Saturday, November 21, 2015

Who's Your Baghdaddy?

Take an Iraqi con man with a good story looking to defect.  Add intelligence operatives, German and American, ready to hear it.  Mix with former UN weapons inspector who finds it echoes what he's sure is true. A US administration ready to act on it.  What do you get?  The war that got us where we are today.

Who's Your Baghdaddy? Or How I Started the Iraq War--a brilliant political musical having to do with bizarre events that led to the Gulf War--proposes that some of those responsible have formed a support group to deal with their guilt. With excellent performances, a fine, rap-inflected score, and lively choreography, the show's as hilarious as it is disturbing.  Not surprising, given that director Marshall Pailet, who wrote the music and co-wrote the book (co-author A.D. Penedo wrote the lyrics), was the writer and director of the wonderful musical spoof Triassic Parq.

In this incarnation (at an intimate theater-in-the-oval at the Actors Temple Theater, 339 W. 47 St.), you have through this weekend to catch Who's Your Baghdaddy?  I trust there'll be others before too much longer, but next time you might not experience actors bounding in and out of the seat next to yours.  

Remaining performances are Saturday-Sunday, November 21-22, at 3:00 and 8:00 each day.  

For information, see

Who's Your Baghdaddy? is based on an unproduced screenplay by J. T. Allen, which was inspired by reporter Bob Drogin's coverage of these events for the Los Angeles Times.

I'm now reading Drogin's book Curveball: Spies, Lies, and the Con Man Who Caused a War, which tells the story at length.  It's riveting.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Also at MOMA: the great Jacob Lawrence

Another don't-miss at the Museum of Modern Art, running through Monday, September 7:  One-Way Ticket: Jacob Lawrence's Migration Series and Other Works.  This is a rare opportunity see the Lawrence's entire series of 60 paintings portraying the Great Migration of blacks from the rural South to the cities of the North, half of which are now owned by MOMA and half by the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C.

In 1941, when Lawrence completed the series, he was all of 23--with much great work yet ahead of him.

Yoko at MOMA - last chance!

Yoko Ono: One Woman Show, 1960-1971, at the Museum of Modern Art is the sort of show I tend to miss--running a long time, not a labor of love first on my list, feels like a cultural duty.

Fortunately, an afternoon visit from my niece JoJo earlier this month got me there.   The show was a revelation--one of the highlights of my summer--and I've been thinking about it ever since: 

The riveting film made from Ono's performance Cut Piece.  Was the thing that happens at the end of the film really spontaneous--or staged?  Either way, the piece is brilliant, and if the bit at the end was staged, Ono is a brilliant actress as well. 

Her White Chess Set:  leaders all over the world should be playing with it.

Her book Grapefruit--a compendium of drawings and instructions for every day of the year.  Copies of its pages are posted on the walls of one of the rooms in the exhibit  Walking slowly, reading them, JoJo and I wanted to be able to bring them home, and were happy to find that we could buy the book in the gift shop. 

It's a great source of inspiration--for making art, for writing, and for living.

Yoko Ono was a woman ahead of her time--a woman of genius, which, luckily for both of them, John Lennon realized.  

MOMA, however, was behind the times and slow to appreciate Ono.  Hence, her self-created debut at the museum, which she called Museum of Modern [F]art, in 1971, and which seems to have consisted mainly of the claim that she had released flies on the museum grounds. .  Belatedly, MOMA is now acknowledging the innovative and influential body of work that led up Ono's 1971 appearance there--let's hope that her next show at the museum doesn't take nearly as long. 

The show is closing next Monday, September 7.  If you haven't been yet, go.   If it travels to your town, get yourself there.  If I'm there, I'll go again. 

In the meantime, get yourself a copy of Grapefruit.

Saturday, July 25, 2015


Ada/Ava--fairy tale, ghost story, and memento mori--is a work of eerie beauty and extraordinary craftsmanship, different from anything else I've seen.  I'd say it's the kind of show that's unique to New York City, only its makers--a company called Manual Cinema--are from Chicago.

