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    What to Know About Kevin Spacey’s Civil Trial: Lawyers Make Opening Statements

    In a lawsuit, the actor Anthony Rapp said Mr. Spacey made a sexual advance when Mr. Rapp was 14. Mr. Spacey is accused of battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress.Five years ago, as the #MeToo movement saw a growing number of high-profile men face accusations of sexual misconduct, a claim against Kevin Spacey emerged while he was starring in the Netflix show “House of Cards.”In an interview with BuzzFeed News, Anthony Rapp, best known for his role in the musical “Rent,” alleged that in 1986, when he was 14, Mr. Spacey picked him up, placed him on a bed and laid down on top of him, making a “sexual advance.”Mr. Rapp told the publication that the encounter occurred around the time both actors were in Broadway shows and that Mr. Spacey, then 26, invited him to a gathering at his Manhattan apartment. Mr. Rapp told BuzzFeed he was able to “squirm” away and leave.Mr. Spacey has denied the allegation.In 2020, Mr. Rapp sued Mr. Spacey, accusing him of assault, battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress. A judge dismissed the assault claim, but on Thursday, lawyers delivered their opening statements about the other claims before a 12-person jury in Federal District Court in Manhattan. Testimony begins on Friday.Mr. Spacey, who faces criminal sexual assault charges in Britain in a separate case, has been accused of sexual misconduct by more than a dozen men. This is the first time one of those claims has reached a trial.After Mr. Rapp’s public accusation, TV and film producers quickly dropped Mr. Spacey from projects. His character was written out of “House of Cards,” and he was ultimately ordered to pay the studio $31 million for breach of contract. Mr. Rapp currently stars in the TV show “Star Trek: Discovery.”Mr. Spacey, now 63, initially released a statement saying he did not recall the encounter that Mr. Rapp, now 50, had described, saying, “But if I did behave then as he describes, I owe him the sincerest apology for what would have been deeply inappropriate drunken behavior.” In court papers submitted following the lawsuit, Mr. Spacey has vehemently denied that the incident ever occurred.Anthony Rapp said Spacey made a “sexual advance” when Rapp was 14.Slaven Vlasic/Getty ImagesWhat is Mr. Rapp’s side telling the jury?In opening statements on Thursday, a lawyer for Mr. Rapp, Peter J. Saghir, described how Mr. Spacey invited Mr. Rapp to a party at his apartment in 1986, after they met while performing in separate Broadway shows. Mr. Rapp, who was 14 at the time, decided to sit on the edge of Mr. Spacey’s bed watching television instead of mingling with strangers who were older than him, Mr. Saghir told the jury.Mr. Rapp then saw Mr. Spacey enter the bedroom and realized the other guests had left, his lawyer said. Mr. Spacey picked Mr. Rapp up in his arms, Mr. Saghir said, describing the position like a groom carrying a bride over the threshold. According to Mr. Rapp’s account, Mr. Spacey appeared drunk and laid down on top of him, pressing his pelvis into the side of Mr. Rapp’s hip.“I recall being frozen and shocked and upset and scared,” Mr. Rapp said in an earlier deposition.As Mr. Rapp left Mr. Spacey’s apartment, Mr. Saghir told the jury, the older actor leaned into the doorway and asked, “Are you sure you want to go?”Mr. Rapp’s lawyers have argued that this account constitutes battery and that Mr. Rapp suffered severe emotional distress, including depression and anxiety. Battery is legally defined as “the unjustified touching of another person, without that person’s consent, with the intent to cause a bodily contact that a reasonably prudent person would find offensive.” The plaintiff’s side is expected to tell the jury about accounts Mr. Rapp gave to others in the years after the alleged incident. In opening statements, Mr. Saghir also homed in on Mr. Spacey’s statement after the BuzzFeed article, noting that he did not strongly deny Mr. Rapp’s account until his lawsuit was filed.How is Mr. Spacey’s side defending the actor?A lawyer for Mr. Spacey, Jennifer L. Keller, described Mr. Spacey’s initial statement concerning the allegations as the product of a “panic” among his managers and