Posts Tagged With: theater

The Great Big Theater Recap

As Rayna has pointed out, I am possibly the only grad student who is busier in the summer than during the school year. That’s because there’s simply so much to catch up on! The last half of May into the first half of June was a busy time for theater. And with that, I gladly present THE GREAT BIG THEATER RECAP.

  1. If/Then: First up is the new Broadway musical If/Then. The most exciting thing about this show was definitely Idina Menzel and Anthony Rapp. It was absolutely breathtaking to hear Idina sing live. It actually gave me chills. Then add to that the lovely story. Most musicals are about Big Things with capital letters—True Love, Adventure, Lions. But what I loved about If/Then was its immediacy. It is about the small choices we make and how they shape us. Add to that being in a similar place to the main character (new-ish to NYC, trying to build a life, over analyzing everything), a gorgeous score, and a really cool set design, and I was completely sold. I was also a happy/sad sobbing mess. But no spoilers!
  2. Mayfair: Ok, so this wasn’t really a show, but it was certainly theatrical. The annual Spring event at the McKittrick was over the top this year. I realize none of these places will make sense to anyone who hasn’t been to Sleep No More, but all these places are in the Mckittrick hotel, one magical building in Chelsea.We started in the evening with a performance in the bathtubs in the asylum, then a trek through the woods while ballerinas danced off the path. There was a Maypole dance in the streets of the town. The shops opened over the course of the night, with each one featuring different entertainment. Classic rock turned to karaoke in Agnes’s sitting room, while a blue-lit rave happened in the morgue next door. Violet and Maximillian hosted egg races Malcolm’s detective agency. The Fool from The Drowned Man performed in the window of the tailor shop.Wandering into the speakeasy, I found a full brass band and dancers on the pool table.  There were surprises literally around every corner. It was a fantastic night, one of the most amazing extravaganzas I’ve ever seen, and I can’t wait for the next McKittrick party.
  3. Much Ado About Nothing: What’s not to love about Shakespeare in the Park? It’s free, it’s Shakespeare, it’s in the beautiful Delacorte Theater, and they are currently putting on Much Ado About Nothing, one of my favorite comedies. Add to that the gorgeous weather we’re been having (or had, it’s currently back to the usual muggy grossness) and it was enough to get me out of bed at 7 AM on a Saturday to trek up to Central Park. It was perfect weather for sitting in the park with friends, and despite the long line (no seriously, it was the longest line I’ve ever seen) we got tickets with ease. The show was wonderful. The set was gorgeous, and Hamish Linklater made possibly my favorite Benedick I’ve seen—the perfect mix of over-confident, funny, and charming. And we got to see Pedro Pascal (that’s right, that Pedro Pascal) as the plotting Don John, which was an added bonus. I’d definitely recommend catching this production if possibly; it was a fun, funny, and beautiful performance.
  4. Then She Fell: There’s a rabbit hole on a quiet street in Williamsburg. Or, more specifically, there is the Kingsland Ward, where the immersive story of Alice and Wonderland combines with the life of Lewis Carroll in an insane asylum. This production is not at all what I expected. Filled with the familiar thrill of anticipation at a new immersive show, I was prepared for something dark and brooding; what I got was a sweet melancholy nostalgia. Rooms full of boxes I could open and unlock, characters who fed you grapes or told you a bedtime story. It was a much more guided experience than Sleep No More or Queen of the Night, but the loose structure helped add to the feeling of fate; it was dumb luck that led you on your past rather than your choices. As with The Drowned Man, I don’t want to give any specifics because it’s best to go in knowing as little as possible. But it was a beautiful show: very intimate, and the dancing was unique and gorgeous. It uses the space in strange and interesting ways, and I think I might have to go through the looking glass again soon.
  5. Cripple of Innishmaan: Finally, I saw this strange play on Broadway. Not going to lie, I went to mainly to see Daniel Radcliffe. But the play was fun; generally musicals are more my scene (with the exception of Shakespeare), but this was funny and dark and challenging. The set was absolutely gorgeous, somehow they actually created the effect of clouds rolling, and the rotating set made for some really neat scene changes. The play itself is about a small island village off the coast of Ireland. It’s about small towns and small people and the things that cripple us. It was really funny, and I enjoyed the way it plays with audience expectations. It was wickedly clever. It wasn’t my favorite show ever, but I think that might be more my taste rather than any particular fault with the show. It had some really great moments and I enjoyed it overall.

