THIS JAM-PACKED CRAZY WEEK, PART I: THINGS TO FIND TIME FOR (Non-Fringe)


Stephen Fife

Stephen Fife

Writer, Non-Registered Critics


Sometimes there's just too much happening.  Too much to write about in a week in this surprising city, which appears to be so predictable and obvious – 80 degrees and sunny, ho hum – but has so many places that few people seem to see. Are the places hidden? No. But people drive by every day, completely oblivious. Which is great, because now the Twisted Hipster gets to tell you about them.

So you, sitting in front of your 48” flat screen, diligently plowing through your Netflix queue while keeping an eye out for anything of interest on those premium channels – I'll start with you.

So here's my only HIPSTER LAMENT of the week – for that vaunted reboot of TWIN PEAKS by David Lynch and Mark Frost (Showtime).

Jake Wardle, James Marshall and David Lynch behind the scenes of Twin Peaks. Photo: Suzanne Tenner/SHOWTIME

There are many fascinating scenes and brilliant, troubling visuals in the first five episodes – but oh that silly narrative!  I don't require linear storytelling by any means – and I appreciate a good anti-narrative – but there's just no attempt to create genuine human beings or explore the darker recesses of human behavior.  Many of us were delighted by Season 1 of the series in 1991, with its sense of an infernal corruption lurking beneath the Normal Rockwell exteriors of small-town American life. But Season 2 descended into self-parody and melodrama, becoming quite a bore.  The 25 year hiatus has done nothing to help Lynch rediscover his movie-making mojo.  For example: Detective Dale Cooper has mysteriously returned to earth with no sense of self whatever.  He's just a blank slate.  As such, he walks into a Las Vegas Casino and hits 30 jackpots in a row, winning $425,000 – all of which means nothing to him.  Which is fine – nothing means anything to him now.  But such a feat would draw enormous amounts of publicity in any world that I'm aware of, and yet it doesn't create even a ripple here.  Even when he helps a sad old lady win two jackpots of her own - something she would certainly tell everyone about.  So what world are we in anyway?   Not one that will have any interest, I fear, for other than diehard fans of Lynch's self-indulgently nostalgiac convolutions.

Carrie Coon in the series finale of THE LEFTOVERS

On the other hand, a big HIPSTER TIP for the series finale of THE LEFTOVERS (HBO), "The Book of Nora."  Even if you've never watched a single episode before, even if you've never liked a single episode before, you still have to check this one out.  First, there's the magnificent acting work of Justin Theroux, Christopher Eccleston and, most of all, Carrie Coon, whose brilliance is almost beyond belief, given the very difficult journey she has been asked to take.  But it is precisely that journey, and the wondrous narrative gamble that it involves, which makes this one of the great final episodes of any series.  Kudos to series creators and final episode writers Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta.  You have dreamed up such a rich and strange version of the world in your series, and you have saved your best for last.

Oh, and BEST GROOVE OF THE WEEK: “Dirty Old Town” from David Byrne's Rei Momo. 

Yes it's from 1989 (the real one, not the Taylor Swift version), but it never gets old.  Then again, “The Call of the Wild” and “Loco de Amor” are pretty great cuts too.  Hell, just put on this CD in your car on the grayest of days, and the entire sky will light up in Technicolor.  But watch out – your feet are gonna be dancin' all over those pedals!

Moving on to matters of THEATER – which is exploding right now in Los Angeles, exploding with talent and purpose and fearlessness.  Here are two shows closing very soon which I urge you to see.  They are without doubt two of the best shows I've seen this year and I wish I had time to see them again before they close.

NEXT TO NORMAL by Bryan Yorkey and Tom Kitt at East-West Players has been extended until June 18 – see it.  If you've never this power-punch of a musical before, see it.  If you've seen it on Broadway or at the Ahmanson or anywhere else, then see it again.  Because Deedee Magno Hall and Iso Briones, as the most troubled and troubling mother-daughter relationship in any musical this side of Carrie, are that good.  So is the rest of the cast.  Director Nancy Keystone has done beautiful work with the actors and has broken down the beats gloriously.  This is not suitable for children, but it's perfect for any adult who has lived and loved and suffered in the modern world.  And there are some lovely rock ballads.

THE GARY PLAYS by Murray Mednick and directed by Guy Zimmerman are 6 related plays presented in 3 separate installments by the Open Fist Company at the Atwater Village Theatre, and it has been extended one week, to June 10.  So you have one more chance to see each installment: Part I is on Thursday at 8, Part II is on Friday at 8 and Part III is on Saturday at 2 pm.  The plays are a real anomaly in the American cannon – epic in length and scope, yet intimate in feeling.  Director Zimmerman describes them this way: “The series is uniquely the product of the LA theatre community – it could not have been created anywhere else.  And Gary, an unemployed actor struggling with grief and self-recrimination after his only son's murder, is an iconic LA character.”  There's so much more to it – and Jeff Lebeau's depiction of Gary in the first 3 plays is so remarkable, so memorable, he simply crawls into the character's skin.  For my money, Part II is the best evening of theater I can remember seeing in Los Angeles, it just buzzes with emotional intensity.  My only criticism is that it's almost too much to take in, like eating three rich meals in one sitting.  I almost fainted from all the artistic calories, but I wouldn't have missed it for anything.  Hope you don't either.  And kudos to Martha Demson and the Open Fist Company of actors for bringing it all to such vivid life.

Favorite line, spoken by Rod Menzies as Daddyo: “I'm an old hipster, and I know what's what.”  Yeah.

Stephen Fife
Steve is a 5-tool writer (plays, screenplays, novels, poetry, journalism) who has had 11 books published, 10 plays produced, and has written for the New York Times “Arts & Leisure”, Village Voice, New Republic, and many others. He is one of the few people on the planet who can lay claim to spending time with Lee Strasberg, Stella Adler, Sandy Meisner, Allen Ginsberg, Andy Warhol, and Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, as well as so many other extraordinary people who refused to color inside the lines. He is always on the lookout for the original and the incisive.