Tag Archive | theater

Unexpected Gift #6,329

A lady in the front row crocheted a black scarf during one of my final performances of Agony/Ecstasy at 16th Street. During the talkback I commented that that had been a first for me. The scarf arrived in the mail yesterday, along with this lovely note. (ps, if anyone knows her let me know, there was no return address, and I haven’t been able to thank her)



CLOSED: “Mauritius” at Northlight


SunTimes: "Recommended… a razor-sharp moral tale ideally cast… terrifically nasty twists… All five actors are ideally cast and make every second of the play snap, crackle and pop as 'the takers' and 'the taken' duke it out. It's not pretty, but it emits a pretty irresistible scent of blood."

WBEZ: "A big audience-pleaser… critics will have a few quibbles, but the parts that work absolutely crackle.  The veteran cast is first-rate."

Pioneer Press: "Suspenseful, jagged-edged and terrifically entertaining… a series of scene-ending cliff-hangers that leave you awaiting each new plot twist like a kid between death-loops on a roller coaster.  Baker is exquisitely villainous, looking like he's dyed his very eyeballs black for the role. He also manages to imbue one of the world's most commonly used two-word, seven-letter imperative expletives with more shades of emotion than a week-long therapy session."

Steadstyle: "Lance Baker, who’s shed the bulk and splendor of Emperor Joseph in "Amadeus" to play Sterling, a lean, hungry looking man who appears wired and greedy enough to send high frequency threatening waves throughout the theatre. "

Reader:  "Exhilarating…
as long as one doesn’t expect stunning insights or airtight dramaturgical logic, there’s a lot of fun to be had here."

Windy City Times: "
Expertly played, has the right stuff to be an audience-pleaser. As played by Anne Adams and Lance Baker, the Act II scene easily is the highlight of the show, with the threat of explosive confrontation always thisclose."

Centerstage Chicago: "
Really, you should see this part-mystery and part-action drama play for the talented acting ensemble. Rebeck's dialogue is stimulating, intelligently savvy and full of unexpected humor… when the fireworks start, take cover. Stamp collecting has never been so dangerous. "

Free Press: "
Makes for a crackling puzzle play… tough stuff with crude characters. Its aggression is very accessible as the tug of war between sisters and collectors tumbles to a satisfactory ending."

Kozlowski: "
It's not a play that will be revived in 2075 on the moons of Jupiter, but it's also not a play that made me react with furor that it made it to Broadway. It's a good time for all… entertaining as all get-out…. My other favorite was Lance Baker in full mobster regalia as a nefarious thug with an ejaculatory soft spot for rare stamps."

TimeOut: "
Four Stars…brisk, tidy, kinda dumb, really entertaining domestic caper… You could probably watch it twice without getting bored… The complicated, frequently impeccable Baker, stepping far out of his comfort zone into a broad caricature role, takes at least half the evening to disappear completely into the part of an oily, pin-striped tiger shark. But he finds his buffed-wing-tip footing in a kinky negotiation scene to fine effect."

Chicagocritic.com: "Excellent entertainment… this mystery will keep you locked until the end.  Lance Baker is superb as the villainous Sterling."

NewCity: "An undeniable crowd-pleaser… fun… a good time….
As for cast highlights, Lance Baker, one of this city’s drollest comic presences, plays the stamp thug with equal parts scariness and sarcasm—you never know if he’s joking or serious which is exactly what the part calls for."

Tribune: "Three Stars… it isn’t a great play, but it is a very clever, involving, fast-moving and juicy one.  Lance Baker… in… shtick… mode."


  • Every Thursday is $25, call or walkup
  • Day-of tickets go for $20, call or walkup
  • Student tickets available for $10
  • And, as always, click my email at right if you'd like to make a deal.

Broadway World preview here.

Official page here.  Previews start February 25th.

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Essay — Your Brain On Baseball

A great op-ed on the mysterious talents of baseball players– replace "baseball" with "acting" and it gets pretty close to some un-articulated truths.

From the Sunday NYTimes

Saturday, March 17, 2007

DAVID BROOKS: Your Brain on Baseball

Vero Beach, Fla.

It's spring training fielding practice, and Jeff Kent, the Dodgers second
baseman, is covering first. A coach rolls the ball out toward the mound. The
pitcher scrambles to pick up the ball. The catcher yells out which base he
should throw to. Kent runs over and catches the ball at first.

Jeff Kent is 39 years old and has been playing professionally for 17 years.
He's probably been doing this same drill since he was 10 years old, because
the practice drills the Little Leaguers do are basically the same drills the
major leaguers do. Why is Jeff Kent, after all these years, still learning
to cover first?

Because the institution of baseball understands how to make the most of the
human brain.

One of the core messages of brain research is that most mental activity
happens in the automatic or unconscious region of the brain. The unconscious
mind is not a swamp of repressed memories and childhood traumas, the way
Freud imagined. It's a set of mental activities that the brain has relegated
beyond awareness for efficiency's sake, so the conscious mind can focus on
other things. In his book, "Strangers to Ourselves," Timothy Wilson of the
University of Virginia notes that the brain can absorb about 11 million
pieces of information a second, of which it can process about 40
consciously. The unconscious brain handles the rest.

The automatic mind generally takes care of things like muscle control. But
it also does more ethereal things. It recognizes patterns and construes
situations, searching for danger, opportunities or the unexpected. It also
shoves certain memories, thoughts, anxieties and emotions up into

Baseball is one of those activities that are performed mostly by the
automatic mind. Professional baseball players have phenomenal automatic

As Jeff Hawkins points out in his book "On Intelligence," it is nearly
impossible to design a computer with a robotic arm that can catch a ball.
The calculations the computer has to make are too complicated to accomplish
in time. Baseball players not only can do that with ease, they can hit a
split-finger fastball besides.

Over the decades, the institution of baseball has figured out how to
instruct the unconscious mind, to make it better at what it does. As we know
the automatic brain only by the behavior it produces, so we can instruct it
only by forcing it to repeat certain actions. Jeff Kent is practicing
covering first after all these years because the patterns of the automatic
brain have to be constantly and repetitively reinforced.

But baseball has accomplished another, more important feat. It has developed
a series of habits and standards of behavior to keep the conscious mind from
interfering with the automatic mind.

Baseball is one of those activities in which the harder you try, the worse
you do. The more a pitcher aims the ball, the wilder he becomes. The more a
batter tenses, the slower and more tentative his muscles become.

Over the generations, baseball people have developed an infinity of tics and
habits to distract and sedate the conscious mind. Managers encourage a
preternaturally calm way of being — especially after failure. In the game I
happened to see here on Tuesday, Detroit Tigers pitcher Nate Robertson threw
poorly, but strutted off the mound as if he'd just slain Achilles. Second
baseman Kevin Hooper waved pathetically at a third struck fastball, but
walked back to the dugout wearing an expression of utter nonchalance.

This sort of body language helps players remain steady amid humiliation, so
they'll do better next time.

Believe me, the people involved in the sport have no theory of the human
mind, but under the pressure of competition, they've come up with a set of
practices that embody a few key truths.

First, habits and etiquette shape the brain. Or as Timothy Wilson puts it,
"One of the most enduring lessons of social psychology is that behavior
change often precedes changes in attitudes and feelings."

And second, there is a certain kind of practical wisdom that is not taught
but is imparted through experience. It consists of a sensitivity to the
contours of how a situation may evolve, which cannot be put into words.

Baseball players are like storm-tossed sailors falling and rising with the
slumps and hot streaks that emanate from inaccessible parts of themselves.
The rest of us rationalists use statistics to try to understand the patterns
of what they do.

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