Dinner at the Dinosaur and The House in Hydesville at Geva

Ali and I braved the snow and cold to get dinner at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que (99 Court St.) It was nice to get there when it was quiet. The food, of course, is very good. Personally, I prefer Sticky Lips Pit BBQ (625 Culver Rd.), but to be honest, they are both very good.

The real point of this trip, though, is that we bought advance tickets to see The House in Hydesville at Geva (75 Woodbury Blvd.) and they never close due to weather, at least according to the person I talked to at the box office earlier today. Indeed, it was performed (although lacking the after-play discussion as the lecturer was stuck in Livingston County.)

As for the play itself, well, it was kind of disappointing. I guess I was expecting it to be more spooky. The scenes that were supposed to be spooky were indeed spooky, but it was more a tale of a family struggling to stay together. Blah, blah, blah — I've seen that many times before, and with more richly drawn characters to boot. I will say the set was fantastic (although not as impressive from the balcony), and the acting was generally good (but not exceptional).

It seemed to be written from a skeptic's perspective. So rather than playing with the heat generated by the mysterious circumstances and lack of verifiable factual information, it quenches all the fun. It was extra disappointing because a great amount of tension developed during the first half that was wasted in the second. In all it was a shrug-inducing experience. "Eh."

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Back of the Throat at Geva Nextstage

Ali and I went to Nextstage at Geva (75 Woodbury Blvd.) to see the first screenplay reading of The Hornets' Nest series: Back of the Throat by Yussef el Guindi. In it, a man of Middle-Eastern descent (Khaled) is being questioned by two federal agents (Bartlett and Carl) shortly after September 11, 2001. The agents are not charging Khaled with any particular crime and Khaled — an American citizen — is glad to help in any way he can until the agents start to become suspicious.

Popular media teaches us that police officers know who's guilty and they just need to shake out the right information to catch the crooks. In reality, they are not nearly as prescient as a scriptwriter. When the illusion of prescience is lost, the whole process of open-ended interrogation works only to blur the difference between the innocent and the guilty rather than to help define it.

Regardless of whether Khaled is innocent or guilty, as the questioning continues, he appears defensive which looks both like innocence and like guilt. So as a tool for divining the innocent from the guilty, this is a particularly poor one. Worse, though, is that the agents become more confident in their belief that Khaled is guilty, so they press further, and the more defensive he becomes, the more they feel he's guilty and uncooperative.

In some ways I find the script-in-hand readings more powerful than a performance. When an action or object is described briefly in words, it has a naturally ambiguous realization — whereas in an actual performance, the actions and objects are all specific, concrete examples. So in a case like this, the ambiguity echoed and amplified the overall effect, making for a very disturbing reading.

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