Friday, September 30, 2016

Friday Update

I'm very excited - even though I should be saving absolutely every penny for Italy, I broke down and bought a few theater tickets and a ballet ticket.  All with discount codes, of course.  I feel much better about life. So what if I have to skip a meal in Italy?  Well, once I'm there I might care, but for now, I was feeling a little bereft without some art around me, so I indulged myself. Come visit me here again in the next few weeks for some thoughts about what I see.

Of course, I'm still dreaming of all that we'll do in Italy. Ten days probably won't be enough time to see everything I want to, but I did already make reservations for one thing that I'm so looking forward to: a Puccini recital taking place in a 12th century church. Sounds lovely to me.  I'll share some photos below of the site - I think it's going to be yet another amazing part of an amazing trip (I got these photos off the 'net, so I'm happy to remove them if asked)...

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Just Counting the Days...

Hi everybody!  I'm not just counting the days until my trip in November, but I'm also counting the days until my budgetary concerns are a little less crazy and I can pick up tickets to a couple of shows or ballet evenings here and there.  Seriously.  Even though work is totally and completely exhausting at the moment, I have a whole list of 'want-to-see' things - fingers crossed I can make it to at least a few.

To keep your interest piqued (or not), below please find a photo of a new location we may visit when we're in Italy.  I mean, once you'll see it, you'll think...of course.  Who WOULDN'T want to go there?!?!?!  :)

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Albee Memory - One Last Set of Thoughts

As I prepare for tomorrow's Broadway Cares Flea Market, I'm thinking back fondly on the five years that Edward Albee came to sit at our table.  He would meet his fans, sign his scripts, chat with young writers, look through the Halloween candy I had sitting on the table (even though he wasn't supposed to eat it) and pretty much make my entire year.  I was most often tongue-tied around him, but I did gather up enough courage once to ask him about Seascape.  It was a nice conversation that is foggy now because running constantly in the back of my mind were the thoughts "Oh my god, I'm talking about an Edward Albee play TO EDWARD ALBEE!"  And of course our sales would double, triple, or quadruple with an Edward guest appearance.  I think he got a kick out of that.

He could be cranky, dour, intimidating and brusque.  He could also be witty, engaging, charming and surprisingly warm.  I probably saw all of that across the nearly-twenty years I was fortunate enough to know and work with him.  A frown from Edward could scare me to pieces, but a smile or laugh from Edward felt so earned.  

I admired how seriously he took mentoring the next generation of writers - he treated them as contemporaries and tried to help them achieve success.  He went to readings and productions, supporting his friends and other writers he felt needed his support.  At his level of theatrical fame, he could've just stayed at home and remembered his success. Instead, he was always writing, working and experiencing art.  He was definitely a role model for me.

It's hard, really, to find the right words to describe how I feel, now that he's gone.  I'm sure he'd be rolling his eyes at how bereft I feel, when I knew him only slightly.  But his persona was so big and his theatrical aura was so bright, he couldn't have known how many lives he touched, just from his amazing writing and his amazing life.  I'll truly miss him, and there's a great big hole in the theater world, as far as I'm concerned.  I'll share a few silly photos below - I wasn't going to share the first one, for a shallow reason.  That photo is from before my surgery, and, well, I'm missing my old figure as well as Mr. Albee. Sigh. Shallow. I told you. Oh, and that famous photo at the bottom?  Mr. S. and Mr. Albee were presenting awards at a work event I produced.  I wanted to show them where their table would be, how to get onto the stage, and other housekeeping things before the event actually started. After I did that, we stood around and talked.  WE STOOD AROUND AND TALKED. Well, they did.  I just glowed.  Mr. S. talked about the books he was working on, Mr. Albee talked about the play he was working on, and then they started gossiping about a play they had both seen and didn't enjoy in the extreme.  I honestly don't remember what play they were talking about, but gosh, did I get a kick out of being in THAT room.  I still can't believe it happened.  Yes, I'm getting a little misty...

Friday, September 23, 2016

Albee Memory - Thoughts on Favorite Plays Ever (including his)

This is a post I did in 2011, which you may or may not have seen.  Since I mention a couple of Albee plays in here, I thought it was a fun way to end the week.  You'll notice I didn't reprint my review of the most recent A Delicate Balance revival.  I guess I didn't feel like reliving my disappointment.

If I think about productions I would add to the below list since I wrote it, I would have to add two Mark Rylance productions: Jerusalem and Twelfth Night.  And the Our Town with Spalding Gray.  Penelope Ann Miller was exquisite as Emily.  Maybe Charles Busch's The Divine Sister - I don't think I've ever laughed so hard at a play.  Or maybe Next to Normal - I don't think I've ever cried so much at a musical!  Orphan's Home Cycle?  Gee, there is so much to choose from...

5/20/11:  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 [Mabou Mines'] 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 Theatre, 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 (I saw all sixteen performances in rep), but this one just blew me away.  I think I saw it a total of four times. God, I love Albee;

Seascape, Bonstelle Theater, 1988; Broadway, 2005:  Speaking of loving Albee and bowing at the altar of George Grizzard... after seeing the great production of Delicate Balance at the Hilberry, the WSU undergraduate theater company did Seascape, another Albee play I hadn't known before. BLOWN AWAY.  Loved it, it's so rueful and poignant, filled with gorgeous lyricism.  I was thrilled there was a Broadway revival and I loved seeing it.   George Grizzard was, of course, wonderful, but he could do no wrong, as far as I'm concerned.

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 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 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.'  :)

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Albee Memory - Review of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

I'm sure you saw this review when I wrote it in 2012, but I wanted to reprint it anyway. First, because I loved this production.  Second, because I've been less fond of this director's work since, and I wanted to remind myself what I liked about her in the first place. Besides, this is just a brilliant brilliant play, so any time I can read or write about it is ok by me.  Thank you, Mr. Albee, for this masterpiece...

10/3/12:  I check TDF a lot and was so excited to see Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? listed for its early previews.  I bought the ticket quite a while ago, but I wasn’t about to let a little tiredness stop me from seeing this play!  I consider it a masterpiece and I adored the most recent revival with Kathleen Turner and Bill Irwin.  I remember especially finding Irwin to be a revelation.

Now, strangely enough, when I got to the theater early to find my seat, I started thinking about that revival, and the performances that came to me weren’t Turner and Irwin, but instead the younger actors playing Nick and Honey – David Harbour and Mireille Enos. And throughout the show last night, it was their performances I kept comparing the newbies to, and not the leads.  Isn’t that odd?  I thought it was.

It’s always so good to be reminded what a cracking good play sounds like.  And Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is a cracking good play.  It’s f*cking brilliant, now that you mention it.  BRILLIANT.  It’s amazing to me that, no matter how many times I’ve seen it, I always hear something new to marvel at.  Last night, it was the absolute Shakespearean quality of Martha’s monologue at the top of the third act.  Stunning.

Brilliantly directed by Pam MacKinnon, this rendition of Virginia Woolf is much the same, yet so different from any production I’ve seen before.  As always, it’s funny, horrible, searing, vulgar, poetic, sad and totally original.  But maybe this revival is a tad more human than before.  Interesting.  That appealed to me, yet didn't, in a way.  Madison Dirks, as Nick, was a little more smarmy and a little more naïve than any Nick I’ve seen before and I loved it.  Carrie Coon, as Honey, shows such a stunning array of emotions while lying on a couch for nearly three hours.  I thought she was fantastic.  They both were totally real and more than up to the performances I kept comparing them with in my mind.

photo credit:  Sara Krulwich
I found Tracy Letts, as George, to be monumentally, amazingly fantastic.  Seriously. Passive-aggressive yet contained, Letts brilliantly shows the self-loathing of the man, but also the qualities that attracted him to Martha (and still attracts her!) in the first place. His monologue in the second act to Nick about the ‘boy who shot his mother’ was mesmerizing.  He’s so witty and funny, but so wounded and angry.  The balance is truly something to see.  He honestly had me on the edge of my seat throughout.  I thoroughly loved his performance.  I may even be adding him to my list of 'favorite performances ever.'

