May 16, 2014 Mildred’s Umbrella Theater




May 19, 2014 — Today Melissa Flower, director of “Cassandra” sent me an email I looked at her cast credits and saw them to be, pretty well to the last one, pros or graduates of theater programs or both. I offer this expansion upon my words about Cassandra for Melissa, as I would a friend who asked for my opinion. I hope it seems worthy of the revisiting.

Great acting makes all faces beautiful. When the blocking has the actors crossing and crossing and crossing across the space, just to get to say their lines, maybe it gives the audience too much of a chance to look for answers in what they look like or are wearing. There were tall ones and shorter ones, a skinny one and wider ones, but I couldn’t tell if the casting was against type or just random. What gods look so human? What humans look so dirty in their immaculate Troys? I LOVE the outdoor space the director or the writer chose to perform the play but, then, why use the space so much like it was a black box? Why did I get mosquito bitten, if not to see the space, you know, used? The lawn chairs and the ladder could have been anywhere. Why was a highlight of the show, for me, my recognition of the background music or the familiar singing of “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes”? Wasn’t that a part of another show? There were some pictures projected, but why? Did Cassandra see pictures of mushroom clouds and tanks and loneliness and, seeing those, predict war and fire? Were they her visions? Or was the play a picture show, indicated by the not so perfect slow motion motion of all the actors in the beginning of the play followed by sped up motion? What was all that walking around by the actors, especially in the beginning? Walking but not seemingly to somewhere, walking across the largeness of the theatrical space to what, get out of focus? What was the point of making the actors go deep into the darkness of the architectural surroundings other than to get them far enough outside of the playing area to be less noticable? What is so feminist about giving a vast vast majority of the lines to one or two women and under using the others who came to play? Is it the feminist ethic to use characters for the few lines they deserve and then let them dangle or sit for a half an hour on a bench in the darkness? Why did the players become outsiders of the play? Why was the chorus so loosely used? That’s not the Greek way is it? What was the meaning of the chorus playing cards on the table that blocked all of house right’s view of the action at the fireplace or on the floor? There was an interesting looking character and then a lot of folks that looked a bit like folks. During whatever it was that happened to Cassandra, rape or sleeper hold or whatever (The table was between me and the action so I didn’t quite see all of it), what was the blocking issue and the choreographic and costume idea that made so much focus be drawn by that black underwear escaping from the cover of that white outfit? Why the homelesslike, smudged people, the dirt and masking makeup, the cigarettes actually puffed by those poor actors? What great purpose did those serve? What if one of your actors gets addicted to nicotine because they were trying to please you or gave up giving up smoking for one day longer to serve the vision of the play? There were some really bad jokes. I couldn’t remember the Cassandra thing through your retelling of it. I didn’t think Cinderella actually slept in the fireplace, just near the fireplace to tend it and stay warm.

On the other hand, this expansion allows me to say some things I thought were quite nice that I didn’t say before. The first lines were poetry, mostly good, emotional poetry with good rhythms. More poetry with Cassandra’s burn baby monologue and her dust and you being me monologues. Cool stuff and not in an ‘it didn’t burn’ way. The mask out of masking tape bedtime story was pretty wonderfully written and executed. I wish Cinderella slept ‘by’ the fireplace not in. I don’t know why it is ‘in’. Somewhere, a kind of parallel similarity of treatment of the mentally disturbed seemed to be being indicated, like things haven’t changed much from the Ancient Greeks to now. I thought that was a well-played scene. The ‘entangled’ stuff did a nice job of setting up the devastating truth that seemed to be being played in the restaurant scene when the play commented on people’s reactions to pretty faces. Apollo’s Pythonesque listing of symptoms was quite amusing to me as was his advice poetry.

Some of the rest of it was lost on me. I didn’t understand the importance of it or thought it was a false retelling. I didn’t get the feeling I’d know what was going on if I didn’t understand English or couldn’t hear. I really couldn’t sum up this Cassandra myth in a few sentences or a paragraph. I’m glad I went, though.


May 16.2014 — There was a beautiful face. There was a nice (word edited out for the moment) *ush. There was a tall one and shorter ones. There was a skinny one and wider ones. There was a ladder and lawn chairs. There was Pink Floyd and Billie Holiday. There were some pictures projected: mushroom clouds, girl alone, tank, other stuff. There was slow movement and fast movement and just plain walking around. There was outsidering. There was chorusing and people standing around like statues or doing stuff. There were some people that were talking a lot and some people that were hardly there at all. There was an interesting looking character. There was some poetry spoken. There was actual fire on stage. There was black underwear. There were smudges and dirt and lipstick. There were cigarettes being smoked. There was Cinderella and Cassandra. There were some good jokes and some bad jokes. And I found purpose. I googled the Cassandra myth.