live With Regis & Kelly,” ex-Hayley, AMC) atrocious, hammy mugging, whining and overacting. She didn’t just steal the show, or chew the scenery, she demolished everything and everybody in sight with her, she was just putrid. I found myself longing for a Carmen Electra special.
The soap guest stars just seemed so damned grateful to be on a primetime show, any primetime show, that they, for the most part, fell all over themselves trying to do four seasons worth of auditioning in one cocktail party scene. Maybe this was executive producer Joanna Johnson’s (ex-Caroline, B&B) nifty way of sneaking them in and giving them some much-needed exposure.
I also noticed that the sitcom is called “HOPE & Faith.” And yet Ripa’s Faith – or is it Hope? -- takes over, leaving co-star Faith Ford (as Hope... confused yet? Barkeep!) in the dust, just part of the wallpaper, straight man to her comic flop, the Billy Warlock of primetime. If I were Ford (a superior comedienne from the hit but defunct “Murphy Brown” show), I’d be pissed and seeking the nearest exit, onto a real sitcom of my very own where I wouldn’t have to share the spotlight with an acting half-wit.
Ripa has a reputation for making anyone A) feel at ease, and B) laugh their heads off.
I ... : A) highly doubt that, B) aim higher and C) oh look, another HBO B-movie...
NOW, ON WITH THE SOAPS...
WT double F was with Greenlee’s impromptu wedding attire? I hesitate to say, dress, because, well, that thing with the goose down feathers as shoulder pads doesn’t quite qualify. Both Greenlee and Kendall – no slouches in the fashionable department on any other day – looked like Frederick’s of Hollywood rejects. I can hear Mae-B, my old (former) GH posting partner and (former) self-appointed commissioner of haute couture over on then-PCO (now SoapZone), cackling maniacally over her lukewarm chai.
Inserted into the punking of Danielle in the middle of a non-descript music store (aka, the pimping of Rebecca Budig’s [Greenlee] boyfriend, Bachelor Bob, and his debut CD) was another excuse for me to take a dump and grab another bag of microwave popcorn, maybe check the mail, water my garden out back, re-paint the kitchen... Aiden Turner (Aidan) had to go away for a short time to tend to family business. In the meantime, Tom Archdeacon took over as temp-recast, so he could enjoy a heart-to-heart, peppered with forced conviviality with another temp, I mean, newcomer Natalia Cigliuti (the recast Anita Santos Warner). Excuse me, Ms. McTavish: I. DON’T. CARE. And, please re-read Carolyn Hinsey’s (Soap Opera Digest’s “It’s Only My Opinion” columnist) past commentaries on how to properly introduce new characters and recasts by integrating them with known, familiar and beloved veteran characters. A shame, ‘cause Cigliuti – like OLTL’s Melissa Gallo (recast Adriana) – is a likeable, solid actress playing a likeable, good girl. She worked well opposite Eden Riegel (Bianca), if anyone can bring out the saintly in an unsaintly self-flagellating situation, it’s Riegel’s Bianca, and almost revived John Callahan’s Edmund, and I ain’t talkin’ his character being paraplegic.
I only saw one day’s worth of Richard Shoberg’s Tom Cudahy, asked to mentor a confused Jackson on Erica matters, to know I want more, give that man a contract. Don’t let him languish off-Broadway, bring him back for good, build up the Cudahy/Frye family, do more than talk an NAACP game about diversity, possibly make up for the sudden disappearance of GLAAD’s lesbian mascots, and help me remember how alcoholism and Tom related, something about an ex-husband to both Erica and Brooke, maybe a rape... Has it been that long since 1996?
Just when I’d started warming up to one of my most reviled AMC characters, Bianca reminds me again why I should forget it. Without knowing the details, without wanting to like Jack does, she immediately condemns her mother Erica as a selfish, self-centered coward who runs away at the slightest sign of familial discontent. Besides the fact that yeah, Erica is all that and worse, it wasn’t just a mere technicality of misunderstanding that drove Erica away. Bianca verbally ripped her own mother’s heart out, neatly erasing decades of that same mother’s suffering, nearly dying on the surgical table after painfully giving birth, losing custody of the toddler to an estranged, bitter and vengeful husband, having to start over with the little petulant and spoiled brat every shared break, singlehandedly helping to save that brat from anorexia when her father couldn’t be bothered, doing everything including risking her own freedom and life to protect Binky from all sorts of life’s nasties, including a death sentence. But one human weakness shown, and in Bianca’s exactingly high-maintenance pre-judgment, that’s all it takes to completely exterminate her own self-sacrificing, well-meaning mother from her life forever, fairly ordering Jack to follow suit, as if he’s a village idiot who has to be led by the ears by her highness. God! I hate Bianca.
