June, 2013

Caricature of Glenn Loney by Sam Norkin.

Please click on " * " to skip to each subject in this index:

Are You Ready for the End of Times? The Man of Steel Certainly Is! *
A Regional Theatre TONY for Boston's Huntington Theatre & a Brilliant Play Production.
Gina Gionfriddo's RAPTURE, BLISTER, BURN [
★★★★★] *
★★★] *
★★★★★] *
Rosen, Saxe, & Moore's VENICE [
★★★] *
Moe Angelos' SONTAG: REBORN [
★★★] *
Early Music in Boston: Baroque Opera & Other Treats for The Music Critics of North America.
Georg Frideric Händel's ALMIRA [
★★★★★] *
★★★★★] *
Jenny Schwartz' SOMEWHERE FUN [
★★★] *
★★★ *
Richard Greenberg's FAR FROM HEAVEN [
★★★] *
Neil Benjamin's THE EXPLORER'S CLUB [
★★★★] *
Bronson Howard's THE HENRIETTA [
★★★★★] *
John Guare's THREE KINDS OF EXILE [Not Seen, So No Rating]
James Joyce's [adapted] GIBRALTAR [
★★★★★] *
★★★] *
Thomas Lanier Williams' THE TWO CHARACTER PLAY [Performances Cancelled]
Chris Marlowe or Bill Shakespeare's THE COMEDY OF ERRORS [
★★★★] *
More Broken Records at Christie's Auction House: $21 Million Plus for Latin American Art!
Sensation on Sunset! Mrs. Sidney Sheldon's Doll Collection Up for Auction at Bonhams LA!
Bulletin Just In from the LA Sale!
Israeli Pride Day Parade on Fifth Avenue Blocks the M1, M2, M3, M4 & M72 at 72nd Street...
Le Corbusier at MoMA: An Architectural Life's Work on Parade--with Models Galore!
At Christie's, Two Million Dollars for an Egyptian Bronze Cat--But No Kitty Litter...
Ship Ahoy! Set Sail for Bonhams Fine Maritime Paintings & Full Speed Ahead!
Even in Death, Richard Artschwager Is Still with The Whitney Museum of American Art!
Amazements at the Park Avenue Armory: Do Your Really Want To See Snow White Get Raped?
Triple Play at the Met: Bronze Boxer, Sculptor Ken Price, & Five Centuries of Decorative Arts!
Let's Hear It for Ken Price, Maker of Colorful Blobs!
Down into the Met Vaults for Some Centuries Old Furniture Designs & Room Interiors...
Celebrating Children's Books at the NYPL's Steven Schwarzman Marble Palace...
Federico Garcia Lorca: Back Tomorrow, Poet in New York...
Let's Try Another Alteration on that Print Plate: Mary Cassatt at Work in Paris...
William Shakespeare: From Stratford Upon Avon to the NYPL--But Only for a Day...
Edward Armitage, RA, at Hirschl & Adler: Where Are My Ancestor's Crimean War Corpses?
The Oldest Library in New York City Shows Its Rarities in Extraordinary Gifts.
Bulletin from Ben Katchor! When You Are on Ben's E Mail List, You Never Know What's Next...
Let's Hear It for Contemporary Canopic Jars! Forget about the Pharaohs...
Laying Down the Law: Alma Law's Amazing Archive of Russian Theatre Incunabula at Bonhams!
More Broken Records at Christie's! Tiffany Lamp Shades Always Popular!
At the Met Museum: Run of the Mill Photographs from 1969 to Now: Everyday Epiphanies...
Ancient Persian Epiphanies: The Cyrus Cylinder & the Rise & Fall of Dynasties


June was not quite "bustin' out all over," as that Old Popular Song once had it.

Instead of the Corn being as High as an Elephant's Eye or Thigh, in Oklahoma & Kansas--thanks to what Insurance Companies are fond of calling Acts of God--Unseasonal Tornados devastated some of the Corn Crops--if not the Elephant Thighs...

This Acts of God Formulation may be very good for Insurers--who never like to Pay Out, if they can help it--but it does raise a Religious Question:

If all Good Things are said to come from God--or Jehova/Jaweh, Kali, Allah, or Whatever Name you prefer to give to your Deity--who, then, actually sends the Tornadoes, Hurricanes, Floods, Famines, & Pestilences?

Volcanic Eruptions, of course, can be blamed on Mother Nature, who no longer requires Virgin Maidens to be thrown into the Boiling Magma, to ensure that those at the feet of Mount Etna, Vesuvius, Paracutin, or Mount St Helens won't be burned to Crisps...

Quite aside from Die Hard Republican Climate Change Deniers, it seems increasingly awkward to Blame Satan for such Horrors, Natural or Otherwise.

Anyway, Fair Weather or Foul, nothing could prevent the PUBLIC THEATRE from opening its Summer Season of Christopher Marlowe Plays in the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park.

Nonetheless, the Regular Summer Rains suggested that it might be wiser to have Shakespeare in the Ark...

Joe Papp, where are you, now that we need you!


Are You Ready for the End of Times? The Man of Steel Certainly Is!

The Superman Franchise is renewing itself--all over again, but Different Somehow...

Just in case Anyone forgot where Superman came from, the new Man of Steel Film puts us right in the Hot Spots on Planet Krypton.

For those American Innocents who did not grow up on DC Comic Books--featuring Mild Mannered Clark Kent & June Allysonish Lois Lane of the Daily Planet--the Narrative has been changed.

Clark no longer uses Telephone Booths--Telephones? What were they?--to disrobe, revealing himself as Superman...

No, Indeed!

There isn't time for all that Folderol: Earth is Under Attack from Dark Forces from a Dying Planet.

From the looks of the Filmic Horror Scenes, Earth is also a Dying Planet, or soon to become one.

The Havoc of 9/11--given the Horrific Devastation of an IHOP, followed by the Implosion of Major Cities--withers, by comparison, into something like the Demolition of a 7 Eleven...

The War of the Worlds Killing Machines that invade American Air Space are nothing like the Flying Monkeys of Yesteryear.

Nonetheless, we are treated to some Devastating Scenes of Houses Flying Through the Air, worthy of that Good Old Wizard of Oz World.

For a Moment, I imagined I saw once again Margaret Hamilton frantically cycling through the Storm in all this Innovative Computer Generated Turmoil.

But then, America's Favorite Senator, James Imhofe, came swishing by on a Broom, Witch Hat askew...

Or was that Only a Dream?

Only 24 Hours Later, I saw Brad Pitt bravely attempting to halt an International Pestilence of Decent People being transformed into Flesh Eating Zombies.

So much for Vegan Diets!

Among the Resultant Horrors--as Everyone Runs Amok--were the Trashing of Major American Lower End Supermarkets & Convenience Facilities.

Was this the Film in which the IHOP was devastated? These almost Codified Filmic Disasters tend to blend into One Another.

Can this be a Hollywood Plot to Frighten America into a State of Permanent War Against Terror?

When 1984 came & went--without Orwellian Incidents--the Ministry of Fear seemed only a Brit Fantasy, to divert the Collective UK Mindset away from Contemporary Problems.

Now, however, it seems the White House & the National Security Folks may be on the verge of establishing our own Ministry of Fear.

But Who is Best Qualified to head such an Agency?

How about Prof. Condoleeza Rice, she of the Smoking Gun/Mushroom Cloud School of Thought!

To keep the War on Terror alive & well--as with the Cold War Commie Scares of the 1950s--as well as to keep the Super Pentagon alive & well, we need Ongoing Horror Fantasies...

Superman & Brad Pitt cannot Save the World as We Know It all by themselves!





A Regional Theatre TONY for Boston's Huntington Theatre & a Brilliant Play Production.

Out of the Blue--not to be confused with the Boston Blue Bloods, but still from Bean town--early in 2013, came a handsome Press Kit for the Huntington Theatre, of Boston University.

Thirty Years Ago, Your Roving Arts Reporter used to go up to Boston about once a month, to check out the Pre Broadway Tryout Houses, like the Wilbur & the Colonial.

Local Not for Profit Theatres were also on the Weekend Docket, as well as Robert Brustein's Cambridge based ART. He founded this adventurous Company after Faculty Enemies maneuvered him out of the Yale School of Drama & the Yale Rep, which he had also founded.

The Huntington Press Kit was not any Aimless Mailing. No, Indeed!

As a FACTA Board Member of the American Theatre Critics Association, I am a Tony Nominator for the Annual Regional Theatre Tony Award.

There was a Time--when I was Half the Editorial & Writing Team of Theatre Crafts Magazine--that I would travel around America [at my own expense] to check out the growing Regional Theatre Movement.

So, when the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland was nominated for the Tony, I was one of the very few Theatre Critics--aside from Colleagues in Seattle, Portland, & San Francisco--who had actually seen their often Excellent Productions.

But I obviously have not seen any recent Huntington Theatre Stagings, so the Press Kit was to inform me of its Current Work.

Looking at the other Regional Nominees, I thought it was now Huntington's Turn for a Tony.

Hey! Who would have guessed that Boston Area Theatres would have won Two Tonys?

Not only the Huntington, but also Diane Paulus, for Pippin, which originated at ART, where she is Artistic Director!

For the Record: One of the Reasons I would drive up to Boston so often was that I was writing about the Performing Arts for The Christian Science Monitor.

Later, my Cousin, Dr. Peter Busher, became Dean of Math & Science at Boston University, where his Dad had been a Letterman & a Divinity Student, rooming with Norman Vincent Peale, before that Parson famously became infatuated with Positive Thinking...

Unfortunately, I had a Heart Attack at Brooklyn College Commencement, so I called The Monitor to say I couldn't leave for my usual European Festival Rounds.

Someone came down from the Mother Church Board of Lectureship in Boston to tell me to sign out of Maimonides Hospital & get on that Plane: Our Prayers will support you!

I'd had Nine EKGs, plus acute Chest Pains, so I stayed in Brooklyn.

That was the End of my Monitor Assignments. I had failed to "Demonstrate Christian Science."

But I wasn't a Scientist: a Methodist, instead. This surprised my Boston Editors: "But you write like a Christian Scientist, so we thought..."

How does a Christian Scientist distinctively write about the Arts, as opposed to those from other Faiths?

"Glenn! You are always Accurate, Truthful, & Compassionate & you come with us to the Mother Church when you come up to Boston."

Actually, I learned about Truth, Accuracy, & Compassion in Journalism School at UC/Berkeley. Not from Mary Baker Eddy, whose Values I still Admire & Honor.

But it was a Bitter Blow to be dismissed from the The Christian Science Monitor...

So here I now was at one of the Huntington Theatre's Various Venues, to see a play I'd not much liked when it was premiered in Manhattan some time ago at Playwrights Horizons.


Gina Gionfriddo's RAPTURE, BLISTER, BURN [★★★★★]

With the Same Stage Director, RBB Didn't Work in New York, But Was Sensational in Boston!

Before I say anything about Peter DuBois' fascinating staging of Rapture, Blister, Burn at the Huntington Theatre, let me here reprise my Manhattan Review:

"Do You Really Want Back the Man Who Got Away? Gina Gionfriddo Offers Some Warnings!

"Previously, I've admired the dramas of Gina Gionfriddo, especially her After Ashley & Becky Shaw, both shown at the Humana Festival in Louisville.

"But Rapture, Blister, Burn--shown at Playwrights Horizons--failed to Enrapture or even raise a Blister.

