Gay wedding (the other kind)

A wedding spins out of control in the insightful musical ‘A Catered Affair’

Stage

FATHER OF THE BRIDE | A penny-pinching cabbie (Sonny Franks) argues with his wife (Sally Soldo) over the cost of their daughter’s reception in Theatre 3’s charmer ‘A Catered Affair.’

 

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

Not every marriage-minded gal is a bridezilla — not that anyone will believe it. Jane Hurley has simple tastes: A civil ceremony at the courthouse, followed by a quick honeymoon getaway driving a car cross-country for a friend. No place cards, no guest list, no nosegay — just a license, a vow and groom, with mom and dad watching.

Only who would buy that? Jane’s mom, Aggie (Sally Soldo) does, as does her dad (Sonny Franks), who’s happy not to exhaust his bankbook throwing a party for someone else. But the groom’s parents don’t like it, and the gossipy neighbors suspect such a quickie wedding bespeaks of a pregnant bride.

A Catered Affair is based on a 1956 movie (and an earlier teleplay) starring Bette Davis and Ernest Borgnine, but while the original was a schmaltzy comedy along the lines of Father of the Bride, the musical — adapted by Harvey Fierstein, with a score by composer John Bucchino — is something else entirely.

There are broad comic moments, most dealing with dad’s penny-pinching, but the core of the story is deeper, more meaningful. (The “dad’s a cheapskate” angle has been played out too many times to count, and takes a backseat here.) Jane has lived in the shadow of her brother, who was killed in Korea; her Uncle Winston (Chris Wagley) is profoundly wounded that he isn’t invited to the ceremony attributing it to Jane’s disguised embarrassment over having a gay relative. And the tension between her parents churns up long-standing resentments that threaten their marriage.

Bucchino has composed a nice chamber musical with Sondheim-esque sensibilities (an asymmetrical rhyme scheme strung on staccato motifs that are occasionally lovely but defiantly unhummable). He’s more concerned with telling a story and revealing character than creating earworms for the drive home.

Fierstein’s script expands on the gay content, making Uncle Win simultaneously flamboyant, coy, brittle and defensive. In fact, the book explores issues of social convention (who wants the wedding and why) with unexpected insight.

Director Jac Alder paces the show well, and strikes a tricky tone. This isn’t Death of a Salesman: The Musical. It shouldn’t be dour and heavy, even as it frankly addresses issues about war and child rearing and the ends of marriage.

This is Soldo’s best work. Her hair snapped into a tight, graying bun, clad in a frumpy housedress, she exudes a working class ma from the Bronx, boiling hambones to stretch her food dollar. It’s not a glamorous role, but she gives it not just authenticity, but weightiness, especially on “Our Only Daughter.”

Soldo is matched by Franks, who looks so unlike what you’d expect a musical comedy performer to look like, he’s one of the best there is. Their pairing works even as the script toggles between comic fable and serious social document. They are the heart and soul of A Catered Affair, and certainly make it worth an RSVP.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 21, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Broken Mould

Queer punk pioneer Bob Mould turned an abusive childhood into a musical movement, but memoir targets hardcore fans

2.5 out of 5 stars
SEE A LITTLE LIGHT: THE TRAIL OF RAGE AND MELODY
By Bob Mould (with Michael
Azerrad). 2001 (Little, Brown)
$25; 404 pp.

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It all starts with “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” It continues with the itsy-bitsy spider, the ABCs and being a little teapot. From there, you embrace whatever your older siblings are listening to until you develop your own musical tastes. Maybe you started with records, moved on to the cassette tapes, CD and now, your iPod is full.

The point is, you’ve never been without your tunes.

But what about the people who make the music you love?

When Mould was born in 1960 in the northernmost end of New York, he entered a family wracked with grief: Just before he was born, Mould’s elder brother died of kidney cancer. He surmises that the timing of his birth resulted in his being a “golden child,” the family peacekeeper who sidestepped his father’s physical and psychological abuse.

“As a child,” he writes, “music was my escape.”

