Friday, April 29, 2016

I saw "Bright Star"

What I saw: "Bright Star" at the Cort Theater, on W 45th St between 6th and 7th Avenues

What I wore: Dirty jeans. A shirt of my mother's from the 80s. That Zara cardigan. The noisy boots. 

What I did beforehand:  ate a hamburger and drank a beer.

Who went with me: a lot of white people

How I got tickets: yesterday, using my phone, with special pricing 

Why I saw this show: I was promised bluegrass music

Where I sat: Row H, Seat 9, on the left, behind this woman with like a humungous head and pretty much giant hair that was blonde on the outside and caramel-nougat-colored on the inside and she had like fallen asleep on a train today or something so she had this total sort of bed-head in the back. Actually, it was like she had another face on the back of her head, and it was trying to see, and it was looking at me instead of the show.

Things that were sad: the woman next to me was crying in response to the last song; both of the women behind me were crying, too.

Things that were funny: that I went to a show billed for its sweetness and sentimentality

Things that were not funny: there was an unnecessary banjo joke, and a pretty tasteless joke about the use of "they" as a singular person pronoun.

What it is: a musical in two acts, with an intermission. Smooth, shiny and polished, with masterful staging and seamless transitions. The band is onstage, and the actors voices were amplified to near-perfection, although this night I witnessed three glitches.  

Who should see it: people who like their Broadway musicals flavored with American country music, people who like really, really happy endings, people who reminisce about an imaginary American past where the south was just a string of charming small towns, like precious pearls on a string, full of white, God-fearing people just trying to live respectably.

What I saw on the way home: people, cabs, an ambulance, trash.

Monday, April 25, 2016

I was sick

What I saw: mostly, the cat

What I wore: pajamas for days;  shirts that I found draped on the backs of chairs; inside-out sweatshirts

What I did beforehand: welcomed my sick husband home from a business trip, where, he said, one of his colleagues showed up sick.

Who went with me: Schwartz, who probably prefers me sick

How I got tickets: getting sick requires no tickets in advance

Why I saw this show: I think, really, that getting sick is part of the human condition

Where I sat: in bed

Things that were sad: running out of tea; not being able to sleep; waking up too early; aches and coughing; missing normal weekend things; being visited by Team Hatred, who ran over our second "Bernie for President" sign and gave us a bit of a lawn job

Things that were funny: the dog freaking out about the thunder

Things that were not funny: the neighbors have a "Hillary for President" sign that's been up for months and no one has stolen it or run it over.

What it is: an upper respiratory infection or perhaps the flu

Who should see it: no one

What I saw on the way home: 

Sunday, April 24, 2016

I saw "The Place We Built"

What I saw: "The Place We Built," a play in two acts, with a fifteen minute intermission, at the Flea Theater, 41 White St., in TriBeCa 

What I wore: the black jeans that are really too long, the short boots with noisy heels, brown jersey top, long black Eileen Fisher cardigan which I'm ready to send to the cleaners and set aside in a moth-proof zippered bag until November but I'm still wearing to go out at night, darn it, because I don't know what else to wear; red linen scarf that I bought a few years ago intending to give it to a friend for her birthday but I ended up keeping for myself.

What I did beforehand: rode the downtown A train

Who went with me: the Bacon Provider, in tan pants and shoes

How I got tickets: online, with a slight discount, thanks to the Flea Theater's general admission pricing, where I guess tickets are cheaper the further in advance that you buy them.

Why I saw this show: I like the Flea Theater; we used to live next to their rehearsal space. 

Wine Threat
Where I sat: in the front, on the end, in a chair with very short legs, in front of some people who thought the chairs were uncomfortable, and near a young guy who responded audibly to a number of things in the play that he found too intense to allow to go without comment. On my other side was my husband, and next time him, a guy who brought a tiny flimsy plastic cup of wine into the theater and threatened repeatedly to spill it. Expecting him to finish the cup of wine in the fifteen minutes before the lights went down, we were disappointed to see that he intended to balance it in one hand, aiming for my husband's tan pants, for the duration of the first act. 

Things that were sad: democracy's kind of a bitch when the ultra-nationalist right wing has a two-thirds majority and your prime minister rewrites the constitution every couple of years 

Things that were funny: afterwards, at dinner, there was a woman at a table next to us who I did not see eat anything. I mean, she didn't even have stains on the paper where her crumbs would have been. She sipped from her glass of ice water and ignored her full glass of red wine. When it came time for dessert, she ordered a cup of hot water.

Things that were not funny: when the woman with the cup of hot water spilled the whole glass of red wine that she had not been drinking and it splashed on my husband's tan pants and shoes.

