Sunday, October 21, 2007

'The Glorious Ones' - at last

Last night provided a satisfyingly rare moment of theatrical fulfillment. It began in February 2006, when I downloaded Marin Mazzie and Jason Danieley's duet album. That recording, "Opposite You," took its title from a new song from a musical that hadn't yet premiered by the writing team of Stephen Flaherty and Lynne Ahrens (Ragtime, Once on This Island, even the movie Anastasia). At the time, I fell in love with the song and it seemed like forever before the show, The Glorious Ones, would finally make it here after a tryout in Pittsburgh. But the curtain rose and fell on many days since then, and finally this weekend we got to see the larger work fleshed out around that one great song. It's not perfect, and I might've seen it through anticipation-tinted glasses, but it's definitely worth seeing and paying full price if you must (as I did, and so rarely do, except that Lincoln Center Theater produces great shows, and I'm not usually able to locate discounts for them).

The show, which follows a band of commedia dell'arte players from 16th century Italy, actually reminded me a lot of The Fantasticks, although better. It works well in the smaller, more intimate Newhouse auditorium downstairs from the Beaumont, and focuses on a spare wooden stage with simple curtains and the musicians up on a scaffolding. The music and lyrics are wonderful, and there are several other songs that touched me as much as or more than "Opposite You." The story is about comedy, its beginnings and its legacy, but there are also tears to be shed along the way. One challenge of staging the show is to move gracefully between the backstage drama, which has a more modern, realistic feel, and the slapstick, stylized commedia performances of the characters, which we see in theme and variation throughout. I thought it flowed pretty well, but M. said she at first had trouble seeing where one ended and the other began. Going along with a theme of the show - life is a kind of improvisation - you might argue it's better that there isn't always as clear of a line.

The theme of the climactic song, "I Was Here," made me think of Sondheim's more delicate "Children and Art" from Sunday in the Park (which will be playing later this season in revival at the Roundabout), except that the former is more urgent and wrenching in its yearning for remembrance. The lead, Marc Kudisch, whom I've seen now in at least six different shows, in that song pulls the masterful trick of getting you to really want what he wants, even though his character isn't entirely loveable throughout. Because, what he's singing about is the hope of so many of those who believe in the promise of art or science, each defined in the broadest of terms: that promise of things-going-on even when you aren't.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Time Out New York syndrome

I may have written about this before, but it's worth repeating. Even though B isn't in my life really much anymore, two things she told me about living in this town resonate. Paraphrased, they are 1) You have to really want to live here. You don't just move here because there's a job here. You have to be about New York on some level. Be about this kind of living. And not necessarily in a snooty, it's-better-than-the-rest-of-America way. Things here can be a challenge. Things here can be distracting. Is the time and money you're going to spend going to be worth it for you? This place can really frustrate me, but not always because things are hard, more that there are so many things, or more often in my case, experiences to be had. 2) The days/weeks you spend circling items in TONY, the arts/culture listings magazine, and then actually getting out to do them will become fewer and more far-between after a while. I remember being that guy for a while. I still aspire to be him, helped by the fact that I've managed to get re-subscribed to Time Out with recalling ever giving them any more money. I was going to ween myself off TONY, focus just on the New Yorker and New York mag, which have consistently better articles and more select listings, but somehow all three of those local periodicals show up in my mailbox on a weekly basis now. But I also have a job that can be pretty exhausting. I work more than when I had an abbreviated-hours real-job with health insurance as well as a beer-money freelance gig online. So while the money bar chart has gone up, the free-time line has gone down. I liked spending part of each day being the social director of my own life, but now I'm just too tired half the time. Ugh! (This in part explains why I haven't been blogging as much recently. And yes, 43 percent of the blogosphere is filled with people apologizing for not posting more frequently.) All that said, I still do love this place at the end of the day, and it's hard to see myself living anywhere else, or if I were to move, it would be painful. And I still do get to see and experience a lot of great things that I'm thankful for.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The end of summer (weather)

Those of us wishing that summer wouldn't end sure got our wish this year, for better or worse. It lasted right through September and into the beginning of October. There was something slightly surreal about sweating our way around a fall festival with Christmas crafts and rows upon rows of candles in full array this past weekend. Still, what a treat to be able to swim outside many weeks after Labor Day. Dipping into landlocked freshwater still hasn't lost its novelty for me, so used to pools and the Atlantic of Jersey. This summer, it was Walden Pond in Massachusetts to begin with and Atwood Lake in Ohio to round things out nicely, just before it got autumnally chilly this week. I still think of swimming in that lake in Finland five years ago, as I tred water and spun around amid the irregular circle of trees.