Theatre Reviews: Beef in Calcutta
We all knew this day was coming. I begin a new category: Theatre Reviews. It is separate from my diary, but not from my grimoire. If my posts seem different from normal theatre reviews, it is likely because I am recording that which is most useful to myself and my magical practice. So I might emphasize plot, motifs, and things of that nature more than other reviewers, because I want to harness that energy.
I have already written about theatre quite a lot in this blog, but now let me write my first pure and official review. I am reviewing Opening Night: The Improvised Musical!, specifically, their recent performance with Dan Castellaneta. Opening Night is a one-night-only improvised Broadway-style musical based upon an audience suggestion, so, I watched the opening and closing night of Beef in Calcutta.
The members of Opening Night have been doing this for twelve years. They’re pretty amazing, and pretty much my favorite improv show. Whenever someone new comes to L.A., I advise them to see it. Luken and I spoke with Shulie Cowen about this show afterwards, and she said they would like to have more celebrity guests. Of course, it’s not just any celebrity who could join them- making everything up, even the songs and choreography, all from one suggestion? Castellaneta, being very experienced, stepped up to the plate very well, I think. Some celebrities don’t join in on games even in regular non-musical shows, but Castellaneta jumped right in. He made a few flubs, but even the regular members do that on occasion- almost no show is completely perfect in that regard.
Based upon the suggestion of Beef in Calcutta, Shulie opened with a song whose theme was the sacred. Next, the show moved on to a scene about a young man named Jimmy (played by Derek Miller) who was considering leaving Catholicism to try out other religions. His priest (Josh Funk) tried to stop him, and sang a song with all sorts of strange lyrics about Catholicism that were so absurdly off-the-mark we couldn’t help but laugh. It’s funny how people will believe things that contain no truth and spout them as though they were true. Jimmy remained unconvinced and said that he’d be back if he didn’t find anything in other faiths.
The priest then entreated God to help stop Jimmy from leaving Catholicism and experimenting with other faiths. God replied that it was really low on his priority list considering things like rampant social injustice. So the priest gave Satan a call. “Hello! I’m not in right now….” God said, “Good luck with that.”
Next, Shulie made a strong choice by coming onstage, looking offstage to Castellaneta, and saying, “My Dark Lord!” thusly casting him as Satan for the rest of the show. Excellent; now I can say that I am so lucky as to have seen Castellaneta’s devil besides just Futurama’s Robot Devil. Shulie played his assistant. She was in love with him, but The Dark Lord declared only Evil to be his mistress. But eventually, after all the characters ended up in Calcutta having various adventures, Satan realized that he actually had love within himself after all, and he gave up the ways of evil. He asked the priest to marry him to his assistant.
Jimmy had definitely been experimental. He had investigated a random cult, and that didn’t turn out very well. Yet, he began to realize there were forces at work in his life no matter what religion he claimed to follow. Jimmy ended up singing a solo about the Godhead- whether one calls it Krishna or Christ is really not the important part. The Godhead is confusing, and yet, not so confusing (I suppose as it makes itself so obviously manifest). Either way, Jimmy thought he was an okay guy.
As always, the group was able to pull together their story arc into a meaningful climax (even if occasionally their meaningful climaxes are regarding chips and salsa, the structure is still there).
I commend the ἀρετή of these artists. They play a pretty good fiddle.