BEST UNINTENTIONAL HILARITY 2005 | ASU-TV's Dance in the Movies | People & Places | Phoenix
The first time we stumbled upon Raymond Shaw and his weekly, televised distance-learning class, we thought we were watching a Mad TV sketch. Shaw's teaching techniques were so delightfully bumbling, so very way out there, that we couldn't believe that Arizona State University -- or the man himself -- could possibly be serious.

Au contraire! Shaw's three-hour-long Dance in the Movies was the real thing, even if it never -- even for a single minute -- got around to teaching anything about dance. Or the movies. Or dance in the movies. Although we watched faithfully, week after week, Shaw never once discussed Rogers and Astaire; never uttered the names "Hermes Pan" or "Gower Champion" or even "Gene Kelly." There were hourlong discussions about how to turn in a term paper, and endless screenings of the most excruciating "student films" ever seen, and repeated references to something called "the male gaze." But nothing about the evolution of the MGM musical or Busby Berkeley's influential Golddiggers films.

Our favorite moments include the time Shaw had a guest speaker, a profoundly effeminate baldy who muttered for two hours about Marxism and sexism but who -- because this is Dance in the Movies! -- never got around to talking about choreography or the cinema. And then there was the single occasion that Shaw mentioned a movie musical and got all the facts wrong, claiming that West Side Story was a stage musical based on the movie and starring somebody named "Chita Moreno."

Sadly, we'll never see the likes of this sort of sidesplitting bon mot again, as Shaw's show was canceled after a single 13-week season, leaving us to watch ASU-TV also-rans like Learning Math and Essential Science, neither of which is as fun as Dance in the Movies, but both of which are nearly as enlightening about the art of dance on film.

We've been attending theater in this town for longer than we care to tell you, and if there's one thing we've learned, it's that smallish companies tend to either vanish after a couple of seasons or wind up doing crap to keep their doors open. Not so with Stray Cat Theatre, whose mission seems to be taking big risks with dicey, often untried material, and the hell with ticket sales. How else to explain its choice to do something called Poona the Fuckdog, a fable about, well, a fuckdog? And then there was [sic], a difficult, talky little dramedy that--thanks to superb performances and expert direction--turned up a smash. And while the kids at Stray Cat had a near-miss with Larry Kramer's The Normal Heart, it was a production dotted with fine acting, and followed up by the excellent Stop Kiss, a spotty drama that these young thespians pulled off with hardly a hitch, ending Stray Cat's season on a high. Hats off to this stalwart company's casts and crews, who rarely disappoint us, and whose new work we're looking forward to this season.
The point here is that you would never even realize that Autumn Court, one of Phoenix's venerable Chinese eateries, even has a bar, so tucked away is this cozy gin mill at the back of the place. But we made a wrong turn on the way to the restroom after an early dinner and noticed the charming saloon, with tables along the walls and the large bar in the middle. We also noticed several couples, heads turned toward the shadows and holding hands, engrossed in deep conversation at the tables. Our mind naturally went into the gutter; what a great place to meet a lover who's not your husband or wife for a quick round of drinks before you know what! Trust us, nobody you know (unless they read this item, of course) would ever guess your whereabouts when you're late getting home from the office.



