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Short stories, blogs, poems, filmscripts, news articles, video & tramp journalism, by Bryan Adrian ... click this link


CALISTA FLOCKHART Returned to the New York Stage in Neil Labute's BASH (3) One Act Plays titled "latterday plays".

OLD REVIEW of "latterday" from November 1999 BASH when the Labute play premiered in New York City


1999 Review by Bryan Adrian

This reviewer thinks "yesteryears plays" would be more appropriate billing for Neil Labute's Off Broadway debut, and also truer to the spirit of the playwright's original intent of sticking to his "limited chauvinist lexicon".

Act One titled "Medea Redux" started off the evening with Calista Flockhart (without makeup) in a very long monologue using the voice of a 13-year old who had been knocked up by her Mormon teacher, and then casually and callously abandoned.

The directing here was quite good given the puerile quality of the prose thereby conveniently amplifying for this reviewer the multiple defects of Labute's playwriting --- I am quite grateful to the director for bringing on my convulsive fits of laughter throughout the frequent script anomalies -- but more on this -- "latterday".

The second play (one-act) was "Iphigenia in Orem," a tour-de-force by the quite charismatic and charming Ron Eldard, who if he lost a little weight might make it to the Olympic heights of film and stage deification very soon.

This Neil Labute one act play of a Mormon businessman rambling on in a monologue about suffocating his baby daughter nonchalantly with his matrimonial bed comforter, in a monologue following on the echoes of Calista Flockhart's long and boring monologue, was as entertaining to me as being forced to listen to the nails being driven into Christ on Mount Calvary during his Crucifixion. That is, this night at BASH was a "cruci-fiction" with ceaseless goose-stepping to the cadences of meta-fiction.

At least Christ's nails creaked out redemptive searing sounds of punctuation and finality and closure which Labute's diffuse and unfocused wordsmithing failed to offer to even one Gen-X stoner, his intended audience apparently. Both Beavis and Butthead are sharpshooting oratorical regimental "Riflemen" in comparison to the cookie cut-out caricatures that are from Labute's 'Nurse Betty Crocker' recipe book.

With only Ron Eldard onstage throughout "Iphigenia in Orem," staring into the center first row as if he were suddenly born an adult with tunnel vision and then thrust by the hand of god into a scene where he addresses a sleeping hooker [offstage] ... I could never determine who was really the intended recipient of his conscience-cleansing process, the hooker, me, or a cockroach I spotted as i entered the door near the ticket window.

I truly and sorely missed an Elektra female onstage. Her presence would have greatly benefited this play. In addition, if the locale had been set in a balmier and more exact historical setting such as the peninsular thumb jutting down from the Ukraine into the Black Sea, i.e. ancient Tauris, where Iphegenia had originally come from and which is today approximately Yalta in the Crimea --- the play might have much better succeeded, at least in scenery.

But we in the audience were stuck in Act Two with a rather pedestrian type of Marriott Hotel Bar in Orem, a suburb of Provo, Utah, and the home of Brigham Young University (BYU), from which Labute graduated.

The final act 3, the "bash" headline, came across like a final solution and was performed to a gaping meteor crater hole of painfully evident emptied-out seats. This 3rd short play had been billed as "A Gaggle of Saints" in the program, but it seemed to me nothing more than the same old tired manuscript of "Bash," that Labute wrote in his geeky teens for a freshman college assignment.

It is a tedious and tepid see-sawing of monologues between Mormon husband-and-wife, John and Sue, portrayed faithfully to the text on stage by Paul Rudd and Calista Flockhart.

Rudd was competent but hardly winsome nor inspiring as the homophobic and homicidal husband-to-be. Calista, having had time now to finally apply her makeup due to a 50-minute plus hiatus from the stage since her appearance in Act 1, looked like the prettiest girl of a high school prom wearing the very largest white corsage up for sale in her state of the Union. Her submissive compliancy and uncertainty of timber and tone were perfect for the expected demurring "agree-with-everything" Mormon wife, of a murderer.

If god had ever created a woman with absolutely no soul then this "Sue" creation of Labute captures her essence perfectly and Miss Flockhart should receive a Tony for her skillful emptiness.

Your dutiful reviewer here was disappointed that the thunderous and eternal primal S-C-R-E-A-M of Calista Flockhart that closed Act One and that rocked the house and which had everyone chattering like monkeys during the intermission (because her reverberating vocal horror had seemed to linger and ricochet from the foyer and into the Eons) was not also used to boost up Act Three.