I’m still on the fence, and trying to wrap my brain around Amy Morton.  I adored her in August: Osage County and she brought a lot of those same marvelous qualities to this play. She’s playing Martha with a little more naturalism, a little more pathos, and while she is stunningly layered and nuanced, and bitingly funny, I still feel as if the ending suffered the tiniest bit without a bigger-than-life Martha having to fall from such heights to such lows.  I don’t know.  I saw the fear and loathing and disappointment, but I didn’t see the monster. But maybe they didn't want me to – that could just be my preconceived notion of the character.  Morton certainly commanded my attention throughout, and I always wondered what she would show me next, but I will admit to feeling the faintest twinge of wanting more from her during George’s final power play.  I will freely acknowledge that this is my problem and not hers.  I guess this wonderful play has forever spoiled me and made me greedy.  But I'm not really complaining – this was an amazing evening with a still-revelatory play, acted by artists at the top of their game, using the familiar and explosive but making it totally their own.  Bravo.  I will definitely be going back…    

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Albee Memory - three short reviews

More Albee memories.  Gosh, I got a kick out of remembering how much my friend HATED Me, Myself and I.  I almost reprinted the review he sent me, but changed my mind.  I'm giggling about it anyway.  I think I have one or two more reviews left, so I think I'll be able to take up a whole week with Albee, which is as it should be...

4/25/08:  Hi!  I’m swamped today, but I wanted to get some sort of review out of my head, so it wouldn’t be lurking in the back of my brain!  It will be scattered and not very detailed, so sorry in advance!  I lucked into a ticket last night for the Albee doubleheader at the Cherry Lane Theater.  Woo hoo for lucking into a ticket!

I enjoyed the evening quite a bit.  Always fun to see early Albee—no one really writes in an absurdist way anymore, plus it was cool to see a lot of future Albee themes in their earliest forms.  The symbolism gets a little heavyhanded in American Dream, but I shrugged it off.

The cast is spot on.  Kate Mulgrew=riot.  She’s just great.  Everyone is.  Oh, and there is MAJOR eye candy in each act.  I’m just saying.

The first act started to drag a bit towards the end, but that was minor.  The music composed for the evening was first-rate.  Overall, I give the production a thumbs-up.  I’m sure if you have specific questions, I can wrap my head around more coherent answers later this afternoon.  

10/25/10:  Well, I’m sending this brief review around to everyone but a dear friend who didn't enjoy himself in the extreme at this play.  I almost feel guilty about giving him a ticket.  Because, I’m a little sheepish to admit after his rant, I kinda liked Albee’s Me, Myself and I.  An office chum had an extra ticket for last night’s performance, and she and I had a good time.

Yes, his mommy issues can seem a little old; yes, the play is a little long; yes, Elizabeth Ashley is a little too charming and cuddly in her role as the monster mom, but I thought the play itself was funny and it really raised some interesting ideas about identity and family and individuality.  Although Elizabeth Ashley is maybe trying too hard to be liked, I still thought she was a lot of fun and her monologue about why she gave her twins the names she did was full-on amazing.  I also liked the meta-theatricality of the whole thing.

photo credit: Joan Marcus
The guy sitting next to me HATED IT.  I was hoping he would leave at intermission, because he was one of those people who fidget incessantly when they’re not enjoying something, but alas, he came back for the second act.  I was thisclose to telling him to sit the f*ck still, but I didn’t.  I can be nice sometimes, and I can certainly understand why this play wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea…

Anyway, this isn't first-tier Albee, but I still consider second-tier Albee to be better than most new stuff out there.  And there were some real laugh-out-loud moments for me, so thanks to Edward for that.  And also moments to really chew on.  I’m still thinking about some of the ideas, so thanks to Edward for that, too.  Just don't tell my friend who hated it!  Please!    

5/27/16:  [the following review is excerpted from my notes about the three one-acts put together called "The Signature Plays" at Signature Theater]  First was the fifteen-ish-minute The Sandbox by Edward Albee.  It's an early play, and one he has described as being his only 'practically perfect' piece, but it has a lot of familiar Albee imagery in it, with the domineering mother, the milquetoast father and the horrible treatment of each other by the upper classes.  It was absurd, yet relatable, with an onstage cellist, a handsome man wearing only swim trunks who turns out to be an actor/angel of death. Alison Fraser and Frank Wood are terrific as the oddball indifferent couple who come to the beach to wait for Grandma (played with delicious pluck and satire by Phyllis Somerville) to die in the sandbox.  Witty, acidic and totally odd, The Sandbox is a great way to start the evening.  

