Category Archives: Theater

Lines Written After Reading “Casanova’s Chinese Restaurant”

I can call spirits from the vasty deep.

Why, so can I, or so can any man;
But will they come when you do call for them?

—— From Henry IV, Part One, Act iii, Scene 1

Owen Glendower dissed by Hotspur, Henry IV, Part One, Act III, Scene 1

From Casanova’s Chinese Restaurant

…the two of them made some mutual arrangement. Then they smiled at each other, again without any sense of surprise or excitement, as if long on famiiar terms, and the waitress retired from the table. Barnby handed the stump of pencil back to Maclintick. We vacated the restaurant.

‘Like Glendower, Barnby,’ said Maclintick, ‘you can call spirits from the vasty deep. With Hotspur, I ask you, will they come?’

‘That’s to be seen,’ said Barnby. ‘By the way, what is her name? I forgot to ask.’


— Anthony Powell

Glendower Calls the Spirits

The world we touch and smell and taste,
The world we hear and see
Pays homage to the vasty deep
In which it soon will be,

But giving memory its due
(Which is to say: a lot),
The things we touch, smell, taste and hear
And see are all it’s not.


Saint Crispin is Crispy Times Two

'This war is lost' -- Lord Harry Reid on the 'surge' in Iraq

From William Shakespeare’s Life of King Barry I, Act 4, Scene iii


O that we now had here
But one ten thousand of those men (or women)
That are out of work back in the U.S.!


What’s he that wishes so?
My servant McChrystal? Er, no, I mean Petraeus:
If they are mark’d to die, they’re enow
To do your country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men (or women), the easier to sideline and dismiss
As victims of post-traumatic stress disorder.
No, faith, lackey, wish not a man (or woman) or woman (or man) more:
Rather proclaim it, Petraeus, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him be interviewed by the Times.
He that outlives Afghanistan, and comes safe home,
He that ignores the recommendations of our VA deathbook and sees old age,
Will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.
And say ‘These wounds I had in Mazar-i Sharif.’
And the VA Admin will blink and wonder “Who? What? Where’s that?”

Old men (or women) forget: Kabul shall be forgot,
But some Oath Keepers will remember
What feats they did there: then shall our names,
Familiar in his (or her) mouth as barnyard words are in ours:
Barry the king, Gibbs the Jester and Axelrod,
Pelosi and Reid, Barney and Durbin,
Be in their flowing curses freshly remember’d.
Those few, those unlucky few, that band of outsiders;
For he (or she) to-day that sheds his (or her) blood in this
Illegal conflict I inherited from Bad King George
Shall be an outsider — Be he (not she) ne’er so vile,
One of my Czars shall manage to vilify him further:
And Democrat men now a-bed with each other
Shall think them accursed who were there,
And hold each other’s manhoods whiles any speaks
That languished in Afghan upon Saint Crispin’s Day.

For the original version of Henry V’s Saint Crispin’s Day (October 25) speech to the troops before the Battle of Agincourt, go HERE.

Guilty Creatures Sitting at a Play

We parked along Topanga to our own peril and that of our car.Our weekend’s pleasure was to descend into the twisty deeps of Topanga Canyon where the Theatricum Botanicum is mounting a production of Hamlet. We chose an afternoon performance to enjoy the sunlight dappled by the stately eucalyptuses on the theater’s bosky grounds.

Like the lamented Hamburger Hamlet but not like it at all.We arrived early enough to gad about those bosky grounds, to snag bottles of water at “The Hamlet Hut,” and to resist the urgings of a group of madrigal singers to “lhude sing cuccu.” Thus well prepped for Elizabethan fun, we allowed ourselves to be herded with the rest of the audience-to-be into Theatriucum Botanicum’s lovely amphitheater in the woods.

Actors are not actual size.Before the rousing show began I took this fuzzy photo of part of the stage with my phone. The ghost of Hamlet’s father walks on the roof of that many-doored structure. King Claudius tries (and fails) to pray on the balcony while Hamlet considers stabbing him. Ophelia, the last we see of her, is lhude singing cuccu and skipping up the trail to the right — the same trail down which sprints a screaming Queen Gertrude bringing her eyewitness report of Ophelia’s drowning. Fortinbras’s army marches all over the steeply rising woods above center stage. This is all to say: the natural setting of the theater gets used right up.