What it is: a play about Hungary, and freedom of assembly and expression, and, also, about the indelibility of Hungarian anti-semitism. There are several songs performed, and these are the very best parts of the play. I think the show needs many more songs, especially the already strong final scene. 

Who should see it: red wine drinkers, fans of creepy puppet shows about politicians, anti-anti-semites

What I saw on the way home: Afterwards, we had a reservation at the Odeon, on West Broadway. When we lived in this neighborhood, this was our favorite don't-know-where-to-eat restaurant, and we hadn't been back in a couple of years now. I spent a little time in the afternoon before the show thinking about what I wanted to order. When we got to the restaurant, we were 25 minutes past our reserved spot, and though I'd been told this wouldn't be a problem when I made the reservation, they had given away our table and only had something quite small to squeeze us into. The Bacon Provider, still traumatized by the red wine threat, worsened by the panic of perhaps losing our reservation, sat down and announced that he wasn't hungry. Somehow, though, the arrival of oysters and french bread with butter got him in the mood, and by the end of the meal I managed to convince him to have some dessert even. And, readers, they have tiny hot freshly made spoon-shaped doughnuts, served with raspberry puree and maple dipping sauce. Yes, the wine spilling was regrettable.
1978 Jackie Chan

But anyway on the A train back uptown there was 1978 Jackie Chan and the very fly, time-traveling detective pursuing him in the hopes of joining modern day Jackie Chan in restoring the rift in the time-space continuum before it's too late.

White satin pants wearing time traveler

Saturday, April 16, 2016

I saw "Hold On to Me Darling"

What I saw: "Hold on to me Darling" at the Atlantic Theater on W 20th St., off-broadway (or, off-off-Broadway) in Chelsea, NYC

What I wore: James jeans, black suede Puma sneakers, black Brooks Brothers no-iron cotton blouse, black Zara cardigan with self-tie that I've had for ages and is the only item I've ever bought from Zara that didn't fall apart after one wearing; 90s scarf from my mother, who died 12 years and a couple of days ago; tan Barbour jacket.

Two Trinity Kumquat Saisons

What I did beforehand: stared in silence as I saw Joe Tippet and Theo Stockman on their way to their respective theaters; went to the crowded mall that is Chelsea Market for a sandwich, and may or may not have actually seen Ira Glass; waited for the show and had two Trinity Kumquat Saisons at a place called Cooper's while we took the place of the most famous people in the back bar; noticed that some young people of legal drinking age appear not to be old enough to hold job.

Who went with me: my good friend W., who should continue to come see a play with me once a month.

How I got tickets: online, full-price

Why I saw this show: because it was written by Kenneth Lonergan 

Where I sat: Row G, seat 11

Things that were sad: though billed as a comedy, this play is filled with bittersweet moments about mid-life ennui, about the decline of the American middle class, about grief and mourning, about overcoming the loss of a less-than-perfect parent, and about bad decisions.

Things that were funny: Lonergan's writing has the kind of humor that isn't so much about laying down the rhythm track of  peals of audience laughter as it is about teasing out a ballad of muffled guffaws.

Things that were not funny: a guitar is injured in the performance.

What it is: a well-crafted and satisfying funny play, in two acts, with a fifteen minute intermission.

Who should see it: fans of hearing brilliant dialog and reasonably accurate Missouri and Tennessee accents.

What I saw on the way home: the uptown E was waiting for us, doors open.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

I saw "White Rabbit Red Rabbit"

What I saw: "White Rabbit Red Rabbit" at the Westside Theater Downstairs, 407 W 43rd, NYC

What I wore: mascara, earrings, two silver bracelets and watch; tall Fluevog boots (to cover the apricot-sized hole in my tights); navy eShakti dress with 3/4 sleeves, draped neck, and a bird embroidered on the skirt; tan cashmere Boden cardigan that reminds me of my Aunt Mary (the one who lived with my grandparents); grabbed my black Northface raincoat at the last minute because it was raining.

What I did beforehand: ate spicy ramen and tried (and failed) to drink a Japanese beer that tasted like soap

Who went with me: the Graduate, because the Bacon Provider left at noon for a business trip #neverstopsworking

How I got tickets: online, a month ago, when tickets were still available

Why I saw this show: A show you're not supposed to learn about in advance?! A show with a different starring actor each week?! A show I'm not going to be able to give my readers any details about?! Yes, all around.

What it is: I have been asked not to say what it is.  I can say that every time this show is performed, a different actor does it, receiving the script in an envelope onstage at the beginning. Last week I saw Mike Birbiglia's show, and this week, he was the actor in this play. This was a coincidence. 

