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Barbara Fredricksen: T-shirt needed a spell-checker

One problem with the comfortable, witty, black T-shirt Barbara Fredricksen bought from a theater company years ago: The Fantasticks is misspelled.

Special to the Times

One problem with the comfortable, witty, black T-shirt Barbara Fredricksen bought from a theater company years ago: The Fantasticks is misspelled.

Loose, black T-shirts are my favorite, because I can wear them un-undergarmented, so to speak, stay cool and not sacrifice my dignity.

So a couple of years ago when I saw a black, theatrically-themed tee in the window of the gift shop at a huge, fancy theater complex that, for discretion's sake, shall go unnamed here, I grabbed it.

I was leaving a couple of weeks later for a week-long Elderhostel theater seminar in St. George and Cedar City, Utah (July temperatures: 109 degrees in the shade), and between that and my black U2 concert tees, I could make it through the week without tight-fitting unmentionables.

As I unpacked, I smiled at how appropriate I would look among the pastel polo shirts and the "My Grandson Went to New Orleans and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt" T-shirts. Mine said:

Romeo & Juliet

The Fantastiks

West Side Story

Seen one, seen 'em all.

It's a shorthand way of saying that these three shows tell the same story — the offspring of warring families fall in love — and that Shakespeare, Broadway and Off-Broadway are kindred spirits.

(Indeed, the saying goes that there are only seven possible plot lines, and writers simply change the names, dates and settings to create something new.)

The first day I wore my shirt, I noticed some of my fellow seminarians squinted at me, but I attributed that to the sun. Or maybe it was envy.

Only one person said anything about the shirt: "I've seen those first three shows, but I don't think I've seen that 'Seen one, seen 'em all'," he said.

It was much later at a family gathering that my nephew, the theater critic, howled when the he saw the shirt.

"Aunt B, you can't wear that shirt in public," he said, rolling his eyes.

Uh-oh. Can you see through it?

"Worse," he moaned. "The Fantasticks is spelled wrong. There's a 'c' in 'sticks'."

So now I wear my misspelled tee only to pick figs and pull weeds. The raccoons hiding in the tree and the snakes hiding in the potato plants don't seem to mind.

A new favorite

My new favorite television show is the little-watched Mad Men, which returns for a second season on AMC at 10 p.m. Sunday with a shelf full of Peabody and Golden Globe awards and 16 Emmy nominations, including one for best drama.

I didn't watch Mad Men at first because I thought it was one of those tacky horror things. A book club friend told me it's about the advertising men of Madison Avenue in the early 1960s and I should give it a look. (Get it? Madison Ave. Men, Mad-Men?)

It took one episode to make me a solid devotee.

The attention to detail on the set and the recreation of the blithely sexist and racist attitudes of the era are eerily — and uncomfortably — on the mark.

Anyone who lived or worked in that time will feel transported in time; those who came later, especially women, should watch it to see how offices used to be. That way, they wouldn't be so casual about who is appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court and who does the appointing. We have truly come a long way, baby.

If you miss the show on AMC, you can get it on demand the next day, both in regular and high def formats (On Bright House, it's Entertainment on Demand, Channel 360, or HD Showcase on Demand, Channel 709, in Pasco and Hernando counties).

Making time for it is worth the effort.

Barbara Fredricksen: T-shirt needed a spell-checker 07/25/08 [Last modified: Thursday, July 31, 2008 8:08pm]
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