I would have trilled to see Calista's Sue character explode the head right off of her blood-lusting husband-to-be with her Act 1 predatory scream, only using it this time as a weapon. Watching John's head burst into a mist would have been pretty satisfying good ole American entertainment after listening to him gloat and rant sophomorically (for over 20 minutes) about having bashed into pulp the face of a homosexual in a Central Park latrine with a heavy metal NYC public wastebasket.

I looked around the theatre at sagging heads and snoring somnabulants and also at several recently vacated seats (and at $45 per ticket this is exquisitely telling) --- then drifted away from the director's intent into a world of my own. I noticed the shadows on the spare wall set up by the evening's clever stage designer displaying a towering shadow of a male form eclipsing a little sliver of a flockhearted woman, yet without the force to fully blot her out, a feminine and streamlined praying-mantis of a figure, one quarter his total shadow mass.  

The recitations (incantations?) of the latterday cast onstage seemed quite unimportant near the end, so I listened exclusively to the inarticulate hatred of the homophobic fiancé issuing forth like bile from his rotting liver, counter pointed by the softly spoken words of his condoning and morally blind, wife-to-be.

Suddenly, it was sheer contentment to let the subliminal content of their almost meaningless words brush by my ears like blood soaked bat wings in flight, while I found my own inner buoyancy in watching the revelatory wall pantomimes of cro-magnon Rudd and demon fairy Flockhart perform their pas de deux.

Labute has been lionized as "non-conformist," "combative," and a "warrior" who "chips away at society's weak spots like a jail breaker," etc.

I found him more of a Ptolemy XXXI the Small from the House of CBS Reruns who salted his scripts with "Wheel of Fortune" clichés, or with prosaic adaptations of throw away lines from obnoxious Oscar-winning mass marketed blockbusters (from the genre of Steven Spielberg style opuses), and then highlighting various bon mots more lavishly than a provincial advertising copywriter might do floundering away in the puddles of a Fort Wayne, Indiana advertising agency.

A confession is in order at this point. This reviewer when he was an editor and feature writer for STREET NEWS, got sloshed with Miss Flockhart a half dozen or more times years ago in NYC's Miss Ellie's Bar & Grill, before she performed in 1996 as Natasha in a production of Chekov's The Three Sisters, her first "taste" of mainstream success and all the devilish pacts with the powers that be, that followed.

At that time Miss Flockhart told me she "would NEVER do TV," like many other struggling New York actors had done, to put burritos and rice on their table, from the soap opera paychecks of television melodramas or prime time series.

Calista had in her favor earned before "Ally McBeal," a few laudatory reviews in "THE NEW YORK TIMES" for her portrayals in both Chekov and Tennessee Williams plays, one rave review that dwarfed even some of the many Marlon Brando reviews of the 1950s [this achievement, added to the fact that Ron Eldard also had been favourably compared to Marlon Brando in a Wall Street Journal review dated May 22, 1995 for his work in "On the Waterfront," still didn't make this "latterday" C-L-I-C-K].

Is the vanishing youth of Calista, like Iphigenia, scheduled to be sacrificed on the altar of popular Hollywood culture? Where is her own Greek Elektra to the rescue? At this time, Iphigenia, I mean Calista, seems to have arisen from the temple and to have been revived as the specious "Ally McBeal". Miss Flockhart says in character over and over throughout her "bash" monologue, "You know, there's a Greek word for this but I can't remember it."

Well, the audience certainly did.  Maybe she will effectively remember the AKADIA word too -- and undergo a Midsummer Night's resurrection.



--- Notes on History of Miss Flockhart's Off-Broadway beginnings:

Edward Albee's "THREE TALL WOMEN" premiered June 14, 1991 in Vienna. It's American premiere was on July 30, 1992 at Woodstock. The same cast opened the New York City production on Jan. 27, 1994 at the Vineyard Theatre and totaled 47 performances. It thereafter moved uptown on April 5, 1995 to the Promenade Theatre, at 2162 Broadway, reaching 582 performances there by its closing on Aug. 26, 1995.

The Promenade Theatre had earlier afforded Calista Flockhart a good role in "Wrong Turn at Lungfish". THREE TALL WOMEN later needed a stand-in, temporarily for several weeks, to play the youngest woman, "C," of Albee's three important archetypes A,B, & C, in its Upper West Side production. This role officially belonged to Jordan Baker, and I'm not speaking of  Scott Fitzgerald's fictional Jordan Baker, the snobby and stuck up character of THE GREAT GATSBY.

