Category Archives: Review

Movie review – Rogue One – A Star Wars story

Spoiler alert

Normally I would go heavily into the details of a film in a review.  While I will include some spoilers of the film, this is going to be more a discussion of certain aspects of the film which I feel are important to bring up.

So, this post will go into details about the movie “Rogue One: A Star Wars story“. I am also drawing material from the Rogue One novelization and details from the Star Wars Expanded Universe.  If you don’t want to know what happens in this movie you better stop reading now.


I, along with most fans of the Star Wars universe, was very excited and a little nervous when I heard that Disney was going to produce the last 3 films of the Star Wars film series. The Force Awakens was a nice nostalgic trip down memory lane and while I did enjoy the film it really did not break any new ground in the Star Wars universe.  We were basically still discussing the Skywalker family and their relationship to “The Force”.

I first heard only sketchy details about Rogue One a couple of months after The Force awakens.  The concept that the producers pitched to Disney was that the Star Wars universe would be fleshed out in a series of semi-related stand alone stories.  Follow on stories will discuss Han Solo and Boba Fett in their own movies.

Rogue One however is unique in that it does not focus on any of the popular characters from previous films.  The characters involved are at best mentioned in passing but never explored and most of them in fact have never been discussed previously.  The story deals with events just prior to episode 4 filmed in 1977.

Films, they say, are a product of their times.  Rogue one reflects this sentiment perfectly.  In the old Star Wars universe everything was well-groomed and things were generally tidy.  Even the smugglers and gangsters seemed to be neat as a pin.  Everyone seems focused on “the mission” and the story line.  This movie moves the focus more onto the smaller supporting cast of characters that make the main players seem that much more heroic and grandiose.  This also focuses more on the more unsavory aspects of wars and rebellion.

The lead character is a young woman, Jyn Erso, whose father is designing the Death Star for the Empire.  Her father sent her off at a young age to be safe and she has grown up under the tutelage of her father’s friend, Saw Gerrera, a revolutionary.  Saw trains her as a revolutionary but she leaves him to become a petty thief and criminal.  She has grown up with  deep-seated anger towards her father for abandoning her and for being a pawn to the evil empire.  As the film progresses she works through her feelings about her father and slowly comes to appreciate her father’s position at the time when he sent her away.

Cassian Andor is the other main lead.  He has grown up in the rebellion and has never known life without being opposed to the Empire.  In the name of rebellion he has had to do several unsavory things.  In the film itself he murders a friendly informant to keep him from divulging secrets to the Empire.  But as the film progresses you can sense the turmoil within him.  He finds himself less and less capable of justifying the terrible things he must do for the rebellion and he seeks redemption by following Jyn on a suicide mission into the heart of the Empire.

Saw Gerrera is the most interesting and best developed character in the film.  Saw is perhaps the first rebel.  He fought the separatists before the Empire and then when he saw what the Empire was becoming he began fighting again.  Most of his time has been spent waging a very cruel and dirty terrorist insurrection.  He has set off bombs in busy places and murdered people in dark corners.  In the film he tortures a defector to make sure that he is being truthful.  Two decades of continual conflict have damaged not just his body but his mind.  He has become paranoid and a little unhinged.  The casting director that brought in Forest Whitaker made an inspired choice.  Whitaker had previously played Idi Amin in “The last king of Scotland” and you can see traces of that performance in Saw.

Most of the film takes place not in air-conditioned settings and well-lit and clean cities but in dingy dark alleys or dusty worn down towns in the middle of nowhere.  Most of the people in the Empire live in less than ideal worlds and must work hard to make a living.  The Empire itself makes life difficult and unpleasant for the majority of the population.

You get a sense of gloom and doom from the film.  One of the preview trailers for the film had a great line that captured this feeling, “The world is coming undone, Imperial flags reign across the galaxy”. The common everyday people are giving up and accepting their position in the Empire and soon nobody will be able to stand up to them.

The Empire itself is finishing up the Death Star and we are approaching a moment when the rebellion will either have to stand up and fight or lose all hope of overthrowing the Empire.  People like Jyn and Cassian must ask themselves if they are willing to stand up for what they believe.  Jyn’s father provides hope in the form of a flaw in the Death Star and Jyn and her friends must hurry to find the plans of the Death Star and get them to the rebellion.

