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Allen Adams

Allen Adams

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Teenage pressure is universal. It comes in different forms and flavors for every generation, but every generation must deal with it. And remarkably, for many, the memories of those pressures largely dissipate as we grow older, leaving behind gauzy memories of pleasant vagaries. We forget because it hurts to remember.

Being a teenager is HARD. And in many ways, it has never been harder than it is today.

The demands on their time, the unending deluge of activities and extracurriculars, all in service to a relentless pursuit of what comes next. You have to get the right scholarship to the right school. You have to fill your calendar to bursting, leaving nary a minute unspoken for, all so that you might have a shot at whatever brass ring of higher education you’ve spent the last decade grasping at.

The latest production from the University of Maine School of Performing Arts is a reflection and representation of that struggle. SPA is presenting Sarah DeLappe’s play “The Wolves,” directed by Marcia Joy Douglas; due to COVID-19 restrictions, the show cannot be performed live, but on-demand streaming is available through March 14. Tickets are $12 and can be purchased through the School of Performing Arts website at www.umaine.edu/spa.

The play looks at this omnipresent pressure through the lens of a girls’ soccer team. It is a sharp, darkly funny glimpse at the inner lives of teenagers who have spent their entire existence defined by expectations of the looming future. It is a world where adults are rarely heard and even more rarely seen, leaving the girls to play out all of their hopes and fears alongside one another, even as they play the beautiful game on the field.

Wednesday, 10 March 2021 12:15

Celebrity Slam - Papa don't preach

We’re all for redemption tours here at Celebrity Slam. Yes, we greatly enjoy scorning and mocking famous people for their mistakes, but we also acknowledge that it is possible to atone for said mistakes. A show of genuine contrition and clear efforts at growth and evolution can go a long way toward rehabilitating someone’s image.

However, it is ALSO possible for these efforts at redemption to go off the rails in their own ridiculous ways. Sometimes, a famous person either proves unable to properly communicate their regrets or is ultimately unable to understand what the actual problem was in the first place.

This brings us to Papa John. Yes, the pizza guy.

Wednesday, 10 March 2021 12:13

Weird National Briefs (03/10/2021)

Later, gators!

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — Police and conservation officers were searching Friday for an unknown number of young crocodiles that escaped earlier in the week from a large breeding farm in South Africa.

The crocodiles are suspected to have entered the nearby Breede River after escaping Wednesday morning near the town of Bonnievale in Western Cape province, about 180 kilometers (111 miles) east of Cape Town.

So far, 27 of the reptiles have been recaptured and another seven had to be euthanized, Cape Nature conservation spokeswoman Petro van Rhyn said. Another six were spotted but evaded capture.

The commercial breeding farm contains about 5,000 crocodiles, van Rhyn said, and a big part of the problem is that recovery teams aren’t certain how many escaped. They are waiting for the owner of the farm to give them an accurate count.

“Is it 100, or is it 1,000?” van Rhyn said. “We don’t know.”

The crocodiles are thought to be between 1.2 and 1.5 meters long, according to Cape Nature.

Conservation officers have been using cages with food bait inside to try and capture the crocodiles, but that hasn’t proved to be very successful because the river is full of fish, van Rhyn said.

Police and Cape Nature officers are concentrating on an area as far as five kilometers (three miles) upstream and five kilometers downstream of the escape point but don’t believe the crocodiles will have moved very far.

Van Rhyn said residents of the area should be watchful but shouldn’t panic. Crocodiles are nocturnal and generally shy, she said, it’s highly unlikely to see one on the streets of Bonnievale.

She said it was not a good idea to go swimming in the river there, though.

TME – I’m no expert, but “unknown” seems like a bad number of lost crocodiles to have.

Monday, 08 March 2021 16:52

You should read ‘Later’ sooner

Ghost stories are universal. One could argue that in some way, all stories are ghost stories. It’s all in the telling – and no one does that telling better than Stephen King.

His latest novel is “Later” (Hard Case Crime, $14.95), the author’s third release with the Hard Case imprint. It’s the story of a young man whose childhood is marked by an eerie ability to see the dead, an ability that leads him to help others in ways both honorable and ethically questionable.

What King has given us is a book that is part coming-of-age tale, part hard-boiled crime thriller and part paranormal ghost story. It’s an ambitious blend, to be sure, but one that King has long since shown capable of pulling off beautifully. His clear love of noir fiction joins forces with his horror bona fides and his still-strong ability to capture the fundamental truths about being a child, resulting in a lean and propulsive read.

What is love?

It’s a question without an answer to which we nevertheless try to respond. Artists have been seeking that answer since there has been art. And while we’ll never have a definitive answer – it’s not that kind of question – a lot of brilliant people have come up with a lot of brilliant responses.

Nobel laureate Kazuo Ishiguro has a few of those responses in his bibliography. His latest is “Klara and the Sun” (Knopf, $28), and it too is a response to that existential question, though that’s far from the only building block of the human condition the book explores. It’s a book that deftly embraces speculative elements in service to the telling of its very human story, all reflected through the eyes of someone who may or may not actually be … someone.

Monday, 08 March 2021 15:58

2 Coming 2 America

Sequels are always hit-or-miss propositions. Even film franchises, where sequels are baked into the equation, can struggle with making sequels work. But what about those sequels to films that clearly were not intended to have sequels? How do you go back and continue a story that already had a satisfactory conclusion?

Well, now you can find out, thanks to Eddie Murphy.

