Monday, January 29, 2024

Play: Quixote at the Rep

 Quixote Nuevo by Octavio Solia, Directed by Lisa Portes, Seattle Rep, through 11 February.

Let me be honest, I've never read the Cervantes novel, nor have I seen any of the various Quixote movies over the years (though the household has a copy of the cast album of Man of La Mancha). But through cultural osmosis I know the gist of the Quixote story, its origin, and the major plot beats. All of them are covered on the stage here and given a new, updated shine.

The story sounds familiar: Quijano (Herbert Siguenza) is a retired college professor verging on dementia, and about to confined to an old folks home. He rebels and flees into the Cervantes stories he taught, heading for the Mexican border to be reunited with his love Dulcinea, who was a migrant laborer when when they first met in their youth. Quijano/Quixote is aided in his quest by ice cream-vendor Manny, who is his Sancho Panza. 

It is fully an update, Quixote transformed into the modern age. His noble steed Rocinanti is recreated as an adult tricycle with a horse's skull mounted, the castle he visits is a karaoke bar, Sancho's donkey is an ice cream cart. But it also transformed are the underpinnings of the tale, brought into a modern age. Quijano/Quixote has a lot of character development underscoring his actions and his regrets, as opposed to just being a old man who has read too many medieval romances. He is fighting a modern world but is part of it as well. He slips between fantasy and lucid reality easily, living in both worlds.

And he is haunted by the specter of his own mortality. Papa Calaca (Raul Cardona) stalks him as a swaggering Tejano singer, tempting the aged Quijano with his own upcoming death and challenging his fantasy. Raul Cardona is a highpoint (one of several) when when he takes the stage..

The rest of the actors are excellent, most of them from the South Coast Theatre where this work was developed, and many of them proud/honored/delighted to be making their debut on the Seattle Rep stage. They carry their main roles nicely, and as well as other major characters including the day-of-the-dead calacas who dance and taunt Quixote in the darker versions of his fantasy world. In particular, Alicia Coca when when she is portraying Manny/Sancho's wife, a extremely comic turn that serves to strengthen and grounds Sancho's personality, which is often in modern presentation used as comic relief.

And the set contributes to pulling everything off, both having a lot of space for rock walls, bars, and canyons, while at the same time giving room for the dances, a herd of sheep, a trike with a horse's skull mounted on it, and an ice cream cart. There can be a lot on the stage at once, and the stage decor handles it well. 

There are some downsides to the presentation. Parts of the show, in particular the dancing and singing of the spirits, were over-miked, such that the words were blurred and slurred electronically, and were hard to hear. Also, puppets. The Lovely Bride hates puppets in the theatre, but their presence helps strengthen the nature of Quijano's memory in the face of both fantasy and reality. So I can give a pass on the puppets.

All in all, this was an excellent show, and gives the full feeling of what theatre can do. It is worth striking out in our wet season and taking it in. Go see it.

One last thing - as I noted, the show is an honest-to-gosh long piece of theatre,  Running over two and half hours with an intermission and everything. It makes good use of all its time, never lags and captures the heart of the novel. But in our case, we outran our time for parking, and as a result found a ticket with a hefty fee on the windshield (issued ten minutes after the timer ran out - there was little in the way of a grace period, apparently). So, thinking "hung for a lamb, hung for a sheep" the Lovely Bride adjourned to a nearby Mexican restaurant for burritos, tacos, and very strong drinks, since we were already paying the premium price for the parking spot.

More later, 

Sunday, January 21, 2024

Recent Arrivals: After the Holidays

 It's been a couple months, so let's do an update.

 While I haven't gone that far from home, I have collected up a bunch of new gaming material Some are gifts, some are Kickstarters from various sources, and some are things that I picked up from local brick and mortars. 

I had a flurry of fulfilled Kickstarters this time, as a lot of people tried to get everything shipped before the start of a new year. In addition, I'm seeing a lot of new announcements of coming Kickstarters. The entire Kickstarter process may have settled into a annual rhythm, probably because of tax requirements, for launching and delivering new projects. 

