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.
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
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 .
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.
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.
What I saw: “Man of Good Hope” at the BAM Opera House in Brooklyn, NY
“I think this is an opera house.
See how it says ‘opera?'”
What I did beforehand: drove to Brooklyn, being re-routed twice, and arriving to discover that the parking garage described on the website did not exist (and there was a coupon you had to print out to use it). Also, there was a Rangers game at the Barclay Center, so the streets of downtown Brooklyn were full of sober, pre-game hockey fans.
What I wore: Chinese-made Australian boots, favorite jeans, Tanner indigo belt, feelings sweater, earrings that kept trying to fall out.
Who went with me: my dear friend W., who was born in Zambia.
How I got tickets: online, when I realized I would not, as promised, be able to take her to the recent revival of “Master Harold and the Boys” because those tickets were $30 and they sold like hotcakes.
Why I saw this show: I am a sucker for a story about refugees.
Where I sat: Mezzanine Row A, seat 18
Things that were sad: stories about refugees are always filled with death and fear and loss and terrible set-backs.
Things that were funny/not funny: the part about the little boy living on the streets of Nairobi who went from one house to the next and every night had a dinner with a different family, and the song about how America is safe, how there are no guns here, how everyone drives big trucks and everyone is rich.
Something I ate: hummus and pita chips, standing in the lobby, while trying to balance a beer in my other hand.
What it is: a profoundly moving, engrossing, and lively production, featuring African music and dance and a refugee story that is both utterly like and unlike any others.
Who should see it: people who, like me, believe that all shows should have live music; people who, like me, believe that if you are going to have live music you must place the musicians where the audience can see them; people who, like me, who are working very hard right now to remember what good things America is supposed to represent to people in the rest of the world; people who, like me, know and love several immigrants.
What I saw at home, two days later: W. texted me that she was still thinking about it.
I am, too.
What I saw: “The Beauty Queen of Leenane” at BAM on Fulton Street in Brooklyn, a venue that appears to be a crumbling relic but it turns out that’s ok because it’s a decorative choice.
|Used to be called the Triboro Bridge|
What I did beforehand: drove down from Bedhead Hills, ate at a Korean brasserie, because this was Brooklyn. Probably had too much rice wine, or dry riesling, or maybe it was whatever they brought us after dinner because they thought it was the Graduate’s birthday, even though the only reason he got a present from me was this wooden mallet had been backordered at Xmas.
|Not my cocktail, tho|
What I wore: gold hoop earrings from the 80s, black Doc Marten shoes from the 90s, James jeans, black tissue weight Proenza Schoule dotted tee, my mother’s bracelet, black summer-weight Eileen Fisher cardigan because climate change is real, a Marimekko scarf because Finland has a representative democracy with principles of parliamentarism, and the scowl of crushing despair that we fucking don’t.
|Just in case you think I kid|
Who went with me: the Bacon Provider
How I got tickets: online, in mid-December, when people were still able to pretend that maybe everything was gonna be ok somehow.
Why I saw this show: this ad. Their expressions.
Where I sat: Row G, Seat 2, next to a couple that was arguing.
Things that were sad: the play, like all plays (according to my cousin) was about loneliness. Also, just how crazy we are just under the surface.
|I’d rather get a picture
of someone getting a picture
Things that were funny: quite a bit of funny business, including quips and gestures. Really, it was a master class in actors making exquisite choices for their physical expression. Surprises, weirdness, simultaneously natural and unnatural.
|Theater may not be as decrepit as it appears|
Things that were not funny: in this play, Chekhov’s gun is portrayed by a fire poker.
Something I ate: I think it was halibut. Or maybe flounder. One of those. It was white. Did I mention they brought these little shots at the end of dinner, because they thought it was the Graduate’s birthday? Also, carmel-popcorn on ice cream, which I have to now learn to make.
|When you’re this Brooklyn,
it’s always your birthday
What it is: a disturbing, much-celebrated play, from the mid-90s. Set in the gritty sort-of-now-ish Ireland where everyone is poor and almost unintelligible to an American audience, and where everyone is fecking nuts.
Who should see it: theater lovers seeking the sort of two hour and fifteen minute escape that will not restore their faith in humanity in any way
What I saw on the way home: one couple that wasn’t fighting, and one that was.
