We had the pleasure of attending a production of the Carly Mensch play Oblivion this weekend. It's a four-character family dramedy, where the first act is almost a sitcom but the end of Act One and most of Act Two supply the drama.

Two "cool" parents in their 40s struggle to connect with their teenage daughter. She is looking to organized religion to help explain her world, which drives her parents a bit nuts, particularly Mom (shades of The Americans). The performances are good, as is the play, although the somewhat happy ending was a disappointment after spending time with Nietzsche.

The main reason we were there was to see our friend Arthur Keng. We've been following his acting career for a long time, now ... there aren't many posts here with the "theater" tag, but they can be broken down into two categories: famous people come to Berkeley Rep, and Arthur. Since he went to SoCal, we don't get to see him as often, but he is guesting in Oblivion in Sacramento, so you know we had to be there. (It worked out perfectly ... I hope Arthur agrees ... after the matinee performance, we went over to Sara and Ray's house and went out for dinner, meaning Arthur got to meet the irrepressible Félix.)

Not only did we get a chance to see Arthur's latest role (he was quite good, with several monologues I'll get to in a second), bnt his character was a teenaged filmmaker who obsessed over ... Pauline Kael. Once in a while, he'd give one of those monologues, which amounted to him reciting letters he was writing to Pauline, thinking aloud and asking for her advice. A parallel is drawn between his connection to Kael and the daughter's attempt to communicate with God ... it's only a bit of a stretch to say both teens are up to the same thing. The daughter knows that Nietzsche said God was dead, and Arthur's character has a similarly deflating moment when he finds out Kael had died a long time ago.

The bios in the program draw our attention to Mensch's participation in Weeds, and I can see that, although as far as I can tell, she came on during the later, lesser seasons. Mostly, though, I mention the program because of something Robin noticed as we sat awaiting the start of the play.

She nudged me and pointed at Arthur's bio, which includes the following: "Arthur would like to dedicate this show to Steven, the biggest Kael fan around, and to Steven's amazing wife Robin. Their support has always, and will always, mean the world to him."

First time I wanted to cry before the play had even started.

Oblivion runs at the B Street Theatre in Sacramento through April 19.

the 2015 rubio begonias

Tonight was our fantasy draft. I promise not to talk about it much, if at all, during the season. But here is my team (10-team league, AL+NL players, 5x5):

  • C: Carlos Santana, Russell Martin
  • 1B: Jose Abreu, Chris Carter
  • 2B: Mookie Betts, Ben Zobrist, Josh Harrison
  • 3B: Kyle Seager
  • SS: Jhonny Peralta
  • OF: Mike Trout, Starling Marte, Matt Kemp
  • SP: Chris Sale, Alex Wood, Michael Pineda, Jose Quintana, Brandon McCarthy
  • RP: Kenley Jansen, Jonathan Papelbon, Sean Doolittle, Brad Boxberger, Ken Giles, Brett Cecil, Luke Gregerson, Sergio Romo

what i watched last week

An Autumn Afternoon (Yasujirô Ozu, 1962). Ozu's last film, like so many during his career, is instantly recognizable ... the low-level camera and the lack of camera movement take care of that, even before we get to the plot and realize that once again, Ozu has returned to a story about a family with a daughter at the age to be married. Although the idiosyncratic nature of his style by definition draws attention to itself, Ozu always manages to give a feeling of "real life", as if a static camera suggests a documentary. Throughout, I felt like I was missing something because I wasn't a Japanese viewer in 1962, but rather an American in 2015. The class structure that affects relationships among the characters isn't always clear to me, but it seems to be very clear indeed to the characters. The struggle to be true to that structure means people rarely speak their minds without resorting to allusion. Drinking loosens tongues, though. Some lovely acting here, and this is another must-see for fans of Ozu, even if it isn't quite the masterpiece that is Tokyo Story. #252 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don't They list of the top 1000 films of all time. 8/10. A companion film would be Ozu's Late Spring.

My Summer of Love (Pawel Pawlikowski, 2004). Nicely drawn tale of two teenage girls from different backgrounds who come together one summer. Emily Blunt (Tamsin) is properly beautiful as the rich one; Natalie Press (Mona) dresses in a thrown-together manner that befits her casual, working-class status. It's easy to see why Mona is taken with Tamsin, but it doesn't initially play as you might expect. Tamsin seems to have real feelings for Mona, which Mona matches, but Mona is never condescended to. Or so it seems. A series of revelations at the end of the movie show that more was going on with Tamsin than Mona realized. That realization makes the movie a bit more generic, but the buildup, and the interaction between the two actresses, makes their summer of love believable, and thus makes the end of summer surprising. #463 on the TSPDT list of the top 1000 films of the 21st century ... it benefits greatly from the new format that expands the list from 250 to 1000 films. 7/10. If you'd like to create a double-bill, go with Heavenly Creatures.