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BCB After Dark: An overlooked gem?

The late-night/early-morning spot for Cubs fans asks you if right-hander Adrian Sampson will be part of the next Cubs contender.

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MLB: Chicago Cubs at St. Louis Cardinals Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back to another week of BCB After Dark: the cool spot on a hot evening for night owls, early-risers, new parents and Cubs fans abroad. I’m so glad you didn’t forget about us over the weekend. Please come on in. There’s no cover charge tonight. There’s a few good tables left if you hurry. Bring your own beverage.

BCB After Dark is the place for you to talk baseball, music, movies, or anything else you need to get off your chest, as long as it is within the rules of the site. The late-nighters are encouraged to get the party started, but everyone else is invited to join in as you wake up the next morning and into the afternoon.

The Cardinals beat the Cubs tonight 1-0 on a freak home run by Albert Pujols, so it might as well be 2007. However, since the Cubs only managed one hit off of Jordan Montgomery, I really don’t think we can complain that it was an unfair outcome.

Last time I asked you to grade Cubs manager David Ross again. When I asked the same question back in June, you gave Ross a gentleman’s “C.” Now two months later, Ross has brought his grade up to a solid “B,” with 47 percent of you giving him that grade. Another 38 percent gave Ross a “C” and only 14 percent gave a “D” or an “F.”

I hate to do this in this spot because I don’t want to mix the minor leagues in here, but it’s better than me doing a separate Minor League Wrap for one rookie league game. The Cubs have promoted outfielder Alexander Canario from Double-A Tennessee to Triple-A Iowa and outfielder Brennen Davis will continue his rehab efforts in High-A South Bend starting tomorrow.

Additionally there is some important rehab information the ACL Cubs 7-3 loss to Giants Orange tonight. First, Adbert Alzolay made a rehab start, his first of the year, and he allowed just one run on three hits over three innings. He struck out four and walked no one.

Also, Michael Hermosillo is continuing his rehab in the ACL and he went 1 for 3 this evening.

Here’s the part where I write about jazz and movies. You’re free to skip ahead to the baseball question at the end. You won’t hurt my feelings.

Tonight’s performance is the great pianist Ahmad Jamal in Paris in 2017. Here he’s playing with James Cammack on double bass, Herlin Riley on drums and Manolo Badrena on percussion. It’s a live performance of the jazz standard “Autumn Leaves.” Honestly, I don’t think you’ve ever heard that song sound like this before.

The Balcony, a 1963 film directed by Joseph Strick and starring Shelley Winters and Peter Falk, is an adaptation of Jean Genet’s 1957 play of the same name. Despite the terrific cast, the film The Balcony makes for a great stage play. It’s not a bad picture, but it’s a good example of how it’s not easy to translate theater on to the big screen. This is especially true when you’re dealing with mid-century existential “Theatre of the Absurd” stuff like what Genet wrote.

(By the way, don’t confuse “Absurdist Theater” with “absurdist comedy.” While there is an occasional joke here and there, this isn’t a comedy. It’s designed to point out the absurdity of existence, not be something out of Monty Python.)

The plot of The Balcony is that a revolution is going on is an unnamed, intentionally-generic nation where a revolutionary named “Roger” (Leonard Nimoy) leads the rebel forces. The Chief of Police (Falk) heads to perhaps the only building unaffected by the chaos engulfing the nation, a brothel run by Madame Irma (Winters).

Madame Irma’s brothel specializes in elaborate fantasies, in particular ones where ordinary, common people engage in sex play as if they are the most powerful people in society. The Chief (he doesn’t have a name beyond the Chief of Police) informs Irma that the nation is in tatters. The Queen has disappeared and the heads of the army, the church and the Supreme Court are all dead. The Chief (who is a regular client of Irma’s) is basically the only person of authority in the government still around, but he is only feared, not loved. No one in the country is inspired to fight for him. But the Chief has an idea: Irma is to dress up as the Queen and parade through the town and rally the people around the government. Irma declines—she’s too smart to engage in such a dangerous action—but she suggests that the three customers who are currently playing a general, a bishop and a judge in the brothel drive through the town as their deceased doppelgangers and rally the people in that manner. It doesn’t turn out like you might expect.

The cast is definitely outstanding. Beside Winters, a pre-Columbo Falk and a pre-Spock Nimoy, there’s Lee Grant as Irma’s bookkeeper (and former hooker) and Ruby Dee as one of the prostitutes. Peter Brocco, Jeff Corey and Kent Smith play the “judge”, the “bishop” and the “general,” and all three of them had long and distinguished careers as character actors.

