George Carl – Bein’ All Funny

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Penn and Teller

I’m a magic geek. I love all of it, the sleight of hand stuff, the card tricks, the illusions, stuff bursting into flames and transforming into something else, all of that crap excites me and it has always been a childhood dream of mine to be a magician. So lately I’ve been doing some research into some basic tricks, small sleight of hand stuff, so that I can learn the basics and start building up. While my dreams have shifted and I no longer aspire to be a magician, I still want to learn some of the stuff that manages to mystify me.

While looking up some tricks I stumbled across some videos of the famous comedy/magic duo Penn and Teller. These guys have been performing solid routines since the late 70’s and they’ve only gotten better. I plan on writing more on these guys and why they’re my favorite magicians out there, but for now why not take a look at some of their more amazing illusions?

“A Tragedy of the Imagination”

I recently finished watching Rupert Goold’s film adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth starring Patrick Stewart and was blown away. The adaptation keeps the Scottish locations and names, but sets it in a bleak, gloomy environment that is essentially an old run-down hospital morgue, with Stalinist soviet-era costumes, weapons, and sensibilities. Amazing performances aside, simply the aesthetic that Goold created in this adaptation is enough to keep you drawn in completely. There is a constant air of menace and distress, every shot is dark, grimy, dirty, and the three witches (portrayed here as blood-soaked nurses) are frightening. Not to mention the blood. There is a lot of blood in this production, which is fitting since the word “blood” is spoken a good 50 or so times throughout the whole play.

The main hook of this production for me though was of course Patrick Stewart as the titular tragic Macbeth, a character full of unchecked ambition, and a desire for a new world (even at the cost of the old one). If you’re familiar with Macbeth then you’re aware that this unchecked ambition doesn’t go so well for Ol’ McB, as he is eventually beheaded by the Thane of Fife, Macduff. In the few productions of this play that I have seen, the director and actors make it clear that this final duel between the Macs is Macbeth’s final push for his ultimate goal; his fight against spiritual prophecy that has predetermined his failure. What makes this production different and exciting is the director’s ability to make it clear that it is not Macduff who ultimately brings Macbeth’s undoing, but rather Macbeth’s own readiness to be killed. It’s almost as if he’s given up, allowed his death to happen, he no longer cares for this world he has fought for, and I believe that the best way Patrick Stewart makes that choice apparent to the audience is in his “tomorrow” soliloquy.

Admittedly, this speech is in my top five favorite Shakespeare monologues. It completely encapsulates Macbeth’s nihilistic attitude towards life in about twelve lines.

She should have died hereafter;
There would have been a time for such a word.
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing.

Brilliant. And Patrick Stewart brings his own equally brilliant adaptation to this monologue. Just take a gander:

Upon hearing the news of his wife’s death, he hardly takes a pause and responds completely cold, not a single utterance of grief at the passing (by her own hand) of his wife. The speech carries on with Macbeth’s sudden realization that time, “tomorrow”, will forever spin forward; completely painful, and completely meaningless. The anguish on his face at the third “tomorrow” is heartbreaking, the way he looks down to his diseased wife on “all our yesterdays” and the disdain with which he says “out, out brief candle” show that he has completely given up.

Man, I can talk about this monologue for hours, but just go ahead and watch it. And then watch the whole production, it’s on Netflix so check it out, it’s pretty fantastic.

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark

Everyone, mark your calenders. The greatest musical opening since Starlight Express is about to happen. On November 14, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark will begin previews on Broadway at the Foxwoods Theatre.

Julie Taymor (Most famous for directing Disney’s The Lion King) is back in the director’s chair. She also co-wrote the libretto with Glen Berger. But that is not the most interesting part of the creative team. The music and lyrics have been written by two huge names of musical theatre: Bono and The Edge. You read that right.

You might be asking yourself just what exactly this $54 million musical is about. It really is quite simple. Peter Parker is bitten by a radioactive spider. After crying and moaning that he can’t get the girl of his dreams, he realizes that he has superpowers and attempts to use them for good. When the struggle of saving his city becomes too much for the teenage superhero, he continues to cry and moan. Only now he’s trying to turn off the dark… whatever that means.

The musical appears to be much better than that, though. Unlike the past three movies (Simply titled Spider-Man I, II, and III) this musical will actually contain a plethora of villains. Audiences can expect to see the Green Goblin, Kraven the Hunter, Lizard, Carnage, Grim Hunter, and the new villain known as Swiss Miss (Insert clever joke about the drink here).

There is no telling just how exactly this musical will turn out. It should be noted that, as stated above, the musical is going into the newly named Foxwoods Theatre. The former name of it was the Hilton Theatre, which had killed more shows than the uttering of the “M” word.

The musical officially opens on December 21. For further information about this glorious piece of theatre, check out their website.