I saw “The Light Years”

What I saw: “The Light Years,” a play by The Debate Society, at Playwright’s Horizons, 416 West 42nd Street, in Manhattan, on the south side of the street after the scaffolding ends but before the Hudson River, on that weird off-Broadway strip of theaters I can’t keep from confusing with each other. 

What I did beforehand: the first year we lived in New York, I thought that coming into the city on a MetroNorth train was like riding an futuristic satellite elevator from an orbiting space station to the surface of the planet. The atmosphere was different. And the gravity. The conductors needed shiny silver suits, of course, but I used my imagination  Five years later, I don’t feel like a prisoner here as much as I did then. Still, the way the train dives under the streets just south of Harlem means the commuters have to emerge from under the city’s skin, like parasites hatching. I brought homemade beer, anyway.

Not The Graduate. But almost.


What I wore: Chinese-made Australian boots, new James skinny jeans, black Brooks Brothers fitted cotton blouse, too long Eileen Fisher cardigan, hoop earrings, gold bead necklace, black parka, favorite rag & bone scarf.

Who went with me: The Graduate and his gf S; she liked my jewelry.

How I got tickets: about a week ago, online. They were the last three seat available.

Why I saw this show: it was billed as a “spectacular tribute to man’s indomitable spirit of invention.”

Where I sat: Row B, Seat 5, next to two unoccupied seats on one side and a woman who laughed too much on the other side. I, also, laughed too much.


Things that were sad: [spoilers]

Things that were funny: lightbulbs, songs, monologues, promises, and a bucket.

Things that were not funny: this one time I was brushing my teeth and I went to put the toothpaste back in the medicine cabinet and got shocked by it. This is the primary memory I have of the place we lived in Salt Lake City in the mid-80s.

Something I ate: a bag of peanuts in the lobby

At a food museum near the theater
What it is: an unusual play about the creators of the 12,000-seat theater called The Spectatorium for the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893. 

Who should see it: electricians, Chicago aficionados, history buffs, aluminum evangelists, love story bugs, theater nerds, devotees of the Depression, bicycle enthusiasts, folding attic stairs fanatics, dirigible fanciers, soliloquy fiends,  junk junkies, lovers of lightbulbs, milk maniacs, World’s Fair nuts, suckers for jingles, impresario connoisseurs, and anyone who’s ever wondered if there’s an inventor living in their attic



What I saw on the way home: the ceiling of Grand Central Terminal, with its light-bulb constellations .

I saw "Sweat"

What I saw: “Sweat,” a play, at the theater known as Studio 54, on West 54th Street in Manhattan.


What I did beforehand: PT on my right knee which I found out this week hurts not because of a ligament tear (hooray!), but because of arthritis (boo!). I was happy about this for perhaps 12 hours, until I realized it meant that instead of surgeryI was facing some amount of knee pain for the rest of my life, which I would get to manage henceforward. Then I went and got my hair cut. 

What I wore: plaid wool dress, ripped tights and Fluevog boots. 


Who went with me: B., a friend of my parents, who I’ve known since I was a kid, and haven’t seen since 2004.


How I got tickets: online as soon as the new venue was announced after missing the chance to see this show’s sold-out run at The Public Theater. 

Why I saw this show: rave reviews.

Where I sat: Row A, on the end, with no one in front of us. 

Things that were sad: this perfectly paced play is about the destruction of working class lives thanks to the relentless forces of unchecked American capitalism. 

Things that were funny: it is not a funny play, but it is not without humor.


Things that were not funny: the venue shows evidence of having been painted, as if current management accepts that audiences look askance at obvious shabbiness, but it’s like someone’s brother-in-law got them a really good deal on many gallons matte black paint and the paint was applied by people who’d never painted before, and as quickly as possible. Crumbling theater venues can do shabby gloriously, like BAM’s facilities. Studio 54 looks like the party ended in 1980, and they just woke up and swept a little.

Something I ate: confetti eggplant and filleted whole durade, part of a really fine and fun meal sitting at the bar of Taboon, on 52nd and 10th Ave. When you go, make a reservation. Share the entrees and order lots of meze plates. 

What it is: a big (and by this I also mean important), serious play with a strong ensemble cast. If this was not the best play I’ve seen in the last year, it was certainly in the top five. Tackling issues of economic uncertainty and race relations in America with fully fleshed-out characters and meaningful stakes, “Sweat” engages on all the levels the talking heads on TV don’t.

