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( Oct. 26th, 2012 11:23 pm)
Tonight, at The Lily's Revenge, Taylor Mac pointed at me and told me to swoon. When Taylor Mac tells you to swoon, you swoon, so I swooned. "On the floor," he clarified. So I did. Holding my beer in my left hand, keeping it perfectly upright as I sank from my seat to the floor and went prone.

"I love the way she's still holding her beer," he said, before moving on to other things.

Ha! I learned that in Canada.
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It's one of those days: I lost an earring somewhere between the hotel room and the theatre, and I seem to have picked up a bit of an intestinal bug. On the bright side, the play - Seminar with Alan Rickman, Lily Rabe and Jerry O'Connell – was wry and funny and viciously witty, and Alan Rickman of course was extremely sexy, even in a relatively unsexy role. That voice, that voice.

Prior to that, we had breakfast of sorts, a slice of pizza at Famous Original Ray's. We were just too exhausted after last night to get up in time for the breakfast buffet at the hotel. I didn't even have time to do yoga, so I was all sorts of out of sorts by the time we hit the theatre. If it had been a less than stellar production, I would have been devastated, but fortunately it was excellent. I also see that Paul Gross is on Broadway right now, doing Private Lives with Kim Cattrall. We may need to get back here earlier than springtime.

We had dinner at Hill Country Barbecue (I know – who goes to NYC and eats nothing but 'cue?) It's a little different from the average restaurant. You go in and they give you a meal ticket, which you take up to various stations where they serve you your meat or side dishes; drinks are served by an actual waitress. We shared ¾ lb of ribs, which were of Flintstonian proportions. Then we poked through a local gourmet grocer before catching a cab to the McKittrick for the evening. Getting a cab in NYC this visit has been tough! We've had the best luck catching them just as someone else is getting out. Flagging one down on the street is nigh-impossible.

New procedures at Sleep No More that I neglected to mention: the doormen now scan Ids, presumably to make sure they're real, and the entry cards are punched now, presumably so that less-than-ethical types can't reuse them.

Tonight, instead of Maximilian, there was last night's Malcolm, looming in the center of the room, posing, occasionally raising his drink in the direction of the bar. Eventually he got up onstage and invited the aces to make their way to the back of the room in a dreary, almost monotonous voice, very different from Max's cheery patter. Constance de Winter gave us the rules before summoning James the elevator attendant (who doubles as Mr. Bargarran, the taxidermist).

Wherein there is no more sleeping. Macbeth hath murdered sleep. )
Dinner at RUB was good, as usual. Post-show supper at New Venus was made even better by the presence of water and ginger ale. So thirsty. So very, very thirsty.

And now on with the show. Usual warning about spoilers applies. )

I think we are almost reaching saturation on Sleep No More. As we were enjoying our post-show breakfast-at-night, [personal profile] st_darwin suggested that perhaps next time we come to New York, it'll be in the spring, and if Sleep No More is still running, maybe we should only see it once. I, for one, am not ready to forgo it entirely, but I can definitely see how limiting it to one show per visit would enable us to do other things. My feet would definitely appreciate it.
Our hotel room has two layers of opaque blinds on the windows, for extra light-tightness. And around the corner there is a late-night airbrush fake-tan salon. To take away that pasty look that comes from being up at all hours and really not at all out much in the daylight, I suppose.

Sleep No More was amazing as usual. They're changing the conceptualization of Mrs. Danvers and the Second Mrs. De Winter, and I'm sure I'll have more to say about that later. I finally got to see Macduff's door dance. And Hecate dragged me into a room, removed my mask, pushed me into a dark room, threw me up against a wall and tasked me to fulfill a quest for her, one which I will sadly be unable to fulfill.
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( Nov. 7th, 2010 01:04 am)
If I had to describe I Am Hamlet - a comedically tinged one-man Hamlet with occasional musical numbers and puppets - in one word, that word would be "audacious."

If I had to describe it in a second word, that word would be "uneven."

Mostly, though, it was audacious.

Hamlet is dramatic comfort food to me; it's the play I return to time and again, when my soul is in need of soothing. Similarly, one of my favourite culinary comfort foods is macaroni and cheese, and Stephi's on Tremont does a particularly lovely version with bacon.

If I had to describe that in one word, it would be "delicious."
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( Oct. 31st, 2010 01:36 pm)
A night before Halloween. A lovely, minimalist set evoking high towers, gothic arches, looming forest and a spider's web, with an antique chair at its heart. Two actors, male and female: she plays the governess, he plays everyone else. A ghost story where one of the characters, the mute Flora, is invisible, essentially a ghost to the audience. A ghost story where the ghosts have caused tangible damage for the living. A locket. A bible. A riddle. A spectre of mental illness that casts its shadow over Bly, the children, the former servants, and the current governess. An ambiguous ending. An unsettling evening.
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( Oct. 31st, 2010 01:17 pm)
When I found out that the Boston Babydolls were doing a dark burlesque show for Halloween, I was intrigued. To be honest, the modern burlesque revival had heretofore passed me by, although I'm not entirely sure why because there is really nothing cooler than pretty ladies taking off most of their clothes in appropriately themed routines. So off we went.

