Meet the Reverend!

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ANNOUNCER: Good evening, ladies, and gentlemen, and welcome to MEET THE REVEREND!  A thirty-minute question and answer show where issues of national importance are discussed with prominent individuals from our society and the world at large.

Our guest this evening will be former president, Jimmy Joe Starter from Monkey’s Eyebrows, Kentucky…and to start the questioning will be the host of our show- Reverend Billy Bob Weatherspoon of the Space Chapel of Life.

Reverend Billy…

REV. BILLY: Thank you, Fred. Friends, I want to welcome y’all here to my new weekly show, MEET THE REVEREND! I’m sure y’all are going to enjoy it. I know I am. And be sure to tell all your friends and relatives to tune in too and just keep those contributions rolling in…cause ya know, it cost so much money to appear on TV and it cost so much money to spread the word…and friends you all know how much I like to spread the word.

And now…I’d like to welcome our guest, President Jimmy Joe Starter!

President Starter…

JIMMY JOE: Please…call me Jimmy Joe.

REV. BILLY: Why I’d be happy to Jimmy Joe…and you can call me Rev. Billy.

JIMMY JOE: Okay Reverend Billy. Ya know, I’ve got a brother named Billy. He’s kind of the black sheep of the family. Of course, when we were growing up back in Monkey’s Eyebrows, we always used to call him the goat. You know Billy Goat…that’s because he’d eat anything he’d put his hands on. I’d be going, “Now Billy, don’t be going putting your hand on that. Well, as you can imagine it got pretty embarrassing sometimes. (Big smile)

REV. BILLY: Monkey’s Eyebrows…Now that’s a strange name for a town. I wonder…I wonder if you could shed some light on that for us, Jimy Joe. Just why do they call your town Monkey’s Eyebrows?

JIMMY JOE: (Blank stare) Ya know…I don’t rightly know…but I’ll be glad to look that up for you and get back to you sometime next week.

REV. BILLY: No, that won’t be necessary Jimmy Joe. Now, Jimmy Joe, what would you say was the biggest surprise of your administration? Was it anything as surprising as the Iran/Contra affair or Ollie North and Fawn Hill? Or what about the current fiasco with Donald Trump and the Big Lie? Not to Mention January 6th?

JIMMY JOE: Well, Billy, I’d say the biggest surprise was that the job was going to be as hard as it turned out to be. Ya know, when I first took office back in ’76, 1976, not 1776, (Big Smile) I thought the presidency was going to be a snap, but I soon learned that it was going to be more of a Zbigniew Brezenski. Then things sort of went on the Fritz after I gave America the Lance-thank God for Vance- he was a real credit to the arms race. So, I’d have to say that my biggest surprise was that it was going to be so hard.

REV. BILLY: Have there been any other surprises?

JIMMY JOE: Well, yes. Another surprise was that there were so many bathrooms in the Whitehouse.

REV. BILLY: Bathrooms?

JIMMY JOE: Yes, Billy. There are some 46 of them, and all of them are inside too! I never did get around to using all of them, but I did commission a white paper…or was that toilet paper… No, it was a white paper, on how one could accomplish this task during one administration. I’ll be glad to get back to you later with the results of that study if you like.

REV. BILLY: No, that won’t be necessary. Tell me, Jimmy Joe, what do you think of the current situation in Ukraine with the Russian invasion and all in light of your own SALT II Treaty which you negotiated with the Ruskies?

JIMMY JOE: Yes…I’m proud of my record on SALT. The most significant part of that agreement was to trade Amarillo, Texas for Leningrad in the event of a first strike situation involving nuclear weapons.

REV BILLY: Would you gentlemen have seriously considered offering a Russian an Amarillo?

JIMMY JOE: Yes…We believed that using this small Texas town as a bargaining chip would be in the best interest of the country.

REV. BILLY: Do you hold out any hopes of stopping or at least curbing nuclear proliferation?

JIMMY JOE: Yes…What I plan to do is…

REV. BILLY (interrupting) Before you answer that question, let me break way for a message of vital importance…

(WINGES SERAPHS COMMERCIAL)

REV: BILLY: Hello friends. Rev. Billy Bob Weatherspoon here for the Space Chapel of Life…

Ya know…just how many times have ya wondered how many angels could dance on the top of a Bic Butane Lighter?

Have ya ever wondered where ya could find a Guardian Angel when ya really needed one?

And what about Charlies Angels?

…The answers to these and many more important questions may be found in my latest book—

WINGED SERAPHS I HAVE KNOWN

This book is available in both the hard and soft editions. Also, available is the leather-bound edition which comes suspended from a chain.

