Well - to your health
|Well - to your health|
by Miryam Gordon -
SGN A&E Writer
Directed by David Hsieh
Through June 1
This is a pretty good play, as written. The title, Well, refers to illness and getting well. The playwright, Lisa Kron, constructs this evening as a theatrical experiment that she's presenting on note cards. Her mother is played by an actress, but is introduced as her mother. That sounds like any other play, but it's a little more complicated. Probably, even when the playwright performed this play as "herself," she still had an actress onstage playing her mother, while she seems to be introducing her real mother, who is not an actress and doesn't want to be in a play.
Kron wants to explore the idea of getting well. Some people can, others can't. Some people do, others don't. Is there some reason that can be found for who does which? Her mother has been sick for what is described as most of her life, but not so sick that she can't end up leading a neighborhood association enough to revive the entire neighborhood. These facts appear to be real-life facts about her and her mother. But she says the play is not about her personal life. She just uses her personal life to examine the larger question.
This production is generally well done, enough so that you can hear what the playwright has to say. The problem is that the production has not honed in on how to make it work. There are cadences to the speech that are just missing the mark. There is a sharpness and snappiness to the script that isn't apparent in the actions here.
Roberta Furst, playing Lisa, sort of as herself, is a lovely actress, and she did all the right kinds of things to inhabit this character. Walayn Sharples did a great job playing the mother, Ann. The supporting cast - Ellen Dessler, Marcel David, Gordon Hendrickson, and the director, Shawn J West, filling in for an injured La'Chris Jordan - played their multiple roles and distinguished between the characters with fun transitions.
Overall, however, despite their best efforts, the play feels like it's an ill-fitting suit of clothes. The jokes don't quite hit, the "real" part doesn't feel real. There is a veneer of fakeness over it, rather than the feeling of it happening right in front of you. It just seems a little messy.
Despite describing that, the production is a worthy effort and you may well enjoy seeing it. It's got a great message and has a good cast of actors. Perhaps you won't have the same experience of something missing and the whole thing will mean more to you.
For more information, go to www.reacttheatre.org or call 206-364-3283. Comments on reviews go to firstname.lastname@example.org
|Dispelling the myths of cruising|
by Janice Van Cleve -
Special to the SGN
There are a lot of myths about taking a cruise on a ship and I used to believe most of them. An ocean cruise always felt to me like a wasteful extravagance - a marathon of indulgence for bored rich people. In fact, the right cruise can be educational, adventurous, and very affordable.
This is my sixth cruise and by far the best one. The first was in 1997 aboard the Sun Princess on its way from Los Angeles to Vancouver. It was very plush but it fed all my myths about excessive luxurious idolence with 2000 strangers. The following year I toured the Baltic ports with another Princess Line ship which carried only 750 passengers. That was a perfect size and since we stopped at new and interesting places every morning, I got to explore and adventure to my heart's content.
The next two cruises were aboard the Olympic Lines' Stella Solaris, another small 720 passenger ship, which took me to Maya sites along the Caribbean where I met several very good friends and a Maya king named Eighteen Rabbit.
The same ship conveyed me and some newfound friends from Turkey to Greece.
The fifth cruise was radically different. Aboard the Akademik Ioffe, a Russian research vessel, I traveled to Antarctica to kayak among the penguins. This ship was very small, by no means luxurious, and was all about adventure. I lucked out in getting a cabin all to myself, and only once was I thrown off my feet when we hit a giant wave.
Today I sit here in the internet cafe aboard the Azamara Quest, one of two 750 passenger ships, running as a subdivision of Carnival Cruises. The ship has been completely refurbished, is sparkling clean and new, and is staffed by an international crew. It has a gym, several pools and hot tubs, a casino, two lounges, five dining areas, wifi, a self-serve laundry, and more ways to eat chocolate than I have ever imagined.
The smaller size makes it easy to get oriented and take personal "ownership" of this floating hotel, which will be home for two weeks. It also makes it very easy to meet other passengers and get to know them. I've met couples from Canada, Russia, and Germany; Israel, Dubai, Belgium and England. It is even possible to get to know the crew and staff by name and they all know me by now, too. This doesn't happen on the bigger ships. I especially value the friendships and connections I have made on cruises and I still communicate with several of them even though it has been many years since we first met.
One benefit of cruising that takes a bit of getting used to is being waited on hand and foot by people eager to serve you. The crew and staff of this ship are the most courteous, cheerful, helpful, and gracious people I've ever met. The kitchen staff will prepare anything I want, on the menu or not, and it will be perfect. The bar staff can make any drink imaginable and will dream up new ones upon request. We complained about the wine selection (California wines when we are cruising around Italy? I mean, really!), so the wine steward promptly got off at every port and went shopping. They all go out of their way to please their passengers.
The food is out of this world on cruise ships. Made-to-order omelette and pasta dishes, lamb kabobs, gelato, sushi and stir fry, all kinds of salads, cheeses, and, of course, chocolates. The variety changes every day and the abundance is overwhelming. After a hard day of sightseeing in exotic ports, we return to the ship to clean up and then enjoy a nice Barolo and sweets while listening to a brilliant harpist playing for our delight. There are professional shows every evening and movies on the television in each cabin.
I particularly like doing picture puzzles in the lounge. Not only do I find it relaxing and a means of exercising brain cells, it attracts all kinds of other people who are intrigued and want to pitch in. Another great way to meet people! All this would be comfortable enough but there are adventures, too. We stopped at ports all around Italy every day from Bari to Venice and Ravenna, Tauromina on Sicily and Oblia on Sardinia. We even stopped in Split, Croatia, to visit Emperor Diocletian's palace and use one of the few currencies in the world where the dollar actually stretches reasonably far.
There are opportunities to travel inland as well. I took a local train to Herculaneum and Pompeii. Others taxied in to Pisa, Florence, and Lucca. I'm taking the train into Rome after the cruise for a week of exploring there.
All of this lavish pampering comes at a surprisingly low cost. The base price of this cruise without airfare for 14 days was only $3000. That's little more than $200 per day for room, all the top-quality food you can eat, transportation, entertainment, maid service, and adventure. My bar bill and internet use only added another $500. Considering all that a cruise provides, this is an excellent value.
So while I don't mean to make a commercial, I can say from an investment standpoint that a ship cruise with the right itinerary is a very good deal.
Janice Van Cleve is a writer and adventurer whose next cruise is an expedition into the Arctic. That will not be quite so luxurious. Copyright 2008