November 29, 2006

Grey Gardens

What an absolute delight to be working at the Walter Kerr theater these last two days. Grey Gardens, starring Christine Ebersole is in full swing on Broadway after a successful run Off-Broadway. Grey Gardens is based on the unusual but true story of Edith and Edith Bouvier Beale - the aunt and first cousin of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy O'Nassis.

They were an odd pair and lived together as complete recluses for over 20 years. It's a sad story told in two acts.

Act I takes place in 1941 on the evening of little Edie's engagement party where she would have announced her engagement to Joseph Patrick Kennedy, Jr if it weren't for her mother's meddling. Not able to leave well enough alone, her mother sabotages her engagement by telling Joseph an absolutely scandalous story about little Edie swimming naked at the country club. The Act ends with little Edie running off to New York to pursue a life independent of her mother.

Act II takes place over 30 years later. It opens with little Edie reading an article that describes how Grey Gardens has fallen into disrepair and tells the audience how much she adores her mother. Clearly, she wasn't able to make it on her own in New York and tells the audience that her youthful fancies were cut short because she had to come home and take care of her of big Edie. The two women have developed an unhealthy and bizarre co-dependent relationship in their dire isolation. And their house has become a 28 room litterbox for 52 cats.

The musical is based on a documentary made about the two in the 70's. Shortly after it aired, Jackie O ended up cleaning up and restoring the house for them. Shortly after that, Edith Beale senior passed away, giving lost life back to little Edie. To raise money, little Edie sold the house and pursued a cabaret career. Ultimately she ended up in South Beach, Florida where she died of a heart attack about 3 years ago.

If you are a Kennedy-phile, you absolutely have to see this show.

If you want to offer your support to a good, original Broadway musical than book a ticket now.

November 25, 2006

Coffee Flavored Pancakes

As of two months ago, I don't remember ever having made pancakes for breakfast. I guess one day, when the weather started to hint at getting cold, the idea of making pancakes from scratch seized me. So, I pulled my Fanny Farmer Cookbook from the shelf, blew off the dust and found a basic pancake recipe. I followed it perfectly but they didn't taste very good. (Maybe it was the baking powder.)

A few days later, while doing my grocery shopping, I remembered that pancake batter comes premixed in either powder or liquid form. I searched the shelves for the cheapest box and bought an equally inexpensive bottle of maple syrup.

It probably took me a week before I opened the box to make a new batch for breakfast. All I had to do was mix it with water and voila - perfect pancake batter.

I was happy.

Shortly after that, I ran out of coffee. A vague memory caused me to mine the pantry until I found the instant coffee I'd bought during the years preceding my ownership of a coffee maker. It was still good. Not in the way that instant coffee is at all good, but at least it was still drinkable.

Lazy me, I left the instant coffee on the counter and there it sat until. . . the next time I went to make pancakes on that same counter, it occurred to me that if I added the instant coffee with water as the liquid to the instant pancake batter, the result would be coffee flavored pancakes. So I mixed 3/4 cup of hot water with instant coffee mix which I then added to my mix and in the time it takes to make 8 or 9 pancakes I had coffee pancakes.

This morning, I added the coffee directly to the batter without the bother of dissolving it first and you know what?

They were even better than that first batch I made.

Aren't pancakes great?

November 24, 2006



This afternoon, I got to work at Spamalot - finally.

And you know what? It was eh.

They lifted so much out of the Holy Grail movie, I didn't realy feel like I was watching anything that original.

Spring Awakening

This week, the powers that be have sent me to work at The Eugene O'Neill Theater where Spring Awakening is in previews. Spring Awakening is a musical based on a stage play from the 1890's. The music was written by Duncan Sheik and works well with the book written by Steven Sater.

The original play, which takes place in Germany, was written 1891 and concerns the audience with the affairs of teenagers discovering puberty. It was so controversial at the time, that it was banned from being shown in England. I guess it was banned for so long it was forgotten about until Steven Sater discovered it and decided to renew the story as a musical for which he enlisted the help of Duncan Sheik.