Which reminds me of the SoapNet commercial featuring Emmy nominee Eden Riegel in a low-cut negligee, sashaying around and throwing out street slang, savoring every last syllable of her forced casual hip, ooh look at me so very not uptight, so tolerant, so able to joke around about myself and my character’s “lesbianca” moniker, which started off as an insult, btw. Painful.
Loved with sugar on top the Friday, May 14th scene between Viki and Dorian, my eyes were red and watering the entire time. Dorian visits, right after Kevin and Todd treat Viki with kid gloves due to her worsening heart condition. Viki lights into Dorian about her pact with Todd, to keep away from Blair and the children. Then mocks Dorian about her claiming motherhood over long-lost daughter Adriana. Dorian being Dorian, doesn’t think about the health consequences of mouthing off right back to Viki, she just does, yelling about how she hates Viki so sanctimonious, then about to leave in a huff when Viki quietly says, “Thank you.” Dorian stops, turns, looks curious. Then, Viki explains how her entire family has been walking “on eggshells” to avoid possibly setting her off and causing another heart arrhythmia. “But not you,” Viki says finally, with admiration in her eyes and gratitude in her voice. This, and the beauty and humility in Dorian’s wordless reaction, said more and gave more than a hundred of John and Natalie’s coital misses. More Viki and Dorian, pronto.
Please erase the excruciatingly cliché, boring, repetitious character-damaging story about Kelly’s big secrets and lies, and let the girl go back to being her wacky, hysterical, lovable and loving self. This isn’t even Kelly anymore but the writers’ fucked-up version of her, because they’re, IMHO, afraid of letting recast Heather Tom be other than a tight-lipped, whining bitch on-screen. Come on, the actress is nothing like her former Y&R’s Victoria or this Stepford version of Kelly. When Todd yelled at Kelly finally to “Get a grip!” I could hear the echo of a thousand other fans likewise. No wonder Gina Tognoni (ex-original Kelly) ran away, straight to low-rated, struggling GL. Different experience must mean, anything but OLTL.
The hard work to soften, humanize and dimensionalize Jennifer Rappaport has paid off. I like her a lot better now that she’s not only about sleeping around, drinking too much and doing nothing but whining about her sorry lot in life. Now that she’s got a burgeoning interest which could turn into a career in directing independent films and a solid friendship with a fellow screw-up, but oh-so-self-important Riley, behaving herself around other young men, not horning in on Marcie’s boyfriend Michael anymore, Marcie rooming with her again and just generally showing she’s more than the symbolic skank of the show... I can finally see how she was once compared to a young Victoria Lord.
Natalie suffers in comparison. Dreadfully. She blows up way out of proportion whenever Jen’s around, convincing me it’s 90 percent a front, to give this nebulous character some street cred to look favorably with dark outcast John. Although, the titillation ranked up there with some of the sexiest porn during Jolie’s make-out scenes. Black bra on big boobies, right move, mommy like.
Mommy also like Antonio’s undercover work. Stripping at a club? Eeeeee!
Out of the mouths of nuns: “Let me have this straight. Sonny wants a wife, children, and a mistress on the side?” The Costa Rican nun really let Jason, Sonny and Jax have it. A poster on a popular soap message board said it was as if the nun had conjured up the spirits of the bulk of the GH fans in her diatribe, calling out Mr. Honesty, Jason Morgan, for his lies of omission and the silent treatment not working on her; Mr. Code of Honor, Sonny Corinthos, for his sins of pride, adultery and treating women and children like property; and Mr. Candy Playboy, Jasper Jacks, for refusing to commit to anything that doesn’t immediately gratify his self-centered, power-mongering bachelor ego and using his wealth to get his way. Can this lady stay on, maybe she’s Tracy’s long-lost cousin, fourth removed?
It’s creepy the way Jax and Sonny argue over Sam and her unborn baby, as if the mother was merely a means to owning the child, as the nun said, a reflection of themselves. But then, this is GH, written by two men, one of whom is industry-famous for using a woman as Madonna, whore and her womb as a baby incubator.
Another flight of stairs?! Either the writers are truly suffering from short- and long-term memory loss, or they’re purposely giving fans the big ole middle finger for daring to notice and complain about the number one frequently used method of threatening and inevitably killing another fetus. And, I’m still waiting for Ric to find out that Faith caused Elizabeth’s miscarriage in the first place.
Gee, Carly and Courtney are still bemoaning their respective Sonny- and Jason-induced love troubles. If I didn’t glance at my watch and calendar, I wouldn’t know that over a year had elapsed.
