Gang, as some of you know, I am a MAJOR history buff, and Abraham Lincoln is one of my favorite subjects. In fact, the amount of historical fiction written about this dude is only beaten by two other men, Attila the Hun and Adolf Hitler.
3 ruthless dictators.
Let me tell you what Historical Fiction is. Historical fiction is a medium of art that shows our greatest heroes of History in a new, fake light. For example, I just read: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.
This was a biography of Lincoln, hitting all the major points of his life, except in this version, everything he did to free the slaves, bury his children, etc. was all motivated by his deep-seated hatred of Vampires.
There is also a medium called Historical Erotica. That is where you take a figure like Ghandi and write a porno where he goes to Argentina and rails a bunch of Ex-Nazis. I love this kind of fiction because I like to hear about chicks in the past getting plowed by my heroes.
THEN, there is a genre called "Actual History" where you tell the story of someone's life correctly using all factual information. This way is sort of cool, but there aren't ever really any surprises because you know how it ends. You usually have to find a new angle that may or may not be interesting, because if you are telling a story about, say, The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln, we have heard this story about 10 million ways and cannot possibly tell me anything new.
This was my attitude when I went to see "My Name Is Mudd" at the Viaduct Theater last week. A play centered around the doctor Richard Mudd who treated John Wilkes Booth after he broke his leg, or treated Lincoln... he treated somebody for something, it wasn't totally clear.
Jackalope Theatre Company has a long and storied history of doing plays, I think. I haven't ever seen a Jackalope play before, so I don't wanna speak for their body of work, but they must have done SOMETHING good before because they have some pretty big names in the cast!
There is John Ross Wilson, Esteban Andres Cruz, a couple different Samuels and another Mexican fella named Roy Gonzalez!
So far, this play has 2 more Mexicans than Lincoln ever met in his life.
The set is an old R.E.M. video set from the early 90's, so immediately I was intrigued.
The premise is simple: A group of Vaudeville actors are going to sort of tell us about the events leading up to, and surrounding the famous assassination. Sprinkled throughout the show are pieces of factual evidence that is both eye opening and sort of crazy sounding.
The performers are first rate. The jokes are funny. The story is, like, the most famous American story there is, so what's not to like?
NOTHING! Parking is sort of hard over there, actually.
Esteban Andres Cruz steals the show, as usual as this wig maker who is working on Booth's show. Cruz has this way of being serious and goofy at the same time. How does he do it?
Anyway, listen. I am rambling on a bit, but you should make it out to see this show. This young company is going to start taking leaps and you could stand to learn a thing or two.
Hey Andy! Did you hear the internet argument that rocked the Chicago Theatre world over the weekend?
I did not. I use my weekends to do fun stuff. What’s the scoop?
Well, it started when our favorite critic, Tom THE BOMB Williams posted his review of The Kid Thing on his blog. You can look at it here.
Ok, now that I have read it, I do remember seeing some talk about this. What did he say that was so wrong?
Well, everyone decided that what he said about lesbians wearing dresses and makeup was completely bigoted, as if he was 25 years old and knew better. I just saw an old man doddering on about what he thinks lesbians are...it was like when my Grandma called African-Americans “colored” in 1991.
Hasn’t the Theatre Scene had some issues with this fella before? I mean, wasn’t there a thing that happened a few years ago with copying somebody else’s material? Hasn’t he said some things that get people huffy in the past?
Oh, for sure, Andy. Tom THE BLOB Williams’ theatre blog is dug up every few months by some slighted industry person as an example of “what criticism ISN’T” and everyone comments and facebooks and twitters about how we should not invite Tom to shows any more and how he needs a kick in the pantys and why he likes to eat his own poop. You know, internet arguments.
So what you are saying is, people keep doing the same thing and expecting different results. Why, as adults, would we do that?
I don’t really know, Andy. I mean, it’s the textbook definition of insanity. But, if there’s one thing I know, it’s that everyone is actually insane. It’s just that some people are prettier and younger than other insane people, like Tim THE GRIM Willbians.
Well, I wanna be clear to you about something. I think that Torm THE SWARM Wimbeldon can say whatever he wants because these people continue to invite him to their shows. They are asking him to critcize their art, and for that I say “BRAVO, Mr. Wallarms.” But what I WILL NOT TOLERATE, is some old dude thinking he can out misspell US and make casually racist comments. That, my Sir, is our territory!
Amen to that. Here’s the deal, America. All these critics in the world, they have their turf...Venus Williams wishes everyone a good show, Chris Jones is British and aloof, Hedy Weiss is a vampire, and Ada Grey is six so no one can make fun of her. And Eric and Andy are the idiot manchildren who say retarded shit and call people retarded women who smell like placenta omelettes and this guy is HORNING IN.
