Kirk Douglas was an actor, well known for such movies as Spartacus and Lust For Life. He got a lifetime achievement Oscar and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He was on my ghoul pool list (and scored me 20 points) but he was also on pretty much everybody’s list so didn’t have a huge impact on overall standings.
Orson Bean was an actor and game show panelist, who I always associated with To Tell the Truth. His death was particularly tragic, involving being knocked down by one car, then run over by a second while he was being helped to his feet.
John “Sonny” Franzese was a mafioso, who was underboss of the Colombo crime family. When he was released from prison in 2017, he had been the oldest inmate in federal custody. He also earned me 28 ghoul pool points (16 for his position on the list plus 12 for uniqueness). That puts me in third place for the moment.
Katherine Johnson was an African-American mathematician for NASA, whose story was told in the book and movie Hidden Figures. Her work was critical to calculating trajectories for early crewed spaceflight. Truly an inspirational woman.
Diana Serra Cary, better known as Baby Peggy, was a child star of the Hollywood silent film era. She was something of a running joke in the ghoul pool, thanks to an Australian player who was a big fan of hers. We all feel like Baby Peggy was family and we should go to her funeral.
The Toxic Avenger: The Musical: On Friday evening, I ventured to darkest Maryland to see the Rorschach Theatre production of The Toxic Avenger: The Musical. I’d gotten a cheap ticket on Goldstar and it had gotten good reviews. It is based on the sort of B-movie that is one of my guilty pleasures. (Lloyd Kaufman’s Troma films are a particularly awful and wonderful mix of horror and comedy.) And it is the directorial debut of Tracy Lynn Olivera, a well-known local actress.
Anyway, the story involves the residents of Tromaville, New Jersey, whose mayor is making money using the town as a toxic waste dump site. Melvin Ferd the Third finds out about this, tries to stop it, gets thrown into a vat of toxic nuclear waste, and turns into a superhero / monster. He’s also in love with the town librarian who, fortunately, is blind and can’t tell that he’s a monster. There is this problem of his odor, but she just thinks his stench is because he’s French.
The gimmicky part (as if the story isn’t gimmicky enough) is that there is a cast of only 5 and three of those play multiple parts. Basically, everyone except Emily Levey as Sarah the blind librarian and Ricky Drummond as Toxie has to coordinate multiple costume changes and voices. This is particularly amusing in the case of Tess Higgins, who plays both the mayor and Melvin’s mother, with the two characters having a confrontation with each other in the song "Bitch/Slut/Liar/Whore." (Which is also a bit of an earworm, by the way.) I was also impressed with Joshua Simon and Jordan Essex, who were everything from the mayor’s goons to Sarah’s (female) friends to (in Smith’s case) a folk singer.
The whole thing is incredibly silly and a lot of fun. I should note that Joe DiPietro (book and lyrics) and David Bryan (music and lyrics) are familiar names. Bryan was the keyboardist for Bon Jovi and collaborated with DiPietro on Memphis. And DiPietro also wrote book and lyrics for I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change and Ernest Shackleton Loves Me.
Finally, a brief note about audience demographics. I go to the theatre a lot and usually I am among the younger members of the audience, which is a bit depressing given that I am over 60. But this theatre was full of young people, probably college age. I suspect I was a good 15-20 years older than anybody else there.
Silent Sky: I went with 2 friends to see Silent Sky at Ford’s Theatre on Sunday afternoon. This is a play by Lauren Gunderson, who is the living playwright whose plays are produced more than anybody else’s. Despite which, I had never heard of her until last year, when one of those friends and I went to a staged reading of her play Ada and the Engine at the National Academy of Sciences.
Anyway, this play has to do with Henrietta Leavitt, who was an astronomer at the Harvard College Observatory in the early 20th century. The story is somewhat fictionalized. For example, Leavitt did not have a sister and, so far as I can tell, the romance subplot is entirely fictional. However, the struggles of women to be treated as scientists are real and the key point of the play is the passion Leavitt felt for her work, which was critical to resolving some key questions about the universe (specifically, how to measure the distances to stars). The play was inspiring and funny, though turned sad in the end as she died of cancer at the age of 53. I thought it was worth seeing and I look forward to seeing more of Gunderson’s plays about women in science.
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