ARTS & LEISURE-DEC 26 2013

“The Steward of Christendom,” a revival of the drama by Sebastian Barry now playing at the Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, 90012, through Jan. 5, (213) 628-2772, www.centertheatregroup.org ; ticket prices: $20-$70; Running time: 2 hours 50 minutes.

by Larry Blake

LW contributor

It was Aristotle who defined the tragic hero in literature. Aristotle wrote that a tragic hero has to be a person “who is not eminently good and just, whose misfortune is brought about not by vice or depravity, but by some error or frailty.” The hero of the piece commits some wrong that leads to his misfortune. The Mark Taper Forum is now presenting a revival of “The Steward of Christendom.” Its protagonist, on the surface a tragic hero, is done in by a play that sinks from its overabundance of word, and ultimately fails to evoke any sympathy from the audience. We are in a county home for the mentally disturbed. The time is 1932 and we are in Ireland. The Irish nation is still recovering from its long fight for independence from Great Britain. Thomas Dunne (Brian Dennehy), an inmate, was the last superintendent of the Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP). The DMP was an organization that was loyal to Queen Victoria.

In the 1920s, the Irish war of independence eliminated the DMP. Dunne, an Irish Catholic, stayed with the DMP until its demise.

Dunne’s sanity is in question. The 75-year-old man shows signs of what we now would diagnose as Alzheimer’s. However, in 1932, his symptoms went undiagnosed, and he is sent to a mental hospital.

There is a King Lear quality to all of this as we watch people enter and leave his room. Some are in the present, and some are in the past, as we learn more and more about this man. He waxes poetically about the England that was during the glory days of Queen Victoria. The problem is that no one in Ireland who suffered agrees with his nostalgic views.

Like King Lear, Dunne has three daughters. All have had their lives altered by the Irish revolution. Dunne is treated cruelly by Smith (James Lancaster), the hospital attendant. “If you weren’t an old man we’d flay you.”

The play continues to ramble between present and past, never really engaging its audience in its story. Playwright Sebastian Barry likes to take a simple sentence and turn it into a very long sentence. When the lights came up at the end, my companion for the evening responded with, “words, this play has a lot of words.”

Only good things can be said about Brian Dennehy’s performance. He rarely leaves the stage in the nearly three hours. It is an admirable performance. The question of whether the character of Dunne is a true tragic hero can be debated for a long time. For me, it’s difficult to have sympathy for someone who knowingly participated in actions that lead to the kind of tragedies during the Irish war of independence. History has recorded many instances of cruelty by the British to the Irish Republicans. Is it possible to feel for a man who participated in atrocities? This play is an odd choice for the Mark Taper Forum. It’s more meaningful to an Irish audience than an American one. When you add in the wordiness of the play, then this is one to miss.

SUNDAY NIGHT BALLROOM—There are big changes taking place at the Sunday Night Ballroom Dance Group in 2014. Starting Jan. 5, the group will begin to meet on the first and third Sundays, rather than weekly. The Velvetones (above) will be on stage Jan. 5. They will play on the first Sunday of the month, rather than the customary third Sunday. The theme will be Ringing in the New Year, and everyone is invited to bring a bell to the festivities. Dinner and dancing is $10. As usual, people may come to listen only, but they need to call. Reservations are required by all comers. To RSVP, call 596-2669 or 598-4056.

TERRY OTTE & ABILENE will perform a free New Year’s Eve dance at 9 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 31, in Clubhouse 2. All LW residents and their friends are welcome. Come early and stay until next year. Abilene band members thank everyone who supported the November fund raiser. The band appreciates the support of the community.

SATURDAY MORNING DANCE

The popular Candi Davies, who has more than 25 years of teaching in Leisure World, will continue to teach ballroom dance in 2014. Come, get the exercise and meet new friends. In Janary, west coast swing will be taught at 9 a.m.

A vote for the dance to be taught at the 10 a.m. class ended in a tie between nightclub two step and salsa. Dancers will revote on Jan. 4 to choose which dance will be the focus in January.

Dancers rotate so partners are not required. Dancers may attend one or both session at $5 each. New members are welcome.

—Gordon Flewell

COMMUNITY SING

The Community Sing won’t meet Dec. 30, resuming Jan. 6 at 6:30 p.m. in Clubhouse 1.

On Dec. 16, Carmen Edwards sang “Christmas Song” to begin Amateur Time.

Bob Smallwood followed with “Til We Meet Again.” Ethel Carter did “Jing-a-Ling,” followed by Barbara Chambers who played the piano and sang “Birthday of a King;” Peter Innerbickler, “I Love You”; Shalla Callahan, “All I Want for Christmas”; Ellen Brannigan, “Me and My Teddy Bear” a capella; and Pat Kogok, Anita Ragole and two others, “Every Valley.”

Accompanists were Betty Sallen, Pat Kogok and Barbara McIlhaney.

Anita Ragole led a full house of Leisure World celebrants through a popular selection of Christmas songs, closing with “Silent Night” at 7:30.

Felicia then introduced several first timers, including a father and daughter from Denmark, by leading everyone in “How Do You Do New Friends.”

The musical part of the evening closed as everyone joined in singing “Kum ba Yah,” after which they were invited to relieve the groaning table of its heavy load of “Share Your Favorite Recipe” goodies, which they happily did.

Thanks to Pat Kogok, pianist; Joe Sabroso, book lender and stage manager; and Felicia Ward, emcee.

