New York is one of my favorite cities – it has a unique buzz, an electric feel, that is unlike anywhere else I have visited. Each time I visit New York I feel like a humming bird, hovering just above the surface of culture and cuisine, dipping down for a taste, but never able to perch long enough to experience more than that brief and tantalizing taste.
A Steady Rain by Keith Huff Directed by John Crowley Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, 236 West 45th St., NY Sept 12 In preview: opening September 29th, 2009
New York, NY. Two men seated on an otherwise empty stage - the playing space surrounded by black drapes, briefly opened to reveal tall buildings on either side of a dark alley, or briefly lluminated to create the illusion of a forest. No props, no fancy set, nothing to draw our attention away from the two Chicago beat cops, relating the events of a summer when the rain poured incessantly and the world as they knew it came crashing down on them.
A Steady Rain runs about 90 minutes without intermission, and I was mesmerized for the entire time. The play is still in preview, which started two days ago, but Daniel Craig (Joey) and Hugh Jackman (Denny) produced outstanding performances, worthy of Keith Huff's well crafted script. The play was directed by John Crowley, whose work I last saw in the 2005 Broadway production of Martin McDonagh's The Pillowman.
Back in Manhattan after an awesome dance-filled Labour Day Getaway Cruise, feeling great except for my tired feet. I am ready for another 5 days of dance, theatre and fine food. First thing on the agenda will be to pick up a pair of practice shoes for the next couple of lessons. Somehow on board ship my feet must have grown from a dainty size 4½ to something huge. By the end of the voyage I felt like one of Cinderella's sisters, trying to squeeze my foot into a shoe that was suddenly far too small. Oh well, no prince for me I guess.
I plan to spend the rest of the day catching up on writing, laundry and planning my feasts for mind and body for my remaining days in the city.
Wednesday, September 9th - No Gill, you're not in a Bruce Willis movie !
I guess it was bad karma for being amused at the lady in the elevator who was scared of heights but my day started out with a bang - literally. I have only two phobias - I shudder at fluttering things like butterflies and moths - and I have a mild degree of claustrophobia. While my ultimate claustrophobic nightmare would be to be in a submarine, being trapped in an elevator would come pretty close. And guess what happened.
With my day planned out to the minute - subway to Times Square, pick up theatre tickets, visit Worldtone dance shop, have lunch, go to dance lesson, have supper, see play - I was feeling quite the jaunty travel-writer as I waited for the elevator on the 11th floor of my building. After all I had sort of mastered the routes I needed on the New York subway, only turned in the wrong direction about 5 times, and was comfortable finding my way around the various areas of Manhattan where I needed to go. After all in theory with an intelligently numbered grid system even a directionally challenged person should hardly stray too far wrong. But back to the elevator.
So the elevator comes, I enter and press the button for the Lobby. Doors close, the elevators starts to move - and I hear a loud bang. The elevator drops precipitously and then stops. My stomach continues downward. Oh Oh. I look at the indicator - it still says 11 and it is not moving. I press the Door Open button - no response. Something was definitely wrong but an intrepid world traveller does not panic, even a claustrophobic world traveller.
The Retributionists by Daniel Goldfarb Directed by Leigh Silverman Playwrights Horizons Theatre, New York Through September 27th, 2009
New York, NY: The World Premiere of The Retributionists, a new play by Daniel Goldfarb, is presently being staged at Playwrights Horizon, which like our own much smaller Vancouver Playwrights Theatre Centre, is dedicated to supporting and developing playwrights and their works. The production offically opens Monday, September 14 when I will be back in Vancouver, but I managed to catch it in preview. Goldfarb, who is originally from Toronto, obtained a BFA and MFA from NYU, and now lives in New York and teaches at NYU.
329 West 51st Street,
My attention was caught by the name of this restaurant when I was deciding which of the many eateries I should sample in this too short 7 day theatre and food visit to New York. Braai is a South African term for barbecue, and just reading the name evoked pleasurable memories of my childhood. So how could I not try this? My reservation was for 6 pm and I was heading to the theatre for an 8 pm show.
I almost walked past the entrance, but then noticed the steps leading down below street level to the restaurant with a small courtyard adjacent. There were three small tables in the courtyard and I was seated at one of them. I liked the touch of fresh rose petals scattered around the candle holder. To expose the public to a wide selection of South African wines, they feature three white wines by the glass and change the selection each night. I chose a glass of 2008 Steenburg Sauvignon Blanc.
The sliced bread came with olive oil for dipping, and an interesting blend of Malay spices called dukka - in this case, sesame, fennel and cumin seeds in a light curry powder. Nice.
I was amused by the menu headings which were in a sort of pidgin English/Afrikaans mix. There were the Istatahs or appetizers and the Main Kos or entrees. They also offered a prix fixe with choice of appetizer, main course and the ubiquitous (in South Africa) Malva pudding (a cake-like pudding flavoured with apricot jam and served with warm custard) for dessert.