I'm not at all familiar with the original stage play by Frank Wedekind. But after watching the play last night, I could see why it was banned. The play offers a very frank discussion of what happens when teenagers discover sex. It's a tragedy. Two of the characters lives are ruined by their innocent sexual encounter because their parents were too ashamed to explain the consequences of intercourse before marriage.

I enjoyed watching this show. Every one talks like it's the 1890's but all the music is written in a contemporary rock style. And boy does it work well.

The costumes are great. The staging is great. The production design is great overall.

And the people in the show are talented and brilliant.


The other day I was reminded of a childish game I used to play with two other children on my block.

When I was six years old (and for some time thereafter) Alan from next door was my friend. The third person in our group was a six-year-old from the down the block named Jimmy. We were a happy trio until we started fooling around with the notion of contracts. I'm not sure who thought of it first but at any given time, two of us would be engaged in a "contract" that excluded the third of us. The contracts were always finite and when one ran out another one would be devised.

One Saturday morning, while Jimmy and I were carrying out a contract against Alan, I remember being in Jimmy's kitchen. His father was sitting in a robe at the table drinking coffee but I couldn't see his pajamas. My dad always had his legs covered under his bathrobe so this was complete mystery to me. My curiosity got the better of me and pulled his robe so I could see what happened to his bathrobe. He wasn't wearing anything underneath his bathrobe or he may have only been wearing boxers. It's not the clearest memory in the world. What I remember clearly however, is not going to Jimmy's house much after that. I got into trouble.

But, I ask you. Was that fair? Why didn't Jimmy's father get into trouble for being half naked under his bathrobe in close proximity to a little girl? I don't know.

Having nothing to do with my inappropriate curiosity, Jimmy's family moved shortly after that incident. But Alan and I continued our friendship well into 4th grade. It was then that we started to drift apart. Very sad. We never were friends beyond that. But I do have fond memories of trading and flipping baseball cards with him and playing kickball in the street with Alan and other children from the block.

After nine, my friendships took a cruel turn. As we slowly approached our teen years, the other children started to notice that I was different and took great pleasure in embarrassing me, humiliating me and terrorizing me. I'm sure my childhood isn't that different from anybody else's. So, I won't leave you with an awful story. Not after telling an almost amusing anecdote like the one above.

I'll save the darker stories of my childhood for another post.

Did I Have to Tell You

Very often, when a blogger doesn't post for a while, the next time they do, they explain that they were on a hiatus. Did I have to write an entry about that? Or were you able to figure that out for yourselves?

November 23, 2006

Turkey Eggs

This morning, as I was preparing a delicious egg breakfast for Jon, it occurred to me that I've never seen a turkey egg. I started to wonder
if people eat turkey eggs. So I looked online to see what I could find out about the production and consumption of turkey eggs.

Here is what I learned:

Turkey eggs are almost twice as large as ordinary chicken eggs. They have a pale creamy-tan color, with dark brown speckles. The huge yolk is golden-orange in color.

Turkeys don't lay as many eggs as chickens making their eggs impractical to package and market.

Turkey eggs are mostly used for hatching more turkeys.

In case you were wondering about cultivating your own turkey eggs, I also learned that it's not exactly legal to keep wild turkeys for the purposes of laying eggs and it's not legal to eat those eggs.

Some sources say that turkey eggs are not that pleasant tasting while others said they taste better than chicken eggs - but that's pretty useless information.

Basically turkey eggs are not available commercially for eating.

November 11, 2006

The Vertical Hour

This weekend I'm working at The Vertical Hour - David Hare's latest play - at The Music Box.

The play stars Julianne Moore and Bill Nighy both in their Broadway debuts.

Julianne Moore plays a former war correspondent turned poli-sci professor at Yale, who supports the war in Iraq. Her character refers to it as "the liberation of Iraq". But don't worry. The play doesn't try to make you believe in what's going in Iraq. Bill Nighy's character does not support the war and disagrees quite eloquently with the point of view offered by Moore's character. A lot of the play is a discussion about what's going on over there.

It's a very smart play. I'll write more about it later.

