“Bull in a China Shop illuminates the history of real-life academics and lovers Mary Woolley (Kelli Simpkins) and Jeanette Marks (Emjoy Gavino) at an accelerated, yet thoroughly engaging pace. At the turn of the 20th Century and beyond, Woolley the professor and Marks the student go through a series of career and geographical changes, while passionately endeavoring to create a freer and more representative place for women in global society. Tactics and ideology morph in response to current events and individual circumstances, but Wooley and Marks never sacrifice their devotion to one another. The play is a touching, 40-year love story featuring two brilliant academic, feminist minds. A true tonic for the wounds inflicted by toxic male masculinity narratives.
Yet Wooley and Marks are not one-dimensional saints of suffrage. They are complicated and ambitious. They make compromises that are called into public and private question. They are fully and richly human. The tall, stately Simpkins and the diminutive, but powerful Gavino have a gorgeous onstage rapport that communicates the surprising steadfastness of a relationship that began when Marks was but an idolizing teenager.”
“Nestled within my late-March outfield castigation of Kyle Schwarber was another complaint. One that remains as disappointingly active as it was during Week 1 of the 2018 MLB season. That particular column marked my first public use of the #FreeAlmora hash tag. It appears destined not to be the last. On May 23, Danielle Sauers of Locked on Cubs wrote:
‘There’s no doubt that Albert Almora Jr. is a fan favorite. If he doesn’t start for more than a few days in a row, the #FreeAlmora hash tag is bound to be out in full force. He’s young, charismatic, and has been flashing serious leather in recent games, so it’s easy to see why the fans love him. But can he continue to contribute at a high enough level to justify regular starts?’
The answer, Ms. Sauers, is in the question. Almora has continuously done more than enough to justify his regular place in the starting lineup. He’s hitting a team-leading .324, a solid 34 points ahead of 2016 MVP Kris Bryant. And compared with Ian Happ’s (forgive me) hapless fielding, my guy Almora regularly robs opposing players of extra base hits. Treat yourself to another viewing of his May 27 leap into the right center field gap at Wrigley, cheating Giants’ third-basement Evan Longoria of at least a double. Even if Almora Jr. wasn’t a terrific hitter (he is), I tend to side with the stereotyped middle-aged male crowd. Defense DOES win championships.”
“Switching gears from the contrast in international murder, let’s take a look at the week in racism (gun violence and bigotry are often inextricably linked in the U.S.A., but that’s an expostulation for another day). Today, May 19, 2018 is the day that the very English Prince Harry married a bi-racial, divorced American actress named Meghan Markle– and his father Prince Charles walked her down the aisle. The British Royal Family has officially taken the stick out of its arse and joined the 21st Century. What a time to be alive. I hope somewhere the late Princess Diana is smiling at the fruits of her own progressive battles with convention and tolerance. Cheers to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
Meanwhile over here in the United States of America, President Trump referred to undocumented immigrants as ‘animals’ during a Wednesday meeting at the White House. And since we already know that POTUS doesn’t care for pets and finds those that adopt them to be ‘low class,’ we can assume the name calling wasn’t misspoken affection.
The chasm between the national values and morals of the Land of the Free versus the Motherland has seldom felt wider. Time was, say during the Boston Tea Party days of 1773, we could creditably argue occupation of the scrupled high ground. Leaving aside the conditions of native people, women and men of color (which pretty much everyone did in 1773), the white male British subjects in the New World felt a superiority to those across the Atlantic. That belief was grounded in something more than delusion.”
“The simmering hate between the work’s characters is white hot as well. Press materials accurately describe the plot as structured around the mercurial (and possibly Oedipal) Violet (Mary K. Nigohosian). The dowager ‘has summoned a brain surgeon to her home. Her niece Catherine (Grayson Heyl) has been crazed and traumatized since witnessing the horrifyingly violent death of Violet’s son… unwilling to accept other facts about her son’s life, Mrs. Venable pursues extraordinary measures to keep Catherine silent.’
Of course, because this is a Tennessee Williams script, someone is in the closet and there’s also a plentiful portion of colonial racism. When people of color are not relegated to the periphery, as is the case with Miss Foxhill (played by understudy Song Marshall on opening night), they are forthrightly othered, evidenced in painful detail by Catherine’s story of her never-seen cousin Sebastian’s final days in Spain. At the apex of this moment of sociopolitical resistance, we’ve grown all-too-familiar with uncomfortable tensions between meaningful art, the artist and the cultural period in which he or she created.
