Category Archives: Entertainment Review

I love you, Winona!


I love you, Winona! What a pleasure it was to be whisked away by Fran and Margot to the home of the Great River Shakespeare Festival in the middle of the week. The Merry Wives of Winsor was a thoroughly enjoyable production and ensured that we will be back for more. You packed the house and now I know why.

It’s a beautiful drive from the Twin Cities to Winona State University that has been hosting the festival for the past eleven years. What? I could have seen Yo-Yo Mah for twenty-five dollars at your Beethoven Festival? Now you’re just bragging. No wonder the inn keeper was bustling on air when she put on that fresh pot of coffee. I thought she might actually do a pirouette.

On the way down, we cut over to the Wisconsin to snake our way down the river to Stockholm. We saw eagles swooping just off the bluffs and that never gets old. After wandering through an art gallery where I was sorry that my parents had not been with us as I saw a million beautiful things they would have loved, we cheated and enjoyed our dessert before dinner at the Stockholm Pie Company. Then it was to the Minnesota Marine Art Museum. What a treasure. Again, the woodcut prints by Nick Wroblewski made me wish that my parents could have made the trip. My dad would have been impressed.

We didn’t do anything especially noteworthy for dinner, although my spinach cranberry salad at the Green Mill hit the spot. Then it was to the show (delightful, as I said) and back to the motel. Before leaving the next day, at breakfast we learned from a Harley rider who was waiting for her man to get out of bed that there was a lot more to see. A bank with stained glass windows? I won’t miss it.

Thanks for a lovely day off, Winona.

Taking in Some Theater

The Year I was BornWe’ve been enjoying The Walker’s Out There series, which comes around every year in the heart of winter, a good time to hunker down in their cave of a theater that makes the audience feel like a part of the set with its wavy gray walls that bring spray-painted Styrofoam to mind. With one exception, we loved the series, each show for different reasons. We recommend that you catch the last of it tonight or tomorrow. Lola Arias’s The Year I Was Born is definitely worth seeing.

Generally worried about the road conditions and realizing that the time I was going to use to make myself presentable might be needed to help shovel our way out instead, we considered bagging it. I’m really glad we didn’t.

The Year I Was Born was great theater and solid story-telling and it will stick with me for a long time. Following eleven Chileans with disparate political and economic backgrounds and who were born during Pinochet’s reign (1973-1990), the piece widened my vision and deepened my capacity to absorb parallel histories such that I could somehow understand everything at once. What was I doing when Alexandra’s mother, Pitty, was gunned down by government thugs? I can only hope that I wasn’t cursing Verizon or consumed with some similar inanity.

By comparison, Wunderbaum’s (with LAPD) Hospital was a didactic dud that would make me think twice about seeing a show put on by political activists the same way I might be highly skeptical of a movie starring Keanu Reeves. Unlike The Year I Was Born, which is also a historical piece that relies on personal stories, this show has few theatrical elements that work. Instead it lays out the history of health care in the United States in such a way that it wouldn’t have been surprising if they had fired up PowerPoint. Overall, Hospital lacked a sense of humor, a refuge that even a play about a brutal dictatorship provided.

Kuro Tanino’s Niwa Gekidan Penino (The Room Nobody Knows) was visually stunning the minute the curtains opened to a diorama-esque scene that made you long to step into its sparkling amethyst cubby. It was a scene so intimate that the audience was actually seated on the main stage, creating a stage within a stage that I liked to imagine infinitely repeated itself. The music was equally breathtaking. There is no version of Pachelbel’s Canon that will ever come close to what four actors accomplished with recorders. More than once for a conventionally unacceptable number of minutes, the director leaves us in the pitch dark with nothing but this music. Everything else melts away. Every worry. Every plan. Every thought. If I could conjure up this moment on demand, I’m not sure I would do anything else.

Equally addictive was a moment from Clément Layes’ Public in Private. A potted plant. A spotlight. A performer, head tucked and pointing to the plant in the light. Music! Cut mid-note! That was it for me. More than wondering how this guy did the entire show with a glass of water balanced on the side of his head, or recalling other stand-alone physical feats that amazed and made for wonderfully playful moments, I’ll think about that plant and wonder how such an image could make me feel sad about the state of the world and hopeful at the same time. I love a show that leaves you speechless, and this is one of them.

The Wolf of Wall Street – Movie Review

BJH: I didn’t fall asleep. See It.

RJS: I didn’t wake up mad. Skip it.

RJS: While there are reasons to recommend this movie, I suspect I’m just hoping that the words of the coke-snorting Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey) might penetrate our collective psyche. Hanna deflowers Wall Street neophyte, Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio), with the truth about legalized gambling, as he describes an unsustainable game of musical chairs where there are a few winners and a lot of losers, and where no goods are produced and trillions of dollars of wealth is “all on paper.” It sounded pretty accurate to me and it’s better entertainment than The Crash Course.

Another scene that should have been required viewing for Mr. Randall’s high school Family Economics class where I learned how to balance an imaginary checkbook is where Belfort sells four thousand dollars of penny stocks to some schmuck over the telephone. As he reels in fish bait, Belfort and his sleazy crew of rehabilitated losers pantomime their valued customer – a family man who’s finally asserting some independence from his more cautious ball and chain – literally taking it up the ass.

From the beginning, we know that we’re in for a stomach-turning, eye-averting ride when for $10,000 an employee at a brokerage firm entertains her co-workers by shaving her head. Apparently abusing midgets and lining up to gangbang skanky whores at the office in the middle of a workday didn’t cut it for these assholes. While she quickly loses her idolatrous audience to more seductive pleasures before the deed is done – imagine a toddler casually setting aside a shiny new toy as he wanders off for a television fix – the mangy woman is not humiliated in vain. Ten grand will pay for a boob job.

The degradation of every single woman in this movie was very, very upsetting and leaves nothing about the lifestyle of the superrich – as it is depicted here – to be envied. And where I might suspect some movies of hiding behind “telling it like it is” as an excuse to flirt with gratuitous violence and misogynistic fantasies where a man can whack off to a bombshell at a party in front of his wife without the threat of consequences. I can’t make that case here no more than it’s justified to be upset with a war journalist for taking pictures of dead children.

With frame-by-frame disturbing images, I wondered if the movie could have been an effective art exhibit to be absorbed on the viewer’s own terms. As it is, I felt assaulted and maybe that’s the point. We would have missed out on some physically comical scenes, like when a paralyzed luded-up Belfort has to get himself behind the wheel of his car to stop the Feds from ruining his ill-gotten life. But there are other scenes that would have translated to paint quite well. For example, there’s the brief moment when we see The Wolf carrying a monkey through a sea of cubicles full of bottom feeders who will say anything to close a deal because they’ve bought into a system where they matter and you don’t.

On second thoughts, maybe The Wolf of Wall Street is worth seeing.