NY Weekend Part 3 - The Mushroom Cure: I went to see this one man play (aka storytelling show but they don’t advertise it as such) because it got a good review in Time Out. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a subject that fascinates me, though I’ve concluded I’m on the high functioning margins of it if at all. And, besides, it was about $25, versus $500+ for Hamilton.
Adam Strauss’s OCD was particularly focused on seeking perfection, leading him to, say, change his shirt over and over again for hours or zig zag across the street trying to decide which is the better side to walk on. There is definitely humor in this, but also obvious pain. Then he reads an article suggesting that psychedelic mushrooms could cure OCD and sets out to try to obtain some, which leads to experiments with other psychedelics along the way. This is mixed in with the story of a woman he meets while barking his comedy show at Times Square. She’s a graduate student in psychology and surprisingly willing to help him in his experiments, possibly because of her own past.
Things go awry in interesting and, often, funny ways. The problem I had is that it’s hard for me to listen to material like this without being reassured that the teller is safe. And, yes, I know he is sitting there in front of me, but he still comes across as wild-eyed and a bit crazy, so I didn’t really feel sure that he was safe. I don’t think he needed to change much to add that reassurance. Perhaps, just switching the order of a few incidents would have been sufficient. As it was, I thought this was an interesting story, but not entirely successful as a performance piece.
The Tempest: I will actually go to see Shakespeare plays if they’re free. This year’s Shakespeare Theatre Company Free-For-All show is The Tempest and I was lucky enough to win tickets in the on-line lottery after only a few days of trying.
I vaguely recall reading the play in a Renaissance literature class in college and I’ve seen one or two rock opera adaptations of it, as well as hearing a storyteller perform a one-woman version of it. Despite which, I admit that I didn’t really know what to expect. In particular, I didn’t realize how central the drunken butler, Stephano, and the jester, Trinculo, are to the action. Unfortunately, the drunken antics, which are largely focused on getting Caliban drunk (but, it's unclear who is manipulating whom, as Caliban has his own plan) are not really my thing. Or, at least not, when those bits go on as long as they do. I also thought that the wedding masque for Miranda and Ferdinand went on longer than it needed to, though I am sure it was fun for the designer of the massive puppets.
On the plus side, I liked Patrick Page’s performance as Prospero, even though I still fail to understand his change of heart at the end. I also thought that Clifton Duncan was excellent as Caliban, who could easily be overdone in the wrong hands. I also thought the island set was particularly effective. Overall, I’d say it was a good production, but about 20-30 minutes too long.
I also could have lived without the person next to me who apparently believed that the admonitions against cell phone use / photography and eating in the theatre did not apply to her. Some other theatres I’ve been to are more vigilant about enforcing such rules.
China Chilcano: Since I was going to be in Penn Quarter for The Tempest and a friend was going to see Barbra Streisand across the street at the Verizon Center, we had dinner together beforehand at China Chilcano, the Jose Andres Peruvian-Asian fusion place. I ordered a tuna roll (i.e. sushi) and a mushroom skewer. My friend ordered stir fried chicken in lettuce leaves and shu mai. And the two of us split the aeropuerto, a fried rice and noodle dish, so named because everything lands in it. All the food was good, but the waiter failed to correctly charge us the happy hour prices for some of the dishes, leading to a delay getting it all straightened out. Still, it was a good chance to catch up on things.
The Lonesome West: Martin McDonagh has a unique and extremely dark sense of humor. I really enjoyed both the movie In Bruges and his play A Behanding in Spokane, so was eager to see this play at The Keegan Theatre, especially since I got the ticket on Goldstar. It’s the third play in a series set in Leenane, a bleak Irish town plagued with murders, suicides, and drunkenness. And then there’s the matter of the under-12 girls’ football team and whether or not one of their opponents is going to come out of her coma.
Actually, the plot involves two brothers, Coleman and Valene, who have been fighting constantly. Coleman shot and killed their father, but Valene gives him an alibi that it was accidental, in exchange for getting all of the inheritance money. The local priest, who has been driven to drink by the goings on in Leenane, tries to reconcile them, in between being teased by Girleen (a young woman who supplies poteen, i.e. moonshine, to the town) and coaching those murderous under-12 girls. I know that doesn’t sound like much of a basis for humor, but, trust me, there were lots of laughs. I think most of what makes it funny is that it goes so far beyond plausibility. Unexpectedness is a major element of humor and there is plenty of that throughout all of McDonagh’s work.
I really need to see more of McDonagh's work.