Thursday, November 12, 2015

Hyde at Paper Wing Fremont and SPECTRE... two British characters for the price of three... or so... titles suck.

HYDE: At Paper Wing Fremont

As familiar as I was with the story of Henry Jeckyll and Edward Hyde, nothing I’ve experienced before could prepare me for this Victorian Thriller adapted for the stage by Patrick Golden and Beverly Van Pelt. Their adaptation is a story that is utterly transfigured from the bare bones skeleton of the original with a twist I didn’t see coming- as the play has now run its course, no one else will see it coming again for quite some time and I still won’t spoil it here. The story centers around the sensationalized true life murders committed by “Jack the Ripper”, revealed to be the brutal Hyde in the opening moments of the play. This isn’t something new as Hyde and Ripper have been tied together before in other films. The story is revealed through the intervention of Jeckyll’s University flame, Dr. Lenore Lanyon(Beverly Van Pelt). A physician equally enamored with the nature of human “duality”, she is the only one who may be able to understand and unravel the mystery surrounding the good doctor, the murders, and what lays behind the true mystery of the story.

The dialogue is quick-witted and darkly humorous with plenty of gallows humor that may leave you laughing, squirming, or equal bits of both. Golden takes the lead as Hyde/Jeckyll, a loathsome man covered in scars and quick with a bottle or a knife. His performance is filled with anger- anger at the world, anger at his scarred visage, anger at perceived threats and hatred for everything. There's a certain sense of paranoia and a guarded study of the room at nearly all times. He is in sharp contrast to the younger version of Jeckyll (Larry Oblander III), a quick witted doctor with a flair for riddles and jokes. We are shown both versions of the character through flashbacks before this dual nature is revealed in the plays final moments. Oblander is plainly terrific in his role- equal parts likeable and ultimately consumed by his work.

Van Pelt and Kelsey Posey each pull duty as co-directors and lead the audience through a highly stylized production, possible nods to German Expressionism and Hammer Studio productions throughout and a cast that took the material every bit as serious at is should with comedic aspects coming about organically. Amanda Platsis pulls double duty as a conniving Madam Paine and the attending surgeon at an autopsy. Both roles completely different and equally biting with humor. Jesse Juarez delivers an intense performance as the erstwhile Police surgeon on the trail of Jack, Cheryl Karoly is solid as the suspicious maid and one-time caretaker to Dr. Jeckyll, while Robert Feeney takes his performance to manic highs as a true life suspect in the string of East End murders, “Russian” Mike. Accents may have been a little spotty in parts, but it hardly slowed the show down.

After the show I found myself lost in thought- it was an interesting twist on an old tale. A consideration on what we consider familiar and how we can make a change to those familiar stories- in an age where Hollywood is constant “rebooting” old films and delivering stale sequels to pad their studios it’s a way to approach material and keep it fresh with a few additional questions. Golden delivers a chilling performance near the end- an introduction of s5orts that chills.

4.5 out of 5.


How do I start this? 

James Bond, Double-OH-OH-SEVEN is back! This is the fourth outing for Mr. Daniel Craig in the role of our erstwhile spy In Her Majesty’s Service and I am totally psyched!!! Can you tell? I hope you can tell- I hope you understand that it’s not always horror, blood, guts, and carnage ‘round these here parts and there’s the occasional foray into other “genre” films. I hope you know that, dear faceless reader, and by all means keep reading on. Because I love the spy genre- to be more specific, the superspy genre!

And this year’s Bond is hitting right from the get-go with a beautiful long shot that captures everything we need to know about the character. Even if you’ve never seen a Bond film, this is everything you need to know- he’s walking with a beautiful woman, he’s moving through a crowded festival with a sense of purpose, and he’s out to perform some specific task with a flippant comment and intense focus. This is Bond- and the opening moments of the film are filled with a non-stop action sequence. Assassination attempts, explosions, a slow chase through a crowded festival, a helicopter, explosions, and those familiar horns hit to signal the opening credit sequence.