WE make the Lesbian comments in this town! Maybe Tome THE GNOME Willkens should try some other things he might be good at, like shoveling or fixing toys.
One of the great, and really stupid, things about the internet is that anyone can say and do whatever they want. If Thomas THE GROWNMASS Wilferd wants to talk about lesbo dikes who wear jeans and have tatoos and smell like patchouli and should live in compounds while he sleeps in a Nazi uniform and eats all the flowers on your windowsill...then GODDAMN can he ever do it. But, you guys are STILL THE ONES POSTING HIM ON YOUR FACEBOOK PAGE WHEN HE GIVES YOUR SHOW FOUR STARS.
So what’s the answer here, E-Bone?
I honestly think your theatre company should have a lucid and frank OFFLINE discussion about who you want to invite to your show to review it. There are a lot of reviewers in town, and if you truly feel that Timmy THE HEADJIMMY Wilbog shouldn’t be allowed in your theatre, fine. Don’t give him tickets. I promise you, it will have no effect on your bottom line.
Well, I would like to mention a critic whom I really like nowadays named Bob Bullen. I think he is a thoughtful dude and writes a blog called Chicago Theatre Addict. I also hope we never have to discuss Tom Williams again, because it’s so deeply, deeply uninteresting.
I agree Andy. Let us move Tom into the dustbin of history, like driving gloves and American cars.
Wanna go take in a Lesbian short film?
You know that I am already doing that.
-Eric Roach, Anderson Lawfer
-Anderson Lawfer, Eric Roach
There is a burden that all theatre professionals have to deal with in our business. The very thought of it makes me paranoid and nervous.
At the beginning of every new production you are involved in, you receive an email that reads:
Hi (Show Title) Pro & Cast,
Your bios and headshots (if you are an actor) for The Show You Are In are due.
If you could please e-mail them to me it would be appreciated.Thanks,(Production Manager or Whoever Handles This)
I hate receiving this email because I never know what to say about myself. Should I talk about past awards and favorite roles? Should I speak of my affiliations? My feelings about the Government?
Well, today I am going to tell you the do's and don'ts of writing a great bio!
I know since everybody's season is getting started, this is very relevant and you will want to take notes.
First, I will write you a sample bio that has a bunch of mistakes and then we will dissect it to learn better.
Anderson Lawfer (Mamie Reardon) is thrilled to be part of this great production. You may have seen him in plays at Victory Gardens, Collaboraction, Steep Theater, About Face (Jeff nomination- Best Performance), the National Tour of Wicked (with Sigourney Weaver) which toured many prestigious theaters, among others. He is the Associate Artistic Director of Vampire Couch Theatre Company where he also serves as the literary manager and head playwright. He would like to thank his wife Lil RayRay and his daughters for their support and unconditional loyalty.
Seems harmless enough right? WRONG!
This bio is making you look like a douchebag and let me tell you exactly why, in 5 points.
1. Anderson Lawfer (Mamie Reardon) is thrilled to be part of this great production.
If you say the word "thrilled" and don't use an exclamation point, then you are not thrilled. For example: Anderson is just thrilled to be getting married. or Anderson is just THRILLED to be getting married!
See? The second one is clearly more excited sounding, but it also makes you sound like a retard, so just avoid saying you are thrilled at all. This also goes for excited, pleased as punch, super excited, and having a great time working at this company.
2. You may have seen him in plays at Victory Gardens, Collaboraction, Steep Theater, About Face (Jeff nomination- Best Performance),
Nobody saw you in those things.
3.the National Tour of Wicked (with Sigourney Weaver) which toured many prestigious theaters, among others.
If you put some famous person's name in a show you were in, and are now doing a non equity show at LampSkunk Theatre Company, it looks like you have fallen very hard. Maybe it is because you quit doing tours to start a family and teach at DePaul, or maybe it is because you are an awful drunk that tried to bang the usher. The point is, we don't know why you didn't stay on the up and up, but you clearly didn't, so just leave it alone.
Prestigious Theaters read: Whites Only.
Among Others read: There are no others.
4. He is the Associate Artistic Director of Vampire Couch Theatre Company where he also serves as the literary manager and head playwright.
There is nothing wrong with this. That is actually a pretty sweet title.
5. He would like to thank his wife Lil RayRay and his daughters for their support and unconditional loyalty.
This is a grammatical error that drives me crazy. If you would like to thank them, then quit being a pussy and just thank them already! Plus, if you are thanking your wife for support, you are lying to everyone. Your wife wants you to stop doing plays for free and get a second job. Also, your daughters don't even remember you because you spend every night above a liquor store talking about what your new mission statement should be.
So now that we have discussed the don'ts, let's put all of these practices to work and make a true bio that you can be proud of!
