Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Boy in the Bathroom: Not Your Average Musical

Set entirely in the unexpected musical environment of a suburban bano, The Boy in the Bathroom is the antidote to Disney-obsessed Broadway. With a talented three-person cast and book and lyrics by Michael Lluberes both profound and disturbing, this is innovative, risk-taking musical theater unlike most you will see in New York City.

The severely obsessive-compulsive David (played with quirky appeal by the endearing Michael Zahler) works on his thesis while living in the bathroom of his mother's home. Totally paralyzed with fear of the outside world, he happily reads philosophy and eats the food slid under the door (flattened to one half of an inch) by his enabling mother Pam. But his tightly controlled world is rocked when mama breaks her hip, and the pretty young thing Julie (delightfully presented by fresh talent Ana Nogueira) enters the house as her caretaker.

Of course love ensues, and the twist of two polar-opposite 20-somethings desperately wanting to escape their surroundings yet imprisoned by psychosis and financial fear makes for great emotional tension. But it is the story of the severely overweight Pam (a masterful performance by Mary Stout) that pulls you in. Her powerhouse solo I'm Full but I Want More presents a gripping, heart wrenching, can't-take-your-eyes-off-her wail about addiction (in this case, to food) that makes you sympathize with this monster Ma. This peak inside an emotionally ravaged woman explains why she is torn between wanting to hold on to her little boy by all means necessary, and knowing that to love is to let go.

The musical score itself is rather repetitive and could offer more variation, but perhaps composer Joe Maloney is trying to echo the OCD of the protagonist. Still, The Boy in the Bathroom keeps hope alive that musical theater just might advance rather than be doomed to the bland, play-it-safe film adaptations now dominating the Great White Way. The play is part of the New York Musical Theater Festival, which showcases more than 30 musicals during a 3 week period in mid-town Manhattan. Runs until September 29 at the 45th Street Theater.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Trying to Get to the Moon

In Jordan Schachter's new play Trying to Get to the Moon, an undiscovered, philosophically driven artist goes missing for a full year, prompting his heartbroken inner circle to host a fundraiser showcasing his poetry, plays and film. Certainly not by consensus and each with personal agendas, those involved with the MIA genius meet in an off off Broadway theater to ponder the reasons behind his disappearance (suicide? Ashram? an Into the Wild-like wrong way turn?) This leads to a battle of wills over the morality of presenting a shy, tortured talent's personal musings to an audience made up primarily of strangers.

At its best, Trying to Get to the Moon is an examination of creativity's importance and whether it is the art-or a person's soul-that more deeply affects those left behind. Existential questions raised in the absent artist's work are echoed by his friends, who take turns contemplating the nature of love and man's search for meaning as opposed to his quest for happiness, with the validity of artistic expression at the top of the heap. Luckily, the talented ensemble cast, well directed to mingle with the audience as well as command the stage, engagingly portray a tight knit clan whose bickering stems from a sense of deep loss and regret.

The only cast member not fully realized, of course, is the enigmatic missing artist himself, despite being intensely analyzed, glorified and mourned. When his verse play is presented by this cast of friends and lovers, illumination of the real inner workings of a tortured artist's mind is the goal. Instead, it steers us a tad too far afield from the entertaining and meaningful issues raised earlier. Despite this detour, Trying to Get to the Moon provides a night of innovative theater that examines weighty issues with both humor and insight. Playing through September 29 at the Interborough Repertory Theater.

Bonus: A free screening of Schachter's film The Legacy of Walter Frumm was shown prior to the play, a real treat. A dying man seeks revenge on all who have wronged him, but his elaborate pranks fail to maim and instead bring about joyous, enlightening revelations for his intended victims.

Friday, September 21, 2007

What People are Saying About Newbie NYC

Just a sampling of what readers, artists and media are saying about Newbie NYC!