So ya don’t forget, send now to

SPACE CHAPEL OF LIFE

BOX 666

ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA

$8.96 RECORDS

$9.96 TAPES

And now, back to the show…

Okay, Jimmy Joe, now we can continue the fascinating conversation about the wonderful world of weapons.

JIMMY JOE: Yes, as I was saying, I support the introduction of legislation by congress that would make it a federal crime to own a nuclear weapon if you are a convicted felon, drug addict, or legally insane. Also, we hope to register all nuclear weapons. In this way, we will know who has them and we will have additional control over who gets them.

In addition, I am proposing an outright ban on the most insidious nuclear device of them all, the Saturday Night Special. These small, concealable radiation-enhanced devices are capable of taking out small targets such as single-family dwellings with little or no blast damage to the surrounding area. These weapons are, however, a very “dirty weapon,” spreading deadly radiation for many square blocks killing all life forms within the size of oh, say, Fort Knox. These devices would make the riots of the 60s look like pep rallies. (Big smile.)

REV. BILLY: Well, Jimmy Joe, you certainly paint a grim picture. What are your feelings about the peaceful use of nuclear energy, say as an alternative energy source?

JIMMY JOE: Well, Billy…I feel that nuclear power will most likely be the energy source of the future, along with solar power and wind. Eventually, we will run out of coal. We are going to run out of oil, but according to leading experts, we won’t run out of matter for several thousand years…and being a nuclear physicist myself, I ain’t just whistling Dixie (Big Smile).  

REV. BILLY: As a scientist, I wonder if you could comment on the recent UFO controversy.

Jimmy Joe: Yes, Billy, I have myself, seen a UFO…it was a close encounter of the weird kind.

Rev. Billy: You have??!! Well, Jimmy Joe…that’s truly an amazing statement. Would you care to elaborate?

JIMMY JOE: Sure. You see, I was on my farm back in Kentucky, plowing a field on a tractor when all of a sudden, a shadow fell over me and I looked up and there was this strange craft hovering overhead.

REV. BILLY: Wow! Was it big?

JIMMY JOE? Big? I’ll say!

REV. BILLY: Well, how big was it?

Jimmy Joe: It was big I tell ya! (Starts gesturing with his hands and arms) It was a hunnert foot, by a hunnert foot, by a hunnert foot, you know BIG!

REV. BILLY: (Interrupts for a commercial): Excuse me Jimmy Joe, but we need to fit in a break.

(YOU TOO CAN BECOME AN ORDAINED MINISTER COMMERCIAL)

Friends! You too can become an ordained minister! Through the special powers invested in me…you can become an ordained minister in the Space Chapel of Life – think of it friends – for only $6.95 you can save souls – perform miracles –  perform marriages – perform funeral services – and perhaps the best advantage of all – tax-exempt status – That’s right folks, you heard it here tax-exempt status! – so ya don’t forget, send $6.95 today for your credentials to: Space Chapel of Life, Box 666,  in care of this Television station – Thank you so much!

…and now, please continue on with this alleged story about beings from outer space.

JIMMY JOE: Well like I was saying, there I was out there on God’s little acre, plowing my fields and minding my own business when there appeared up in the sky a giant alien spacecraft. It was just hovering overhead, and it let out a slight humming noise, and all of a sudden it emitted a beam of light and the light fell over me and bathed my entire body and the next thing I knew I was being pulled off my tractor up into that beam of light and heading towards the spacecraft… that’s the last thing I remember until the next day when I was returned to earth and there I was, as naked a Jaybird in my ‘backer field, singin’ my fool head off!

REV. BILLY: Yes, well isn’t that special. Well, Jimmy Joe, we are just about out of time, here, and as you know, time is money. I would however like to ask you just one more two-part question. Number one, are you really a born-again Christian? And part two, have you ever really had lust in your heart?

JIMMY JOE: Well Billy, I don’t really feel that these two are mutually exclusive – In answer to your first question. Yes, I am a Born-again Christian; and in answer to your second question, yes, I have had lust in my heart…but it was lust for another Christian.

REV. BILLY: Well, there you have it, friends! Right from the former president’s own mouth. I’d like to thank President Starter for taking time out of his busy schedule to be with us tonight, and I’d like to invite all of you to tune in next week to another exciting episode of, MEET THE REVEREND! My next week’s guest will be that silly old buffoon and darling of the media, Attorney Michael Cohen! Watch him drop a dime on his former boss, Donald J. Trump! Until then, I wish all of you a pleasant good night, and may Glod bless.

