Thursday, November 29, 2018

War of the Wolf

War of the Wolf
Bernard Cornwell
Harper Collins Publishers
New York, New York
ISBN: 978-0-06-256317-0
$ 28.99
333 pages

How could anyone teach about life in the late 900s or early 1000 A.D.?    The time of Saxons, Mercians, Danes all battling over land that would become England.   Along side the land issue is the decision of religion.   Christianity is being followed by most of the inhabitants while the many of the Danes hold on to their beliefs and loyalties to the Norse Gods.   Naturally, among each side are inner battles of ambitious rulers fighting and acquiring loyalties for power and possessions.
War of the Wolf is the eleventh book in Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon series explaining how England became a single country.   All of these books feature Uhtred, who in my mind resembles one of the larger fighting men in Game of Thrones with numerous scars and battle wounds from constant altercations.
War of the Wolf is seen through the eyes of  Uhtred, now an older and wiser man.   In the first book, I viewed him with distaste as his taste of fighting seemed impulsive.   Throughout the series, Uhtred grows more interlining from his experiences and challenges so that now he thinks, plots, and attempts to outwit his enemy.   Now, it is easier to see Uhtred as wise and even caring and protective of his friends, allies, and family.
Uhtred now has reestablished his life in his northern family home of Bebbanburg which took many years.   He is comfortable in his northern home and would rather be home than fighting.   He realizes that even though home, peace is always temporary with the constant threat of the Viking invaders, the  wild fighting Scots from the northern lands and the battling for power from the Mercians, now in control of England.  
Uhtred is summoned to King Edward in Wessex to decide the next king whether through oldest illegitimate sons, legitimate heirs, or other lesser leaders.   Uhtred has no intention of going until he discovers the problems of his son-in-law.   The needs and vengeances of the family outweigh the dangers.
In War of the Wolf, Uhtred proves his leadership and acquired wisdom in this battle of kings as well as a new challenger proves a threat to him, his family, and his ancestral homeland.  His skills or lack of skills in this new world of diplomacy as well as his strategic fighting abilities demonstrates that peace is never permanent.  There is always a new, younger, stronger, and perhaps smarter challenger.
War of the Wolf is thoroughly enthralling as Uhtred enters of a world of constant change.
For a reader unfamiliar with this series, I would strongly recommend to read at least the first book or to watch the television series The Last Kingdom before this particular novel.  Being acquainted with the characters, especially the names is extremely helpful as well as understanding the people.  Personally, I enjoy how each person matures and their previous life choices affecting their life in this eleventh book.
How could anyone learn of life in the 900s and 1000 A.D. in England.  Read the Saxon series by Bernard Cornwell.
Bernard Cornwell is a master storyteller with this newest book in the Saxon series, War of the Wolf.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

