New York City Blog Nov. 8 – Nov. 15
Confession: I haven’t always hated theatre. As a kid I haunted Off-Broadway and Broadway. I wanted to cure my aversion so I went to “Advance Man” the first part of The Honeycomb Trilogy, being performed in the Judson Memorial Church gym. When did shouting become an essential part of the American theatre tool kit? I’ll keep persevering. Judson, bursting at the seams with political action, dance and theatre, is the place to do it.
Friday at the Frick: Anne Sofie von Otter, mezzo-soprano, Thomas Dunford, the archlute and Jonathan Cohen, the harpsichord knocked it out of the ball park, actually the Frick Music Room. In his will, Henry Clay Frick had instructed that after his wife’s death, their mansion be turned into a museum. The Music Room was built in 1935. It was added to the original structure built in 1912 to 1914 by Thomas Hastings. What an evening. The superb musicians romped through Henry Purcell, Michel Lambert and other sixteenth and seventeenth century composers. As an encore, Ms. von Otter scored a Frick Music Room first. She sang Bjork’s music . My friend and I left the civilized world of serious music to learn about the French tragedy.
One of Steve’s friends, a Mexican-American detective, has a DíA DE LOS MUERTOS party. Usually, this Mexican feast is celebrated on Nov. 1, part of the Halloween, All Saints’ Day, All Souls’ Day triumvirate. This year he gave his Day of the Dead party on Nov. 14. It was cruelly apt. The French massacre had occurred the day before.
Outside, on Sunday, it was a balmy, perfect New York fall evening. Within, we were wrapped in the cocoon of the Frick Music Room. Pallade Music is a Baroque Ensemble based in Montreal. The four performers play the baroque violin, the baroque cello, the theorbo and the harpsichord. The program was dominated by Telemann (1681-1767). Esteban LaRotta played the theorbo, a lute with a long neck extension, about six feet long. I wondered about the stories LaRotta could tell about getting the theorbo on and off planes and trains and in and out of cars.
Supper was at Persepolis, a charming Persian restaurant. I ordered an odd but delicious appetizer that consisted of cooked diced beets, yogurt, walnuts and raisins. Had someone given me that recipe, I would never have gone near it. Wrong, yet again, and the beets dyed the yogurt a lovely pink.
You can’t go home again. Right? I was a fan/camp follower/ groupie of Charles Ludlum’s Ridiculous Theatrical Company. I even went to Ludlum’s funeral at St. Joseph’s. I have never laughed so hard in my life as I did at Galas and The Mystery of Irma Vep. The little theatre rocked with the screams of laughter. I’m not exaggerating. Ask anyone who was fortunate enough to see the great Ludlum and his partner, Everett Quinton in action. Penguin Reg Theatre is presenting Drop Dead Perfect at St. Clement’s with …. Everett Quinton! St. Clement’s is composed primarily of stairs. A friend and I climbed up the stairs to the theatre, climbed down more stairs and panted to our seats as the curtain was parting. Quinton is great in drag and a very funny man, but Ludlum was the engine. Drop Dead Perfect is a dim memory of what had once been briefly at Christopher and Seventh Avenue South.
I went to the monthly book club at the Central Park Arsenal, built between 1847 – 1851. It had stored New York State Militia arms and the building predates the park. We met in a renovated room on the third floor complete with a new table and matching chairs. It smelled like a new car. I miss the too large wooden table, the chairs that were deceptive rockers. If caught off guard you’d go into a swinging motion like an amusement park ride. Most of all I miss Frederick Law Olmsted’s and Calvert Vaux’s 1857 design plan that hung on one wall. The men had submitted it to the Central Park design competition. Now, it’s in some safe, prestigious spot.
We talked about the most recently read book, Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods. I wonder if Bryson has ever received a more thoughtful discussion of one of his works. The book club is made up of professional gardeners, landscape artists and environmentalists. All are serious readers. Some liked Bryson’s larky, take it or leave it attitude to nature, but some dismissed the book as too frivolous. Since I write mysteries I appreciate the difficulty of writing a well crafted story, but as an astute reader pointed out, A Walk in the Woods seemed like a movie script. Ouch. Once I heard that I thought of the set dialogue, Sancho Panza sidekick and predictably happy ending.
A few blocks north and a few days later, I went to the Frick Collection to see Charles Coypel’s Don Quixote’s Tapestries. Coypel’s eighteenth century drawings of the novel, Don Quixote, were woven into tapestries by Gobelins. At the Frick they’re hung in the Oval Room and East Gallery. They gleam. it’s hard not to touch them.
Steve Kulchek told me that his Uncle Con, a retired NYPD detective, started out as a patrolman. His beat, as they said in those days, included 5th Avenue and 70th Street. Con was ordered to pick up a man who lived in a nearby building for questioning. When Con went to the apartment, the guy’s wife told him that her husband was at the Frick. Con thought the Frick was a movie house.At that time, there were several in the area. So Con combed them. Finally, someone enlightened him. Con went to the Frick Collection and collected the guy in front of a Memling.