The film also presents us with the less than savory aspect of war in that people die in wars and not just “the bad guys”.  One of the big spoilers is of course that all the main characters die by the end of the film.  Disney had the option of going with a happy ending but allowed the director to film it as he wished.  He wanted to stress the sacrifices made by the characters in order for Luke Skywalker to destroy the Death Star later on.  In this way Rogue One is a much more honest film than any of the other Star War films.

One of the other details I found refreshing was returning the magic and mysticism to “The Force”.  In the prequel films it was explained that The Force was nothing more than an energy field generated by microbes.  Most fans were less than pleased by this.  Rogue One presents The Force in more mystical terms.  Chirrut Imwe, one of the other characters, believes in The Force.  Although not a Jedi he is sensitive to The Force and has studied and uses The Force to compensate for his blindness.  More than that he treats The Force as a religion which I think is the way that Lucas originally intended The Force to be portrayed.

Overall it is the best film since “The Empire Strikes back“.  I was a little sad that we won’t see any more of these characters or see their stories develop any further but really the film says everything that needs to be said and is practically perfect.


Star Wars – The Force awakens – Movie review

Non-standard spoiler alert here

Normally I place a standard spoiler alert here because I usually go into a lot of detail about the movies that I review.  This time things are a bit different.  I feel that even 6 months after the movie comes out that if I divulge any secrets that I will get a ton of hate mail.  So with that in mind I am going to review the movie in a fairly roundabout way and discuss the whole of the Star Wars universe and how the new movie fits in.  Even so some details may leak out.

This post will go into details about the movie “The Force awakens“. If you don’t want to know what happens in this movie you better stop reading now.


Back in 1977 I was 6 years old.  My sister’s boyfriend at the time took her and of course her little brother to the movies in the Galleria to see this sci-fi movie called Star Wars.  She had already seen it and advised me not to be scared of the space battles and alien monsters.

I sat goggled eyed for the next hour and a half.  My perspective had been broadened way beyond the horizon.  Any thoughts about growing up to be a cowboy or a fireman or whatever were replaced with being a space faring Jedi knight.

In many ways this was the first “adult” movie that I ever watched.  No simple cartoons, or parables.  This was something complex for a kid to handle.  Please understand, it wasn’t so much the special effects, though they were jaw dropping for the time, it was more a matter of having such a fleshed out and complete story line framing and structuring the entire movie and setting the stage for future movies.

Lucas had been working on and off since the early seventies and possibly since his college days to come up with the basic story.  He borrowed heavily from myth, from the action movies of the 1930’s, and from a wide range of science fiction sources.  What he put together was a complete story package that had a clearly defined arc from beginning to end and it was a story that was very relatable to a wide audience but also contained nuggets of religion and philosophy for the hard-core sci-fi fans to consider.

When the next installments of the story were released, Lucas kept building the basic story line and kept it moving to the climax in the third installment (or what was the third installment back in the 80’s). When Return of the Jedi ended and it seemed that Lucas was finished with the entire story, many fans were left clamoring for more and with a whole lot of unanswered questions.

During the 90’s, Lucas set to work on the prequel series and decided to focus on the roots of the story with the rise of the Empire and in particular, Darth Vader.  The prequels answered many of the fan questions but were generally badly received.

Why?  Some criticisms focus on the story line which was perceived to be badly scripted, clumsy, and un-even.  Others said that Lucas had fallen in love with special effects and neglected the story and others said that he not so much made a movie but made a video game instead.

The story itself wasn’t bad and as I said it answered many of the origin questions in the Star Wars universe but personally I did feel that it lacked the completed feel of the original series and clumsily steered its way to connect up to what was now referred to as Episode 4 from 1977.

After the rebukes that he received, Lucas vowed that he would never again direct another Star Wars movie.  So it was a great shock and somewhat disheartening when the news broke that Lucas had sold the rights to the movie series to Disney for 4 Billion dollars.

