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Tracy Letts , Benjamin Walker and Annette Bening in “All My Sons”


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“Mother: What more can we be?

Chris: You can be better! Once and for all you can know there’s a universe of people outside and you’re responsible to it and, unless you know that, you threw away your son because that’s how he died.” 

Arthur Miller, All My Sons

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I had the good fortune to take in the current Broadway production of the Arthur Miller play All My Sons yesterday. A powerful, beautifully crafted  play with memorable  performances made it one of those moments when I truly appreciate the shared experience of live theater. There’s something hopeful, even with a darkly set play that bares our faults and inadequacies, in sitting in a theater filled with people who you can feel being moved by the material and the performances. I woke up this morning thinking about this play which is a pretty indicator of how well it hit the mark for me.

Written in 1947 and set in the aftermath of World War II, it’s a drama that maintains its impact and relevance. Times may have changed some things, but the unbrave new world it presented then are recognizable in these times as well. The conflict between those who fail to accept responsibility for their actions in the name of self-preservation and those willing to sacrifice and hold themselves accountable is as cogent now as it was then.

There were lines, such as the exchange between the mother, Kate and her remaining son, Chris, (played masterfully by Annette Bening and Benjamin Walker) that leapt off the stage for me. But the moment that I felt was the most memorable came without words. It was at the pivotal point where the father, Joe (in a tremendous performance from Tracy Letts), silently reads the letter from his MIA son that sets the course for the final act. I don’t know how long he read in silence. It might have only fifteen seconds or so but it felt like it a minute or more. The silence of the theater was absolute as though everyone there was holding their breath in anticipation of his response.

It was a great moment from what I feel was great performance. Glad to have taken a short break to have experienced it. Makes me want to do better, be better.

So, this Sunday musical selection came about as we were waiting for our car to be brought around. Sitting in the lobby and  Sly and the Family Stone’s Sing a Simple Song was playing in the background. I felt my head boobing to the beat and I look across the lobby and see another guy sand wife both reflexively moving up and down on the balls of their feet to the beat. Thought that maybe the world would be a better place with Sly being played more. Give a listen and have a good day.

 

 

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Took a day or two to shoot into NYC.  We packed a lot into a very short time and quickly fled the throngs that packed the streets and parks of the city. Hit and run.

Neue Galerie - Gustav Klimt Portait of Adele Bloch-BauerWe first ran up through Central Park  to the Neue Galerie, a small museum just above the Metroplitan Museum that features German and Austrian Modern art.  It’s a beautiful collection situated in a beautiful 5th Avenue mansion which makes for intimate, if sometimes crowded, viewing of the art.  If you’re in NYC, the Neue Galerie is worth a visit if only to see this piece even though there is much, much more to see there.

It has a memorable group of Germanic paintings and drawings from the likes of Klimt, Schiele, Kirchner, Beckman and many others.  But undoubtedly, the crown jewel of their collection is the  Portrait of Adele-Bloch Bauer by artist Gustav Klimt, the $135 million masterpiece with the fabled past that spawned last year’s film, Woman in Gold.

The lighting in the room with this painting is a flat and even light that dampens the gold’s glimmer, making it less shimmering than you may have seen it in photos.  But even that can’t diminish this stunning piece which is evidenced by the flocks of people that surround it, a long with a docent who monopolized the piece for about 30 minutes.

That was all the time we had for museum hopping and it was on to the theater.  We were meeting our neighbor and friend Bill’s English class from our local high school the next day for a matinee of the Eugene O’Neill landmark drama Long Day’s Journey into Night so we figured that we needed something a bit less weighty and dark to counter the dose of O’Neill that was to come.  We hit the musical  Something Rotten which tells the story of two playwright brothers struggling to outdo William Shakespeare, who is wonderfully portrayed by Tony-winner Christian Borle as a rockstar who is idolized by the masses in Elizabethan England.

Very high energy, very funny and a really great cast.

The next day’s performance continued that theme, if you substitute the word dark for funny.  The revival of O’Neill’s biographical masterpiece features a tremendous cast with Jessica Lange, Gabriel Byrne, Michael Shannon and John Gallagher, Jr. and they did not disappoint in any way.  You could sense their total engagement with the material which is really needed for a production that runs over 3 1/2 hours and features very dark and probing dialogue between the small cast.  In lesser hands, it could be a tortuous 3 1/2 hours but they made the time pass easily for the viewer.  Great, great show.

Bill’s students seemed to understand the significance of what they were seeing which is a great thing to witness.  Many kudos to Bill for exposing these kids to this part of the world.  And if you get a chance and like the idea of seeing great actors doing great material, check out this show before it ends its short run at the end of June.

All in all, a good couple of days in the city.  That being said, there is nothing better than that time approaching home when the traffic that snarls the city has fallen away and all you can see ahead of you is a single pair of taillights far in the distance and the outline of darkened hills set against the clear night sky.  No crowds, no traffic, no noise– home is near.

Okay, for this Sunday’s music, here is a little sample from Something Rotten.  It is the real theme of the whole show.  It’s God, I Hate Shakespeare sung by Brain d’Arcy James.

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