So that’s the GREAT BIG THEATER RECAP for May and June! I’m hoping to try to get to Hedwig and A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, but I’m afraid that might be impossible post-Tony’s. Keep your fingers crossed! In the meantime, I’m heading home on Friday. I’m looking forward to taking a break from the city and seeing my family!

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Art and Dreams

“Is this art?” asked the man doing a handstand over my head as I lay back, staring up at him. I didn’t know. “I don’t know, either,” he responded before somehow bounding back to his feet and pulling me off on another adventure at the immursive spectacle/dinner theater Queen of the Night.
 
On the other side of my trip into the Diamond Horseshoe, I’ve decided it’s art, but more than art. It’s art+; so much more intense, more personal than anything I’ve encountered before. It blurs the lines between what is and what could be, and when you come out of those murkey woods, you feel a little different than before. This sounds melodramatic, I know, but as most of you know, I’m sort of obsessed with Sleep No More, another experiential theater piece. Yes, part of the reason is the story, I do love Shakespeare, and Macbeth is fascinating. But honestly, it’s that experience. It’s the blurring of that line between fiction and reality, between who I am and who I could be. And in my quest to experiment with that line, I found Queen of the Night. 

Last night found my partner in crime, Sari, and I at the Paramount Hotel, donned in our finest cocktail attire. 

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The first steps into the Diamond Horseshoe seemed underwhelming…and under construction. The walls were bare, white drywall, and the coat check was constructed out of those weird boards they use for scaffolding. I’m still undecided if this is intentional or if it’s actually under construction. Why would it be intentional? Because there’s a slow descent into the night. As soon as you turn the corner, you are faced with an old, weathered marble stair case. Dusty champagne glasses are stacked in the corner of the first landing as if they’ve been uncovered from an archaeological dig. But the deeper you go, the cleaner, brighter, more lavish things are. 
 
While waiting on the stairs, Sari was suddenly whisked away by a lanky blonde man in outlandish clothes, leaving me crushed that I was left behind. But a moment later, another man in short shorts and a black-and-white motley suit coat came up the stairs and caught my eye. We stared at each other for a moment (intense eye contact is a frequent occurrence), and he put his hand on the shoulder of the girl in front of me. ‘Denied again!’ I thought. But he looked up at me again, a wicked gleam in his eyes, extended his hand, and we were off. I was given a slip of paper and told to pick a drink (the drinks were outlandish, full of strange fruits and herbs.) After ordering me to take a drink (“Good girl,” he praised), he vanished. I stood sipping for a moment before I ran into Sari again, returned from her own adventure with a quest to deliver a note. We had a moment to chat before a young woman approached me and asked if I could help her, and I was pulled away again down the rabbit hole. Over the course of the next 30 minutes, I met and assisted the princess, snuck around the kitchens, and scored a whole bottle of Prosecco before I reunited with Sari to compare our discoveries. During all of this, the strangest part, and the most challenging part, was being myself. In Sleep No More I can hide behind a mask, I’m voiceless. I follow wordless instructions. But here, I could engage and be engaged. It was both thrilling and a little terrifying.
 
Soon after reuniting, we were seated, sharing a table on one of the raised platform with a very nice couple. The performance was amazing. Dancing, circus stunts, acrobatics…I’m sure I watched the first half with my mouth hanging open. Later, dinner was served: gilded cages of lobsters, whole roast pigs on spits, heaping plates of ribs. Apparently, if we wanted to try all the dishes, we had to barter. Luckily, we received the lobsters, the hot commodity, and people came to us to trade, bearing plates of rib and the most delicious pork I’ve ever tasted. My poor little grad student body didn’t know what to do with such delicacies!
 
After we’d eaten, the show resumed, as entertaining as ever. Dessert was served in quite an interesting way after a truly beautiful ending to the performance. The whole evening was magical and sensual and transporting.
 

I went into the show thinking I’d come out with an answer: which was better? But the truth is, you can’t compare Queen of the Night and Sleep No More. I love them both in different ways. While in Sleep No More, I am a ghost who haunts the story, powerless to help or harm, enchanted to watch, at Queen of the Night I was the Chloe I might be in a fairy tale. I was the Chloe who made eye contact and boldly put herself in situations that made her slightly uncomfortable. I was the Chloe who believed in true love and ran off, hand-in-hand with strange boys, to raid the kitchen and steal champagne. As to the question Jimmy asked me as he hovered above me, I still can’t say if it’s art. But I will say it’s spectacle and adventure, and just maybe you might leave a little bolder, a little more enchanted than when you arrived.

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“If not to heaven, then hand in hand to hell”: Truly Old School Theater

In college, we had to see a Shakespeare play and compare its take to the text. There was a glam rock production of Richard III in town that featured David Bowie and puppets. It was strange to say the least; after intermission, Richard entered the stage as king dressed in full Iggy Pop gear. It was the only time I’d seen a production of the play until last night. It was an interesting take, comparing Richard’s use of a persona to that of a rock star.

Mark Ryance’s production of Richard III may not have David Bowie, but it has to be one of the coolest theater production I’ve ever seen. In case you don’t know, this production is as authentically Elizabethan as possible- men play women, candles adorn the set, the actors dress on stage before the performance, there are no mics, and an Elizabethan style music troupe performs atop the set. It was a fun experience to watch the actors dress, and it was interesting to see it done as it might have been done back in the day (you know, WAY back in the day). And I won’t even mention the curtain call…the curtain call was perhaps my favorite part of the whole approach, and I don’t want to spoil it!

 

While I love the detail that went into this production, I think the authenticity was the least interesting of Rylance’s choices in the production–which is saying something! His Richard was not the dastardly mastermind but a mad and perhaps accidental genius. He would cackle mid-soliloquy, prance about like a fool, and molest poor Anne’s fingers in a rather horrific fashion. While I always read the play as a terrible man (but slightly sympathetic, he has, after all had a tough lot in life) who goes insane as the weight of his greedy deeds mounts, Rylance’s portrayal shows a man who is already slightly insane who goes off the deep end entirely once he gains power. Many of the scenes that are often chilling were actually funny in Rylance’s hands. He reminded me of Albert Finney in Scrooge. (I doubt anyone will get that reference, I think my mom and I are the only people in the world who have seen and adore that film, but it’s a fantastic performance.) He was funny, and because of that, you like him, even though he’s a homicidal maniac. I’m not sure it was my favorite interpretation, I’d have to see more actual productions (read: non glam rock themed), but it was really enjoyable, and I’m even more excited to see their production of Twelfe Night next week.

With my discussion of Shakespeare aside, it’s been busy as usual. Finals week is coming up, so things have been quiet as I’m too busy studying and preparing papers and trying not to run screaming through the streets to do anything interesting. It was nice to go home for Thanksgiving and see my family. I enjoyed taking a break from the busy city to eat a lot of food and check out the country craft fairs. I’m starting to get into the Christmas spirit; once I finish finals I think I will be in full holiday cheer mode!

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Adult Things in New York City

At BEA, I received a signed copy of “Make Good Art,” the book form of Neil Gaiman’s commencement address to…. In it, he talks about the “fraud police,” a term which I understand exactly. Living here, away from home, in my very own apartment, working an actual job in an actual office, I regularly feel like the fraud police are going to show up at my door. “Excuse me ma’am. We’ve been told you’re acting like an adult, which you are not. You’re going to have to come with us.”
 
At 23, I’m not sure when feeling like an adult actually happens. In the other Neil Gaiman book I read recently, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, one the characters observes that inside, adults are just children. So maybe all adults are just pretending. But it still feels like the fraud police are going to call me on my act, tell me that I’m not qualified to be an adult. Or even worse, that I’m not allowed to do some things because I am an adult. “Excuse me ma’am,” the faud police might say. “It has come to our attention that you have been taking blue raspberry lollipops when you go to the bank to make the deposit at work. You are 23, therefore it is illegal to eat things that will turn your mouth blue for the rest of the work day.” Or perhaps “As a 23 year old, you are not permitted to eat the oatmeal with the little eggs that turn into dinosaurs when you add hot water.”
 
