Your PopCulteer has returned from a quick trip to The Windy City and has a bunch of cool stuff to talk about this week.
I’m going to try and keep it short, but chances are that I won’t succeed.
Your faithful correspondent made the trip to Chicago to accompany his wife to see Linda Vista, the new play by her favorite playwright, Tracy Letts (August Osage County, Bug, Killer Joe, Superior Donuts), and on this trip we managed to squeeze in visits to a few great record stores for Record Store Day as well as our first-time as a couple stops at The Art Institute of Chicago and Millenium Park. That’s the Crown Fountain you see at right.
We rode up via Amtrak, and it was one of the most fun train trips we’ve made. Rail travel is such a great alternative to flying that it’s pretty disheartening that there are political leaders in Washington who want to defund Amtrak and eliminate the freedom of choice that consumers who have to travel long distances now have.
Rather than killing off the last vestige of long-distance passenger rail in this country, since Amtrak is a government-owned corporation, our country ought to be investing more in Amtrak, upgrading the equipment and increasing the service so that vital lines like The Cardinal could become every day trains.
Ridership would go up and fewer people would have to forcibly removed from overbooked airplanes.
Charlton Arrow Kickstarter
Our friends at the Charlton Neo movement have a great new Kickstarter campaign for issue #6 of The Charlton Arrow that also includes a replica of the famed Charlton guide to making comics.
Let me quote from the Kickstarter campaign:
In just three years, Charlton Neo has released two dozen books with some of the world’s best and upcoming talent and our flagship title, The Charlton Arrow, is now up to it’s sixth issue! So far, we’ve only been available through mail order in select places, but now it’s time to hang with the big boys and, after this issue, get into the comic shops for increased exposure! It is our goal to raise enough from this Kickstarter for The Charlton Arrow #6 and The Comic Book Guide to afford printing of our next issue and get it into your friendly neighborhood comic shop! Check below for the sensational news of our line-up for our next, first direct issue.
This will be a big move for Charlton Neo, getting the book into comic shops via Diamond Distributors. Recently The Creeps Magazine and CARtoons made the jump into Diamond with great success, proving that great comics can be conceived outside the traditional comic book shop pipeline.
Also part of this campaign is a reproduction of a book that your PopCulteer wanted badly back in the 1970s, but never managed to get around to ordering, Charlton’s Comic Book Guide for the Artist • Writer • Letterer, Featuring a new introduction by writer Nick Cuti. Again, we quote from the campaign:
Nicola Cuti’s 1973 Comic Book Guide for the Artist • Writer • Letterer from Charlton Comics is an instructional look at the process of comics storytelling. It details a commonsense approach to constructing and drawing comic book stories, even if the tools have evolved since then. Despite changes in technology, the basics that are logically conveyed here remain the same. The Comic Book Guide for the Artist • Writer • Letterer is a rare, sought-after collectible produced by one of comicdom’s most gifted creators, and we at Charlton Neo are proud to re-present it. Take a step back and immerse yourself in the state-of-the-art tools and techniques of 1973, courtesy of Nicola Cuti and the Charlton artists!
This brief campaign has already hit its goal, and there’s still about a week left to go. I’ll be kicking in shortly, as should you. I would have told you about it sooner, but I was in Chicago when it started. Check out the widget:
Our main reason for going to Chicago was to see Linda Vista, the new play by Tracy Letts, at Steppenwolf, the place where your PopCulteer got married. This story of a middle-aged white guy trying to resurface after falling into the deep end of the pool of bad life choices is probably the most laugh-out-loud funny thing that Letts has written. It’s still touching and poignant with a relevant subtext, but it’s also funny as hell.
Linda Vista, billed as “An Adult Comedy about Immature Behavior,” tells the story of Wheeler (Ian Barford), a 50-year-old under achiever who’s just moving out after spending two years sleeping on a cot in the garage of his estranged wife’s house. Wheeler is smart, funny, charming and also confused by the changing world around him. He works in a dead-end job as a camera repairman and early in the play finds himself on a blind date with a “life coach,” named Jules (Cora Vander Broek), with whom he begins a relationship.
Without going into too much plot detail, Wheeler manages to screw things up one month into that relationship, and winds up as half of a doomed couple with the much younger, pregnant Vietnamese-American Rockabilly chick, Minnie (Kahyun Kim). His longtime college buddies (Tim Hopper, Sally Murphy) are somewhat horrified by his actions, and as his world falls apart he finds himself dealing with miserable developments with his wife and son and melts down at work.
Because I don’t want to write a book about this play, just let me say that it was spectacularly performed and exqusitely written. There were no weak links in the cast with every performer perfectly capturing the essence of their role and Barford making “Wheeler” a very real entity. The story evoked a “there but for the grace of God go I” feeling in me as it put Wheeler through the paces of what seemed like a cross between a “Make Your Own Adventure” book and “Cards Against Humanity.” The audience really, really comes to like Wheeler and root for him, and he keeps making the worst possible decisions. There is a hint of redemption at the end, just to keep the play from being so realistic that it becomes depressing.
