Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Family Shakespeare

Last night I saw The Family Shakespeare by David Stallings, directed by Antonio Minino. It's about the children of Thomas Bowdler. We never see the parents, but we know them by their offspring. The rakish eldest brother (a wonderful, fearless Eric C. Bailey), the chronically ill and tart-tongued eldest sister (pitch-perfect Corey Tasmania), the emotionally blocked younger brother (a disappointing Jason Emmanuel- there's so much more to that role he has not found) and the youngest daughter, who clings to her childhood as long as she can, because she can grasp no alternative (Henrietta, played by Cotton Wright). The adult children are set off by the servants and their social equals (Sarah Chaney, Alexandra Cohen-Spiegler,Dianna Martin, Peter B. Schmitz and Frankie Seratch).
It is a interesting play that examines parental responsibilities, the role of women, imagination in our lives. Mr. Stallings is a writer with no easy answers, and I always appreciate that. I wish that he'd cut ten minutes out of the second act, but that's my only objection. The play is an ideal vehicle for Ms. Wright's talents. She carries the play on her capable shoulders, and the audience knows it's in for an engaging night of theatre. She is, by turns, luminous, distraught, childlike (never childish), and sensual. I think it's one of the best performances I've ever seen her give.
There's a link above to the review. Tickets are still available, and it runs until the 30th. It was a Pick of the Week in last week's issue of TONY.
Pictured are: Corey Tasmania, Cotton Wright & Eric C. Bailey. Photo by Jonathan Dozier-Ezell.

Royal Wedding

It took long enough, but I'm afraid I've got a little wedding fever. This does not mean that I'm getting up to watch it live. But the Daily Mail has a great webpage with the Order of Service- all the music, the hymns, and the prayers (link above). The official Royal Wedding website made me tired with all its information. There is a five minute video interview with the Archbishop of Canterbury reflecting on marriage in general, and this marriage in particular.
Photo credit: The Guardian

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Aaron Copland

I know that Aaron Copland was born in Brooklyn. I am confused by the fact that the Aaron Copland School of Music is at Queens College. But I never knew exactly where he was born until Sunday. The "Living In" feature was about Prospect Heights (where I spend some time because my sister lives there). It turns out that Copland lived over his parents' store at 630 Washington Avenue, near Atlantic. I wonder if there's a plaque?
Link to the Times feature above.

Albert Hotel

Last Sunday's Streetscapes column (the only column in the New York Times I cannot do without- would everyone wrote as well as Christopher Gray) was about the Albert Hotel. I have walked past it (University and Eleventh Street) many times. Usually I think "oh, that's where Thomas Wolfe used to live." I remember that one of his other Village residences was near St. Vincent's, because he'd amuse himself by trying to peer in the windows of the nurses' residence.
But Gray always knows more stuff about a building than I do. Albert Pinkham Ryder (the painter of Death on a Pale Horse) had a brother, William, who managed the Albert for a few years. The architect was Henry Hardenbergh (I grew up with descendants of his), whose great work was the Plaza Hotel.
But the coolest thing I learned was that "during a nasty winter" at the Albert, John and Michelle Phillips wrote California Dreamin'.

And You Thought They Only Existed in Guys and Dolls

The fall of OTB in New York has given rise to the bookie. Bookies were commonplace in Ohio when I was growing up (I swear that my great aunt or my grandmother talked to their bookie five days a week). And now New York is becoming the same. I'm sure that some bettors have opted for Internet gambling. But it's not the same as the real human showing up at the front door with the money.
Link above to Gothamist's "Great News for Bookies!"

How Bad Are Things in Ireland?

The American economy is not great. But compared to the economic situation in Ireland, it looks not so bad. There was an article on Irish Central a few weeks ago about the latest source of employment for Irish young people: the British Army. Link above.

Arthur Marx

Arthur Marx, the little boy on Groucho's lap in the photo, died two weeks ago at the age of 89. He was named after Groucho's brother Arthur, also known as Harpo. I first knew of Marx's work as a writer through his two books about his father- Life with Groucho and Son of Groucho. But in addition to some Bob Hope film vehicles and a Broadway play (The Impossible Years, co-written with his frequent partner Robert Fisher), he worked on a lot of TV shows: McHale's Navy, Petticoat Junction, My Three Sons, All in the Family, The Jeffersons, Maude and Alice. We recently saw the movie of McHale's Navy, and boy is the original better (not that I've seen it in decades).
Link to the NY Times obituary above.

Der Kommissar

My friends Monika Wuhrer and her husband Gary Baldwin run the Open Source Gallery. I've had two plays produced there (I am working on a third, but more on that later). The gallery and their house were badly damaged in the enormous fire on Fifth Avenue last November. Despite those obstacles, they have opened a new restaurant (Der Kommissar) on Fifth Avenue between 15th and 16th Streets. It is influenced by the wurst stands of Vienna, and serves mainly sausages and sides. My first Vienna wurst stand experience was watching the frankfurter slide out of the rye bread and land on the ground in the Am Hof. I hadn't managed to take one bite.
We like to go to Steinhof in the summer, not only for the food, but because we can bring our dog (the waiters are invariably good to Augie- he always gets a water bowl and lots of petting). But the sausage that we sampled at the soft opening of Der Kommissar last week is at least as good as Steinhof, and much closer to home.
And we're not the only ones who feel that way- there are reviews up on Yelp and Here's Park Slope, to name a few. I'm looking forward to when Der Kommissar adds lunches (just dinners so far), so I can order some weisswurst through their take-out window.
Link to Der Kommissar's website above. And, no, I can't get the song out of my head, either.

Molly Sweeney

Last month, my brother was in town one weekend, and he took me to a Sunday matinee of "Molly Sweeney" at Irish Rep. I love going to matinees at Irish Rep because I am often the youngest person in the audience! I'd seen the first New York production of the play, though I had to look up the cast to refresh my memory. Alfred Molina played the husband, and Jason Robards (doing a variant of his old, cranky guy) played the doctor. Whoever played Molly was good, but I had not heard of her.
The play is three intersecting monologues, based on a case study by Oliver Sacks. The characters never interact with each other. In less capable hands than Brian Friel's, it would have been a very long afternoon. But he manages to lure you into these three characters' lives and you could not describe it as "boring" in any way.
This latest production had three truly exceptional actors: Jonathan Hogan (in the photo), Simone Kirby and Ciaran O'Reilly. Where Robards has found little besides bluster and booze, Hogan found a nuanced character who despite his foibles, you rooted for and understood. I've seen him act many times, but never so well as this. Simone Kirby (a replacement late in the run, no less) was luminous as Molly when she was blind, and grew darker and frailer as she reached her end. O'Reilly had a doggedness (very much like an insistent Scotty) that declared his own stake in Molly's recovery, and his fading away as they grew apart. I really can't say enough good things about the three of them, Friel's play, and the direction by artistic director Charlotte Moore (who was manning the box office that afternoon).
Link to the New York Times review above.