Tag Archives: New York

Embrace #ThisIsNotALetter An Exhibition by Alex Kelleher

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Inspired by the quote “This is not a letter, but my arms around you for a brief moment,” from a letter by author Katherine Mansfield, Alex Kelleher’s first New York exhibition, embrace #ThisIsNotALetter connects technology to art through the artist’s sculptures, paintings, photography, and mixed media works.

On view October 7-12, 2014, at S Artspace Gallery at 345 Broome Street, New York, NY, a Public Reception will be held Thursday, October 9, 6-8pm.

 

Having spent his life as an internet entrepreneur, Kelleher explains, “My art has always been an escape mechanism, from my career of building internet businesses. Getting away from a computer screen and into the studio represents space to create something of tangible presence. It feels far away from the bits and bytes of internet data, all of which are delivering virtual experiences that we stare at and interact with through bland panes of glass. We send an email instead of making a call, we instant message instead of reaching out physically.” This growing disconnect, where social media is often a solitary experience, is the background to much of Kelleher’s work.

Serving almost as a counterpoint to the concurrent inaugural edition of Art Silicon Valley/San Francisco, embrace #ThisIsNotALetter is meant to provoke thought and reflection about how the internet—while making connections easier—hasn’t necessarily improved them or made them more real. Real human connections are expressed in physical touch—the ultimate and globally natural expression of connection being the embrace.

Kelleher was originally motivated to create art when, as a child, he saw a poster for a cancer-care charity, of a cancer nurse hugging another person—a patient, a relative? That moment of connection, of true human empathy, has stayed with him to this day, inspiring this exhibition. This also underscores the artist’s reasoning as to why proceeds from the embrace#ThisIsNotALetter will go to St Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital (the #1 favorite charity of Gia On The Move!) —which has pushed the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20 percent to more than 80 percent since it opened in 1962—supporting The Gold Gala for St Jude specifically.

Alex-Kelleher

Raised in Africa and Europe, Alex Kelleher (www.alexkelleher.com) graduated Oxford University in Experimental Psychology in 1995—a time when the commercial internet was experiencing its first boom. Alex started his first web company, design agency Vivid Edge, that year—and since then has combined art and science wherever possible in his startups.  Earlier this year he sold his fourth startup (Cognitive Match) to a NY-based company, having moved to New York City almost four years ago.

Kelleher’s art spans sculpture—his true passion for many years now—photography and wall art, tending not to use much color, as he feels that keeping the work black and white allows the viewer to interpret it more directly. The continuity that a limited color palette generates also allows the disparate pieces to live together as a body of work.

Rocky Broadway Is a “Knock-Out”- The Model Critic Reviews

 
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Reviewed by Carlos Stafford The Model Critic
 
