Young Jean Lee keeps the most fascinating character offstage in her play “Straight White Men,” which opened Monday at the Helen Hayes Theater after a run at the Public Theater in 2014. We don’t see this wife and mother of three adult sons because she is dead. Mom, though, is clearly the major influence over the husband and sons she left behind as this family gathers to celebrate Christmas. The four men pointedly don’t believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ, which makes the religious holiday just one of many empty rituals they enact anyway, often in painstaking observance of tradition.
In addition to all the usual holiday decorating and gift-giving, these straight white men take a fun-filled moment to change into nonmatching plaid pajamas and sit together on a living room sofa that comfortably sits only three in order to eat their take-out Chinese food right out of the box. Also very ritualistic is all the male-on-male horseplay, like wiping your sweaty armpits after a good morning run and then wrapping the soggy hand towel around your brother’s face to asphyxiate him before he can wake up from a bad hangover.
And then there is the ritual of Privilege, which brings us back to Mom.
While most white children of this generation played Clue or Monopoly, Mom invented a game called Privilege in which her boys could learn how not to take advantage of their status as straight white men. Yes, how not to! In other words, Mom is fascinating the way unicorns are fascinating.
The woman has had mixed results with her liberal agenda. Jake (Josh Charles) is a successful banker, but did marry a black woman, with whom he begot a few children before getting a divorce. Drew (Armie Hammer) is a tenured professor, but did write a novel that one critic called “a radical attack on the crassness of American materialism.” And then there’s the oldest son, Matt (the meticulously understated Paul Schneider). He’s the kind of card-carrying ACLU wimp who, long ago, led a protest against a school that cast an all-white production of “Oklahoma!” But that was then, and now he’s living at home with Dad (Stephen Payne) and working as a copy-boy temp at a local nonprofit despite having a degree from Harvard, as well as a very big dick, according to Jake and Drew. Apparently, size doesn’t run in the family.
Lee introduces the Privilege board game early in her play and then drops it cold. Jokes about going to jail for making a homophobic or sexist wisecrack are forced and don’t land. Much better is her rendering of an ersatz job interview. In a kind of intervention, Dad and Jake teach Matt how to talk to a potential man-boss. But the self-effacing Matt, who has taken Mom’s place as the cleaning person and server of food, doesn’t know how to lie effectively. Despite Mom’s sensitivity training, Dad and the brothers can’t fathom Matt’s committed complacency in the face of all his privileges. For them, he’s a total disgrace.
“Straight White Men,” in its labored sermonizing, manages to create sympathy for Matt. Who knew the pressure society places on this endangered species? Matt believes that Mom, had she lived to see his lack of conformity to society’s expectations, would approve of his out-of-the-box choices.
That’s a real stretch. Women are often much more liberal than men, except when it comes to their own sons, especially an eldest son. But this unseen fantasy female character is Lee’s, not mine.
Like so many 90-minute plays these days, “Straight White Men” is a mildly amusing extended skit. Lee gooses her fragile and very contrived story line by having the men engage in outrageous horseplay. But their dancing, singing, and physical gross-out antics are the kind of theatrics one learns from watching too many episodes of “Two and a Half Men.” In between all the man-child bits of business, the actors are stuck being terribly concerned about Matt. The performances are credible. While Charles and Hammer are convincing in their Broadway debuts, they’ve played the role of the corporate jerk (Charles) and the snooty intellectual (Hammer) in far better movies and TV shows. Also, Le’s set up of the family dynamics is so strained it’s hard to believe these men spent any time together beyond rehearsals, led by director Anna D. Shapiro.
Under the circumstances, credible is a success.
What Shapiro can’t make work on any level is Lee’s framing device. Kate Bornstein and Ty Defoe essay characters that are identified in the Playbill as Person in Charge 1 and Person in Charge 2, respectively. In a play about privilege, the most blatant flexing of one’s prerogative is Lee’s decision to begin “Straight White Men” by having Bornstein and Defoe address the audience. Outfitted in “Mamma Mia!” rejects (costumes by Suttirat Larlarb), they give us their bios – not the bios of Person in Charge 1 and Person in Charge 2, but their own personal bios. These profiles focus almost exclusively on ethnicity and gender identification, and Bornstein and Defoe encourage us to applaud these disclosures, as if they were accomplishments. They also give thumbs-up to the loud pre-curtain music, and in a gesture of superiority regarding taste and endurance of eardrum pain, they defy the audience to disagree. Some would call it machismo. Or is that machismx?
My guest for the evening asked me, “Does this kind of thing always go on at critics’ previews?”
“No,” I told him, “these speeches are part of the play. I think.”
