Wednesday, January 23, 2019

It’s Been a Hard Day’s Life: Growing Up Berman

Tosh Berman (left) gesturing tantrically with family friend Allen Ginsberg. (Photo: Wallace Berman)

Review of the new memoir, Tosh: Growing Up in Wallace Berman’s World by Tosh Berman, published by City Lights Books.

"If the first movie your father takes you to as a child is . . .  And God Created Woman, you can be sure of two things. First, that your father is an extraordinary person. Second, that you are destined to lead an extraordinarily interesting life." – Ron Mael, Sparks
Both of Mael’s observations ring totally true in this engaging, endearing, and surprisingly modest chronicle of a life lived under the white hot lights of a radical couple of proto-hippie parents: Wallace and Shirley Berman, an avant-garde artist famed as one of the originators of “assemblage art” and his gorgeous and exceedingly generous (for letting him be who he was) wife and muse. The Bermans were obviously not your average family, and their son Tosh (from the Russian Antosha) is partly the living evidence of a life lived for reasons far beyond the quotidian behavioral realm of domestic security or conventional social structures. His father , and the legendary works of art he made, as well as the stratospheric friendships he cultivated, were a vital transitional link between the beat culture of the '50s and the hippie counterculture of the '60s. Thus young Tosh grew up on the circus high-wire in the big-top tent of accelerated Change.

Monday, January 21, 2019

The Wolves and The Engagement Party: Young Talents

The cast of The Wolves. (Photo: Mark S. Howard)

Sarah DeLappe’s The Wolves is set among the members of a teenage girls’ soccer team during a series of pre-game warm-ups. The play’s off-Broadway run in New York two seasons ago was sold out, and now it’s opening all over the country to enthusiastic audiences; I caught the production at Boston’s Lyric Stage. DeLappe has a finely tuned ear for the chatter of adolescent girls – the mix of sincerity and sarcasm, the accidental humor, the push and pull of their discussion of world events, the way their parents’ values and opinions season their own but don’t bury their own tentative perceptions of the world around them, the tension between blasé worldliness and naiveté when it comes to sex. And she knows just how to use language to differentiate them, though the playbill identifies them only by their numbers, and it’s not until the last scene that we learn a couple of their names, when we finally meet one of the soccer moms. She’s the first grown-up we see. The coach, Neil, is in the stands, but he seems to be hungover all the time – at least, that’s how the girls describe him – and in any case he’s very hands-off. So what little coaching they get is from their captain, #25 (Valerie Terranova), and it’s generic; you can feel her reluctance to take on the role of an authority figure.