Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Piles Of Shtick From The Vaudeville Trunk

On Friday, Joshua and I went over to my older brother’s house. Our furniture from Boston was due to be delivered to my older brother’s house that day.

Both of my brothers took vacation days on Friday in order to assist in the day’s activities.

My sister-in-law contemplated taking my nephew and niece over to my parents’ house for the day in order to keep them out of everyone’s hair, but she decided to allow them to stay home and witness the installation of new things in their house.

Our Boston living room furniture was destined for my older brother’s den, which has been bereft of furniture since my older brother and his family moved into the house in early 2009.

The den now has bookshelves; a computer module—with two chairs—that accommodates two computer stations, a television and a sound station; a couch; two end tables; and four beautiful lamps that lend color to the room. We arranged everything to my brother’s specifications, and he now loves his den (and, for the first time, he will be able to use it). He now intends to work from home a couple of days a month—and my sister-in-law now intends to select window dressings and rugs for the room.

Our Boston bedroom furniture was destined for my nephew’s room. Since he left the crib, my nephew has slept on an antique daybed of spool design—but henceforth he will sleep on a large double bed (on which he now likes to jump up and down). Our only other item of bedroom furniture from Boston was a chest of drawers. It, too, now resides in my nephew’s bedroom.

Our Boston kitchen furniture consisted only of a table and four chairs. For now, the table and chairs are in my older brother’s basement, as are a few boxes of books and kitchenware and other odds and ends we had shipped home. These items will remain in my brother’s basement until Josh and I establish a permanent residence (our search for a permanent abode will get underway once Josh has taken the Minnesota Bar Exam and once we return from Britain).

On Friday night, Josh and I took my middle brother downtown for a night out.

We ate dinner at a popular restaurant that features new American cuisine. The menu was somewhat pretentious—and not greatly appealing—but we were able to assemble a decent meal. We ordered asparagus soup with king crab and lime; apricot-glazed stuffed quail; and raspberry shortcake. I suspect we shall never return to the restaurant—only two entrees on the menu seemed even remotely appealing, and the one we selected, the quail, was no more than minimally satisfactory.

After dinner, we attended Jungle Theater’s production of the Stephen Sondheim musical, “A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum”. The presentation was the first musical staged by Jungle Theater in the company’s twenty-year history.

The production was not good. Everything was far too broadly played; the performers were having a better time than the audience.

“A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum”, from 1962, has enjoyed several commercially-successful revivals, but the appeal of the show escapes me.

The show is a farce, but the farce is not funny.

The show is a musical, but the music is not good.

Except for the famous opening number, the score for “A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum” is supremely undistinguished. There are no hints of the genius Sondheim was to reveal eight years later in “Company”. (Sondheim has repeatedly remarked that the 1960s were fallow creative years for him. He has also stated that the constraints of the book of “A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum” were, for him, stifling.)

“A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum” may be entirely dependent upon the skills of a fine director to bring the show to life. At Jungle Theater, the director merely unloosed piles of shtick from the vaudeville trunk. The anything-for-a-laugh onstage antics were incessant. They quickly became cornball, then tiresome, and finally exhausting.

It was a depressing evening. I never want to see the show again.

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