January 1, 2013

Dear George Lucas

Posted in AMT's Faves, Fun Stuff, Life's Little Moments tagged , , , , , , , , , , , at 12:08 pm by autismmommytherapist

star wars

Dear Mr. Lucas,

First of all, let me wish you the happiest of new years (I know you’ve been waiting to hear from me), with hopefully much peace and prosperity coming your way in the year to come. It may seem a little strange to hear from a housewife in Jersey who has absolutely no Hollywood connections, but in the event your assistant’s assistant’s assistant ever puts this into your hands, I felt I simply had to write. You see, over the past three days, the McCafferty family has been celebrating “moviepalooza”, watching episodes four through six of the Star Wars movies (sorry sir, the best ones). That is to say, all of us watched them.

I mean, all four of us.

Together.

No interruptions.

All the way from “Dah dah dah DAH da” to the credits.

I’m sure this doesn’t sound in any way miraculous to you, as apparently families all over the world watch movies together, but in this household, it is indeed worth taking note of the occasion. You see, my oldest son has moderate to severe autism, and part of his perseveration is to play the same clip of a movie over and over (and over) again, until frankly the film loses all meaning and anyone nearby who hasn’t become immune to the process over the years wants to pull out their hair.

It’s usually not much better in the theater either. Generally, getting Justin to remain seated for at least half the film is a Herculean effort requiring lots of popcorn, a lanyard, and begging. In the past few years I’ve had to walk out in the middle of countless movies, without knowing for sure what would happen to those fetching gnomes in Gnomeo and Juliette or if Arthur would save Christmas for us all (fingers were crossed on that one). I usually have to take Zach to get to the end, or wait until the title comes out on DVD.

Have I mentioned that I’m not really that patient a person?

I digress. Anyway, over the last three days I’ve witnessed my son snuggled up with us on the couch, following the storyline with fascination, rocking out to the light saber fights, and seemingly fascinated by Jabba the Hut (my husband particularly likes the scenes with Carrie Fisher and Jabba, can’t imagine why). As a family, we pretty much have just bowling and Great Adventure as events all of us can share together, and depending on Justin’s mood, even bowling can be dicey. Those six hours, where occasionally he even looked over to me with wonder in his face and smiled, are pretty big.

I’m still smiling back.

I’m not sure if this is the start of something new, or just a fluke not to be repeated. We’ll be borrowing the first three episodes of Star Wars for a repeat marathon soon. And as long as Justin is captivated by those special effects and those intense battles, and can ignore Jar-Jar Binks, I think we may be okay.

We’ll have to see on that last one.

On that note, I’ll end this missive, and just say thanks. Thanks for dreaming up characters and plotlines still as captivating to my son now as they were to me thirty-five years ago (dear God), when I was a ten-year-old brat who said she never wanted to see a science fiction movie.

Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford (and their collective “yumminess”) changed that forever.

So, thanks Mr. Lucas. Thanks, and from one cinephile to another, happy new year.

June 1, 2011

“You’ve Got Hate Mail”, by Billy Van Zandt and Jane Milmore

Posted in AMT's Faves, If You Need a Good Laugh, My Take on Autism tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 9:43 am by autismmommytherapist

Recently I had the pleasure of venturing to NY with a dear friend to see an hilarious play, You’ve Got Hate Mail, co-written by playwrights Billy Van Zandt and Jane Milmore. It was pretty much a miracle that we both made it there and back given our combined geographical illiteracies (yes, my friend actually brought her GPS), but we did manage to see the performance and return home in one piece. Of course, the hours leading up to our departure were fraught with intrigue, as generally nothing is simple in autismland. I planned this particular evening long before I knew my son’s field day was also scheduled, and subsequently spent a good part of that day making wholly unreasonable deals with God to hold off the rain and any delays, pleas which if answered would enable us to make that coveted 3:30 train. Cindy and I nearly stroked out when confronted with purchasing our train tickets from a MACHINE, not a MAN, but we managed to successfully book passage to New York, not Newark. There were a few testy moments when we thought we’d be walking the forty blocks uptown to the theatre, but eventually a cabbie stopped for us, and delivered us there safely. We were fairly pitiful travelers, but we did it.