One other thing I've noticed is the lack of signatures in some of these, while others adhere to some multiple of 16 pages. Back in the day at TSR, we were pretty strict on doing printed pages in groups of 16 (the printing press would print large sheets of 8 final pages, front and back, which would be folded into a sixteen page signature). These days I'm seeing all manner of  oddly-numbered sheets. The thing is, so far as I know, the presses still run in 16-page increments, so any additional paper is paid for, then lost. But then, I've been out of the biz for years now. 

Anyway, let's see what we have this time.

Lex Arcana: Mysteries of the Empire II by Giacomo Marchi, Claudio Vergati, Bruno Gattolin, Mauro Longo, Luca Scoz, Steffan Kuppers, and Marzio Morganti, 184-page hardbound, Acheron Games, Kickstarter. I've played Lex Arcana previously, and like what they've done with the subject and the era (X-files in the Roman Empire). This volume is a collection of adventures, including an updating of the Intro adventure that we played earlier, along with a conclusion to the adventures in the core rulebook. Otherwise, it roams through the Empire, from Italy to Ireland to Malta to Syracuse to Greece. The production values are on par with their previous work, and it is nice to have a collection of adventures in my back pocket. 

The Eye of ChentoufiThe Heart of Chentoufi, and The Fate of Chentoufi, for Luke Gygax's World of Okkorim, by Luke Gygax and Matt Everhart, 40-page saddle-stitched book, 48-page saddle-stitched book, and 64- page squarebound book, Gaxx Worx Games, Kickstarter. I'm not a big believer in genetic talent, though the profession of one's parents has a definite influence on one's exposure to a particular business and its workings. So, nurture as opposed to nature. Luke Gygax is Gary's son, and I'll admit there's a little excitement is seeing what he's brought to the table. The adventures grew out of a four-hour one-shot for GaryCon XIII, and had that old-school, self-contained nature to them. It does have tech updates for the modern era - glossy paper, four-color through-out, nice maps, but has that vibe of old-school adventuring. I could run this, and may yet.

If I Were a Lich, Man, Three Jewish games by Lucian Kahn, Small Box containing 36-page saddle-stitched booklet, Deck of 44 cards, and 4 Dreidels, Hit Point Press, Kickstarter. This one is a curiosity, in that it is three Jewish themed RPG adventures involving things like Jewish Liches and vampires at a  Bat Mitsvan. The D&D lich first showed up in the original Monster Manual, storing its soul in an otherwise undefined phylactery. Fine, that trope's been done (1963's Captain Sinbad had the evil wizard keeping his heart in a gem, making him immortal). But phylactery has a wider use as a term for as a telfin of in the Jewish faith, a box worn on the body containing scripture. so that's a little problematic. Kahn, a non-binary Jewish designer, has taken used this as a springboard for one of the adventures involving Jewish liches dealing with a paladin pogrom. That's a good subject and a good exploration, but I don't know if I would run this, if only because, well, I'm not Jewish (see "Thirsty Sword Lesbians" for a similar situation) and it feels a little appropriative. But this is one of those games where I'm glad SOMEONE has done, though. Also, it has a dreidel-based resolution system, which is also cool.

Wingspan European Edition Designed by Elizabeth Hargrace, Stonemaier Games, Boxed Game, Purchased from The Wizard's Keep as a Gift for Kate, purchased from The Wizard's Keep. The original Wingspan was great, and in the tradition of successful board games, inspires expansions. This one adds a bunch of new cards to the mix and few rules tweaks. The Lovely Bride took it out for a spin on our last game day, and seemed to like the result. Want to play it myself, now.

