Birthday Candles Play Review

It’s amazing how quickly life goes by. One minute you’re a teenager with your whole future ahead of you. The next thing you know, you are holding your first grandchild.

This is the premise of the new Broadway play, Birthday Candles. Written by Noah Haidle, it tells the story of Ernestine (Debra Messing). The audience initially meets her as a starry-eyed seventeen-year-old and then follows her throughout the years, ending when she is one hundred and seven. As she goes through the various stages of life, she bakes a cake for each birthday. Among those who come in and out of Ernestine’s life is Enrico Colantoni (Just Shoot Me), who plays her long-time neighbor, and John Earl Jelks, who plays both her husband and grandson.

I’ve been a fan of Messing since Will & Grace. She was the reason I wanted to see the play. I was impressed with not just her performance, but the performances of all of the actors. Instead of aging via prosthetics and makeup, they rely on posture, changes in costumes, props, and wigs. It is a magnificent narrative and a treatise on life, family, and relationships.

My only problem is that the end of the play could have been cut down a little bit. Other than that, it is a piece of theater that is remarkable and worth every second.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely. It is also 90 minutes without an intermission.

Birthday Candles is playing at the American Airlines Theater in New York City until May 29th, 2022. Check the website for tickets and showtimes.

Being the Ricardos Movie Review

I Love Lucy is one of those television programs we have all seen. The antics of wannabe performer Lucy Ricardo (Lucille Ball) have kept audiences howling with laughter for seventy years.

The new movie, Being the Ricardos, written and directed by Aaron Sorkin, is a biopic that takes audiences into one turbulent week of the personal and professional lives of Ball (Nicole Kidman) and her then-husband, Desi Arnaz (Javier Bardem). While trying to go through the weekly process of putting together a show, issues in Ball and Arnaz’s home lives complicate matters. Lucy is pregnant again and trying to figure out how this change will be worked into the program, if at all. She also suspects that her husband is (again) cheating on her. To make matters infinitely worse, the McCarthy witch hunts have accused her of being a communist. If these allegations are proven true, everything that Lucy and Desi have worked for will be destroyed.

When I originally saw the trailer, I thought that Debra Messing would have been a better choice to play Lucille Ball. I was wrong. Kidman is fantastic in the role. We mostly see the woman behind the iconic role with snippets of her on-screen persona. She is tough, driven, intelligent, and able to succeed in a world dominated by men. Bardem is as close to the real Arnaz as this biopic could have gotten. He does not look like Arnaz, but the spirit of the man and his work is evident in Bardem’s transformation.

One thing that I greatly appreciated is the conversation between Ball and co-writer Madelyn Pugh (Alia Shawkat). Pugh points out that Lucy Ricardo is often infantilized, needing Ricky’s permission as if she was his daughter and not his spouse. The character is both a product of her era and an early feminist, pushing boundaries in a time when the ideal life of a woman was that of a wife and mother.

My main issue is not that Sorkin took liberties with the timeline of events. He is not the first and will not be the last screenwriter to do so. It is that this film is not as good as it could have been. It started to drag in at about the 2/3rds mark. By that point, I was starting to get a little antsy. Is this film entertaining and engaging? I would say so. Is it spectacular? No.

Do I recommend it? I am leaning toward yes.

Being the Ricardos is in theaters and available for streaming on Amazon Prime.

Will & Grace and The #MeToo Movement

Men using their power to use women for sex has existed for a millennia, if not longer.

Last week’s episode of Will & Grace addressed the #Metoo movement as only Will & Grace can.

In the episode, Grace (Debra Messing), is spending the day with her father, Martin (Robert Klein). While stopping at a restaurant, Grace reveals that she was sexually assaulted by a friend of her father’s whom she worked for in high school.

I loved this episode. Kudos to the writing team, Debra Messing and Robert Klein for addressing the issue of sexual assault in a way that hits home. The man who assaulted Grace is not a powerful politician or a movie mogul. He is simply an older man who thought that he had the right to sexually assault a teenage girl.

In the pantheon of Will & Grace episodes, this one is for the books. The writers could have hit the viewer over the head. But instead, they told the story of a young girl’s assault and how after it still affected her years after it happened.

