Oct 13, 2009

Event Reviews @ The Temple

Pink Martini – Yay pink martini! I saw them a couple years ago at the rialto, and liked it a lot. I liked it a lot again this time.  It was largely the same, though they have a new album coming out so there were 3 or 4 new songs from them, all of which I liked, a couple of which were great. Pink Martini is a weird band, most of their music is not their own, but they play such eclectic stuff you never would have heard, that’s not a bad thing. Their original music isn’t as good anyway, as a rule, though some of it is still quite good. They are very different, they have a lot of members and instruments, which is great. Some of them are very talented, the violinist, pianist, and trumpeter in particular. But the others are pretty good too. I like the banter between the main two – the pianist and lead singer, though my concert companion actively disliked it, so *shrug*. I am in agreement concerning the lead singer’s stage presence.  Much like my dislike for dudes “rocking out” on guitars, I think a lead singer has pretty much no choice but to seem awkward on stage. They sway, or they do little dances, or they move their arms around dramatically, it’s all silly. She is especially silly, she flows with the music in a corny way, and she has a touch of overly dramatic gestures that seem divaish, but in a sort of flighty way. It’s kind of annoying, I remember thinking the same thing last time. But it’s not at all bad enough that it prevents me from liking the show. It was all fun and I had a great time.

The Kiterunner by the Arizona Theater Company – This is my first exposure to this story, I’ve not read the book or seen the movie.  I’m a little disappointed that that’s true, as I think there is a solid story here, but it was not very well executed. The story, for those like me, is a guy who grows up in Kabul, Afghanistan, some sad things happen, they come to america, more sad things, back to home for some other sad things. It is certainly an interesting story, the protagonist isn’t much of a hero and his life is crappy which is generally a good way to tell a story. There were good elements to this play, the sets were good for a non-profit organization like this. The musical accompaniment by this guy on what I presume are afghani style drums was very cool. They did well with lighting, two scenes in particularly were notable solely for their lighting. The two big faults, I’m sad to say, are the writing and the acting. I don’t know how the book is written, but the transition to the stage wasn’t convincing. The story is too compact, to neat and tidy, maybe this is to fit it in 2.5 hours, maybe it was that way to start. There are a few moments of parallelism in the show, something I typically love, but it was too forced, the echo too close to the sound, I didn’t like it. The first act is told far enough in the past that the main actor is a kid in the memories, but the main guy is narrating, walking around in his own history.  This is fantastic, I love that structure, and for the most part it was very effective. The second half he continues to narrate, but he’s acting his own part, and the structure fails. It’s still okay, in principle, but he starts to narrate things you can see happening, see him doing! I hate over narration, if I can see it, you don’t gotta tell me it’s happening. There’s some genuine humor, but some of it is forced. There was a particularly disappointing taliban scene that was actually pretty bad. They turned the taliban into cartoon characters, caricatures of evil, and it is not only not convincing, but is ridiculous. For me, the proper way to handle something like real evil is not so simplified. Evil doesn’t list its atrocities, it isn’t a bond villain proclaiming it’s lack of virtue.   It doesn’t surprise me that this isn’t a true story, because life doesn’t work like that, it’s not so clean, evil isn’t so evil, virtue isn’t so virtuous, cowardice isn’t so cowardly. So the writing is a problem, but it has an interesting core. Sadly, the acting is the real fault here. Everyone else is okay, the kids are pretty good, the dad is decent.  There’s some funniness with accents, I assume these are all the typical cast of ATC made to sound afghani, and the accents seemed kind of fake.  Then again, maybe they are all afghans and I’m super wrong and semi-racist. The real problem is the protagonist.  Early on he’s shakey, he talks at you instead of performing for you and he overacts. His emotion rings untrue, his humor is more often pressed on you than shared with you.  But in the second act it gets actively bad. As he tries to act harder, his lack of skill becomes apparent. His screaming and yelling and crying and praying are all borderline awful. I feel pretty awful saying that, but it was actually very bad, for me. And when you are in a situation where everything revolves around this guy and all the emotion ties to him, if he fails, the play fails.  So there we are, the play failed. Seems like a good foundation, I suppose I should see the movie (if only because I’m very unlikely to make time for the book). I do have a fear that the problems I have with the plot will remain, though, even with better actors.

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