Mould’s father, surprisingly indulgent, bought his son guitars and young Bob taught himself to play chords and create songs. By the time he entered high school, Mould knew that he had to get out of New York and away from his family. He also knew he was gay, which would be a problem in his small hometown.

He applied for and entered college in Minnesota, where he started taking serious guitar lessons and drinking heavily. His frustrations led him to launch a punk rock band that made a notable impact on American indie music.

Named after a children’s game, Hüsker Dü performed nationally and internationally, but Mould muses that perhaps youth was against them. He seemed to have a love-hate relationship with his bandmates, and though he had become the band’s leader, there were resentments and accusations until the band finally split.

HUSKER DON’T | Bob Mould turned his youthful rage and homosexuality into a music career. (Photo by Noah Kalina)

But there were other bands and there were other loves than music, as Mould grew and learned to channel the rage inside him and the anger that volcanoed from it.

“I spent two years rebuilding and reinventing myself,” writes Mould. “Now that I’ve integrated who I am and what I do, I finally feel whole.”

If you remember with fondness the ‘80s, with its angry lyrics and mosh pits, then you’ll love this book. For most readers, though, See a Little Light is going to be a struggle. Mould spends a lot of time on a litany of clubs, recording studios, and locales he played some 30 years ago — which is fine if you were a fellow musician or a rabid, hardcore fan. This part of the book goes on… and on… and on, relentlessness and relatively esoteric in nature.

Admittedly, Mould shines when writing about his personal life but even so, he’s strangely dismissive and abrupt with former loves, bandmates, and even family. I enjoyed the occasional private tale; unfortunately there were not enough.

Overall, See a Little Light is great for Mould fanboys and those were heavy into the punk scene. For most readers, though, this book is way out of tune.

— Terri Schlichenmeyer

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 26, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Starvoice • 02.04.11

By Jack Fertig

CELEBRITY BIRTHDAYtn-500_img_1303

Judith Light turns 62 on Wednesday. We couldn’t get enough of her as Claire Meade in Ugly Betty, but really, how can we not cherish Light’s extensive work as a gay rights and AIDS activist? The L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center named their library after her. Last spring, she joined Cyndi Lauper’s Give a Damn campaign joining the likes of Elton, Whoopi and Anna Paquin.

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THIS WEEK

Sun and Mars are in a long dance together through Aquarius. Dissonance from Venus and Pluto, both in Capricorn, can turn that into a war dance. It’s too easy to build up resentments over nothing. Strive for clarity and self-awareness. If you feel wronged, own your part of it and move on.

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AQUARIUS Jan 20-Feb 18
Some bee in your bonnet has you agitated and touchy. What’s at the bottom of this? Who are you really angry at? Yourself? Talk with someone who knows your BS better than to fall for it.

PISCES Feb 19-Mar 19
One of your friends is out to double-cross you. Keep your radar up. Standing with one foot in the future and one in the past blinds you to the present. Focus on what matters at the moment.
ARIES  Mar 20-Apr 19
Consider social demands before agreeing to any. Focus on challenges at work. Reexamine your goals and your strategies. Are they realistic? Even the best plans need an occasional tweak.

TAURUS Apr 20-May 20
You prefer safer paths, but are now easily goaded to big gambles. Some risk-taking is good and necessary; exercise foresight, good sense and moderation. If it looks good, go for it.

GEMINI May 21-Jun 20
New sexual adventures take you to places you’d never dreamed of. Be careful. Bragging about your new erotic adventures is also fine, but be careful about “the time and place for everything.”

CANCER Jun 21-Jul 22
You and your partner need some spice in your love life. Take turns granting each other’s desires. You’ll be surprised. Be careful where to discuss. If it gets out that could also be a surprise.

LEO Jul 23-Aug 22
Your efforts on teamwork are admirable, but remember that teamwork is not necessarily what you say it is. Work at taking orders and suggestions, then show how you can carry those out.

