Bukowsical!

Photo by Erik Maasch of EJM Photography

Photo by Erik Maasch of EJM Photography

This past weekend I had an opportunity to go to Wilmington and see yet another musical being put on by a dear friend’s production company, C’est La Guerre. I’ve actually now got a few friends and acquaintances among the theater crowd up there. This time it was a production of Bukowsical! A musical based on the life of Charles Bukowski.

For those who don’t know, Charles Bukowski was a German born, American author. Bukowski wrote thousands of poems, hundreds of short stories and six novels; his work addresses the ordinary lives of poor Americans and the struggles that come with that. He even was a subject of FBI scrutiny thanks to his column, Notes of a Dirty Old Man, in the LA underground newspaper Open City. He’s been called the laureate of American lowlife, and I was warned that this performance was strictly for mature audiences due to it’s raunchy, raucous and profane nature.

This show was being held in the Beam Room at Front Street Brewery in Wilmington, NC. A quick note about Front Street Brewery: I used to like them. I no longer do. They seem to have become overrated and rely on tradition and location more than any real service or good food. I had never even heard of the Beam Room. Apparently it’s their special events space on the top floor. That said, a room with a bar was definitely fitting for this particular story. Plus it meant drinks during the show! Unfortunately I’ve been sick and on medication so I had to stick to Sprite. Although I did consider if a shot of whiskey might help my throat.

However as much as the idea of the space was wonderful, it failed in other ways. First, the distracting chandelier hanging down at floor level into a skylight to the level below, right in the middle of the stage area. However the silver lining to that is that it also provided a gorgeous light source and helped cast a warm glow on the actors from behind. Second, the acoustics were less than stellar. But hey, ya win some, ya lose some. In this case it was more of a win as the room itself had a lovely mix of exposed brick and wood that leant itself well to the show, and it had ample space. Plus did I mention the bar. I hope the production got a cut from the tab, because it was open during the show and people took definite advantage. This show also featured a live band. When during their warm up I heard a rockabilly jazz style version of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” I knew I was in for a treat. My dear friend George Domby was the musical director, which can’t have been easy given how many different styles are represented in the score. There is everything from classic Broadway to rock ballads to even a ditty that wouldnt be remiss at a square dancing event. Also, while the band may only consist of a handful of people at times the music comes together in such a way it moves you as much as a full orchestra. George also had a bit in the beginning of the show where he portrayed Bukowski’s dad… while still conducting the band. It was hysterical and drew huge laughs from the crowd.

In fact, the whole show did. This isn’t a surprise when a number in the first act features deceased authors William Faulkner, William S. Burroughs, Sylvia Plath and Tennessee Williams encouraging our titular “hero” to “get down, get dark, get dirty.” While the writing isn’t particularly mind blowing, it’s perfect for escapism and a little bit of naughty humor. But it’s the actors who really sell it. Actors that in a way, includes the audience. The entire show is put on as if it is a preview for a panel of investors, the audience is that panel of investors. So that 4th wall is completely broken, and particularly in this case where if you needed to exit or use the restroom you had to cross the “stage” and therefore became a part of the damn show. Which I almost did just for funsies.

Now, full disclosure, I left at intermission. Not because it was bad, but because I had become extremely ill. I’m so sad and mad I missed the second half. Because I know it was going to be fantastic, everything had been gelling that night. The audience was so into it, the cast was amazing, and the band was on point.

Photo by Erik Maasch of EJM Photography

Photo by Erik Maasch of EJM Photography

The cast features Brendan Carter as Charles Bukowski, and he does an amazing job. With a voice that doesn’t quite match up with the image, but makes him all the more believable as a guy who would continually get the shaft. However its also a voice that changes as the show progrsses which follows along with the progression of Bukowski’s life and goes to show what an amazing talent Carter has to embody each stage. also have to admit that being able to play such a foul mouthed character must have been great fun. Although I do hope spending so much time inside Bukowski’s head doesn’t have harmful effects.

It also features Jeff Phillips as both Sweet Lady Booze and a television evangelist whose name I’ve already forgotten because that’s how much I pay attention to television evangelists, even fake ones. I last saw Jeff in Chicago at Thalian Hall where he portrayed Billy Flynn. Jeff is a big dude, he’s very tall, and seeing him in drag, and with the very suggestive dance moves, was absolutely hysterical. He also pulled off both roles with an ease that can’t be duplicated. He’s not the only one who had multiple roles, pretty much everyone did except Carter. In addition to various chorus, student, bar patrons, etc. there were juicier roles to get into such as other writers, Hollywood types and the loves of Bukowski’s life. Which were spread out amongst the cast. It was very interesting to see some of them embody different people completely from one scene to the next. Between that and the different styles of music it must have been a real work out mentally and vocally. It was also a work out physically with some very physical choreography. The opening number welcomed us with just the right amount of Broadway flair and a balance of synchronicity that appealed to my OCD. Sweet Lady Booze also had a fantastically choreographed number that managed to be sultry, but also slightly disturbing when you consider she’s representing an inanimate object. I also enjoyed the use of simple props and signs during the numbers to provide more information and interaction.

