Shades Of Words

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I’ll be back before midnight

There are plays that are a social commentary on the past or the present, then there are plays that are witty and intelligent using their razor edged lines to make sharp cuts in your mind and then there are plays that are just for fun.

“I’ll be back before midnight” does not promise to be anything than your average edge of the seat thriller and it succeeds in that promise. A remote house, quirky neighbor, nervous wife, incest, paranoia – are all essential ingredients of this creepy story.  The soundtrack keeps the audience on their toes, and there are enough gasps and screams to keep everyone engaged. [We happened to attend a performance with an unusually high number of seniors and were constantly worried if the shocks too much for them!]

The plot in brief – Greg moves out to a remote country house so that his wife, recovering from a nervous breakdown can receive rest. The nature of her illness is not fully disclosed. The only company that she has is in the form of old farmer in the neighbouring property who though kind hearted excites her nervous imagination by telling her ghost stories. This party is soon joined by Greg’s sister Laura. Things start getting really spooky in and around the house at this point. I don’t want to give too much of the plot away but yes there are dead bodies and there are hauntings – enough to keep you engaged through the 2 hours of the play. So if this play is ever in town and you are just looking for a fun night out – do check it out.


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Cirque du Soleil : Zarkana

It’s nice to know that the circus is not dead. “Circus of the Sun” retains the traditional aspects of the ageless crowd puller with a juggler, acrobat, dancer, trapeze artists and tight rope walkers. It does however take it up a notch with fabulous choreography, music and art direction. The use of projectors and laser lighting brings a mystic and ethereal quality to the performance.

It’s pure entertainment for 90 minutes where you can shut off your mind and open your eyes. There are enough jaw dropping acts to keep you “wowed” for the duration and at times there appears to be too much going on at the same time. The clowns are adorable and get the most laughs out of the audience. I am not sure I would say it’s a must watch but I can guarantee that if you watch it you will not regret it


Weekends in St. Louis

I do admit that St. Louis may not exactly be the most happening place in the US of A, but if you keep track, there is always a bunch of stuff happening over the weekend.

One of our favorite things to do is to keep track of the University Theater circuit.  There are always student performances up, and some really good visiting actor groups.

We actually caught some great plays. One was “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller performed by the dramatics department of University of Missouri, St Louis (UMSL). Based on the Salem witch trials, this play examines the power of superstition and hysteria as it grips a town of seemingly rationale people. Most of the actors in the UMSL production were senior year students who were quite remarkable in their roles. The only problem was in the acoustics of the actual theater.

I have read the screenplay before and realize that it provides a very powerful social commentary. Even if you cant catch the play in your city , I would recommend everyone to read it.

Another performance that I happen to catch, was that of the play “Shadowlands”  presented by the Mustard Seed Theater ( isn’t that lovely name?). This play written by William Nicholsan, describes the relationship between the famous British writer, CS Lewis and Joy Gresham. This play is based on actual events.

Honestly speaking I had no expectations from it. But within the five minutes, I was hooked. Split into two acts – the first act focuses on CS Lewis bachelor life, his correspondence with Mrs. Joy Gresham and their first meeting and their marriage of convenience. The first act is bitter sweet, witty and thoroughly entertaining.  The second act focuses on Joy’s illness which brings Lewis feelings towards her into the open. It focuses on their short but loving relationship and ends at Joy’s tragic death. Throughout the play we see struggle Lewis struggle with his faith and his changing thoughts about the nature of God.

As this was a professional production, the quality of acting was quite incredible. Gary Wayne Baker, Chair of the Fine Arts Department, St. Louis University gave a very good performance in the role of Lewis.  Kelley Ryan, was delightful and charming as Joy Gresham. The supporting cast was really good too. I would definitely watch more productions by Mustard Seed theatre.


Evenings to Remember

I have to say one thing about being in the US of A, it give us time and opportunities to explore the interesting things.
I, in my life never thought , that I will go and see a live ballet peformance. That too the famous “Swan Lake” by the Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. The St. Louis Ballet Company

Now to appreciate ballet there are few pre-requisites ( something that we realized after the 3 hr performance).
– A passing knowledge of the dance form itself. While it looks mesmerizing and you know dancing on your toes is extremely painful, you really wish you know the what that jump or the twirl or the folding of the hands meant. Because I am sure like any other form of  dance-drama these  movements have meanings that add to the story telling

– An appreciation of instrumental music. I am not a big music person. I can never ‘just’ listen to music. Understanding instrumental music – whether Indian or international as always been a challenge for me. To understand ballet you need to understand the music – the music determines the mood of each performance. The story is narrated thru the music

So , I have to admit, a lot of the art of the ballet was lost on me. Because I can appreciate dancing in general I was able to appreciate ballet’s grace,elegance and discipline. The costumes and sets were perfect. There was an etheral quality to the peformance. However,before I attend any other ballet performance I would probably need some education.

