Saturday, November 30, 2013

INEQUALITY FOR ALL loft documentary nov 2013


Robert Reich makes his audience believe in the power of economic forces.

If you believe in and stand by Matt Damon's "Inside Job" documentary on the collapse of Wall Street (and the federal government's response), then you will absolutely want to buy "Inequality for All," a newly released documentary studying the causes of America's shrinking middle class, now playing at the Loft Cinema, 3233 E. Speedway Blvd.

Robert Reich, the personable Secretary of Labor during Bill Clinton's first term in office, is the star here. Blessed with the skill for making economics feel as up close and personal as any date on, Reich uses news clips, animated graphs and catchy photography to takes us through the past 30 years of America's economic history.

But first take a minute to realize how the nation's major newspapers have failed its readers by providing only superficial coverage of this glacially developing story on the growing income gap and how news entertainers such as Jon Stewart and his "Daily Show" have become the main real-news conduit to a numbed out national audience.

If Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered his famous fireside chats today on any television network, he'd have to include dazzling special effects.

But back to Reich. He makes the convincing argument that if democracy is to survive in this country, there must be a thriving middle class to facilitate the rise from poverty to wealth that is at the heart of everything American.

Once that dream is dead, says Reich, so is the United States as we know it.

While prickly Republicans will be eager to shoot down the economist's every basic assumption, and progressive liberals will do the same, there is a progression of logical developments that begins in the late 1970s.

That's when several technological developments made it possible for large American companies to shift their means of production to other countries.

Thus, iIntricate parts designed in one country could be built in another country, and in yet another country several of these off-shore manufactured parts could be assembled even more cheaply into a new product that could then be sold at a very high price in the country of origin.

Thus the big American company takes in lots of money, though all the jobs to create that product were paid to workers in other countries. Is this sounding familiar?

Reich pulls in other factors such as the mantra that giving tax breaks to American companies means more jobs for American workers. Nope. That hasn't happened and Reich has the research to prove it.

The bottom line is that the United States is the richest country in the world, but now has shriveled up public schools that fail its students and unemployment rates worse than many so-called Third World nations.

Though "Inequality for All" tackles dense subject matter its conclusions are easy to appreciate for any member of the middle class – whether rising, falling or struggling to make that mortgage payment.

See it now and buy a copy when it's available. Keep it right alongside your copy of "Inside Job" in that special spot next to the TV.

Monday, November 25, 2013

ENDERS GAME movie nov 2013


Harrison Ford tells Asa Butterfield to straighten up and fly right.

On paper, the idea of Harry Potter in Outer Space sounds appealing. Visions of a gravity-free British boarding school with a faculty of caped alien academics definitely has some possibilities.

But the film version of Orson Scott Card's best-selling young adult fiction novel "Ender's Game" doesn't equal the opportunities. This movie featuring Harrison Ford as the grumpy headmaster at a military cadet training school orbiting Earth was a generation in the making, it has been said.

If that's true, the teams of writers and whatnot who failed over the decades to capture what made the book so popular still haven't found it.

All the super-digital computerized battles-in-outer-space blather have about as much weight on the IMAX screen as airy clouds on the feathery wings of restless winds. And that's the grand climactic battle, as well.

The first half of "Ender's Game" (rated PG-13) documents the superior skills of 12-year-old Ender Wiggins (Asa Butterfield) whose supreme confidence is often interpreted as arrogance by those around him jealous of his success.

What message this conveys to the present tweener generation is open to adult discussion, but the word "fascist" could be whispered now and then.

For those keeping score at home, Viola Davis and Ben Kingsley do bring some weight to secondary roles. All the villains are animated insect-looking creatures which is another miscue. Without a vivid villain to defeat, the hero will never be very powerful.




ROGUE THEATRE measure for measure nov 2013


From left, Connor Foster as Claudio, Joseph McGrath as Duke Vincentio and Marissa Garcia as Isabella.

Marissa Garcia gives the performance of her life in the Rogue Theatre production of Shakespeare's "Measure for Measure, a play of moral ambiguities and blurred ideals – where standing for something can create a lot of problems for others.

Garcia as innocent Isabella, in the white robes of a novice nun dedicated to Christ, is the only pure spirit in the Viennese court of Duke Vincentio (Joseph McGrath).

The play is set in the early 1600s (with elaborate costumes to match) performed on a bare black stage built with six step-like levels, a towering trio of arches defining the space behind them. People have barely begun to move about when the Duke, venturing onside his palace, realizes that under his lax reign debauchery has become rampant in the city.

But lacking the temperament to close the brothels and enforce harsh laws prohibiting sex outside of marriage, the Duke appoints aggressively upstanding Angelo (Matt Bowden), dressed completely in black, to take the Duke's place while he takes a long trip. Only the Duke doesn't leave, he hangs around disguised as a monk to see what happens under Angelo's faux-reign.

With the eagerness of a Tea Party patriot, or maybe a fundamentalist Muslim, Angelo condemns Claudio (Connor Foster) to death for getting his fiancée Juliet (Kayla Bernays) pregnant. Claudio, wouldn't you know, is the brother of Isabella.

Juliet is an equally nice person, just maybe anticipating the joys of marriage a little prematurely. Isabella the pure one is helplessly distraught. She will do anything to save her brother. Shakespeare makes sure she has that opportunity.

The comedic moments, so essential to every Shakespeare production, are generously spread among several secondary characters here. Primary among them is Lucio (the amazingly versatile Lee Rayment), Pompey (Ryan Parker Knox) servant to the delightfully named Mistress Overdone (Cynthia Meier) who runs a brothel and is also delightfully costumed.  