Who should see it: line workers, strugglers, bartenders, union members, strike breakers, white supremacists, people who’ve done time, conservatives, drunks, survivors, managers, liberals, know-it-alls.


What I saw on the way home: the dark Saw Mill River Parkway, built with bridges too low for buses, so only passenger cars could use it and specifically buses could not, stretched out before me in a familiar blur. This road is like everything we’ve ever done in America.

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 “All the Fine Boys”


What I saw: The New Group’s production of “All the Fine Boys,” a new play written and directed by Erica Schmidt at the Pershing Square Theater, on West 42nd between 9th and 10th in Manhattan.


What I did beforehand: woke at first light realizing that I’d fallen asleep and left the bread dough in its bulk rise on the counter overnight so it was ruined, made new bread dough for party the next day, called favorite NYC restaurant seeking a reservation and failed to obtain one, glumly walked dogs, resignedly changed, absently drove to city, inadvertently made excellent time, parked in garage, walked to favorite restaurant, noticed they weren’t even open yet, got a table anyway on the promise that we’d be gone by 6 pm, ate a terrific meal, left an extravagant but not unwarranted tip, walked to theater, drank a tea and a beer because sometimes you need both.

What I wore: 90s-era black Doc Martens, favorite jeans (actually clean this time), almost enormous 80s black silk blouse, loose-knit black linen sweater, larger than necessary gold hoop earrings, ponytail, mascara

Who went with me: the Bacon Provider, who only likes plays with happy endings

How I got tickets: in December, online.

Why I saw this show: I subscribed to the season.


Where I sat: Row A, Seat 3,  between a guy who wanted my attention to tell me things about famous people in the audience, and my husband, who is indifferent to the seeing of and commenting on famous people.


Things that were sad/ not funny: in a play where one character crossed the rapids of the river of adolescence by choosing a good stone to step onto and landed safely on the other bank, but another character chose a stone that looked just as good but was tragically wrong, there was not the happy ending the Bacon Provider prefers.

Things that were funny: a soundtrack of 80s hits, a stack of 80s horror movies, snacking on Pringles and Twizzlers.


Something I ate: deviled eggs at The Marshal.


What it is: another good play with Joe Tippett in it, this intermission-free, 100-minute production moves quickly, tackles some very scary coming-of-age subject matter, and features three other fine performers. 

Who should see it: people unafraid of strong, sexual subject matter with 14-year-old protagonists. 

What I saw on the way home: a bit of rain as a cold front had moved in while we were at the theater.

I saw "Tell Hector I Miss Him"

What I saw: “Tell Hector I Miss Him” a play at the Atlantic Theater Company in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan



What I did beforehand: riding lesson where my instructor reminded me about the red failure signals I saw on the equine simulator, dropped the Bacon Provider’s shirts at the cleaners, bought bagels, went home, showered, got dressed, walked my dogs until they pooped and then took them straight home again, changed shoes, told 19 I was leaving. Realized I hadn’t checked the train schedule. Took off my shoes again. Set an alarm so I wouldn’t be late. Sat down and posted a blog post


Drove to train station listening to the random song Apple Music picked for me, which was Simon & Garfunkle’s “The Only Living Boy in New York,” which I tried to sing along to but kind of sucked at. Got a call from one of the organizers of the auction we attended on Sunday about the week in a Miami condo I bid on and won. Rode the train. 


Got out at Grand Central. Took the shuttle to Times Square where I planned to take the 1. In the middle of the crowded station there were two, slim bespectacled guys with guitars and stylish, short-brimmed straw hats setting up. They had an amp. Their expressions were attentive, like they were waiting for something. Then they began to play. I paused; subway musicians are one of the things I actually like about NYC. A white guy in a knitted balaclava said something to me. I couldn’t hear him. I leaned in.

“It’s fake,” he said, shouting over the Spanish-inflected music. “I saw them setting up. They’re not really playing. The amp is connected to an iPod under that magazine, on top.”

I did not want to yell. I simply touched his arm in an effort to express my understanding and left him. As I descended the stairs to the platform I could still hear him, shouting at the musicians.

This is what’s happening now: angry white guys are showing up and shouting that what’s happening is fake.