I have attended very few live concerts and when we heard that Mark Knopfler would be in town to promote his new album “Get Lucky”,  we booked our tickets – 3 months in advance. Its kind of surreal to have really enjoyed Dire Straits all through your younger years and then to see the band perform in front of your eyes. Ofcourse its not Dire Straits anymore , but 3 of the original band members were there…so there. The concert was at the grand Fox Theater in St. Louis – one of the more magnificent of the Fox properties. I know I am going back there as a tourist.
The crowds went crazy when MK and band walked on to the stage. He started the performance by belting out the first song of the Get Lucky album – Border Reiver. A lot of music in this album seems to have Scottish and Irish influences.  I personally feel that Get Lucky is an awesome album.

I also loved Sailing to Philadelphia , probably, more than Sutlans of Swing and the band was generous enough to sing quite a few songs from that album including the title track. The crowds was enthusiastic and almost every song got a standing ovation. The thing about watching a legend like MK perform in front of you is that it makes you realize that the genius is real. We all have our favorites but I was especially emotional when he ended the concert with “Piper to the End” .

Everytime I hear a Mark Knopfler song, the magic of that evening comes back to me.

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The Importance of Being Earnest


I have been waiting to catch some really good theatre since I came here – we missed a couple of good shows coz we were either out of town, or the weather was too cold or we did not have a car. Also, as the tickets tend to be on the higher side, one likes to make sure that the play is going to be worth.
When I saw that USML was presenting “The Importance of Being Earnst” at the Touhill Art Center I knew I did not want to miss this. This is my all time favorite play and to see it actually being performed would be something that I would always remember. Ofcourse I was a little apprehensive about the quality of the production as it was being presented by  a student company. ( plus side – it cost only 10$ a ticket!)
Well, it was an exteremly enjoyable performance! The theater was very small so we were all very close to the stage and it almost felt like a private perforamance.
The plot is a comedy of errors – Algernon Montcrieff and Jack Asbury are two close friends. Jack is the guardian of young Cecily Cardew who lives in the country. In order to present a good example to his ward, he creates an alternative identity of himself, Earnest Asbury, a younger more wicked self who is getting into terrible scrapes. Cecily, who has never met Earnest, is obviously infatuated by him.Meanwhile , presenting himself as Earnest, Jack falls in love with Gwendolyn Bracknell and proposes to marry her. Gwen accepts the proposal and is delighted that she is marrying a man named Earnest. Gwen’s mother , Lady Bracknell refuses to allow this union on account of Jack’s unknown origins. What ensues is a comedy of errors and I would be giving away too much if I write any more.

My favorite performer was Ben Watts as the as the slightly flamboyant and clever Algernon Montcrieff . I rather liked Sean Green as  Jack but was slightly put off by his hyperventilating nature. He did break a few things on the sets too with his passionate performence. I belive Joanna Brown as Cecily Cardrew was brilliant in the part of the dumb blonde. I laughed at almost all her lines.
Though Wilde’s original play was based in London and for the sake of relevance , UMSL’s production is based out of New York. The script has remained almost entirely faithfully but has been snipped in certain places in interest of time. The audience was appreciative and laughed at all the right places. Some of my favorite lines were:
I really don’t see anything romantic in proposing. It is very romantic to be in love. But there is nothing romantic about a definite proposal. Why, one may be accepted. One usually is, I believe Then the excitement is all over. The very essence of romance is uncertainty. If ever I get married, I’ll certainly try to forget the fact.
 Ah! that is clearly a metaphysical speculation, and like most metaphysical speculations has very little reference at all to the actual facts of real life, as we know them.
To lose one parent, Mr. Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness
The only way to behave to a woman is to make love to her, if she is pretty, and to someone else, if she is plain.
How can one resist Wilde!! If you live in St. Louis then do check out this play which will again run this weekend in the Touhill Performing Arts Center 


Mamma Mia!

It is not often that musicals are ever produced in India so when I heard that Chennai’s The Hot Shoe Dance Company was presenting Mamma Mia in an auditorium nearby I jumped at the chance.

Now those who dont know , Mamma Mia is a famous broadway show that tells a story through ABBA songs and dance. The story is really very simple. Sophie, a 20 something is about to have her dream wedding at a lovely Greek island. Brought up by her unwed mother, Donna, Sophie is determined to find out who her dad is. With the help of her mother’s diary, Sophie, narrows it down to three men who might be her dad. She invites them to the wedding and all confusion ensues.
Well obviously Mamma Mia is not popular for its script. What is really interesting and after 1 hour into the show , also annoying, is that the whole story moves forward in songs and dance,literally. Now if you really love ABBA music you will love the show. But after the 10th song in one and a half hour one starts wondering….
Well anyway, that is a problem with the script and not the presentation. Well my first impression of this show by the aforesaid company  was that it was very ‘International’ . The dance company had put up beautiful props, lovely costumes and light and sound effects. The choreography was obviously the strength of the whole show. I really enjoyed the dance numbers. Overall I felt that the musical was nice but a little long. For instance they did not have to do the whole song for a situation – maybe a few stanzas would have moved the story forward.
Verdict : Only watch it if you like ABBA music