Saturday, October 9, 2021

Short Takes: October 2021 - I

Persuasion, The Many Saints of Newark, Venom: Let There Be Carnage

Persuasion (c) Ashley Garrett

Theater: Persuasion 
Bedlam Theater 

I’m sort of new to Bedlam, a theater company whose agenda seems to be put a contemporary spin on classic works, with one of their most successful shows being Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility” from a few years back, which I didn’t see. Their current show is an adaptation of another Austen novel, “Persuasion,” and the production seems to have the same humor and irreverence as their mandate, but still in keeping with the integrity and spirit of the original novel (which I must confess wasn’t evident in some recent Bedlam shows like “Peter Pan” and “Uncle Romeo Vanya Juliet”). Standout actors include Arielle Yoder, as our easily persuadable heroine, Anne Elliot, who mostly has to keep a straight face during the clowning of the rest of the cast, and Jamie Smithson, who is the clown most responsible for these laughs. There are some odd choices here and there (the sheep?) but overall, this is a fine and fun look at one of Austen’s lesser-known novels. 

The Many Saints of Newark  (c) Warner Bros

Film: The Many Saints of Newark 
In cinemas and HBO Max 

I have never seen a single episode of “The Sopranos,” and I’ve heard people query, would “The Many Saints of Newark” work without knowing a thing about the legendary show? I do know some things: Tony is the head of the mob and he goes to a psychiatrist. I know the actors who made their mark in the show, and I know the “Don’t Stop Believin’” of it all and that’s about it. I just don’t like mobster movies or TV shows because it’s always “same story, different ways of killing.” “Saints” doesn’t deviate from the usual mob tropes and thus the characters, and so I didn’t find the story really compelling. While the story makes sense for us few “Sopranos” virgins, there are way too many ancillary supporting characters, which I figure means more to the show’s fans. Alessandro Nivola finally gets to be the lead of a movie and his Dickie is pretty well drawn. The 1960s race riots in Newark provides the backdrop to the best parts of this movie, mostly seen through the eyes of Harold (Leslie Odom Jr.) but I couldn’t help but wonder: “How many African American characters were even in the pilot of ‘The Sopranos?’”

Venom  (c) Sony Pictures

Film: Venom: Let There Be Carnage 
In cinemas 

Do you remember “Garfield Without Garfield,” the cheeky redo of the Garfield comic strip, with Garfield edited out, and a sort of deranged Jon left talking to no one? This is essentially what we’re watching in “Venom: Let There Be Carnage,” the sequel to 2018’s “Venom,” which now seems rather quaint and fun compared to the chaotic mess of this movie. Venom, the outer space symbiote, mostly talks to his human host Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy, who we must remind ourselves is an Oscar nominee for “The Revenant”) in his head when he’s around other people. And when Venom does appear, they bicker so much that it reminds me of another comic strip, “The Lockharts.” Oh, and there are three other Oscar-nominated actors (Michelle Williams, Woody Harrelson and Naomie Harris) in the background as well, which is just depressing. (Thankfully, newly nominated Riz Ahmed didn’t come back from the first movie.) I’m sure all these talented actors will survive this “Carnage.” Not so much the audience.