Archive | Theater Matters

‘Angels in America’ Saves Us All

Yesterday I did a full Angels in America immersion–10 hours in Midtown for Parts 1 and 2. I scored cheapo tickets on TDF.com and into the Neil Simon Theater I smuggled water, sliced apples, nuts, whiskey, and lavender water in case my neighbors had hygiene challenges. (They didn’t, but because they were tuna sandwich smugglers, the lavender water proved useful anyway.) Outside the theater the city was cloudy and cold and Mercury Retrogradey. Which is to say: there was nowhere I’d rather have been.

Put simply, it was the best theatrical experience of my life—timeless and timely, emboldened and emboldening, transcendent and holy fractured. The staging–neon boxes and steampunk lanterns and ladders sliding up and down, side to side– was extraordinary. Ditto for the performances—Nathan Lane, raw and raging and hilarious, was the best anyone’s ever seen, and even Andrew Garfield’s look-Ma-I’m-playing-gaaaaaay conceit was not appalling once he found his rage. And get this: every straight male role was played by a middle-aged lady wearing a doggedly bad wig!

But all that pales in contrast to the powerful joy of hearing Tony Kushner’s words uttered live for the first time. I honestly believe he is this greatest country’s finest voice. Even in a too-many-cooks-in-a-kitchen mess like “Lincoln,” through his cadences course everything–salt and blood and cum, stone and silt and copper. The sweat and tears of our country and our heavens, basically. As when I saw Hamilton, I felt connected to the groundlings taking in Shakespeare while he was still alive. Connected to all of time.

Yes, Mrs. Lincoln, everything, and I do mean everything, was vibrant and devastating in equal measures. By the time I walked out, my legs barely worked anymore, so it was a good thing I could fly with the play’s 1980s Jewish Mormon homosexual lady angel wings. As I soared, the Eustacia Vye phrase I’ve whispered since I was a teenager flashed like another sign on Broadway: “Send me great love from somewhere, else I shall die.” That great love never did show up for me in the mommy-daddy, one-on-one incarnation I expected. But in New York’s museums, galleries, kitchens, caverns, sidewalks, subways, and, o fuck, stages–all those “melting pots that never melted”–I feel it all the time. I guarantee you everyone in attendance at this play feels it too: great art, great truth-yes, great, great love. It comes in such finely feathered forms.

A Midsummers Night Magic

Last night I attended the first performance of A Midsummers Night Dream at Central Park’s Delacorte Theater, and the whole night was magic, pure magic. I won the tickets in a TodayTix lottery (TodayTix is the best) and it so happened I already had plans in place with Lisa F., my friend who always treats me to theater tickets. Lisa had never seen the play, and as it’s my all-time favorite I was so pleased to share it with her. (Lisalisa power is no joke.)

Midsummers was the first play I ever saw in a theater–it was in the 1980s at Harvard’s American Repertory Theater, and my beautiful, already-ailing grandmother who couldn’t drive put on her best green dress and took the commuter rail down to scarysnobby Cambridge from Lowell, Mass to sit with her kindred spirit grandaughter in the Bard’s bigcity forest magic. Since then, every meaningful relationship of my life has been graced with a Midsummer’s Night Dream story, and midsummer has become my favorite time of year. Also I am abashed to say this was the first time in my 24 years as a NYC denizen that I ever attended Shakespeare in the Park, and it was of course the perfect introduction. Continue Reading →

Come to Fosse

Anyone who really loves show business has a “come to Fosse” moment. You know you’re a real convert to the choreographer and director when you come around on “All That Jazz,” his bombastic meta-movie biography-musical. You’ve joined his cult when you come around on his last film, “Star 80,” about slain porn star Dorothy Stratten. (I’ve yet to achieve that status.) But even if you don’t dig Fosse – even if you don’t consciously know Fosse – chances are good you’ve fallen under his influence. Born in 1927, his signature style didn’t just indelibly stamp the world of dance. It redefined the packaging of sexuality and entertainment, blurring worlds that post-World War II parochialism had strenuously separated.

I first saw “All That Jazz,” Bob Fosse’s signature directorial effort – though not the one that one him an Academy Award – in its initial 1979 run, and was singularly unimpressed. Of course, I was age eight, and more impressed by “The Muppet Movie.” Years later, I saw what I had missed. Buried in the film’s dance sequences, its half-assembled spangled costumes and bare-bones Broadway backstages and editing rooms, was a winking homage to narcissism and its opposite, true communion. It was, and is, an amazing cacophony. But it is also bloated by his death wish – a courtship with his own demise that he materialized by casting Jessica Lange, one of his many girlfriends, in the role of Angelica, a literal angel of death. Continue Reading →

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy