Category Archives: The New Group

Mourning Becomes Electra-Feb 2009

Another cold windy day in late February, I’m standing in the platform waiting room of the Long Island Railroad trying to warm up with some coffee as I wait for my train. I wish I had the sense to bring some tissues or a pocket handkerchief as I slowly get rid of a head cold that had me home sick in bed three days ago. I look over at a woman in her mid-fifties but decide not to ask her for tissues, strangely though we strike up a conversation anyway, chatting about the trains and I take the opportunity to pitch the Electronic Cigarette to her ( a new way to enjoy nicotine without the cancer risks) that I have started to sell as a side income. So far only my Dad has bought one and that was a major triumph for me, to get him to come aboard after a heart attack and two strokes is probably too little too late but at least I tried. Still, many people who I thought would jump at it haven’t as of yet. Maybe their waiting for the stimulus check that will make all the difference in our lives, anyone who believes that stand on your head!

We sit down to continue our conversation across from each other and Virginia tells me she is a licensed massage therapist and practices living life to the fullest. We talk about diet and health, the care of older family members and an Indian way of life called Ayurveda, a balanced approach to life and health, and the idea of eating in reverse, having dinner for breakfast and breakfast for dinner. She is very interesting but I don’t know if I could stomach dinner in the morning.  All too soon we arrive at Jamaica Station and Virginia gets off to go to work, I wish her well and were off again on a bumpy ride while a man behind me snores like a buzz saw. I’m going in today to see Mourning Becomes Electra, my second Eugene O’Neill play and at four hours long with two intermissions it promises to be an experience. If I feel up to it I’ll go to the Village afterwards for dinner, I am dying to try a Greek place I read about on Menu Pages dot com, right now we are hurtling through the tunnel at break neck speed making writing impossible…

I make it topside after the usual cattle drive to get upstairs and on the surface again, it’s cold and I’m glad of the grey sweater my mom got me for xmas. I have it on under my overcoat on top of a longsleeve knit shirt and I’m still chilly, I can’t imagine how the homeless people survive the winter. I start walking to the theater district in the cold sunshine – it’s a beautiful day, people jostle each other as they cross the streets and vie for position at the street corners waiting for the lights to change. Suddenly an old Asian woman stops me and hands me an envelope with an address on it, she can only speak a few words but she can’t find this doctors office. I look at the numbers, she’s on the right street but I don’t see it either, I wave her to follow me and I see that the entrance is actually around the corner on a side street! I direct her to go upstairs with a pat on the shoulder for good luck, she thanks me and goes inside to get the elevator. That woman never would have found that entrance without help, so I feel good now. I made a difference for someone today, I just hope she’s not too sick.

I continue on my way but now I’m getting a little lost, I thought it was on a certain street and it isn’t there, I went to this theatre once at night ( which is documented in my post Mouth To Mouth) in the rain and now I feel stupid because I obviously transposed the numbers in my head and my subscription letter doesn’t have the address on it. I didn’t follow my own advice from a previous post to always know where your going and have phone numbers and addresses in pocket. So now I wander, I stop in a theater store selling theater district souvenir’s and they tell me to go to 43 rd St but it’s not there. I’m starting to panic, if I don’t find it soon I will have to wait till the 7:00 pm performance, I don’t want to have to kill six hours, but after a while I stop in the Lyceum Theater box office and am helped by Jennifer, a thirty-something cute woman who makes two calls for me and gives me directions how to get there from her, I promise her a drink in the future and off I go, I’ve got thirty minutes before the show starts.

Thankfully, I’ve got strong legs and I make the 3 city blocks and 4 Avenues over in about twenty minutes, I’m in now and take my seat in the next to last row. This is good for me in this small theater which seats about 250 people, the set is once again minimal but effective. There are black crepe curtains that hang over the walls and the rear of the stage which cover gilt framed portraits of the deceased family members from the past. The center stage has a few wicker chairs and a desk, while the back center stage has double doors with Roman columns on either side in between the aforementioned portraits. There are exitways stage left and right which allow the actors to give the illusion of movement, by exiting and then reappearing through the doors, this gives the actors the ability to appear to be going inside the house and back outside, the use of back lighting and also colored lights give this a Kabuki feel as well as the suspension of dis-belief when they walk in the aisle’s behind and on either side of us to add to the feeling of distance travelled.

