Thursday, October 20, 2016

Amen: The Cubs Restore My Faith, Whatever Happens Now (or So I'd Like to Believe)

What a difference a day makes.

If you're a fellow Chicago Cubs fan, you obviously well understand the importance, in a baseball context, of the Cubs' 10-2 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers Wednesday night to even up the National League Championship Series at 2 games apiece.

Going down 3 games to 1 in a Best of 7 series is never promising, especially with Game 5 to be played tonight in Los Angeles.

But I'm probably not the only one who considers last night's sizable victory even more important from a psychological standpoint.

For while I obviously want the Cubs to win, the pennant for the first time since 1945 and a World Series for the first time since 1908--and believe this year's team is entirely talented enough to do so--if they don't I will be alright with it.

I will still cherish the 103 regular season games they won this year, as clearly the best team in baseball from wire-to-wire. I will still be a Cubs fan and root for them the rest of my life. I will wait, as I always have, 'til next year.

But unless they should happen to lose in extraordinarily confounding fashion--and believe me, I know that's a possibility--thanks to last night's win, which saw the team and especially stars like Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell truly hit for the first time in the postseason, I won't be left to wonder why the Cubs didn't show up or how they managed to blow up.

Methinks this is a first.

And while jubilation is the ultimate goal, a sense of pride is the next best thing and feels pretty darn

Forget all the seasons of absolute suckage and misery. Forget about goats and Gatorade soaked gloves and the guy in the stands who doesn't deserve to have his name forever cursed.

What really has had me vexed as a lifelong Cubs fan is the number of times they ended a promising season especially meekly or utterly disastrously.

1969 (the year after I was born so I don't remember it much). 1984. 1989. 1998. 2003. (read this) 2004. 2007. 2008. 2015.

Cubs fans know all too well to what I'm referring so I don't need to spell out every instance, but the litany of low includes choking to miss the playoffs, blowing 2-0 and 3-1 series leads, getting repeatedly swept in the NLDS and, even in an otherwise expectation-exceeding 2015, getting swepts by the Mets in the NLCS after beating the Cardinals in the division series and being established as betting favorites to win it all. (This was a piece I wrote upon last season's conclusion.)

Not all cases were the same; sometimes the Cubs were clearly overmatched. There were series in which they played rather well but still got beat soundly. But all too often, even when the team was really good--and 2016 marks their 5th postseason appearance this century; only 4 other teams who've made that many playoffs since 2000 have failed to reach a World Series--the Cubs have frustratingly gone down without much of a fight.

Or, as in 1984 and 2003, they managed to steal defeat from the jaws of victory in the most excruciating fashion.

At NLCS Game 2; I also attended Game 2 of the NLDS
But although this year's Cubs beat the Giants in the NLCS--thanks to a Game 4 miracle that staved off a gut-wrenching Game 5 after a 2-game lead was at risk of completely evaporating--and won Game 1 of the NLCS, then lost understandably to the best pitcher in baseball (Clayton Kershaw), it was a feeble 6-0 Game 3 loss in L.A. to soft throwing journeyman ex-Cub Rich Hill, in which most of the Cubs' powerful lineup continued their dreadful slump, that had me fearing not just another disappointing end to the season, but an anemic embarrassment that would seem statistically incomprehensible.

Yet again.

But thanks to Russell and Rizzo and even Jason Heyward, who all managed to crack 20-year-old Dodger pitcher Julio Urias after blowing some early chances, that didn't happen.

And all is well with the world.

At least for now.

So no matter what happens tonight or in the days ahead, it at least feels great--especially when compared to the ever present past for Chicago's north side baseball team--to know joy in Cubville.

Go Cubs Go!
Some may enjoy this Spotify playlist I made for my drive to work this morning.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

How Does It Note Bob Dylan Winning the Nobel Prize in Literature? The Answer My Friend....

