Other Desert Cities by Jon Robin Baitz,
Directed by Joe Mantello,
A Lincoln Center Theater production,
Booth Theatre, 225 West 45th St, NY
Jan 25th, 2012
New York, NY: This play was the fifth production I saw in my New-York-one-week-seven-play marathon. Amidst some really great theatre, this was the show that I found the most compelling. The story was gripping and the characters were fully developed and utterly believable.
Although I enjoy all the varied theatrical genres, my favorite form of play is one with a strong dramatic script where stakes are high and the arc of evolution of the characters is meaningful. I thus found it especially interesting to compare the emotional impact of the two dramas I saw back to back, namely Seminar and Other Desert Cities. Both plays dealt, albeit from different perspectives, with the way the creative act of writing and the written product, book or story, impacts both writer and reader. Both plays had first class acting and great production values, set, lighting, costumes etc but of the two plays, only Other Desert Cities had the "wow" factor for me; getting me right in the guts. I think the difference lies in the scripts.
Conceived and directed by Anne Bogart
Created and performed by Will Bond,
Text adapted by Jocelyn Clark
Bessie Schonberg Theatre at New York Live Arts
Jan 19 to 29, 2012
New York, NY: Inspired by the work of avant-garde theatre director, Robert Wilson, Bob is a homage to a man whose career in the theatre pushed the boundaries of performance though movement and manipulation of space and time. Commissioned by the Wexner Center for the Arts at Ohio State University, after it premiered in February 1998, the show moved to New York in April 1998, where it garnered Obies for both Lighting and Sound Design. In honor of Wilson's 70th birthday in 2011, SITI brought the show back to the stage for a limited run at New York Live Arts.
Although I had heard much about the teaching of SITI Company, their summer intensive programs, and their workshops in Viewpoints and Suzuki training, I had not until now had the opportunity to see a SITI production. So when I realized that Bob was on during the week I was in New York, I leapt at the opportunity to get tickets. I loved the show and watching Bond's elegantly controlled performance gave me a visceral understanding of the creative process in a way that I could not get from merely reading about it.
Seminar by Theresa Rebeck,
Directed by Sam Gold,
January 24th, 2012
New York, NY: I had seven time slots to see theatre during my week in New York, and so many tantalizing possibilities to chose from. Seminar was one of my first choices, both for the subject matter, namely a workshop for young aspiring writers, and for the rare opportunity to see Alan Rickman on stage. Rickman and the other four cast members performed superbly, the on-stage energy and chemistry of the ensemble was remarkable and the design aspects were as excellent as I would expect of a Broadway production.
Yet I did not have a "wow - I really want to see this again" response to this play and I left feeling vaguely disappointed. The next day I saw a matinee performance of Other Desert Cities and this helped clarify what for me was missing in Seminar. I think the fundamental problem lies in the script which lacks tension and and is populated by shallow, facile characters.
Sleep No More
Directed by Felix Barrett and Maxine Doyle
Designed by Barrett, Livi Vaughan and Beatrice Minns
Choreography by Doyle
Sound Design by Steven Dobbie
Lighting Design by Barrett and Euan Maybank
Costume Design by David Israel Reynoso
An Emursive and Punchdrunk production
McKittrick Hotel, New York
Held over till March, 2012
One of the hottest theatre tickets in town is the audience immersive experience, Sleep No More. Sleep No More is the creation of Punchdrunk, a British dance Company who originated the show in London in 2003, bringing it to Boston and then to New York. Loosely, very loosely, based on Macbeth, with elements of film noir and Rebecca thrown in, it is physical theatre set in "found space." in this case the setting is the abandoned McKittrick Hotel in Chelsea. The audience, each person wearing a mask, and bound to keep silent at all times follows actors around as the various stories unfold. Its New York run has been extended several times and is currently set to run to March 24th, 2012.
We arrived for our 7 PM time slot on a freezing cold night. We lined up on the snow covered pavement outside the entrance to the old McKittrick Hotel. To quote from the Sleep No More website "Completed in 1939, the McKittrick Hotel was intended to be New York City's finest and most decadent luxury hotel of its time. Six weeks before opening, and two days after the outbreak of World War II, the legendary hotel was condemned and left locked, permanently sealed from the public. Until now..." Tantalizing - because nowhere could I find any details about the building as a hotel and why the hotel was condemned.
