Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

[Update]
This photo was taken in 1969. It was our first Thanksgiving in California. That summer we moved from upstate New York (by way of Johnson City, Endwell, and Yorktown Heights, NY) to Los Gatos, CA.  That is me on the right.
45 years later we are all celebrating our last Thanksgiving in this house. My parents have just sold their 5-bedroom house and are moving to a nearby senior living community. Cheers.

The 2014 version...

And the rest of the family...



Friday, November 21, 2014

Make Holiday Cheer

On December 12-13, my talented and handsome husband will be singing with the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus in their holiday extravaganza, "Dancers, Prancers & Vixens!" It's going to be an incredible show that you absolutely do not want to miss. Get your tickets now: http://www.sfgmc.org/events/dancers-prancers-vixens/  or at City Box Office 415-392-4400
Performances for this festive, heart-warming and simply not-to-be-missed concert are at Nourse Theater, 275 Hayes Street, San Francisco, CA.
Dates and times are:
Friday, December 12, 2014 at 8:00pm 
Saturday, December 13, 2014 at 2:00 pm and 8:00 pm
PS. There will also be an ugly sweater parade, 1980’s nativity and some of the most beautiful, familiar holiday music you have ever heard.
Featured guest is Well-Strung, the Singing String Quartet


Additional holiday dates are:
Saturday, December 6, 7:30pm in Santa Rosa, CA at the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts. A benefit concert for Face to Face Sonoma County AIDS Network. Tickets.

Sunday, December 7, 5pm in Santa Cruz, CA at the Peace United Church of Christ.
With The San Jose Choral Project. Proceeds to benefit the Santa Cruz AIDS Project, the Santa Cruz Diversity Center, the Queer Youth Task Force, and PFLAG, as well as Peace Church's community projects. Tickets.

Wednesday, December 24, Christmas Eve at the Castro Theatre, SF; show times 5pm, 7pm 9pm. This holiday season marks the 25th year that the chorus returns to the Castro Theatre on Christmas Eve for the Home for the Holidays performances. Tickets.
Featuring: Donna Sachet and Lisa Vroman

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Most Produced Plays This Season

American Theatre magazine came out with their list of “American Theatre’s Top 10 Most-Produced Plays Of 2014-15 (Actually 11 because of ties).”

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike by Christopher Durang: 27**
Outside Mullingar by John Patrick Shanley: 10
Bad Jews by Joshua Harmon: 8***
Other Desert Cities by Jon Robin Baitz: 8****
Around the World in 80 Days adapted from the novel by Jules Verne: 7(note, 6 for the Mark Brown adaptation and 1 for the Toby Hulse adaptation)
Peter and the Starcatcher adapted by Rick Elice from Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson: 7
The Whipping Man by Matthew Lopez: 7
Tribes by Nina Raine: 7*****
4000 Miles by Amy Herzog: 6
Into the Woods, book by James Lapine, music and lyricsby Stephen Sondheim: 6
Venus in Fur by David Ives: 6
Notes:
*American Theatre omits Shakespeare productions and holiday-themed shows A Christmas Carol and Santaland Diaries from the list. But if you really want to know, this season, Christmas Carol is getting 46 productions, Santaland Diaries is getting 8 productions and the most-produced Shakespeare plays are A Midsummer Night’s Dream (10) and Romeo and Juliet (8).
**Christopher Durang’s Chekhovian Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike made the Top 10 list last year in eighth place, with 11 productions. That list, plus a 2013 best-play Tony Award, was apparently enough to propel Durang’s play to the top this year.
***American Theatre has printed the complete playscript to two of the Top 10 plays—Bad Jews by Joshua Harmon and 4000 Miles by Amy Herzog. We’re not saying we’re arbiters of not-for-profit theatre tastes, but…
****This marks the third year in a row that Jon Robin Baitz and Matthew Lopez and their plays (Other Desert Cities and The Whipping Man, respectively) have made the Top 10 list. Congratulations on those royalty checks, guys!
*****It seems last year’s female-packed Top 10 list was a temporary trend (last year, women made up half the list). The male/female ratio of this year’s list is 8:2.
This information is tallied from 404 theatres that self-reported their season to us. There were 1,876 entries that credited a playwright and/or a composer, and all productions are playing from Oct. 1, 2014, to Sept. 30, 2015. For the numbers from past Top 10 lists, click here

We have seen 9 of the 11 listed plays in the last couple years. Apparently no theatre in the San Francisco Bay Area is currently scheduled to do “Outside Mullingar” by John Patrick Shanley. “Around the World in 80 Days” which was the other play we have not seen was last done in 2008 by the now defunct San Jose Repertory Theatre.

