Tag Archives: Broadway

Lame Adventure 417: Theater Karma

As much as I love theater, I hate the ticket prices. But, it is my passion so I try to see as many plays as I can for bottom dollar. Volunteer ushering off-Broadway plays has allowed me to see three of the last five Pulitzer prize winning shows for free. Unfortunately, Broadway does not allow volunteer ushers. About a week ago, Milton, sent me an email asking about The Realistic Joneses a 95 minute hit comedy written by Will Eno playing on Broadway at the Lyceum Theatre. The poster features a dead squirrel lying atop a mailbox.

Eye catching poster.

Eye catching poster.

Milton wrote:

Milton: Are you interested in this?

Is grass green, is the pope Catholic, does New York stink in summer? Sign us up! Because we are both of modest means, we agreed that we would settle for balcony seats to the tune of $39 each. We’re not wild about seeing it from the proximity of Canada, but at least we’re getting to see it. The ticket seller asked:

Ticket seller: Can you handle climbing seventy-nine steps?

Me (thinking): Is this a test, should I be insulted, can she not see that I am the icon of fitness for my age demographic?

Me (answering): Yes, absolutely!

As soon as I spoke I imagined Milton screaming:

Milton: I’ve got to walk up seventy-nine fuckin’ steps?

We’re not seeing it for another month, so he has four weeks to prepare himself mentally and physically for this challenge.

As I walked past the Cort Theater, where a revival of Martin McDonagh’s The Cripple of Inishmaan starring Daniel Radcliffe, was in previews, I noticed a sign on the door announcing the $37 rush ticket policy.

Head turning sign.

Head turning sign.

I asked the ticket seller how soon one should get in line for rush tickets for weekend performances.

Ticket seller: I’d say an hour would be fine. No one is aware of the rush policy yet. The sign was just posted today.

When that play was staged in London, where it also starred Radcliffe, it was a huge hit. The run sold out. Word travels fast in New York. I had seen this play five years ago off-Broadway for free when I ushered it. I loved it. It is a black comedy set in 1934 Inishmaan, an island in Ireland, where nothing much happens. Even the gossip is dull. One day a film crew arrives. That causes tremendous excitement, but no one is more excited than Billy, the cripple in the title, whose favorite pastimes are reading and staring at cows. It’s a tale packed with idiocy, cruelty, redemption and a lot of wit. It’s a guaranteed crowd pleaser.

I had a feeling that it would get rave reviews here and then I learned that it was opening this weekend, on Sunday. Once the raves pour in, getting weekend rush tickets might require getting in line several hours in advance. The weekends are when I power sleep. So Milton took sleep deprivation upon himself and got into the rush line this past Saturday at 8:52 in the morning waiting for the box office to open at 10 am. At 10:09 am, while I was deep in REM sleep, he emailed me that we got tickets to that evening’s final preview performance at 8 pm.

Cort marquee.

Cort marquee.

Our seats were in the center orchestra, row AA. That’s directly in front of the stage. We could almost eat the styrofoam painted to look like Inishmaan’s sea wall.

We resisted biting into the stage. We figured it does not taste like chicken.

We resisted biting into the stage. We figured it does not taste like chicken.

I asked Milton what he thought the seats behind us cost.

Milton: $400.

As for the play itself, the story was as wonderful as I remembered. The supporting cast was brilliant. The way one actress repeatedly delivers the three-word line, “Not a word” blew what remains of Milton’s mind. Daniel Radcliffe was a far prettier Billy than Aaron Monaghan, who I thought was perfect in the role five years ago. Milton was impressed with Radcliffe’s gay male following in attendance, but he thought that Radcliffe was the weak link in the production. Yet, his star power guarantees box office sales. He is adequate in the role. To his credit, he doesn’t chew the scenery. Overall, we were entertained.

When we were leaving the theater, a woman who probably paid ten times what we paid for her ticket, found my iPhone. Unbeknownst to me, it had slipped out of my pocket and she noticed. Afterward, at a pub, the bartender bought us our second round of suds. Overall, it was an excellent night. The play opened on Sunday to the rave reviews I anticipated.

Bring on that dead squirrel!

Lame Adventure 343: Let’s Put On An Art Exhibit!

Once again, there’s free art on Broadway for the unwashed masses.  The Broadway Mall Association has organized a public art exhibition called Saint Clair Cemin on Broadway in collaboration with Chelsea-based Paul Kasmin Gallery, New York City’s Department of Parks and Recreation and the New York City Department of Transportation.  For anyone not inclined to toss so much as a single solitary toenail clipping inside a museum or an art gallery, for five subway stops in Manhattan between West 57th and West 157th Streets, you can easily find yourself gobsmacked with one of seven sculptures created by the Brazilian-born artist Saint Clair Cemin who has a studio in Brooklyn.

