I'll start where I left off, on Monday, October 13th. Simon hopped on a plane to Texas that morning for a work trial, and later that evening, I returned to the Sundance Sunset to watch a filmed live theatrical production of A Streetcar Named Desire. This version of the play was put on by the National Theatre Company at the Young Vic in London, and starred Gillian Anderson, Ben Foster and Vanessa Kirby. I was not familiar with the play beforehand, but I like Anderson and Foster as actors, and I love live theater, so I thought I would check it out.
I loved the way the play was filmed. There were stationary and moving cameras surrounding the stage, which helped me feel like I was there watching the play with the audience. However, I was not the biggest fan of the play's story, and the production was about three hours long. I'm glad that I have finally seen the play, as it is a classic, but I doubt I'll seek it out again. I will definitely seek out other National Theatre Live productions, though, since I can't travel to London on the regular just for the theater.
Tuesday night, I went to a double-header at UCB Franklin. My pre-show entertainment was this ridiculously gorgeous sunset, which seriously looked a million times more stunning in person.
First up was the taping of the Doug Loves Movies podcast, with guests Matt Jones (Badger from Breaking Bad), Haley Joel Osment (sees dead people), Matt Belknap and Matt Mira.
It wasn't my favorite DLM ever, but it certainly had its moments, and I enjoyed both Haley Joel Osment's enthusiasm for film and Matt Jones' jokes.
Following DLM was Put Your Hands Together, a weekly stand-up show that I had never been to before. When Simon is out of town, I like to audit new events/shows/ experiences to see if they are something he'd be interested in, and this show is an example of that kind of audit. Unfortunately, I did not find it to be a very good show, though the regular hosts being out of town may have had something to do with that. Being in the front row when someone is flopping at standup is my least favorite thing, ever.
Wednesday, I stayed in. But Thursday night, I walked down to LACMA for the first Live Read of the season, and for one of my favorite films.
American Beauty came out when I was 14 years old, and it was profoundly influential on me and my interest in film. I must have watched my VHS copy dozens of times, because as the actors read it on stage, I knew all of the words before they were spoken. In the movie, Kevin Spacey is Lester Burnham, a mild-mannered middle-aged man who has lost his enthusiasm for life. His wife Carolyn is a type A personality with lots of emotional issues, and his teenage daughter is dissatisfied with nearly everything in her life. I think all of these flawed characters, along with an incredibly tight script by Alan Ball and memorable cinematography, made this movie stand out sharply in contrast to others I had seen up to that point in my life. Of course, it didn't just appeal to me - it won five Academy Awards, and for good reason.
For Reitman's live read, the casting was not as inspired as I might have hoped. He decided to cast the whole read with actors from his most recent film effort, Men, Women and Children, which is not a strategy he has ever employed before. He actually did a read for American Beauty a couple of years ago at TIFF, and had Bryan Cranston reading for Lester, and that sounded like it was amazing.
But for the LACMA edition, he had Adam Sandler reading the part of Lester. Now, I have a few problems with Adam Sandler, but the man can act when given the right material. However, I do not think he was a great fit for this part, and that wasn't even really his fault. The whole time he read, I was thinking about how Kevin Spacey was literally the best possible choice for the role. Kevin Spacey won an Oscar for this role. Kevin Spacey inhabited Lester Burnham so fully, I could not really accept someone else just reading the lines. Even if that someone is Adam Sandler.
Aside from Sandler, the cast was excellent. Rosemarie DeWitt read for Annette Bening's character Carolyn, and though she did not "sell-this-house-to-day" in the proper cadence, she was really manic and funny. Dean Norris made the Colonel's character a little less somber than Chris Cooper's version, but that's not a bad thing. Other cast members included Kaitlyn Dever as Jane (originally Thora Birch), Olivia Crocicchia as Angela (originally Mena Suvari), Travis Tope as Ricky (originally Wes Bentley), and Phil LaMarr as Buddy (originally Peter Gallagher). They all brought something different to their respective parts. Here is a review of the read, if you are interested in reading more about it. Simon was really bummed to miss this one, but he will be around for next month's read of Diner, a movie that neither of us have seen before.
Friday was uneventful for me, but Saturday night was promising. I had seen on Twitter that UCB was holding a test show at their new theater with improv teams JV and Shitty Jobs. Since I was eager to check out the new space, and had nothing else going on, I headed over to the theater to get in line.
When I arrived, the line wasn't too bad, but soon it stretched out behind me. I doubt everyone got in.
I managed to get a front row seat, so I had a great view. We were welcomed by the theater's very funny artistic director Mike Still as a "friends & family" audience for this somewhat secret show, and then JV took the stage.
After they did a set, Shitty Jobs came out for the second half of the show.
They didn't confine themselves to the gigantic stage for long; after just a few minutes, half of the cast was on the stairs and the balcony interacting with the other half of the cast on stage.
Those guys are a lot of fun to watch. We don't often go to their show because it's always been at 11pm on a Sunday night, but with adding the new venue, they have moved some showtimes around, and now Shitty Jobs will be at 9:30pm instead. I think we'll go a lot more often.
So, what are my first impressions of the new theater? The building looks gigantic, especially when compared to UCB Franklin. There's a cafe, lounge area, classrooms, and various other spaces for UCB's growing needs. I really like all of that, and look forward to sitting in the lounge area to write when we get back from vacation next week. But I am a wee bit apprehensive about the performance space itself.
