Saturday, November 26, 2016

Heisenberg - The Height of Life's Uncertainties

In life, as in most of our investigations [and most certainly in national elections] there exists a formidable amount of relative and directional uncertainty - we all must continuously yet certainly manage the assimilation of all incoming data, parse and decipher errant clues and instructions, then winnow thru physical as well as ethereal evidence - carefully separating what constitutes 'smoke and noise' from hard fact. 

Additionally, the scientific study of our physical world further postulates that there is a fundamental limit to the precision in which certain pairs of physical properties can be known, believing for example that if you (perhaps) measure the mass of an object in motion you thereby lessen your ability to quantify accurately that objects precise velocity. It is thus expounded - the more you know about one the less you will know about the other.

This may appear to be pure folly when operating in known entities in the physical realm (handsome coaches traveling on a straight line for example) but which is duly evidenced and amplified when working in the subatomic fields of quantum mechanics (and most certainly in the dangerous arena of a woman's emotions!)

This scientific postulate is known as the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle and its effects waft like lingering vapors throughout this latest production by the Manhattan Theater Club

'Heisenberg' is exquisitely written by Mr. Simon Stephens, most recently of 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time' -  the irony of which is most assuredly NOT lost upon this investigator. From the original book by Mark Haddon it is a masterpiece of subtlety and emotional inference, with writing that works like a spider whose web ensnares its victim almost imperceptibly until it is much too late.

'Heisenberg' is the story of a young woman (Georgie Burns/Mary Louise Parker) and a much older man (Alex Priest/Denis Arndt) who 'appear' to serendipitously meet in a London train station and thereby develop a spontaneous relationship (or as spontaneous as one might expect once Georgie plants an uninvited kiss on the neck of the unsuspecting Alex).

Yet, as Sir John Gielgud eruditely once opined, "I am all in favor of spontaneity, as long as it is carefully planned and ruthlessly controlled"; and such a course is no less so evident in this performance.

In the hands of lesser professionals this story would lose its way fairly quickly but here these two actors thoroughly maintain a growing centripetal presence on a quiet set unoccupied by anyone or anything more than two tables and two chairs. Their magnetic attraction is exhibited slowly but certainly and draws in both the audience to the actors and the actors to each other like celestial bodies circling a black hole throughout their time together.  

Told in one long Act without intermission (do not dare be late to the start of this performance), Denis Arndt (Boston Legal, 24,
Oregon Shakespeare Festival to name but a few) is instantly recognizable yet a relative unknown with any specificity. He has a quietly commanding presence with clear speech and unwavering perception without the crutch of ubiquitous volume or needless histrionics.
Ms. Parker, ('Weeds', 'Proof', 'Angels in America'), has such an understated manner in which she handles her role that it is almost as if she's mentally knitting loop after small loop throughout the production and in such a way that you barely recognize her nuanced additions, only to witness the full spread at the end - leaving you in full awe at the resulting beautiful and emotional tapestry.

This is a limited performance and should be attended for its simple and emotional beauty, Ms. Parker seemingly overcome at the finale by the sheer fervor of it all on a recent Thursday evening.

As an aside, I must say that Watson and I have been fortunate enough to witness some of the finest performances to ever grace the stage and the productions at the renovated Samuel J. Friedman Theater on W. 47th St. by The Manhattan Theater Club, whose mission is "to produce innovative work with a series of
productions as broad and as diverse as New York itself", has been producing some of the most compelling works anywhere, including the recently acclaimed 'Venus in Fur','Fool in Love','Heisenberg', as well as the upcoming 'Wit', with actors Cynthia Nixon and Laura Linney alternating roles in this two person drama on successive evenings.

With only 622 seats it cannot help being a thoroughly intimate experience from anywhere inside the theater and one would be well served to ensure their attendance before this run certainly (and regrettably) concludes.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Happiness is a Smile Right Under Your Nose - The Tube Dude

Whilst on a recent investigation with Inspector Pietro of the Italian Polizei, we had discovered that our original focus, a haberdashery on nearby Anna Maria Island, had subscribed fully to the "hazy-lazy-days of summer" theory and was not yet in full awake mode.

Thus we found ourselves in a meandering circular traipse around St. Armand's Circle, the heavily tourist laden roundabout in the beachside area of Sarasota across Ringling Bros. Blvd. (whose Fine Arts Museum is no circus at all but a must see if in this area by the way).

Lamenting the ambrosial aromas of a too close for comfort "chocolate covered bacon" emporium, we espied a sign nearby for a shoppe called "The Tube Dude", with the Inspector immediately surmising it to be some watercraft proprietorship.

Oh how wrong he would be (and thus ensuring to continue to keep me busy in my retirement for years to come)!

It was immediately apparent upon entering this avant-garde artist's gallery that this was the source of all the brightly colored and instantly arresting mailbox posts along The Ave of the Presidents we had witnessed on our ride over here.

But it soon became so much more for here on a Sunday morn was "The Dude", owner, operator, designer, welder, salesman, web director, and all around chief Dude himself.....watching with chagrin as the Inspector took photos of everything inside EXCEPT the "Please, No Photography" signs. (Ah, Inspector.)

As poetry is oft defined as communicating the most using the sparest of words, so is the genius of the Dude's simplicity. So straightforward, so simple upon viewing yet only once seen does it appear this way. The designs, the thoughts invested, the creativity itself is at once inherent in every piece created. And with works now purchased, shipped, and happily located in 40 countries and many of the states here on this side of the Pond, his works are beauty incarnate.

And it was after several rounds of interlocutions that we also discovered that these pieces, while available to purchase 'as-is' directly from his website, often take on a specific level of customization once dialogue has begun with a prospective patron.