The large cast is very good and hats off to the players who only have a few lines, they do an excellent job. But the stellar performance of Jena Malone as Livinia is what you’re paying for here. She is stretched tight as a drum in this demanding role, she has the most lines and is on stage for most of the production. The role of Christine, played by Lili Taylor is also moving and demanding, she is brilliant. This must be exhausting for all of them to do this twice a day. But I think special mention should also be given to Joseph Cross as Orin, the battle scarred brother to Livinia who’s love for his mother borders on obsession. This play is  O’Neill’s re-imagining of  The Oresteia, a Greek tragedy written by Aeschylus, but I can easily see a recurrence of themes from his Long Days Journey into Night and Moon For The Misbegotten. The loveless marriage, clinging mother,the price children pay when duty to a parent has them taking the place of a disappointing spouse. This story clearly shows how love taken to obsessive lengths can lead to hate and possession and ultimately destroy the things we meant to preserve. I leave the show a little tired, like many O’Neill plays it’s not uplifting, and four hours is long to sit in one place. I wait in the lobby and manage to get an autograph from Joseph Cross and then from Jena Malone, I spend a few moments talking with her about the production and her performance, she is off qiuckly to eat and rest, she’s got to do this all again in two and a half hours! I begin to walk back to Penn station now, I  walk in a zig-zag fashion down unfamiliar streets stopping to look at shops and to see menus in the windows of restaurants. But I’m really not feeling a sit down meal, I need a nap and a shower and a change of clothes before I do that so I walk to Penn to save cab fare and descend to find quick eats before boarding my train. I’ve been on a cheese-steak kick lately so I try the new sandwich place Charley’s for a three cheese meaty surprise on a soft roll with a beer, it’s fast food but not too bad I think as we start moving out of the station. I regret not being able to eat dinner in the village but it’s been a long winter, and I’ve been sick so I’ll treat myself another time. I wonder when I will get to see another Eugene O’Neill play and which one will be revived, I munch my sandwich and speculate about the tragedy of his life that made the writing of Mourning Becomes Electra possible as we cruise slowly down the tracks in the fading light of day.

Peace

Glen
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Filed under Eugene O'Neil, Fast Food, New York City, Off Broadway, Plays, The New Group, Theater

Mouth To Mouth-Part 2-Nov 2008

 I leave Mr. Biggs, and start for the theater, calling home to see if all are OK and get the latest news, a few drops of rain quickly turn into a downpour and I run to find shelter while still talking on my cell. My pant legs are soaked as the wind drives the rain at an angle, I find a parking garage at the intersection of 42nd St and Dyer Pl and stand under the entrance, around me is a group of people doing much the same. I listen to New Age piped in as we watch others scramble or just walk and accept their fate, many are not dressed for this weather. When it lets up I walk down the block to Theater Row and go in hoping my body heat will dry my overcoat a little as I shiver in the temperature change and walk up to my theatre.

  Theatre Row is a collection of newly renovated historic theatres in Times Square, New York City including The Acorn; Beckett; Clurman; Kirk; Lion; and Studio Theatres. The theatre is small 9 rows of about 24 seats each so although I’m in the back, it’s a good seat.  The back wall is backlit with wood wainscot and will change colors as the scenes change, a open pantry in the back with a small table and two chairs, a pair of framed French doos stage left, a fridge stage right inside a similar frame as on left, a frame with hanging pots gives the illusion of a stove somewhere as well. This will change into a restaurant, a living room and back to a kitchen, during the performance a curtain will run across the stage continuously until stage hands have made the necessary changes, a truly brilliant use of minimal props.

 What doesn’t change is the inability of the characters to really communicate as they talk over each others feelings as if they didn’t exist. The piece is tightly acted by a good cast and the underlying grief is broken by flashes of humor to keep the audience from becoming melancholy. In a very real sense the play is about the self absorbed nature of people and the consequences of that absorption. The tragedy is that life reflects this art all too often, and the people we care about the most are the ones we seek to (however unintentionally) destroy or at best dis-regard,  when all is said and done, we are, after all, each of us alone.

 I stand outside but decide against waiting for the cast, this is not a playbill show so I walk down to 8th Ave and turn left heading for Penn Station. The rain has stopped again, I am still very damp from my earlier soaking. Despite the rain the streets are crowded with people, I guess it always is until the small hours when the predators come out and most places are closed. I’m glad to be going home early for once, and go down the escalator to the LIRR, I walk to the big board showing all trains while the masses swirl around me I see that I’ve got 13 minutes to get my train, I should be home by 11:30.

 I sit on the train contemplating my life a little, with all that’s going wrong in the world right now, for me personally, and my family, I can’t help feeling like I’m the luckiest guy on earth. To somehow overcome my station in life and the hand I was dealt,  the problems that were thrust upon me at a young age. I’ve managed to do pretty good for myself and have almost become what I am. The man I work for even though he’s rich, is poor in spirit and culturally bankrupt. I may never be part of the upper crust of this world, but like the steam that will rise from the apple pie we will enjoy later, so too do I rise above the crust and float free in this most rich life we have especially today on Thanksgiving, when so many are going hungry.

 So today I am thankful for the person I have become and for the many good experiences that I have made for myself in life. I wish all of you my readers the same happiness in what makes you feel alive and free.

 I can only pray in the next few years that all the hope we were told to have is somehow brought to fruition, and that I can continue to tell my stories as long as it makes me happy… as I can afford to spend the money that it takes to bring them to you.