POW!  The famous Rocky body shot is once again delivering its victorious hook–this time the well-known franchise brings its dazzle down from the big screen and onto the great white way.  Don’t worry, all the familiar characters are still there, bigger than life from
R1–Rocky, Adrian, brother Paulie, Mickey the trainer, to the bombastic Apollo Creed.
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Losers, has-beens, never-weres, drunks, dreamers, and loan sharks are all melodramatically moved off their spot by The Rock’s big break–a long shot bid to fight a superstar in an exhibition bout, and make $150,000. But it’s not about the money only. Rocky is no Marciano, (48-0), but he bleeds his spirit as a tough, determined Everyman fighter capable of imaging the improbable, impossible dream. Not to win necessarily, but to “keep on standing” against all odds, with pride and dignity. Then Magic, Alchemy, Wonder, and Inspiring Love changes everyone and everything.  Rocky needs a knockout to get a draw, but there’s a bigger story.
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The show is two hours plus of nonstop visual and aural fun. Bold and garish, splashes of grit and grime, the story quickly unfolds and hits you in the emotional gut.  For its easy to see we all share a part of these caricatures, of those lying in the gutter while staring up at the stars: a modern-day fairy tale, under the rubric of every dog has its day  Those of us waiting for one break to set things straight, and in Rocky’s case, inspired by the love a woman.
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This isn’t La Traviata for sure, but a guy running through the streets of Philly on a cold, 23 degree dark morning, alone, against all odds, with old-school grey cotton hoody and Chuck Taylors, conveys great symbolic determination.  If you don’t feel lifted, you need emotional eye-of-the-tiger, by-pass surgery.
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Adrian Aguilar was our Rocky for this evening.  He was splendid in his acting, singing, and sparing routines, and finally, for boxing the simulated 15 championship rounds to the exacting choreography. Wow! He apparently based his character entirely on Sylvester Stallone’s movie and looked, spoke and acted pretty much like the original character–he didn’t create other layers, it wouldn’t have worked. He had to box like a journeyman club fighter, and deliver the intricate brawling fight choreography. He succeeded.
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Here, the story builds and builds to the final slugfest, where a real life ring rolls out onto a glittering arena, along with flashing lights, loud music, ring girls, newsmen on monitors, and voila, the audience is transported to a glitzy ringside Vegas-like intensity.
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Margo Seibert was the introverted and sensitive Adrian, and startling effective in her quiet, insecure character, as well as with her sweet voice and moving songs, “Raining” and with Rocky in their duet “Happiness.” Her blossoming from an alone and forlorn outcast, to raw seduction with Rocky, was a moving journey.
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Terence Archie ( Ragtime) was awesome as Apollo Creed–brash and arrogant, slick, smooth and flashy, and sang well in “Southside Celebrity.”  Archie must have boxed before because he naturally possessed a fluidity that cannot be coached in any style or movement class. He was a very effective and believable slickster.  Danny Mastrogiorgio was good as Paulie, a complex, violent character, and Adrian’s troubled brother; while Mickey the trainer, played by Dakin Matthews, a compromised man who had seen too much of the underbelly of pugilistic life, but also wise enough to sense new opportunity, was notable in his portrayal.
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Don’t worry about getting tickets fo this show, this horse is going to run for a long time. Having just opened, I predict this show will be a destination event for all those coming to NYC. (It won’t go on the road, is my best guess, because of the intricate technological staging, as well as expense.) The songs are not over the top, but perfect and moving for the characters, and delivered with great, natural feeling; however, the book, incredible staging, and electric pacing are the star elements that lift this show to greater heights.
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The show has the recognizable buzz, part comic book, carnival, and spectacle all aimed at the hoi polloi—but at heart, a simple, winning love story, deep and essential, so that afterwards you feel washed and inspired for having been there, and ready for any challenge.
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Now playing at the Winter Garden
Directed by Alex Timbers
Book by Sylvester Stallone and Thomas Meehan
Music by Stephan Flaherty
Lyrics Lynn Ahrens

Booking through until: 30 December 2014

AUDIENCE

Recommended for ages 10 years and above

RUN TIME

Two hours and 40 min, including one 15-min intermission

SHOW TIMES

Wednesdays through Saturdays @ 8pm
Tuesdays @ 7pm
Saturdays @ 2 pm
Sundays at 3pm

Check the website for changes.

Tickets

Artplug: Cutlog New York Opens May 8-11, 2014

Fragmental Museum LIC

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cutlog NY is pleased to announce exhibitors for the cutting edge contemporary art fair’s second edition, taking place May 8-11, 2014 at the historic Clemente building located at 107 Suffolk Street on the Lower East Side. As the sister fair to cutlog Paris and the first French art fair to showcase in NYC during Frieze Week, cutlog NY champions the freshest work on the market by presenting some of the most exciting emerging and independent artists and galleries in the international art world.

cutlog NY 2014 will present over 40 exhibitors and solo artists from 10 countries around the world including Israel, Chile, Malaysia, and the US. The fair welcomes the return of 13 galleries from last year and 27 new exhibitors for 2014. Through a host of engaging performances, fair tours and rigorous programming, cutlog NY will offer visitors something new to explore each day of the fair, appealing to the passionate collector and curious public alike.

Fair partners this year will include ARTE, Big Sky Partners, LES BID, LMCC and Art Pick. Tours of cutlog NY 2014 will be led by Sotheby’s, Gertrude, SoHo House and Christie’s. cutlog NY is pleased to welcome its cultural partners for 2014, including MoMA PS1, The Studio Museum in Harlem and the Whitney Contemporaries. Media partners include ARTslanT, Whitewall, Hyperallergic, MODERN PAINTERS, ARTINFO, ART + AUCTION, Art Price, Fast and Quiet Lunch.

