Theater musings: Politics and family

I’ve seen and reviewed a couple of plays and other events since last week and I have a few opinions I want to get off my mind. You won’t be hearing from me for a couple of weeks because I’m going to a very exciting writers’ program. I’ll tell you all about it when I get back.

Death and the Maiden at Victory Gardens

VG-Sandra Oh, John JuddA gripping political play by Ariel Dorfman, set in a country “that is probably Chile,” in the time after the regime of dictator Augusto Pinochet.  See my brief review on Gapers Block, which links to my original detailed version on theandygram.com.

Death and the Maiden, starring Sandra Oh in a strong and nuanced performance, runs thru July 20 at Victory Gardens Biograph Theatre, 2433 N Lincoln Ave.

The Late Henry Moss at The Artistic Home

I tweeted a link to my review on Gapers Block, with this comment: “You think your family is obnoxious? See what a Sam Shepard family is like.” A very good production of a play that is not for the faint of heart. The Artistic Home cast is talented and the acting solid. Their productions are reliably so.

The Late Henry Moss by Sam Shepard runs until August 3 at the Artistic Home, 1376 W Grand Ave.

Charles Ives Take Me Home at Strawdog Theatre

This play, now closed, got excellent reviews. The two lead performers give fine performances and are also solid at their respective talents: music and basketball. The father, a violinist, doesn’t understand his daughter’s obsession with basketball. The daughter, a basketball player, doesn’t understand why her father thinks music is the only thing that matters in life. The conversation and interplay is entertaining, but the plot doesn’t hang together. At the end of the 80-minute play, I thought, well, ok, did I just waste an evening or what?

If I had been reviewing this play, I would have given it two stars or “somewhat recommended,” as several reviewers did. And others gave it three or four stars.

And one more thing….

Chinatownposter1Chinatown. A movie review, for your home viewing. Have you seen Roman Polanski’s Chinatown in the 40 years since you first saw it in a movie theater? This 1974 film is absolutely brilliant. Every single detail–of clothing, behavior, autos, and clues to the mystery–is perfect and perfectly positioned. And of course, superb performances by Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway and John Huston make it as astonishing film.

I liked it when I first saw it, but in recent years, I’ve learned a lot about filmmaking and directing (thank you, Roger Ebert!) and I was able to get even more out of it. Chinatown is available streaming on Netflix or, of course, on DVD. Next time you’re looking for a great movie to watch, choose this one!

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Remembering Chile’s 9/11

Remembering 9/11/73, the day that changed everything–in Chile

We observed the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center this week. News channels had at least one story on the memorial observances. MSNBC relived the entire experience, replaying the NBC news footage from that fateful morning, minute by minute.

180px-Death_and_the_MaidenIn Santiago, Chile, they remembered their own 9/11, which had an even more profound impact on Chilean society.  The Christian Science Monitor reported that “President Sebastian Pinera marked the 40th anniversary of the military coup that overthrew Salvador Allende on Wednesday by urging Chileans to heal from—but never forget—the events of Sept. 11, 1973, that launched a bloody 17-year dictatorship.” Allende was a democratically elected socialist who launched the “Chilean path to socialism.” He nationalized the copper industry (mostly owned by US companies) and used the money to improve education and health care for his people. The US–meaning the CIA–found a way to sow chaos and provoke the military coup. Chile’s national history museum opened an exhibit this week to mark the anniversary.

Chilean writer Ariel Dorfman had a poignant article in the September 8 New York Times, titled “9/11: The Day Everything Changed, in Chile.”  He and his friend  Claudio Jimeno were among four advisers to President Allende when the government was under threat of a military takeover by the forces of General Augusto Pinochet.  The advisers  rotated nights at La Moneda, the presidential palace, to keep watch and alert the leader to any emergency.  Dorfman was to keep watch on Monday night, September 10, but changed nights with his friend because of a family obligation. The rest is history, of course. Jimeno was taken prisoner in the coup, tortured and became one of the desaparecidos.

Dorfman is author of the novel and play Death of the Maiden, which has been dramatized on screen as well as stage.  Victory Gardens Theatre will mount a production of the play in June 2014.  The 1994 film starred Sigourney Weaver as the activist who believed she had been raped and tortured by a doctor who befriends her husband. The events could have happened in most any country under siege today, but it was Chile. Chile after 9/11.

Bruce Springsteen honors Victor Jara, Chilean hero

newsVictorJaraLP

image courtesy backstreets.com

Bruce and the E Street Band performed in Santiago, Chile, on September 11, their first show in South America since the Amnesty International Human Rights Now! tour in 1988. Bruce took the opportunity to honor Victor Jara, Chilean poet, activist and Allende supporter, by performing his song “Manifiesto” during the encore set.  Jara was tortured and killed after the 1973 coup.