Sunday, July 21, 2024

Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

 

Source of book: Audiobook from the library


This is another last-minute impulse selection - it was available and sounded interesting to finish out our trip. My kids are teens (except for the adult ones who weren’t on this trip) so adult level books are now a part of our regular rotation.

 


 


I have previously read Marquez’ best known novels, Love in the time of Cholera and 100 Years of Solitude. This book is a short novella, which, as it turns out, was loosely based on real events. 


One of Marquez’ childhood friends was involved in a similar situation (although the details seem to be in dispute.) Once the book came out, there was actually a lawsuit by one of the murderers, claiming that the book had ruined his reputation, which is a rather interesting twist. In any case, Marquez wrote a story that was somewhat different from the real case, and sold it as fiction, not fact. 


The narrative is told by a man (the author, essentially), who investigated the events - it is faux journalistic in tone, and very non-linear. We find out about the murder immediately, but the facts surrounding things are filled in gradually until the very end. 


The real life story is this: a man married a young woman, discovered she wasn’t a virgin on her wedding night, and sent her back to her parents. The young woman’s brothers, furious at this, sought out her ex-boyfriend (who deflowered her), and brutally murdered him. 


As will become apparent, the fictional story is different, and less mundane. 


In the story, a mysterious and dashing man, Bayardo, shows up at the village, openly seeking a beautiful wife. He picks Angela, a working-class girl who doesn’t love him, but whose family can’t refuse an obviously rich man. (And, as it turns out, he is the son of a famous general who won glory in a fictional war alluded to in 100 Years of Solitude…) Angela, who apparently intended to remain single, is horrified, but she has no choice. 


Just prior to the marriage, Angela confesses to her lack of virginity, although she refuses to give any further information. She is given the tools to fake things - an astringent to make her vagina dry and “tight,” mercury to fake a blood stain, and so on. 


She decides, however, to eschew this fraud, and straight up tells her husband on their wedding night. He brings her back to her parents, and the drama begins. 


After her mother beats her, she is forced to give up the name of the man who slept with her. She names Santiago Nassar, because he is the son of a wealthy Arab merchant, and she figures nobody would dare to harm such a wealthy and popular man. 


Her brothers decide, however, that family honor demands it. But, they aren’t all that happy with this. 


Much of the book examines, from multiple perspectives, what goes wrong and leads to the murder. Because we know from the first sentence that Santiago Nassar is a dead man. 


And what goes wrong is this: everyone except Nassar knows that the Vicario brothers have said they will murder Nassar, but nobody warns him or stops the brothers. 


There are various reasons for this. First, almost nobody believes the brothers are serious. And it is hard to blame people for this belief. The brothers go about things clearly hoping someone will stop them - they don’t want to kill him, but they need to be prevented from doing so in order to say that they tried. I mean, they are practically begging for people to stop them - telling anyone who will listen of their intentions, delaying the act and getting drunk, and so on. 


The other reason is that everyone seems to think the murder threat is someone else’s problem, or even that someone else has already stopped the brothers. The most we get is the Colonel confiscates the knives. And, this almost works. For a hot minute, the brothers debate if this is enough to relive them of their duty, before deciding to go back and get other knives. 


Really, it is just a woman, Clotilde the milk shop owner, who believes there is a risk, but she is stuck in the shop, and everyone she tries to get to warn Santiago fails to do so. 


It is a total shit-show, where what needed to happen never happens, and we end up with a dead body. 


There is so much of this book that is darkly humorous. And in fact, if the murder never happened, it would be a real gas. But, there is a brutal murder. 


We get to hear in graphic detail about the murder twice. First, about halfway through with the autopsy report, and then at the end, when the murder is recounted. If you are prone to bad dreams, man, these scenes are rough. Reader beware.


There are a couple of crazy twists in the book - so, stop reading if you don’t want spoilers. I decided to discuss them because I think they are fascinating and do a lot to further Marquez’ vision for the book. 