I suppose adulthood isn’t not eating dinosaur oatmeal or having art in actual frames on your walls. But then what is it? Is it paying bills? Is it being a certain age? Does it feel like anything? I don’t think anyone has any answers to these questions. But I’m an adult now, and like the xkcd comic says, I get to decide what that means now.
 
And what I decide it means is this: Hot summer nights in the grass listening to the philharmonic with best friends and plenty of wine. Once the musical and the stage door after, fangirling Arthur Darvill. Late nights in the West Village. Drinks at Gallow Green with fortune tellings and charms. As usual, it was a busy and delightful couple of weeks, despite the heatwave. And tomorrow, I’m flying home for a week. I can’t wait!
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I have Immortal Longings in me

Sitting at dinner with my friends last night, I was worried it wasn’t going to be as good as I needed it to be. I had been anticipating last night for a month, planning it for two…how could it not be disappointing? I was terrified Sleep no More wasn’t going to live up to my excitement.

And I was dead wrong.

I know, I know, I’ve posted about this already, but this is more of and in depth review of my experience last night, because I felt like it. So there. I think a good portion of my enjoyment of the show, or of anything at the hotel, comes from the buildup. The same bubbling of excitement and anticipation that happens every time I check in. It’s so strong it’s borderline anxiety. But it’s a wonderful feeling, it’s such a high right before you take the plunge and you’re immersed in that world. My friends back home are probably sick of me talking about this thing. It’s hard to understand how it is if you haven’t been, how utterly intoxicating it is. It’s like falling into an alternate universe where strange and mysterious things not only happen, but they happen to you.

Anyway, a recap of last night. After my butterflies in the entry maze, I relaxed into the pull of the show. I decided to follow Banquo, because I haven’t had much to do with the main characters, and he walked me out last time, so I was curious. I lost him for a bit after Duncan’s funeral and scrambled to find him. I gave up, only to bump into him playing card in the Speakeasy. Sometimes I feel like the McKittrick leads you to where you should be. I’d seen his fight with Macbeth before, but having followed him, it meant more. I followed Dead!Banquo out into the main street; He stopped and turned and whispered to me before dashing off to the banquet.

I tried following Macduff for a time after the banquet, but he got crowded, and some of the other followers were a bit rude for my taste. I did get to see him find Lady Macduff, and I saw his dance with the door…that was amazing, I’d never seen that before. I left him in the Macduff quarters after one elbow-in-the-side too many and decided to visit the Porter.

I love the Porter so much. He’s longing so much for Boy Witch, even though BW with will never want him. But he wants so much…and I think he wants more than just love. He wants a life as someone more than The Porter. Watching him handle the items around the lobby, I got that impression last night. That what troubles him is more than just unrequited love. It is unrequited love, but he’s also so trapped in who he is, and he wants so much to get out. Perhaps Boy Witch symbolizes that for him. And god, I understand that wanting. That longing so bad that it aches, the hole inside you that you’d do anything to fill, that follows you constantly, and sneaks up on you every time you’ve managed to forget it.

I followed him for the second loop, and was crushed when he pulled someone else into his office. At loop’s end, I was still feeling his story, so I decided to hang around. And that was my moment. He met my eyes and pulled me off. It wasn’t what I expected, my heart broke for him, and he left me with a smear of lipstick and a ring. I love the Porter’s story even more now. (I read a very interesting and scholarly take on the Porter and Hecate and the loops, but selfishly I like the simple version of love and longing better for the moment, simply because it struck several chords in my last night. Besides, I’m still young and new, you have to enjoy the shallows before you can dive to the depths.).

After our moment, I felt sad and unsure, and I hadn’t visited the town much, so I decided just to stop up there for 10 minutes before the final banquet. I managed to stumble in on the rave, which was a bit of a jarring adjustment after the quiet of the lobby. After, I tried to stop back and check on the Porter, but the black masks were out, so I headed down for the banquet. After the final scene, Lady Macduff walked me back to the Manderly and wished me a good night.

Swapping stories with my friends was cut short by a very educational performance by Calloway (who was new to me; the previous times I’ve been to the Manderly, it’s just been Maximillian). It was a funny performance, and the cast got to showcase some of their other skills (how is it fair they can dance and sing? Bah!). It was nice to end the night on a lighter note. All in all, another memorable night at the McKittrick. Three down, many more to come I hope.

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