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26 March, 2018

This was one of those weeks where I realize how much I like being a critic.

We've recently seen a couple of shows that were not very good and one that I downright hated, but this weekend were two winners.

The first was Mothers and Sons, a relatively new play by the prolific Terrence McNally.  This is a kind of sequel to his earlier Andre's Mother, which told the story of the death of a young man and his mother's reaction to it, and to his partner.  Apparently in that play, Andre's mother doesn't speak a word.

In Mothers and Sons, Andre's mother shows up at his former partner's New York apartment, presumably to return a diary the partner (Cal) gave to her 20 years ago, at the funeral.

Silence is not her strength in this play.  When we first see her, she is positively rigid in her fury at Andre's death, now 20 year ago.  She blames Cal for his death (though he assures her he neither made her son gay nor gave him AIDS), she blames him for finding love again (after 8 years of grief), and is angry that he and his husband (they are now married, since marriage is now legal, which it was not when Andre was alive) have a young child.

All the performances were wonderful but outstanding was the woman playing Andre's mother (Lori Russo), whose outstanding physical feature was her pointed chin, which she kept raised in the air much of the time, as if she were reluctant to look down at Cal to speak with him.

(It was, in fact, nice to see her smiling at the bow, when here chin did not seem so prominent and more normal).  I found the play excellent and though I have some minor disagreements with my colleagues, when I finish writing the review, if I were writing for the star system, I probably would give it 5 of 5 stars.

The next day we went to a new to us theater (though it has been around for more than 40 years).  One of the other reviewers usually reviews it, but I took pity on him and agreed to so it this time.  My reason for not reviewing there before was that I thought it was a longer drive than we usually make, but it turned out to be about the same time (via a different freeway) from what we usually drive.

I was very pleasantly surprised.  It's a cozy little theater and the play, A Time to Kill, a stage adaptation of the John Grisham novel, was very good.  Well acted, for the most part.  My only problem with the show was not the production but the script itself, which I thought lacked an indefinable "something."  Still, I was reviewing for a paper that does give stars and I gave it four stars. 

I think my colleague has someone now who will spell him now and then when this particular theater does a show.  I enjoyed it and would like to return to see more productions from this group.

It's experiences like these that keep me going to the not-so-good shows.  With very few exceptions they are mostly good and even a bad production is fun to attend.  Well, with the exception of the one we saw a couple of weeks ago, which I still hate!

When I review for the Davis paper, I am the only critic.  When I write for the Sacramento paper, I have three colleagues, one of whom lives in Davis (and very rarely will cover a show for me if I am out of town).  We carpool to the Sacramento shows and he is the bane of my existence.  He has been doing this forever and knows everybody, and knows everyone's history from decades ago, so he is a fountain of information, which I almost always find very helpful in writing my review.

We also are both suffering parental health problems, his worse than mine since it's both parents not just his mother.  We do compare notes sometimes on whose parent has had the worst incident in any given week (he usually wins, since his are facing physical problems, as well as dementia).

But as intelligent as he is, he is not very socially aware and is forever not listening to me, or interrupting me, or putting me down and I end up feeling stupid.  I mostly ride in stony silence and let him soliloquize.  In all these years he has never noticed.  But I do value his expertise in theatrical history!  A different colleague once told me many years ago "He's an intelligent guy--but I wouldn't want to invite him to a party."



They are celebrating Brianna's 10th birthday at Disneyland.
"Me and 5 little girls--what could possibly go wrong?" asks Tom!


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