Here’s a very quick roundup of some stuff I experienced on my trip to New York over the past few days:
1. Pinball machine exhibition at San Francisco International Airport: I should pay more attention to the exhibitions in the international concourse at the airport. The show on pinball machines at the moment is not only gorgeous to look at thanks to all that chrome and all of those flashing lights, but is also very informative. I might have to visit a pinball convention one of these days. San Francisco appears to be one of the last remaining bastions of interest in these lovely old machines.
2. Fela: I caught the much-talked-about Broadway musical about the Nigerian Afro-jazz musician and activist Fela Kuti as soon as I got into town on Friday night. Although I didn’t learn a great deal about the artist’s life beyond what I already knew (the musical really only goes into the Wikipedia version of Fela’s history and legacy) I appreciated my $27.00 standing place for two reasons: 1) after five hours on a plane it was great to be on my feet, and 2) you can dance so much better from the back of the orchestra than you can from an actual seat. My fellow standers and myself rocked out for two and half hours to the great on-stage band.
3. Iannis Xenakis exhibition at the Drawing Center: Most people know the Greek composer/architect Xenakis for his music, but people often forget that he was an accomplished architect who worked for Le Corbusier for many years. The exhibition made the connection between draftsmanship and music in Xenakis’ work and I left all the more informed and entranced for it. I appreciated the iPod I was given at the front desk which enabled me to listen to music by the composer as I looked at his visual work which ranged from oblique scratches on graph paper, to carefully executed plans for sound installations to music manuscript.
4. Radiohole’s Whatever Heaven Allows at P.S. 122: I was completely flummoxed by this show by the downtown New York experimental performance bastion. There were just too many in-jokes and the whole thing smacked of self-indulgence. Though there were a few memorable moments, such as when the cast members threw shotglassfuls of what appeared to be Kahlua in their own faces.
5. Mr. and Mrs. Fitch: Douglas Carter Beane’s new play about a couple of yuppie middle aged newspaper gossip columnists starring John Lithgow and Jennifer Ehle is utterly insufferable. Both Ben Brantley agrees with me so there’s no point wasting any more time and space explaining why it’s probably among the worst ten plays I’ve ever sat through in my life. The only mystery is why I bothered seeing it through to the end.
6. A Behanding in Spokane: Martin McDonagh’s new play is less multifaceted than any of his previous efforts. The publicity office is making a big deal about the fact that this is the dramatist’s first play set in America. But there’s nothing intrinsically American about it. It could just as easily (in fact probably more easily given McDonagh’s lack of an ear for the American idiom) have been set in Dublin or LondoBut even bad McDonagh is better than the best efforts of most other dramatists. So I quite enjoyed myself in the company of Christopher Walken, Sam Rockwell, Anthony Mackie and Zoe Kazan anyway.
7. Run through of Hoi Polloi’s upcoming Three Pianos at the Ontological-Hysteric Theatre: A friend and musician, Dave Malloy, sweetly invited me to pop in on a run-through of his upcoming show based on Schubert’s Winterreise song cycle. I didn’t get to see the whole thing owing to stops and starts. But the concept, which uses Schubert’s lovelorn wintery musical scenes as a backdrop for describing the three musician-actors’ modern malaise is promising. I particularly like the way in which the three pianos interact musically and verbally on stage. I wish I was in town to see the final product, which runs from February 25 – March 20.
8. Regret of the trip: Not staying an extra day for the opening of the Whitney Biennial.