Last Thursday, October 13, amid the endless churn of Facebook News Feed items about Donald Trump, and within a year where breaking news about famous musicians has all too frequently revealed their passings, came an unexpected but welcome tidbit:

Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Although Dylan, now 75 and born Robert Zimmerman in Duluth, Minnesota, wrote a well-received memoir--Chronicles, Volume 1--he is, of course, principally a singer and songwriter.

And in announcing the Nobel Prize, the Swedish Academy proclaimed his selection was "for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition."

Without thinking about it too deeply, at first blush this news sounded like reason to celebrate (without actually celebrating).

Although Dylan undoubtedly has millions of more fervent fans, who know his catalog much more deeply and who possibly followed him first-hand as he became a cultural icon in the 1960s, I hold him in extremely high esteem and consider myself a considerable fan.

You can easily find much more in-depth and astute appreciations of Bob Dylan--in awarding him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012, President Obama aptly said, ""There is not a bigger giant in the history of American music."--than I will attempt here, but of all the ways to explain his genius and his impact on music, culture, society and more, my favorite is a paraphrasing of something I once heard said about his 1965 song, "Like A Rolling Stone."

Although Dylan had already created indelible masterpieces in a folk musical vein--including "Blowin' in the Wind," "Masters of War," "The Times They Are a-Changing," etc., etc.--with rather strident social commentary, "Like a Rolling Stone" was a 6+ minute single (among the longest ever at that time) with sophisticated lyrics, electric guitars and an organ solo.

Its release came just days before the infamous "Dylan Goes Electric" set at the Newport Folk Festival, and represented Dylan's first foray into rock 'n roll.

I don't know where credit is due for pointing this out to me, but before "Like a Rolling Stone" rock music--even by the Beatles, Stones, Beach Boys, Kinks and other legendary visionaries--was almost exclusively the dominion of short songs, mostly about love, cars, surfing and nothing too serious.

It was only after "Like a Rolling Stone"--with the caveat that the Byrds had released their hit, rock-tinged cover of Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man" earlier in 1965--that rock songs became longer, more commentative and/or political, with John Lennon's "Nowhere Man" first taking the Beatles in this direction and others soon to follow.

So although the latter-day state of his singing voice--think Cookie Monster, and it was never dulcet to begin with--has left me a bit disappointed in his concerts this century (the most recent I saw, in Nov. 2014, actually wasn't too bad), my regard for his talent, genius, impact and influence couldn't be much greater.

And while I would take it as a given that every year the Nobel Prize in Literature--which seems only to be awarded to living writers and usually honoring a lifetime of work (rather than a specific one)--is chosen by the Swedish Academy numerous deserving choices are passed over, my knee jerk reaction to the news about Dylan was along the lines of "That's damn cool." (It came the same day I was already celebrating the 75th birthday of another legendary American rock songwriter, Paul Simon, prompting me to draft this list of the greatest living practitioners.)

Obviously, with the internet constantly flooded with zillions of freely-offered opinions, and often complaints, on any topic, it wasn't hard to imagine dissension over Dylan's Nobel selection, but I hadn't noticed any until I saw a Tweet by Hamilton-creator Lin-Manuel Miranda--himself a brilliant (song)writer--jabbing at novelists who were presumably condemning the choice.

I subsequently saw articles such as this one, which noted positive reactions by musicians and authors, but also some derision, notably by the latter. The most vicious slam I noted came from Scottish novelist Irvine Welsh (Trainspotting).

Then over the weekend, my friend Ken--a literature buff but also a believer in the cultural importance of groundbreaking rock 'n roll such as Dylan's--asked if I was going to write a Seth Saith post about the Nobel Prize, seeming to suggest that he found the selection askew. Despite stipulating to Dylan's inarguable genius and import, he didn't feel Bob merited a "literature" award.

I disagreed, but not particularly vociferously, and with various other matters at hand--the wedding of Ken's son, my birthday, the Chicago Cubs in the playoffs, the last week of my current work assignment--I wasn't planning to pontificate about the matter in writing.

But with time to do so, and no theater or concert reviews to pen, it would appear that I have decided to.

