Friday, May 31, 2019

and the living is

The mornings have been muggy lately, the sky suspended low like a dirty white curtain. At midday the clouds burn off, the temperature climbs and the heavens are hard blue. It's difficult to dress for these days, bundling in the morning and soaked with sweat on the commute home. This is not much like the springtime I always imagine. This is winter fighting one last losing battle against the advancing forces of summer.

But it must be springtime: the clematis blooms are fading away, the Siberian iris have curled up, and the rats who live in the neighbors' shed have begun doing late afternoon gymnastics in our honeysuckle vine.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Manuscripts don't burn!

Last Friday evening, Mighty Reader and I went to Theater Simple's stage adaptation of Mikhail Bulgakov's wacky novel The Master and Margarita (written between 1928 and 1940, not published until 1966, or twenty-six years after Bulgakov's death). The Master and Margarita is a satirical fantasy of Soviet Russia, lampooning the official writing/artistic apparatus and defending Christianity against the official Soviet atheism. Satan and his minions appear in Moscow and unleash mischief among the art establishment, simultaneously rescuing "the Master" (a novelist who has written a book about Pontius Pilate's meeting with Jesus) from the lunatic asylum in which he was placed after his novel was rejected by the censors, while reuniting the Master with his lover Margarita, and reuniting the actual historical Pilate with the actual historical Jesus so the two can continue their philosophical discussion for eternity. Satan's minions include vampires and a very large black cat named Behemoth, who is quite handy with a pistol. Hilarious stuff.

Somehow the folks at Theater Simple have winnowed this bizarre and sprawling novel down to a mere ninety minutes of mayhem while maintaining the spirit of the novel (though Mighty Reader and I objected to the forced parallel in the stage version where the poet Ponyrev is explicitly made a disciple of the Master, echoing Matthew's discipleship of Christ), while also including songs, a tango danced by Satan and Margarita, and goodness knows what else. It's pretty good. Apparently Theater Simple has been touring this play around the world since 1997. Highly recommended.

I like a theater with a bar, and the Theater Off Jackson's bar was decorated for this performance with reproductions of Stalin-era propaganda posters. This one says something like, "Captain Stalin leads us from victory to victory!"

This one says, approximately, "Women: tear off your religious ways and build socialism!" I think this poster's actually in Ukranian rather than Russian. Bulgakov was born in Kiev, after all.

Theater Off Jackson's entrance, in the alley between Jackson and King Streets. (409 7th Ave S in beautiful Chinatown/International District)

Tonight's entertainment is Shakespeare: the Seattle Shakespeare Company's final production of the season, As You Like It. We've seen this play before, too many times probably, and frankly it's not one of our favorites. But Seattle Shakes has managed to surprise and delight us so often that we expect to be quite pleased with their efforts. The show runs through the 19th, and I believe tickets are still available. So avail yourselves, if you're in the area. Which you likely are not.