January 29, 2014

"Stop Hitting Yourself" is Too Self-Indulgent

Mincing words would be a waste of time so I’m going to get right to it:   
I don’t know what the hell the folks at LCT3 were thinking when they booked Stop Hitting Yourself, a theatrical hodgepodge created by Rude Mechs, the experimental theater collective from Austin, Texas.

LCT3, the part of Lincoln Center Theater that champions new plays, has made its name with shows like 4000 Miles, Slowgirl and the Pulitzer-Prize winning Disgraced that all center on intimate familial relationships that provide a prism through which to view larger societal issues. To say that Stop Hitting Yourself is a departure from those dramas would be like saying Lady Gaga likes to dress up.  
Maybe the LCT3 folks were swayed by the group's reputation. Over nearly 20 years, the Rude Mechs have devised works collaboratively and their eccentric productions have played around the world. The company was one of the first to receive a grant when the NEA launched its New Play Development Program three years ago. They have a hip rep (click here to read about the group).  

For Stop Hitting Yourself (I'm assuming the title has some masturbatory meaning) the company has thrown together songs, tap dancing, deadpan humor, diatribes about global warming and income disparity, some slapstick and a heavy dose of audience participation.

But although the Rude Mechs clearly pride themselves on being idiosyncratic, the production employs several tropes that have been popping up with increasing regularity.  The set features a collection of thrift-store items, albeit in this case all gold-gilded. There’s a lot of direct address to the audience, in this case, ad-libbed confessionals. The result is a self-indulgent mess. 
Now I’ll admit that I tend towards the traditionalist end of the theatergoing spectrum but I’ve been known to enjoy venturing outside my comfort zone. Here, I just kept wondering if anyone in the company (perhaps Kirk Lynn, listed as the show's writer, or Shawn Sides, credited as director) had the veto power—or even the inclination—to say “No, this isn’t working.”
Stop Hitting Me’s plot, such as it is, revolves around a talent contest that will be judged by the queen (here played by a guy in drag who gets around on a motorized scooter) of the mythical country in which the show is set. 

One of the contestants is Wildman, a Christ-like figure who represents altruism. He is lying on the stage when the audience enters and after he persuades an audience member to help him get up, he announces that the coming events will end with his death. 
Wildman's sole opponent is listed in the Playbill as The Unknown Prince.  He represents greed. The prince will end the play with cheese on his face. Literally. One of the centerpieces of the set is a fountain that, for some unknown reason, spews a Velveeta-like goo.

According to the program notes, the show was inspired by thoughts about “charity and money and personal extravagances” as seen through the prism of Ayn Rand’s dystopian novel “Anthem,” about a Big Brother-style society that oppresses individualism. Workshop productions were held in Austin before the show migrated to Lincoln Center.  

Stop Hitting Yourself still carries the air of show put on by a smug group of college kids, conspicuous with their intellectualism and more concerned with entertaining one another than the audience. Several cast members cracked up as their colleagues tried to top one another with their revelations during the confession sequences at the performance my friend Ann and I attended.  

Still, there may be an audience for this kind of showing off. During one of the audience participation sections, a cast member brought a guy up onstage and offered him a dollar if he’d strip. The guy did it. 
I thought he might have been a plant but when Ann and I rode down from LCT3’s roof-top Claire Tow Theater, the stripper was on the elevator.  “I thought you were part of the show,” another rider said.  “No,” replied the stripper before he and his date walked off into the cold winter night. “I guess I’m just a wild kind of guy.”   

I guess he's also the kind of audience the LCT3 folks were thinking of when they scheduled the show. 

January 25, 2014

"Machinal" is a Finely-Crafted Piece of Theater

Machinal, the 1928 drama inspired by the real-life story of a woman who murders her husband, is not an easy play to like. And so I can’t really use the word "like" to describe how I feel about the revival that recently opened at the Roundabout Theatre Company’s American Airlines Theatre. But I can say that I greatly admire this production. And since I’ve so often complained about the shows the Roundabout has chosen to put on, let me also say that I applaud the company’s decision to give this play its first Broadway production in 86 years.

