My Enemy, My Friend

One of my favorite TV shows is a science fiction series called Doctor Who.  For those of you unfamiliar with the show, the series shares the adventures of a mysterious time traveler known only as the Doctor.  He is a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey who travels through time and space in his time machine, the TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimensions In Space), fighting evil.

The show is wildly popular in England where it enjoyed a 27 year run from 1963 to 1989 and a revived run that began in 2005.  The secret of the show’s success is due in no small part to the Doctor’s ability of regeneration.  When his body gets too old or suffers a fatal injury, he can repair all of his cells which cause him to assume a new form complete with a new personality, though his genius intellect and core values always remain intact.

While the Doctor has many iconic enemies I’ve always had a particular affinity to his greatest foe, the Master.  The Master is a fellow Time Lord whose intelligence surpasses that of the Doctor.  The two were best friends in their childhood, though the Master’s insanity and his desire to dominate sent their friendship off the rails at some unknown point.  The two have shared a very complex relationship that has altered dramatically over the years and I’d like to spend this article analyzing that relationship.

When the Master was first introduced in Terror of the Autons, it was clear that he and the Doctor had crossed swords before.  The Third Doctor (played by Jon Pertwee) summed up the Master (played by Roger Delgado) well when he said, “All he ever does is cause trouble”.  The episode did a brilliant job rapidly building up the relationship between the Doctor and the Master.

The two are definitely foes and rivals, but I wouldn’t exactly call them enemies.  Remnants of their past friendship still exist as the Doctor clearly respects the Master’s intelligence and the Master respects the Doctor’s tenacity and resourcefulness best demonstrated when he said, “He (the Doctor) is truly a worthy opponent.  I admire him in many ways.”  The two easily engage in civil conversation and smoothly join forces to stop the much greater threat of the Nestene consciousness.

While I wouldn’t call them enemies, per se, rest assured that this version of the Master was certainly a dangerous man.  He killed without hesitation and had no issue with killing the Doctor, though “not without considerable regret” which clearly indicates a remembrance of friendship past and the fact that he does enjoy the intellectual challenge presented by the Doctor.

Arguably this first version of the long war between the Doctor and the Master was the best and due largely to the amazing chemistry between Delgado and Pertwee who happened to be real life best friends.  Indeed their real life friendship adds dimension to the dynamic between the Doctor and Master, especially their past friendship.

So popular was Delgado as the Master that he appeared in every episode of his first season on Doctor Who and would return to plague the Doctor repeatedly over future seasons.  This Master’s greatest weaknesses were his arrogance and his inability to think outside the box.  His plans were incredibly brilliant, but if you found that one lynchpin and tugged, they all fell apart.  And the Doctor, whose thinking always skipped the box, was always able to find the one hole in the Master’s machinations.

The creators of the series definitely had an end game in mind for the Master.  Originally, Delgado was to have appeared in Pertwee’s final season in a story entitled The Final Game in which the Master would have died saving the Doctor and it would have been revealed that the two were actually brothers.  Sadly, Delgado perished in a car accident prior to the final season.  So hard did Pertwee take Delgado’s death that he nearly didn’t return for his last season and only did so after intense persuasion.

In one of those unusual twists of fate, Delgado’s death actually saved the life of the Master who would vanish for a few years before returning to engage the Doctor in battle once more.

It would be 4 years before the Master and the Doctor fought once more and things had really changed between them.  For starters, the Doctor was now in his fourth incarnation (played by Tom Baker) and the Master was now hideously disfigured, looking like a withered skeleton.  For another thing, there was no longer any semblance of friendship between the Doctor and the Master when they met again in The Deadly Assassin and they were definitely mortal enemies.

Delgado’s death forced the writers to create new motivations for the Master.  The disfigurement was used to explain why the Master no longer looked like Delgado (it was the Delgado body, but his face had been shot by the Doctor’s granddaughter, Susan, which added a further dimension to their eternal war).  It was also decided that the Master was now in his thirteenth life which is the last in the life cycle of a Time Lord.  Instead of seeking domination, the Master was now desperately searching for a way to survive.  But if he were going to die, he was going to make sure that the Doctor joined him and that he was thoroughly humbled before doing so.

Limited by a mask, the BBC needed an actor with a powerful presence and awesome speaking voice for the role and they did well when they chose Peter Pratt for the part.