The first Cemin piece that caught my eye I noticed one evening in late August when I exited my go-to 72nd and Broadway subway stop on the West 73rd Street side.  It was a mirrored stainless steel object that brought to mind a drafting table.  This prompted me to think “WTF?”  It was too dark for me to take a good photograph of it, but a few weeks later, while heading into that same subway station, I noticed that it had been relocated closer to 72nd Street.  I hit the brakes on my Jack Purcell sneakers, reversed course and took a second look at that sculpture before catching a train heading down to The Grind. A sign had been added announcing that the piece is called Portrait of the Word “Why”.

Portrait of the Word “Why”, 2008, stainless steel

Frontal side view Portrait of the Word “Why” reflecting some cityscape.

Rear sideview Portrait of the Word “Why”

Others might look at this sculpture and modify its name to Portrait of the Words “Why Bother”.  The piece had the opposite effect on me.  It intrigued me so much I decided that I would forego my usual Saturday morning power sleep and check out the six other installations in daylight hours so early many of the denizens in this city that never sleeps were likely pounding their snooze buttons.

In my 100 block of travels up and down Broadway my quest was to determine if I might uncover any clues about what New Yorkers, when led to culture, think using my own weaknesses of observation.

I first inspected the sculpture on the south side of 72nd Street Cemin calls The Four.

The Four, 1997, corten steel

I think that New Yorkers think that they can use two of its sides to house their trash.

You had to stuff your napkin in there, really?

You could not walk ten feet to the nearest trash can?

I rode a 1 local train downtown to 59th Street Columbus Circle, and exited the 58th Street side where I encountered Vortex, a hammered stainless steel coil climbing 123 feet into the sky.

Vortex, 2008, hammered stainless steel

I looked up at it, semi-strained my neck and thought:

Me:  Wow, that’s tall.

I highly doubt that it will be installed in any swell’s living room any time soon.

I walked four blocks north to the street divider at 62nd and Broadway where I saw a crouching figure called O Pensador that’s made from hammered copper.

O Pensador, 2008, hammered copper

O Pensador, sideview

O Pensador, rearview

It made me think of a wrinkled abstract Buddha and I felt immense relief that Cemin resisted producing a surreal sculpture of the prophet Muhammad.

At 66th Street I caught the uptown express to West 157th Street.

Pretty subway stop sign if you overlook the century of grime.

There, I observed a seven-foot tall dancing marble figure Cemin calls The Wind.

The Wind, 2002, marble

I think that others are referring to it as The Repository for Lost Keys.

Keys in The Wind.

Keys ready for their close-up.

Next, I caught a 1 local downtown and exited at 116th Street Columbia University.  In the subway station, I saw a welded steel functional sculpture by Michelle Greene called Railrider’s Throne.

Columbia University 116th Street subway stop.

Railrider’s Throne, 1991, welded steel

How predictable that a woman would create art that is both aesthetically pleasing and actually useful.

Back outside, I walked a block north to 117th Street and inspected Cemin’s hammered copper sculpture called Aphrodite standing nearly eight feet tall.

Aphrodite, 2006, hammered copper

I thought:

Me:  Small breasts, big hips.

Pretty face.

Afterward, I hopped onto another 1 local heading downtown and exited at West 79th Street where I observed In the Center, a fourteen and a half foot tall hydrocal (that’s a William F. Buckley way of saying plaster of Paris), wood and metal behemoth in a gaucho hat holding a divining rod.

In The Center, 2002, hydrocal, wood and metal

This sculpture reminded me of the strict Catholic clergy that were chasing the mischievous schoolboy, Guido, in Federico Fellini’s 8 ½.  As much as part of me wanted to access my inner Guido and bolt from this monster, irrationally fearing that if it leaned forward it could impale me, the rest of me decided to relax and shoot these final images of this free exhibit that can be seen on the streets of Gotham City through mid-November.

Saint Clair Cemin on Broadway

Lame Adventure 314: Broadway Unplugged

Broadway’s annual love fest to itself, the Tony Awards, will be broadcast this Sunday on CBS.  My pal, Milton, who has seen more of the nominated plays and musicals than me, has donned his critic’s chapeau and has written a witty and insightful post about all the contenders right here.

A few weekends ago I did the unthinkable — I cut short my power sleeping and headed down to the theater district where I photographed the facades of the buildings housing the nominated plays and musicals in morning light.  This is not exactly tantamount to snapping a gotcha shot of one’s girlfriend without her makeup, but I realized I had little idea about what most Broadway houses look like.  Absent the crowds clambering to enter under the sophistication of nightfall, many of these buildings are surprisingly quaint when viewed in the light of day.

