A Northeast Christmas Scene

We had just set the Christmas tree in the flimsy, three-legged, red-and-green metal stand, and tightened the three bolts to hold it. This was Christmas of ’69 or ’70. I was still living at home, and was on break from college. I was at my friend Lee’s house, helping him put up the family Christmas tree in the living room. It was a real tree, about 8 feet tall.

We stood back to see how the tree looked. It started to lean slowly, then faster. Before we could stop it the Christmas tree crashed onto the butsudon. Hearing the noise, Okaasan sprang from the kitchen into the living room, yelling in Japanese. (more…)

Humor Is an Important Ingredient for These Chefs

Every profession and occupation has its own brand of humor, usually intelligible only to insiders

© michaeljung/Shotshop.com

And each group takes its humor seriously. When you joke with your co-workers about your boss, each other, another work group, or even when your boss jokes with you, it’s more than idle humor. And if you’ve ever worked for a company that tried to stifle workplace humor, you know it’s practically impossible. (more…)

King Lear – Theater Review by Frank C. Siraguso

Ted Swetz as King Lear owns the stage in KC Actors Theatre-UMKC Theatre collaboration

Fool and Lear
Peggy Friesen-Fool, Theodore Swetz-Lear

This is the third time I’ve seen Shakespeare’s King Lear on the Spencer Theatre stage. The first, in 1991, featured Richard Bowden as Lear in a straightforward, classic production with elaborate sets and costumes. I remember that version not so much for Lear as for the other characters, notably Ted Swetz as the unfortunate Gloucester whose eyes are plucked out by Mark Robbins as the cruel Cornwall. (more…)

California Rake

It was during that summer of 1984, while I was living in Long Beach, California, that I first saw them. The two guys cutting the grass in the tiny front yard of the house across the street had finished and put the mowers and weed whackers in their truck. I thought they were getting ready either to rake up the clippings, such as they were, or just pack up and leave. Instead, they got these other machines from the truck that looked like vacuum cleaners or maybe those things the Ghostbusters wore. (more…)

A Lie of the Mind – Theater Review by Frank C. Siraguso

Powerful performances propel Sam Shepard’s A Lie of the Mind at KC Actors Theatre

Brian Paulette as Jake
Brian Paulette as Jake; photo: Mike Tsai/KCAT

Sam Shepard’s 1985 A Lie of the Mind explores relationships and the differences between men and women. He speculates about men being loners spending hours in a freezing deer blind and women who can wait for men’s return and the fact that people persist in love at all. At its heart, Shepard says love can endure the most horrendous abuse, until it breaks.

Director Cinnamon Schultz hardly lets us catch our breath from the explosive opening of Jake (Brian Paulette) banging the receiver on the pay phone to the very end three-and-a-half hours later. Once again, Jake has beaten his wife, Beth (Christina Schafer), but this time thinks he has killed her. He is calling his brother, Frankie (Jake Walker), for help. When they meet up, Frankie thinks maybe Beth is not dead because she lived through it the last time. Jake goes off on him, accusing Frankie of conspiring against him with Beth, with their mother, Lorraine (Merle Moores), and sister, Sally (Hillary Clemens), and even of maybe being in love with Beth himself. (more…)

The Book of Mormon, review by Frank C. Siraguso

You’ve heard about it, you’ve read about it, now here’s your chance to see the smash musical, The Book of Mormon live in living color at The Music Hall.

If nothing else, The Book of Mormon reminded me how lucky I am to live in the Garden of Eden, right here in Jackson County, Missouri! Actually, there’s a whole lot more.

Trigger warning: the language is course and some dance scenes are X-rated. The musical tells the story of two 19-year-old Mormon men, Elder Price (the amazing Gabe Gibbs, from the Broadway company) and Elder Cunningham, played opening night by standby Chad Burris, who managed to steal a good deal of the show. Paired for their two-year mission, the slim, trim Price, ambitious and shallow, and Cunningham, fat and prone to lying, learn their assignment is not to France, Japan or any other cool location. They’re headed for Uganda. Price is crushed: he yearns for Orlando, Florida, with its palm trees and Mouse World. Cunningham is clueless. (more…)

Vote, Don’t Drop

Dave and the Fish Church

Election 2016 is proving to be weirder than any in living memory. I am not impartial, fair or balanced about the outcome. I’m for Hillary, not Trump. Some think Hillary has it in the bag but I offer this cautionary tale about an election long ago that reverberates to this day. This is a true story. The subject is still alive and well, living somewhere on the West Coast. The moral of the story is simple: Unless you actually get out and vote (dammit), any bitching and moaning you do is pointless.

St. Anthony
The Temptation of Saint Anthony

It was 1972, and Senator George McGovern was running against Richard Nixon, the incumbent president. I had just turned 21 and this was the first year that I was eligible to vote. (more…)

Evita – Theater Review by Frank C. Siraguso

The Rep’s Evita is a splashy, sassy production the real Evita could appreciate

Evita and Che
Eva (Jenny Ashman) & Che (Mauricio Martinez) KC Rep photo

If you, like me, don’t know anything about Eva Peron (May 7, 1919-July 26, 1952), thought to be born Eva María Ibarguren, who became the wife of president and strongman Juan Peron, don’t worry. You won’t have to. And if the music and narrative songs sometimes sound like vintage 1978, it is. But Rep Artistic Director Eric Rosen’s direction, the great cast, and the live orchestra deliver an energetic Broadway-style musical with terrific vocals, dancing and music. (more…)

Our Town – Theater Review by Frank C. Siraguso

At Kansas City Repertory Theatre’s production of Our Town, for one brief evening, we were all residents of Grover’s Corners.

Thornton Wilder’s play is about small-town life in New Hampshire in the early 1900s. Nothing terribly exciting happens. The sun comes up, goes down, it’s a nice day. People go about their business. That’s the measured rhythm of life in Grover’s Corners. People in Grover’s Corners don’t exhibit much emotion, unless you pay attention and listen between the lines. (more…)

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead – Theater Review by Frank C. Siraguso

The Kansas City Actors Theatre production of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead examines the truth or folly of self-determination and the isolation of existence.

Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead is Shakespeare’s Hamlet seen from the viewpoint of two minor characters. Instead of seeing only their few quick scenes in Hamlet, we see the lives of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern as they do: a continuum that includes the scenes with Hamlet, Claudius, et al.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead and Hamlet are in rotating repertory. They use the same actors, set and costumes, providing excellent continuity for those who see both plays. (more…)