In real life, it was clearly the ex-boyfriend who had sex with the young woman. In this book, we never learn who did the deed. Angela never confesses. 


All we get are strong hints that, whoever the man was, it wasn’t Nassar. There is no evidence the two knew each other particularly well (other than in the way a small town is), and Angela was kept pretty much at home. Which is why, when Nassar finds out (just before his death) that he accused of relations with Angela, he is so stunned and misses his opportunity to protect himself. The whole thing is a surprise to him. 


This isn’t to say Santiago is truly innocent - he has seduced more than a few girls, and has a habit of sexually assaulting his servants, so he isn’t the most sympathetic guy. He’s definitely an entitled rich fuck. But he doesn’t deserve murder. 


The second twist is that Angela, who disliked Bayardo at first, and didn’t want to marry him - and in fact essentially sabotaged the marriage - sees him at a distance later and falls in love. 


For the next 17 years, she writes him love letters, with no response. Then, shockingly, he shows up - now old, pudgy, and balding, and carrying all the letters….unopened. A bit of a nod, perhaps, to Love in the Time of Cholera


This is totally fiction, with no parallel in the real life story. But interesting as art. One wonders if Bayardo had ignored the sexual history, and done a Taming of the Shrew thing, if the marriage might have ended up happy. 


Given the premise of the book, it is difficult to know exactly what Marquez’ opinion of the culture he describes actually is, but I would say it is not particularly positive. Honor culture - and honor killings - accomplish nothing other than death and destruction. 


Three families are essentially ruined by the events of this book. Nassar is the only child, so the family line dies out. The Vicarios are forced to leave town. The brothers spend three years in prison, before being acquitted at trial (under an antiquated law) - but they have to start over in new places where they are not known. Bayardo never married or had children, and seems broken by the events, and traumatized by the murder. Angela spends her life in a fantasy world. 


For that matter, the town itself is irrevocably damaged. Everyone is left with guilt that they failed to prevent a tragedy, failed to make things right, and lost their chance at gaining a famous and rich resident. 


Chronicle of a Death Foretold is an interesting and unique book. It is a bit gratuitously bloody, but also a fascinating look at honor culture, and the harmful effects of passivity in the face of threatened violence. 





Saturday, July 20, 2024

The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami

Source of book: Audiobook from the library

 

Having exhausted my initial supply of audiobooks that I borrowed for our trip, and realized I needed either another medium-long one, or a couple of short ones, to get us home. Since I replaced my old truck (with an old-school CD player) with a new one, I have switched over to using Libby for our audiobooks. This comes with the advantage of being able to borrow books from the Los Angeles County Library system, which is better funded than the network of San Joaquin Valley libraries. (This is a travesty, and yet another symptom of how Right Wing areas throughout our nation devalue the arts, knowledge, and education. This is different from when I was a child, and a significant reason that educated people continue to exit the GOP.) 

 

It is one thing to request books in advance - just check the wait time, and make a good estimate as to how far in advance of a trip to request it - and another to browse the “available now” lists, which are a total grab bag. 

 

I started punching in random authors that I liked and thought the kids might be old enough to be introduced to, and found that a couple of novellas by foreign language writers were available. 


 

The first of these was this short work for children by Haruki Murakami. Since I have enjoyed Murakami over the years, and figured teens were old enough to understand his weird imagery and surreal plots, I grabbed this one. At only an hour long, it is almost as short as a short story, but long enough to build real characters and contain several of the usual Murakami tropes. 

 

The basic idea is this: the narrator, a boy of vaguely older school age, visits the library on the way home from school. But today, the library is…strange. When he asks for a book, he is directed to a creepy old man in an office in the basement. 

 

And that’s the most normal part of the story. Soon, he is being escorted through a seemingly endless labyrinth under the city, locked in a jail cell, and introduced to a “sheep-man” who will keep him fed while he memorizes the books he has requested. 

 

As it turns out, the old man intends to eat his brains later - and brains filled with knowledge are much creamier. 