The Pratt/Baker dynamic was decidedly different from the Delgado/Pertwee version.  While there was still an undercurrent of friendship between Delgado and Pertwee, there was none but the tiniest kernel between Pratt and Baker.  Baker’s Doctor expressed admiration for the Master’s brilliance while Pratt’s Master acknowledged that “the Doctor is never more dangerous than when the odds are against him”.

Their conversations have a hard and bitter edge and Pratt’s Master would kill the Doctor with the greatest pleasure while Delgado’s Master would have done so reluctantly.  I also appreciated that they decided to drop the idea about their being brothers (though the idea would be teased again before being buried once and for all in the revived series) as that is too common of a trope.

The Master would temporarily extend his life through his machinations in this episode and would return to haunt Baker’s Doctor in his last season in the role, though this time he would be played by Geoffrey Beevers in Baker’s penultimate episode The Keeper of Traken.

This episode would introduce Delgado’s permanent replacement, Anthony Ainley who bore more than a passing resemblance to the late actor.  Ainley’s appearance would also alter the dynamic between the Doctor and the Master once again as the evil Time Lord finally achieved survival by using the powers of Traken’s keepership to steal the body of Tremas, an ally of the Doctor’s, to cheat his imminent death.

Ainley’s Master didn’t hide in the shadows as he returned in the very next episode, Logopolis, which was Baker’s final appearance as the Fourth Doctor.  Now assured of his survival, Ainley’s Master brought back the desire to dominate exhibited by Delgado’s Master, but still retained his need to humiliate and kill the Doctor introduced by Pratt’s Master.  Indeed, this need to embarrass the Doctor before eradicating him would often prove his undoing as it bought the Doctor enough time to wreck the Master’s plans.

However, Ainley’s first appearance as the Master was impressive as he finally obtained a victory over the Doctor, albeit a pyrrhic one.  The Doctor managed to foil the Master’s primary plan of conquering Earth through the threat of its destruction by entropy, but the Master finally “killed” the Doctor when he sent him careening off of a scaffold which triggered his regeneration into his fifth life (played by Peter Davison).

Anthony Ainley would continue to challenge the Doctor throughout the remainder of the original series retaining nearly the same dynamic as that introduced in Logopolis.  The only changes were in the actor playing the Doctor and the fact that the Master had now developed an ability to cheat death not unlike the Joker of the Batman comics, though, in the Master’s case, it was never explained how he escaped certain death every time he came back.

Ainley was often accused of overacting, though I think the worst he could be accused of was being a little broad.  I personally don’t share that sentiment as most of his “overacting” was actually at the behest of the directors.  Even then, Ainley would be able to muster an exceptional performance given the right script.

Some of Ainley’s best Master performances include his appearance in The Five Doctors where he shows signs of the friendship he once shared with the Doctor when he agrees to rescue the Doctor’s incarnations in exchange for a full pardon of his crimes and a new life cycle (the latter being of more interest than the former).  His exchanges with the First, Third, and Fifth Doctors are well worth the watch especially with the slight changes in attitude he adopts with each Doctor.  Another good performance is in Peter Davison’s penultimate episode, Planet of Fire, noted for teasing the idea that the Doctor and the Master were brothers.  His two appearances with the Sixth Doctor (played by Colin Baker)in The Mark of the Rani and the final two episodes of the season long The Trial of a Time Lord are also noteworthy due to the fact that his villainy was well matched by Baker’s blustering arrogant blowhard of a Doctor.

But without question, his best episode was in the original series’ final episode, Survivial, where he faced off against the Seventh Doctor (played by Sylvester McCoy).  Once more the Master had returned to simply trying to survive as he was losing his sense of self as he slowly changed into a Cheetah person due to being trapped on their planet.

What made this conflict so good was that he was facing a darker version of the Doctor who could scheme and manipulate as well or better than he could, but it was also the only time he got to play the Master the way he wanted to do it.  Ainley played the Master with a subtle, understated menace that he had often attempted in other episodes before being directed to be broader with his performance.  The restraint of his performance made his Master the deadliest he had ever been.

Alas, this episode marked the end of a series for a long while.  An attempt was made by the United States to revive the series in 1996 when a telemovie was made by Fox and starred Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor and Eric Roberts in the role of the Master.

