Jean's Take

A blog about words, women, & whimsy

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HOMESMAN: Surrealism on the Barren Plain.

cowboy-brown-horseshoe-hiI like Westerns; I like Hillary Swank and Tommy Lee Jones.  They are good at what they do, so I settled back with a smile to spend the evening with them in the Wild West.  It didn’t take long to realize that something was wrong–the land was too barren, the town too small and the settlers too few.  Swank plays, Mary Bee Cuddy, a strong, stalwart, spinster tilling her own land and wanting more than anything a man, for various reasons.  Jones plays, George Briggs, a good-for-nothing drifter whom Cuddy finds hanging from a tree (the only tree I believe within a hundred miles) getting ready to offer up his last breath.  (I know what you’re thinking, but forget it.) As the story proceeds, Cuddy has volunteered–for want of a valiant ‘Townsman’ to do so–to take three immigrant women who had become quite mad, across the barren plain to get help.   Briggs comes along—not because he feels any debt to Cuddy for saving his life but because she agrees to pay him.

From this point on, ‘Homesman’ makes no sense and don’t wait for it to do so.  Cuddy picks up these immigrant women, who couldn’t hack it on the barren plain, in a wood-enclosed wagon with no windows and a lock on the door.  They are handcuffed inside in their flimsy nightgowns, and at least one has no shoes.  There is no baggage and even few supplies for this barren plain adventure—I’m beginning to worry.

Along the way, they get hungry and BEHOLD! on this barren plain, with absolutely nothing around but barrenness, sits a Victorian Hotel that looks very much like a gingerbread house.  Inside is the innkeeper, James Spader, with a full staff preparing a feast and acting much like that rabbit who was always late in ‘Alice in Wonderland’.  Next, the little party arrives at a thriving Western town and Briggs delivers his looney cargo to Meryl Streep, the minister’s wife.   “Aha,” I say aloud, a smirk on my face, “You can’t fool me.  You may think you look like Meryl Streep in that bouffant black dress and pretty little black bonnet but I know you are really the Queen of Spades!”

I wait for Tommy Lee Jones, who directed the film, to put everything aright as he has so many times, but no, the movie ends as he dances a macabre jig and a wooden grave marker floats down the river.

 

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And for Summer Travelers . . .

“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.”

I LIKE THAT!!

Edward Paul Abbey (January 29, 1927 – March 14, 1989)  an American author and essayist and early environmentalist.

 

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Good for Grown-ups: ‘CAPTAIN PHILLIPS’ has Three Surefire Ingredients for Success. . . .

  • It stars Tom Hanks and he’s always a class act(or).   Here, he portrays Captain Richard Phillips with a competence and sensitivity that made this viewer feel empathy for a mangy, undernourished gang of captors that simply had a boat, a few guns, and nothing else to do.
  • It was developed from an intense and wild true story.  In 2009, the Maersk Alabama, a large freighter, was hi-jacked off the coast of Africa by Somali pirates.  The Somalis took the Captain as ransom when they left the ship on an enclosed lifeboat.
  • The Navy shows up and then the SEALS and, well, if you’re  like I am who still gets tears in her eyes during the proper performance of the ‘Star Spangled Banner’, you know the feeling.

 Mal-nourished pirates take-over Freighter on High Seas

Comments:

One thing about a well-publicized true story, we know the major details–we know that the pirates get on the ship, that the captain is taken hostage and that we get him back. But as the tension builds, I caught myself searching for logical ways to keep it from happening.  After all, the fact that four raggamuffin Somalis in a run-down motor boat could illegally board a large freighter with a crew of 30, take it over, leave with the Captain and $30,000 never quite seemed real even when I read it, but it does reaffirm that “truth is stranger than fiction.”

Wake up, Maritimers!!!

 

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An Evening with Bette Midler

Bette Midler or Sue Mengers?

Bette Midler or Sue Mengers?

In June, I spent an evening with Bette Midler.

Technically, she was on the stage and I was in the orchestra but the Booth Theatre is small and intimate, and I definitely felt a connection.  Now Bette– I feel we’re on a first name basis now–is the true definition of a ‘Broad’ and most of us gals like to think we have a little of whatever that is; besides, she’s packed with talent and, well, what’s there not to like?

