Thursday, May 18, 2006

Would you like a dose of irony? I've got one for you big time. This whole last week, with the torrential rains and flooding in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, I never had any water in my basement, not a drop. This morning, I started to wash dishes and there was no hot water. For about fifteen seconds I couldn't think what might be wrong and then it hit me--the glass liner of the hot water heater had to have cracked as they all do sooner or later. I went down to the basement and VOILA! water trickling out of the tank and traveling a very short distance to a low-tech but extremely useful device those wily and smart Victorians had built into the basement floor--a rock filled dry well.

I turned off the water going into the tank and shut down the gas. Then I boiled water in my tea kettle to wash and shave with, and began to think of what I needed to do next.

The last thing I wanted was to have to replace a major piece of equipment just a year before I put the house up for sale, but I thought that getting a tankless, on-demand water heater might be the best bet. It would be an advantage in selling the house in this time of sky-high natural gas prices. So on my [delayed] way into work, I stopped at the plumbing company that’s done all the work on this house to arrange a replacement hot water heater. And I got a nasty surprise.

Tankless heaters are not good for replacement situations because they require a different, larger diameter gas and water pipes. Given all the work and materials involved doing a retro-fitting, the cost could be as high as $4000, installed. So I opted for a high-energy efficiency 40 gallon tank conventional hot water heater that will cost a quarter of that and be installed on Monday.

During the week of rain, my lawn grew at least eight inches. I now have a foot of grass waiting to dry out enough to use my electric lawn mower.

I saw opening performance of Pierre Marivaux's "Island of Slaves" produced by the American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.)at Harvard's Loeb Drama Center tonight. Written in 1725 at the beginning of the Age of Reason, Marivaux creates a fantasy island on which a group of escaped slaves have created a utopian community. When any members of the aristocratic class are shipwrecked on the island, they're "reprogrammed" to serve as slaves, while their servants are taught to rule. The original script is filled with sly humor, subtle inter-class exchanges and a great deal of sophisticated dialog. The material was dangerous and incendiary in France 64 years before the Revolution, and Marivaux was careful not to offer it to the great, established Comedie Francaise but to a troupe of Italian comedians resident in Paris, in which company it escaped being banned by the censors.

When it was all over, I commented to a friend, the general manager of Opera Boston, that I had never seen a Marivaux play on stage before. Without missing a beat he replied, "I'm not so sure we saw one tonight, either." The heavily cut and adapted script was set in an abandoned disco. The islanders were reconceived as a gaggle of drag queens, a choice by director Robert Woodruff that has no discernable connection to anything in Marivaux's play. Raucous, heavily amplified lip-synch numbers were interpolated into the script every ten or fifteen minutes, accompanied by whoopping and hollering from the audience that included several drag queens itself. Given the circus atmosphere, there was nothing of wit, grace, subtlety, political point or sophistication anywhere in the production. There was a well-sustained manic energy throughout the evening, and the five real Boston-area drag divas couldn't have put more care and concentration into their work. But I left the theater in a bad mood. The production itself was vile and had nothing whatsoever in common with the elegance and clarity of the play it was supposed to be supporting.

Well, geez, that sucks. I guess they figured pre-Revolution French costumes wouldn't draw in the drag loving crowd. Had they ever seen pre-revolutionary French aristocratic clothing?!?

Sometimes it's good when a play that's "old" is "updated" to make it understandable to current audiences. (I'm not a Shakespeare expert, but I sorta thought McKellen's Richard III did that very well)

But then some take the updating way too far. I mean they might as well have had it take place in the perfume section of Macy's...
Thanks, Atari--I just want to make it clear (I'll add a line or to to the blog as well) that what I object to isn't drag queens (these five were great performers and a lot of fun) but to the fact that there is not a shred of connection between the characters in the play and this kind of casting.

I have no problem with "post-modern" production style, either IF
there's a valid connection between what you see on stage and the text. Otherwise, call the production "A response to Marivaux," or "Robert Woodruff's Island of Slaves." "Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake," with the male swans and a very different, homoerotic take on the original, did just that and it was fine and honest.
Ugh, I hate it when the updating has nothing to do with the piece. It's like directors think old masterpieces aren't good enough anymore and need their help. The result usually seems even more obscure to me.
But how else are talentless people supposed to get into the history books? :)
That happened to my parents two weeks ago. It rained a lot over here in the western part of MA, but not enough to flood or inconvenience anyone.
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