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Home of the Brave: “Wit” Pits Poetry Against Cancer


Mention people and cancer and the adjective “brave” pops up immediately. And in “Wit,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning first play from Margaret Edson, much bravery-of the theatrical kind-is on display. The playwright has decided to focus on a woman dying of cancer, spending the play in a medical center, allowing few supporting characters other than doctors, nurses, and interns. The actor (Allison Coutts-Jordan) portraying the woman Vivian Bearing, a professor in English specializing in John Donne, must achieve a delicate balance between dignity and debasement, between harshness and sentimentality. And because this terminal illness attacks such a stern taskmaster without, as we soon learn, a husband, children, friends, or loving students, the temptation for Edson to use the illness as a sort of punishment-repent, Ebenezer Scrooge!-must be resisted.

This performance, to run until Nov. 8 at SBCC’s Garvin Theater, pulls all the above off perfectly. Director Rick Mokler certainly took a chance with the play, with its many grim scenes likely to repel a number of people. Mr. Mokler also has invested in a play that relegates much of its time to a hospital bed set back in the stage. Fortunately, Ms. Coutts-Jordan handles everything with confidence-she is called on to carry the play and does so because there is no room in the character’s world for anybody else. She relishes the part and the audience is with her all the way.

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Fire on the Mountain

Today was such a particular day, a particular mood. We got up to find, nicely enough, that the clocks had gone back an hour, so that extra lay-in wasn't as long as we thought. Stepped outside onto the patio and…

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Dennis Miller Interview: Natural Born Miller

Over his decade-plus career, Dennis Miller has tried to make the rant his own. Full of vitriol for targets big and small, the stand-up comedian has played a news anchor in his early days on Saturday Night Live—he pretty much made Weekend Update his own—won an Emmy for his talk show, and made a puzzling diversion as a commentator for Monday Night Football, lacing his appreciation for the games with references so dense and obscure that several Web sites sprang up to gloss his jokes.

But for some, Miller’s most drastic career move was evolving his humor slowly towards the right, with jokes about turning Iraq into glass, and scabrous comments about the French (not the rarest of targets, of course). Just last week, Miller raised the ire of Elton John, who denounced him at a charity gig from behind his piano.

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The Magus – John Fowles

Dell, 1965 Technically this is Fowles' first novel, and the first that I have read (the first the public knew was The Collector). This was recommended to me by G_____ and I soon moved from the teeny-weeny print of the…

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‘Beyond Therapy’ needs a dose of speed


There’s an attraction for directors to Christopher Durang’s “Beyond Therapy.”

Its lampooning of psychobabbling me-generation members and profundity of rude language give it an edgy surface. It’s like a coarser, more farcical Woody Allen. It’s also incredibly dated.

Mr. Durang packs his dialogue with cultural reference that may have been funny when they were fresh out the oven. Prudence, the female lead in this romantic farce, says at one point that she thinks Shaun Cassidy’s cute, but “he’s too young for me.”

Not even 20 coats of irony can save that line from disappearing into the sinkhole. Plenty of other names and pop culture-isms get dropped, from Peter Schaffer’s “Equus” to Dyan Cannon, and they hit the ground, brick-like.

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Absolutely classic

Much hilarity in the Mills household over this irony. Bush orders officials to stop the leaks WASHINGTON - Concerned about the appearance of disarray and feuding within his administration as well as growing resistance to his policies in Iraq, President…

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Further Embarrassment

I don't know if you've seen the Bush-authored poem to his wife, but The Missouri Review has it, along with ironic commentary. It's staggeringly bad, and I wonder if his handlers thought that showing that his writing style is akin…

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Three Steps Forward, One Back: Twyla Tharp Dance Delivers in the End, But Is Cute on the Way

©David Bazemore

A sold-out Campbell Hall crowd on Friday night got a heady dose of Twyla Tharp’s choreography as her recently regrouped (in 1999) Twyla Tharp Dance performed four works that brought Santa Barbara crowds up to date on Tharp’s most recent work, while delving back briefly for a look at Tharp’s beginnings. For relative newcomers it was a night of contrasts; for longtime aficionados, it was a confirmation of the changes Tharp has brought to modern dance.

The company is a talented, well chosen collection of dancers, all very strong by themselves, and the evening’s program introduced them to us two or three at a time, culminating with almost the entire company participating in the rousing finale. But more of that later.

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