Monday, May 30, 2011

Stuff they don't tell you

Had a grand brunch, using another of my Diner's Deck cards.  We went somewhere we probably would not have gone otherwise:  Bourbon Street Bar & Grill on Restaurant Row. 

You know how it is, you sort of disparage the restaurants on Restaurant Row as tourist traps.  Well, they kind of are (a bus group came to Bourbon Street and had the whole top floor to themselves), but that doesn't mean it can't be a fun dining experience.

Bourbon Street looks like a Disneyfied version of a New Orleans place--all wrought iron and stuffed alligators.  The menu has a lot of Cajun-influenced food and a lot of Southern cocktails.  We went with the brunch menu, however, since they offer a $20 brunch with unlimited mimosas or bloody Marys.  Um, hello!!!  With an unlimited mimosa, they just come refilling your glass all day.  I finally had to tell our server to stop refilling my glass, or else she'd have to carry me out (or let me sleep it off under the table).

Two friends got Cajun dishes--smothered chicken and chicken and biscuits.  They looked delicious, but I think I've finally gotten over my chicken cravings.  Another friend got a Ceasar salad (clearly, I need to start following her lead to help with the whole diet thing), which also looked very tasty.  As salads go.  Then my other gal pal and I got the pain perdu, or, French toast.  It was yum yummy.  And not vegan, yes, I know.  It was eggy and delicious, served with a little Nutella on top, along with candied pecans and strawberries.  The Nutella added a nice rich touch, but thankfully, they didn't put too much on there.  Otherwise, the toast would've become cloyingly sweet.  As it was, I didn't need to use the syrup they put on the side.  The toast was just sweet enough.  They also have a side of watermelon on the regular menu, so I got that too.  Just to feel like I wasn't completely unhealthy.  :)

So, to sum up, we had a great time at Bourbon Street.  We definitely want to go back.  The service was great, the prices weren't bad and the drinks were big.  It may be a little theme-y, but sometimes, that's ok.

OK, so when you talk to plastic surgeons about what happens before your exchange surgery, they don't really mention that part about how humidity can affect the tissue expanders.  Once the humidity reaches about 60% or so, I start to swell up.  And up and up.  And out.  I figure they don't bring this up because then people might not opt for tissue expanders.  Some days I feel like I should've just left well enough alone and not gone for the implants.  It is so incredibly uncomfortable right now--I keep telling myself I only have three weeks to go, but there are moments when that's not very comforting.  Although my cardiologist infamously said, "They're not operating on your legs," meaning I should keep walking for exercise, it's really difficult in this weather.  On my first summer Friday last week, I thought, hey, I'll take the N train and walk the extra (somewhat less than a) mile back to my apartment.  I figured I'd make a few stops, buy a few things and be ready for the weekend.  Ugh.  By the time I got home, I could barely move my arms.  It was like I had enormous boulders under my neck.  Well, I nearly always feel like there are enormous boulders under my neck, but it's especially bad after exercise and when it's humid.

I had felt so bad after the (unfinished) AIDS Walk that I made an appointment to see Dr Vera Wang to make sure the swelling wasn't something serious.  She said I am indeed more swollen, but that it's normal and not a problem.  I'm seeing her again tomorrow for my pre-op appointment, so she'll get another look.  She also said after my last visit that I may need liposuction afterwards.  So clearly more of a dieting effort is in order, but it's become a vicious cycle about the working out.  I feel terrible when I exert myself, but if I don't, it's probably worse in the long run.  Again, stuff they don't really explain to you.

Three weeks, three weeks, three weeks...         

Friday, May 27, 2011

Reviews - By the Way, Meet Vera Stark and ABT: Mixed Repertory

I finally got a chance to see Lynn Nottage’s new play, By the Way, Meet Vera Stark, which is currently playing at Second Stage.  I believe they’ve done another extension of the run, due to popular demand, so you should definitely check it out.

It’s really a fascinating play, about a black film actress (Vera Stark) in the 1930s, and how one decision affected her life and the future perceptions of her career.  The two acts are presented in completely different styles:  the first act is almost a screwball comedy about the casting of a Gone With the Wind-type picture, then the second act takes place 40 years later, at a retrospective of Vera’s career.  Having the two acts played in completely different styles is a fascinating stylistic choice—it’s as if Nottage is asking us to look at the ideas she’s presenting in different ways, first through the heart and then through the head.  As we watch the first act fly by, and we see what everyone is willing to do to get a part in the picture, we laugh and empathize.  But when we watch the second act, and hear ‘academics’ talk about the ramifications of what everyone was willing to do, it makes you stop and think. 

When you think about intelligent black women purposefully accepting film roles as slaves or servants just so they can work, you can sympathize (the characters glee when they talk about a movie with ‘slaves?  WITH LINES??’ is really funny).  But then when the women are excoriated for perpetuating stereotypes in film, you wonder—wait, can we blame them for wanting to work?  Was it their fault there was nothing else to play?  I think Nottage is trying to make so many points in this play that maybe it’s hard to juggle them all, but the play is a great ride nonetheless.  Vera has a great line, something like, “So I should’ve turned down those ‘demeaning’ roles and ACTUALLY cleaned toilets for a living?  Because I had to make a living.”  As usual, Lynn has written terrific dialogue for interesting people with big ideas.  Love that.

photo credit: Sara Krulwich
The cast is terrific, with Sanaa Lathan particularly knocking it out of the park as our title character.  Not only does she play a smart, funny and beautiful woman in the first act, but then she plays the bitter, tired, rueful and still beautiful woman again 40 years later in the second act.  It’s a mesmerizing performance—you can’t take your eyes off her (the character or the actress).  The rest of the cast is first-rate as well—I was especially glad to see Daniel Breaker have such a good time on stage.

The physical production is lovely, though I do think the scene changes added a bit of unnecessary length to the evening.  The interspersed film snippets are terrific and Jo Bonney has directed with wit and snap.  This is smart smart stuff and so well worth a look.

Last night was my second subscription performance at ABT.  They were doing a mixed repertory program, with three premieres and one Tudor ballet from the 70s.  I really have a hard time describing and judging these new pieces, since I'm a plot girl and most of these are abstract.  I'm guessing most of the subscribers are plot girls, too, because attendance was rather sparse.  Certainly not packed like at Don Quixote last weekend.  But, anyway, I definitely had an affinity for one piece over the others.

The first, Dumbarton, was by ABT's artist-in-residence, Alexei Ratmansky.  The music was by Stravinsky.  For me, a little Stravinsky goes a long way, and it was like that in this piece.  Ten members of the company (no principals at my performance) danced very attractively.  It's very rhythmically intricate, with lots of steps to lots of music notes (oh, I'm such a great critic!)--always moving but there seemed to be little meaning behind the movement.  And if it was supposed to be totally abstract, it was a little too realistic.  But I admired it, especially the male-male couple's pas de deux.

Next was Benjamin Millepied's Troika, which had three terrific male dancers, seemingly casually (and effortlessly) cavorting around the stage.  I liked the stage pictures and thought it was clever that everytime one gent tried to start a solo, the other guys slowly came on stage and joined in.  The music was Bach, played by a lone cellist, who was onstage.  One gent took a tumble, which I don't think was part of the choreography, but otherwise, it was very well done.

The third piece was Anthony Tudor's Shadowplay, with music by Charles Koechlin.  I have to say I didn't really enjoy this one, even though it ostensibly had a 'plot,' a rite of passage for a young man in the jungle.  The music was too atonal for me, the choreography a little too on-the-nose, and it seemed pretty long.  It was extremely well-danced, though, with Daniil Simkin as the young man and Sarah Lane as his temptress.  Their pas de deux was lovely, though I felt so badly for her when a gent from the corps got a little too close to her and knocked her off-pointe.  But she recovered nicely.  All I can say is, when it was over, I thought to myself, well, I'll never have to see that one again.  Sorry.

The last piece was my favorite, Christopher Wheeldon's Thirteen Diversions, with music by Benjamin Britten.  Here we had four lead couples, in gorgeous grey silky costumes, supported by eight other couples, in gorgeous black silky costumes.  The four lead couples had gorgeous choreography in their pas de deux, and the lighting was actually amazing, almost like another character in the piece.  There was one bit of choreography that I'm not quite sure how they accomplished without knocking each other over.  Maybe because this piece was the most 'classical' in form is why I liked it.  But like it, I did.  I wouldn't mind seeing it again.

Oh, and a note on my seat neighbors:  the gals sitting next to me talked during the entire performance, but not during the intermissions.  I found that odd.  And annoying.  And the gent behind me made audible 'mmmmmmmmmmmmm' sounds whenever men partnered each other.  Since these were contemporary pieces, there was a lot of that.  And a lot of 'mmmmmmmmmmmmm' sounds behind me.  Why can't people be quiet and let me watch my ballet in peace?!?!?!?!  Hee.

In tennis news, Roger looked formidable this morning.  Let's hope he keeps it up.  :)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Review - Good People

I finally got to David Lindsay-Abaire’s new play, Good People, over at Manhattan Theater Club.  Boy, was it worth the wait.

Frances McDormand stars as Margaret, a blue-collar single mother who has just lost her job.  The job search sort of spurs the play into motion, but it’s the relationships and the ideas that make this play fly.  The play takes place in South Boston (“Southie”), and it’s amazing how specific Lindsay-Abaire makes the locale, yet how universal the whole thing becomes.

These characters are achingly real, so lived-in.  There’s just a brutal honesty about what is going on, scene by scene, and you just can’t look away.  There are big ideas here—class division, choices, luck, pride, obligation.  Nothing here is presented as absolute, just many shades of gray.  Someone can be a ‘good’ person, but yet also be a ‘bad’ person.  These relationships are tricky and complex, with new facets coming out of every scene.

There’s not a weak link in the acting ensemble.  Estelle Parsons and Becky Ann Baker provide a sort of comic relief as Margaret’s landlord and friend.  Their frank and funny dialogue is spot on.  Patrick Carroll is very good as Margaret’s former boss, who has more layers than you might suspect; Renee Elise Goldsberry is terrific as the young wife; Tate Donovan (who has never overly impressed me before) is really grand as the old flame of Margaret’s who actually got out of Southie.  He simmers with resentment when confronted with the reality of his past—he’s been creating his own history for years, and when Margaret reminds him of his truth, he breaks. 

McDormand is nothing short of fantastic.  It’s such a testament to her skill as a performer that she makes you immediately like and root for this prickly, passive-aggressive woman, who is often her own worst enemy.  Even when she’s saying the most horrible things, you can’t help but sympathize with her plight, even as you’re wincing at her obstinacy.  She’s wonderful and I am rooting for her to win the Tony all the way.

Daniel Sullivan has beautifully directed the piece and the set design is also fantastic.  The scene changes are separated by masking that almost looks like a camera lens opening and closing—really effective.  Each set is stunningly realistic and quickly and effortlessly move into place.  The effect is terrific.  The music between scenes is also very effective.  Thumbs up on the entire physical production.

Oh, well, thumbs up on everything.  This play is smart and funny, tender and tough, and so thought-provoking.  I only wish I had seen it earlier in the run so I could’ve seen it again. 

Monday, May 23, 2011

a happy Sunday in Queens

Sunday was the first day of the French Open.  How grand to wake up on a Sunday morning, turn on the Tennis Channel, and pretty much watch tennis all day.  Well, at least until it was time to get ready to meet some friends for dinner.

So, the big theme of this year's French Open is: can Djokovic continue his unbeaten streak, or will Nadal remain supreme at Roland Garros?  Frankly, I don't find that theme very interesting.  So I will just quietly, and in my head, root for that final to NOT happen.  I will instead root for other players, such as my uber-favorite, my darling Roger; I would also be happy to see a Frenchy do well--I like Monfils, Tsonga and Gasquet quite a lot, so I'll root for them (though they're all in Roger's half of the draw.  grrrr.).  Oh, and I also enjoy another French guy, Gilles Simon, and he's on Rafa's side of the draw.  Maybe I'll root really extra hard for him.  :)   I've definitely softened on Mardy Fish (though, for the love of God, put on some proper socks) and I have a sentimental attachment to Marcos Baghdatis (my mom and I saw him play the US Open qualies one year and he's just delightful).  I'm developing a fondness for Dolgopolov, and would root for Kohlschreiber if he weren't playing the American, Sam Querrey, in the first round.  I'm sorry Tommy Haas and Ernests Gulbis both lost in the first round--I like watching them play very much. 

So, what does all that blather mean?  I want Roger to win, of course.  But even I am realistic and know it's a tall ask.  But a girl can dream.  And if it can't be Roger, there are at least 100 other players I will root for over the guys most pundits believe will win.  I'm just mean that way.

Sunday night, I met some dear friends for a birthday dinner in Flushing.  I've lived in Astoria for fifteen years and I had never been to Flushing until I started going with Chris and Tony.  Dumb, I know.  But now that we go, I want to go all the time!  It's so fun and every restaurant we've been to has been amazing!

Of course, because it's New York, there was subway agita.  The trains aren't running local in Queens, so they're all packed on the way to Roosevelt Avenue, where you can change for the 7 train.  I should've gotten a picture of how packed the train was.  I don't think trains should be as crowded on Sunday at 4pm as they are on Monday mornings at 8am, but apparently I'm in the minority.  Then I had to wait forever for the 7 train to arrive.  That meant I was late meeting the guys at the restaurant.  I hate being late.

So we met at Fu Run restaurant, on Prince Street.  It's an easy walk from the Main Street stop on the 7 train, just about a block and a half.  I've eaten there before with Chris and Tony--I remember LOVING the house special Muslim lamb chops.  Oh crap.  I'm vaguely vegan now.  No lamb.  Crap.  But I did decide to have fish.

The owners know and love Chris and Tony, so we got to sit in a cute little private room for our party.  Sorry, there are no photos of food (bad lighting and too much wine too early), though I did get one food photo that will make you laugh later.  The restaurant gives you a little plate of roasted peanuts when you sit down--watching people eat the peanuts with chopsticks was pretty daunting.  I am doing better with the chopsticks, but peanuts are beyond me.  I always ask for a fork, just in case, but I can generally make do without it.

Chris and Tony have travelled extensively in China and they say this food is very authentic.  They like to order a lot of different plates, so, for a group of seven, we ordered another house special, mixed vegetables with green bean sheet jelly (clear chewy noodles); the Triple Delight (potato, eggplant and green pepper, served cold); Tiger Vegetables (a cold salad with cilantro, green peppers, dried shrimp and sesame oil); string beans with mushrooms; eggplant in garlic sauce; tofu in a brown sauce with red peppers; fried fish, crusted with cumin and pepper; and the lamb chops (which I did not eat--I just looked longingly at them).  yes, we ate every bite.  Truly yum yummy.  I will say, though, that the mixed vegetable dish was a little spicy for me, but otherwise, I didn't have any problems.  Chris and Tony enjoy a red wine, but since my doctor has suggested I stay away from red wine until after my next surgery, I brought along a bottle of my favorite falanghina, which was really delicious with the Chinese food.  Yay me.