 

Clearly, he has to figure out how to escape. With the assistance of the sheep-man and a mysterious bird-girl who waxes and wanes with the moon, he makes his escape, only to find that his world has changed. 

 

So yes, very Murakami. And wistful and creepy and surreal. 

 

Several of the common Murakami images appear in this book, although the idea of the well is missing. (As is the weird sex - this is a children’s book after all.) Instead, his other common metaphor for the subconscious is used: the labyrinth of underground passages. I have found these in most of his books (the only exception being the realistic novel Norwegian Wood.) 

 

There is also a bird who is not just a bird, but perhaps a symbol of a part of his psyche. Is it hope? The superego? Budding sexual desire? 

 

The monstrous, terrifying, and supernatural being is there in the form of a giant dog (which is also associated with an early-childhood trauma), and the sinister older man. Again, definitely typical Murakami.

 

The other missing element in this case was pop or classical music, which plays significant parts in many of his books. But, in something this short, you can’t have it all. 

 

I rather enjoyed his brilliant descriptions, which have a unique flavor even in translation. His ability to blur the lines between reality and the supernatural (in the sense of Magical Realism) and alternative realities (bleeding into Science Fiction) is a technique I rather enjoy. 

 

The Strange Library occupies this weird borderland. Is it a horror story? Yes. Is it Magical Realism? Maybe. Or maybe it is SciFi? And how on earth did he decide on Tax Collection in the Byzantine Empire as his arcane topic? It is simultaneously out of left field and brilliant. I suspect that Murakami, like me, read the encyclopedia for fun as a child, because these weird niche areas of knowledge pop up in his books fairly frequently. 

 

The kids seemed to enjoy this one, so that was good. I personally love Murakami, and, since this was at the end of a long trip, it was nice to have something fairly easy to follow for our final book. 

 

***

 

The Murakami list:

 

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

Norwegian Wood

Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World

Underground

 

Friday, July 19, 2024

Hurricane Child by Kacen Callender

Source of book: Audiobook from the library

 

Throughout my kids’ childhoods, I have tried to find books from diverse authors for us to share together. A benefit of this approach is also finding good books that we might not otherwise have discovered. 

 

Given the current political climate, with book bans targeting schools and libraries on a scale not seen since the Comstock Era, I also figure that the authors targeted by bans and the brave librarians who stand up to the bigots need all the encouragement they can get.

 

There are some fascinating trends in book banning. First, most are targeted at books for children and young adults, rather than regular adult books. Second, books written by people of color, women, and LGBTQ people are far more likely to be targeted. This is important, because it isn’t so much the content that is the reason for the bans, but the perspective. Book banners want to eliminate the stories of people who are not white, cishet, and right wing. 

 

Another interesting fact about bans is that they seem to be most common in certain places. Surprisingly perhaps, it isn’t the most reactionary right wing places that are most likely to attempt bans. Rather, it is places with changing demographics: where the percentage of right-wingers is shrinking. Although the data isn’t broken down along other lines, I suspect that these are also - not coincidentally - areas in which other demographic changes are occurring: more brown-skinned people, younger people, more educated people are coming, and the older, whiter, less educated reactionary faction is feeling displaced. 


Hurricane Child is about as close to the platonic form of the banned book as possible. It is written by Kacen Callender, who is black, Caribbean (US Virgin Islands), queer, and non-binary. And the book is about the usual bogeymen of the right: racism, sexual orientation, and bullying. 

 

Caroline is a 12 year old girl, going through puberty. She also has had her mother abandon the family a year prior, the Catholic school she attends is a hellhole of bullying peers and teachers ranging from clueless to openly hostile, and she is being targeted by a particular mean girl who is richer and lighter skinned. 

 

As the darkest child there, she is a natural target. But also, she is introverted, hurting from her family situation, and the sort of child who can’t simply be passive. (Hey, I really identified with that. At least as a homeschooled kid, I didn’t have the whole bullying thing.) 