From here on out, the film is pure comfort food- Craig is fantastic as Bond and has completely reinvented the role for himself. He’s grittier, edgier, and much less suave than the Sean Connery pastiche we’ve seen in other Bonds. But no Bond is complete without a villain to be his equal- and I’m sure some fans were absolutely salivating to see what kind of man would be stepping up to take a swing at our hero. Christoph Waltz bears that honor- oh, and what an HONOR it is when his plan and identity are fully revealed. And professional wrestler Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy) also steps in as an enforce “Odd Job” sort of character- a man of few words and brutal actions. And in the end- I absolutely LOVED this film!!!


That’s sentiment talking and I’m not really giving the film an objective view. The truth of the matter is that while the movie is well acted, well directed, and put together very nicely- there are huge flaws in the film that I would be silly to not bring up. The script is a bit of a mess and there are some truly hackneyed moments. It reads almost like fan-fiction in certain parts and that great and amazing reveal is almost spoiled by the attachment of an historic link that was never needed or really even wanted. The requisite “Bond-girl” comes off as almost forgettable, despite lame attempts to make her a supposedly stronger character- despite lip service to her competence, knowledge, and ability she is really only ever portrayed as the “Damsel in distress” so often complained about.


But it's not a great film and isn't the best Bond ever. It's still very satisfying and fun, but I'd be remiss to not point out some of the flaws. 

4 out of 5.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Crimson Peak review.

What is “goth”? Gothic films are draped in black lace, splattered with drops of blood, and wrapped in tight collars, bodices, and flowing fashions of gloom and a bygone day.  That’s easy enough to understand, but there’s so much more to it- it’s a style and a fashion and it speaks to a certain sort with poetry and music and things of a slightly strange nature. It’s “Hot Topic” at the mall and that’s just far too bourgeois to be truly Goth. So it’s vampire clubs and Depeche Mode until that becomes cliché and exhausting and then we look to Poe and Blackwood and maybe some Emily Bronte and so on so forth. The truth of the matter is that “goth” isn’t easy to define but very easy to identify- because it’s iconic and you know it when you see it.

Crimson Peak is a Goth Fan’s wet dream.

I don’t want to repeat what I’ve read and heard in other reviews and so I’m a little empty on how to approach the movie from here on out.  

This movie is a gothic love-letter to a kind of film we rarely get to see and it’s a virtual feast for the eyes when it is seen. Guillermo Del Toro (Pan’s Labrynth) returns to the “horror” genre with a story that doesn’t share so much with the modern “Paranormal Activity” sort of film, but brings back the ghost stories and creepy castle feel of far older films. This is not his first foray into the realm of ghosts and ghouls and things that go bump in the night, and his return has been well worth the wait.

This is the story of a troubled romance between a bookish young woman and an entitled Baronet with a sinister past. This is a story of scandal, violence, family, and an old rotting house on the top of an English peak. Del Toro’s film echoes the sentiment of The House of Usher, the Haunting, Rebecca, and the ghost stories of Algernon Blackwood- but delivers a razor’s edge of violence that simply cuts to the bone with stark visuals. Del Toro doesn’t just let you relax in the cold comfort of creeping spirits- he executes moments of violence that are stunning, brutal, and visceral in detail. When the first death comes it is so sudden and so brutal that it jars the senses.

It’s beautiful, haunting, and totally worth seeing this winter- which may be the only real drawback of the film. Released three weeks before Halloween, the film is much more of a winter’s ghost story and will likely not see the kind of box office it should have seen had it been released on the tail end of Halloween. So if this is the kind of film that interests you then I recommend catching it as soon as you can. It is also a finely tuned niche of a film- audiences who do not enjoy a gothic romance may find the film a little melodramatic at times. It’s a style of filming and acting that is not often seen in this day and age, but I found it refreshing.  

4 out of 5.

