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0155 A Good Review of a Play

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Complete Transcript
Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 155: A Good Review of a Play.

You’re listening to English as a Second Language Podcast episode 155. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

On today’s podcast, we’re going to hear about two people going to a play at the theater. Let’s go!

[start of a dialog]

I invited Bruce to a play at the Mark Taper Forum and we got there a little early.


We handed our tickets to the woman at the door and found our seats.

Megan: I’m glad we got here early to find our seats. I know that this is a sold out performance.

Bruce: The cast is supposed to be really good. I read a rave review of the play in the paper last week. The review said that the leads are perfectly cast and

the directing is inspired. Federica saw it a couple of weeks ago and she said that the staging and the costumes were really something to see.

Megan: I’m really glad. The last time I came to a play at this theater, it was

a bomb. The two lead actors weren’t up to their parts and the whole production was amateur. It closed early after only two weeks.

Bruce: That won’t happen with this play. Hey, they’re dimming the lights. The curtain should be going up any minute.

[end of dialog]

In this podcast, we go to or attend a play at a theater. The story begins with Megan saying that she invited Bruce to a play at the Mark Taper Forum. The Mark Taper Forum is a theater here in Los Angeles. She says that they got there a little early. They arrived there a little early. “We handed our tickets to the woman at the door,” the story says, “and found our seats.” “To hand (hand) something” is to give something to someone by putting it in their hand – form your hand to their hand. You can hand a book. You can hand a piece of paper.You can hand any item that’s small enough to hold. They then found their seats – looked for and found their seats – where they were sitting.

Megan said that she was glad they had arrived early. She knew that this was a “sold out performance.” When we say it’s a “sold out” (sold out) – two words – we mean there are no more tickets left. Some people may also say, “It’s a sellout” (sellout) – that’s the same as “It has been sold out.” “It is sold out.” It’s a sold out “performance.” And that word “performance” (performance) is used for a play or any sort of – usually a live entertainment show. It could be a dance. It could be opera. It could be singing and so forth. In this case, it’s a “theater play.” Well, Bruce says that the “cast” of the play is supposed to be really good. The “cast” (cast) are the people who are in the play. The actors and actresses are the cast, and that includes everyone who’s on the stage in the play. The “stage,” of course, (stage) is where the play is performed – where the actors are in the theater. A theater has a stage and then it has seats. Sometimes it has a “balcony” (balcony) – that’s like a second level higher up, where people can sit.

Well, Bruce says that he read a “rave review” of the play in the paper last week. A “review” (review) is when someone in the newspaper or on television, gives their opinion of the play. The people who write reviews are usually called “critics” (critics). A “critic” is someone who writes a review of a play or a movie and so forth.

Well, this was a “rave review” that Bruce read. A “rave (rave) review” means it was a great review, that the reviewer or the critic was “raving” about the play. “To rave” means to praise, to say very good things about a play, to be very excited, enthusiastic. There’s also a noun “rave,” which is very different in a way. A “rave”

– as a noun – is a dance – usually a dance that is in some location where you don’t normally have dances – in the desert, for example. And it’s an all night party where people dance throughout the evening. I have never been to a rave before. I guess I’m too old. They became very popular in the 1990’s in the United States. People had rave parties. But I was not part of that, I’m afraid. The “rave review” was in the “paper.” And when we say it was “in the paper,” we mean it was in the newspaper. People will often refer to a newspaper as simply, “the paper.” “Did you read the paper this morning?” – they mean did you read the newspaper – probably your local newspaper.

Well, the review in the paper said that the “leads” were perfectly cast. The “leads” (leads) are the lead or most important actors and actresses. Usually, there’s one or two, maybe three, lead actors. These are the ones that you see the most – are most important for the story. We will sometimes just call them the “leads.” It’s the same as the “lead actors.” The actors were “perfectly cast.” Well, we heard that “cast” (cast) – as a noun – means people who are in the theater play. But it can also be used as a verb – “to cast.” And “to cast” means that we find people for the play to be in the cast. So, we might, for example, see that the director is “casting” the play – that means he’s looking for people to be in the play. Usually, they do this by holding auditions. An “audition” (audition) is when you go to the director and you usually have to act for a few minutes in front of them. And they can see whether you are good for their play. You also can cast a movie or a television show. And here in Los Angeles, there are lots and lots of people who go to what are called “casting calls.” And a “casting call” (call) is when they say, “Well, if you want to be in this play, come to this theater on Monday morning at 8 o’clock,” and then you go and you go to an audition.

