Like Tiny Ninja Theater's Shakespeare productions, it's a funny concept that, in the wrong hands, can fail miserably. Cherry pulled it off flawlessly, though. The story was told clearly so that kids could understand it, but it never once talked down. The character that Cherry seemed to have the most fun puppeteering was the white slave owner. Sometimes he was a hapless, Mayberry-style hayseed. A few times, though, he was full-on Deliverance, hillbilly scary. Sorry, Zell.
I was so high on puppetry (my new anti-drug) after seeing the show that I went straight to the gift shop and bought a cow finger puppet. Other than aggravate my dogs, I'm not really sure what I'm gonna do with it, though. Perhaps I should write a finger puppet play called New York Subway, Not a Sandwich Shop and dedicate it to my cousin who (true story) during his first trip to New York City was quite confused by all the talk about finding the subway.
Smiley: Theaters are often inexplicably and uncomfortably cold, particularly for those of us lacking insulation (i.e. the bald). On Friday night, I had the pleasure of seeing a play where the meat locker-like temperature of the theater at least had a rationale. The play was Roger Guenveur Smith's one-man show, Iceland, part of the National Black Arts Festival. The rationale was not that Iceland (the country) is cold and therefore the theater should be. Rather, the reason for cranking up the A/C appears to have been keeping Smith's nipples hard. He performed the entire play in a wife-beater T-shirt. His nips, hard for the whole show, were important accessories (which, as we all know, makes or breaks an outfit).
Smith is more famous for his movie and TV work than for his plays. That's kinda too bad, because both of his one-man shows that I've seen (the other being 1996's A Huey P. Newton Story) are grandilimagnifiliciously good. In Iceland, Smith depicts both halves of a broken couple, the man having run off to Iceland, the woman remaining in Brooklyn, where they once lived together. While playing back their time together, the couple (both artists) transform into a Haitian dictator and his wife. As CL theater critic Curt Holman wrote in this paper a couple of weeks ago, the play transposes the political and personal.
I very nearly went up to Smith after the play to ask him about what it all meant, but I was overcome with shyness. He seems friendly, but he's such an amazing actor and writer that, frankly, I was intimidated. Afterward, I felt like an idiot for missing the chance to talk to him, so I made a point of not repeating the same mistake the next night while attending Albino Mattioli's Atlanta farewell show at artist Jason E. Johnson's house. Mattioli is an Italian-born abstract painter. Saturday night's Quattro Anni Ad Atlanta show displayed some of the paintings he created during the four years he's lived here (he's moving to Madagascar for a while, hence the farewelling).
The painting that I was most drawn to was a portrait titled "Nader." After speculating with a couple of fellow art-watchers about whether the person depicted was in fact Ralph Nader, Mattioli walked in and cleared it up for us. The Nader in question is a friend of his, an Iranian-born architect living in Boston. (So am I a closet nationalist for being drawn to abstract paintings of Iranians?) Another one of his gems depicted a man with his head over a toilet. It was called "Art & Entertainment."
A lot of the charm in Mattioli's work comes from his dead-on evocation of child-like wonder. He's not just skilled at evoking it, though. He can also reproduce it perfectly. On a table in the middle of the show sat a stack of construction-paper drawings that looked exactly like kid drawings. At will, it seems Mattioli is able to shrug off his adult skills and draw as if he were a child. Either that, or he's just an amazing mimic.
Seymour: Blur, one of the best and most musically ambitious rock bands on Earth (biased, moi?), played a close to sold-out show at the Tabernacle Saturday night. Even though I obviously love them, I was still surprised at how crowded the show was. The group has hardly been on the radio or TV since 1997's "Song 2" (the one that goes "Woo-hoo!").
The show didn't have the raw rock energy of Blur shows of the past, but they made up for it with sophistication (backing vocalists to reproduce the intricate harmonies they put on their records) and rhythmic oomph (a second drummer). The constant gear shifting (from punk, to tribal rhythms, to soaring ballads, and back again) seemed to disorient and annoy some (for example, the three guys behind me who kept saying so), but Blur's nimbleness is the essence of its charm. Complaining about their musical range is like complaining that the movie Moulin Rouge was over the top (which a lot of reviewers did). Duh, that's the point.
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Why don't some of you aficionados buy it and operate it?
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