Outside Mullingar” was just on Broadway stage this past winter. It featured Debra Messing in her Broadway debut. Synopsis of the show: “Anthony and Rosemary are two introverted misfits straddling 40. Anthony has spent his entire life on a cattle farm in rural Ireland. Rosemary lives right next door, determined to have him, watching the years slip away. With Anthony’s father threatening to disinherit him and a land feud simmering between their families, Rosemary has every reason to fear romantic catastrophe.”

All 9 of the above plays that we have seen, we highly recommend them. We have even seen 3 of them (Peter and the Starcatcher, Tribes and Into the Woods) twice done by different theatres.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Another Colon Update

Ready for another procedure.
It has been 3 months since my last chemotherapy cycle treatment for stage 4 metastatic colon cancer in my lungs. So far, the follow up tests have been very good. I have a monthly CEA (carcinoembryonic antigen) blood test that is used to diagnose and track certain types of cancers, especially cancer of the colon. This tumor marker test has given me 3 normal scores. I also had a PET/CT scan at the end of August that no longer showed signs of cancer in the lungs. There are still a number of very small nodules but they are not lighting up as cancerous. My next scan is scheduled for next month. All in all, good news. However, the oncologist reminds me that the cancer will be back at some point in the future, she just can't predict when.

The biggest side effect that I am still dealing with is chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (numbness and tingling in my hands, feet and mouth). Both my hands and feet continuously feels like I have been handling or walking on ice with no protection. I find it hard to walk or stand for more than a half-hour. The oncologist says there is no treatment cure for it. The best they can do is to ease the symptoms. In some cases the neuropathy is short-term; in others it can take years to go away. In severe cases it may never go away. She suggested looking into acupuncture. Many people have found relief with it. So far I have had a dozen acupuncture sessions. It is hard to say if they have made much of a difference.

In my case, the rectum has been removed and the
colon has been pulled down and attached to my anus.
Next on my health agenda is finally dealing with the anal fistula issue that has plagued me for over a year. The whole thing started last summer when a cyst formed in the scar tissue from my colorectal surgery of 5 years ago. The cyst became infected and abscessed while we were on a bike trip in France last summer. Last fall I had two operations under anesthesia to clean up the infection. At that time a seton stich was put in place. Wikipedia best describes it as: “The procedure involves running a surgical-grade cord through the fistula tract so that the cord creates a loop that joins up outside the fistula. The cord provides a path which allows the fistula to drain continuously while it is healing, rather than allowing the exterior of the wound to close over. Keeping the fistula tract open can help keep from trapping pus or other infectious material in the wound.”  The intention was to surgically remove the fistula at the beginning of this year after the infected area had healed. Instead, I was informed that my cancer had come back and spread to my lungs and that it would have to be treated first. I would have to wait and put up with its side effects until my chemotherapy treatments were through.

The two of us out and about.
The side effects of the anal fistula were not painful, just unpleasant and depressing. I had to wear a pad in my underwear 24x7 to capture leakage. I couldn’t swim or use a hot tub. Biking was impossible and running was difficult. It seemed like I was in constant cleanup mode. Despite this, I kept on going. I am not one to sit around home moping. We spent 2 weeks in Fort Lauderdale over Christmas/New Years, spent over a week in NYC attending Broadway shows, extended weekends in Ashland, Oregon (Oregon Shakespeare Festival) and Guerneville, CA (twice) and numerous weekends in San Francisco. So far this year alone, we have attended over 90 performances of plays, operas and ballets and went to the World Series.