They mix film, theater, puppetry,silhouettes, and music to tell a story that unfolds in overhead projection, while the audience also see the actors--in effect, human puppets--moving below, and the puppeteers sliding transparencies into the projector.  Watching them work their magic somehow makes the effect even more magical.

Ada/Ava is playing through July 26 at the Three Legged Dog,
Art and Technology Center, 80 Greenwich Street, in New York City.

After that, look for the show and its makers back in Chicago.

Sunday, March 22, 2015


I was shocked to hear from my sister Joanne, a teacher in California, that her state ranks 46th in the nation in spending on education.  It seems that the baneful effects of Proposition 13 are still with them.

Joanne just got back from the California Federation of Teachers' conference at Manhattan Beach this weekend, and sent me some words of wisdom and inspiration she heard there:

Quotes from the CFT Convention 2015

“We might not change the world, but we can spark the mind that does!”

“All great undertakings are risky.”  Socrates

“The highest risk is love.”

“Expect perfection knowing you will never get it.”

“Their pain is our pain.”

“Help people, don’t hurt them.”

 “Deformers want to derail public education and unfairly blame teachers.”

“Hope is required when growing roses in concrete.”

“We don’t blame the seed for not growing.”

“No child left off-line.”

“Give a helping hand, not a slapping hand.”

“Teachers aren’t the problem…the solution is to stop negativity and  increase positivity.”

“Teachers are ‘hope’ dealers!”

“An iPad will never replace a good teacher!”

“Empowering educators empowers students.”

“The diversity of California is our greatest strength.”

“California is the #8 economy in the WORLD, we should be #1 in funding education, not 46th!”

“If you don’t know your rights, you don’t have any.  If you know, but don’t act, you’re part of the problem!”

Speaking to the leader of the classified union [union representing school systems' non-teaching staff] after a moving speech he gave about how their union members support educators, “We know you’re not a teacher, but you taught us all today.”!

“What can we do if we all work together?”

“Corporations have money, but we have people.”

“Public education provides access to social justice.”

Friday, January 30, 2015

An Unusual Solo Show : A Kind Shot

Terri Mateer was 6' 1" by a very young age (saying just how young would be a bit of a spoiler for the beginning of her one-woman show).   Not surprisingly she played basketball--eventually on a pro team.

Mateer has quite a story to tell, and she tells (and plays) it well in A Kind Shot.  After her New York City run is done, she hopes to tour on the college circuit, where young women, in particular, will have a lot to learn from her experiences.

Mateer may not be the most polished performer I've seen, but she's one of the bravest.  Whether or not you're a basketball player or fan, seeing A Kind Shot will enlarge your world. 

Don't bring the kids, unless they're very mature; this show is definitely R-rated.  Do, however, stay for the talk-back, if there is one (the show itself is not much more than an hour).  You have through February 7. 

For tickets and further information, go to:

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Golden Toad!

I always have high expectations of a new show from The Talking Band.  But their latest, The GoldenToad, is extraordinary--not to be missed.  It may be their best yet.

As the postcard for the show says, The Golden Toad is an "original music-theater epic journey through a changing New York, tracing the shifting of identities over time and circumstances."

Mentioning any specific event in this wonderful show, thus diminishing your surprise, would qualify as a spoiler.   So I'll just say that The Golden Toad is about time, change, aging, art, love, loss, and chance--among other things.  It's beautiful and complex, rich and strange, funny and moving--altogether a masterwork.  It almost goes without saying, given The Talking Band's standards, the acting and music are terrific.

At nearly three hours, the show is long, but the moments fly by.   It's structured in four parts and a brief epilogue, with breaks for the audience to move from the current location to the next. There's one intermission during which beverages and snacks can be purchased. 
The Golden Toad only runs through February 7 at La Mama.  If reviewers love it as much as I do (to avoid spoilers, please don't actually read the reviews), it will start selling out.