(Warning! This is a long post. Enter at your own risk. Also, be sure and scroll on down for MB’s recap of her recent trip to Austin.)
So I forgot to mention that one of the kicks of “Spring Awakening” for me was seeing Stephen Spinella -- who plays all of the adult male characters – onstage. He’s an actor that I had only seen on “24” in the past – a show I was somewhat of a slavish fan of at one point – and he played a kind of slimy, bureaucratic bad guy on the show. In “Awakening” he mostly plays a nasty, abusive bad guy, so really not that different. But he sings!
I also said all of the “Awakening” performances were great. I had forgotten that a swing actor was playing (for those of you who know the show) the more aggressive gay character. He has a big solo late in the show and, sorry to say, but this guy was pretty dreadful: off-tune and, when he had to go falsetto at one point, cringe-inducing. Kind of surprising to see on Broadway but it also was a nice reminder – theater is rarely perfect anywhere.
Day two in New York started with a whole lot of nothing. Sleeping in. Ahhh. When we finally went out, we walked all over the city, shopping for friends, for ourselves, and for our kids. I always see something new and surprising when I go up there. Ducking inside a Manhattan drug store for some allergy medicine provided something that was somewhat mundane but no less eye-widening: did you know they now make condoms with built-in vibrators? I stared at the display for a full minute before I really believed it. And there were two varieties: regular and extra-intense! Jeez, if I was a teenager these days I think I would truly lose my mind.
Anyway, the show for the night was “Jump!” – an off-Broadway diversion that I read about when it was in previews. It has since become famous after Brangelina and their kids attended the opening night performance. It’s a show performed by a North Korean martial arts / acrobatics crew and so we decided to make it kind of theme night, going out to Korean barbeque for dinner. Have you ever eaten authentic Korean food? It’s wild. For the barbeque, you sit at a table with a grill built into the center of the table. The entrees are all very meat intensive (ox-tongue!) and, if you order enough of it, they grill it right on the table. They also lay out a series of 12 different side dishes at the beginning of the meal, including kim-chi and fish balls (get your mind out of the gutter!) and seaweed and bok-choi and yummy barbeque sauce and sprouts and then big lettuce leaves and you roll all of it up in the lettuce and munch it on up. Yum! We got a beef dish that was exquisite and then also a “hot bowl” which is a noodle dish with veggies and spices and stuff all layered in a deep crockery bowl. They make a big production of coming out and mixing the hot bowl for you which you could just as easily do yourself but it’s cool for them to do it for you. I’m not really great at describing tastes (need your help, Muffin Face!) but it was all amazing and not like Chinese, Thai, or Vietnamese either. It was it’s own thing and just delicious.
The show was also unique but really was more like circus than theater. The very lose plot involves a whole family of martial artists with a hard-driving grandfather that makes them all train all the time. A suitor for the young girl of the family is introduced and he turns out to be kind of a nerd who turns into a martial arts superhero when you take his glasses off. The second half of the show is dominated by the madness that ensues when a pair of would-be robbers – kind of a martial arts Laurel and Hardy -- break into the family’s house. The acrobatics are all amazing and much of the show is pretty hilarious. But as it drags on toward 90 minutes without interruption, the lack of a real plot or any significant character development starts to take its toll. It’s too bad really. The physical aspect of the show almost carries it and if only a real playwright spent some time turning the comic pratfalls into a real plot, the show would be more satisfying. The cast seemed to be waiting for a standing ovation at the show’s end but I can imagine it doesn’t get that many of them. It’s a show you appreciate rather than love.
But will we bring the kids to it next time we’re in New York? Oh yeah.
The show was over pretty early and so we wandered down into SoHo. Eliza had told us she was in ANOTHER off-Broadway joint at 11pm Saturday night, a show down at a venue called – and this is important – “Here.” Now Eliza didn’t know the address of the place but assured us that it was a pretty popular place and we could ask just about anyone in SoHo where it was and they could tell us. I asked her incredulously, “so when I ask people where ‘Here’ is and they look at me funny, what am I supposed to do?” She retorted that I should look back at them funnier, “that’s how New York works.” Hmmm. So we stroll along through the Village into SoHo and start asking a couple people, “Have you ever heard of ‘Here?’” or telling them “We’re trying to get to ‘Here.’” We even went by a little comedy club where a guy was working a mic on the street and we became a bit of an impromptu Abbott and Costello routine: “You’re looking for where” “No, ‘Here.’” “But you’re already here!” At this point I’m thinking Eliza purposely set us up for this as a bit of living performance art.
But after two phone calls to information and several more blocks of wandering, we make it to ‘Here’ (because, if you can make it to ‘Here,’ you can make it to Anywhere. It is New York, New York, after all…) It’s a somewhat less divey-looking place and actually has a little reception area with a guy behind a counter. We ask him if we’re on the list for the 11 o’clock show and he looks at us like we’re stoned (which I was kind of wishing I was at that point). We could pay for the tickets – which were only 1/10th of what “Awakening” cost, after all -- but after all that wandering, a nice hot chocolate and a warm bed were sounding pretty good. So we passed on the fourth show of the weekend but you know, sometimes three’s a charm.
Thanks for wading through this New York Odyssey with me. Now it’s back to the grind…and all of those Christmas shows opening any day now!