"An Ex Alcoholic Housewife long ago stole the Boyfriend of her Chum, now a Single College Professor. With a Very Wise Old Mother...

"Getting that Lazy SOB back isn't worth the Effort, as he has No Ambition Whatsoever.

"It was an Interesting Idea to have a Feminist Grad Seminar with only Two Students--fortunately, both Female--taught in the Prof's Home...

"Do you get MA Credits for such Studies?

"Good Cast, directed by Peter DuBois. Cleverly designed Scooting Settings by Alexander Dodge!"


When the Lights went up on the Shingles of Dodge's same Setting in Boston, I was astounded: "Hey! I've seen this play already. But I cannot recall what it was about..."

Well, as an OCC Nominator & a Drama Desk Voter, I see from Two to Three Hundred Plays, Operas, & Ballets a year, so you cannot remember Everything.

Seeing the Huntington Cast, however--still staged by Peter DuBois, who is No Relation to Blanche DuBois--was a Revelation!

This time--unlike the New York Experience--I was Blown Away! This time, the Actors made me Care about them, unlike the Previous Cast.

Especially Admirable was Shannon Esper, as Avery Willard, an Abused Young Baby Sitter--who understands more about Damaged Marriages than any of the Older Women on stage.

But, as the Oldest Woman on stage, Nancy E. Carroll was a wonder as Alice, the Truth Saying Practical Mother of the as yet Unmarried Feminist Professor [Kate Shindle], who is offering the Two Student Seminar, in the Relative Privacy of Her Own Home.

As Gwen Harper--who stole her College Roommate's Boyfriend--Annie McNamara was insidiously enabling of her Pot & Porn Addicted Husband [Timothy John Smith].

A very Impressive Production: All really Inhabited Their Respective Roles.

Huntington Theatre! I Shall Return!



Another Forgotten Play at the Mint: Hunter Is No Chekhov & Winton Manor Is No Cherry Orchard.

When I was teaching US Military Personnel in England--way back in the Late 1950s--on Weekends, I'd take British Rail down to London for an Orgy of West End Play Going.

This was the Heyday of Angry Young Men Playwrights. So I made a point of interviewing as many of them as I could, including Harold Pinter & John Osborne...

I did not seek to interview Norman Charles Hunter, for I found his Genteel Dramas about Faded Gentility in Post War Britain rather Tiresome.

Nonetheless, I did admire most of the Stars who appeared in NC Hunter Epics, interviewing Dame Sybil Thorndike & Sir John Gielgud, among others of Note.

As A Picture of Autumn was premiered in 1951--when I was earning an MA in Oral Interpretation at UW/Madison--I could hardly have known of it.

So--when I was sitting in the Intimate Mint Theatre, marveling at the Great White Staircase & the Cracked Ornate Overhead Plasterwork--it came to me that this Drama of Down at the Heels & Aging Minor Aristocracy seemed very much like a Post World War II Version of The Cherry Orchard.

But it was immediately clear that NC Hunter was No Chekhov, lacking that Russki Talent for creating Unforgettable Characters who--even in Semi Tragic Circumstances--are still a bit Ridiculous, though Totally Human.

The Denham Clan have a Problem: The Historic Manse is rotting away & there is No Money for Repairs.

There is also No Cherry Orchard, but the Once Wonderful Gardens are now Overgrown...

Sir Charles [Jonathan Hogan] & Lady Margaret [Jill Tanner] are both Badly Aging, verging on Senility, but their Old Nurse [Barbara Eda Young] is almost a Nut Case.

Sir Charles' Also Aged Brother, Harry Denham [George Morfogen], is apparently supposed to be an English Stand In for Anton Chekhov's Garrulous Gaev.

Now, I am perhaps Even Older than some of Gus Kaikkonen's Admirable Cast, but I can remember way back when they were Glowingly Young & Stage Stars.

So it's a Great Pleasure to see them once again, although in somewhat Super Annuated Roles.

Somehow, George Morfogen always seemed to me to be a Senior long before he achieved that Status by Right of Seniority.

I kept thinking, however, that this Play is a Re Run of Cherry Orchard, but without Chekhov's Mordant Sense of Humor to flavor the Theatrical Experience.

Only when I returned Home & read the Program Notes did I discover that, In His Time, NC Hunter was regarded as the English Chekhov & that A Picture of Autumn was, indeed, a Cherry Orchard Clone...

Well, what can one say about West End Drama Critics of the Post War Era...


Rod McLachlan's GOOD TELEVISION [★★★★★]

Really Good TV Is the Reality Kind That Jumps Off the Charts, Exposing Human Misery!

Rod McLachlan's Good Television is much better than almost anything you can see on your own Home TV these days.

It's not only a very Well Made Play--showing how some exploitive Reality TV Shows are put together--but it is also--in this dynamic Atlantic Theatre staging, by Bob Krakower--like Reality itself, in Flesh & Blood 3D, with a Remarkable Cast that make it seem that You Are There!

Connie Cuellar is a very Tightly Wound Recovered Alcoholic, who is producing a Reality Show that Spotlights Addicts, following them around, interviewing Family Members & even Drug Dealers, when possible, with the Payoff Promise of a Drug Rehab Package worth almost a Million Dollars.

The pathetic young Clemson MacAddy seems an Ideal Subject, shaking with his Meth Addiction, but things gradually grow Horribly Wrong with the projected Reality Shoot, almost also destroying Connie & her Career...

My Heart almost broke for Connie, wonderfully realized by the remarkable Kelly McAndrew.

But the Reality of Connie's own Demons wouldn't have seemed so Vivid had it not been for the very Real People embodied by John Magaro, Jessica Cummings, Talia Balsam, Zoe Perry, Luke Robertson, Ned Van Zandt, & Andrew Stewart Jones.

Not only does Connie have to deal with Sudden Explosions in her Targeted Addict Family, but she also has to Watch Her Back back at the LA TV Production Office, where Everyone is jockeying for both Input & Power.

Producing a TV Reality Show that involves Shark Wrestling or Survival in Hades would have been a Better Call for Connie...

Good Television is a Playwriting Debut for Rod McLachlan, who is an Actor Member of the Atlantic Theatre. Not only are his Stage Credits admirable, but he also seems to know the TV Business from the Inside Out.

As an OCC Nominator, I nominate Rod McLachlan for the John Gassner Award!


Rosen, Saxe, & Moore's VENICE [★★★]

You Want a Musical about Shakespeare's The Moor of Venice? How About Verdi's Otello?

Not since those Irish went wild in Lords of the Dance, has there been so much Floor Stomping as was recently on view down at the Public Theatre!

The Entire Cast of Venice stomps & sings its Collective Heart out in the Concerted Effort to make Matt Sax & Eric Rosen's Would Be Epic work as a Stage Piece.

If you thought Venice was about the Threat to the Lagoon of Rising Sea Waters or all those Forty Story High Cruise Ships, Guess Again!

No, Indeed.

Venice seems to have been inspired, not by The Merchant of Venice, but by that other Bardic Masterpiece, The Moor of Venice...

The Unfortunate Lady who was Desdemona seems, somehow, to have been Transformed or Translated into Willow Turner, intensely played by Jennifer Damiano.

Her First Name must have been inspired by that famed Willow Song in Othello.

As for the Turner Part, could it have been derived from Nat Turner, who led that Famous Rebellion?

The Beleaguered Citizens of Venice are, in fact, mounting a Rebellion against the Westbrook Corporation, which now seems to Own Venice & all its Subsidiaries...

This Rock & Hip Hop Inspired Musical is set in The Not Too Distant Future, so it's not about Flooding the Lagoon...

Or even Mooring a Moor.

The Book is by Eric Rosen, who also drafted the Flat Footed Hip Hop Rhyming Lyrics with Matt Sax, who composed the Music.

Sax even plays the Energetic Clown MC, just to make sure that all the Threads of this Strange New Adriatic Narrative cling to the Warp, or is it the Woof Factor?

This is yet another Production of the PublicLab, which seeks to try out New Musicals that may have Potential for Wider Audiences.

Think of Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson, which underwent Birthing Pangs at the Public, before moving to Broadway.

Long, long before there was a PublicLab, Joe Papp was already trying out New Musicals, destined--as he fondly hoped--for Broadway. There was that musical version of Two Gents of Verona, for instance...

Most famously, however, there was Hair.

The Songs --Age of Aquarius & White Boys Are So Pretty, for example--excited the Young & Excitable, but Gerry Freedman's staging lacked ein Gewisser Etwas, so Tom O'Horgan was brought in when Joe moved the show to Cheetah.

When it finally transferred to the Biltmore--now renovated as the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre--it was well on its way to becoming an International Phenomenon.

That didn't work out for Andrew Jackson...

Well, we are hearing a Lot about Corporate Takeovers of both Schools & Cities that are not Performing Maximally, so this show may be a Harbinger of an HG Wellesian Shape of Things To Come.

Eric Rosen--For the Record--is the Artistic Director of Kansas City Repertory. From whence Venice comes to Manhattan.

So, you know, it's just like that Rodgers & Hammerstein Song of Yesteryear: Everything's Up To Date in Kansas City!

My Problem with this New Musical is that neither the Music nor the Lyrics--forget about the Book--made me Care about the Fates of the Characters.

So, all that Energetic Stomping really didn't Generate Empathy: only Admiration for all that Energy Expended, in service of another PublicLab Experiment.


Moe Angelos' SONTAG: REBORN [★★★]

Was It "Camp" of Susan Sontag To Scribble Her Every Thought in All of Those Journals?

It is a Great Burden to know that one is A Bona Fide Intellectual.

Nonetheless, Lesser Beings might be spared Hearing--let alone actually Reading--all of the Late Susan Sontag's Random Thoughts & Meditations on her Sexuality, Great Books Read & Reread, Colleges Attended & Taught At, as well as her Love Difficulties with Irene Maria Fornes...

One of my Least Favorite Avant Garde Playwrights...

Nonetheless, it was like Déjà Vu all over again to hear such Names as the Black Cat, UC/Berkeley, Allen Ginsburg, Peter Orlovsky, The Partisan Review, Mary McCarthy, & Commentary evoked.

How strange to realize that a very young--if already Dangerously Precocious--Susan Sontag was also at Berkeley, however briefly, when I was an Undergrad. Not to neglect Pauline Kael & Joan Didion, all Slouching Toward Literary Fame from an original Berkeley Base...

Ginsburg & Orlovsky had a Cabin above Nevada City, not far from the Loney Farm...

I even wrote a Report on Joe Orton for Commentary, but nary a Word for The Partisan Review.

Nonetheless, Moe Angelos' adaptation of the Sontag Journals & Notebooks, as well as her riveting Multi Media Performance as Sontag is a Wonder to Behold.

Nothing was said about Sontag in Sarajevo, where she thought doing some Theatre, among the Bullet Fusillades--might be a Redemptive Reaction to Ethnic Hatred & Post Yugoslav Chaos.

With the increasingly advancing Death of Bound Books, there may soon come a Day when Sontag's Dicta on Camp & Photography may well be forgotten by those who Live on Twitter & Facebook...


Early Music in Boston: Baroque Opera & Other Treats for The Music Critics of North America.

But First a Word from Emerson College! Dorm Hell for Seniors & Aged Organists...

Anyone who endures Four Long Years of Dorm Life at Boston's Emerson College should be Awarded a Purple Heart, with Oak Leaf Clusters.

