Saturday, December 13, 2014

National Theater - LIVE!

Tonight, a new adventure! Our very first "LIVE" remote theater.  We went to the Historic Asolo Theater on the grounds of the Ringling Estate  to see the UK National Theater production of David Hare's Skylight.

Here is the plot summary of this EXCELLENT -on so many levels- play---

"East London school teacher Kyra Hollis is visited on the same night by Edward Sargeant and, later, his father Tom Sargeant. Kyra had been living with the Sargeant family years earlier but left after her affair with Tom was discovered by Tom's wife, who has since died. Edward now accuses Kyra of having left him as well, as he saw her as a big sister, and he demands to know why she left his life.

"Shortly thereafter, Tom, a wealthy restaurateur, with real life references to Terence Conran, appears unheralded and for no apparent reason. Kyra's less-than-glamorous lifestyle leads him to poke fun at her to the point of insult, accusing her of self-punishment. After Kyra cooks a spaghetti dinner (which the actress cooks on stage), the talk turns to their relationship, and it becomes clear that their chances to be rekindled rest on whether one of them can change preconceived notions of the other. A new production directed by Stephen Daldry and starring Carey Mulligan, Bill Nighy — reprising the part he'd performed in 1997 — and Matthew Beard opened at the Wyndham's Theatre in June 2014. The play was broadcast live (or near-live) to cinema audiences via NT Live. " (wikipedia)

Two thumbs up from this audience - lots of funny lines and good "jokes" while still delving into the essence of the characters and their willingness/unwillingness to make comprises in order to establish a renewal of, and long term committed, relationship. They both seem to desire the love, but have difficulty making progress towards it, being so bristly and righteous with each other.  The excellent dialogue- humorous and touching at turns - was worth a close listen.  

the show was broadcast in the Historic Asolo Theater- and had a 20 minute intermission (interval in Brit speak- LOL) just like at the theater- I would have preferred to have had the thing run straight through and since this was a rebroadcast not LIVE (despite the name of the feature) they could have eliminated or shortened this IMHO...

David Hare the playwright was interviewed during the "interval" -

the set - Kyra's flat in a dreary housing project called Canon House-

Tom putting on his coat to stay warm in the unheated flat - the heater lights up but doesn't really work (as each character comments upon it during the play.)


so- don't know if you will ever get a chance to see this play anywhere but if you do see it advertised - definitely worth seeking out a seat...

This excellent NYT review (by Ben Brantley) of the production summarizes the dynamics perfectly and is entitled- 

Volatile Chemistry in an Underheated Flat

"When acting is this focused, your own vision seems to improve miraculously. Watching Carey Mulligan and Bill Nighy in Stephen Daldry’s laser-sharp new production of David Hare’s “Skylight,” at Wyndham’s Theater here, you may feel you’ve been endowed with superhuman insight.

It’s as if you had been allowed omniscient access to the thoughts behind the words and actions of the former lovers portrayed by Ms. Mulligan and Mr. Nighy — and the emotions behind the thoughts, and the history behind the emotions. You may even wind up thinking that you know these characters better than they know themselves, which is fair, or better than the stars playing them, which is not.

For what occurs with such seeming spontaneity onstage has to have been achieved with extraordinary care and full consciousness of the many levels, personal and political, on which this 1995 drama operates. “Skylight” is partly about our desire for ideal balance in our lives. Human beings being human beings, that’s impossible. But occasionally, just occasionally, it occurs in art.

In program notes, Mr. Hare writes that “Skylight” was his first play to be set entirely in a single room. But with “Skylight,” he demonstrates that close quarters don’t pre-empt expansive views. In measuring the distance that separates two people caught in an eternity of a single night, he also examines a dangerous gap that yawned at the center of British society when Mr. Hare wrote this play.

Of course, that’s essentially the same gap that the eminent Victorian Benjamin Disraeli was talking about when he wrote that his country was made up of the affluent and the needy. And few people in the United States are pretending that the same gap doesn’t loom just as large today.

In “Skylight,” the geography of these disparate nations is mapped most articulately by Kyra Hollis (Ms. Mulligan), a 30-ish urban schoolteacher, and the much older Tom Sergeant (Mr. Nighy), a self-made restaurant entrepreneur. Though they were lovers for six years, they haven’t seen each other in three, not since Tom’s wife found out about their relationship.

Now Kyra and Tom are reunited, in deep winter in her shabby and underheated London flat. Their sometimes anguished, sometimes heart-shatteringly funny, weighing of their inner and outer worlds translates into two impeccably chiseled hours onstage and a lifetime of pain and longing.  These two redefine the laws not just of chemistry but also of physics, with each coming across as both immovable object and irresistible force. I was always aware of how ineffably, achingly attracted each was to the other, and of the diametrically opposed ways in which that attraction became flesh.