L'Inlassable, Paris

2014 Exhibitors Include:

Accola Griefen Gallery – New York, NY
Alan Neider – Hamden, USA
Amstel Gallery – Amsterdam, Netherlands
Art Connections – Tel Aviv, Israel
Artbreak Gallery – New York, NY
ARTspace Switzerland – Zürich, Switzerland
Bleecker Street Arts Club – New York, NY
C24 Gallery – New York, NY
Creative Growth/ARTE – Oakland, CA
Ethan Cohen Fine Arts – New York, NY
Fragmental Museum – NY, USA
Fresh Eggs Gallery – Berlin, Germany
Fuchs Project – Brooklyn, NY
Fuman Art – Selangor, Malaysia
Galerie Les Singuliers – Paris, France
Galerie LWS – Paris, France
Galerie spree – Paris, France
Gallery Molly Krom – New York, NY
International Fine Arts Consortium – New York, NY
Jag Modern – Philadelphia, PA
Judith Charles Gallery, New York, NY
Kilowatt Gallery – Sloatsburg, NJ
Lebenson Gallery – Paris, France
Lesley Heller Workspace – New York, NY
L’inlassable galerie – Paris, France
Mane Sakic – Belgrade, Serbia
Monica Buckle Gallery – Greenwich, CT
Pascale Goldenstein – New York, NY
Post Nature Art – New York, NY
RISD – Rhode Island School of Design – Providence, RI
School Gallery – Paris, France
SIGNAL – Brooklyn, NY
SWOON – Brooklyn, NY
Taxiplasm – New York, NY
TEMP Art Space – New York, NY
The Clemente – New York, NY
TURF – London / NY
Wallplay – New York, NY
Whitebox Art Center – New York, NY
Yael Rosenblut Gallery – Santiago, Chile
Yellow Peril Gallery – Providence, RI

cutlog NY Dates and Times:
Wednesday, May 7th | Vernissage 5-10 PM   
Thursday, May 8th – Preview 12-6 PM | Public Opening 6-9 PM
Friday, May 9th | 12-9 PM
Saturday, May 10th | 12-9 PM
Sunday, May 11th | 12-6 PM

Land Gallery Brooklyn.

Location:
The Clemente
107 Suffolk Street,
New York NY 10002

Tickets:
Adults $15
Students & Seniors $10
4-day pass $30
Vernissage ticket $50
Tickets available at: artpick.com/cutlog
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cutlog new york Contact:
107 Suffolk Street
Room 415
New York, NY 10002
T +1 646 770 1669