Small Craft Warnings

A review of Tennessee Williams’ Play

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Radio Voice: “Heavy seas from Point Conception south to the Mexican Border, fog continuing till tomorrow noon, extreme caution should be observed on all highways along this section of the coastline.”

The play, Small Craft Warnings, written by Tennessee Williams, was presented off Broadway at the Truck and Warehouse Theater in the spring of 1972. It takes place in a bar called Monk’s Place, somewhere along the southern coast of California. This bar provides a place of refuge for vulnerable human vessels, people living on the edge of humanity.

When Mr. Williams was asked in an interview if he thought it is right to put his persona into his work he replied, “What else can I do?”

This is not one of Tennessee Williams’ greater works, but rather a smaller crafted one. One that I have always been drawn to for one reason or another. What has recently put it in mind was a trip I took to Mexico. I posted a picture of Lake Chapala one day when the wind was blowing and the water was choppy. I called the picture Small Craft Warnings after the play. It just popped into my head. Then I got to thinking about the play and pulled it down from the shelf and decided to give it a reread.

I had a couple of friends over one afternoon and out of a fit of boredom we decided to act out some of the roles there in my living room. And finally, I was browsing through some YouTube videos one night and I ran across a video of Tennessee Williams being interviewed by Dick Cavett. The interview was billed as Tennessee Williams talks about Marlon Brando. Well, that looked interesting, so I decided to give it a look. He wasn’t talking about Marlon Brando at all. He was talking about Small Craft Warnings, his new play which just opened at The Truck and Warehouse Theater in New York. Boom! Another dot to be connected and another ball falls into a slot. I felt a need to write about it.

So, I gave the play another read and I just wanted to share a condensed version of it. There are nine characters. Each of the principle characters gets a moment alone in their own special light for their own special soliloquy.

When the curtain rises, we hear the sound of ocean wind. The stage is lighted very dim. Monk, the owner, is behind the bar serving Doc. Doc has lost his license to practice medicine for heavy drinking, but he continues to practice somewhat on the sly. Both are middle aged.

Downstage, sitting at a table, is Violet with a battered old suitcase sitting by her side. She has the look of a derelict. She lives in a small room with no bath over the arcade down at the end of the pier directly over the pool tables, pin ball machines and the bowling alley.

Doc says: “The solace of companionship is not the least expensive item on the shelves of the fucking super market a man of my age has to spend what’s left of his life in.”

Bill enters the bar. He is a loser putting up a bold front. By definition he is a “stud.” He has always traded on his physical endowment. He even has a name for his thing, he calls it “Junior.” He brags about not having ever done a lick of work in his life.  He is currently shacking with Leona in her trailer in a trailer park nearby. He ambles over to the table where Violet is sitting with a couple of beers in his hands and a killer smile on his lips.

Violet says: “A man like you.”

Bill says: “A man like me?”

Violet: “A bull of a man like you. You got arms on you big as the sides of a ham.”

Bill: “That aint all I got big.”

Violet: “You mean what I think?”

Bill: “If you can’t see you can feel.”

Violet reaches under the table and it is obvious that she is feeling him.

The door bursts open. Leona enters like a small bull. She is a large ungainly woman wearing white clam diggers, a pink sweater, and a sailor’s cap. She is a beautician and lives in a trailer park nearby with Bill. When she realizes what Violet is doing under the table, she raises a rhubarb.

Later Steve enters the bar. He is wearing a floral-patterned shirt under a tan jacket and the greasy white pants of a short order cook. He is looking for Violet who at this moment is screaming her head off in the Ladies.

A little while later a young man and a boy enter the bar. They walk to a table in the front. The boy, Bobby, wears jeans and a sweat shirt with the words Iowa to Mexico on it. The young man, Quentin, is dressed in a jacket, maroon slacks, and a silk scarf. Their story is Quentin picked up Bobby on the road who was riding his bicycle. He talked him into putting his bike in his car and coming along with him. Quentin had taken Bobby to his home earlier and they had a little tiff, one might say a “lover’s quarrel.” They stopped at the bar for a drink.

Doc gets a phone call. He has to go. Someone will be born tonight on Treasure Island.

Quentin and Bobby leave the bar.

Leona says: “I had an Italian boyfriend once who used to say, ‘Meglior solo que mal accompanota,’ which means that you’re better off alone than in the company of a bad companion.”

Later Doc returns. Leona starts in on him. “Back already? It didn’t take you much time to deliver the baby. Or did you bury the baby? Or did you bury the mother. Or did you bury them both, mother and baby?”

