Tag: Times Square

Not Rochelle, Rochelle

Monday, April 21st, 2008 | All Things, Arts

At Theatre Row for the American premiere of Ayub Khan-Din’s Rafta, Rafta… directed by Scott Elliott — a last minute replacement for Kevin Elyot’s Mouth to Mouth, which The New Group will be presenting in the fall. This the second of Khan-Din’s plays to be produced here; the company staged East is East in 1999.

Rafta, Rafta… is based on Bill Naughton’s 1965 comedy All in Good Time; here, the action is set within the Anglo-Indian community and moved to working-class Bolton. Khan-Din’s play was a critical hit at London’s National Theatre last year and went on to win the 2008 Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Comedy. (Stateside critique has been similarly favorable.)

The title is culled from a Hindi song, and means “slowly, slowly.” The lyrics, as translated in the program by professors Faisal Devji and Rachel Dwyer:

Slowly, slowly she became part of me,
First my life, then the life of my life, and then life of life itself.

After their wedding feast — an overlong evening involving two sets of families, copious whisky drinking, spirited bhangra dancing, and a father-son arm-wrestling match — Atul Dutt and Vina Patel (Manish Dayal and Reshma Shetty in their fine Off-Broadway debuts) embark on their wedding night at Atul’s parents’ house. It soon becomes apparent, however, that their new home is not the ideal place to begin a new marriage: with the groom’s parents a thin bedroom wall away, their loving union remains unconsummated after six long weeks. When word leaks out after a frustrated Vina confides in her mother (Sarita Choudhury, whom we saw last fall as Frida Kahlo), some hilarious, but cringe-worthy interference ensues as both sets of concerned parents convene to decide how to best tackle the delicate situation.

The surface farce is stripped away to expose past wounds and some deeply-held resentments among the older married couples — what is it Tolstoy said of unhappy families? And as the often-obtuse and domineering patriarch (Ranjit Chowdhry) says of life, in a rare moment of reflection: “It might make you laugh… but one day it’ll make you bloody cry.

No worries: this being a comedy, a happy ending is all but assured. That the play manages to feel both exotic and familiar is to the playwright’s credit. (He is currently working on the film adaptation.)

In addition to the impressive bi-level set by Derek McLane, the play features original music by Basement Bhangra™ founder DJ Rekha at rousing volumes.

Rafta, Rafta… is playing a limited engagement at the Acorn Theatre through June 21, 2008.

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Meet me in Malta

Monday, April 14th, 2008 | All Things, Film

On the slate for tonight’s film seminar: A Previous Engagement, which contrary to its British period piece-y sounding title is a romantic comedy, and one which rather unusually features a cast of characters over 50.

Juliet Stevenson stars as Julia, a Seattle-based woman vacationing in Malta with her husband (Daniel Stern). Unbeknownst to him, she is there to fulfill a long-ago promise to reunite with her French lover, Alex (Tchéky Karyo) with whom she had an intense affair on the island years earlier. The premise called to mind a bit of Before Sunrise — that wondrous film about “two nice kids, literate, sensitive, tentative, intoxicated by the fact that their lives stretch out before them, filled with mystery and hope, and maybe love.” Except here, the two parting lovers decided to meet not in six months, but in twenty-five years, after much of their lives have been lived. In the intervening time, the once aspiring writer Julia has become a middle-aged librarian married to a jigsaw puzzle-obsessed insurance salesman, and Alex an oft-divorced literary journal editor. Once the pair is reunited, complications ensue, and the results are mixed: part screwball comedy, part bedroom farce and part bittersweet romance.

Writer-director Joan Carr-Wiggin was tonight’s guest, and talked about getting this film made in a climate where most Hollywood films have a young, often male, sensibility. The economist turned filmmaker well understood the steep challenges a film such as hers would face in financing; in this case her husband, producer David Gordian, was able to fund the film in Canada and Europe, where Carr-Wiggins claims the system is much more welcoming towards women directors and character-based films than in the United States.

Because the film was fully financed at the outset, Carr-Wiggins had full control over her film – a rare privilege for a second-time director. She was able to cast her favorite actress in the lead; Stevenson has a long list of British television and film credits, but is probably best known for her role as cellist Nina in Truly, Madly, Deeply (1990) — the late great Anthony Minghella’s film debut.

While the film has a certain intriguing “What if…?” premise, the execution was a bit too ham-fisted for my tastes. (Does the husband really have to be so cluelessly boring, the daughters so gratingly self-absorbed?) Credit is due, though, for framing the story around a middle-aged woman — a demographic grossly underrepresented in current cinema — and for the not entirely predictable ending.

A Previous Engagement opened in New York and Los Angeles for Mother’s Day weekend, on May 9.

“There are all kinds of love in the world, but never the same love twice.'”
— F. Scott Fitzgerald, “The Sensible Thing”

Were truer words ever written?

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Easy as 3.14159265358979323846264338327950288

Friday, March 14th, 2008 | All Things, Friends

This blog post’s title is inspired by The New York Post‘s infamous 1989 “Easy as Pi” headline, which appeared over a front page image of illegally obtained answers to that day’s New York State Chemistry Regents. The publication resulted in a massive run by high schoolers to purchase The Post, followed by the abrupt cancellation of the statewide exam on my birthday — so awesome! — and raised all sorts of controversy regarding the paper’s journalistic ethics.

On the 20th anniversary of Pi Day, 3.14 (naturally), SYB hosted a Pi(e)-themed potluck. Fellow pi and pie enthusiasts gathered in Sunnyside to enjoy the bounty of foods that were either in pie form, or related to π, i.e., round, spherical, cylindrical or conical. For the occasion, I made a round vegetarian shepherd’s pie — if such a thing can still be called “shepherd’s pie” — substituting a combination of portobello, cremini, oyster and shiitake mushrooms for the ground lamb layer.

This year, The New York Times ran a “Win a Pie on Pi Day” contest, soliciting submissions of poems about pi (“piems”?) or pi-ku (in three-line, 3-1-4 syllable format.) The most useful of these, like the MIT cheer “Cosine, secant, tangent, sine, 3.14159!,” aid in the recall of the digits of pi. Among the the pi mnemonics I know of — most of which assign digits based on the number of letters in each corresponding word — my favorite remains: “How I want a drink, alcoholic of course, after the heavy lectures involving quantum mechanics!

The current world record for pi memorization belongs to Japanese mental health counselor (ha, now that’s ironic!) Akira Haraguchi, who managed to recite pi to 100,000 decimal places in 2006. I very humbly top out at about 35 decimal places — sufficient for computing the circumference of the known universe with an error no greater than the radius of a hydrogen atom.

Yeah, I think I can live with that.

In Times Square on Pi Day:

Times Square band

Oh, and despite never having taken those pesky Chem Regents, I can still chuckle appreciatively over the existence of Mole Day, celebrated annually on October 23 from 6:02AM to 6:02PM, i.e., 6:02 10/23. I leave it to SYB to devise an appropriate potluck theme in honor of that occasion. (“Avocado,” perhaps? *Groan*)

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