 

There is a lot going on for Caroline. She is trying to survive school - and at least for her father’s sake, not get kicked out. But more than anything, she wants to find out why her mother left and has never come back to see her. 

 

And then, a new girl comes to school, Kalinda. Briefly, it appears that Kalinda might also be bullied, until it becomes clear that she has a knack for turning things on their heads, and she suddenly finds herself popular. Kalinda is no mean girl, though, and Caroline senses that, just maybe, they might be friends. 

 

Caroline takes a huge risk and asks Kalinda to sit with her at lunch, and is shocked when Kalinda agrees. From then on, the two become friends…and Caroline realizes she is feeling more than just friendship. 

 

At the same time, the principal tries to help Caroline, and reveals that she was once close friends with Caroline’s mom. In fact, they once dreamed of getting married. The principal has carried a flame for Caroline’s mom ever since. 

 

The rest of the book is fairly exciting. Caroline is outed as a lesbian by the bully, which freaks Kalinda out for a while - particularly since she returns those feelings but, for religious reasons, can’t admit it to herself. 

 

But also, Caroline has to find her mother, and discovers that her father has been lying to her this whole time. Her mother is there on the island. Kalinda and Caroline play hooky and do their best to solve the mystery before Kalinda has to move back to Barbados. 

 

I won’t spoil things more than that, but say that the story, while dramatic, is reasonably plausible and quite exciting. 

 

The writing is also excellent. Calendar captures the tricky and overwrought emotions of middle school, as well as the treacherous and unfair dilemma our bigoted society places queer kids in, where growing into their own identities is considered sinful and evil. (A burden that is never placed on cishet kids.) The bullying is pretty painful - because it is realistic. It is the exact sort of immature yet incredibly hurtful shit that kids of that age do. 

 

The love story is very much age appropriate. In fact, even a kiss remains an unfulfilled desire. It is a really sweet romance, with two kids figuring out who they are and who they love. The author also leaves open the possibilities. Perhaps the girls will be reunited some day. But also, perhaps this will just be a middle school crush that they both remember fondly. What is certain is that the two of them were loving to each other, and the memories will be happy. And that’s as good of a result as any of us hope for from young love. 

 

Another reason this book will be hated by right wingers is that it hits on a theme I have written about recently. There is a lot of talk on the right about “parental rights” - meaning the right of a parent to own and control and even abuse their children and teens. 

 

In this book, most of the central drama - and trauma for Caroline - is caused by terrible behavior by adults. Her mother had her own demons, of course, but her choice to simply disappear from her child’s life is inexcusable, and, while there is a reconciliation in the book, I can’t see that relationship going back to normal. 

 

Caroline’s dad should have told her the truth - a kid of twelve is old enough to understand mental illness and suicide. But more than that, children (and maybe all of us?) will fill in the worst possible reasons when we don’t know the real ones. Of course Caroline assumed that her mother found her unloveable. That’s what children do. Which is why you owe them the truth about a failing marriage, or whatever it is that causes upheaval. Age appropriate doesn’t mean lying or hiding stuff. 

 

Likewise, Caroline’s teacher aids the bullies rather than stopping them. While I don’t think most teachers are like that, there are some who definitely are. There are some adults like that, who get off on bullying children. I wonder if the author had a teacher like that. 

 

I want to comment on a dynamic in this book that parallels real life. Children who bully don’t do so in a vacuum. There are always adults who enable the bullying. 

 

In this book, there are two adult-level factors that enable Anise to hurt Caroline - even to the point of physical violence. First is the culture, which determines who is “out” and who is “in.” Caroline’s immutable features, from her skin color to her sexuality to her abandonment by her mother marks her as fair game for violence. The blame for that falls on all of us. 

 

The second factor is a teacher who not only looks the other way, but actually reinforces the bullying by punishing Caroline for retaliating for harm. I have noticed that this is very common in bullying situations, whether at school, the workplace, or in families like my own. (Birth and extended.) A bully feels free to operate because they know that an authority can be manipulated to join in the punishment. 