I’m sure Dylan Cash is a wonderful kid, charming co-star and all-around talented little budding actor, but his eerie deadpan portrayal of bratty mini-Sonny is really starting to annoy me. He may act like his adoptive father, but his actually looks like his biological one, A.J., when he’s pissed off and ordering Lorenzo and Sam around. Whenever Michael slinks into view, I hear the theme to “The Omen.” Let’s override this child taking over way too much of the show with some adults, maybe Coleman and Tracy, a coupla older Quartermaines...the rotting carcass of characters past.
I didn’t think I’d enjoy Courtney and Jax – Casper – much at conception. But after Jax kept fumbling around with diapering duties, as Courtney tried vainly not to notice – or bug him about the big suave playboy getting doo-doo on his suit – I think I could be falling in love. That hasn’t happened since Brenda walked in on Jax playing pinball, and rising in his shorts.
Hey, Coggie. It's Alynn. (from the old Bitchfest in case it's been too long)
I realized it's been forever and a day since I talked to you (or at least since Marzi shut down the old Bitchfest), so I thought that I'd drop you a line and see how you were doing. I read your new column (so you finally left Soaptown!), and I see that you and I still seem to share a lot of the same opinions. Particularly creepy was the instantaneous idea that Travis and River must be related [“(disjointed) Snap Judgments,” May 11, 2004], because that was my first (unarticulated) thought but I thought for sure that I was wrong. (I'm not as up on the OLTL character histories, and I'm still getting over the idea that it's somehow not supposed to be icky that River wants to marry his mother's sister.)
Also strangely, I happened to just have read that NY Times article about spoilers just yesterday. (Attempting to be a good little informed student I get the Sunday Times, but find myself reading mostly the Arts and Entertainment sections, and sometimes the business sections when they knock Disney.) Anyway, I understood what Joss Whedon was getting at, but he lost me when he said that the only way to curtail spoilers was to produce a show that people weren't interested in. I could be an odd case (it wouldn't be the first time people thought so) but I think it's the opposite, particularly in the case of the soap message boards.
When the show is good and interesting and compelling, the market for spoilers goes down. It's when people feel the need to do a cost-benefit analysis before watching to determine if it's worth it to tune in that spoilers become required reading.
I know I can't watch GH without spoilers (I can't watch very much of GH regardless right now, but that's a whole different topic ;) ) because more often than not the show is a waste of my time, but I didn't even venture into a forum that dealt with The OC or with AMC (pre MMT's insistence somehow that Greenlee and Ryan have some sort of star-crossed romance, as though Leo and Gillian and even Kendall now never existed) in order to avoid accidental spoiling. I know in the Television Without Pity GH thread, we'd like nothing more than to discuss the show, except the show spends most of its time being unwatchable. So it's either discuss the spoilers before they inevitably prove to be as uninteresting as the present, or become mired in nostalgia (which is more desirable to me, but that's not going to happen on SZ), or to discuss other things that are only linked with the show in a tertiary manner, like baseless rumor, conspiracy theory, and encounters with departed actors.
... I think that spoilers are probably more prevalent now because it's rather easy to get information from one side of the country to another between people who were previously perfect strangers, and it's easier to find other people who share your hobby (particularly for the smaller "cult" shows). So I think that there are more people who are exposed to spoilers than previously would have been.
But I also think that the nature of marketing and promotion has changed too, and I don't think that's driven by the audience's use of technology per se, but rather the network's/showrunner's fear of new technology and the increasing lack of a captive audience. Look at NBC--they spoil their audiences with their promos, for ER, for Friends (they put Ross' kissing Rachel right on the promo, or some plot twist for the West Wing right there whilst proclaiming it to be the Most Important [insert NBC show here] EVER! and then complain about the pervasiveness of spoilers).
I think that when a show is consistently well written, gives the audience what it wants (and not in a pandering to fan bases sort of way, but a well-produced show sort of way), and doesn't become dependent on stunts in order to get people to tune in, then the presence of spoilers doesn't matter one way or the other.
The only time having spoilers can make or break the experience of watching the show is when the event is the only compelling reason to tune in. If all you have is that X is going to happen this week, and the circumstances surrounding X (like the dialogue, or where it leads the characters involved in X) are underwhelming, then yeah, a spoiler can be bad. But using the NBC example, I was unspoiled for Friends (and as I understand Marta Kaufmann and David Crane made no attempt to keep it under wraps), but everything that happened in the Friends finale was pretty much to be expected. Ross and Rachel got back together, Chandler and Monica had their baby (although the twins were a surprise), and Chandler and Monica moved out. But it wasn't what happened that made the episode worth watching so much as how it happened, and there's not a spoiler in the world short of bootlegging the episode that could have given that away.
