Thursday, May 31, 2012

Review - My Children! My Africa!

I was very happy to get a ticket for last night's performance of Athol Fugard's My Children! My Africa! at the new Signature Theatre space.  It was presented in the smallest space, the Linney Theater, which was a perfect venue for this piece.  A three-character, one-set play needs to have a feeling of confined space.  The use of barbed wire and corrugated tin in the set only helped with the claustrophobic feel.  I will say that, at times, I felt as if my seat was a little too far from the action (I was in the balcony) and I missed a bit in the way of lighting effects and entrances and exits.  And, when the actors were turned away from me, it was hard to hear.  But, on the whole, anywhere you sit in the theater is fine.  And the $25 tickets are truly the best deal in town.

You may remember that I am predisposed to enjoy an Athol Fugard play - I find them  moving in the extreme.  Even though they were mainly written before the end of (and railed against) apartheid, the pain and rage and divisiveness he details in his work still applies to society today.  Unfortunately.  A good thing about My Children! My Africa!, at least to me, is that Fugard tries to see both sides of the conflicts.  No one is presented as evil, just perhaps naive and idealistic, even on opposite ends of the spectrum.

On the surface, presenting these ideas in the form of debate (our characters are two students on a debate team and their dedicated teacher) would seem to be an overly simplistic way to put this piece together.  Having the characters debate topics directly to the audience, and also present their monologues in direct address, adds to the didactic feel.  But, gradually, hearing the internal thoughts of these characters as the horrifying actions are played out off-stage, makes things even more horrifying.

Stephen Tyrone Williams as Thami, the young Bantu student who evolves from a charming studious boy to a militant soon-to-be-warrior, is terrific.  His monologue that closes the first act is riveting, as he fights the two sides of himself and realizes what he has to do.  He has a nice chemistry with actress Allie Gallerani, as a white Afrikaner girl from a private school nearby.  I found her a little actress-y, but nonetheless convincing as a girl waking up to the fact of the inequity of her life compared to her new friend's.

I thought James A Williams was simply brilliant as the schoolteacher, known to his kids as Mr M.  He shows so many facets to this character - his kindness, his dedication, his passion for teaching and his complete and utter blindness to the changes going on around him.  His love for his student, Thami, is palpable.  Their penultimate scene, when he's trying to convince Thami that the power of words is greater than the power of mob violence, is heartbreaking.  And then, his speeches at the end are harrowing - first as he describes the violence that is heading towards him (the ringing of the schoolbell was just devastating to me) and then when he accepts responsibility for what his blindness has wrought.  I was sobbing, which I guess is de rigeur for me.  :)  

The play is beautifully staged by actor Ruben Santiago-Hudson, though I did think there was an awful lot of unnecessary fiddling with backpacks.  Was there really no other business for students to do in that school room?  But that's a quibble.  Oh, and I can't forget to mention the interstitial music by Bobby McFerrin.  Hearing his vocal stylings in the context of the play was really stirring.

My Children! My Africa! just got another extension at the Signature, so you should definitely check it out.  Yes, the first act feels a little long in the middle, and, yes, there's a bit of repetition in the monologues and debates, but these are also quibbles.  This is a first-rate, moving play being given a first-rate, moving production.  I'm so glad I saw it.  I can't wait to see Fugard's The Train Driver later this fall...

**Six years ago, I caught the Off-Broadway production of Spring Awakening at the Atlantic and had no idea it would become a Broadway hit; two years ago, I saw the revival of Lend Me a Tenor (meh); last year, I saw one of my favorite new plays of recent memory, Rajiv Joseph's Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo...

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Another successful cooking attempt...

So...because I'm torturing myself with all-Italy-all-the-time, I've been watching a show on Cooking Channel called Amalfi Getaway, which has a gent travelling up and down the Amalfi Coast, cooking delicious-looking food with amazing scenery in the background.  I've enjoyed watching the show, though I'm not quite sure what the appeal of this particular guy is.  I'm guessing it's his attractiveness, though he isn't quite my cup of tea.  And he speaks Italian with a Canadian accent.  It's a little off-putting.  Plus, every now and then, he misidentifies the name of a dish.  I mean, if I know a dish is panzanella, shouldn't he?  But, ok.

Anyway, I was inspired to look at his website after his episode on lemons (I've described my one-track mind, yes?).  He has a recipe on his website called Spaghetti Al Limone.  Um, yes, I needed to try that. 

Part of the appeal of this recipe, besides the whole lemon thing, was that it only takes a few ingredients - spaghetti, garlic, lemon juice, lemon zest, olive oil, parmigiano cheese and parsley.  Even I can put together a dish with so small an ingredient list!  You start by putting on a pot of water to boil.  I made sure to add a good amount of salt this time to the water, remembering the bland pasta I had last time I undersalted.  While the water was boiling, then while the pasta was cooking, I prepared the rest of the dish.

You cut the garlic clove in half and rub the serving dish with the exposed garlic clove.  That way, you get the essential oil of the garlic in the dish, without the very pungent pieces of raw garlic.  I liked that idea.

Then you add the juice of two lemons into your serving dish.  I used my attractive juicer.  I have to admit, I like using it - it's a nice, heavy, serious-looking cooking tool, but boy, it takes a lot of arm and wrist strength to make it work.  It probably takes me longer to juice two lemons with that thing than it would to just squeeze it by hand.  But what would be the fun in that??  :)  After the lemon juice, you drizzle in the olive oil and whisk to emulsify.  Then you add the delicious parmigiano cheese (I also love my little hand grater/zester tool).

Once the pasta was done, I tossed it into the serving dish, along with the delicious lemon sauce.  You need to mix it well, to make sure all the pasta is coated.  Then you add more cheese, chopped parsley and the grated lemon zest.  Delicioso.  The recipe is for four servings, so I halved everything - that gave me plenty of pasta for dinner, plus more for lunch leftovers.  The leftovers were a little bland, though.  Next time, I may do a tiny bit more lemon on the leftovers before reheating.  Though I'm not sure if that will ruin the balance of the sauce.  I'll have to try it to find out.

The dish is light, fresh, lemony and delicious.  I give it a HUGE thumbs up, though I will admit that I added a small grinding of fresh black pepper, to give the dish a little bite.  I will also admit to feeling like I needed a little richness.  So I'm not sure if that means I need to be on a serious diet, or to use a better olive oil, or if maybe another fat is in order.  I've recently seen a recipe similar to this one, only it has some heavy cream in it.  In the interest of serious research, I may need to try that recipe, too.  :)   But, even if I'm not really getting the appeal of this particular tv host, I would be interested in trying other recipes off his website.  I'll keep you posted...

Sunday, May 27, 2012

ABT - La Bayadere

Last night was the second in my ballet subscription at ABT - La Bayadere.  I've only seen this ballet performed once and it was quite a long time ago.  So long ago that Angel Corella, who is retiring this year, danced the featured role of the Bronze Idol.  And was amazing.  So amazing that he's the only thing I remember from that long-ago night.  Of course, I'm also familiar with the Kingdom of the Shades piece, most notably from The Turning Point.  So I was greatly looking forward to last night's performance, most epecially because it was going to star my uber-favorite David Hallberg, alongside Polina Semionova, who I loved last year in Don Quixote and Swan Lake.

They did not disappoint.  I found their dancing spectacular.  Polina's supple back and feet were perfect for Nikiya, the temple dancer.  She got fantastic extension in her prayer positions and was just meltingly in love with David, as Solor.  She can also stay en pointe forever, which just takes your breath away.  Not in a 'look at me' sort of way, but it a way that really deepens the choreography and characterization.  Her solo after she found out Solor was marrying her rival was just heartbreaking.  The sadness on her face and oozing throughout her body was so evident, especially when she looked at Solor. 

David, as usual, was a gorgeous partner, and interestingly, partnered his two women differently.  He was so open and free when partnering Nikiya, but stiffer and less certain (in a character way, not a dancer way) when partnering Gamzatti, Nikiya's rival. She was danced by Hee Seo, who I found underwhelming.  She danced prettily enough, but with no characterization.  So there was no conflict and no real reason for Solor to be captivated by her or to leave Nikiya.  Plus, it seemed as if Hee Seo was a little off pointe a couple of times and would finish variations with her back to the audience, which doesn't seem quite right to me.

The Kingdom of the Shades variation was spectacular - the Shades had nearly perfect unision and they were just gorgeous throughout.  And Polina's solo was simply stunning.  Then, her pas de deux with David was also rapturous, as was the applause.  There were quite a few holds for the thunderous applause during that second act.

