“Broadway State of Mind”
I recently saw the Broadway show “Jerusalem” at The Music Box theatre, and was blown away by Mark Rylance’s seismic performance as its main character, Johnny ‘Rooster’ Byron. The show is loosely based on William Blake’s 1804 hymn “Jerusalem”; a celebration of English pastoral living at a time when much of the country was consumed by the Industrial Revolution. But for me, Mark’s performance is what the play was all about.
“A three-hour epic, “Jerusalem” begins with a fairy singing the lovely poem set to music by Sir Hubert Parry, which is shattered by rock music blaring from the speakers atop Rooster’s home. From there we’re off on a harrowing but frequently hilarious ride, staged with compulsive energy by Ian Rickson in a setting by Ultz that combines nature in bloom and humanity in wreckage, lit with dappling realism by Mimi Jordan Sherin. We know it will not end well. It’s to Butterworth’s credit that we are left so conflicted by this meeting with a force of nature, in the best play of the season.”–from the Bloomberg.com review of “Jerusalem”.
I also had the chance to see the show “Born Yesterday”, a show I wasn’t too excited about before accepting the invite to attend. Before the show began, I reluctantly asked the man sitting next to me if he knew about the actress Nina Arianda, who plays the lead, Billy Dawn. He said he saw her in ‘Venus in Furs’ and that she will be a big star. After seeing her in ‘Born Yesterday’ — wow! — she is incredible! Nina inhabits the character, and I agree that she’ll make it big.
“With her luscious pout and sweep of peroxide curls Ms. Arianda banishes Holliday’s pop-eyed, chirpy naïveté to evoke the surly molls of 1930s gangster flicks. Her Billie Dawn, streetwise and complacent in her illiteracy, is like a cross between Jean Harlow at her tough-blondest and the pop singer Cyndi Lauper, with her Queens-bred rasp.”– on Nina Arianda, from the New York Times review of “Born Yesterday”.
I went to the last performance of “High” to see Kathleen Turner. Seeing Ms. Turner as a reformed alcoholic nun was familiar enough; but looking at Evan Jonigkeit naked — for me, that was the high point of the play! I think that says it all.
“And when it is channeled through Ms. Turner’s sandpapery basso, sarcasm has a ferocious comic bite that makes the early innings of Mr. Lombardo’s improbable drama about faith, recovery and redemption crackle with lively humor. Biting into Sister Jamie’s mordant verbal assaults on a recalcitrant drug addict, all but smacking her lips like a gourmet savoring al dente pasta, Ms. Turner makes a feast of largely unexceptional dialogue.”-from the New York Times review
Last Thursday was the first time I saw the legendary Joey Arias’s cabaret performance at Town Hall. An Italian friend introduced us about a year ago, and she went on about his artistry. He is mesmerizing — not just as a jazz singer in drag — but as a musician and performer whose intensity transcends and crosses overall boundaries and limitations. Joey, you have another fan! I loved him!
“A fixture of New York City’s vibrant downtown performance scene for 30-plus years, Joey Arias is a bona fide NYC icon. From his early days at Fiorrucci and performing with his close friend Klaus Nomi, Arias has been an enigmatic figure. From outrageous performances at Club 57, Jackie 60 and Squeezebox to the now-legendary nights at Bar d’O where he held court with Raven-O and Sherry Vine, Arias distinguished himself with scandalous wit, sleek style and an extraordinary voice evocative of Lady Day yet uniquely his own. This debut at the famed venue will surely be an unforgettable evening of music, humor and a little bit of scandal – just what audiences have come to expect from the unique experience of an Arias’ performance.”–from Best Gay New York‘s review of Joey’s show
The photographer Katy Grannan’s work is appearing at Salon 94. I love Katy’s previous work, and her new exhibit doesn’t disappoint. But take a happy pill before you go — this show is raw, filled with people ravaged physically, emotionally and psychologically; their dreams left unfulfilled. But it’s an important show, so go see it. This exhibit brings it home.
“Salon 94 is pleased to present The Happy Ever After, a two-part solo exhibition of new work by Katy Grannan. The Believers, Grannan’s first video work, features women whom Grannan has photographed and filmed for several years. Her subjects are street performers, celebrity impersonators, and mercurial pretenders who occupy the dreamscape of the American West: Hollywood, San Francisco, and Las Vegas. [...] Boulevard is a collection of color photographs made while Grannan roamed the streets of Los Angeles and San Francisco between 2008 and 2010. Grannan’s subjects are most often people whom others pass by without notice, anonymous yet extraordinary individuals who are transformed by photography’s peculiar magic. The series is her version of street photography, a kind of public theater enacted on the sidewalks of West Hollywood and San Francisco. [...] Together, The Believers and Boulevard present new Western mythologies inhabited by people who celebrate delusion as a means of self-preservation, contradiction as truth, and glitter and sweat as residue of optimism and perseverance.”–from Salon 94′s press release
Kara Walker’s “Fall Frum Grace” at the Lehmann Maupin Gallery on Chrystie Street is poignant and violent — and hits you in your gut. I watched it twice.
“Fall Frum Grace, Miss Pipi’s Blue Tale is a shadow puppet narrative, which follows the travails of the heroine, Miss Pipi, intercut with shadow puppet “abstracts” of a surreal and violent nature. The subtext of the video is the mythology surrounding white Southern womanhood, historically cited time and time again as an entity to be protected from sexuality, in particular from the presumed hyper-sexuality of black men. Although fiction, this was the excuse for the murder of countless black men and boys in Jim Crow America. Miss Pipi’s Blue Tale is meant to be as deeply contradictory a visual tale as the Blues is in music. Delta Blues often merges broad comedy with despair, sensuality with loss and do-it-yourself urgency with structured improvisation.”–from Lehmann Mauphin’s press release
Next stop was the Hendershot Gallery to see “Keep Out You Thieving Bastards”. The concept was interesting, though the show was uneven. I liked Alec Soth, and Chris Larson’s series “Deep North”.
“Keep Out You Thieving Bastards, an exhibition inspired by a Minnesota artist and gallery owner during our interminable Minnesota-style winter, brings together a whole range of artists who were born, bred, or spent significant time in the heartland [...]. Their works and media expose a connection to Minnesota’s sadly beautiful landscape, the underbelly of “Minnesota Nice” , life in the margins, coming of age with punk music, and reflections on what many have come to believe to be the most abnormally normal place on Earth.”–from Hendershot Gallery’s press release.
In other photo news, La Lettre de la Photographie is a new newsletter started by my friend Jean-Jacque Naudet, formerly with Philippe Hachett. If you want to know everything going on in the photography world, this newsletter will keep you informed. P.S: I will be a contributor!