Where I sat: third row, left

I got a papercut on my pinky but you can't see it

Things that were sad: Sometimes, when I see someone I want to point out to the person I am with, I'll point the person out and say, "Oh, look, Elvis Presley," even though, you know, Elvis is dead and has been totally dead for like a pretty long time. It's not a very funny joke, I guess, but it's something I've done for so long I don't know if I'd be able to stop if I wanted to. The other, even more annoying thing I used to do, but did stop doing was saying, "Oh, look, your date is here."

Things that were funny: Ira Glass was in our audience, but when Mike Birbiglia said something about it, I thought somehow he was making the same, dumb joke that I do, saying, because someone looks like Ira Glass, "Oh, hey, look, Ira Glass." 

Things that were not funny: Mike Birbiglia is much funnier than me.

Who should see it: There are things about New York that make it much too hard for ordinary people to live there. For one thing, it's unreasonably expensive. For another thing, ordinary everyday things you have to do to live, like buying food or going outside, can be intensely crowded and smelly and generally terrible. If you ask anyone who says they love New York why they love New York, they will give you a list of things that is exactly the same as the list I might give you of things I hate about New York. But, if, somehow, you have to live in New York, or near New York, or you've been magicked into thinking you should visit New York, you should actually attend as much in the way of live theater (and/or music and dance) as you can. Because only in a city as fantastically harsh as New York could you, in the darkness of a slightly shabby theater in a moderately uncomfortably and definitely overpriced seat, experience a few moments of utterly transformative performance. Or, then again, it might suck. But at least you'll get a blog post out of it.

Only assholes take pictures while they drive

What I saw on the way home: The Saw Mill Parkway is closed for construction at night somewhere north of Harrison, so every time I come back late from now until July, I'm going to have to go through the detour, or go around the detour. Last night I attempted to go around the detour. The navigator in my car tried to send me back through the roads that are clearly closed, even showing the closed sections with a giant red circle with an X in the middle. Maybe next time I'll try the detour the construction crews have set out for me. Or, I won't. I imagine that I will do it differently every time.

Friday, April 8, 2016

I saw "Thank God for Jokes"

What I saw: Mike Birbiglia's "Thank God for Jokes" at the Lynn Redgrave Theater, 45 Bleecker Street in NoHo, NYC

What I wore: pale purple Eileen Fisher long-sleeve jersey top that is starting to seem too small; long, sleeveless Vince cardigan that is ombre-dyed purple at the top and black at the bottom and it came with this stretchy elastic belt that fits into tiny belt loops that place it right up under my boobs and so obviously I've never worn it with the belt and honestly where is that belt anyway; favorite SkarGorn Thorn slouchy jeans that I bought in San Francisco back when I thought we were moving to California; Danner belt, real dangly purple titanium earrings that were a gift from my mother in the 80s; Dubarry boots that I bought at a horseshow at Thunderbird in Langley, B.C. in the early 2000s from an Irish salesperson who was standing in a tub of water to demonstrate the water-proofing. Someone asked me to take a selfie and I tried but I looked like an asshole in both attempts.

What I did beforehand: drove to the city, and did not almost get run off the Saw Mill Parkway by a white SUV, NY license number CMP-27** that tried to do that on Wednesday. Took the 7 from the new station at 34th St. to the downtown 6. Got coffee at Gasoline Alley. Sat on a bench and watched people do NoHo. 

Who went with me: my friend, who I've known 18 years, and her new-ish girlfriend, who is so much better than the sum of the parade of crummy boyfriends she had over the years that I almost don't want to say anything about it here.

How I got tickets: online, full price, though my guests paid for dinner afterward at Siggy's on Elizabeth Street

Why I saw this show: because Mike Birbiglia is funny, and I heard that Ben Stiller and Nathan Lane liked this show, too.

Where I sat: third row, with empty seats in front of me. Those no-shows missed out big time.

Things that were sad: When Mike Birbiglia asked the audience if anyone had ever been arrested, a guy in the front row said he was, for "hurting someone." Mike pursued the story's details, and revealed that someone kicked the guy's dog on the street in Chelsea, and both Mike and the audience thought he was sort of a hero for "hurting someone." Then, it turned out a cop saw it, handcuffed him (which is why he said he got arrested), put him in the NYPD cruiser, drove around the corner and let him go. The guy was white, of course. 

Things that were funny: all 80 minutes

Things that were not funny: whether the toilets in the ladies room were actually going to successfully flush was an issue of some stress for the lady-people using them. Also, I told a story at dinner afterwards about a pair of $410 red Italian sneakers that I found online and because the Bacon Provider had joined us for dinner, he is now trying to convince me to get them.

What it is: an absolutely solid hour and a half of conversational stand-up, woven into stories from Mike B's life

Who should see it: fans of Twitter, fans of Mike Birbiglia, people who went to Catholic school who can tolerate a little bit of cussing, Mike's mom

What I saw on the way home: we had dinner at Siggy's around the corner, and were the last to leave. The subway stop nearby had a sign about nighttime uptown closures, requiring riders to catch a downtown train and switch and that seemed way more complicated than catching a cab. So we took a cab, and I was carsick.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

I saw "Familiar"

What I saw: "Familiar," at Playwrights Horizons, Main Stage at 416 W 42nd St. in NYC

What I wore: quilted black Barbour parka (for the second time this winter), favorite black Fluevog "Guides," Wolford fishnet knee-highs that are totally worth the price, the way-too-long black jeans, Lilith silk blouse that is cream with tiny faces on it, and no makeup at all because I ran out of time

What I did beforehand: ate a lobster roll at one of the food vendors at City Kitchen. I had rootbeer

Who went with me: a new friend from the new barn

How I got tickets: online, full price (and my friend reimbursed me, so now I have a coat-pocket full of cash, woo hoo)

Why I saw this show: to the extent that a living playwright can, Danai Gurira has captured people's attention;  I got this text from a friend who saw an interview with her and she was all, "You should see her plays," and I'm like, yeah, ok. Also, I was looking for something family-dram-comedy but not too dysfunctional-family-ish to see with a new friend that might not appreciate, say, blood explosions or plays about rape victims.

Where I sat: Row E, seat 14, between my friend and a pair of ladies of a certain age who howled and laughed at all the same things as me

What it is: a funny drama, set in a midwestern American home, by Danai Gurira, performed in two acts, with one 15 minute intermission. The multi-racial cast of eight was the first cast that seemed to me to have the perfect actor in each role. 

Things that were sad: remembering my own wedding dramas insofar as they resembled the ones portrayed

Things that were funny: the play has a lot of laughs built in

Things that were not funny: I was promised, by a guy seated behind me at "American Psycho," that "Eclipsed" was the better and more important of Danai Gurira's plays in production right now. I disagree. He did, however, tell me I had excellent taste in plays when I told him "Hungry" was the best play I'd seen this spring.

Who should see it: fans of Danai Gurira, people from Minnesota, artists who feel their families don't understand them, anyone with a sister who has unexpectedly embraced Christianity, people from Zimbabwe, people who have relatives in other countries

What I saw on the way home: garbage

Sunday, April 3, 2016

I saw "Eclipsed"

What I saw: "Eclipsed," a play by Danai Gurira at the Golden Theater on W 45th

Crowded sidewalk, W 45th, NYC
What I wore: the same thing I wore this other time except I got sweaty walking around and had to change to a black blouse 

What I did beforehand: ate 13 slices of manchego and a handful of peanuts

Who went with me: a particularly grumpy Bacon Provider

How I got tickets: online, full-price

Why I saw this show: I read good things about Danai Gurira's plays, and thought that I might dig an all-women cast; I did. Now, I have been reading about Liberia and am on the lookout for a good book written by a Liberian author.

Where I sat: front row, center, amongst some east and west coast arts administrators. At intermission, the man closest to me asked the woman he was with if the child seated next to him was a boy or a girl. I did not hear her reply. The child had a dark-blonde, dyed mohawk, and a couple of earrings and was with the couple on the end, from L.A. Why, I wonder, did he need to know.

Things that were sad: This play features five women enduring civil war in Liberia, and though the word "rape" is used infrequently, it is central to everything that happens. 

Things that were funny: Wife #3, cunningly played by the effusive Pascale Armand, is tragically hilarious, irresistibly complaining, and deliciously deceitful. She is my favorite female character since I started the "I saw" project. 

Things that were not funny: I mean. I think Liberia was dreamed up as a solution by early American white supremacists as a place to send freed slaves. Their constitution and flag are modeled on ours. Maybe they were never colonized, but their recent civil wars spanned 14 years. Today's Liberia is notable for its low literacy rates (33% among women), very high risk of infectious disease, lack of sanitation and clean drinking water, high infant and maternal mortality, and short life expectancies. This play dramatizes how rape was deployed as a weapon against women in wartime.

What it is: a play with one, fifteen-minute intermission, with a strong cast, including an Academy-award winning actress

Who should see it: people prepared to laugh despite dire circumstances, people who want to see plays written by women, people who want to see plays with female actors, people who are not especially sensitive to portrayals of rape victims or casual descriptions of repeated sexual abuse by soldiers.

What I saw on the way home: On the next block of W 45th, the sidewalk was too crowded for us to make headway; the audience from "Kinky Boots" was spewing from a theater. So, we walked in the street.