At first most fans were horrified that the studio would ruin and “Disney-fy” the series for the sake of making money.  The studio immediately moved to install JJ Abrams as the director and we fans waited with bated breath to see what would happen.

This is where I would give away plot details but I won’t.  Instead I will mention that some movie plot points have been speculated on since back in the 80’s.  Points like, what happened to the Empire after the Battle of Endor in the sixth movie?  Did Han and Leia live happily ever after?  Did the Sith ever return?

The new movie builds a bridge from Return of the Jedi and the future.  The story tellers are not hampered as they were in the prequel series to connect one series to another and having to “artificially” steer the story.  Old cast members are there to reprise their roles but also clear the way for the new cast that will take over.

Storytelling once again takes center stage over special effects.  Overall it is a satisfactory effort.  Not original of course as it was back in 1977.  But overall it is a good starting point for this series to begin with.


A Canticle for Leibowitz – Book review

[Author’s note – A little embarrassing to admit but I just read this book even though it is a science fiction classic.  “Canticle” is one of the backbones of post apocalyptic dystopian novels.  Looking back I can see the novel’s influence in books, TV shows, movies, and video games.  As always, spoilers from here on out so if you don’t want to know, stop reading.]



Walter Miller wrote “Canticle” in 1960.  Along with other books such as “Alas Babylon” it represented an attitudinal shift in the American public’s perception of nuclear weapons and nuclear war.  The government and the military had previously sold the American public on the limited dangers of nuclear war and the notion that civilization and the nation could survive an all out nuclear attack.

Miller had served in the Air Force in World War II and knew the effects of conventional bombing on civilian targets and had no illusions about a “winnable” nuclear war.

The story itself is told in three interrelated vignettes spanning about 1600 years after a nuclear war.  Briefly, it follows the gradual re-establishment of civilization over hundreds of years as it relates to a monastic order founded by a religious martyr called Edward Leibowitz.  The order strives to recover and preserve all knowledge and writings found in the wastelands.  They create illuminated manuscripts from innane things such as repair manuals and handwritten notes.  The hope is that this accumulated knowledge may one day help mankind return to what it was before the war.

Over the centuries it becomes clear that civilization beginning to reassert itself but it is also repeating the same pattern that led to its downfall before the war.   Although some members of the order oppose this, the order is powerless to stop it.  In the final story civilization has returned but so has the threat of nuclear war.  The order decides that something must be preserved in case nuclear war breaks out again.  The accumulated monastery artifacts are loaded onto a starship along with some monks and sent away from Earth towards the new colonies in another star system where it is hoped that mankind has finally learned its lesson.

I picked up two themes while reading the book.

Firstly, the way that the rise of civilization seems to travel in an almost predictable course and that even with the best of intentions we will still make the same mistakes over and over again.

Secondly, A polemic against scientists inventing and then releasing new concepts and technologies into the hands of the general public and in particular into the hands of the government.  Do scientists or researchers (in this case the monks) have a moral obligation to consider how their discoveries may be used by those in power?  Are they blameless if someone accidentally or maliciously misuses a technology or do they have an obligation to keep this hidden if there is a possibility of harm being done?

The second point is interesting in that many atomic researchers at the time of the book felt that they had done a grave disservice to mankind by working on the atomic bomb project.  Many wished that they had not done so but now it was too late.

As I mentioned above the novel definitely influenced many post-apocalyptic stories.  Twilight Zone definitely has some influences as do movies like the Mad Max series.  Even video games like Wasteland have “Easter eggs” that give a nod to this novel.

The novel is definitely not a simplistic sci-fi story of the future but a meditation on our possible fate and the decisions that led us there.

Highly recommended.

Cowboy Bebop – series review

[Author’s note:  As with any review there will probably be some spoilers below so as always if you don’t want to know then stop reading right now.]


If you’re a fan of any sort of pop culture that came out in the last 15 years then you owe this series big time.  I don’t believe this to be an overstatement as you can see stylistic elements from Cowboy Bebop in such series as Firefly, Venture Brothers, parts of the Kill Bill series of movies, and many other TV shows and movies dealing with space, crime, or action.

