I saw “The Penitent”



What I saw: “The Penitent,” a new play by David Mamet, at the Atlantic Theater Company in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, on West 20th Street. 


What I did beforehand: baked bread, drove to the city, found on-street parking which was free and not illegal and it made the afternoon feel like winning a prize when you didn’t even buy a raffle ticket, got cappuccinos at Grumpy’s. 

What I wore: Doc Martens, black micro-cord jean leggings from James Jeans, black shirt with white dots, shirt and sweater I found on my closet floor, parka.

Who went with me: the Bacon Provider

How I got tickets: via phone, in December. I forgot to put it on the calendar in my phone and  booked something else the night before and thought maybe we’d make a theater-weekend of it, but then other stuff came up and we just drove back and forth. Sorry, planet. Next time I will take the train.

Why I saw this show: David Mamet.


Where I sat: row E, seat 9, behind the only empty seat in the theater and surrounded by old white people. I assumed the empty seat was saved for the director, or 44, or Jesus, and in the moments between scenes where they dimmed the lights onstage and re-arranged the table and two chairs and the women next to me whispered intrusively, I thought about what it would be like to have the director, or 44, or Jesus sitting directly in front of me and I decided I wouldn’t be able to concentrate.


Things that were sad: the forces of evil in this play (homophobia, mental illness, media manipulation, capitalism, the legal system) exert their will upon the characters but cannot be confronted or thwarted. 

Things that were not funny/funny: lawyers can be funny as all hell.


Something I ate: bread and cheese in the car on the way there.

What it is: another subtly brilliant Mamet play, which might feel like a masterpiece to those who’ve been sued, and might feel dry as toast to anyone else, with four actors and one brief intermission. 

Who should see it: lawyers, libelers, therapists, ethicists, people who like crime dramas, language mavens, fans of Mamet, people who have been libeled.  

What I saw on the way home: we made excellent time, and were buoyed by the language of America’s master playwright, but an especially big white SUV wandered menacingly linto our lane on the Saw Mill Parkway up around Elmsford, and I had to honk. 

I saw “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Gynecologic Oncology Unit at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center of New York City”

What I saw: “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Gynecologic Oncology Unit at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center of New York City,” a play, at MCC Theater at The Lucille Lortel Theatre, 121 Christopher Street, in the West Village of NYC.

What I wore: limited edition Puma X Swash States, white jeans, eShakti tunic top, tiny fancy dark mauve handbag with an extra-long strap.

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What I did beforehand: braved a traffic jam without honking, rode the E train, tried unsuccessfully to get a smile out of a pair of bored and surly NYPDs, succeeded with a haughty hipster barista when I got my coffee and cookie at Joe on Waverly Place.


Who went with me: lots of strangers, including some women from Florida celebrating , a couple whose daughter was a gynecological oncologist in Madison, Wisconsin, grumpy old folks next to me who were quietly uncomfortable with my cackling.

How I got tickets: online, because I thought the name was stupid and therefore great.

Why I saw this show: having seen two hospital-room black comedies, I now hope to see them all.

Where I sat: row G, seat 107, behind a guy with a huge neck and head, and between some old people and some even older people.

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Things that were sad: this is a play about people whose moms are fighting cancer. This is not a play about brave survivors, or courageous 5K fundraising participants. It is about people who are fundamentally broken.


Things that were funny: vibrator jokes, a long condom story, and that long name, which isn’t even accurate, since the funny things happen at the Gynecologic Oncology Unit at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center of New York City, not on the way to the Gynecologic Oncology Unit at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center of New York City.

Things that were not funny: someone to my left fell asleep despite my loud laughing, and when he woke up he wanted his wife to tell him what happened.

What it is: a play, set in a hospital room at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center of New York City, featuring four skillful actors and lasting about 90 minutes. 

Who should see it: anyone seeking something better than the absurdly simplistic and unrealistic portrayal of people with cancer being “brave warriors,” audiences prepared for simulated oral sex onstage, fans of Law & Order.

What I saw on the way home: a warning light on the dashboard of my car alerted me that the front seat passenger was not wearing a seatbelt. My front seat passenger was my purse, made somewhat heavier than normal with the addition of my laptop. Nothing like the engineering choices of some German car-feature designers to remind me that I, being a hand-bag-carrying woman, may not always be thought of as a car-owner or otherwise relevant person. 

Coffee

The very first cafe latte I ever had was in Bolinas, California in 1992. It was prepared for me by my friend Ann, in her kitchen, using her espresso machine.  The first time I was offered a latte in a paper cup with the abomination of a plastic top on it would have been sometime late in 1993, when we moved to Seattle.  The persistence of this ill-fitting plastic horror continues to impress me, for I find that not only does it ruin the smell, flavor and texture of hot drinks, it works poorly as a lid.
This morning I found myself with about fifteen minutes to kill before the pet food store opened, and I was in an unfamiliar neck of the woods. Outside of airports or long road trips, I do not frequent Starbucks, disliking their ambience, pastries, sandwiches, in-a-hurry sales staff, and burnt-tasting coffee, to say nothing of the other customers.   Today, I found there was a Peet’s Coffee, which I recall from my mandatory coffee history classes in business school was founded by the original Starbucks guys as a less commercial and more authentic alternative.
I am sorry to report that the pastries were, to a muffin, exactly what one might find in the Starbucks of the B Terminal of Sea-Tac Airport. I settled for an almond poppy-seed muffin, which does not usually disappoint. My drink, a twelve ounce non-fat latte, which I ordered “for here,” was served in a shapely mug, with no saucer.  The foam was floating on top like a huge marshmallow, having been unceremoniously dumped there in a blob.  
What kind of a coffee snob have I become?  Because I frequent small independent coffee shops in Seattle, like Kaladi on East Pike, I have grown to expect the rosetta on top. It’s pretty. It takes practice to make. It places the milk foam on the surface of the latte in a uniform layer that lasts but does not slide onto your face. I like it.
There were almost as many cantankerous pre-schoolers in the coffee shop as there were adults, which did not improve its ambience. One was unable to sit but silently paced back and forth before his mother’s table like a bear in the zoo. A clutch of loud ones were given sixteen ounce drinks with big green straws jammed in the ill-fitting plastic horrors known as lids; this is a huge drink for anyone. One drink fell, but did not spill. Another was thrown, producing a pond of lukewarm beige sugar-milk, which the adults scurried to clean up with handfuls of flimsy napkins. That, and the faint drift of crumbs already on my dingy table made me upend my latte onto my face, and turn and rise to stagger across the parking lot into an unfamiliar pet food store.

Awkward is the New Cool

Not long ago, a friend expressed a need for a voodoo doll.

As of this writing I am almost done with it. Mr. VooDoo is certainly the ugliest sewing project I have ever completed. It is at least 50% larger than I originally intended, owing to the extreme awkwardness of sewing something very small. The limbs are asymmetrical; the arm and the leg on the left side are both noticeably thinner and also oddly twisted. The face is lumpy and bunchy. The neck has visible, uneven grey stitches around it. The mouth is pale and thin. The hands look like fish fins.

When I pull it out of my sewing bag to work on it, people give me funny looks. I don’t think anything this deliberately dorky-looking should be sneered at, but then, I guess I could avoid the hipsters if I stayed out of the coffee shops. Besides, awkward is the new cool.