I made yet another trip to New York City yesterday to see a play on Broadway. I was a bit surprised to find the Susquehanna Buses in bright new colors with advertising for Bucknell University. It must be part of a new business relationship. On the bus ride to New York City I read the science fiction novel “More Than Human” by Theodore Sturgeon on my Kindle. I finally finished reading it on the ride home. On this trip the bus did leave us off in the vicinity of 51st Street and 8th Avenue like it was supposed to. It left us off directly across from One Worldwide Plaza on West 50th Street and 8th Avenue. I decided to walk north to West 54th Street to take some photos of Studio 54 since that was the theater where I would see the play Sweat, by Lynn Nottage. While I was in the area I also located a few establishments of minor interest. I took photos of Uncle Vanya Cafe, a Russian restaurant, and Old Castle Pub and Restaurant, also on West 54th Street. I was not particularly interested in these restaurants, but they make good landmarks along the street. Uncle Vanya Cafe was closed and shuttered so I had to go back later to take some decent photos of the place. I imagine this is where Donald Trump’s Russian contacts pass along information.
My first goal was to visit the Met Breuer. This is a contemporary art museum located in the same building that used to be the home of the Whitney Museum of American Art. The Met Breuer is associated with the Metropolitan Museum of Art and shows work from their contemporary art collections. I was aware of the fact that the Whitney Museum of American Art was no longer located there, but I did not realize the building had been re-purposed.
Met Breuer is located on the Upper East Side and getting there required a more efficient use of the subway system. First I walked to the 57 Street Station of the N line. These stations are located in the vicinity of Carnegie Hall. I took a N train up to the 59th Street Station Lexington Avenue station where I transferred to the 6 train. This shows a more sophisticated use of the subway system since my previous way of doing things would have required walking many blocks east to a 6 line station. I was a little bit thrown by the Astoria Ditmars reference which is the last stop in Queens. I took the 6 train to 77 Street Station near Lenox Hill Hospital. I’m still a little confused by the streets in the Upper East Side but fortunately I struck off in the right direction, walking past the Lenox Hill Hospital and crossed Park Avenue to reach Madison Avenue.
I paid $20.00 admission for the Met Breuer even though the suggested admission is $25.00. But I do not regret that because half the museum was closed. By rights, I should have only paid $10.00, $5.00 for each floor, because only two floors of exhibits were open. The Met Breuer has got to be one of the worst art museums I have ever wasted good money on. Only the American Folk Art Museum is possibly as bad. Most of the art work I saw was incredibly bad. The sort of thing you could produce yourself. I’m talking grids penciled onto a sheet of paper using a ruler and pictures of one or two squares and black lines. I’ve seen better artwork done by high school students. But to be precise, the two exhibits I saw were The Body Politic, art house videos from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Lygia Pape: A Multitude of Forms. The videos were all dreadfully boring loops except for Mika Rottenberg’s NoNoseKnows (2015) which was very surreal and compelling. Set in China, the film shows dominatrix Bunny Glamazon riding a scooter past endless beige apartment towers. She walks through an office building where large soap bubbles float mysteriously in the air until she arrives at her workstation where she appears to work smelling flower arrangements for fragrance quality control. After that, things get even weirder. This video runs for 22 minutes but I only watched part of it.
Lygia Pape was a Brazilian artist active in the Concrete and Neo-Concrete Movement during the 1950s and 1960s. Talk about an obscure artist! Still I would have been more curious about this example of international art if it had been any good. But the only interesting thing I saw was TtEias (1979), nine semi-transparent prisms, which were created using gold thread. I thought this was an enchanting work which seemed to capture the beauty of rays of light shining from the heavens, like when you see rays from the sun reach down to the earth from a cloudy sky. You might say I got something from my visit to Met Breuer, but I was so disappointed that I didn’t buy anything from the museum store, which didn’t have a very good selection of art books or merchandise anyway.
I retraced my previous steps on the subway system to get back downtown. I did have to put another $20 on my Metrocard. I took the N train all the way to 42nd Street – Times Square because I wanted to visit the Drama Book Shop before seeing the play. The Drama Book Shop was coming up a lot in my continuing research on New York City because it plays a big part in the life of playwrights in the city. I bought two books there; The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui by Bertolt Brecht and Dionysian Magazine 003. Dionysian Magazine is a literary magazine devoted to playwrights. It appears to have been founded by a somewhat successful actor as an ingenious bit of marketing. I don’t have all the details so it seems a little strange that an actor would want to promote playwriting in its literary form.
