Friday, September 5, 2008

Week of September 5 to September 11 -- Phil Mann

What's On At The Tropic
by Phil Mann

Can you imagine High School Musical meets Waiting for Guffman combined with Jesus Christ Superstar and even a little Hamlet? It's all there in HAMLET 2, at the Tropic this week. Oh, yes, also some of Dead Poets Society and The History Boys. But it's all a satire. Brit comedian Steve Coogan, fresh from a brief life in the current box office smash Tropic Thunder (he's the director of the movie within a movie), takes over the screen in Hamlet 2 as a manic high school drama teacher desperately trying to save a failing marriage and the pending demise of his course due to budget cuts. His only hope is to produce a great play with a group of reluctant inner-city Latinos who have been dumped into his class. Did I mention West Side Story?

Coogan roller skates (badly, in traffic), wears a caftan, gets tricked into dropping acid, and that's all besides the central plot. Did I mention that it's less serious than Hamlet 1? In addition to a serviceable ensemble cast of kids, he's supported by Catherine Keener, as his wife; Elizabeth Shue, playing herself as an acting dropout turned nurse in a fertility clinic; and Amy Poehler, hilarious as a garbage-mouth ACLU attorney sent to defend his play against censorship.

The movie starts slowly, and wanders all over the place as Coogan bounces between the disaffections of his wife, his principal and his students. But when we get to the play there's no stopping it. If this appeals to you, the movie's only here for one week, so you'll have to hustle down before September 11.

Manic comedy may be in the air this week, because on Saturday night the Tropic's main stage is being turned over to singer/songwriter/comedian Lisa Koch, brought to Key West by WomenFest 2008. She's doing two shows, at 7:30 and 9:30. Last minute tickets at

The best of the best is there, too. Woody Allen's VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA is delighting everyone, as is the French thriller TELL NO ONE. Both are continuing for a second week, along with the Saturday Kids Matinee and the Monday Night Classic Series.

A lot of credit for keeping you entertained and keeping the Tropic humming all summer has to go to the summer manager, Ed Steinhardt, who has been the theater's shepherd during Managing Director Mark Slater's extended family leave to Wales.

Ed got his start at the Tropic as a projectionist, so he's come up through the ranks. But he's also a former journalist, feature-writer and librarian and is the author of several books of verse, including The Painting Birds (1988) and Standing Pelican: Key West Poems & Stories (2008). Dandelion Dreams and Other Poems (1999) was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Before moving to Key West he served as president of the Missouri Writers' Guild, and produced annual poetry readings featuring U.S. Poets Laureate. What better credentials for an art house cinema!

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