Monday, April 22, 2013

A Night in the Family

Who has not considered their own family to be dysfuctional at some time in their life? "A Night with the Family" allows us to view a typical American family on Christmas Eve with adult children back home visiting their now divorced parents.
This past weekend at the Omaha Playhouse, "A Night with the Family by playwright, Matthew Ivan Bennett, debuted for the world.
The story centers on Donny portrayed by Nick Zadina. Donny as an adult has just left his wife after an argument and flown back home forthe holidays. His father, Donald played by Dennis Collins, now has the large family home to himself and has even converted one of the bedrooms into a traditional sweat lodge. With few visitors, he now has his own style, being what is functional, not fashionable. His normal dress is boxer shorts, t-shirt, a women's robe, lime/purple socks, and bear claw slippers. Sometimes he also ties a sheepskin rug around his waste if needed. The living room also resembles his clothing with empty boxes scattered around.
By returning home, Donny regresses back to his childhood behavior of anxiety and asthma while his sister, Bree, portrayed by Suzanne Withem deals with her sick husband and children as well as attempting tostraighten out the men and the house.
Naturally, they are visited by their pristine mother, Diane, who brings along her new younger boyfriend who is a French-Canadian ballet dancer. Kim Jubenville portrays the mother with Matthew Pyle as the romantic andcompliant boyfriend, Antoine.
"A Night with the Family" is an adult comedy with characters who are sometimes bizarre but very realistic. This is not a show for
children. The interactions between the family members are revealing about their past lives together, insecurities, and accomplishments.With the anxiousness of Christmas and personal problems upon them, Donny has a melt-down revealing his father as being an enabler from past experiences. His mother is infatuated with her newest love, and Bree just attempts to be the adult constantly fixing and picking up the pieces to keep the family happy.
All the cast members were outstanding in their parts with the support crew excelling at being invisible but making the cast successful.
Suzanne Withem as Bree was wonderful as the "peace maker" sister,always attempting to moderate the problems. Nick Zadina as Donny
was delightful to watch with his frustration to almost being catatonic in dealing with his own personal issues. Dennis Collins as the eccentric father who doted on his son excelled as the hippie-quirky father. As Antoine, Matthew Pyle was dreamy in this compliant role of being the suave boyfriend. Kim Jubenville, as Diane, the divorced mother in her cougar mode, thrives as the overbearing ex-wife with new interests.
"A Night with the Family" will continue through May 12th with performances at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are available by calling the Box Office at (402) 553-0800 or online at or www.Ticket Omaha. com. Ticket costs are $40 for adults and $24 for students. Special group rates are available.
Be careful dropping by my house, I have a pair of purple and lime green socks that haven't been worn in years. They will look great with my t-shirt and shorts covered with my robe. Unfortunately or maybe fortunately, I don't have a sheepskin rug, yet.

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Accursed

The Accursed
Joyce Carol Oates
Harper Collins
New York, New York
ISBN: 978-0-06-223170-3
$ 27.99
672 pages
A new Joyce Carol Oates novel is exciting. This phenomenal writer always intertwines a spellbinding tale by perfectly planning out her novels. This is one those novels that was planned years ago and put aside. Ms. Oates recently revisited this tale of the early twentieth century at Princeton University utilizing much of her personal experiences for the foundation of the story. With characters such as Woodrow Wilson, Teddy Roosevelt, Jack London, Samuel Clemons, Upton Sinclair, and Grover Cleveland, this fictional novel could enlighten readers of life of the times through their perspectives.
This Gothic-styled tale weaves mostly around one family descended from the Rev. Winslow Slade. As a reflection old through the eyes of the historian M. W. Van Dyke II, in the year 1984,THE ACCURSED varies between realistic fiction and fantasy. Winslow's time viewing his grandchildren and their trials of life are definitely curses. How Winslow managed to have his family cursed and finally how it was lifted is the novel.
THE ACCURSED was an interesting tale. Much time is spent on the develop of the setting with much in-depth descriptions of the time and the places. Apparently the editors relied on Oates reputation and did not revise or read closely this novel since twice a character had the wrong last name. This novel definitely reminded me of those Gothic novels with overly wordy introductions, so much that the reader can easily become discouraged. As for the plot, the story was well-organized with the interweaving of character events. Overall, the story was unusual with dreams morphing into reality involving the mysterious Pine Boroughs of New Jersey.
THE ACCURSED excels with the prejudicial judgmental perspectives of people, places, and the time period around Princeton. The well-known characters are placed in their defined niche. Winslow's grandchildren are the focus as each one falls victim of the curse along with their parents.
Joyce Carol Oates has won numerous literary awards and being nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. As a professor at Princeton she continues to teach and write.
If you have never read a novel by Joyce Carol Oates, I recommend THE FALLS or WE WERE THE MULANEYS. THE ACCURSED is for those who enjoy the words circling their heads for one-hundred pages before having any action, only descriptions.
Perhaps my expectations were too high for THE ACCURSED. I expected to have the history engulfing the story rather than the supernatural. Hopefully, Oates goes back to the real world in her future novels.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Trang Sen