“To help matters, [her] show has caught some positive buzz in the blogosphere after Levine invited a writer for Newbie NYC to the show. ‘The fact that she saw my show and loved it is like a dream come true,’ said Levine.” -AM New York

I wish I'd discovered this blog in advance. It actually gives a really comprehensive run down of the Fringe Festival, and actually, everything high culture. – Three New York Women

We loved your review! And what a genius idea for a blog. Newbie NYC should be required reading material for any new student, visitor, etc. to the Big Apple. - DARR Publicity

Mary--what a spectacular and delicious review! …it's a thing of beauty! – Jessica Hedrick, Jeanne d'Ork Productions

Mary, I'm/we're speechless. That is the most gorgeous review anyone could have written for this show! - Evie Task, Producer

Thanks Mary, that's awesome! And thanks for thinking of us! – Upright Citizens Brigade

Thank You - Gwendolyn Skaggs, founder of Alcove Gallery

I like your blog too. I always look for blogs about New York, because even though I was born and raised here, there is so much to do and discover. - Noah Forman, NYC Taxi Photo

Newbie NYC is Quoted on:
AM New York
92nd Street Y Web site
Princess Moxie
Rabbit Hole Ensemble
Official Website of Spalding Gray
Official Website of Danny Ashkenasi

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Renting a New York City Apartment: Finding that Elusive NYC Living Space

It is uber-challenging finding an apartment in New York City. Especially if you don't have a six figure job or a millionaire mama or a last name like Hilton (oh, wait...) Seriously, though, the rents are astronomical and the dearth of available (and decent) apartments is very discouraging. Note my former post on financial requirements for renting an NYC apartment. Whew!

In the months leading up to my move, I was on the computer until 2:00 am in the morning scouring the New York City Craig's List for apartment listings in my price range. With rents twice what I was paying in DC, I was coming up pretty empty handed. But finding that great apartment is possible, if you have the determination, resources and of course, the funds. About 30-45 days before your intended move, and after you determine how much you want to spend, how much space you really need, and where you want to live, use these techniques to find your new NYC home:

Online Rental Listings: When asked about NYC apartments and how to find one, everyone recommends Craigs List. This online site is a beloved resource for apartment seekers in the city, and provides the newbie with great introductory information on neighborhoods, prices and availability. However, there are some bait-and-switch posts (oh, that apartment went quick but I have another you might be interested in for just five hundred $ more!) and if you don't live in the city, there is no way you'll be able to jump on posted apartments quickly enough. Still, this is invaluable, free, primarily legit info and a great first resource. The listings are conveniently divided into fee, no-fee, and by owner rentals.

Many other online sites offer excellent apartment listings and information, and you can find them in the Find a Rental Apartment in NYC list to the left of this blog. Looking online is a ton of fun, and many listings have photos so you can get a sense of what a real NYC apartment looks like (and just how little space $2000 a month will get you!)

New York City Brokers: Uniquely New York City, many people turn to a broker to find an apartment. That is, they pay a fee of up to 15% of the annual rent (translation: thousands of bucks) to have a third party find their housing. Sounds crazy, but in my case it was totally worth it. Here's why: 1) I had no knowledge of NYC and what neighborhoods were good, bad, scary, 2) I wasn't living in the city, and couldn't run to an open house at a moment's notice, and 3) I'd burnt out on Craigs List. The Manhattan rental market is difficult to navigate, so if you can afford the help, take it. Personally, my experience with Manhattan Apartments was invaluable and I enjoyed working their their talented, professional brokers. They helped me navigate the challenging financial demands of landlords and got into neighborhoods I thought were out of reach. I didn't negotiate on the fee because I was so overjoyed with my new apartment, but depending on the market you may be able to get brokers to come down a few percentage points and save yourself hundreds of dollars.

No-Fee Apartments: If you just can't stomach paying so much upfront for an apartment then you can try the no fee route. Prepare for a lot of work and be on guard against disreputable services that will bait-and-switch ya. Here is a pretty good guide to no-fee services. Be sure to investigate company's Better Business Bureau profile before handing over any moo-lah.

Stalking an NYC Apartment Building: You may have determined exactly where you want to live by falling for a specific rental building. How to get in? Keep checking with the rental office, if they have one. If not, keep talking to the doorman. The doormen in NYC are extremely professional and helpful, and know all the goings on in their buildings. So stop by every few days (without being annoying) and in a professional, courteous manner ask if they know of upcoming vacancies. If they help you out, be sure to tip them generously. And doormen talk to each other, so they also might know of openings in nearby buildings.

Word of Mouth: Many of my newly transplanted friends have found apartments by talking about moving to NYC and having contacts hook them up with sublets or roommates. New York City is a very transient place, as people are constantly moving to LA or overseas. Often, they don't want to give up their rent-stabilized NYC apartments and will search for a recommended tenant. If they own their place, they definitely want to rent to a reliable apartment dweller.Talk to everyone you know about moving to NYC. Everyone. Friends of friends, alumni contacts, old lovers (well, maybe don't go that far.) Let everyone know that you are looking for a place to live. At the very least, you'll get tips on where to look, or they might recommend a reputable broker.