The series revolves around a spaceship called the Bebop which acts as home and transportation for two interplanetary bounty hunters.  Their main preoccupation is securing enough money to live off of and to continue their lifestyle.  Along the way they acquire a motley crew of misfits each with their own back story and motivation.

Jet. The captain of the Bebop.  Jet is a cynical ex-cop that quit the force due to the greed and corruption that he saw and decided that if he was going to fight crime that he might as well make money off of it.

Spike.  He comes from the other end of the equation.  Spike was an enforcer for the mob till he was forced out by his ex-partner and rival.  His main motivation in life is to get enough to eat and occasionally he will go looking for his former lover, Julia, who he lost contact with.

Faye Valentine.  She was from the 20th century but was cryogenically frozen and woke up in the future with no memory of her past.  Her motivations are best described as mercenary.  She will often go off on her own looking for bounties but will always return to the Bebop.

Radical Edward. For unknown reasons her father named her Edward. Edward walks round barefoot in bicycle shorts and t-shirts often carrying her laptop.  Although she is a genius hacker and can break into any system she seems mentally unhinged at times and quite often talks to herself.  She takes a liking to the crew of the Bebop and decides to hang out with them.

Ein.  A welsh Corgy dog that has been surgically and genetically modified to interface with the internet.  Called a data dog, it is hinted that he has near human intelligence.  Although he is very valuable the crew either doesn’t know this or seems to care.  Often it seems that Ein is more aware of what’s going on than the rest of the crew but they don’t pay attention to him.

The characters are complex and driven by aspects from their past which they tend to hold close and rarely share with the other crew members unless forced by outside circumstance. Somehow the crew manages to pull together during times of crisis but they never seem able to pull off the big score that they so desperately crave.

So what sets this apart from various other anime series?  The series was structured as one long story arc of 26 episodes (called sessions).  Each session being one chapter of the same book and building on the former chapters.  For the most part anime series in the 80s and 90s tended to focus on action and violence and fantasy themes.  The visuals were stunning of course and the action was constant but the stories tended to lack depth, specially in the character development aspect. You went from one unrelated situation to another (Record of the Lodoss Wars being an exception).  Over the course of the Bebop series the crew opens up more and more to each other and eventually begins to gel together till…well.  Save that for you to find out.

The other thing that sets it apart is that for the most part the series tended to de-emphasize the sci-fi aspects.  Other than the fact that the characters ply their trade in space the series could just as well have been set in any contemporary Earth city.  The big cities are as grimy and dark as any to be found in a hard-boiled detective novel.  To be blunt it’s a noir detective story set in space but space isn’t the main point.  There are no aliens, no robots, no fantastical super powers,  just people.

The visuals are just breathtakingly stunning and they’re more than matched by a soundtrack that is bluesy and jazzy and tragically hip.

If you get a chance I highly recommend finding this series online and devouring bit by bit like a matcha flavored kit kat bar.  You’ll be tempted to scarf down the entire series in one sitting but you’ll really enjoy it if you pace yourself.


Game review – Civilization II

Once upon a time I had all sorts of time for computer games.  Back in the 1990s I could easily while away a Sunday afternoon on a good video game as easily as others would on a baseball game or reading a good book.

One of my favorites was Civilization II (Civ II).  This turn based strategy game allowed players to build up a civilization from the stone age and take it to the space age.  A single player could be pitted against 7 computer opponents or multiple human players could take turns playing against each other.

The game made use of what was then cutting edge CD multimedia technology and had several videos that played during the course of the game to flesh out the game play.

Leonardo’s workshop.  One of the world wonders that give players a special advantage

A player would start with a small village and as time passed he could learn new technologies, build city improvements, plant farms, harvest resources, make money, equip armies, and conquer new territory.  The end of the game would be set for the year 2000 and the most advanced civilization with the most points would win.

Game scores were kept based on the population size, wealth, size of the area conquered and world wonders that were built.

With variable geography and random events during the game (such as earthquakes or barbarian invasions), the experience was ever-changing and endlessly challenging.  For me the real attraction was to compete against myself and try out new strategies and tactics to try to build up my civilization.