Pictured below is the Ethel Barrymore Theatre located on West 47th Street.

If these walls could talk, would they scream, “Stella!”?

A much-ballyhooed revival of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman starring Philip Seymour Hoffman just closed there.  It will probably win big on Tony night.  This is the theater where in 1947 Marlon Brando originated the role of Stanley Kowalski screaming “Stella!” in A Streetcar Named Desire.

Currently, Blair Underwood is screaming “Stella!” in a revival of Streetcar featuring an African-American cast staged at the Broadhurst on West 44th Street.

“Stella!” screamed here eight shows a week until August 19th.

Back in 1935, Humphrey Bogart stood on those same boards making his acting breakthrough that led to Hollywood stardom when he appeared as an escaped killer in The Petrified Forest, a role he later recreated in the film of the same name.

The Pulitzer Prize winning social satire Clybourne Park (and my choice for Best Play where you can hear a terrific joke about white women and tampons) can be seen here at the Walter Kerr Theatre.

The neon lights burn 24/7 at the Walter Kerr who was a theater critic and playwright that died in 1996.

Back in 1929 when it was then called the Ritz Theatre (undoubtedly to differentiate it from the cracker which Nabisco would debut in 1934 but according to the Lame Adventures brand of (il)logic someone clearly had a premonition that this snack food was on the horizon), Bette Davis starred on this same stage opposite the slightly less well-remembered Etha Dack in a comedy called Broken Dishes.

Over at the Gerald Schoenfeld 81-year-old James Earl Jones and almost 87-year-old Angela Lansbury are energetically co-starring in the revival of Gore Vidal’s The Best Man.

Living theater royalty can be found within these walls through September 9th.

Gerald Schoenfeld was a legendary Broadway producer.  Three years before he bought his rainbow in 2008, a theater was named in his honor.

Broadway has several theaters that were renamed for theatrical legends.  In the case of the recently renovated Stephen Sondheim Theatre, the theater had been originally named for Henry Miller.

Even if Henry Miller’s name is still carved in the facade, this is the Stephen Sondheim theater now.

Currently staging the revival of “Anything Goes” (including Henry Miller’s name).

In 1983 the Alvin Theatre was renamed for the playwright Neil Simon.  The last play staged at the Alvin was Mr. Simon’s Brighton Beach Memoirs.  The first play that opened under his name was Mr. Simon’s Biloxi Blues.  Currently a revival of Jesus Christ Superstar is being staged there, the exact type of production that must make this revered Jewish playwright gag.


What about legends in the making?  Possibly one day a theater will be renamed for the 28-year-old powerhouse Nina Arianda currently starring opposite Hugh Dancy in Venus in Fur over at the Lyceum.

“Venus in Fur” is closing June 17th, but my superior, Elsbeth, managed to snag a pair of prized ducats to this show before it ends its run probably just to get me to stop my hounding.

Nina owned my vote for Best Actress in a play until I saw Tracie Bennett as Judy Garland in End of the Rainbow at the Belasco.

“End of the Rainbow”, a show that was made for a post-performance stiff drink (or two or three).

Now I’m completely discombobulated over who should get it, but Milton reasons that even if Nina is stiffed, she’ll eventually win it, so he’s pulling for Tracie.

Does “Ghost” the new musical staged at the Lunt Fontanne have a ghost of a chance for much? Don’t ask me, I’m passing on seeing this one.  Dazzle schmazzle

In addition, I thought Best Actress nominee Linda Lavin was terrific as the mother that loathes both her children and her dying husband in The Lyons over at the Cort.

See and hear Linda Lavin roar!

Stockard Channing is another Best Actress nominee that can be found eight performances a week at the Booth Theatre as the mother in Other Desert Cities.

The Booth Theatre opened on October 16, 1913. Looking pretty good for pushing 100.

This show is another Best Play nominee that has scored a hit with both the critics and audiences.  The Booth was named for Edwin Booth, the brother of John Wilkes.  Apparently, a grudge was not held against him considering whom his brother assassinated.

Across the street from the Booth is the Music Box where the raucous British comedy “One Man, Two Guvnors” is being staged. Marlon Brando made his Broadway debut here in “I Remember Mama” in 1944.

A viable contender for Best Revival of a Musical is The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess over at the Richard Rodgers.  Full disclosure:  I loved this wonderful production and the stars, Audra MacDonald and Norm Lewis, blew me away.  Oh yeah, and the music’s extraordinary.

“The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess” – an excellent production.

For all you sock puppet fans, in 1994 Shari Lewis commanded this same stage with Lamb Chop, Hush Puppy and Charlie Horse in Lamb Chop on Broadway.

Critics see a horse race between Porgy and Bess and the now closed revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Follies that was staged at the Marquis Theatre.  Follies shuttered to make way for the revival of Evita, which is also nominated in this category, but it is not expected to win.  The Marquis is a theater that is literally a massive marquee.