We mere observers were not allowed to photograph the actual play because it’s an Equity Production and they have rules. Also because it’s rude. So I cut out pictures of the great actors Edwin Booth, David Garrick and Thomas Keene — all being melancholy and Danish — then glued them to the photo to give you a feeling for the show. Now imagine beautiful cool breezes, the occasional motorcycle on Topanga, a funnier than usual scene with the gravedigger, a first-rate Polonius, and a real clanging swordfight for a finale and you have it.

Readin’ the Classics: The Vicar of Wakefield

Oliver, O Oliver!Oliver Goldsmith wrote The Vicar of Wakefield, his only novel, way back when English was just starting to make some kind of sense. And so the book which Goldsmith hands across the centuries to us Men of the Future is an easy read, with familiar vocabulary and straight-forward syntax, unlike, say, the plays of Shakespeare who puzzles his descendants with stuff like this:

You had not four such swinge-bucklers in all the inns o’ court again: and I may say to you, we knew where the bona-robas were and had the best of them all at commandment.

No, Goldsmith resides on the near side of some kind of language line. He gives us more manageable utterances like:

I can’t say whether we had more wit amongst us now than usual; but I am certain we had more laughing, which answered the end as well.

The Vicar of Wakefield describes, in his well-modulated preacher’s voice, the woes of an 18th century English vicar, Dr. Primrose, a kind, uxorious country clergyman who weathers a Job’s blitz of catastrophes with grace and humor. Despite all Dr. Primrose’s vexations — and they are many — it’s a happy book that will make you happy, especially when you reach the happy ending in which the happy resolutions come stumbling over each other all at once.

There’s a happy story about the publication of this novel. It involves Goldsmith’s good friend Doctor Samuel Johnson. I don’t remember it, but if I did I wouldn’t tell you anyhow because I don’t want to and you can’t make me.

They’re struttin’ it, rug-cuttin’ it!

The Big Event in New York last weekend was the gala Muslim Day Parade down Madison Avenue. A freezing rain and a post-neutron bomb Sunday morning desolation did nothing to dampen the spirits of those fun-loving Muslims as they made “the river bottom ring and sing!”

Nor was it a matter of a cedar falling in Lebanon with no one there to hear it, though nearly: NiceWork’s intrepid photojournalist was there, camera in hand, to bring you the following photo essay:

Say! What's all that ululating? Why, it's the Muslim Day muezzin! Yay!

Listen to the muezzin’s cry:

“Ev’ry boy’s got a girl, the town’s gonna whirl, tonight’s a jamboree, mister,
And if you come along you’ll join in the song,
Hey Dad, Not Bad! I’m glad! You dig! Hey, boy that

Crowd Control police had their hands...plunged into the pockets of their slickers.

For sure, for sure, everyone is Muslim on Muslim Day:

They’re doin’ it, soft shoein’ it, they’re tryin’ it, untyin’ it,
they’re jivin’ it, revivin’ it, I tell you.
They’re struttin’ it, rug-cuttin’ it,
They’re shakin’ it and breakin’ it,
Dad! Not bad! I’m glad! You dig! Hey, boy that:

A Macy's Thanksgiving balloon figure would work well with this one

We all swing high, swing low,
Ev’rybody rockin’ to and fro
It ain’t fast or slow, But oh, that glory halleluyah.
Swing that thing
Make the river bottom ring and sing
Hush ma mouth, that’s the Muslim Day Parade!

If you can't hadj on over to the Qaaba, the Qaaba'll come to you!

I hear the trombone, la-de-ah-de-ah,
That shiny trombone, la-de-ah-de-ah.
Ev’rybody playin’ mighty fine as they march along,
And I never get enough of that Dervish song!

Heading south - towards Ground Zero

Good-bye until next year, Muslim Day Parade!

Nota bene: Special thanks to STEVE ALLEN for the lyrics to SOUTH RAMPART STREET PARADE.

Back to Basics

Enormous Debby is Very Hungry

Enormous Debby shook us up a bit as we sped eastward on Highway 134. After the initial shock, though, we understood she meant us no harm. She only wanted to identify the truck she emblazoned as a certified carter of Little Debby Snack Cakes. Was the cargo thousands of little cakes we wondered? Or was it one enormous Snack Cake sufficient for the appetite of the mighty lass whose frank, guileless smile charmed the hearts of so many motorists today?

