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December 01, 2021

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I share your admiration for Sondheim but as I recall "The Last of Sheila" it wasn't very good. The cast includes three of the most irritating (to me) stars of the period: Richard Benjamin, Dyan Cannon, and James Coburn--and the plot (as I remember it) was hopelessly contrived. Clever rhymes are a contrivance too, but in a whodunit a contrived plot gives you the kind of country-house mystery in which, as Raymond Chandler said, someone gets killed not from any of the usual motives for murder but just to create a puzzle to be solved. I tried re-watching it about 10 years ago but couldn't get through it.

On a more cheerful Sondheim note: we saw a production of "Company" on PBS some years ago with Kitty Desai doing "City of Strangers" and were knocked out. We liked the whole production; the guy who did "Marry Me a Little" on the 90th birthday tribute last year was brilliant but the PBS version was consistently good, and Desai is magnetic. And a Berkeley "Assassins" some years ago was excellent. We didn't know the show going in, and when I looked at the program and saw all the familiar names from Booth to Squeaky I remarked on what I thought was the glring omission of Oswald--"Too recent, too painful," I speculated. Hah! The moment when the Balladeer transforms his appearance and you realize what's in that long cardboard box is what I think is technically called a coup de theatre; it definitely struck me a blow.

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