Last night I saw Yasmin Reza's play, God of Carnage, with Jeff Daniels, Hope Davis, James Gandolfino and Marcia Gay Harden.
Tomorrow I am seeing the Keith Huff' play, with Daniel Craig and Hugh Jackman, called A Steady Rain. And how appropriate. This morning I woke to see a heavy rain pelting against the window. Up till now the weather has been wonderful but I guess New York has finally realized that it's not summer any more.
I had originally planned to wander around among the stores in SOHO but without any rain gear and boots I did not feel like venturing out into the wet. I don't really have to go out until 2 to get uptown for my dance class. The weather forecast predicts light rain tomorrow morning , clearing for Sunday and nice on Monday- but on Monday I will be on my way home to Vancouver.
Although Mike had given me an umbrella, I really did not have suitable rain gear with me and by the time I got to the studio for my 3 pm lesson I was soaked. I changed out of my damp jeans into a dance dress and put on my shoes. I was delighted to find that my feet had finally shrunk back to size 4.5.
I had arranged to meet Mike later at the studio for his regular lesson and then we were going out for supper. But after my lesson it was still raining so hard that rather than venture out to window shop I just settled down with my notebooks and my lap top and caught up with my writing.
When Mike arrived, his teacher, Oleksandra was running a few minutes late so we had time to chat. We decided we would have a lesson together so we worked on some chacha, and leads and follows. it was almost half past eight by the time the class was over and I changed back into my damp jeans and other shoes. I thanked Yuriy for the lessons - I really enjoyed them - and said goodbye to both of them.
It was still raining when Mike and I left the studio so we decided to get a cab down to the East Village.
For dinner that evening, Mike had planned to take me to one of the typical new restaurants that have opened up in the re-gentrified East Village. The area attracts a lot of young people, and the bars and restaurants are humming, high energy places.
But when we made our reservation for Perbacco, the hot new Italian restaurant on E 4th Street, between Aves. A and B, Mike and I failed to take a few factors into account.
Firstly eating dinner at 9 would mean eating three hours later than my usual dinner time, so I was really hungry and quite tired from 3 hours of dance. Secondly what in Mike's view is vibrant and high energy, to me as loud and crowded.
After waiting quite a few minutes for a table we were seated at a rather small table against the wall. There were tables of four on either side of us and little space between us. I felt crowded and uncomfortable. The lighting was very low - ambiance I suppose -but I simply could not read the menu in the poor lighting. So I felt distinctly grumpy - not my usual state at all
But worse was to come. Mike decided we needed a good bottle of red wine and we got a nice 2006 Montepulciano. After the waiter had just filled my glass, in an attempt to move my purse to make more room, I managed to knock my glass of red wine onto the floor. Glass shattered, expensive wine on the floor, and I was feeling like an clumsy idiot. I actually can't remember when I ever spilled a glass of wine in a restaurant before. Not in the last thirty years!
What to do? I wanted to have a nice relaxed dinner with Mike so we could both unwind, and discuss all the theater I had seen and my restaurant experiences. And here I was instead feeling irritable and edgy.
There was only one solution.First I rapidly drained the wine that the waiter had poured into the replacement glass. Then as a warm glow began to radiate through my body I chowed down on bread dipped in olive oil, sat back and relaxed and got Mike to read me the menu items..
Gradually the alcohol soothed my jangled neurons, and I settled down to enjoy the meal. We ended up having a very pleasant meal.
Emily by Chris Cragin Directed by Steve Day Firebone Theater Theatre Row, 42nd St, NY September 13, 2009
New York, NY: I had only the vaguest knowledge about the life of Emily Dickinson, who posthumously came to be considered one of America's major poets. I knew that in her latter years she had become reclusive and eventually did not leave her house but I knew little else of her history. So I eagerly anticipated my visit to Theatre Row to see this new play by emerging playwright, Chris Cragin.