What I wore: new black James cords, Chinese-made Australian boots, gray Ibex wool top, black North Face parka, scarf a friend brought me from Scotland, dangly silver earrings, high ponytail 

Who went with me: my niece, A., who came in to the city from Connecticut. 

How I got tickets: many months ago, I booked tickets to this show but changes of plans made it necessary to trade them. As a subscriber to this theater, I have the ability to change what are usually non-refundable tickets. 

Why I saw this show: subscribed to the season. 


Where I sat: Row F, seat 107. Afterwards, my niece told me that this woman in the row in front of us plays the mother of one of the actors on “Orange is the New Black.” Which is confusing because she’s not actually her mom, but if she were she’d totally come to the play, and be all proud, because that’s what moms do. This would be a time she could say, “I’m not her mom, but I play her on TV.”

Things that were sad: this play is about some terribly lonely people.

Things that were funny: eager adulterers, an eager teen, an eager young lesbian, eager drug abuse. 

Things that were not funny: I don’t understand enough Spanish to understand more than the most fundamental cuss words. 

Something I ate: a burger and fries at the Tipsy Parson, on 9th Avenue a few blocks other of the theater.

With a delicious Other Half All-Citra IPA

What it is: a fine play on a small stage with a big cast of talented actors.

Who should see it: fans of “Orange is the New Black,” people who know all the Puerto Rican cuss words, people who want to know all the Puerto Rican cuss words.

What I saw on the way home: I got to my train before the doors opened, but once the doors opened I got on board and walked past the seats facing the right way and for whatever reason sat down facing the wrong way. But I didn’t even find this out until the train started moving and most of the seats had someone sitting there so I had to choose between sitting down with someone who’d be getting up before me or might try to talk to me about fake news or something, or staying put in my own row. 

The other error I made was sitting too close to the bathroom. Really, you just don’t even want to sit in the car with the bathroom. I should have moved. 

But I didn’t move. I didn’t move because I would have had to choose between the other tired people, and most of them were men, and you know that one guy? He is out there. That one guy who thinks that because you’ve sat down next to him, you’ve chosen him. He’s won you over. It’s like you’ve accepted a drink from him at the bar, and now he’s going to talk to you. You’re going to get a piece of his mind. Or, worse. No. I did not want to sit accidentally with that one guy. I didn’t move. It was too late at night to move. Without a better alternative, the seat by the bathroom was better than joining that one guy with the wrong ideas.

There was a parade of men using the bathroom, which was worth keeping an eye on in a furtive way. No eye-contact.  Then some guy went in and was in there for a long time. Things quieted down. I forgot about the bathroom. I got absorbed in the pleasures offered by my iPhone  But then there was the loud retching. Prolonged retching. Repeated retching. People went and got a conductor who was like, oh, yeah, there’s a guy in there barfing. Like that was the most normal thing that happens. A shaved-head guy in a suede jacket near me couldn’t take it anymore and moved to another car. Then suddenly the bathroom door opened and the barfing guy came out, sat down, and passed out. I could see his name and picture on his work ID, still clipped to his belt loop. Things got quiet again. 

As we neared White Plains the barfer’s phone alarm went off. A tall guy in a serious suit and overcoat stepped up to wake him. The barfer lurched to the door and disappeared into the winter night of White Plains. 

As the train pulled away from the station, a trickle of water rolled down the aisle. Soon the trickle became a long puddle. A new guy, with dark, loose curls framing his giant, babyish face came to use the bathroom. He opened the door and loudly announced his joyous complaint to no one and everyone, “Someone’s deliberately clogged the sink!!”


I lifted my feet from the floor of the train car, but I still did not move. I can’t say why.
As we neared my stop, I tip-toed in my manure-proof, Chinese-made Australian paddock boots to the other end of the car. A tired man in an ironic working man’s knit cap and leather dress shoes stood at the edge of the puddle. I encouraged him to step back. Without acknowledging me, he was able to exit in two great long strides. I had to wade through it. 

It was real.


I saw “Made in China”


What I saw: “Made in China,” a puppet musical for adults, at the 59 East 59th Street Theater, way off-Broadway, in New York City.


What I did beforehand: riding lesson. Shower. Frenzied packing. Brief dog walk. Train ride, where I had a haunting thought as we pulled out of the stop at White Plains, and chanted silently to myself, “we should have done more to stop him,” the whole way to Harlem. Walked up 5th Avenue, behind block after block of police barricades, as if I needed more of a reminder of the disaster we didn’t prevent. 

