Stephen D'Ambrose - and a dead body - in "Panic"
Thinking about seeing it? Find out what the local critics are saying...
Even though "Panic" won the 2008 Edgar Allan Poe Award for best play from the Mystery Writers of America, it can still be edited. There's a scene in the first act that drags a little as reporter Alain Duplay (Garry Geiken) tapes an interview with Lockwood.
Otherwise, from Kirby Moore's handsome set design to Michael Kittel's lighting, "Panic" is a winner. The smart, loyal American secretary is the hero, and Maren plays her with reserves of physical and intellectual strength. It helps that the actor is tall and solid, and that she signals her intelligence with her eyes and a tone that shows a sharp mind at work.
The casting is largely faultless. Kingsley invests Emma with moral strength, even as she toddles around with a cane. Geiken's Alain is smarmy and ingratiating, but not too unctuous. Fellner's Liliane is an international woman of mystery whose secrets we want to know.
The foreign accents, which sometimes wax and wane with actors in other shows, are fairly steady in this production, which means we can focus on the characters.
Its subject might be murder, but "Panic" is a show that's about thrills. Bratlie's staging, with this swell cast, hits the right buttons.
Barbara Kingsley in "Panic"
Much praise is due Goodrich for attempting a stage mystery. The form has been thoroughly co-opted by Hollywood. Film-makers can use energy-conferring jump cuts. They can create realistic violence. Juxtapose multiple story lines. Playwrights have more limited resources. They must rely on old-fashioned character development, freely employ red herrings, and describe a lot of off-stage action. In Panic, Goodrich has hit on a nifty device: the spinning of film scenarios. This gives what might be static descriptions of action real present tense energy. Indeed, the writing here is smart and effective...
Here's the bottom line: Panic is well-written and beautifully acted. But it's old-fashioned, which means the pacing is stately and play veers to the long side (an hour and ten minutes for Act 1, an hour twenty for Act 2). But if you like mysteries (e.g., the great Agatha Christie), well, this is a production for you.
Alfred Hitchcock was called the "master of suspense" because the English filmmaker knew how to employ his ample cinematic skill set to create anticipation and tension, sending his audiences' adrenaline racing.
Playwright Joseph Goodrich seems to hold similar aspirations, judging from the production of "Panic" currently receiving its Twin Cities premiere from Park Square Theatre. But even on the rare occasions when Hitchcock was off his game, his films never moved as slowly as "Panic," which drags along, pulled by the thin thread of one conflict and twists that take way too long to develop. Hence, despite the best efforts of a pair of first-rate veteran actors and a skilled design team, the production is far from a thriller.
Have you seen "Panic" at Park Square Theatre? If so, what did you think? Share your reviews in the comments section.
The Southern Theater in Minneapolis
MPR Photo/Chris Roberts
This morning, Chris Roberts took a closer look at the new model, how the community is reacting, and interviewed the last man standing, general manager Damon Runnals. Here's an excerpt:
Runnals said the Southern's new business plan is designed to keep the building open, pay his salary, and buy time for the organization to re-imagine itself. He envisions the Southern becoming a space geared toward mid-career artists trying to take their work to the next level. But will the Southern of old ever return?
"No," Runnals said. "I don't think the same Southern exists. I think the building will, but I honestly believe a new Southern is emerging."
What that new Southern becomes, Runnals said, is for its board and the community to decide.
You can listen to the full story by clicking on the audio link below:(4 Comments)
The cover of "The Marbury Lens," a young adult novel by Andrew Smith.
(Image Courtesy of Macmillan Children's Publishing Group)
A recent article in the Wall Street Journal has started a heated debate over teen fiction.
Meghan Cox Gurdon argues that over the years, young adult (YA) fiction has become increasingly dark:
How dark is contemporary fiction for teens? Darker than when you were a child, my dear: So dark that kidnapping and pederasty and incest and brutal beatings are now just part of the run of things in novels directed, broadly speaking, at children from the ages of 12 to 18.
Pathologies that went undescribed in print 40 years ago, that were still only sparingly outlined a generation ago, are now spelled out in stomach-clenching detail. Profanity that would get a song or movie branded with a parental warning is, in young-adult novels, so commonplace that most reviewers do not even remark upon it.
Cox Gurdon goes on to cite some examples of modern YA depravity, including Andrew Smith's 2010 novel, "The Marbury Lens," in which the main character is drugged, abducted and nearly raped by a male captor.
Yesterday on Midmorning, Andrew Smith discussed the accusation
When anybody says "there's too much of [something] going on" then it means there's some kind of definite quantifiable threshold where you can say "this is enough." And who's going to make that call, ultimately?
Smith says he isn't comfortable with the label of "teen fiction" or YA books, because they set up expectations in parents akin to the label of a "Happy Meal" - predictable contents, predictably packaged.
Instead he thinks of himself as a novelist, who happens to be read by teens.
Smith says his most recent novel "The Marbury Lens," while dark, is a particularly personal piece.