Though the movie failed to restart the series, it did give us another chapter in the neverending conflict between the two Time Lords.  The only real change in their dynamic was that this Master decided to forego the humiliation of the Doctor, instead embarking on a plan to steal the Doctor’s remaining lives which included the ingestion of a super deathworm (read The Eight Doctors to fill in the gaps left open by the film), then allowing himself to be captured and executed by the Daleks (arguably the Doctor’s other great nemeses), which would pass his life essence on to the deathworm which would then possess the Doctor.  Things went awry causing the Master worm to usurp the body of a EMT and then attempt to steal the Doctor’s lives using the TARDIS’ power source, the Eye of Harmony.  What was particularly notable about this battle was that the Master finally died when he was sucked into the Eye of Harmony.

But something as ordinary as death could never stop the Master.

Twelve years later the Master would finally return to war with the Doctor once more in the third season of the revived TV series.  In the revived series it was revealed that the Doctor was now the last of his people as the Time Lords waged a war with the Daleks that was so devastating in nature that the Doctor was forced to destroy both sides as the Last Great Time War threatened to annihilate the universe.

The Tenth Doctor, played by David Tennant, still carried the weight of the war on his shoulders.  While he was mostly a happy go lucky adventurer who would dive into the fray with an “Allonsy!!”, he also carried a dark edge and granted no second chances to his enemies.  In his second season, a friend known as the Face of Boe told the Doctor, “You are not alone.”

This cryptic message would be explained when the Doctor met Professor Yana (played by Derek Jacobi) in Utopia.  Yana was a brilliant, kindly, somewhat doddering old man who complained of a constant drumbeat in his head.  Eventually, it was revealed that Yana was actually the Master (who had been resuscitated by the Time Lords with a new life cycle to fight in the Time War) who had made himself a human to hide from the Time War.  The Face of Boe’s message referred to Yana’s name (You Are Not Alone).

When Yana finally regained his Time Lord nature, it made for one of the most brilliant moments of the series as Jacobi changed on the turn of a dime from the friendly professor to the epitome of evil.  I truly wish Jacobi had a few more turns as the Master because he was brilliant.  So cold blooded and murderous.  Regrettably, he only got to be the Master for a few minutes as he was shot and killed by his assistant whom he had just electrocuted.  However, the Master regenerated into a younger body (played by John Simm) and really changed the dynamic of their war.

Tennant’s Doctor wanted nothing more than to end their war since they were now the only two Time Lords left, but Simm’s Master was a more maniacal version of Delgado’s take.  Once more, he wanted to dominate and best the Doctor, but he also served as a twisted mirror image to the Doctor as he mimicked his foe’s sense of humor and even began using a laser screwdriver, aping the Doctor’s reliance on his sonic screwdriver.

Of course, this Master still wanted to humiliate the Doctor and nearly defeated him as he suspended the Doctor’s ability to regenerate causing him to age into his true years rapidly and began treating him like the family dog.

Ultimately, the Doctor would turn the tables on the Master and he would be fatally shot by his wife.  This Master actually got an emotional victory over the Doctor by refusing to regenerate so he wouldn’t be the Doctor’s prisoner.  Knowing that his death would wound the Doctor, he smugly remarked, “What do you know?  I win.”

Simm’s Master would return to battle Tennant’s Doctor in the latter’s final two episodes as the Doctor which altered the dynamic even further.  In the two part, The End of Time, the Master was resurrected by a coven, but was sabotaged by his wife, resulting in a failing body with electropowers like Emperor Palpatine and an extreme hunger for flesh.  It also gave a reason for the Master’s insanity as the neverending drumbeat in his head which drove him crazy was actually an implant from the Time Lords in an attempt to pull Gallifrey (and the Time War) into the present day.

It seemed as though the Master and the Doctor had finally reached the end of their personal conflict as the Doctor spared the Master’s life (killing him would have returned Gallifrey to its proper place) and the Master repaid the favor by protecting the Doctor from Gallifrey’s president, Rassillon, and finally exacting his revenge for the lifelong torment he had undergone due to his machinations and getting sucked back into the Time War.

But it wasn’t over yet.

The Master would return nearly 4 years later and things really got turned on their head.

