Month: December, 2007

Things We Want

Friday, December 7th, 2007 | All Things, Arts

December 7, 2007. Yes, long overdue post, but this ties in with The New Group’s second show of the season (Mike Leigh’s Two Thousand Years) which I saw this week:

We were at The Acorn, front row center, for The New Group’s season kick-off production of Things We Want, Jonathan Marc Sherman’s bitterly funny new comedy. The play revolves around the plight of three very different adult brothers living together in their family’s 10th floor apartment, out of whose living room window both parents jumped to their deaths, in two separate incidents. (Granted, the real estate market can be notoriously tough, but you’d think they’d move. To a lower floor, at least.)

Ethan Hawke, about whom I have a lot of ambivalent feelings — loving him, in say, Richard Linklater’s Sunrise/Sunset movies, loathing his pretentious boorish tendencies in just about every other context — directs.

The cast is stellar: frequent Hawke and Sherman collaborator Josh Hamilton is eldest brother Teddy, who begins the play as a hyper-responsible devotee of self-help guru “Dr. Miracle” and his theories about the power of primes to impart life meaning. (Seven chakras, five senses, three words, one goal. Am I the only geek who wanted to point out that, technically, “1” is not a prime number? All right then.) In the year that elapses between acts one and two, during which (surprise, surprise) Dr. Miracle is exposed as a con artist, Teddy’s sanctimoniousness degenerates into a pool of selfish amorality and debauchery. Middle brother Sty, played by the consistently terrific Peter Dinklage (The Station Agent), takes the reverse trajectory: beginning the play as an awesome raging drunk, and maturing into a paragon of responsibility and compassion by way of Alcoholics Anonymous. Paul Dano (best known as the mostly mute brother in Little Miss Sunshine) plays the sensitive, youngest brother Charlie, in the process of recovering from the “heartbreakdown” brought on by being dumped by his culinary school girlfriend. And in the middle of everything — in almost every conceivable sense — is their coquettish downstairs neighbor/fellow-AAer Stella played by rising star Zoe Kazan, granddaughter of renowned On the Waterfront director, Elia Kazan. (Zoe made her Broadway debut in the current revival of William Inge’s 1950 melodrama, Come Back, Little Sheba, reviewed rhapsodically by The Wall Street Journal.)

Things We Want

Things We Want is former wunderkind Sherman’s first new play in nearly a decade, and since he has made no secret of his own troubled history with alcoholism and parental suicide, it is safe to assume that elements of this play are heavily autobiographical. The playwright has a definite knack for sharp comic dialogue, but here the occasional witty turn of phrase (and there are several) do not necessarily add up to fully developed characters, or plausible situations. The Times observed that “[f]or a certain breed of male New Yorker — a type often found at the Tribeca Film Festival or smoking between drinks on sidewalks near Lower East Side hot spotsThings We Want has to have the highest cool quotient of any show in town” and compared it “[i]n plot and sensibility…[to] a high-testosterone equivalent of Crimes of the Heart.”

The Voice critic was less charitable, calling the sight of Hamilton and Kazan in their underwear “the undoubted highlight of Sherman’s play.” (Well… it ain’t bad. Did I mention we had great seats?)

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Norma

Tuesday, December 4th, 2007 | All Things, Arts, Music

Back at the Met Opera tonight for the last performance of my winter season, before resuming with Tristan und Isolde in March.

We were there tonight for Vincenzo Bellini’s Norma, an opera I’d not yet seen, despite its semi-regular rotation in the operatic repertoire. The eponymous lead soprano role in this 19th century Italian work is considered one of the greatest (and most difficult) in the bel canto canon — rife with the passion and melodrama for which opera is known. Norma tells the tragic story of a love triangle: the Druid high priestess has broken her vows of celibacy and borne two children with Pollione, the ruler of the opposing Roman army. After urging her Druid people not to war against the Romans, Norma learns that her lover has been unfaithful with Adalgisa, a young novice priestess — a betrayal which unleashes a torrent of emotions from revenge and despair to love and honor, all of which plays out against a background of war.

Norma precurtain

But somehow, we weren’t feeling it tonight. And after Norma sang her ”Casta Diva,” there seemed little reason to stick it out for the remainder of the evening.

Norma

Later that week, as I was puttering around in the kitchen, I once again heard the familiar strains of that beautiful aria coming from the television. I dashed into the living room just in time to catch the last seconds of a Jean Paul Gaultier Parfums commercial for “Le Male,” featuring the singular voice of La Callas, the most famous Norma of the 20th century.

No telling in what form the Bellini opera will return to New York: Renee Fleming recently abandoned plans to perform her Norma in a new Robert Wilson production for the Metropolitan Opera’s 2011-12 season.

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On Rivington Street

Sunday, December 2nd, 2007 | All Things, Eats, Friends

Three birthday celebrations in one week! This time SC was the honoree, and our destination was the Lower East Side. I learned later that day that in our trek through the New Museum galleries earlier this morning, we had somehow completely missed out on the drawers of candy up for grabs on the top floor during the opening; that’s what we get for bypassing the crowded bright green elevators, in favor of the stairs. (J & J, who were more thorough in their museum tour, brought me a souvenir bag later that evening, crammed with Jolly Ranchers, jawbreakers and other treats, so I was not deprived.)

Had we known about the candy-fest on the Bowery, we probably would not have felt compelled to stop in at Economy Candy on Rivington en route to meeting the rest of our friends down the block. This well-loved family-owned candy shop has been a neighborhood fixture since 1937. The shelves are crammed with almost every type of candy imaginable: a staggering variety of old-time favorites, European sweets and hand-dipped chocolate confections. Gummy brains. Wax lips. Candy cigarettes. Nerds. Pop rocks!

Economy Candy

This was intended as a brief stop, but we each ended up laden with packages on the way to brunch. (The dark chocolate-covered pretzels proved irresistible to me this afternoon.) We did manage not to dip into our stash – for the most part – saving our appetites for Essex and its amazing $16 brunch deal, which includes 3(!) bloody marys, screwdrivers or mimosas. But who’s counting?

B ordered “The Southern” (biscuits, sausage patties & eggs with sausage gravy), which reminded me of the summer’s road trip breakfasts:

Essex brunch

I went for the seared diver scallops, topped with potato pancake and poached eggs. Scallops again! Hmm, maybe this is how rumors get started?

Essex brunch

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