Even though I really don't care that much about it. Nor seemingly does Dylan, who at last report hadn't returned any calls or emails from the Nobel committee in the wake of his win.

Although through this blog I've published a couple million words over the past several years and consider myself a writer, I don't consider myself an author. I've never written a book nor can identify with writers on that level, so don't really have a dog in this fight. I certainly can't argue this from the standpoint of those who have seen their--or their brethren's--chances to win a Nobel Prize diminished or corrupted.

But giving it a bit more thought, here's what I'm thinking:

• Given that Dylan won the Nobel Prize in Literature, which in 1901 began being awarded annually to an author from any country who has, in the words of the will of Alfred Nobel, produced "in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction" [Wikipedia], I imagine the word "Literature" may be much of the issue in Ken's mind and others'. Typically when I think of literature, I think of Dickens and Hugo, Steinbeck and Hemingway.

In other words, novelists.

But defines literature as: writings in which expression and form, in connection with ideas of permanent and universal interest, are characteristic or essential features, as poetry, novels, history, biography, and essays.

And indeed, a look at past recipients of the Nobel Prize in Literature shows that along with novels, laureates have included a good smattering of poets, essayists, historians, essayists, playwrights and short story writers.

I don't believe it particularly brazen, controversial or even original to describe Dylan's song lyrics as brilliantly poetic--heck, the Swedish Academy's proclamation that he "created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition" seems rather inarguable--and if poets such as William Yeats, T.S. Eliot, Pablo Neruda and Seamus Heaney have won the Nobel Prize in Literature, why not Bob Dylan?

• And if Bob Dylan, why not Paul McCartney, Paul Simon, Leonard Cohen, Stephen Sondheim, Jerry Herman, Brian Wilson, Neil Young, Lin-Manuel Miranda and myriad other songwriters?

Yet while I feel all of these--though LMM sometime down the road--would be worthy choices, I also understand the perspective of traditionalists loathe to see the Nobel Prize in Literature venture away from primarily honoring those who write words sans music. (Though it does seem strange that journalists and non-fiction authors have been excluded.)

Theoretically it would seem there should be a Nobel Prize in Arts that could more widely--but also narrowly--honor songwriters, musicians, screenwriters, directors, actors, etc., but the fact is that there isn't. So this is a prize that honors writers, of many ilks, and anyone who doesn't consider Bob Dylan a great and important one is both a Luddite and a lummox.

• Not only do I feel Bob Dylan warrants the current honor, but speaking only for myself while imagining others may have done likewise, his winning the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature prompted me to look up past winners. I'm sure it bespeaks my ignorance, but of the past 10 recipients--Svetlana Alexievich, Patrick Modiano, Alice Munro, Mo Yan, Tomas Tranströmer, Mario Vargas Llosa, Herta Müller, J. M. G. Le Clézio, Doris Lessing, Orhan Pamuk--only Munro and Lessing are names I knew, and I haven't read any of their works.

I realize it can be a thin line between wanting to remain culturally relevant in the social media age and seeming to pander in the name of publicity, but I can't condemn the Nobel organization for bestowing a rock star--albeit an aging one likely not on the lips of today's teenagers--with its Literature prize.

In going in a non-traditional direction, which I think it fine to do occasionally if not regularly, Nobel probably shined a greater spotlight on its traditional honorees than another deserving-but-perhaps-esoteric choice would have engendered.

And if Bob Dylan doesn't show up at the Nobel Prize ceremony to accept his honor--or even if he does--good for him.

Either way, the author of lines such as:

She was married when we first met Soon to be divorced 
I helped her out of a jam I guess 
But I used a little too much force
(from "Tangled Up in Blue")

...and myriad other brilliant observations, insights, rhymes, etc., seems, to me, perfectly deserving of the Nobel Prize in Literature.

And if you disagree, so be it.