—Lewis Ward

COMMUNITY KARAOKE

It was a magical night in Clubhouse 1 for the Karaoke Christmas Party. The room was beautifully decorated by Tommy Williams and his elves. There were two long tables filled with goodies to share. Folks brought delicious berry pie, lasagna and an assortment of delights. Jeannette Kirk offered a punch bowl filled with the traditional holiday eggnog.

“Blue Christmas” by Elvis was the most popular Christmas tune of the night as it was sung by many. Joe Osuna from Video Producers surprised everyone with another filming visit so people can critique themselves on television.

Margie Thompson and Walt Bier, who is KJ and host on a regular basis, want to extend their heartful thanks for the generous gestures of appreciation singers extended to them.

They have as much fun as all of the karaoke members each week.

As they said, “Let’s just keep on singing and having fun doing it.”

There will be no Karaoke on Christmas, Dec. 25, and New Year’s Day, Jan. 1.

Join the group for a fun evening on Jan. 8 and every Wednesday thereafter in Clubhouse 1 starting at 5:30.

—Margie Thompson

LEISURE TIME DANCERS

The Leisure Time Dancers meet Mondays for ballroom dance classes in Clubhouse 6.

The class will resume Jan. 6 at 2 p.m.

PRODUCERS CLUB

The Producers Club will present its third annual murder mystery in early March. Watch for future announcements. Auditions will be held for female actors at 1 p.m., Friday, Jan. 3, in Clubhouse 3, Room 3. The play is titled “The Case of the Motorcoach Murders,” and the roles for women are:

•Wilimena and Cornelia—Best friend seniors who each have secrets, passengers on bus tour

•Minnie Cooper – younger bus driver married to the deceased

•Dr. Ovary – medical examiner

•Penelope – Scotland Yard inspector

Each role will require memorization of lines. Rehearsals will be in January and February. A schedule of rehearsals, dress rehearsals and performances will be available on the day of auditions.

For more information, call Sam Jones, 598-0880.

CREATIVE WRITERS CLUB

The Creative Writers Club of Leisure World is looking forward to an active 2014. The officers for this coming year are Fred Wind, president; Ethel Carter, vice president; Thelma McQueary, treasurer; and Pat Wilson, secretary.

The meeting schedule has been adjusted as follows: Poetry Workshop meets on the second Wednesday of the month in Clubhouse 3, Room 9, at 1:30, led by Bob Vague; and Fiction/Non-Fiction workshop, fourth Friday, Clubhouse 3, Room 1, at 1:30 p.m., led by Jan Baylis. This workshop will be followed by a business meeting at 3 p.m., led by Fred Wind.

COMPUTER CLUB

The Leisure World Computer Club will offer a variety of classes starting Jan. 20 from 9-11:15 a.m. in the Computer Lab of Clubhouse 5, located on ground level.

People should sign up for classes, $5 each, at the lab.

The following is the list of classes:

•Monday, Jan. 20, Windows 7

•Tuesday, Jan. 21, Excel 2007

•Wednesday, Jan. 22, Windows 8

•Thursday, Jan. 23, Internet and Email

•Friday, Jan. 24, Camera with PC

•Monday, Jan, 27, Android Tablet

•Tuesday, Jan. 28, iPad Tablet

•Wednesday, Jan. 29, Word 2007

•Thursday, Jan. 30, Internet/Email

•Friday, Jan. 31, Adobe Workshop

Classes are usually filled but cancellations could occur.

Coffee, tea and snacks are available during break time. Arrangements can be made for friends to work together.

Customized training for groups can be arranged by talking to John Retterath at 544-2210. Additional training features can be covered in class sessions.

Sign up at Clubhouse 5 weekdays, 1-3 p.m., or at the Computer Club meeting Jan. 12 in Clubhouse 4 at 7 p.m.

COIN CLUB

The Coin Club will host bingo at 6 p.m., Friday, Jan. 4, in Clubhouse 3, Room 2, at 6 p.m. Bingo is held the first Friday of each month. All Leisure World residents are welcome to attend. There are no dues.

There will be a 50/50 raffle; tickets are $1 each. The prize will be split with one half going to the winner and the other half going to fund the club’s activities. There will be two games with special prizes.

HUI O HULA

Hui O Hula will take the last two weeks of the year off. A new free class, Cool Hula, will begin next year at 11:15 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 6. All are welcome.  This class is designed for people who want to sway to melodic Hawaiian music for an hour or so.

A beginner class will also start in January at 10 on Thursdays. Basic hula steps and a simple hula will be taught. Email jojo@huiohula.com or call 252-9676 for information.

POETRY CORNER

Editor’s Note: This poetry feature will showcase original poems by members of the Creative Writers Club of Leisure World and other GRF members. The Poetry Workshop meets at 1:30 p.m. on the second Wednesdays of the month in Clubhouse 3, Room 9.

The Winner

It is an unbreakable rule of life—there is a loser and a winner.

No matter what the occasion—often there is an expert or a beginner.

It takes a lot of luck to come out on top, whatever the fight may be,

Very seldom can anyone predict the outcome, it is impossible to see.

Often there is a wager being put on the contest being thus held,

Especially if there is a big prize, be it money or a winner’s belt.

Contests are being fought over nothing or, maybe, a big purse,

Man’s wanting to be on top of most anything is an unending curse.

To be first is of utter importance—always is there a worthy matter

Where to triumph over another being shows a true go-getter.

It is a feeling of superiority when in something one comes out on top,

Just like a peasant can claim that his efforts produced a better crop.

But any triumph is fleeting, the world quickly forgets a winner,

Soon enough other events overtake the fact that there was a hero or a sinner.

Thus one has to make the most of any good fortune while it may last,

Because the glory of being on top is fleeting—soon it is in the past!

—Otto Ross­