 

Often, along with this is another authority figure who chooses to look the other way, or is simply unable to understand what is going on. In this book, the principal fits this role. She tries, but lacks the awareness or the skills to take action against the bully. 

 

The key truth here, though, is that if there is a problem with bullying, the responsibility ultimately doesn’t rest primarily with the child who is bullying others. It rests with the adults. When a child feels they can abuse others with impunity, it is because they know the grownups will shield them from consequences. Anise can hit Caroline with rocks because the teacher will punish Caroline for throwing the rock back. 

 

This is very much applicable to the dynamics of my birth family, and a significant reason my parents and I are estranged. 

 

The principal is really the only adult who is trying, even if she is too removed from the situation to really understand the dynamics of the bullying. Of all the adults in the book, I suspect she may be the only one that Caroline will have good feelings about as an adult, and that is a shame. 

 

The lesson here is that children are humans too, not little clones, not sub-human creatures, and certainly not objects to be owned and jacked around at will. Children deserve respect and empathy and truth. 

 

I want to mention in closing the most powerful line in the book. Kalinda is still freaking out about Caroline’s attraction to her, and starts talking about religion and the Bible. Any of us who survived authoritarian fundamentalism, even if we were cishet, know that feeling. Caroline, who has spent a lot of time thinking about this, responds:

 

“White people once used the Bible to say that we should be slaves.” 

“What does that have anything to do with this?” 

“Everything,” I tell her. “It means we should think for ourselves. Decide if something is wrong just because someone says it’s so, or decide it’s right because that’s how we feel.” 

 

That’s the crux of it. Do we take responsibility for our own beliefs? Or do we go along with “someone told me this is what God says.” Because that is what it is. Period. An interpretation of what people from thousands of years ago thought. The opinions of other humans. 

 

Using your own experience is no more “subjective” than outsourcing your morality to what other people said and are saying. All you are doing by pretending to be objective when you say “the Bible says” is pushing the responsibility for your own beliefs off on to dead people - or the living people who told you what the Bible means. 

 

As Huck Finn once decided, if religion is about being cruel to others, then the only moral choice is to go to hell. 

 

This book is really excellent all around, with enough conflict, drama, love, excitement, mystery, and pacing to be a page turner. It makes its points, not with preachiness, but with nuanced portrayal of human emotion and experience. I would recommend it both for children of that age, and adults. 

 

The audiobook is read by Haitian actress Krystel Roche, who is fluent in multiple languages, and is renowned for her ability to utilize multiple accents. In this book, there is definitely a difference between the St. Thomas accent, and the Barbados accent. It took a bit of adjustment to get used to some of the pronunciations, but it was worth a little effort to get the feel of the rhythm. As a story about Caribbean people, the accent was part of the flavor. 

 

Thursday, July 18, 2024

The Double Comfort Safari Club by Alexander McCall Smith

 Source of book: Audiobook from the library

 

Hey, another long trip, another Alexander McCall Smith book. 

 

For those who want to brush up on the full set of McCall Smith books we have listened to:

 

 #1 Ladies Detective Agency series:

 

The Tears of the Giraffe (#2 in the series)

Morality for Beautiful Girls (#3)

The Kalahari Typing School For Men (#4)

The Full Cupboard of Life (#5)

In the Company of Cheerful Ladies (#6)

Blue Shoes And Happiness (#7)

The Good Husband of Zebra Drive (#8)

The Miracle at Speedy Motors (#9)

Tea Time for the Traditionally Built (#10)

 

Sunday Philosophy Club series:

 

The Sunday Philosophy Club

 

Professor Dr. Von Igelfeld series:

 

Portuguese Irregular Verbs

 

Other books:

 

La’s Orchestra Saves the World

 

***


 

As usual, this book contains multiple threads, a leisurely pace, homespun wisdom, and a lot of tea. 

 

In fact, a minor question of tea threatens to turn into a major conflict: since more regular tea is drunk at the #1 Ladies Detective Agency than bush tea, should the teapots be switched to reflect this? 

