My Girlfriend’s In Love With Holden Caulfield

J.D. Salinger, the author of Catcher in the Rye, noted recluse and creator of the archetype of the angsty teen, Holden Caulfield, is dead at the age of 91.

Although I liked Catcher in the Rye, I personally remember his short story “A Perfect Day for a Bananafish” better. But there’s no denying that that novel had a strong impact on teenagers and American society. The title of this post even comes from a poem in David Levithan’s The Realm of Possibility about a boyfriend who’s girlfriend is in love with Holden Caulfield and is obsessed with Catcher in the Rye.

In other news, I had no clue that Salinger was that old.

OMG POTUS SOTU FTW!

If there is one thing that everyone can agree on, it’s that President Obama is still a terrific public speaker.

It was a great speech and it was no wonder that congress seemed to be leaping to their feet every five minutes. They were more standing ovation crazy than Iowans, but with a good reason. The speech did manage to inspire in the midst of the difficult times. I was even optimistic as I watched and listened to it. And if a speech can make me optimistic it has to be good.

The remark about the Democrats not needing to run to the hills after losing Massachusetts did need to be said. I was disappointed by the results of that election, but the Democrats still have the majority. The speech felt like he was trying to say, “I’m trying as hard as I can, give me a break.” Although the mention of him working with Congress to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell did make me stand up and cheer. (Please deliver on this. Thanks.)

He did address student loans at one point in the speech and discussed a plan for student loan debts to be forgiven if a person decides to enter public service. Which makes me wonder this: Is becoming a theater critic public service? (I’m kidding.)

And I was watching the State of the Union address on MSNBC, which means that I got to hear Chris Matthews say, “I forgot he was black tonight for an hourlive. And, yes, it did make me want to bang my head into a wall.

(Also, Whet Moser of the Chicago Reader has other stupid things said after the State of the Union address.)

Any other thoughts?

Review: “The Year of Magical Thinking” – Court Theatre

Mary Beth Fisher as Joan Didion in The Year of Magical Thinking at the Court Theatre (Photo: Michael Brosilow)

“Life changes fast. Life changes in an instant,” Joan Didion (Mary Beth Fisher) says at one point in Didion’s one-woman play The Year of Magical Thinking, which is currently running at the Court Theatre.

Those two sentences summarize the key events at the center of Didion’s play, which is based off of her memoir about the loss of her husband and the baffling illness of her daughter. Didion’s script has a very casual feel to it as she veers off into telling of memories of her husband, John Gregory Dunne, and her daughter, Quintana, before catching herself and returning to telling us the primary story. These memories manage to be key in understanding events throughout the play and feel like branches on the main play.

Director Charles Newell stages this production to make it feel very conversational. Throughout the play, Fisher gets up, walks around, sits on the edge of the stage, sits back down at the chair behind the small table that’s onstage the solitary platform that has been designed by John Culbert to look like it’s been covered in parquet flooring. She occasionally sips from the cup of tea that sits on top of the table. It feels as though the audience is sitting in Didion’s apartment having a very interesting and personal discussion with her over a cup of tea.

Fisher’s performance is undeniably natural and human. Throughout the play, she speeds up when talking about an incident and then will pause, trying to digest the still jarring details and facts. The comedic moments in this very depressing play are delivered with a deadpan, matter-of-fact way by Fisher, making them feel unintentionally funny. But the sadness displayed on Fisher’s face makes the moments of insanity and magical thinking — the idea that bargaining will bring something back — something that can feel a bit confusing because of the agonizing emotional pain this woman is in.

Jennifer Tipton’s very simple lighting design works well on the lonely platform, occasionally changing the brightness or the hue of the lights. Mike Tutaj’s projections of smoke or waves on the stage are subtle enough to be mistaken for a really fancy lighting effect.

But nothing is overdone in this production. Instead, the simplicity makes it feel like a very intimate and heartbreaking evening with Joan and her thoughts. And it serves as a lesson on the pain of mourning. As she bluntly tells the audience at the beginning of the play, “It will happen to you.”

“The Year of Magical Thinking” continues through February 14 at the Court Theatre (5535 S. Ellis Ave). Tickets can be purchased by calling (773) 753-4472 or by visiting www.CourtTheatre.org

In keeping with the new Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulations that unfairly discriminates against bloggers, who are now required by law to disclose when they have received anything of value they might write about, please note that I did not pay for my ticket for this play. I received a press ticket.

Athol Fugard and Censorship

Consider this to be in honor of the first show of Fugard Chicago 2010 beginning this weekend with “Master Harold”…and the Boys at TimeLine.