Doc: “Can’t you shut this woman up?”

Leona: “No one can shut this woman up. Quack, quack, quack, Doctor Duck, quack, quack, quack, quack, quack!”

Later, Violet is sitting a table with Monk. She drops a match box and reaches for it. And suddenly her hand is no longer on the table. She says, “It’s a pitiful thing to have to reach under a table to find some reason to live.”

There’s a commotion outside. Bill and Steve rush out the door.

Doc takes off.

Leona takes off.

Only Violet and Monk are left on stage. Monk is closing up.

Violet goes upstairs. Monk says, “I’ll bring you some beer. Don’t forget to shower.”

Monk crosses to open the door. We hear the boom of the ocean outside. “I always leave the door open for a few minutes to clear the smoke and liquor smell out of the place and the human odors and to hear the ocean.”

He hears the water running upstairs. “That ain’t rain,” he says. He starts up the steps and pauses a moment. He glances up with a smile of anticipation.

Curtain.

Another bitter irony involving this piece concerns scene where Doc delivers the baby: The baby dies, the mother dies. This actually happened in real life to my Great Grandfather, Dr. Benjamin Franklin Woolery in 1944. Was a medical doctor and was called to a woman’s home to deliver her baby. While there he had a heart attack and died. The woman was rushed to a hospital where she died and the baby died. I wrote about this story in another blog post called the Curious Case of Dr. Benjamin Franklin Woolery.

And that is the story of Small Craft Warnings. We are all in the same boat, so we have to look out after each other a little bit.

Peace out.

 

 

 

 

Antony and Cleopatra

A Review

Cleopatra

Sophie Okonedo as Cleopara

If you ever get a chance to see a production of National Theatre Live you should. The next best thing to live theatre is live telecast theatre. The play Antony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare is my fourth foray into this domain and it didn’t disappoint. Watching fine British actors like Ralph Fiennes who plays Mark Antony, and Sophie Okonedo  who plays Cleopatra, is a delightful pleasure like none other.

Harold Bloom, writing in his masterful work, Shakespeare – The Invention of the Human, says, “Of Shakespeare’s representation of women, Cleopatra is the most subtle and formidable.” And I would say Sophie Okenedo’s portrayal of her is by far the most superb interpretation of this magnificent creature. She is by turns moody, funny, bitchy, sexy, powerful, and above all regal. Ralph Fiennes holds his own with her as the Roman General who is in decline. Antony, like empires, is a study in decline and fall. The very hairs on his head rebel against the aging warrior. “My very hairs do mutiny; for the white reprove the brown for rashness, and they them for fear and doting.” You will see in him, one of the triple pillars of the world, transformed into a strumpet’s fool.

Ralph Fiennes

Ralph Fiennes as Mark Antony

In an interview Ralph Fiennes says of the pair, “He’s not an idealized warrior and she’s not an idealized princess. They’re full of temperament and tantrums and mood swings, and I think that combination is very moving to people.” Are Antony and Cleopatra in love? Well they certainly appeared to me to be in love. They certainly were not bored with each other.

Director Simon Godwin kept the action moving in this modern dress rendition of Shakespeare’s tragedy. Costume designer Evie Gurney created designs for Cleopatra that were not just costumes but high fashion. They had to communicate not only her physicality but project power as well. The dyes used in the fabrics were made with Sophie’s skin tone in mind so that she would exhibit a golden glow. The Saffron dress was inspired by Beyoncé’s Lemonade album. So, it is not too great a stretch to say a costume fit for Queen Bey was also fit for Queen Cleopatra.

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Ralph Fiennes and Sophie Okonedo

The set design by Hildegard Bechtler was imaginative and ingenious. It was fluent and moving as the scenes changed in a smooth fluid manner. The center stage revolved from one scene to another, actors walked off into darkness others appeared in light. It was a miracle of rare device, changing swiftly from Egypt to Rome and back again. And at one point a submarine conning tower miraculously arose from the stage floor. And in Egypt a turquoise tiled pool. This magnificent play plays superbly well when properly directed and acted. It is too large for just any stage, but London’s Olivier is just the ticket!

In the climactic scene Cleopatra asks, “Hast thou the pretty worm of Nilus there, that kills and pains not?”

The worm of Nilus in this production looked more like a giant coral snake, with vibrant colors of red, yellow and black, but I am sure it made more of a dramatic stage presentation than its colorless cousin the asp.

“Will it eat me?” She childishly asks.

“I wish you all joy of the worm,” is the answer.