Will & Grace Character Review: Leo Markus

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the television series Will & Grace. Read at your own risk if you have not watched either the previous series or the new series. For the purpose of this post, I am only referring the narratives in the original series, not the reboot.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Will & Grace to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

It’s not easy dating, especially when you live in a city that millions call home. But then fate rears its head and that special someone enters your life. In Will & Grace, that special someone for Grace (Debra Messing) is Leo Markus (Harry Connick Jr.). After years of so-so dates and boyfriends that were not the greatest, Leo is the perfect guy for Grace.

Leo is a Jewish Doctor (aka every Jewish mother’s ideal mate for their child). He is handsome, funny, charming and is willing to put up with Grace’s craziness. But Leo, like anyone of us, imperfect. He cheated on Grace with a colleague, effectively ending their marriage. After a brief time apart (and a short visit to the mile high club), Leo and Grace got back together and found their own happily ever after.

To sum it up: A good romance contains barriers to the potential couple’s happily ever after. Whether that is a physical barrier or an emotional barrier, something has to keep them apart. Though Leo is the romantic lead, he has a humanity to him, which not only makes him endearing to Grace, but to the audience.

Thoughts On the 20th Anniversary of Will & Grace

20 years ago today, an auspicious television series made it’s debut.

Will & Grace is the story of two best friends sharing a New York City apartment. Will Truman (Eric McCormack) is a gay lawyer. Grace Adler (Debra Messing) is a straight interior designer. Joined at the hip since college, Will and Grace are each other’s other half. Joined by Will’s wacky constantly out of work actor friend, Jack McFarland (Sean Hayes) and Grace’s always buzzed assistant/socialite Karen Walker (Megan Mullally), this foursome has become an icon of modern television.

What the audience did not know is while they were laughing, they were also being educated about the LGBTQ community. Before Will & Grace, gay characters were often stereotypes or side characters who were not given the opportunity to shine. Will & Grace opened hearts, minds and helped to lead the way for many of gains that the LGBTQ community has made over the last two decades.

I have been a fan of Will & Grace from nearly the beginning. It has made me laugh, it has made me cry and most of all, it has made me think.

Happy 20th anniversary, Will & Grace!

 

Will & Grace Character Review: Karen Walker

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the television series Will & Grace. Read at your own risk if you have not watched either the previous series or the new series.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Will & Grace to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

For every main character, there is a supporting character. Sometimes, this character is the zany and not all there sometimes, but they are just as important to the narrative as the main character. In the world of Will & Grace, this character is Karen Walker (Megan Mullally). Karen is Grace Adler’s (Debra Messing) “assistant”. Though truth be told, Grace uses Karen more for her contacts among New York City’s elite rather than her abilities in assisting Grace in the running of her business. Karen is more interested in shopping and her extensive collection of alcohol and pills rather than getting work done. Her often spoken of obese and mega-wealthy husband, Stan is heard, but never fully seen.

Karen takes great pleasure in mocking Grace for whatever she sees as an easy target. She also has a very interesting relationship with Jack McFarland (Sean Hayes) that is often symbiotic and mocks Will (Eric McCormack) as much as she mocks Grace. But underneath all that, Karen is there for her friends, through thick and thin.

To sum it up: While the supporting character is not given as much of the spotlight as the main character, it is important for the writer to give him or her their due. Karen works as a supporting character because not only is she the yin to Grace’s yang, but she also has enough of a back story to be a fully fleshed out character. Without that due and that fleshing out by the writers, Karen Walker would be just another flat supporting character that is neither seen or appreciated by the audience or reader.

Will & Grace Character Review: Jack McFarland

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the television series Will & Grace. Read at your own risk if you have not watched either the previous series or the new series.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Will & Grace to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

In any comedy duo there are two important archetypes: the straight man and the comic. On Will and Grace,  Jack McFarland (Sean Hayes) is the comic to Will Truman’s (Eric McCormack) straight man. If Will is trying to disprove the stereotype of the gay man, Jack is the iconic gay man. He is a drama queen, chases men like a dog chases a toy, loves show tunes and rarely has a serious relationship. While Jack tries to be a performer, his career in show business never quite gets to the level that he wishes it to be. As a result, he has had a series of jobs and is constantly relying on Will, Grace (Debra Messing ) and Karen (Megan Mullally) for financial assistance.