Sam Mendes was running around the theater this afternoon because he is the director and the show is in previews. He's a pretty good looking guy.

Keanu Reeves was in the audience today. He has a messy beard and his hair was askew and he looked exactly the same in person as he does on screen.

Les Mis

When I first posted that I was going to be working on Les Mis several weeks back, one of my friends commented that I should ask for a raise for sitting through the 3 hour opus. Another commented that he always wanted to play the role of Thernardier. And one other was surprised that they were bringing back that Old Chestnut (great expression by the way).

Before my week at the Broadhurst, I'd never seen the musical or listened to the music. I know the book the show is based on and I'm currently re-reading the classic by Victor Hugo. But the musical - well, I never got to work on it during it's original Broadway run and could never afford to see it. Basically, going into the Broadhurst, I was skeptical. I'll be honest. I rarely like musicals that are very, very, very commercial with broad tourist appeal.

So imagine my surprise when I discovered that I love this musical. Now, I know the reviewer from the NY Times thought this production was like a story told too many times by the same story teller; that the emotional message had been diluted after being removed so many generations from the original. But for someone that's never before seen a production of Les Mis, it was exciting and refreshing, moving to the point where I cried, and an almost perfect theatrical experience. During the week, I'd only watched the show in bits and pieces but there was one day where I watched the show all the way through. And by the end, I was wrecked; tears streaming down my face; exhausted from the impact of an emotional story very well told.

The casting is great. I'll start with Thernadier because a friend of mine commented that he would want to play that character if he were part of the show. He's the bon vivant who runs the inn where FANTINE has left her daughter for good keeping. The number MASTER OF THE HOUSE is about him. He's an opportunist that represents the dark, disenfranchised people of the Paris slum of St. Michel. And he's played with great aplomb by the phenominally talented Gary Beach. He's just a funny guy and offers a clownish interpretation of this famous number from ACT I. But his MASTER OF THE HOUSE isn't just a foppish innkeeper enslaving Cossette. He's also a scavenger and a thief. He brings great depth to his performance.

The woman who plays his wife, the Thernardiesse as she's referred to in the book, is big and brassy and scary and angry and funny. Jenny Galloway gives respect to the character that she plays with the right balance of humor and gravitas. She's so enjoyable to watch I found myself wishing that her part was even greater than it was.

Jean Valjean is played by Alexander Gemignani. His performance alone is worth the price of admission. He displays a great vocal range and is masterful when combining the art of acting with the art of singing. The last time I saw him on Broadway he was starring in the recent revival of Sweeney Todd as The Beadle. He was wonderful in that too but until I saw him in LES MIS, I had no idea how strong a performer he is. When he sings he commands your attention utterly. You can't look away. And when he is on stage with someone else, he works well not to step on the other person's toes. Most notably, in his confrontation in the duet with Javert he passes the lead vocal back and forth as easily as throwing a ball. And on top of that, he looks like Jean Valjean as he is described in the book. One can almost say that he is the physical manifestation of Hugo's famous protagonist.

Chief Inspector Javert is played by Norm Lewis. He is in my opinion the strongest singer in the show. What a set a pipes on him. His voice is remarkable and listening to him was a almost a religious experience. His voice is loud and strong and you can tell he's been training for a long time. He's had the kind of classical training that lends itself to opera, musical theater or R&B. What an absolute delight. Okay. His performance alone is also worth the price of admission and he's just as comfortable sharing that duet with Alexander Gemignani as vice versa.

With regard to the children in the show, they are all fairly interchangeable and no one really stood out to me as being more or less talented than anyone else. The actors playing Fantine, Marius and Cosette are adequate but that's okay. This is the kind of show where the parts are strong enough not to rely on the strength of the performers and can carry adequacy. I'm not saying that they aren't any good - it's just that compared to the performances of the previously written about actors, they're just adequate.

I will dedicate this last part of my entry to EPONINE. The actress that plays the teenage EPONINE was last seen in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Celia Keenan-Bolger is entirely believable as the scrappy tomboy on the verge of discovering her womanhood. She broke my heart when she sang ON MY OWN and then A LITTLE FALL OF RAIN at the beginning of ACT II. Eponine is possibly the most tragic character in literature. In the book, she is starving, neglected and all her clothes are threadbare. In the play, she is the same.

