Friday, November 23, 2007

NYC Thanksgiving Part III: Macy's Parade 2007!!!

No words can do justice to seeing the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade live and in person, so check out my Flickr photos. The crowds were awesome and the balloons, celebrities and floats exquisite. I watched from the end of my street, right where the parade began. Then it was off to eat Indian food and hang out with my amazing friend Lisa, her smart & handsome husband and charming bro-in-law. Couldn't ask for better conversation, camaraderie and food for my first NYC Thanksgiving. Am I feeling an abundance of gratitude? You betcha!

NYC Thanksgiving Part II: Macy's Balloon Inflation

Not but a block from my apartment, the balloons for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade are blown up to their full glory. The crowds are unbelievable, with visitors from all over the world stopping by the night before Thanksgiving to gaze upon the gigantic, wondrous cartoon characters and holiday symbols. It is a remarkable event that I wish everyone could see, so check out my Flickr photos on the festivities. My evening was topped off to perfection with a dinner at Isabella's with 19 of my extraordinary neighbors, as hosted by Joe B., the charming and generous 'mayor of the block' and president of Landmark 76. What a fantastic and magical night it was!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

New York City Thanksgiving - Part I

Thanksgiving in New York City is celebratory beyond compare. So to start the holiday off right, today I had the honor of helping my friend Susie and other incredible volunteers assemble completely stocked turkey dinners for families in need. Held at NYC's Chelsea Piers and starting at a challenging 4 o'clock in the morning (yes, they served a boatload of coffee!), the effort was on behalf of of the non-profit FeedingNYC. The charity was founded in 2001 by LivePerson CEO Robert LoCascio, who has seen the meal count rise from 40 dinners to the whopping 1,500 assembled today. Volunteering was a blast, but you can also donate moo-lah if you don't live here - yet! Oh, and shout out to fellow volunteer and blogger of NYC Stories!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Private Screening of Close Up: Photographers at Work

Photography is a most intimate visual form of storytelling, and at its best its narrator remains humbly anonymous while simultaneously captivating the viewer. So it was a rare honor to glimpse the genius behind the image at the private screening Thursday of Close Up: Photographers at Work. This extraordinary new documentary by director Rebecca Dreyfus is stunning in its balance, illuminating both art and craft equally through a series of probing, revelatory interviews with those that have lived their lives behind the lens.

Produced for Ovation TV by Maysles Films, the hour-long special will debut at 8pm on Nov. 18, kicking off a week of photo-focused programming on the acclaimed multi-platform arts and culture channel. Artistic greats Gregory Crewdson, Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, Albert Maysles, Andrew Moore and Sylvia Plachy reveal how the sometimes arduous process of picture taking can translate our ideals into a form of fervid visual communication both immediate and sublime.

Bonus: Attended by many of the interviewees, including portrait genius Greenfield-Sanders and the soulful talent Plachy, the screening was a celebration of art meets artful TV. Legendary documentarian Maysles and his daughters Rebekah and Sarah, famed gallery owner Steven Kasher, artist/musician and frequent Greenfield-Sanders subject Lou Reed and Ovation TV programming head Kris Slava also contributed to the night's considerable cultural wow-factor. Check out Ovation's photo-focused programming beginning Sunday, including specials on Cindy Sherman and David LaChappelle, as well as series The Genius of Photography. Also note Ovation TV's of-the-moment contest collaboration with Fotolog, the world's largest photoblogging community.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Hamlet Gets The Shock Treatment

In The Wooster Group's trippy, tripped up production of Hamlet, currently playing at The Public, Shakespeare's greatest play is deconstructed into bits of visceral video lunacy. The result is compelling, confusing and as haunting as a freshly murdered monarch. Ultimately delivering a boldly visual, headbanging feast of experimental theater, the sheer bravery of this production is an informed achievement that occasionally veers into brilliance. While it may not completely satisfy, this disconcerting and challenging work acts as a thorn in the side of the NYC theater-goers psyche.

Juxtaposed against a backdrop of Richard Burton's 1964 filmed portrayal of the tragic prince, with characters digitally erased and technical glitches enhanced, the agile cast mirrors the screen in an odd start-and-stop choreography that is at once beautiful and as grating as nails on a chalkboard. But then, that is the point. Through the lens of legendary director Elizabeth LeCompte, in this world that Hamlet inhabits - where the revenge-obsessed dead claw the earth and mothers bed their bloodstained brothers-in-law - it is perfectly normal to have the tape of reality rewound, sliced and sped up to warp speed. Unfortunately, it also means that the humanness of Hamlet's pain, like his terror at mistakenly killing his beloved Ophelia's father and her resulting madness, is at times muddied and hidden beneath layers of directorial constraint.

Yet in the hands of this cast, particularly the beyond-brilliant Scott Shepherd as the prince and the double duty Gertrude/Ophelia turn by Kate Valk, the majority of Shakespeare's poetry is delivered with a grace that paradoxically grabs the throat. Ultimately, in the hands of the Wooster masters, this ghost in the machine production illuminates Shakespeare's musings on this mortal coil with a daring that shouldn't be missed. Extended through Dec. 2 at the Public Theater at 425 Lafayette St., just below Astor Place.