Well, getting back to our story. “The leads were perfectly cast in this play,” according to Bruce, meaning that the director found the right people for those particular parts. And a “part” (part) in a play, is the same thing as a “role” (role). A “part” or a “role” is the person – the character in the story. For example, in the play “Hamlet” by Shakespeare, one of the roles is “Hamlet,” another one of the roles is Hamlet’s uncle “Polonius” and so forth. So, the different parts, or different roles are the different characters in the story. Bruce also says that the directing is “inspired.” The directing is what the director does and the “director” of a play, is the person who tells the actors what to do. He or she is the boss of the play – the person who is responsible for putting the play on. “To put on a play” means to perform a play. Well, he’s responsible for making sure all the actors do what they’re supposed to do. And when you say that the directing is “inspired” – you mean that it was very good, that he had original new ideas.

Bruce also says that his friend, Federica, thought that the “staging and the costumes” were something to see. The “staging” (staging) is the way that the stage looks. Remember the stage is where the actors are. And the “staging,” in part, is what you see up on the stage. And usually, there’ll be “props” (props). “Props” are anything that the actors and actresses use in the play. The “costumes” (costumes) are, of course, the clothes that the actors wear. Bruce says that his friend told him, “The staging and costumes were really something to see.” When you say, “Well, that’s something to see,” we mean it’s really good. It’s something that you will want to see. You could say that about a play. You could also say that about a movie or even a sports game – “Boy, the Los Angeles Lakers are something to see,” meaning they’re a good basketball team and you’ll enjoy them.

Megan says that she’s very glad that the play is going to be good because the last time she came to a play at the theater, it was a “bomb” (bomb). That word “bomb” has many different meanings. As an adjective, in this sentence, it was a “bomb” – with the indefinite article “a” or “a” – a “bomb” – that means it was terrible. It was not very good. It was an awful, horrible, play. There’s another way of using bomb as an adjective, when we say something is “the bomb” – the bomb – “the bomb” – “the” – we mean it was great. So, it can be very confusing. The expression “the bomb” is very slang. It’s very popular among younger people. So, you won’t see that in the newspaper. When you use a “bomb,” you know that it was bad, but if someone says it’s “the bomb,” or “da bomb” – sometimes we pronounce “the” – some people pronounce “the” informally as if it were “da.” So, instead of “the bomb,” they say, “da bomb.” But that’s very informal – very slang use of that word. A “bomb” as a noun, of course, is something that explodes – something that you will see in a war, for example, when they drop bombs from the planes. But here as an adjective, it means it was a bad play. We often use that adjective about plays. Not so much about other things. We don’t say, “The book was a bomb.” It’s possible but that would not be very common. We would use this for a play, in particular.

Well, Megan says that the two lead actors weren’t up to their parts. “To be up to their parts” and remember the part is the character that they are playing in the play. “To be up to something” means that you are able to do it. You have the ability – the capacity – the capability to do something. You can use that for lots of different situations. If you say, for example, “My friend John isn’t up to swimming three miles today” – means he’s not ready, he’s not able to do that, he’s not prepared to do that. Well, in this case, the lead actors were not up to their parts – were not good enough for their roles and “The whole production,” Megan said, “was amateur.” The “production” (production) – the “production” is the actual performance of the play. It’s what you go see – everything combined – the music, the acting, the staging, the costumes – all of that is the production. To say something was “amateur” (amateur) means that it wasn’t very good. It wasn’t the opposite of amateur which is “professional.” A “professional” is normally someone who gets paid to do something. An “amateur” is someone who does not get paid. So, for example, in the United States, if you play college basketball – if you play basketball for your university, you are an “amateur.” You are not paid. But if you go and play for a professional team then you become a “professional” and you are paid. We also use these two words, “professional” and “amateur,” to describe how good something is done. If someone says, “That website is really amateur” they mean it’s not very good. It was done by someone who doesn’t know what they are doing.

Megan says that this play that she saw – that was terrible – “closed early” after only two weeks. When we say a play “closes,” we mean that’s the end of the performances at that theater. The opposite would be “to open.” So, “When is the play going to open?” “When is the play going to close?” If a play is really bad, it may close early. The theater may decide not to keep performing that play. Bruce says that this play is not going to end early. It’s not going to close early, I should say.

He says, “Hey! They’re dimming the lights. The curtain should be going up any minute.” “To dim” (dim) means to lower the light. So, if someone says we’re going to dim the lights, they mean the lights are going to go from being very bright to less bright – usually, they turn the lights of completely. But they do it slowly and that’s called “dimming.” So, they dim the lights. The curtain will now go up. The “curtain” (curtain) is what is out the front of the stage that hides everything behind it. And then they open the curtain or the curtain goes up – if it’s an older theater – and the play then can begin. Bruce says that “The curtain should be going up any minute.” When someone says, “Any minute” they mean at any time, very soon – could be five seconds, could be 25 seconds but very, very soon. Someone, for example, may say, “I will be there any minute” – means “I’m driving there, and I will arrive very, very soon.”

