Saturday, September 4, 2010

Send In the Clowns, S&M, and Grovers Corners

One of the most incredible parts of living in NYC is the accessibility to incredible theater. In the past month, I have seen three excellent displays of performance art that I want to share with you!

A Little Night Music

On Broadway - Walter Kerr Theater

Starring: Bernadette Peters and Elaine Stritch

Kellen's parents were in town for their anniversary and wanted to take us to a Broadway show. They chose a classic, "A Little Night Music." I actually knew nothing about this musical other than Catharine Zeta-Jones won the Tony for it and now Bernadette had taken her place and apparently, was doing a damn-good Desiree! Elaine Stritch (hysterical) played Desiree's overbearing, entitled and stuck-in-the -past mother, Madame Armfeldt. The story itself was ok... Desiree, an aging star, rekindles an old flame with the suave and successful Fredrik (Alexander Hanson) who is married to the barely-legal Anne (Ramona Mallory). All hell breaks loose when the married couples and secret lovers converge at Madame Armfeldt's estate for a weekend in the country. It kept my attention but it wasn't a WOW until Bernadette sang "Send In The Clowns." Call me crazy but I never knew that song came from this musical! She was incredible, and the song stuck with me.

Watch her rendition here...
A few other greats have sent in the clowns as well.....
Babs is my fave!

Overall, decent show made great by phenomenal actors....a theme I've seen numerous times on and off-broadway.

A few weeks ago, we walked passed Second Stage, an off-broadway theater on our block. We noticed that Zach Braff (Scrubs, Garden State) was starring in a lay there called "Trust". To our delight, this theater offers tickets for $30 for those under 30 yrs old. $60 for a theater date?!!! Awesome deal.


Off Broadway - Second Stage Theater

Starring: Zach Braff, Bobby Cannavalle, Sutton Foster and Ari Graynor

Written by: Paul Weitz (About A Boy, American Pie)

This play truly blew K and me away! A dark comedy that showcases Harry (Braff), marriage in the tank despite $300 million in the bank. Harry goes to an S&M parlour and meets Prudence (Foster) a dominatrix who he went to high school with. The play is VERY current, with creative set design, dark humor, and phenomenal and unexpected music. It was so good that we're buying Second Stages' 4-play package for $99!!!! Great little theater with above-average plays!

See Zach Braff on Regis & Kelly

To round out my month of theater, I saw a play that truly affected me. Set in the fictional town of Grovers Corners, New Hampshire, OUR TOWN is a story that will stay on my mind for a very long time.

Our Town

Off Broadway - Barrow Street Theater

Directed by: David Cromer

I saw this play with my theater-nut friend Kerry, her husband Josh and my newest NY transplant friend, Arielle. This was Kerry's 4th and final viewing of Our Town. SHe simply told me I had to see this play and that I would truly LOVE it. I trust her, so wen went and boy, was I in for a surprise!

Our Town is played out as a "theater-in-the-round" where there isn't any separation between the actors and the audience. They act literally, all around you. David Cromer, the director who first brought this play to life had returned to direct it and to play the role of the Stage Manager. He was breathtaking. He made Grovers Corners come to life in my imagination. The story and "set" are very simple...allowing the characters to shine. The theme of this lay is still current and meaningful despite it being written in 1938. If you haven't read or seen this play, please do. Wikipedia actually describes the story very well.

Our Town's narrator, the Stage Manager, is completely aware of his relationship with the audience, leaving him free to break the fourth wall and address them directly. According to the script, the play is to be performed with little scenery, no set and minimal props. Wilder was dissatisfied with the theatre of his time: "I felt that something had gone wrong....I began to feel that the theatre was not only inadequate, it was evasive."[5] His answer was to have the characters mime the objects with which they interact. Their surroundings are created only with chairs, tables, and ladders. (e.g., The scene in which Emily helps George with his evening homework, conversing through upstairs windows, is performed with the two actors standing atop separate ladders to represent their neighboring houses.) Says Wilder, "Our claim, our hope, our despair are in the mind – not in things, not in 'scenery.'"[6]

Beginning with daily life's routines and necessities, the play reveals an American family's intimate and habitual personal lives. The last two acts gradually represent life's deeper aspects, mostly through George Gibbs and Emily Webb, whose unspoken mutual affection as children blossoms into love, marriage, and death. Act 2 celebrates George and Emily's wedding. The characters analyze the need for human companionship while questioning the institution of marriage. The last-minute apprehension that both Emily and George experience about being married represents a universal theme of young people wanting to grow up quickly while still craving childhood's relative certainty and security.

In the final act, Emily Webb's ghost time travels back to her 12th birthday after dying in childbirth. Through this, Wilder conveys life's fundamental meaning and significance, dwelling upon daily life and routine. Also, the author's concept of pursuing life rather than just living it is shown by Mrs. Gibbs's desire to visit France. Later, she obtains the necessary money to go, but she chooses to leave it to George and Emily; this implies either that she, like Emily, failed to appreciate life to its fullest, or that she instead came to enjoy its simple pleasures enough that she no longer needed to go to France.

Our Town attempts to express the New England town of the early twentieth century and how change is beginning to affect it. Ongoing industrialization and immigration are alluded to with mentions of "Polish Town." The Stage Manager stresses the famous line, "This is the way we were." Indeed, when Our Town was staged in the late 1930s and '40s, many recognized from personal experience the life and times it depicted. Today's audiences are more likely to interpret the play as a story of times gone by, although the daily routines, habits, and rituals in it still exist and help bind our society through a mutual commonality that affect us in a personal way.

I left the West Village that night feeling so blessed. To live in a city that celebrates the arts in such rich and diverse ways is truly magical. My appreciation for the theater deepens every year and I can't wait to see what 2011 brings!

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