Thursday, October 20, 2016

LIZ SMITH: Class is Timeless

Now that's class!
by Liz Smith & Denis Ferrara

Whatever Happened To Class? Also — Chris O'Dowd and the Tiger Swans ... Bloody Hell, A  New "Richard III."

“CLASS IS Timeless.”
Actress Ashley Greene posted those words on her Instagram account last week, after singer Joe Jonas, decided, during an interview, to let the world know that Ms. Greene had been his “first.”

Joe, a sibling of the more popular Nick Jonas (both of them escapees from their boy band, The Jonas Brothers) clearly needed attention. He, like most people in the public eye, exists in a world where the phrases “that’s private” or “none of your business” do not exist. Joe also, apparently, thought we’d care. 
To be honest, I’d never heard of Ashley Greene before I read of her post.  She appeared in the “Twilight” movies and has a role in the current TV series “Rogue.”  She is quite attractive.  And, as she has been working steadily for over a decade, is more than likely talented.

But you know what?  I’m now going to keep a sharp eye and ear out for this young woman.  I loved her response! Not only in that it neatly, swiftly, put down a man who is a child. But somehow I also saw it as a balm to what we, as a country, have been exposed to in the process of electing our next Commander In Chief.
The catchphrase this year has been “Crass is Timeless.” But I’m placing my bet, my hopes, on Ashley Greene’s opposite exhortation.

P.S. Ashley, don’t speak or tweet again on the subject. Let those three little words stand alone and classy.
IN this year of fear and loathing, I’ve found myself more and more escaping into binge-watching on Netflix and scanning YouTube, in efforts to be distracted and amused. The voices, prejudices, partisan bickering, lying and stupidity of all the candidates, their surrogates, cable news anchors and talking heads, has taken a toll that I initially thought peculiar only to me and my rare sensitivity.  But by now I’ve read article after article that assures me I am not alone.  The water supply of the entire nation needs to be doused with antidepressants!

With distraction in mind, a friend suggested I check out episodes of the London-based chat show hosted by Graham Norton.
I’ve seen Norton’s show on BBC America and have always been amused by his way with his guests.  He is irreverent, to say the least, and does amazing research, often to the scarlet-faced embarrassment of those who perch on his red velvet couch. (However, as wine flows very freely, nobody ever appears genuinely offended by whatever he digs up.)

Mr. Graham seems determined to have a good time, and it’s rare that he can’t coax something wacky out of even the most sedate. (Those exceptions are rare, glaring and not invited back.)  Like all Brit talk shows, there are no “special” guests who come on, plug their play or movie and rush off.  Everybody is introduced equally and they sit together, jabbering away. There’s a tinge of competiveness in such a set-up; who can be funnier, more risqué, or barring wit, most incapacitated by whatever’s being served?
As I was more than usually down on the day I was advised to seek out Graham and company on YouTube, my friend said, “Go straight to Chris O’Dowd and the ‘tiger swan’ story. It’s under ‘Chris O’ Dowd’s Centre Job’ from a couple of years ago.”

So I did.  O’Dowd, the appealing Irish actor known for films such as “Bridesmaids” and the current “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children,” told Graham, Steve Carrell and Kristen Wiig of a job he held briefly, attempting to encourage people to protect endangered animals.  His tale runs only about 2 minutes, but I completely forgot all about the annoying denizens of CNN, Fox and MSNBC.  O’ Dowd has a marvelous quirky charm and attractiveness.  Forget kissing the Blarney Stone, I think he carries a chunk in his pocket.
After that, I went on a rampage, searching out as many Graham Norton episodes as possible.  The range of guests is astonishing, and in the end, after what amounted to a “cleansing” (surfing YouTube works a lot better than green tea!) I have to concur with Matt Damon.  On what was, I believe, Damon’s first visit with Norton, the Oscar-winning actor, eyes red from laughing, said, “This is the best time I have ever had on a talk show, ever. Seriously.”
SO, how do you like your Shakespeare? The great thing — one of the great things — about The Bard is that his work can be interpreted in so many ways — straight up, or with a twist. 

On November 9th to the 11th, The Bridge Production Group will offer Shakespeare’s “Richard III,” one of the playwright’s most sweeping and unpleasant epics.
Max Hunter and Christina Toth as Richard III and Lady Anne.
Richard was the last of the Plantagenet’s, often rebelled against, rumored to have murdered children who stood between himself and the throne of England, was unhappily wed (par for the course, for royalty), had a slight hunchback, died in battle at the age of 32 and was buried “without pomp.”  Shakespeare knew a good story when he heard it.

This latest take on Richard’s life is directed by Max Hunter and has been “streamlined and distilled” for today’s attention-deficit audiences. (Hunter also takes the lead role of Richard.)   Inspiration has been siphoned from sources as varied as the works of Quentin Tarantino and Baz Luhrmann, as well as TV’s “Dexter” and the movie “American Psycho.” (I’m just guessing here, but I have the feeling that this is not a sympathetic re-imagining of Richard.)  Film and video is also employed.
Other cast members include Jacob Owen, Christina Toth, Maggie Hollinbeck, Robin Abramson, Alex Bodine and two very young actors, Igby Rigney and Mila Leonardi as the doomed “princes in the Tower.”

It happens at the Fourth Street Theater (83 East 4th Street). For those of you who care, one way or another, there is “partial nudity and a theatrical use of blood.” This well-meaning warning will likely serve as something of an encouragement to some. That’s show biz, for sure.  Go to

Contact Liz here.