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Archive for the ‘Theater’ Category

n516515620_8993I took this photograph with my cell phone a couple of months ago, at a local Staten Island diner. It is not an unusual scene in a diner. The monster cookies. I was enamored of their inflated forms piled high on a metal pedestal. Who eats these cookies? Does anyone? Does anyone eat the lemon meringue pies with the fake egg white swirl that’s higher than Elvis’ hair? I’ve never seen a person eat a slice from one of those pies. Do the same cookies and pies stay in their respective spots, uneaten, forever? Are they immortal props that complete the “authentic” diner experience? Maybe they were bought 25 years ago when the diner first opened and have stuck around ever since — dusted occasionally — along with the framed first fiver over the cashier’s counter. (more…)

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Fall of the Rebel Angels (detail)I just finished Michael Frayn’s Headlong, a novel given to me by a friend. She and I saw “Top Girls” on Broadway last year, and we were both intrigued by Dulle Griet, one of the characters in the play, and the namesake of one of Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s more bizarre paintings.

Headlong is an art history “who done it”; in this case the mystery is whether or not a supposed sixth painting in Bruegel’s series of seasonal paintings (of which only five are extant), might be languishing unrecognized in the country estate of an unsuspecting, down-at-the-heels landowner who’s looking to cash in on items he’s stolen from his dying mother. A college professor who’s just arrived with his scholarly wife and their baby to spend “a month in the country” thinks he recognizes the painting as the missing Bruegel, but keeps the thought to himself so as not to tip off the landowner. Instead, he plots to spirit the painting away and into the hands of a grateful art world, who will presumably heap laurels upon him. But first he must prove to his wife that the painting is indeed what he believes it to be. (more…)

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Photo by Marius Slaustas, cringel.com

Photo by Marius Slaustas, cringel.com

Do not underestimate the power of a single voice to make or break an election. The power is not in the words themselves; it is in the sonic experience.

Everyone has seen—and heard—mainstream media news reduced to pellets of information called “sound bites.” We rabbity news consumers meekly nibble on these empty-calorie hors d’œuvres because we are starving for the taste of real information. Performance artist David Letterman has famously turned the tables by subjecting past presidents, as well as our current one, to the sound bite test. FDR and Kennedy pass with flying colors; Bush ’43 mumbles and stumbles to failure. Sound bites back.

The current presidential campaign is delivered in sound bites. The ads, catch phrases, pundits and talking heads get more air time than the candidates themselves (except for the occasional TV drive-by, when the news camera swoops in on a candidate’s real-time delivery of a speech, then cuts away to more important matters before he has finished speaking.) Sound bites are the news media equivalent of Chicken McNuggets—looks good; tastes lousy; fills us up but leaves us hungry. (more…)

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Roland Emmerich. He’s the big-budget director of “Independence Day,” “Universal Soldier” and “Eight-Legged Freaks.” I came across an article on Emmerich and his design aesthetic in the New York Times’ August 7, 2008 Home section.

The Times devoted two whole pages and thirteen photos to the redesign of Emmerich’s townhouse in the “buttoned-up” Knightsbridge section of London. Apparently he redesigned the place primarily to shock his neighbors. It’s not a townhouse anymore; it’s a fun house of cultural and pop-cultural references: Mao Tse-Tung, Pope John Paul II, pseudo Renaissance paintings, Barbie dolls and Philippe Starck chairs… If it shocks the neighbors, he’s happy. Whatever…

But what about the miniaturized diorama tables in the living room? The ones that Emmerich commissioned from his movie prop department. The ones that depict, in the Times’ words, “notorious events”? (more…)

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Just before it closed, I caught Manhattan Theatre Club’s production of “Top Girls,” by British playwright Caryl Churchill. I’d read several favorable or semi-favorable articles and reviews of the play, but it wasn’t until WNYC’s Leonard Lopate interviewed Martha Plimpton about her experience playing Pope Joan and Angie that I was persuaded to buy a ticket (a big investment these days) and check it out for myself.

Plimpton is a wonderful actress. As a devout “Law & Order” fan, I caught her 2006 Emmy-nominated portrayal of a desperately brilliant young woman who fails to capture the love of her even more brilliant, murder-investigating father. I’ve seen re-runs of the “Criminal Intent” episode many times and I still get caught up in Plimpton’s character. (more…)

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A. Culture-Jamming:
Stop watching the SNL Obama / Clinton split “campaign ad.” (Then you won’t laugh so hard you pee yourself.)

B. Performance Art:
Stop watching the Chris Matthews grilling of right-winger Kevin James, who hasn’t got a clue who Neville Chamberlain is. (Then you won’t laugh so hard you wet your pants.)

C. Theater of the Absurd:
Stop thinking about Hillary Clinton’s continuing “campaign” for the presidency. After all, she deserves the nomination, right? Besides, she’s the only one who’s reaching white people. (Really. Stop thinking about it. It’ll just piss you off.)

D. Art Exhibition:
Forget about politics and check out some really good bad art. It ain’t bad when it’s this good. (Besides, it’s hung near the bathroom.)

Above: Running Mates by Anonymous, acrylic on canvas. (I made that up.)

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32nd Street between 5th and 6th Avenues has become the most exciting block in Manhattan. Known as Koreatown, or Korea Way, the street consists of elegant turn-of-the-century buildings done in the style of the French renaissance. Elaborate, gray facades are now almost hidden behind bright signage in Korean and English. The life of the block extends inside the buildings: restaurants, bars, galleries, and karaoke joints are not only on the street level but also on multiple floors inside the structures: the karaoke studio I went to was on the fifth floor.

The studio served no food—it consisted of a series of soundproof rooms that groups rent by the hour. Customers bring in their own food and beverage. The karaoke menu is in many languages—the English one seemed to consist of every hit song that reached the top five in the American charts since the early days of Frank Sinatra. (more…)

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