advisers, who advised him to take a certain tone to avoid the “social media mob.”Behind the scenes, Ms. Keller said in court, Mr. Spacey was saying he had no memory of what Mr. Rapp described. In court papers, Mr. Spacey’s lawyers said that he had flatly denied Mr. Rapp’s account, that he had recalled meeting Mr. Rapp on a few occasions but that those interactions were “peripheral and limited.” When seeking to dismiss the case, Mr. Spacey’s lawyers emphasized in court papers that “by plaintiff’s own admission, there was no groping, no kissing, no undressing, no reaching under clothes, and no sexualized statements or innuendo.”Ms. Keller accused Mr. Rapp of making the allegations to benefit his own career and attract public attention. “It’s not a true story, but he did tell it a lot,” she said, acknowledging that there were people who would recall Mr. Rapp’s telling them about Mr. Spacey in the following years.Ms. Keller alleged that Mr. Rapp had fabricated the story by borrowing details from “Precious Sons,” the Broadway play he was in that year. She said that in the play a character drunkenly mistakes his son, played by Mr. Rapp, for his wife, picking him up and laying on top of him in a way that mirrors Mr. Rapp’s allegations.Mr. Spacey’s team has also focused on his apartment at the time, presenting a floor plan that did not align with details in Mr. Rapp’s account.Who is expected to testify?Mr. Rapp’s lawyers have asserted that Mr. Rapp was not the only victim of sexual misconduct by Mr. Spacey, and Judge Lewis A. Kaplan has agreed to allow another accuser to testify.That accuser, Andy Holtzman, says that in 1981, Mr. Spacey groped his genitals and rubbed his groin on Mr. Holtzman. In a deposition, Mr. Spacey denied Mr. Holtzman’s allegations, saying he did not recall any dealings with him.Mr. Spacey’s lawyers have indicated that one of their key witnesses may be John Barrowman, an actor known for his role in the TV show “Doctor Who.” He was an acquaintance of Mr. Rapp when they were teenagers and visited him in New York in 1986 to see “Precious Sons.” Mr. Barrowman and Mr. Rapp met Mr. Spacey backstage at a play, Mr. Spacey’s lawyers said, asserting that Mr. Barrowman’s account of events that year do not align with Mr. Rapp’s.Both sides are likely to call witnesses who have said that Mr. Rapp told them about the allegations, and Mr. Spacey’s lawyers may call Adam Vary, the BuzzFeed journalist who wrote the initial article.Why is Mr. Rapp able to bring this claim now?Because Mr. Rapp’s claims extend beyond the statute of limitations, he is relying on a law called the Child Victims Act, which New York State passed in 2019. It included a “look-back window” — a limited period of time in which people who say they were sexually abused as children could sue.The plaintiff and the defense dispute whether the law applies in this case.Mr. Spacey’s lawyers assert that based on the legislation, a plaintiff can revive claims only if they constitute a “sexual offense” that violates penal law, and they argue that Mr. Rapp’s allegations do not meet that threshold. Mr. Rapp’s lawyers have said that sexual contact, under the law, can include touching over the clothing or forcefully holding the victim, as their client alleges. What has become of other legal claims against Mr. Spacey?Mr. Rapp originally sued with an anonymous plaintiff, who alleged that he was a teenager when Mr. Spacey sexually assaulted him while working as an acting coach in the 1980s. Judge Kaplan ruled that the plaintiff would have to identify himself publicly if he wanted to continue on to trial, which he declined to do.In another case, in 2019, prosecutors in Massachusetts dropped a sexual assault charge after the accuser was warned that he could be charged with a felony if he had deleted phone evidence. The man, who had accused Mr. Spacey of fondling him at a Nantucket restaurant when he was 18, refused to continue his testimony.Later that year, a separate lawsuit in California that had accused Mr. Spacey of sexually assaulting a massage therapist was dropped after the plaintiff died.In Britain, Mr. Spacey is facing four charges of sexual assault as well as one of causing a person to engage in penetrative sexual activity without consent. He pleaded not guilty, and a trial is expected to start next summer. More

