I saw "What Did You Expect?"

I saw “What Did You Expect?” off-Broadway at the Public Theater on Lafayette in NYC.


What I wore: Chinese-made Australian boots, gray mid-rise straight-legged jeans, black Lilith tank, black ATM cotton blouse, black Helmut Lang loose-knit sweater, gray and lime green Marimekko scarf, eye-makeup, ponytail, a look of bewilderment.


What I did beforehand: took a MetroNorth train to Grand Central, went to the dentist for that bad news, looked at my favorite Baby Jesus at the Morgan Library, ate, walked, counted the unsmiling people on Park Avenue (57 out of 60), talked to a guy with a dog named Barry (who did not give me high-five), arrived early at the theater, discovered I’d bought two tickets, called The Graduate to try to convince him to join me. 


Who went with me: 160 white strangers.

How I got tickets: online, with a member’s discount.

Why I saw this show: it’s the second part of the Gabriels play cycle: election year in the life of one family, by Richard Nelson. Part one was “Hungry,” and my favorite play so far this year.

Where I sat: Row B seat 103, between an empty seat and a couple who knew the women behind me actors who’ve been friends since they met in a play where they were the only women in the cast, back in 1979. One of them misremembered the name of the man as “Donald,” and had to tell him twice that it was all on account of politics. 

Things that were sad: I think I expected to like this play as much as the first of the cycle. But I didn’t. It had all the same elements: the same set, the same actors, the same playwright.  It had similar moments of great poignancy. But it didn’t sock me in the jaw with its verisimilitude, as the first had. It would be almost impossible to have done. So it will have to come in second place, behind the first. And, of course, I can hardly wait for the third and last play in the cycle, to open in November. 

Things that were funny: I objected to the way one character cut onions.

Things that were not funny: there is a man running for President of the United States of America with the full backing of one of our two main political parties that is overtly and proudly xenophobic, misogynistic, racist, tax-avoiding, bankruptcy-exploiting, fat-bashing, inarticulate, unprepared, unqualified, ungrammatical, and mean-spirited. And we have to take him seriously. 

What it is: a play, lasting one hour and forty-five minutes, without intermission. It features actors cooking and kitchen-table story-telling with some well-timed cussing, covering themes of economic inequality and the quiet desperation and loneliness of modern life. It includes a master class on script-writing, props and costuming, and features a cast of actors so subtle and real and honest in their performances that they tower above almost every other cast currently performing in New York. 

Who should see it: anyone who missed “Hungry.” Anyone who should have seen “Hungry.” Aspiring playwrights. Residents of Rhinebeck, New York. 

What I saw on the way home: it was very late. I stepped off the train with a chatty woman wearing a colorful scarf who wanted to go together to our cars. We had parked in different lots, and each of us had to walk alone. 

I saw "Familiar"

What I saw: “Familiar,” at Playwrights Horizons, Main Stage at 416 W 42nd St. in NYC


What I wore: quilted black Barbour parka (for the second time this winter), favorite black Fluevog “Guides,” Wolford fishnet knee-highs that are totally worth the price, the way-too-long black jeans, Lilith silk blouse that is cream with tiny faces on it, and no makeup at all because I ran out of time

What I did beforehand: ate a lobster roll at one of the food vendors at City Kitchen. I had rootbeer

Who went with me: a new friend from the new barn

How I got tickets: online, full price (and my friend reimbursed me, so now I have a coat-pocket full of cash, woo hoo)

Why I saw this show: to the extent that a living playwright can, Danai Gurira has captured people’s attention;  I got this text from a friend who saw an interview with her and she was all, “You should see her plays,” and I’m like, yeah, ok. Also, I was looking for something family-dram-comedy but not too dysfunctional-family-ish to see with a new friend that might not appreciate, say, blood explosions or plays about rape victims.

Where I sat: Row E, seat 14, between my friend and a pair of ladies of a certain age who howled and laughed at all the same things as me

What it is: a funny drama, set in a midwestern American home, by Danai Gurira, performed in two acts, with one 15 minute intermission. The multi-racial cast of eight was the first cast that seemed to me to have the perfect actor in each role. 

Things that were sad: remembering my own wedding dramas insofar as they resembled the ones portrayed

Things that were funny: the play has a lot of laughs built in

Things that were not funny: I was promised, by a guy seated behind me at “American Psycho,” that “Eclipsed” was the better and more important of Danai Gurira’s plays in production right now. I disagree. He did, however, tell me I had excellent taste in plays when I told him “Hungry” was the best play I’d seen this spring.

Who should see it: fans of Danai Gurira, people from Minnesota, artists who feel their families don’t understand them, anyone with a sister who has unexpectedly embraced Christianity, people from Zimbabwe, people who have relatives in other countries

What I saw on the way home: garbage

I saw "Hungry" (Part 1)

What I saw: “Hungry (Play 1 of 3 The Gabriels: Election Year in the Life of One Family)” at the Public Theater, at 425 Lafayette St in NYC, west of the East Village, East of NYU, south of Union Square, North of Houston St

What I wore: custom black Vogel tall dress boots, safari tan full-seat Pikeur breeches, long-sleeved black polo shirt, zippered Ibex cardigan, Baker-trimmed black quilted jacket


What I did beforehand: rode a horse, drove to the city, ate a bagel, walked to the subway squinting the whole way because I left my sunglasses in the apartment, rode the wrong subway with a guy eating stinky, used the spacious and welcoming bathroom at the theater

Who went with me: my readers

How I got tickets: online, $10 off because I allow some theater companies to send me spam

Why I saw this show: family drama, politics and set in Rhinebeck? Pick me!

Where I sat: near the desk in the kitchen, front row

Things that were sad: characters in this play express their grief about a recent death  

Things that were funny: families are funny, good writing about how families talk in their kitchens is funny

Things that were not funny: many working class people today are not doing better, despite the news that economy has improved.

What it is: first of a three part play, set March 4, 2016, about the very real economic struggles of various family members in an election year, with cooking. Better than “The Humans.” Parts 2 and 3 to open in September and then November.

Who should see it: everyone

What I saw on the way home: a guy on the subway with a bag of chihuahuas


What I saw: “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime,” at the Barrymore Theater on 47th between 8th Avenue and Broadway

What I wore: rust corduroys (with stretch!) and Chinese-made Australian boots
What I did beforehand: ate remarkably mediocre Thai food
Who went with me: R., a twenty-something friend
How I got tickets: online, full price
Why I saw this show: my cousin L. suggested it on FB
Where I sat: in a prime number seat, third row orchestra

Things that were sad: graphic depictions of the struggles of a young man in the autism spectrum, with a side serving of family dysfunction
Things that were funny: the main character has the blunt charm sometimes found in the personalities of high-functioning people in the autism spectrum
Things that were not funny: Why oh why do we only get books and plays and movies about disabled people if they have nearly inhuman superpowers? Dear Readers, not every high-functioning, neuro-atypical person in the autism spectrum is a math whiz!

What it is: a Tony-award-winning play, adapted with care and accuracy from the young adult novel of the same name. Probably the most intricate production I have seen since I started the “What I Saw” blogs.

Who should see it: parents of frustrating children, teens who appreciate an outsider-narrator, fans of pet rats, math nerds (stay past curtain call), anyone who saw “but I cd only whisper” earlier in the week for a two-part spectacle of low-budget vs. high-budget theatrical depictions of perceptual storm on the part of a main character (and then let’s get coffee to discuss)

What I saw on the way home: cold, sizzling rain on the pavement and distant lightning illuminating the sky of Hell’s Kitchen