The Master had escaped from Gallifrey and had regenerated into the body of a woman now calling herself the Mistress or Missy.  Remarkably essayed by Michelle Gomez, Missy has the insane, murderous nature of her predecessor, but has an attitude towards the Doctor similar to Delgado’s Master.  She’d kill him if she had to, but now she’s more bent on showing the Doctor that the two of them aren’t so different because as she states, “I want my friend back.”  Like Pertwee & Delgado, Gomez and Peter Capaldi (the Twelfth and current Doctor) have an amazing chemistry.  I also like the role reversal as Missy is the lighthearted character while Capaldi’s Doctor is more of an irritable crab.  Also, like Delgado’s Master, Missy has plagued the Doctor in each of Capaldi’s seasons.

And this brings us up to the present day.  Sadly both Capaldi and Gomez have announced their departure from the series at the end of this season, but it promises to go out with a bang as this season will feature the first multi-Master storyline with John Simm returning to the role to team up with Missy.  I will be interested in seeing if the Master gets along any better with himself/herself than the Doctor does with his other selves.

The Master and the Doctor have had a most unique relationship over the nearly 40 year run of the series.  They’ve been friends, foes, blood enemies, allies, and frenemies.  It will be interesting to see what the series has up its sleeve when the Doctor (perhaps even the Thirteenth Doctor) meets the next version of the Master in the next chapter of their war.

Give Kay & Ryan a Helping Hand

Kay & Ryan McGuigan are two of my closest friends.  I met Kay when I did my very first show in theatre and she has been a bedrock of support as I struggled through this business.  Through her I met Ryan whom I bonded with over a love of the Beatles.

This past weekend, Kay was diagnosed with colon and liver cancer and she, Ryan, and their lovely family really need your help.  Both are self-employed and have needed to put work on hold to focus on Kay’s health.  To help with day to day expenses a GoFundMe page has been set up and the link is below.

https://www.gofundme.com/support-for-ryan-and-kay-mcguigan

Please make a donation and then share the post on social media to help these truly wonderful people.

I thank you for your charity.

 

 

Doug Needs You

Local Omaha playwright (and a friend of mine), Doug Marr, needs a helping hand.

Over the past year, Doug has had some health issues which have resulted in 5 surgeries and a sinful amount of out of pocket expenses.  His daughter, Emma, has set up a YouCaring drive to collect money for these expenses.  If you can give Doug a helping hand, please click on the below link to make a donation.

https://www.youcaring.com/douglasmarr-756430

I thank you for your time and generosity.

The New Year Starts with ‘The Sound of Music’

Omaha, Neb. (December 14, 2016)  The lavish new production of The Sound of Music, directed by three-time Tony Award winner Jack O’Brien will make its Omaha premiere January 24-29 at the Orpheum Theater as part of Omaha Performing Arts’ Broadway Series.  Tickets, starting at $25, are now available at the Ticket Omaha box office located inside the Holland Performing Arts Center, 1200 Douglas Street, by calling 402-345-0606 or online at TicketOmaha.com

The Sound of Music features music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse, suggested by The Trapp Family Singers by Maria Augusta Trapp.  This new production is directed by Jack O’Brien (credits include Hairspray, The Full Monty, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, The Coast of Utopia), choreographed by Danny Mefford (Fun Home, The Bridges of Madison County and Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson) and music supervision by Andy Einhorn (Bullets Over Broadway, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella, Brief Encounter, The Light in the Piazza).  The design and production team is comprised of Douglas W. Schmidt, set design (Tony Award nominee, 42nd Street, Into the Woods); Jane Greenwood, costume design (2014 recipient of the Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre), Natasha Katz, lighting design (Five-time Tony Award Winner:  An American in Paris, Once, Aida, The Coast of Utopia, The Glass Menagerie) and Ken Travis, sound design (Aladdin, Newsies, Memphis).  Casting by Telsey + Company/Rachel Hoffman, CSA.

According to director Jack O’Brien, “The Sound of Music has been in our ears for decades, as it deserves to be.  But it might be time to look once more, and more closely, at this remarkable work which, I feel, begins to reveal itself as deeper, richer, and more powerful than ever.  It’s no longer ‘your mother’s’ familiar Sound of Music.  We are tearing off the varnish of the past from one of the great glories of our theatergoing experience and making it fresh!  This is an opportunity to create!”