Bornstein and Defoe reappear during the very awkwardly staged scene changes. These silent cameos include their escorting the actors on stage, as if any of them were physically challenged. But make no mistake: Bornstein and Defoe are not there to take Mom’s place. That clean up job is left to two stagehands, one of whom is white and male and (how do I put this?) of undisclosed sexual orientation. After removing the beer bottles and bowls of popcorn that Hammer & Company have been directed to leave behind, this stagehand never fails to give Bornstein and Defoe a sheepish nod, as if to say, “Sorry for taking up so much of your time.”
Now, there’s a guy Mom would have no problem applauding.
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www.thewrap.com | 7/24/18
For many investments funds from Asia, Cyprus has become a gateway to Europe.
www.dailystar.com.lb | 6/13/18
Stormy Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti, has walked between raindrops in recent media appearances, skipping gleefully from “60 Minutes” to CNN to MSNBC. But with a threat to sue reporters at the conservative Daily Caller, he may finally have slipped.
It was a “very Trump-like reaction to a media platform,” frequent MSNBC contributor Kurt Bardella told TheWrap, adding that Avenatti has until now received “kind of a free pass from character scrutiny” in the mainstream media.
Conservative news outlets have groused for months about Avenatti, whose client, aka Stephanie Clifford, received a $130,000 payment from Trump attorney Michael Cohen in October 2016. A Washington Free Beacon story Friday calculated that he has received $175 million worth of media time in 108 CNN and MSNBC appearances since early March.
The Daily Caller got in on the action Sunday: Reporters Peter Hasson and Joe Simonson wrote an article that said: “Avenatti’s past is littered with lawsuits, jilted business partners and bankruptcy filings.”
On Monday, Avenatti sent Hasson an email threatening to sue him and Simonson.
“Let me be clear. If you and your colleagues do not stop with the hit pieces that are full of lies and defamatory statements, I will have no choice but to sue each of you and your publication for defamation,” he wrote. “If you think I’m kidding, you really don’t know anything about me. This is the last warning.”
Bardella is one of the rare people who can see the issue from the left and the right. He was a rising Republican star and former Breitbart spokesperson before he became a Democrat last year.
“I thought immediately that it revealed a thin-skinned side of him that we have not seen or didn’t know existed given this media crush that has been unfolding for the last two months,” Bardella said of Avenatti’s legal threat.
Avenatti’s swashbuckling attacks on Trump have made him a hero to some Trump opponents, as he has accused the president of sleeping with his porn-star client in 2006 and then trying to silence her through threats and Cohen’s payment.
But others have tired of Avenatti.
“I have had friends who don’t like Trump roll their eyes when he now comes on,” said Jon Nicosia, a former managing editor of Mediaite who spoke with TheWrap. “He has morphed from the lawyer of a porn star that may have slept with Trump to a go-to anti-Trump (and Trump associates) pundit. He’s been on shows where Stormy never comes up.”
Joe Concha, media reporter for The Hill, added that Avenatti is “accomplished at making threats and promises he can’t back up.” But Concha said the news media doesn’t hold Avenatti accountable.
Concha said that Avenatti tweeted a picture of a mysterious disc before he and Daniels appeared on “60 Minutes” in March — but never explained what the disc contains.
“Where is that disc he tweeted out that was supposed to be the smoking gun for his client who is largely forgotten now?” Concha asked. “Why not present that evidence in the more than 100 interviews he’s conducted on CNN and MSNBC in the past two months alone? And why don’t any hosts press him on that?”
Concha said more reporters would stand with the Daily Caller reporters if they worked for “any non-conservative outlet.”
Avenatti did not immediately respond to request for comment. But he has taken the Trump approach of always attacking, and making no apologies.
On Monday evening, Avenatti offered a vigorous defense of his email to Hasson, telling CNN’s Don Lemon that journalists who were “unethical” needed to be called out. (Lemon’s boyfriend later told Simonson, one of the Caller reporters, that the media is soft on Avenatti.)
Avenatti later blocked both Hasson and Simonson on Twitter. The president has also been known to block reporters who harangue him with critical coverage.
So is this the end of Avenatti’s reign at CNN and MSNBC? Not likely, said Bardella, who said he thinks the media will forgive the Trumpian outburst from Avenatti if he continues to make news.
He also said it is easier for the mainstream media to overlook the bullying of a conservative outlet.
“Writing that to the Daily Caller brings a very different reception than writing it to the Daily Beast,” said Bardella.
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www.thewrap.com | 5/16/18
Fox News host Laura Ingraham could be facing an existential threat to her brief tenure as the host of a primetime TV show over her handling of a tweet mocking Parkland, Florida, school shooting survivor David Hogg, according to industry insiders.
