Month: August, 2007

Living legends

Thursday, August 16th, 2007 | All Things, Arts

At the Music Box Theatre with B tonight to catch Deuce in the final week of its 18-week limited run.


The play, which opened on May 6, 2007 is a two character study of Midge Barker and Leona Mullen — two (fictional) long-retired tennis players, once the most celebrated doubles partners in women’s tennis. The pair, who have not been in contact for the past decade, are reunited to be feted at the U.S. Open. Over the course of their 90-minute conversation – no intermission – their long-held hopes, triumphs, disappointments and heartbreaks are rehashed, towards the goal of some kind of closure. That’s the general idea, anyway. What happens on stage (and it isn’t much) is beside the point; the true raison d’etre of the night could be summed up in two words: Angela Lansbury.

Actually, the whole production carries its share of star power: playwright Terrence McNally is a four-time Tony winner (Master Class, Ragtime, Love! Valour! Compassion!, Kiss of the Spider Woman), the director, Michael Blakemore, a two time honoree (Kiss Me Kate, Copenhagen). Lansbury’s co-star, the wonderful Marian Seldes, is something of a New York institution: a Tony-winner and American Theatre Hall of Fame inductee herself, with a decades-long career on the stage, screen and radio, and on the faculty at Julliard and Fordham.

But it was almost entirely for the much beloved Lansbury that the audience cheered as soon as the curtain rose. Deuce marks the 81-year old’s first time on Broadway since her performance in the 1983 revival of Mame. (She withdrew from Kander and Ebb’s planned Broadway musical version of The Visit – book by McNally — in 2000 to care for her ailing husband, Peter Shaw, who died in 2003.) Until this year’s awards when she lost to Jennifer Ehle (for The Coast of Utopia), Lansbury was the only actress to go undefeated in a Tony competition, having won all four for which she was nominated. In a career spanning over six decades, she may be best known as the star of Murder, She Wrote, the longest-running detective drama in television history. From 1984 to 1996, Jessica Fletcher entertained the geriatric set until CBS moved the show to Thursday nights opposite Friends, sounding the death knell for the long-running drama. (Lansbury, despite bring nominated 18 times for the Emmy, has never won.)

A Viagra joke early in the evening was overshadowed later by the cheap shock of these two ineffably classy thespians trading the c-word (you know: “See you next Tuesday”) in referring to one former husband’s new wife. But nothing could detract from the overall joy of watching the two theater legends banter, even though the wisp of a play by the talented “McDonald’s” McNally – so called for his famed prolificacy — was more amusing than thought-provoking. USA Today likened the performance to “two gems set in pewter.Most reviewers, including the Times‘s Ben Brantley, loved the leads, if not the play – a sentiment with which I could fully agree.

You still rule:

Times Square You Rule

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Introducing ENO

Monday, August 13th, 2007 | All Things, Events

At The Conran Shop again for the United States launch of ENO, Édition Nouveaux Objets, “a collection of smart and eclectic designs for the home.”

The Conran Shop

The hand-picked assortment of 70+ pieces — no plastic allowed — brought together an international mix of 11 new and established designers, including Sebastian Bergne, Paola Navone, Laurence Brabant and Inga Sempé.

ENO launch

There was a MoMA Design store feel to the line: quirky and whimsical pieces like Arik Levy’s Gold Bar Door Stop ($79) and Book Stool – essentially a $39 cotton-nylon belt with which to bind together stacks of catalogues and magazines. Think of all the extra seating I could have in my apartment!

Other practical items included Gijs Bakker‘s $15 Windrider Bicycle Clip – PVC reflective bands used to wrap around a rider’s pants legs to keep them out of the bike chain — and Donata Paruccini’s wall-mounted grouping of large leather balls for hanging clothes.

I especially like these leather basket bowls by Douglas Legg (as it seems do the editors at House and Garden.)

ENO launch

Free-flowing Lillet cocktails added a festive air to the reception, and made everything look that much prettier. No Vesper martinis, though. (“Three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it’s ice-cold, then add a large, thin slice of lemon peel. Got it?“)

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Lord, what fools these mortals be!

Sunday, August 12th, 2007 | All Things, Arts

In a city of 8 million people, crowds are inevitable. I don’t know how many years of her life the average New Yorker spends waiting on line, but I suspect that the figure is easily doubled for avid devotees of Shakespeare in the Park.

Of all the Bard’s works, A Midsummer Night’s Dream‘s forest setting is probably the one best suited to the al fresco treatment at the Delacorte. The comedy was last staged in Central Park the summer of 1991 in a production best remembered for its intermittently nude actors.

Lines of people everywhere! Into the park…

Midsummer Nights Dream

…waiting for stand-by tickets…

Midsummer Nights Standby

…even to the ladies restroom:

Midsummer Nights Ladies Room

SYB’s six hours of waiting scored us seats in the third row, off center, from which we could catch each sleight of hand trick and every mischievous eye twinkle on the stage. SYB’s “line friend” from Romeo and Juliet — we just happened to run into him while entering the theater — didn’t fare quite as well. On the other hand, he did make it into the performance, and (we noticed) was still accompanied by the young woman with whom he had his first date that night back in early June. Awww... Summer of Love indeed.

Tonight’s cast was solid throughout: Keith David (a stage and screen actor whose voice I recognized from the Navy recruitment commercials) cut an imperious figure as Oberon, King of the Fairies. Jay O. Sanders killed as Nick Bottom — as did the rest of the “rude mechanicals”: Tim Blake Nelson as Peter Quince; Ken Cheeseman as Robin Starveline; Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Richie on CBS’s The Class) as Francis Flute; Jason Antoon as Tom Snout; and Keith Randolph Smith as Snug.

Among the confused lovers, Martha Plimpton, recent Tony-nominee and the evening’s highest profile star, was a standout as the cranky, much-abused Helena. I’ve always thought Plimpton was a pretty cool and interesting actress, not just because she was in The Goonies, or because she (too) hates Duane Reade (“I’d rather have a drunk Mr. Gower filling my prescriptions” — ha!), but then she completely won me over with this exchange from a recent New York interview:

What makes someone a New Yorker?
At this point? Having a Duane Reade Club Card. That, and knowing what this means: “Pix! Pix! Pix! Pix! Pix! Pix! Pix! Pix! Pix! Pix!” Winner receives two lamb chops and some buttered egg noodles under a big buck at my house.

Hey, Martha: I know! I know!

Backtracking… more fun in the Park.

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