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Albee Memory - Review of The Lady from Dubuque

Here's another Albee review/memory.  As a student of American theater history, I'm a bit embarrassed that I didn't know the below-mentioned play at all before seeing it.  So, thank you to the Signature Theater giving me the opportunity to experience its wonderfulness...

2/24/12:  Tuesday, I went with friends to see Albee’s The Lady from Dubuque.  I knew the play had been rather a failure during its original run, but I have never read it or seen it before.  I went in completely blind.  Although it’s an agonizing rage of pain, it’s so totally cathartic and theatrical and Edward, it’s a terrific evening of theater.

Many of the themes familiar to Albee plays are visible here: death, identity, helplessness. Even some mommy issues. They’re presented a little differently, though—not quite as absurdist, but not quite naturalistic either.  To be honest, the balance is a bit tenuous sometimes, but it’s never less than compelling.

We start with yet another dinner party from hell, with three couples playing parlor games that never seem to be very fun.  Our host, played beautifully by Michael Hayden, is constantly asking “Who am I?”, both in a 20-Questions way, and in a philosophical way that resonates throughout the evening.  Hayden’s wife, played brilliantly by Laila Robins, is caustic and funny, and after we discover that she is dying, the bile that comes out from her is startling yet completely relatable.  As the evening progresses, more pain and more questions arise.

photo credit: Joan Marcus
Why you are who you are, and why you surround yourself with whom you surround yourself, are huge questions here, along with bandying about the ideas of the selfishness of grief and letting go.  Heady, gorgeous stuff.  The helpless of the characters is almost mirrored by how helpless you feel as an audience member – it’s as if this crazy stuff is meant to keep everyone off balance, characters and audience alike. It’s quite a tightrope that isn’t always successful, but is always worth watching.  The two plus hours really fly by.  In the interest of full disclosure, there were quite a few empty seats after intermission (at least in my section), the couple behind me hated it (though they came back from intermission) and a fight in the last row of my section nearly broke out over…something.  I was too busy enjoying myself to get the whole story.

The entire cast is terrific, most especially the previously mentioned Hayden and Robins, plus Jane Alexander as the ambiguous Lady from Dubuque and Peter Francis James as her companion are also wonderful.  It was just nice to see something that asked a lot of me, and that has been rolling around in my brain ever since.  Thumbs way up from me.  I’m sure my handsome pals can offer more literary opinions.

The new Signature space is certainly large and modern.  Maybe too modern for my tastes. Why do all new theater spaces seem so impersonal?  I don’t get it.  But the theater itself had a nice airy feel, though the smell of new wood gave me the sneezies at the top of the show.  I’m seeing the Fugard play in a couple of weeks, so I’ll see if that theater is the same design as this one.  With three plays running at the same time, there was a nice buzz in the building, and the café/lounge area looked like it was hopping both before and after the show.  So, I guess so far, the new Signature space is a success.  And as long as they keep doing great work, like The Lady from Dubuque, I'll be happy.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Albee Memory - Review of Peter & Jerry

Today I'm reprinting the first review I wrote of an Edward Albee play, which sounds kind of presumptuous, now that I think about it, but there you have it.  Clearly, my reviews will never do the man, or his plays, any justice.  But it has been interesting to go back and read these.  I wish I had written reviews of the Kathleen Turner/Bill Irwin Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, or The Goat, or who is Sylvia?, which I saw with the replacement cast, Sally Field and Bill Irwin.  Bill Irwin and Albee - not the first pairing you think of, but boy, was it potent.  I loved both of those productions, but I can't find any of my writings, which makes me sad.  The below review is the oldest I could find...

10/22/07:  Last Friday was the first preview at Second Stage of Edward Albee’s Peter & Jerry.  The first act is the new play, Homelife, which deals with Peter and his wife and was written (I guess) to shed some light on Peter before he gets to the park bench in The Zoo Story. The second act is then a slightly updated version of The Zoo Story.

Bill Pullman is extremely good as Peter, as is Johanna Day as his wife, Ann.  They have a fascinating conversation about their lives as a married couple, changed expectations and the world around them.  It’s a very well-acted and interesting piece, though I had some problems with the staging.  But I wonder if the problems I had with the staging were purposely done to mirror some of the staging in Zoo Story.  I don’t know.  