If you're the kind of theater goer that has seen Les Miserables umpteen times then don't see this show, because like the NY Time reviewer you won't be able to watch this show without comparing it to the original and you probably won't like it. But if you're like me, and you never got to see it, then I strongly, strongly recommend that you see this show.

You'll enjoy the experience.

November 06, 2006

November 05, 2006

Ladies and Jellyspoons

When I was very little, I memorized the following from a jokebook for children.
Ladies and Jellyspoons

I come before you to stand behind you
To tell you something I know nothing about.
Since next Thursday will be good Friday
We will have a father's meeting for mothers only.

Wear your best clothes if you don't have any
And please don't come if you can be there
Admission is free, please pay at the door
Have a seat on me, please sit on the floor

No matter where you managed to sit
The man in the balcony will certainly spit

I thank you for kind un attention
And now to present to you

(fanfare added as adult for embellishment)

The Four Corners of the Round Table

November 04, 2006

Knees and Elbows Off My Chest

Very often on the subway I find myself sitting next to a man whose legs are spread wide apart. It never seems to bother him that his leg is rubbing up against mine. In fact, the more room I make for myself by squeezing together my own legs, the more his legs spread, increasing the annoyance factor. Not all men sit this way. In fact, some men sit very respectfully next to me, careful not to let their bodies invade the concept of my personal space - as if personal space were possible on a subway.

The other subway behavior that's been getting to me lately involves women's elbows. No matter what time of day I've been riding the subway when a woman sits next to me, she automatically starts rummaging through her bag which always makes her elbow stick up and out in my general direction. I usually bend slightly out of the way to make sure her incredibly jagged elbow doesn't nail me in the eye. This is another one of those cases where in spite of how much I control my own behavior the other person's behavior gets worse. The more I reign in my own elbows when I'm reading or going through my own bag, the more room I leave for the person next to me, to invade my personal space.

None of this is new to me or to any of you. I guess I'm just starting to get fatigued by the ebb and flow of too many people in too small a space.

It used to be that if I were in a crowded subway, closing my eyes would give me the relief I need. Because in the dark, you have all the room you need. But this remedy doesn't work when people are pushing up against you. It's only a solution for the problem of visual people clutter.

I've also tried the passive aggressive thing where you simply push back but these particular people don't seem to mind other people pushing against them.

I've concluded that the people who touch you with their knees and elbows don't mind when other people touch them which makes me think that they aren't really being rude at all. Because they don't have the same problems as someone like me who doesn't like strangers getting too close, it doesn't occur to them that their pointy elbows and invasive knees are a problem.

So, I continue to be fatigued. How do you get mad at someone who doesn't think they are doing anything wrong? They're like children.

November 02, 2006

Kirk Douglas

I met Kirk Douglas on Sunday afternoon.

This was well timed because I was having a crappy day on Sunday. So crappy, in fact, that while I was walking to the theater for the Sunday Matinee, I was wishing for just one good thing to happen.

And it did.

An old man came up to my booth -where I distribute headsets to patrons that need hearing assistance - through the walk-in hullaballoo and he looked kind of familiar. He asked me what I needed. I looked at him and the two people he was with and I told them I needed a driver's license - didn't matter whose it was. The old man's wife pulled his wallet out of her purse. While he was fumbling for his license, I started to realize the old man was Kirk Douglas.

I got excited and started fawning over him and his wife to the point where I think tears were starting to well up in my eyes. And in the face of all this adoration do you want to know what Mr. Douglas said to me?

He said "Give me one that works." This is the typical mantra of my clients over a certain age. Very often their headsets die. It just happens. The equipment gets used over and over and over again. Inevitably some of the equipment is going to fail.

I gave him one that worked.

He looks exactly the same as he does on screen. Except, he is getting on in years. And he definitely looks like someone suffering the after effects of a stroke. The only thing that surprised me was his size. He was shorter than I thought.

But then again, actors are always shorter than you think.