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Posts tagged ‘New Yorkers’

Jayne Houdyshell Triumphs in Bways’ “The Humans”!

The Humans 1Jayne Houdyshell Humans 1Jayne Houdyshell, an actress I’ve always found astonishing, reaches the peak of her long career in Broadway’s newest and most unlikely hit, “The Humans.” Houdyshell had a two decades long career in regional theater and was “discovered” in mid-life as the mother that couldn’t stop criticizing her lesbian daughter in Lisa Kron’s break-through play “Well” that started at the Public Theater and moved uptown to Broadway. And Broadway has pretty much been her home ever since.

Houdyshell is the kind of actress playwrights dream of and though she has won tons of awards( the Drama Desk gave her a career achievement award a few years back), I can’t remember her having a leading part like the one she has now, and in a hit play to boot. “The Humans” is powered by her powerhouse performance as Deidre Blake, again a mother, but this time an Irish Catholic mother to end all mothers. Deidre is caught between a rock and a hard place as she tries to hold her unwieldy family together as they embark on a tumultuous Thanksgiving gathering in her daughter’s duplex in Chinatown.

It’s one of the best plays of the year. Playwright Stephen Karam has written what all of the American theater has been longing for. A great new American play. Set today, it’s totally current and absolutely vital, and unflinching in its’ detail of the lives we New Yorkers, we humans, live .

With horror film and Internet references galore, Karam and the titanically talented director Joe Mantello ingratiate “The Humans” into your soul and invite you to be a member of this troubled family. They hook you into sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner with the at-first-glance very bland Blakes, and there you are experiencing something that you’d never thought you’d be experiencing, a top-level, quality evening in the theater, by some one who’s now going to be considered one of America’s important young playwrights.

What a joy this is to discover so much talent in one place, at one time, doing the thing it should be doing, bringing us the best in theater! Which is what Broadway is supposed to be doing. After all, shouldn’t that be going on all the time on the Great White Way? And so seldom is.”The Humans” is so good, it’s shocking.

And to have the majestic Jayne Houdyshell at the top of the bill, guiding this ship into port, as it were, with a superb ensemble who are all excellently cast and doing what sounds easy, but is really almost impossible, make you believe that they are the Blake family and you’re a friend, who they’ve also invited over for Thanksgiving dinner. But little did you know what you’re in for! Folding chairs, card tables and paper plates and cups. And not a turkey in sight! Only health foods!

Reed Birney is perfect matched as Deidre’s troubled husband Blake. Lauren Klein, is simply amazing and amazingly simple, as Deidre’s wheel-chair bound, dementia-ridden mother “Momo”, Cassie Beck & Sarah Steele as their struggling daughters, one gay and one straight, and Arian Moayed as the genial, still not married, but living together sort-of son-in-law.

Cassie Beck The Humans

Cassie Beck, in particular, (above) as the frazzled lesbian lawyer daughter,Aimee, who is going through a difficult break-up with her lover. And  it is to “The Humans” great credit that the Blake family treat this as something to be compassionate about and otherwise her sexuality is totally accepted in a refreshingly matter of fact way.

And the set! Once again I’ve seen astounding theater set design in one week! First “Hughie”s haunting green-lit majestic, ruined hotel and now David Zinn’s Chinatown duplex that is not as grand as it sounds, and as is just as knock-about and seems about to fall down as the Times Square hotel of the 1920’s in “Hughie.”

You just can FEEL this place shake,as it quavers under the  supersonic,crashing thuds that periodically drop on it from the (un-seen) floor above (sound design by Fitz Patton.) It’s a ground-floor apartment attached to the basement by a spiral stair-case that’s in, as Reed Birney’s father describes it, “A flood zone.”

At one point Birney’s character quips, noting his daughters’ obsession with health foods, “If you’re so miserable, why do you want to live forever?” “The Humans” is so good it will restore your faith in the American theater and make you want to live forever, too, so you can see it over and over and over again. What a joyful surprise this play, Jayne Houdyshell and this production are!

Irene, after…

Well, Hurricane Irene is allll over and the air is fresh. The sky is an incredible blue, the type of blue most seen in the Rockys. No clouds whatsoever, just this pure, clear blue, and New Yorkers are walking around again and they’re smiling.

And the city looks like somebody just took it out and washed it throughly which is exactly what Irene just did.

The subways are running. The buses are running. The taxis were ALLLLWAYS running. And everything looks strangely new. And everyone looks very well rested.

Which shut up in their apartments, they all were.

A cleaner New York…and no one was killed or injured…Now THAT is amazing…

As I prepare to dive into pre-TIFF movie screenings here in NYC before I leave…I hope they are going to be good….There are soooo many films and sooo many titles…Well, it takes awhile to sort them all out…but “Coriolanus” tomorrow night, looks to be a good one. Directed by and starring that helluva nice guy Voldemort, I mean, Ralph Fiennes, and a Volumnia that is said to rank with Vanessa Redgrave’s best and may garner her ANOTHER Oscar…We shall see.

Hurricane Madness Begins in New York

Still vibrating with the joie of the Montreal Film Festival, I return to find this massive Hurricane Irene approaching NYC! I’m a native New Yorker and I have NEVER seen the kind of grab-for-it madness that I witnessed at several food stores today, with lines also like I’ve never seen. People grabbing seemingly everything off the shelves in all the stores I hit.

Water was what was missing mostly from grocery store shelves, as I trudged wearily homewards after waiting on endless lines for what seemed like hours. This is what it must be like back in ole Moscow, where it was always showing people lining up for bread. And that’s exactly what frenzied New Yorkers where doing today. Sheesh. You’d think they’d never seen a raindrop before.

There have been storms that have hit this city, but they have little impact. And it’s the Media, of course, whipping everyone into a worrisome frenzy.

Big storms don’t really hit here much and New York is so solidly built it doesn’t make a lick of difference usually. It just giveth the weathermen something to get excited about and take up air-time and drive-up ratings with. It’s good television, I’m sorry to say…


And this is the BIG but, Mayor Bloomberg is closing down all public transportation tomorrow, Sat. at noon! Now THIS has never happened before. It effectively freezes everyone in their tracks and makes those at home HAVE to stay there. Or walk, which I do a lot of anyway.

People were out in droves on the street, all with grocery bags or one sort of the other. And they all looked inordinately stressed. Like the Hurricane was going to blow the skyscrapers over. Not gonna happen.

It’s only a category 1 anyway. And as it inevitably wends its’ way up the coast it always gets weaker.

My mother always regaled us with stories of the hurricane SHE was caught out in Providence, R.I. in 1938. The one that knocked Katherine Hepburn’s Connecticut estate down.  She could never stop talking about it.

But I will. Here.

It’s just massively inconvenient. But then, I can still walk to the Library! Unless all the stores and businesses start closing tomorrow at noon, too. Which they might.

I’ve got a LOT of DVDs of movies to catch up on before departing for TIFF, or the Toronto International Film Festival, which is my next stop, and for all of you who read me regularly know, that’s where I started blogging last year! And I’m STILL doing it! I can’t believe it! And I will be blogging from Toronto once I get there, which is still 10 days or so away. So hold on. Or rather HOLT! ON!

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