Now let’s listen to the dialogue at a native rate of speech.

[start of a dialog]

I invited Bruce to a play at the Mark Taper Forum and we got there a little early.


We handed our tickets to the woman at the door and found our seats.

Megan: I’m glad we got here early to find our seats. I know that this is a sold out performance.

Bruce: The cast is supposed to be really good. I read a rave review of the play in the paper last week. The review said that the leads are perfectly cast and

the directing is inspired. Federica saw it a couple of weeks ago and she said that the staging and the costumes were really something to see.

Megan: I’m really glad. The last time I came to a play at this theater, it was

a bomb. The two lead actors weren’t up to their parts and the whole production was amateur. It closed early after only two weeks.

Bruce: That won’t happen with this play. Hey, they’re dimming the lights. The curtain should be going up any minute.


[end of dialog]

The script for today’s podcast was written by Dr. Lucy Tse. Remember to visit our website for the script of the dialog and for more information about this podcast. Our website is www.eslpod.com.

From Los Angeles, California, I’m Jeff McQuillan. We’ll see you next time on ESL Podcast.

English as a Second Language podcast is written and produced by Dr. Lucy Tse, hosted by Dr. Jeff McQuillan. This podcast is copyright 2006.

Glossary
sold out performance – a show or a play for which all of the tickets have been sold; with no tickets available because all have been sold

* Our play had a sold out performance and got a great review.

rave review – a very good review; something written or said about a movie, play, concert, or other performance that is very positive

* After listening to Claus’ rave review, I am definitely going to see that movie.

lead – the actor playing a main character in a movie or a play * Greg got the lead in the school play.

to cast – to assign a role to someone in a movie, TV show, or play
* Diego was heartbroken when he was not cast as Romeo in Romeo and Juliet.

directing – the instructions given on how a movie or play is performed, including telling the actors where to go and how to play their roles

* Sue began directing films when she was just 18 years old.

inspired – very high quality because of its creativity
* Using Grandpa’s old military uniform for a Halloween costume was inspired!

staging – for a stage and items on that stage to set up for a performance * Everyone was surprised by the creative staging of this new play.

costume – clothes that an actor wears to make them look like the character they are playing; an outfit that makes someone look like someone else * I think I will wear a cat costume for costume party next week.

bomb – a very bad performance; a performance or a movie that receives very poor feedback

* That movie was a bomb. It was so horrible that I couldn’t watch the whole thing.

to be up to (one’s) part – to be good enough to play the role that an actor is cast in

* The actor who played Scrooge was not up to his part.

production – show; play; the staging of a show or a play * It was a great production. I loved every minute of it.

amateur – not experienced; not an expert; not good
* Luis is only an amateur guitarist, but he’s very good.

to close early – to end earlier than intended; to not have performances of a show for the full length of time it was supposed to be performed; to stop early

*The play was supposed to run on Broadway for two months, but after two weeks of bad reviews, it closed early.

to dim the lights – to turn down the lights; to make the lights appear darker, especially before a play or movie starts to indicate that the show will begin soon * Before the movie started, they dimmed the lights so we could see the screen.

curtain – a large piece of fabric that hangs from the ceiling to cover a stage so that the audience can’t see the actors before the show begins

* Before the curtain went up, I heard a lot of actors whispering behind it.

Culture Note
Theater or Theatre?

Spelling can be a major problem for people learning English, and it doesn’t help that different “varieties” (types) of English has different spellings for the same word. A “case in point” (example) is the word “theater.”

In the U.S., most of the time, we use the word “theater” to mean the place where we go to see movies, plays, and other performances. In British English, people use “theatre.”

However, just to make it more “complicated” (not simple), sometimes Americans use “theatre” as well. According to some “sources” (places where information is found), in the U.S., “theater” refers to the building where a play or performance is held, and “theatre” refers to the play or show itself.

Unfortunately, the way that Americans use this word is not so “clear-cut” (definite; easy to define). British English has a high level of “status” (level of respect) in the U.S. When many Americans hear British English, they think of things or people who are “educated,” “high class,” “formal,” and more. And because the British spellings of words are a large part of this country’s early beginnings, we sometimes use the British English spellings to associate with those British “roots” (beginnings; origins) and/or to sound old-fashioned or “stately” (having a respectable or dignified appearance). So when we write about going to see a play, we’ll almost always use “theater,” but some playhouses will use the spelling of “theatre” for their building or group, perhaps to make us think of those positive British “associations” (connections). For example, in Los Angeles “alone” (only), you can see performances at The El Rey Theatre, the Nokia Theatre, the Pantages Theatre, and the Orpheum Theatre, among others.

When using this word, follow this “rule of thumb” (general rule): If you are in the U.S. or communicating with Americans, assume that the spelling is “theater.” You’ll be right most all of the time.