For Art’s Sake

Sarah and I went on our second actual date since becoming parents today – this time to see Tender Napalm at the Signature Theatre (the plus side of season tickets is the built-in date).

For the first time in my life, I actually walked out of a play while it was going on (about 1/3 of the way through). I’ve seen bad shows before – plotless, meandering craptastic shows, but this really reached a new low of “is my time worth this?”

The show is basically a man and woman trading obscene fantastic hate-filled stories at each other, while trying to maintain affected (lower class) British accents. I knew it was going to be bad when the opening phrase was “I could put a bullet between your lips”, but when it descended into abject (unfunny) farce was when the man said he’s shove a grenade up the woman’s c***. Lovely. And old news.

Seriously, go to 1:02 in Da Ali G show here. Yes, Sascha Baron Cohen wrote about “the terrorist who stuck a grenade up the queen’s poo***, and he’s got 48 hours to get it out.” Now, THAT was funny, and original, back when he did it. Now? Not funny, not original, not shocking.

Worse, the whole sex-as-violence metaphor is sooooooo tired. Haven’t we seen enough of this from actually good writers, say, JG Ballard, or James Tiptree Jr? This was old hat in the 90s. Heck, even Jane’s Addiction, in “Ted Just Admit It”, said

Camera got them images
Camera got them all
Nothing’s shocking
Showed me everybody
Naked and disfigured
Nothing’s shocking
And then he came
Now sister’s
Not a virgin anymore
Her sex is violent

That was 1988, for the record.

So I have no idea why other reviewers seem to think this play has actual emotional depth, but honestly, I’ve seen more depth in puddles.

All this play has is shock value, and even that has worn out – it’s more a testament to boredom and ennui than it is to love stories.

not recommended.

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Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing

Sarah and I saw the new musical Crossing at the Signature Theater tonight as part of our season package.

In this musical, nothing happens. Eight caricatures of various time periods interact by having conversations which are occasionally interesting but mostly superficial and vapid, while being prodded along by one narrator/angel. The frame of the musical is that these are people from different time periods who are interacting, but nothing special actually makes that particularly interesting, other than perhaps to say that people have in fact been people throughout the decades. Good insight, Einstein.

The music is effectively songs strung together, but they aren’t memorable. I saw it literally half an hour ago, and as a professional musician and someone who has seen oodles of musical theatre, I find next to none of it comes to mind, other than that the penultimate bit included a series where all of the characters are asking “will it end” and “how much longer” and the like, which is a terrible, terrible idea when the play is eighty-three minutes of nothing happening.. And then there is this dance-lit crescendo where the “angel” (in quotes due to lack of explanation) sings a forgettable number and holds a big note. All righty then.

Oh, if you ever wondered whether eighty-three minutes could feel like forever, the answer is yes.

This is worse than just being a show I didn’t like. I didn’t like Arena’s “Red”, but that show was competently done (I just found Rothko so unpleasant that I wished I hadn’t spent two hours in his company, and I have never cared for Rothko’s artwork anyway), and there have been other things that I didn’t like, but I understood why other people did. No, this is different. This is a bad, bad musical. This musical is Spın̈al Tap two-word-review bad. I can’t think of the last thing I’ve seen which is this bad.

I’ve been more moved by high school productions of Chess than this. Someone in Signature Theatre really, really should have watched this in development, and should have realized that it stunk. According to the playbill, it’s been in development for more than five years. Seriously? And in that time, they couldn’t have added a plot? Come on, there are nine characters in an eighty-three minute play. If you can’t have something happen, get rid of most of them, and have them interact in depth (à la Waiting for Godot).

They say that given infinite time, an infinite number of monkeys will eventually type all of the works of Shakespeare. Apparently this is what happens if you don’t have that.

Exiting Radio Silence

There is a Yiddish saying: Man Tracht, und Gott Lacht, which could be translated as “people plan, and God laughs.” I think that’s about right.

On April 14, I wrote about how Sarah and I were giving up on the fertility meds and moving to IVF. Earlier that month, after the last failed cycle of the injectables, the nurse at Columbia Fertility (CFA) had told us that due to cysts (open follicles) on Sarah’s ovaries, the month after that cycle would also be a dud as well – thus, we would need to wait for the cysts to go down before IVF could start, and of course, their presence is expected to prevent regular ovulation as well.

I need to say a few words here about injectables. So those are basically a percentage of the same medicines as are used in IVF, but you’re basically relying on timed intercourse to try to get everything in the right place at the right time. Now, the problem there is that the husband ends up being something between a trained monkey and porn star (which is far less hot than it sounds). So with all of this, I can’t say that I had such a warm fuzzy feeling about how those work. In fact, those are definitely part of the “affliction” to which I had been referring.

Anyway, the injectables tended to be “one month on, one month off” because of cyst development (and continued use at that point would be dangerous). So we booked a bunch of appointments for IVF consultations, and decided that this was where we needed to be going. We met with Dr. Frankfurter at GW, and I must admit that all of the Rocky Horror jokes were running through my head the whole time (“Come up to my lab… and see what’s on my slab…) – none more than when he said that his main embryologist was named “Dr. Scott” (Brad! Janet!) (Note: Studio Theatre is showing Rocky this year – can’t wait!)

However – remember that I wrote that piece on April 14.

On April 29, we learned that Sarah was pregnant.

When we went in to CFA to confirm the pregnancy, Sarah asked “how could this happen??” Dr. Sacks replied, without missing a beat, “I think sex.” Oh, you scamp! That was too early for a non-IVF sonogram, so we went on about our day.

We decided to keep our appointment with RMA in New Jersey – they take forever to schedule, we had filled out probably three inches of paperwork, and honestly, having lost three pregnancies relatively early, we took a cautious view of chances, and at the least, wanted to find out what we thought of them relative to the folks in DC. Dr. Drews in NJ was amazing. I don’t hesitate to say that if we ever do need IVF, that is totally where we’d go, and that’s where I’d recommend anyone else go. I am blown away by their approach – they basically look for all of the various and sundry ways to get each extra .25% improvement in outcomes (like “use this particular type of air filter in the lab”, “use only this particular type of lighting”, “perform transfers only at this particular stage of development”), and then do them. The net effect of all of those little things is that their actual success rates are dramatically higher than clinics in the DC area – for women Sarah’s age it’s over 46% (national average 32%) (by way of comparison, CFA’s success rate for women Sarah’s age is 29%, and GW doesn’t brag about their statistics online, but according to what they’ve published to the CDC’s ART report, their success rate is 21%). According to Dr Drews, RMA doesn’t turn any patients away (we had been told that their numbers were the result of patient selection, which from my perspective he refuted).

They did say “most people don’t come here when they’re already pregnant,” but the consult was very informative. Dr. Drews did our first sono, and was excellent – he warned us that it was early and we might not see/hear anything, but he wanted to get a baseline (apparently this is standard of care for a first appointment there – which is also impressive). And there was the heartbeat!

w00t!

But of course, we’ve been there before. And so, the fear began (along with prayer).

When we got back, we resumed working with Dr. Sacks – he had been our regular RE at this point: he told us that the genetic/chromosomal die had been cast already (true!) but there wasn’t any way for us to know how it fell for a while, but he would monitor us closely. Each appointment was nerve-wracking, but the heartbeat was strong. Apparently “made with love and science” was going to be more like “made with love, watched closely with science.” Maybe the s/he will have a future with the NSA?

So we’ve had a whole heck of a lot of ultrasound pictures of the stringbean-variety – not the ones which look like a kid (those are the 20-week anatomy scan), but oodles of early ones. The jarring moment happened when we got to about week 12 – we were discharged from CFA and sent to our OB – that had never happened before. Now we had to go from the high-touch world of “lots of imaging, can we buy a sonogram machine for the house like Tom Cruise?” (answer: no, they’re regulated medical devices) into the normal-pregnancy world of “I wonder if everything is okay?” which is of course the world in which most women (and men!) are 99.99% of the time.

But it’s an awesome kind of jarring.

We went back and forth on when to start telling people – we’ve previously been public very early, but this time decided to wait a bit longer. However, one practical component is that apparently pregnancies after the first show much faster than the first, and a comment we received from a family member upon seeing a picture was “I don’t know who you think you’re not telling.” Well all-righty then.

We’re due January 1, 2014 – sounds like a great way to start a new year (or, perhaps Dec 31 would mean that the IRS would be nicer to us this year). Then again, I was multiple weeks late (setting a pattern for my life), so who knows – Elvis Presley’s birthday is January 8…

So now we can just thank God for bringing us to this day, and count on Him to sustain us in the days ahead (and perhaps try to save up on some sleep a bit).

Next (Time I) Fall

Sarah and I went to see Geoffrey Nauffts’ Next Fall in Bethesda last week. The theme of the play is the clash of religious differences in a relationship. The specific case is a gay couple, one of whom is a young, idealistic, religious Christian, while the other is older, anti-religious, and extremely cynical.

Sarah had picked the show, so I knew a grand total of nothing about it before we arrived. When she told me the theme when we arrived, my heart sank a bit: Washington is an extremely secular area, and religion tends to be dealt with as an extremely harsh caricature is most of the modern theatre i’ve seen. Add to that the fact that it’s a gay couple, and I figured we were in for a few hours of beating up on religious strawmen.

Happily, my expectations were not met.

There are some of the same old tired arguments for and against Christianity were dredged up (in my opinion, the anti-arguments were a lot more tired), but viewed in the context of character development, they make sense. Of course they would have had some fights where those tired arguments were used – neither of their characters is supposed to be exceptional at argument, after all. The real center of the play was not the argument regarding who’s right: it was about the emotional conflict that their difference caused.

Nauffts did a masterful job holding this up from several perspectives – there were plenty of pointed anti-religious sentiments – but the thing that blew out my expectations was that he acknowledged the tremendous anti-religious bias which is rampant and endemic in some places. It’s fascinating see religion being treated as much of (or possibly more than) a “closet” issue than sexuality – and I certainly think that this reflects modern experience and sensibilities (in DC at least).

I was pleasantly surprised, and would give this play a strong recommendation. Definitely good work from the Round House.

A good nap spoiled

Sarah and I saw Red at the Arena Stage tonight, and it received a standing ovation from the majority of the crowd present.

Personally, I thought it was a poorly written, nearly plotless play about an unlikable, pretentious artist. The play dripped with condescension toward those who disagree with whatever art fad is currently in fashion, and both lauded and legitimized the view that only the artist can determine the “proper” customers of his (or her) art.

I know little about the real-life Rothko, although I know that I do not like his work – the vibrancy, pulsing, and other terms which are usually applied to it is utterly invisible to me. When compared to his contemporary René Magritte, Rothko’s deficiency becomes painfully obvious. However, if he was as unpleasant as this play makes him seem, then I’m particularly surprised that anyone was willing to give him the time of day, much less treat him as part of a new artistic vanguard.

Sarah thought the play was somewhere between “ok” and “pretty good,” so she had a significantly higher opinion of it than it did, but she likewise was surprised by the ovation.

Given the audience’s reaction, I can tell that my opinion is in the minority (singularity?) on this. Whether this is me expressing my philistinic lack of cultured appreciation or describing the emperor’s nakedness is obviously in the eye of the beholder.