When she is discovered by Octavius after the fatal bite, he says, “Cleopatra shall be buried by her Antony: No grave upon earth holds in it a pair so famous.”

This play is about war writ large, East vs West, and two flawed individuals passionately in love with each other and at times at war with each other too.

 

 

HENRY IV

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Is There Free Will?

There is in Louisville, Kentucky. You can find Free Will in Central Park, home of the country’s longest running Free Shakespeare in the Park.

Last night Kentucky Shakespeare, spearheaded by managing producer Matt Wallace, mounted another successful production of one of the bard’s history plays: Henry IV.

Directed by Amy Attaway and acted by a fine ensemble cast it was sight to behold and a treat to listen to. Only a few minor quibbles. Couple of times the mics seemed to fall into a dead zone causing the actor’s voices to drop, a missed light cue or two, and a couple of slow entrances, but these are minor flaws in an otherwise outstanding performance.

Henry IV is one of my favorites among many of Shakespeare’s plays. It has some of his best lines and it introduces one of the greatest characters of all time, Falstaff. Some have said that Falstaff is a stand in for Shakespeare himself and have cited the similarity in their names: Fall/staff, Shake/speare.

Harold Bloom writing in his, Shakespeare, The Invention of the Human, quotes Hegel: “Shakespeare made his best characters free artists of themselves.” The freest of them all are Hamlet and Falstaff because they are they are the most intelligent of Shakespeare’s persons. Falstaff certainly shows his proclivity for eating, drinking, and fornicating and basically being a social deviant.

Anthony Burgess suggests that the Falstaffian spirit is a great sustainer of civilization. It disappears when the state is too powerful. There is little of Falstaff’s spirit in the world today. As the power of the state expands, what is left will be liquidated.

But wait…don’t banish Falstaff, not sweet, kind Jack Falstaff, true Jack Fallstaff, valiant Jack Falstaff, old Falstaff, banish plump Jack and banish all the world.

Keep Will Free!

 

 

 

A COMEDY TONIGHT!

Comedy of Errors

 

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Saw a production of Kentucky Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors in Central Park last night in Old Louisville. Matt Wallace’s merry band of players brought this hilarious play of mistaken identity to vivid life on the outdoor stage. Even if you don’t understand every single word of the Elizabethan tongue you will have no problem following the action.

Kudos to Matt Wallace for his fine directing and stage blocking. Many scenes were staged to look like paintings or tableaus. And the costumes! Divine. Colorful, flowing, rich, sensuous materials; candy to the eye and music to the ear. All against a color coordinated set dominated by brown with white furniture, windows, doors, and lattice works. Baskets of brightly colored fruits and vegetable accented the tables.

At no time did the action drag. As one character leaves the stage another enters, usually talking.

Really liked the Greek dance at the end.  A nice grace note to end upon.

All in all, it was a Comedy Tonight!

 

TITUS ANDRONICUS

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This is where they disposed of the bodies…..

Titus Andronicus is one of Shakespeare’s more out there plays. It was presented recently by Kentucky Shakespeare at a warehouse in the heart of Butchertown near downtown Louisville just in time for Halloween. How very appropriate in both cases for this was the most bloody and horror haunted of all the Bard’s pieces.

Titus was one of Shakespeare’s early plays and written when he was quite young. It is not one of his best plays but it is certainly one of his goriest. Perfect for the October Country and very fitting fare for Halloween.

Director Matt Wallace gives us plenty of atmosphere by staging the play in an abandoned warehouse with with dark interiors, concrete floors, exposed pipes, and plenty of fog. Lighting  was from utility lamps pressed into service. The play is set in set in ancient Rome but the warehouse space and the costuming of the actors give the play the right horror haunted feel. Just right for torture and mayhem. The cast was dressed in black leather and Tamora, Queen of the Goths, was appropriately outfitted in a black leather corset suitable to her name.

Harold Bloom has called this play a testimony to patriarchy’s ultimate oppression of its females. In an act of revenge, Lavinia, Titus’s daughter, is savagely raped by Tamora’s sons, Demetius and Chiron. Tamora says to them, “…when you have the honey of your desire, let not this wasp outlive, us both to sting.” After raping Lavinia the boys cut out her tongue and slice off both her hands so that she cannot identify them.

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Later Titus continues the cycle of revenge by killing both of Tamora’s sons by cutting their throats. He drains their blood and bakes their remains into a pie and then feeds the meal to Tamora unbeknownst to her. When she finds out horror ensues.

The actors were uniformly excellent and the play was as good a Shakespeare as you will see anywhere in the country. Titus Andronicus was a marvel to behold.