What I wore: Fluevog boots, James jeans, two black tops I bought at a boutique in TriBeCa and cut the tags out of, vintage earrings, scarf the Bacon Provider bought me from India, Eileen Fisher summer weight cardigan because it was unseasonably warm, black parka just in case.

Who went with me: the Bacon Provider.



How I got tickets: I got two of the last seats available about a week ago, online. 

Why I saw this show: a positive review in the New York Times.

Where I sat: Row B, seat 13, on the end, behind my husband. Next to me was a stylish young woman wearing shoes I envied and a menswear hat; she was telling her companion about this powerful and sexually voracious woman at work who sexually harasses everyone, young men and women alike. 


Things that were sad: another play about lonely people.

Things that were funny: naked puppets, cussing puppets, wrestling puppets, puppets on (and in) the toilet, a puppet dog humping another dog, a puppet dog with a real retractible red rocket, puppets having sex, a song about impulse shopping, another song featuring a familiar pussy-grabber’s stump-speech snippets about China, and my laughter making the woman in the hat next to me laugh even louder than I was. 

Also, when we got a beer at the bar before the show, I offered the bartender a pocket copy of the U.S. Constitution, because I carry a stack of them in my purse. “Oh, yeah, I might need that,” he said. 
I got mine from the ACLU.

Things that were not funny: references to human rights abuses and our reliance on cheaply made Chinese goods.

Something I ate: a whole roasted branzino at the nearby Rotisserie Georgette, where four other tables were celebrating birthdays.


What it is: a funny and weirdly fantastic musical about loneliness, human rights, consumerism, and getting along with our neighbors. lasting about an hour and a half, with no intermission.

Who should see it: people who watch TV naked, fans of Avenue Q, kung fu film buffs, devotees of dragon dancers, toilet humor fanciers, Trump satire freaks, human rights experts, disciples of anti-consumerism.

What I saw on the way home: a Windows Media error message on a number of large monitors in a shop window on 5th Avenue, which made my husband laugh.


I saw “Sweet Charity”

What I saw: “Sweet Charity,” at the Pershing Square Signature Center at 480 West 42nd, between 9th and 10th in Manhattan.

What I did beforehand: took the train into the city, checked into the Library Hotel at Madison Avenue and 41st, had tapas with R.


What I wore: gray wool Ibex cowl-neck top, James jeans, navy cardigan, Chinese-made Australian boots, new black parka, pearl earrings, silver bracelets.


Who went with me: the Bacon Provider.

How I got tickets: online, a few weeks ago when I thought spending a night in the city a few days before Christmas would be fun and productive rather than inconvenient.

Why I saw this show: I impulsively subscribed to the New Group for the season. It makes me wonder about the existence of free will and the power of advertising.

Where I sat: Row D, Seat 10.


Things that were sad: this is another play about loneliness (my cousin recently pointed out elsewhere, “All plays are about being lonely.”). And not all musicals have tidy, happy endings, even ones from the 1960s. 

Things that were funny: knowing so many of the songs but never knowing where they came from, the charming clumsiness of the main character, and realizing that this is the 5th show I’ve seen this year featuring people dancing in their underwear. Here are links to the other four.


Things that were not funny: the coincidence of having unintentionally reserved the New Media room at the Library Hotel was only kept from downright creepiness by the gentle absurdity of many of the books being, with predictions about the coming revolution and dominance of interactive television, just old enough to be hilariously inaccurate. The Bacon Provider wrote a book about digital disruption this year, in fact. 


I am happy to recommend the Library Hotel, just about a block from Grand Central Station and the main branch of the New York Public Library, to book-lovers and anyone seeking a small, quiet boutique hotel in mid-town Manhattan.
Something I ate: butternut squash soup, pimientos, and pan con tomate at the tapas place in Gotham West, over in Hell’s Kitchen. 

What it is: this musical is from 1966, and has been revived a number of times and was made into a movie in 1968. It manages not to serve a heaping helping of the nostalgic charm of a period piece and also not to be easily updated with modern seasonings. It is, nevertheless, a fine romp.


Who should see it: Fellini fans, students of mid-20th century gender studies, people who like to see actors dancing in their underwear.

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What I saw on the way home: I think the pillow on our bed in the hotel room was meant to be fetchingly bookish. It seemed lonely and sad to me.