There was a stand out in Anna Gamel, as expected. Anna had been nominated last year for a Wilmington Theater Award for her role as Lotte Von Elsner in C’est La Guerre’s first production, The Lady in Question. I’ve also seen her in so many other things I’ve lost count. Anna also portrays a cheeky German accented nun as a young Bukowski’s teacher. Leading the class in a song declaring all the ways they hate him, that is filled with tongue in cheek gestures and humor. She also portrays Sylvia Plath, hitting just the right notes with her joke about Easy Off oven cleaner, her earnestness in her advice for the struggling writer, and her “guys gal” persona singing with the boys encouraging Bukowski to embrace the lewd side of life in his writing.

I also can’t forget Bryan Cournoyer as The Founder. Addressing the audience as one of the producers of the musical within a musical it can almost be easy to over look him as a narrator. However he also had multiple roles to play and brought each to life with perfect balance.

Bukowski’s One True Love was portrayed by Katherine Rudeseal. She did a wonderful job in this role. Their meeting at a bar managed to be sweet and their duet “Chaser of My Heart” showcases her amazing voice. It’s also quite an interesting love song, interjected with raw truths just like Bukowski’s work. Her performance during “Love is a Dog From Hell” alongside Anna Gamel and Beth Corvino is spot on and eerily heart wrenching for anyone who has questioned a lover’s fidelity.

Bringing myself back around to the beginning again, in the scenes of a young Bukowski struggling with peers and with his father, I found a bit of heartbreak. So much of the troubles he went through, being bullied for being different, being overly criticized by a father who doesn’t understand, they still happen today. I actually found it difficult to watch the scene in the classroom with the teacher and children ganging up on him, and had to focus on the absurdity of the lyrics in order to not start crying right there. I can only hope that half of the children undergoing this treatment today find the strength to turn it into something lasting and positive the way Charles Bukowski did. Because despite his alcoholic nature he did have the strength to overcome those adversities and persevere in his dreams which is even more apparent during the number “Postal.” In today’s hot debate of gun control that is another number that is chilling and haunting as an examination of our society.

Over all the bare bones staging and props, as well as utilizing the cast in multiple roles not only made sense for the story but also made sense for C’est La Guerre. The cast was extremely well chosen and each had multiple moments to shine. It truly is an ensemble show. If I have any complaints it’s that at times it was hard to hear the lyrics over the music and laughter, and that I didn’t see the second half. Otherwise, I highly suggest catching this show this weekend before it’s gone!

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Worst. Weekend. Ever.

I just had what is officially my WORST. Weekend. EVER. Although technically it all started way back before Labor Day! You see, I woke up the 5th with an awful cough. Just horrible, hacking, gagging cough. Which made me pull a muscle in my back. By the 11th I was miserable. The cough was getting worse, nothing would kill it, and my back was protesting. I could practically hear it. “You idiot, you have insurance now (thanks Obama!) GO TO THE DOCTOR. We hurt. Something is WRONG. Plus WebMD said you have a pulmonary embolism so clearly you cannot trust them.”

Finally I listened. Off I went to the Minute Clinic, where I found out they can’t treat back pain. Lovely. However she diagnosed me with acute bronchitis and acute sinusitis. As a happy bonus she mentioned that if it doesn’t get better in a few days to see my regular doctor since people on birth control are also more at risk for a pulmonary embolism. Damn you WebMD. She prescribed me some Amoxicillin and Tessalon Perles as well as Flonase. I ended up at Dollar Tree buying one of these little guys…

When did I get old enough to need one of these?!

When did I get old enough to need one of these?!

Right, just give me a couple more cats and my life is complete. I already knit and watch Golden Girls… geez. Flash forward to about the 16th. For those keeping track at home that means: 9 doses of Amoxicillin, 14 doses of the Tessalon Perles, and 5 doses of Flonase. I wake up miserable. Everything hurts, the cough has not gone away, nothing is working. So I begin what ends up being a 3 day endeavor to get in to see my regular doctor.

