Last week I watched the strangest and most elusive (well, until it was released on DVD last fall) Sondheim musical of all: Evening Primrose. Though I was aware of one of its lovely songs (I Remember, which was in one of my many Sondheim song books and which I sang with my voice teacher in high school), I had no idea that you can’t describe the plot to anyone without sounding that you are high on meth and hallucinating fever dreams. Anthony Perkins is a (terrible) poet who decides he is done with the cruel outside world so he moves into a department store and sings a song about how now his asshole neighbours won’t bug him anymore. But then it turns out he’s not so original – there’s a group of weird old people who used to be rich living in the department store already, plus Liesl from The Sound of Music, who fell asleep in the store when she was six and is now their maid (LESSON: Don’t fall asleep in department stores, no matter how cozy the fake beds look). At first he’s delighted, which doesn’t really make sense since he moved into the store to get away from people, but never mind. But soon he falls in love with Liesl and the creepy old people don’t like it and they threaten to call “the Dark Men”, who live in a funeral home and turn people into mannequins for some reason.

It’s good weird fun, and it’s less than an hour long. But the real discovery, for me, is the writer John Collier, who wrote the short story that Evening Primrose was based on. A bunch of his stories were turned into episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, which makes sense because Evening Primrose is very much in that vein, only with songs. And one of his stories, Green Thoughts, which is so supremely creepy I’m shivering just thinking about it, is said to be part of the inspiration for Little Shop of Horrors. Anyway, I found a weird little edition of Collier’s collection Fancies and Goodnights at a used bookstore, and I love them – most of them are strange little morality tales, contemporary fairy tales for grown-ups, which an appealing retro flavour since they were written in the 1930s.

The Aikido Network

February 11, 2011

My high school started in grade seven, but wee little seventh graders were exempt from exam week, and instead we were forced to participate in a series of random activities (a week which included, for some reason, a screening of Forbidden Planet, which completely baffled even the nerdiest of a very nerdy auditorium full of 12-year-olds in 1994). Anyway, my favourite of those activities was always Aikido (maybe because we were not just allowed, but encouraged to wear pyjama pants). Evidently, I liked it so much that I didn’t try it again for almost 20 years, when I wrote about it for the Post last week. It was a much more comfortable (for me) atmosphere than the high-aggression Krav Maga class I took a few years ago (I won’t lie, though, Krav Maga was pretty rad).

And apropos of nothing, last week’s Popcorn Panel was about The Social Network because nothing good is opening this winter so I’m getting caught up on Oscar nominees.

St. Popcorn of the Main

February 4, 2011

In this week’s Popcorn Panel, some tech nerds and I belatedly talk about the overrated but still very entertaining The Social Network (I’m getting caught up on Oscar nominees I missed the first time around). I still like Aaron Sorkin’s writing quite a lot and will quite happily watch almost anything he’s written, but you do have to psyche yourself up to tolerate his smugness. It all went down much easier on Sports Night, when he wasn’t important enough not to get jerked around by ABC.

And in The Toronto Star, I interviewed Peter Hinton and Eo Sharp, director and designer of Canadian Stage’s new production of Michel Tremblay’s St. Carmen of the Main.

In other news, there is nine pounds of pork butt in my refrigerator.