New in New York
If you’re planning a post-Mardi Gras getaway to New York in the next few weeks or, perhaps trading the Big Easy’s Carnival for the Big Apple’s never-ending festivities, here are some things you might want to check out.
Broadway offers lots and lots of musicals of all sorts. If you’re looking for a play to see on the Fabulous Invalid, however, that may be trickier. Currently, two dramas are making their Broadway debuts, one worthy enough, one truly worthy.
Seeing Appropriate (Helen Hayes Theater) at a recent matinee and faced with its 2 ½+ hour run time, and not having had enough sleep the night before, I said to my companion “Please nudge me if you see me nodding off.”
I needn’t have worried. Appropriate held me rapt for the entirety of its 155 minutes.
Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ dysfunctional family dramedy, set at a former plantation home in southeast Arkansas in the summer of 2011, deals with what happens when three adult children come together after their father has passed. Secrets are revealed, clashes occur, and it all ends with a marvelous coup de théâtre.
The first act contains mostly exposition, but Jacobs-Jenkins’ dialog is so pungent and the characters so engrossing, it goes by in a flash. In this very smart, wonderful play of ideas, people are not what they appear to be, meaning none are all good or all bad as too often happens in these family dramas.
Lila Neugebauer’s keen direction keeps bodies in motion and excavates every bit of nuance in the script.
As elder sister Toni, Sarah Paulson’s remarkable performance negotiates all the twists and turns of this bitchy, not-very-nice person; she makes credible all aspects of Jacobs-Jenkins’ creation as you’re watching the show even if they may not be fully plausible in retrospect. Elle Fanning, in a great Broadway debut as the girlfriend of Toni’s troubled younger brother, demonstrates how you can play a blonde, hippie-type who’s seemingly more spiritual than brainy and still make her very, very smart. All the rest of the cast give topnotch performances as well.
Sarah Paulson and Elle Fanning in Appropriate (photo by Joan Marcus)
True, I wouldn’t have minded if Jacobs-Jenkins had trimmed some of the monologues in Act Two, even if by only a little bit. And some of the strands of the plot are never fully resolved. But otherwise, this is the kind of play that demands to be seen on Broadway by as wide an audience as possible. Appropriate is scheduled to run through March 3. Do not miss it (https://2st.com/shows/appropriate)
I wish I had felt the same way about Joshua Harmon’s Prayer for the French Republic (Samuel J. Friedman Theatre also through March 3) which portrays members of a Parisian Jewish family both in 1944-46 and in 2016-17 as rising antisemitism envelopes France.
Prayer is certainly heartfelt, its story interesting, and its themes, sadly, all too relevant. But its theatrical storytelling is lumpy, more descriptive than dramatic, and its exposition, unlike Appropriate’s, all too obvious. At times, it seems padded, while elsewhere I sensed the author’s hand manipulating characters in an inauthentic way.
Richard Masur and Aria Shahghasemi in Prayer for the French Republic (photo by Jeremy Daniel)
David Cromer’s staging is very naturalistic; I could imagine a more poetic approach. As you would expect on Broadway, all the actors, led by Betsy Aidem and featuring a fine late-appearing turn by Richard Masur, are excellent. I just wish I had been as moved as I could tell others in the audience were. (https://www.manhattantheatreclub.com/shows/2023-24-season/prayer-for-the-french-republic/)
At the Metropolitan Museum, through March 10, Women Dressing Women explores the creativity and artistic legacy of women fashion designers from The Met’s permanent collection, tracing a lineage of makers from the turn of the twentieth century to the present day by highlighting celebrated designers, new voices, and forgotten histories alike.
(l.-r.) Ensemble (1966) by Betsey Johnson (1942-); Evening dress (1938) by Ana de Pombo (1900-1985) for House of Paquin
There’s a snappy gold-and-black striped ensemble from Betsey Johnson, an elegant evening dress by Hanae Mori with a Japanese landscape print on it, and a stunning black & white cape & evening dress by Yeahlee Tang. And Ana de Pombo of the House of Paquin’s ivory silk organza evening dress from 1938 trimmed with black colobus monkey fur is to die. for.(https://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/women-dressing-women)
I went to the New-York Historical Society to see one exhibit which underwhelmed me, While there, however, I discovered Enchanting Imagination: The Objets d’Art of André Chervin and Carvin French Jewelers (thru Mar. 17) which blew me away.
André Chervin (1927-), with his New York atelier Carvin French, is one of the most acclaimed makers of handcrafted fine jewelry in the world. Yet unbeknownst to even his most ardent admirers, Chervin’s true lifetime passion was creating a collection of unique, precious objets d’art. These one-of-a-kind lamps, clocks, figurines, personal accessories & table decorations are fashioned in gold & silver, with gems such as rubies, diamonds & sapphires and masterfully carved semi-precious stones like jade, lapis lazuli, amethyst & rock crystal quartz. This is the very first time these meticulously created objets d’art are on view to the public.
Over the past six decades, Carvin French has manufactured thousands of magnificent pieces for Tiffany & Co., Cartier, Bulgari, and other distinguished shops. Though revered by jewelry experts and professionals, the name Carvin French is generally unknown to the public as anonymity was essential to the firm’s success: each jewelry retailer sold the firm’s masterworks under their own brand names.
Return to Kilimanjaro with Lapis Egg box by André Chervin (1927-)
The main focus of the exhibition is on Chervin’s artistic extension beyond jewelry and his creation of bejeweled objets d’art. Conceived and engineered by Chervin and fabricated under his watchful eye by his artisans in between work on commissioned jewelry pieces, each objet evolved over the course of five to 25 years with most measuring a mere three to eight inches in height. It’s a small exhibit but an absolutely beguiling one. (https://www.nyhistory.org/exhibitions/enchanting-imagination-french-jewelers)
The Morgan Library & Museum has Medieval Money, Merchants, and Morality (thru Mar. 10) which charts the economic revolution that took place at the end of the Middle Ages and the early Renaissance. Trade was conducted on an unprecedented scale, banks were established, and coinage proliferated like never before. The widespread use of money in everyday life transformed every aspect of European society, including its values and culture.
St. Petronius, (c. 1394-95) by Niccolò di Giacomo da Bologna (c. 1325–c. 1403)
The famous Hours of Catherine of Cleves, the Hours of Henry VIII, and the Prayer Book of Queen Claude de France are all on display but the frontispiece of a register of creditors of a Bolognese lending society ©. 1394-95) by Niccolò di Giacomo da Bologna caught my attention more than anything else in the show. Why? Because it included an image of St. Petronius after whom the gay Mardi Gras Krewe of Petronius is named! (https://www.themorgan.org/exhibitions/medieval-money)
And speaking of Mardi Gras, if you happen to be in NYC on February 16, head to The Cockpit at Red Eye (355 W. 41 St.) for Daniel Nardicio’s Nardi Gras where you can bead off at the “Big Easy Contest”. You’ll get one string of beads when you enter and whoever has the most beads at 2am wins $100–no matter how they were gotten! Tickets and more info https://www.redeyetickets.com/nardi-gras/