Happy Thanksgiving

Glen
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Filed under Food, Life, Plays, The New Group, Theatre

Mouth To Mouth-Part 1-Nov 2008

 A cloudy day… raining on and off but warm for November, 60 degrees! Right now it’s stopped raining as I walk through the parking lot of the railroad station. I worked half a day today, came home and got a few things done before I left to see this play tonight, Mouth to Mouth by Kevin Elyot. The train is coming into the station as I reach the terminal buildings, I dash to the ticket machine and wait while the computer processes my card and spits out my ticket and receipt. Then I run up the escalator and board the train with just seconds to spare! I sit breathing hard, and watch as an unlucky man tries to get the train to stop, clutching at the door seams…and then gives up… flipping the bird as the train pulls away.

 So with five hours to spare before the show, I can relax and take my time, having already decided on Le Rivage as my restaurant dujuor for the evening, while looking at Menupages.com. It has many good reviews and one who calls himself Frenchophile says it’s the best French restaurant in Manhattan!  So it’s good enough for me, and with a price fixe menu of $37.00 you can’t go wrong for an appetizer, dinner, and dessert and coffee. The only fly in the ointment is my teeth, facing oral surgery in three days, I have to be careful how I eat and what I choose.

 But as I’m properly doped up on Motrin, with more in my pocket I relax and listen to the young man behind me, a newb, going into the city for the first time with no clue how to get around. He calls one friend after another asking what bus or subway to take, underestimating the travel time, he even thinks Penn Station is on 40th St! In this day of computers, what with Mapquest and such there is no excuse for not knowing how to get around. I’ve got my route in my head and also written down in case I forget…the best laid plans of mice and men often get screwed up so….

 We arrive at Jamaica Station and I listen to the incomprehensible announcements over the load speaker, the din coming from the back of the car tells me that some sporting event is going down tonight. The loud incessant talk, the occasional beer bottle hitting the floor, and the outbreak of sudden raucous laughter tells me all I need to know. In the car up ahead of me a pair of attractive cougars talk about their husbands, relatives, complain about so and so at work, and ridicule mutual friends over many things, but the thing they talk about most is shoes! They go over the details of brand names, the relative stretchability factor, how different brands breathe, and grades of leather. How can you pick apart footwear like that? I don’t know …must be a chick thing. The kid behind me is an Oboe student still talking about his itinerary, I won’t help him, he’s got to learn on his own like I did. I once stayed in the subway one stop to many and wound up on Staten Island and had to take a cab back to Penn Station, but that turned into a great cab ride with an interesting driver…but that’s another story. Were going down now at a good clip, I may have a drink or a shoeshine in the station…I’ll flip a coin when I get there.

 I decide to forego the drink and shoeshine and go straight to my dinner destination on foot to save money on the cab, it’s so nice out it would be a shame to miss this warm weather. Le Rivage is located on 46th St between 8th & 9th Ave, I pretend to study the menu as a group of sixty something seniors that look well heeled pass me by with a smile and nod. I hesitate to go in, I mean I’m in jeans, and even though I ate in Parisian Bistro’s, that was downscale stuff! I don’t know if I fit in here, this is New York and probably the best place I’ve been in so far, I swallow my discomfort…I’m going in.

 The place is quaint and rustic with a touch of elegance to it, I’m immediately greeted with “Bonjuor” by the owner and his wife, who takes my coat, their daughter I think is the manager, and a grand daughter is the bartender. I select for my appetizer Duck Meat Terrine, a slice of meat cake (I call it anyway-Thanks George Carlin) not pate which is served on a bed of lettuce with cornichons; a slice of tomato with chopped onion on top; an olive; a slice of carrot; greens and a little dressing, artfully arranged on a plate. It is just too good, herb mustard on the side… it’s beautiful, the meat is not gamy but rather earthy and rich. Next my main dish of Monkfish Medallions in a Lobster sauce, three beautiful pieces of fish pan fried till just crispy on the edges (just the way I like it) served with carrot matchsticks in a sweet buttery sauce, and rice flavored with chopped red peppers which give the rice character. The fish is soft and sweet, reminding me of flounder in size and texture, definately something I would make at home. My dessert was a poached pear with ice cream and chocolate sauce, it was pre-made but good, very hard and cold so it lasted a long time. The owner offers me a second cup of coffee and smiling says “same price! same price!” and goes to make it happen. I like it here, and as I sip my wine and eat, I observe that others are dressed in jeans too so I relax and enjoy.  The staff seem to take especially good care of me, maybe because I’m alone or maybe because they just want to make people happy. On the other side of the room the four seniors that came in before me seem to be enjoying their meal, as I leave one man at that table calls me over and asks me how I enjoyed my meal. He noticed my reluctance to come in, I tell them briefly about my experience and we exchange small words about our shows of choice for the night, it’s strange to think that they were curious about me. I will be back, I leave full but not stuffed with time to kill before the show. I wind up an hour later at Mr. Biggs, a typical sports bar where I stop for the chance to use the bathroom and to enjoy a Stella Artois on tap while I write and relax, the place has four big screen TV’s and thank God no one is screaming over some game right now. I kill time and listen to the sounds of the street on this open door warm night, with snow being predicted for Monday, it’ll be a long time before we get to enjoy these temperatures againPeace
Glen
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Filed under French, French Food, New York City, Off Broadway, Plays, The New Group, Theater, Theatre