Although newer versions of Civilization have come out in the last 20 years I still think of Civ II as the best in the series.  The added multimedia material added so much to the game play and the computer Artificial Intelligence (AI) was one of the first that was not as predictable as most computer AI’s had been up to that time.

If you like strategic games and want to find a game that will challenge you intellectually I would highly recommend any of the Civilization games.

Discussions that we should have but we’re not having

I rarely watch TV anymore.  I don’t find all that much that excites my intellect or that is thought provoking or that I can respect.  I find the opposite to be true.  I feel that most television programming is an insult to the viewing public.

I find most programming to be a waste of time.  Most programs pander to the lowest common denominator, sex and violence.  They rehash or rework tired old ideas and concepts and expect the viewing public to not notice that the plot lines are painfully and ridiculously predictable.  But what I find most disturbing about television is how it serves as an electronic anesthetic and distraction for the public when real issues come up that need to be discussed.

The viewing public would much prefer to pay attention to the most vapid and banal television shows rather than to become informed and or take action on matters which direct or indirectly affect them.  Matters which they very much need to voice their opinions, yet they don’t.

So it’s worth noting when a program comes on that at the very least brings some of these topics up and captures the public imagination in an entertaining yet informative format.  The program that I am thinking about is Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.

Episode dealing with Net Neutrality

For those that don’t know, John Oliver is a British comedian that emigrated to the states and began writing material for comedy shows like The Daily Show with John Stewart. After a successful run at the Daily Show he decided to try his hand at his own news oriented comedy show on HBO.

The results have been significant.  Not only is the show extremely popular but several of the topics that he has covered have been given closer scrutiny by mainline news organizations and his efforts have gone viral on social media and have arguably helped promote some changes in some contemporary topics.

Oliver has covered topics such as the above mentioned Net Neutrality, FIFA, the wealth gap in America, police militarization, and the prevalence of Sugar in the American diet.

Now, I don’t happen to agree with everything he does.  I don’t agree with all his view points, as a comedian he tends to frame the debates in humorous ways, and he doesn’t cover all the topics that I wish he would but I have to give him high marks and praise for bringing these topics to light and giving them the attention that they are due.

I think that in an age where too often television executives don’t want to bother with sophisticated or thought-provoking television shows and would rather just distract the public, that we need to give praise and promote shows that at least encourage the public to think and start important conversations about topics that affect us all.

Mad Max: Fury Road – Movie review

Standard Spoiler – This discusses details of the movie Mad Max: Fury Road.  If you don’t want to know what happens then stop here.


This review if fairly late.  I actually watched this movie on opening weekend and never really meant to review it but since then there has been some controversy stirred up around the movie and I felt compelled to address it as well.

Fury Road is the fourth in the Mad Max franchise and follows the adventures of former police officer, Max Rockatansky or “Mad Max”, as he struggles to survive in post-apocalyptic Australia.

It’s unclear where in the franchise continuity this film falls in but from what I can piece together this comes in somewhere between films 1 and 2 though that’s not definite and some have suggested that this doesn’t fit in at all in the original trilogy continuity.

Max has run afoul of a group of desert scavengers led by Immortan Joe, a cult like leader living in the only town for hundreds of miles.  Immortan Joe captures Max and plans to use him as an involuntary blood donor for his army, the War boys.  However just as Max’s fate seems sealed one of Joe’s Generals, Imperator Furiosa (played by Charlize Theron), stages a rebellion and runs off with Joe’s wives.  Max suddenly has a chance to escape by joining forces with Furiosa.

Although people know the franchise due to Max, Furiosa is actually the protagonist of this story.  Furiosa’s life has been patterned and altered by Joe since she was kidnapped as a child and forced to do his bidding.  Now she has the perfect opportunity to gain revenge on Joe by helping his unwilling captive wives to escape with her.

This is where the alleged controversy comes into play.  A blogger writing for a “Men’s rights” movement called for a boycott on the film claiming that the film was “feminizing America” by portraying strong female characters and that the film makers had ruined a good film property by “forcing an agenda” on the storyline.

My response to this is that it’s a patently ridiculous argument.  It’s such a ridiculous argument that at first I thought this was an Onion article or from another spoof website but as it turned out it was real.