Producer Beth Williams (Grove Entertainment) said, “It’s a great privilege to bring this beloved Rodgers & Hammerstein musical to theaters across North America.  We hope that people of all ages will continue to fall in love with it for the first time, or all over again, and that it will truly become on e of their ‘favorite things.’  From our distinguished team led by the creative master Jack O’Brien, audiences can expect a truly magnificent production of The Sound of Music.”

In the words of Ted Chapin, President of Rodgers & Hammerstein, “The Sound of Music continues to be the world’s most beloved musical.  When a major national tour was suggested, I not only agreed, but was willing to roll up my sleeves and do whatever i could to fashion a new stage production that would re-engage today’s theatergoing public.  The show was originally created for Broadway, and seeing it on stage only reinforces the power of the story and the score.  And with Jack O’Brien at the directorial helm–well, we simply couldn’t do better.  Landing somewhere between The Coast of Utopia and Hairspray (shows for which Jack won the Tony), his production is smart, focused, and surprising.”

The Sound of Music enjoyed extraordinary success as the first live television production of a musical in over 50 years when The Sound of Music Live! aired on NBC in December 2013; 2015 marked the 50th anniversary of the film version, which continues to be the most successful movie musical in history.  The sprited, romantic and beloved musical story of Maria and the Von Trapp Family will once again thrill audiences with such songs as My Favorite Things, Do-Re-Mi, Climb Ev’ry Mountain, Edelweiss, and the title song.

The Sound of Music will play Omaha’s Orpheum Theater at 7:30pm on Jan 24-26, 8pm on Jan 27-28, 2pm on Jan 28, 1:30pm on Jan 29, and 7pm on Jan 29.

For more information, please visit www.ticketomaha.com or www.TheSoundOfMusicOnTour.com, www.facebook.com/TheSoundOfMusic, www.twitter.com/SoundOfMusic, www.instagram.com/SoundOfMusicOnTour

Desert Wedding: A True Arizona Chronicle

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Mat O’Donnell and Carolyn Langlois

Life is ultimately about the stories we make.  Currently I’m on a plane heading back to Omaha from the wedding reception of a good friend.  Originally I thought that I would not be writing this one up, but last night I realized it that it is the real life stories we make that are most worth sharing.

My friend, Mat O’Donnell, has been mentioned in this blog before under the guise of Arizona Mat for my faux adventure series, The Arizona Chronicles, but let me tell you a bit about the real Mat.

I’ve known Mat for nearly 18 years when a mutual friend introduced us a few weeks after I graduated from college.  Mat and I struck up an instant rapport as we had a number of similar interests.  He also shares my somewhat off kilter sense of humor.  Over the past two decades, Mat has become one of my closest friends.  We’ve shared a lot of happy times, a lot of fun times, and some heavy times as well.  He’s my most frequent traveling companion as we have gone all over the globe from Las Vegas to Tokyo.   One would be lucky to have a friend even half as loyal as Mat.

About 5 years ago, a promotion took Mat to Phoenix, AZ.  That one choice brought a plethora of good things for Mat including a wonderful woman named Carolyn Langlois.

I still remember the night that Mat told me about Carolyn.  I was in Abilene, KS reviewing Abilene’s Victorian Inn when I decided to FB chat Mat since I hadn’t spoken to him in a little spell.  We were talking about a mystery/puzzle game we both were playing and then he said he hadn’t been able to finish it as he’d been a little busy lately and then he posted a picture of himself and Carolyn.

I was beyond excited for Mat as he had long deserved some happiness of this type.  Giddily, I asked him about the whole story.  Who was she?  How did you meet?  Etc.  Etc.  I could hear the glee in his voice as he shared his tale of how the two of them met.

About six months later, I finally got to meet Carolyn and I knew that Mat had found his soulmate.  In less than ten minutes I realized that Mat had found someone that completed him in every way, shape, and form.  Over the next year, their deep love grew only deeper and suddenly a wedding was upon us.

Now Mat and Carolyn actually married on October 26 which was the anniversary of their first date.  But the reception was held on November 5 at the Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix.

On November 3, I found myself heading to Eppley Airfield for a non-stop flight to Phoenix.  Now I’ve enjoyed an unusually long streak of successful or even more than successful flights so I was long overdue for a bit of difficulty.  Just before I reached the airport, I felt my phone vibrate and found that my flight was delayed for nearly an hour and a half.