They gave it a go, but, sadly, TheatreScape -- like so many little local troupes before them -- folded halfway through their second season. Too bad, because these folks pulled off a couple of smart, skillful programs while they were around. Although they're gone, we're still talking about their letter-perfect Eleemosynary from two seasons ago, and about how, even when TheatreScape turned out a dud, it always contained at least one amazing performance. Like Dion Johnson's in the title role in The Elephant Man, or John Sankovich's as a greedy meany in Glengarry Glen Ross. Farewell, TheatreScape, and thanks for the memories.
Save the steak dinner for later, if at all. What Drinkwater's City Hall is known for is its gigantic, rectangular bar, and that's because there are so many horny MILFs sitting around it on Friday and Saturday nights. There are other pretenders to the throne in this town when it comes to supplying desperate housewives, but nothing compares to the selection at this venerable Scottsdale drinking and dining establishment. We not only have picked up a MILF or two here ourselves, as the house band churned out golden oldies, we have seen others do it by the limo-load. But make sure you're either a younger guy or a well-preserved older one, because these bizzatches are selective! At least, the married ones are. What they're after is man meat, the younger the better; they've already got hubby at home, or out doing his own hanky-panky. But there's another variety of female predator at City Hall: the young, beautiful kind who want to find a financially fixed older gentleman for fun and games. He gets to have his fun if he plays her game, which can include lots of jewelry and a new Beamer. (If you're a younger potential sugar daddy in the prime of your life, try the Merc Bar. City Hall's for well-turned-out retirees, when it comes to this latter sport.) Any way you slice it, after a night at Drinkwater's City Hall, you'll wake up the next morning either satisfied or horrified. (News flash: Sometimes the MILFs are prettier at closing time, when the makeup's still in place.)
They're ambitious, giving us the naughty fun of The Rocky Horror Show and the deeply troubling misogyny of Hurly Burly in the same season. And they're showy as heck, offering up French drawing-room comedy with Les Liaisons Dangereuses and revisions on Christopher Marlowe with E2: A Heretical Adaptation of Edward II. But mostly, what Nearly Naked Theatre is is a whole lot of fun to attend, and not just because they manage to work dangling penises and curvy hooters into every single thing they stage. Anyone wondering if the time for oddball, black-box theater has come and gone need only attend a couple of Nearly Naked shows -- which, by the way, are seen these days on the stage of a children's playhouse at one of our larger Equity theaters. We can't think of a better argument that proves that black-box theater -- at least when it's as good as Nearly Naked tends to be -- is here to stay.
If you want to find a well-heeled date for the future, or even a Rolly-wearin' husband-to-be, you don't have to confine your search to Scottsdale. All you need do is head over to Phoenix's ultra-cool Merc Bar, preferably on a Friday or Saturday night. You won't find a hipper watering hole in New York or L.A., and the place is always hoppin' with beautiful people. Who're not all under 25. Because, if you're looking for a sugar daddy, you generally want somebody who's old enough to actually be somebody's father. That way, he's probably been around long enough -- that is, made dolo enough -- to keep you in the style to which you'd like to become accustomed. We mean, if he's at the Merc Bar, he's obviously able to afford those frou-frou cosmos (which ain't cheap!) that any babe worth her knockoff Pradas expects her future daddy to be able to buy for her. In large quantities! What it may take to seal the deal, though, is a little somethin'-somethin' extra to show how much you appreciate your tycoon with style. We know a girl or two who's nailed her future significant other with a little trip to the Merc's restroom for a lip-smackin' good time. Now, take it from us, if you invite your soon-to-be lover-man to one of the bar's loos, make sure the two of you don't duck into the ladies' lavatory; it's been our experience that most women who ain't gettin' any get all schoolmarmish when a couple's doing it in the powder room. Guys, well, they just like to experience whatever sexual pleasure they can -- even if it's only vicariously through the door of a bathroom stall.
Whether playing a pompous, pomaded pirate or a foppish French schemer, actor Joseph Kremer was nearly perfect in numerous stage roles this past season. Whence this talented newcomer sprang is anyone's guess; his playbill bios don't mention acting academies or years spent in summer stock. But Kremer's talent spoke for itself, as he assayed a puffy baron in a sniffy French drawing-room comedy (Les Liaisons Dangereuses); a blustery buccaneer in a Gilbert and Sullivan musical (Pirates of Penzance); and the lead in a bizarre two-act that he all but stole from his castmates ([sic]). Perhaps Kremer is animatronic, in which case his builders should be commended for sending their newest model here to enhance our humble stages.
Although normally it may seem unwise to traipse around the seedier sections of downtown Phoenix after 2 a.m., that's usually when the after-hours parties at Scot McKenzie and Justin McBee's establishment -- located on the crack-laced fringes of the downtown warehouse district -- get going. You don't have to worry about either your car or your life, as there's always someone at the door scoping out any potential thuggery. Safely inside the venue, you can kick back and relax with the crowd that's come for one of the late-night fetes Scot and Justin throw during First Fridays or a few select dates each month. Make your way to the back where a garagelike soundscape/stage will probably be hosting a DJ, noise artist, the MadCaPs, or even McKenzie's own group Waveformanalogueresearch. Just make sure you bring some Mace for the trip back to your car.
Being the only saving grace in the horror that was last summer's Menopause: The Musical would have been enough to win her our deep gratitude and affection, but then Cathy Dresbach appeared in the lead in Actors Theatre's Nickel and Dimed, playwright Joan Holden's comic adaptation of Barbara Ehrenreich's nonfiction best seller, and we were reminded what a local treasure she really is. As Ehrenreich, Dresbach was utterly convincing as a confident journalist and a deeply humbled activist, and director Kirk Jackson wisely let her show off her ample clowning skills, as when she pitched a comic fit in a Wal-Mart clothing department -- a bit so funny it received an ovation on opening night. We look forward to many more such moments from Dresbach, Phoenix's very own first lady of theater.

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