The problem, as I see it, is that what works on stage doesn’t always work on the screen. The stage tends to be a lot more wordy than film, for good reason. You can’t always show what you want to show on stage so you have to describe it. But Genet is also influenced Bertolt Brecht’s theory of “epic theater” and the “distancing effect” where audiences should not get caught up in the motivations and emotions of the characters in a way that infers with the message that the playwright wants to get across. The characters are intentionally one-dimensional so that Genet’s meditations on the nature of political power don’t get lost by the audience. This can work on stage, where there is often minimal staging that intentionally tells the audience that this is not real—or that it’s a fable. But it needs to be handled differently in a movie.

In a film, even one as low-budget as this one, this distancing becomes much more difficult to pull off. The sets of The Balcony are sparse and there is a lot of scenes of the actors in front of a green screen of obvious b-roll, but this is not really much more spartan than a lot of television programs of the early-sixties. Audiences are mostly trained to accept these techniques as “real” within the confines of the medium, especially back then. So the clunky and academic-sounding dialog (which to be fair to Genet, is translated from the French and cleaned up to meet the requirements of the Production Code) clashes with the sets in a way they wouldn’t on stage.

Peter Falk’s long speech on the radio addressing the people about loyalty to the state and the Queen is didactic—it might be mesmerizing in person but not so much on screen. Irma’s very meta commentary about the relationship between power and illusion is quite clever, but again, it’s intentionally artificial. That constant jarring between the illusion of reality and something that is intentionally fake—makes things difficult to follow.

Still, if you’re a fan of mid-century existentialist theater performed by a terrific cast, it’s worth checking out. The commentary that Genet is making on the nature of power and illusion will certainly make you think, even if you don’t agree with his thoughts. I’m glad I watched it—my first love was the live theater much more than film—but I would have much rather seen it on a live stage. You can’t always just film a play and The Balcony demonstrates that.

Welcome back to everyone who skips the jazz and movies.

It’s time to play “Is this something?” again, which is basically me asking if a member of the Cubs 2022 roster is a building block for the future or just someone getting us to the end of the season.

Tonight’s question is “Is Adrian Sampson a building block for a future Cubs contender?” Sampson is a 30-year-old minor league veteran who got a cup of coffee with the Mariners in 2016 and then another one with the Rangers in 2018. He actually pitched extensively for the Rangers in 2019, both out of the bullpen and in the rotation, but he wasn’t good, putting up a 5.89 ERA. The Rangers declined to bring him back for 2020, so he ended up spending the pandemic season playing in Korea.

The Cubs signed Sampson to a minor-league deal for 2021 and he spent most of the season in Iowa, although he did get into ten games with the major league team. He wasn’t bad, but he was haunted by what had been his problem throughout his career—he gave up too many home runs. The Cubs brought him back this year on another minor league deal but he was designated for assignment in May and the Mariners claimed him. But the Mariners designated him right back two weeks later (and he never threw a pitch in his second stint for the team) and he opted for free agency and re-signed with the Cubs. Since then, he’s been pretty darn good.

This article by Sahadev Sharma in The Athletic (sub. req.) may explain why Sampson was so eager to come back to Chicago. The Cubs pretty much remade his entire arsenal, changing his grips and the way he attacks hitters. Sampson’s pure stuff is a little better, but not a lot, but he seems to know how to use it better. The biggest thing is that Sampson, who had never allowed fewer that two home runs per nine innings before, has allowed just five home runs over 59 innings this season.

Sampson, for his part, says that the changes the Cubs had him make in his grips and his approach are just coming together now.

Now Sampson is 30 years old already and you’d think that maybe this reclamation project is a nice story, but we can’t expect him to keep this up over a number of years. But I’m reminded of Ryan Vogelsong, a pitcher who badly struggled for years with the Pirates until he ended up with the Giants after pitching for five years in Japan. Vogelsong was able to incorporate the changes he made in Japan and that the Giants suggested and starting at age 33, he had a five-year run in San Francisco where he was an important part of two World Series championship teams. Of course, the one difference here is that the Giants were already a pretty good team when Vogelsong signed with San Francisco, but Sampson is also three years younger than Vogelsong was.

So tell us. Is Adrian Sampson going to be a member of the “next great Cubs team?” And will it be as a starter or as a reliever? We’re not asking if he’s going to be a star, but just a solid player who is either at the back-end of the rotation or that he gets important innings out of the bullpen.


Is Adrian Sampson going to be a part of "The Next Great Cubs Team?"

This poll is closed

  • 22%
    Yes, as a starter
    (43 votes)
  • 42%
    Yes, in the bullpen
    (79 votes)
  • 34%
    (65 votes)
187 votes total Vote Now

Thank you to everyone who comes by and votes and comments. Also to everyone who just reads and drinks. I hope you had a pleasant evening. Be sure to tell us if there is anything we can do for you before you leave. If you need us to call you a ride, let us know. Be sure to tip your waitstaff. And join us again tomorrow night for another edition of BCB After Dark.