But while I could keep prattling on, as usual Bob says it best, albeit from a song he wrote 52 years ago:

Come writers and critics 
Who prophesize with your pen 
And keep your eyes wide 
The chance won't come again 
And don't speak too soon 
For the wheel's still in spin 
And there's no telling who that it's naming 
For the loser now will be later to win 
'Cause the times they are a-changing

Saturday, October 15, 2016

I, Me, Mine: On Turning 48, The Seth Saith Interview...With Myself

Hi Seth, thanks for doing this
Hi Seth, you're welcome. Thanks for asking.

This probably seems a bit strange, but it felt like a fun way to do a self-reflection post for the 48th birthday.
Sure, and probably quite self-absorbed, too, but although I haven't conducted too many blog interviews lately, I've always enjoyed what can be learned and revealed in the process. Plus, I like to self-reflect--probably as some kind of ego salve. So ask away.

So how does it feel to turn 48?
Well, my pat answer is: better than the alternative. And while 48 does sound a bit old, especially with the reality that I've already lived far more years than I'll continue to, probably by a wide margin, that doesn't really daunt me and I'm pretty happy in my day-to-day existence. That's all that you can really ask.

Why are you so happy? 
I wouldn't necessarily say "so happy," as there are many joys in life I can't celebrate, such as that a wife and kids can undoubtedly bring, and I've never had much in the way of romance, companionship, dating, etc. Career wise, I've long been mired in unemployment or intermittency, and although I've had a good (if not all that creatively-fulfilling) job for the past 6 months, it was only temporary and is slated to end this Friday.

But I have great relationships with a few close relatives and friends, find terrific nourishment in culture, entertainment, sports fandom and other outlets--such as this blog--and while there certainly are moments of doubt, despair and darkness, I guess on most days, and in most hours of most days, I find reasons to enjoy life, actively.

What are some of those reasons?
As much as possible, I do things that I enjoy--going to concerts and theater and museums, watching sports and movies and TV, reading a bit, appreciating art, learning, even if no longer in an academic way, traveling, trying a variety of restaurants, etc.--and that give me, perhaps, a grounding, nourishment and emotional sustenance.

It may sound trite, but I really believe art is our salvation, and being able to embrace Springsteen or Sondheim or Picasso, etc., etc., etc., as deeply as I do is probably what keeps me happy, and perhaps even sane and alive.

Without it seems, other overt forms of self-medication? 
Well, I obviously eat too much, and I'm sure there's some sort of psychological bandage at play there, so in no way do I purport that I'm doing things better than anyone else. Probably worse. But I likely consume fewer than 10 alcoholic drinks in a given year and never touch recreational drugs. And without meaning to convey any negativity about these things, the strength and support many seem to find through religion, psychiatry, etc., so far for me have been sufficiently supplied by rock 'n roll, theater, art, etc. And of course, the love and support of family and friends. My outlook would certainly not be as psychologically or philosophically bright without some key people in my life, most especially my mom.

What would be your advice in regards to maintaining a healthy outlook? 
Try your best to avoid comparison, envy, judgment and anger. There will always be people doing better than you, and others struggling far worse. And always believe that you're special, just not any more so than anyone else.

How are you feeling physically at 48?
Day-to-day, very well, at least as opposed to illness, again, knock on wood. I've been working at a job for the last 6 months and haven't missed a day of work. In my adult life, I've never spent a day in the hospital. But without wanting to get too specific, I'm on a variety of medications to essentially combat being overweight, and I'm not oblivious to the risks I've engendered. My heart is still supposedly in good shape, thankfully, but I'm aware I'm at an age when people start having heart attacks.

So why don't you lose weight?
My doctor would tell you I don't have a good answer for that, just excuses. Such as that I don't drink, don't smoke, don't do drugs, etc., so damn if I'm giving up cheeseburgers.

Clearly I know that it would be beneficial from a health standpoint, in reducing prescription costs and even theoretically in helping to meet women (or at least feeling more confident about it). But I don't particularly enjoy exercising, nor depriving myself of foods that I favor, and excepting the repercussions, being fat doesn't make me acutely unhappy.