I see the name. Where’s the entrance to see the show?

The first, and thus far only time I saw a show there (the most recent revival of Follies), I had no idea where to find the entrance.  It’s situated in a Marriott Hotel.  Since I was not a guest, I was denied the option to call room service to ask, “Where the hell’s the theater?”  Fortunately, Milton arrived first so I was screaming at him, and he was screaming directions at me on his iPhone.  I’m sure people unaware that we’re more queer than (accounting for inflation) a nine dollar bill assumed I was yelling at my husband and he at his wife.

Nicer work at the Imperial’s box office was when “Les Misérables” ran here for over 12 years of its 16 year run.

Certainly a living legend at the theater box office.

Considering that locating the Marquis easily shaved several minutes off my life, I much prefer a classic easy-to-locate Broadway theater like the Nederlander, which is currently staging the Disney production nominated for Best Musical, Newsies.

Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” debuted here in 1962 when it was called the Billy Rose Theatre. That production cost $42,000 to stage.

This is a big, brassy feel good show that has about as much appeal to me as a full body rash.

“Peter and the Starcatcher” – a fun show about lost boys. Brooks Atkinson was a theater critic for The New York Times from 1925 to 1960.

I’m hoping that Once over at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre will win Best Musical since I relate much more to miserable people in Dublin than singing dancing newsboys in lower Manhattan circa 1899.

Before the show starts, “Once” audience members can walk on the stage and purchase a drink at the on stage bar. Truly this is my kind of show.

In 1927, the first show staged at the Jacobs (then called the Royale) was a musical comedy named Piggy.  The producers changed the show’s name to I Told You So in the middle of the run.  Apparently, they resisted renaming the show I Told You So That Piggy is a Terrible Name and We’re Bleeding Money.

Lame Adventure 313: What Do I Know?

I love live theater preferably on a stage, not two hotheads having a yelling match at each other on a subway train.  One way I can afford to see as many off-Broadway plays as I do is I volunteer usher, something I do once or twice a month.  This allows me to see theater for free. The only downside to volunteer ushering is sometimes a show is a dud, but more often, they’re good.

“Peter and the Starcatcher”, a play I volunteer ushered off-Broadway that has transferred to Broadway and is now nominated for 9 Tony awards. This was not a dud.

Many volunteer ushers are retirees, students or aspiring actors. Most are pleasant, but when I worked my most recent ushering gig I encountered Sour Usher.  Sour Usher is a retired woman 10-15 years my senior that’s built like Sitting Bull. I have encountered her several times over the course of the 3 ½ years I’ve been volunteer ushering, but she has never given me a single nod of recognition.  When I say, “Hi,” she gives me the “Who are you?” look.

Together, we recently ushered a play that’s still in previews.  It officially opens later this week, so there might still be some tweaks made to it between now and then.  She’s a complainer-type who has been volunteer ushering forever.  Therefore, she thinks she’s an authority that knows more than everyone in the theater company combined.  When I last ushered with her, it was for a delightful musical at New York Theater Workshop called Once.   At intermission, she confided that she hated the show.  I told her that it was an adaptation of a film.  She was unfamiliar with the film and told me that she had no interest in seeing it.

Sour Usher:  Is this like the movie?

Me:  Yes, it’s following the story closely.

Sour Usher:  So the movie was lousy, too.

Once transferred to Broadway earlier this year and has since been nominated for eleven Tony awards.

People parked outside the Jacobs theater at 9 am hoping for tickets to the 3 pm matinee of “Once”.

The play Sour Usher and I ushered recently was one neither of us were familiar with.  The program had a preface that indicated that it has been in development since 2004.  Sour Usher zeroed in on the fact that its earliest origins were as a short film for a Food Network competition.

Sour Usher:  Can you believe this?  They’re staging a cooking show!  I know I’m not going to like this.

I thought:

Me (defiantly):  This is one of the most respected off-Broadway theater companies in the country.  We’re seeing this play for free.  Give it a chance.  It’s not like we’re witnessing an execution.

I said:

Me (weaselly):  Well, that sounds different.

When the house opened and we admitted audience members, the star who doubles as co-author took the stage.  She started cooking.  Sour Usher admitted that whatever it was that she was cooking smelled good.  She insisted that it was gingerbread, but we later learned that it was eggplant for baba ganoush.  Small difference.  The House Manager seated us together.  Sour Usher groused about her seat, even though we were in the fifth row and had a perfect view.  She resented not being seated on the aisle.  At intermission, she refused to applaud declaring:

Sour Usher:  There’s nothing in this play for me.  It’s all cliché, predictable, pointless.  It’s too many stories happening at once and not a single one interests me.  When it opens, the Times will kill it.

I thought:

Me:  Like the way they killed Once?

I said (this comment slipped out like an involuntary fart):

Me:  You really think that?

She looked at me and sniffed.  Maybe I did involuntarily cut a silent-but-deadly.

Sour Usher:  You like this?  [disgusted] You did applaud.

I thought:

Me (defiant): I applauded because I’m entertained, I think it’s a novel play that’s well staged and I’m interested in what happens next.  Is that criminal?

I said:

Me (weaselly):  I applaud out of habit.

I know that Sour Usher thinks I’m an idiot, and possibly I am for not having the guts to say exactly what I think to her.  She’s one of those difficult, critical know-it-alls.  Arguing with her is pointless.  I save point-full bickering for women that matter that let me see them naked.  I wonder if Sour Usher even likes theater.  I thought that it was possible that the only thing she really likes is eating for I saw her inhaling a muffin at intermission.  I asked:

Me:  Is that gingerbread?

Sour Usher (mouth full):  No.

Me: What is it?

Sour Usher:  Terrible.

I should have known.

“Venus in Fur” debuted off-Broadway at Classic Stage Company in 2010 before transferring to Broadway last fall. It’s received Tony award nominations for Best Play and Best Actress (Nina Arianda).

Lame Adventure 252: Kiwi Appreciation

I was walking up Broadway on the Upper West Side when I noticed a massive bright blue sculpture outside the 72nd Street subway station.

No inhibitions on display here.

I wondered what this enormous spread-eagled blue blob was about so I walked over to inspect it further.

Rather bottom heavy.

This exhibit is a public art program featuring the whimsical sculptures by artist Peter Woytuk currently on display in Manhattan along Broadway from Columbus Circle up to Mitchell Square Park at 168th Street in Washington Heights.

A mother exiting the subway station with her son, a boy about seven or eight, insisted to the lad:

Mother:  Look!  There’s Flipper!

Flipper through the eyes of Fernando Botero?

Lad:  Why does the sign say kiwi, Mom?  Who’s Flipper?

Sign more noticeable to people under five feet tall.

Mother looks at sign, perplexed.  Another woman exited the station and she, too, assumed aloud that she was looking at an abstract version of the TV star dolphin boomers grew up with in the Sixties.  I thought:

Me:  If that’s Flipper, he sure got morbidly obese.

To younger Lame Adventures readers, Flipper was the Lassie of the Sea; he was raised by a single father with two sons.  This was the era of TV shows featuring heroic animals and mischievous offspring raised by kind, patient and understanding single parents.   No one was divorced and the single parents never seemed stressed.  This utopian family unit almost made me wish I was a half-orphan especially when my mother was bellowing at me to clean my room, stand up straight, or when we engaged in negotiation mom-style:

Mom:  Do you want a slap?  I’m warning you, that’s where you’re headed if you keep it up!

The perfect parents on these TV shows were always widowed. They never had a financial worry and were never grieving.  The deaths of their spouses were seldom explained, so with all the wisdom I have acquired forty-odd years later, I can only assume that these cheerful single parents must have had extremely crummy marriages to show no signs of remorse.

Back to the sculpture, no way was this sculpture of a dolphin. The lad with great reading and comprehension skills that his mother lacked since she failed to read the sign next to the sculpture identifying it as a kiwi, got it right.  This blue blob in a state of ecstasy is a bird, specifically a chicken-sized flightless bird endemic to New Zealand.  It has the distinction of laying the largest egg in relation to its body size when compared to all other species of birds.  It’s also an endangered species.  Weasels, dogs and cats love to munch on them.   Apparently, on the Upper West Side, idiots with black marking pens find scribbling on them irresistible.

Is this really necessary?

This sculpture, made from aluminum and weighing 18,000 lbs stands 12 feet tall and it’s 6 feet wide, so had it fallen off its base and onto the scribblers, they would have been flattened.

Lame Adventure 248: Who Are You?

Her name is Nina Arianda. She’s 27-years-old and the current “it” girl that has taken the New York stage by storm.  Currently, she is starring on Broadway as Vanda in the erotic comedy, Venus in Fur, opposite quite an “it” guy, Hugh Dancy.  Even his character, Thomas, during the acting audition that consumes almost the entirety of this 90 minute wild ride of a play-within-a-play adapted from Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s novella about a 19th century masochist, that’s cleverly written by David Ives (an “it” playwright), asks Vanda in amazement, “Who are you?”

Announcement: you must see the play to find out.  Sorry, no spoilers here in Lame Adventureland.