As the Special Rate for Music Critics at the Poured Concrete Revere Hotel was almost $300 per night & as I am neither Paid nor Thanked for what I write, I & my Web Colleague, Scott Bennett, opted for the Less Costly Bunks of the Emerson College Dorms, filling the Little Building--which is actually Not So Little.

It is in the Heart of what used to be Boston's Theatre District, though now the Colonial & the Cutler seem to be operated by Emerson College, whose Banners are Everywhere.

When we arrived at the Little Building--just across from the Boston Common--where some very Uncommon People were roaming about--we had to pass through an Electronic Checkpoint, to reach the Second Floor Check In & subsequent Room Elevator Checkpoint.

Wearing our Electronic Checkers & Room Keys around our Necks--on Emerson College Lanyards--was a bit like being Out Patients at a Minimum Security Prison.

Once we were in our Double Dorm Room, we found No Hangers in the Oak Wardrobes, not to mention No Hooks anywhere for Towels or Jackets.

Nor were there any Water Glasses nor Waste Baskets--nor even those very Small Soaps you will find even at Motel 6 Overnight Rentals...

The Toilets & Showers were Down the Hall: Forget about Paper Slippers or Bathrobes: these Spartan Accommodations are for Students, not for Big City Music Critics.

Torquemada--of Spanish Inquisition Fame--could not have devised a more Curious Torture than spending a Night on one of the Emerson Dorm Mattresses...

Not as Bad as the US Administration War on Terror Water Torture in Guantanamo--or Bradley Manning in Solitary, but nonetheless Sleep Depriving.

Some Rich Alum should contact Sleepy's or Posture Pedic to replace all those Mattresses.

As for Air Conditioning--even though all was Cold & Rainy outside, in the Dorm Room, the Temperature was Arctic.

Nor could it be either Adjusted or Turned Off, as the Controls were in an Adjacent Dorm Room. Go Figure!

But the Individual Omelets every morning were Outstanding.


Emerson began Life as the Emerson School of Expression, teaching Public Speaking & GAS & OIL, better known at that time as Good American Speech & Oral Interpretation of Literature.

Now it is Theatre Rich, offers Advanced Degrees, has Hollywood Internships & Study Abroad, as well as boasting Distinguished Alums who actually work in the Entertainment Industry!

Congrats, Emerson! Now Replace those Mattresses!


How Early Do You Really Want Your Music To Be Today? Feeling Medieval? Or Merely Baroque?

While it is admirable that the Early Music Folks up in Boston want to recover for Modern Audiences, Authentic Musical Experiences on Authentic Instruments, it needs to be remembered that You Do Not Step In The Same River Twice...

The Waters of Time are always flowing onward, so how can we hope to Recreate an Authentic Renaissance Audience to hear these Authentic Performances?

Which, of course, must be performed on Authentic Instruments!

Years & years ago, when I was the Unpaid CEO of AIDART--in the Attic of the ANTA Theatre, which is now the August Wilson Theatre, but was, initially, the Theatre Guild's Guild Theatre--I shared the Premises with Noah Greenberg, of Pro Musica Antigua.

Noah was so proud of his Authentic Instruments--which included Serpents, Lutes, & Krumhorns--but I had to remind him that even the New York Philharmonic played its Scores on Authentic Instruments, whether the Melodies & Leimotifs were Early Music or Wagner.

The Philharmonic's Violins may not then all have been Amatis, Guarnari del Jesu, or Strads, but they were still very Authentic. As are its Violas, Cellos, & Kettle Drums, even today...

Unfortunately, the ANTA didn't have a Stage Doorman during the day, so anyone could sneak in, take the Rickety Elevator up to the Attic & walk off with one of Noah's Authentic Instruments.

As for AIDART--which had been founded with a Ford Foundation Grant for a UNESCO International Theatre Congress in Manhattan--some of the Tape Recorders that we used to interview Founders of American Regional Theatres were also stolen.

AIDART was the Anagram for the ADVANCED INSTITUTE FOR AMERICAN REPERTORY THEATRE, created to Document the Emergence of an American Repertory Theatre, similar to that already established in Europe.

But the Grant ran out & Ford didn't renew...

Nonetheless, this in No Way prevented Pro Musica Antigua from carrying on: It seems there will always be Audiences for Early Music.

Even if--in One or Two Hundred Years from now--the Early Works of Alberto Ginastera & Robert Ward might also be regarded as fairly Early American Music...

Up in Boston, they love Early Music so much that they Celebrate it Every Two Years with a Festival.

That's why the Music Critics of North America were in Boston: Every year we have a Conference in some North American City that has a Summer Opera Festival or a Bach Week...

Originally--as with the American Theatre Critics Association--the Leading Critic of some Major City would get his Major Newspaper to sponsor our Annual Meeting.

Unfortunately, American Newspapers are dying--or No Longer feel the Need for Arts Coverage.

So where now can Unemployed Major Critics share their possibly Unwanted Reviews?

Check Out our Website!

There you will find all sorts of Reactions to our Long Weekend of Early Music in Boston.


There Are Already Notable Early Music Groups, But Are There Also Early Music Groupies?

Yes, there are! Many of them were in Boston for the Festival--either at the Revere or the Emerson Dorms.

Not all of them were either Performers or Auditors.

The Revere Ballroom & its Sixth Floor were crowded with the Booths of the Makers of Early Musical Instruments, as well as those of the Purveyors of Sheet Music & CDs relating to Medieval, Renaissance, & Baroque Music.

Remember when there was still Sheet Music from G. Schirmer that you could take home & play on your own Piano or Guitar?

Remember when most American Homes still had Pianos, instead of iPads & Cell Phones?

Nonetheless, even if Medieval Plainchant is too much for you, Mostly Mozart is pleasing to Most.

How about All the Telemann You Can Take--or Get a Handle on Handel?

If the Monotony of the Monody of Medieval Music makes you Miserable, there is certainly Great Glory in the Baroque.

Not least in trying your Two Hands on the Double Manual of a Harpsichord or drawing a Horse Tail Bow across the Cow Gut Strings of a Newly Minted Violin.

At one Booth, the Proprietor was presiding over a Pile of Wood Blocks, with the Baroque Outlines of a Violin drawn on some sides: Just so you'd know that they weren't meant for Firewood.

As for Harpsichords, they were there by the Score: There was even a Harpsichord Recycling Center!

Imagine not having to Tune a Harpsichord in order to Play it!

Some Un Ornamented Instruments sounded Splendid, but I prefer those which have Haunting Paintings on their Raised Lids: nothing to do with the Music you can Make with them, however...

Just in case you wanted something Really Authentic, Wolf Mozart's Own Violin & Cello were in Boston, on Loan from the Salzburg Mozarteum!


Georg Frideric Händel's ALMIRA [★★★★★]

Only Nineteen Years Old, Händel Composed His First Opera & His Score Saved His Life!

Daytime Panels are obviously not as interesting as Actual Performances, but there is always Something To Be Learnt.

For example, did you know that Georg Frideric Handel composed his First Opera in Hamburg, to a German Text?

The Hannoverian Handel was only 19 Years Old, but undaunted by the Text & the Task.

What's more, his Score saved his Life in an Unwanted Duel.

It was folded over in his Coat Pocket, taking the Depth of the Sword Thrust!

I already knew something about Handel in Hannover--where the Hannoverian Kings of England originated: all those Georges!--as well as Handel in the Strand, creating Popular Operas for a Castrati Mad London Public.

But now I realize I need to know more about Handel in Hamburg...

Way back in the Late 17th Century, they liked their Baroque Operas Looong, so Almira now seems Almost Endless.

This is Unfortunate, for there are many Musical Felicities in the Score of this Formulary Plot of Loves & Lovers, frustrated & reunited...

What's worse--especially for the 21st Century Impatient Audience--is that the Best Visual Effects come close to the Close, with a Magnificently Conceived & Costumed Intercontinental Masque & Anti Masque.

Although we were all warned not to Photograph or to Videograph the Performance, a Determined Lady in front of me was covertly recording the Masque on her iPad.

Looking at the Actual Masque & at her iPad, its Dancing Mini Images reminded me of Historical Performances in Stockholm's Historic Drottningholm Court Theatre.

Over the years, I have visited & photographed all the surviving Court Theatres in both Western & Eastern Europe--as well as seeing Historic Productions in most of them--so I was fascinated when the Curtain rose on Almira, with a wonderful reproduction of Period Scenery, filled with Elegant & Courtly Performers, awaiting the Coronation of the young Princess Almira as Königin von Castilien.

Whoever of the Princely Pursuers wins her Hand & Heart will, of course, become King of Castile, so this isn't entirely about Love, but more about Power...

Nonetheless, the Initial Scene was rather like an Old Master Painting come to life: so, Kudos to Costume Designer Anna Watkins & her Wigmaker, as well as to the brilliant Stage Director & Set Designer, Gilbert Blin.

Ulrike Hofbauer was an Anxious Queen, for she was commanded by her Late Father's Will to marry into the Noble Family of his Court Counselor, Consalvo, Prince of Segovia...

Amanda Forsythe was Princess Edilia, her Rival in Love, with various Male Wooers impersonated by Colin Balzer, Zachary Wilder, & Tyler Duncan--who proved to be the King of Mauretania, for whom the Welcoming Masque had to be devised.

But you have to wait so very long for this Astounding Event!

Even in Bayreuth--the Shrine of Wagnerian Opera--they make Cuts to the Scores...

If only for his Stage Shenanigans as Tabarco, a Factotum/Clown, it would be enough to salute Jason McStoots. But, with a Name like That, who knows to what Heights he may aspire?

As far as I know, we have only one Authentic European Court Theatre in America: it is the Asolo, way down in Ringling Brothers Florida. It would be wonderful to see & hear a deftly edited Almira in the Asolo Opera house!

Robert Mealy was the Concert Master of the Period Orchestra.

Way back when, there was No Conductor. Often, the Composer would Semi Conduct from the Harpsichord...



We Do Not Get To See Euridike Die Again, for Jean Baptiste Lully Interrupts the Performance...

This was a Charming Dual Staging, featuring the BEMF Vocal Ensemble , the BEMF Chamber Ensemble, & the BEMF Dance Ensemble, with Gilbert Blin's ingenious Floral Ring Staging & the Musical Direction of Paul O'Dette & Stephen Stubbs, playing Authentic Instruments.


The Title of the 2013 BEMF Festival was Youth: Genius & Folly: Discover Handel at Nineteen...

Unfortunately, Medieval Religious Composers--especially in Religious Orders--must never have been Nineteen: Always Ageless...

Not only is most Medieval Music Monotonous, as well as Monophonic--Fugal Polyphony comes along Later--so Rosa das Rosas: Cantigas de Santa Maria was a bit of a Slog, especially as the Songs enshrined Roman Catholic Myths of the BVM that even Martin Luther might have Questioned...

As for the admirable Jordi Savall & his excellent Hespèrion XXI Ensemble, the Music of the Medieval Ottoman Empire, as well as the Sephardic, Greek, & Armenian Traditions is numbingly Monotonous.

It cannot have changed so much over the Centuries, for when I was teaching in Sa'udi Arabia & in Athens, in the Late 1950s--it was still somewhat Monotonous.

But you could always offend Israelis, Greeks, Turks, & Arabs by pretending to mis identify the Cultural Origins of this Folkish Music.

With their Armenian Genocide, the Turks still have a Lot to Answer for, but as for their Music...

