Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Gosh, I love what NYC has to offer!

I've recently been grateful to take advantage of experiences I might only find in NYC.  I was thrilled to again participate in the Women's March; last week, I was very fortunate to take in a new play by a giant of American theater: Adrienne Kennedy.  And earlier this week, I took in a screening of a movie-based-on-a-play, and then enjoyed a talkback with actors and directors.  Oh, and in between, there was a conference to end all conferences.  Ah, the life of a single gal in NY...

Last year's Women's March was a powerful and moving event and I was glad to be able to participate again this year.  As we all said as we were marching/standing/waiting, we hope that next year will be a victory march with confetti.  But, like last year, this march was filled with positive energy, love and respect, even when rejecting the horrible policies of the current administration.  It was joyful and hopeful, not destructive or derogatory, unlike, you know, the current inhabitant of the White House.  I was so happy to march with a whole group of loving friends and to feel the energy of the thousands of other people, trying to find a way to make their voices be heard.  It was a simply glorious day.  Oh, and I had a breakfast wrap afterwards that was basically bacon and eggs wrapped in a pancake instead of a tortilla.  COME ON.  So good.  It probably took two years off my life but extremely worth it.  Oh, and before I forget, the next day, I went to a reading of plays by Haitian playwrights.  All four pieces were powerful and so necessary to hear, especially the weekend of the women's march.

When I heard that Adrienne Kennedy had written her first new play in nearly ten years, I knew I wanted to see it.  I met Ms. Kennedy a number of years ago and was in awe.  Of course I studied Funnyhouse of a Negro in theater history classes a million years ago and you may remember I was thrilled by a revival of it at the Signature Theatre (remind yourself HERE).  A lot of what I said in that review is completely true of her newest piece He Brought Her Heart Back in a Box:  "...spectacularly staged and horrifyingly, thrillingly theatrical and surreal...", "...but it's also mesmerizing and like a nightmare you can't stop looking at...".

He Brought Her Heart Back in a Box is a brief (just under an hour) rumination on life and love in the Jim Crow-South, on the cusp of World War II.  But it's also so much more.  We meet Chris, a young white man who is the son of one of the town leaders, and Kay, a mixed-race girl who goes to the school for 'coloreds' that Chris' father has endowed.  They are, of course, star-crossed lovers and they make plans to marry.  There are...complications.

photo credit: Emon Hassan
The play is, like Kennedy's other work, dreamlike and surreal.  The two characters speak at each other, instead of to each other, in monologues.  They're in the form of memories or letters or asides to the audience.  Kay is trying to understand the death of her mother, which happened when Kay was only a baby.  And Chris is trying to understand where he fits in the world, especially since his father seems to be a Nazi sympathizer (besides a racist).  There is a lot to experience in this play, even with its brief running time.  I haven't stopped thinking about it since I saw it - the imagery, both visual and textual, was incredible.  There are snippets of dialogue I'm still ruminating about, and the gorgeous physical production is truly unforgettable.  Some of the text is stunningly beautiful, but there's also aggressive horror in the beauty.  It's really hard to describe.  There's a third character in the play, which I don't want to say more about because I think you have to see it to really get the power of it.  

I highly recommend you go to see He Brought Her Heart Back in a Box - how many more new plays from Adrienne Kennedy will we see?  She's 86 and is truly an American original, telling tales that others are afraid to tell.  Did you see the story about her in the NY Times?  You should read it (Click HERE).  I also can highly recommend the fresh peanut butter cookies they're selling in the concession area - there's sea salt on top AND they put them in the oven for a brief minute to warm them up.

Because I saw the NY premiere of Jordan Harrison's play Marjorie Prime at Playwrights Horizons a couple of years ago, they were kind enough to invite me to a screening of the film last Monday night.  The movie is actually already streaming on Amazon Prime, and I watched it New Year's Eve.  I liked it well enough, though I liked the play better.  But when I got the invitation for the screening, it also mentioned there would be a Q & A afterwards with Lois Smith (among other people), so I couldn't RSVP fast enough.  You all know how much I love Lois Smith!  I think she's remarkable.  Here's my review of the play when I saw it a few years ago:  REVIEW.  

Playwrights Horizons did a nice job with the screening - we all had reserved seats and when we came in, we got an old-fashioned popcorn box with popcorn, candy, and a one-sheet about the journey of the play.  It was very interesting reading before the film started.  And I have to say that seeing the film for a second time, and seeing it on a bigger screen, really made me enjoy it more.  I could experience more fully the ways the screenplay opened up the play, plus the difference in tone and mood was more apparent and more positive for me.  I was quite moved by the film seeing it for the second time and I found the acting to be even more terrific.  Lois Smith is a treasure and seeing that beautiful face on a big screen was a wonderful experience.  But, really, everyone was good; I was especially taken with Tim Robbins.

After the film, a gent from Playwrights Horizons introduced Lois Smith, the film's adapter/director Michael Almereyda and the director of the play at Playwrights Horizons, Anne Kauffman.  The conversation was very interesting, about the differences between the different productions of the play and then the movie, though I do wish Lois Smith had gotten to speak more.  When they opened the floor to questions from the audience, most of the questions seemed to indicate that the people didn't understand the play or the movie.  Anne Kauffman actually said at one point, gosh, I wish I had seen what you did.  It was kind of funny.  Other side note: because I'm insane, I was so happy to see a favorite NY actor of mine sitting a couple of rows in front of me and I imagined that he and I would chat during the post-screening reception.  Yeah, that didn't happen.  Oh well.

To top everything off, I actually went to BroadwayCon last weekend.  Billed as the "premier Broadway fan convention," BroadwayCon is to the Broadway set what Comic Con is to the comic book set, I guess.  I had never been before, but my company had a vendor table that I manned for the weekend, and I also participated in a panel discussion.  Wow, what a thing is BroadwayCon!  There were people dressed up in costumes, there were singalongs, ribbons, cardboard cutouts of Lin-Manuel Miranda and so much more.  It was quite overwhelming.  Part of me wishes something like this had been around when I was a kid and part of me thought it was a little bit ridiculous.  But so many people were having fun, it's hard to pooh-pooh.  The Javits Center is enormous, well-laid-out and monstrously expensive.  But it was a good experience, I think, and it was good to meet so many theater-loving children.  I believe the children are our future.  Or something like that.  The gent in the vendor booth next to ours was from my hometown, which was the tiniest bit creepy, but in talking to him about the fun I have living here, I was reminded yet again that I am one of the most fortunate people in the world, to live and work in a great city, filled with talented, passionate, committed folks, and that I get to take part in many thrilling things.  Even though work is exhausting me at the moment, I have to admit that I filled up my 'happy jar' over the weekend and was glad to do so...



Thursday, January 25, 2018

Winter RW 2018 - Fusco

It's here, it's here, one of my very favorite times of year!  It's Restaurant Week, winter-style!  I've been going back and forth with the restaurants I want to try.  My Secret Santa at work this year gave me a 'one Restaurant Week (RW) lunch' coupon as a gift, so I'm very excited to try a new restaurant with him next week.  To start the celebration off right, though, I had dinner at a place I've long wanted to try: Fusco.

I know I've told you that I'm a fan of watching chefs on tv and one of my favorites is Scott Conant.  His food always looks amazing and I always heard wonderful things about his former restaurant Scarpetta, which was never on RW.  Fusco is his new place, which opened last year.  I was thrilled to see it was included for RW, though less thrilled when I saw it was for dinner only.  Dinner is more expensive, you see.  But I justified the reservation when I thought that I would be receiving a gift of one lunch, so I had a little extra in the RW funds than usual.  Not really, but I generally justify spending money in one way or another...

At first, my reservation was for Monday night, in the dining room-proper, but I had to cancel that reservation because of work.  When I changed to last night, the site told me the only seating that was left was 'high-tops.'  OK, that didn't bother me, I went ahead and booked the seat.  I do wish they would've said that the high-tops were at the very front of the restaurant - it was chilly last night and a breeze came in whenever someone opened the door.  They did try to protect the inside of the restaurant with heavy curtains, but it was still a little chilly up there and I wish I had worn a heavier sweater.  I can't complain too much, though, because my food and wine certainly warmed me up.

I was also a little bit bummed to see that you had to pay extra to try the chef's famous pasta.  I almost decided to do that, but opted to have a glass of wine instead.  I had a glass of the nero d'avolo, which was delicious.  The very nice host/sommelier/waiter approved my choice and gave me a taste, which was lovely of him.  So I guess I have to go back and have the pasta another time.

The wine was very rich, so I opted for menu choices that would complement it - for my first course, I got the mushroom sugo, served over sauteed mushrooms, polenta and truffles.  This was DELICIOUS.  It was certainly the best polenta I've ever had, so creamy and warm and soft and wonderful.  Oh so good.  The sugo, which the waiter slowly poured over the polenta, was also rich and flavorful.  This was a delicious starter, which could've been overly heavy, but wasn't.  And my wine paired with it beautifully.

My wine also paired beautifully with my main course, the duck breast, served medium rare with pureed butternut squash, fregola and sauteed greens.  Oh, and an amazing duck jus.  Jeepers, this dish was also incredible!  So balanced and full-bodied, yet still delicate and refined.  Each flavor was pronounced, yet they all went together perfectly.  I generally order duck when I go to a nice restaurant because it's something I would never make for myself and this was superb.  The skin was crispy and well-seasoned and the meat was perfectly tender.  And I now want to eat fregola in duck jus for the rest of my life, thank you.  Fantastic.

I was pretty full, but I finished every last bite of each course, even my dessert: tiramisu "affogato," with mascarpone mousse, espresso & vanilla gelato.  This was sort of a deconstructed tiramisu, with a delicious little ladyfinger cake at the bottom, two scoops of gelato and chocolate shavings on top, and then the waiter poured espresso over the whole thing.  YUM.  Of course, I asked for decaf espresso, I wanted to be able to sleep when I got home.  But this was, again, delicate yet full-flavored and almost robust with the fantastic espresso flavor which melted some of the gelato into an amazing sauce.  Thumbs WAY up for the dessert.

from the Fusco website
Well, thumbs way up for the whole meal!  It was terrific!  The service was great, the ambiance was nice, though I did feel a bit like an animal on display at the zoo, since the high-tops were at the front of the restaurant in the front windows.  But I definitely want to go back and experience Fusco from the lovely dining room in the back (which I snuck a look at when I went to the perfectly beautiful ladies room).  Maybe my birthday dinner?  There's so much on their regular menu that I want to try, not the least of which is Chef Conant's famous pasta.  But my meal last night was a great start to what will hopefully be my most memorable RW yet...

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Preview Thoughts on In The Body of the World

I think it's safe to say that Eve Ensler is a hero of mine.  I find her forthrightness, her tenacity, her bravery, her absolute dedication to saving all women completely thrilling.  I've read, and seen, her The Vagina Monologues many times.  I've read her work and listened to her speeches and have been inspired by her multiple times.  But, for some reason, I've never seen her onstage.  I saw The Vagina Monologues late in the run and I don't know how, but I missed The Good Body.  So when a friend of mine reminded me last week that Eve's new piece was coming to Manhattan Theatre Club, I rushed onto TDF, hoping against hope to get a discount ticket for an early preview, before the word got out.  I was fortunate to get a ticket for last night's preview, only the second preview of this run, and I was fortunate to sit in the fourth row center to experience this force of nature up close and in person.  Although she's done this play already out of town (which is why my friend emailed me last week; he had seen it and proclaimed it "unforgettable"), I won't say a lot because she may be making changes and also because I think you need to experience this one without a lot of prior knowledge.

photo credit: Evgenia Eliseeva
In the Body of the World is a powerful, beautiful piece about one woman and about all women.  About life and death and standing up straight in the face of both.  It's definitely a piece everyone should see RIGHT NOW.  It made me laugh, it certainly made me cry, it made me gasp and it made me think.  It also briefly put me in a dark place - I actually had some version of these thoughts when I was walking to the subway last night:  1)  I'm not sure I'll ever be happy again; 2)  I'm not sure I deserve to be happy; 3) What the hell have I done with my life that could be considered worthwhile?!?!

Admittedly, those sound like depressing thoughts - I hope they won't keep you from seeing a show that may have brought them to me, but believe me when I say I came back around after a bit.  (I'm currently experiencing some back pain, so that may have contributed to dark thoughts, too.)  There are some stories in the show that are devastatingly hard yet necessary to hear and they knocked me out.  But the constant rediscovery of forgiveness and joy is a permeating theme.  And there is so much in the piece that I can relate to from some of my own struggles, so maybe it just felt too intensely personal right afterwards.  I've had doctors like hers, I've had experiences like hers, I've had rage like hers.  Not as extreme, but still.  And I have since remembered that we all have our own parts to play in this world and I play mine as well as I can.  No one else can be Eve Ensler, which is probably for the best.  She is the best one she can be.  I only wish I could express myself one-zillionth as greatly as she does.

It always amazes me that someone who speaks so searingly about such atrocities has such a sweet voice and buoyant demeanor.  I don't know, I feel like I would always be snarling and exhibiting negative body language were I her.  That's a silly stereotype I know, but the beautiful aura that surrounds Ensler is a joy to be around, even when hearing about the darkness that surrounds our world today.  Even when talking about the darkness, I'm also not exaggerating when I say I laughed a lot during In the Body of the World; oh, and I also got to dance, which was much appreciated.  It's just a unique, beautiful, harrowing experience and I highly recommend it.  I'm not going to say any more because I feel as if I'll want to give too much away.  You should just get a ticket, right now, and dive in yourself.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Responding to my public (not really, just a flashback post)

Hey, everyone!  I know I've told you that I'm rather obsessed with my blog stats.  There's something incredibly satisfying in seeing that more and more people are reading your thoughts.  Of course, most days only have a dozen or so peeks, whereas real blogs get millions of hits a day!  But there are days when I wonder what the heck is going on and why are so many people clicking on me!  And today is one of them.  For some reason, when looking at my stats today, I see that there is someone looking at all my old 'flashback' posts.  Since none of those posts got a lot of hits in their original incarnations, I sort of let the flashback idea fall by the wayside.  But since I do actually have a theater review from ten years ago today, I thought "why not?!  let's give that reader something else to see! 😉"

And so I present a review from 2008.  I can still see that projected face in my mind's eye, if I try...

Samuel Beckett (from the internet)
1/16/2008:  Last night, I saw my first show of the new year!  I went to the New York Theater Workshop and saw Beckett Shorts, directed by Joanne Akalaitis and starring Mikhail Baryshnikov.  I love me some Misha and have never seen Beckett on stage before (is that even possible?), so I ponied up the cash and got an excellent seat.

I enjoyed myself, though I have to say I was disappointed that the show was just barely over an hour long.  I guess I didn’t see that in the reviews or anything.  It was quite a pricey ticket for a 70- minute show, but I suppose I shouldn’t complain.  Baryshnikov is really worth every penny (or dollar).

The evening is four short Beckett plays:  Act Without Words I, Act Without Words II, Rough for Theatre 1 and Eh Joe.  The sets are very futuristic and modern, with lots of metal and Plexiglas, yet with a light-colored sand/dirt floor, that led to some interesting juxtapositions.  There is also a scrim in the front where projections are used from time to time.  And there is original music by the always interesting, often frustrating, Philip Glass.

photo credit: Joan Marcus
My favorite piece was the last one, Eh Joe.  The scrim was showing a projection of a video of Baryshnikov in a bathrobe, sitting on a bed.  The set is backlit so we can see he is doing that on stage, too.  The videotape shows Baryshnikov going around the room and closing all the curtains.  Is he getting ready to do something?  Does he do this every day?  It's so compelling.  Then the video goes off and the scrim becomes a live feed on Baryshnikov.  As he is sitting on the bed, we get this extreme close-up of that amazing face while another actor sitting upstage has a monologue.  I think she’s supposed to be the voice in his head at the end of his life, or something, but she was maybe directed to do too much.  She was distracting, especially at the end.  Though I imagine all her flailing and screaming could be the sign of a flailing and screaming mind.  It just seemed a bit too much, to me.  But watching that video of Baryshnikov’s face—amazing.  The man could be a silent film star.  At one point, he starts to cry, and you see, behind the scrim, his body collapses, just a little, while you’re looking at this extreme close-up of his face.  Wonderfully powerful.

I enjoyed the whole evening, not only the last piece — I think that Beckett’s work was well-presented and it was nice to see Misha all over the place.  He really is magnetic.  You cannot take your eyes off him when he’s onstage.  He’s amazing.  I didn’t really understand the other actors as much, I felt like they were directed to do too much.  Maybe to offset the possibility that no one would bother to look at them whilst on stage with Misha?  Who knows.  I would definitely recommend seeing Beckett Shorts (though I’d try to get a discount if possible).  Extreme close-ups of Baryshnikov's beautifully emotive face is always worthwhile...

Friday, January 12, 2018

Two Films - One Takeaway?

As you all know, I don't write about movies very much.  I don't see many of them and I know even less about film than I do about theater, although I ignore my lack of knowledge and write about theater anyway, ha ha.  But I recently saw two movies that don't really have anything to do with each other, yet, somehow, some thread seems to tie them together in my brain.  I guess I should warn you that spoilers will abound.

Last week, I finally saw Star Wars: The Last Jedi.  I had hoped to see it with my sweetheart when I was home for the holidays, but we never found the time.  Looking at my Facebook timeline from a couple of years ago inspired me to go when I noticed I had seen The Force Awakens at about this same time of year.  I went to see the movie in one of those theaters that have the huge reclining chairs at every seat and you can reserve your ticket.  For some reason, all those recliners just creeped me out, as I had to climb over people to get to my reserved seat at the last minute (I stupidly went to the wrong movie theater - good thing I always try to be really early!  It gave me time to be on time!), and everyone was just reclining.  It reminded me of the scene in Wall-E where the future gross obese humans just ride around in recliners on hoverboards.  Here is where I should admit that I did recline my seat...

I enjoyed The Last Jedi, though I didn't get quite the same thrill from it that I did from The Force Awakens.  Maybe my expectations were a little too high.  I thought the film was maybe 20 minutes too long and ended maybe three times when once would've been enough.  But on the whole, I did enjoy it.  I loved Mark Hamill's performance as a regretful, angry, unapologetic, but still filled with a generous spirit, Luke Skywalker; I cried every time I saw Carrie Fisher on screen and thought that I will never again see that sassy, brilliant, strong woman in a film again; Adam Driver's angst as Kylo Ren really worked for me here; I thought Oscar Isaac just blazed off the screen and Daisy Ridley anchored it; I loved the relationship between Finn and Rose; and though I questioned Laura Dern's costume (it looked like something out of Dune to me), I thought she was magnificent, especially in her moment of supreme sacrifice.

As with The Force Awakens, what I most loved about The Last Jedi was its depiction of a diverse and inclusive universe (well, they could do a little better in terms of sexuality and disability, but ok).  Of course the universe is saved by men, women, aliens, people of all races, species, and anything else they could think of!  That's the world we aspire to, right?  I just love that.  Oh, and of course the people trying to destroy that diverse, inclusive universe is mainly made up of white men.  I'll be coming back to that thought in a bit.

