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Which way I fly is Hell; myself am Hell;
And, in the lowest deep, a lower deep
Still threatening to devour me opens wide,
To which the Hell I suffer seems a Heaven.
“Who are you going to believe? Me or you eyes?” —Groucho Marx
I jokingly asked myself on the way to see Before Your Very Eyes, a play about 9/11 at the Flamboyan Theatre, “Is it too soon? Is nine years long enough to get a grip on the real truth of 9/11?”
I thought I was being facetious, but the question goes to the heart of what Edward Elefterion, the writer/director of Before Your Very Eyes is aiming to do with his play. The question “what happened” is a question of perspective. Each one of us who were in the city on 9/11/2001 have a personal story about that day that we have shaped and polished over the years into an appropriate three minute downer that you tell people outside the City. “I did (or didn’t) see a building fall with my naked eyes”; “I knew (or didn’t) someone who worked there.” A lot of us have stories of friends who were supposed to be near the World Trade Center towers that day and for some reason weren’t; many of us saw figures covered in concrete dust streaming across the East River bridges into Brooklyn; some of us trapped outside the city had to watch our city cope with disaster from a distance.
Some girls give me money,
Some girls buy me clothes…
Erin Markey’s one woman show Puppy Love: A Stripper’s Tail is a must-see tale/tail for all you ladies and gents (but mostly ladies) who work in the gray area between theater and erotic arts in New York. It’s also worth seeing if you don’t work in that lovely, glistening niche of the alternative entertainment world. But if you are a woman who has ever wondered how glitter got into that, or categorize men as “sweet hearts” and “pervs,” or looked in the mirror and said “I’d do me,” this is a show you can’t miss.
Guys on the other side of the tip rail will appreciate this play too. Strippers, erotic performers, and sex workers have earned their own technical name in the world of knuckle dragging, ham-knecked, mouth breathers: “stripper crazy.” Stripper Crazy is the kind of girl who, after three cocktails, leans over and whispers in your ear that she thinks you’re a sweet heart, and do you want to go to the bathroom for some X-rated fun? Then, three cocktails later, when you’re at the bar buying her another drink, you hear her siren giggle as one of the pervs from the table next to yours, the table of guys who earned her scorn when they leered and cat called, hoists her over his shoulder and takes her to the bathroom for a little X-rated fun.
Just what did you expect for nothing? Rubber biscuit?
A guy walks into a bar and says “ouch!” No wait. I told that wrong. A man and a woman walk into a derelict bed and breakfast carrying the woman’s catatonic sister. This is the last night the bed and breakfast will be in business because an unscrupulous Richie Rich, a real Snidely Whiplash, is about to repossess it from its humble bumbling owner. And then they say “ouch.”
Poppycock: A Modern-Day Farce at Under St. Mark’s Theater from now until April 24th is roughly an hour and a half of non-stop gags, jokes, tom-foolery, one-liners, puns, witty repartee, and monkeyshines. It’s like Monkey Business meets Fawlty Towers envisioned as a live-action Tex Avery cartoon (like Malcolm in the Middle). I laughed through the whole thing.
The lights come up, and a group of girls parades into a classroom. Three march in military cadences around their acknowledged queen standing on a desk: Chelsea, whose name evokes the precincts of money and class in both New York and London. They carp in posh English accents, the kind that set my teeth on edge when they aren’t done well. (American actors usually slip into something that sounds like a poor man’s Monty Python.) But the actors keep it together admirably as Chelsea self-consciously plays the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland to her sycophantic entourage. Then a fifth actor comes on stage, taller than the rest, with a lean and hungry look, but also painfully shy. Alice in Wonderland meets Mean Girls. Queen Chelsea and her court give the new girl the standard test for rank in their disciplined hierarchy: Name?! Hazel. (Rather boring and dowdy – points off.) Family vacation spot?! France. (Also boring, but better than Brighton.) It looks bad for Hazel when she tells the court – without being prompted! – that her family went to France on a cheese tour. Definitely not cool. The hierarchy is settled and the ladies take their desks in order of rank. Hazel, being the lowest, has to take the creepy, ancient, wooden desk in the corner.