Most of the Early Music Events were offered in the Historic & Landmarked Auditorium of the Estimable New England Conservatory of Music, whose Seating Patterns are Dangerously Baroque in Line & Form.

Dimly lit, the Swooping & Swerving Seat Rows could be Death Traps for Seniors...

But, far worse, to be kept outside in the Pouring Rain, while someone Tuned the Harpsichord!

Once we were damply inside the Auditorium, we found Two Harpsichords, both of which were subsequently moved this way & that, without any Re Tuning...

For that matter, a Fire Alarm at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts drove all of us Outside into more Driving Rain, even though most Visitors had already checked their Umbrellas & Raincoats inside.

This was Mid June--in America's North East: what is it that Climate Change Deniers don't Get about Global Warming?


Jenny Schwartz' SOMEWHERE FUN [★★★]

Kathleen Chalfant Again in a Hospital Bed, But Somewhere Fun Is Not Wit... Nor Witless Either.


Will Playwright Jenny Schwartz be nominated for the John Gassner Award?

If Sheer Length is any Criterion, Somewhere Fun could be In the Running, as it seems only Slightly Shorter than Richard Wagner's Götterdämmerung.

Or maybe it only Seems Over Long?

At the Opening of this Articulation Fest, Kate Mulgrew astonishes with a Rapid Fire Semi Monologue, directed at an Old Friend, long not seen.

This is an Exercise in Ego Echolalia...

[But, much, much Later, when we find Kathleen Chalfant in a Hospital Bed, her Frantic Monologues seem a Species of Dementia Echolalia...]

A frenetic Real Estate Agent--operating on the Upper East Side--Mulgrew wants to sell the Empty Apartment of her Friend's Mother, who has just died.

The equally Frenetic Dialogue could be called a Stream of Consciousness, but it's more like a Scream of Sub Consciousness, couched in the Clichés of Everyday Life.

At the Close of the Scene, she melts into a Silver Puddle, leaving behind a Barren Skull.

This recalls the Theatre of the Absurd, of Long, Long Ago.

But this Odd Drama of Disjointed Relationships has Relevant Apps for the Internet Age of Hand Held Electronic Devices!

It also moves Backward & Forward in its Pixilated Time Line, including Forays into the Star Studded Cosmos.

The Entire Cast is exemplary, under the Spirited Direction of Anne Kauffman, who recently gave New Yorkers a Desolate Vision of Parisian Belleville.

On entering the Vineyard's Sub Basement Theatre, I was astonished to discover a Barren Setting--distinguished by the Tree recently seen in The Testament of Mary--with a Shop Window filled with those Pastel Colored Plaster Ladurée Macaroons.

The Scene was identified as being located at Madison Avenue & East 73rd Street, but that cannot be.

I live just around the block from the Parisian Macaroons, which are to be found on Madison between East 70th & East 71st Streets...

Could this be a Case of Poetic License?

Is the Myth of Medea & Her Children good for a Bedtime Tale?

Was it Heraclitus who said we do not step into the Same Stream twice?

Just Asking Rhetorical Questions, suggested by Jenny Schwartz' Verbal Funning...



Could This Roundabout Production Have Been Made Avoidable? More Losers & Damaged Goods!

Once again, for the Umpteenth Time this Season, we have a Revolving Stage, thanks to the Ingenuity of Scenic Designer Beowulf Boritt!

It is used in Service of telling the Story of an Abusive & Manipulative Man [a frightening performance from David Morse] who has recently been released from Prison, where he served Five Years for a Financial Scam that should have Put Him Away for Much Longer.

Now, he wants to re intrude himself into the Damaged Lives of a Wife, Son, & Son in Law, wreaking Psychological Havoc all over again...

This is not exactly a Modern Version of The Lower Depths, for the Durnin Family at least Have Roofs Over Their Heads.

For that matter, the Roundabout is not exactly the Moscow Art Theatre & we are not Russki Elitists, who need to learn more about the Underclasses...

Alas, the Durnin Clan are All Losers, with the Son, James Durnin [Christopher Denham], especially Damaged Goods & a Liar, but not quite as Pathological as his Raging Dad.

Moral & Mental Redemption is not to be found by trying to learn how to Write Short Stories at a Community College.

There is a Plenitude of TV Soap Opera Tropes in this exercise in Domestic Pathos, but why waste the Roundabout's Production Budget on These Types?

Nonetheless, the Cast is generally admirable, directed by Scott Ellis--who, at least, didn't have to deal with Trailer Court Lives...

A Bernie Madoff Narrative would have been far more interesting: All Those Yachts!


Richard Greenberg's FAR FROM HEAVEN [★★★]

This Has Been a Big Year for Richard Greenberg Scripts: He Must Have a Very Good Agent!

Actually, Richard Greenberg should not alone be blamed for this Retrograde American Musical.

It is based on a Movie of the Same Name, which, somehow, I managed to avoid.

Nor should Greenberg be Tarred & Feathered for the Predictable Lyrics & Retro Music, which are the Handiwork of Michael Korie & Scott Frankel, respectively.

The Big Question is Why would Anyone want to turn Far From Heaven into a Musical?

Not even Rodgers & Hammerstein would have touched this Problematic Social Problem Narrative...

Nonetheless, this Project was Commissioned by Playwrights Horizons Musicals, with Financial Subsidies from Andrew Mellon's Ingenious Investments & the Harold & Miriam Steinberg Charitable Trust, among other Organ Donors.

In these Earth Shaking Times of Legal Gay Marriages, the Basic Fable of Far From Heaven must have appealed to Tim Sanford, the Artistic Director of Playwrights Horizons.

The Time is 1957--faithfully reproduced in the Costumes of Catherine Zuber--but the Place is Hartford, CT, in no way suggested by the Endlessly Perambulating Metal Structures of Allen Moyer.

There are Two Big Shockers in this Fraught Sung Drama: The Happily Married David Whitaker [Jake Lucas], with a Picture Book Family & a Successful Business Career, is actually a Secret Homosexual.

The Other Social Blockbuster is that his Devoted & Socially Active Wife, Cathy [the radiant Kelli O'Hara--much given to Bouffant Skirts], finds Solace & Friendship with her Colored/Black/African American Gardner!

This threatens the Very Fabric of Hartford Society, so Varied Heartbreaks are ahead...

Not even Sexual Shock Therapy is going to save the Whitaker Marriage.

What could be more Awful--way back in 1957--than Criminal Sexuality & even the suggestion of Miscegenation? Especially in Hartford, the Heartland of the American Insurance Industry...

Question: In 1957, did they call Sexually Confused Men like David by such terms as Homos, Fags, or Gays?

The Physical Aspect of Far From Heaven is fascinating. This Show really has Production Values, not least in the Projections of Peter Nigrini.

Michael Greif has moved his Large Cast [18 Equity Members!] deftly around the Stage Maze. No one gets hit by the Moving Scaffolds!

But Why--so Late in Time as 2013--should we be interested in the Problems of Cathy & David?

Is there Something we can Learn from their Tragic Plight--which is really Nothing To Sing About--to help us get on with Our Own Lives?

Or does this Show merely point out that Hartford was Not a Good Place to be standing on Street Corners, hoping to Pick Up Men...


Neil Benjamin's THE EXPLORER'S CLUB [★★★★]

No Drinks for the Audience from the Onstage Bar, But Lots of Farcical British Twits...

First off, this often Hilarious Show lacks the Farcical Skills of the Estimable Cast of that re imagined the venerable Jules Verne Fantasy, Around the World in Eighty Days, now playing over on West 45th Street.

Instead, the Cast prefers to Play being British Twits, indicating in every bit of Stage Business that they are Being Funny.

Initially, staring at the remarkably Old Curiosity Shop Collection of Hunter/Gatherer Oddments on stage, I feared that Donyale Werle's Stunning Setting would be the Best Event of the Entire Evening.

If you remember Werle's Antiques Overkill from Bloody, Bloody, Andrew Jackson, you have some idea of what's onstage down in the Sub Basement of the old Shrine Temple, over on West 55th Street.

The Explorers Bar is a kind of Shrine in itself, but it makes possible the Best Running Sight Gag of the Show: A Blue Man--a Native of a Just Discovered Primitive Society, but not one of the Blue Man Groupies, however--zooms Drinks across the Bar with a Ferocity & Velocity that makes it a Dive to the Floor Tactic to catch the Cocktails before they Implode.

This is not the Manhattan Version of the Explorers' Club, where things have recently been much, much tamer.

No, this is Imperial Victorian England, officially outraged that the Blue Man has swatted Queen Victoria, who was not only Not Amused, but ready to annihilate the Blue Man's Homeland.

The Discoverer of that Unknown Country & the Blue Man--whom she has named Luigi--is Phyllida Spotte Hume [a Feminine British Twit Type, played ably by Jennifer Westfeldt].

She seeks Membership--on the basis of her Discoveries--in the All Male Explorers Club.

This is Blocked by a Religion Spouting Senior Member [John McMartin, of Follies Fame], who is convinced that the Irish are the Lost Jewish Tribe of Dan--leading to Riots in the Streets outside the Club.

We also get a Last Minute Appearance of a Dalai Lama Like Lama, [Lorenzo Pisoni, of Pickle Family Circus Fame] outraged that a Twit Explorer has left him stranded on his Sacred Mountain, onto which, apparently, the Twit has pissed...

Well, you get the General Idea of this Fake Farce, but it's really so funny that it's Well Worth a Visit.

Marc Bruni's MTC Production could even Transfer from Not for Profit Status to Commercial Off Broadway Heaven...


Bronson Howard's THE HENRIETTA [★★★★★]

Brilliant Revival of 19th Century Comedy Melodrama--with a Satirical Edge: Wall Street Exposed!

If you really wanted to see a Definitive British Twit, you just missed your chance at the Metropolitan Theatre, where The Henrietta has just closed.

The Short Statured but entirely British Twitish Chuck Bradley embodies the Twit Essence as Lord Arthur Trelawney. He does this--not by Clowning, nor Indicating--but by Inhabiting the Role as though he really were Lord Arthur!

An Added Dividend is the New Yorkish Idea of British Twitishness, embodied in Lord Arthur's Manhattan Brother in Law, Bertie van Alstyne [the hilariously & Stylishly Idiotic Blaine Smith].

In its Basic Structure, Bronson Howard's The Henrietta is a Formulaic 19th Century British/American Comedy Melodrama, complete with Frustrated Young & Older Lovers, Mixed Up Letters, a Cleverly Camouflaged Villain, a Wronged Woman, & a Happy Ending.

But it is much more than that: It is also a knowing Socio Economic Satire of Wall Street & High Society, in the Era of the Robber Barons.

This was the Gilded Age that Mark Twain so brilliantly skewered. Bronson Howard was not far behind...

As so many successful Comedy Melodramas of that Era were Played in Rep & Toured Extensively, the Playwrights had to deal with a Formulaic Cast of Characters whose Roles could easily be assigned to Actors & Actresses of the Companies, whose Specialties were Innocent Young Lovers, Fussy Old Maids, Comic Ethnics: like Stage Irishmen or Chinese Laundrymen, & Scheming Villains, who were rather like those Bass Baritone Opera Villains.

The Wonder of Howard's ingenious Henrietta is that he makes the Standard Stage Stereotypes more than Cardboard Cutouts.

The Modern Wonder, however, is that Director Alex Roe has encouraged his Exemplary Cast to discover an Inner Human Truth in their Outward Social Roles, which even in Bronson Howard's own Time were often Studied & Effortful, in order for Real New Yorkers to Fit Into the Roles that Wealth & Society had assigned them.