Trang Sen: A Novel
Sarah-Ann Smith
Pisgah Press
Candler, North Carolina
ISBN: 978-0-615-60071-0
$ 19.50
294 pages

Are we all a result of our choices or of our circumstances?

Trang Sen is not the typical girl growing up in the rice fields of South Vietnam during the early 1960s. She possesses an intelligence that is challenging to her parents and the traditions of her country. With her oldest brother attending school in France, this family relies on every person to be responsible and loyal to the family. Trang Sen excels in being the best for plowing the rice fields. Her raw determination and stubbornness makes her focus on her goals rather than her natural beauty and intelligence. What is a beautiful and brilliant girl doing plowing the fields?

As South Vietnam enters the war allied with the French, her brother, Long returns with plans on being a part of the local leadership joining with the forces of the South Vietnamese. As a brother, he quickly sees that Trang Sen needs more education and arranges for her schooling in Saigon at a Catholic school for girls. This is life changing for Sen as she quickly needs to adjust to life in a protected convent school and life in the city. She excels so well in her French studies that the nuns arrange to send her to France to continue her studies.

Through the eyes of Trang Sen, the reader actually experiences life in Vietnam from the beginning of the conflict with the French involvement through the American occupation. While at the convent school in Saigon, Sen notices an American soldier and is fascinated with his blond hair and blue eyes. As the war progresses, the changes in both the village and Saigon are closely monitored by the American military and diplomats. Sen's fascination and curiousity leads her into a completely new life that she never imagined.

Trang Sen is fascinated by an American diplomat who is mesmerized by her beauty. The two quickly begin a relationship against the wishes of Sen's family. What Sen naively does not realize is that the diplomat is married with children and cannot marry her. This becomes a difficulty when she becomes pregnant. What future is there for her now?

Sarah-Ann Smith actually was a member of the U.S. Diplomatic corps. She served in Taiwan and Hong Kong. She presently presides in Spartansburg, South Carolina.

Trang Sen is a well-written enticing story of the story of a Vietnamese woman adjusting to a quickly changing world. Even when the reader thinks they know what will happen to Sen next, the journey is truly addictive. The characters are believable and well-developed with both their gifts and flaws exposed as the story progresses.

Women who love romances would find this novel perfect for them. However, other readers would also enjoy this novel for its historical accuracies and perspectives. Trang Sen is a novel for everyone.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Signatures in Stone

Signature in Stone
Linda Lappin
Caravel Mystery Books
Pleasure Book Studio: A Literary Press
New, York, New York
April 2013
ISBN: 978-1-929355-90-7
285 pages

Are there clues or signatures surrounding each of us that daily lead us to the answers? Do we just need to be more attentive to read these signatures throughout nature and our lives?

What do you do with a gifted author who has a drug addiction?

Daphne wrote a best selling novel, Signatures, which was a mystery based on the clues, or signatures, surrounding the main character. Since then, she usually is high and incapable of writing any logical. With her addiction, much of the time she is useless. Her publisher has the idea to take her to an isolated place in order to cut her off from her supplier hoping that this should give her the opportunity to again create another profitable masterpiece.

With this story set in time in 1928, what better place could be found than an isolated Italian villa. The
op opportunity arose to share the rent of this ancient villa with a resident professor researching the Etruscan ruins in the garden. These ruins could even be the inspiration for Daphne's novel.

Being that Daphne is a widow in her fifties, her addiction has caused her financial situation to be dwindled down to nothing. Her publisher/manager, Nigel, controls her money now as he drives rides in their Packard drives the one hundred miles north of Rome to the area called Tuscia along with Clive, an American artist. Daphne brings the few clothes and jewelry along with her.