His friend Paul (Hopper) even addresses this in a long spiel where his advice boils down to “You will do what you will do,” because he realizes that his advice will be ignored no matter how sound it is. What at first seems like Paul evading the concept of giving advice turns out to be the most prophetic words spoken in the play.
Linda Vista is a very funny, but deeply-textured play that addresses the plight of the aging straight white male in a world where that doesn’t really mean anything good anymore. As always, Letts’ characters are ultra-realistic and his situations plausible, but entertainingly offbeat.
There are a couple of sex scenes in this play. They aren’t really anything that you wouldn’t see in an R-rated movie, but the sight of fully-nude men and women simulating sex on stage is still a bit shocking, which perfectly serves the story in this case. This is a play about real-life people who actually have sex. Anyone offended by depictions of perfectly normal sex might not want to see this play. For the rest of us, it’s adds another layer of realism to Linda Vista.
Linda Vista might also be offensive to supporters of the current White House resident, as the characters depicted are intelligent, educated and discuss politics in a frank and explicit nature a few times during the play. That the pointed political barbs, which are all hilarious and which nearly receive standing ovations on their own, all come at the expense of the most delicate and overly-sensitive segment of the political spectrum, followers of that particular brand of politics might want to avoid this show. Luckily, the Venn Diagram overlap between Trump supporters and supporters of quality theatre is very tiny, so it’s not likely to be much of an issue.
Also of note is the revolving set, which is almost a cast member itself. Set designer, Todd Rosenthal, created an efficient turntable that brings every scene to life with pieces that change out while out of view of the audience. You really get the feel of San Diego with the revolving sets and the large photo that hangs over the stage.
So, for what it’s worth coming from a Pop Culture blog originating in Charleston, West Virginia, Linda Vista is a triumph that should be seen by fans of intelligent theater. It’s smartly-written, wonderfully-performed and manages to be funny and thought-provoking at the same time. Linda Vista is scheduled to run through May 21 at Steppenwolf, in Chicago.
Mini Photo Essay
We saw lots of stuff in Chicago. Here are a few photos. Monday Morning Art in May will be based on Chicago images, too. Plus I promise we’ll get part three of the Avengers Assemble diorama photo essay posted soon.
The AIR Friday Schedule
Friday on The AIR swells to new heights as we hit listeners with the double shot of DJ Betty Rock and Radio Coolsville, and Sydney Fileen with her Big Electric Cat. You can tune in at The AIR Website, or just settle down right here on this embedded radio player…
With our new schedule on The AIR, we now have three hours of specialty music programming every weekday, starting at 3 PM. Friday, as before, is where you’ll find the debut of new episodes of Sydney’s Big Electric Cat at 3 PM. This is our New Wave Showcase from Sydney Fileen courtesy of Haverhsam Recording Institute in London, England. Check the playlist for this week’s show at the bottom of this item.
Joining Sydney on Friday afternoons, we are proud to have DJ Betty Rock and Radio Coolsville. DJ Betty’s show, which originates out of WMUL in Huntington, has shrunk down to an hour, but is still chock-full of the coolest Alternative-inflected music you’ll find. Radio Coolsville will debut a new episode every Friday at 5 PM, with replays throughout the week.
At 6 PM tonight, it’s another half-hour of The New Music Show, and at 6:30 PM we bring you The Crazy Show. At 7 PM, this week, we’re bringing you a special replay of the Life Speaks Bigfoot Special, and at 8 PM we continue The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy with hour four.
9 PM sees a full hour of The Third Shift with Jay and Jared. Check this show our for the wildest conversations about beer, babes, gadgetry and the latest news from the world of the key demographic. At 10 PM we offer up a replay of this week’s Radio Free Charleston International. Midnight brings you an all-night trip to The Comedy Vault, with cutting edge humor to keep you awak and screw up your sleep cycle for the weekend.
It’s a killer line up of great new stuff on The AIR. Here’s the playlist for Sydney’s Big Electric Cat:
Stan Ridgeway and Stewart Copeland “Don’t Box Me In”
Naked Eyes “In The Name of Love”
Midge Ure “If I Was”
John Cale “Russian Roulette”
Kate Bush “The Dreaming”
Big Audio Dynamite “E=MC2”
The Go Gos “This Town”
The B-52s “Whammy Kiss”
Wang Chung “To Live and Die In LA”
Graham Parker and The Rumor “Paralyzed”
Fiction Factory “No Time”
The Sharp Ties “Camino Real”
Donny Iris “Shock Treatment”
Squeeze “The Knack”
Captain Sensible “Happy Talk”
Debbie Harry “Inner City Spillover”
DEVO “Workin’ In A Coal Mine”
Depeche Mode “Everything Counts”
Marianne Faithful “Working Class Hero”
Annabelle Lamb “So Lucky In Bed”
Lene Lovich “Never Never Land”
Missing Persons “Mental Hopscotch”
Polyrock “Romantic Me”
Joy Division “She’s Lost Control”
Blancmange “Living On The Ceiling”
Vice Squad “Out of Reach”
Robert Fripp and The League of Gentlemen “H.G. Wells”
That’s it for this week’s PopCulteer. PopCult will still be here every day. Keep checking back.