VIRGO Aug 23-Sep 22
Sports injuries and accidents are out to get you. Whatever you do to relax, stay focused on developing technique and keep your eyes open to usual risks. But you’ll look sexy in a cast.

LIBRA Sep 23-Oct 22
Fun and games at home start more fights than they prevent. The best application for rough competitive energy could be wrestling to see who gets on top.

SCORPIO Oct 23-Nov 21
Family fights break out too easily. Discussing those problems with a friend is more helpful than putting it in the face of your folks. Work helps relieve tension gets you some perspective.

SAGITTARIUS Nov 22-Dec 20
In your heart, you know compulsive spending is counterproductive. Sit down and analyze your finances. Learning a new game or creative outlet is helpful, if it doesn’t get expensive.

CAPRICORN Dec 21-Jan 19
Trying a new look either gets expensive or challenges your resourcefulness. Go for something radical and dramatic, even if it’s just for those special occasions.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 4, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Starvoice • 12.03.10

By Jack Fertig

CELEBRITY BIRTHDAY

Kara DioGuardi turns 40 on Thursday. Although primarily a singer, songwriter and producer, we got to know DioGuardi as the new fourth judge on American Idol in season 8. Then she called it quits before season 10. Now she’s working on a memoir about her experiences with the show. Of course, we’re hoping for some juicy details about Simon and Paula.

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THIS WEEK

Mercury turning retrograde in Capricorn reveals systemic errors great and small. Look for flaws in hierarchies and collect info to solve problems next month. Mercury’s conjunct Pluto and sextile Venus so challenges in relationships seem to be everywhere. Sexual tension is often, but not always the issue. Be careful.

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SAGITTARIUS  Nov 22-Dec 20
If you must argue over money, keep it in your head. Problems with other people is a reflection of your own internal conflicts over values. Some introspection will save you embarrassment.

CAPRICORN  Dec 21-Jan 19
Daring outspokenness could be polarizing, but it will win friends. Sitting quietly on problems will only be worse, promoting resentments and continued tension. Have it out in the open at least.

AQUARIUS  Jan 20-Feb 18
Finding out what people are saying behind your back can help strengthen your reputation. Fighting some lies might make them seem truer. Be careful what rumors you fight – and how.

PISCES  Feb 19-Mar 19
Explore dark or erotic art to challenge your imagination. Be willing to be shocked or scared. New images open new ideas. It’s time to break from unconsciously held dogmas and prejudices.

ARIES  Mar 20-Apr 19
Assertions of authority go overboard easily. No matter who’s at fault, back off. Think ahead very carefully. Giving up a battle may be necessary to win your long-range struggle.

TAURUS  Apr 20-May 20
Once you accept that your partner is always right, life will be much easier. Reasonably nobody is always right, but being open to ideas and rethinking old ones help you in the long run.

GEMINI  May 21-Jun 20
New sexual directions motivate you to exercise more or attend to health matters. Problems with colleagues  explode. Focus on listening and laying the groundwork for future solutions.

CANCER  Jun 21-Jul 22
The bedroom is as good a place as any to resolve partnership trouble. Talk about what’s frustrating you, starting with sex. Getting out and having fun together will get you back in sync.

LEO  Jul 23-Aug 22
Awareness of your physical limitations is important for knowing how best to shape up and stay healthy. Dig into the family history to see what strengths and problems you may have inherited.

VIRGO  Aug 23-Sep 22
Welcome criticism to help solve creative blocks. A good argument can open terrific new ideas. You’re coming off a bit sexier and more challenging than usual. Be careful where you aim that.

LIBRA  Sep 23-Oct 22
Challenges will bring out inherited strengths that you have yet to acknowledge. It may be painful, but admitting your parents were right about something could save your ass.

SCORPIO  Oct 23-Nov 21
Challenge your brain. It may take something as complex as archaeology or surgery to keep you out of trouble. If you can’t get out of your obsessions, at least take a good hard look at them.

Jack Fertig can be reached at 415-864-8302 or Starjack.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 3, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens