Wednesday, May 23, 2018


As everyone who reads this blog knows (all one of me), it has been moribund for some time. The horror of post-asteroid political America is both too constant and too obvious to prompt analysis here. However, I am nothing if not critical, including lit critical. And a forum entitled Falstaff is entitled to post about Shakespeare.

Last night we saw The Acting Company production of Twelfth Night that closes this year's season of Theatre for a New Audience. It isn't an interesting take on the play. To the degree that there's any take at all, in fact, it makes no sense. We're led to understand that it was Feste who rescued Viola from the sea, and who therefore knows that she is disguising herself as a he (Cesario). This makes nonsense of much that happens later (most notably the exchange of wit between them in IIIi). It's all in service of what is intended as a coup de theatre at the end, where the once-again shipwrecked-looking Viola wafts back onstage during Feste's closing song, and disappears back into the sea -- suggesting, Sixth Sense-like, that she was never rescued and the entire play was Feste's dream.


The performances are mostly competent but uninteresting. Best is Susanna Stahlmann as Viola. The biggest disappointment is Stephen Pelinksi's Malvolio, whose self-love is less sick than stiff. He has some decent schtick during the famous letter scene, but he gets to none of Malvolio's explosive joy at his (false) discovery that Olivia loves him. Malvolio is usually given to a troupe's lead actor -- the one who plays Lear or Prospero -- because of this scene. But without his ecstatic transformation into a mad lover, his emotional meaning in the play disappears.

Thing is, though, it's still okay. This play is such a perfect construction that no performance, however inadequate, can ruin it. It's like a Mozart symphony. You can spoil As You Like It and Much Ado -- and, of course, an inadequate Hamlet or Othello or Lear can bring down a production. But Twelfth Night is robust against all theatrical failure (as, also, is Midsummer Night's Dream). It can soar -- as it did in the Globe Theatre's all-male production a few years ago with Mark Rylance as Olivia and Stephen Fry as Malvolio. And any given production can tap into its energies in brilliant, delightful, moving ways (as Oliver Platt's Toby Belch did a couple of decades ago in Central Park... and as Trevor Nunn's 1996 film version did, especially Ben Kingsley's Feste). But no matter how little inspiration is brought to bear, nobody ever leaves the theater without hearing its music. It plays on.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Yes, it's sad

It's sad that Hillary Clinton will never be president, and it's sad that she's being sidelined now. It's also sad that she winds up being chronicled by someone as shallow as Amy Chozik. I'm very glad that Rebecca Traister beat her to the punch, and will continue to be the chief chronicler in the mainstream media for both Hillary and feminism in politics.

In Michael Wolff, Trump got the historian he deserved. In Chozik, Hillary did not.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

And yet

David Frum has been admirable throughout the Trump catastrophe. He is a person of principle and intellectual honesty, and has the moral decency to condemn the indecent. His latest piece in The Atlantic provides further evidence of all that.

And yet, he's still living in a bit of an illusion. "To be a conservative" hasn't had much actual meaning for 25 years. There has been nothing remotely "conservative" about the GOP or its fellow travelers. The right has become increasingly radical -- the polar opposite of conservatism. They want to rip things up from the root (the root word of "radical"). Grover Norquist's bathtub long predates Trump's descent on that escalator. From Gingrich & co forward, the Republican Party had devolved into an anti-Constitutional, anti-American rolling coup. Trump has taken that coup to terrifying and disgusting places, but he didn't start the fire.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Battle of deep states

This seems entirely plausible. Even vile morons can be pawns in the Great Game -- maybe especially vile morons.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Profound perspective

I want to park this piece here, because it's a brilliant integration of feminism and post-modernism. It's unique in capturing the emotional impact of living under erasure.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Bye bye Bernie...

... or, at least, his bros. Good piece from Charles Pierce on the DNC chairmanship election.

Friday, January 27, 2017

After such knowledge, what forgiveness?

What happens to the feelings, the mental health, the spiritual state of Trump voters when the circus tent comes crashing down -- as it will eventually, perhaps sooner rather than later? They will be exposed to the world as, at best, morons (at worst, vicious racists and misogynists). There will be no escaping from the knowledge that they were not only snookered into backing a disaster, but that the civilized world holds them in contempt. The Trump voter will forever be the Yahoo Laureate of Planet Earth. The shame and humiliation will be intense -- and will certainly be exacerbated by the we-told-you-sos from the media and the elites they thought they were defeating.

Where, then, do those feelings go? Is this the seed of shame that will, after some interval, grow into an American Reich? an American Al Qaeda?

Trump truly is a body blow to the American experiment -- one whose effect will not end when he is eventually gonged offstage. We may need some avatar of Lincoln and Mandela if we have any hope that government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the earth.