Theatre Row is a great asset for smaller theatre companies. It houses 5 theatres ranging in seating capacity from 55 to 199 seats. I saw Ascension, an excellent production, in The Lion on my last visit, and Emily is running in The Kirk. It is a long narrow theatre that seats about 90 people and it was almost full. Nice for a Sunday matinee of a new play.
The Retributionists by Daniel Goldfarb Directed by Leigh Silverman Playwrights Horizons Theatre, New York Through September 27th, 2009
New York, NY: The World Premiere of The Retributionists, a new play by Daniel Goldfarb, is presently being staged at Playwrights Horizon, which like our own much smaller Vancouver Playwrights Theatre Centre, is dedicated to supporting and developing playwrights and their works. The production offically opens Monday, September 14 when I will be back in Vancouver, but I managed to catch it in preview. Goldfarb, who is originally from Toronto, obtained a BFA and MFA from NYU, and now lives in New York and teaches at NYU.
Back in Manhattan after an awesome dance-filled Labour Day Getaway Cruise, feeling great except for my tired feet. I am ready for another 5 days of dance, theatre and fine food. First thing on the agenda will be to pick up a pair of practice shoes for the next couple of lessons. Somehow on board ship my feet must have grown from a dainty size 4½ to something huge. By the end of the voyage I felt like one of Cinderella's sisters, trying to squeeze my foot into a shoe that was suddenly far too small. Oh well, no prince for me I guess.
I plan to spend the rest of the day catching up on writing, laundry and planning my feasts for mind and body for my remaining days in the city.
Wednesday, September 9th - No Gill, you're not in a Bruce Willis movie !
I guess it was bad karma for being amused at the lady in the elevator who was scared of heights but my day started out with a bang - literally. I have only two phobias - I shudder at fluttering things like butterflies and moths - and I have a mild degree of claustrophobia. While my ultimate claustrophobic nightmare would be to be in a submarine, being trapped in an elevator would come pretty close. And guess what happened.
With my day planned out to the minute - subway to Times Square, pick up theatre tickets, visit Worldtone dance shop, have lunch, go to dance lesson, have supper, see play - I was feeling quite the jaunty travel-writer as I waited for the elevator on the 11th floor of my building. After all I had sort of mastered the routes I needed on the New York subway, only turned in the wrong direction about 5 times, and was comfortable finding my way around the various areas of Manhattan where I needed to go. After all in theory with an intelligently numbered grid system even a directionally challenged person should hardly stray too far wrong. But back to the elevator.
So the elevator comes, I enter and press the button for the Lobby. Doors close, the elevators starts to move - and I hear a loud bang. The elevator drops precipitously and then stops. My stomach continues downward. Oh Oh. I look at the indicator - it still says 11 and it is not moving. I press the Door Open button - no response. Something was definitely wrong but an intrepid world traveller does not panic, even a claustrophobic world traveller.
Burn The Floor
Directed and choreographed by Jason Gilkison
Longacre Theater,220 West 48th St., New York
Till January 3rd, 2010
New York, NY: As a reviewer, I think it important that my readers know the biases and foibles that influence my writing. So before I write another word about the show itself, I have two confessions to make.
Number one is that there is no way I can be even remotely objective about this production. I am an unrepentant ballroom dance addict (doing as well as watching) and my summary of this show is that I loved it, loved it, loved it - yup, I really really loved it.
A Steady Rain by Keith Huff Directed by John Crowley Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, 236 West 45th St., NY Sept 12 In preview: opening September 29th, 2009
New York, NY. Two men seated on an otherwise empty stage - the playing space surrounded by black drapes, briefly opened to reveal tall buildings on either side of a dark alley, or briefly lluminated to create the illusion of a forest. No props, no fancy set, nothing to draw our attention away from the two Chicago beat cops, relating the events of a summer when the rain poured incessantly and the world as they knew it came crashing down on them.
A Steady Rain runs about 90 minutes without intermission, and I was mesmerized for the entire time. The play is still in preview, which started two days ago, but Daniel Craig (Joey) and Hugh Jackman (Denny) produced outstanding performances, worthy of Keith Huff's well crafted script. The play was directed by John Crowley, whose work I last saw in the 2005 Broadway production of Martin McDonagh's The Pillowman.