This fall I have had two more operations under anesthesia to deal with the fistula (a fistulotomy, where the fistulous tract is surgically cut open and allowed to heal). My ass is a real piece of work. I am in the “wait and see” mode to determine how well things heal and solve my leakage and control issues. The surgeon and I are optimistic that the outcome will be good.

I leave you with some colon humor:




Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Movie Star Alert

A scruffy and ponytailed Leonardo DiCaprio discusses renewable energy outside my office window with a professor from Stanford University.
Leonado DiCaprio (l)

Back in September, DiCaprio spoke at the UN as a “messenger of peace” addressing the opening of the body’s Climate Summit. He urged the delegates to make meaningful progress toward solutions and called on world leaders to end what he called “the free ride” that industrial polluters have been given in the name of a free market economy.

“The good news is that renewable energy is not only achievable but good economic policy,” DiCaprio told the more than 120 world leaders assembled. “New research shows that by 2050 clean, renewable energy could supply 100 percent of the world’s energy needs using existing technologies, and it would create millions of jobs.”


DiCaprio along with the Stanford professor are involved with The Solutions Project, a national outreach effort that also involves actor Mark Ruffalo, film director Josh Fox and others to raise public awareness about switching to clean energy.

This was the most celebrity excitement in our department since 2005 when actress Cameron Diaz guest taught a course in "Managing Sustainable Building Projects" in a tight white sweater.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Orange is for October

San Francisco War Memorial Opera House
No, it is not pumpkin spice season in San Francisco. It is Giants fever. World Series mania. Everything is decked out in Orange and Black in the city by the bay. I, too, will be dressed in the Giants tacky sports colors of orange and black all weekend because I will be at the 3 World Series games played in SF this weekend.

I will be the first to admit that I am one of those guys that totally lacks any kind of sports gene in my body. I really don’t care who wins the World Series, Super Bowl, Stanley Cup, World Cup and whatever basketball’s championship game is called. My husband, however, is a selected sports fan. He loves to follow the San Francisco Giants baseball. And I love to follow him to games. I like getting all caught up into the excitement with him. Just don’t expect me to know any sports stats or other fine nuances of the game.
SF Davies Symphony Hall
My husband has had season tickets to the Giants for many years. But this year we didn't go to very many games, mostly because of my cancer treatments. He ended up selling off most of his seats. He went to a half dozen games and I only attended one during the regular season. We are looking forward to this series of games.
SF City Hall in Giants Orange

Things I like about the SF Giants:
My favorite t-shirts...
Pitcher Tim Lincecum shirt

Tim Lincecum shirt
Giants/Grateful Dead: Steal Your Face shirt
Mascots...
Crazy Crab from 1984

Lou Seal, mascot since 1996
Supporters of LGBT community...
Donna Sachet was the first drag performer to sing the National Anthem
at the opening of a Major League Baseball game on 09/29/2009.
In 1994, the Giants became the first-ever professional sports team to host an AIDS benefit game, "Until There's A Cure Day." Since then, the Giants and the Giants Community Fund have repeated the effort, generating more than $1.3 million for Bay Area AIDS education and care/service organizations and international AIDS research.
The Giants have hosted a dozen annual LGBT nights at the ball park beginning back in 2002.


Three years ago, in 2011, the Giants and post-season heroes Barry Zito, Sergio Romo, and Matt Cain recorded an  "It Gets Better" video. They were the first professional sports team to join the online campaign against gay bullying and homophobia.

In 2013, San Francisco Giants received the GLAAD Corporate Leader Award. They were first professional sports franchise to receive a GLAAD Media Award.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Real Estate Crazy


