Maybe I should’ve stuck with the hamsters.
I left my office in lower Manhattan on Friday night and walked right into the middle of an animal act.
A man was setting up a series of boxes at the corner of Broadway and Cortland Street and unpacking a portable petting zoo.
There was a line of hamsters crammed on top of one box and a cat on leash crouching before a bucket of dollar bills.
I don’t know what this man was planning to do, but I don’t care for animal shows.
If you need to make other creatures perform so you can feel superior, well, then we all know who the truly inferior animal is, don’t we?
Besides, I was due uptown at Playwrights Horizons, where I was taking in a new show called Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play.
I had recently bought a subscription for the company’s 2013-2014 season and I was looking forward to seeing the first show. So I left the hamster man and jumped on the E train for 42nd Street.
There’s no place on earth like Times Square on a Friday night. The energy surging through the area is phenomenal. Within these few blocks you’ll find everything I absolutely love and thoroughly hate about New York.
There’s culture side by side with sleaze. In the boisterous crowds you’ll see gaping tourists, hustling street people and sophisticated theatergoers. There are fabulous restaurants, fast food joints, and falafel stands.
In a sense, the show really started the minute I got off the subway.
I was alone, but then didn’t bother me too much. I love the theater and I usually strike up a conversation with the people seated around me. And that’s what happened on this night as soon as I sat down. Theater people just like to talk to each other.
Okay, so I had a prime seat, excellent company, and I was in the greatest city in the world. I was in a very good mood.
You know, I hate to be a nit-picky pain in the wazoo, but I have to say that Mr. Burns really didn’t do it for me.
The play shows how pop culture becomes the stuff of mythology as humanity struggles to survive in a post-apocalyptic world.
The first act, which is the best, has survivors sitting around a fire retelling episodes of The Simpsons. The atmosphere is charged as the characters quiz a stranger about the state of other cities and the whereabouts of missing loved ones.
If only they had stopped there. Unfortunately, the story turns farcical, with groups of survivors performing episodes of the long-running animated series until finally, some 75 years later, the material has been mutated into a kind of grand opera.
Science fiction writers have been addressing similar themes for years and the playwright didn’t add much to the mix. She may have had a point, but she insisted upon making it with a sledgehammer.
The final act was excruciating and I actually felt sorry for the actors, who were all excellent. I sincerely hope they get better gigs out of this show.
The fact that Ben Brantley from the New York Times raved about this show should have been a warning. This was the same man who had swooned over the current revival of The Glass Menagerie that left my sister and I decidedly cold.
Maybe Mr. Brantley could review the animal show on Cortland Street. He’d probably gush on about that, too.
Mr. Burns severely tested that belief, but I still haven’t changed my position. Theater is a miracle with an intermission.
After the show, I walked right up 42nd Street to get to my train and Times Square was just as crazy as ever.
I toyed with the idea of stopping by the Times and giving Ben Brantley a piece of my mind, but I don’t think I would’ve gotten through security. And the man has a right to his opinion, no matter demented it may be.
I made great connections on the subway and got back to Brooklyn in record time. Despite my disappointment with the play, I was happier than a box full of hamsters.