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    Lisa McGee Found it Hard to Say Goodbye to Her ‘Derry Girls’

    The Northern Irish writer said that she had never felt so close to a group of characters. Now, the show’s third and final season is arriving on Netflix.LONDON — In 1990s Northern Ireland, Lisa McGee and her friends decided to skip school to go to a concert. They were caught when one of the group posed for a photograph at the event, which then ended up on the front page of a local newspaper and was seen by her parents.“I’ll never forget that story because of how delighted my friend was in that photograph compared to the trouble she got in. It was just the perfect contrast,” McGee, 42, recalled in a recent video interview. She added: “I remember her saying it was worth it. I think she got grounded for life.”That was just one of many childhood experiences McGee drew on for her TV comedy, “Derry Girls,” which follows a group of chaotic and accident-prone friends and their families. The show, while joyous, is set during the Troubles — the violent, decades-long sectarian conflict that defined the region until the late ’90s.Like her characters, McGee attended a Roman Catholic school in Derry, and, like the show’s central figure, Erin, she grew up wanting to be a writer. The third and final season of “Derry Girls” arrives Friday on Netflix after airing in Britain this year, and McGee admitted that she had been struggling to let go.“I was connected to those characters in a way that I think is probably not entirely healthy,” she said. She kept notebooks filled with details for each of them, she added, and even now, lines for the characters still come to her. “It was really hard to stop talking to them,” she said.In the recent interview, McGee discussed growing up in Derry, which is also known as Londonderry; the joys of being ridiculous; and bringing the show to a close. These are edited excerpts from that conversation.When did you realize your childhood could be fodder for a show?When I moved to London, there were a few of my Northern Irish friends that moved over at the same time. And I remember being out in the pub and talking about stuff that happened to us and there was just horror on English people’s faces. We normalize this stuff that English people were like, “That’s not normal, lads, that’s weird.” I realized there’s something really funny about this, that this little pocket, this little place has normalized all this crazy stuff.I’d always felt that my group of friends at school were funny, and I’d always wanted to write something about a group of female teenagers who were the leads and were being the ridiculous people, not just the “friend” or “sister.”You’ve said in the past that, growing up, you didn’t want to write about the Troubles. What changed for you?Well, the truth is, I wasn’t going to. I was going to set the show in the modern day and it was actually my executive producer, Liz Lewin, who had been in pubs with me and my friends, listening to all these stories and said, “You’re really missing a trick, I really think you should try and do a period piece.” I just thought it was a headache, it’s too complicated, people wouldn’t understand. But I’m so glad she convinced me because the minute I started writing it, it gave me the chance to explain some things, and talk about some things that maybe people in the rest of the U.K. didn’t know about.But yeah, I just found the Troubles so boring. It was all that was on the news and I wanted to be a writer because I liked the escape, the fantasy of it all. So I still can’t believe this is the thing that has been the most successful thing for me.The show’s central character, Erin (played by Jackson), right, wants to be a writer, like the show’s creator.Hat Trick Productions and NetflixThe stars and heart of the show are the women and girls. How influential were the women you grew up around, what were they like?When I went to university, I realized Derry was different from all other places. The women, traditionally, were the breadwinners because it was a factory town and, apart from shirt factories, there wasn’t any other employment really, so a lot of the men were unemployed. So we grew up in this sort of weird society where the dads were looking after the kids and the mums were going to work.I also went to an all-girls convent school, so the cleverest person was a girl, the sports hero was a girl, the class clown was a girl. Growing up, everyone who was powerful or interesting or funny was female. I never questioned that we should be those things when I grew up, because women were very rock ’n’ roll where I came from, very forthright and very funny and ballsy and tough. That’s what I knew, and it only started to sort of fall apart when I grew up a bit.On “Derry Girls,” the girls aren’t aged up or put in particularly adult situations. They are ridiculous and embarrassing in ways that feel very true to teenagers. Was that a conscious choice?Part of it was just that was what was truthful — I was that ridiculous person. It was definitely a conscious decision for them not to be sexualized. I feel that’s the story that’s told over and over again about teenage girls. I always felt like, yes, that’s part of it, but our panic about not getting good grades was up there along with what boys we wanted to get with. Our ambition was one of the biggest things about my group of friends, that panic about failing or not getting into university, not getting a good job, all that sort of stuff. There was also the importance of your relationship with your other friends, that gang, that group, how important their opinions were.As young people, how present were the dangers of the Troubles for you and your friends?Now, looking back, you really lose your breath thinking about how dangerous things were, but we weren’t really scared. Not really. But we should have been. There were armed soldiers on our streets, outside our houses and lots of other gunmen in balaclavas floating about on the other side of things. It’s what you know; we didn’t overthink it. It actually, weirdly, started to really affect me and my friends after the Good Friday Agreement. When peace times started, we realized that what happened wasn’t OK, and there was a hope that things wouldn’t go back to the way they were.The realities of the violence were so dark, yet “Derry Girls” maintained a lightness. How did you think about the show’s tone?I always just thought about it through their eyes, how they would see it. For most teenagers, their views are very selfish, it’s like, “How can I make this about me?” and for the adults, it’s just a bit of an inconvenience most of the time, as it would have been.There’s a line in an episode where Michelle says there’s something sexy about the fact they hate us so much. Everything has its spin. So Michelle’s always thinking about sex, and Erin, quite a pompous character, loves the idea of it and writes about being a child of conflict and all of that.What I decided was that most of the story has to be about whatever the gang are trying to do that week, with the Troubles normally getting in the way of it.The show ends on an episode set around the time of the 1998 Good Friday agreement, and the declaration of peace. Why did you choose that as the show’s end point?I feel like that was the day Northern Ireland grew up, that vote and that phenomenal, phenomenal thing. That was the day we put all the pain and suffering behind us for the greater good. And I wanted to run that parallel to the kids’ growing up. It’s the beginning of their adulthood, just as Northern Ireland is walking into this new phase of its life. It always felt like that’s where I should naturally end the show, this hope and the positivity of the agreement and them going out into the big, bad world. More

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    A Splashy, Messy All-Naked Revue

