robertisenberg

Best of City Paper: 1

In Pittsburgh on June 23, 2010 at 12:00 am

This week, my 100th article appeared in Pittsburgh’s City Paper. To celebrate this occasion, I’ve selected some of my favorite “moments” over the years. Do I quote myself? Very well, then, I quote myself. It takes the burden off my stalkers. (Photograph of Meeting of Important People, taken on-set for their inaugural music video, “Britney Lane Don’t Care).

“I like to call them ‘Jeans and T-Shirt Dramas.’ You know the style: damaged white guy lives in squalor, but he’s just trying to survive in this big, mixed-up world. He’s witty and sarcastic, because he’s stifling a tragic secret. He’s drawn to strong, sexy women, but scared to commit. And there’s a class struggle: Our antihero, who wears Levis and plain T-shirts, lives in the shadow of yuppies and Reaganites. He mocks their limousines and country clubs, but he’s hurt by their snide remarks. There’s a lot of talking, lots of wisecracks, lots of breakdowns and discussion of feelings. Our everyman has to ‘learn to let go’ and ‘move on’ and ‘be himself.’ This drama, in short, encapsulates the 1980’s.”

“Why is King Lear one of Shakespeare’s most beloved plays? Lear is long, disorganized, unromantic and empathizes with no one. Lear is a jerk, two of his daughters are vicious opportunists, their husbands are idiots, and the only hero, Cordelia, is exiled in Scene 1. Scholars suggest that even Shakespeare struggled with Lear, writing at least two disparate versions. And no matter how great the production, Lear himself can look less tragic than pathetic — a loud, grimy Santa Claus in the latter stages of Alzheimer’s.”

“If we’ve learned anything from Kevin Smith, Garden State and the Toxic Avenger, it’s that New Jersey is a weird place: quirky people, surreal coincidences, lots of strip malls and bad hair. In fiction, New Jersey is where America dumps all its well-meaning freaks and their hokey pastimes.”

“Three Sisters, by Anton Chekhov, is about more than three sisters. There are also two lieutenants, a bunch of maids, a new mother, a teacher, a doctor, a compulsive gambler, a troupe of mummers, and a lovesick baron. Over the course of three breakneck hours, we watch the nonstop intrigues of their lives: an engagement, several births, a love affair, an attempted rape, two massive parties, possible arson, and (why not?) a duel. Of the 14 principal characters, a dozen get to monologue about their most heartfelt disappointments and desires. Three Sisters is an overlong Czarist soap opera; it’s four hectic acts about an insipid leisure class and its petty little problems. In turn-of-the-century Russia, Three Sisters inaugurated ‘realism.’ Today, the play feels about as real as Laguna Beach.”

“The Pajama Game is a sweeter kind of American Pie, a theatrical patisserie of hungry glances and glazed double-entendres. Even in the ’50s, when cinematic couples slept in separate beds, sex sold.”

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