Month: February, 2007

To sleep, perchance to dream

Tuesday, February 6th, 2007 | All Things, Arts, Eats, Film

SN just didn’t trust that the vegetarian ramen broth at Menchanko Tei was entirely pork-free, so we decamped a few doors west to Tang Pavilion, a restaurant I must have walked past dozens of times without ever dining inside even once.

I tend to eat my Chinese meals in Chinatown (Downtown Manhattan or Flushing); the Midtown focus on such niceties as a sommelier and dining room captain don’t particularly enhance a meal for me, and in some ways, almost detract from my enjoyment of the authentic pleasures. Which is certainly not to say that some solid Chinese food can’t be had outside of the ethnic enclaves. I like a pretty room as much as the next person; I suppose I’m usually just more focused on the food than on the decor.

Tang Pavilion’s reviews vary pretty widely, so I was entirely unsurprised by the average-ness of my meal that night. To be fair, I did not order from the recommended Shanghai menu, which features such chef specialties as braised baby eel and drunken chicken. If nothing else, though, the hushed calm of the dining room (free of clanking dishes and shouting waiters) gave us a chance to catch up in relative peace.

After dinner, I was among the few intrepid (read: foolhardy) enough to brave the frigid temperatures to check out multimedial artist Doug Aitkin’s sleepwalkers at the MoMA. The museum partnered with Creative Time, a New York-based public art organization, to commission, curate and present the large-scale installation. From January 16 through February 12, Aitken made a canvas of MoMA’s exterior walls, projecting the interwoven stories of five city dwellers on eight façades, transforming the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden into a vast outdoor multiplex.


Each of the film vignettes follows a single character through one night in New York City, taking viewers to diverse locations throughout the city’s five boroughs, including the abandoned 19th century Atlantic Avenue subway tunnel, the heliport atop the MetLife Building (closed after a fatal 1977 accident back when it was known as the PanAm Building), a postal sorting facility in Queens, an ice skating rink in Staten Island, and behind the neon lights of Times Square. The characters move from the solitude of their personal and professional lives into the chaotic richness of their urban existence: a businessman, a busker, a postal worker, an office worker, and a maintenance man. The New Yorkers are played by Donald Sutherland, Tilda Swinton, Chan Marshall (Cat Power — hurray!), Seu Jorge, and street drummer Ryan Donowho (whom Aitken met in the subway.) The films taken as a whole have the feel of an urban symphony for the digital era, its characters rendered through the cityscape itself, silent but for the real-life soundtrack of the shouts, murmurs, rumbling cars and shuffling feet — and tonight: chattering teeth — of Midtown.






Aitken gives the banal moments a surreal beauty, underscoring the loneliness and forced connectedness of urban life: utter hopelessness and ultimate possibility, ever-reaching connectedness and aching loneliness.

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The Real Deal

Monday, February 5th, 2007 | All Things, Arts

Back at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater on the final day of the Dirty Works Festival, featuring staged readings of new works and works in progress. 

We took our seats early, which afforded us the opportunity to observe the players before showtime: one lounging on the floor stage right, another scarfing down his dinner, the others taking last minute notes from director Lou Moreno and playwright Sam Marks. Fellow alum GK was in the ensemble again, and in fine form, playing a character slightly less unbalanced than the last time.  Slightly.

The Real Deal

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Super Bowl Sunday 2007

Sunday, February 4th, 2007 | All Things, Arts, Friends, NYC History

At the Public Theater for this month’s installment of 365 Days, 365 Plays — the yearlong, nationwide staging of works by Suzan-Lori Parks, who wrote one play a day from Nov. 13, 2002 to Nov. 12, 2003. (Hence the festival’s title.) Beginning November 13, 2006, nearly 700 theaters in more than 30 cities around the country began presenting Park’s plays. The drama experiment was the subject of features on both NPR and PBS.

Parks is the author of nine full-length plays, including Topdog/Underdog for which, in 2002, she became the first black woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. She is also the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship genius grant.

I had missed out on the last two installments, so this time around I made sure to arrive at the theater early enough to secure a seat. No problem at all: the bone-chilling cold seemed to have kept many people at home that afternoon… plus there was that whole “Super Bowl” thing going on…

The 365 plays are distributed among theater companies in one week batches; the selected groups produce their own seven-play assignments, and the first Sunday of every month through mid-November 2007, the Public hosts a show in which each of the previous four weeks’ worth of plays are presented in one sitting.

So this afternoon, I sat back to take in 29 plays over two hours — Parks wrote two for Groundhog Day, naturally. The pieces varied widely in length and in subject; so too did the staging concepts by the 4 (of 65 participating) New York City theater groups: The New Group, Clubbed Thumb, Ars Nova and Barrow Street Theatre. Some scripts featured just two characters, others entire companies; some were acted out on a barren stage, others featured elaborate AV props and musical numbers; some pieces seemed date-specific, others were set in the distant past, or in an alternate reality.

Astor Place at dusk, the site of an 1849 riot in which 22 people were killed outside the old Astor Place Opera House after a performance of Macbeth — the result of an ongoing thespian quarrel that catalyzed latent class tensions in 19th century Manhattan.

Astor Place

And then the long ride out to Queens for SYB’s party. Super Bowl XLI — that’s 41 for the roman-numerically challenged — Colts vs. Bears.

Queensboro Plaza

I made it to Sunnyside in time to hear Billy Joel sing the national anthem, after which I caught up with the newlyweds over cassoulet and brie. Made it through two quarters just to catch Prince’s halftime show, which was awesome, though I didn’t quite understand the random assortment of covers: Creedence Clearwater Revival, Bob Dylan and the Foo Fighters (?!) But The Artist can still shred a mean guitar, and by “Purple Rain” — in the rain! – I was glad I stuck it out, phallic shadow show or no.

Oh, the drama.

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