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Back Talk (4/26/00)


Published April 26, 2000 at 1:00 a.m.

Donne For:

The medical prognosis is not good for the protagonist patient in Wit, but critical assessments of the play have been glowing. New York magazine called the Pulitzer Prize-winning drama “a dazzling and humane play you will remember until your dying day.” The New Yorker singled it out as “far and away the most celebrated play of the year.” Next week acclaimed actress Lisa Harrow comes direct from the successful Broadway production to resurrect the lead role in White River Junction — a short drive from her place in Woodstock. The Royal Shakespeare actress will keep the play kicking for a two-week run that starts next Friday at the Briggs Opera House. “She loves the play, she loves the part, and she was excited by the prospect of doing it in her home town,” says Charlie Glazer of Northern Stage. Harrow plays Dr. Vivian Bearing, an erudite English prof diagnosed with terminal uterine cancer, who documents her demise while drawing on her literary specialty: the sonnets of John Donne. “It is not my intention to give away the plot,” she announces early on in the play, “but I think I die at the end.” If a cancer comedy sounds too irreverent, remember laughter may indeed be the best medicine.

Fire’s Out

Looks like Burlington failed its “scene” test. Not enough people found themselves Around the Fire during the indie film’s two-week run at Hoyts Nickelodeon. The San Fran-based feature “never really caught on,” says Assistant Manager Neil Chartier, despite strong-arm local promo efforts on the part of the producer. After a full house on opening night, attendance fell off dramatically. “There wasn’t enough interest to keep it around, so the booker pulled it,” Chartier says. The box office was no better in Madison, Wisconsin, or Austin, Texas — the two other “test markets” selected for their young, music-minded demographic. “It is staggering how much the movie meant to some people,” says the movie’s marketing consultant, Jeff Dowd. Some, but not enough. “It’s a crowded market out there,” he says. Look for the video at the next Phish show, between the stir-fry and the magic mushrooms…

And the Winner Is…

Billy Crystal with a chainsaw? It could happen at the Vermont’s Bessie Awards, with Rusty “The Logger” Dewees as host. The biennial Academy Awards raises money for Burlington City Arts while it recognizes outstanding achievements in local theater and film. The challenge is recalling the performances, especially in the drama department. “Two years is a long time in terms of people’s memories,” says Development Director Paul Ugalde, who organized the first two Bessie bashes, in 1997 and 1998. His hand-picked Green Mountain “academy” will consider Vermont-made movies and plays from 1998 and 1999 and give awards in 10 categories — down from 17 — in hopes of shortening the proceedings. After turns at both the Sheraton and the Radisson, this year’s “party of the millennium” will be held in Alliot Hall on the campus of St. Michael’s College on June 16. There aren’t too many opportunities to glitter in the Green Mountains, so go in style. Or Stihl.

In Brief

The word on the Super Slam-Off? “It was the big showdown. The place was packed,” Calais poet Geof Hewitt says of the three-and-a-half-hour culmination of biweekly poetry slams at Rhombus Gallery. Three hundred people showed up last Friday at Burlington City Hall to hear 16 poets sound off on subjects like strength, humor, anger, sex, politics and beauty, in three-minute bard bites. At 56, Hewitt was the oldest poet in the pack. “You have to win the audience and try to recite a meaningful poem at the same time,” he says of the Olympic approach to verse. The audience selected him as an “alternate” member of the People’s Republic of Vermont Poetry Slam Team. Winning wordsmiths Leah Gardner, Bethany Ogilby, Michael Nedell and Kim Jordan will travel to Providence in August to compete in the National Poetry Slam. And they’ll be exchanging stanzas this Friday at Club Metronome’s Electric Cabaret, a poetry and music benefit for the Women’s Rape Crisis Center . . . Expect to find more fact and less fluff in Vermont Magazine when Sally Johnson takes over the editorship of the bimonthly pub next month. After nearly 20 years crafting the Rutland Herald Sunday Magazine, Johnson is going glossier. “My intention is to edit for Vermonters and for people who are deeply interested in Vermont, wherever they happen to live,” she says. “I want to explore all the aspects of contemporary life in Vermont — not just the tourist-friendly ones” . . . Working out is less wearing at the Body Garage in Burlington, because you can train on the wall art provided by “Mr. Masterpiece.” The Burlington artist has painted “Matisse-type cutouts” on a couple of walls in the weight room. The red, yellow and black symbols — slashes, equal signs and the like — match the colors of the room. It looks great. Too bad more businesses don’t consider art to be a pressing concern.