I think what pleased me most about the show was that although it was in some ways not a traditional burlesque show, they did hit some of the classic notes (albeit frequently with a darker twist). Thus you had Miss Mina (as the Diva) performing a classic fan dance and Betty Blaize (as the Countess) doing a wonderful routine featuring swirling gold butterfly wings. Less traditionally, Rebecca Margolin (as the Lost Girl) was a delightfully creepy dancing marionette and Sweetie Gladly (aka the Broad) did a disturbingly charming junkie routine to "When I Get Low, I Get High." And Linnea Peterson was absolutely adorable as the Innocent. The entertainment was enthralling enough to make me forget exactly how hungry I was.

After the show, we stopped at Four Burgers, which may be the next best thing to having a Five Guys in town. I think fast food has gone about as far as it can get in the cheap 'n' convenient directions; it's refreshing to see more chains take it in the direction of quality ingredients, well-prepared.
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...apparently doesn't stay in hell )

In summary, a fascinating evening.
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( Oct. 24th, 2010 10:24 pm)
At Oberon, we saw Dante's Inferno, as presented through a ten-course meal, with suitable entertainment.

We began in Limbo, with bread and water. The waiters were on a behavioural loop, reenacting the same scene over and over again, while "The Girl from Ipanema" played. With Virgil as our guide, we moved on from there.

Some of the food/sin/entertainment choices were definitely inspired. Gluttony was represented by barbecue ribs and chicken feet - tantalizing, but ultimately not much meat. Avarice featured the game show "Squander or Hoard," and one of my dining companions was called upon to go up on stage and play. Wrath was '80s mope music, Smiths and Joy Division. Heresy was beautifully, terrifyingly represented by portrayal of Jim Jones, who exhorted us to take our medicine and not be afraid to die, as we consumed our meal; after the service, all of the waiters collapsed on the floor and remained there, still as corpses, until we reached the next circle of hell. Violence was personified by an oddly sympathetic "Pogo the Clown" type figure, better known as John Wayne Gacy. Fraud featured a vegan "foie gras." Treachery was a fast-foot style chicken "hand" from Beelzebub's Best Chicken; the waiters doled them out while dancing to "The Fast Food Song." The accompanying puzzle handout cracked me up, especially the fill-in-the-blanks word game:

Because it's crawling with potentially dangerous plural noun chicken nugget meat goop is soaked in ammonia to minimize the risk of disease. Then, because the noun makes the chicken taste adjective, it is artificially re-flavored, which turns it a funny shade of color. Since that is a less-than-desirable color for an "all white meat" chicken nugget, the meat gets dyed back with artificial noun.


It's funny because it's true.

And Heaven, naturally, was cheesecake.

A fascinating evening of food and spectacle.
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By Nora, at Central Square Theatre. I laughed, I cried... I mostly cried. A sad and beautiful work of art.

And the set was amazing.
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( Oct. 15th, 2010 11:25 pm)
It is no secret: I love Edgar Allan Poe, and have for a while. So when I learned that 11:11 Theatre Company was producing a set of adaptations of his poems and stories, I got tickets.

The theatre itself, a delightfully intimate space in the basement of what seems to be a renovated mill building, was perfect for an evening of Poe, and the weather cooperated as well, providing us with a light drizzle, not enough to saturate, but definitely enough to provide atmosphere.

The adaptations covered most of the classics - "The Fall of the House of Usher," "The Cask of Amontillado," "The Raven," "The Tell-Tale Heart" - with a few surprises thrown in; I did not expect to see dramatic readings of two of my favourite poems ("Alone" and A Dream Within a Dream") and an adaptation of "Hop-Frog".

The pieces were written and directed by a variety of people, so the quality was somewhat uneven. "Masque of the Red Death" suffered from too much explanation and not enough atmosphere; it's hard to imagine how one could bring it satisfyingly to life without mounting a Punchdrunk-style production, something Punchdrunk has already done (although sadly not in North America.) It probably would have been wiser to go with something a little easier to adapt, such as "Ligeia," which would have made a lovely companion piece for "Berenice," which was well-handled. "The Tell-Tale Heart" did an extremely good job of utilizing the ensemble cast to dramatize the inner struggle of the protagonist, and "The Pit and the Pendulum" was an audacious choice that wound up being more interpretive dance than theatre, and may have been somewhat opaque to anyone unfamiliar with the source material. "The Cask of Amontillado" suffered from giving Montresor a reason for his actions; it's a much more sinister tale if his motivations are unclear. The cast was mostly solid, but the real standout was Cassandra Meyer, most notably as The Devil in "Never Bet the Devil Your Head," which is a cautionary tale for us all.