Yet, I can report with authority, holy crap does Nina Arianda have it!  Whatever “it” is, Milton and I sure know it when we see it.  We got quite an eyeful and earful.  Nina, coupled with Hugh on the boards, shares an ocean of “it” with him.  Milton and I, sitting in second row orchestra seats that we scored on the cheap last August, were in our bliss getting splashed.  Afterward, over a beverage, we discussed the perfect cast.

Milton (dreamy):  I never thought a man could look so good in a vee neck t-shirt.  You know, he and I made eye contact.

Me:  He looked in your direction.  He’s happily married to Claire Danes.

Milton sits, foiled.

Me (bragging):  But I did get Nina’s number when you were in the bathroom.

Yeah, right, in my dreams.  Three times a year over the course of 19 minutes total, I am mercy-pleasured by people of my own gender in orthopedic shoes with names like Dinah Ickberg.  Post-how-we-do-it, they usually announce to me that they’ve decided to undergo a dramatic religious conversion and will head straight to a nunnery from my love-nest with me shouting after them:

Me:  It’s okay to say, “Don’t call!”

Even if an endorsement from Lame Adventures only carries about as much weight as an ant’s testicle, Christopher Isherwood, the revered theater critic for The New York Times, backs me up with his review.  In the November 7th issue of The New Yorker, John Lahr profiled Nina.

He described the response of the play’s director, Walter Bobbie, to her audition for the part of Vanda.

Bobbie wanted to stop the audition immediately.  “She showed me how the play worked,” he said. “I was afraid someone would cast her by the end of the day.  It was that breathtaking an audition.  I don’t know how to explain it.  But when the real thing walks into the room you know it.” 

Venus in Fur, produced by the Manhattan Theatre Club, is playing at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre through December 18th.

Lame Adventure 178: Breaking Up

Milton and I recently saw the Broadway debut of a play written by one of my favorite playwrights, Stephen Adly Guirgis, The Motherfucker With the Hat.  It’s a dramatic comedy about Jackie, an addict in recovery who is certain that his longtime girlfriend, Veronica, has cheated on him, but before falling off the wagon he confesses his woes about his relationship to his sponsor, Ralph.  Bobby Cannavale, at the top of his game, plays Jackie, Chris Rock, in a solid Broadway debut is Ralph, and Elizabeth Rodriguez, a member of the LAByrinth Theater Company (where Guirgis is co-artistic director with Yul Vázquez) is spot-on as cynical recovery-averse Veronica.  Film veteran Annabella Sciorra effectively plays Victoria, Ralph’s unhappy wife, and Yul Vázquez, rounds out the excellent cast as Cousin Julio, Jackie’s wise cousin.

A slightly problematic title to advertise publicly.

I loved it.  Milton did not.  I thought it was a thoughtfully written piece with brilliant dialogue and plot twists throughout about how we perceive ourselves to others, how we deceive others, and how we have philosophies that often conflict with others that get us through life, “one day at a time.”   Milton disagreed.  He thought:

Milton (thinking out loud):  It was about nothing.

If this fast moving, wonderfully written play is not considered a homerun, in my opinion, it was at least a triple that scored the game-winning run.

Note:  Milton loathes baseball.

Possibly the title of this post might imply that Milton and I have suffered a friendship-ending argument following this play.  We had nothing of the sort. Who I finally did get around to dumping was my flabby, freeloading longtime cell phone carrier, AT & T, for buff, “I’m there for you baby” newcomer (for me) Verizon.

Ancient Cingular (now AT &T) hunk of junk cell phone on left. Svelte new Verizon cell phone on right.

I was under the false impression that Verizon, what I always assumed was the Cadillac of cell phone service, was out of my league.  I thought it would cost me more, offer fewer perks, and only carry smart phones, a gadget I cannot afford on my measly laugh-out-loud wages.  When my rent increased last fall, I was forced to disconnect my landline of 27 years.  Psychologically, sacrificing my 212 area code was demoralizing, but saving that extra $600 a year eased my financial pain.  Yet, my ancient cell phone had given me a new source of mental anguish.

When I tried to make calls from home on my AT & T dumb phone, it often took up to four tries before I could get a signal.  Usually, when I did get a signal on my AT & T dumb phone, the call would drop.  My 84 year old father, who has a heart condition, and considering the fact that he is 84 makes any issue with any organ including a wart on his thumb a serious issue, has complained to me about having to call up to three times to get through.  The last thing I need hanging over my head like the sword of Damocles is the idea that my crummy cell phone might expedite my dear old dad buying his rainbow.

While dining in a noisy restaurant a few weeks ago with Coco, I needed to make a call.  She let me use her Verizon iPhone and that was when I had my Verizon epiphany.  I decided that somehow, some way, I was going to make the switch.  When my AT & T service for the month was a day away from completion, I entered my neighborhood Verizon wireless store, explained to Angel, the very helpful customer service rep, that I only use my phone for talking and texting, and what I could afford to pay.  Within an hour he had given me a free Samsung dumb phone (that is smart phone capable), and the same package of minutes and texting that I had before for what I was paying with AT & T.