So perhaps it’s appropriate that the interpersonal dynamics between Violet, Catherine, and the professionals and family members who spin in their orbit, induce another kind of queasiness. One thing we can say for Tennessee Williams, he liked to dive deeply into the caverns of human experience. It’s the spirit in which Suddenly Last Summer was intended and the talented cast turns in uniformly terrific work.”
“Then ‘Becky’ moved from big butts and marriage wrecking into the fight for social justice. For the last two years, I’ve come across social media posts from people of all races and genders calling out the ‘Beckys’ who make life harder for other women and people of color. Pals are usually careful to add an editorial comment absolving me of categorization – ‘of course not YOU Becky Sarwate.’ But seeing the name by which I’m known continually and casually conflated with toxic female whiteness does occasionally sting. It’s ironic that a woman who strives to develop herself as an ally to all, is undercut by the noxious brand associated with her moniker.
However the English language is nothing if not living and fluid. Very recently I became aware of another application of my name to stereotype. Only this time, instead of resignation or revulsion, I welcome the association with proud and open arms. I relish the combative occasions that the misappropriation affords. This Becky feels redeemed.
In April the incel community foisted itself upon mass cultural consciousness when one of its terrorists mowed down 10 pedestrians in Toronto with a van. Heretofore, the community of ‘involuntarily celibate’ men who share a mutual hatred of women largely kept to the Internet fringes where they belong.”
“As Comey and Cohen commanded front and center media attention this month, the bombastic corruption of Scott Pruitt’s EPA tenure receded into the background. But in today’s online edition of The New York Times, the former Attorney General of Oklahoma is back in a big way. In a story entitled Scott Pruitt Before the E.P.A.: Fancy Homes, a Shell Company and Friends With Money, reporters Steve Eder and Hiroko Tabuchi point out that the EPA Chief’s taste for the publicly-financed good life is nothing new. They write:
‘An examination of Mr. Pruitt’s political career in Oklahoma reveals that many of the pitfalls he has encountered in Washington have echoes in his past…Lobbyists and others in Oklahoma state politics who encountered Mr. Pruitt recalled him as a tough competitor who always had his eye on a higher office….while others said privately that he had exuded a sense of entitlement — that rules did not apply to him.’
Pruitt’s natural gifts for graft and lawlessness made him a natural fit to serve in the Trump administration. However the EPA head has generated so much sustained bad press, the Grifter-in-Chief felt compelled to tell his guy to ‘cool it. Yes, really.
In this volatile era, trying to predict what happens next is a fool’s errand. But I believe Pruitt’s time at the public trough is coming to an end.”
“The consistently raw deal shown to my man Alberto Almora Jr. is another rant for another time. The 23 year-old outfielder batted a cumulative .298 during the 2017 season and made but one fielding error. And throughout a depressing National League Championship series, Almora was one of only two players who batted above .222. The other, unbelievably, was pitcher Jose Quintana. To those tempted to look at these stats and argue that Almora Jr. didn’t play every day, I say that’s exactly my point. Whose fault is it that a young and exciting player too often rides the bench?
Kyle Schwarber’s, or more accurately, Joe Maddon, who continues to put the 2016 World Series star on the field – with disastrous results. By any measure, Schwarber had a rough 2017 season. Things were so bad that the Cubs sent the young player to the minor leagues for a stint intended to help him get his act together. The ploy did not work very well. The 24 year-old batted an anemic .211 on the season, and was a constant source of stress in the outfield. Let us pause to briefly reflect on the two errors Schwarbs made during Game 3 of the 2017 NLDS – in the same play. Brutal.
It’s not as though irritated fans like myself don’t have affection for the guy. His personality is immensely likeable. And of course, the one-time Boy Wonder had a lot to do with finally bringing a World Series trophy to Wrigleyville Nation. Schwarber’s comeback from a season-ending knee injury to help his teammates end the sporting world’s longest losing streak is a story that deserves to be told for generations.
But this isn’t 2016 and Schwarber no longer deserves the benefit of the doubt at Albert Almora Jr’s expense. Especially in the field.”