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April 7, 2000

Today is my last day of being fifty. As of tomorrow, Saturday, I'll be fifty-something. I'll be "in my fifties." But at least I'll be in my "early fifties."

When you're in your (early) fifties, the best thing about having a birthday might be that you don't have another one for 365 days.

Ah, but age is irrelevant (as we old folks like to say). In many ways, I'm the same person I was in my late forties. I still have the rich inner life of my fourteen-year-old self. That's the age at which some people insist my development was arrested.

I will spend my birthday (part of it, anyway) cleaning out my garage, sorting things that will go to the dump, getting ready to vacate this place for greener pastures. I'll also pick up the key tomorrow, and I take possession of the new house Monday, so I'll start then moving out some of these boxes that I've been filling with the accumulated assets of twelve years of inertia, laziness, and sheer indifference to the value of keeping a tidy home (or ever throwing anything away). I'm making up for lost time now, though. I doubt that I'll regret discarding any of the things I've mustered the will to jettison.

The Compleat Works of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged) is an idea better in the concept than the execution, and when the Santa Rosa Players get hold of it, the execution feels a little like, well, an execution. For a three-actor play to be endurable, three likable actors are an essential ingredient. They can't have strident deliveries or grating voices, and their timing can't be just a beat off. And if they're not the most pleasant people to spend a couple of hours with to begin with, they shouldn't annoy the audience even further by overdoing the interaction that's my least favorite part of the play.

Mom and I saw the Players' production of it tonight, and while it had its moments, that's all they were. A moment here and there, between endless scenes of unspeakable tedium. I know this company is capable of putting on an entertaining show. I really enjoyed their Mikado, and they did a marvelous Man of La Mancha. But when they reek, they reek.

There was a small enough audience for Act I. After intermission we were an even more intimate group. If I could have melted, thawed, and resolved myself into a dew about halfway through Hamlet, I would have been a happy guy.

I'm no critic, and it pains me to be unkind to people doing their best, especially with local theater in such trouble. The building may be sold out from under them, and they're in the midst of a drive to raise the funds to purchase it. They feature some talented people, both on stage and behind the scenes. But they stick almost exclusively to pedestrian productions of mainstream plays, and when they go in a slightly different direction, as with Compleat, I'd like to see them succeed. That's why I was there tonight, in fact. Next up for the Players: My Fair Lady. See what I mean?

In June and July, my town is lucky enough to host the Summer Repertory Theater, in which top theater arts students from all over the country descend on Santa Rosa Junior College for an intensive six-play cycle that is on a par with any professional production I've seen in San Francisco. I've been a volunteer usher for SRT, so I've seen many of their shows over the years. (To be honest, I'd rather pay for my ticket and not have to work for it. But this has got me to see a number of plays that I might have otherwise missed.) This year's season runs the gamut from Romeo and Juliet to Victor/Victoria, and it includes a new play written and performed by a local artist.

I'm no actor (or singer or dancer), but I appreciate the hard work and talent of those who perform on stage (even those involved in tonight's lamentable display). And thanks to people like Kymm and Melissa and Patrick and others, I'm also aware of the drive and dedication of other people involved in these shows. So I'm hesitant to criticize, even when a play has me squirming in my seat. Maybe I just caught them on an off night.

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