Sunday, October 13, 2013

Hell, D’oh!

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.
And then the play started.

Curtain Rises

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.

I’ve always said that going to the theater is a tremendous experience, no matter what the quality of the play.

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.


Ron said...

First Rob, excellent play review! Honestly, you should be writing reviews because you have a great talent for it. You give a wonderful overview of the play and state your opinion very, very well!

Second, I went over and read Ben Brantley's review of the play and OMG...not only did he RAVE about it, but he went on and on. That was one LONG review! But did you read some of the comments below his review? MANY of them shared your same opinion.

"There’s no place on earth like Times Square on a Friday night. The energy surging through the area is phenomenal."

Isn't that the truth? The energy in Times Square is phenomenal. Even when I went there with Val this summer, and even during the day, it was so full of energy.

Love the photos in this post. Did you take them yourself? The hamsters are so cute! They look like they're getting ready to do a "kickline" like the Rockettes at Radio City!

Great post, buddy! Have a super week!

Rob K said...

Hey, Ron!

Yes, I think those comments that appear after the review are quite telling.

You'll find the same kind of remarks after "The Glass Menagerie" review. I met a woman at an art festival who said Brantley is star-struck so he'll give raves to everything.

Times Square is one of a kind. I heard it once described as a giant pinball machine and that sounds about right.

And, yes, these are my all photos in this post, including the Hamster Rckettes.

Take care and have a great week, buddy!

Bijoux said...

I never understood the appeal of The Simpsons, so the play would have been pure hell for me!

Rob K said...

Great point, Bijoux!

I got to like "The Simpsons" after catching them in reruns. But the trouble with this play is that the best lines come from old Simpsons episodes.

Take care.

Anonymous said...

I am one who really enjoys satire and re-enacting of pop culture but I am not sure how it would really fit into theatre. I feel like the audience really needs to be saturated in the material to understand whats going on and that can be daunting for theatre since its a short piece not a lot of time for build up.

Your outings always fascinate me I hope I at least get the chance to visit NYC once in my life.

Rob K said...

Oh, thank you so much!

Please do come to New York as soon as you can and make sure to give your boy a heads up!

v said...

sorry you didn't enjoy the show, but doesn't sound like i would have either.

love this sentence:

In a sense, the show really started the minute I got off the subway.

said it before, but you're an excellent writer. enjoyed this.

Rob K said...

Oh, Val, that's so sweet of you! And may I say I think you're such a fabulous photographer.

Maybe I'm just old-fashioned, but this show was lost on me. In the interests of full disclosure I must report that New York Magazine also raved about this show.

But I still don't like it.

Take care!

Jay at The Depp Effect said...

Ah, Rob, you always make me feel as if I'm really there!

I've been to Times Square, but only during the day. You made it come alive as it must be in the evening when the theatres open. Must say, I don't enjoy animals being paraded like that for profit. It's different when there is a true rapport between human and animal, as there is between horse and rider, or dog and beloved owner, because there is true reciprocity in the relationship, but just putting an animal on a leash or planting them on a box to tug heartstrings always makes me depressed.

But I think you'll find them there hamsters is guinea pigs!

Rob K said...

Dang, Jay, you got me!

I thought about that a couple of days after I posted this story. I even checked the Internets, but I couldn't be sure what they were.

Whatever they are, they shouldn't be balled up like that.

And thanks for point that out to me. (smartass! :) )

Next to time you're in New York, we'll do Times Square together! We'll see a play, take in a peep show and drink until we see pink guinea pigs!

Rob K said...

...pointing that out to me. (oy!)

Rob K said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jay at The Depp Effect said...

Haha! Looking forward to it, Rob!

Rob K said...