Thursday, April 30, 2020

Confined, a poem

I miss doing the things I used to do 

but I don't matter more than you

I hate that there's no baseball 

Loathe that there's no shows

But every single life matters

far more than any of those

I miss having dinner with friends

but will gladly wait til this thing ends

So I don't need any parties

Or to hang out on the beach 

Especially if it means eradication

is that much further within reach

by Seth Arkin, ©️2020

Sunday, April 26, 2020

The Madness Continues

See recent posts for context. And now below, the completed TV Madness and underway Jukebox Madness. (click images to enlarge)

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Of 'Skokie' and Great Work at Chicago's Goodman Theatre: A Fond Remembrance of Brian Dennehy

Especially during these difficult times, when everyday heroes are ever more pronounced--and many at tragic risk--not a day goes by without hearing of somebody admirable dying.

From a venerated local veterinarian, Dr. Peter Sakas, to renowned musicians like John Prine, Adam Schlesinger and Ellis Marsalis to famed playwright Terrence McNally to mathematical genius John Horton Conway to a Pennsylvania paramedic named Kevin Bundy to a New Jersey ER doctor, Frank Gabrin, to a CTA machinist (based in Skokie) named Antonio Martinez, the new coronavirus has stolen skilled and valiant individuals across a vast spectrum.

But even beyond COVID-19, the grim hand of death has recently taken talents like singer/songwriter Bill Withers, ex-Cubs manager Jim Frey, MAD magazine caricaturist Mort Drucker and the acclaimed actor, Brian Dennehy.

It is meant as no slight to anyone else, mentioned above or not, that I'm deciding to spend a bit of time reflecting on Mr. Dennehy.

Certainly, well beyond any personal connection--simply in a spectator's sense, I never met the man--Dennehy's multifaceted acting career, in movies, on TV and in the theater, could well warrant a fine tribute, and excellent remembrances have been written by Chris Jones of the Chicago Tribune, Ben Brantley of the New York Times and Helen Shaw of Vulture, among others.

And I've been quite fortunate to have seen many cherished favorites onstage multiple times--whether in a theater vein like the late John Mahoney and living icons such as Nathan Lane and Patti LuPone, or numerous beloved rock stars, including the departed Tom Petty, David Bowie and Prince--so while my regard for Dennehy is deep, it's not that he's someone I singularly adored.

But I consider myself lucky to have seen Dennehy--fairly well-known to the general public via movies such as First Blood, F/X and Tommy Boy--onstage seven times, mostly at Chicago's Goodman Theatre.

Also notably, in the 1981 TV movie Skokie--about my hometown's battle with neo-Nazis--Dennehy starred as Police Chief Arthur Buchanan.

Yet although I was a fan before seeing him at the Goodman, his work there--almost always in tandem with the theater's venerated artistic director, Robert Falls--corresponded considerably with my wholehearted embrace of live theater.

For while I had been indoctrinated in childhood by parents who took me to see musicals such as The Wiz, A Chorus Line and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas before I turned 10--with early awareness long exacerbated by my Aunt Mickey, an ardent attendee of Chicago theater--as a teen and young adult I largely distanced myself for various sociological reasons that made much more sense then than they do now.

Sure, I saw some high school and college productions, and a handful of works in the '90s--The Phantom of the Opera, Tracy Letts' Killer Joe, The Mousetrap, Les Miserables and more--but through the turn of the century, when I was 31, I had seen 10 theatrical works of my own volition.

Since then--in good part ignited by seeing Teri Hatcher in a touring version of Cabaret, twice, in 1999--I've seen well over 1,000.

This has always included a mix of musicals--which I tend to love a bit more--and plays.

Nowadays--well, not exactly nowadays, but pre-pandemic quarantine--I'm graciously invited to Press Nights to review shows on this blog, but until about 2015, I went entirely on my own dime.

And though I did see a few plays in 2000 and 2001 and a stellar take on Glengarry Glen Ross a few weeks prior in 2002, I consider A Long Day's Journey Into Night--starring Brian Dennehy--a rather seminal piece of my theater-loving existence.

The epic family drama by Eugene O'Neill clocks in at well over 3-1/2 hours and, as directed at the Goodman by Falls, I recall it being excellent (although I wasn't writing reviews at the time).

My seeing it in March 2002 even impressed Aunt Mickey, who--bless her departed soul--could listen to me note 10 shows I'd seen in a month (as a fairly rare straight man attending solo) and with an air of consternation ask why I hadn't seen three others.

After Long Day's Journey, for which Dennehy won the Best Lead Actor Tony Award upon Falls having taken the Goodman production to Broadway in 2003--likewise with Death of a Salesman a few years prior, also garnishing Dennehy a Tony; sadly I was still fairly theatrically oblivious at that point--I would next see the actor in The Exonerated.

Co-starring Marlo Thomas, this wasn't a Goodman Theatre staging but a small touring production that I happened to see on Feb. 4, 2003, its first night in Chicago.

The play by Jessica Blank and Erik Larsen, which had opened in New York in 2000, is about death penalty injustices, and just 2 weeks before I would see it with Dennehy, then-Illinois governor George Ryan commuted all remaining death sentences in the state.

In 2005, Dennehy would star in a film version of The Exonerated with Susan Sarandon, Danny Glover and others.

The remaining five times I got to see Brian Dennehy onstage came at the Goodman, in plays by Eugene O'Neill except as noted:

Celebrating the Work of Arthur Miller - a staged reading featuring excerpts from four famed Miller plays; 2004.

Hughie - 2004

Desire Under the Elms - 2009

Hughie / Krapp's Last Tape (latter by Samuel Beckett) - 2010
The Iceman Cometh - 2012

Though I can't deny being challenged by Iceman's near 5-hour runtime--as I wrote in my review--I still largely loved it, particularly the performances by Dennehy and Nathan Lane, another stage favorite mentioned above.

Under the direction of Robert Falls, that production would be restaged in Brooklyn in 2015, with the Goodman's stellar cast.

Last Wednesday, the long stout Dennehy died at his Connecticut home at the age of 81, of cardiac arrest due to sepsis.

IMDB shows film acting credits into 2020 and perhaps beyond, plus TV work as recent as 2019 in The Blacklist.

Along with First Blood and F/X, I recall enjoying Brian Dennehy in Presumed Innocent and as Bobby Knight in A Season on the Brink.

But I'll never forget the hours I spent watching the great man at the Goodman.

And remain forever appreciative of what he did in Skokie.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Additional Madness

After my post of March 26, I've continued on with additional Facebook "Madness" tournaments, as you can see below.

This one is newly in progress. Click to enlarge.