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...



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