As they arrive at the estate, there is an enormous locked garden. The visiting professor who is not around has requested this area not to be opened until his return so that he could safely guide them and protect them from the resident vipers, both snakes and human.

The caretaker seems to be a bully and his daughter, Amelia, is expected to clean and cook which she obviously resents. Perhaps all of these are signatures, signs that are telling us something.

Daphne quickly begins to discover the secrets of the house with its hidden staircases and rooms using them in her own sexual liaisons. With the arrival of Danilo, the mysterious and dark stranger, loyalties and secrets develop in the house and the garden known as “the Monster Park”. Besides the challenge of writing, there is also the daily distraction of not being sober or being murdered. Why?

Linda Lappin has excelled in weaving this intricate tapestry of SIGNATURES IN STONE. Her command of the language as a poet excels with her descriptive choice of words to mesmerize the reader in this phenomenal novel. By residing in both Italy and the U.S., she expertly places the reader in Italy through utilizing the senses. Previously she has written THE ETRUSCAN, and KATHERINE”S WISH which are both highly regarded novels that she has written. Currently she is working on her next Daphne novel entitled MELUSINE.

SIGNATURES IN STONE has the texture of a Gothic novel with the layers of the setting being woven throughout the plot. The haunting reality of not knowing whether Daphne is lucid in her thoughts or hallucinating adds an intensity to this fast-paced, eloquently elegant novel.

Monday, April 1, 2013

They Called Her Tokyo Rose

They Called Her Tokyo Rose
Expanded 2nd Edition
Rex Gunn
Book Surge
Create Space
North Charleston, South Carolina
First Printed 1977 for Japanese-American Citizen League
2nd Edition 2008- Expanded and edited by Brent Bateman
ISBN: 978-0-9796987-1-2
$ 18.99
289 pages

As children, most of us were taught the differences between legend and reality. With real people who were noteworthy like Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone, sometimes the lines between the real person and the legend can be hard to distinguish. We usually believe the reasons for this is due to the number of years ago that the person lived. What about someone though who has lived in the past hundred years. Are there people who are considered legendary, but in actuality are not the same as their reputation?

What was the truth about Tokyo Rose, the legendary femme fatale who supposedly demoralized our troops in the Pacific during World War II?

They Called Her Tokyo Rose delves into the story of Iva Togori, the woman who was believed to be this notorious person and follows her entire life. Iva is the woman was was tried in a lengthy trial and convicted of treason by our federal government for being Tokyo Rose. Was she the person who while broadcasting on Radio Tokyo reported about the American losses in the Pacific and who constantly weakened the spirits of our soldiers and POW’s by mentioning doubts about their wives' and girlfriends' loyalties?

Back in 1977, 2500 copies of this book was printed for the Japanese-American Citizen League. No other copies were available for the general public. This was also the year that President Gerald Ford issued a full pardon to Iva Toguri which restored her American citizenship. Editor and publisher Brent Bateman made a promise to the author Rex Gunn to edit, reformat, and to publish this book. This was a story that both firmly believed needed to be available to everyone to discover the true story of Iva Togori.

This novel is a wonderful reflection of the time period explaining the values and core beliefs of life during the time as well as opening a window from multiple perspectives in who was Iva Togori. Truly viewing Iva from various aspects gives a balanced assessment of this person who has been labeled as a traitor of her country while she viewed herself as a friend of the prisoners of war in Japan. So was she the traitor, friend of the prisoners, both or neither?

“History is written by the victors,” is a quote from Winston Churchill. That statement lets everyone understand that any history is judged only from the winners' perspective. However, is that the entire story? This story about Tokyo Rose shows that one perspective is not a fair assessment of this woman.

They Called Her Tokyo Rose has numerous lessons taught about the influence of the media, the legal system, living in a foreign country, the importance of a passport, being tried and convicted of treason, as well as trying to just be a person doing the right thing.

Did the punishment match the crime?

They Called Her Tokyo Rose is a wonderful story of a true person, who she really was, who others believed she was, and ultimately how she balanced the two in becoming her own person. Everyone needs to learn of Iva Togori through this wonderful account by Rex Gunn, They Called Her Tokyo Rose.