One of my extremely handsome and talented friends is a SAG voter and he very generously took me to a screening of the film Get Out.  I have heard a lot about Get Out throughout the year, and since I've heard it described as a horror film, it wasn't on my list of things to see.  I can't bear horror films or suspense films (well, I can handle some Hitchcock, but that's about it) - the last horror film I attempted to watch was Scream, on tv, since so many of my friends enjoyed it and thought I could get through it because of the humor.  I had to call a friend during the movie to ask who did it so I could turn it off.  I'm just not built for those kinds of movies.  But I thought, hey, I can be brave and see Get Out.  And so I did.

photo credit: Justin Lubin
I will say that the experience of watching Get Out was one thing and thinking about it afterwards has been something else entirely.  I did mostly enjoy watching the film - it has wonderful acting (Daniel Kaluuya in the lead role is amazing, but really, everyone is fantastic) and the story is incredibly engaging with a lot of humor mixed in with the horror/suspense (though I missed probably fifteen of the last twenty minutes: gore, blood, carnage - not my thing. Oh, and the sound effects, ew).  Seeing the world through a black man's eyes, even in a horror/comedy/suspense thriller movie, was simply stunning to me.  And then to think later about other truly scary and horrifying moments, which weren't your standard 'horror movie' moments, just blew me away.

Yes, there were the sneaking-up-behind-someone bits, and the 'what is she doing back there' bits, and the 'hey, that music sounds ominous' bits, but those aren't what will stay with me after seeing Get Out.  The terrifying opening, which turns small-town America on its ear, will stay with me.  The bingo game, that will stay with me. (Honestly, I can hardly even type those words without my chest tightening and tears starting.) The shot of the entitled, privileged white woman calmly selecting her next victim while placidly drinking a glass of white milk through a straw, that will stay with me.  Seeing how the police, who are generally a vision of safety and protection, are part of the terror for black men, that will stay with me. 

So, in my mind, this is how these two films are linked - white men are the bad guys.  Sounds about right to me. That's how the world is working at the moment, at least in this country. They're all (ok, not all, but you know what I mean) so scared of losing their privilege and superiority, and they're just so filled with hate for anyone who doesn't look or act exactly like them, that they're willing to destroy everyone for one moment or one iota of 'winning.'  Have you read Twitter lately?  White men are ENRAGED by The Last Jedi.  A Star Wars movie.  Give me a break.  The thought that women, and people of color, are the ones portrayed as heroes is just despicable to them.  It's crazy.  The fact that the movie is still selling so well is extremely gratifying to me.  I will be even more gratified if Get Out wins all the awards this season.  Preach it, movie makers!  Use your talents as a mirror to maybe wake one person up to the inequality that exists in this world.  Sorry if this is a tortured way to mash up disparate movies to make a point about how disappointed I am in the world, but there you have it.  2018 in a nutshell.  Already. And it's only January.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Review - Farninelli and the King

There are very few theatrical events that I will pay full price for anymore.  I'm fortunate to be able to access discounts for just about anything I want to see (except, of course, for Hamilton, which I'm starting to resign myself to never seeing, or I'll have to wait and see the eventual movie, since I can't afford their full price in any way, shape or form).  But when a new play starring Mark Rylance was announced, I got out my credit card.  Not that I paid top price, mind you, I did sit in the mezzanine, but the seat was fine and I was quite happy with the price/satisfaction ratio.

I'm sure I've mentioned before that I think Mark Rylance is a genius.  His performances in Jerusalem and Twelfth Night are truly two of the best I have ever seen.  Even when the play isn't quite up to his massive talent, he delivers.  And so it was last night at Farinelli and the King - it was a beautiful production, he was incredible, and I had a lovely time.  The play, on the other hand, is a bit more problematic.  At least it was for me.