As the Man Who Owns Wall Street, Nicholas van Alstyne, the admirable Michael Durkin was in his element, making & destroying Fortunes, as the Stock Ticker Tape tapped out its Fateful Quotations.

Van Alstyne--obviously of Old Dutch Ancestry--is being opposed in his Scheme to make Many Millions off the Henrietta Mining & Railroad Venture.

But, unbeknownst to him, his Secret Opponent is his own Son, Nicholas van Alstyne, Jr [Michael Hardart], who seeks to destroy his Own Father & displace him on the Street.

Matters are deliberately complicated--by the Playwright--when Various Characters think that the Henrietta referred to, variously, is a Race Horse, a Sexy Entertainer, Hettie Green, the so called Witch of Wall Street, & Van Alstyne's complex Scheme, which is not a Scam.

You may well have already seen some members of Alex Roe's Metropolitan Theater Ensemble elsewhere in Manhattan: in fact, Melody Bates, who plays Rose van Alstyne, also plays the Metropolitan Opera...

For some reason, Roe favors the –er version of Theatre, but that is, essentially, a Kraut Spelling, rather than the Eloquent & Glorious TheatRE of French Tradition...

But, whichever way Roe spells it, his Period Theatre Productions are among the Best to be seen anywhere in New York, although they are achieved with a Bare Bones Budget.

The Handsome Costumes look like they have Cost a Fortune, but the TDF Costume Collection came to the Rescue.

I must admit I am Extra Partial to Roe, his Company, & the Metropolitan Theater, because they mounted such an Excellent Production of my own Edition of Edith Wharton's long lost House of Mirth.

It was--after a Detroit Tryout & some Script Doctoring by Clyde Fitch, the Man off the Hour, co authoring with Wharton--a Dismal Flop, almost immediately Closing.

So Wharton never published it, nor copyrighted it.

My Good Luck--after much Sleuthing--was to discover the Detroit & the Manhattan Scripts, conflating them.

This was published by Associated University Presses, though I've never seen a Penny in Royalties.

Now, I'm hoping Alex Roe might stage one of my Pioneer Dramas of the Golden West: Plays written about Gold Rush Days in the Mines, in Sacramento, & in San Francisco by Men who were actually there at that most Exciting of Times...


John Guare's THREE KINDS OF EXILE [Not Seen, So No Rating]

John Guare in a Drama Written by Himself: Imagine Neil Simon in Such a Fix!

Not to Worry: Neither Neil Simon nor Tennessee Williams were available to Understudy Playwright John Guare when Your Roving Arts Reporter got the Call not to come to the Atlantic Theatre, as Someone in the Cast was Indisposed.

Had this Un Named Person been any less a Personage than John Guare, I cannot imagine why it could not have Proceeded.

As it was what they are fond of calling a Limited Run, no Replacement Evenings were available.

I was sorry to miss it, for I still recall John Guare as a Fledgling Playwright, with his charming Avant Garde Drama, To Wally Pantoni, We Leave a Credenza...

Win a Few, Lose a Few!


James Joyce's [adapted] GIBRALTAR [★★★★★]

A New Look at Ulysses: Molly Bloom Was Born on The Rock of Gibraltar, Hence the New Title...

Patrick Fitzgerald--who both Created this Compelling Adaptation & now Performs it with Manic Intensity--is no Traditional Stage Irishman.

As Leopold Bloom--with more than a Whiff of James Joyce, the Narrator, a Citizen, & the Nameless One, he is Superb.

He would have been an Admirable Addition to the Company of the Abbey Theatre, in the Good Old Days of Lady Gregory, WB Yeats, & Sean O'Casey!

But this new version of the Long Banned Novel wouldn't really work as a Monologue. It is infinitely enhanced by the Molly Bloom of Cara Seymour--who also plays a Multiplicity of Roles, including Blazes Boylan.

The Time is 16 June 1904 & The Place is, of course, Dublin. Not Gibraltar...

Thanks to the staging of Terry Kinney & the Multi Valenced Setting of Sarah Bacon, You Are There!

You even get to see Leopold Bloom on the Crapper...

When I first went to Dublin, in 1957--to look for the Irish Roots of the Loney Clan: My Grandfather was born somewhere in Ireland, in 1832--after finding a Loney Family Heraldic Crest in Dublin Castle, I rushed off to the Abbey Theatre to see Augusta, Lady Gregory's The Rising of the Moon.

The Erse Accents were so Thick, you could have Cut Them with a Knife.

Ambling around Dublin Town, I came upon a Bronze Statue of James Joyce, jauntily leaning on his Cane: It was, as I recall, titled: The Prick with a Stick.

Another Bronze Figuration was a Woman, pushing a Cart: Molly Malone, The Tart with a Cart.

On a Large Rock in a Central Park, lay a Languid Bronze of Oscar Wilde: The Fag on the Crag.

Ah, those Dubliners...


Neil LaBute's REASONS TO BE HAPPY [★★★]

A Man Who Cannot Make Up His Mind--Not Willing To Commit: Selfish, Selfish, Selfish!

Audiences down at the shabby old Lucile Lortel Theatre are immediately assaulted by a Sound Barrier of Extra Amplified Rock--or whatever they are calling this kind of Inner Ear Destroying Music now.

Blazing & Blinking Lights also aggressively assault as Scenes change from Outside to Inside what seems to be the Staff Kitchen of what may be a Minimum Security Manufacturing Facility.

This is Neil Patel's Scenic Environment for Neil LaBute's Reasons To Be Happy, which LaBute personally directed, so there could be No Mistaking of His Intentions.

His Title, however, must be Satiric/Ironic for Anti Hero Greg [the somewhat baffled Josh Hamilton] cannot Make a Commitment to either of Two Young Women, who would be Glad To Have Him.

Sleeping with Security Officer Carly [a lovely, vulnerable Leslie Bibb], he has somehow managed to Make Her Pregnant, but he is not really ready to become a Father, let alone a Husband.

He might Learn To Love Her, but that would take Some Effort that he, apparently, is not willing to make...

This State of Affairs has angered the feisty Steph [Jenna Fischer], not only because Carly was her Best Friend & Greg didn't tell her he was "seeing" Carly, but also because she has always had a Letch for Greg, even though she married the Anger Management Issues Jock, Kent [a hilarious Fred Weller] by whom she has had an Offspring.

Confronted by a kind of Judgment of Paris Choice between the Two Women, Greg decides he has to be Good To Himself, so he is jumping ship & going off to New York City, to teach in a Montessori School & Find Himself!

Curiously, just a few hours before witnessing this Pressure Cooker of a Play, I was having a Discussion with a Concerned Individual about the American Passion for Being Happy.

I pointed out that those Flag Waving Patriots--who thought they had been Guaranteed Happiness by the Founding Fathers--had misread Our Historic Documents.

The Formulation I remembered was something about Life, Liberty, & the Pursuit of Happiness.

Tom Jefferson never suggested what Happiness might be, or that we would, any of us, ever actually Catch It...


Thomas Lanier Williams' THE TWO CHARACTER PLAY [Performances Cancelled]

We ran out of Evenings on which we might have been able to see Amanda Plummer in T. Wms' 2 Character Play.

There are Annual Festivals beckoning in Western Europe, so we cannot any longer wait around for an Evening on which either Amanda or her Fictive Brother, Brad Dourif, are OK & ready to Play.

In this Two Handed Drama, Plummer & Dourif are a Sister & Brother, abandoned on the Road by their Troupe.

In this New Staging at New World Stages, they are said to "unite their white hot talents," in what has been described as a "highly anticipated production."

You may remember Amanda in Agnes of God? Or perhaps you remember that her Mom was Tammy Grimes?

Years & years ago, I got to interview Brad Dourif in my West 42nd Street CUNY Office because he was appearing in When Ya Comin' Back, Red Ryder?

At least I think that was the Play's Title...

Sorry to miss You Guys!

The Play Promo Material warns: "Reality & Reason Have Left the Building."

That could also be said of the US Capitol Building...


Chris Marlowe or Bill Shakespeare's THE COMEDY OF ERRORS [★★★★]

Considering Climate Change, How About Shakespeare in the Ark, Not Rained Out in the Park?

Finally--even though the Threatening Skies had not cleared & after several Cancellations--it was possible to savor Shakespeare in the Park, if not Marlowe in the Meadow.

Dan Sullivan's pert & provocative Jitterbug Jukebox evocation of Renaissance Ephesus recalled, in a Retro Way, such Up dates of The Comedy of Errors as The Boys from Syracuse.

John Lee Beatty provided Three Revolving Locational Periaktoi on the Outdoor Delacorte Stage.

Most amusing was the Departure Board for the Adirondack Bus line, featuring such Classical Destinations as Rome, Troy, Ithaca, & Schenectady.

Toni Leslie James' colorful Period Costumes brought back memories of the Andrews Sisters.

Mimi Lieber wonderfully recreated the Jitterbug Mania of Yesteryear.

The Wonder of this Aggressive Production was the Energy--even Ferocity--with which The Bard's Lines were so clearly articulated & delivered.

As is Customary, the Two Dromios & the Twin Antipholuses were Double Cast: Jesse Tyler Ferguson took the Thwaking Beatings meant for Two Men, from his Two Overbearing Masters, played by Hamish Linklater, stylishly clad in Summer White.

The Ephesus Born & Bred Female Foils for the Anti Twins were vigorously played by the Blonde Wigged Emily Bergl [Adriana] & Heidi Schreck [Luciana].

The Wigs & Hair Design were the handiwork of Robert Charles Vallance...





More Broken Records at Christie's Auction House: $21 Million Plus for Latin American Art!

The End of May, it may be said, went Out Like a Banksta, as Bidders Worldwide fought to be the New Owners of Old Art.

Well, maybe not all that Old, for Fernando Botero's immense Bronze Sculpture of immensely fat Dancers was made or founded at the Foundry in AD 2000.

Someone who must have been overwhelmed to see this Dancing Couple towering outside Christie's Rock Center Domain bid $1,143,750 for the privilege of Removing Them & finding some Distant Acreage on which to set them down.

You wouldn't want anything this Monumental--if not Monstrous--in your Living Room, would you?

[Famed Comedian Bert Lahr's son, John Lahr, wrote the Definitive Book on Botero...]

Surprisingly, such Prized Painters as Leonora Carrington & Coronel--among Others of Note represented in this Amazing Auction--were not among the Record Breakers.

Both Matta & Rufino Tamayo were among the Top Ten, but Matta's Yennes fetched only $435,750. Tamayo's Sonriente en rosa was bought for $375,750.

At the Top of the Latino Ten--or Diez, if you prefer--was Brazil's Candido Portinari, whose Meninos saltando pipas set a World Record for his work at $1,443,750.

Actually--although it may sound like some Boys are Playing the Pipes--these are Latin Lads flying Kites!

These often challenging Latin American Sales recall the Bygone Years when my friend, Carol Miller de Gonzales came to Manhattan every Autumn & Spring to see one of her Esculturas go on the Block.

Those were the days when Lisa Phillips was the Latino Auction Curator, at Sotheby's Park Bernet--as it then was--before she went down to the New Museum & Curatorial Fame...

I then found it Odd that Carol's Works were always described as from "An Important Collection," or some such Formula, because they actually came directly from Carol's Villa in Pedregal, Mexico DF.

