Moving Toward Happiness

Moving Company

a review 

Recently walking past a housekeeper with my bags, we left our hotel on the 23rd floor of a room in Manhattan. I nodded good-bye and thank you, and she smiled for a moment but I wondered how long the grin remained the second we went around the corner. I didn’t stop to think about what goes through her mind on a daily basis as she cleans up after me and everyone else that nods to her along the way.

In The Moving Company’s current production of The 4 Seasons, at The Lab Theater, the lives of three human beings caught in the trappings of their own seeming mendacity of hope suggest an essential value we often like to avoid. Like the housekeeper we know exists, yet they are gone when we disappear in our own lives, the three characters in this fictional hotel experience life through the poignancy of summer, fall, winter, & spring, and inside each season, the human condition speaks to the turmoil we all experience no matter our level of responsibility or status in society.

These three clean up after us daily, they unplug our used toilets, gather our soiled linens, and bathe in our afterward when the season wanes and they are left alone with their own simple lives. Each character has a question and while driven by the music of Vivaldi, their actions speak to the pain that exists when hope is just out of reach, when the light disappears, when happiness cannot be attained within the mundane reality of trying to survive. There is a rhythm to their world, and the music allows us to imagine their truths are as complicated as anyone’s own. The everyman is brought to life.

The Moving Company speaks to the reality of a generalized world, while exposing our current political turmoil and the hypocrisy of the haves when measured against the have nots. The judicial system is brought into question, while the seeming confusion of how leadership is chosen by ignorance is explored in the eyes of three normal lives.

We walk past the housekeeper every day, and the spirit of always seeking the beautiful despite the disdainful existence of their lives is played out on stage with a quiet humor. The talents of Heidi Bakke, Joy Dolo, and Steven Epp  play out the illusion we choose or do not choose to maintain when carving out our own lives. The balance of live theatre under the direction of Dominique Serrand once again compels and demands an audience to think, rather than simply walk past the reality of our own existence. In a world where hope is easily forgotten, is it still attainable? Will we remember two or three hundred years from today about the purpose of our lives?

The Moving Company raises the question with a blend of delightful humor spread thin by the painful struggle within the human condition. We are left entertained yet in a constant with silent wonder.


‘The 4 Seasons’ performed by The Moving Company

The Lab Theater – November 1 – December 2, 2018.

Lee Daniels’ The Butler – A Review

Lee DanielsThe Butler – A Review

I threw on a little Billie Holiday in the background because I hoped it might be an appropriate mood setter for writing a review of Lee Daniels’ The Butler. You see, I’m a white guy talking about something very personal towards a black audience, an African-American topic if I may be so bold to suggest importance of genre in this ever-evolving politically correct society.

Last night, my wife and I sat in a theatre with around six other couples, and a few single participants – all of us white to view the film that has certainly brought Forrest Whittaker back to prominence as an exceptional actor. Now remember, he is one of the black, or African-American celebrities gracing the Hollywood stage these days. My wife asked after the movie whether or not all those people that voted against Obama might be pissed off with the ending. Seems we live in a different time than the march on Washington with MLK Jr. or the preaching of Malcolm X, before they were both gunned down. Billie Holiday sweet words in the background, “After you’ve gone, and left me crying.”

What is naturally cool about Lee Daniels’ The Butler is that the context shared was not from the perspective of a film-maker having no business talking about an issue outside of their own race. Please reference Crash, The Help, and 42, all films by white directors.  In this piece, the director is black and the story is personal, consulting reference points that spoke directly to his, to their own story. Throughout the film, we see effects of life on an African-American family dealing with the divide of living amongst a white way of thinking while teaching their own children the values of identity within their own race, during a time when the racial divide was dangerous, volatile and real. On a personal note, I experienced this time through television as a child, and it had a dramatic effect on my way of thinking. But I didn’t come home to it every night. I didn’t experience it while walking to my corner store. I didn’t feel the pain of divide in my white classroom growing up in a closeted Midwestern town as a child. In the film, we see firsthand the painful realities that Cecil Gaines, the butler has to endure when he returns home from the white man’s world to a confused son that is struggling to define his identity as he begins his own challenge to do what is right for his brethren, under the prolific vision of MLK Jr.’s & Malcolm X’s separate but inclusive philosophies.

Lee Daniels’ The Butler tells a story that we don’t want to hear in today’s feigningly forgiving society. His film speaks to the realities of our time, when we can elect an African-American president that despite his earnest values and attempts, receives nothing but ugly scrutiny and divide from a country that continues to ‘behind close doors’ slam shut the avenues of cultural openness that should be the basic tenet of this seeming ‘democracy’ in the United States. Instead, we continue, perhaps more quietly, to manifest our bigotry and sullen ignorance.

I applaud this film and do hope audiences continue to embrace its indictment of a society that will only begin to recognize its failings by looking each other in the eye and appreciating one another’s contributions as human beings rather than allowing the lens of racism to cloud their judgment. Listening to Otis Redding’s closing words, “Its been a long time coming … change has gotta come” I have to really wonder when that time might actually arrive.

Thom Amundsen

October 2013

Farm road in Champaign County, Illinois Españo...

Farm road in Champaign County, Illinois Español: Camino de granjas en Champaign County, Illinois (Photo credit: Wikipedia)