Beware Beware Beware: Unfortunately, there are lots of disreputable NYC real estate listings. In a market this hot, the bad guys can get away with a lot. So as they say, if it is too good to be true, it probably is. Beware of listings that seem unbelievable and never ever ever give anyone money without signing a legitimate contract. The best way not to be scammed is to have all the info you can about renting and your rights. Great sources include the NYC Rent Guidelines Board and

Keep Hope Alive: Finally, don't give up hope. The search for an NYC apartment will be one of the most grueling, challenging things you will ever do. But nearly 9 million people live in NYC, and there is always room for one more. If I can find an apartment that I adore, so can you. Be flexible, open minded, willing and determined and the right apartment will open up for you. And what is a little grunt work and frustration when it means getting to live in the greatest city in the world?

Saturday, September 15, 2007

New York City Art Galleries in Chelsea

New York City has some of the best museums in the world. But if you really want to experience some cutting edge, as well as historically significant, art, check out the hundreds of galleries in the Chelsea section of the city.

Currently, there is a Lisette Model exhibit that left me speechless at the famed photography powerhouse Aperture Gallery at 547 W. 27th. Model influenced a wide array of contemporary artists, including my adolescent favorite Diane Arbus and fashion phenom Bruce Weber, whose influential works are displayed as well. But it is really all about Lisette, and while I would have enjoyed seeing even more of her iconic black and white images of New York City, I felt honored to view worldclass prints housed by the group responsible for disseminating innovative photography to the masses.

Bonus: The Chelsea art scene gives you everything from the quirky to the sublime. In a tiny hallway on the 6th floor of 547 W. 27th, there is the Alcove (possibly the smallest gallery in NYC). The stirring sculpture The Eternity of White by Doug Young is there until 10/27/07. Very An Inconvenient Truth meets Bible belt, this work is worth checking out. On the kooky side, Galerie Adler on the second floor offers crazed acidic comic book characters missing essential body parts. Where else but in New York City can you go from artistic spiritual crisis to sideshow freakhouse in the blink of an elevator ride?

Friday, September 14, 2007

Riding the Staten Island Ferry

One of those absolutely must-do, unbelievably FREE New York things is to ride the Staten Island Ferry across the Upper New York Bay. You get a breathtaking view of the beloved Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, and on the return trip the skyline of lower Manhattan offers awe inspiring scenery. The ferry is a workhorse, providing thousands of New Yorkers reliable transportation to and from the city every day. And it adds up - 20 million riders annually take this 5 mile journey between St. George on Staten Island and Whitehall street in lower NYC.

My trip was perfectly timed. Hopping on an early evening summer ferry to Staten Island, the sun was still out and I could take in the entire view. The sun had set just upon my return, so the Statue of Liberty was magnificently illuminated, as was the skyline. It is a thrill to finally be on one of the most famous water voyages ever.

Bonus: Getting to see tons of native New Yorkers as well as tourists enjoying the view. Typical concession type snacks are sold if you absolutely must have a hot dog, but the South Street Seaport is a short-ish walk from Whitehall, where you have your pick of good seafood joints. The ferry runs everyday, 24 hours a day.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Tasti D-Lite: Resistance is Futile

Summer has come to an end, and with it I am hoping for release from the merciless frozen addiction that is Tasti D-Lite. For those non-New Yorkers, Tasti D is a beloved low-calorie, low-fat (and often sub-low taste) frozen soft serve concoction that is kosher with no artificial sweeteners. Billed as a guilt free way to indulge the primal urge for icy dairy treats, Tasti D offerings are perhaps not as healthy as they appear, but sure do hit the spot on a sweaty New York day. But at three bucks plus tip for a small cup (more if you demand chocolate sprinkles like I do) I just can't justify the blissful (but financially sinful) pleasure of it. Stores are almost as plentiful as Starbucks, making the frozen stuff hard to resist. Some say the occasional indulgence is like slathering margarine on your arteries, but I still say it is a superior snack to, say, a pint of Ben & Jerry's. Judge for yourself.

Warning: The relatively new-to-New York frozen yogurt store Pinkberry (aka crackberry), an LA import and favorite of celebs, is moving in around the corner from me on Columbus Ave. Am I doomed to bounce from frozen treat to frozen treat, or what?