Ars Gratia Artis
Are you the kind of person who got a bonus from Santa Blankfein, and wants to blow it on a family trip to see a revival of “West Side Story” from seventh row center? Do you like your theater to observe the Aristotelian unities of time, place, and action? Do like it when a play is “realistic” or “believable”? I bet you watch a lot of reality TV too. Yeah, that’s right. You heard me. Simple plots, syrupy sentiments, lots of slow-mo’s and major key power chords, that’s what you like, you philistine.
Now, if you prefer the nitty-gritty, avant-garde; if Zach Galifianakis and John Hodgman leave you in stiches; if you live for the excitement of theater so live you can feel the blood, sweat, and tears of the performers sprinkling your hair and getting caught in your mustache, the FRIGID festival, on till March 7th is for you. Give thanks for New York City, where you can see theater that is truly “state of the art.”
In college, a friend of mine said tripping on acid was the ultimate inside joke: if you’d done it you got it; if you hadn’t you wondered what the big deal was.
You could say the same for modern art, religious enthusiasm, and fashion week. From an outsider’s perspective the shiny, happy faces and breathless testimonials are either delusional or cynically fake. But LSD is more than a social convention or manifestation of groupthink; it affects the body and the mind – the bodymind – simultaneously, fusing the two in the most unexpected and necessary ways. In religious terms, it’s the equivalent of Eve eating the apple. Before you taste it you are an extra in the movie of your own life, observing your emotional pain with cool detachment through the lens of endlessly repeated, self-deluding narratives. From the secure perch of innocence nothing can really touch you. Afterwards you know the meaning of good and evil from the inside.
Martin Dockery’s new dramatic monologue The Bike Trip playing now at the Kraine Theater explores the awakening promised by LSD and its ramifications thoughtfully and with nuance. And he gives the audience a rather large dose of humor too.
IT OR HER, a new play by Alena Smith being performed now at the FRIGID festival is a cross between Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” and Baron-Cohen’s “Brüno”. When that pitch line occurred to me in the darkened theater, I thought I was being pretty clever (if catty), but when I read the official blurb in the press packet I saw that the allusion was intentional. The playwright intentionally copped Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart”, albeit in a cute, neo-absurdist way.
The cast of The Three Sisters by Anton Chekhov barely fits in the Red Room on West 4th St. There are fourteen actors (14), who represent over a third of the living creatures in the tiny space on top of KGB bar. The play is also crammed full of personalities: the sisters of the title, their brother, his wife, the alcoholic doctor, the Baron, his ill-mannered friend, the school teacher, two soldiers, the elderly female servant, the elderly male servant, and the artilery commander. It’s a lot of emotion to pack into a space the size of a one bedroom apartment.
Like a silvery, slippery sardine is kind of how you feel when you sit down, elbow to elbow with other viewers, and with your knees poking into the actors. (The seats are set in the round, so to speak, on the perimeter of the play space that stretches the length of the floor.) This is not in-your-face, interactive theater like De La Guarda, where the performers dance with the audience during the performance, but I get the feeling that the large company, the director Jess Chayes, and the set designer Nicolas Benacerraf were making a virtue of necessity when they wrapped the audience around the players in an almost uncomfortable embrace.
Everything old is new again! At least that’s how it feels these days. Five long years ago the vogue in vintage was vintage 70s — 1870s that is. Remember when conservatives wanted to repeal income tax and Social Security? It was the new Gilded Age.
But ah, how quickly the worm turns! Now vintage styles in dress and drink reflect the more sober times of the Great Depression and the privation of WWII. Only we call it the Great Recession, and our great global war is being fought by guys with explosive powder in their banana hammocks.
This Friday, November 6th, check out the glorious return of This Is Burlesque with The Pontani Sisters and Murray Hill!
Cultural Capitol talked to Angie Pontani about the new space and the new show. “The new space is fantastic,” she told us. The stage is upstairs at Sweet Carolines on West 45th between 8th and 9th Avenues. “It has a much larger stage and better sight lines for the audience, yet it maintains the intimate style of Corio. We are also pretty excited to be in Times Square!”
If you loved the extended Pontani burlesque famiglia you won’t be disappointed with the new lineup. Murray Hill, The Pontani Sisters (Angie, Helen, and Peekaboo Pointe) with guests-in-residence Melody Sweets and Little Brooklyn are still the hardest working family in showbiz.
I asked if there were any surprises in store for the upcoming run. “Yes,” Angie said, there will be “new numbers for sure and bigger and better then ever. With such a large stage we are going to be able to use more props and perform larger group numbers. The Gin Bath act has a new home — I am so excited to do that act every weekend!”
