Reprinted From the Independent Weekly. A longer transcript of this interview will appear on this site at a later date.
Local Art Houses—For her first feature film, writer/ director Courtney Hunt chose to highlight a class of Americans who are often ignored in cinema—the working poor. “I’m interested in people who are marginalized,” says Hunt, whose film, the acclaimed Frozen River, premieres in the Triangle this week. “We go so far out of our way to create these hyper-realities—all these escapist-fantasy-adventure dramas—and there is just so much drama going in people’s lives. You don’t have to go far to create big drama—there is a lot of stuff going on in people’s everyday lives that is worth a movie.”
Frozen River earned the Grand Jury Prize at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival for its depiction of two mothers in upstate New York, played by Melissa Leo and Misty Upham, who become human smugglers to earn desperately needed extra cash. Hunt says her goal with the film was “to capture the feel of a documentary.”
“I wanted the feeling that the characters were on the edge—I wanted them to know it and to see it, because that’s the way many people who are poor are sometimes [living], and I wanted you to go into their houses and walk in their shoes and feel that,” Hunt says.
Hunt discovered the story through news stories of women smugglers and says she interviewed residents on a Mohawk reservation, incorporating their lifestyle into the story: “I had a sense of how that culture played out in the present day in these people’s lives, and that’s how I developed the character of Lila.”
Hunt is currently looking for her next project as Frozen River heads into wide release with rave reviews. Though the film’s 24-day shoot was “fast and intense,” she admits that she’s imagined continuing the story: “In my mind there’s a 10-part sequel where every week a person of a different nationality or different culture could jump out of [Leo’s character’s] trunk.” —Zack Smith
The Servant of Two Masters
Deep Dish Theater
Through Sept. 13
Commedia dell’arte is one of the most influential forms of stage comedy, but be forewarned—anyone who’s complained about the two-hour-plus running times of Judd Apatow’s comedies has never sat through an 18th-century farce.
Such is the case with Deep Dish Theater’s production of Carlo Goldoni’s The Servant of Two Masters, directed by Derrick Ivey. Masters is a classic of Italian theater that employs many of the tropes associated with classic farce—lots of slammed doors, mistaken identities, threats of tragedy and a resolution that brings everyone together in the end. However, the farce is structured in such a way that it sometimes slows down the overall plot—while the plot sometimes threatens to drag the farce to a halt.
The play’s titular servant is Truffalindo (a male role played by veteran Laurie Wolf), a servant of Beatrice (Susannah Hough), who has disguised herself as her deceased brother, who in turn was promised to Clarice (Flynt Burton), who is now engaged to Silvio (Lance Waycaster). Adding to the confusion, Truffalindo decides to moonlight for Florindo (Hampton Rowe from Dearly Beloved and Orson’s Shadow), who also happens to be Beatrice’s lover. Additional complications ensue.
The play is at its best in the scenes where Truffalindo struggles with his double-duty—there’s some impressive physical comedy from Wolf, and also from Lamont Reed as the ambidextrous Portino. However, this particular translation often feels like two plays, with the various relationships existing separately from Truffalindo’s antics. It might have helped the production if they’d focused more on the servant part, which has been highlighted in their promotions. With intermission, the whole play runs about two hours and 20 minutes, resulting in funny scenes that drag because they have no purpose in moving the plot forward.
Masters clearly has a few updated touches—characters regularly sing 20th-century songs as they head in and out of scenes—so it might have been nice to trim much of the mistaken-identity plot and focus on Truffalindo’s tumbling. The play has an undeniable energy and good cheer when it emphasizes the physical hijinks, but as a whole, it might tend to wear an audience down. —Zack Smith
Reprinted from the Independent Weekly
Gods of Autumn
Hot Summer Nights at the Kennedy
Kennedy Theater; Progress Energy Center
Through Aug. 31
With a script and direction from Tony winner Jack Murphy and another Tony winner, Jarrod Emick, in the lead role, a certain amount of excitement swirled around Hot Summer Nights at the Kennedy’s world premiere of Gods of Autumn. That excitement, unfortunately, soon evaporated over the course of a play that employs seemingly every pretentious cliché known to theater.
Let’s start with the plot, which can best be described as: “Tony Soprano, Meryl Streep’s character in The Devil Wears Prada and … I don’t know, one of the nuns from Doubt, all get cancer.”
At a hospital, mob fixer Jimmy (Emick), fashion magazine editor Evelyn (Dorothy Recasner Brown) and shy Mary (Broadway actress Jessica Phillips) regularly find themselves in the same room awaiting treatment while a black-clad gentleman called “The Other Part” (Holden Hansen) wanders about, interacting with each in the form of their internal monologue. Jimmy, who’s tormented by an earlier incident involving his girlfriend Bernadette (also Phillips), finds himself drawn into a relationship with Mary, while Mary hides a secret and Evelyn deals with her abandoned rural roots in the form of her mother (Gilly Conklin, who plays two other roles).
Where does this go wrong? For starters, there’s Jimmy and Bernadette’s Long Island accents, Evelyn’s hackneyed character, the voiceover that awkwardly announces the flashbacks, the rear-projection that even more awkwardly introduces the flashbacks, the absolutely painful moment where The Other Part wanders into the audiences as he explains his true nature, and the lame running gag about Indian doctors.
Emick and Phillips give their all to their parts, and an extended sequence in a vertically mounted bed set actually works well as a short play on its own. But they can’t overcome the shortcomings of a script and direction that substitute broad stereotypes for perspective and insight. If the play were rewritten to focus on the relationship between these people from different backgrounds who bond over impending death, then you might have a sensitive, powerful story. Gods has potential, but it desperately needs to trim its fat. —Zack Smith
Catching Up with Dwight MacPherson – M-Theory and More
By Zack Smith
Dwight L. MacPherson has established himself as a prolific creator, with multiple new graphic novels and miniseries in 2008 alone. August sees the release of the second volume of his dark fantasy series, from Image, The Surreal Adventures of Edgar Allan Poo, along with a collection of his pirate-themed horror series, Dead Men Tell No Tales from Arcana Studios. And September brings a project MacPherson’s especially proud of, the 1950s-set pulp thriller M-Theory, co-written with Bruce Brown and featuring art by Mark Barentine. With all this going on, we went straight to MacPherson to find out more about these projects.
Read the Full Interview Here!
P. Craig Russell – Adapting Coraline and More
By Zack Smith
It’s hard to think of a genre that P. Craig Russell hasn’t interpreted in comics. From Oscar Wilde’s fairy tales to Mozart’s operas to Michael Moorecock’s tales of Elric, Russell’s unique combination of prose and pictures has made him one of the most popular and acclaimed artists around. His latest work is an adaptation of Coraline, the dark fantasy novel by his frequent collaborator, Neil Gaiman. Russell stopped by to talk with us about his history of adaptations, his collaborations with Gaiman, and the recent film and book looking back at his career.
Read the full interview here!