Tag: Dylan Thomas

Under Milk Wood

Friday, February 8th, 2008 | All Things, Arts

This winter has seen a couple of productions of the works of Welsh poet Dylan “Do not go gentle into that good night” Thomas. His Child’s Christmas in Wales was produced at the Irish Repertory Theatre in December, and this month, the Intimation Theatre Company staged Thomas’ only play, Under Milk Wood, as its inaugural production.

Originally written as a radio play, Under Milk Wood — subtitled “a play for voices” — was first broadcast (posthumously) in January 1954 by the BBC with a distinguished all-Welsh cast, including Richard Burton. Later, it was put on as a stage play and then adapted into a 1972 film, with Burton reprising his role, supported by Hollywood luminaries Elizabeth Taylor and Peter O’Toole. The plot follows an entire day in the life of the inhabitants of the imaginary seaside town of Llareggub, Wales — that’s “Bugger all,” backwards — so classy!

To begin at the beginning:
It is spring, moonless night in the small town, starless and bible-black, the cobblestreets silent and the hunched, courters’-and-rabbits’ wood limping invisible down to the sloeblack, slow, black, crowblack, fishingboat-bobbing sea.

Under Milk Wood

For the first twenty minutes, the entire cast wandered the stage with closed eyes, and we were brought through each character’s dreams– 40+ in all — guided by a pair of omniscient narrators (“voices”). I cast a sidelong glance at SC, and fleetingly wondered if I would ever be allowed to pick another play again.

But once the day began in earnest, and we were able to get into the groove of Thomas’ poetry, things picked up considerably. (Good thing, as there was no intermission.) The action followed the townspeople through their daily business, shifting among sets of characters as they sang, worked, frolicked, gossiped, lusted, reminisced and plotted murder — with some surprisingly bawdy language.

Thomas had worked on this, his final work, for years and in October 1953 he delivered a full draft of Under Milk Wood to the BBC as he left for his fourth and ultimately, final, American tour. He gave his first public reading of the script in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and soon after, sound-recorded a performance at the 92nd Street Y. Within the month, after a famous drinking binge at New York’s White Horse Tavern — the “18 whiskies” of legend — Thomas fell into a coma and died at St. Vincent’s Hospital, just a couple of weeks after his 39th birthday.

In the poet’s wake, we have this play, which stands as a testament to the lyrical dignity in the everyday. Read the beginning of Under Milk Wood here.

In other theater news:  On the strength of last week’s favorable reviews, Mike Leigh’s Two Thousand Years has been extended at The Acorn through March 22, 2008.

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Village wanderings

Saturday, December 29th, 2007 | All Things, Drinks, Friends, Music

Over the Queensboro Bridge, and back into the city

Queensboro Bridge view

It took over 45 minutes for me to crawl my way downtown to Zinc Bar on the M5 bus – half that time spent on Fifth Avenue between 47th Street and 57th Streets — for a night of Brazilian Samba.

Zinc Bar

Dark room, cold beer and a sexy saxophone:

Zinc Bar

After the set, we took to the streets of Greenwich Village, where WGY pointed out the giant Picasso sculpture at NYU’s I. M. Pei-designed Silver Towers residential complex. How could I not have noticed the 36-foot high “Bust of Sylvette” before? The mammoth 60-ton version of Picasso’s painted metal bust of Sylvette David was created in 1967 by Norwegian sculptor Carl Nesjär, who sandblasted the cast-concrete surface to reveal the black basalt underneath, in lines to duplicate the Spanish master’s brushstrokes.

Random and brilliant. WGY is right, in a way that only those who leave New York can appreciate: this is the best city in the world.

Our nocturnal wanderings took us past the Murray’s cheese caves, to Red Mango (better than Pinkberry’s frozen no-gurt?) and to Mamoun’s for super cheap, extra-spicy falafels. (How there was appetite to spare after the banquet at Mandarin Court remains a mystery to me.) Along the way, we steered some tourists from the Christopher Street piers, discovered that 85 Bedford is not, in fact, the location of a bar in the West Village, and assessed that we are entirely too curmudgeonly to suffer the crowds waiting for entry to Employee’s Only on a Saturday night.

White Horse Tavern farther up on Hudson, however, proved an acceptable fallback. Any watering hole good enough for Dylan Thomas is good enough for us.

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