What I saw: “A Day By The Sea,” a play from 1953, staged by the Mint Theater Company at the Beckett Theater at 410 West 42nd Street, off-Broadway in NYC.
What I wore: Chinese-made Australian boots, James jeans, indigo-dyed Tanner belt, brown Eileen Fisher jersey top that I wear when I can’t think of anything better, taupe Garnet Hill fringed cardigan (a thing I sometimes love and other times hate to wear), mascara.
“You’re telling me that driving is faster than the train?”
“Where do you think you live, Japan?”
— Hamsteria d’Relish (@hamsterRelish) October 4, 2016
What I did beforehand: walked and fed the dogs; had a riding lesson; took a shower; rode a train where I sat in the quiet car and people sat down next to me and argued loudly in two languages for 40 minutes, undeterred by occasional announcements that the last two cars are quiet cars; saw the dentist which was supposed to be quick and simple, but was less so; visited the Morgan Library to see my favorite baby Jesus again and the Dubuffet drawings which I gushed over; ate some food when the numbed teeth woke up.
One thing I love about New York: I love my dentist
— Hamsteria d’Relish (@hamsterRelish) October 4, 2016
Who went with me: plenty of old white folks, and a couple of my demons.
How I got tickets: on line, in the middle of last Saturday night.
I’m still waiting for the song about when you can’t make it in New York, New York
— Hamsteria d’Relish (@hamsterRelish) October 7, 2016
Why I saw this show: impulse, because it seems like a dentist appointment alone isn’t reason enough to go to the city.
Where I sat: Row E, seat 2, between two men who were also there by themselves.
What it is: a play from the fifties, about loneliness, or the crisis of middle age, when so many of us realize that we are running out of time to correct the course our lives amidst the crushing accumulation of disappointments.
Things that were sad: see, “What it is.”
Things that were funny: there were many funny and/or poignant moments. According to the program, before serving in World War II, playwright N.C. Hunter wrote frothy comedies for the London stage. After, his works were more bittersweet, but not without humor. I believe there were more laughs in this script than the studious, elderly New York audience was willing to let loose.
Things that were not funny: I laughed regularly, but alone. At one point, my giggles were joined by others’ chuckles, until an audience member on the other side of the theater shushed us.
Who should see it: people who laugh; fans of TV shows set in English manors in search of better-written plots, more interesting dialog, more honest interactions, and fully-fleshed-out human characters, who, like me, might have had to stop watching after the rape scene.
October in NYC: when Times Square starts to smell more like vomit than piss
— Hamsteria d’Relish (@hamsterRelish) October 4, 2016
What I saw on the way home: turned my ankle avoiding the puddles of vomit on 42nd Street.
What I saw:” Incognito” at the Manhattan Theater Club New York City Center Stage 1, on West 55th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues in midtown, New York City.
What I wore: my favorite black eShakti dress with big groovy buttons and pockets, orange Puma sneakers, orange short socks.
|Yes, I am that pale #luminous|
What I did beforehand: went to a 9 am appointment, visited a stationery store that was hard to find in the bowels of Rockefeller Plaza, and had lunch with the Bacon Provider where we talked about what we really want to do with the rest of our lives. Then, I went back to the apartment, changed out of cute shoes and into sneakers, and decided that instead of cleaning the bathroom and vacuuming, I should buy tickets to a Wednesday matinee.
Who went with me: 314 strangers.
How I got tickets: online at 1 p.m.
Why I saw this show: anything to avoid housework.
Where I sat: in B 108, on one side next to two women who both held the ticket to seat B 109 and, on the other side, a woman who was reading “The Sympathizer” by Viet Thanh Nguyen on her iPhone. The reader said the author won the Pulitzer, though she did not attempt to pronounce his name.
Things that were sad: I made her lose her place in her book because I asked her if it was any good. And when the lights went back on, at the end of the play, I hadn’t finished crying.
Things that were funny: I think anecdotes about Einstein are boring, and had I known what this play was about (how someone stole his brain from his dead body), I would not have seen it.
Things that were not funny: I got blisters on my feet walking back from lunch.
What it is: a play, 90 minutes long, with no intermission.
Who should see it: ethicists, celebrity-stalkers, neuro-scientists, philosophers, physicists, physicians, and people like one of the women with a ticket for B 209, who was seeing the show a second time because she had a “thing for Charlie Cox.”