    Florentina Holzinger’s striking, bewildering and stomach-churning new piece, “Ophelia’s Got Talent,” opened the season at the Volksbühne theater in Berlin.BERLIN — A group of naked women hump a helicopter suspended above an onstage swimming pool; a tattooed sword swallower inserts blades down her throat — as well as a tube with a camera that gives us a tour of her guts; someone else sticks her hand deep inside another woman’s vagina and retrieves a key; the key-bearer later pierces her cheek with a large pin. These are a few of the striking, bewildering and stomach-churning things that take place at the Volksbühne theater during “Ophelia’s Got Talent,” a new work by Florentina Holzinger.Over the past few years, that Austrian choreographer and director’s radically feminist — or postfeminist — brand of dance theater has garnered critical acclaim and gained a cult following. “Ophelia’s Got Talent,” an all-naked female revue about women and water, is Holzinger’s second production at the Volksbühne. And unlike the first, “A Divine Comedy,” which was originally seen at the Ruhrtriennale festival before transferring to Berlin last season, “Ophelia’s Got Talent” is tailored to the Volksbühne’s round and technically versatile stage.At the performance I attended, the atmosphere was electric. The packed audience roared its approval before, during and after the performance. If nothing else, Holzinger has succeeded in bringing back a sense of frenzied enthusiasm to the company, which has struggled since the 2017 exit of its legendary artistic director Frank Castorf after 25 years running the theater, which inaugurated a period of decline and dysfunction.The theater’s current artistic leader, René Pollesch, a writer-director who is a veteran of the Castorf era, has certainly scored a popular coup in recruiting Holzinger, who is part of the Volksbühne’s artistic advisory board and will create several new works for the theater in the coming years. Based on the evidence, Berlin audiences have a large appetite for her brash, energetic and exuberantly discomfiting work, with its unflinching and unsentimental look at women’s bodies and desires. And, let loose on the Volksbühne’s vast stage, Holzinger can work on a grand scale that allows her to create theatrical tableaus of undeniable power. Inexplicable as it was, the flying helicopter orgy was a wild sight to behold.Less convincing, however, than such stunning and disturbing set pieces (at one point, a performer literally hangs from her teeth), is the director’s sense of dramatic clarity, structure and rhythm. At close to three hours, “Ophelia’s Got Talent” is, simply put, a mess.“Ophelia’s Got Talent” begins as a talent-show parody, including an attempted escape from a water tank.Nicole Marianna WytyczakThe production starts off as a parody of a shlocky TV talent show, complete with overemotional judges. After a Houdiniesque escape from a water tank goes wrong, the talent show breaks off and is replaced by a vaudeville-style revue that is frequently exasperating. Titles projected on the back of the stage suggest various aquatic themes, but little connects the endless procession of tap dancing, swimming, scenes of self-harm and confessional monologues.It’s not that there are too few ideas to sustain the long running time; it often feels that there are too many. Watching this show, one has the impression that Holzinger and her fearless co-stars fell down a deep, dark well of associations and haven’t fully emerged.Is “Ophelia’s Got Talent” a homage to Shakespeare’s drowned heroine? A treatise on the depiction of submissive aquatic women, or dangerous mythological figures, in Western art and literature? The evening seemed to be headed in those directions — until the performers became dancing, brawling sailors, a mash-up of “Anchors Away” and Fassbinder’s “Querelle.” But that, too, quickly fell away, and a sense of strange body horror took over. At one point a performer appeared to give agonizing birth to a reptilian, or possibly mechanical, creature as the water in the long onstage pool turned blood-red. Holzinger’s aesthetic is very in-your-face, but some subtlety would have also gone a long way. If this was a show about water’s metamorphic power, and of women as bearers of water and life, I would have preferred a more sustained engagement with those themes. Instead, the production swerved in a militantly ecological direction late in the evening, with hundreds of plastic bottles raining down into the pool.Then, toward the end, the show veered unexpectedly into sentimentality with an assist from a group of adorable young children who scampered onstage and announced themselves as representatives of the future. It was a baffling way to draw the bold, confused and exhausting spectacle to a close. More to the point, however, it struggled to convince; the environmental twist felt like straining for relevance and even a touch hypocritical. With thousands of gallons of water (there is a pool and two massive tanks on the stage) required for each performance, this is clearly not a resource-light production. As one of the onstage children says, water is “the blood of the earth.” I wonder if spilling so much of it night after night is justifiable.The sea is “the only lover whose arms are always open to us,” wrote the gender-bending French writer and photographer Claude Cahun, whose unique body of work inspired the season opener at the Münchner Kammerspiele. Performed on the playhouse’s smallest stage, that piece, “La Mer Sombre,” is a compact production by the exciting young German director Pinar Karabulut. A short work that Karabulut developed with three excellent actors from the Kammerspiele’s permanent troupe, “La Mer Sombre” is more successful as a stylized fusion of fluid mise-en-scène, eye-popping design and accomplished performances than as an exploration of Cahun’s unconventional life and pioneering work, which is enjoying a revival of interest.Christian Löber, Thomas Hauser and Gro Swantje Kohlhof in “La Mer Sombre,” by Pinar Karabulut.Krafft AngererAt the start of the hourlong performance, the actors are casually embedded in the audience. It’s hard to miss them, however, since the straight black wigs and oddly cut, closefitting costumes they wear make them look like androgynous alien joggers. It’s difficult to get much of a hold on the dialogue, which is drawn largely from Cahun’s writings but often decontextualized. Instead, the production poetically honors her iconoclastic spirit by tearing down barriers. The performers have no fixed identities, rather they seem to collectively form a fractured persona; the spectators rub shoulders with the actors as they flit between the stage and the auditorium and an audience member is even invited to serve as the prompter; stagehands wander the set installing and removing props.Brightly colored and filled with music, the production proceeds by associative logic as the Kammerspiele’s actors — Thomas Hauser, Gro Swantje Kohlhof and Christian Löber — play off one another in a surreal fun house decked out with shell-shaped mirrors, illuminated hearts, a reflective floor and, at the play’s climax, a bathtub filled with bubbles.Despite the energetic and witty performances and the finely honed aesthetic of Aleksandra Pavlovic’s set design, this remains a modest production that operates within a small web of themes and motifs. While succeeding on its own terms, “La Mer Sombre” merely dips a toe into Cahun’s life and work: It doesn’t go for a full plunge. Even so, the hour spent with the Kammerspiele’s three actors somehow seemed richer and more theatrically satisfying than the nearly three endured with Holzinger and her nude 12-woman troupe.Ophelia’s Got Talent. Directed by Florentina Holzinger. Through Nov. 27 at the Berlin Volksbühne.La Mer Sombre. Directed by Pinar Karabulut. Through Nov. 20 at the Münchner Kammerspiele. More

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    Late Night Rips Into Ron DeSantis for His ‘Go-Go’ Boots