Will Miss Flockhart ever return to the New York stage and shed like a snake the tightening skin of Miss Ally McBeal?   This might be an excellent spoof theme someday on Saturday Night Live!





by Bryan Adrian

"Matrix Reloaded"


Are we in this trilogy threatened by the Smiths or the Smurfs? For me, I would have been satisfied with an upper limit on Smith replicants set at least to 666, and not 789,467,198,467 ... True. They filled in a lot of the frequent dead stretches in the movie that made no sense in MATRIX (VIRAL LOAD) REVISITED [aka "Matrix Reloaded"] with hundreds of Smiths, as smurfy Pee Wee Hermann look alikes wearing childrens' ski sunglasses, whose frequent presence barely kept the movie from completely sinking every quarter of an hour.

This film should have been smashed against Ayers Rock and never allowed to leave Australia.

The movie did however, by the end of long hours of tortuously boring car and truck and motorcycle chases and crashes, sink like the Titanic, and the sperm load of the plot was, I am sad to report, disappointingly impotent yet viscous, in need of serious reloading.

The love scene between Neo and Trinity personally I thought Carrie-Anne Moss should have played his mother and not his lover, even though she is quite a fetching mature actress.  The undulating celebrants intercut throughout this lovemaking scene, had the look of an acid rock concert in Bali, performed by musicians and attendees, on a giant trampoline the size of a SuperBowl stadium, mixed in with 1968 Flower Power scenes from old Haight Ashbury, San Francisco.

Nobody was on acid and everybody was on Viagra as they gyrated on this Laugh-In set. The dance moves must have been choreographed by Bill Gates himself. The jump cuts to the humping of Kenau against the inflatable doll version of Carrie-Anne Moss, would have made better hormonal heat if one of those giant electro-mechanical spiders could have given her a much better arachnid drilling, rather than the tense and hesitant humanoid Neo doing extra slo-mo simulated push ups on Trinity's cadaver.  Perhaps this was to suppress any lingering symbolism of mother and son incest.  Overall, the protracted love scene had the sex appeal of a toothpaste ad, in which both lovers at the end of lovemaking looked exhaustedly relieved, similar to the look a patient gives to a dentist after having a painful infected tooth extracted.

Okay, we do have Kenau Reeves dressed up as a Jesuit missionary and it is kinda cute for nearly three hours of dark and unfocused and shadowy screen time, reminding me of Joel Schumacher's dreary and bleeding focus style. Couldn't we have had some Dominican Friars and some Augustinian monks too?

The slowest part of the film was when Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) was fending off a straight razor pressed against his throat by one of the twin albino Austrian vampire Merovingians [these twins perhaps based on Larry and Andy Wachowski themselves?] from the imagined court of Pepin the Short and Charlemagne  In this scene Morpheus fights for his life in a deadly chokehold, by using repeatedly his slow responding and still eyelashes, in a very static car chase scene. In this chase scene the fierce Huguenot ninja, killer Merovingian albino, somehow cannot make himself move his blade even 1/32nd of an inch to slash Fishburne's throat, in dozens of missed [or pissed] opportunities to do so, against the vulnerable jugular vein bulging out of the neck of Morpheus the Carolingian.

By the time this scene had tired itself out, I felt I had been dangled by the neck so long that I lost even a hangman's interest in what happens to any of the victims next or in their afterlife. Next MATRIX film could have even Jerry Seinfeld as Neo, and it would be all the same for me.

The ending with Kenau Reeves stretched out on a morgue table followed by the on screen giant caption "TO BE CONCLUDED" [no, not "to be continued"] warns one that what the scriptwriters have for talent, is already a foregone conclusion.

The film attempts to capture the European market, I guess, by giving the albino de facto Huguenot twins, many surly German inflected conversations about existentialism and freedom of choice, and other such Nietzschean topics of significance.   The most existential question this film aroused in me, was to ask if the music score director of the movie use to work on the sound for the TV Starsky and Hutch series?

Wait until all three MATRIX trilogy DVDs are going for $2.99 for the complete set in the mid 2000s at Blockbusters, or just play one of the trillions of MATRIX video and computer games destined to be in your young son's Christmas stocking next holiday season.   


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Click here for Bryan Adrian's analysis of EYES WIDE SHUT

Click here for Bryan Adrian's transcript of the script treatment for AI, the Spielberg Redux of the Kubrick script.

Click here for the last edition of THE HOLLYWOOD TATTLER

Click here for a review by Lady Gaga Enguri of the film TANGERINES