When the curtain opened, she was sprawled on a sofa for a standing ovation.  It was obvious that this happened every time that curtain opened, because she threw us a pat wisecrack, “You might as well sit down; I’m not gettin’ up.”  And she didn’t the whole intermissionless performance.

It was a limited engagement of a new play called I’ll Eat You Last: a Chat with Sue Mengers written by John Logan and directed by Joe Mantello. For those of us not insiders, Sue Mengers was, at one time, a powerful talent agent who handled some of the biggest names in the business.  Her language was colorful and merciless; in fact, she was a perfect definition of that other ‘B’ word.

There were some good lines here and plenty of chuckles but, if it shows up again, unless you knew Sue Mengers or if it doesn’t star Bette Midler, I suggest you go for pizza.

 

 

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Irish Spring

I went to Ireland in April.  They were having a late spring, just as we did, and there weren’t ’50 shades of green’, but they had some great leafless trees.  This is one of them.

Irish Tree

The two big headlines while we were there had to do with two women–Margaret Thatcher and Savita Halappanavar.  They are both dead.

Margaret Thatcher had been old and sick and, well, no one much cared in Ireland–they hadn’t been very fond of her.  But Savita had only been 31 years old.  She had needed a therapeutic abortion but was trapped in a country that has one of the strictest laws against abortion in Europe.  Three days after she miscarried a less than human fetus, she died.  Women of Ireland marched.

 

 

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TO Malcolm Lambert

 

I just lost an old friend–by that, I mean he was old and he had been my friend for a long time, since grammar school, in fact.  We grew up in Augusta, Arkansas, a small town on the White River, a tributary of the Mississippi that became rather infamous during the Clinton Administration.  We went through grammar and high school all in one building and  graduated together with about 40 others, and that was forty others from the whole county.

That was also about the end of my knowing Malcolm.  He went west and I went  east.  Except for a few reunions, our paths didn’t cross through the years.  I don’t know anything about his family, what he did for a living, what he liked . . . . . . . . .  I do know that he had some rough times and later, he lost both his feet to diabetes and made news and You-Tube by jumping from a plane to call attention to a little girl who had disappeared.  I thought that was very brave.

A friend sent me this picture of Malcolm.  I see a weathered old man that I do not recognize, but I know he is part of who I am.  You see, we grew up together in a small town in Arkansas on the White River.

Rest in Peace, Malcolm Lambert

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Sunday in New York with ‘Mary Broome’ at the Mint.

I love New York City on a Sunday.  It’s a quieter and gentler place, and a great time to do something off-beat and off-Broadway.  The Mint Theater at 311 43rd Street, between 8th and 9th, just a block off Time Square, is a good example.

The Mint sits on the third floor of a tall building.  An elevator  deposits you into a fair-sized lobby where you can buy Mint Mugs and such or just sit for awhile and have a cup of coffee.  From the lobby, you enter the theater where there are seven rows of about a hundred seats, and each–except Row A–rises higher from the stage than the one before.  There isn’t a bad seat in the house acknowledged by the fact that all seats cost the same–$55 and less with discounts, a bargain even in the colonies.

The Mint Mission is worthy.  It is commited to bringing new vitality to neglected plays and to advocating for their ongoing life in theaters across the world If you think on it, it is much like Plutarch and his peers who pulled from the recesses of old monasteries the works of playwrights such as, Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripedes.  They gained immortality for these ancients and I suspect that Allan Monkhouse was sitting somewhere amongst us Sunday afternoon basking in the pleasure of watching his early 20th century play performed to a good reception in the early 21st.

Mary Broome is a play strongly influenced by the morals and mores of the Victorian era.  (Victorian is particularly in now because of the BBC series, Downton Abbey) It is produced by Jonathan Banks, the artistic director of the Mint Theater Company and performed by a solid cast of seasoned actors with credits from stage, film and television.

The plot is simple.  Mary Broome, played by the lovely Janie Brookshire, is a housemaid who is pregnant; the father is Leonard Timbrell, the youngest son of her employer and he’s rather ambivalent about the whole thing.  His father isn’t.

Now, most of us could write an ending to this story–we’ve heard them all–running the gamut from suicide and murder to happy ever after, but such responses could make Victorian audiences gasp, and this is pure Victorian.  I thought at first that it might be a satire, an indictment of the hypocrisy of the time, but no, it’s a Victorian play written by a man who lived and was influenced by his time.  Therein is a major argument for its ongoing life in theaters.  