    “You’re not allowed to pass a ‘Don’t say gay’ bill then show up in public dressed like Nancy Sinatra,” Jimmy Kimmel said.Welcome to Best of Late Night, a rundown of the previous night’s highlights that lets you sleep — and lets us get paid to watch comedy. Here are the 50 best movies on Netflix right now.Getting the BootPresident Joe Biden met with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday, setting aside political conversations to focus on the damage from Hurricane Ian.“Last time Joe Biden saw a storm this big, he had to help Noah collect all the pets and get them on the boat,” Jimmy Kimmel joked.“It’s like the special episode of a Disney sitcom where the school bully realizes he needs help with his math homework.” — JIMMY FALLON“Governor DeSantis has been touring damaged areas to let residents know they’re not forgotten — and one thing that few will ever forget is the white knee-high boots he was sporting.” — STEPHEN COLBERT“Looks a little less ‘governor on the go’ and more ‘governor of the Go-Gos.’” — STEPHEN COLBERT“You’re not allowed to pass a ‘Don’t say gay’ bill then show up in public dressed like Nancy Sinatra.” — JIMMY KIMMEL“But DeSantis was actually nice to Biden — he actually even offered him a free flight to Martha’s Vineyard.” — JIMMY FALLONThe Punchiest Punchlines (Return on Investment Edition)“The home run ball itself is thought to be worth at least $2 million, and it was caught by an investment banker. Huge moment for the Yankees and an investment banker. What a night for the underdogs, you know?” — JIMMY FALLON“Well, there is a feel-good story for you. I’m glad things are finally working out for that executive at an investment firm. That’s what the game is all about. Good for you, buddy. Good for you.” — TREVOR NOAHThe Bits Worth WatchingThe correspondent Ronny Chieng investigated the world of ultimate pillow fighting for Wednesday’s “Daily Show.”What We’re Excited About on Thursday NightCate Blanchett will talk about her new film “Tár” on Thursday’s “Late Show.”Also, Check This OutBeavis and Butt-Head in the rebooted version of the series.Paramount+As a show that was smarter than its characters, “Beavis and Butt-Head” is too often overlooked and unappreciated. More

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    ‘I’m Revolting’ Review: All About the Skin They Live In

    Gracie Gardner’s play about illness, the body and our health care system is just as impersonal as the waiting room where her story is centered.With another pandemic winter on the horizon, it’s hard not to imagine all of the ways our physical health determines the shape and quality of our lives and reveals the most intimate facets of ourselves.That’s what I suspect the playwright Gracie Gardner (“Athena”), who is also an E.M.T., was aiming to get at in her new play, “I’m Revolting,” which opened Wednesday night at the Linda Gross Theater. But despite the show’s attempts to tell a moving story about illness, the body and the U.S. health care system, this Atlantic Theater Company production fails to make a compelling work of theater out of the issues facing patients in the waiting room of a skin cancer clinic.Bookmarked by conversations between two doctors, Jonathan (Bartley Booz, with the same bumbling brand of comedy he perfected as the wacky butler in “The Play That Goes Wrong”) and the veteran Denise (a mechanical Patrice Johnson Chevannes), “I’m Revolting” initially seems to be a play about the struggles of doctors and health care workers. Then it seems as if it will be a play about physical and emotional health, but it veers off course, and never works its way to a clear statement.In the impersonal space of a waiting room are seven blue chairs lined up neatly in a row, a water cooler, a vending machine, some fake plants, and a table with a bottle of hand sanitizer on it (set design by Marsha Ginsberg). The doctors discuss the day’s patients, identifying them by their maladies, their race and gender, their medical history.The flesh-and-blood counterparts gradually appear, beginning with Reggie (a stiff Alicia Pilgrim), a young woman concerned about how her surgery will affect her appearance, and her self-involved older sister, Anna (a brusque, hilarious Gabby Beans). There’s also Toby (Patrick Vaill), a sullen young man convinced his cancer is a punishment, and his hippie New Age mother, Paula (Laura Esterman); the meek Liane (Emily Cass McDonnell), who’s endured multiple surgeries, and her degenerate husband, Jordan (Glenn Fitzgerald); and the oddball regular, Clyde (Peter Gerety), who dispenses unsolicited advice.From left: Laura Esterman, Patrick Vaill, Glenn Fitzgerald, Emily Cass McDonnell, Peter Gerety and Alicia Pilgrim in the playwright Gracie Gardner’s new work.Sara Krulwich/The New York TimesThey mostly talk among their groups — Anna tells Reggie to assert her rights as a patient, Liane and Jordan discuss the merits of a particular lotion — and occasionally to one another. Paula’s suggestion that meditation and positive thinking is all the cure her son needs leads to a waiting room debate about science and alternative medicine.And yet there’s little to no depth to these patients, or anything novel in their conversations, which occur while they wait to be called on by Jonathan and Denise. It soon becomes clear that the thin plot is in desperate need of a raison d’être.The direction, by Knud Adams (“English”), is unremarkable; the actors not only lack chemistry but also deliver stiff readings of their lines. And for a play about the Big C, there’s no sense of urgency or threat. Even with a spare 90-minute running time, and the occasional laughs Beans, Booz and Gerety generate through their characters’ particular quirks and expressions, “I’m Revolting” drags like the hours in waiting room limbo.In those moments when the script rolls out some visceral details (describing the repurposing of a flap of forehead skin, or the archaeological dig into an eye socket), it feels like an empty attempt to have the audience squirm.During the play, I kept thinking of my neighbor who recently told me about his own battle with skin cancer. His story wasn’t just about the skin on his nose but his path to the malady — from a childhood running in the sun and several years working under the cloudless sky in the Caribbean — and his ongoing recovery.We are more than our afflictions, and the story of our nation’s medical care over the past few years warrants more than a few drive-by conversations in a waiting room. As it is, “I’m Revolting” only skims the surface when what it really needs is to perform a thorough examination.I’m RevoltingThrough Oct. 16 at the Linda Gross Theater, Manhattan; atlantictheater.org. Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes. More

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    After Decades of Hints, Scooby-Doo’s Velma Is Depicted as a Lesbian