Anderson Lawfer (Mamie Reardon) is a part of this production. You didn't see him in plays at Victory Gardens, Collaboraction, Steep Theater, About Face (Jeff nomination- Best Performance- Lost to Stacy Stoltz), the Regional Tour of Wicked (with Kerr Smith) which toured many diverse theaters, and no other plays. He is the Associate Artistic Director of Vampire Couch Theatre Company where he also serves as the literary manager and head beerdrinker. Thanks to his "wife" Lil RayRay and his daughters for not caring where he is, and to whomever in the cast he is undoubtedly having an emotional affair with right now.
Now that we know how to write a great bio, let's go out there and take back the programs!!
Do your friends say that you are funny and/or laugh at your jokes/gags?
Then you should be writing for Eric and Andy!
Because of the Fall Theatre and Movie season, we are overwhelmed with things to see and need your help!
The internet is very popular now, so why not leave a footprint in the internet sand to show your parents!
You will get free tickets to plays and events and all you have to do is write something that isn't terrible about them afterwards! Also, if you are in the theatre scene in Chicago, this could be the best thing that has ever happened to you.
P.S. - We could use someone of color to even things out.
We're pretty white.
Like a black person?
NO, no...maybe Asian or Indian...Mexican if we're desperate.
So, if you are Asian or Indian or maybe Mexican, but probably White, send a writing sample to Reviewsyoucaniews@gmail.com and get started on your blogging career today!
-Anderson Lawfer, Eric Roach -Eric Roach, Anderson Lawfer
"I'm a HUGE Kevin Smith fan!" - Kevin Smith, Marc Maron's WTF podcast, Ep. 141
Of course you are, Kevin. And that seems to be the crux of the issue with your entire career.
But, I digress. I'm here to review RED STATE, Smith's (allegedly) 2nd to last film before a self-imposed retirement. RED STATE is a failure, a mistake in a filmography filled with botched attempts. A clear case of a man in love with the sound of his own voice.
But, perhaps some history will help to understand why RED STATE was even made. In 1994, Kevin Smith's first film was released, forever altering the landscape of independent film. Love it or hate it, CLERKS is what made Kevin Smith, what put him on the map so to speak. CLERKS is a film about talking...there really is no other point to it. But what talking it is...the dialogue is fresh and interesting and pretty different from what Hollywood was churning out at the time. Too bad Smith had no money and no talent when it came to casting. Many of the stars of CLERKS are part-time actors, amateurs, and pals of Smith. Also, Smith filmed in black and white in order to avoid lighting issues with filming in color. He maxed out all of his credit cards and sold most of his comic books to fund the film. So, really, it's kind of a fluke that it was not only a hit...but a legitimate phenomenon.
Once Miramax picked up CLERKS at Sundance, it was simply the underground cult film to watch. At the time it came out I was 19 years old and I found it hilarious. In fact, everyone who was a teen in 1994 must have thought it was pretty great, because Smith has been doing some serious coasting on that fan base ever since CLERKS came on the scene. Here was a movie made by a nerdy fat nobody, FOR fat nobodys and nerds. Can you understand why Smith was appointed their savior and hero? Smith has admitted that his mere presence is a reminder to everyone that they can do exactly what he did. And while that is an inspiring sentiment, it's also quite grandiose. Kevin Smith's Number One Fan is Kevin Smith...and if you dare to find out more about that you need look no further than SMODCAST, the network of podcasts that he claims are now the ultimate expression of his "art."
But what is Smith's art? Talking. Bloviating, if you choose to be dismissive. Smith loves to fill acres and acres of hard drive space with the sound of himself expounding on the awesomeness of weed, how much he loves to eat his wife's asshole, and how Southwest sucks because he was so fat once they threw him off a plane. I'm dead serious. Oh, and he also likes to talk about jerking off, taking shits, and cum ropes. This is now Smith's artistic endeavor...recording himself talk about bullshit. Smith's podcasts fall under the "comedy" label...and if you enjoy fart, poop, and jizz jokes then yes they are comedy shows. I've been listening to a couple of Smith's podcasts (Smodcast and Jay and Silent Bob Get Old, for those interested) for about 6 months now and I think I've laughed about 10 times. Guess what isn't funny when you are sober: A stoned guy making ass-eating jokes.
But this is not about Smith's podcasts...you want to know what RED STATE is and if it's worth your money and time. Suuuuuuure it is...I think.