Plays by women still have a tough time making it to Broadway let alone into the canon of works that get revived there. But Machinal was written by Sophie Treadwell, a journalist (she covered the Mexican Revolution and interviewed Pancho Villa) playwright (she wrote over a dozen plays between 1906 and 1967, three years before her death at 85) and feminist who marched for women’s suffrage (click here to read more about her). 
In a kind of precursor to the ripped-from-the-headlines approach of TV procedurals like “Law & Order,” Treadwell based Machinal on the sensational 1927 case of Ruth Snyder, a Queens housewife who killed her husband and was the first woman to die in the electric chair at Sing Sing.  

The real Snyder took up with a lover and took out a life insurance policy on her husband before the murder. But Treadwell, echoing the theme of alienation in Elmer Rice’s The Adding Machine, turned the story into an expressionistic character study of how an everywoman trapped in the gears of the Machine Age might resort to desperate means to break out. 
Opportunities for women today are obviously different from what they were in the '20s but Treadwell’s writing is still surprisingly fresh. There are sharp references to homosexuality, abortion and an ambivalence about motherhood that must have shocked the play’s original audiences. And Helen remains a juicy part for an actress. 

This production boasts the Broadway debut of Rebecca Hall, the gifted British actress who is also the daughter of the celebrated director Peter Hall. And Hall commits fully to the role. Using her impressive height (she looks to be almost 6 ft.) she turns Helen into a figure who physically can’t fit into the confines of marriage and motherhood that society has set for her (click here to read a Q&A with the actress).  

It’s an impressive performance. And director Lyndsey Turner stages the play with an even more impressive flair that includes syncopated speech and choreographed gestures (click here to read more about their approach to the play).  

But I wasn’t onboard with all the choices Turner and Hall made. I would like to have seen a bit more of Helen's falling apart instead of just the deadening end result of her repression.  

On the other hand, I totally bought the choices made by the always admirable Michael Cumpsty who makes the husband neither odious nor overly sympathetic, which, in turn, makes the wife’s inability to accept him all the more symbolic and tragic. 

Also good is Morgan Spector, who brings the right mix of hunkiness and wariness to the role of the lover, the part that marked the Broadway debut of Clark Gable (click here to listen to cast members talk about the show).
But it’s the design that’s the true star of this production. Es Devlin has created a monochrome box that revolves on a turntable to create the play’s different settings, making literal the cramped feelings Helen suffers. The nine brief scenes are strikingly lit by Jane Cox and Matt Tierney’s sound design is outstanding, evoking both the relentless noises on the street and the similar cacophony inside Helen’s troubled mind.

The box's machinery broke down on opening night and reportedly stopped the 95-minute show for nearly an hour (click here to read how stagehands rescued the evening by using muscle-power to turn the box). But everything worked perfectly when my friend Jesse and I saw the show a week later. 
Machinal may not be for everyone and there's even a Gud-oh/God-oh debate over how to pronounced its name.  I've always said it "Mack-in all" but some posher folks are now saying "Mache-in all. However, you say it, true theater lovers should make the effort to see it.

January 22, 2014

"Beautiful" is a Pleasing Mash-Up of "Jersey Boys" and "Funny Girl" for Baby-Boomer Gals

The baby boomer musical, shows stitched together around the songbooks of acts popular in the ‘50s, 60’s and ‘70s, is taking over Broadway. The  trend started with the ABBA-scored Mamma Mia! and Movin’ Out, in which choreographer Twyla Tharp set a ballet about the Vietnam generation to some old Billy Joel hits. But it got its Big Mo with the 2005 arrival of Jersey Boys, the bio-musical about The Four Seasons that is still running at the August Wilson Theatre.  

Within just the past year, it’s been joined by Motown: The Musical, a bowdlerized version of the life of Berry Gordy Jr., the famed label's founder; Soul Doctor, a musical about Shlomo Carlebach, a singing rabbi popular in the ‘60s, which closed after just 66 performances; and A Night With Janis Joplin, a concert version of that rock star's life that just announced it will close next month. Now comes Beautiful: The Carole King Musical that opened last week at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre.