How are you going to celebrate your birthday?
As silly as it sounds in juxtaposition, undoubtedly with some good meals. Yesterday a friend at work took me to a good lunch. Last night I had dinner with my mom, sister Allison and some good family friends. Tonight I'm going to the wedding of a close friend's son. My friend Paolo is taking me to the Cubs playoff game tomorrow, then I'll have another dinner with mom and Allison Monday. Plus likely other meals with co-workers and friends. And I tend to treat myself pretty well. So even though there won't be any kind of party, or even a Movie Night, which I've hosted in previous years but have postponed in deference to the Cubs, there shouldn't be a shortage of merriment.

That was quite some game the other night, huh?
I probably shouldn't admit this--or even have asked about it--for fear of excommunication from Kingdom Cub, but I fell asleep before the 9th inning on Tuesday night. It certainly wasn't looking good for Cubs and after staying up most--but not all--of the way on Monday night, I was really tired, plus I had begun fasting for Yom Kippur (despite not being particularly observant) so I was a bit hungry too.

So around the 8th inning, I conked out, but while thinking how cool it would be to wake and learn the Cubs had miraculously won. And that's exactly what happened, actually around 2:30am. So though I felt sheepish to have missed it, it nonetheless felt pretty terrific.

So have you been praying for the Cubs?
No. Although I was raised Jewish and have respect for my heritage--hence the Yom Kippur fasting, and family dinners on holidays--I'm not religious, and any "belief" in a higher power feels more like superstition than faith. So I don't really pray in any officious way, and when I do, let's say, ask for help from above, it's about life and death matters. Recently, I did so about two close relatives facing health challenges, and things turned out well (knock on wood). That's far more important than baseball outcomes, so the Cubs will have to be on their own.

And what about the upcoming election?
Again, not for me a reason for prayer, but I'm certainly hoping Hillary wins, and expect her to. Which normally wouldn't be cause for great jubilation, but under the circumstances...

Are you concerned about the state of America right now?
Yes and no. I don't think it's possible to know that a sizable percentage of Americans will be casting a vote for Donald Trump to be our president, and not be greatly concerned for what that means about the principles of equality, respect, tolerance, etc. And believe me, I don't see Hillary as a savior, and have been disappointed with what Obama was able to get done. The crushing of the middle class while Wall Street ran criminally unchecked is what has led not only to Bernie Sanders--who I supported--but Donald Trump.

But instead of taking the professorial approach like Bernie, which can't work because concepts like financial derivatives and credit default swaps and other triggers for the financial meltdown from which we've never really recovered are too hard for most to grasp--though I really suggest everyone read The Big Short, and also Flash Boys, also by Michael Lewis--Trump just points at scapegoats. The historical precedent is obviously chilling.

Still, much as when you watch a newscast and largely see bad news, but not day-to-day stories of teachers inspiring kids or doctors working miracles or even just friends chatting over lunch, I believe it's possible to be realistic, pessimistic and optimistic all at the same time. Savor the good, try to fix the bad.

What about personally? What's your outlook look like?
It's not impossible to believe I could land a new job--at least another temporary one--in a few weeks, but also not inconceivable that I could be without income for quite some time. I may never get another full-time, career-advancing job.

But even with my current one slated to end, because the work I was hired to help with is slowing down, I was told that I did excellent work, they liked having me around, they will miss me and wish they could keep me. And colleagues are even trying to help position me for another possible role with the company.

So even though the situation might seem distressing, it actually makes me feel pretty good about myself.

What are you proudest about through your first 48 years of life?
That I have great relationships with my family. That I've had the same best friend since the first day of kindergarten. That I have a good handful of other great friends, including some made in fairly recent years. That I have passions that enrich my life, and which I try to share. That I've traveled extensively. That I amuse myself.

Just for the record, where have you traveled?
Most major U.S. cities and many European capitals, some National Parks, Australia, Rio, Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Israel and Egypt. A nice photographic retrospective can be seen here.

