The Unbearable Banishment: Back to the Garden of Eden

Friday, August 13, 2010

Back to the Garden of Eden

I see faces and traces of home back in New York City.

Back in N.Y.C.
Peter Gabriel

I might do a another post or two about my trip to Cleveland but for now let it be known that I’m back in New York. My siblings and nieces are in Cleveland, my wife and kids in New Jersey, but New York is my home and it feels good walk though Times Square again.

* * *

This giant (26 ft./8m.) bronze sculpture is Unconditional Surrender by Seward Johnson. It’s up through August 16th. How fun is that!




It’s a replica of the famous photograph taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt of a sailor and nurse kissing to celebrate the end of World War II. It was taken on August 14th, 194565 years ago tomorrow.


This angle makes it look as though Jay-Z is eavesdropping on a private moment.


* * *
It's not often I'll see a play twice. There are too many out there and my funds are too limited to double-up on something I've already seen, but I made an exception last night for David Mamet's Race. It's due to close next week and I really wanted to see it with its new cast. As much as I enjoyed the first viewing, this second night was even better. The original cast did a great job, but I think the new cast is an improvement.

Ad with original cast

James Spader was replaced by Eddie Izzard. I'm a huge fan of Izzard and I'll see anything that guy does. As good as Spader was, Izzard was even better. His delivery had more punch and he seemed more at ease in his role of an attorney caught up in his own prejudices. And he seemed much more comfortable prowling the stage.

David Alan Grier was replaced by Dennis Haysbert (of 24). Again, Haysbert had better command of the role. Kerry Washington was replaced by Afton Williamson, who I saw last year in August Wilson's Joe Turner's Come and Gone. Her's was an angrier, grittier performance. Richard Thomas is a holdover from the original cast. After so many months, he has a sharper focus on his character, a clueless, wealthy, white man who stands accused of raping a black girl. Is he guilty? Can the truth be found with her red sequined dress? You have to draw your own conclusions.

I checked my notes and although I've seen several plays since April, this is the first full-blown Broadway production I've attended since then. It was nice to be in a big house again. Have I mentioned that it's good to be back?

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16 Comments:

Blogger kyknoord said...

Jay-Z is wondering if they both brushed their teeth.

August 13, 2010 at 7:13 AM  
Anonymous Sid said...

Great. This is my new goal. To have a sailor kiss me in Times Square - while a stranger takes our pic. What? Everyone needs goals.

August 13, 2010 at 7:28 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

kykn: Jay-Z is wishing it was a hologram and that they'd do a bit more than just kiss. Oh...wait...that'd be me.

Sid: And the pic becomes a cultural landmark? You've got to have that, too.

August 13, 2010 at 1:08 PM  
Blogger Poindexter said...

or maybe JayZ is looking for another honeypie in a white dress to come along.

so glad I can enjoy the theater in this second hand way. thanks :)

August 13, 2010 at 3:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, did we really see the same two casts of RACE! It is interesting to see how each individual sees things differently.

I could not believe how much more I liked the original cast...they were amazing except for Kerry Washington, Afton C. Williamson is better. The show I saw last week lacked the energy and intensity of the original cast. Eddie Izzard was so one dimensional in comparison to James Spader. He lacked the sexual undercurrents that Spader gave off whenever he was talking to Susan alone. In fact I did not pick up on any interest in Susan as a woman by Izzard and neither did the person with whom I saw the play and yet this interest is part of the script. By the end of the play Spader's Jack Lawson had his universe shaken by the events of Susan assumedly undermining their case and by Charles pleading guilty; Izzard remained the same quick witted but fairly uninvolved emotionally attorney he had been throughout the performance. During the ending of the first cast I literally held my breath when Spader was telling Susan to "get out of my sight", with Izzard's performance it did not even stir the slightest amount of discomfort. He did not even seem particularly distraught by the occurences that were happening and thus when he told her to "get out of my sight" it was without the least amount of rancor. Haysbert intermittently had command of the stage during the performance I witnessed, but on several occasions was still not totally sure of the words. He also projected very poorly for much of the performance which was a surprise considering how commanding his voice sounds on film.

My friend and I like Eddie and Dennis but were dissapointed in their performances. Eddie could have really gone for the gusto in this role and instead he played it soft and did not grow his character throughout the play. Dennis just does not seem to have the chops at this point to do theatre...he seems to be better fitted to TV and film. I saw the original cast several times because of Spader's and Grier's performances. I would not pay to see the new cast a second time.

August 13, 2010 at 3:57 PM  
Blogger Ponita in Real Life said...

What do you see if you look up her skirt? ;-)

I envy you the accessibility of cultural events in NYC. We have some, and for a city of about 700K, it's pretty good, but nothing can compare to your home town.