Mailbox posts, garden statuary, whimsical lawn pieces, corporate statements or specific business communicators, there is really no end to how these works of art can transform the mundane into a statement made.

Needless to say both the Inspector and I were quite smitten with The Dude and his shoppe, and only with his permission did I then take a few snapshots of my own. 

If in this area, do stop in and say hello to The Dude, whose mantra itself (like his pieces) is also quite simplistic yet awe inspiring at the same time - "A Smile is Happiness Right Under Your Nose".

But check for his address first for developments were clearly in the works to move from his window front store to a larger more individualistic "Seussian-like" operation in the months to come.........and away from the base temptations of any chocolate covered bacon. Indeed! 

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Hamilton: A Seismic Cultural Reverberation

With a healthy cacophony of Broadway performances under our investigative belts numbering well into the hundreds, our investigative thespian eye originating on Drury Lane in London's West End near the turn of the century (1900 that is!) and then further continuing on in healthy quants once Watson and I relocated stateside with our persistent attendance to the Great White Way (and elsewhere) for decades now, we have witnessed performances spanning some of the finest that 'The Theater World' has had to offer.

From lauded musicals such as "The Pirates of Penzance" and "The Producers" to "Phantom of the Opera" and "Cats", along with prophetic Tony Award winning plays such as "Doubt", "Moon for the Misbegotten", "Venus in Fur", "Arsenic and Old Lace", "True West", and "Proof".

Individual performances as well, revered and since cherished, include those of Britain's Henry Irving,  George Rose, Nathan Lane, Bernadette Peters, Patti Lupone, Michael Crawford, Nina Arianda, Cherry Jones, Chita Rivera, and thousands of others.

Toss on legions of 'Off Broadway' and further 'Off-Off Broadway' shows, perhaps not as esteemed by the Tony brethren but each astounding in their own way (Oh "Lips Together, Teeth Apart", how promising you were!) along with dozens of regional performances nationwide and internationally (Theatre Royal Plymouth you are a jewel in the crown!), and as a result we feel perfectly appointed to herein opine upon the merits of this avowed Musical for the Ages, "Hamilton".

Bona fides notwithstanding, and without circling the juniper, it needs to be plainly stated and in terms leaving no quarter for uncertainty among anyone reading this treatise, that this production, "Hamilton", is by many ORDERS of magnitude simply the most astounding cultural work this investigator has ever witnessed and one that titillates the mind on levels heretofore untouched by anything that has come before it.

This is a seminal work of craftsmanship and inventiveness, and will be looked upon as the cultural balefire for all future performances that come after.

The multitudinous degrees to which this piece plays include a plane for "The Historical", dealing with the very founding of this fine United States with its triumvirate system of governmental checks and balances that remains to this day the halcyon to the world.

A plane for the events of today, particularly the debate on immigration, with Alexander Hamilton personifying the entirety of our present debate and the contributions of those coming to these shores in pursuit of a better life. (Whereupon any minute scintilla of reflection would afford the easy notice that 99.99% of all Americans are, in fact, the product of immigration...... and we are a better nation for it!) 

Pursuant to this dynamic is a third level to ponder - the genius stroke in Casting, with every major (and nearly every minor) role occupied by an actor/actress of Color (emphasis intended!). This singular act, dovetailing with the previously acknowledged exigency of immigration, removes (perhaps forever) the stigmatic silliness that pervades the performing arts overall. 

Add to this a subsequent profit sharing plan developed for those involved from the early
developmental stages of this masterstroke by the prescient producer's, has the embryonic momentum to further change the entire way the theater industry operates in the future.

And perhaps best of all, the stupefying breadth of this story is wrapped so exquisitely within a - how you American's call it - a Hip-Hop/Rap Soundtrack, that simply defies convention. 

And know this, it is not simply a verbal patois of singular storytelling but a 53 song soundtrack* that amalgams the worlds of historical theater, the occurrences of modern day, musical recognition from both the theatrical orbs as well as those in popular measure, AND done so with uncharacteristic verve to the historical figures represented that this final musical centerpiece in itself delivers a stunning theatrical cataclysm unlike anything that has come before it and that stands in its own majestic beauty.
* (While some may point to the documented listing of 38 songs, detailed and astute investigations performed (along with verbal and recorded admittance by the author himself) have thus uncovered it to be a 53 song performance......... dialed down surreptitiously so as to not 'intimidate'....)

Finally, and with no further attempts to retell a story that has been harped and registered ad infinitum, it would not be a complete and final investigation if specific acknowledgements were not delivered herein:

Lin-Manuel Miranda - All aspects of this investigation revolve around what can only be described as true genius; defined within as 'he who sees as clear as day that which no one has ever even conceived of prior to", all platitudes deserved. The role and production for many lifetimes.

Leslie Odom, Jr. - A performance so full of startling vitality that it certainly succeeds in outshining (in turns) the originator and eponymously named star. Do not be surprised in the least if Mr. Odom walks out of the Beacon Theater with a Tony Award of his own for his role as Aaron Burr for he will have fully earned it.
Daveed Diggs - With the fully deserved and aforementioned nod to Mr. Miranda for envisioning such personas out of the wisps of creativity itself, Mr. Diggs' splendiferous portrayals of both the Marquis de Lafayette AND Thomas Jefferson are the feats from which legends are born. A rollicking thunderclap of a performance.

Renee Elise Goldsberry - With her entrance upon the stage, there is no doubt that you are being blessed by a 'Presence' which you will harken back to many, many times as a pivotal moment in your theatergoing career.

Christopher Jackson - The pivotal role of George Washington has never been portrayed as nobly and majestically as the tall, imposing, and statuesque Mr. Jackson.

And finally, Carleigh Bettiol, who as a member of the Ensemble is as astonishingly captivating as to draw attention from the spotlighted roles each time she graces the stage.