I've been to every current Major League ballpark except the one in Tampa (and soon Atlanta), more than 150 art museums, dozens of Frank Lloyd Wright-designed houses, some of the best restaurants in the world. 

What's on your bucket list?
Machu Picchu and the Taj Mahal. I'm hoping to get to Cuba fairly soon. I'd like to explore much of the Far East, which I haven't to date. And Colmar, France has caught my fancy, perhaps paired with Basel, Switzerland.

You seem to have many cultural interests; why is that important to you?
Put simply, I think exploring, witnessing, experiencing and appreciating greatness gives me purpose in life, and as I noted before, sustenance. And a reason to write this blog, which I enjoy.

What do you recommend these days?
I recently got to see Hamilton for the first time, and can't recommend it enough. But to get what you should out of it, I think you need to put some time into it. Listen to the cast recording, read the lyrics, check out some reviews, interviews with the show's creator Lin-Manuel Miranda and feature articles. Understand some of the history the show contains, before you get to the theater. Because while there is nothing like live theater, I think 75% of the brilliance of Hamilton can be appreciated without having to get yourself a ticket, which can obviously be quite difficult and/or expensive.

What are you reading, watching, etc.
I recently signed up for Hulu in order to see Ron Howard's documentary on the Beatles, Eight Days a Week: The Touring Years, which was fun though not really all that revelatory.

But having Hulu let me watch the 11.22.63 mini-series (8 episodes) based on the Stephen King book about a guy who goes back in time to try to stop Lee Harvey Oswald from killing JFK. I enjoyed it, but probably because I had read the book some years ago. I'm currently reading the Bruce Springsteen autobiography, Born to Run. I've written here often about Harlan Coben, my favorite contemporary author, and enjoyed his latest, Home, though wouldn't suggest starting there. And of course, I'm watching the Cubs. 

How do you afford to go to so many events?
MasterCard. But though I do spend a good bit on spectator events, it's less than it may seem. Most theater I go to these days is either part of a subscription costing me around $25 per show, or complimentary as some theaters have been inviting me to Press Nights. Concerts aren't cheap, but I usually go for the cheapest ticket available--often under face on the aftermarket--and whenever possible, don't pay for parking (such as at the United Center, where I park on the street). I have a relatively low mortgage and property taxes, no car loan--I have 157,000 miles on my 2005 Dodge Stratus and hope it lasts another 50K miles--and, of course, I don't have to pay for orthodontists or school clothes or expenses others may have.

What makes this a happy birthday?
All of the above, everyone who may be reading this--even those I don't know personally--and the possibilities of what's to come. 

Any closing thoughts for me?
My three favorite abiding principles:

1, by Monty Python: "Always look on the bright side of life."

2, by my hero, Bruce Springsteen, from the song Badlands, "Badlands, you gotta live it every day, let the broken hearts stand as the price you've gotta pay, we'll keep pushin' till it's understood and these badlands start treating us good."


3, by me, or in this case, you: "If it won't matter tomorrow, it don't matter today." In other words, don't get pissed at traffic jams or other minor annoyances; I think you'll be happier for it.

Thanks again, Seth

Sure, no problem.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Ours Go to 11: Volume 20, America's Greatest Living Songwriters (in a Pop/Rock/Country vein)

Today, Paul Simon, who was writing notable songs by the age of 15, turns 75.

And this morning, Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for “having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition,” in the words of the Swedish Academy.

So it seems like a good day to scratch out a list of the men and women I believe to be America's greatest living songwriters.

For purposes of this list, I am excluding Broadway composers--otherwise Stephen Sondheim would likely top it--and writers in jazz, classical and other non-pop idioms.

Also, as apt for a few cases, "America" includes Canada.

