September 8th, 2003

Hamlet, 08-30-03

Haven't had much time lately, and a few things to catch up. The 30th was beautiful day for a drive to Spring Green and American Player's Theatre's matinee of Hamlet. Premier leading man James DiVita had the title role,and gave an orginal rading of the part which emphasised the character's mordant wit over the gloom. I did not think the attempt entirely successful, since the energy added to the role sometimes overpowered the text. After Hamlet's first encounter with his father's ghost, he swears his vengance with such fury that it seems he should immediately seek out and slay Claudius. It is a jarring disjunct when this is immediately followed by the first of his "melancholy-mad" scenes. Similarly, the supporting cast is tasked with a lot of screaming and running during the climactic duel and death scene, which, although perhaps realistic, detracts from the language and the pace of the tragedy. The other standout performance was Polonius, who avoided pomposity in the famous "neither a borrower," speech, although the text traps him into the garrulous old man role later on.

Ganesh Chathuri, 08-31-03

On Saturday night, the 31st, we joined friends for dinner in celebration of the birthday of Ganesha, the Hindu god of scholarship, who is also the breaker of barriers. We went to the "Dancing Ganesha" restaurant on Brady Street in Milwaukee, an upscale restaurant that combines traditional Indian dishes with nouvelle cusine and a formidable wine list. Finding parking downtown at the height of the Harley 100 festival was challenging, but that being overcome, a good time was had by all.

Open Range, 09-01-03

On Labor Day, we went to the South Shore cinema to see the new Western Movie, "Open Range," starring Robert Duvall and Kevin Costner. Set in the 1880's this covers one of the 'range war' periods, when there were tensions between established ranchers and 'free grazers'--entrepeneurs who owned cattle but no land, and lived a nomadic existence grazing the cattle on the 'open range'--theoretically publicly owned land, free for all, but in practice frequently and ferociously claimed by the homesteaders. This conflict continues in our Western states to this day in a slightly altered form. I found the conflict interesting, since I had been aware of the "cattle vs. sheep" wars, and the "ranchers vs. sodbusters (farmers)" battles, but this internicene stife between cattlemen of different stripes was new to me. Duvall and Costner are Boss and ramrod of a small 'outfit' that falls foul of a rancher's territorial ambitions. It is also interesting that the big rancher (played by Michael Gambon)is an Irish immigrant, his desire for land and the control of it warped by poverty in the old country into greed and lust for power. The story deals with some of the Western classical themes of the "a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do" types with sensitivity. Costner, playing one of the (apparent legion) men who had been guerrila raiders during the Civil War insists that he doesn't mind killing, but is haunted by the memories of his deeds. The inevitable climactic gun battle is well done and historical in things such as the ultimate shootout between Duvall and Gambon occurring at literal arm's length. Annette Benning has a very good role as the lonely aging sister of the town doctor, and if she HAS to run into the middle of the gunfight, at least it is because she is in pursuit of her patient, the youngest of Duvall's men, who has gotten out of bed to join the battle.

Very well done and enjoyable of type.