The Evil Ides

Whatever gave poet T.S. Eliot the idea that April is the cruelest month? I question that. I would never, never quarrel with Eliot's sensitive perception-- and certainly not with his poetry-- but recent experience has convinced me that it's March that's the cruelest month. Shakespeare hit it on the button when he had his soothsayer say, in sooth, "Beware the ides of March!"

Ides is when it began for me. Well, actually, earlier, but around the ides of March it got really nasty-- starting at the garage when I mistook a curb for a level playing field and landed on the pavement with a nasty gash on the forehead requiring six stitches at a medical facility. Informed that my trusty little Toyota needed its 120,000-mile checkup, I had dutifully reported, to receive a modest three-figure estimate that quickly became four, less modest, figures. Well, that happens. Taking my lumps in more ways than one, the necessary expensive work completed, feeling relatively carefree, I drove home to find that my vehicle was leaking badly. What was leaking looked, and felt, like oil. So it was back to the garage, another rental car, another period of waiting. I was told by the experts that the leaking substance was not oil, but coolant.

To shorten the long, sad story, over about a week I had the adventurous experience of driving not one, but three, rental cars not including the cumbersome SUV they misguidedly tried to give me. Finally, back in the vehicle that had served me long and faithfully, I started home from work on a Tuesday evening. It was dusk, darkness quickly fell. I was on the 405 heading south when suddenly, ominously, all the red warning lights on my dashboard flashed. The car made threatening noises, emitted a dangerous burning aroma, and ground to a stop. I panicked. It was rush hour. Impatient lanes of homeward-bound traffic sped recklessly by, around, and behind me. All I could think to do was activate my warning lights and try to make my way to a slightly safer spot on the right-hand shoulder, which I did. I couldn't get my old, possibly decrepit, cell phone to work; my flashlight battery was burnt out; I couldn't see much in the dark. If only a passing good Samaritan seeing my warning signals would alert the highway patrol....

No one did. The only course was to get out, hike along the shoulder to a call box-- all the while breathing prayers of thanks to late great Supervisor Kenny Hahn, who put them there. So I did, put in a call for rescue, and after what seemed hours-- I was stalled on that freeway for about three hours and the traffic never let up-- the white knights of the highway patrol arrived, bless them, to stay behind me with a bright protective light, until a tow truck arrived to get me home. The driver seemed kind of grumpy. He said I was his first customer that evening. When I told him he should cheer up and think of himself as a rescuer, he said most people in a predicament like this appeared to blame him for it.

The dealership reported that my engine was completely burned up, melted, they'd never seen anything like it, and they would replace it with a new one at enormous cost to them and an extra $900 from me. They said what happened was the thermostat got stuck, it was nobody's fault, it was an accident, and the new motor would last another 100,000 miles. Who knows? Anyway, it's been an immense aggravation, frustration, consternation. I was traumatized, and I've been complaining a lot to friends and associates. What else can you do?

Kudos and Caricatures

What kind of March did you have? Good riddance to mine. Probably the best thing to do, when the world is too much with you, is turn to theatre. There's a lot of it around, it is nicely varied, and it was celebrated on Apr. 2 in the Blossom Room of the good old Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel at the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle's annual awards event-- the 32nd, which, as venerability goes hereabouts, makes this organization pretty venerable. Back Stage West critic Les Spindle termed it a "lean, clean ceremony" in his lean, clean prZcis of the evening, which gave a detailed report of winners and winning highlights in last week's issue.

It was the idea of incoming LADCC vice president and BSW critic Wenzel Jones, who shared emcee duties with publicist Ken Werther, to adopt a "couples" theme for the evening's presenters, which worked out beautifully with such confirmed twosomes as Jillian Armenante and Alice Dodd, multiple award winners for Circle X Theatre's In Flagrante Gothicto, Interact Theatre's John Rubenstein and Jane Lanier, Pacific Resident Theatre's Orson Bean and Alley Mills, A Noise Within's Geoff Elliott and Julia Rodriguez Elliott, and Jim Brochu and Steve Schalchlin of El Portal Theatre and the celebrated musical The Last Session. Presenter Schalchlin got one of the biggest laughs of the evening with his observation, "Tom and Nicole were supposed to be presenters, but you just can't trust heterosexuals in long-term relationships."

Werther divulged that actor/writer/director/producer Brochu, El Portal's current artistic director, will be joining celebrities whose caricatures hang on the walls of New York's legendary showbiz hangout, Sardi's. Werther produced artist R. Benato's caricatured likeness of Brochu in evidence. Seated with his longtime life partner Schalchlin at our table, Brochu admitted he burst into tears when he heard about the caricature. "It's my dream come true," he quipped. "To hang around Sardi's looking 10 pounds thinner." The honor, he added, "is for my body of work, and for our musical The Last Session, Steve's and mine, which is soon to open in New York-- and because over the years I've spent about half-a-million dollars at Sardi's." He said the fabled eatery has been taken over by Max, though original proprietor Vincent Sardi drops in once a month. Brochu said he has known Sardi's new owner, who goes by the name Max only, since Max arrived, an immigrant from Eastern Europe who spoke no English and got a job as dishwasher at Sardi's.

Brochu's play The Lucky O'Learys, written and directed by him, currently plays in El Portal's smaller theatre. A special gala opening of Ray Cooney's new comedy, Out of Order, is scheduled for Apr. 28-- also the night of NoHo's "evening of wining, dining, and live theatre," Starry, Starry Night. Adding to the anticipation of both events, British master farceur Cooney himself will be directing his play and acting in it. Out of Order's cast also features actress Anne Rogers (original British star of My Fair Lady and The Boy Friend); Ian Abercrombie, Kenneth Danziger, and Robert Mandan are featured, as well.