Social Media:
Twitter: @cutlog
Facebook: cutlog
Instagram: @cutlogny

For more information, visit cutlog.org

The Model Critic Review: Man and Boy

photo courtesty of Roundabout Theatre

MAN AND BOY

A Problem of Confidence and Liquidity
Theatre review by Carlos Stafford, The Model Critic
  The Roundabout Theatre in New York opens its 2011-12 season with a sober, well-written play by Terence Rattigan from l961.   The ever reliable Roundabout, has decided to offer a play for our times that starkly makes its point, doesn’t belabor its message, and wraps up neatly, no apologies. With occasional humor and icy reality, we are presented with a Rasputin-like international financial wizard from the 1930’s, and his relationship with his estranged son.
    In a word, you are led to think of these modern day figures from recent history:  Bernie Madoff, Bernie Ebbers, Samuel Israel, Jeffrey Skilling from Enron, Ken Lay, Scott Rothstien, Tom Peters, Alan Stanford, Jerome Kerviel, etc., characters all famous for over consumption, and feeding at the trough of public gullibility .Man and Boy is reputedly based on the life of Ivan Kreuger, an earlier version of a ponzi scheme artist, who killed himself for this same form of gluttony.
    Stage icon, Frank Langella plays Gregor Antonescu, and does another great theatrical turn; he gives  the feeling that the role was created for him because of his obvious physical bearing, wit and sophistication. A few seasons back, before Nixon/Frost, he played Sir Thomas More in A Man for All Seasons; a supremely ethical man in the Court of Henry Vlll, who is led to the gallows for his beliefs.  Here, he plays the polar opposite–an intriguing Romanian-born financier, who as his resume states, saved the post-war French Franc, brought roads to Yugoslavia, and electricity to Hungry. However, like a sophist, he is likely to bend the truth; for his raison d’etre is not in doing good, but at winning at all costs, no matter the method.  In other words, his truth is another man’s slippery slope. For him there are only two kinds of people, those who do and those that don’t. As an actor, Langella certainly does, and is riveting in his theatrical skills and believability; his diction, behavior, and command of the stage even makes his character sympathetic.
    Antonescu has made a fatal mistake. His vast empire is collapsing.  The world has caught on to him–he has a severe “confidence and liquidity” problem; the stakes are enormous and pressure is mounting–his stock has dropped 23%, national financial calamity is eminent. Gregor Antonescu has already survived many set backs in his career, even numerous assignation attempts–can he survive this challenge?  In the face of it all, he remains calm, detached, and even charming.
    In a  well conceived single-set play, we find Boris (Adam Driver), Gregor’s son, living with his girlfriend in a depression-era basement apartment, Greenwich Village, early 1930’s.  A Socialist, Boris hasn’t seen his estranged father in five years. Suddenly, he receives a visit from his father’s assistant, Sven (Michael Siberry);  the media of New York is hounding them for information, and need a safe house for an urgent middle-of-the-night meeting with the president of American Electric, in a last ditch effort to save the faltering merger with Manson Radio. It would be the most important meeting of Antonescu’s life, and he seeks his son’s help.  Shocked to see his father in these circumstances, and remembering wounds from his demeaned past, Boris reluctantly agrees.
    As the meeting unfolds, we see the characters emerge.  Mark Herries ( Zack Grenier)  president of American Electric plays his smallish role with quiet aplomb as the secure and knowing rival to Antonescu’s
pitch.  Antonescu convinces, befuddles, and masterfully digresses in his cool, desperate attempt to reach an agreement, and as he does, he even astonishingly uses his own son as a homosexual lure for the executive he knows to be a closeted “fairy.”
    Let’s put it this way:  Plato, Buddha, Jesus, Gandhi, or Mother Teresa wouldn’t ever go to Starbucks with Gregor. But if they did, Plato would say, did you ever consider that happiness does not follow from injustice?
Buddha would silently nod in agreement:  Or that desire is the cause of suffering?  Jesus listening would say, did you ever hear of my idea, Gregor my son, that man cannot live by bread alone?  Yes, I always thought that too says Gandhi, and that oppression of others destroys the soul of man? Finally Mother Teresa hands Gregor a cookie, and says, come give your mother a hug, and remember even the rich are hungry for love.
    But enough of this!  This is exactly what the play doesn’t do–moralize. The direction is crisp and to the point, the actors don’t lay on sentiment or sermonize. Man and Boy is not presented as a morality play, but a play that tries to mirrors life, about choices people make from their own point of view.  Langella and Driver, man and boy, or better, father and son, have an unbridgeable gap separating them.  Antonescu’s life is driven by one passion only: to be recognized, to obey his dictum that says, appearances are all that count; love, as he states, is a commodity he cannot afford. His first wife, mother to Boris, was a Romanian burlesque dancer; his present wife, plucked from the London typing pool, received the title of  Countess for a little money on the side. She, portrayed in broad strokes of cynical humor by Francesca Faridany, appears in a brief scene towards the end, to make sure her interests are secure; base and disloyal, she sees Antonescu as a meal ticket mostly, and desserts him when the pressure mounts. Faridany plays her as a hyperbole of a disloyal wife, that is very entertaining in an unedifying way  Sven, his long time “loyal” assistant, also abandons Gregor, but not without showing some form of humanity in his mostly snaky self interest. Siberry does well here, as we see him transformed into a Svengali-like character.
    As negotiations fall apart, as the tabloids of London report of Antonescu’s indictment for arrest, Antonescu is left alone without support.  Only his son, the person Antonescu has abandoned as a boy, belittled as weak and worthless, comes to his aid with an open hand.  Gregor senses his son’s love and humanity, and becomes his haunting conscious.  As in Wordsworth’s poem, the child becomes father to the man, and in another sense, tries to help his father escape. But this will not do–it is much too late.  There is no room for love.  Alone in his son’s apartment, he examines a earlier photo of the two in a happier time–a lost moment on a beach in Biarritz.  Gregor has always know this day would arrive.  He puts on his hat and coat, and without excuses, slips cold steel into his pocket and disappears into the night.
    It was a sobering affair, with a quick double scotch to make it go down easier.  Audiences should see works like these, as well as frothy ones like Anything Goes, for the full affect of what theatre can offer.