As far as The Marbury Lens is concerned, there's really no way that you can criticize the book and not criticize me, because they are one and the same. It's a very personal book, about things that actually did happen to me. And the effect of the book has been that in a lot of cases I'm either approached personally by kids, young men, or boys, or I get letters and e-mails from these kids who say things like "wow, this is exactly how I felt when this happened to me." And in that case, despite the fact that there are some dark themes that are present in Young Adult literature, when you can make that connection, when there are kids out there who suddenly realize that they're not alone, that their experience hasn't been confined to only them, that they're not damned - I think that it can be a really powerful thing.
Cox Gurdon says her concern is that these books not only to tell teens that they're not alone, but to popularize such violent behavior:
...It is also possible--indeed, likely--that books focusing on pathologies help normalize them and, in the case of self-harm, may even spread their plausibility and likelihood to young people who might otherwise never have imagined such extreme measures. Self-destructive adolescent behaviors are observably infectious and have periods of vogue. That is not to discount the real suffering that some young people endure; it is an argument for taking care.
Smith disagrees. He says the books Cox Gurdon singled out in her article are in the vast minority:
There are so many thousands and thousands of books that are published every year - to say that teens are being inundated or bulldozed with miserable dark subject matter is absurd. These are kids who learned how to read in a post-9/11 world, where our country has constantly been at war with multiple enemies and they're told that we have all of these enemies outside our borders. They're certainly getting inundated with dark subject matter, but it's not just coming from the fiction that they read.
What do you think? Are some novels too dark? How do you figure out what's appropriate for a teen reader?
So a colleague of mine, ok - my BOSS - brought a couple of photos in to work to show me this morning. He knows I enjoy biking the Gateway Trail, and that I cover the arts, so he thought I'd be amused by the visual debate.
On one side of a tunnel, there's this:
On the other side, written atop layers of graffiti that have been white-washed, there's this:
Now, there are often bits of graffiti on the interior walls of tunnels along the Gateway, mostly harmless, and sometimes quite beautiful. For a while my favorite was one that said "Uff-da" just at the point in the ride where I was feeling exactly that sentiment. But inevitably the graffiti is cleaned up each year, leaving a wall patchworked in shades of white and grey.
Well, the images got me thinking, why isn't there any "official" art on the Gateway Trail?
It turns out, art is on the way.
I tuned in to a Gateway State Trail Podcast (yes, they have a Gateway Trail podcast! I couldn't believe it either), and learned that the Gateway Trail Association (They have an association, too!) worked with the Center for Hmong Arts and Talent, and the Mississippi Magnet Creative Arts School to create some original art for the trail.
Under the guidance of artist David Vang, 3rd, 4th and 5th graders came up with images that represent the word "welcome" to them. They then created approximately 300 ceramic tiles featuring those welcoming images.
The tiles are expected to go up at the end of June, affixed to a pergola next to the Arlington parking lot. Eventually the pergola will serve as a welcoming gateway to a community garden.
Gateway Trail Association boardmember Noreen Farrell says it's been a long time coming; she originally started pursuing art for the trail in the late 1980s.
We had seen some information from England about how they had art on their trail. And we thought this was wonderful. We've always wanted to enhance the trail and to make it very neighborhood friendly. We found out most of the people using the trail live within ten miles, and we wanted them to feel some ownership of the trail.
Well, at lease in the case of "Firefly Alley," it looks as though they already feel some ownership.
It's official. After a two-year transition process, Coffee House Press founder Allan Kornblum is handover the reins to longtime Associate Publisher Chris Fischbach.
Kornblum, who started Coffee House Press in 1984, will stay on as Senior Editor.
Over its 27-year history, Coffee House has become one of the most highly regarded independent literary presses in the country. Fischbach started as an intern more than 15 years ago. He says he sees one of his biggest challenges as "walking the line between respecting and honoring Allan's legacy and establishing my own leadership."
In terms of the job itself, I currently see a couple things happening that I am already having to deal with somewhat, but which will only become more to a head in the coming years. That is, how to deal with sales expectations between print and e-book when we don't really know where the e-book market is going, nor do we have any kind of history with which we can make accurate predictions. If, for instance, print sales decline but e-books go up, what does that mean for our business model? Will it be 10% different or 40%? No one knows where the dust will settle with e-books, or if it will.
The other is that because of so much uncertainty in the economy and with
e-books, bookstores are ordering fewer copies and ordering them later. Then
they just re-order when they need more. This makes predicting how many books
to print for our initial print runs difficult, and risky. Learning how to manage this new bookstore behavior is something everyone is dealing with.
Fischbach says there are some changes in the works. Names, he plans on Coffee House Press being much more visible in the community.
I will be looking for creative ways to collaborate with other local arts organizations as much as possible, working to allow connections to be made between our authors and other artists, and other arts organization. I have great admiration for the Walker's Open Field, the spirit of collaboration and experimentation in engenders. I want to bring some of that energy to Coffee House. I grew up here, and I love the Twin Cities. I want Coffee House to continue to be a part of what makes this place such a fertile area for vital and exciting art.