Intellectually, I understand why Albee wanted to elaborate on Peter and why the first act of this evening exists, but to me, it really dilutes the ferocity of Zoo Story.  It was much more interesting and theatrical, I thought, to wonder why this guy just sits there and listens to the other guy’s monologue.  You wonder what kind of person just sits there. Now that I know, it’s maybe not as interesting as what I could imagine.  If that makes any sense.  

Zoo Story is again very well acted and well done, though I do think it’s not as exciting as it could be.  Again, there are staging issues, but I think they’re meant to cover up the fact that Peter just sits there for almost the entire act.  But the actor has to bear some responsibility there, too.  The actor has to make us understand why Peter doesn’t leave. And I think Pullman just hasn’t found it yet.  He has an odd focus thing—he rarely looks at anyone when talking to them.  I’m not sure if it’s a passive character trait, or an actor habit, but it can make him seem disconnected to the play, not the scene.  Maybe this will become sharper as the run progresses.  As a first preview goes, this was remarkably smooth and polished, so I’m sure it will only get better as the run progresses.

photo credit: Sara Krulwich
Dallas Roberts is a very interesting Jerry. He is charismatic yet off-kilter, though I think he tips the ‘crazy’ hand a little too early in the piece.  If he just held off a little more, he would’ve become more dangerous.  As it is now, he comes off as crazy/annoying a little too soon instead of crazy/dangerous.  And the “this is MY bench” exchange stays funny too long—you don’t feel the laughing trail off as it gets scary. Again, this could be a timing issue that will be taken care of as the run goes on.  The ‘updates’ didn’t really work for me, because everything isn’t updated. There’s dialogue and attitude that’s still set in the ‘50s, yet with other bits of dialogue that have been updated. Odd.  At least to me.

I highly recommend the evening, even with my reservations.  I think Albee just knows how to tell a ripping good story, whatever my opinion of the execution of it.  I mean, hello, it's Albee.  And the actors are top-notch.  I'd be willing to bet, after they get more performances under their belts, they'll be even better.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Review - The Jamb (and other thoughts)

I don't know why I do this to myself, but I frequently see plays in their last weekend, then I enjoy them, then I kick myself for not leaving myself enough time to spread the word!  I did it again with J. Stephen Brantley's The Jamb, but I'm happy to report they've just announced a two-performance extension, so everyone reading should go go go!

I know J. Stephen's work as an actor, but I hadn't seen any of his plays yet, so even though I'm on that dumb tight budget, I just had to make the time to see this one.  It seems like forever since I've seen a play (actually, only a few weeks, but it seems longer), and it was nice to start back up with a small-sized, big-hearted play downtown.

The Jamb is about two longtime friends, Roderick and Tuffer, on the cusp of (or having just) turning 40, and their lives have taken strikingly different turns.  Roderick is now sober and carries around righteous anger like a backpack, whereas Tuffer is still drinking, taking drugs and avoiding anything vaguely 'mature' in his life - he takes his immaturity to the nth degree by also having a REALLY young boyfriend, when he can remember him through the fog of drugs.  Taking place in 2008, the play is about a time and place when gay men were on the cusp of something in society, they just weren't sure what.

Through confrontational scenes, asides to the audience, fourth-wall-breaking stage directions and great sound effects, The Jamb starts off on a breakneck pace, with Roderick wallowing in his anger that his friend won't clean up, and Tuffer wallowing in his crack pipe.  The young boyfriend, Brandon, is continually the voice of reason in the fast and funny first act.  At the end of the act, Roderick has finally convinced Tuffer to come out to New Mexico with him to spend time with Roderick's mother and to hopefully dry out.  The second act takes place in New Mexico, and the play slows down for more emotion, pain and reflection.

photo credit: Hunter Canning
I enjoyed The Jamb a lot - I thought the acting was first-rate, the script was funny, sad and very true (some of the dialogue just smacked me upside the head, in a good way), and the direction took me places I didn't expect. And I could really relate to characters wanting to 'fix' another person, or feeling an unrequited love that erupts in frustrated anger at times.  J. Stephen is a powerful physical presence, with a razor-sharp tongue, but I also saw the pain and vulnerability underneath. This character, a now-sober-vaguely-holier-than-thou gay man, could quickly have become a tiresome cliche, but Brantley mines so many layers, it's wonderful to watch them unfold.  Nico Grelli was manic, charming and terrified, all at the same time.  Again, a wonderful, specific performance that found an originality in what could've been a stock character.  I could say that about Todd Flaherty as Brandon, too.  The young one who is the wisest one in the room - he found fresh and funny stuff in there.  Brava also to Carole Monferdini as Roderick's New Age mom, who has found herself in New Mexico and she is the one person able to see people for who they are, and she is the one who says things the way they are. Terrific.