Not too terrible and I had a novel with which to occupy myself.  Then just before boarding would begin for the delayed flight, a Southwest employee changed the 8 to a 9.  Another hour delay.  Then they announced that the delays were due to runways at Sky Harbor International being shut down due to construction and a ripping thunderstorm over Phoenix which was preventing any and all flights from landing.

Finally at 9pm, we finally boarded the plane.  I was grateful for the gain of 2 hours as it was only about 10pm local time when I arrived in Phoenix.

I called the Crowne Plaza which would be my temporary home and they said they get a shuttle to me in just a few minutes.  Their word was good as gold as a shuttle pulled up to the pickup curb within ten minutes and whisked me a mile down the road.

While I prefer B & Bs, I do admit that I had long wanted to stay at a Crowne Plaza.  This particular hotel had recently undergone a multimillion dollar renovation and looked brand new.  As I checked in I was ecstatic that my standby for an upper level floor had been approved.

This hotel took its security very seriously as you couldn’t even use the elevator without a room key.  I zipped up to the 8th floor and found myself with a comfortable king sized bed, a spectacular view of downtown Phoenix, and a nice office area.  I also found myself with a door that didn’t latch too well unless you slammed it.  After beating my door in a wrestling match, I closed the thick drapes and crawled into bed for the evening.

I awoke the next morning and headed down to the gym for a workout.  The gym was not too bad with free weights, balance balls, treadmills, and elliptical.  I exercised for 40 minutes then returned to my room for a hot bath with a less than cooperative drain before spending the morning thumbing through my novel or finding something interesting on TV.

Around noon, Mat and Carolyn came to pick me up for lunch and we caught up on the goings-on of our lives since we last met.  We ate at Four Peaks Brewing Company where I enjoyed an Oatmeal Stout and a Mexican chicken wrap.  Carolyn had chicken rolls and Mat noshed on chicken wings.

During lunch, Carolyn suddenly got an “I’ve got a great idea!” look on her face.  It turns out that an old friend of her mother wanted to throw a dinner party for Mat and Carolyn.  One of the guests was going to be unable to attend so Carolyn suggested that I take that person’s place.  Mat and I both thought that was a great idea so we drove back to the Crowne Plaza where I grabbed my dress clothes and we returned to Mat’s house.

I spent the afternoon helping Carolyn tie jellybean bags for the reception and catching up on things with Barry, Mat’s father, and John Velasquez, an old friend of the O’Donnell family.

Around 5pm, we piled in Carolyn’s vehicle and drove deep into Scottsdale to the home of the Haggertys where the dinner would be held.  I met Carolyn’s father, Joe, who was a hoot and his girlfriend, Fran, who was a delightful conversationalist.  I also met the Haggertys and a number of other of Carolyn’s relatives who were truly wonderful people.

The home was gorgeous with a beautiful fire pit, an impressive infinity pool, fine works of art, and quartz rocks peppering the abode.  The event began with conversation, cocktails, and light hors d’oeuvres of prawns, cheese, and crackers.  We enjoyed a fantastic sunset as the sun dropped below the horizon backlighting the Black Mountain.  As the stars and planets became visible, we headed inside for the dinner.

Dinner began with a terrific salad which was followed by roasted carrots, chilled pea salad, and a main entrée of chicken and mushrooms.  For dessert there was an absolutely delectable mint chocolate ice cream cake.  After that, there was more conversation before we broke up for the evening.  Joe and Fran were gracious enough to give me a lift back to my hotel where we chatted and listened to opera music on the long drive.

The next morning I decided to give the hotel restaurant, The Post, a try.  The prices were about what I expected for a hotel and the food wasn’t too bad.  I had orange juice with Eggs Benedict which I spiced up with the hotel’s homemade salsa (which was excellent) and a splash of Tabasco.

Around noon, I was joined by David Sundberg, another long time friend of both Mat and myself.  Dave was planning on turning the reception into a week’s vacation so he had rented a Mustang for himself.  And this puppy had some serious horsepower and Dave REALLY likes horsepower.