Everyone knows that property prices in the San Francisco Bay Area are insane. Here is a recent story about a house in my neighborhood. It is 2 blocks away from where we live. We drive by it nearly everyday.
The place has been an eyesore for years. Until recently it was covered in overgrown brush, vines and weeds. It is on the corner of a very busy residential street that is usually congested with commute traffic. I would not consider it a desirable location. Unbelievably the seller got two cash offers. Can't imagine paying almost $2 million dollars for a dump you have to bulldoze and rebuild. Insane!!
PALO ALTO (KPIX 5) — A home that may be infested with rodents is on the market in Palo Alto with a staggering asking price.
Neighbors were stunned when the dilapidated home went on the market for $1.8 million.
“We thought it would possibly go for $650,000, maybe $700,000.  Then when it came out originally for $1.6 million, and then they raised it to $1.8 million, we were like, I’m kind of dumbfounded,” neighbor Dave Ashton said.
The house is in such bad shape that prospective bidders can’t even go inside to take a tour.  Part of the house is being held up by wooden posts.
“It’s obviously uninhabitable,” Ashton said.
Realtor Debbie Wilhelm said if the home’s eventual new owners plan to bulldoze the house and start fresh, they will likely have to add nearly $1 million on to the price tag.
“I think it might be infested with, like, rodents, and it’s hard to even stand in it for three minutes,” said Wilhelm.
The seller received two offers Tuesday, and Wilhelm says it will sell to a group of investors.
http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2014/10/21/uninhabitable-palo-alto-home-on-market-for-1-8m/

Saturday, October 18, 2014

NYC trip, Oct 2014

We did not make it to New York for our normal July trip (due to Ed's then-chemo treatments), but we more than compensated in our recent journey during which we saw a record 16 shows in 9 days. As we have for several years, we are now sharing our takes on the shows; and we are hoping that you will all do the same when you make your way to NYC.
Below you will find our ranked reviews for shows that are still playing. We also saw four excellent shows that have closed (or were only one-time productions). We offer our views on them at the end in hopes that you will have a chance to see them at some point on a stage near you.
Even though we rank the shows seen, we did not see any show this year that we could not recommend highly. Sometimes, it is one person's performance the night we saw the show that causes it to be lower ranked than others. Other times, it is just our flukily preferences. But, we hope you can see many of, if not all, these shows either in NYC or when they arrive on tour or in local repertory.
And you may want to know that these shows bring our 2014 total-seen theatre productions up to 90 thus far with 2.5 months to go in the year. A toast to my hubby who is a trooper. How many people undergoing six months of chemo could have done that?

OUR 2014 NEW YORK MUSICALS (that are still playing)
1. "On the Town" (Bemstein, Comden & Green; Lyric Theatre)
Ghosts of Gene Kelley & Frank Sinatra from the film version. Huge cast with amazing sets. Ballet-based choreography. Songs you either know or have somewhere heard. Lines of dialog you can say along with the actors. Laughter abounding with silly and poignant episodes.
Oh, my. "On the Town" has it all. From the first deep-voiced chords of Phillip Boykin (with the voice of Porgy), there is magic in every minute. This is what Broadway is all about. Only in NYC or London can you see a show this big, this wonderful. The story is as fun as it was several generations ago. What I love about this production is the combination of cartoon colors and zaniness juxta-positioned with professional ballet. This is the kind of musical it is worth a trip to NYC just to see. It reminds me of London's "Top Hat" that we saw in 2013. No big-name stars. Just great B'Way singers, dancers, and character actors. Open-Ended

2. "Cabaret" (Masteroff, Kander & Ebb; Studio 54)
Even though I was seeing my 5th full production of Kander and Ebb’s musical "Cabaret" (including when Joel Grey reprised his role), I was left stunned and in tears as the final blackout came in this current revival on B'Way. Alan Cummings' ever-present emcee initially embodies a raunchy, yet lovable Puck-like character through the first half of the play. Increasingly in the 2nd act, he becomes both victim and perpetrator; and his final specter gaze and portrayal is an image that will be emblazoned in my mind's eye forever. The entire production is first-rate overall with the exception of Michelle Williams as Sally Bowles, who seems often to lack both the punch and the pitch to pull off this iconic part. The exception is her 11 o'clock number of the title song "Cabaret," where she knocks the song out of the park and leaves us with a haunting look of red-eyed horror as Sally finally sees the Nazi horror about to descend on her make-believe world. Closes March 29, 2015.

