Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Performing Arts in NYC

Is there such a state as too much of a good thing.  Not according to my wife, Penelope, when it comes to the performing arts.  She booked every free moment we had during our recent visit to New York.  As I have learned that is what all good Santa Feans do when they visit the “Big Apple”.

The first show we attended was “The Money Shot” by Neil LaBute.  We were lucky enough to hit the last performance of the run at the Lucille Lortel Theatre on Christopher Street.  Naïve me, I did not understand what the money shot was until we were well into the play.  An aging lesbian actress who wanted her intellectual partner to have a baby for them and an aging heterosexual actor who arrived with his bimbo “fiancée” came together to discuss whether it was alright with their significant others for them to actually have sex on on screen for the “money shot”.  To add spice to the plot, the male was rather dumb, e.g. after insisting that Belgium is not in Europe, and looking it up on his iPhone, he says “See it’s not Europe, it’s in the European Union”, driving the intellectual lesbian bonkers.  Neil LaBute can thus have a wonderful time with words and ideas, as well as an insightful ending.

One of the highlights of our stay in New York also served as a birthday present from Penelope to me and what a great gift it was.  After we had heard the Pro Musica Symphony Orchestra in Santa Fe I had thought it was very good but said now I would like to hear the New York Philharmonic,  to compare.  Penelope knows that I love Mozart and it just so happened that during our stay in New York there would be an all Mozart program at Avery Fisher Hall in Lincoln Center.  It featured Lang Lang, a celebrated  concert pianist from China, born in 1982.  His first piano teacher in China threw him out for “lack of talent” but, the story goes that when another teacher played a Mozart record for him his interest in the piano was rekindled and he was able to join the conservatory.  He has gone on to play with all the great orchestras of Europe and ,when eventually he went back to China to play, it was with the Philadelphia Orchestra. His interpretation of Mozart is extremely controversial and many critics don’t like it.  The audience, however, including yours truly were absolutely enraptured by his passionate performance.  Here is Mozart:Rondo alla Turca (Turkish March) in a different venue which Lang Lang played as an encore for us.

The next event on our schedule was a revival of Leonard Bernstein’s musical “Our Town”.  Penelope, a former dancer, was seduced by the fact that Morgan Fairchild a principal from the New York City Ballet was in it.  She did not figure on the choreography of Joshua Bergasse who beat every dance number, and there were many, into the ground by doing encore after encore of each beautiful or funny bit.  I felt I was watching various circus acts going on far too long.  What added to this image was the fact that it was at the Lyric Theater which seats an audience of 1,930 and most of the seats were filled.  What was nice was that it was well miked and had a live orchestra.  Also, just like the circus they played the National Anthem before the show and the entire audience stood and sang.

Another revival was on our schedule.  One that I thought was far more successful.  It was “Indian Ink” (land of the Raj, not the Indian Chief or Governor) by Tom Stoppard.  The first stage production was done in England in 1995.  Stoppard, who grew up in India, writes on so many different levels and knows so much history that he can weave a very complicated story together so that you can laugh while you are learning.  In this case, it is about the relationship between the Indian People and the English under British rule.  My reaction to a Stoppard play is always the same, I want to see it again the next day so that I can piece together all the dialog and meanings that I missed the first time around.  Penelope solved the problem by buying the script during the intermission.  The show was so well produced by the Roundabout Theater Company and directed by Carey Perloff with Rosemary Harris and Romola Garai in the starring roles.  The former is a noted American actress who grew up in England and the latter is a British actress who has worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company and been on British television and in a number of films.

Our final theatre New York experience was the much acclaimed musical “Book of Mormon”  It was, in my opinion, an overblown skit with some good numbers but I do not remember a single tune.  Maybe I had just heard for too long what a hot ticket it was and how everyone had enjoyed it.  Maybe it is just the best “new” musical around.

In order to see a work by the reputedly greatest English playwright, William Shakespeare, we had to return to Santa Fe where  King Lear was being performed by Shakespeare’s Globe from London.  The original Globe Theatre was built in 1599 by Shakespeare’s “playing company” and many of his plays were performed there. In 1997 a reconstruction was built a short distance away from the original location.  The Globe was a touring company and the current one has continued the tradition.  Therefore, we were lucky enough to see the small company of 10 and a simple set put on a fabulous performance lead by Joseph Marcell as King Lear.

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