Tom’s wife died the previous year. But he has been mourning the loss of Kyra, who was secretly his mistress while working for the couple’s restaurant business, for much longer. Tom has come to tell her that he wants her back.  The tidal pull of that wanting would seem destined to overwhelm anyone. But this Kyra is a formidably centered presence, the still counterpoint to Tom’s charming, full-court-press animation.  And what shades Ms. Mulligan, who at 29 bids fair to become the great British stage actress of her generation, finds in stillness. Sacrificing creature comforts to a life of social selflessness doesn’t come altogether naturally to Kyra, who (compared with the once “bog poor” Tom) grew up in relative affluence.  Mr. Hare wants us to know that morality is never purely instinctive but a conscious choice, an act of will. And Ms. Mulligan makes us privy to every atom of strain that Kyra feels in making that choice. She responds to the tug of Tom’s charm. How could she not, as Mr. Nighy plays him? On some level, we want her to give in, so that whenever she shows signs of doing so, we melt.

The friction and the possibilities of fusion between Kyra and Tom — who must be together and cannot be together — make “Skylight” one of the most intelligently sentimental love stories of our time. Detailed arguments about the sin and the necessity of capitalism are as organic to this play as lines that might have come from a latter-day version of “Casablanca.” (There’s even a variation on “We’ll always have Paris.”)  We know which side of the divide Mr. Hare comes down on. But it is to his credit, and to that of this nigh perfect production, that as long as we’re watching “Skylight,” our sympathies are always torturously in flux. Be ready to cry. The thinking can happen later."

Photo from the NYT review- 

Phil and I disagreed about the "post evening future for Tom and Kyra with each of us envisioning "the ending" differently... and you will just have to seek it out to find out how you would predict the outcome for these two strong people.....

Thursday, December 11, 2014

set the way back machine....

The last time I was at the Seafood Shack on the Inter-Coastal Waterway in Cortez Village was some time when my dad was still alive and still going out for lunch.  He died in September of 2001.  So let's just posit that I haven't been there in say- 15 years.  Last year when Tide Tables opened I got to talking with someone about the decline of the place and was told that it had recently been sold and the new owners were looking to bring it up in the world of dockside dining in Cortez.  The location is fabulous: right at the landside end of the Cortez Bridge to Anna Maria Island (AMI) with wonderful water and sunset views (especially from the upstairs "finer dining" part of the place).  So we had decided to give it a try-

Let me digress- we had also earlier in the week decided to give the Cortez Clam Factory a try too - which had been recommended by some folks we met at the Blues Festival last weekend.  I have no photos- which is kind of a shame because the place was a dive dive dive bar - with smokers and gambling machines LOL- I didn't even know indoor smoking was allowed in Florida... and last weekend when we had dinner at the SOB Bar & Grill the smokers had to go outside- but here they all sat puffing away (and all I could think about were the last 18 months of my sisters life as she died from lung cancer- which put me off the place right away.)

The ribs, which were smoked right outside, were pretty good and the service (one guy handling the sizable inside business) was impeccable- friendly and helpful.  But it was definitely my first and last visit there. I don't need to be reminded of my sister's months on a ventilator or her hair falling out or any of the other torture she underwent when the medical/industrial complex failed to give her the realistic picture of surviving Stage IV lung cancer that had metastasized to her brain...  I am really willing to skip that, along with the right wingers loudly arguing about (believe it or not in a public venue) the "negroid president" - I kid you not, this place was an unbelievable step into the world of hate that drives the right-wingers today and one I will not be repeating.

But back to my review of today's choice: we have been trying to check out some new places this winter - and some will be winners and some losers and some in between. Today's place was on its way to being a winner.  They are undertaking a big renovation and the upstairs "fancy" restaurant is closed until February but the downstairs grill and bar are open even during the remodeling. The server was excellent and very helpful in selecting things that they make on the premises.   The food was served fresh and hot.  While we did not stretch the limits of seafood shack type food - everything we had was good. Phil had the grouper sandwich and I had the blackened grouper tacos.  My tacos were at least twice as good as the ones I had the other night at the Sand Bar (when the grill failed at our house and we had to go out last minute and found the Sign of the Mermaid closed and AMOB having a private party.)

So the review is GIVE IT A TRY- they are excited about their new patio (to be completed this weekend) and very very nice as well as having good bar food style seafood...