On 9/11 all I could say…

“It’s gone!  It’s fucking gone!  It’s fucking gone!”

I had been on the phone with my acting coach Penelope Brackett who was living in New Jersey with NY1 on in the background.  My mom had called me at 8:30am to find out if I was ok.  “What do you mean, ok?”  She said, “Trae, turn on the TV.  There was another crash at the World Trade Center.”

What?  That’s impossible!  But as I turned on the television, the little hairs on the back of my neck raised up as saw monstrous black smoke, billowing out of the tower.  It wasn’t like before; the little plane that had flown into the side of the building.   Newscasters on every channel were reporting a jet had full on, rammed itself right through the building.  I immediately just started crying.  I didn’t even know why.  It was shocking to see and hear just on the TV alone.

I tried to explain to Penelope what was going on, but her not seeing what I was seeing she simply said let’s just focus on what we’re doing.  I could only half concentrate on the work as I kept my eyes on the monitor.  Then suddenly the building began to sink into the smoke and I could hear the top floors cracking and crashing and collapsing down on one another.  It happened so quickly that all I could do was scream into the phone over and over again, “It’s fucking gone!”  And then I said, “Penelope, I have to go, my personal problems are so not important right now.  You need to turn on the television.”

What scared me most was a sound I had never heard in my life coming from outside – the cries of men.  We’re all so used to hearing women scream and sometimes men making outlandish remarks or sounds or cheers when something out of the ordinary happens.  But this was a collective moaning, cry – deep, loud, long.  It truly struck my heart with fear.  I was scared to go outside and instead began calling everyone I knew and could actually get through to, as phone connections began to go down, intermittently, then at one point, altogether, starting with my employer.  I had a later shift at the office that day.  At the time I was working as a reader and assistant to a blind CEO in an investment firm located on top of Grand Central Station, in the Bear Stearns (Old Helmsley) building, which had become that morning, one of the prime red alert targets.  I remember begging one of the partners, Donna Leone, to come into work.  I didn’t want to be alone, die alone.  I really did think I was going to die as reports kept blasting in about more and more planes and possible additional attacks all over the Northeast.  She said, “You can’t come in.  Everyone’s leaving right now.  We are all evacuating.  We’re being told that there are missiles coming.”

“Missiles?!  What are you kidding me?!”  My brain couldn’t even take that in.  I called everyone I could get through to after that.  My brother Christopher who was living in New Jersey right across the Hudson; my boyfriend, who worked in the Fashion District, on his cell phone, to make sure he was ok.  He got trapped in an elevator that morning in all of the panic; my grandmother; my mom and finally my cousin Lynn in Boston, who told me that people were jumping off of the buildings and that they were showing this on TV.

“What?!  Lynn that can’t be happening!  We’re not even seeing that here!”  And we weren’t.  News venues all over the area intentionally were not showing the horrendous footage to New Yorkers, of people throwing themselves out the windows, flapping their arms like birds’ wings, holding hands as they leapt to their death to escape the flesh melting inferno on the top floors.  But they were showing it everywhere else.

I started to become woozy and exhausted from the anxiety and finally left the house to walk out onto 6th Avenue and West Fourth Street.  I needed air and the comfort of a crowd.  What I witnessed will never leave me for the rest of my life – thousands of people, walking up every avenue from south to north escaping Wall Street.  It was a scene out the old TV show, “World at War,” as people marched out of Poland during the Blitzkrieg, when Hitler invaded.

And then suddenly I looked up.  It was a beautiful, warm, sunny day and there was the second tower, in center view, standing, burning, smoking, in front of my eyes.  All at once the most surreal event occurred…everyone turned around.  In that precise moment we all focused our gaze downtown to watch the second tower fall.  The entire avenue went completely silent.  We all just stared in awe, eyes and mouths completely open.  NOT A SOUND.  Neither babies, nor adults, nor birds, nor dogs, nor taxi cabs, cars or anything made a bump, a clang, a cry, a bounce or a screech.  Just dead silence.