I was specially interested in the game dishes. They offered sosaties of ostrich and venison as well as chicken. A sosatie is the Cape Malay term for skewered marinated meat, blending the terms sate for skewer and sous for spicy sauces.
135 West 42nd Street, New York
As I was walking along West 42nd Street en route to my dance lesson and enjoying my Seven Days of Theatre, Food and Dance in New York, I glanced in at Aureole as I walked past. Something about the look of the place attracted my attention and on the spur of the moment, I reversed my steps and decided to see if I could still get lunch. The decor was inviting with warm copper tones and an usual lighting fixture. I took a seat in the outer Bar Room rather than the main restaurant. I liked the touch of the red-gold orchid on the table.
Sarina brought me the lunch menu which includes a section of bar snacks, appetizers and main courses, served in both the restaurant and the Bar Room area. As it was just over an hour and a half before my dance class I did not want to overeat and just selected two of the appetizer dishes.
The first was a foie gras torchon served with brioche, wild strawberries and anise hyssop. Both the latter are very strong aromatic herbs that I thought might overpower the foie gras but not at all. I savored every lingering taste of the dish. Foie gras is definitely one of my weaknesses. I would choose it over cake and cookies anytime.
Emily by Chris Cragin Directed by Steve Day Firebone Theater Theatre Row, 42nd St, NY September 13, 2009
New York, NY: I had only the vaguest knowledge about the life of Emily Dickinson, who posthumously came to be considered one of America's major poets. I knew that in her latter years she had become reclusive and eventually did not leave her house but I knew little else of her history. So I eagerly anticipated my visit to Theatre Row to see this new play by emerging playwright, Chris Cragin.
Last night I saw Yasmin Reza's play, God of Carnage, with Jeff Daniels, Hope Davis, James Gandolfino and Marcia Gay Harden.
Tomorrow I am seeing the Keith Huff' play, with Daniel Craig and Hugh Jackman, called A Steady Rain. And how appropriate. This morning I woke to see a heavy rain pelting against the window. Up till now the weather has been wonderful but I guess New York has finally realized that it's not summer any more.
I had originally planned to wander around among the stores in SOHO but without any rain gear and boots I did not feel like venturing out into the wet. I don't really have to go out until 2 to get uptown for my dance class. The weather forecast predicts light rain tomorrow morning , clearing for Sunday and nice on Monday- but on Monday I will be on my way home to Vancouver.
Although Mike had given me an umbrella, I really did not have suitable rain gear with me and by the time I got to the studio for my 3 pm lesson I was soaked. I changed out of my damp jeans into a dance dress and put on my shoes. I was delighted to find that my feet had finally shrunk back to size 4.5.
I had arranged to meet Mike later at the studio for his regular lesson and then we were going out for supper. But after my lesson it was still raining so hard that rather than venture out to window shop I just settled down with my notebooks and my lap top and caught up with my writing.
When Mike arrived, his teacher, Oleksandra was running a few minutes late so we had time to chat. We decided we would have a lesson together so we worked on some chacha, and leads and follows. it was almost half past eight by the time the class was over and I changed back into my damp jeans and other shoes. I thanked Yuriy for the lessons - I really enjoyed them - and said goodbye to both of them.
It was still raining when Mike and I left the studio so we decided to get a cab down to the East Village.
For dinner that evening, Mike had planned to take me to one of the typical new restaurants that have opened up in the re-gentrified East Village. The area attracts a lot of young people, and the bars and restaurants are humming, high energy places.
But when we made our reservation for Perbacco, the hot new Italian restaurant on E 4th Street, between Aves. A and B, Mike and I failed to take a few factors into account.
Firstly eating dinner at 9 would mean eating three hours later than my usual dinner time, so I was really hungry and quite tired from 3 hours of dance. Secondly what in Mike's view is vibrant and high energy, to me as loud and crowded.
After waiting quite a few minutes for a table we were seated at a rather small table against the wall. There were tables of four on either side of us and little space between us. I felt crowded and uncomfortable. The lighting was very low - ambiance I suppose -but I simply could not read the menu in the poor lighting. So I felt distinctly grumpy - not my usual state at all
But worse was to come. Mike decided we needed a good bottle of red wine and we got a nice 2006 Montepulciano. After the waiter had just filled my glass, in an attempt to move my purse to make more room, I managed to knock my glass of red wine onto the floor. Glass shattered, expensive wine on the floor, and I was feeling like an clumsy idiot. I actually can't remember when I ever spilled a glass of wine in a restaurant before. Not in the last thirty years!
What to do? I wanted to have a nice relaxed dinner with Mike so we could both unwind, and discuss all the theater I had seen and my restaurant experiences. And here I was instead feeling irritable and edgy.
There was only one solution.First I rapidly drained the wine that the waiter had poured into the replacement glass. Then as a warm glow began to radiate through my body I chowed down on bread dipped in olive oil, sat back and relaxed and got Mike to read me the menu items..
Gradually the alcohol soothed my jangled neurons, and I settled down to enjoy the meal. We ended up having a very pleasant meal.