Monday, November 2, 2015

The Rocky Horror Show from the inside

Rocky Horror (From the Inside)

For the past few years I have written about my experiences in seeing The Rocky Horror Show as performed by the Paper Wing Theatre Company. I always wrote about my experience as a spectator. I always admired the way Koly McBride always seems to come up with new and innovative ways to bring the show to the Central Coast. I’ve long ago described the way Lj Brewer dominates and commands the stage in his portrayal of Frank N. Furter, how Heather Hahn simply charms her way into our hearts, the way Jourdain Barton haunts the stage as Magenta, and that both Nicholas Kelly and Jay Devine are stalwart professional in the face of shenanigans, and I’ve had no shortage of words to describe the energetic frenzy of Taylor Landess in performing Riff-raff. All of these performers returned this year- along with Dani Kutter reprising the title role with a comedic and tooth-glistening portrayal guaranteed to bring the house up.

But this year saw a few new faces in the main roles- including a split on the role of Columbia between actresses Taylor Young and Allison Smith on alternating evenings. We also had William Colligan in the role of Dr. Scott and Ralph Cordoza in the role of Eddie. Everyone did a fantastic job- but, of course, this is coming from the last Transylvanian to the Right of the ensemble! Yes, yours truly took a spot on the stage and so I am not going to write a review for this year so much as share the memories in a post will hopefully offer a little justified tribute to Paper Wing’s signature production and a farewell to Lj Brewer in the role of Frank N. Furter as he delivers a Swan Song run with the character he so richly embodied over the past ten years.

My own journey with the company started in 2011 where I first performed as an ensemble Transylvanian doing the Time Warp alongside an almost entirely different cast save for Brewer and Hahn in their respective roles. Barton alternated Trixie with a pair of other actresses and Nicholas Kelly performed as a Transylvanian or as understudy to actors with schedule conflicts. This was also the first time I would meet Monterey artist Cody Moore, who would also be dancing the Time Warp with me these four years later. Reminiscing over the past four years, it’s amazing to see the affect this company would have on me and the family I would become a part of. That’s a story for another day, if that story is ever even told- this is about Rocky Horror 2015.

My journey begins with a facebook text message from Heather Hahn and Koly McBride, asking me to join the new cast for Rocky Horror. As Halloween is normally a big family thing for me and mine I am often not able to perform- but this was something I needed and the wife agreed. I would come to learn that this was to be Lj’s last performance- and not only was I eager, but I was flat out HONORED to share the stage with these wonderful people. And I leapt in to rehearsal with as much energy as I could muster-

Choreography! Egads, I am not a light and nimble sort and I’m not exactly a “down at the club” sort of guy. Add to that the boundless energy and love of dance from our choreographer (Devin Adler), and I would crawl home with sore legs, tight muscles, and a hope that each day would bring an improvement for my physical well-being. This was an intense period filled with plenty of action- kicks, turns, and broad arm sweeps throughout Time Warp, Sweet T, and a very fun little shuffle during the Sword of Damocles. Devin was an inspired teacher and a warm-hearted guy who helped us all adapt.

 And then, from Opening onwards we tackled the show with a fury that wouldn’t be denied. Every performance meant something- Lj’s last run, the celebration of old friends, the wedding of the Theatre’s first Janet, the passing of a dear mentor, the passing of an old friend, the greeting of a new era, and it all culminated in the Farewell weekend for Lj Brewer. A farewell that brought me to tears and is just one of the many reasons I love this theatre so much.

Halloween Night saw something you won’t see in too many other places- Ron Moore stepped back in to the role of Eddie for one single performance. The shows usual Eddie (Ralph Cardozza) had done an amazing job, but he didn’t let ego get in the way of a beautiful moment when he stepped aside for one show and allowed the Theatre’s original Eddie to do his thing one more time alongside Lj Brewer and also beside Koly McBride, who would step in to play Trixie when schedule conflicts prevented the original actress from finishing the run. All three were responsible for the creation and growth of Paper Wing Theatre over the years- and it felt right to have the three on stage together one last time.