It's huge, with high ceilings, comfortable (yet still cramped) seats and an enormous stage, which will be great for shows with large casts like ASSSSCAT. Everyone can spread out and run around and not worry about hitting someone in the audience. But despite its size, it has less total seats than the Franklin location, and a lot more space between the audience and the stage.
Overall, the theater seems a lot less intimate. That is less than optimal for shows with small casts, like Hot Sauce, which is moving there starting next month. I love the slightly claustrophobic effect of UCB Franklin, since you never feel far from the performers, but I can see this theater having a much different feel. Of course, going to one show there is not a good way to judge the space, and I am keeping an open mind. I am psyched to go back for more shows as soon as we get back from our Texas trip next weekend, and then Simon will get a chance to see the place for the first time!
After doing my part to help break in UCB Sunset, I drove over to UCB Franklin for the Extreme Gaming Championship. Apparently, so did Mike Still, who was on stage as Virtual Boy with hosts Zach Woods and Thomas Middleditch.
While Thomas had some technical difficulties, the show was fantastic, thanks in no small part to Zach Woods. He is not an avid video gamer, so his contributions in a show about video games were particularly hilarious.
The next day was my last day sans Simon, and I didn't do much with it other than go back to UCB Franklin for the panel show Shut Up, I Hate You, with hosts Kate Spencer and Anthony King and guests Jason Mantzoukas, Paul Scheer, Mary Holland and Gil Ozeri.
The next afternoon, I picked Simon up at the airport, and we went to get lunch together. I missed him!
Later that night, we walked over to LACMA to see Birdman, the new movie starring Michael Keaton and Edward Norton.
Visually, it was absolutely stunning, and I would recommend seeing it for the cinematography alone. The story isn't terribly compelling, but I did love Keaton & Norton in their respective roles. Simon really loved the movie, ranking it as his favorite of the year.
Tuesday, Simon worked and then afterward, we drove to the Fonda in Hollywood to see one of our favorite live bands, White Denim.
Sadly, the venue was not even close to capacity despite the fact that these guys are a force of nature when they play. It absolutely baffles me that they are not more popular. They are a perfect example of the fact that quality is not always rewarded. But the smaller crowd did allow us to get a good view of the stage.
About twelve hours after the show, I was on a plane bound for Philly. Christmas seemed like a long ways away, so I decided to visit home for a few days. Mom picked me up at the airport, then we picked up Foo and had dinner at the Exeter Diner.
I stayed in my mom's guest room, and was surprised by this awesome basket of goodies that she put together for me. Better than a hotel!
The next morning, we went to the Tom Cat Cafe for breakfast, did some shopping, and spent some time catching up. And a couple of ladies at Ulta did my makeup better than I could ever dream of doing it - I had to take a photo for posterity.
I need to pick up the foundation they used on me ASAP, I felt so pretty! Though now I can't stop staring at how uneven my eyes look in this picture.
Later that night, Mom made dinner and we sat around talking. The next day, we ran some more errands, I spotted Pam from the office in Mom's dining room,
and then I borrowed Mom's car to visit my bff in Maryland.
Somehow, I have no photos from this portion of the trip, but I can assure you that we spent hours talking, she made an amazing dinner and homemade pumpkin pie, and I got to see her adorable daughter and sweet husband. Such a nice evening!
On Saturday, I returned to Mom's to hang out with her and Amanda. We ended up at the Ugly Oyster for dinner, which was tasty.
and then afterward, Amanda and I went out for the night.
We started our evening at Bowl Grille, where we met up with Jakki and Matt and some other friends to watch our friend George's band play. As a side note, I find it kind of hilarious that I can get better pictures of professional musicians, actors and improvisers than I can of my friend's band.
After an hour or so, we followed our friends to a party at another friend's house. It was a good sized get together of a bunch of people I haven't seen in years, so I had a few beers and socialized. In California, I don't know as many people, so it was nice to see familiar faces for once.
The next day, Amanda and I met Dad and Laura for breakfast at the Breakfast Hut. It was great to see them, but we need to break our habit of meeting them there, since the food is meh. Later that afternoon, we drove to my grandparents house.
My grandma made us pot pie
because she knows I love it. Our pregnant cousin Sara showed up, along with her boyfriend Cody, to eat some pot pie and show us her baby bump. She's due in February, and I can't wait to meet baby Luke!
At home, the three of us sisters were reunited for the first time since June. I love them so much! Wish they lived here with us.
Early on Monday, Mom took me to the airport & I caught a flight back to the West Coast. It was a good trip, but it's nice to be home. While I was away, Simon was busy with school stuff, but he also hung out with his friend Dale and went to see a Middleditch & Schwartz show with his friend Tom.
Monday night, we saw the Improvised Shakespeare Company at Largo, which is a new venue for them in LA (and since they don't allow pictures, you will just have to use your imagination). As always, they were incredible, and "Henry, The Fifth Element" was a brilliant audience title suggestion. I just realized that one of my favorite improvisers from that show does some stuff at UCB, so we will be checking that out soon.
The rest of the week has been pretty standard stuff. Simon has had work to do, we've been getting ready for our trip to Texas, and yesterday, we took the cats to the vet because one of them won't stop peeing on everything. Fun times! Hopefully, that will stop ASAP. If you made it this far, congratulations! I wasn't sure that I would. Talk to you soon!