If you think that this is true then go see the movie for yourself and see if this storyline is in any way forced.  As to strong female characters in a post apocalyptic setting?  What other sorts of characters are supposed inhabit a post apocalyptic setting if not strong?

Like I said ridiculous arguments.

The movie itself is a lot of great eye candy.  The car designers went above and beyond to create a lot of weird and working car contraptions that got used and wrecked in the movies.  The only real and pleasant surprise is that director George Miller opted to use mainly live stunts and pyrotechnics in the film’s most exciting scenes instead of CGI effects.  Moviegoers have become somewhat jaded by the constant stream of CGI special effects in modern blockbuster movies and it was refreshing to see the live stunt work done by professional stuntmen and Cirque du Soleil performers.

So is it worth seeing?  For the eye candy?  Yes, very impressive.  For the storyline?  It’s a good strong storyline.  A few holes here and there but solid.  For the controversy?  What controversy?

Hemlock Grove – online series review

[Author’s note:  This will discuss details from the series Hemlock Grove.  If you don’t want to know you should stop reading now]

Netflix has invested heavily into producing original content to stream through their service and although they’ve had great success with series like Orange is the New Black and House of Cards, not everything has been a resounding success.

Don’t get me wrong.  Hemlock Grove is not a terrible show but it does have some problems that I believe led to the decision that it will be cancelled after the upcoming season.

Hemlock Grove is a series based on the novel by Brian McGreevy and centers around a rich family, The Godfreys, that practically own the small town of Hemlock Grove.  Into this situation arrives a gypsy family (The Rumanceks) and they live across the lake from the Godfreys.  The story takes place as a series of paranormal events are taking place and involve all the main characters.

The shows mixes all sorts of paranormal and horror elements including werewolves, vampires, strange curses, and mad scientists but it also mixes a healthy dose of teenage angst and soap opera situations into the mix and that’s part of the problem.

Hemlock Grove has an identity problem in that it really doesn’t know what it is and where it’s going.  The other problem it has is that it can’t properly pace the storyline to keep the viewer engaged.

Season one played out at the beginning too much like the Twilight movies.  The whole vampire versus werewolf conflict played out as a fight for the affections of one of the heroines of the show.  Some episodes went back and forth and really didn’t advance the story along and then all of a sudden all the action occurs in the last couple of episodes.

Season two began with no clear storyline and then slowly developed one and then things took bizarre twists and turns involving religious cults and psychics and then resolved that storyline mid-season and introduced a second one possibly involving space aliens at the end.

It’s a bit of a mess and a little difficult to follow.  The other thing that makes it difficult to watch is the gratuitous use of blood and gore.  Granted you can’t make a show with werewolves and vampires without some blood and gore but this show seems to have gotten a bulk discount on fake blood and is intent on using it.

All that being said the show does have some memorable characters in it and the idea of bringing the paranormal and horror elements into a contemporary setting generally works for me but the execution is clumsy.

If the producers had taken a more evenhanded approach and slowed the pacing down a bit I feel that this would have been a much better series.  Unfortunately the Netflix management felt that the series was waning in popularity and will end the show with the upcoming 3rd season.

Hopefully some producers will learn some lessons from Hemlock Grove and make a better effort at a contemporary horror series at some future date.

Dark and Stormy Night – Movie review

Standard Spoiler – This discusses details of the movie Dark and Stormy Night.  If you don’t want to know what happens then stop here

I usually review movies that I see in theaters but with the advent of internet streaming services, people can distribute movies directly to audiences without having to go through movie theaters in the first place.  Dark and Stormy Night was brought to my attention on Google Play as something I might be interested in.  For once they got it right.

Dark and Stormy Night was written by Larry Blamire who had previously directed the successful low-budget sci-fi film, The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra, a film that spoofs low-budget b-movies from the 1950s and 1960s.  Instead of tackling science fiction, Dark and Stormy Night tackles haunted house movies and adds a healthy dose of 1930s screwball comedies.