    The character has long been seen as a lesbian icon. Some fans were thrilled that her sexuality was at last officially acknowledged.A new movie has put to rest decades of fan speculation and suggestions from previous stewards of the “Scooby-Doo” franchise by confirming that Velma Dinkley, the cerebral mystery solver with the ever-present orange turtleneck, is canonically a lesbian.To many fans who had long presumed as much and treated her as a lesbian icon, it was not a shocking revelation. But her appearance in “Trick or Treat Scooby-Doo!,” which was released on Tuesday on several digital services, was the first time the long-running franchise openly acknowledged her sexuality, thrilling some fans who were disappointed that it took so long.“Scooby-Doo,” created by Hanna-Barbera Productions, first appeared as a Saturday morning cartoon in 1969, and has been frequently reinvented in TV shows, films and comics. It generally follows a group of teenage sleuths, consisting of Velma, Daphne Blake, Fred Jones and Norville “Shaggy” Rogers, along with their mischievous Great Dane, Scooby-Doo.Previous “Scooby-Doo” writers and producers have said that Velma was a lesbian, but said pushback by studios would not allow them to depict her as one on screen. The new movie, which was directed by Audie Harrison, leaves no doubt as to her sexuality.In one scene of the newest iteration, a blushing Velma, voiced by Kate Micucci, is smitten at the sight of a new character, Coco Diablo, who mirrored Velma’s fashion sense with her own turtleneck and oversize glasses. In a later scene, she denies Coco is her type before admitting: “I’m crushing big time, Daphne. What do I do? What do I say?”It was the kind of overt reference to her sexuality that had failed to make it into final cuts before.Responding to a fan on Twitter, James Gunn, who wrote the screenplay for “Scooby-Doo,” a 2002 live-action film, wrote in 2020 that “Velma was explicitly gay in my initial script.”“But the studio just kept watering it down & watering it down, becoming ambiguous (the version shot), then nothing (the released version) & finally having a boyfriend (the sequel),” he wrote in the tweet, which was reported widely at the time and has since been deleted.That same year, Tony Cervone, the co-creator of “Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated,” a 2010 series on Cartoon Network, posted an image on Instagram of Velma standing in front of a Pride flag.“We made our intentions as clear as we could ten years ago,” Mr. Cervone wrote. “Most of our fans got it. To those that didn’t, I suggest you look closer.”In response to a fan, he said specifically that “Velma in Mystery Incorporated is not bi. She’s gay,” according to a screenshot saved by Out Magazine.While most of the gang has had many romantic interests, notably between Fred and Daphne, Velma “has never really had a main love interest,” said Matthew Lippe, a 22-year-old marketing student who runs the Scooby Doo History account on Twitter.She had occasional flirtations and brief relationships, notably with Johnny Bravo in a ’90s cartoon crossover, but her romantic feelings were rarely as central to the story as other characters, Mr. Lippe said. When she dated Shaggy in “Scooby Doo! Mystery Incorporated,” he said, “it’s something that doesn’t feel natural for both of them.”More recently, the shows and movies have increasingly hinted at her interest in women, so “it’s not something that’s coming out of the blue,” he said. He said Velma is a fan favorite because she speaks to a common struggle: She’s the smart, awkward one who often leads the gang in the right direction but doesn’t get as much credit as the others.“A lot of young women, and a lot of people in general, could just look to her as a great example and role model to look up toward,” he said.Another change to Velma’s character is coming soon. In 2021, HBO Max ordered a spinoff adult animation series called “Velma.” Mindy Kaling will voice the character, who will be South Asian in the show.“Nobody ever complained about a talking dog solving mysteries,” Ms. Kaling told a crowd in May at a Warner Bros. Discovery Upfront presentation, which offered a first look at the show, expected later this year. “So I don’t think they’ll be upset over a brown Velma.”Warner Bros., which owns the “Scooby-Doo” franchise, declined to comment.The rise of lesbian characters on television was a slow process, marked often by gimmicks and blatant plays for ratings. It often came in the form of “lesbian kiss episodes,” written largely to titillate rather than to explore genuine relationships.In recent decades, lesbian relationships on television have become more complex, even if the tropes aren’t entirely gone. More

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    Penn Jillette Lives on Hot Baths and Cold Watermelon