I have to say I didn't enjoy my seat at the Kraine Theatre all that much; of course, it's my fault for picking it and staying in it, I guess. The springs were pretty much gone, so it wasn't as comfy as one would hope.  As i was getting ready to move over to the seat next to me, a guy ran down the stairs, already rather drunk but holding two drinks in his hands, asking if he could sit next to me and do i come here often?  Wow.  That was unexpected.  I just smiled vaguely and got a book out of my bag.  Before the show started, he got back up for two more drinks.  He got two more at intermission.  His hand moved further down my arm every time he got up and came back. Before the end of the show, he staggered out of the row, I briefly worried he would either throw up on me or try to claw his way back down (we were in the third row), but once he left, he was gone.  I thought to myself, 'not only does it not smell like booze anymore but something else is different - oh yeah, the seats aren't jiggling because he's not bouncing his leg anymore. yay.' Thankfully, as annoying as that guy was, he didn't distract me from my enjoyment of the play.

After the show, I spotted a friend in the front row and I wanted to go give him a hug - as I was gathering my things, my phone started going crazy.  I was getting texts and alerts from a lot of different people, telling me that Edward Albee had died.  If you've read my blog before, I think you know that Albee is one of my writing heroes and I loved seeing his plays. I was rather stunned, in shock, so I stumbled out of the theater, found a stoop to sit on, and sent a text to a handsome chum, who would know what was going on.  He confirmed the sad news.  To say I was devastated doesn't completely describe my feelings. I spent the subway ride home, the rest of the evening and all day yesterday reading articles, texting friends and feeling sad.  I still feel sad, though I guess it makes sense that the last play I saw in a world with Albee still in it was a theatrical telling of the lives of gay men.  Maybe there's some symmetry in that.  But, boy, do I feel a hole in the theater universe that probably won't ever be filled.  Ever.

I think I'll rerun some of my favorite Albee reviews for you this week - I saw a few shows before I started my blog, so some of them will be new to you and some of them won't. But since I don't have the fierce command of language that he did, reliving his plays will say far more than my trying to write about him as a person.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Friday, Friday, Dreaming, Dreaming...

More photos from the 'dreaming of Tuscany' file.  It dawned on me recently that we may be able to catch a Christmas market or two while we're there.  Italy doesn't go as crazy with the 'let's decorate for Christmas before Thanksgiving' frame of mind, so we may not see much, but I've heard a rumor that something may be open the week we're there. Here's hoping, and here are some photos of Christmas in Tuscany; well, the last photo is cheating, it's a picture from a Christmas market in Naples.  I took that one in 2007... :)

(I'm finally seeing a couple of plays in the upcoming days, so maybe I can get back on the real blogging bandwagon.  Fingers crossed.)

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Working Out is the Worst

As I read through all of my guidebooks on cities in Tuscany I want to visit, I keep running across the same sort of phrase:  "located up a steep hill...".  Well, considering that I do not want to die while I'm in Italy, nor do I want to miss a bunch of beauty, I've finally bitten the bullet and started the tiniest bit of exercising I can, to try to be in better shape in November.  My friends are all really fit, so I don't want to keep them back, either.  I'm sure I won't be in GOOD shape, but I can least be in BETTER shape. (Anyone else think of the scene in All That Jazz where Bob Fosse tells the girl something like, "I'll never make you a great dancer, heck, you may never be a good dancer, but I will make you a better dancer." No?  I'm the only one?  OK.  Moving on.) 

