Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The times, they are a-changin'

Hello, internet friends! It has been ten days since last I posted, and so very many things have happened! I turned 27, which feels much like 26, 25, and 24. I deleted my Facebook account, which feels much like 22, 21, 20, and all those other ages before there was Facebook. I contracted a horrible disease that I guess one might call a cold, but which seems like a milder version of death.

And, of course, I moved to New York.

I now live at the southern end of the neighborhood in Manhattan known as Washington Heights. Being who you are, dear readers, you may know it best from the musical set here, Lin-Manuel Miranda's In the Heights. My exploratory urges having been tamped down by my coughing, sneezing, nose-like-a-faucet cold, I have yet to discover anything of the neighborhood's character, but I do know that there are several hardware stores nearby, none of which have paint chips and only one of which exhorts its customers to turn to Jesus.

I am living with some friends from college who really should get new code names, since I haven't given them any in about 2 years. I will take suggestions from those who know them (including the gentlemen themselves), hopefully settling on permanent ones within a few days. Thus far the Roommates to be Named Later and I have had quite an enjoyable time throwing a party, rearranging the kitchen, and planning things like painting, furniture arranging, and possibly eventually having beds. Living with them feels much like 23, the one age I missed in my earlier paragraph. Why? Well, because when I was 23 I lived with them. It's not much of a simile.

I already miss, of course, the Mysterious X, my previous cohabitant. This apartment will have far, far fewer donuts (refried or otherwise), giant ridiculous foods, and facts about that country to the north of this one whose name I have already forgotten without her expert tutelage. And less musicology, but perhaps that will be a welcome vacation? We shall see. I will attempt to reinstate, once I am healthy and settled, something approaching our immortal Bad Sci Fi evenings, if only to tempt her, the She God of Shark Reef, Z2, Gris, and our various guests to visit me in New York. Perhaps we will begin with a repeat viewing of Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine.

I will also be rejoined here shortly by my previous cohabitant, the hedgehog known as Nikolai Funkhovzrovich Rostropovich. He has been on a six-month retreat living with the parents, but has worn out his welcome there and will therefore be once again living in my bedroom. Let me tell you, you don't appreciate hardwood floors enough until you've lived with a hedgehog on carpets.

Already I have done a little of each of the two things that necessitated my move to New York: taking care of my parents and going to see musicals. My parents remain in a bad state; that is a subject for another post on another day. The musicals I have seen were part of the West Village Musical Theater Festival, a series of short ("fifteen-minute," but in name only) musicals created by young composers/lyricists/book writers who included my friend and colleague from LA, the pseudonymous RPL. I'm certain she won't want that as her code name, since it comes directly from the short musical of hers that she wrote for this festival, but it'll do for now. Let me break down the shows just a bit.

1. Between the Bricks. A dystopian sequel to The Wizard of Oz featuring the theme song "Ding dong, the Wizard of Oz is dead." Couldn't hear the lyrics because the main singer (I believe his character was the scarecrow, known as Scare? Or possibly the character just called L, presumably for L. Frank Baum?) needed to be in a much higher register both for his own voice and to be heard above the chorus. Also, has the book writer read a book called Wicked? I hear they made a musical out of that already.

2. Hapless Romance. BEST. SHOW. EVER. A musical about Dungeons and Dragons that quoted both the famous Queen of the Night aria from Die Zauberflöte (Check out two of my favorite performances at those links. If you get sucked into watching all of the vegetable ocarina videos at the first one, don't blame me) and "A Little Fall of Rain" from Les Misérables to great comic effect! It started out by seeming like a deleted scene from I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change (awkward people are blind-dating each other; how novel!), but once the couple arrives at their date and the audience discovers that it's a D&D game, everything is FABULOUS. The Dungeon Mistress, played by the truly outstanding Sarah Stevens (I'm just guessing that the Sarah Stevens at that link is the same one), runs a tight and deadly game, with the standard dice rolling replaced for the theater by games of rock-paper-scissors. Also, Dungeon Mistress instead of Dungeon Master? Excellent decision. The idea of fantasy gaming dorks who are also women is still novel to some people, for some reason, and it was pleasantly normalized here (though "normal" is not a word to describe much of this show). I could actually go on for a very long time about the things I loved in this tiny little musical, but instead let me just say that all of the women involved (composer/lyricist, book writer, director, and most of the cast, which is already an awesome thing!) were truly fantastic, and the two men were not too shabby either, particularly the very funny leading man.

3. Galileo the Musical. I have stated often my heartfelt belief that if you need to add "the musical" to the end of your title, it's probably not worth doing, Cannibal! and Urinetown excepted. This did not challenge my theory. 'Nuff said.

4. Rat Poison Love. My friend's show! (I'll bet you thought Hapless Romance was hers, didn't you?) In the spirit of fairness, let me say that it was uneven. I really enjoyed the premise, and (for the most part) the performances. Above all, I enjoyed the music; the title song remains stuck in my head even now. The book and lyrics, though, were just not my favorite. They often seemed not to match the music's tone. Also, the show seemed very Next-to-Normal-inspired, which is not a bad thing of course, but can feel derivative if not handled carefully.

5. Annabel. NOT A MUSICAL. Somehow this won the Best Musical award from the set of shows I saw (there was another set of six more playing on another night), but it was, in fact, a ballet-pantomime in the best 19th-century tradition. Costumes were lovely, dancing was great, music was forgettable but functioned wonderfully with the choreography, and not one word was spoken or sung. Also, the plot seemed, to my not-so-dance-oriented eyes, to be "Boy meets girl. Boy sleeps with girl. Girl dies because she has lost her virginity so really what else is there for her to do." There's even a moment, in the concluding funeral scene, where the girl's father looks disapprovingly at the boy who killed his daughter, while everyone else looks at her corpse. Notice how not once does the title character, Annabel, function as anything other than the object of the boy's actions. The boy who is, inexplicably, named Humbert. Shades of Lolita for some reason? Also, the idea of Annabel's untimely death as somehow necessitating, at the dramatic climax of the story (though not the sexual climax), an interaction between her father and her lover? Patriarchy much?

Had I to rank the musicals, they would be as follows:

1. Hapless Romance
2. Rat Poison Love
3. Galileo
4. Between the Bricks
5. (disqualified; not a musical)

Okay, time to return to unpacking while fretting about my boxes (did I tell you the post office seems to have lost two of them again? Joy!). I hope you've enjoyed this visit to the depths of my mind, and that if you've found this entry by googling the name of your show, my somewhat uninformed reactions have not hurt your feelings.

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