It’s been a busy, hot (like sweltering jungle hot) week in New York. Most of my week involved scurrying from one air-conditioned space to another. Here’s a quick rundown of the cultural stuff I managed to do and see:
Next to Normal – A by-the-book rock musical about a bi-polar woman and her family. I know that premise sounds awful, but it’s not. Good songs, but otherwise pretty unoriginal. The lead, Alice Ripley, has a quite unusual voice for a Broadway star, which you can hear in this performance from last year’s Tony Awards.
Wicked – It’s the biggest musical of the last ten years, and it deserves to be. It’s what you’d get if Pixar produced a Broadway show. The songs are extraordinary, the script is clever and funny, and the performances were top-notch. I attended a matinee, and so 80% of the audience seemed to be extremely-delighted twelve-year-old girls.
Race – I couldn’t pass up seeing David Mamet’s new play. It starred a very buttoned-down Eddie Izzard and Dennis Haysbert (you may know him from 24 and all those All State ads). I’m always amazed at how Mamet, particularly in his later plays, can explore such rich, controversial ideas using so very little. This play is basically a real-time conversation among two lawyers and a interning student. Yet, it’s engrossing from the first moment to the last.
Restrepo – A remarkable documentary telling the story of a deployment of a platoon of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan’s very dangerous Korengal Valley. It’s as gripping as any war documentary I’ve ever seen, and the filmmakers ought to be commended for the risks they took in shooting alongside the shooting, as it were. It sure won’t make you feel any better about Canada’s forces in Afghanistan.
Winter’s Bone – A gripping, dark film set in a grim, poverty-stricken corner of the Ozark Mountains, about a poor, young woman’s search for her father. It’s has a great, vaguely-Shakespearean plot and an outstanding performance by the young Jennifer Lawrence. It’s received exceptional reviews–it’s currently running a 90% on Metacritic and a 94% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Galleries and Museums
New Museum of Contemporary Art – Housed in quite a remarkable building, it offered a mixed bag. I really dug Rivane Neuenschwander’s work, in particular this wonderful, sonorous installation of leaking buckets. I was far less interested in Brion Gysin’s work, which seems exceptionally tired looking back on it from the year 2010.
Morgan Library & Museum– I’ve been before, but it was substantially expanded in 2006, so I wanted to check it out. I was disappointed that Mr. Morgan’s study and library were closed–those are kind of the coolest bits.
American Museum of Natural History – It was very big, and very busy. I briefly checked out some dinosaur skeletons up on the fourth floor, and spent a few minutes in a dusty exhibit dedicated to ‘Northwest Coast Indians’. It was kind of a grab bag of artifacts from familiar names like the Nootka, Tinglit, Bella Coola and Haida nations.
New York Historical Society – The city’s oldest museum is hosting a small exhibit on the Grateful Dead. I’m not a huge fan, but I was fascinated by the array of artifacts on display. There was everything from early posters and fan letters to the creepy skeletons from the band’s one mainstream hit, “Tough of Grey”. I learned a lot. For example, I had no idea the band was so obsessed with the sonic quality of their shows.
On an unrelated note, the four gallery and museum websites I just mentioned would comprise an excellent assignment for a web design class. As in “evaluate these sites, identify their flaws (for they all have flaws) and improve on them”.