David Morden directs with a sure hand and keeps things moving along as the demands of morality clash with the emotional desires of human nature. The timelessness of conflicts Shakespeare has dreamed up continue to prove his genius. Today's rudderless society filled with its willingness to compromise any issue for financial gain clearly parallels Vienna of that time.

Garcia makes her Isabella quite sympathetic to the ruthless machinations of Angelo, who just can't resist a helpless novice in white. But she's also possessed of steely fortitude when the Duke in disguise needs her participation in a plot to disarm Angelo.

The blurry morality, the comedy and the cleverness of people doing the right things for maybe the wrong reason have always made "Measure For Measure" a tart comedy rather than a silly one.

Rogue Theatre has responded with a measured production that keeps these competing forces in balance.

"Measure For Measure" continues through Nov. 24 with performances at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays (plus a 2 p.m. matinee Saturday, Nov. 23), at the Rogue Theatre in the Historic Y, 300 E. University Blvd. All tickets are $32; student rush (with ID) tickets are $15, on sale 15 minutes before curtain when available.

For details and reservations, 520-551-2053, or visit









Sunday, November 17, 2013

SAVAGE BOND beowulf alley theatre nov 2013


photo by Bree Boyd
Cast members eye a glum future in "Savage Bond."

Maybe the truth can set you free, but it can also tie you in knots – especially if the truth is something you want to keep from friends and relatives. No doubt every Catholic priest for centuries has taken to his grave the personal secrets of parishioners that would have completely unraveled the community had these secrets become known.

But what if this particular counselor wasn't a priest. What if he was just a normal kind of guy, who happened to know lots of other people's secrets but had no particular professional, or moral, obligation to keep these secrets secret?

Such is the quandary pondered by playwright Steve Holiday in "Savage Bond," which won the Arizona Theatre Company's 2012 Arizona Playwriting Award.

At Beowulf Alley Theatre, Katherine Monberg directs an informal production which seems to gather menace for its folksiness, a sort of this-could-happen-to-anyone air that sounds about right.

It is the day before Thanksgiving, ironically enough, when six friends return for the funeral of a departed mutual friend. They feel like a modern-day version of the Magnificent Seven, gathering to protect their friend from threats of outside forces.

They also, each in a different way, feel relief that the possibility of a sinister secret being discovered has died, as well. All of them have told something  very personal to this fellow at one time or another.

Imagine their collective horror discovering this beloved pal now passed away wrote a journal over the years that contained all these secrets.


Nobody wants to act too interested in the journal, lest it appear the journal might contain some embarrassing secret about them. On the other hand, they must decide if the friendships they have now are more valuable than the truth that would be in the journal.

What would you choose?

"Savage Bond" continues through Nov. 17 with performances at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2:30 p.m. Sundays, at Beowulf Alley Theatre, 11 S. Sixth Ave.

Tickets are $25 at the door, $23 online; students at the door and online, $10. For details and reservations, 520-882-0555, or visit


SOUVENIR ltw show


Carlisle Ellis and Michael Martinez in "Souvenir"

photo by Ryan  Fagan

Blessed with far more money than talent, Florence Foster Jenkins financed her own desire to sing the classical soprano repertoire despite her inability to do so. She was also blessed with timing, in the sense that her career took place between the two world wars.

As for musical timing, well, she wasn't any better at that than she was at singing on pitch and sustaining a single note for more than a couple of seconds. Some recordings that showcase her lack of talent are posted on YouTube, should you be tempted to think that "maybe Florence Foster Jenkins wasn't all that bad."

We also see that Tucson's own actress Carlisle Ellis sounds remarkably like those recordings while performing in the Live Theatre Workshop production of "Souvenir" written by Stephen Temperley and directed by Stephen Frankenfield.

The only other cast member is pianist/actor Michael Martinez as Jenkins' accompanist Cosme McMoon. There couldn't be a better name for this musical enabler of Jenkins' need to believe she is a great soprano.

Temperley centers his play backstage just before Jenkins is to give her first and only performance at Carnegie Hall in the autumn of 1944. McMoon in his tuxedo sits at a piano reminiscing over the controversial career of his patron.

Through Martinez' subtly shaded performance we easily believe he felt sincerely sorry for Jenkins, even as he rode her unusual popularity to greater heights than he could have expected on his own.

Historically, Jenkins became quite popular for all the wrong reasons. She had no talent for singing, but threw herself into every performance with such unbridled brio that audiences didn't know what to think.

This being a time when well-educated New Yorkers still valued manners and civil attitudes in public, they did not want to laugh out loud. They felt embarrassed for her, so they applauded outwardly while stifling their laughter.

Jenkins felt vindication in their applause, and interpreted their muffled laughs as the sounds of their pleasure.

It is Ellis' responsibility to convey all this misunderstanding through her conversation and body language, also while implying such a clueless attitude that she becomes funny – but not in a nice way.

Talk about a tough assignment.

Frankenfield walks an equally tight rope developing these two characters, avoiding obtuse awareness on one side and artless arrogance on the other.

The artistic achievements of all three are so strong, it is only after walking out of the theater that one begins to think about people around Tucson right now who have similar blind spots about their own talents.

"Souvenir" continues through Nov. 16 with performances at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays, at Live Theatre Workshop, 5317 E. Speedway Blvd. Tickets are $18, with discounts. For details and reservations, 520-327-4242,