Tag Archives: off-broadway

Lame Adventure 342: Pia Lindstrom and Beer Trucks

On the second to last day of summer, Milton and I attended our last theater production before the advent of fall.  We took advantage of the 20 at 20 discount, a discount that allows theatergoers to get tickets to select off-Broadway shows for $20 twenty minutes before curtain.  The show we chose to see was Forbidden Broadway: Alive and Kicking!, a satirical send-up of Broadway musicals.

A hilarious spoof on Broadway musicals from Wicked to Once to The Book of Morman and many other shows in-between.

Milton arrived at the theater ahead of me so he went to the box office and added his name to the list of people that were hoping to score seats at about 75% off the regular $79 ticket price.  As we were waiting, he recognized a gay male porn star and Pia Lindstrom, daughter of Hollywood legend Ingrid Bergman.  The porn star was not attending the show, and Pia was not trying to score a deeply discounted ducat.  In fact, when I checked her out on Wikipedia, I learned that we were all seeing this revue on her 74th birthday.

When Milton said to me sotto voce, “Pia Lindstrom,” I had my usual reaction:

Me:  Huh? Who? What? Where?

Then, we scored our cheap tickets, seats in the middle of the last row of the mezzanine (a fancy name for the balcony).

View from the rafters – nephew of Max Headroom did sink in his seat once the show got underway.

Milton went to the restroom.  When he returned he reported:

Milton:  Pia’s sitting in the fifth row of the orchestra.

Me:  Thank you Pia stalker.

While we were watching from the rafters and Pia Lindstrom from the premium orchestra, everyone laughed uproariously, Milton got wheezy, and then the show ended and everyone left.  Barely five steps outside the theater Milton mutters in a confidential tone:

Milton:  Plaid shirt — that guy from Saturday Night Live.

My head becomes a periscope, I don’t know where I’m looking, I don’t see any guy in a plaid shirt, much less anyone from Saturday Night Live.  I bleat:

Me:  Who?  Andy Samberg?

Milton:  No.  You missed him.  He’s gone.  You know, the fat one.

Me:  Horatio Sanz?

I realize that Horatio’s been off the show for close to a decade.

Milton:  He plays women.

Me:  Bobby Moynihan?  He plays Snooki.

Milton:  I think that’s who it was.

Whenever I am out with Milton, rarely is there ever a time when he does not spot some celebrity on the street that I often miss even after he points them out.  Milton has an excellent eye for noticing famous people.  I don’t.  At all.  I’m almost celebrity sighting blind.

These are the types of sights that catch my eye:

Fallout shelter sign — who knew that these are still around, much less still around the Upper West Side?

1965 Ford Mustang parked on East 66th Street.

Purple stuffed ape in garbage can with wild thing sign.

Wimpy cloud.

Beer truck.

Me if I were a balloon in this past sweltering summer.

Mixed message, “Do I stay or do I go?”

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 112: Orlando the Ultimate She-Man

Thursday night after work, Milton and I met at the Classic Stage Company, an off-Broadway theater to see Sarah Ruhl’s adaptation of the Virginia Woolf novel, Orlando.  In my confused youth, the second I whiffed that Woolf had written a gender bending time-traveling semi-biographical story about and for Vita Sackville-West, a woman she had an affair with in the 1920s, fireworks exploded in my head.  My friends were drooling over David Cassidy, Bobby Sherman, and Donny Osmond, a trinity of bland teen idols I found about as exciting as a TV test pattern.  What excited me was getting my sweaty little mitts on that book about a nobleman who transforms into a noblewoman.  The premise blew my adolescent mind.  Orlando was my first exposure to Woolf.  Since I was barely 13, I found the story completely bewildering.  Yet, I managed to read it in its entirety even though it essentially entered one eyeball and exited the other.

Early edition of the novel.

Years later, in 1992, filmmaker Sally Potter directed an accessible film version of Orlando featuring Tilda Swinton in the title role, and Quentin Crisp as Queen Elizabeth I.  Billy Zane played Orlando’s male love interest; this was when he had long flowing tresses and looked dashing.  Nearly twenty years later, what I most recall from the film was after Orlando changes genders from male to female, she looks straight at the camera and matter-of-factly states, “Same person, no difference at all.  Just a different sex.”  I loved that moment and have been a Tilda Swinton fan ever since.

Movie poster.

Sarah Ruhl’s spirited theatrical adaptation makes me want to give reading the novel another try, but more likely, Milton will rent the DVD of the film on Netflix and he’ll let me borrow it.  The play is packed with droll wit.  Director Rebecca Taichman has overseen a very inventive production.  Even though the set, designed by Allen Moyer, is minimalist with a giant mirror suspended over a large swatch of fake grass filling the stage, this use of artifice perfectly personifies nature as a shimmery sheet symbolizes snow and ice.  Another element that contributes to this production’s depth is Annie-B Parson’s flowing choreography.  The entire ensemble cast deserves a loud shout out.  Their energy is vital in bringing this story to vivid life.  Francesca Faridany is wonderful as ageless Orlando, in any gender.  At one point, she exited the stage to sit on the theater’s steps where she continued to interact with her fellow cast members from afar.

She sat next to me.

I thought, “This is surreal. Orlando is sitting next to me.”  My next thought was, “I so hope I don’t sneeze or cough right now.”  For once my body functions did not betray me.

David Greenspan, a man of many vocal inflections, is hilarious as Queen Elizabeth I and a cloying duchess who later returns as an equally cloying duke.  Tom Nelis is spot on as both a multiple hankie dropping jilted girlfriend and Marmaduke Bonthrop Shelmerdine, the man Orlando marries, as well as numerous other characters.  He can also belt out a song in grand opera style.  Howard Overshawn in one moment embodies a maidservant who vows to never remove her wedding ring and just as easily segues into the solicitous captain of a ship.  Fluid gender bending is everywhere in this play, with the sole exception of lovely Annika Boras’s Sasha, the ethereal ice skating Russian princess that breaks Orlando’s heart in his male youth.

Girls playing boys and boys playing queens.

At the play’s close, Orlando exuberantly declares, “I’m beginning to understand now!”

As does the audience.

Then, the actors took their bows to rapturous applause.  Once the cast left the stage, the audience made a stampede for the exit with such aggression, a guy who could have been the body double for Sasquatch stepped on my candy bar, giving me the impression that he and almost everyone else in the room had been trapped in a deep hole in Chile for 69 days, as opposed to two hours in Virginia Woolf’s Wonderland courtesy of Sarah Ruhl.

Closing Sunday October 17th.