Monday, April 23, 2018

“Apologia” by Alexi Kaye Campbell

Last fall, while visiting London, it was a rare day when we weren’t traveling by double-decker bus from Victoria Street, around Parliament Square, and up Whitehall to Trafalgar Square. We’d pass the old Scotland Yard, Westminster Abbey, Parliament, the government buildings on Whitehall, the Horse Guards Palace, and a rather small building named Trafalgar Studios Theatre. Playing at the time was Apologia. We considered trying to get tickets, but they were few and far between. Certainly, a draw (for us American tourists, at least) were two of the stars – American actress Stockard Channing and Laura Carmichael, aka Lady Edith of Downtown Abbey fame.

So, I bought a copy of the play script.

Apologia by playwright Alexi Kaye Campbell is actually written in two versions, an English one and an American one. It was the American version playing at the Trafalgar, likely to accommodate Ms. Channing. The plays are essentially the same; the difference is the lead character, Kristin Miller, who can be played as an American on a Brit. I read the American version.

Miller is something of a famous art historian, who started out her professional life as a protester. The cause didn’t particularly matter; if she thought it could enough, she was there. She’s now living not far from London, in a charming cottage-like home. It is her birthday, and her two sons are coming to visit for the party, along with their girlfriends. Neither son is particularly happy with their mother’s newly published memoir, which doesn’t even acknowledge their existence. She tries to explain this by saying it was a professional memoir, but that excuse doesn’t survive for long.

As the characters interact, the sons Peter and Simon, the girlfriends Trudi and Claire, and Kristin’s old friend and fellow protester Hugh, it becomes clear that this family is about both what it says and what it doesn’t say. Kristin discovers that Peter met Trudi (an American) at a prayer meeting, and she nearly freaks out at the idea that her son may have found faith. Simon, largely unsuccessful at about anything he tries, is breaking up with the successful soap-opera-star Claire. It’s clear that Kristin likes neither of the women and almost seems to deliberately provoke them. Claire gets incensed and responds; Trudi rather blissfully ignores the sarcasm.

Alexi Kaye Campbell
This is a family seething with anger and resentment, and it takes some time to see why.

Campbell was an actor for 20 years, working for such companies as the Royal Shakespeare Company and Hampstead Theatre, before turning to playwriting. His plays include Death in Whitbridge (2008), The Pride (2010), The Faith Machine (2012), Bracken Moor (2013), and Sunset at the Villa Thalia (2016). Five of his plays have been collected and published as Plays One (2017). The Pride won several theater awards when It was written and produced. Campbell was also the scriptwriter for the movies Possession (2002) starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Woman in Gold (2015), starring Helen Mirren.

Apologia slowly builds tension; one begins to suspect that Kristin Miller is almost on the verge of cracking and will do (and say) anything to avoid that. She has to believe she’s in control; she doesn’t seem to understand that her family has become the protestors and she the central authority being protested.

Top photograph: an advertisement for the play at Trafalgar Studios.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Attorney for the defense

After I John 2:1-11

He stands before the judge
and jury, speaking for the defendant,
a curious position as the judge
and the jury know the guilt
of the accused, he admitted it,
confessed it, so that all that’s left
is the final judgment and
the sentence, expected to be life
at best or the death penalty.

But the defense attorney argues
for the accused, the guilty one,
asking for a declaration
of innocence, seeking a finding
of not guilty, shocking judge
and jury and courtroom alike,
until the attorney shows them
the holes in his own hands.

Photograph by Claire Anderson via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Saturday Good Reads

In 1955, someone in a used bookstore in San Francisco discovered a hand-annotated copy of a 1911 book, Platitudes in the Making. It was written by a disciple of Nietzsche and Fabian socialism. It was hand-annotated by G.K. Chesterton. Trevin Wax has the story on Chesterton’s common sense.

We knew that Edgar Allen Poe wrote poetry and crime / horror stories, and Dorothy Sayers wrote poetry, translated Dante, and wrote the Lord Peter Wimsey murder mysteries. But did you know that Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote poetry? Or that Jorges Luis Borges and Kingsley Amis wrote crime stories? Crime Reads has a list. 

Speaking of crime reads, mysteries and thrillers are becoming the most popular books sold, says The Guardian.

Jared Wilson on moral failure at church, Tim Challies argues for reading a print Bible, Bradley Birzer on America and progressivism, a home movie video that I found to be one of the most moving things I’ve seen lately, good poetry, and more.


The Sea Here, Teaching Me– Moira Linehan at Image Journal.

From the Grave– Tim Good at Photography by Tiwago.

Clarify Me, Please, God of the Galaxies– Dana Gioia  at First Things.

The lampposts– Troy Cady at T(r)oy Marbles.


Max Bruch: The Romantic Composer You’ve Never Heard (Enough) Of– Terez Rose at The Imaginative Conservative.

British Stuff

Writing and Literature

The perfect crimes: why thrillers are leaving other books for dead– Henry Sutton at The Guardian(Hat Tip: J of India).


The Skirt of God– Christianna Peterson at Image Journal.

We Need Counter-Cultural Common Sense– Trevin Wax at The Gospel Coalition. 

Why You Should Study Theology– Scott Slayton at One Degree to Another.

Life and Culture

The Devil’s Abyss: America’s Descent into Progressivism– Bradley Birzer at The Imaginative Conservative. 

Can My Phone Love Me?– Samuel D. James at Letters & Liturgy. 

Art and Photography

The Equation Church– Chris Naffziger at St. Louis Patina.

Dust in the Wind (1977)

Painting: Portrait of a Man Reading, oil on canvas attributed to Joseph Wright of Derby, Temple Newsam House, Leeds Museum and Galleries, UK. 

Friday, April 20, 2018

Poets and Poems: Darren Demaree and "Two Towns Over"

Two Towns Over by poet Darren Demaree includes 56 poems, mostly short, but all powerfully aimed at the drug addiction crisis in Ohio and other states. The poems are specific to Ohio; included are several odes to different townships and poems named by towns.

Short poems. Quick reads (you might think; quick and haunting). Devastating images and metaphors.

Opiod addiction is not the first drug crisis America has faced; that mantle belongs to heroin, another opiod, developed in the some of the same laboratories as aspirin (and by the same manufacturer).

To continue reading, please see my post today at Tweetspeak Poetry.