And then we stumbled out into the night to discover our car had been ticketed for a parking violation. Thank you very much, Boston PD, for your utter lack of "Residents Only Parking" signs. Other than that one glitch, it was a reasonably satisfying night.
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We ventured out to a new theatre tonight to see In the Next Room, stopping first at Beehive for dinner, which was truly, utterly wonderful and way, way too much food.

We had originally found out about this play through one of those postcards that get sent out occasionally to people on mailing lists borrowed from other theatres. My initial attraction was not, as you might imagine, to the salacious subject, but to the two lead actresses: Marianna Bassham, who was delightful in both Gaslight and Not Enough Air, and Anne Gottlieb, who was spectacular in Not Enough Air. They play Sabrina Daldry and Catherine Givings, respectively, and have wonderful onstage chemistry.

I'm not sure quite how it slipped my attention, but apparently in the Victorian days, doctors used to treat hysteria by using manual stimulation, and later vibrators, to cause "paroxysms" of the uterus. Victorian knowledge of female sexuality being what it was, it never seemed to occur to them that they were inducing orgasm; ladies, it was believed, simply didn't have orgasms, so obviously this was some sort of deeply therapeutic release.

I thought the play did a remarkable job of depicting just how constrained (and grim) upper middle class women's sex lives were back then. And while I can see a happy ending on the horizon for Dr. and Mrs. Givings, I just can't envision the same for poor Sabrina Daldry, most likely a lesbian and stuck with a "very considerate" husband who sneaks into her room while she's sleeping and insists that she keep her eyes closed during sex, which is described as "painful". Ugh.

I did like the image of the wall coming down, to highlight not only the destruction of the boundary between what happened "in the next room" and what happened in the Givings' relationship, but also as a visual metaphor for the dropping of boundaries that were preventing communication. And I absolutely loved Mrs. Givings' dresses.
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( Oct. 5th, 2010 01:17 am)
Ventured out last weekend to watch the second-year ART Institute students (several of whom are concurrently in Cabaret) perform Alice vs. Wonderland, described as "Lewis Carroll meets Lady Gaga." It's a remix, of sorts, of the Alice story, with pop culture elements and music thrown in. Six different actors represent Alice at different phases of her journey, which I initially thought would be confusing, but ultimately wasn't at all. The soundtrack was an eclectic mix - Radiohead's "Creep" formed the backbone of the story, the Caucus Race was run to Donovan's "There Is a Mountain," Lady Gaga's "Pokerface" became a piano ballad, and The Beatles' "I Am the Walrus" made an appropriate appearance.

The cast was uniformly good, with the exception of Jordy Lievers, who was outstanding as the dominatrix Queen of Hearts. Whether she was stomping down a staircase in all of her glorious majesty, or primly perched on a human piano bench as she belted out "Pokerface," she was simply riveting. I look forward to seeing her in more, soon.
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I admit it, since I got the Facebook account, I have a tendency to post short, blurby updates on my life over there, and leave this space annoyingly blank. Which really kind of defeats the purpose of journalling, doesn't it?

Because I completely neglected to mention the wonder that was Cabaret, and that's the kind of thing I'm going to want to remember 20 years from now.

When I first heard that the American Repertory Theater was doing Cabaret this season, my interest was piqued. When I heard that Dresden Doll Amanda Palmer would be starring - as the Emcee, no less - I was sold. And so, my flirtation with the ART, begun during Sleep No More's epic run, transformed into season's tickets, with the upgrade that gives you really great seats. I'll get back to those in a minute.

Before the show, while we were waiting in line, idly chatting and watching the living statue who'd set herself up just off to the side of where we were standing, there was shouting from across the street. It was a man, down on the ground, shouting for help and telling people to call 911; he claimed he'd been hit, although no one had seen it. There wasn't anyone standing within hitting range of him when he started screaming, and the consensus among those in the line seemed to be that this was some kind of performance art, perhaps to underline our ability to look the other way when unpleasant things seemed to be occurring. "I hope this is performance art," I said to my companions, "because otherwise this is a catastrophic failure of humanity."

A few minutes later, the Cambridge police rolled up on their bicycles. One rode over to ask us if we'd seen anything. No one had. "We weren't sure if it was for real," said the guy in line behind us. "This corner's a little heavy with performance art. We don't even know if you're for real."

"I'm wearing a uniform."

"You can get those online."