 

Each book has its own emphasis, and this one focuses more on the two women than on the other characters. Charley and Fanwell (the apprentices) get very little time on the page, as does Mr. Polopetsi. We hear nothing about the children. Even Mr. J. L. B. Matekoni is limited to a single important scene. Nothing wrong with this, just worth mentioning. 

 

The basic narratives in this book are as follows:

 

Mma. Makutsi’s fiance, Phuti Radiphuti, is badly injured when a truck hits him, and is forced to have his foot amputated. His controlling aunt, who already disapproves of the match, is determined to use the tragedy as a means of separating him from Mma. Makutsi. 

 

A well-known local midwife enlists Mma. Ramotswe to find evidence that her husband - a celebrity preacher - is cheating on her. But her answer to the question of what she intends to do leaves Mma. Ramotswe unsatisfied. And her discovery that the man in question isn’t cheating, but is experiencing a crisis of faith leads her to an unpleasant truth. 

 

Violet Sephotho returns as a recurring villain. This time, she has tricked a man into deeding her a house, based on her promise to marry him. More about this plot below, as I found parts of it implausible from the legal point of view. 

 

And, a letter from an American lawyer sends the detectives to the wilderness to track down a guide who has been left a legacy by a former guest - but neither the name of the guide nor the camp was remembered by the decedent. 

 

The first plot gets a lot of the attention, and for good reason. The somewhat subversive relationship between Grace and Phuti has been central to many of the books, and is a compelling story. After all, they have had to navigate complex emotions about gender parity and gender roles, class differences and social mobility, shyness and stuttering, and family complexities. We assume they one day will actually get married, but until then, the ups and downs of the relationship are a ride. The trajectory is good, however: both of them are learning to trust each other as time goes by. 

 

The question of infidelity takes a different turn than many similar cases in this series. I love that McCall Smith asks the question of what one would intend to do with that sort of information. I recall from my years of listening to Dr. Laura (before her weird racist breakdown) and she would often ask the same question. If you knew your spouse was cheating, what would be your next step? I think that matters a lot, because without a plan, there is a real tendency to just wallow in the drama. In this particular case, the woman’s desire for proof of infidelity actually says a lot about her, not about her spouse. 

 

It would have been interesting if there had been a deeper exploration of the problem of a priest losing his faith - maybe that will be in a later book. 

 

The resolution to the final mystery felt a bit overly scripted. Things worked out a bit too neatly, but even Mma. Ramotswe knows that, so perhaps it is an intentional satire of that kind of ending. The scenes with the ladies in rickety boats with the threat of lions and hippos and a guide who keeps telling scary stories are hilarious, making the whole thing worth it. The legal issue in this case is totally plausible - the kind of scenario that gives lawyers nightmares, particularly since we can’t count on the #1 Ladies Detective Agency in real life. 

 

The other legal issue, however, was problematic. Now, to be clear, I have zero knowledge of the Botswana legal system. I can only speculate that there should be some parallels to our own. 

 

The gist of the problem is this: the lawyer who draws up the deed has an obvious and glaring conflict of interest which would have been obvious to him before he drafted the document. His long-time client would have been an adverse party to that deed, and he should have immediately refused to do the work. I mean, this is elementary legal ethics, but seems to have been glossed by the author. 

 

Because of this problem, the solution to the dilemma makes no sense. The deed turns out to have the wrong legal description, and is rejected by the Recorder’s office. So, yes, the deed would need to be signed again, which the grantor would refuse to do. After that, likely there would be a lawsuit. 

 

Or, rather, two of them. One to enforce the agreement to transfer the house - and this one may or may not be successful. It is plausible that Violet would just drop the matter as she does in the book, not wanting her fraudulent promises to be made public. 

 

The other lawsuit, though, would almost certainly be successful, and that would be a malpractice suit against the lawyer. And, at least here in my home state, he would have been subject to significant discipline for the conflict of interest. 

 

So, that’s my two cents on that. 