Qwerty keyboard. Sweet!

Verizon may not have rollover minutes, but I never used a single one of my AT & T rollover minutes so I did not care about that.  What I do care about is reception and dropped calls in my apartment.  Both problems are now eliminated.  Joy.

Recently I received an email notification from AT & T the Jilted about my final bill:

AT & T love letter. Click on image to enlarge.

Meanwhile, I’m still familiarizing myself with my new dumb phone. The one thing I have not been able to figure out is how to shut it off.  This was a concern during the play, but I know how to silent it, so I buried it deep in my satchel.  Before curtain, I made Milton test call me.  It didn’t ring, but it did vibrate, so I had a quick foot massage before the play began.

Lame Adventure 42: Apple Shenanigans

As tempting as it is for me to opine about the car bomb that luckily failed to detonate in the heart of Times Square’s theater district on Saturday – thanks to the T-shirt vendor of the year seeing something and saying something – and as much as I wonder if this impotent explosive device was planted by a home grown lunatic or was it courtesy of the rifle-toting bearded guys in ankle length shirts that hate our guts and sleep together in caves, well, I’m not going to participate in that discussion here in Lame Adventures, a forum devoted to the silly in the mundane.  I would like to discuss the literally rotten apple that crossed my path on Sunday here in the Big Apple.

After doing my usual daily grocery shopping, I return home and as I am putting my purchases away, I notice that one of my Macoun apples is moist.  As it turns out, the apple is perfect on one side – the side that drew me like metal to magnet, and rotting mush on the other.  I debate what to do, take the time to return it, or just be philosophical about it.  Hey, sometimes it’s just your turn to purchase The Rotten Apple.

Then, I take some photographs.

The Mona Lisa side.

The Wicked Witch of the West side.

After the photo shoot with The Rotten Apple, I decide, “What’s the worse that can happen if I try to return it? Do I look like an apple thief? I’m small, pale, bespectacled, and equipped with a store receipt declaring I purchased The Rotten Apple minutes earlier.”  There’s always a window of time when a purchase goes awry.

For example, last year Milton and I had a Broadway theater ticket snafu.  Broadway’s iron-clad no returns no exchanges policy does have a few hours of wriggle room if you happen to buy your tickets at the theater box office and the ticket seller you purchased your wrong tickets from is still working at that window.  Milton and I encountered this exact situation when we got the wrong seats to Neil LaBute’s Reasons to be Pretty.  Fortunately, the ticket seller remembered us.  She probably thought, “Those two nerds.”  Actually, she was quite considerate.  I recall that she even blamed herself for my inability to correctly read our seat numbers, and was kind enough to take back the tickets in exchange for the seats we wanted in the first place.  I am not suggesting that anyone reading this post purposely screw up a theater ticket purchase to try out this brief window of time theory, but in legitimate cases where you come across as desperate, subservient, and so repentant you appear ready to journey to Lourdes, Broadway ticket sellers do have the capacity to take pity on theater loving fools.

Back to the situation with The Rotten Apple, I venture up the street to my market carrying The Rotten Apple in a bag, and enter through the out door since it’s closest to where the store manager hovers.  Just as I am about to approach him, Shavone, one of my favorite cashiers, calls out to me.

Shavone:  Hey!

Me:  Hey Shavone!

Shavone sees my bag.

Shavone:  You returning something?

Since her station is uncharacteristically empty, I approach.

Me (holding up my bag for emphasis):  Yeah, I bought a rotten apple by mistake.

Shavone:  You have to go upstairs to Customer Service on the second floor to make a return.  They won’t give you a refund down here.

Me:  I don’t want my money back.  I want another apple.  Do you think I can get another apple and make an exchange?

Shavone:  Probably.  Go upstairs and talk to them about it.

Before going upstairs, I grab another comparably sized apple, make sure this one shows no signs of rot, and hightail up to the second floor.   There, I encounter the Customer Service worker who reminds me of myself at work, someone bored beyond belief.

Me:  Hi.

Customer Service (rousing):  Hi.

Me:  I bought a rotten apple by mistake this morning.  I’d like to exchange it for this one.

I show her both The Rotten Apple and the un-rotten apple of my dreams.

Customer Service:  You have a receipt?

Me:  Yeah.

I hand the Customer Service worker my receipt.  She glances at it, hands it back to me, and then takes my rotten apple.

Customer Service:  Okay.

I then hightail downstairs equipped with my un-rotten apple, make a bee-line for Shavone’s register and purchase a six-pack of bottled water.  The woman in front of me in line is making the same purchase.  She notices.

