November 5th, 2019

storyteller doll

New York Weekend

Celebrity Death Watch: Robert Evans was a film producer whose notable works included Chinatown. Paul Barrerre was the guitarist for Little Feat. John Conyers was the longest-serving African-American member of Congress. Al Bianchi was a basketball player and went on to be general manager of the New York Knicks. Bernard Slade created The Partridge Family as well as the play, Same Time, Next Year. Rudy Boesch competed on Survivor. Walter Mercado was a celebrity astrologer in Puerto Rico. Enriqueta Basilio was the first woman to light the Olympic flame.

Ivan Milat was an Australian serial killer, known for murdering backpackers. The world is better off without him. He netted me 16 ghoul pool points.

Holly Clegg was a cookbook author and was, apparently, a big deal in Baton Rouge. She earned me 8 ghoul pool points.


New York Weekend: I went to New York for the weekend, primarily for a bit of a theatre binge. There was no drama with the train either way. I stayed at the Bernic, which is part of Hilton’s Tapestry Collection. The location, near Grand Central Terminal, was reasonably convenient, and the hotel was nice, with a surprisingly large room, excellent toiletries (Beekman 1802), a comfortable bed, and amazingly good sound proofing. The Library Hotel is still my favorite in New York, but this was a bit less expensive and did just fine.


A Note About New York Diners: One of the greatest pleasures of trips to New York is eating breakfast at the sort of old neighborhood diners which have counters where the regulars (and a handful of solo visitors like me) sit. The food isn’t exciting, though it’s fine for what it is. But what makes it so pleasurable is listening to conversations between the regulars and the staff. Saturday morning I ate a plate of chilaquiles and scrambled eggs while a woman from Argentina discovered the waitress was from Columbia. The waitress went on to talk with a guy at the other end of the counter about going to a wedding that afternoon and how to dress her young boys for it.

Sunday mornings are not as good because most people are reading the Times, instead of chatting. Though three people in their 30’s were busily discussing the ins and outs of home insurance.

The truth is, I could get the same experience at home. But I rarely go out to breakfast at home. If I have friends in from out of town, I do like to take them to Market Lunch at Eastern Market to eat blue bucks (buckwheat pancakes with blueberries) and sit at the tall table with the most diverse crowd in D.C. with everyone from Congressional staffers to janitors.


Panama Hattie: The first of two shows I saw (after shopping for tea at a place I like in the Grand Central Market) was York Theatre’s Mufti production of Cole Porter’s Panama Hattie. I have deeply mixed feelings about Cole Porter. While, admittedly, he did not write the books for his shows himself, they tend to be full of offensive sexism. In this case, that involved three sailors whose sole aim in their time in Panama was picking up women. The songs often have little to do with the story, too. The interesting thing here is that Porter and his collaborators didn’t use the trick of making the songs part of one character’s nightclub act, despite the main character (Hattie) being a nightclub singer. Instead there are pieces that come out of nowhere. A good example is "You Said It," a lively ensemble piece which follows an incident in which Hattie saves the Panama Canal from a would-be saboteur. I don’t know about you, but if I had just rescued the canal from a bomb, I would not be going on to sing about my opinions of reducing diets.

What does work is the skill of the performers. This show was originally a vehicle for Ethel Merman and Klea Blackhurst, as Hattie, effectively channels Merman’s style. Stephen Bogardus os quite appealing as Nick (the love interest), though he was given barely anything to do. Kylie Kuloka, who played Nick’s 8 year-old daughter was cute and expressive – and seemed to be having fun, which is important for a child actor. All in all, it’s not a show I’d really want to see revived, but there’s some fun music and it was worth seeing.


Scotland PA This new musical by Adam Gwon was the excuse for the whole trip. I’m a big fan of Gwon’s work and, while I haven’t seen the movie this musical was based on, it sounded right up my alley. Mac McBeth has been laboring at Duncan’s, a burger joint in rural Pennsylvania, and he and his wife are fed up with how Mr. Duncan shoots down every idea he has for expanding the business. His wife, Pat, persuades him that they should rob the safe at Duncan’s, using a party that Banko (another worker at the diner) is throwing as an alibi. Banko’s party is a flop and they arrange for a prostitute to distract Banko, while they conduct the robbery. Duncan catches them, but falls into the fryolater, meeting a horrible death. Duncan’s son, Malcolm, is happy to sell the diner to the McBeths. And then homicide detective Peg McDuff shows up…

There are plenty of Shakespearean references and plenty of MacDonald’s references, mixed with 70’s-type soft rock. In some ways, it feels more like a fringe show than like a true Broadway musical. But I enjoyed it. I particularly liked the three witches being three stoners, who admit that they’re in Mac’s head. The best character is Banko (real name Antony Banconi), who is a sweet and amiable stoner himself. He also gets the best song, "Kick-Ass Party." Malcolm’s song, "Why I Love Football," is also memorable. I should also note that the performance I was at had the understudy, Jimmy Brewer, playing Mac. I would never have guessed he was the understudy from his performance. He was right on the mark, particularly with some complex choreography. This isn’t a revolutionary show and probably won’t have a long life, but I am glad I saw it. And I hope it gets recorded.


Don’t Analyze This Dream: I was in a back yard with several other people. We were all sitting in lawn chairs and star gazing. In addition to the stars, we saw stages separating from a rocket, including being able to see plumes of gas during staging. One of the people was wearing a name tag which I said marked him as a prominent person doing solar research. (In real life, this is someone I know in the context of South African Jewish genealogy.)

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