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Bruce Nydnik and Lawrence Schiller’s Oscar-winning 1975 Best Documentary is a still-astonishing chronicle of the 1970 quest by Japanese daredevil Yuichiro Miura to climb and ski down the world’s highest mountain.
Douglas Rain’s narration (from Miura’s own diaries) is at times redundant, but the incredible camerawork, which catches seemingly every moment of this superhuman attempt—including some of the most amazing feats ever shot—is what makes this a classic of its kind. The film looks splendid on Blu-ray.
Ira Sachs’ latest New York City-set comic drama is a well-observed but meandering study of teenagers who become friends amid the linked difficulties of their family lives: even at 85 minutes, the film feels stretched out, as if it’s little more than a sketch turned into feature length.
Sachs’ usual strength is his cast, and Little Men is no exception: the boys are truthfully played by newcomers Theo Taplitz and Michael Barbieri, and there’s good work from Alfred Molina, Talia Balsam, Jennifer Ehle and Greg Kinnear as the adults in their lives.
Abigail's PartyWritten by Mike LeighDirected by Lee BrockStarring Lily Dorment, Colleen Clinton, Sarah Street, Nick Hetherington and John Pirkis
Anytime there’s an opportunity to see something created by award-winning British playwright/filmmaker Mike Leigh, it’s usually a worthwhile experience — though it’s not necessarily a pleasant one.
While rife with humor, The Pond Theatre Company’s recent production of Leigh’s 1977 play “Abigail’s Party” makes for an engaging, sometimes frustrating, work. It’s not frustrating because of any flaws in the writing, acting or staging — in fact the prim and proper setting of a 1970s English middle-class living room offers an ideal setting for the acidic and dark experience that was offered on this stage. The Pond, a brand new theater company focused on Irish and British plays (this is its inaugural production) did a bang-up job with both this cast and the direction by Lee Brock.
Rather, it’s the characters themselves that make it torturous, not because of any artificiality in dialogue or action; rather, it’s because the people are so real you want to step on stage and smack them few times throughout the two hours that commences here.
Pop songs insinuate themselves throughout the play which reveals the banality of these characters as they come in and out of this living room. Once the boozing begins, the action gets launched and the acidic dialogue really kicks in.
None of the characters are particularly bright or interesting; they really have nothing significant to say. And most annoying is Beverly who pushes everyone into guzzling more drink — as if to excuse her own angry, stupid uptightness and her need to justify her own failings which get smoothed over by intoxication. Though it seems like she just wants everyone to enjoy themselves she’s really catalyzing chaos through her own self-loathing.
The basic action is deceptively simple. Set in the London suburb of Essex, Beverly (Sarah Street) and Laurence (John Pirkis) invite new neighbors Angela (Lily Dorment) and Tony (Nick Hetherington) over for a welcome drink. They’re joined by Susan (Colleen Clinton), another neighbor whose 16-year old daughter Abigail is having a party at her flat. She’s come to the neighbor’s flat to escape the party’s outward chaos only to experience an inner turmoil stirred up in this tacky living room.
As they drink throughout the night, they comically and tragically drop their guard — and emotional disaster ensues. The anger inherent in much of Leigh's material is really present here with little ornamentation. His goal of flailing the English middle class is succinctly accomplished. And this early work of his illustrates the evolution of themes he explores in later plays and films.
Much like American playwright Neil Labute, Leigh unapologetically shows how ridiculous people can be in the most conventional of settings but, unlike his fellow playwright, they aren’t entirely unredeemable — just boorish.
Sadly, this play’s run has ended but there are more productions coming up in collaboration with the Barrow Group (a 30-year-old award-winning theater company) at their West 36th Street home.
For future productions go to: www.thepondtheatre.org
TBG Theatre at The Barrow Group312 West 36th Street, 3rd floor New York, NY 10018
Its breakthrough 1976 album2112 made Rush one of the top prog-rock groups, consolidating—and, to these ears, improving—their sound with Permanent Waves (1980), Moving Pictures(1981) and Signals(1982), still its three best albums. Hearing 2112 today, there’s undeniable dross (“Lessons,” “Tears”), but the musical confidence is there in spades for the band’s peerless instrumentalists: drummer Neil Peart, guitarist Alex Lifeson and bassist Geddy Lee (the less said about Lee’s vocals and Peart’s lyrics, the better).
This 40thanniversary set includes the original album, a second CD that includes new versions of 2112 tracks by the likes of Dave Grohl with Taylor Hawkins and Alice in Chains, and live tunes from Rush’s 1976 and ‘77 tours. There’s also a DVD featuring a healthy segment of a 1976 concert, a new interview with Lifeson and producer Terry Brown, and looks at Billy Talent recording “A Passage to Bangkok” and Grohl/Hawkins doing “Overture” for the second CD.
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