People like these kinds of shows because they can come in humming the tunes and mouth or murmur their familiar lyrics all through the show. And it’s hard to think of catchier melodies or more affecting lyrics than those of songs like “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” “Up on the Roof, “(You Make Me Feel Like) “A Natural Woman” and others written by King and Gerry Goffin, her writing partner and first husband.  
What gives Beautiful its real edge at the box office, however, is that it focuses on how King survived a troubled marriage with Goffin but eventually made a new life for herself with her landmark solo album “Tapestry,” which sold over 10 million copies and won four Grammys. It’s a self-empowerment tale that’s catnip for the menopause matrons who make up Broadway’s most frequent theatergoers. 

But, as is so often the case with these kinds of shows, the book isn’t as good as the music. Beautiful echoes the Funny Girl narrative: a Brooklyn gal with big talent and equally big insecurity about her looks falls for and lands a hot guy, eventually loses him but ends up with a great 11 o’clock number. But Douglas McGrath (best known for co-writing Bullets Over Broadway, which will make its own Broadway debut later this season) takes a paint-by-the-numbers approach to this version of that fairy tale. 
Maybe that’s because so many of the main characters are alive (a long haired, guitar-wielding admirer of King’s is clearly modeled on James Taylor but for some reason is called Nick). Or it could be because King and Goffin’s grown daughter Sherry Kondor has been a very involved producer of Beautiful even though the lady herself has said she won’t see the show because it’s too emotional to relive those days. (Click here to read about the making of the show).

King’s story is better told in Sheila Weller’s excellent book “Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon—And the Journey of a Generation” but that version comes without the songs, which are nicely staged in Beautiful by Marc Bruni and choreographed by Josh Prince (click here to read about how the dances were created).
Weller's book also lacks the show’s terrific performances.  Anika Larsen and Jarrod Spector bring winning energy and great voices to the roles of Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, King and Goffin’s close friends and songwriting rivals, who wrote such pop classics as “Walking in the Rain” and “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling.”  

Jake Epstein is a little one-note as Goffin but he sings well and he bears a strong resemblance to photos of the young Goffin. There’s a bad-boy sensuality about both men that makes it easy to see why a woman would fall for and then cling to him.
Of course a Carole King musical has to rise or fall on the shoulders of whoever plays King. I’d had my doubts when I’d heard that Jessie Mueller had been cast in the role. And it’s not because I didn’t think she was talented. In fact, I worried that Mueller’s talent (she’s got a great jazzy belt) might be too overpowering for the gentle, earth-mother essence that the real King exudes.

I’m happy to say that I underestimated Muller. It’s wonderful to see her complete the journey from her terrific breakout performance just two years ago in the otherwise misguided revival of On A Clear Day You Can See Forever to this bonafide star-making turn in Beautiful (click here for a profile of the actress).

Mueller gives an understated performance that doesn’t call attention to itself but instead captures King’s awkward shyness (not to mention the distinctive rasp of her voice) as well as the emotional turmoil of so many good girls who came of age in the ‘60s.

Those now-mature women sitting around me in the audience (including my jukebox-musical loving sister Joanne) purred with pleasure when Mueller, sporting King’s wavy natural-woman hairdo, launched into the songs from “Tapestry.”  We were all, in King’s words, home again and feeling right. Which, of course, is just what one wants from a baby boomer musical.

January 18, 2014

A "Loot" Revival that Offers Few Rewards

The challenge of reviving a game-changing work is that the game has already been changed and so it’s really tough to recreate the titillating shock of the original. The challenge of doing a farce is akin to that of making a soufflé, you need the right touch to transform its ingredients into an airy treat; in less deft hands, what’s in the pan falls flat.

The Red Bull Theater company takes on both challenges with its revial of Joe Orton’s dark comedy Loot, which opened this week at the Lucille Lortel Theatre, but the result is no puffier than a reheated pancake.
To be fair, Loot has always been a difficult show to pull off. Britain was just emerging from its dour post-War period and The Beatles were still wearing shag haircuts and matching outfits when the play premiered in a Cambridge theater in 1965 and closed a month later. 

It scandalized audiences with its tale of bisexual bank thieves who hide the titular money they’ve stolen in the coffin of the mother of one of them; a shady detective who pretends to be from, of all places, the Water Board; a larcenous nurse whose seven husbands have all died under mysterious circumstances and a corpse that gets stuffed in a closet. The play lasted just 22 performances when it eventually migrated to Broadway. 

