the story roundup

One of my go-to strategies when I’m not sure what to write about on my blog is to briefly review some of the stories (books, movies, plays, TV shows) I have watched or read over the past week or so. Let’s do that now.

  1. Man of La Mancha: Although I read Don Quixote once and thought it was pretty boring (sorry if it’s your favorite book or anything), until this past Saturday I had never seen this musical theatrical adaptation of the story, which hits the main points but, unlike Oliver! (a musical that I have mixed feelings about), doesn’t try to mitigate the dark parts of the source text, nor of the life of its author. The musical employs a frame narrative, with the Quixote story being told by Miguel de Cervantes himself, who has been imprisoned by the inquisition. The musical ends with Cervantes, who is played by the actor who plays Don Quixote, walking offstage to meet his fate, along with his servant, played by the actor who plays Sancho Panza. Bucking the cheerful Rodgers and Hammerstein stereotype that the term “musical” evokes for most people, this one ends on a bittersweet and inconclusive (yet wholly satisfying) note. In the production I saw, by a local theater company in a very small space, the Cervantes/Quixote actor, an older man who gave a fantastic performance, had tears standing in his eyes throughout almost the entire musical and actually running down his face during the major number “The Impossible Dream.” I’m not sure if the tears were because it was nearly the last performance of the run, because of the heartbreaking idealism of Quixote, or for some other reason I don’t know about, but I’ve never seen an actor so sincerely moved. I cried too. While the entire cast did a great job, I also want to mention the young man who played Sancho Panza–a skinny guy, which at first made me doubt the casting, since this character is iconically round. But the actor quickly made me warm up to his endearing interpretation of the lovable pessimist.
  2. The Walking Dead, season 9, episode 1: I have long thought it would be interesting, and hopeful, to watch a community of zombie apocalypse survivors emerge from crisis mode and begin to build a sustainable society. (In fact, I am writing a story about this very scenario.) So the first episode of this season, which featured characters growing crops, making fuel out of corn ethanol, and conducting inter-community trade, made me happy. Politics–not entirely harmonious–also loomed large in the episode, but politics have (has? Isn’t this one of those singular words that looks plural?) been happening since the very first season of TWD, and I think we are now beginning to see the characters develop a more thoughtful, less reactive approach to leadership (the Hilltop had an election) and negotiation. Maggie’s sudden and single-handed execution of Gregory was troubling (even though it was REALLY time to get rid of that lying snake, in my opinion), but I’m holding out hope that people will get on board with Michonne’s idea of a charter that will help govern community relations in this new society. But maybe I’m just being naive and Quixotic. 😉
  3. Assorted Dickens: Rarely does a week go by when I don’t have some sort of mystical communion with Charles Dickens, and this week was no different. In my composition classes, we analyzed the first chapter of A Tale of Two Cities as an example of all kinds of strategies, from semicolon use to comparison/contrast to topic sentences. At home, I tried watching a black-and-white miniseries of Barnaby Rudge, possibly Dickens’s most underrated novel, but the DVD kept freezing up, so I gave up in disgust. Now I’m watching the 1994 BBC version of Martin Chuzzlewit. Through all this, I’ve been reminded of Dickens’s absolute genius for creating memorable characters and the passion for social justice that permeates just about everything he writes. He’s amazing. I love him. That is all.

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