As my friend so aptly put it, it was the blond leading the blind.

I will share with you that despite living fairly close by, my trips to the Big Apple are few and far between. Most days making it to the end of the driveway and back to get the mail is enough of an adventure for me, as often I am surprised by what I find when I return to the house, and not in a good way. If I’m going to schlep to the city it had better be for a really exciting reason- either I’ll be consuming a fabulous meal, or I’ll be fabulously entertained. In this instance, I managed to do both. The only thing that would have made the night better was to have a driver deliver us door to door with someone reading “Go the F*** to Sleep” to me, and have the Triad Theater allow us to consume our two-drink minimum on the way home so we wouldn’t get tired by 8:00 PM.

I’m allowed to dream.

The play itself is conducted with the entire cast seated in front of their computer screens, the themes are marriage and adultery, and it is told in its entirety through texting and emails. Richard (Billy Van Zandt) performs as the cheating husband caught in a web of internet intrigue, when an email meant for his mistress Wanda (Fran Solgan) is mistakenly diverted to his wife Stephanie (Jane Milmore). As Richard digs himself deeper and deeper into a morass of immorality, the married couple’s friends get involved, also played brilliantly by Bonnie Deroski as Peg, and Glenn Jones as George.

Anything that captures my attention past 7:00 PM is a winner by me, and this play certainly fit the bill. The dialogue is funny and fast-paced, and each character in the ensemble is equally strong. One of the best parts of the performance is watching the cast’s hilarious facial expressions as each moment of the well-contrived plot unfolds, so I recommend getting there early to sit as close to the stage as possible. Perhaps you don’t need to get there at 5:00 as we did and run into the cast prior to the show (who knew intimate theaters don’t have box offices?), but getting there a little in advance will be worth it, I promise.

Van Zandt and Milmore have written countless plays and television scripts over the span of their several-decade career, and I’ve been fortunate to see a few of their productions. All of them, no matter what was transpiring in my life at the time, have made me laugh (and for those of you who also dwell in the world of autism, you know that’s no mean feat). The two of them are hugely successful, and clearly do not need Autism Mommy-Therapist to give them a good review.

But it’s my damn blog, and this play made me happy, so here we are.

I am aware of how difficult it is for some of my readers to get out of their houses for pleasure, but since most of you seem to be located in New Jersey and New York (except for my one international reader in Irleland, “Erin Go Bragh!”), I urge you to consider giving it a go. I laughed my ass off, didn’t think about autism for over an hour, and I’m not too proud to admit I snorted within the first ten minutes. As my readers know, I don’t put my name behind anything I can’t recommend unequivocally, and “You’ve Got Hate Mail” falls into this category. As an added bonus the Triad Theater is an extremely cool venue, and if you live in the area, you can be in bed by 11:00.

If your son is your 5:00 AM wake-up call too, that’s key. I have my priorities.

Those of you who read me also know I like promoting good people, and although I’ve only met two of the cast members, I can vouch for the playwrights themselves. Jane Milmore is the sister of the famous romance novelist Kaitlin O’Riley, a talented girl with whom I go back to our days at Rumson-Fair Haven High School. Jane and Billy themselves have always been lovely to me throughout the years. And since I’m increasingly convinced my four self-defense classes my mother made me take in 1978 would not protect me from a number of celebrities these days, the fact that they remain such good people after such a long span in Hollywood counts for a lot.

Truly, they’re just like us, except extremely talented.

Anyway, if you’ve got some free time (hah!) and are looking for a really funny play, I highly recommend you spend those limited moments at the Triad. Other than pageant moms, I can’t think of a group of people who deserve a fun night out more than parents of autistic children.

So Jane and Billy, continue to “break a leg” (a term I’ve never understood, which is only one of a thousand reasons I would make a sucky actress), and here’s wishing “You’ve Got Hate Mail” a long and illustrious run.

And once again, thanks for giving this tired girl the good seats, and some great laughs.