Sunday, July 28, 2013


It all started with "Big Lake, Big City," a sassy modern noir mystery for stage by Keith Huff (whose writing credits include "A Steady Rain" on Broadway, "House of Cards" for Netflix and television's "Mad Men.") My friend Pauline suggested we take a train to Chicago for a matinee performance at the Looking Glass Theater. A day trip. How could I resist?
        Then theater fan Pauline suggested maybe we could spend the night and catch two plays. The dark psychological thriller "Belleville" at Steppenwolf was added to the itinerary. Can't beat Steppenwolf. I'm willing to try anything they offer.
        Then Pauline got a good deal at a downtown hotel (the wonderful Wit), so the trip grew to two nights. Our Wednesday schedule was open. We thought we might walk over to Navy Pier for dinner and fireworks. Or catch something at the Shakespeare theater there. Or maybe a blues club.
         The Wit is just around the corner from The Goodman. Tickets for its latest extravaganza, a new musical version of "Jungle Book," weren't available online or at Hot Tix, but as Pauline keeps saying, you never know until you ask. So after checking into our hotel room, we stopped by The Goodman and happened upon half-price tickets in the middle of the mezzanine. I don't get better seats as a reviewer.
        In two days we racked up three wonderful shows. Broadway couldn't be better. "Jungle Book" is a snazzy, jazzy light-hearted musical, that's just a shade shy of four star perfection. It's headed to Boston next. I suspect a little fine-tuning of the  "story book" scene that opens and closes the show, may send it to Tony Award history.
        "Belleville" is wonderfully acted and engrossing, but it leaves too many questions about this poisonous romance. What's he doing now? Why does she say that? What IS this story about?
         "Big Lake, Big City" remains the shining star of the visit. Perfect casting, ambitious sets  (a Ferris wheel scene and "smokin'" bodies) and witty, laugh-out-loud comedy.
          "Belleville" and "Big Lake, Big City" continue through Aug. 25, "Jungle Book" closes Aug. 18. I recommend all three. Get 'em while it's hot!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Grand Canyon of Leenane

Question: If a tree falls in the forest and only 38  people are there to hear it, is the crash any less magnificent? Put another way: Would the Grand Canyon be less grand or Niagara Falls less spectacular if only a precious few knew these places existed?
      I don't think so.
      The measure of greatness is not always in the size of the crowd of admirers. 
       Which explains why award-winning director Fred Sebulske and his award-winning cast of Rose Anne Shansky, Amy Kaechele, Craig Hammerlind and Dylan Harris are pouring their hearts and talents into "The Beauty Queen of Leenane."(Read review) This dark Irish tale is being presented one more weekend at the intimate Dog Story Theater. If you enjoy absorbing acting and a well-written drama with plenty of humorous moments, then you'll want to be sure to get one of the 50 or so seats available at each performance. Otherwise, you could find out the Grand Canyon was here, and you missed it!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

R+J=Hot stuff

When I see a really great show, I just can't stop telling people about it. That's the effect of Hope Summer Repertory's "Romeo + Juliet." Smokin'! This contemporary interpretation of the classic Shakespearean tragedy is great on so many levels. It makes use of modern media including gigantic video screen and cheeky little tweets from @bardofavon. The fight scenes are fantabulous -- with athletic somersaults and pop stands. The characters are well developed, with better connection to the audience than you usually see in Shakespeare. And the lovers -- whew, you'll believe these two are in love. Check out my review . The good news is there are six more performances in repertory, with the final one on Aug. 8. Be sure to catch one.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Gone fishing!

Is your summer busy? What with yard work and travels and squeezing in a few warm weather musts like farmers markets or barbeques or outdoor concerts, the summer disappears too fast. I mean, what happened to June? The next thing I know it's July and I haven't found time for a bike ride or an ice cream cone or paddling around the lake behind my house.
     So when my guy Steve insisted I drive all the way to his place in northern Michigan to finally use that fishing license we bought a month ago, I felt a little exasperated. I don't have time, I told him. I'm giving a presentation Tuesday to the Word Weavers group in Allendale. I need to go through my notes, practice my power point, collect hand outs.
      And there's that book I'm supposed to be writing. Full Moon Friday is the third book in my Jordan Daily News Mystery series. It's scheduled to come out June 13, 2014 -- the last Full Moon Friday the 13th until 2049. A year isn't a lot of time to write a book and get it edited and published, so I need to stay on track. I'm getting into some really fun parts of the story and I enjoy my writing time.
      And one of these days I've got to sort out all that medicare paperwork they've been sending me. I turn 65 in October so I need to figure out my alphabet of options: Part A, B, C and D. And clean the garage. And call a plumber about that pipe in the basement. And...
       But sometimes, when you love a guy, you got to make time for him and his passion -- fishing. So Saturday, for the first time this summer, I went fishing. It wasn't exactly slamma jamma, which is the way Steve likes to catch fish. We ended up with 32 keepers, more than enough for a nice mess of fish and plenty of left overs. But it took us all day.
           We caught a lot of little perch that are more of an irritation because you got to keep taking the hooks out of their mouths, trying not to hurt the squirmy little things, throw them back, replace your bait and do it all over again, without really adding to "the catch."
      And then there's the big irritations -- usually a rock bass or some other fighting fish that Steve says is fun to catch (we differ on the definition of fun) but also gets thrown back. Saturday Steve caught a whopper. A huge needle nose gar that looks like a prehistoric monster -- and it is. This is the kind of  fish Fred Flinstone probably brought home to Wilma. But Steve's gar just messed up our lines, tied them in knots and forced him to get out the pliers and scissors and redo some rigging. (after the ugly fish was returned to the water, of course.)
      But sitting back in the boat for six hours -- enjoying the sun and the Lake Leelanau scenery, exchanging lazy meaningless small talk with Steve and his grandson Mitchell, and getting lost in slow summer  moments to just think about clouds and ripples and whatever -- I remembered why I like fishing and why I need to make more time for it in my life.
       Slow down, just sit. Or as the minister said this morning at Church in the Park: Let go and Let God. Echoed in a song from "The Full Monty"--"Let it go, let it go, let it go."