 

If you don’t think too hard about the legal issues in the one case, then the book is otherwise quite enjoyable. As I have said before, these are best read in order, as many threads run through every book in the series. I expect we will continue to listen to the books as we travel. 

 

Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Something Rotten (Bakersfield College 2024)

My wife and I had seen Something Rotten just two years ago, at Ovation, so I wasn’t entirely sure if I would go see this version. Two things pushed me over the edge. 

 

First is that Bakersfield College is always on my list of local institutions that I want to support by contributing ticket sales and audience members. They punch above their weight consistently, due to their dedicated professors and a pipeline of local talent. 

 

In this case, BC is also pushing the limits by including the music department and putting together a musical each summer - with a live band including students, faculty, and a few local professionals. Live music is always a winner for me. 

 

Second, it turned out that Tevin Joslen was playing the role of Shakespeare, and, well, Tevin is a superstar in every role anyway, and Shakespeare seemed a perfect fit. Which is exactly how it turned out to be in this case. 

 

If I were to add a third reason, my kids’ school friend Callie Stein-Wayne landed the role of Shylock (and also did everything else with the ensemble - she can sing and dance and all that stuff.) This is probably her final show in Bakersfield, before she heads off for Chicago to continue her higher education. Callie, it has been a joy working with you and seeing you in action for all these years, and I wish you the very best! 

 

In my previous review, I discussed the plot, so I suggest clicking over there if you want a summary. In this post, I’ll just note the specifics of this production. 

 

Some differences were obvious. The BC indoor theater is a good bit larger than the small space at Ovation, so the cast could be a lot larger - probably triple the number of total dancers. Likewise, with a real orchestra pit rather than expecting the musicians to fit in the space usually occupied by insulation and the occasional rodent, there was room for a good sized group. 

 

And, I must say, under the direction of Scott Dirske, the band sounded great. Impressive work with the singers too, good balance - I was impressed, and thrilled to hear it. Way back in the 1990s, I used to play with the BC orchestra, and we never got to do musicals, unfortunately. I am glad to see a new generation carrying on the tradition. 

 

Another difference is that in this production, most of the cast was young - as expected for college. There were a handful of exceptions. Longtime music professor John Gerhold had a role as the puritanical Brother Jeremiah - his first appearance on stage in probably decades. Zach Payne took a turn as Nostradamus. And, as weird as it feels to say this, since Tevin Joslen is a high school theater teacher now, he probably qualifies as “old” to my kids’ generation. 

 

I’ll mention a few other standout performances: Jesse Magdaleno has been in everything lately, and it has been a joy to watch him grow as an actor, singer, and it appears, a dancer. He cut some pretty sweet tap moves in this one. He took on the lead role as Nick Bottom, and did a fine job. 


 Nigel and Nick

Aiden Flores came across as appropriately neurotic as little brother Nigel Bottom. Chloe Gomez showed some vocal chops as Portia, and had good chemistry mooning with Nigel. Sophia Payne was hilarious as Bea, forced to impersonate a man to support her struggling husband and his little bro. And of course, Callie as Shylock was her usual versatile and charismatic self. 


 

Oh, and, we cannot forget Joslen. The role of Shakespeare in this musical is one of the best - who doesn’t love Shakespeare as villain? Particularly with that absurdly large codpiece and tight leather pants. 

 

Joslen was made for the role, shaking his tush, gyrating his hips, snapping his fingers, and exuding sexuality and lugubrious charm. It was delicious. He is kind of like Prince when he is on stage: everyone else is there to revolve around him. Which is the point in this musical: that damn Bard sucks all the oxygen out of every room. I enjoyed every second of his performance. 

 

 Will Power!
 
 

This musical runs next weekend - Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. You can get tickets online here, or at the door. 

 

If you like Shakespeare…or if you hate Shakespeare. If you like musicals…or if you hate musicals. If you like bawdy humor - and if you don’t, well, I feel sorry for you. For any and all of these reasons, come on out and support our local community college in bringing delightful art to our city.