THE MUSIC MAN
With Seán Martinfield
THE LONG CHRISTMAS RIDE HOME -
At Magic Theatre
May 22, 2006
Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Paula Vogel's THE LONG CHRISTMAS
RIDE HOME, now at the Magic Theatre until June 11th, is drivel.
Time to say to Ms. Vogel, "Write about what you know."
Because - what, with common sense and as evidenced in her own
stage directions, i.e., pages 59-60: "I do not pretend to
it is as unknown to me as the backroom of
it is up to the director and choreographer to
" - that
ain't it, kid.
Personally touted as her "love poem to San Francisco",
its core and final messages border precariously close to: You
deserve what you get. Because one of her characters, "Stephen",
dies of AIDS (presumably after 1985 during the days of AZT), it
does not qualify as a story about AIDS nor does the fact of it
foster any compassion towards the character. Moreover, I am offended
by the spiritual treacle of Stephen's "Ghost" coming
back on his "Feast Day" (December 26th, the Feast of
St. Stephen, patron saint of deacons and bricklayers - why?) to
"walk along the bluffs of the Presidio at sunset." Why?
Oh! There's the reason! A white-haired white guy doing a Traditional
Asian Exercise who thinks he sees me and - wow! Must be! Yeah,
yeah! You can get laid even after your dead! (Or was that just
a bit of infused Modernism?) And then go rescue your dysfunctional
STEPHEN: Ahh! My breath thunders in my chest! How wonderful it
feels to breathe!
On the last of his pre-AIDS days, Ms. Vogel would have us believe
that - following 4 meager thrusts of unprotected pounding in the
backroom of "The Cave" - Stephen could feel the virus
entering his body. Following this anonymous / filled-with-self-loathing
/ knowingly suicidal tryst (poor Stephen got mad because his lover
was screwing a former choir boy from St. Christopher's) and during
his remaining several years - while those of us out here in Reality
Land were burying our lovers, friends, parents, children, brothers,
sisters, as well as the doctors who prescribed the medications,
that is, when we weren't marching on the Capitol steps of Washington,
DC or sending wake-up calls to various Houses of the Divine -
Stephen says he could feel the virus "multiply with a ferocious
beauty - replicating patterns that changed and mutated."
STEPHEN: It is a very terrible beauty. But it is a beauty all
Take away the accouterments of Bunraku puppetry, flying kimonos,
paper lanterns, back-lit screens for X-rated puppet shows and
the occasional soundings of Shamisen Player Philip Flavin - and
what we are left with is Vogel's capricious claptrap. As noted
in a Hollywood-cult film, very-very popular at The Castro Theatre
back in the '80s, this CHRISTMAS RIDE is the stuff of a "5th-rate
Vaudevillian." [Albolened thumb to the door] "The heave-ho!"
Banking on previous commentary concerning another pile-up at
the Magic Theatre [see article, 3-12-06], I am in total admiration
of the incredible talent Artistic Director Chris Smith gathered
together for this production. Once again, the entire cast (including
the nimble puppeteers) is better than their material and deserving
of your future attention and support. In order of appearance,
they are: Nick Sholley (Stephen), Julia Brothers (Narrator/Mother),
Steve Irish (Narrator/Father), Jess Curtis (Minister/Others),
Lisa Anne Porter (Rebecca), and Jennifer Clare (Claire). Given
what Smith describes as an "amalgamation of influences",
the direction and puppetry by Basil Twist and choreography by
Joe Goode are absolutely clean thumbs-up first-rate. After page
3 and with no Intermission and the EXIT sign being way-over-there,
it was time to discern and appreciate the commanding talents of
the directors and designers.
Reminder: Time to order or renew your Subscription to MAGIC THEATRE.
Not every Christmas is going to be as silly as the one there now.
Phone: (415) 441-8822