The Nutcracker 2018

Mice, a Rat King, a heroine, a hero, a magician and all nature create the elegance of the American Midwest Ballet’s latest interpretation of The Nutcracker, as their story is expressed through Tchaikovsky’s music and creativity strictly through dance.
The story is a Christmas Eve dream.  The night begins at a Christmas party in the family’s lavish home.  Elegant dresses, beautiful women, everyone at their best except for Clara’s little brother, Fritz.   The highlight of the evening is the arrival of their uncle, a magician, Drosselmeyer who gives Fritz, a trumpet and Clara, a decoratively elaborate nutcracker who resembles a toy soldier.  Being a little brother, Fritz is not content with his gift and fights over the nutcracker with Clara.   Imagine her disappointment when it is broken.   Fortunately, Uncle Drosselmeyer is able to fix and return the nutcracker doll to Clara.
As the party closes, the children go to bed.   This begins the night of Clara’s enchanting dream.
The Nutcracker uses no spoken words, only movement through dance..   The story, wordless, is elaborate, colorful, engaging, and completely hypnotic as the dream unfolds.
American Midwest Ballet presented their version of The Nutcracker Sunday afternoon at Iowa Western Community College.    This magical afternoon achieved a dream.   Yes, this show is different and better than previous production, a task I thought of as impossible
Molly Kimmey is Clara this year.   She is enchanting as well as a superb dancer.  Also, Tchaikovsky, the dog from the Nebraska Humane Society displayed his acting debut with being curious, well-behaved and proving to be an excellent dog for any family wishing to adopt him.   I really could not identify the amateurs from the professionals.   Obviously the work with the extra dancers this year was outstanding.   Every step is perfection and artistic.
To create this enormous production, requires intense work of numerous talented individuals while integrating local talent along with the professional dancers.  The choreography by Erika Overturff and Matthew Lovegood is elegant while still creative.  With both children as well as professional dancers, this is the first time I have witnessed a perfect performance.   The show is absolutely enchanting.
Every aspect of this year’s The Nutcracker is perfection.   This year’s production is different than previous years being more elaborate as well as completely immersing the audience into a trance of beauty.
The sets were elaborate and detailed, moving smoothly and almost invisibly through their dances. American Midwest Ballet unquestionably always has the best costumes which are phenomenally elaborate and expressive of the individuals and the story.
How do you tell if a performance is outstanding? You just need to listen to the audience. When the audience is completely silent and not moving for an entire program, you know that the show is perfectly entertaining everyone.
The show lasts about ninety minutes along with a twenty minute intermission.   I recommend that the show is appropriate for mature, quiet toddlers and anyone and everyone older.
The Nutcracker is something that we see every year. Why? The Nutcracker is the perfect example of holiday magic in a beautiful story without the chaos and noise of the holidays. It's Christmas as it should be, even if it is in our dreams. With the American Midwest Ballet company, the story is better, bigger each year.   Yes, the dances are different this year.   I find it amazing that they are better than in previous years.
Additional performances will be December 8th and 9th at the Orpheum Theater in Omaha.  Ticket-prices range from $25 to $59 and can be purchased at the Orpheum or the Holland Center, or through or by calling (402) 345-0606.
For a memorable and enthralling experience, see American Midwest Ballet’s The Nutcracker.
Their shows have always excelled with intertwining tradition with creative artistry in telling this traditional Russian Christmas story.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The Women

Life in 1936 oftentimes causes people to think of a country recuperating from the Great Depression.   For a select minority, life was luxurious and fairly easy.  These were the women of the ultra-rich in New York City.  Their lives revolved around their social status and gossip.
In “The Women”, Mary, who is portrayed by Kate Simmons discovers that her husband is having an affair with a sales clerk.   Naturally, the affair is noticed first by her social friends who then inform and advise Mary.   Are these social friends real friends or just gossips who enjoy dramas?
The play was originally written by Claire Booth Luce after overhearing conversations during a visit to a nightclub and was in the powder room.   Naturally, someone’s husband was having an affair. Luce wrote this play revealing each character who has real problems in life, despite their wealth.  Dealing with the timeless difficulties of everyday life, such as infidelity, friendship and gossip, impact everyone’s relationships at some time.  Intermixing humor with the tragedy of adultery is a tricky balancing trick.
In addition to Kate Simmons, others in this intimate social group are Robyn Helwig, Elizabeth Planck, Geana Krajicek, Alisha Delsignore, and Claire Mahoney.   Alternately, humorous and tragic, D. Laureen Pickle as Countess de Lage brought a little different temperament to the play.  As the daughter, Halle Dart, portrayed a confused girl who had to suffer and adjust to decisions made by her parents.   She showed that just because the choices were made, she did not have to completely agree with it.  As Mary’s mother, Denise Putman became a caring parent who also had input into the marriage.  Crystal, the other woman, was wonderfully portrayed by Mary Trecek.  Also, one of my favorites in the play was Stephanie Kidd as many humorous characters.
“The Women” is directed by Brenda Smrdel with Amanda Charles completing her job as stage manager.  Many others contributed both on stage and off to successfully create this unusual play of only women in “The Women.”
“The Women” continues through this weekend, November 16th-18th, at 7:30 on Friday and Saturday and Sunday at 2:00 p.m.   Tickets cost $20 for adults, $16 for seniors over the age of sixty and $10 for students.   Tickets can be purchased by contacting the box office at 712-323-9955, e-mail the theater box office at, or at the theater’s box office thirty minutes before the curtain opens.   The location of the theater is 830 Franklin Ave. in Council Bluffs.
The show is adult oriented and lasts about two and a half hours with a fifteen minute intermission.
This weekend would be the perfect time for this timeless story with a lesson about the effects of malicious gossip on every person, whether the speaker, listened, and even those who overhear those words.