Friday will be an extra special evening because it is also Angie’s birthday! (Happy birthday!)
Get your tickets now!
This Is Burlesque
Every Friday and Saturday night at 9:30
Sweet Carolines, 322 West 45th Street
For advance tickets call 212-977-3884
These tents were set up on Columbia’s campus as extra housing for incoming students. They also look a bit like a Hooverville, though probably not intentionally. The New York Times is reporting today that the teenage jobless rate is the highest it has been since they started keeping records in the 40s, three times the unemployment rate of the rest of the country. So to you 18-year-olds whose parents can afford it, back to school!
These guys were playing in Washington Square Park recently. I didn’t catch their name. They looked and sounded like the early Beatles.
Summer’s almost gone — and where did it go? Seems like it didn’t even arrive until July, and starting next week it’s back-to-school, back-from-the-Hamptons, and back to the daily grind.
But let’s not dwell on the past. September marks the beginning of Autumn in New York, and Autumn in New York is always a magical time. When the air turns crisp, the leaves turn red and gold, and Bryant Park turns into a field of white tents housing an army of long, leggy ladies, parties, drinks and fashion flow together from the pent up stores of summer, and the great river of life rolls mightily on.
On the last Thursday of every month a group of young professionals get together to screen TED talks and share ideas. Last week I was informally invited via Facebook by Ryan Hagen, a founding member of the group (and a Facebook friend from the NYU days). The other founder, Kyle Jaster provided the space (pictured above) in the TriBeCa offices of Rayogram, Mr. Jaster’s design and consulting business.
Last night the lovely Ms. Cybil Lake threw a fundraiser to raise funds for the production of her movie “The Gun Virgins” at Gallery Bar. She screened a video from her reality show “The Cybil Lake Show” and served free drinks courtesy of Krol vodka and Caballo Negro wine.
By the end of June people who can afford it have left town for two months, or at least every weekend. The moneyed leisure class get tans, sit on the dock or the deck drinking champagne, and contemplate early retirement. The rest of us wander the streets between July 4th and Labor Day looking for a party on or off a rooftop, cruising the nearly empty streets and braving the inevitable spike in violent crime. The unmoneyed leisure class (a.k.a. the unemployed) have plenty of time for idleness, and idle hands are indeed the devil’s weekend in the Hamptons.
Last Thursday, May 21st, I clanked down the metal stairs of Jimmy’s 43 and into the subterranean bar completely and thoroughly confused. I had been invited by Christine Elmo to come to a benefit for a dance production she has choreographed and hopes to produce. Christine is a New York dance artist who has performed in the city and Europe extensively for the last two years. (Check out the video of dancing in Central Turkey and her CV here. Beautiful!) She’s a mover and a shaker in every sense of the phrase. So I guess I expected the benefit would be in a black box theater south of Houston, someplace that reeks of fresh paint and sawdust.
The Sad Panda brought his friend to Bowling Green yesterday. His friend didn’t say much, but he was soooooo cute!
Jonathan Demme, Academy award winning director of Stop Making Sense, Philadelphia, Silence of the Lambs, and most recently Rachel Getting Married, is introducing the films of Hatian/American/French director Michelange Quay this coming Tuesday at the French Alliance / Alliance Francaise.
The event will feature two of Mr. Quay’s movies, the short The Gospel of the Creole Pig and the feature Eat for This Is My Body. Mr. Quay’s films are lyrical meditations on post-colonialism. The Gospel of the Creole Pig takes us from the slaughter pits in Port-au-Prince, where pigs are butchered in disgustingly unsanitary conditions, to the houses on top of the surrounding hills where rich people live in comfort. Water runs from the toilettes of the hilltop houses to the trash and chaos of the Cité Soleil, and all the while the voice of the creole pig tells us ironically about the cycle of life and its hierarchies of oppression.
Eat for This Is My Body is more narrative, but not much. Mr. Quay’s project is to convey the interdependency of Whites and Blacks under colonization and afterward — the relations of power and how both sides seek to achieve identity from its opposite. (It’s very Hegelian, and like the “end of history” never complete.) To this end the movie is a dream of the moment when colonization breaks down, a no/every time and place where the masters have lost their allies, but the slaves have yet to become masters. Elaborate and stunning visuals wind along like yarn from a spinning wheel, and rather than dialogue (which is minimal) an incantatory voice over keeps the plot from interfering with the movie’s anxious emotional texture.