The film stars Daniel Roebuck as 8 o’clock Farraday, a crusty big city reporter and Jennifer Blaire as Billie Tuesday, a wisecracking reporter trying to “outscoop” Farraday.  The two reporters show up at a spooky mansion in the middle of a rainstorm for the reading of a Will and instead find themselves in the middle of a murder mystery with elements of ghosts, escaped mental patients, a serial killer, and a gorilla to complicate matters.

Just to make things even more interesting a motley assortment of characters shows up for the Will reading.  Each one of these individuals seems to have a shady past and may be the murderer but they keep dropping dead at the most inopportune moments.

The fun aspect of the film is seeing all the standard mystery and horror clichés trotted out and made fun of over the course of the movie.  It’s by no means a cerebral film and it’s not meant to be.  Rather it’s meant to be a way to pass a dark and stormy evening at home, and at $1.99 rental fee, it’s well worth it.

Jesus Christ Superstar – Play review

I discovered Bayou City Theatrics (BCY) this year and have been pleasantly surprised by the level of professionalism of this young, tiny, but extremely talented theater company.

BCY is located in downtown Houston on Capital street just around the corner from the Flying Saucer pub.  You can in fact hear the patrons next door if it’s a particularly raucous night.  The playhouse is tiny, maybe 70 seats in total and the stage is small.  But don’t any of these factors dissuade you.  This troupe of performers is well worth going to see.  BCY mainly focuses on Broadway musicals.  So far I’ve caught two plays and they were both well worth it.

I recently caught the musical “Jesus Christ Superstar”, a musical dealing with the last days of Christ and his relationship with his apostles and in particular with Mary and Judas.

BCY gives the play a contemporary flavor.  The actors are all dressed in modern street clothes and the sets resemble inner city settings rather than ancient Jerusalem.

The play begins with Judas shooting up and rather worried about the growing popularity of Jesus and how Jesus is not using his fame to do more for the poor.  He also worries that the Romans will crackdown on Jesus and his apostles if they are not careful.

The other apostles and Mary argue that everything will be fine and that Jesus should not worry.  Judas chides Jesus for not doing enough to help the poor but Jesus counters that he by himself cannot help out everyone.

Meanwhile the high priests, led by Caiphas and Annas, decide that Jesus is becoming a threat to them and that he may bring down the wrath of the Romans on them.  So for the good of everyone Jesus must die.

Judas becomes jealous of Mary’s relationship with Jesus and goes to Caiphas.  He convinces himself that betraying Jesus will be for the greater good and promises Caiphas to betray Jesus.  Annas offers Judas money for the betrayal and tells him he can donate the money to the poor.

At the last supper Jesus seems to know that the end is near and tells his apostles that soon things will go wrong and that they will deny knowing him. He teaches the apostles to eat and drink to remember him and as they all fall asleep he goes out to the gardens to pray where Judas is waiting for him.

Judas kisses Jesus and betrays him.  Jesus is arrested and taken to trial.  He is repeatedly asked if he is the son of God but only replies “That’s what you say”.  He is taken to Pontius Pilate, the roman governor, and gives the same answer.  Pilate begs Jesus to recant but Jesus won’t.  Finally Pilate is forced to condemn Jesus.

Judas in the meantime realizes the horrible mistake he has made and is overcome with remorse.  He wails in horror and finally hangs himself.  Mary and Annas pass by and discover Judas and run off horrified.

As Jesus is being crucified the spirit or ghost of Judas comes to Jesus and mocks him asking him if this is really what he wanted all along.  Jesus does not answer.  In the finale the apostles and Mary all lament his passing and tell how he has affected them all.

BCY makes very good use of their performers and their small stage.  Although narrow it is a deep stage and the scenery work is very well laid out.  This allows the audience to get the experience of seeing a much larger stage.  As I said before the cast is dressed in contemporary clothes and the theme is somewhat urban.  The players look like they might be modern street people.  I think this works very well in helping the audience connect to the material.

The idea is to relate how much of a celebrity Jesus was in his own time and how much of an effect he had on Jerusalem society that he was perceived as a threat by the ruling classes.  I think this makes the material much more relatable to today’s audience.

Overall I am enjoying the work that BCY is putting out and look forward to the rest of their season.  I would highly recommend catching a performance at this venue.