1. Bob Dylan
2. Brian Wilson 
3. Paul Simon
4. Stevie Wonder
5. Smokey Robinson 
6. Bruce Springsteen 
7. John Fogerty
8. Carole King
9. Neil Young
10. Chuck Berry
11. Holland/Dozier/Holland (Brian & Eddie Holland, Lamont Dozier)

And a few more
Donald Fagan & Walter Becker
Jackson Browne
Leonard Cohen
Paul Westerberg
Billy Joel 
Tom Petty
Neil Diamond
Burt Bacharach
Willie Nelson
Sly Stone
Randy Newman
Joni Mitchell
James Taylor
David Byrne
Berry/Buck/Mills/Stipe (R.E.M.)
Robbie Robertson
Patti Smith

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Ours Go to 11: Volume 19, My Favorite Former Cubs

1. Ernie Banks
2. Billy Williams
3. Fergie Jenkins
4. Greg Maddux
5. Mark Grace
6. Andre Dawson
7. Ryne Sandberg
8. Gary Matthews
9. Lee Smith
10. Bruce Sutter
11. Rick Monday

Plus a few more
Jose Cardenal
Rick Sutcliffe
Shawon Dunston
Steve Trout
Ken Holtzman
Leon Durham
Bill Buckner 
Jody Davis
Kerry Wood

Monday, October 10, 2016

No Debate: Lively, Mostly Civil, Interaction Makes 'Dying City' a Worthwhile Way to Spend an Evening -- Chicago Theater Review

Theater Review

Dying City
by Christopher Shinn
Directed by Elizabeth Lovelady
The Comrades
at Heartland Studio, Chicago
Thru October 30

Sunday night, rather than tune into the lunacy of the second presidential debate, I attended a 2-person play that undoubtedly--especially from what I gleaned of the debate afterwards--involved much more worthwhile dialogue, from both individuals.

Actually, that would be three individuals, as Dying City--a 2006 play by Christopher Shinn that was a finalist for the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Drama--chronicles a visit by Peter (Mickey O'Sullivan) to Kelly (Laura Matthews), the wife of his late identical brother, Craig, who O'Sullivan also plays in flashback scenes. Craig had died within the past year while serving in Iraq.

Within an impressive yet static set design (by Elyse Balogh) of a New York City apartment, O'Sullivan does a fine job in making Peter and Craig feel distinct, abetted by some nice nuances by Matthews in helping to clearly denote the separate time frames and relationships.

Yet while the need for several quick costume changes back & forth is clearly understandable and handled fluidly, the breaks between scenes did somewhat deflate the tension within and between the dual scenarios, and only late in the 85-minute play did things start to become emotionally searing.

There are some twists I certainly won't share, but early on as Peter--a successful actor currently onstage in New York--engages with Kelly, a therapist (but not one treating him), I couldn't readily discern either's motivations and noted a somewhat odd absence of obvious grief.

That the two characters didn't seem particularly comfortable with each other--Peter being particularly  skittish--is perfectly apt per what reality would dictate, and how the narrative unfolds, but perhaps as a result, for much of the play I found myself observing rather than emotionally embracing the happenings onstage.

Near the beginning, Peter states that he is gay--which Kelly would  already know but the audience doesn't--and while realizing the folly of my picking at a Pulitzer-nominated script and acclaimed playwright, I'm not sure why we weren't left to wonder a bit longer if the discomfitting interaction involved romantic feelings.

Under the direction of Elizabeth Lovelady, Dying City--the second play staged by Chicago's fledgling theater company, The Comrades--is well paced, and at the very least makes for an engaging night of theater (especially for just $15 or even less if HotTix are offered).

But I was left uncertain of what Shinn was ultimately trying to say, even with its title, and I wasn't much clearer about who Peter and Kelly were--and what each wanted and needed--at the end of the play than I was when it began.

Still, especially for those who value live theater at value-packed prices--in an intimate, comfortable setting around the corner from the Heartland Cafe--Dying City is worth your time and attention.

Even on nights when the harrumphs of Mr. Trump aren't the primary alternative.

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Pithy Philosophies #30

My friend Ken conveyeth:

Life is not a narrative but rather a series of present moments strung together.