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Dave and his Mustang

Dave was starving so we found a nearby In N Out Burger where we munched on cheeseburgers done animal style and with animal fries.  Afterwards, we drove around a bit and found a flea market which brought Dave a lot of joy as he likes looking for hidden treasures.  And I’ll be dipped if he didn’t find some Viking horn glasses which he turned into a wedding present for Mat and Carolyn.

From there we drove to Dave’s hotel to pick up his dress shirt and killed a few hours at Castles N Coasters.  I won a large amount of redemption tickets, bested Dave in Mario Kart, and made a stupid mistake which permitted Dave to top me in Connect Four.  Dave and I donated the remnants of our game cards to a group of kids, then drove to my hotel to change into our nicer duds before we went to the Desert Botanical Gardens for the reception.

I’d like to visit the Gardens again when there’s more time as it was absolutely stunning and a very popular place for receptions as 4 were being held there that evening.

It was a truly magical night.  Carolyn looked resplendent in her wedding dress and Mat was quite dapper in his tuxedo.  The bride and groom shared some touching words about why they were spending the rest of their lives together.  Then toasts from the audience were opened up and I even offered one of my own, the bulk of which you actually read in my opening paragraphs.  After that it was a dinner of salad with a chipotle dressing, mixed vegetables, spinach stuffed chicken breast, risotto cakes, and a beef cutlet.  Then came conversation, dancing, and a little Mat and Carolyn trivia game.

All too soon it was time to call it a night as Dave’s internal clock was still two hours ahead and I had an early morning flight the next day.  I said my good-byes and was driven back to Crowne Plaza by Dave.  I shook his hand and wished him a fun vacation.

I’ll carry the memories of this trip for a long time and look forward to the next visit with Mat and Carolyn.

Until the next time. . .

There’s Nothing Funny About this Joke

In my reviews I’ve often said that I become concerned when a story is changed from one medium to another as something is usually altered or lost in the translation which waters down the story’s original intent.  But every now and again, a translation comes around that shows great reverence for the source material and maintains its original beauty.  Batman:  The Killing Joke is just such a translation.

This film version of Alan Moore’s legendary graphic novel stays true to Moore’s gritty tale almost word for word and manages to add a little something as well thanks to a well written screenplay by Brian Azzarello.  Azzarello added a lengthy monologue to bolster the character of Batgirl/Barbara Gordon and extend this story to theatrical length.

Let’s get something straight from the beginning.  Though this is an animated film, it is not for children.  The film carries an R rating due to its dark and grim thematic elements.  For those of you unfamiliar with the tale, the story centers around the Joker’s desire to prove that all it takes is one bad day and someone can be driven as mad as he is.  He attempts to prove his point by psychologically torturing Commissioner James Gordon.  This torture involves the brutalization of his daughter, Barbara.

Two points have long fascinated me about Moore’s story.  The first was the painstaking care he took in showing that Batman and Joker are simply two sides of the same coin.  Joker is given an origin story in this film in which he had one bad day which drove him stark, slavering buggo.  Batman also had a bad day which made him what he is.  The difference is that he didn’t break and he used that bad day to fuel a greater good.  This is what makes their war so mesmerizing.

The second is that Moore actually delves into a rare area:  the humanity of Batman and Joker.  Batman’s humanity is somewhat taken for granted as he is a hero.  But this story takes it one step further as he tries to reach out to Joker and genuinely rehabilitate him to get them off their doomed road.  Prior to this story, Joker’s humanity had never been touched on.  But this tale shows that somewhere within this beast exists a kernel of decency long buried by tragedy.

Bringing these ideals to light would be incredibly difficult if not for the amazing talents of Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill.

If voice actors could be nominated for Oscars, Mark Hamill would easily earn a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his take on the Clown Prince of Crime.  Hamill has always managed to keep the role fresh and original despite having voiced the Harlequin of Hate on and off for the past 22 years, but he rose to unprecedented heights in this film.

In this go-around, Hamill finally gives us a truly vile and merciless Joker with a guttural voice and truly malevolent laughter.  As scary and disgusting as he is, Hamill manages to make us feel some pity for the Joker as we view his life as a failed comedian before his transformation.  But Hamill’s crowning achievement occurs near the end of the film as the Joker considers Batman’s offer of help.  If there is any doubt that Mark Hamill is the best of the Jokers, this interpretation will wipe them all away.

