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Our fifth and (sadly) last show for this trip was Venus in Fur. The AMAZING Nina Arianda plays an actress determined to land the lead in a new play based on an erotic classic, Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s Venus in Furs.  Ditsy and immature in person, the actress is in total command of the role as she begins to read through the first scene with the playwright (the excellent Hugh Dancy).  Her extended audition turns into an intense struggle for power and control that  blurs the lines between fantasy and reality.  The sexual energy Dancy and Arianda create on stage is overwhelming–these are two actors at the top of their game in an excellent play.  The ninety minutes (no intermission) will fly by before you know it, and you may find you’ve been holding your breath for much of it!

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After a lazy morning, Ann and I headed to different plays for a matinee–Ann went to see Other Dessert Cities (which I had seen when it was at the Lincoln Center last year) and I went to a new production of Godspell.  I had a blast at Godspell–Circle in the Square is a fun stage space in the round, and the young, energetic cast used every inch of the theater. Hunter Parrish (Weeds) is strong (and very cute) in the lead role, but this is very much an ensemble piece and there are no weak links here.  Love to see young talent having fun on stage!

Ann came out of Other Desert Cites rather drained, but she loved the show. We agreed that Stockard Channing is prettymuch a shoe-in for a Tony this year for her portrayal as the hard as nails matriarch of a rich Republican family which includes her actor-turned ambassador husband (Stacy Keach), and their two liberal children, TV producer (the wonderful Thomas Sadoski), depressed daughter (Rachel Griffiths), and Polly’s sister (Judith Light), a bitingly sarcastic hipster just out of rehab. This play captures family dysfunction at its best (and worst) and is beautifully written.  Definitely one worth seeing.

Saturday night we both went to see Seminar, a new play by Teresa Rebeck starring Alan Rickman. Rickman plays Leonard, an international literary figure, who has been hired by four aspiring young novelists to give them private writing classes. His “instruction” is brutally honest and dispassionate, and the four writers become slowly undone.  Friendships are tested, sex becomes involved, and egos are smashed. The storyline exposes the politics of getting published and the compromises writers need to make to get published.  Rickman is amazing and is an appropriately commanding presence on stage.  Lily Rabe, as one of the students, is wonderful as usual, and Jerry O’Connell, in his Broadway debut is very good, as are the other two actors.  I liked this one more than Ann, who found the set up a bit contrived and out of date in relation to the current world of publishing.  I think we’d both agree, however, that it’s worth seeing for Rickman’s performance alone.  Check out the article that ran in the NYT yesterday for more  http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/13/theater/alan-rickman-in-theresa-rebecks-comedy-seminar.html

Hugh Jackman!

Hugh Jackman + Center Orchestra seats + 18 piece orchestra = Two very happy Culture Buddies.  This was a great night of entertainment . . . a throw back to an old-fashioned night of singing and dancing and slightly corny jokes and bits in between. The only person happier than all of us in the audience was Jackman himself who is clearly loving being on the Broadway stage and doing what he loves most.  And did I mention that he is pretty damn good looking??

I splurged on these tickets, using some of the money from my mom’s estate after her death in August, and I know she was looking down at Ann and I and enjoying the night with us . . .

Melancholia

Caught a showing of Melancholia, the new movie by Lars von Trier on Friday. In two parts, the movie focuses first on a newlywed, played by Kristin Dunst, and the over the top reception her sister has planned at the estate of her wealthy husband (Keiffer Sutherland).  Before long it is clear that the bride appears to be having some kind of a depressive breakdown, her sister is in tight control of the event, her mother is a cold hearted witch, and her father is useless . . . on top of that weird things seem to be going on in the sky. The second part focuses on the sister and the approach of the planet, Melancholia, as it comes out from behind the sun for the first time.

This is definitely a trippy and strange movie, but rather beautiful in its use of imagery, colors, subtle special effects, and overall cinematography.  It’s a good part for Kristin Dunst, and she carries the movie.  Not a feel-good movie, for sure, but an interesting one.

Back in NYC!

So great to be back in our city!  This morning Ann and I headed over to the MOMA from 9:30 to 10:30 for members only viewing time before it opened to the public for the day.  Caught a preview of the Diego Rivera exhibit that opens next week and really enjoyed seeing the six murals that were commissioned by MOMA in the 1930’s on view for the first time in 80 years.  Very cool.

Last night, Ann went to see War Horse (which I had seen over the summer) and I went to see a new play at the Roundabout, Sons of the Prophet.  Ann LOVED War Horse as much as I had. We talked about how within a few minutes of the play starting, the amazing puppetry depicting the horses becomes invisible and they are real, central characters.  It is a powerful theatrical experience that captures the tragedy of World War I and the moment in history when war went from men on horses to the unbeatable mechanical force of new tanks and weaponry.  The cast is huge and the layers of this production are simply amazing, from the use of music, visual projections, blocking, puppetry, and terrific acting.  No surprise that it won the Tony award last year.

I was incredibly blown away by Sons of the Prophet (yes, I was crying by the end).   The centers around a gay Lebanese-American man’s struggles to come to terms with loss, with his responsibility to his younger brother and his elderly uncle, and with the strangly debilitating symptoms that have ended his training for the Olympic trials. Although it’s an honest and unflinching look at the anger and sorrow that comes along with all of this, the play also highlights the comedy of how he copes with his suffering.  The wonderful actor, Santino Fontana, is simply terrific in the central role, and the rest of the cast, which includes Joanna Gleason, is equally good.  This is one worth seeing–it was just extended to January 1st.

Tonight we’re going to see Hugh Jackman on stage with an 18 piece orchestra . . . so excited we can hardly stand it!

It’s been a long time since we have posted as it was a long, eventful summer.  We did manage a trip to NYC in June and saw:

  • Jerusalem–A gritty, wonderfully written play with the incomparable Mark Rylance who totally earned his Tony Award win
  • How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying–Fun, fun, fun.  Daniel Radcliffe is adorable (didn’t deserve the grouchy review from the NYT)
  • The Mother**** With the Hat–Another powerful new play. Bobby Carnavale=a force of nature.
  • The Book of Mormon–Actually managed to get tickets!!  Irreverent, but still kind of touching, musical by the South Park guys.  Talented cast and pretty hilarious.
  • The Normal Heart–Good to be reminded of the brave faces of AIDS victims in the 60’s, but the play felt dated and a little didactic

Just returned from a long weekend in the city. . . more news on that coming soon.

(Ann) Saturday night we saw the star-filled revival of the 1972 Pulitzer Prize winning play, That Championship Season. The plot centers on the annual reunion of four members of a 1952 basketball championship team and their coach.  The team members are played by Chris Noth, Kiefer Sutherland, Jason Patric and Jim Gaffigan, and the coach is played by Brian Cox.  Four members of the team and the coach get together every year to relive their championship but the audience quickly realizes that their championship was flawed, their lives are full of problems, and they are anything but champions. The story of men remembering their glory days is a familiar one to us now. But when this play was first produced, during the days of Viet Nam and Watergate, it was a fresh look at how men are often not what they seem. The world of the Coach’s living room has frequently been compared to the loneliness of Willie Loman’s salesman territory.  This play represents an earlier time when we were learning that men are not all heroes. Forty years ago, before we knew about Watergate and the love lives of our presidents, this was a fresh story but now it is a period piece. Whether or not you like this play may depend of your personal taste.  Three of us saw the play: two of us liked it very much and one of us almost walked out!