As we're all sitting and chatting and finishing all that food, the chef and owner were planning a special surprise for Tony's birthday.  This is what they brought him, complete with lit candle and singing 'happy birthday':

Suffice it to say, we laughed our patooties off when it arrived.  And we ate every bite.  :)

After dinner, we went to a new grocery store and food court down the street.  It was ever so fun!  Chris said it reminded him a lot of Hong Kong.  I am definitely taking my mother there when she comes next month.  I'll try to get good pictures.  I've toyed with the idea of getting a new camera--we'll see how many more doctor bills come my way.  If I can make it fit into the budget...fingers crossed...

Saturday, May 21, 2011

ABT - Don Quixote

I don't know why, but I've always loved the ballet.  There are pictures of me when I was really young, holding a ballerina doll.  And the first record album I remember asking for was ballet music.  There are home movies of me pretending to be a ballerina.  Who knows where it came from?

I wish I had taken dance class when I was young, but I did take classes once I got to college.  I just love everything about it.  To quote Ed Kleban, everything is beautiful at the ballet.  A few years ago, I decided to spend some of my end-of-year bonus and buy a subscription to ABT.  I'm a fan of the story ballets, so ABT is my place.  I do enjoy a trip to New York City Ballet from time to time as well, but I'm a sucker for the stories.  Plus, when I was a teenager, I was a subscriber of Seventeen magazine, and they once did a profile of dancer Julie Kent.  I've been a fan of hers ever since and she's at ABT.  I'm sure there are more responsible things I could do with my bonus money, but going to the ballet in the summer makes me so happy.

Today was my first ballet, Don Quixote.  I've actually never seen this one, though I'm quite familiar with the final pas de deux, having seen The Turning Point about a thousand times.  It's a lively and colorful piece and was a lot of fun.  I was especially excited to see David Hallberg dance today--I'm a HUGE fan of his, plus I got to meet him last year, and he's just as nice as he is talented (and handsome).  I thought he was terrific as the romantic lead, Basilio.  He was flirtatious and fun, and his dancing was gorgeously light.  I've never seen the gal who played Kitri, Polina Semionova.  She's a guest artists with the company this year.  I thought her dancing was incredible.  Her acting in the first scene was not as incredible, but once that first scene was over, she was mainly dancing and was breathtaking.  Their last pas de deux was remarkable.  I think she must've stayed en pointe for over five seconds at a time.  I've never really seen anything like it.  The audience went crazy for her.

The guy sitting next to me didn't care for David, said he was nothing compared to Daniil Simkin.  Well, I've never seen Simkin do Basilio (I have enjoyed him in other pieces, though), but I find it hard to imagine that he could be that much better than David.  To me, David is just so wonderful--I find his acting to be on target, without too much mugging (a pitfall, especially in the breezy ballets like Don Q), and his dancing is perfection.  Love love love him.  And once I'm a fan of someone, forget it.  I'm fortunate in that I'll be seeing him a couple more times this summer.  I'll also see Julie Kent, like I do every year.  She's celebrating her 25th year with ABT (yikes!), but to me, when I see her dance, it's like the first time.

To me, the upcoming season is exciting.  I know there are some people who get tired of ABT doing the same ballets, year after year, but oh my, the audience today sure seemed excited.  And all the little girls in the balcony were entranced, so they must be doing something right.  My next ballet is Thursday night--I'm really looking forward to it.

Regional and more

Next restaurant visit via the Diners Deck was Regional, on the Upper West Side.  It's quite small, so I'm glad I made a reservation beforehand.  Otherwise, GNO + 2 might not have had a table.  But it's always a good sign to enter a busy restaurant.  I'll apologize in advance for not getting more photos.

I arrived a little earlier than the rest of my group, so I sat at the bar and had a drink.  I was hoping to have a glass of the falaghina, but they didn't sell it by the glass, only by the bottle.  So I settled for one of their house cocktails, the limone frizzante, which was limoncello and proseco.  It was, of course, delicious.  Fizzy, lemony and cold.  Perfect for a humid Friday night.

For appetizers, we ordered the carciofi ammuddiacati, a baked artichoke stuffed with olives, capers and smoked mozzarella.  Totally tasty.  We also got the mozzarella di bufala e pomodoro, which was light and fresh and seasonally delectable.  Thumbs up on the appetizers.

We all got different entries, but I only got a photo of my dish.  All my friends loved their dinner:  lasagna, gnocchi, and papardelle.  I got the linguine alla vongole (linguine with clam sauce--I just like to pretend to speak and type in Italian, sorry).
Doesn't that look good?  The cherry tomatoes were roasted, so they were super sweet, and the clams were totally briny and tender.  There was a lot of garlic, too, along with some shallots, so the juice from the tomatoes, the garlic, shallots, and the clam juice made an amazingly amazing sauce.  I would definitely order this again, though I do want to go back and try the fish baked in parchment paper (cartoccio?).

We decided not to have dessert at the restaurant, because we had another plan in mind:  gelato in the street!  :)    Last summer, a group of us got gelato at Grom on the west side and then sat on a bench on an island in the middle of the street.  Very fun and very New York.  So we've been talking about having gelato in the middle of the street ever since.  Although we didn't actually end up in the middle of the street (where did all the benches go?!), we did go to Screme and have yummy gelato.  Though I actually had strawberry sorbet, not wanting to risk too much dairy in my vaguely vegan diet. 

After sorbet, we wandered over to the Thalia Cafe behind Symphony Space to hear (and admire) the fantabulous Robert Locke.  Golly, he was wonderful.  Everyone, please go go go whenever the Robert Locke Trio is playing there.  Funny, urbane, gorgeous and a ridiculously great singer, Robert is an entertainer extraordinare.  I wish I could figure out how to get my video attached.  Sorry.

See?  Told you he was handsome.  So ended the perfect Night Before the Rapture.  A delicious dinner with divine friends. followed by delicious singing.  May there be more evenings like this forever...

Friday, May 20, 2011

Peter and Wendy, plus other theater-y type thoughts

A dear friend of mine used to be the TD at the New Victory Theater—he knew I was a fan of the theater company Mabou Mines, so when that company brought their new adaptation of JM Barrie’s Peter and Wendy to the theater in 1997, he asked if I’d like to see it.  I jumped at the chance.  As luck would have it, the show was sold out, so I got to watch it with Tim from the lighting booth.  It was a magical experience—one of my top ten-or-so theater experiences ever!  So whenever the show plays a return engagement at the New Victory (the last one was in 2002), I am so there.

This production of Peter and Wendy utilizes puppets by Basil Twist (a genius, in my humble opinion) and gorgeous Celtic-tinged music by the late Johnny Cunningham (there’s also a live singer, who is terrific).  It is gloriously enchanting—a treat for the eyes, ears, mind and heart.  It takes the heart-tugging story of youth and dreams, adds some beautiful music and completely real-boy-looking puppets, and comes up with just a perfect jewel of a theatrical experience.  And add to this the amazing narrator, Karen Kandel, who voices all the characters (I read somewhere it’s over 27 different characters)—she is just fantastic.  She won an Obie for the first go-round of this production and I think she should win…something…anytime she does it.  Each character has a charm and distinct personality—it’s really amazing.  There are some points where you are sure you hear more than one character talking at the same time and just shake your head to realize it’s one gal voicing them all.

I again had tears in my eyes during the scene in the nursery where Peter decides he needs a mother and wants to take Wendy with him—the combination of the beautiful set and lights (the stars and moon are so lovely), and the lilting music and the complete commitment to the character of Peter by the puppeteers just makes me cry with theatrical joy.  Oh, and using a sepia-toned piece of film for the first flying sequence is just gorgeous.  In fact, everything is.

Clearly I love this production.  I could wax rhapsodically about it all day, but I’ll stop here.  But, oh, the final duel between Hook and Peter?  FANTASTIC.  My eyes are welling with tears just thinking about it.  Sigh.  It’s been on TDF, so if you have a chance to go, I’d strongly encourage it.  Of course, if you don’t like puppets or don’t believe in fairies, you should probably skip it.  J

Changing the subject, I was reading another blog the other day and the author decided to do a list of his favorite productions, just in case The Rapture happens tomorrow and he didn't get the chance to jot his thoughts down.  I thought this sounded like a pretty good idea, so since Peter and Wendy is on my top experiences list, I'll give some more.  These are in no particular order and certainly not in chronological order (the years are hopefully right, but could be off here and there):

Amadeus, Hilberry Repertory Company, 1987:  I think this is the first show I saw as a company member at the Hilberry and I was blown away.  Gordon Reinhart and Tony Dobrowolski were spectacular as Mozart and Salieri.  It's still my favorite version of the stage play, though I did enjoy the NY revival from a few years ago starring David Suchet and Michael Sheen;
A Delicate Balance, Broadway, 1996:  here is the production that made me bow at the altar of George Grizzard.  It was also my first time seeing Elaine Stritch live and in person.  We had actually done Delicate Balance at the Hilberry and it was terrific, but this one just blew me away.  I think I saw it a total of four times.  God, I love Albee;

Cold Harbor, Porthouse Theater, 1985:  this was a Mabou Mines production--they came to give master classes to KSU students (Porthouse is Kent's summer theater), and then did this absolutely stunning production that had museum curators at an exhibition about Ulysses S Grant and Bill Raymond as Grant in a glass case!  Then he would come to life and talk about the horrors of war.  There were dioramas and tableaux vivant.  It was amazing and so inspiring.  Oh, and I developed a huge crush on Bill Raymond.  Perhaps he was a precursor to all my husbands?

Death of a Salesman, Players Guild of Canton, 1994:  yes, a community theater production of Salesman.  But my friend Rick Lombardo (now at San Jose Rep) directed a shattering version of this play, and having it done with basically non-actors (at least not professional actors) added a layer of authenticity and poignancy to the whole thing.  Rick is an amazing director--if you ever have a chance to see a show that he's directed, jump on it;

Six Degrees of Separation, Lincoln Center, 1990:  when this was running on Broadway, I was working at Fordham.  Every time they did a cast change, Fordham students would get invited to dress rehearsals--I always tagged along.  I had to have seen this production ten or twelve times (there were a LOT of dress rehearsals).  The Matisse monologue has stayed with me as few non-Shakespearean monologues ever have.  And Stockard Channing's performance is one of the most multi-faceted and layered masterpieces I have ever seen;

Ragtime, Broadway revival, 2009:  few musicals have moved me as much as this one did.  This revival, although in a huge Broadway house, seemed so intimate and so personal--it worked on so many levels and broke my heart at each of them.  It was a crime that it closed so quickly;

Journey's End, Broadway, 2007:  this play sort of had the same effect on me that seeing the movie Platoon had--it left me gasping for air, weeping loudly and so glad to be alive.  The coup de theatre at the end of the play truly left me speechless and profoundly moved;

Fiddler on the Roof, Porthouse Theater, 1984:  I love Fiddler, always have.  But this production, starring the beloved outgoing chair of the KSU theater department, Bill Zucchero, was beyond spectacular.  His daughters played Tevye's daughters, his friends played his friends, his students played...everyone else.  Bill was such a joy--a mentor and teacher beyond desciption.  Watching him play out his goodbyes to Kent as Tevye saying goodbye to Anatevka was just heartbreaking.  I watched every single moment of every single performance that summer;

Kabuki Macbeth, Detroit tour, 1989:  in my goal to see every production of Macbeth I can, I went to catch a touring company doing a Kabuki version when I lived in Detroit.  It was mesmerizing.  The guy playing Macbeth had to have been seven feet tall (at least that's how I remember him), and they were also doing some Suzuki-style acting--it was quite thrilling;

The Normal Heart, Public Theater, 2004:  although I think the current revival is a better production overall, when I saw Normal Heart in 2004, it was the first time I had ever seen the play.  When I say I could not speak afterwards for a good half hour, I am not exaggerating.  Its power and beauty and sadness were overwhelming.  And my husband Raul Esparza was spectacular;

Prayer for my Enemy, Playwrights Horizons, 2008:  I found this play by Craig Lucas to be full of profound truths.  Victoria Clark had one monologue that literally had me re-evaluating my entire life.  I can hardly type this now without crying and recalling the way my breath stopped.  The things she talked about in that speech are aspects of my life I'm still trying to work through.  Gorgeous writing.

Those are the plays that came to mind right off the top of my head.  I'm sure others will find their way into my brain and be angry that they weren't included.  But...I tried.  I have favorite moments, too, like the time I sneezed during Morning, Noon and Night by Spalding Gray and he said 'bless you.'  :)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Goodbye, sweet Lanford

I was very fortunate today and was able to sneak out of the office to attend the memorial for Lanford Wilson, a great hero of mine.  The memorial was at the gorgeous Lyceum Theater, set up for John Leguizamo's Ghetto Klown.  The pre-set set pieces for that show actually were a nice touch to the stage for the memorial.  There was a movie projector, and slides of Lanford and theatrical shots were projected throughout.  The streetlamps added some Americana and the coat rack just made it seem like home.

The prologue was a song from a musical version of Balm in Gilead--it was quite a lovely song and a nice way to start.  Marshall Mason came out to welcome everyone and provide some insights.  Everything he said was funny and touching and, yes, I started to cry.  First guy out = me crying.  I'm such a softie.  :)

Edward Albee was, of course, irascible and gracious.  He is such a terrific speaker.  And I'll never think of July 5 in quite the same way anymore.  Jeff Daniels was charming and delightful, and very moving.  He and Jonathan Hogan then performed "City of New Orleans," which was one of Lanford's favorite songs.  They did a great job with it.

Everyone was just wonderful--should I just list them all?  Actors Conchata Ferrell, William Hurt, Tanya Berezin, Swoosie Kurtz (she and I now share the same hair color), Debra Monk, Bobby Cannavale, Judith Ivey, Lou Liberatore, Judd Hirsch and playwrights Craig Lucas, William Hoffman and Reesa Graham.  There were also some artistic directors there (Guy Sanville, James Houghton, Terry Schreiber, Gordon Davidson), and designer John Lee Beatty.  Everyone told such delightful stories about a terrific writer and charming man.  I especially loved seeing Swoosie Kurtz recreate a monologue from Fifth of July (I've done that monologue!  Kinda surreal!), hearing Bobby Cannavale describe being a young actor taken under the wing of a generous Lanford, and Craig Lucas.  Oh, darling Craig Lucas.  I think everyone knows how much I love him (and his writing), but he so eloquently described what he thinks made Lanford's writing so beautiful and special, and he also took on the critics who misunderstood Lanford and his work.  I just thought he was terrific.  Well, actually, everyone was.  I want to see all of them in a new play.  Or in a revival of one of Lanford's.

I first read a Lanford Wilson play when I was at Kent State--we did a production of Rimers of Eldritch.  I so wanted to be in it, but I was actually in another show that happened at almost the same time.  I remember being so in love with the language of Rimers, and feeling like I knew these people.  I immediately looked for more plays by Lanford--I directed a production of Home Free and did monologues from Serenading Louie and Fifth of July.  My gentleman friend at the time talked about our doing a production of Talley's Folly.  I still dream about playing Sally Talley.  I have such personal memories of so many of his plays, I feel as if I've been in them all.  Actually, I've never acted in one.  I'm going to have to do something to change that.

There was a lovely but bittersweet, nostalgic feeling in the air, however I must admit to feeling like there was someone missing.  Doric had e-mailed me a while back about going to Lanford's memorial.  It was sad to be there without him.  I'll just imagine the empty seat next to me had Doric in it.  I would've loved to chat with him afterwards.  But I'm sure Doric and Lanford are having quite a chat right now, as we all speak, remember and reminisce...

I just want to close with a quote of Lanford's that was in today's program.  Lanford wrote this in 1980, in tribute to an artist he admired, Lou Fink.  I think it can describe how we feel about Lanford, too:  "We mourn our loss of the man, and we should, because our lives have been diminished by him being taken away from us.  But where memories fail, the work of an artist does not...And when God gives us an artist, granted we have to share him with the world, and we will share him willingly, but as long as the work remains, not God, not the devil himself and all his grabbing angels, not tragedy or accident, and certainly not death, can ever take him away from us."

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

This and That

When I was an undergrad, I toyed with becoming a theater historian.  I idolized my theater history professor and thought it would be great to be   She told me, in no uncertain terms, to NOT become a theater historian.  We had many conversations about how it would be a bad career move for me and because I idolized her, I listened.  But I have such a respect for theater history, especially American theater history.  When I got my job at the Guild, part of the reason I was so excited about it was that I would get to meet so many great writers!  The board at the Guild was filled with my heroes!  Ask me to do my reader's theater version of the day I met Michael John LaChiusa.  Or see if I can remember the song I wrote with Adolph Green.  Anyway, the past few months have been tough--we've been losing so many wonderful writers, and wonderful people.  It seems selfish to be sad, since their work will live on, but I'm sad nonetheless.  It made me feel such a part of the history I love when I chatted with these heroes. 

But I never really became friends with any of them, or did readings with any of them.  I did with Doric Wilson.   My heart is broken that he is gone.  It does seem a blessing that he went in his sleep, but I can't wrap my brain around the fact that he's won't be at Zuni anymore.  The way he LOVED my friends and their work brought me so much happiness.  As did he.  I'll miss him.

Changing the subject:  to really be trivial, what am I going to do about tennis?!?!?!  Ugh, I can't watch!  I DO NOT LIKE Novak Djokovic!  And he keeps winning and winning.  Plus, he keeps playing Nadal in finals!  I don't love Nadal, either!  Wah!  Am I going to have to take up watching water polo or something???  Ew.  I was just talking to someone in the office about this--he watches tennis because he likes the storylines over the personalities, so he likes the whole Djokovic thing.  I will admit that it is a compelling story.  But I watch tennis because I like personalities over storylines and since Djokovic is one of the personalities I DON'T like, it brings my tennis enjoyment way down.  I hold a grudge.  It's my worst fault.  And Djokovic made me dislike him a few years ago and I've kept right on disliking him.  It's as if Paul Giamatti is in every movie that ever opens.  I'm just really unhappy and hope this winning streak stops really soon.  I just can't bring myself to imagine Djokovic winning the French and/or Wimbledon.  It's not so much that Roger isn't winning (though I find that annoying too--I think it's time for Mirka to smack him upside the head and remind him that he's ROGER Freaking FEDERER), but that Djokovic is beating everyone.  Yuck.  Whew.  There.   I got that off my chest.

More minutiae:  Sunday is the AIDS Walk.  I've been walking for twelve straight years.  I will start the Walk on Sunday, but I'm not sure if I'll finish.  Although, as my cute cardiologist reminds me, they didn't operate on my legs, I get extremely uncomfortable walking for long distances.  I start to swell up and my expanders start to travel.  But I will give it the old college try and start.  I'm trying to decide, though, what to do in the future.  I feel like I should do the Walk for the Cure and raise money for breast cancer research.  Even though I don't really think of myself as a 'survivor,' I'm sure monies raised in these walks have gone towards research that benefitted me in some way.  But I have such a loyalty to GMHC.  I know I can do both, since one is in the spring and one is in the fall, but my fundraising pool is minimal.  I can't ask people to contribute to two things a year.  Should I split my lists?  Gah, I don't know.  I'm struggling with how to handle it.  Any ideas would be appreciated.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Comfort and Almond Joy

I've been all about comfort things since all of my surgical adventures; it's probably not the best way to keep myself in shape and healthy, but it's been a way to soothe myself.  Comfort food (I've discovered Pepperidge Farm cookies, which helps explain why losing weight has become more necessary daily), comfort music (Broadway musicals and classical music that makes me smile), comfort tv (hello, Little House and Golden Girls!), and comfort reading.  I LOVE my new Nook that my parents got me for Christmas!  I love finding all sorts of books I read as a kid and early teen, downloading them for really cheap, and reading them on the subway.  I'm sure they're not causing my brain synapses to fire like they maybe should, but they're triggering a happy response that makes pain and discomfort a little easier and pushes the self-pity a little further away.  I just re-read Harriet the Spy for the first time in years; I don't re-read it like I do A Tree Grows in Brooklyn or Little Women.  But I remember loving it as a ten-year-old and being disappointed with the movie (which my mom and I watched in the hotel during post-surgery fire disaster).  Reading it as an aunt with an eleven-year-old nephew made the book a totally different experience.  Consequences for actions stood out brightly.  The thing I thought about most, though, was that the thoughts Harriet jotted down in her journal seemed exactly like my writing thoughts in a blog!  Hmmmm.  Maybe I'll start with two sentence impressions of people around me to be more like Harriet:  "why is that elderly woman trying to jump the subway turnstiles?  is she broke?  a former gymnast?  must ponder..."    :)

I'm reading Anne of Green Gables right now.  Boy, did they use a lot of direct text from the book for the mini-series with Colleen Dewhurst.  Not that there's anything wrong with that.  And, hey, why aren't the Little House books available on Nook?????

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Vino 313 and other thoughts

Last night was card #2 from my Diner's Deck--Vino 313 on the East Side.  It was a cute little spot, a bit off the beaten track, so it seems that it may not attract much foot traffic.  There weren't many people there when we arrived, just a small group inside and a couple sitting outside.  The gentleman outside was smoking a cigar, so the smoke wafted into the restaurant and bothered me quite a bit.  Perhaps ventilation is an issue when there's no a/c running yet.  Thankfully, the table next to us ordered some yummy smelling food to mask the smell of smoke.  :)

Even though I've been taking cold pills, I just had to have a glass of wine.  I figured I didn't have to actually finish it!  Vino 313 has a very nice wine list, and they had a white wine I like a lot, Falanghina, from Campania.  It was delicious.

We got some hummus as an appetizer.  It was very good--nice and garlicky.  Our very personable server was kind enough to bring us some cucumbers to go with the baguette slices, since one of my gal pals doesn't eat wheat.  Our server was a lovely girl, but she could probably communicate with the chef more.  When she described the dinner specials to us, she either got components wrong or left things out of her description.  It wasn't a horrible mistake, but did give us expectations for our meals that weren't met.

I ordered the fluke, that came with leeks and roasted potatoes.  It was nicely prepared, but one of the components our server forgot to mention was that it came in a cucumber yogurt sauce.  That's not a problem, since I clearly wasn't being a vegan by ordering fish, but the sauce looked like it had broken and wasn't very flavorful.  It gave a nice moisture to the fish and potatoes, but I don't think it was a balanced sauce.  Sorry this isn't a very good photo:
The leeks were nicely sauteed and the fish had a very nice crust on it.  So I did like the dish, all in all, I guess the sauce made me a little nervous.  :)

My friends ordered the chicken dish, which looked great (and I was told it was delicious), the mussels, which also looked great (and apparently tasted great), and the lamb special.  Here again was another problem with the lack of communication between the servers and the kitchen.  We were told the lamb came with potatoes and zucchini, with a strawberry mustard sauce.  It sounded delicious.  When the plate arrived, there was very little sauce (what little there was WAS tasty--very sweet and tart), the zucchini was bland and limp, and there was a big pile of...something.  After tasting it, we decided it must be chard.  It was quite garlicky and sort of threw the balance of the dish off.  Here's a photo of it, since I miss eating lamb so much:

The lamb was beautifully cooked and my friend said it was delicious.  She was disappointed in the lack of potatoes, and in the flavor of the zucchini and the chard.  I tried the sauce and found it very tasty, but I think there could've been a little more, though, to be honest, there were a lot of competing flavors on that plate.

So, all in all, we actually enjoyed our experience there, since the servers were so nice, the wine list so good and the atmosphere warm and inviting.  I just think if the wait staff learns to chat with the kitchen more, it will be a better dining experience.  The rest of the menu looks really good, so I would definitely like to go back and try other things.  And drink an entire glass of wine once this stupid cold or whatever goes away.

As to other thoughts, I just wanted to mention how happy I am that "The Scottsboro Boys" got so many Tony nominations.  That show was one of the best theatrical experiences I've ever had, though I thoroughly understand why it was a hard show to sell.  I hoped it would get a Best Score and maybe a Best Musical nomination, but I never dreamed it would get 12!  So exciting.  At the other end of the spectrum, I was pretty disappointed by the lack of a nomination for Daniel Radcliffe.  I thought he did a fine job in the show and hoped he would be recognized.  I just hope he continues to grow and study and comes back to Broadway soon.  He's a charmer and I find charm to be in short supply these days.

Hopefully, there will be another new restaurant visit in the near future!