The Purpose of this Minor Deception, Carol explained, was to Establish a Current Price for her Sculptures!

Before Carol was de Gonzales, she was Señora Fausto Zapata.

Yes! Those Zapatas!

When he was Mexico's Ambassador to Beijing, he invited me to come for a Visit & report on what I'd seen.

But I was Too Busy correcting Papers & grading Midterms at Brooklyn College...

Why did that seem so important then? China under Mao would have been so much more interesting...


Sensation on Sunset! Mrs. Sidney Sheldon's Doll Collection Up for Auction at Bonhams LA!

Mrs. Sidney Sheldon Once Again on My Radar Screen! How About a Rudolph Valentino Doll?

Some seasons ago, I received an Aggrieved E Mail from Mrs. Sidney Sheldon, a Celebrity Wife I did not know even existed.

She identified herself as being the Spouse of the 1947 Academy Award Winner Sidney Sheldon, who also wrote The Other Side of Midnight--the Number One Best Seller of 1973--as well as being the Talent who created The Patty Duke Show & I Dream of Jeannie.

Mrs. Sidney was writing on behalf of the Children of Don Sewall, Founder of the Denver Theatre Center & Fiscal Savior of the Denver Post.

I knew about Don from the Old Days on Broadway, when he was a Major Producer, so we always had a lot to talk about when I went out to Denver for the New Play Summit.

Don's Life Long Love was the Actress Eugenia Rawls--there's a Eugenia Room at Sardi's & an impressive Painting of her in the Denver Center.

In my Denver Report, I mentioned that a Glamorous Local Lady was looking after the Aging Don, telling me she was both His Daughter & His Mother, as his Kids, out in California, weren't around to take care of him in the way he deserved.

Mrs. Sidney wrote from Santa Barbara to let me know how Outraged Don's Children were about what I had written in Arts Rambles.

Now, the End Has Come, in a sense, as the Fabulous Doll Collection of Mr. & Mrs. Sidney Sheldon is going for Auction at Bonhams--on Sunset Boulevard--in LA.

Now you may not think of a Real Macho Guy like Sidney Sheldon being a Doll Collector, so it's very likely that Mrs. Alexandra Sheldon suckered him into the Collecting Gig.

Over the Decades, the Collection grew: 450 of the Dolls will be on Auction on 24 June 2013!

The Sheldonian Collection "graced their Paul R. Williams Designed Holmby Hills Estate."

Now, Holmby Hills is Kilometers Distant from Santa Barbara, but Mission Santa Barbara may be only Spiritual Seconds away from LaLaLand...

Among the Costly Poppets on offer are some Lenci Dolls, including a Rudolph Valentino Portrait Doll, based on his Image in Son of the Sheik.

Queen Elena of Savoy & Josephine Baker were also Great Collectors of Lenci Masterpieces.

So, if you bid on one of the Sheldon Dolls, you know you are in Good Company!

How about a Lenci Portrait of Madama Butterfly or Madame de Pompadour?


Bulletin Just In from the LA Sale!

No Overall Totals reported, but someone paid $2,750 for a Doll Set of Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs.

That's Eight Dolls for about $344 each!

A Lenci Doll from 1930, impersonating a Fascist Youth, sold for $3,125.

No Mention was made of the Valentino Doll, however...

Bonhams' next Doll Auction will take place in December, at Bonhams Oxford!

Meanwhile, back at Bonhams on Madison, a Holy Bible--inscribed by Albert Einstein & his wife, as a Gift to Harriett Hamilton--was sold for $68,500.

In his Inscription to HH, he noted that the Bible is an Inexhaustible Source of Wisdom & Solace.

God, Moses, & Jesus ought to be grateful for this Endorsement...


Israeli Pride Day Parade on Fifth Avenue Blocks the M1, M2, M3, M4 & M72 at 72nd Street...

Why does almost every Ethnic or National Pride Parade have to be on Fifth Avenue?

What's more, running Uptown, even though the Traffic always goes One Way the Other Way?

Why can't some of these Constant Weekend Destroying Parades be held over in New Jersey?

For that Matter, wouldn't it Make More Sense to encourage Israelis to March back in Tel Aviv?

It must Cost a Fortune to fly them in from Jerusalem & the Golan Heights?

Although Israel is often characterized as "The Only Democracy in the Middle East," while I was watching the Parade, I was disappointed not to see a Contingent of Palestinian Arabs from the Occupied Territories, marching along as well.

Even Second Class Citizens--Arabs born in Israel--deserve some kind of Attention in a Democracy...


Le Corbusier at MoMA: An Architectural Life's Work on Parade--with Models Galore!

What an Amazing Sense of Déjà Vu up on MoMA's Sixth Floor!

All those Wonderful Architectural Models of Built & Un Built Projects of Le Corbusier, more familiarly known as Le Corbu...

Eagerly photographing each one of the Models from Different Angles for the Arts Archive--Fifty Years from Now, they should be Of Interest--I realized I'd photographed a number of them before!

So they must have been On Tour long ago. Was it in Vienna or San Francisco that I first saw them?

At MAK or at SFMoMA...

This All Encompassing Le Corbusier Exhibition is a Definite Block Buster: Every Sketch, every Jotting, every Plan, every Elevation, every Cross Section seems to be On View, with Paintings, Videos & Photos as well.

Born Charles Édouard Jenneret, he grew up in a French Swiss Town of Watchmakers. His Parents hoped he would become an Engraver of Watchcases.

Well, that didn't Work Out, but the World--both East & West--has benefitted from a Change of Plans.

Speaking of Plans, Le Corbusier was a Genius in City Planning, as well as in devising Layouts for Building Complexes.

Noted for his fascination with Raw, Rough Concrete Structures, Le Corbu got to use a lot of Cement in his Designs for Chandigarh, a New Regional Capital in Indian Punjab.

My first Definitive Experience of Le Corbusier's Concrete Architecture was his Super Modernist Chapel, Nôtre Dame en Haut, built on a hill in Ronchamp in Eastern France.

Shortly after the Chapel's Dedication, I invited my Secretary, Madeleine, to drive down with me from Verdun--where I was Teaching Our Troops--to Have a Look.

I was especially impressed by the Stained Glass Windows he had devised.

Notably one for the BVM, that had a Bold Black Written Inscription: Marie qui brille comme le Soleil...

Madeleine looked around & sniffed: I could never Pray in a Place Like This!

Well, what can you say about a Sorbonne Educated French Woman who lived in the Actual Fortified Walls of Verdun, designed by Vauban, the Royal Architect?

Yes! There were Small Apartments built into the Verdun Walls, initially for Watchmen on the City Gates...


At Christie's, Two Million Dollars for an Egyptian Bronze Cat--But No Kitty Litter...

This Astonishing Sale established "a World Auction Record for an Egyptian Cat," in the words of G. Max Bernheimer, of Christie's.

But this wasn't just any old Egyptian Cat, the kind of Battered Feline that you might find hanging around the Suq in Cairo.

No, Indeed!

This wonderfully sleek & smug Ikon of Catness dates from the Ptolemaic Period.

Who knows? Cleopatra--the last of the Ptolemies--might well have stroked this Cat, while thinking of Clawing at Marc Antony, for not being Attentive Enough...

The Sale Price was over Thirteen Times the Low Bid Estimate. Will that 13x prove Lucky or Unlucky for the new Cat Owner?

A Roman Marble Sculpture of Cupid & Psyche was sold for almost Half a Million, but Roman Sculptors churned these things out by the Score. Just another bit of Décor for a Senator's Garden.

A magnificent Illyrian Helmet--Greek & Bronze--was acquired for less than Half a Million, but it was clearly more useful to a Soldier than a Sculpture would have been to a Non Combatant Senator.


Ship Ahoy! Set Sail for Bonhams Fine Maritime Paintings & Full Speed Ahead!

If you love Full Rigged Ships, Naval Engagements, or are just crazy about Yachting, you missed out by not being at Bonhams for its Sale of Maritime Paintings.

None of these was in the Million Dollar Christie's Category, but the Lengthy Titles of the Paintings almost made up for what they lacked in Sale Power.

How about $68,500 for The Goelet Prize for Sloop Yachts, with Grace in the Lead...

Then there was Shipping in Palermo off the Mediterranean. But even longer was The SS City of Berlin outward bound, passing Cape Pine Lighthouse.

The most unusual Items in the Sale, however, were not Paintings, but Carved Wooden Ship Models.

They were not Models of Wooden Ships, but of British Warships, created by the Japanese in World War II, to aid the Emperor's Warriors to recognize & destroy His Majesty's Fleet.


Even in Death, Richard Artschwager Is Still with The Whitney Museum of American Art!

Luckily, Richard Artschwager was able to see his Final Retrospective at the Madison Avenue Whitney Venue before he Definitively Died this year.

He was also able to complete his Quirky Designs for Four Distinctive Elevators for the New Whitney, down on the Flood Plain at Gansevoort & Washington.

The Under Construction Whitney is a Renzo Piano Commission, but there will be no Pianos in the Artschwager Elevators. They are titled Six in Four.

Instead, they will feature his Favorite Things & Themes: Door, Window, Table, Basket, Mirror, & Rug.

He was also Very Big with Exclamation Points...

In the Evenings, when the Museum is Chiuso, all Four will be parked in a Row, in an Exposed Art Installation on the Glass Walled Ground Floor, for all to see.

Come Hell or High Water, that is, as no one needs another Hurricane Sandy flooding the Waterfront...

Those who thought that the Madison Avenue Landmark Marcel Breuer Building was big enough for the Whitney Collections may not have realized that the Whitney has the Largest Collection of Artschwager Artworks of any Museum in the World!


Amazements at the Park Avenue Armory: Do Your Really Want To See Snow White Get Raped?

There may well be--if Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel gets to see Paul McCarthy's XXX Rated Art Installation at the Park Avenue Armory--an Administrative Decision not only to Close Guantanamo, but also to restore the 69th Regiment's Armory to its Original Military Function: Training Professional Killers!

Now, inside the Cavernous Armory Drill Hall, you can wander in a Monstrous Magic Forest, in which are Reproductions of Paul McCarthy's Childhood Home.

Peeking through Tiny Windows, you can see Scenes of the Utmost Depravity & Sloppy Housekeeping.

Aside from Rapaciously Violated Stuffed Corpses, one of the most Shocking Images is what may well be a Model of Paul--Naked & On All Fours--with a Broomstick rammed up his Arse & emerging out of his Mouth!

As WS is a Multi Media Installation, turning the Historic Grimm Fable upside down, Snow White may get raped by more than all those Seven Dwarfs...

In side aisle Mini Movie Theatres, there are Specific Sexual Acts depicted, often starring a Clothed or Naked Paul McCarthy. As well as Paid Professional Models!

These Terminal Excitements are Forbidden for those of Seventeen Years or Less...

At each End of the Wade Thompson Drill Hall are Armory Spanning Movie Screens, with Lubricious & Orgiastic Scenes, often starring Paul McCarthy.

The Artistic Aim of this Astonishing Exhibition is to: ...immerse Visitors in a Chaotic Fantasy World of Decadence & Depravity.

Quite a Contrast to the Daily Life outside on Park Avenue, or at nearby Hunter College...

Who at Hunter could have realized that the Traditional Narrative of Snow White could ...devolve into a raunchy & at times Violent Bacchanal.

Who, indeed!

But Leave the Kids at Home...

Preferably Not at the Childhood Home of Paul McCarthy!