RED STATE is a departure for Smith, and I must give him credit for attempting something so very different from the rest of his filmography. His previous effort (not including COP OUT, which he just directed) was ZACH AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO, which can only be called god-awful and an embarrassment. Poorly written and directed in a way that makes CLERKS look like a DePalma film, ZACH AND MIRI was the straw that broke Smith's back. He freely admits (in one of his numerous Q&A sessions) that the failure of ZACH AND MIRI turned him into a giant stoner. Basically, it broke his brain. But one only has to watch ZACH AND MIRI to realize that he's no Judd Apatow, and that if you make a shitty movie, Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks can't save it no matter how funny and/or appealing you find either of them. The miscalculation is staggering on Smith's part.
So, in order to make it all better, he had to scrap everything and start from scratch. Unfortunately, you cannot teach an old dog new tricks, and Kevin Smith is an old, old dog. RED STATE starts with three horny teens, excited about the possibility of getting to bang Melissa Leo. I believe there are horny teens in the world, and I believe there are horny women out there who live in trailers and might want three teen boys to give her a gangbang to remember. But I do not believe that in the age of internet, smart phones, and To Catch A Predator that these 3 morons wouldn't at least be slightly worried about the crazy horny lady in the middle of the woods who wants to get a train run on her so bad she posts it on the internet. So, anyway, in defiance of logic, these horndogs drink the pre-sex beer she offers...which is of course drugged, and they are taken away to the 5 Points Church in Cooper's Dell.
Now, here's where Smith decides to take on religion (which he already did in DOGMA...a film so stupid I turned it off in the middle and wondered why I was still wasting my time on this guy...MALLRATS wasn't that funny), specifically Fred Phelps' Westboro Baptist Church. You know...GOD HATES FAGS and all that noise. Kevin, didn't you get the memo? We're supposed to ignore these jerks, then maybe they'll go away. Smith's 5 Points Church is his version of the WBC, and his Phelps is Abin Cooper...played by the always incredible Michael Parks. I love Michael Parks, and to his credit he turns in an amazing performance. We first see Parks in a (I shit you not) 15 minute monologue/sermon that stops the middle of the movie cold. Yes, Parks is incredible, but this talking (you see the theme yet?) gets in the way of what Smith would like you to believe is his horror-action genre picture. And it happens throughout the 2nd half of the film...just this interminable talking, gabbing, diarrhea of words and crackpot stoner conspiracy theories. I wanted action, and I got a bunch of actors talking about all the amazing things that were happening JUST off camera. It's as if Smith was afraid of the action premise that he had set up for himself, and he decided to talk it away until the movie was finally done.
On with the show! The horny teens were brought to the church so they could be sacrificed to whatever evil God these freaks worship. See, Smith is just extrapolating what the WBC would LOVE to do...and that's murder a homosexual saran wrapped to a cross in front of a congregation of psychos. So that happens (as cheaply as possible...Smith made this movie for an estimated 4 million and I guess shooting a dude in the head was kind of expensive) and 2 of the horny teens make a break for it. So, and here's implausible thing number 37 (I won't list them all because you guys don't have time), one horny teen is running around the basement of this church. Every single door is locked EXCEPT for the door to their giant armory filled with AK-47s and MAC-10s. It's like Smith thought...well, we've got to get to the guns somehow. I know! I'll just make the one door that should be locked up tighter than a nun's pussy completely unlocked! Awesome! I'm so smart.
Great. So, through more convoluted movie "magic," the ATF is finally called in to take care of the shooting going on at the 5 Points. And here comes John Goodman. I love John Goodman here, playing the head of the local ATF field office. Goodman brings his A-game...stripping down his performance to nearly nothing more than a badass in a really tough situation. But, once again, he is completely hamstrung by Smith's ridiculous need to keep everyone in the film talking rather than doing anything. Goodman rises above the material, but it is a herculean effort. He seemed to be sweating from sheer force of will.
I could go on and on about how the end of the film completely screwed the one big chance to do something interesting with the last 10 minutes...and seriously, it's such a missed opportunity I considered turning off the film right there, but the only other thing on was CLERKS II. I could talk about how Smith couldn't pick a villain...is Cooper's 5 Points Church the embodiment of religious mania gone totally wrong, or are the government stooges of the ATF an example of the banality of evil? I guess I'll talk about a few positive things...Smith has learned a few new visual tricks which are nice little bits of editing and camera movement that shows that hey, even this guy can pick up a few things along the way. The acting from Parks, Leo, and Goodman is pretty stellar all around and they do make a compelling case for watching the film. Seeing pros in their element doing good work is always worth the time.
But, the problem lies in one person and one person only...Kevin Smith. Kevin, you may have embraced the new social media and Twitter, and good on you for that. You've got a huge fan base, plenty of money, and you've figured out how you will spend the rest of your life: talking about 1994. Because, even if you aren't talking about CLERKS...you're still talking about CLERKS. I suppose there are worse legacies, but I just can't think of any right now. I mean, I wasn't even supposed to be here today.
RED STATE: C (A+++ if you really love Kevin Smith)