I should also point out that in addition to wanting to see Mark Rylance in anything he does, I'm also interested in the real Farinelli.  I have no idea why, but one of the first movies I saw when I moved back to New York in 1995 was Farinelli, a Belgian film about the real-life castrato who caught the eye of a king (though that film dealt more with sexual escapades, but still).  Maybe it played at the Biograph, which was a great revival house that also showed foreign films and it was right by my office at the time.  I was known to sneak out at lunch to see movies.  I don't remember it as being a great film, but I did enjoy the music greatly.  So the subject matter of last night's play was even more interesting to me, not just because Rylance was the star.

photo credit: Joan Marcus
Though he IS the star.  THE star.  My goodness, I just marvel at his talent. He is grandly theatrical, yet so real and detailed.  His king Phillippe is clearly mentally ill, trying to hang onto his sanity, but the effort is exhausting him.  The only thing that (temporarily) brings him back to a clear mind is the singing of the famous castrato Farinelli, played by the wonderful Sam Crane.  The two actors have a fantastic rapport and chemisty and you can truly feel their connection when Farinelli sings and the king listens.  Their first scene together is simply fantastic, as they size each other up and try to discover how they can help one another.  One of the cool aspects of the play is that an actual opera countertenor comes on stage to do the singing, dressed identically to Crane - Iestyn Davies is the singer and he is spectacular.  Not only a fantastic singer, he's also a terrific actor and lends a wonderful breeziness to his character, while Crane, as the non-singing Farinelli, has more of a gravitas and self-conscious air.  It's a physical manifestation of someone with great talent having two sides to them - the talent and the public self alongside the private self.  It's really a wonderful conceit.  

photo credit: Joan Marcus
I just reveled in all that beautiful music, played wonderfully by onstage musicians playing period instruments.  The gorgeous set, lit only by candles, and that beautiful music just put me into raptures, as did Rylance.  He and the Farinellis were the best things in the show, I think.  The script rather let everyone else down.  Though it didn't lessen my enjoyment of the evening - I just think I wouldn't need to see other productions of this play starring other people.  The story is an interesting one, about how art can heal and how artists can fail to live up to expectation, but the dialogue in the play is a rather uneasy hybrid of faux-period speech and contemporary language.  You all know I'm not fond of using the f-word just for a laugh and it's done here several times.  Oh, isn't it funny to hear this 18th-century wacky king say f*ck!  After the first shock, no, it isn't all that funny.  At least it wasn't to me.  Anyway.  Of course, Rylance always performs with a twinkle and humor so that was a plus when he got his hands on some truly funny dialogue.

I'm ever so glad I saw Farinelli and the King and it was truly spectacularly beautiful to look at and listen to.  The first act, I think, is better than the second, but the last aria is heart-stopping, so there's that.  I do think the playwright used Rylance and the actors playing Farinelli beautifully, so there's also that.  In the interest of full disclosure, the women on either side of me were bored out of their minds and left at intermission.  I was not unhappy to have more leg room on both sides, I will admit.  And their yuck didn't ruin my yum.  I don't think there are discounts available, but I was marvelously satisfied with my experience last night, discount or no.  I will definitely keep that opera singer's name on my radar and I only hope Rylance comes back to Broadway soon...

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Happy 2018!

photo credit: my mom!
Howdy, everyone!  I hope everyone had a break over the holidays and I hope it was enjoyable!  My two weeks off were mainly very nice - I tried to unplug and succeeded for the most part, though my mom has an unhealthy attachment to the news feature on her phone and kept bringing up unhappy news.  But at least the unhappy news didn't sit in my brain for too long.  I think I'm ready to start a whole new year...

My first show is next week (and I am SO EXCITED ABOUT IT!!!); I'm trying to figure out a way to maintain a responsible budget and still see all the theater I need to see to be happy.  If I'm able to figure it out, I'll be as surprised as anyone.  After the revelations about NYCB and ABT, I'm considering taking ballet out of the equation for the time being, though that might make me more unhappy than the sad news.  I don't know.  I guess there's a lot I'm still sussing out at the start of this new year.

Over the holidays, I mainly spent time with family; did a little shopping with my sister and played board games with my sweetheart.  I did see a couple of movies when I was home, and I also went to a couple of cool holiday events, so I'll do a mini-report, with mostly photos.  There were several other movies I wanted to see over the holidays, but my aunt was back in the hospital, so it was much more important to visit her while I was around than it was to see more films.  She's on the mend again, I'm happy to report, and I'm glad I got to spend some time with her over the last week or so.