    The magician and author of the new novel, “Random,” says whether he’s writing fiction or doing tricks, he’s always telling a story.Penn Jillette keeps files on his computer for magic tricks and others for fiction, but he keeps them together and the distinction between them is not always clear. He once wrote a short story, for example, that his longtime partner, Teller, thought would make a good magic trick, so they turned it into a bit called King of Animal Traps.“The first thing I wanted to be was a writer,” he said in a recent phone interview. “I think if you got either Teller or I to be completely honest, we would probably tell you that what we’re doing in the Penn & Teller show is writing.”Jillette’s latest novel, “Random,” is about a young man who inherits his father’s crushing debt to a loan shark and turns to dice — and other dangerous measures — to dig himself out. That the dice bring him luck sends him a new philosophy of leaning decisions both big and small up to chance.Whether he’s writing a novel or writing a bit, Jillette said, he’s always trying to tell a story.“My happiest moments are Teller and I getting together and figuring out what we want to say, what we’re feeling with a trick, with a bit, and to figure out how to do that,” he said. “Now, I don’t want to lie and say I don’t love being onstage — I love it, and I love the applause, and I love the laughs — that is the thing I like most in the world, other than putting the stuff together that I’m going to put onstage. Writing fiction feels like very much the same thing.”Here, the author, magician and co-star of the CW’s “Penn & Teller: Fool Us,” talks about how he takes his watermelon, why he prefers skepticism to cynicism and how he convinced Teller to pay for half his new bass. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.1. Too Hot Baths Every night I take a bath that’s so hot that I come very close to passing out — and I use scented oil, the whole thing is done as girly as possible. And I read on my Kindle. I’m trying to learn Spanish, so I read Spanish for at least a half an hour, and then I read in English for another half an hour.2. Too Cold Watermelon I lost a lot of weight a few years ago. One of the ways I keep the weight off is by eating watermelon. It seems you can eat more watermelon than any other food and it still feels good and it still tastes good. The secret is cutting it up and getting it super cold so that it almost hurts your teeth.3. Lava Lamps I always go back and forth: Am I a beatnik? Am I a hippie? I know I’m one of the two, and I know that no alcohol gets in the way of me being a beatnik, and no drugs get in the way of me being a hippie. I think I own 20 lava lamps. They’re in every room of my house. And I like to look at them and pretend, even though I’ve never been high, that I am high.4. Tony Fitzpatrick I study music rather extensively because it’s unnatural to me. And that is what fascinates me about it. I’m very bad with visual stuff, too, so I have artwork all over my house to try to drill it into my head why it’s beautiful. One of my favorite artists is Tony Fitzpatrick out of Chicago. I have his etching up all over the house.5. Ray Brown There are so many great bass players, but Ray Brown had that sound and that solidity and that power. He’s an inspiration and he’s one of my ways into jazz. I love his recording of “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” with fellow bassists John Clayton and Christian McBride.6. Skepticism, Not Cynicism I have fought my whole life to not be cynical, but to be skeptical. You could have many minutes of arguments between me and Bill Maher over why cynicism is bad and skepticism is good. Cynicism is attributing the worst motives to people. Skepticism is looking for the truth.7. Tiny Tim On a wall in my home, I have Tiny Tim’s costume that he wore for most of his career, the ukulele that he played for most of his career and his shoes. I love the fact that a person came along who was so honest that cynicism could not live within him. Some of the most cynical people who have ever lived — Bing Crosby, Johnny Carson, John Lennon, Howard Stern, Frank Sinatra — in the presence of Tiny Tim, they completely broke down.8. Word Processors I wanted to be a writer so badly. My mom taught me to type and I was a very good typist, but I still made mistakes and I’m a really bad speller. I finally bought a computer after Teller and I had our show Off Broadway, and within 24 hours of getting a computer, I wrote two stories that were published. I am sitting in front of the most powerful computer Mac has to offer — I could edit “Avatar” on it — but 95 percent of what I do is word processing.9. Paul Toenniges Double Bass I play the bass for an hour before Penn & Teller shows. A very good bass player named Alex Frank told me I was better than the bass I was playing. He found a bass for me that was made by a man named Paul Toenniges. He said it was very expensive but also the best bass he’d ever played — it had been owned by the late bassist Dave Stone. I emailed Teller to see if he thought I should buy it. Because the way our taxes are structured, he’d pay for half of it. The email came back within a minute and said: “We never economize on our tools. Buy it.” I hadn’t even told him the price.10. Bob Dylan I think it is possible that I’ve listened to Bob Dylan every day for the past 52 years. Bob Dylan is something we encounter very rarely, which is incredible skill, coupled with a wildness of spirit. All you’ve got to do is see a Paul McCartney concert and a Bob Dylan concert. Paul McCartney, you know exactly what you’re going to get. Bob Dylan? You have no idea. More

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    In ‘A Friend of the Family,’ Jake Lacy Breaks Character