August 13, 2010 at 6:08 PM  
Blogger Pat said...

Cleveland versus New York - has me wondering about the genesis of your name - Unbearable Banishment?

August 13, 2010 at 6:44 PM  
Anonymous daisyfae said...

i've always loved that photograph. something about the raw power and urgency of the kiss. not sure about the sculpture. Jay-Z makes it better...

August 13, 2010 at 8:01 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Point: Have you ever thought of visiting? We won't bite.

Anon: Thank you for that very thoughtful analysis. I'm going to concede your point about Dennis Haysbert. I thought he did "angry" better than Grier, but you are correct that he didn't project very well. I was sitting in the back of the orchestra and a few of his lines were lost. That's a cardinal sin. The same thing happened when I saw Jessica Lang struggle in STREETCAR many years ago. She couldn't project!

But I'm going to stand my ground on Izzard. I enjoyed his cool, slimy-lawyer detachment. I'll have to admit to a prejudice, though. I'm a big fan of his work and have see both his stand up acts and stage work. I liked his performance before the curtain even went up. So there's that to consider. At least we can wholly agree that Williamson was a spitfire.

It's entirely possible that you were there on an off night. That's the beauty of theater. Each and every performance is unique in some small way (unlike a movie, which spools out the same for everyone). It's the actor's responsibility to rise to their role each performance but in the real world, that doesn't always happen. Who are you, anyway? And how did you stumble on this post?

Ponita: Actually, I didn't think to peek up her bronze skirt. I'll try to get a photo and post it.

Pat: The blog name was an innocent pun but some have taken too seriously. I wish I had picked something more vanilla. I don't, in fact, feel banished.

Daisy: The sculpture is cool because of its size. Wish you could stand next to it and see.

August 13, 2010 at 11:16 PM  
Anonymous nursemyra said...

I LOVE that sculpture!

August 14, 2010 at 5:26 AM  
Blogger TechnoBabe said...

That is a wonderful sculpture and at least for my generation that is a very famous picture. You are a true blue New Yorker, aren't you?

August 14, 2010 at 10:05 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Daisy: Prior to this sculpture, I had never heard of Seward Johnson. Do you know his work? I assume he's a big deal if he can pull off something like this.

TB: New York got under my skin from the very start and stayed there. This place isn't for everyone. In fact, it isn't for most sane people. But I like it just fine.

August 14, 2010 at 10:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Peter,

My name is Paulette and I am the person who wrote the comments regarding RACE. I too have to admit to a prejudice in that I am a Spader fan...that being said my good friend is not a fan of his, but is a fan of Eddie's, so I do think that the points I made regarding the performance I saw were fairly accurate from two points of view. She saw the original cast with me 3 times, twice during the previews (she had no choice) and on Opening Night, unlike me she had not seen it since until last Saturday with the new cast.

I happened upon your website because I was checking for reviews of the current casts' performances in RACE to see what others were saying. I checked back after I wrote my comments because it occurred to me that I had read your original review of RACE some months back and thought that you had given the original cast a good review. Upon checking I saw that you originally said that the cast was "killer, particularly James Spader" so I knew that you had enjoyed his performance at the time. We all do have our prejudices regarding performers, although I have to admit that on a few occasions I have torn asunder one of James'... like his performance in "Slow Burn" or "Mannequin", but normally I love watching him act. Unlike you I went into the theatre for the first time holding my breath since he had not done theatre for over 30 years. I was not sure he still would have the skills necessary to project to an audience or to do live theatre; well I shouldn't have been concerned because he had command of the stage and I could hear him even when I was in the second to last row in the mezzanine. I heard a report that when the sound system was out one evening the audience had no problems hearing the cast except for Kerry Washington.

Just a little side note concerning the casts' abilities with the dialogue...a person who is there almost daily told me that the newcomers are still struggling to remember their lines and later told me that I hit a good show and that the performance I saw was fairly intact. So from what I can gather my friend and I saw a pretty good indication of this groups' performance.

Now, that all being said I am very glad that you really enjoyed the show. I perhaps had just seen the original casts' performances so many times that the new cast was almost like seeing a remake of a movie, and you know how we usually feel about remakes....

August 14, 2010 at 12:10 PM  
Blogger Ellie said...

I had heard that the photo was staged ... that the photographer had seen the couple kissing, but was too slow w/ his equipment and had to ask them to repose. I don't know if it's true or just urban myth. Whether pose or not it is iconic.

August 15, 2010 at 9:09 AM  
Blogger Kono said...

I've never seen one of Mamet's plays but i've read enough of the man to admire him, he writes with balls which is something sorely lacking in America these days.

August 15, 2010 at 10:29 AM  
Blogger Ellie said...

I looked it up. It's not posed. Hurrah!

August 16, 2010 at 3:52 PM  

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