Monthly Archives: September 2012

Jake Gyllenhaal and David Schwimmer’s 2012 Off Broadway ventures

by Louise, Director of Operations

During the little Broadway lull before all the new shows start opening, I took the opportunity to go check out a few of the season’s Off Broadway offerings. This year we’re seeing a lot of celebrities come to Broadway, especially for roles in plays – Al Pacino, Bobby Cannavale, Paul Rudd, Ed Asner, Katie Holmes, Laurie Metcalf, Henry Weinkler, Alicia Silverstone, and many others will all be camped out on the Great White Way this autumn. But there’s no shortage of celebrities in the Off Broadway world either and they are the primary draw – though I’ll easily admit that they are not the ultimate takeaway – of the two Off Broadway plays I attended recently: Detroit and If There Is I Haven’t Found it Yet.

Detroit

Detroit stars two familiar faces if you’re a long time devotee of Thursday nights on NBC. David Schwimmer will always be best known as Ross on Friends, and Amy Ryan is most familiar to me because of her portrayal of Holly on The Office. However, in Detroit their roles could not be more different – they are a middle-aged couple – Mary and Ben – who just moved to a new house in a non-descript suburban neighborhood, struggling with the reality of the economic downturn and its effect on them. The play opens as they welcome their new neighbors, Sharon and Kenny (Sarah Sokolovic and Darren Pettie, who are both wonderful), to a friendly backyard barbeque. It comes to light fairly quickly that Sharon and Kenny come from a different walk of life, as they reveal to Mary and Ben that they met in rehab and are living in Sharon’s uncle’s house while they try to rebuild their lives.

It could be a simple story – two couples from very different backgrounds find themselves in the same place and form an awkward bond. But Detroit is not a simple play. It deals, without any pretense, with the realities of addiction, desolation, frustration with your lot in life, and the lengths people go to to try to derive pleasure from their circumstance. All four main actors are superb, and Broadway veteran John Cullum rounds out the cast with an exquisitely-delivered monologue in the final scene, as you sit still reeling and puzzling over what you’ve just seen happen.

I don’t want to give too much away about the story. I went in knowing almost nothing and believe that really contributed to my enjoyment of the production. You may not see yourself in Detroitbut you will recognize the desperation and bewilderment the characters feel as they navigate their way through the changes that have been thrust upon them. It will make you laugh but also make you pensive, and being Off Broadway it is of course a much more affordable night out than many Broadway shows. If you’re in town, I definitely recommend seeing it before it comes to the end of its limited run.

Detroit plays at Playwrights Horizons until October 7th.

If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet

When everyone first started talking about the wonderful Jake Gyllenhaal’s American theater debut, the title of this play caused a couple of “Who’s on First” style moments. But while the play has its comic moments, those moments of confusion before I saw it were the only times it really made me laugh.

Like Detroit, If There Is… tackles serious issues pretty unflinchingly. Again, the play centers on four characters, this time a family – a daughter whose struggle with weight has alienated her from her peers at school, a father whose obsession with global warming has alientated him from his daughter and wife, a mother unsure of how to deal with the alienation of her father and her daughter, and a long-absent uncle who comes for an unexpected visit.

Upon Uncle Terry’s (Gyllenhaal’s) arrival, Anna has just been suspended from school for head-butting another student, and with her parents both being largely unavailable, she and Terry are left with a lot of time to spend together. Anna is not used to having so much attention from an adult, let alone a man, and Terry is not used to being an adult, and their interactions are therefore both painful to watch and fascinating. Anna’s parents George and Fiona rarely leave the stage even when they aren’t part of the scene. In fact, all four characters stay on stage for almost the entire show, making their isolation from each other all the more frustrating.

Anyone who has seen If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet will tell you that one of the most remarkable parts of the production is the staging. At the play’s start, the props and furniture are in an unruly pile at the center of the stage, and a glass moat separates the stage from the audience with sheets of rain from the ceiling slowly filling it up. The actors pull the props from the pile as they need them, and as the scenes end they are discarded through a casual toss, an angry shove, or maybe a hybrid of the two, into the moat, raising the water level each time. Then, during a dramatic and heart-wrenching scene towards the end, the water level increases to the point where the whole stage is covered in several inches of water, not to mention discarded props and scenery. The actors spend the last 20 minutes or so sloshing around. It’s incredibly effective – while you already feel emotional discomfort at their circumstance, the water and messiness of the props create something akin to physical discomfort as well (my companion and I used to work in a chocolate shop together and we were both dying to go clean up the stage).

Gyllenhaal fans will be glad to know that his performance is outstanding – he has a spot on British accent and a shiftiness that really works for the character. His three costars Brian O’Byrne, Michelle Gomez and Annie Funk all deliver effective performances as well. It’s a compelling script, but the performances and the staging are what really make it an unforgettable production.

If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet plays at the Laura Pels theater until November 25th.

For help with tickets to either show, or if you have any questions, feel free to e-mail me at lgeller@newyorkguest.com!

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The Top 10 Parks & Recreation Photo

The lazy days of summer are winding down, giving way to crisp fall breezes. But we can still relive our sweet summer memories through the top 10 sunshine-laden photos of this month’s photography contest! Scroll down to check them out and then vote for your favorite – the winner will be announced on September 24th, 2012!

#1 by Carol Garner

#2 by Charlotte Porter

#3 by Ilse Neugebauer

#4 by Laura Ghisalberti

#5 by Ilse Neugebauer

#6 by Ilse Neugebauer

#7 by Linda Brown

#8 by Luca Martignoni

#9 by Tahay Jean-Marie

#10 by Linda Brown

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Eleven Years Later

by Eileen, New York Guest Travel Planner

I love autumn.  I love when the weather begins to turn slowly but surely cooler and it’s time to take out scarves and gloves.  The night takes on a wonderful crisp tone and the sun begins to set earlier.  When I was younger I couldn’t wait to go back to school, and September always marked a new beginning for me.  I was in seventh grade when our school nurse interrupted our Spanish class to tell us two planes had crashed into the World Trade Center.  September took on a new meaning for me in 2001.

When it happened, the tragedy of it all seemed so far away from me in Flushing, Queens.  We lived in a quiet neighborhood that was 30 minutes outside of Manhattan.  I couldn’t believe what I was watching on tv and for two days it didn’t seem real.  The attacks happened on a Tuesday and school was cancelled for two days.  When we returned on Friday it seemed all too real; the wind path had changed and now there was a strong scent of debris and rust in the air.

I watched as the World Trade Center became Ground Zero, laying dormant for years.  For many years, I didn’t venture past 14th Street in Manhattan.  There was never really anything for me in Lower Manhattan.  After graduating high school, I decided on going to Pace University.  The Manhattan Campus of Pace is located right near the Brooklyn Bridge, across from City Hall, and just a few streets over from Ground Zero.  One Pace Plaza had served as a medical center for first responders and those injured on that day.  The University had strong ties with the NYPD and FDNY, and was a major proponent of revitalizing Lower Manhattan.  One winter day in the middle of a long break between classes, I bundled up and ventured outside.  For the first time I went over to the World Trade Center.  I’m not quite sure what compelled me to head in that direction, but I continued on.  It some ways I guess I needed to see that it was real; to see that such a tragedy occurred and that we, as a country, were still here.

As a New Yorker, I don’t really venture outside of the Northeast that often.  All of my family is sprinkled throughout New York, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire.  When I decided to head to Australia for a semester abroad, I realized I would be the furthest away from home ever.  All the students studying abroad had a departure orientation just a few weeks before we all went our different ways.  The study abroad chair person warned us that our country’s politics were an all too common subject being discussed no matter where we went in the world.  The topic of September 11th didn’t come up until about two months into my semester abroad in a discussion about Indonesian terrorist attacks.  I don’t even remember how it came up, but I remember the tutorial of about 20 students turn to look at me, the lone New Yorker.  For the first time, I shared what I had felt and gone through in great detail with a bunch of strangers.  I realized that they had felt the same terror and process of grieving that I had, nearly 10,000 miles away.  It was the first time that it struck me that this tragedy had spread beyond our domestic and geographic borders.  We were all still in the process of healing.

Last year marked the ten year anniversary of the terrorist attacks, a milestone for so many.  I was actually in Australia visiting the friends I had made a year and half prior.  At nearly 11 AM on September 12th, I watched the New York Jets host the Dallas Cowboys.  The pre-game ceremony and game were broadcast live on Aussie telly.

This year the anniversary actually snuck up on me.  With the week before shorted due to Labor Day and the week before that shortened due to my last summer vacation, I lost track of the dates.  I woke up and watched some of the reserved and respective news coverage and headed to my bus stop.  The air was cooler and I could see some of the leaves beginning to fall; September felt like a new beginning again.

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