Still, Loot has always had its fans. Its West End production, shortly after the Cambridge failure, won the Evening Standard Award. In 1970, three years after Orton’s longtime lover bludgeoned him to death in a jealous rage, a movie version of the play starring Richard Attenborough, Milo O’Shea and Lee Remick was a hit at the Cannes Film Festival.

Later in 1986, a Manhattan Theatre Club production won the Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Revival and introduced Alec Baldwin to Broadway when the show transferred there. And just this past summer, the New York Times proclaimed a production at the Westport Country Playhouse to be “comic perfection.”
Alas, the comedy in the current revival is far more heavy-handed. The six-member cast, under the direction Red Bull’s artistic director Jesse Berger, seems at times too timid to be as zany as the material demands and at others to be pushing too hard for laughs.   

Several of the actors repeatedly tripped over their lines at the performance my friend Priscilla and I attended. Which is really a sin because although Loot may not be able to shock as it did five decades ago, it is still wickedly funny enough to make a modern-day audience laugh. 
Only Jarlath Conroy, who plays the grieving and pious widower of the corpse, seems to get that. He manages to strike just the right note of serious inanity that the rest of this production sorely misses.

January 15, 2014

"I Could Say More" Tries to Say Too Much

Gay plays usually fall into three categories: the coming-out story, the AIDS drama, the cri de couer for acceptance from the wider society...or from the self.  So I was intrigued when I heard about I Could Say More, which bills itself as the tale of a modern family, centered around the long-together-but-recently-married couple Carl and Drew, their adopted teen son and the friends and relatives who visit them at a beach house in the Hamptons.

I thought it might be kind of like Terrence McNally's Lips Together, Teeth Apart or Love! Valour! Compassion!, only without the underlying existential angst. But it turns out that angst, or at least the right kind of angst, is useful when it comes to making a sturdy play.

Playwright Chuck Blasius has stocked his tale with plenty of anxieties and many of them are ripe for dramatic exploration: the gay couple struggling to figure out what marriage means for them, the challenge of romantic love between a gay man and a straight woman, the adolescent confusions of a straight kid raised by gay parents. 

But Blasius, who directed the play and stars in it, doesn’t develop any of those themes. He does include a few nice speeches and an audience-pleasing supply of bitchy lines (plus a few groaners) that keep things moving along.  But he never makes it clear where it's all supposed to be moving toward.  

Story lines are picked up and dropped, characters behave one way and then another without apparent reason, except for the overused crutch of too much drink. Then, after almost two and a half hours, the play simply stops. Ironically, the only people who seem to have reached any kind of resolution are the sole hetero couple.

The production, particularly Clifton Chadick’s comfy-looking set, is nicely put together and although the acting is uneven, there were some nuanced turns by Keith McDermott and Monique Vukovic as two of the houseguests and Brandon Smalls as the son (click here to watch the cast talk about the show). But these parts don’t add up to a satisfying whole.

My intrepid theatergoing buddy Bill and I happened to attend Monday’s opening night performance at the Hudson Guild Theatre and so the audience was filled with folks eager to be supportive. But although they whooped when each member of the nine-person cast took a bow at the curtain call, most of them looked just as confused by what we'd just seen as Bill and I were.

I don’t necessarily need, or even want, a play to spell out everything for me but it doesn’t really work when one just throws a bunch of stuff at you.  In the end, I Could Say More is just as frustratingly opaque as its doesn't-say-anything title.

January 11, 2014

"The Glass Menagerie" Really Does Glitter

From its out-of-town run at The American Repertory Theater in Cambridge last spring right through to the news this week that the Broadway production has recouped its investment, the current revival of The Glass Menagerie has been praised as a revelatory production that will be remembered for the ages.  And you’re going to hear no differently from me.

As regular readers know, Tennessee Williams sits high in my pantheon of great playwrights. And this memory play, based on Williams' own wrenching decision to abandon his overbearing mother and emotionally fragile sister in order to fulfill his artistic destiny, is his most poignant work and one of my favorites in the entire canon. 
Then there's my ongoing adoration for the great Cherry Jones, which was only intensified by her interpretation of the mother Amanda. While she's often been portrayed as a hapless harpy, Jones' Amanda is a Mother Courage fighting in the best way she knows for her version of happiness for her children (click here to read a terrific profile of the actress).  