“Her apology has been inadequate so far,” Joe Peyronnin, a former president of Fox News, told TheWrap. “If it is dragging down their revenues significantly and she has not addressed it in such a way that advertisers will return it could be fatal for sure.”
As of Friday, at least 10 sponsors had announced they would stop advertising on “The Ingraham Angle” despite her Thursday apology to Hogg for a tweet accusing the 17-year-old of whining about his rejection from four California colleges to which he had applied.
“It’s going to be a business decision,” Peyronnin said. “Look at how long Fox News hung on with people being charged with sexual harassment or mistreatment. It took them a while but ultimately when they saw their business being damaged for the long term, they made decisions.”
One senior Fox News staffer said that the imbroglio is a major distraction for the network. “It’s disappointing. Just when we were out of the spotlight we find ourselves right back in the center. It’s distracting. It’s embarrassing,” the insider told TheWrap.
Though Ingraham has long been a fixture in conservative talk radio, she is a relative newcomer to TV hosting, only taking the helm of her own show in Fox in last October.
While she debuted to impressive ratings and scored an average of 2.6 million total viewers in February, she has lagged behind both her primetime colleagues, Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson, as well as MSNBC rival Rachel Maddow.
Targeted advertiser boycotts are no laughing matter at the network. A sustained 2016 campaign led by the liberal watchdog group Media Matters for America ultimately led the channel last spring to cut ties with Bill O’Reilly — then its top ratings star.
Reps for Fox News did not respond to multiple request for comment over the matter.
Others industry insiders were more hopeful that Ingraham could weather this firestorm, noting that the network was unlikely to want to be seen caving to left-wing pressure over a single tweet.
“Minus any new tweets from her I believe her job is secure. If she was fired over a tweet at the hands of what the right sees as an anti-2nd amendment zealot, Fox’s base (and the right in general) would revolt,” Jon Nicosia, a former managing editor of Mediaite and Independent Journal Review, told TheWrap via text.
“I think Fox saw 8 (and counting) advertisers pulling ads from her show and pressured her to say something,” he said. “Fox, no matter how much they want to stand behind their talent is not going to do It with a tweet like hers.”
Another former senior Fox News executive put it another way. “All you have to do is look at Roseanne’s success,” the individual said. “This [boycott] won’t mean a thing.”
Jeff Jarvis, a founder of Entertainment Weekly and current professor of journalism at the City University of New York, said the Ingraham imbroglio was just another example of why advertisers needed to rethink traditional models of how to reach conservative audiences.
“I would propose to advertisers who want to reach conservative America that they would be well-served by pledging support to a new and less divisive and more responsible outlet,” Jarvis told TheWrap.
“When brands could not find the environments they wanted for their messages, they helped create soap operas and shows such as ‘Northern Exposure,'” he said. “Wouldn’t it be to their benefit to help fund an alternative to Fox News?”
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www.thewrap.com | 3/30/18
Cypriots are voting Sunday to choose a president who could break a cycle of failure in talks to reunify the ethnically split island-nation — and deliver the benefits of a rebounding economy to citizens still recovering from a severe economic crisis.
www.foxnews.com | 1/26/18
Economic affairs in Cyprus are dominated by the division of the country into the southern area controlled by the Cyprus Government and the north area of Cyprus, illegally administered by Turkish army. The Cypriot economy was a prosperous one. In 2008 it was classified by the IMF amongst the 32 advanced economies of the world. The IMF forecasts that Cyprus will be the only developed economy to enjoy continuous growth rates through the 2009 financial crisis. Erratic growth rates in the 1990s reflect the economy's vulnerability to swings in tourist arrivals, caused by political instability on the island and fluctuations in economic conditions in Western Europe. From 1 January 2008, the country entered the Eurozone and adopted the euro and monetary policy is dictated by the European Central Bank. The irrevocable fixed exchange rate of CYP 0.585274 per EUR 1.00 was set. The economy of Turkish Cypriots is about one-fifth of the Greek Cypriots population and one-third the per capita GDP of the south. Because the Turkish-Cypriot de facto administration is recognized only by Turkey, it has had much difficulty arranging foreign financing, and foreign firms have hesitated to invest there. The economy mainly revolves around the agricultural sector and government service, which together employ about half of the work force. The tourism sector also contributes substantially into the economy. Moreover, the small economy has seen some downfalls because the Turkish lira is legal tender. To compensate for the economy's weakness, Turkey has been known to provide significant financial aid. In both sectors, water shortage is a growing problem, and several desalination plants are planned.