After doing that little bit of shopping I wanted to get back to the vicinity of West 54th Street so I would be on time for the play. I took the C train to the 50th Street Station. It seemed like I waited an unusually long time for a C train to show up at the 42nd Street – Times Square station. It may have been one of those frequent delays that everyone is complaining about. I had time to sign onto the free WiFi and download the Weekender MTA app. I made it uptown a little before 1:00 p.m. I know the time because I tried to get a bite to eat at Merilu Pizza Al Metro but I was a little early. They don’t open until 1:00 p.m. and I had to walk around the neighborhood for awhile. This is when I went back to Uncle Vanya Cafe to take a better photo. At Merilu Pizza Al Metro I ordered a slice of white pizza, actually two square slices, and a can of coke for $6.00. This is now my go to place for an inexpensive meal.
Soon it was time for the main attraction of my trip, the Broadway play Sweat by Lynn Nottage st Studio 54. This play was so significant that I will write a more detailed review in my next blog post. I want to give this play a detailed analysis and give my thoughts on what the play represents in the history of great theater. But I will describe the experience of seeing another Broadway production. The set design was rather impressive and featured some video projection and a revolving stage set which did not require many set changes for new scenes. A very realistic bar was the main set for most of the action. This reminded me of the play Daphne’s Dive by Quiara Alegría Hudes which also took place in a neighborhood bar. Both plays featured a multiracial cast and there was similar dancing and political content. I’m beginning to notice a peculiar Broadway acting style with feet braced far apart and rapid fire dialogue projected towards the audience. This makes the character seem unnaturally self-assertive. I grabbed my Playbill program from a pile at the head of the aisle since I didn’t see anyone handing them out. I always keep my theater programs and add them to my collection. Some of the audience members behind me got to talking to each other during the 15 minute intermission and I learned that one was from Reading PA, her home town, and the other was a young black woman from Boston who was an aspiring playwright. She made a special trip to see this play because she found it inspirational that a black woman could get a play done on Broadway. I have to admit that I had trouble keeping myself from dozing off. I had already read the play so I didn’t need to pay close attention. As I mentioned previously, I will review the play later because it deserves a considerable amount of commentary.
After the play was over I was planning on visiting the Society of Illustrators, a museum dedicated to cartoonists, comic book artists, and other illustrators. But unfortunately the play ran longer than I expected so I did not have time for that. The play ended at 4:15 p.m. and the Society of Illustrators closes at 5:00 p.m. so I really didn’t have time considering I would have to take the subway up to the Upper East Side again. I also had a reservation for a Greek restaurant at 5:30 p.m. So instead of visiting that museum I walked to Central Park and explored West 59th Street. I didn’t actually go into Central Park. I did see the restored Sherman Memorial which now appears bright gold. And I saw the Paris Can Wait movie theater which had a long line. I guess it is movie goers and not Paris which can wait there. Nearby I saw Joan Miro’s “Moonbird” sculpture (1966), located on the plaza of the Solow Building. While wandering around the neighborhood, waiting for Molyvos to open, I walked past Trump Tower. I could see some heavily armed police officers inside but 5th Avenue did not appear to be blocked off.
For dinner, I went to a Greek restaurant, Molyvos, located on the ground floor of Hotel Wellington. This restaurant is very close to Carnegie Hall. I ordered the Moussaka and a glass of wine. Moussaka is a dish of eggplant and spice ground lamb with a top layer made of milk-based sauce thickened with egg. I was expecting a large dish based on some photos I found online but in fact the serving pan was only the size of a soup bowl. So for $29.00 this was a very expensive dish. But I must admit that Molyvos’ Moussaka was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten in New York City. It was exotic and flavorful, just the sort of dish you hope to find at an ethnic restaurant. I’m thinking it may be worthwhile to find a less fancy Greek restaurant and try its Moussaka.
After dinner I took the N train back downtown to the 42nd Street – Times Square station. My only goal was to photograph 311 West 43rd Street. This particular address is significant because it is the building that houses the Lark Play Development Center, the Mint Theater Company, and Theatre East’s offices. It is not much to look at so nobody has ever bothered to take a photo of the entrance, but this is the place you have to find for a lot of theater doings so I made a special point of finding it. I have seen a play at the Mint Theater Company. For the rest of the evening I just wandered around the theater district taking photos. I did try to concentrate more on the east side of Times Square because I rarely go in that direction. I did have a drink at O’Lunney’s Times Square Pub. My recent exploration of Irish theater has made me slightly interested in Irish culture. I drank a glass of Magners Irish Cider which cost $7.00. I thought this was some kind of beer but I guess it really is just apple cider with some alcoholic content. I really liked it because it is not bitter like beer. I drank it so fast that I was out the door in under two minutes.
I will be going on another trip to New York City next month. I will probably see another play, but I don’t know what that will be yet. I was also make the Society of Illustrators the first item on my itinerary.