And Jones’ powerhouse performance is equaled by that of Zachary Quinto as the son Tom. Quinto’s day job as a movie star (“Star Trek”) and TV star (most recently in the repertory company of “American Horror Story”) may account for some of the ticket sales but, as he proved in Signature Theatre’s 2010 revival of Angels in America, he is a superb stage actor and his portrayal of Tom limns both the deep love for his family and the desperate need to get away from them that the young Tennessee, still then called Tom, so clearly felt (click here for a Q&A with the actor).
Finally, the show is directed by John Tiffany, who with the Tony-winning musical Once and the National Theater of Scotland’s magnificent performance piece Black Watch has shown himself to be one of the most creative directors working in the theater today. 

I’ll confess that I did find some of the stylized gestures choreographed by Tiffany’s frequent collaborator Steven Hoggett to be distracting but the entrance of the sister Laura, affectingly played by Celia Keenan-Bolger, is an amazing coup de theatre. 

Meanwhile, Bob Crowley’s spare set, surrounded by a moat of water, creates a poetic visual metaphor for a family adrift and a playwright forever haunted by his memories of them (click here to read how the designer evoked it all). 

And yet for me, the most memorable thing about this production is the performance of Brian J. Smith in the comparatively small part of Jim O’Connor, the gentleman caller that Tom, in response to Amanda’s relentless urging, brings home as a prospective beau for Laura (click here for a profile of Smith). 
The scene between Laura and Jim is the heart of the play. Jim’s a former jock whose glory days are behind him and most actors play him as such a blowhard that it’s instantly clear Laura doesn’t stand a real chance. But Smith finds the humanity in the man, teasing out his disappointments and dreams in a way that make him just as vulnerable as Laura and the tiny animals in the glass collection that gives the play its name.

Despite my having seen the play half a dozen times, Smith made me believe that Jim and Laura might make a good life together. And I felt all the more heartbroken when the spell was shattered (click here for an excellent deconstruction of how he and Keenan-Bolger did that). Smith has appeared in other Broadway productions I’ve seen but I don’t remember him in them. I doubt though that I will ever forget his performance in The Glass Menagerie.

January 8, 2014

"What's It All About?"

If you’d asked me to name my favorite songwriters, the composer Burt Bacharach and his frequent lyricist Hal David wouldn’t have made the list (in case you’re interested, Cole Porter, George and Ira Gershwin, Stephen Sondheim, Laura Nyro, Carole King, James Taylor and The Beatles would have). But my disregard of the Bacharach-David songbook was before I saw What’s It All About?, the new musical revue that subtitles itself “Bacharach Reimagined.”  

My epiphany occurred as I sat in New York Theatre Workshop swaying to Bacharach’s melodies, silently mouthing the words to the 30 or so songs in the show and smiling at all the memories they evoked. For as I look back, Bacharach provided the “Mad Men” vibe to the soundtrack of my youth.  
HIs songs convey a sophistication about love, its disappointments and the cool stoicism necessary to survive them that my younger self longed to have. And those same yearnings are present in What’s It All About?, which Kyle Riabko, a 26-year-old actor-musician with rock-star looks and front-man charisma, has turned into a 90-minute romantic song cycle  for the hipster generation. 

As the story goes, Riabko, who appeared on Broadway in Spring Awakening and the Diane Paulus version of Hair, met the now octogenarian Bacharach at a studio recording session three years ago and eventually persuaded the composer to let him reorchestrate some of his old songs for a more contemporary sound, which basically means no strings, no horns, just acoustic guitar and a thumping rhythm section (click here to read more about the development of the show).   
What’s It All About? has no plot. Riabko has simply recruited a multi-culti and multi-talented band of six other young musicians (click here to read about the casting process) and they all take turns—solo, in duets or larger groups—performing the Bacharach tunes.

The playlist includes such pop classics as “Walk on By,” “Anyone Who Had A Heart,” “A House Is Not a Home” and other songs first made famous by Bacharach and David’s favorite interpreter Dionne Warwick, along with tunes like “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head,” “What’s New Pussycat” and the title song from the movie scores the duo wrote.
Some of the singers are stronger than others but they’re all great to look at and each projects a latter-day-Brooklyn-style hipness (pork-pie hats for the guys, vintage tops for the gals) that’s kind of irresistible. 