“Coming 2 America” is the direct sequel to 1988’s “Coming to America,” Murphy’s absolute all-timer of a comedy. Directed by Craig Brewer, this new film offers a 33-years-later look at these characters; just about everyone from the cast of the first film is back, along with a few high-profile additions.

It’s an exercise in nostalgia, for sure – one that perhaps isn’t as successful as it hoped to be. I enjoyed myself well enough, but I’ll concede that my own personal affection for the original film likely impacted my experience with this new offering. That said, it has plenty of issues – the narrative loses coherence in spots and gets clunky in others; too often, everyone seems content to say “Hey! Remember this?” (and some of the characters haven’t aged particularly well).

Monday, 08 March 2021 15:55

Make mine ‘Moxie’

My affection for coming-of-age stories is well-documented. I love tales of young people coming into their own and discovering themselves, growing up and finding what they’re meant to find.

These stories present their own particular brand of obstacles, however – making a good coming-of-age movie is really hard. Things can easily get bogged down, with nuance eliminated and important feelings trivialized – I love a love story, but coming of age is about far more than a first kiss (though that notion might surprise some filmmakers).

“Moxie,” the new Netflix film directed by Amy Poehler from a screenplay adapted by Tamara Chestna and Dylan Meyer from Jennifer Mathieu’s 2015 novel of the same name, tells the story of a teenaged girl who is inspired to take action against the toxic culture of her high school by the music, writings and activist attitudes of her mother’s own high school experience.

All in all, it’s a decent effort. Shaggy and a little lumpy and perhaps a touch reductive, but it’s got more pros than cons. It’s a good-faith effort to show young women trying to effect change in the world, and while it occasionally gets a little glib or too try-hard (and the third-act wrap-up is a bit much), the filmmakers obviously sought to celebrate that effort.

So there sure have been a lot of time loop movies lately, huh?

Don’t get me wrong – I’m as big a fan as anyone of the “Groundhog Day, but also this” genre. But at this point, you have to bring something new to the table; it’s all familiar now, so what else you got?

Movies like Hulu’s “Boss Level,” directed by Joe Carnahan and starring Frank Grillo, usually need that extra push to become something other than disposable. This action-driven time looper never does get around to breaking new ground, so its ceiling is on the low side. However, through gleefully nonsensical action sequences and a fresh-out-of-f—ks performance from Frank Grillo in the lead, it actually gets pretty close to that ceiling.

It’s a movie that does have some fun with its premise, offering a number of sharp action sequences and a few decent gags (including a couple that are a little … squishy). The cast is having a good time and no one is expecting you to think too hard. Again – you’ve seen it all before, but there are definitely worse ways to kill a couple of hours.

BANGOR – A hilarious whodunit is coming your way courtesy of Penobscot Theatre Company!

PTC continues their innovative and industrious response to the current circumstances with their presentation of “Who Killed Zolan Mize?” The latest entry in the theatre’s ongoing Digitus Theatrum mainstage season, it’s an interactive murder mystery that will be livestreaming beginning on March 11 and running through April 3. To purchase a link or to find more information, visit the PTC website at wwws.penobscottheatre.org or call the box office at 942-3333.

The show is the brainchild of Rachel and Brendan Powers, a married pair of Florida-based actors who are likely familiar to area audiences; both have graced the Bangor Opera House stage in recent years – Rachel in the theatre’s 2018 production of Lindsey Ferrentino’s “Ugly Lies the Bone” and Brendan in both Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town” (2014) and Tracy Letts’s “August: Osage County” (2015).

“Who Killed Zolan Mize?” lets audiences engage in the fun as they watch a pair of detectives question six quirky suspects. Viewers are invited to share ideas and observations with their fellow detectives along the way in the “Clues Journal,” as well as joining into a series of in-home scavenger hunts. Once all the evidence is in, audience members share their thoughts on the case with the detectives and a vote is held. The suspect with the most votes wins (or loses, I suppose, depending on your perspective).

Following each performance will be a post-show talkback. This is a chance for audiences to ask Rachel and Brendan any questions they may have, both about the show and about the pair’s own experiences in the theatre and screen acting industries.

(A personal note: having worked with both Rachel and Brendan on shows in the past, I can vouch for the fact that they are not only talented and tremendously knowledgeable, but also among the kindest, most genuine folks you’re ever likely to find. If you see the show, stick around – you’ll enjoy what they have to say, whatever that winds up being.)

Introspection is difficult. Looking within ourselves and asking questions about who we are is a challenge that the vast majority of us are unable (or unwilling) to face. One can pay lip service to the notion of self-examination, but the actual doing is hard.

Too often, memoirs trend toward the lip service side of things. That’s not a judgment – it’s tough enough to tell the story of your truth to yourself, let alone to the world. It just means that the autobiographical explorations that really dig into a person’s identity are vanishingly rare.

Derek DelGaudio’s “AMORALMAN: A True Story and Other Lies” (Knopf, $27) is such a rarity, a work of thoughtful, honest self-awareness that isn’t quite like anything I’d ever read before. And believe me – that’s a good thing. It’s a story of truth that is unafraid of untruth, which might sound contradictory, but when you delve into DelGaudio’s words, it makes perfect sense.

This book is magic in multiple senses of the word. It is magic because it is narratively transportive, a book that sweeps the reader up into the world being created, pages crammed with vivid storytelling. But it is also magic in the performative sense, in that it is also about the art of stage magic, specifically sleight-of-hand. And it is magic in that it allows its author to reinvestigate his own history, to use the perspective of the present to change his view of the past – a transformation of both the man he is and the man he once was.

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