Monday, January 22, 2007
The Madness of Seven Deadly Sins
The "Return to the Caffe Cino" book publishing event on Sunday at San Francisco's Main Library (click here to get to an earlier post about the anthology) was a huge success, with a good turnout for a warm afternoon, and brisk book sales for publisher Steve Susoyev above.
The highlight of the afternoon was a performance of the 1964 Lanford Wilson play, "The Madness of Lady Bright," about a demented New York drag queen reminiscing about his/her youth and the various disastrous loves of his/her life.
Lady Bright was brilliantly performed by local luminary Trauma Flintstone (click here for his/her website), and was ably assisted by Tom Orr and Steven LeMay as The Boy and The Girl respectively, earlier incarnations of Lady Bright and various Loves of Her Life.
Even though the main character is an extremely pathetic drag queen, the piece was revolutionary when it first appeared. Open homosexuality on the stage had just never occurred before, particularly with a character flinging around the word "faggot" in every other line.
During a question and answer period with the audience after the performance, one 50-year-old gay man complained that when he was a teenager there were no "positive role models" since the only gay plays out there were "The Madness of Lady Bright" and "Boys in the Band," which are all about sad queens being mean to each other.
"Don't forget 'Fortune and Men's Eyes,' which was all about male prison rape," Steve Susoyev reminded him, and the 82-year-old playwright George Birimisa said, "when we were writing about gay stuff at the time, we were all homophobic, something I'm not very proud of, but that's just the way it was then." Trauma Flintstone added a perfect, updated coda by saying that he/she never plays the character as "pathetic because they're gay or transgender or what have you. I think this is just somebody who has made a few bad life choices," which elicited laughter from the audience, "and who fell in love with street trade, which is going to leave you very lonely. But this queen is definitely not pathetic on account of being gay."
Hopping across Civic Center Plaza to Herbst Theatre, I caught the second half of a performance by an amateur ensemble called "Symphony Parnassus" (click here for their website).
The conductor of the symphony is Stephen Paulson, who has been playing the bassoon for the San Francisco Symphony for 30 years and has headed this group for the last nine years.
The second half piece was Kurt Weill's "The Seven Deadly Sins," a late collaboration with Bertolt Brecht that's part ballet, part opera, and totally cynical morality tale as the Divided Anna (played by a singer and a dancer) leaves home and family in Louisiana to visit seven American cities where she engages in the aforementioned sins. The greedy family is written for four male voices which were ably dispatched by choristers from the San Francisco Opera: (from left) Jere Torkelsen, Torlef Borsting, Phil Pickens, and Kevin Courtmanche.
There was a production of the work last year at The Crucible, the Fire Art Warehouse in Oakland, but I thought the staging was dumb (click here for a review). This concert version was headlined by ex-"Phantom of the Opera" star Lisa Vroman, who sang beautifully and with perfect diction, and her divided self was played quite wittily by a mannequin. The orchestra was good, though I tend to prefer this music a bit less smooth and a tad more sleazy.