3. "Here Lies Love" (David Byrne & Fatboy Slim; Public Theatre)
If we had only seen one show this year in NYC, this is the one I would not have wanted to miss. "Here Lies Love" is a genuine hit that is about to explode on the national and international stage (slated to play on several continents in the coming year). First, the story is the Marcos/Imelda/Aquino drama many of us watched from afar in the late 20th Century; and the familiar faces, voices, and scenes come to life both in the actors and in the vintage video surrounding the audience on all sides. The show is an immersive theatrical dance club experience with a narrative, the life of a charismatic president’s wife, reminiscent of “Evita.” The music is pounding & pulsating ... and totally hummable as the audience leaves. The stages shift among the standing audience (who shift positions, too) -- an audience that becomes both the adoring and later protesting throngs of Marcos. Live broadcasts, actors on all four sides and in the middle, incredible music, a light show that never ceases, intricate logistics performed seamlessly, with every minute of the 90 counting for something ... all this and more make "Here Lies Love" a must-see. A national tour will begin in 2015 in San Francisco! Closes January 3, 2015.

4. "A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder" (Freedman & Lutvak; Walter Kerr Theatre)
There are many reasons to rave about and love the 2014 Tony Best Musical "A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder." To me, the funniest aspect is that this very British-like parody set in 1909 London is that it is written and scored by Americans who are neophytes on the B'Way stage. Beyond that, seeing Jefferson Mays become 8 different members of the D'Ysquith family (all who will spend only a short time on stage before meeting their demise, usually at the hands of their distant cousin Monty Navarro (Bryce Pinkham)) is hilarious and amazing. Ed & I could only surmise he must have had 5 dressers working on him for his quick personality and total costume/wig/etc. changes (often in mere seconds, it seemed).
This is a rib-ticker, for sure, and a musical not to be missed. Is it going to stand the test of time to be worthy of its "Best Musical" title? Not sure about that. I would have leaned toward "Beautiful" myself if I had been voting this year. But I totally recommend seeing it. There is nothing else quite like the silly antics and joyous murders occurring presently on the B'Way stage.

5. "The Last Ship" (Sting, Logan & Yorkey; Neil Simon Theatre)
Don't go to "The Last Ship" expecting today's usual great-abs, little-clothed chorus boys. The guys in this show are burly, working-class (in appearance) and sing/dance with gusto, stomp, and ale-filled fervor. Sting's music has a Celtic flavor, is more "Once" than "Book of Mormon," and often captures well the flavor of the story and moves it along with zeal. Somewhat allegorical, often Biblical (think prodigal son seeking forgiveness, redemption, and even ascension to heaven), "The Last Ship" also is about many aspects of love, about regret, and about reconciliation. All this occurs in the framework of a suffering, poor community whose main industry and source of pride (ship-building) is dying but a community that defies death to seek its own, somewhat fantastical salvation. The packed, preview audience bought it. They appeared to love it. I really like it, too. Opens October 26. Open-Ended.

6. "Aladdin" (Menken, Ashman, Rice & Beguelin; New Amsterdam Theatre)
There are 3 big reasons to see Disney's "Aladdin." The huge production numbers throughout the show are over-the-top -- full of color, costume, and choreography. The magic carpet is a character unto itself, and I really have no idea how it flies. And the really BIG reason to see this show is our TheatreWorks pal and Tony Award winner, James Monroe Iglehart. As the Genie, he is beyond words. His unbounded energy, incredible dance moves, spontaneous wit, genuine heart, and powerful voice are all worth the price of the ticket.
On the downside, the book is really sappy and at times, just bad. And Courtney Reed as Jasmine at times does that B'Way diva screaming a bit too much as she sings her songs (something we seem to have heard way too much this year, frankly). But the faults are far outweighed by the pluses. I am really glad we went to this extravaganza of a show. It was fun, fun, fun. Don't worry if you don't have a child to take with you. The kid in us all will love every minute. Open-Ended.