Her other duty — unbeknownst to her — is to welcome you back to NICE WORK, which awakens from its month-long slumber, ready to tell you of the nice work we find in our wholly unstructured wanderings through the halls of art, literature, drama, and (more likely) the refuse heaps of joke shows, cop books, bric-a-brac, funny animals and advertising art. We have let this happy place, our Arts ‘n’ Entertainment website, languish these many days while we did our patriotic duty of casting tomaters at that sanctimonious sap at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

We return now to our first weblove: NICE WORK.

We are back we say — and so says Enormous Debby. Thank you, Enormous Debby.

Just to prove our heart is in the right place, look you: Here is a nifty panoramic shot of the set of Cymbeline as we viewed it yesterday before the play’s final performance by the redoubtable troupe at Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum:

Cymbeline Set at Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum in Topanga Canyon

As you can see, it is an outdoor theater. You will find gnats here, but they will not find you if you prepare properly with an appropriate spray. The stage and tiers of benches nestle in a natural amphitheater amid the sycamores of Topanga Canyon — “Where it is always 1971™” To see the picture much larger, click on these magic words: I WISH TO SEE THE PICTURE MUCH LARGER.

Frodo Live!

Across the street from the first ever Bob's Big Boy.

A rapid transvalley auto trip came to an abrupt halt in the parking lot of the Falcon Theater, er, I mean Theatre. Having no further need of the automobile, we locked it and left it in the lot while we gathered our pre-purchased tickets for the night’s show, Fellowship!, and explored the bright, tchotchke-filled lobby.

Falcon Theater Theatre presents its four outer walls to the city-state of Burbank. By day the sun of California beats upon its roof. Within those walls various small theater troupes, primarily comic, cavort. Even while awaiting their cavorting, though, the gathering audience-to-be finds much — itself not least — that rewards gazing upon. Showbiz memorabilia — lots of it from theater-owner Garry Marshall‘s own TV and stage career — line the walls and fill the display cases of the lobby, arresting the attention of the swelling crowd whose latent potential as an audience will soon find conversion to kinetic energy in the form of laughter and applause on the other side of the auditorium doors. Before the ushers throw wide those doors, the photos, trophies, programs, posters and mementos of past shows hold each theater-goer immobile just long enough to provide opportunity for top-notch people-watching.

Nor did we allow that opportunity to pass ungrasped. If Los Angeles affords the best people-watching in the country, Los Angeles theater affords the best people-watching in Los Angeles.

The other half of the night’s entertainment took place in as swell a small theater as I’ve ever experienced. Honest-to-golly plush theater seats, generously spaced, rose on tiers that, unlike most let’s-put-on-a-show venues I’ve visited, did not boom hollowly under foot. The carpenters, themselves dedicated theater-people no doubt, had installed joists. Joists!

But of the magical experience beyond the auditorium doors I can say no more. Photography was strictly prohibited and I am punctilious enough to interpret that injunction to apply also to word pictures. My lips are sealed. I shall not breathe one syllable more about the theater nor about the funny musical show, Fellowship!, at which we so laughed and laughed and laughed.

Some information, of course, is public and can be revealed. The name of the comedy, as you see displayed in outdoor signage in the photo above, is Fellowship! It is a musical parody of the movie (not the book) Fellowship of the Rings. It would help to have seen the movie, but you don’t absolutely need to put yourself through Peter Jackson’s desecration to enjoy the spoof. The basic story — a diverse band of elves, dwarves, wizards and hobbits frustrates some kind of evil eyeball — gets neatly told in outline, and then, since so lofty an epic as Tolkien’s sweeping mythopoeic tale simply screams out for demolition, gets demolished.

What a cast! I would break the code of silence imposed by the Falcon Theater, er, I mean Theatre, to tell you about them, but respect for the house rules stills my tongue beyond saying each actor is a circus of one. I wish I could go back nine or ten times to give all my attention to each individual actor per performance — they’re all so antic you hardly know where to look — but even at Falcon Theater’s (Theatre’s!) low, low ticket prices, personal budgetary constraints enforce a strict limit of one viewing.

I do the rest of the cast an injustice to single out for kudos Steve Purnick playing both a George Burns inspired Bilbo and an exasperated Boromir, but I willingly bear that additional weight to my already staggering burden of guilt.

All this is to say: trust me, go. Will you laugh? Oh, reader, I am confident you will laugh. Will you tap your toes during the many comic songs? Of this I am less certain. After the show will you still be so mirth-filled you don’t mind much being unable to find the entrance ramp to the 101 west? Yeah, sure. Just go.