A Joker is only as good as his Batman and Kevin Conroy also comes out all guns a blazing with his essaying of the Dark Knight.  Like Hamill, Conroy has also played his iconic role for the better part of two decades and brings all of that experience to this film.  The nuance Conroy can put into a rasp is truly astounding as you can hear Batman’s sincerity as he pleads with the Joker to let him help, his concern and care for Barbara, and his anger when he hunts the Joker.

Tara Strong gives a strong and dignified take in the role of Barbara Gordon/Batgirl.  For her crimefighting is an adventure and thrill, not a lifelong mission as it is for Batman and her voice reflects that zest.  The character of Batgirl generated quite a bit of controversy due to a moment that takes place between her and Batman in the prologue.  You’ll know it when you see it, but I thought it made perfect sense in the universe of this Batman as the incident was referenced in a previous film.  Rather than weakening the character, I thought it humanized her and helped her understand Batman better when she faces her own abyss.

Ray Wise is paternal and noble as Commissioner Gordon.  The love he has for his daughter is palpable as is his agony when he suffers from the Joker’s tortures.  Yet he also manages to be a pillar of strength, demanding that Joker be brought in by the book to prove that the way of law and order works.

Director Sam Liu does good work in keeping the pace of the story going as well as tying the rather disparate prologue together with the core story.  Wes Gleason’s voice direction is nothing but aces, especially with the stellar work by Hamill and Conroy.  I also appreciated that the animators did not try to mimic Brian Bolland’s artwork for the film.  Rather they came up with animation that evoked memories of that work, but managed to be an original take as well.

Batman:  The Killing Joke is the movie for which Batman fans have been pining for years.  It’s been a long wait, but it was certainly worthwhile as we get a story completely faithful to the core material and with all the pathos and nuance intact.

OCP Auditions for “Calendar Girls”

CALENDAR GIRLS
Production Dates: April 15-May 8, 2016
Performs in: Hawks Mainstage Theatre (Omaha Community Playhouse, 6915 Cass St, Omaha, NE)
Director: Susie Baer Collins
Synopsis: Sisterhood and side-splitting laughs are at the heart of this bare-all play. After Anne’s loving husband dies of leukemia, she vows to keep his memory alive through a hospital memorial. She and her friends “of a certain age” drop their trousers and discover their courage as they pose for a nude, but tasteful, calendar to raise funds for the memorial. As the women experience newfound stardom from their increasingly popular calendar, their bonds of friendship are tested. Based on a true story turned film, this humorous and heartwarming story will provide a night of entertainment, belly laughs and tears.

Audition Dates: Monday, February 15 at 7:00 PM and Tuesday, February 16 at 7:00 PM

Character Descriptions:  TBA

CHRIS Female, 50s

ANNIE Female, 50s

CORA Female, early 40s

JESSIE Female, late 60s/70s

CELIA Female, 35-50

RUTH Female, 40s

MARIE Female, 50s

JOHN Male, 50s. Annie’s husband.

ROD Male, 50s. Chris’s husband.

LAWRENCE Male, late 20s.
*Note: this actor will double as Liam

LADY CRAVENSHIRE Female, 60s
*Note: this actor will double as Brenda Hulse

ELAINE Female 20s

Information about the Nudity in the Production
• There will be the suggestion of nudity in the production; however, private parts will ALWAYS be covered.

• OCP will create a “safe zone: within the wings of the stage during the final scene in Act I (nude photo session for the W.I. calendar).

• People backstage during the final scene in Act I to include: female stage manager, actresses in scene, female dressers.

• The male actor playing the photographer in the scene will only see what the audience sees.

• Idea of what actresses will wear in the “nude photoshoot” scene:
o Adhesive bra cups without straps (these provide some support and cover the nipple)
o An undergarment on lower half of body that will be determined by what should and shouldn’t be seen in each character’s photo pose, as well as the comfort zone of the actress.

• The Omaha Community Playhouse will always make it a top priority for each actor to feel completely comfortable and safe throughout the rehearsal and performances of this production.

What to Bring:
• You will be asked to fill out an audition form, please have all necessary contact information and personal schedules handy in order to complete the form.

• A recent photo if you have one available. Please note, photos will not be returned.

• Those auditioning for a play will be asked to read sections from the script.