7. "If/Then" (Kitt & Yorkey; Richard Rodgers Theatre)
I am not sure I have ever seen any more complicated musical than "If/Then," and I doubt any two audience members left having seen exactly the same story and play. Idina Menzel, LaChance, Anthony Rapp, James Snyder, and more bring incredible voices to beautiful anthems and dynamic explosions of sight and sound as they explore 'what if' this happened or that happened or something else happened in one's life. All that imagining we each sometimes do in our heads gets played out in intertwining story lines before our eyes. The result may be confusing at times, but the effect is mesmerizing and moving.
Menzel, Repp and director Michael Greif were originally part of “Rent," the musical of pre-Giuliani New York bohemians. They are reunited in this post-Bloomberg NY where they are still tackling issues of sexuality, substance abuse, affordable housing and selling out to “the man.”
As long as Menzel stays in the cast, this show will probably have a good run. If she leaves, look for a quick closing. Open-Ended.
Note: We purposely did not see "Beautiful: The Carole King Musical" (King, Goffin, Mann, Weill & McGrath; Stephen Sondheim Theatre) because we saw the world premiere in San Francisco. We would heartily recommend it and would have placed it far up on this list. Through a scheduling change by the theatre, we missed seeing "Hedwig & the Angry Itch" (Trask & Mitchell; Belasco Theatre), although we have also seen a couple, past wonderful, non-Broadway productions in San Francisco. Both are open-ended.

OUR 2014 NEW YORK PLAYS (that are still playing)
1. "It's Only a Play" (McNally; Gerald Shoenfeld Theatre)
Can you imagine laughing so much for almost 3 hours that exhaustion and fatigue is the outcome? Just look at this cast! 6 of the 7 are stars we all know from many venues, and the 7th being introduced in this production (Micah Stock) turns out to have some of the funniest moments in the play! Set in the pent-house bedroom of a rich, first-time, B'Way producer, "It's Only a Play" is raucous, rip-roaringly funny, and often also very poignant. Each actor enters through the bedroom's double doors and stops the action of the play due to the audience's thunderous applause. Nathan Lane rips himself and every known actor/actress with a tongue that is sharp and biting yet lovable. Never have I seen any actress funnier than Stockard Channing is. Matthew Broderick is perfect as the playwright nervously waiting and then tragically receiving the opening night's reviews. And I could go on and on about all the others on stage (F. Murray Abraham, Megan Mullally, Rupert Grint).
Each aspect of the theatre (actors, directors, back stage folk, audience, critics) is satirized and sainted in this soaring tribute to the risks and follies of writing, producing, directing, and starring in live theatre. Crowds were begging for tickets the night of the last preview. Look for impossible-to-get tickets for this limited run. Closes January 4, 2015.

2. "The Country House" (Margulies; Manhattan Theatre Club)
Blythe Danner and a stellar cast shine in Donald Margulies' new, limited-run play about a family of actors. Like all families who gather together for a summer reunion, sh-t starts to happen. Secrets, old hurts, new bondings, unresolved issues, and fond remembrances all mingle into a delicious 2.5 hours that the audience really wants to go on for much longer. This is a play I hope a Bay Area group will pick up in the next year or so. Closes December 9, 2014.

3. "Disgraced" (Akhtar; Lyceum Theatre)
A few months ago, I read breathlessly the script of the 2013 Pulitzer-winning "Disgraced" (by Ayad Akhtar). Watching the words and actions played out real-time is almost too much to bear. Every ethnic button, every terrorist fear, every unspoken prejudice that we never dare speak even to ourselves is said, often shouted in yet another dinner-party-drama gone amuck. Further, the play even becomes more timely after the past few awful weeks of NFL spousal abuse inactions. Rarely have I heard an audience gasp in horror (and probable shocked disgust) as occurs at one moment in this taut, tight 85-minute drama. As audience, we are lured in to like and admire these five, very charming, witty, handsome characters. But one by one, each reveals aspects maybe just too familiar to too many of us.
Can I recommend it? Is drama meant to cause unease at times, to stimulate questions and conversations, to lead the audience to reconsider personal shadows and unspoken beliefs? Then, yes. It is a play to be reckoned with. No, you will not leave feeling very uplifted. As our friend Jim Reber says of the purpose of theatre, "Sometimes it's just 'hold the mirror up to life,' and what we see isn't so pretty." Open-Ended.