And director Steven Hoggett augments the aura with his trademark choreographed gestures—the flick of a wrist, a syncopated stomp—to underscore the subtext of each song. 
My theatergoing buddy Bill was totally charmed by the show but the overall response has been divided. A few critics were knocked out by What’s It All About?; others simply knocked it (click here to read through some of the reviews).  

I fall in the middle. I'm grateful to the show for reintroducing me to Bacharach and David but I did find parts of it to be a wee bit precious. 

When the audience enters, the performers are already onstage, lounging on chairs and couches that have been suspended—for no discernible reason—on the walls of a set that’s been decked out to resemble a chic thrift shop. I kept worrying someone would fall as they clambered up and down for various numbers.  

Still you’d have to be more of a grouch than I’m willing to be to naysay this affectionate tribute to old-style songwriting.  I'm not sure it delivers on the promise of reimagining Bacharach but that may be because Bacharach's music is fine just as he originally imagined it. 

And there's time for you to make up your own mind about that cause the show has been extended to Feb. 2. And if you go, stick around cause after the show the entire cast races outside (or at least they did before the frigid weather set in) to serenade audience members as they leave the theater.

January 4, 2014

A Truly Visionary "Midsummer Night’s Dream"

If you've seen the opening number of The Lion King or even some of the outlandish set pieces in Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark (which turns off for the final time on Broadway tonight) you know that you don’t go to a show directed by Julie Taymor for the acting or, that matter, for the narrative. You go for the visual splendor and the other wondrous things that pour out of Taymor’s bountiful imagination.  

And they’re all on brilliant display in her production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which is playing through Jan. 13 at the shiny new home of Theatre for a New Audience, down the street from BAM in Brooklyn’s growing Cultural District (click here to read about the new building and the changing neighborhood).
Shakespeare’s tale about four mismatched lovers who wander into a fairyland forest is the perfect match for the enchantments that Taymor likes to create (click here to listen to her talk about the show). The result is that this Midsummer Night's Dream is a buoyant mix of Commedia dell’Arte meets Cirque du Soleil. 
Actors disappear right before the audience’s eyes. Puppet creatures prance across the stage. Yards of gossamer material undulate to the ethereal music composed by Taymor’s husband and frequent collaborator Elliot Goldenthal. A band of 20 youngsters, illuminated by candlelight, serve as the story’s chorus and its fairies.
And yes, there is flying.  But instead of the high-tech apparatus that caused so many problems (and a few serious accidents) at Spider-Man, the lifting here is done the old fashion way: with men using muscle power to pull ropes.
And while it takes a back seat to the spectacle (special shout-outs to Constance Hoffman for the sexy costumes, Sven Ortel for the mesmerizing video projections and Donald Holder for the nimble lighting) the cast isn’t bad either. Although in typical Taymor fashion, they’re generally more fabulous to look at than to listen to.
Tina Benko is a reigning goddess of the downtown theater scene and she’s never been more majestic than she is here as the fairy queen Titania. The British actor David Harewood, best known as the equivocating counterterrorism chief on TV’s “Homeland,” not only speaks his speeches well but is marvelously virile as her husband King Oberon.  
Also worth singling out is Max Casella, who brings an hilarious wiseguy sensibility to Bottom, the leader of the workingmen who are preparing a play to entertain the noble people of the realm, and Mandi Masden, amusingly flustered as the lovelorn Helena, who can’t win the affection of the man she loves and then, through fairy mischief, finds herself pursued by him and another suitor.
But most invaluable is the pixieish Kathryn Hunter, reminiscent of Linda Hunt in both size and androgyny, who is a classicist (having performed at Shakespeare’s Globe in London) an avant-gardist (having won an Olivier Award for her work with Theatre de Complicite) and an amazing contortionist who is one of the sprightliest (in every sense of the word) Pucks I’ve ever seen (click here to read how the actress and her director devised the character).
My theatergoing buddy Bill was totally turned off by Hunter’s idiosyncratic and limb-twisting performance and he didn’t care much more for the rest of the production either.  He and several other critics complain that Taymor was so busy creating her beautiful stage pictures that she paid too little attention to Shakespeare’s equally beautiful language.  
Which is true.  But I was still dazzled by everything she concocted for this fantasia.  And I can hardly wait to see what she will come up with next.