Athol Fugard, the South African playwright, described censorship as hesitation. For him censorship is not necessarily the proximity of government inspectors or a threat of imprisonment but, rather, on the physical hesitation of his hand while writing. Censorship is his own private vacillation provoked by whatever doubts are out to ambush him. Censorship is a physical hesitation in the light of fleeting thought or doubt about how his peers might receive what he is writing, whether or not they will like it or if it will be published.

-From A Director Prepares by Anne Bogart

Moments of Wow

First of all, I turned on my computer yesterday morning to find messages telling me that I was mentioned on The Guardian’s theater blog. Chris Wilkinson of the Guardian addressed the lack of female theater bloggers on his 2009 best theater bloggers list. He pointed to a list on the Drama, Daily blog, which I was mentioned on along with many other very talented writers, many of whom I admire greatly.

He then pointed to particular posts that caught his eye and one of them was my post about the Halcyon Theatre’s Alcyone Festival, which is featuring the works of María Irene Fornés.

I’m really not sure what to say about this. I’m quite flattered and a bit surprised because I’m just a college student. I really don’t expect to find my blog linked to by the Guardian.

The second moment of wow is brought to you by Catey Sullivan of the Chicago Theater Blog, who sent WNEP founding artistic director Don Hall, who writes the blog An Angry White Guy in Chicago, a cease and desist letter after he put her review of WNEP’s The (edward) Hopper Project on his blog and commented on it.

It should be noted that Hall has done this with all of the reviews of the show, including the ones from the Windy City Times, Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Reader and Time Out Chicago. Sullivan is the only one to send a cease and desist letter and I’m really not sure why other than that she was upset that it was put on there without her permission. In my opinion, if you’re writing something that will be put online, be prepared for people to copy it in its entirety. However, I also think that what Hall is doing is a great idea because it’s creating a dialogue between the critic and the artist, which I think needs to happen more.

Upcoming Alcyone Festival to Focus on the Works of María Irene Fornés

Since 2008, Halcyon Theatre has done a festival of plays by female playwrights as a part of their season. The Alcyone Festival is done every year to “combat the absolutely awful percentage of female playwrights produced,” as Halcyon artistic director Tony Adams puts it.

This year’s festival focuses on the works of María Irene Fornés, a Cuban playwright.

“Other than Eugene O’Neil, no other playwright has had a greater influence on drama. Most people haven’t heard of her, but they know of her through whom she influenced and taught,” Adams said.

Fornes has written about 40 plays; among her works that are being performed for the festival are Letters from Cuba, Tango Palace, Sarita, Manual for a Desperate Crossing, Summer in Gossensass and What of the Night. Five of the six plays haven’t been seen in Chicago before.

For Gina Lopiccolo, the director of Sarita, the ability to direct one of Fornes’ plays is exciting.

“I had directed one of her shows in college, The Conduct of Life,” Lopiccolo said. “I’m a huge fan of hers and she doesn’t get produced a lot. I had wanted to direct Sarita for a while.”

Sarita is a “play with music” that tells the story of a young girl named Sarita. The play focuses on her life from age 13 to 21 as she pursues a troublemaking boy that no one approves of while another boy is in love with her, while she doesn’t care for him.

For Lavina Jadhwani, the director of Summer in Gossensass, which is about the first American production of Hedda Gabbler, this is an introduction to the work of Fornés.

“I was more familiar with Ibsen,” Jadhwani said. “When I read all of the subbmissions that Tony had, I felt drawn to this play. What’s fascinating is that they’ve heard about Ibsen, they’ve heard about Hedda, but it’s not until halfway through the play that they get their hands on the script. It was not a play, it was the play. I saw a lot of myself and my peers in that. What does it mean to create meaningful art? There are some very high stakes in that.”

The other directors include Juan Castañeda, Coya Paz, Margo Gray and Halcyon Theatre’s associate artistic director Jenn Adams.

“It’s a pretty formidable group of directors, which is exciting for me,” Tony Adams said. “At the end of the day, they’re great plays and they’re fun to watch.”

The Alcyone Festival begins on January 21 and runs through February 27 at the Lincoln Square Theatre in the Barry United Methodist Church at 4754 N Leavitt. For more info, visit halcyontheatre.org

This Blog is Now A Year Old

On January 7 of last year, I decided to switch from LiveJournal to WordPress as a bit of an experiment. The result has been successful and the LiveJournal is now defunct.

Last year, when I started writing on here, it was snowing. Today, it’s snowing. That’s winter in the Midwest for you.

Anyway, here’s to another good year of writing about theater (and other topics) and thank you for reading Fragments.

This Broadway or the Staged Reading of US Weekly?

Due to the number of shows closing this month on Broadway for various reasons, and the hits that have huge movie stars, I thought that the video “The Superior” by the Southern Mothers would be rather appropriate, particularly since Superior Donuts is closing today.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go kick myself for not seeing it when it was running at Steppenwolf. And try to find donuts.