"Lovehampton" by Sherri Rifkin - (blah blah background on the Hamptons). The share house in this book was more upscale and less crowded than the one in the other book, but no less zooey or fun to read about. I just eat up this kind of novel.
"Rites of Spring (Break): An Ivy League Novel" by Diana Peterfreund - Another Yale-set novel I didn't like. Make that "Eli University" in New Haven. Maybe that 1969 rejection is biasing my thinking. The secret society goings-on seemed pointless.
Shows, shows, shows. This blog reads like Culture Week in Review. I guess that's better than discussing laundry (which I did). Or my flu shot (which I had).
I was supposed to see a Broadway show through a theater club. A rep wearing a badge would be handing out the tickets at a midtown spot from 7-7:30. I left at 7:02 and had to wait a while for a train, so it was almost 7:30 when I exited the subway. Still, the pick-up spot was only half a block away. When I got there I saw no one wearing a badge. Soon I overheard others mentioning the name of the club; we were all looking for the rep. One of them called, but got a machine. Eventually there were 10 of us. No callback, no rep, and finally we all gave up and left.
I e-mailed what had happened, and got a reply to call ASAP. Uh-oh, this is like "See me" from a teacher. The person said I was a no-show but since it was my first time, they would waive the penalty and I should be on time in the future. The rep allegedly stayed until 7:40, which is hard to believe unless his watch was really fast (or his badge was not visible). I explained I WAS there, but they probably didn't believe me either. I later did see this show.
Last Sunday I walked up to Columbia for the Children's Read. No TMBG this year, but I got there in time to hear Peter Yarrow sing "Marvelous Toy." It was hot and there was no shade, and I'd seen him twice before, so I continued on to find Helene who was in a tent doing children's puzzles. The only problem was most of the kids were not only too young for puzzles, they were too young to read. One tween was good at the interactive puzzles, but then didn't want to take home any handouts. I left to go hear Jerry Stiller reading a story but stood at every possible angle to the stage and couldn't see him; maybe he was sitting down. I took a quick tour around the campus (it always feels nostalgic), up to 119th St., and back down Broadway and home. My thighs hurt, but this could be from climbing up to theater balconies.
On Monday, NATAS screened a movie, "Oy Vey, My Son is Gay" (now making the festival rounds) with filmmaker Evgeny Afineevsky speaking afterward. The plot could be considered stereotypical: Lainie Kazan wants her nice Jewish son to meet Ms. Rightstein, but he's secretly living with Jai Rodriguez from "Queer Eye." Mama arrives unexpectedly at the apartment, is led to believe Jai's the decorator and Playboy centerfold neighbor Carmen Electra is the girlfriend, and hilarity ensues. Add Bruce Vilanch as a wacky uncle, father Saul Rubinek's awkward trip to a gay bar for research, Vincent Pastore ("Big Pussy" from "The Sopranos") as the equally uncomfortable father of Jai, and... oy vey. Still, it was entertaining, which is all I ask of my entertainment.
The cast of "Hair" was marching in DC for marriage equality, a performance was added Monday to make up for it, and I was able to get tickets - finally (blah blah background on "Hair," last paragraph). Tears came to my eyes with the first notes of "Aquarius" (this always happens when hearing musicals of my youth), and I loved hearing the songs including a few that weren't on the original cast album. My seat was first row upper mezzanine with a railing and then an aisle in front of it, where cast members regularly leapt up among us. I got my hair tousled, received a flower, and danced with a hippie at the end.
The plot was thinner than the movie, the famous nude scene very dim. At intermission, a woman behind me complained that she was disappointed, the music was too loud, the voices too miked. After she said that, it did seem true in the second act, and the drug/fantasy scene went on too long (and the "herbal" cigarettes used during "Walking in Space" had a suspicious smell - N said he also noticed this when he saw it). I'm more on the side of the stodgy adults than the hippies. Still, I love the score and would see this again.
Two classical concerts this week. The string ensemble Concertante at Merkin (joined by pianist Shai Wosner) played Brahms and Faure piano quintets. I especially liked the second movement of the Faure. This was my first time at Merkin, which is a nice space but the front row of the balcony close behind a high cement wall was a bit claustrophobic. The second concert was the conductorless Orpheus Chamber Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, simulcast on radio as the new WQXR's first offering.
Since I save every program, I know I saw "Brighton Beach Memoirs" in 1983 in Fort Lauderdale with my family. I barely remembered it and got a discount offer, so saw it again. The play was well-crafted and not all that familiar. Toward the end of intermission, people near me in the balcony applauded and it turned out Neil Simon was up there with us. I never actually saw him. However, someone saw ME and Twittered about it: "Saw Brighton Beach Memoirs, and who was sitting 10 rows behind me? Ellen Ripstein, aka the baton twirler from Wordplay."
I last saw the American Ballet Theatre in the '70s. They were at Avery Fisher (not their usual venue), and I caught the Friday matinee. The seat was row N, 3 in from the left aisle. The woman next to me seemed perturbed and I wondered if she was a crazy lady, but when the performance started I realized why she was upset: we couldn't see a THING. Tall people obscured all the sightlines. I was miserable and felt like I was watching a tennis match, bobbing my head back and forth trying to catch a glimpse. My neighbor moved to the empty aisle seat so I could bob in her old space, too. I noticed lots of empty seats in the side tiers and planned to move at intermission. As the piece ended, the person in back of me complained that I was moving around so much it was distracting (so no one in our area was happy), and I assured her I was leaving. Opening a random door in the first tier, I asked the people in that box if anyone was sitting at the end of the row and they welcomed me to join them. Minutes later, my downstairs neighbor appeared in the adjacent box. MUCH better. My new neighbor even passed down her opera glasses, though the view was so clear I didn't need them.
Harvardwood and the National Arts Club hosted a showing of the documentary "Pray the Devil Back to Hell," about war in Liberia and how a group of women helped bring about peace and the election of Africa's first female president. Images of young boys with guns remain with me. Producer Abigail Disney (relative of Walt) spoke afterward, and noted that much of the footage was from private individuals' cameras.
I attended a taping of local talk show "The Stanley Siegel Show" in the '70s, and Ann Landers was the guest. She's gone now but lives on via Judith Ivey's portrayal in "The Lady with All the Answers." Up all night writing a pivotal 1975 column, she looks back on her life and reads reader letters in scenes reminiscent of the beginning of "Wordplay" (it's always about "Wordplay"!). Riveting.
I had a back-row side seat for "The Understudy" at the Laura Pels, and the usher was nice enough to move my whole row closer up, so I ended up on the aisle midway back (the old seat would have been fine, too). The actors in the play were actors in a Kafka play-within-a-play (one an understudy, the other an action film star biding time on Broadway), with a stage manager with a backstory trying to keep things together and an unseen stoner technician screwing them up. Biting and funny.
I'm not up on cable news and unfamiliar with Jane Velez-Mitchell, but saw her book "iWant" in the NYT giveaway shelf and took that as a sign I should hear her interviewed by Ashleigh Banfield at the 92nd St. Y tonight. I sat up front and could see that Banfield had done her homework, with her copy of the book marked up and dog-eared, and an extensive list of questions. She did not get to ask most of them as the discussion took on a life of its own. Velez-Mitchell is a recovering alcoholic 14 years sober, who discovered other addictions such as shopping and sweets, and the talk became a mini-12-step meeting which is not a bad thing (my food's OK but I need to work on that book acquisition problem). She pointed out some celebs in the audience (Lou Young of WCBS, Dr. Judy Kuriansky), as well as her 93-year-old mother and family members who helped her recovery. I was too shy to get my uncorrected readers copy signed.