It is guaranteed to be an enriching and thought provoking evening, and I personally can’t wait to see the discussion between Demme and Quay!
Tuesday May 26 at 7 p.m.
Florence Gould Hall
55 East 59th Street
FIAF Members Free** ($2 advance tickets)
Students w/ ID $7
By J.D. Oxblood
City Winery is a big, fat, wooden room that would make a vacationing couple from Vermont feel very at home. High ceilings smattered with rotating fans, a pervasive blonde woodtone, and a stage so deep you could stack the Rockettes 6-deep and they could still kick. We rolled in around 10 to witness the changing of the guard—upper East Side diners were paying the stiff tabs for their undersized tapas & pricey vino as downtown hoodlums played musical chairs, vying for decent seats as they became available, nestling up to the stage and onto the raised dining area in back. This was a big room … could Doc fill it?
He did, but the sound system didn’t. The PA was lacking, but I quickly forgot about it as the shapely Bird of Paradise came on to warm up the crowd with a little gogo to surf music, in a purple sparkly bra and a short skirt cut on an angle, accentuated with bangles and nude fishnet stockings. Babe-o-licious.
I was cranky at 11:45 after spending 45 minutes in stop-and-go traffic on the Williamsburg Bridge. It seemed like everyone on Long Island was trying to push their cars into Manhattan. I prayed that some supernatural force would strike upstate lawmakers blind and replace them with legislators who know that fewer cars in Manhattan + more money for the MTA = real growth for NYC. Then I prayed to make it to Lady GaGa’s show at Terminal 5 on time.
The doors opened at 11. Three opening acts made up the bill, and I figured each one would be 15 minutes, so by the time I rolled in at 12, I was prepared to be homicidally angry, worried that I had missed her altogether. But luck was on my side. She waited for the witching hour to start the show, and I had just enough time to grab a drink and wade hip deep into the sweaty, writhing flesh pond surrounding the stage before beats started pumping out of the PA.
By J.D. Oxblood
Through friends of friends I got on the guest list and passed by to check out the hubbub, bub. M2 is one of those Chelsea monstrosities that is everything you would expect—a long frickin’ walk from the subway, an enormous, cavernous room cut up by gargantuan furniture pieces guaranteeing that movement becomes impossible when the joint gets crowded and that no proper dance floor will ever erupt, grotesque hanging structures (in this case, faux-mirror balls constructed by crystals hung in sequence by 50-pound test) designed to remind you of the vertigo-inspiring height of the ceilings (nothing declares opulence in NYC like wasted space), louder than necessary, and a fantastic, state-of-the art lighting setup that is completely underused, like your grandma buying a Hummer and never taking it out of the driveway.
Don’t get any funny ideas from the title of this post. When I say I spent Saturday night on Murray Hill, don’t think I was drinking at the Rodeo Bar.
I was the special guest of legendary Murray Hill for “This is Burlesque” at Corio. “That’s impossible!” I hear you say. “You’re just an anonymous blogger whose idea of a good time on Saturday night is to get stress management counseling at the Bay Ridge Community Service Center.” Yes, that may be true. But thanks to Twitter, I made a new friend, and he made my night.
Some lady was yelling at the camera people, “What is this? Law and Order? Law and Order? It’s always Law and Order!”
by J.D. Oxblood
It’s so rare that I make it to a Broadway show—what with most of the Great White Way awash in Disney-fied claptrap, reincarnations of old musicals and old movies reincarnated as new musicals—that we decided to make a night of it. So much so that I actually went out and purchased an umbrella to keep my suit from getting soaked in the dismal, rainy April night. I was excited, yet anxious, because the last time I tried to get my fill of some good, old-fashioned absurdist drama, I was cringingly disappointed: to anyone else who shelled out the big bucks to sit through last years revival of (Harold Pinter’s exquisite test) “The Homecoming,” my condolences. Reeked so bad it took a month to get the smell out of my tux.
The Roundabout Theatre Company’s revival of Samuel Beckett’s anti-classic, at Studio 54, features Bill Irwin and Nathan Lane as Didi and Gogo, with none other than John Goodman as Pozzo and the spellbinding John Glover as Lucky, under the direction of Anthony Page. (FYI: everyone in the previous sentence has won a Tony, with the exception of Goodman, who’s won a Golden Globe.)