Monday, April 07, 2008

Shave and a Haircut--Two Bits

Bit, the first. I've had the same haircut (OK, hairstyle, I have got it cut pretty regularly) for a good, or perhaps not so good, 14 years. So, turning 45 I figured might as well try something new. Here's the best way to sum up the change: I used to get my haircut in a barbershop by a Mexican-American man for $14. Now I get my hair done in a salon with a name that's spelled oddly but provides a pronunciation key by a lesbian woman for $30. And I have a fauxhawk, and if I knew something like that existed, I would have done it just for the name years ago. I get to use product. Amy likes it (the new 'do, not the product), and that's what matters most. I like to giggle at myself so new fodder is important.

Bit, the second. We attended the tale of Sweeney Todd at the Ahmanson yesterday. I was crazy for the original back in high school when I lived close to New York and a Broadway play that could seem so aptly dark and twisted and full of puns appealed to me. Either it's still very much the same play or I'm still the same me, but I liked it just as much now. The John Doyle staging is quite clever--instead of putting a large spectacle in the frame of the dawn of the industrial age, it sets the play in an asylum, which of course might be the same thing. But this is the version in which the characters also play instruments--all the music comes from the cast. It certainly makes the play more intimate and claustrophobic, and therefore more chilling. The too large Ahmanson doesn't help, or perhaps it does--seeing this version of the play at the Taper might be too frightening. And it's not the throat-slashing that's the problem, it's how eagerly we root root root for the evil team--you can't help but like Mrs. Lovett, even as she bakes her devilly delicious meatpies. So if we like her, who are we exactly? Screw all the claptrap an Eli Roth puffs to excuse the torture porn of his Hostel movies--it's something like Sondheim's Sweeney Todd that really makes us question our darkest desires, our sense of how far is too far, whether revenge automatically tinges justice bloody.

For Sondheim beauty and horror are a mere slip of a blade apart. The loveliness of the ode "Johanna"--what a gorgeous melody--is ever undercut, as he can't help but point out the silliness of the ingenue lovers subplot, and therefore of all such young lovers parallel action in every play (suddenly in their duet Johanna ponders, "I don't know your name"). Then, in the song's reprise sung by Todd himself, it's even more corrupted, as if Todd's love could be much better than the Judge's. Even Todd at the song's end suggests we learn to say goodbye. (The "joke" of the play is goodbye? And how.) And we haven't even discussed Todd's and the Judge's duet on the equally haunting melody "Pretty Women"--how can these parallel monsters make such beautiful music together? Because one is filled with twisted love for his young ward and the other at the edge of a revenge he's dreamt of for 15 years?

Whatever the answer, you won't look away. And you will leave humming the songs.

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Blogger Drew said...

I'm trying to picture Fauxhawk George. In my head, for some reason, the new look is accentuated by bleach streaks. Also, it's a good ten inches off the top of your head.

I don't know why that is.

5:10 PM  
Blogger George said...

I'm saving the dye jobs for 50.

And it's not that high, as I certainly don't need more vertical.

5:31 PM  

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