There are four acts and all four take place in the parlor, the most polite room in a house and all four acts politely relate what happened inbetween, that is, behind the curtain–not literally since the Mint stage has no curtain.

The play opens in the Timbrell’s parlor where they are discussing the older son’s upcoming wedding and they casually mention the fact that Mary, who is there–waiting on the family, is pregnant and Leonard’s father offers him an allowance to marry her.  No one asks Mary what she wants.

In Act 2, they are back in the Timbrell’s parlor and a lot has happened. Mary is dressed in a long gown and is there for dinner.  We find that Mary and Leonard are now married and the baby–a boy–was born and also named Leonard.

In Act 3, Mary and Leonard are in their own meager parlor and he admits that he has squandered the allowance and has no money for food.  The baby is crying off-stage and he leaves to pawn his watch for money to bring a doctor.

In Act 4, Mary is in the Timbrell’s parlor to say goodbye and announce that she is going to Canada for a fresh start with an old boyfriend.  We also find out that the baby died, and that Leonard never came back with a doctor, nor came back at all.  Leonard comes in and tries to get her to stay but she has sense enough to leave.

It was fascinating that Mary had no emotional response to seeing him at the end.  Did Mary ever love Leonard?  Did Leonard ever love Mary?  Did Mary cry for her baby?  Did the Timbrell’s know their grandchild?  Lots of answers left behind the curtain for a polite little play.   Today, with all the blood and gore and the reality shows where  we let it all hang out and bad is good, I found it refreshing to need my imagination for these questions.

It was also refreshing to have such a pleasant Sunday in New York with Mary Broome in 4 acts at the Mint Theater.  I do love New York City on a Sunday.

 

 

 

 

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That is what I recall from the day I was raped by Agostino Tassi . . . .

Artemisia as a Martyr

I once heard a wise woman compare life’s voyage to a river that slowly twists and turns as it makes its way to the sea.  I thought on it for it seemed pleasant, but I could think of no one, except perhaps that wise woman, whose life may have made such a leisurely voyage.  It is my experience that life’s way is more often thrown from an accustomed path by unheralded jolts. 

One can awaken on a morning filled with anticipation of a glorious day bathed in the warm Roman sun, and before it is over, the eyes are overcast with shadows and life’s course has been so altered that the time before is only a wistful memory.  That is what I recall from the day I was raped by Agostino Tassi . . .

 

 

Read more about the great artist Artemisia Gentileschi and four other marvelous women from history in my work  . . . 

                        Daughters of Eve, a Herstory Book. 

Now available under $4.00 to download from Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, and other booksites.

 

 

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The Gay Tony!!!

I am sooo tired of Neil Patrick Harris and his ‘Gay Tony’!  He emceed the Tony Awards again last night.  Last year he opened the show with a robust song about how they can now admit they’re gay.  During the song, he ran around the theatre pointing, tapping people on the head or shoulders singing, “You’re gay, you’re gay, you’re gay”, throwing out an occasional, “You’re not.”

This year, among other things, he had a clever play-on-words to announce that the audience was ‘fifty shades of gay’.  I would think that ‘straights’ in the audience would begin soon to think this tiresome and complain to CBS–even if they are almost extinct–according to Harris.

Now, I don’t care if Harris is gay, shades of purple, came from outer space, or was born in a log cabin and walked to school, he is quite a talent and, last year, I tuned in just to see him–I tuned out during that opening song.  I guess he needs to express his sexual orientation, especially since he plays a straight lady’s man on his sitcom, maybe that bothers him.  But I think he’s gotten the word around and most people don’t care, maybe that bothers him too.

The Tonys are not about sexual orientation and I doubt that anyone who was there with a nomination for anything did it thinking–I’m gay or I’m not. 

But maybe I’m wrong.  In that case, maybe we should have a Gay Tony and a Not Gay Tony; now, all we have is a ‘one for all’.

In any case, that’s my 2 cents!

 

 

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Thought to Ponder: Gertrude Stein

“A diary means yes indeed.” 

I think I like that, but I’m not sure why.  If you figure it out, let me know.

 

 

 

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