4. "You Can't Take It with You" (Hart & Kaufman; Longacre Theatre)
No matter how many times I see Lucy Ricardo in the chocolate factory, I die laughing each time. And, no matter how many times I see Hart's & Kaufman's "You Can't Take It With You," I still bust a gut over and again -- especially in Act 2 just before I know the Kirby family is about to ring the doorbell for dinner at the Sycamores', one night too early.
This production lives up to the long line of hilarious outings of this 1936 comedy. Having James Earl Jones lead the cast of 20 as Grandfather is just the icing on the cake. The antics are many by the minute; the situations, zany beyond belief; the love of family, spilling forth throughout. And what is it about Grandpa's final prayer? Every time I hear it, I tear up despite myself. "You Can't Take It With You" is an American treasure that I personally treasure each time I see it. Closes January 4, 2015.

5. "This Is Our Youth" (Lonergan; Cort Theatre)
"This Is Our Youth" returns us to our late teens/early twenties when everything seemed possible and nothing worked out, when one moment we were soaring on life and the next moment we were ready to jump the bridge, and when in a split second a best friend became the scorn of hormonal rage and the next moment, the closest thing to real love we had ever felt.
Three young people in 1982 dance their lives together at rave-like, drug-induced pace in a NYC apartment as they insanely approach and avoid real connections. The comedy is both funny and sad. It reminds us all of those moments in our past that we could never imagine being our parents and yet can hardly stand to be ourselves.
I walked away a bit bewildered and out of sorts. Nothing much is resolved. We as audience witness a slice of life that many of us had all but forgotten yet so quickly and deeply remembered. This is a play that deserves more attention and production across the land. Closes January 4, 2015.

THE NOW-CLOSED PRODUCTIONS WE SAW
--> "Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill" (Robertson)
Ed and I have traveled coast to coast to see Audra McDonald on stage: Musical theatre, opera, and in concert. If I had not known ahead of time that the star of "Lady Day at the Emerson Bar & Grill" was Ms. McDonald, I am not sure that I could have identified the person on stage as she. Audra became Billie Holiday in every respect: posture, looks, language, and voice. Positioned as one of her last concerts, the musical invites us as audience to witness the painful demise of one of the greatest singers ever as drugs and alcohol win the ultimate battle. It actually hurt at times to watch what was so realistically happening before us; and at the same time, it was magnificent. We got a glimpse of how much Billie soared when she was totally on her game, and we saw what a tragedy she became toward the end.
Did Audra deserve a 6th Tony Award for this performance? Oh my, yes. She probably deserved 6 Tonys JUST for this performance. I am not sure I have ever seen a better singular performance. We were lucky to see the closing night. I am sorry for everyone who did not get to see her perform in this wonderful musical, for I am sure that I will never forget the emotions -- high and low -- of being there.

--> "Bauer" (Gunderson)
This has been "The Year of Lauren Gunderson" for us. The prolific and profound playwright raised the curtain on 4 SF Bay Area stages during a very short time in past 15 months or so. Our favorite, "Bauer," staged by our adored San Francisco Playhouse, made its way to Off-Broadway with its two outstanding Bay Area actresses (Susi Damilano and Stacy Ross) & its director and set designer Bill English, and was joined by B'Way stalwart Sherman Howard in the lead role (whom we have seen in all his past B'Way shows). We loved this production in SF; and with Mr. Howard, it was even better in NYC.
I am a firm believer in telling the untold stories of history, and this is one of the most intriguing and sad stories of modern art history. The story portrays one of the most important 20th Century artists and visionaries for whom the Guggenheim Museum in NYC was built to house his art. German émigré and painter Rudolf Bauer was tricked by the fellow German artist and love of his life, Hilla von Rebay, into signing a contract that gave Solomon R. Guggenheim the legal rights to all of his paintings and any future works he created. Real-life family drama intervened, and his art in toto was condemned by Guggenheim's heirs to the museum's basement (some of which was finally sold to others over the decades to follow, some of which still remains in the basement). This powerful drama tells that story with exceptionally well-written and acted script and beautiful staging. Both times I saw this on both coasts, audiences left stunned, saying, "How come I did not know about this?" While closed in SF 7 NYC, this play should be appearing (my guess) all across the country and beyond in the next few years.