Here are the Last Three Lines--not to be confused with The Seven Last Words from The Cross!--from Paul McCarthy's 2013 Poem:

The obsession

The self


Well, There You Have It!

In the Historic Tiffany Designed Rooms of the Armory, you can see Models of the Malignant Magic Forest & the Childhood Home of Paul McCarthy!

In the requisite Souvenir Shop, you can buy Boxed Editions of Walt Disney's Snow White.

I asked the Attendants if they also offered Paul McCarthy Autographed Leak Proof Seven Dwarf Condoms...

No Such Luck!


Triple Play at the Met: Bronze Boxer, Sculptor Ken Price, & Five Centuries of Decorative Arts!

The Boxer: An Ancient Masterpiece...

You may think that Roller Derbies can turn Violent, but what about Boxing for a Roman Emperor?

The Bronze Boxer at Rest--now briefly at the Met Museum, on Loan from Rome's Museo Nazionale Romana at the Palazzo Massimo alla Terme--shows a Seasoned Pugilist.

This Magnificent Seated Figure--reminiscent of Rodin's Thinker, in his Pose--was dug up in 1885, on the Quirinal Hill, near the Baths of Constantine.

Say what you like about their Bloody Gladiatorial Contests, the Ancient Romans were, nonetheless, a Well Washed Polis.

This Antique Pugilist bears all the Scars of his Many Matches, cast in Bronze in the Hellenistic Period, 323 31 BC.

He was no Gladiator. His Winning or Losing was not followed by Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down...

But this Boxer may have been a Silent Healer, for his Hands & Right Foot are worn with Rubbing by those who may have sought Cures.

The Boxer is accompanied & explained by a Free Brochure--which opens up to reveal a Handsome Poster of the Man Himself!

After 15 July 2013, however, he has to fly back to Rome, to take up Immobile Residence in the Museo Nazionale Romano, at the Palazzo Massimo alle Terme...


Let's Hear It for Ken Price, Maker of Colorful Blobs!

Actually, the Recently Deceased LA Artist in Clay, Ken Price, didn't begin with Blob Like Forms.

Initially, Price was fascinated with Egg Forms, following those Peek a Boo Portal Sculptures with Cup Forms.

Some of his Cups he transformed into Snail Ornamented Mini Chalices.

But his Big Break Through was with his Abstract Geometric Sculptures, which to some may look like Multi Colored Blobs, even though they have such Titillating Titles as Balls Congo & Hunchback of Venice.

These are Labor Intensive, for they may have as many as 70 Layers of Paint on the Basic Clay Form, sanded to uncover each Stratum of Color.

These Creations have been described as "...haunting, subtly erotic Sculptures," as well as "...lyrical Composition[s] of Colors, held together in a Layered Arrangement that is unmistakably Anthropomorphic."

No wonder that the distinguished LA Based Architect, Frank O. Gehry, is a Great Fan of Price's not yet Priceless Work, having arranged this Exhibition, which originated at--where else!--the LA County Museum of Art!


Down into the Met Vaults for Some Centuries Old Furniture Designs & Room Interiors...

After seeing Michelangelo's Designs for Decorative Details at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, it seemed a Bonus Pendant to study the many Handsome Designs--as well as Actual Period Furniture--now on display at the Met.

These cover some Five Centuries of Taste--even though some may be Distasteful to Moderns who resent the Former Privileges of the Fashion Elite of Former Times.

If you prefer an Artsy Arts & Crafts Cabinet, there is a Handsome Example on display.

It's not all Go for Baroque...

This Show is also a Good Excuse to get some Excellent Drawings out of the Met's Filing Cabinets...


Celebrating Children's Books at the NYPL's Steven Schwarzman Marble Palace...

See Dick Run! See Jane Stand! See Spot Sniff!

Yes, yes, yes! One of the Original Dick & Jane Books is now on view in the NYPL's Gottesman Hall.

In fact, just about every Famous Children's Book you can think of is in this Ingeniously Designed Show.

This is called The ABC Of It: Why Children's Books Matter.

The already Grand Gottesman Space is even enlarged for Exhibition Purposes by creating a Bookish Maze to wander through as New Yorkers rediscover Childhood Favorites.

Here's an Umbrella that was used in the Movie of Mary Poppins. There's a Bed, under which Kids once read Forbidden Books at Forbidden Hours of the Night...

Here are the Favorite Books of Nathaniel Hawthorne's Children, reminding us also of The House of Seven Gables & the fact that Hawthorne's Salem Ancestor was the Hanging Judge in the infamous Witchcraft Trials.

You love Maurice Sendak? Well, there's a Sendak Where the Wild Things Are Wall.

There's even an Alice in Wonderland Wall, with an Alice whose Neck goes up & down.

Yes, there's also a White Rabbit, with a Rabbit Hole...

How about Original Illustrations for The Wizard of Oz!

Harry Potter? Yes, indeed! Raggedy Anne? Little Orphan Annie?

Pooh, Eyeore, & Piglet? Here are the actual Stuffed Animals of Christopher Milne, whose Dad wrote all those Pooh Books for him!

But this Show is not all about American & Brit Books for White Guys' Kids.

It spans Years & Continents: Other Lands, Other Languages, Other Cultures, Other Images, Other Tales...

Among my own Childhood Favorites were the Horatio Alger Books & GA Henty's Adventure Tales.

I looked everywhere for the Bobbsey Twins & The Five Little Peppers & How They Grew, but I must have missed them in this Cornucopia of Image & Print.

Did I also pass by Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm & Anne of Green Gables?

What temporarily shattered me was that I once owned Mint Copies of many of these Famous Titles.

My Father was Manager & Chief Herdsman for the Barnegat Golden Guernsey Dairies, sited in California, in the Sierra Foothills, funded by the Granddaughter of the Painter, George Inness I, of the Hudson River School.

Jessie Juliet Inness Ellsworth Cox--whose Family owned the Century Publishing Company--had taken a fancy to the Herdsman's Little Boy, so I was given a Small Fortune in Vintage Children's Books.

She also gave me a Complete Run of St. Nicholas, the wonderful Children's Magazine, published by Century. You could read about Hans Brincker & the Silver Skates--by Mary Mapes Dodge, as well as admire the remarkable Illustrations by NC Wyeth & Howard Pyle.

But I had only an Orange Crate for my Clothes & Treasures. No Bookshelves at all...

So I cut up all the St. Nicholas Issues, saving only the Howard Pyle & NY Wyeth Pictures...

Well, it was the Great Depression. There was No Money around. Who knew these Books & Magazines would someday be Keepsakes?

In any case, my Mother was generally opposed to my Reading: Take your nose out of that Book! You'll go Blind!


Federico Garcia Lorca: Back Tomorrow, Poet in New York...

This is a fascinating Small Scale Exploration of Garcia Lorca's brief Love Affair with Manhattan.

It includes not only Letters, Journal Entries, Manuscripts, & Photos, but also some Surrealist Sketches he made, reminiscent of the work of his friends, Salvador Dali & Joan Miró.

The Playwright Poet--who left us the Modern Classic Blood Wedding--might have become a Powerful Painter as well as a Doomed Poet, had he lived...

Unfortunately, Lorca was on the Wrong Side in the Spanish Civil War, so he was Murdered by the Goons of Francisco Franco.

Not so much for his Poetry, as for his being a Maricón...


Let's Try Another Alteration on that Print Plate: Mary Cassatt at Work in Paris...

In the Late 19th Century, many American Artists went off to Paris, not only to shake off some of their American Provincialism, but also to Ape the Academicians or to consort with Avant Gardistes.

Mary Cassatt found a Soul Mate in Edgar Degas, who well understood what she was trying to achieve in Color & Form with her oft revised Images, often of Mothers with Babes.

Although her Series of Revisions were recently on view in a Library Spanning Third Floor Corridor--not so easy to find & now, in any case, gone back into Storage--this Long March of Parisian Images was more effective than had the Various Versions of Plates been displayed in Individual Rooms.

Garcia Lorca never got back to New York, but Cassatt stayed in Paris...


William Shakespeare: From Stratford Upon Avon to the NYPL--But Only for a Day...

The Invitation features the Droeshout Engraving of The Bard, with Photos of New Place & the Astor Tilden Lennox Library paired below.

The Lecture--which I missed--was given by Robert Armitage, Humanities Bibliographer, of the General Research Division of the NYPL.

As the Original Stacks--which support the Magnificent Reading Room--are about to be Gutted, so the NYPL can be more Neighborhood Book Borrowing Friendly, it may well be that The Humanities--already disappearing from Major Employment Oriented University Curricula--may also be Under Siege at the NYPL...

Many years ago, Marchette Chute wrote her Best Selling Book about Wm Shakespeare of Stratford entirely based on her Research at the NYPL.

She didn't have to go off to Stratford at all, which is just as well, as there's very little Authentic Documentation available in The Putative Bardic Birthplace.

In the Late 1950s, one could still make Graphite Rubbings of Shakespeare's Tomb Inscription, but the Vicar wanted to charge me 2/6 for Admission to the Parish Church.

I thought this Outrageous, but Local Friends loaned me an Anglican Prayer book, telling me to tell him that I wished to Worship in those Sacred Precincts--as well as doing a bit of Rubbing....

But, what if Chris Marlowe was the onlie begetter of those Dramas, Histories, & Comedies?

Where is He buried?

Perhaps Robert Armitage has the Answers?


Edward Armitage, RA, at Hirschl & Adler: Where Are My Ancestor's Crimean War Corpses?

Recently, my Armitage Cousin, Jill Armitage--of Adam's Well North, Forge Lane, West Peckham, near Maidstone, Kent--wrote to alert me that a large Charcoal Sketch by Edward Armitage, RA [Royal Academy] was up for sale at the Manhattan Gallery of Hirschl & Adler.

They used to be around the corner from me, on East 70th Street, near the Frick, but they moved to the Crown Building on Fifth Avenue, so I stopped stopping by to see what H&A had on view...

From Jill's Info Packed Letter, I mistakenly thought that the Armitage Sketch would be one of those made in the Crimea--in the aftermath of a Savage Battle--by Edward Armitage, one of the 19th Centrury's First on the Scene Artists.

The title of the most grisly of these Crimean Armitage Sketchs is: After the Battle of Inckerman.

For those who do not have a Text Book Knowledge of the Crimean War [1854 56], it took place in the Ukraine, involving the Brits, French, & Turks, against the Russians.

Think of the Epically Futile Charge of the Light Brigade...

Good for Heroic Movies, but very bad for the Horses who were Slaughtered there.

Currently, the Met Museum in Manhattan is featuring Exhibitions on Photography in the Civil War--just emerging as a Media Means of bringing the War Between the States to the Home Front.

As for Photographing the Crimean War, Roger Fenton was there with his Bulky Cameras & Glass Plates, long before Matthew Brady documented the Civil War photographically...

Armitage was also on the Crimean Battlefields--as a kind of Artist Journalist--in 1855. Many of his Battlefield Sketches were reproduced back home in the Illustrated London News.

The actual Charcoal Rendering of the Rotting Corpses of Russian Soldiers--depicted in After the Battle of Inckerman--remained in the Armitage Family for many, many years, but Cousin Jill writes that they finally sold it, for it was "simply too gruesome to live with."

I thought that this was the Sketch I'd find at Hirschl & Adler, but No.

What H&A have on offer is Armitage's Charcoal Cartoon for the still extant Mural made for the Chicago Board of Trade after Mrs. O'Leary's Cow kicked over that Fatal Lantern.