The bike cops resolved the issue, and the man got into his SUV and drove off. Several minutes after that, a cop car rolled up, and two police officers got out, looking confused. Eventually one trundled over to the line.

"We got a report about a man yelling for help."

After being told that the bike cops took care of it, he chatted with the club's doormen, then gathered up his partner, got back in the car and drove off. I'm still not sure whether the man who was yelling for help was for real.

Anyway, back to the really great seats, know that when I say "really great seats," what I mean is front row tables at Oberon the Kit Kat Klub, seated immediately next to the person who seemed to be (judging from the attention paid to him by the Emcee) that evenings VIP. Not only were we close enough to the action, Amanda Palmer plunked herself down in the seat immediately beside me for a brief moment during one musical number, and later fed me a delicious little hunk of pineapple. We were absolutely absorbed into the setting, much like Sleep No More (although naturally with less intensity, because I'm having a hard time imagining how anything else could be that intense). And then at the end of the night, we were spat back out onto the streets, having witnessed something that managed to be both awesome and awful at the same time. I can't describe it further, except to say that the overall effect was corrosive, hideous, and beautiful.

We spent the walk back to the car processing the experience. And I've had the music stuck in my head ever since.

Wilkommen, bienvenue, welcome...
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(Originally sent in email to a friend who asked, and probably got a lot more than he expected from my reply).

How to explain the event that is "Sleep No More." Have you ever played one of those computer games like Myst, which immerses you in a detail-rich world and forces you to interact with the environment in order to find the clues you need to achieve your goal? Have you ever done any live-action roleplaying, where you physically act out your character in an environment that is designed to be as conducive to your gaming experience as possible? It's like that. It's not a play, or a dance performance, it's something more. It surrounds you completely: sight, sound, smell, touch. Everything.

Imagine if David Lynch had directed "Rebecca" instead of Alfred Hitchcock. Now imagine David Lynch's "Rebecca" blended with Shakespeare's Macbeth, and set in a series of installments throughout an abandoned school building. Most of the characters are from Macbeth, although the Second Mrs. de Winter and Mrs. Danvers are from "Rebecca"; Mrs. Danvers is recast slightly as the Macbeth's housekeeper, and it appears as though Duncan is also Maxim de Winter.

Some 40-odd rooms of sets. In the basement, there is a private detective's office, evidence rooms, a taxidermist's shop, a speakeasy set in a stable, a rave where the witches hold their sabbath. On the first floor, there is the nightclub Manderley, rooms belonging to the second Mrs. de Winter, an abandoned classroom with old-fashioned school desks that smells of mothballs and garlic, a hotel lobby and front desk, and a room that contains a telephone that rings occasionally. If you pick it up, the desk clerk from the hotel will tell you what to do; do it and you get a trinket. On the second floor, we have the Macbeth bedchamber and dressing room, Duncan's bedchamber, a room filled with gravel paths and plants, a chapel, and a small suite of rooms where the Macduffs are staying. Birnam Wood is on this floor, with trees that smell like Christmas, and move around in a threatening manner. There is a banquet that takes place here in slow motion, and is terrifying and beautiful; Banquo's ghost looms over the table as the witches point an accusatory finger at Macbeth.

On the third floor, there is a suite of hospital beds, and a room with several bathtubs, one of which holds a live eel. (I'm convinced that's a visual pun; Macbeth was also known as the King of Moray.) At one point during the evening, Mrs. Danvers leads Lady Macbeth in to the bathtub room; Lady M strips off and bathes, and the water turns red with the blood from her hands.

Nothing is linear. Duncan dies, and is kissed back to life by Mrs. Danvers; he later goes on to dance with Lady Macbeth at a ball. Lady Macduff is brutally murdered and stuffed in a crib; after Macduff lays her body on the floor, she will wake, and wheel a baby carriage down a long hallway. Macbeth and his wife have a passionate encounter before he goes off to kill Duncan.

The overall effect is as if you are walking through a spectacularly haunted building, and the ghosts of things that have gone before simply act out the parts they played so long ago. It is up to the viewer to piece together their own narrative, based on what they experienced; thanks to the sprawling nature of the set and the prevalence of one-on-one interactions with cast members, no two viewers have the same experience. Action is happening continuously in different locations throughout the evening, all the time. I have seen it four times; each night, at least 60% of what I saw was new to me. Tonight, my fourth and final night, a good 90% of what I saw was new to me.

It's surreal. It's intense. It's the most magical, dreamlike, painfully addictive theatre experience I've ever had. It's all produced by a British theatre company called Punchdrunk, and if they do *anything* anywhere near where you are, you need to run - not walk - to get tickets. It will change the way you view theatre.

I am praying that they bring their "Masque of the Red Death" to the States. I would walk on fire to see that.
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