I've had a hate/hate relationship with exercise practically my entire adult life.  Sure, I played a little softball as a kid, but I was never very good at it.  I played volleyball and ran track in high school, but I was never very good at them.  I took ballet in college get the idea.  But I was in pretty good shape and normally sized throughout my youth.  And then at one point in college, I became sort of/not completely anorexic.  It was terrifying - my mind was completely consumed by fear and food and fat. All I could see, when I looked in the mirror, was someone enormously overweight (I wasn't).  So all I ate, once a day, was a pack of cheese peanut butter crackers and an iced tea. I became an expert at telling friends at school that I would eat at home and telling my family at home that I ate at school.  I still remember the paralyzing fear as I looked at a plate of food and knowing I couldn't eat it.  I would cut the food up into tiny pieces and push them around the plate. There are a lot of tricks to steer people away from your eating habits.  Awful.  I got pretty thin, but not monumentally unhealthy, so no one really paid attention.  My mom followed me to the bathroom once to make sure I wasn't throwing up, but that's about it.  And I don't remember why it started or why it suddenly stopped (my former therapist had a few ideas - that's probably for another post, ha ha), but it did just stop one day.  And I have had a fear of it returning ever since.  I never really diet, at least not in any real sense, because I remember that terror and never want it to come back, even though I would love to be thin again, but I was pretty fortunate to stay pretty much the same size and shape for quite a while.

Of course, like anyone else, leaving your thirties and going into your forties, it gets really hard to stay in shape without putting in a little more effort.  I've joined gyms, I've worked out at home, whatever it took to maintain.  And then 2011 happened.  After my surgery, I just stopped.  No working out, no real watching my eating patterns.  I didn't go crazy, but I didn't check myself either.  And after five years of that, plus, going into my fifties, boy is it hard to start over. Living in New York is a good thing, actually, because you have to walk and take stairs daily thanks to the subway, so I'm not completely sedentary, but I have put on some serious pounds over the last five years and my doctors have been suggesting I take it off for the last couple.  Deciding I didn't want to stroke out in Italy was hitting bottom, I guess, and so I'm giving my health and fitness another try.

I'm taking it slowly; I don't want to pull anything, break anything, or hurt anything before my trip.  I'm currently starting every morning with a 20-minute workout DVD that's not too complicated.  It's not that easy, either, at least for me. Depending on which workout I choose, I can either do all of the reps or I can't.  But I figure that will come.  I bought a book called Stretching for 50+ (ugh, just looking at the cover makes me want to eat ice cream) and I do some stretching at night. After a couple more weeks of that, I'm going to start doing a little step work on the steps in my apartment building foyer (hopefully, that will help fix my lack of aerobic fitness) and I'm digging out my old walking workout to play on my iPhone and will try to do that on the weekends, if this heat/humidity ever breaks. I also plan to start walking during my lunch break at work (that's what I did before I went to Italy the first time and it really helped), but again, after the heat and humidity breaks.  I don't have a death wish, after all.

Oh, and I hate it.  I hate waking up early.  I hate sweating.  I hate that everything hurts.  I hate that I can't make my body do the things it used to.  I know these things will fade away, but still.  And I hate not getting that exercise euphoria/endorphin rush that people talk about.  I'm still surly.  But hopefully that will fade away, too.

I should probably make myself accountable and report real goals and milestones, but I don't think I can go that far.  Just writing this much makes me a little accountable, I guess, and it is pretty TMI, but hey, I haven't posted a TMI report for a while, right?  Not that you were longing for one, I'm sure...

I'm FINALLY seeing a show on Friday and can't wait to chat about it!

Friday, September 9, 2016

More Friday Travel Dreaming...

I promise, I'll get back to seeing theater and eating at restaurants soon.  I'm trying to save money but I don't want to lead a boring life in the meantime!  :)  But, for now, please enjoy these photos of a monastery I'm hoping to see in November.  Even though we'll be in Italy for ten days, there still isn't enough time to see everything I'd like to... (I got these photos off the internet and am happy to remove them if asked)

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Labor Day Weekend photo essay

Hi everybody!  I'm back, after a terrific (and busy!) weekend with my family.  I should really do a more detailed report of my time home, since some fun, and funny, things did happen.  But I'm swamped at work and still exhausted from my trip, so I'll just start with a photo essay.  Enjoy!  Hoping to be back with more theater reviews and a guest blog post soon...