    The actor Jake Lacy, whom I met for tacos on a recent weekday evening, has an All-American handsomeness that verges on caricature — brown hair, blue eyes, a chin so strong it must work out. He looks as though a 3-D printer were fed images of lacrosse players and then told, ‘Go ahead, make this.’ His face at rest — though, over dinner it was that way only very rarely — suggests a guy who captained a team or two in high school and then joined a frat in college. A craft brewery fan. A fleece wearer.“There’s a bro element to my look,” he acknowledged as the guacamole arrived.“He’s got this handsome blank canvas thing,” Murray Bartlett, his co-star on the HBO hit “The White Lotus,” told me. “But he’s incredibly versatile with that handsome blank canvas. He can take that in many directions.”Until recently, most of those directions — “Obvious Child,” “High Fidelity,” “Girls” — confirmed Lacy as a go-to nice guy. Vulture once created a list ranking the niceness of his various characters. Several of these characters were mere way stations or end points on some female protagonist’s journey. And Lacy — citing, in a very un-bro way, the patriarchal history of TV and cinema — liked that fine.“What a great way to start in this business,” he said, sincerely.In “The White Lotus,” Lacy played privilege personified. With, from left, Jolene Purdy, Murray Bartlett and Alexandra Daddario.Mario Perez/HBOBut he switched up that persona with last year’s “The White Lotus,” in which he played Shane, a paragon of white male entitlement in a succession of sherbet-colored polos, earning him his first Emmy nomination. (At last month’s ceremony, he lost, happily, as he tells it, to his scene partner, Bartlett.)His new show, the fact-based drama “A Friend of the Family,” uses that bland handsomeness as both camouflage and cudgel. “Weaponizing that” is how Lacy put it.He had suggested meeting at La Superior, an unassuming, Michelin-starred taco place in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, near a few of his old apartments. (Mid-pandemic, he and his wife, Lauren DeLeo Lacy, packed up and moved to Connecticut.) This was a comfortable spot for him, though he seemed, in a faded red T-shirt with a few holes in the torso, not entirely comfortable there, apologizing often for rambling, pausing, digressing.“He’s very earnest, not in a cheesy way; he’s just a good guy,” Bartlett had said. And this seemed true enough. While Lacy has little particular professional interest in playing likable characters, he has a personal need — a need that most of us share — to be likable. And he is. (“I’ve gotten better about my own people-pleasing,” he said.) “A Friend of the Family,” works with and against that likability, in ways more insidious and less comic than his work in “The White Lotus.”In the past, Lacy has struggled to disentangle himself from his characters. That wasn’t the case with “A Friend of the Family,” he said. Nathan Bajar for The New York TimesIn this nine-episode limited series, which streams on Peacock, Lacy plays Robert Berchtold, an Idaho husband and father who in the mid-1970s twice abducted Jan Broberg, the eldest daughter of a family that he had known for years. (This case was previously explored in the Netflix documentary “Abducted in Plain Sight.”) As the show tells it, and as Broberg confirmed in a recent interview, Berchtold, or B as those close to him knew him, used his smile, his jokes, his great charisma to insinuate himself with the Brobergs. The two families were so enmeshed that when Jan was first taken, her parents delayed contacting the FBI.(Following the first abduction, Berchtold was convicted of kidnapping. Sentenced to five years, he served just 45 days. After the second, he avoided prison entirely, serving five months in a psychiatric facility instead. In 2005, having been found guilty of aggravated assault and possession of a firearm for a later offense, he committed suicide.)Most of the episodes of “A Friend of the Family” had been written before casting began. Finding the right Berchtold was particularly daunting, because the actor needed to project an uncanny charm.“He had to have a natural charisma that would come through the screen and drop into the living room of whoever was watching the show,” said Broberg, who is a producer on the series. Because charisma, she continued, was “B’s superpower.” And yet, that same actor would also have to travel to some very dark places.Nick Antosca (“The Act,” “Candy”), the showrunner on “A Friend of the Family,” had been impressed by Lacy’s turn on “The White Lotus” and the sympathy that he brought to such an unpleasant character. An audience isn’t meant to sympathize with B, Antosca clarified. “But you have to understand how that family fell in love with him,” he said.B doesn’t think of himself as a monster, though — inarguably — he is one. Antosca suspected Lacy would be able to play both aspects at once.In “A Friend of the Family,” Lacy stars as Robert Berchtold, who twice abducted Jan Broberg (Hendrix Yancey).Erika Doss/PeacockNot every actor on a hot streak would choose to play a pedophile for his follow-up. And Lacy, who has two young sons, nearly turned down the show. But the challenge of the character attracted him, as did the scripts, and he appreciated the involvement of both Jan Broberg and her mother, Mary Ann, who is also a producer.“Had they not been involved, it would be so voyeuristic and so tabloid and not grounded in some greater purpose,” Lacy said.That purpose, he believes, is to show how grooming can operate and how abuse is perpetrated most often by intimates. Before shooting began, Broberg had left a letter for Lacy, detailing all the positive things she remembered about B — his charm, his sense of fun — while also encouraging Lacy to make the role his own and assuring him that the choices he made would not cause her further harm.“I was wildly impressed by that level of grace,” Lacy said.This allowed him to pour as much of himself as he could into the role. “He’s a very nice person and a caring father,” Broberg observed of Lacy. “You have to bring all of those things to the role for it to work.”As for the darker aspects, Lacy filled those in with research — evidence from the various trials, audio that Berchtold had recorded, material on psychology. Sometimes he had to put a time limit on that research. “Like, that’s enough for now,” he said. “Let’s not spend all night listening to these tapes of Robert Berchtold.”“There wasn’t a need to go into his thoughts,” Lacy said of Berchtold. “Because my point of view on his thoughts is so rightfully so filled with judgment.”Nathan Bajar for The New York TimesWhen it came to pedophilia, that wasn’t a place that he went to imaginatively, though he did read “Lolita.” Instead he worked through what he described as substitutions, trusting that if he looked at his young scene partners with love, the camera would read that love as something dark and unsafe. (The show doesn’t include any scenes of rape, so Lacy never had to portray these acts directly.)Neither he nor Antosca saw a need to locate Berchtold’s humanity. “He was a sociopath who kept telling himself self-justifying stories,” Antosca explained. So in nearly every scene, he said, it was enough to know what B was trying to achieve and how he was trying to achieve it without marinating too deeply in the why.“There wasn’t a need to go into his thoughts,” Lacy said. “Because my point of view on his thoughts is so rightfully so filled with judgment.”In the past, Lacy has struggled to disentangle himself from characters he has played. That didn’t happen here. “When people were like, ‘Is it hard to leave that on set?’ I was like, ‘No, it’s a very clean break,’” he said.Antosca confirmed this. “He is a super-thoughtful and technical actor, not method,” he said. “I didn’t see him struggling to get out of character.”Lacy doesn’t know what he’ll play next, if he’ll continue this particular heel turn or return to nice-guy roles or try something else. (“He has tremendous depth and this range that hasn’t been fully used yet,” Antosca told me.) He mentioned a Los Angeles project. And one in London. He is glad to have made “A Friend of the Family,” glad to promote it, but also glad to leave it in the rear view.“I’m very happy to just take a little breath and hold my kids,” he said. More