The last act's pas de trois was lovely, though again Hee Seo's lack of characterization lessened its impact.  David was trying to act up a storm, but he can only do so much when he's not geting anything back.  It could've been sublime, but oh well.  I do get annoyed by the 'letterbox' aspect of the set which makes it hard to see blocking that happens upstage from the balcony.  Someday, I'll win the lottery and get myself downstairs.  :)

Oh, and I almost forgot: Joseph Phillips danced the Bronze Idol variation and was terrific, if maybe a little bit too careful.  I remember Angel Corella as dancing with electric abandon that was thrilling.  I was impressed with Phillips, but not thrilled.  Maybe he needs just a little more seasoning. 

The crowd gave rapturous and sustained applause, which was nice.  Polina is very generous with her curtain calls, making sure she acknowledges everyone else on stage.   I'm ever so glad I decided to include La Bayadere in my series this year.  I won't forget the loveliness of the whole ballet again.

Just a note about the pain in the patootieness of the commute to and from the Met: the humidity made it necessary for me to go sleeveless, which I don't do very often anymore.  I carried a cardigan, in case it got cold in the theater.  Which it didn't, so the cardigan was dead weight.  Along with the ginormous umbrella I carried - not ten minutes before I left my apartment, there was a monsoon.  I'm so grateful to have missed the monsoon, but my golly, the humidity was nasty.  I was a sweaty smelly mess by the time I got to the theater, so I guess I should apologize to my seat neighbors, both for the smelliness and for the sleevelessness.  It wasn't raining when I left either, so I walked over to the R train and waited forever for the train to come.  More smelliness.  THEN, once we got to Queens Plaza, they made us get off the train and wait for the next train.  I got home around 12:30, and was a hot flash/smelly mess.  Blech.  Please, everyone throw 'no more humidity' vibes out into the universe.  My hot flashes can't take it... :)

Friday, May 25, 2012

There's always something new to discover in New York

Ever since a dear work chum heard about a 'speakeasy' called Bathtub Gin, he and I have been excited to try it.  We finally got the chance last night and made a grand evening of it.
Inside an unassuming corner coffee shop is a false door with a red light.  If the red light is on (and you have a reservation), you can enter an oasis of chic called Bathtub Gin.  Low lighting, jazz music, overstuffed banquettes and plenty of copper bathtubs greet you.  Along with a menu chock-full of cocktails made with gin or most any other liquor. 

Our charming server was quite happy to describe the various cocktails to us, and she made some recommendations as well.  I decided to go with the gin-gin mole, which she described as a sort of mojito-type drink, only with gin.  It also had fresh ginger syrup and mint.  It was DELICIOUS!  And potent.  I was seriously intoxicated with just the one drink.  Since we had a second destination planned, my group decided not to have more than one drink.  We just lingered a bit over our delicious gin cocktails and enjoyed the atmosphere.

I love discovering new places and Bathtub Gin is definitely a place to which I would want to return.  It has a fun vibe, delicious (and strong) drinks and bathtubs wherever you look.  They also have a food menu, which we didn't try.  We'll definitely have to try it next time. 

Thankfully, our second location was a restaurant, since we were all pretty toasted and could use some food.  :)   One of our party has a musician pal, and she was playing last night at Hill Country BBQ, so off we went.  Our brisk walk over to the restaurant sobered us up a little bit.  Thankfully.

We had a reservation here, too, which was a good thing.  The lower level was pretty full with music fans gathering to hear the performers scheduled.  Hill Country BBQ is set up that you have a food ticket, and you stand in line at various stations to get your food.  With each item you order, the server checks off a box on your food ticket.  Then you pay on the way out, based on what you ate.  It's pretty easy to rack up a hefty bill here, but the food is so tasty, you can't get too mad about it.  And you'll know better for next time. 

Hopefully, the vegetarian police are not reading this, because, yes, I had some barbecued chicken.  You can certainly make a meal of side dishes, but I just had to have some BBQ meat.  I was seriously tempted by their special for the evening: barbecued pork belly.  Oh. My. God.  Sanity prevailed and I stuck with a 1/4 pound of chicken (of which I probably ate less than half).  Their barbecue sauce was delicious, very earthy and tomato-y with just a hint of spice.  I will say the side dishes I got, the corn pudding and the potato salad, were yummy but had maybe a little too much jalapeno in each of them for my taste, but that didn't stop me from eating them.  The cornbread with orange butter was also delicious. 

As we were eating, we were treated to a fun set of music from Tabitha Fair, who is sort of a jazzy/R&B/country rock performer.  She was really great, as was her band.  My chum's pal was one of her guitarists, then after Tabitha was finished, she had her own set.  Her name is Ann Klein and she was fantastic, too.  She's a singer/songwriter who sings in a rocky/bluesy/folky way that's unique and fun.  I actually wish her set had come first, because I was starting to get tired and couldn't stay for her whole performance.  I would've preferred hearing a whole evening with Ann, then a few songs with Tabitha.  But that's just me.  Tabitha had quite a few fans there last night who were perfectly happy to start with her.  :)

So, all in all, it was such a fun night, visiting new places, listening to great music, and having fun with a group of chums from work.  We don't hang out enough together after work.  The only downside?  I'm thinking it would break the bank to start my Summer Friday experiment today after last night's revelries.  So, for my first summer Friday, there will probably only be shopping, laundry and napping.  Not that there's anything wrong with that...

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Review - Jesus Christ Superstar

I was very fortunate this afternoon - my boss had to make a return Tony-ticket trip to the current revival of Jesus Christ Superstar because he missed Tony nominee Josh Young the first time he went.  As the boss is a conscientious Tony voter, he wanted to make sure to see all nominated performances.  Therefore, I BEGGED him to let me tag along on his second visit.  I've been wanting to see this production, but was reluctant to pay top dollar for it.  (OK, I'm always reluctant to pay top dollar.  Sue me.)

I admit it - I adore the original concept album of Jesus Christ Superstar.  I've been listening to it forever.  I even watch the movie if I catch it on tv.  I just like it.  The propulsion of the rock music, alongside a story I've been told for years, catches my ear just right.  However, I've only seen the musical staged twice before now - I have a friend that directed an fantastic production at a community theater many years ago, and I saw the DREADFUL Broadway revival in 2000.  Blech.  Though I was just looking at ibdb and noticed that it had some great people in it, but the way I remember it is the direction was particularly bad, and the young man who played Jesus wasn't quite up to snuff.

Anyway, that leads me to this afternoon.  I still don't think this production compares, on the whole, to my friend's production, but I enjoyed this one quite a bit anyway.  AND, you'll be happy to know, I have a new boyfriend.  I'm starting to think that I should have some sort of ceremony, kind of like the Gypsy Robe tradition at Broadway opening nights, to coronate my new boyfriends... ;)

I have to admit I was a little nervous during the Overture.  I got excited hearing the electric guitar whale out the first few notes.  Then, when the curtain rose, I saw the metallic erector-set set, just like the sets director Des McAnuff used in Tommy, Jersey Boys and The Farnsworth Invention.  Well, I guess if you know something, stick with it.  Sigh.  Sarcasm.  Then there were actors running back and forth, doing really goofy choreography while they were being chased by Storm Trooper-looking police, I thought "oh no, it's going to be bad like last time."  But once New Boyfriend Josh Young propelled onto the stage to sing "Heaven on their Minds," all was right with the world.  I thought he was fantastic - with charisma and a terrific singing voice, he put the conflict of Judas before us in a compelling way.  His acting was just as good as his voice.  And, well, let's just say he looked good in the spandex while delivering a thrilling version of "Superstar" in the second act.

Though there was nothing particularly interesting in McAnuff's direction, I did like how he focused on telling the story.  Not on vocal pyrotechnics, but in crystal clear diction of lyrics and conveying emotion.  I enjoyed that.  In fact, I heard a few lyrics I never really 'got' before and they illuminated new sections of the story for me.  Which is kinda fun, since everyone basically knows our story here.

I found Paul Nolan as Jesus a little one-note.  Yes, he is rather written that way, but just adopting a beatific look throughout the first act is a little monotonous to watch.  But, he did come alive (as it were) in the second act, and his "Gethsemane" was powerhouse.  The gal playing Mary Magdalene was a weak link, to me.  I think the actress sort of decided she was going to play Mary as a tough girl, so she slouched and stomped around, and sang in a tough ballsy way, which didn't really work for me, especially in her love songs.  I thought the guy playing Simon Zealotes was terrific, and I liked the voices of Caiaphas and Annas.  There was an understudy for King Herod - I liked his look very much, but didn't really enjoy his rich, spoiled, whiny take on his song.  But I greatly enjoyed Tom Hewitt (a longtime favorite) as Pontius Pilate - he found a nice balance between fear, power and snake-oil charm. And he looked ever so fine in his purple velvet suit.

I think the production strains to play up a sexual love triangle between Jesus, Judas and Mary Magdalene and it doesn't quite work, mainly because there's no sexual heat from anyone but Judas.  He can't be a triangle by himself, though he is pretty hot.  And if I have to see black leather costumes used as a metaphor for mean people, I'm going to vomit.  What a cliche.  The hip hop choreography didn't work for me and I really didn't enjoy all the projections.  Having a ticker tell me what day it is and how far we were from Passover just annoyed me.  BUT, I did enjoy how they were used at the very end, with more and more text coming faster and faster, and then it was projected across the stage, to show that Jesus has not been forgotten - there are still millions of words written about him every day.  So that use of the projections was effective to me.  The rest of the projections?  Not so much.

The last scenes of the show, starting with "Superstar" through the end, were quite stirring.  The crucifixion was staged very well and the way McAnuff chose to end the show was quietly moving.  Thankfully, the show didn't end the way it began for me.  :)   I say if you like the music of Jesus Christ Superstar, you should see this production.  It's not perfect, but the storytelling is clear and confident, the score is beautifully sung and Josh Young's Judas is a terrific center.  I hope to see him on stage again VERY soon.

This Friday starts Summer Fridays!  Hooray!!  I'm hoping to be able to stick to my "lunch at a Food Network chef's restaurant/museum pairing" idea.  So, for the first week, I'm toying with trying Geoffrey Zakarian's Lamb's Club restaurant for lunch, then heading over to the International Center of Photography - they're having an exhibit on Civil War photography that looks interesting.  I guess it depends on the budget.  The Lamb's Club is not an inexpensive venture...  Oh, and Saturday night is the next ballet in my subscription, La Bayadere.  Starring uber-favorite David Hallberg.  Whee!

**Five years ago, I saw ANOTHER boyfriend, Michael Cerveris, in LoveMusik; four years ago, I went with a pal to see David Grimm's Steve & Idi; two years ago, I suffered through Everyday Rapture; and last year, I had a grand evening with another pal at David Lindsay-Abaire's terrific Good People...

Monday, May 21, 2012

AIDS Walk 2012

Yesterday was a beautiful day for AIDS Walk 2012.  The weather was sunny and warm, with next to no humidity and a fresh scent in the air. 

I woke up early, to get myself ready for the walk.  I finally got out my trusty resistance bands, so I could stretch my feet and legs and hopefully get them ready for the 10K coming up.  I also, as usual, stuffed way too much junk in my fanny pack, so it was huge and looked goofy.  But oh well.  I'm high maintenance.  But I seriously need to find a new pack that has a water bottle holder...

Thanks to all my dear, sweet, dedicated friends, I raised over $2600 this year!  So I was determined to finish this year's Walk.  You may remember that last year, I could only do about a mile, thanks to some uncomfortable tissue expanders.  No such problem this year, thank heavens, though I was experiencing another female issue, which came into play later in the day.  I made sure to wear my most supportive undergarments and my most secure pants.  I probably should've went with my original instinct and wore my yoga pants, but oh well.

I got to the park around 8:45 am, a little before my meeting time with my best friend and co-walker.  The Star Walker tent was really upgraded this year, as was the photo area.  The breakfast was also much more involved.  Usually, by the time I get there, the food is all gone, but this year, there were still plenty of bagels and bananas left.  They also had a veggie omelet, but I thought that might be a little heavy on my stomach before the walk on such a warm day.  Unfortunately, I didn't grab another bottle of water (I did bring one from home) before they ran out.  That will also come into play later in the day.   I went ahead and had my picture taken in front of the 'step and repeat,' just in case it got too crowded when my dear one arrived.  I certainly love me a sceptre.  :)

I needn't have worried - there was plenty of time for more photos once my dear one arrived.  I love this photo!  After having a little of the breakfast, we waited for our other friends who were going to walk with us.  It was fun to walk with my grad school chum and her daughter, along with another handsome gent.  We even ran into another friend of my grad school chum during the walk!  So we had a nice-sized group to walk with.
After hearing the glorious Carolee Carmello sing "You'll Never Walk Alone" (I got video, but there's so much ambient noise, it's hard to hear Carolee), we started the Walk.  Boy, it seemed especially crowded this year.  And it seemed as if they really narrowed the streets this year too, with police tape on either side.  So, I felt especially crowded.  I also felt especially hot.  I'm sure it's partly because I'm monumentally out of shape, and partially because we were so jammed together, it made it even hotter than usual.
I generally don't stop during the Walk.  I like to take my time, but I also like to walk it in one stretch.  Unfortunately, I was unable to do that this year.  I felt bad for my walkmates, but at one point I had to stop and use a port-o-potty to take care of a female issue, and that took twenty minutes or so.  Then, I started to get really overheated, and I needed to be in the shade, which was really only on the sidewalks once we left the park, and that slowed us down, too.  One generous walkmate ran ahead and got some water for all of us, since I had already run out, which helped a lot.  I also had to go inside a grocery store at one point to get a little a/c.  I hate becoming 'that person,' but I really feel like I need to listen to my body and do what it needs me to do.  It sort of was a perfect storm of unwellness, with the overheating and the female problem.

Once we got to Riverside Park, I felt like I was home free.  We did make one more stop to sit in the shade for a few minutes, and I honestly felt like I would be good to finish.  And when we made the turn onto 85th Street to head back to Central Park, I felt good.  Then, suddenly, I had a really bad female problem episode and had to sit down again.  A couple of our group went on ahead (it was already after 1pm by this time - I'm usually done and eating ice cream by 1pm!), but I made the really difficult decision to stop walking.  I knew I wouldn't be able to finish without making things much worse.  Luckily, my dear one and my other handsome chum understood and agreed with me and we stepped out of the Walk and went to a diner.  Mainly because I had to get inside to a/c and also to use a real restroom.

I hate being a slave to my body, but darn it, that's what happened.  But I did my best and that's all anyone can do, I guess.  My handsome and kind friends put me in a cab and I went home.  I immediately put an ice pack on the back of my neck to bring down my body temp, put my little desktop fan on my coffee table and blew air right onto myself and then elevated the necessary body parts.  Thankfully, once I reclined for a while, the problem lessened and I was able to relax, but there were a few nervewracking moments where I thought I might have to go to the e/r.  I guess I over-reacted again, but that seems to be my modus operandi right now.  Moving on.

Up until I felt extremely unwell, I was having a wonderful time.  I was in the sunshine, walking for a wonderful cause, with my bestest friend and other beloved chums.  Another dear one was waiting for us as we came out of the park to give us a hug.  I wish the Walk could've ended for me in the same happy way, but there's always next year.  But, let's look at the bright side - I'm proud to have such wonderful friends and to have raised so much money!  Onward!  :)

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A beautiful Saturday in New York

Normally, even though it's lazy, I like to stay in on the weekends - I'm usually pretty tired after a long work week and I need time to get my apartment clean for the week ahead.  But, since I had a ticket to Giselle for the matinee, I decided to leave the apartment early, to enjoy the weather and get some photos.  I definitely had a lovely day.

I got off the subway at 57th Street and walked over to Central Park.  I just kind of wandered around, in the sun, taking pictures, while listening to my Norm Lewis playlist on my iPhone. :)  There were lots of people out, but everyone was in pretty good spirits and seemed to keep in their own space.  I watched a little soccer, watched a little softball and just generally enjoyed myself.

I was getting ready to head over to Central Park West, when I saw a commotion.  And there it was - a raccoon.  It had taken someone's food bag and was rooting around in it.  This raccoon was HUGE!  I don't think I've ever been so close to one and I'm from Ohio!!  The people were trying to feed the raccoon and I just started to become afraid of rabid bites happening, so I skedaddled.  I did get some nice flower photos on my way out of the park, so I'll include those at the end.  I intended to stop at Starbucks on my way to the Met, but I took too long in the park, Starbucks.  Oh well.

I was really looking forward to seeing another Giselle, since I had had such a good time last Tuesday.  Today, the stars were Natalia Osipova and David Hallberg.  I had seen them dance Romeo and Juliet a couple of years ago and they were sublime, so I was thrilled they were paired up for Giselle.  Luckily, I got to the theater early enough to make a pit stop, then was able to crawl over my seat neighbors, who perhaps saw the original production of Giselle at ABT in 1940.  Get my drift?  ;)   But they were very attentive neighbors, if perhaps a little unaware of the concept of 'indoor voice'.  But I did my best to block them out.

The performance was fantastic.  David was, as always, classical yet accessible.  His line and technique are out of this world, and his acting is just as fantastic.  He made many different choices than Marcelo Gomes had made the other night.  He was more intrinsically regal, yet more impetuous with Giselle.  He didn't seem to have as many planned 'moves' to put on her, yet you got the sense that he had given himself the goal of kissing her that day.  He made many attempts, yet never quite got there, which kept him dangling.  In a romantic way, of course.  Natalia was gorgeous as Giselle.  I was surprised that she didn't have the usual Giselle costume on, hers was a little sleeker and sexier, a little shinier, but that's ok.  She was a sprightly maiden, yet showed some signs of mental imbalance early on, which foreshadowed the mad scene nicely.  Her dancing was light and quick, with gorgeous extension.  Her arms are so soft, they're just lovely.  As opposed to Julie Kent, who was a reserved girl, Natalia was more outgoing and a part of the town.  And her rapport with David is palpable.  They both get terrific elevation and move in perfect sync.

I had never seen Patrick Ogle before - he played Hilarion, the romantic rival.  His acting was a tad small and his dancing in the second act wasn't really dynamic enough.  I'm thinking he'll grow into the role, though.  The peasant pas de deux was charmingly done by Misty Copeland and Craig Salstein.  They were both warm and winning, if not exactly distinctive.  Stella Abrera danced Myrta nicely, though could've been more commanding.  The Wilis danced well together - there's one part of their choreography that's featured in the film The Turning Point (it's Leslie Browne's drunk scene) so I always smile a little when that variation begins.  There was a gal in the chorus today who had such an odd way of turning, it was like she was unhinging her back instead of bending it.  She grabbed my eye.  I have no idea which dancer she is, though.

Natalia and David were even more amazing in the second act, dancing with ardor and abandon.  They were gorgeous when mirroring each other's choreography.  They really are so well matched.  Interestingly, as opposed to Marcelo's Albrecht not looking AT Julie's Giselle and just feeling her, David looked right at Natalia and seemed to question his own sanity when he saw her.  It was a different and just as valid interpretation.  Their pas de deux were stunning, though I will admit that I felt that Julie created more of a spirit.  She was just air, whereas Natalia felt more human, even in spirit form.  Nothing wrong with that, just different.

The ending was just as glorious and sad and terrific.  And I am thrilled I remembered my binoculars, because I got close-up views of wonderful acting by both David and Natalia.  I only use them sparingly, because I like to see how choreography fits in the whole space, but when I know a ballet well enough, I know when to take a closer view without cutting off the big picture.  Hooray for binoculars.

You can tell that David and Natalia enjoy each other - their curtain call is warm and inviting.  The house was much more full than it was the other night, so I guess people weren't as interested in seeing Julie dance it as they were in seeing Natalia dance it.  Oh well.  But the ovation today was loud and went on for quite a while.  David and Natalia give nice curtain call.  Not dramatic, just appreciative. 

I finished my fun day by stopping at Whole Foods and picking up a few things.  Then I stopped at Argo Tea and tried their new Pom Tea, with red tea and pomegranate juice.  Yum yummy.  A nice end to a nice day.

Tomorrow will be another outdoor day - the AIDS Walk!  Here's hoping my feet hold up!  :)

Friday, May 18, 2012

It's good to have places (and people) to rely on

In this crazy world, it's always good to have your reliables - the restaurants that make you feel good, especially when you go with the people who make you feel good.  I have several restaurants around town like this: West Bank Cafe, Beacon, Lombardi's, Croton Reservoir.  I love trying new restaurants, but, sometimes, you just want to go to a favorite.  It's like a warm hug.  With food.  And what's the common denomonator?  Going with friends.  :)

Top of my ever-reliable list is Arriba Arriba.  I believe I had my first-ever margarita there and was hooked from the first sip.  Of course, this was also where I first got drunk on tequila (it was not pretty), but at least I learned my lesson and now stop after one drink.  They're pretty big. 
Not only are the margaritas fantastic, but I also really like Arriba Arriba's food.  It's warm, tasty, cheesy and doesn't use too much cilantro. And in the same way that I choose going to the same restaurants, I always choose the same dishes.  Call me boring.  I like to start with guacamole, then either get a shrimp quesadilla or the enchiladas.  Last night was a cheese enchilada night.  Well, beans and cheese.  Actually, I think this was the first time I got the vegetarian option.  I used to get the chicken.  Next time, I might ask to get black beans on the side, since there were refried beans inside the enchilada and on the side.  That's a lot of refried beans. 

Another enjoyable part of Arriba Arriba is their service.  Their servers are always a lot of fun (and generally really good looking).  Plus, they don't rush you to try to turn over the table.  I like that in a restaurant (though we try to be mindful to not overstay our welcome if there are a lot of people waiting to get in).  I'll say that last night's server was a tad on the slow side.  They were busy, yes, but still.  After all that cheesy deliciousness, I am always WAY too full to get dessert - I want to try it someday, though.  Flan is always a good thing.  Flan is a reason not to be a vegan anymore...
But even if I didn't like the food, the best part about going to Arriba Arriba is that I always go with a bunch of friends.  I love my friends.  And I love them even more every time I see them.  My heart just swells.  We always have such a good time together.  There's nothing better than sitting outside, enjoying beautiful weather, drinking a tasty margarita and laughing hard with your friends.  Nights like that make boring days seem like a distant memory.  Let's raise a glass to the faithfuls - to food, to restaurants, to cocktails and to dear friends. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

ABT - Giselle

It seems like I've been waiting forever for the ABT season to start! Probably since last July, after I saw my last show. :) But ever since I got my tickets, I've been uber-ready to see some ballet. I was SO happy to have Giselle be my first ballet of the season. It's just one of my favorites. I love the music, the emotion, the pas de deux, and the women making the men dance themselves to death. What's not to like?? AND, not only is Giselle once of my favorite ballets, but I was going to see my favorite ballerina, Julie Kent, dance as Giselle! I honestly could barely contain my excitement.
So I got off the train at Lincoln Center last night and sauntered over to the Met. I wanted to get some photos and enjoy the atmosphere outside before heading in to my seat. Then, I do like to enter the theater early, so I can sit, look at the program, listen to the orchestra prepare, and generally soak up as much of the evening as I can. Usually, my seat is in the center of the section, but because I did an exchange to see my Julie, I was actually on the aisle. Which was nice, but unfortunately, none of my row mates had the same dedication to early arrival as I did. Nor did they have the same dedication to taking curtain call photos. :(  But at least they were all seated so I could enjoy watching those glorious chandeliers raise up to the ceiling, signaling the beginning of the ballet. I always feel butterflies when the lights start to raise.

[Speaking of photos, I forgot to take my camera. And my binoculars. I'm an idiot. I will have to remember them from now on. My phone didn't get great curtain call shots. And speaking of lights, the follow-spot operator may have been napping or something, because the intensity kept going up and down during the second act, sort of like a car turning their brights on and off.]
I thought the performance was gorgeous. Marcelo Gomes was a wonderful Albrecht, as always. I could really feel his confidence and ardor in the first act, where it seems as if he starts off as only wanting to conquer Giselle, but then falls desperately in love with her. When he first approaches her, and stares into her eyes as he dares to kiss her hand (and dares her to stop him) was thrilling. His dancing was virile, yet airborne. He really is a dream. And in the second act, when the Wilis are forcing him to dance, it's a whirlwind. Gorgeousness.
Julie was sublime, in my humble, extremely biased opinion. In the first act, she's a gentle, shy and romantic girl, which makes the mad scene quietly scary. Her dancing has a lyrical loveliness that just draws you in. If she's dropped a bit in technique (she may stay en pointe a little more briefly, or her leg may not get as high in arabesque as before), her acting and complete musicality more than make up for it. But her arms and back are as exquisite as ever. And I was weeping in the second act. She seemed to be made of gossamer air. In her final pas de deux with Gomes, she was skimming through space like the spirit she's become. His partering was expert and their love was palpable. More gorgeousness.

Gennadi Saveliev was Hilarion (Albrecht's rival for Giselle), and I found his acting much better last night. Last summer, he was rather terrible in the acting department, though his dancing is thrilling. His dancing in the scene with the Wilis was breathtaking last night. A controlled chaos, though his exit seemed a little abrupt. The choreography looked different to me, not that I'm an expert or anything.
Veronika Part was a powerful and strong Myrta, chief Wili. You really felt her wanting these men to die. The corps were also grand. Sarah Lane and Daniil Simkin did the peasant pas de deux in the first act. She was a little off-balance and seemed to fall off pointe a couple of times, but the end variation made up for it. I also liked Kristi Boone as Albrecht's rich girl fiancee.

So, thumbs WAY up from me. Now, this year I've done something I don't normally do - I bought a ticket for another Giselle. When I renewed my subscription, they offered single tickets at an extremely reduced rate. So I'll be seeing the Saturday matinee to experience my other favorite danseur, David Hallberg. It will be interesting to compare the two performances. Hopefully, I'll remember to take my binoculars and camera. I love my iPhone, but the curtain call shots just aren't great. But it was nice to see the genuine affection between Marcelo and Julie during their curtain calls. 

The audience was quite enthusiastic throughout the performance, but there was one guy who started applauding way too early during any particular variation. And he was a 'loud clapper,' so you know the clapping was more for himself rather than for the dancers. But other than that guy, it was a good house. Sadly, the balcony was nearly empty on either side. I don't know if that means that people are tired of Giselle, or if they're waiting for other couples to dance it. It will be interesting to see what the crowd looks like Saturday afternoon. But hooray - ballet season is here!!