Monday, November 5, 2007

'Turn of the Screw' an Unsettling, Creepy Terror

For a night of theater that will so seriously weird you out that you have to sleep with the lights on, the horror tale The Turn of the Screw, adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher from the Henry James classic, is just what the doctor-of-dread ordered. Presented by Wake Up, Marconi! Theater Company and running until Nov. 17 at the Bank Street Theatre, this is one tale of repression and supernatural ambiguity that will give you psychological creepy crawlies for days.

You know the drill - a naive, impressionable governess starts experiencing hauntings while caring for her two weirdo charges, the pre-pubescent troublemaker Miles and the silent, sullen Flora. Played with both repression and an urge for the improper by the fresh faced Melissa Pinsly, you are never quite sure if this caretaker has a screw loose or if she is as genuinely and purely loving as she professes.

Providing the play's most ominous moments is Steve Cook, who portrays many of the characters with a enigmatic undercurrent of madness. Is Miles manipulated by demons or just a spinning, ADHD suffering hysteric? Is the housekeeper a clueless, caring dimwit or is she suppressing something sinister? The sparse direction by Don K. Williams makes full use of stylized, shadowed presentation, but with wise restraint leaves much of the terrifying plot twists to be imagined by the audience. As we know from many a horror flick, especially the heavily James-influenced The Others and my childhood favorite The Innocents, the scary scenarios in our pretty little heads are far more horrific than anything presented in plain view. But if twisted classic lit is your thing, make sure you catch a glimpse of the sinister goings on in this 'Turn.'

Sunday, November 4, 2007

New York City Marathon: Paula Radcliffe Wins!

The excitement generated by the ING New York City Marathon, the premier event of the New York Road Runners, is beyond compare. Since I wasn't running the race today I got up early for a 50-minute run in Central Park, and ran across the finish line near Tavern on the Green pretending I was at mile 26.2.

My Australian friend Katherine (another new New Yorker) and I walked some of the course and cheered from prime spots at Central Park South near the zoo (where we caught the elite runners - especially the amazing Paula Radcliffe, this year's winner and the women's world record holder!), near the Queensboro bridge, then up into Harlem to mile 22 where the runners, mega-tired at this point, were cheered by the crowds along with talented musicians. The whole experience was indescribably moving to this New York runner. NYC is considered one of the best running towns in the world, and this exceptionally well organized marathon proves why.

Congratulations to all runners on an amazing accomplishment, and here's to my running the race next year!

Friday, November 2, 2007

Societal Decay Disarms in The Chaos Theories

In physics, chaos theory explains the underlying order and elegance in apparently random data, illuminating that the slightest act can ripple out wildly to global impact. In the recent production of Alexander Dinelaris' charged tragi-comedy The Chaos Theories, this idea is not only relevant in weather patterns and cosmic black holes, but also in the way the human spirit grapples with the desire for deep rooted connection in an age of post-9/11 fear.

In the hands of playwright-in-hyperdrive Dinelaris, who directed with Stewart M. Schulman, this play treats and teases with layer upon lush layer of vivid and relentless dialogue, masterfully handled by a team of eight actors playing 21 diverse characters. Each archetypal New Yorker is caught in their own personal chaos: A driven, trash-talking stockbroker pummels her client to humorous effect. An dotty, heartfelt homeless woman lives in remember-when land. A father berates his daughters beau, a senator's wife verbally castrates a smarmy lobbyist, a charming waiter serves acidic sarcasm on a platter. But if everyone would just put their cellphones and career drives aside for a split second, they'd discover they are all connected in the most human of ways - through loneliness, love, fear and loss.

To sometimes hysterical, often shocking effect, Dinelaris shows that underneath today's techno chatter there is a humanity striving to be released. In a world where the random is revered, the message of The Chaos Theories comes through crystal clear. Playing until Nov. 17 at the McGinn/Cazale Theater, 2162 Broadway (near W. 76th St.)

Bonus: There was an inspiring audience talkback with playwright Alexander Dinelaris after the performance, where he enthusiastically and refreshingly supported fellow writers and artists. Dinelaris' play Still Life is slated for Broadway in early 2008, and he is working on writing the screenplay for Alejandro González Iñárritu's (Babel, 21 Grams) next film.

Double Bonus: The courage of Dinelaris to have a play with a large cast, and the talented actors who fulfilled his vision. Check out Richard Bekins, Max Darwin, Alison Fraser, Todd Gearhart, Ted Koch, Amanda Mantovani, Darcie Siciliano and Maryann Towne in anything they do!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Halloween NYC Style

There is no place better than New York City-the theatrical capital of the universe-to truly rock out Halloween. Just walking down the street, you see tons of ghoulish characters decked out in costumes better than those seen on B'way. Check out some of the best hauntings and gore-geous goings on, and mark your calendar for next year: