Monday, September 24, 2012

Don Juan In Hell: There are no easy answers.

Don Juan In Hell

I’m not a fan of George Bernard Shaw. Let me make this clear… his politics sicken me, his view of the world annoys me, and I find him an unbelievably elitist scumbag whose Pygmalion flat out insults my sense of freedom and liberty. (Oddly, I do happen to love “My Fair Lady”, which is based upon the latter work but features enough music and additional characters to distract me from the original point of Pyg.) So with all of that in mind, I wasn’t quite certain what to expect when Jourdain Barton decided to adapt one of his pieces for the Paperwing Stage. Her previous adaptation, “Prometheus Bound”, hit to close to the heart with many of my own frustrations and railing against the gods of convention and paradigm. Barton has a way of taking a work known for promoting one view and sort of turning it in on itself, exposing several bits of raw hypocrisy and laying open a great many hard questions without the benefit of an easy answer. I love that and decided I needed to see what she did with this work.

Don Juan In Hell is another successful venture in philosophical torment. The titular character, Juan(Timothy Saminiego), is truly suffering an eternity of torment surrounded by the exquisite horror of false love and beauty. The Father of Lies (Erik Morton) isn’t about to roast the wicked in eternal fires of damnation, not when there’s so much love to share with one another. And the crux of the story is the debate between two beings who are diametrically opposed to one another in philosophy, ideals, and goals. This is a debate that has gone on before… time and again, by the introductions from both characters and their endearments to one another. But all great events begin with a catalyst, and the final decision on whether Juan stays in Hell or moves on is brought to a head by the arrival of Dona Ana. (Taylor Noel Young)

The most famous paramour in the stories of Don Juan passes at the ripe age of 77. Her first meeting in the new plane is with Juan, who fails to recognize her at first. He tells her where she is, he explains the new “rules”… or lack thereof… regarding the form of the spiritual body. They are soon joined by Ana’s doomed father, The General (Jodi Gilmore). The two men have long since put their past behind them and have become fast friends in the time since their passing. In fact, the General is actually visiting from the Heavenly Host… much to his daughters disapproval. And the only comfort either father or one-time lover can offer is disillusionment.

And that disillusion is no better embodied than by The General, who has chosen to exist in the form of his own marble statue and bask in the glory of his own dashing image. Gilmore provides terrific comedic timing with the image of a right proper gentleman, mocking the seriousness of their debate and declaring his intention to find permanent residence with the damned. His confessions and desires embarrass and occasionally horrify Ana.

We get the feeling that the debate has gone on before… the argument between the Devil, Juan, and the General feels somewhat “old hat” between the three friends. And that’s where Ana comes into play… because whether they admit to it or not, they are struggling to convince this newest addition to their discussion on the various points of their arguments. The devil declares that the only things of worth-while value are love and beauty and social standing and adoration and it simply does not matter whether any of these things are “true” or not. Only that they are and that people enjoy them. Heaven is a place for boring contemplation, we're told. Endless contemplation for the promotion of “life” and creation and the universe and ones place in it. It’s also flat out boring, at least according to our three characters in the "know". The devil sells his Kingdom with all the passion of a zealot… Mortons’ performance is flat out chilling to this particular viewer. He is absolutely the Father of Lies, in all his twisted glory and as seductive in his assurances, promises, and twisted rhetoric as one could imagine such a creature to be.

But Juan refutes the empty promises with equal passion, intelligence, and understanding of just how deceitful this kind of eternity truly is. Samaniego cuts through to the quick on his performance with equal parts biting humor and depressing impact. He doesn’t as much as defend “heaven” and “life” so much as he refutes the basic lie of his current existence. And while he has obviously had this conversation before, the newest addition to their little discussion provides a vehicle through which Juan struggles to reach a new understanding. But, make no mistake,Ana is more than the rope between the characters in some sort of tug-war and starts to take various stands, rising to the dialogue with equal ferocity and questioning the points of all three. Taylor delivers a moving performance of her own, dismantling the points of all three gentlemen with the view of a woman and her own role in their existence.

I don’t want to spoil anything for anybody… the climax is amazing and every person may get something different from the experience. Thirty people watching the same show and my guess is that not one of them had the same view regarding the "point" of the discussion or precisely who "won" the debate. The show has one more weekend and that means two more opportunities to catch these amazing performances. The Paperwing Gallerie Threatre repeatedly delivers on the full immersion experience. Support the local arts and check this show out!

5 out of 5.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Night of Champions Thoughts.

Night of Champions is a fairly minor annual PPV in the WWE… it features every title in the company being put on the line and is usually the start of a build up toward Survivor Series. I don’t normally buy these kinds of PPV’s, but some of the advertised matches and storyline build up to this PPV just felt really intriguing to me. Add in a main event with the newly “Heel” version of CM Punk defending his title against Hometown Hero and resident Superman, John Cena, and you have a pretty big match on hand with two guys who work extremely well together.

IC Title Fatal Fourway: Rey Mysterio vs. Sin Cara vs. Cody Rhodes vs. The Miz (C)

This match featured two legendary lucha libre stars against two of the hottest young heel workers in the company, and it opened the show with a good performance. There were some good spots, but a fatal fourway often works to prevent any meaningful psychology. Most people wanted to see Mysterio and Cara face one another, but with both acting face it was difficult to build a story around that angle. Miz retained the IC title in an amusing spot where Cara placed an extra mask (intended for Rhodes) over the face of Miz, and the champion accidentally hit Rhodes with his finisher. Seeing as how this was a fatal four way, though, it didn’t have the kind of impact it might have had if Miz and Rhodes had been allies ahead of time.

3 out of 5.

U.S. Title match, Antonio Cesaro (c ) vs. Zack Ryder

Ryder won a pre-show battle royal that I missed in order to earn this shot, which set up a storyline where the heelish Cesaro complained about being unable to prepare for the opponent. Cesaro continues to play up his European Superiority angle… and I think Ryder may have been the perfect opponent for Cesaro to build his gimmick. With Ryder being the internet-savvy fan favorite, he pretty much rose up from the ashes of an unpromising career to become a real standout on the roster… this match played to Ryders’ strengths and helped Cesaro get over on a true baby-face. Cesaro wins after some interference from manager Aksana.

3 out of 5

Tag Title Match: Kingston and Truth (c) vs. Team Friendship

Truth and Kingston were sort of thrown together a few months back when Kingstons’ normal partner failed a wellness policy test and then injured himself. The pair works well together, but they haven’t exactly put the tag team titles on fire… but they’ve had some very decent matches with the young boys in town. But now we have a new team, brought together through their Anger Management classes… Daniel Bryan and Kane. They don’t like each other at all, they don’t work well together, and that’s build a great storyline within the tag division with a series of vignettes putting them together. I wish there was more to be said about Truth and Kingston, but no one really expected them to walk out with the titles when you have such an entertaining combination in Team Friendship. Good match that could have been better with more emphasis on enmity BETWEEN the two teams.

3.5 out of 5.

Orton vs. Dolph Ziggler. No title on the line.

Ziggles is on the verge of breaking out… and this match did nothing to hurt or elevate him. Don’t get me wrong, because the match quality was excellent and the two men worked well together, but there wasn’t much on the line between them. JBL, on announcing, did an excellent job on trying to build more of a story between them then there really was… Orton prevented Ziggler from cashing in his Money in the Bank briefcase. Ziggles wants ‘revenge’… but he can really just cash it in at another time later. Orton didn’t really prevent much of anything. And then the end of the match saw Orton hitting his RKO and then Ziggles did the job. Kind of a shame, because most every fan knows that Orton is about to take time off to film the new "12 Rounds" film. Ziggles needed a push here and instead he got held back again for a superstar who should be stepping back in light of a number of screw-ups recently. This match could have been the show stealer, but I never felt like either guy was really invested in the television time.

3.5 out of 5.

Diva Title: Layla ( c ) vs. Eve

It was supposed to be Kaitlyn getting the title chance, but she was attacked by a “mysterious” person back stage and hurt her ankle. Even with some backstage stuff between her and Booker where she blatantly manipulated him into offering her the shot. Eve was put in the match after build up on her angle about being a “nice” person now, and having changed. Well, she didn’t … we knew she didn’t… and the opportunist took advantage to win the Diva Championship in what was a much better match than I could have imagined from her. Both women worked pretty hard during this match, each one hitting a couple of decent spots before Layla eventually missed a double spring inverted body-block... and Eve capitalized. We see some heel heat with Eve accepting a hand shake at one point, and she uses it to kick the crap out of Layla. Seriously, excellent ladies match.

4 out of 5.

World championship : Sheamus ( c ) vs. Del Rio

The Brogue Kick was banned leading up to this match… and in typical WWE booking, the move was suddenly put back into place and thus negating what might have been an interesting twist to an otherwise boring feud. Still, we had some good psychology as Del Rio continuously avoided Sheamus’ attempts at the Brogue Kick… they teased the Cloverleaf a few times, Del Rio locked on his armbar submission twice and forced Sheamus to work for those ropes. The two men are working tonight, putting in more effort than I've previously seen from either of them in the build up to this match. Back and forth action saw no interference from Ricardo Rodriguez, surprisingly… and Del Rio lost to (what else?) the Brogue kick. And hopefully this ends what has become a gratingly annoying feud. Both men need different guys to work with… Sheamus especially. Del Rio needs to change up his gimmick somehow, or he’s just going to be a minor foot note in Pro Wrestling.

3.5 out of 5.

Interesting Bit back stage with Kane and Bryan. A few vignettes and commercials… and we get to the Main Event.

WWE Championship: CM Punk ( C ) vs. John Cena

Paul Heyman hits the ring and delivers a promo… it’s cold, it’s calculated, and it builds more heat than half the guys who are pretending to be arrogant all the time. There’s purpose to this promo and it builds up the angle surrounding Punk, putting him over as a deserving and much maligned champion. And when the challenger hits the ring, he gets all the fan fare of a home town welcome. He’s got a bit of a stare for the uncaring Heyman, and settles down to wait for the champion… and here comes Punk, taking the traditional championship entrance and coming out second. And with the unzipping of his jacket, Punk utterly BURIES John Cena shine with a tidal wave of heel heat… his trunks are white with dark blue pinstripes, dark blue stars, and he has matching boots and kneepads. Dressed in traditional Yankee colors, CM Punk walks down the aisle through the jeering Boston masses and the game is ON!!! The referee checks both men and CM Punk lifts the title up high… and just stands there. He isn’t soaking in the response… he’s building a whole new response without a word, with only the most minimal of actions, and this man has FOUND his niche as top heel in the company.

The match starts and both men feel each other out before Punk takes a quick advantage. Solid mat work, opportunist moments with quick throws and long wear down holds. Cena is selling like crazy and we’re seeing some uncertainty in the Super-Cena before he ever starts to make a comeback. The crowd is eating this up and we’re on the edge of our seat back home… me and my friends are getting into this match and things escalate quickly. Back and forth… both men hit finishers, both men lock their submission holds, and we see some power from Cena before Punk takes to the air with the elbow. Every move they give, the other man takes… everything they take, they give right back. Punk with the Rock Bottom, mocking the Hollywood superstar he put down a few weeks earlier… and eventually, we get a turnbuckle German Suplex from John Cena! Shoulders are down … .and the referee counts THREE!!! The hometown crowd goes crazy… while I’m laughing. I see what the ref saw…. So while John CEna is celebrating, we see the dusty-finish coming. Music stops and the referee shakes off Cena’s celebration… shoulders were down, alright… John Cena did not bridge on the German Suplex, leaving his own shoulders on the mat for the three count and both men pull the draw…. So, STILL WWE champion… CM PUNK!!!!

HEEL HEAT GALORE!!!! Cena is in shock… and then Cena is PLOWED by the WWE title and CM Punk stands victorious! Great ending and more build up to Cena / Punk rematch at a much later date.

5 out of 5.