To take another example, take the Bianca's rape episodes on AMC. That story was spoiled out the wazoo, through official channels and through unofficial channels, on the View, on Soapnet Previews, etc. We all knew what was going to happen, when, how, who it was going to happen to, and under what circumstances. It was still really compelling, with the juxtapositions between Bianca and Erica, the destruction of Bianca contrasting with the healing of Kendall. The spoilers didn't matter because it wasn't solely the event that made the show. (It may be a bad example, though, because rape is a difficult subject to watch generally.)
I think that spoilers are the scapegoat, along with the increase in choices, for a decision on the production and marketing end to put too much emphasis on spectacle to draw in instant rating, rather than using consistent quality to draw in a more loyal viewer base. So then the problem's not with the product, it's with the viewers ruining the product for themselves.
I went to see Billy Warlock in The Normal Heart last weekend, and got to talk to him afterward to boot. On the one hand, I'm still chagrined that TPTB went to such lengths to chase him away, especially considering how good he was in a role that was not at all AJ (neither their skewed concept of AJ, nor how AJ ended up coming off to the audience). On the other hand, had Pruza and Frons and JFP not been such dicks, he wouldn't have the chance to branch out into a new medium (and I wouldn't have been able to hop onto the train one weekend with my theater tickets and see him act in person).
... He was very, very good. More than held his own with what I thought was some pretty difficult dialogue. I read the play before going to see it, mostly because sad works--movies, theater, books--tend to depress me if I don't know what's coming. (So I spoiled myself to better enjoy the experience. Hah! Email, continuity!) As I was reading it, I actually found myself getting a little bit annoyed with the play. The Normal Heart is definitely political, and topical in a different way now than it was when it debuted 20 years ago, but it's full of (sometimes overly) long soliloquies that tend toward the pedantic. Billy's character, Felix, was no exception. I think with a lesser cast, it would have become awkward, but the way they interpreted the dialogue, both though the phrasing and the active listening that we’re used to all the time in the big group scenes (like the Quartermaine family and courtroom scenes and the like), added a humanistic slant on a rather preachy play.
What struck me was how un-AJ-like Felix was, because the characters had a few similarities when as you're reading the play (most notably being separated from his son). Felix was open and confident; he had a physical security that AJ lacked, so that when we got to the scene you read about when he dragged himself across the stage, it was all the more powerful that the deterioration was breaking the body of one with such a strong spirit. He has a really big presence, particularly in the first act and as the play went on, and Felix's AIDS progressed, he seemed to get physically smaller. He more than held his own with some very seasoned theater actors.
Personally, the only thing that would have indicated to me that he didn't have a lot of theater experience (if I didn't know that already) was that after the performance was over he seemed to have a little bit of trouble shaking off his character. We (my mom and I) met both him and Raul Esparza, who played the lead Ned Weeks, in the lobby of the theater afterwards, not more than ten minutes after the show was over. Billy seemed tired, and he told us that it was rather draining to go through that emotionally, because it is a very emotional play (but still very friendly to us). In contrast, Raul was almost abnormally chipper (and also extremely nice) after the show, as though he'd left Ned behind in his dressing room, and Billy was still carrying a little bit of Felix around with him. It wasn't a bad thing, but I suspect that's the kind of thing you get with more experience. But his performance was so good that you'd think he'd been doing theater for years.
Personally, I thought that the Felix and Ned subplot (co-plot?) was the most powerful of the play, probably because I was approaching it from a different perspective than the original audience would have.
The play takes place on two fronts, in a way: with the Gay Men's Health Foundation's (I think that's the name of the organization) attempting to raise awareness about the epidemic, and at home with Ned and Felix as their relationship grew and as the epidemic affects Ned in the most personal way possible. It takes place around the time I was born, and so I had the advantage of knowing what the mysterious disease was, knowing about prevention, and 20 years of additional research. I didn't really need the lesson that the (for lack of a better term) "public face" of the Normal Heart was trying so hard to teach. Ned and Felix's scenes were more about acceptance and love, and how everybody is entitled to both. The second act was tragically reminiscent of La Boheme, and you believed that Ned and Felix were family.
They're extending the show through the summer, and there's even talk that it may move to Broadway in the fall, so they'll all be Tony-eligible.
... So anyway, I hope everything is well with you ... and I hope you're having a better time writing for EOS. I've been meaning to drop you a line for awhile (particularly around the time when Matrix Revolutions came out--that was a letdown, wasn't it? None of our theories on the Architect panned out) and I figured now was as good a time as usual.
May 12, 2004
May 4, 2004
April 27, 2004
April 20, 2004 - GH
April 14, 2004 - OLTL