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

your government at work


this works!

this doesn't-

Today I am happy to report that there is some hope for us all - it just does not exist at the USPS... it exists at the incredibly helpful office of Secretary of State of Illinois! Yesterday I called the SOS-IL office about my missing renewal for my license plates.  I hadn't received my registration number and PIN to renew because the USPS hasn't seen fit to deliver the mail (see prior post on this ongoing issue which remains unresolved).  The woman (Karen) was extremely helpful and gave me the reg and PIN that were sent via post card to me (that USPS couldn't be bothered with) and so I went on after speaking to Karen and renewed my license plates.  And to top it all off, because I had explained to her about my difficulty with the post office she gave me a number to call to have the tag delivered directly to my winter address!!!!!

a total win! because this morning when I got through to the number she gave me I got not ONE but TWO helpful women who arranged to have my tag sent to Florida!

so YEA!!!! my faith in some government operations is restored!!! CyberDrive IL rocks!!!!

on the other hand my USPS issue continues- on Monday I sent yet another missive to the "postalstore" email with all the details of the steps I have taken to get this resolved and I haven't heard a thing from them. I am sooooo more than justified in posting #USPSsucks on twitter...

and in an effort to stop my aggravation (because they certainly aren't aggravated by this- they are drinking coffee and laughing and eating donuts rather than sorting and sending my mail for the $17/per week they charge) I decided to cancel the premium forwarding service and just sign up for regular temporary forwarding of the mail.... which I did today... no doubt the $51 they owe me for the weeks they missed will never be recovered - but that is the price I paid for learning exactly how useless the 60640 zip code post office workers are.

and to round out the "aggravation department" news - my third grill repair call in less than seven months was handled by the lovely Tammie at Weber Grill - and she and I have an ongoing email conversation about the service call and the grill (none of which has cost me a dime - other than my time)

so see! it can be done! it just can't be done by USPS - they choose not to... cyberdrive IL the IL Secretary of State's office and the Weber Grill service line could really teach them a thing or two- but of course - they would actually have to want to learn!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

singing the blues

Last year we were out of town (in Louisiana for our Cajun class) when the sold out Blues Festival was held (with Shemekia Copeland headlining) - so we vowed to come this year and when tickets went on sale - we snapped them up...

It's a nice one day thing- with many places in the area running day before or day after events at bars and other music venues.  Here is the line-up for the riverside stage for the actual blues fest-

the location of the event is right on the Manatee River which leads into Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico 

the event map-

the event logo-

there were also food vendors with some tasty items-

Here are some of the food items sold by from local restaurants:
•Ortygia: Sicilian Chili, Chocolate Pâté.
•Yachtsea Grille: Bayou Mac-n-cheese, Polynesian Pork Shanks, and Chicken Sausage Gumbo (inspired by Marcia Ball’s gumbo recipe).
•SOMA Creekside: Mangrove Snapper and Short Rib Tacos, Crispy Calamari Salad, and Local Fried Green Tomatoes.
•Cedar Reef Fish Camp: Shrimp-n-Grits, Blackened Gator Chowder, Mini Key Lime Crème Brûlée.
•Anna Maria Oyster Bar: Fish-n-chips.
•Hickory Hollow: Deep Fried BBQ Ribs, Pulled Pork Sliders, Loaded Yucca.
•S.O.B Burgers: The Voodoo Burger and homemade french fries.

so we went over for ....the second half of the day arriving as Samantha Fish was ending--- I really wanted to hear EG Kight but just couldn't get it together to be there that early- and since we didn't really want to hear Samantha Fish we decided to wait until the afternoon/evening acts...

we had some BBQ from Hickory Hollow for lunch and then headed into the stage area for the afternoon acts...

And here is the review of the acts we did see in order of how much we liked them -

Jimmy Thackery an AMAZING guitarist- where has he been all our lives? answer in the Nighthawks... but now he is leading his own band - what an incredible talent!

you can see from the photos - he played as the sun was setting- one in daylight one under the spotlights...

then in the number two slot a shared review of Lil Ed and Billy Branch... with a slight nod to Billy Branch just because he studied with Junior Wells (a favorite for decades) - both acts were excellent with Lil Ed getting points for his foray into the audience while playing...

two of Billy Branch-

a number of Lil Ed photos-

he was having a good time!

then in the next slot, of my favorites, I would put Marcia Ball- excellent piano - really rousing as the blurbs said but her voice hurts me... it sounds like a female Rod Stewart- totally blown- she can barely talk without a raspy/hoarseness much less sing... so I would say while I enjoyed the band and the act, it was uncomfortable to listen to her-

we didn't know how this was going to go - so we bought the reserved seating - otherwise it is bring your own chairs-  next year - and there definitely will be a next year- we will bring our own so we have more room and less hard seats... plus being right in front of the stage was great for seeing the acts but the hearing part would actually be more enjoyable a bit further away... live and learn.

a worthy investment of time and money... and we capped it off with a later dinner at SOB Burger's actual restaurant and had some really great burgers as well.... all in all a good Saturday afternoon/evening!