Finally, the 18th, I just show up at my doctor’s office 10 minutes before it even opens and beg for a visit with a doctor, any doctor, I don’t care if it’s a vet. Luckily someone has cancelled for an 8:15 appointment with one of the doctors there and I snap it up. She’s a DO, which I’ve never heard of and google almost immediately. The gist is that they believe in full body healing and that everything effects everything else and holistic and massage and now we’re talking! A massage? YES PLEASE. Here’s a link to more info on what a DO is.

She is super nice and I really like her. She listens to my story, which I wrote down before going. Including my new found side effect of Amoxicillin, that my stomach has become a traitor. After a bit of listening with her nurse’s stethoscope (hahaha) she says I have a severe sinus infection, but instead of being focused in the front of my sinuses, like normal, and causing severe pain, it’s in the back. Which means lots of drainage, coughing, and light headedness, plus my ears are filled. She prescribes me a stronger antibiotic, Ciprofloxacin, as well as cough syrup which I think is Hydromet. Either way it’s gonna knock me out at full dose she says so do a half a dose during the day when I have to function. But she also decides to write me off work for the rest of the day.

While I’m waiting for her to return with the prescriptions and note I’m coughing up a storm. She pops her head back in and says she’s decided since I’m so bad and waiting on print outs anyways she wants them to give me a steroid shot. So, I get a shot in the rear. Lovely. Finally I get set free to deliver my note to work (I am later told I looked like crap) and pick up my prescriptions. The nice pharmacist offered to flavor my cough syrup, but since the flavor on sale was bubblegum I declined. Turns out the cough syrup is actually flavored like berries anyways. Best cough syrup I’ve ever had! I have big plans for Saturday night so I spend all that day resting at home with Panda.

That belleh is a TRAP!

That belleh is a TRAP!

Saturday rolls around and I’m coughing less, but my stomach is still being a jerkwad. However, I will somehow power through and around 3pm I head off with my dad to Wilmington to go see C’est La Guerre’s production of Bukowsical (still running at Front St. Brewery, go see it! Review soon.) About 1/3 of the way up I suddenly feel carsick. I think it’s a combo of medicine and playing on my phone so I crank the AC, kick back the seat and close my eyes while I try not to think about how fast I’m going. It works enough to get us to Wilmington where I have Dad pull off into a quiet deserted area off the highway so I can retch. Figuring maybe it’ll make me feel better. It does, because I promptly projectile vomit roasted tomato pasta salad and chocolate cream horns into a pile of ants. I’m sure they’re thrilled. I feel so much better that we continue on our night… until about halfway through the first act of Bukowsical when my stomach decides to declare war.

The pain, is like nothing I’ve experienced in my life. I’m freaking out in my seat praying for intermission hoping maybe I just need a bathroom. Though it feels like I’m being disemboweled. Sharp, stabbing, knifey pains all through my abdomen. I can’t figure out if it’s stomach or intestine or even lady bits. What the hell is going on?! Intermission hits and I dash for a bathroom. As I stand in line a stabbing pain hits and I nearly double over. The bathroom is vastly unhelpful and I come back the hall to the seating area absolutely terrified. Something is wrong, deep inside of me something is wrong and something is dying and maybe it’s me. Could it be appendicitis? Diverticulitis? An ulcer? Cancer?! My hypochondria rears it’s head as I inform dad we need to leave. I don’t WANT to. I was enjoying the show. But I HAVE to. I want to head home. I don’t voice it, but in my head I’m wondering if we’ll make it past Brunswick Hospital. So we make our apologies to our friends at C’est La Guerre and he goes to get the car 2 blocks away while I work my way to the street.

I spend the ride home in the back of the car, lying down, crying, panting, and making Dad wonder if he’s about to witness the second coming of Jesus. Seriously, it’s like I’m in labor. More than once he asks, as delicately as he can, if I’ve had a water break. No dad. No water has broke, I’m not pregnant. I haven’t been in a position to have gotten pregnant. For the love of god shut up and drive I just wanna be curled up in a ball on my bathroom floor. I do make it home. Barely. There is more projectile vomiting, and 2 bathroom visits and then I pass out in my bed.

This morning I feel better, but as I’m researching how to battle the side effects of my antibiotics I come across horror stories from people who ate Activia while on antibiotics and had the same symptoms I did. Epic pain, bloating, and just generally feeling like something is tearing you apart inside. Guess WHAT? I had ate Activia Friday at lunch and Saturday at breakfast hoping it’d help my stomach because probiotics and stuff. Awesome. I gave the rest of the Activia to my mom and went back to the drawing board for my stomach.

To top it all off, I discovered on Friday night that all the websites on my server had been hacked! Including this one. So I spent all my free time since fixing them. It was fun.

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