Both Jill & I know this Lunette Image: In Memory of the Great Fire at Chicago, from a very large book of Engravings of Armitage Masterworks, two of which were in the Possession of my Great Aunt Margaret Armitage Dangerfield.

One of the better known Images is of an Aged, Gouty King Henry VIII, his bad leg up on a cushion, as Catherine Howard & Catherine Parr stand behind him. He didn't Behead these Surviving Ladies...

As I was only a Collateral Relative by Marriage, neither of these Books passed on to me.

But Hirschl & Adler does, in fact, have the Chicago Fire Cartoon for Sale: Priced at $30,000.

What's more, they now have--in the Crown Building--much larger Gallery Space, filled with Artworks, Old & New. There's a handsome Portrait by George Bellows.

There are some Odd Drawings by an Outsider Artist who made them in a Madhouse.

But the current Centerpiece Exhibition is of the Glowing Floral Watercolors of the gifted Susan Van Campen.

They are Amazing: although painted in 2 D, they have the effect of Flowers in 3 D...


The Oldest Library in New York City Shows Its Rarities in Extraordinary Gifts.

No, the New York Public Library is not the Oldest Library in NYC. It was, in fact, compounded out of the previous Astor, Tilden, & Lennox Libraries.

Originally, the Astor Library was down on Astor Place & its Stony Exterior & Post Victorian Interiors now serve the New York Public Theatre.

The Tilden Library was on Gramercy Park South, in the Stately Mansion of Gov. Samuel J. Tilden, who was once Almost President of the United States...

Today, the Mansion is now home to the National Arts Club, next door to Edwin Booth's famed Players, but the NAT has a Better Chef. Also, Art Exhibits!

The Lennox Library was once--many, many years ago--across the street from where I live, but Henry Clay Frick had it demolished so he could construct his Remarkable Mansion for his even more Remarkable Art Collection.

There is still the Mechanics Library, last time I checked, but The New York Society Library is definitely the Oldest Surviving NYC Library, founded in 1754.

Who knows: perhaps Martha Washington borrowed a Book when Our Nation's Capital was located in Manhattan?

You can see some of the Rare Books donated over the years [from 1754 to 2012] by Reader Members, although the Show is not in the Original Premises. Rather, it's at 53 East 79th Street.

Not only is this Exhibition free, but you are also welcome to visit the Library for Research & Recreational Reading.

If you want to Borrow Books & become part of the NYSL Family, you are welcome to become a Member. Check out the Details online:


Bulletin from Ben Katchor! When You Are on Ben's E Mail List, You Never Know What's Next...

Hey! Did you know that Satirical Cartoonist Ben Katchor gave the Same Lecture twice in June?

The first time was in Belgian Bruxelles at the ESA Saint Luc.

The deuxième repétition was in Paris at the Librarie La Friche!

This is, in effect, an Illustrated Lecture, based on his Graphic Novel: The Cardboard Valise.

Ben has chosen to title his Little Talk: Nation Building in Outer Canthus.

The Phrase, Nation Building, sounds as if Ben is Making Fun of Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, & Don Rumsfeld's heart felt Efforts to Nation Build in Iraq...

En française, Ben's Revelations are known as L'édification de la nation au Canthus extérieur.

His Cartoon Novel, on the Other Hand, is called: L'odyssée d'une valise en carton.

Ben even reproduces--in his E Mail Mass Mailing--some of the Enthusiastic Effusions of his Francophone Admirers:

Eternal errant de la littérature graphique, narrateur aux improbables langages et aux us & coutumes les plus incongrues...

Well, you get the Pensée. If not the Idée Fixe...


Let's Hear It for Contemporary Canopic Jars! Forget about the Pharaohs...

Actually, in Ancient Egypt, Canopic Jars were not used for transporting Pharaonic Canopies into the Afterworld, as far into the Cosmos as the Constellation of Orion.

No. They were used for Preserving the Heart, Liver, Bladder, Spleen, Appendix, & other Internal Organs of Dead Pharaohs, whose Mortal Remains were Mummified separately.

Apparently, once in the Miasmas of Orion, these Vital Organs--now Totally Inert--could be re inserted into the Regal Mummy...

Don't Make Fun of the Ancient Egyptians!

Look what Christians are willing to Believe: that quite Ordinary--even Boring--People will Live Forever!

Fortunately, there were no Nile Toxic Guts inside William Morris' Sable Antelope Canopic Jar, which sold recently at Bonhams for $290,500.

In fact, Morris' stunning Four Foot High Example of Contemporary Studio Glass is a Thing of Beauty, topped with Antlers!

What's more, it was Hand Blown, not made by Windy Robots...


Laying Down the Law: Alma Law's Amazing Archive of Russian Theatre Incunabula at Bonhams!

As the Major Portion of the recent Auction of Russian Literature & Works on Paper, Alma Law's endless boxes of 20th Century Russian Theatre Materials should provide the Winning Bidder with Endless Fascination--provided He or She can read Russian...

Most important among these Avant Garde Treasures--before Stalin denounced Suprematism, in favor of Socialist Realism--are Publications, Photos, & Posters relating to the Doomed Career of Vsesvolod Meyerhold, one of the Giants of Modern Theatre.

Unfortunately for Meyerhold, he had not read his Karl Marx carefully enough: The "Dictatorship of the Proletariat" really did not allow for any Innovative Individual Expression.

Mme. Meyerhold was murdered in their Moscow Apartment & he was tried & executed as a Spy, in the Early 1940s.

In the Late 1950s, he was Pardoned, but, as he was already Dead, that didn't do him Much Good, personally...

As Alma Law was a Theatre Colleague at the CUNY Graduate Center, I was a bit surprised that her Entire Archive was not Donated Entire or purchased for our University Library.

My Professional Relations with Alma were not always Cordial.

Although she made frequent trips to the Soviet Union, beginning in the Early 1970s, I had already been reporting from Warsaw Pact Nations on the Performing Arts since the Late 1950s...

This was thanks to my Initial Reportages for the Christian Science Monitor & Academic Journals.

But when I organized a 42ndStreet CUNY Mall Exhibition of Theatre Posters from the Baltic Republics--Latvia, Estonia, & Lithuania--Alma intervened, insisting that some of Her Own Posters be included & that she should write the Wall Texts.

The same thing happened when I organized a Mall Show of Polish Theatre & Circus Posters, many of which had been given me by the Actual Artists.

The Camel Back Breaking Straw was Alma's insistence that my 1987 Report on Communist Oriented Theatre in East Germany could not be published in CUNY's SEEP Journal.

This was an Anagram for Soviet & East European Performance.

Alma insisted that East Germany wasn't really in Eastern Europe, which certainly surprised all the Theatre Professionals I'd interviewed...

More Items from the Alma Law Archive will be auctioned at Bonhams at the end of the year.


More Broken Records at Christie's! Tiffany Lamp Shades Always Popular!

Combined Auction Results from Sales of Masterworks by Tiffany Studios & 20th Century Decorative Arts achieved over Ten Million Dollars!

A Tiffany Snowball Table Lamp sold for almost Half a Million!

Moving backward in Decorative Eras, The Connoisseur's Eye Collection harvested $6.5 Million.

The Huntington Library--in San Marino--must be in need of Cash, for it offered a pair of Italian Bronze Busts of the Emperor Hadrian & the Capitoline Venus for sale: They brought $387,750.

If you were thinking of leaving your Collection of Michelangelo Drawings to the Huntington, think again.

Send them to Christie's, on Your Own Behalf...

How about an 18th Century White Marble Group of The Triumph of Truth Over Calumny?

The Winner paid $195,750 for it, triumphing over Lower Bids!

But if it's Baroque & Rococo that drive you Mad with Ecstasy & Desire to Acquire, the Arthur & Charlotte Vershbow Collection should have drawn you to Christie's at Rock Center.

This was the Third Part of Their Sale, featuring Rare Books, Engravings, & Works on Paper, which don't take up as much Living Space as Rococo Commodes.

Sales Totals: $3.5 Million...

In the Christie's Sale of Fine Books & Manuscripts, an Autograph Letter from George Washington--dated Mount Vernon, 1788--fetched nearly $1.5 Million.

Edgar Allen Poe wrote a Letter to James Russell Lowell, in 1842, but it was only worth $147,750 to its Purchaser.

What would an Avid Collector pay for an Original Draft of Poe's The Raven?

Surely you can find out on line?


At the Met Museum: Run of the Mill Photographs from 1969 to Now: Everyday Epiphanies...

These Generally Lackluster Photos are supposed to represent Daily Life Since 1969.

God! How Boring American Life seems to have been...

In General...

Nonetheless, some Favored Photographers are on view: Nan Goldin, Gabriel Orozco, David Salle, Robert Smithson, & William Wegman.


Ancient Persian Epiphanies: The Cyrus Cylinder & the Rise & Fall of Dynasties...

Down at the Morgan Library, you can see some small but handsome Persian Cylinder Seals.

Now, up at the Met Museum, you can see a much larger Cylinder Seal: the Cyrus Cylinder.

If they'd let you remove this large Baked Clay Object from its Glass Case & you had an immense pad of Damp Clay, you could roll the Cylinder across it, making an Impression.

But, if you cannot read Cuneiform, you are out of luck...

The Achaemenid Emperor, Cyrus the Great, didn't even need to read Cuneiform for he had Minions who could do that for him.

Cyrus also didn't have to Roll his Scrolling Cylinder in mucky Clay, for it was intended instead as a Foundation Element in the Walls of Babylon.

We don't get to see the Famed Hanging Gardens of Babylon at the Met, but we do see Two of the colorful Glazed Ceramic Brick Lions that once graced the Entries into that Fabled City.

The Cyrus Cylinder is on Loan from the British Museum, which has a Hoard of Babylonian Antiquities.

But then, so does the Bode Museum in Berlin & the Brooklyn Museum, just across the East River...

The Big Thing about bringing the Cyrus Cylinder to the Met Museum is that it reminds us that King Cyrus freed the Jews from their Babylonian Captivity, allowing them to return to Jerusalem & to build the Second Temple!

At that time, there were no Palestinian Arabs to worry about...

The Cyrus Cylinder also reminds us that Cyrus was famously Religiously Tolerant, understanding that this would provide Administrative, Economic, Social, & Cultural Stability for his Expanding Empire.

Before Iran was Iran, Persia had seen Millennia of Dynasties, Rising & Falling...

Think of Darius the Great! Recall Xerxes: there's even an Opera by Handel about this King!

When I was teaching in Sa'udi Arabia, the American/Aramco Colony went off to Persepolis for Easter.

Cyrus, Darius, & Xerxes were nominal Ahuramazda Worshippers, but, being so famously Religiously Tolerant, they might not have minded some US Catholics & Protestants on their Territory.

No Jews--American or otherwise--were allowed in Sa'udi Arabia at that time, so the Aramco Delegation was entirely Christian.

I did not go.

Not only was I grading Mid Term Exams, but I was also so Poorly Paid by the University of Maryland Overseas that I couldn't afford the Trip...

Much, much later, when Peter Brook did Orghast at Persepolis--when I might have been able to Photograph the Mountain Side Tombs of Xerxes & Darius--I wasn't even invited.

Nonetheless, thanks to later Interviews & Interactions with Peter, I was able to publish Peter Brook: From Oxford to Orghast...

Caricature of Glenn Loney in header is by Sam Norkin.

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