Woman in Front of Me:  Looks like everyone’s buying water today.

Shavone:  It is hot out here.

Me (resenting being equated with everyone thinking):  Thank you.

Me (what I say): ________ (I keep my pie hole shut.)

Shavone completes the transaction with the Woman in Front of Me, the leader in bottle water purchasers.  It’s now my turn.

Shavone:  They take care of you upstairs?

Me:  Yeah, I got a new apple.

Shavone:  Good.

Shavone's trademark nails -- all real -- and she can work a register like a magician with them!

Lame Adventure 1: What a Rush

My playwright-friend, Albee, emails me that I must see a great play, the Broadway revival of Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge starring Liev Schreiber and Scarlett Johansson.  Well aware that I don’t have a pot to piss in, he tips me off that first row orchestra rush seats are available at 10 am on the day of the performance for $26.50.  This prompts me to consider departing from my usual Saturday ritual of sleeping until noon.  I call my equally impoverished sidekick, Milton.  If I make the pilgrimage in the frigid cold for a pair of these prize ducats, does he want to see this show?

Milton says that he is building shelving to hold his computer since Dell is making a house call to swap out his defective hard drive.  Going that extra mile for company is something I can relate to well. I once laid a new carpet in time for a visit from the cable guy.  Milton declares that if I am willing to brave the elements for these tickets, he’ll hit the pause button on the shelving to join me for this play.

Although during the workweek it is a struggle for me to regain consciousness in the morning, when the alarm rings at daybreak this Saturday, I bolt out of bed with such vigor, my feet seem encased in Acme brand spring shoes.  Being on a mission for bargain rate theater tickets is energizing, even though I’m certain that I’ll be the first in line looking like the biggest nerd in New York.  I make sure I’m clad entirely in black.

I walk up West 48th Street en route to the Cort Theater at 9 am, confident that I will easily snag a pair of rush seats.  Milton and I have good karma.  We both donated to Haiti.  When I reach the theater I count fourteen people already standing in line.  This is worrisome.

I know that the first row seats eleven and there are two shows today.  I whip out my portable abacus and quickly do the math.  If each of the fourteen standing in the cue ahead of me get two rush seats, that’s twenty-eight tickets for twenty-two seats.  My confidence wanes significantly.

Over the course of the hour, the line triples in size and I know there is no way there will be rush seats for all.  Part of me thinks it is best to look at this situation philosophically, “You can’t always get what you want.”  The rest of me anticipates getting screwed.  I could still be home in bed getting my average looks rest.

The Cort opens the box office doors about five minutes early.  Those of us standing in the first two thirds of the line enter the heated lobby so we can escape the 30-degree air, thaw, and in my case, brood.  A box office window opens, and the race for rush tickets begins, or does it?  People are negotiating dates and times.  This makes no sense to me, but do I care?  They’re not going for the rush seats!  Oh happy day!  Then, a jovial young woman a few places ahead of me, the self-appointed authority on rush ticket seating, is compelled to announce, “People, you can get rush tickets for $26.50!”

I am not by nature a violent person, but if there is ever a time when I would like to beat someone maniacally with a rolled up copy of The New Yorker and shout, “Stick a sock in it!” this is the moment.  Yet, outwardly, I remain the portrait of patience, even as the two math majors ahead of me reach the window to debate with the weary ticket seller the difference between a $26.50 rush orchestra seat and a $126.50 orchestra seat.  Miraculously, a second box office window opens, and it is my turn.

I step up and ask the ticket seller if two rush seats together are still available for either of today’s performances?  He says, “Yeah, for the matinee.  You want ‘em?”  I say, “Yeah.”  He says, “$53.”  I hand him the cash, he hands me two tickets for dead center first row seats.  I am so elated I cannot contain my glee.  Therefore, I quickly have sex with our tickets before walking past the other ticket seller who is placing his head in a noose as the math majors yammer, “You’re not explaining this rush ticket seating policy properly at all.”

Do these fingers look 75-years-old?

I return home, call Milton with the good news, and then devour a three-pound buttermilk craisin biscuit washed down with a gallon of tea.  The biscuit sits in my gut like an island.  I pop a fistful of Rolaids and then head back down to the Cort Theater where I meet Milton.

Once inside the theater, sitting in our perfect view front row seats, I feel good and my massive indigestion dissipates.  Milton declares, “If we sat any closer, we’d earn Equity cards.”  Then, the lights lower.  Milton jabs me in the arm in excitement and for the next two hours and fifteen minutes we sit rapt and see one of the most stellar productions on Broadway this season.

I cannot comment on the play since there is nothing remotely lame about it. Milton could barely toss a barb in ScarJo’s direction.  He said, “She didn’t ruin it.”