But even with all of that, Jack supports his friends and appreciates them. He is also the kind of character that helps to foster important conversations around the treatment and image of those in the LGBTQ community. Jack maybe based on a stereotype, but the character goes way beyond the stereotype.

To sum it up: Sometimes a character or a narrative, especially one based on a stereotype is not a bad thing. Especially when the character or the narrative can foster a conversation and create change that is long overdue. Jack resonates with audiences not just because he is a funny character, but because he has human qualities that many of us relate to. As writers, when we want to enact change to create a better world, we don’t get on our soapbox. We create characters and narrative that speak to and resonate with audiences or readers. That is the way to create effective change for the better.

Will & Grace Character Review: Grace Adler

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the television series Will & Grace. Read at your own risk if you have not watched either the previous series or the new series.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Will & Grace to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

For many, Grace Adler (Debra Messing) is the iconic New York City single woman. She is an interior designer, lives with her gay best friend, Will Truman (Eric McCormack) is single, a little neurotic and also a little crazy. Grace’s story line begins in the pilot when she has broken up with her fiance. Will too, is newly single and they decide to live together.

Grace was born and raised in the suburbs of New York City. The second of three girls, she has the tendency to be dramatic, selfish and tries to get stuff for free if she can. The owner of her own design firm, Grace “employs” socialite Karen Walker (Megan Mullally) as her assistant. Using Karen for her contacts rather than for her administrative skills, Grace is often the butt of Karen’s jokes. But over the years, they have become friends and rely on each other outside of the office.

But while Grace takes all of these jokes in stride, she just has a big heart and treats her friends like family.

To sum it up:  When creating a character, the important word to remember is balance. No character or human being for that matter, is entirely good or entirely bad. We all have a mix of good qualities and bad qualities. As writers, our job is to ensure that the character you are creating has an equal mixture of good and bad. For example, Grace lets Will take care of her when necessary, but also mooches off of him from time to time. Without that balance, Grace would be a flat character, devoid of human complexities that can and will drive audiences away.

Will & Grace Character Review: Will Truman

The new list of characters is…..the characters from Will & Grace.

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the television series Will & Grace. Read at your own risk if you have not watched either the previous series or the new series.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Will & Grace to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

Will Truman (Eric McCormack) is a lawyer living in New York City. He is gay and shares an apartment with his best friend, Grace Adler (Debra Messing) who is straight and an interior designer by trade. Will was born into a WASP-y and wealthy New England family. He came out after he and Grace dated briefly in college. In the pilot, Will is newly single after his long-term relationship had then recently ended.

Upon first glance, one might not think that Will Truman is gay. He is not the effeminate stereotype, but he has his moments. He can be very critical, nit picky and a little too staid in his choices.  But when push comes to shove, Will is there for his friends. Known as the most mature and steady one in his immediate social circle, Will often the straight man compared to the other characters.

To sum it up: When creating a character based on a stereotype to break the stereotype, the key is to use a little bit of the stereotype while building up the whole human being that is the character. Will Truman works as a character because while he is still a gay man, he is not only defined by the gay stereotype. As writers, it is our job to humanize characters like Will Truman to ensure that feel like complete human beings, not stereotypes.

Will And Grace Reboot Review

Last night, Will And Grace returned to our television sets after an 11 year absence.

Will Truman (Eric McCormack) is still a gay lawyer. Grace Adler (Debra Messing) is still his neurotic, straight interior designer best friend/roommate. Karen Walker (Megan Mullally) is as rich and boozed up as she ever was. Jack McFarland (Sean Hayes) is still the Jerry Lewis to Will’s Dean Martin. It’s as if the 2006 series finale never happened.

I have been a fan of Will And Grace for a very long time. Needless to say, the hype and the pressure to re-create the success of the original series was palpable. The cast, creative team and the crew succeeded with flying colors. Last night’s episode was pure Will and Grace, it was everything I hoped it would be and much more.

I absolutely recommend it. Welcome back Will And Grace, you’ve been sorely missed.

Will and Grace is on NBC at 9PM on Thursdays.

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