--> "I Am Harvey Milk" (Lippa)
"I Am Harvey Milk" weaves the story of Harvey Milk’s life – from boyhood to his rise as the first openly gay man to hold public office to his assassination. Part choral work, part theater piece, the show is an emotional celebration of an American icon. Having sung Andrew Lippa's "I Am Harvey Milk" in choruses of 300 (SFGMC's world premiere in June 2013) and of 550 (in LA this past July with LAGMC), I was not sure how it would be to sit in as an audience member at Avery Fisher Hall in Lincoln Center. In one word: Fabulous! I heard parts and sections I did not know existed. I was struck in new ways with new emotions about the power of Harvey's life and message. Kristin Chenoweth was over-the-top wonderful as Harvey's mother. Andrew Lippa once again sang with depth, heart and emotion. And the 125-voice Broadway Chorus (all professionals from shows on and off B-Way) was gorgeous in every respect.

--> "Have You Heard" (Miss Coco Peru)
Reprising bits of her past, all-scripted shows from the past 24 years, Miss Coco Peru's "Have You Heard" is full of what she does best: telling stories. Touted as the best living story-teller by Lily Tomlin, Coco keeps her audience in stitches as she recounts events of her life. She also sings with a voice as wonderful today as I have ever heard it. She doles out advice as only she can and in the end, touches and warms your heart. We are privileged to know her and her husband Rafael, and I encourage everyone (gay and straight) to go see a show of hers when in your neck of the woods. Check out some of her videos at https://www.youtube.com/user/themisscocoperu.

Along with the above shows, we saw the outstanding Jeff Koons exhibit at the Whitney Museum of American Art, which unfortunately closes this weekend. We also visited MOMA and the Guggenheim (the latter, a true disappointment -- for the third time in our visits to NYC).
We eat only near the theaters, and this year discovered a new-to-us place where we ate twice and totally recommend: etcetera etcetera, 352 W. 44th. We also particularly adore Blue Fin on Broadway, where we also dined twice. Other places we particularly enjoyed included Bocca Bacco on 9th and Swing 46 on 46th.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

End of Chemo Cycle

I just finished my 12th and last chemotherapy cycle. It has been a grueling six months. Last February I was told that my colorectal cancer was back and it was now stage IV metastatic cancer in my lungs. A PET/CT scan revealed nearly a dozen cancerous nodules spread throughout in my lungs.

Very quickly I was placed on a 2-week chemotherapy cycle. I would go in on a Thursday to the chemotherapy infusion clinic and sit for 2-3 hours getting Oxaliplatin, Leucovorin, Avastin and Fluorouracil (5-FU) dripped into my chemo port that was implanted in my upper left chest. The port implant was recommended instead of using an arm IV. At the end of the session I was sent home with a 5-FU bottle attached to my port that would continue dripping into me for three days. Saturday afternoon I would go back to the clinic to have the bottle removed and the port flushed.

Because chemo reduces your immunity systems, there were all sorts of precautions I had to take from washing my hands constantly, avoiding sick people, no dental work done, drinking 2 quarts of fluids a day, and eating only cooked foods, no salads, no raw fruits or vegetables with thin skins.

The side effects I experienced throughout the treatment included fatigue, nose bleeds, light nausea, “chemo fog” or difficulties with recent memory, alternating diarrhea and constipation, and peripheral neuropathy (numbness and tingling in hands, feet and mouth). I didn’t have significant hair loss or experience vomiting from the drugs.  The anti-nausea drugs however caused weight gain…about 15 pounds. Made me more bearish looking.

The most persistent side effect has been the neuropathy or numbness. It has increased and become more annoying and bothersome.  I have another medical issue that has been an ongoing problem, an anal fistula in my surgery scar tissue, but that a story for another day.

I also had several side effects that came and went such as arthritis pain, severe anxiety, and stinging eye pain.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

LA Concert with GMCLA

A couple weeks ago, Eddie traveled down to Los Angeles with 200 members of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus to sing with the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles as part of the their 35th anniversary concert featuring the Andrew Lippa’s oratorio “I Am Harvey Milk.”

Alongside a 25-piece orchestra at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, 300 guest singers from commissioning choruses from across the country joined 200 GMCLA singers. They performed the Southern California premiere of “I Am Harvey Milk.” This 60-minute oratorio took the audience on a journey through the colorful and tragic life of the first openly gay man to hold political office, reminding us that we are ALL Harvey Milk. We are ALL the bearers of Hope.







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