My mom and I went to the movies to see The Man Who Invented Christmas, starring Dan Stevens as Charles Dickens and Christopher Plummer as Scrooge.  Clearly, this movie had my name written all over it.  I didn't get to see a live production of A Christmas Carol this year, so this was as close as I could get.  We enjoyed the movie - it was pretty well-done, with attractive production values and good acting.  I enjoyed seeing so much of A Christmas Carol's plot built into Dickens' life, and I got teary at the end, as always.  I'm very glad I saw it and may even buy it when it comes out on DVD to add to my holiday movie collection.  I also saw Kingsman: The Golden Circle (on DVD).  I saw the first film with my nephew the last time I was home and he was especially keen for me to watch this sequel with him.  It was engaging, with vigorous acting and quite a bit of humor (and Colin Firth!), though it's so clear to me these movies are directed by a straight man.  Some the humor is so misogynistic and so sophomoric.  I guess that's why my teenaged sweetheart enjoys them.  But I do like making my sweetheart happy, so I was glad to watch it with him.  Oh, gosh, did I mention earlier that I have seen The Darkest Hour with Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill?  I saw that before I went home for the holidays.  It's probably not the best movie I've ever seen (I just don't think I'm a fan of the director's style), but Oldman is simply fantastic and seeing a movie about WWII is rather rousing right about now.

My family lives near Stan Hywet Hall, which is (according to their website) Akron’s first and largest National Historic Landmark, and is also the nation’s sixth largest historic home open to the public.  Stan Hywet Hall was built between 1912-1915 for F.A. Seiberling and his family (Seiberling co-founded the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company).  I always enjoy visiting Stan Hywet - it's lovely and so well-preserved.  One of the things I usually hate about visiting is that photos aren't permitted in the manor house.  Well, when you go to Stan Hywet for Deck the Halls, their Christmas celebration, you're allowed to take photos!  Wahoo!  I went a little nuts, getting pictures of all of the various trees in all of the various rooms.  My family and I enjoyed touring the house, the conservatory and watching the light show in the gardens.  We were luckily there on a warmish night.  I also enjoyed getting my photo taken with Santa Claus, because...hello.  Santa.  I'll put some photos below.

I also made my parents drive me around neighborhoods so we could look at holiday lights.  I just love to see the lights in small towns - they make me feel happy and festive.  I'm grateful my parents indulge me.  Another holiday outing was to a pop-up bar called That Christmas Bar.  I went with an old pal from my long-gone community theater days.  We had a terrific time - the bar was adorable, small and chock-full of holiday fun, and I loved catching up with my pal.  There was Christmas music and Christmas movies playing on tvs and delicious Christmas cocktails.  I had the Christmas Misery, which was gin, pomegranate juice, lime and something else.  It was quite tasty and quite potent.  I was maybe a little bit tipsy after having such fun.  I would definitely want to go back.

New Year's Eve was spent quietly in my apartment, but the night before was delightful - I had a reunion with my Italy pals!  We recreated all the dishes we learned to make last Thanksgiving (and they were still delicious!) and I think we tried to recreate all the wine we drank over ten days in one night.  We got pretty close (eight bottles is a LOT - I had to go on the wagon for NYE) and I had a blast.  I just love spending time with those fantastic people.  We started ruminating on our next adventure - fingers crossed we can make it happen.  I'm dying to see the world with them!  May 2018 be filled with adventures, tasty cocktails and lots of lights.  I'll try to report on it as faithfully as I can and hope you continue to join me.

tiny plane to home

my parents' beautiful tree

my doggie sweetheart

tree in the courtyard at Stan Hywet - the following photos are from our tour

our annual tradition of Christmas Eve baking

holiday lights around town

inside of That Christmas Bar

decorations everywhere!

handsome pal

bruschetta from our Tuscan cooking lesson



bella amici