Empire of the Ghouls, by Richard Green, with Wolfgang Baur, Jeff Lee, Chris Lockey, Kelly Pawlik, and Mike Welham, 352-page hardbound book, Kobold Press, Gift from Wolf. I've been rabbit-holing on Midgard for a little while now, and Wolf had an extra deluxe copy in his garage and passed it along to me. I really respect the depth of designer that Richard went to in this, detailing the effective Underdark of Midgard, and going into depth on the society of its ghouls. Sets up a lot of ghoul politics and factions. Nice presentation, with a lot to it. Yeah, hunt it down.

Brindlewood Bay by Jason Cordova, 168-page hardbound book, and Nephews in Peril, by over a dozen talented writers, 200-page hardbound book, The Gauntlet, Kickstarter. I've been waiting for this one for a while, but haven't had the chance to get into it with any depth. It is a "Cozy" RPG where you play little old ladies who are members of the Brindlewood Bay Mystery Book Club, who find themselves involved in solving mysteries. This is Scooby Doo with the Golden Girls, the arcane version of Murder She Wrote, and the old Ms. Marples films starring Margaret Rutherford. Oh, yeah, and there are Cthuloid cultists as well. The mechanics are descended from Powered by the Apocalypse, which means it tends to be rules-light with a lot a player/GM negotiation.. 

All Souls Lost, An Expansion to The Seas are Dreaming of my Death, By Derek Sotake with Jo Kreil 108-page squarebound book,  Derek Sotak, Kickstarter. Another continuation of a game I've played (but not run) and reviewed. I really liked the original version, and this feels a bit like one of the early supplements to the D&D little brown books - some corrections, some new inclusions, and experiments with new rules and classes (like Ship's Dogs, which I think would be a niche market on its own). Plus, we get a visit from one of William Hope Hodgson's other creations - the Great Carnecki. Fun.

Basic Roleplaying Universal Game Engine by Jason Furall and Steve Perrin, 264-page hardback book, Chaosium, Purchase from The Game Shelf. The history for the Chaosium house game system is almost as convoluted and branching at that of D&D. Originally showing up as the system for the original Runequest, it was spun off as an independent system, then as a multigenre Worlds of Wonder box, then expanded for other games like Call of Cthulhu and Pendragon, then used for a bundle of licenses (including Elfquest and Ringworld), then compiled into a master book, and so on (and I'm probably missing a couple steps). This version hews close to its original form of RPGs, and deals with the main problem of such universal systems - handling everything from fantasy to SF to super heroes. So it feels very old-school, all the more so because of the two-color interiors and thick, tan paper stock - it FEELS like a rulebook as opposed to an introduction to a new world. It keeps the Resistance table, which I have some issues with, but that takes us back to the original game as well. The stuff that makes CoC and Pendragon unique (sanity, for the former, and passions, for the latter) are relegated to truncated optional rules. Still, I'm hoping to see this used in the eventual Lords of the Middle Sea. 

Cowboy Bebop Roleplaying Game by Michele Paroli (Game Director) and Davide Milano (Game Design), 272 page hardbound book. Don't Panic Games, Kickstarter. Enjoyed the original anime (which had the best theme music this side of Jonny Quest) and much of the Netflix live action series (which I faded on, not because it wasn't good, I'm just horrible at binging shows). You play as bounty hunters in a futuristic solar system with a cool vibe. Mechanics look like they again, descend from Powered by the Apocalypse, along with the use of "clocks" from Blades in the Dark that track ability/skill/trait checks over time. Nice production values, with most of the art coming from the anime itself. Worth digging into.

Not shown (because of lack of room on the table) is a HEAP of early Pendragon Supplements from noted Tolkien scholar Sacnoth. Sacnoth has been cleaning out his library, game collection, and personal papers with the help of another colleague in the business, and the Good Doctor has been kind enough to pass along some of his material to me. I've always thought that the original Pendragon material was a landmark for handling a very specific genre (Authurian knights) in its era, and these books expand out that universe nicely. Hoping to adapt some them for the upcoming Pendragon revision.

So, yeah. a lot of stuff to work through, and notes from other Kickstarters that they are en route. And when I get another table-full, you'll see them here. 

More later,