Monday, October 29, 2012

Sandy begins

The sky is filled with leaves
far above the maples’ canopy.
A grievous wind enumerates complaints
against the framework of my house,
as I count fallen branches more than raindrops.
A tree is more than branches until
not yet
but soon.
And one leaf takes pause outside my window,
peering in, fluttering in place,
and skitters off.
The storm is here.

Friday, October 19, 2012

A few notes from the Boston Conservatory production of Jesus Christ Superstar

Stephen Markarian as Pontius Pilate showed a lovely singing voice, great dynamics, and real sympathy for Jesus. It’s a challenging role from which to connect to the audience, because Pilate is at a remove from most of the storyline. He shows up for an Act 1 solo song out of the blue, and vanishes again before being more integrated into Act 2. This production reinforced that separation both from the audience and the primary stage action by putting Pilate on a constructed balcony to one side. His position as the Roman political authority puts him at odds with the other characters, and his role as the one who sentences Jesus puts him at odds with the audience. Yet Markarian manages to keep Pilate likeable, and convincingly convey in the space of a few minutes both his reluctance to sentence Jesus and his frustrated shift to following the demands of the crowd.

Riley Brack as Caiaphas has the bass voice needed for the part, and was a very tall, very entertaining, and very unserious Caiaphas. He always seemed at least half-amused, and I’d love to see him in a comic role.

Marc Koeck as Jesus was too restless in his group work, but was very impressive in his solos. I’d love to see him perform in something with more thorough direction.

Jordan Fantauzzo as Judas was phenomenal. Seriously, he made the music his own, he made the role his own, and he did not hit a single wrong note all evening in pitch or tone. I was blown away by his performance in a way that hasn’t happened in a musical in quite a long time. (Not since one of the female leads in Rent on Broadway.)

I wanted to like the updating of the setting to the modern Middle East, and some conceits worked. Judas and Jesus on cell phones to each other at the beginning, pizza and beer in Gethsemene, that worked. The riot police would have been ok if their costumes hadn’t been so cheap. But it was hard not to bust out laughing at the zombie scene (heal yourselves = eat your own brains?), heaven as Vegas was bizarre, and I had not been expecting to see the three witches from Rupert Goold’s Macbeth show up.

With a score that I know so well I was very prepared to be disappointed, but it turned out to be a wonderfully entertaining evening. The live orchestra was excellent, the set was used well, and the very large cast worked well together. And most importantly, they did real justice to a fantastic score.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Tired of the foreclosure crisis?

A lot of people would be able to afford their mortgages if they could reduce their interest rate to current interest rates and/or refinance to a 30-year or 40-year mortgage. The problem is that banks don’t want to make new loans to people underwater on their mortgages, even though those people already have loans. We’ve spent several years pushing banks to make mortgage modifications, and banks have refused. So let’s offer mortgages directly on conservative terms for everything except the loan-to-value ratio. That ratio is the only real problem, and it’s only a problem because OMG what if the person doesn’t keep paying their mortgage and you have to take their house as collateral and the house isn’t worth enough, even though refusing to allow refis is vastly increasing the risk of default. But as a society, we don’t want foreclosures, so let’s put policies in place to avoid foreclosures by offering better mortgages.

The underwater problem could also be solved by using eminent domain. Problem: homeowner has a house worth $200K, but owes $500K on their mortgage. Solution: government seizes the house, pays the bank fair market value of $200K, and sells it back to the homeowner for $200K. This has been floated as an idea in California, and the only significant argument against it from mortgage lenders is that they’ll stop lending if the government does that. See paragraph above.