In a blockbuster move, I'll be combining today's Ticket Stub and Roadside Sightings for today:

* Casablanca on V-Day@ The Brattle, Year 4! -- Nat and I showed our growing maturity as a couple by planning way ahead, to avoid last year's seating in the sweltering theater balcony. We ate leftovers, met up in Harvard Square, and primly walked up to the box office to claim our tickets: we're pros! And surprisingly, so is my boss -- he and his wife and four friends were in the audience too, who knew? It's a classic -- and the Brattle kept its dignity by not begging too forcefully for money on one of it's busiest nights of the year. Ah, the tribulations of a nonprofit movie theater that only shows stuff you want to see about half the time. Anyway, the film was luminous as ever, and the audience was much more enjoyable than last year, far less tittering at the dialogue (?!). It had a sort of melancholy effect this time, I thought, and something about Ingrid Bergman finally clicked for me. I admit I've always thought of Ilsa as a bit...bland. Pure and lovely, sure, but the whole "betraying my husband and my lover by turns" thing always seemed at odds with her sleepy naivete. She seemed buffeted along by these larger forces, and never really committed to either Laszlo or Rick. But...something about her eyes, these clouds of doubt or frustration passing over and then quickly masked by that eager smile...something convinced me that she did have an agenda of her own. In fact, I could be persuaded to join the Sally Albright school of interpretation: that Ilsa didn't really fall back in love with Rick, but wanted to become the First Lady of Czechoslovakia and led the men in her life into doing what she wanted to make that so. Hmmm! In any case, the film still grabbed me -- this time I noticed how consistently the scenes are blocked, always with a figure or two close to the camera and an unrelated (or parallel) story playing out in the background. The background is where the action of Casablanca roils on, despite the petty problems of the foreground characters...interesting. Here's looking at another viewing next year...maybe in a different theater, but with a marriage license! (A+)

* On my way to pick up Kim last night for our trip to the thee-ah-tah, I witnessed yet another unprecedented Masshole roadrage move. On Concord Ave. in Cambridge, the city has installed some "traffic calming" (*bitter laughter here*) concrete islands in the middle of the road. It's a 2-lane street, and basically they force you to slow down and swerve a little to avoid them. Coming off the Sozio rotary, there are 2 cars ahead of me: a slooowwww green sedan, with an impatient silver Mitsubishi tailgating him. As we roll towards the island, the Mitsubishi suddenly veers into the oncoming lane and zooms around, "passing" the green car by crossing the double line and looping around the island "backward." OMG! He races off at top speed, only to hit the red light at Huron Ave. 6 blocks later, what a tool.

* Five By Tenn: Our Speakeasy Stage subscription pays off again, with their most polished production yet. Five recently unearthed one-act plays by the classic American drama queen Tennessee Williams are woven into a loosely connected, atmospheric whole. It was like a lineup of his greatest character types (and I mean that in a very positive way), brought together in brief but masterfully arranged moments: the dreamer, the depressive, the harridan mother, the washed-up artist, the rogue, the ingenue, and in my favorite performance, all of these bundled into an exquisite, aging yet hopeful tranny interior decorator. Yep, Williams is flung full force out of the closet here, and the overt gay themes are not a surprise as much as a highlighting of the threads that ran through his less "scandalous" works. The shabby chic set, complete with wrought-iron railings and a wicker armchair, made a nicely decrepit backdrop for the flowery, bittersweet, often sharply ironic (and hilarious) dialogue. This was by far the most seamless, invigorating production yet at the new theater, and we have two more to look forward to, especially Caroline, or Change. KUTGW! (A)

* The last two days have been a bit of a roadside rollercoaster. After finding an empty parking meter near the theater, Kim and I scooted off to dinner at the delicious (if poorly serviced) Picco. Had the winter vegetable pizza...but I forgot the leftovers (that is, our waiter just didn't make it back with them before we had to leave to get to the play, grrrr). The play was great, but then there was a $25 ticket on the car -- d'oh, you have to feed the meters until 8pm, not 6, and did the City of Boston put up signs about this? Nope. Have I gotten a ticket the other dozen times I've parked after 6 at a meter? Nope. So I drive Kim back to her parking lot at MIT -- where we come face to face with a huge grey rat next to her car! Eeeek! Seriously, it could have been a possum....blegh. I had to get to work this morning in time for an 8am breakfast meeting, so I pull in with my coworkers at 7:45. At 8:25 we figure out the visiting lawyers had the time wrong, and have eaten at their hotel down the street and are just hanging around there to kill time. Gaahhh! But then I get a free muffin, OK. So I go out at lunchtime to run a few errands, and stop for gas on the way back. The sky has darkened from cloudy grey to black and menacing, with a few sprinkles of rain. The woman at the next pump and I watch as the apocalyptic front crosses right over our heads, an invisible broom of wind swishing leaves and branches down the street like a special effect. Then, sploosh: an instant, drenching downpour of cold rain and gale force winds from the west! I spilled gas all over my shoes and leapt into the car -- the poor other woman was drenched! As I pulled into the street, little hailstones came clinking down! Woah! And not 10 minutes later, I kid you not, bright blue sunny skies. Mark Twain was right on the money. It's much colder and still windy, but it's like a totally different day around here now. I need a nap.

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