I was so overcome with the shock of it, I remember murmuring to myself, “I’m hungry. I think I need a sandwich.  I’m gonna go to the store.”  I guess I needed to grab onto some sort or normal moment or activity to just make sense of what I had seen.  The rest of the crowd just turned back around and started marching again.   They kept moving uptown.

In the wake of one of New York City’s most horrific tragedies, also occurred one of its most extraordinary and triumphant moments – the unification of an entire city in a way that not a single person had ever witnessed or known before.  The heart of a people beating as one, in one mind, in one spirit and in one thought only – what can we do to help.  Everyone who hadn’t been directly affected below Battery Park City blazed into action in very typical New York style.  Thousands lined up at every hospital to give blood even though we were being turned away; firemen, policemen, construction workers, teamsters, metals workers and regular civilians – anyone and everyone who was an able body fought their way back downtown to try to volunteer, to help clear the rubble, pull people out of the area as quickly as possible, even when we were told it was dangerous.  Everyone desperately wanted to find the survivors.  We wanted to come to the aid of those who aided all of us – policemen, firemen – the men and women in uniform who protected our city every day, some of who, gave their lives that day to save others from the deadly waves of smoke and debris that killed so many people who never made it out of the area.  Everyone was desperate to do any tiny little thing they could to help.  Collections of socks, t-shirts and food were nearly instantaneously brought to checkpoints for the rescue workers, the injured and those we hoped were still alive under the buildings.  Pizza deliveries were non-stop to try and feed everyone quickly, because the support continued 24 hours a day.  We didn’t want to sleep until people were found.  You see, New Yorkers just didn’t sit around crying.  They didn’t fall apart.  They fell mightily fell together.  There was a job to do and they were going to do it; no matter what it took, or what the cost.  At that moment, helping your fellow men and women transcended from an ideal into a hard core reality.  And I can honestly say that I have never been so proud of my city and its people.  Never so proud to be called a New Yorker.

For the entire week after and several after that, I remember meeting people on the street just walking the avenues.  Friends and acquaintances I hadn’t seen in so many years.  But because we were above ground and not travelling the subways for the first couple of days you just met people, spoke, shared stories, touched, held hands, hugged, cried.  It was good to be with each other.  There was comfort in the exchange.  Many Manhattanites took in strangers who got trapped in on the island and couldn’t get home to their families.  We fed each other, we opened our doors.  We cared.

It was strange to have to carry around a passport and a utility bill in order to identify myself as a downtown resident living below 14th Street, in order to be allowed to go home every night.  It was eerie to see the refrigerated trucks waiting to store the bodies that were never found, lined, up and down the Henry Hudson Parkway by Chelsea Piers.  It was difficult to do nothing as little by little we all realized there were no survivors and we were being turned away from offering assistance.  It was painful to watch on television the families post pictures of their mothers, fathers, daughters and sons, hoping to miraculously finds them and all of the photographs and trinkets and memorials hanging around on the fences and poles and walls of building all over the city.  It was mind bending to hear a fireman friend reveal how many body parts he was finding down at the site and that he couldn’t sleep anymore.  It was excruciating for me, one night, watching the immigrant father of a young first generation Mexican man making a new life in this country try not to cry as he quietly spoke into a camera, “I’m looking for my son.”  I will never forget that.

I was asked if I had some photos for a collage to add to my story.  I don’t.  I asked friends if they had any.  They don’t.  It wasn’t a picture moment.  The professional news coverage has most of it.  Of course there may be some who do.  I wouldn’t know.  I was busy that day, that week that month fielding mass emails and phone calls from friends and families across the country and the globe; forcing myself to get back into any resemblance of a normal routine of going to work at the office and also putting up a show Off-Broadway; our producers and director had decided to go on in a spirit of hope and solidarity for the city; comforting others with whatever strength was in me and enduring the pain of others who suffered great loss.  I only know that for me, it was about the people of New York City.

Tracey is a native of Boston’s North End and a former New Yorker living now in Los Angeles, CA working as a publicist, producer and theatre critic for LA Theatre Review and blogger for  LA-Artist.com.

The Model Critic Theatre Review: Brief Encounter

Brief Encounter

Roundabout Theatre Company

Reviewed by Carlos Stafford, The Model Critic

A pretty woman and a doctor meet, by chance, at a train station in London, 1938.  She has a cinder stuck in her eye, and he offers to remove it.  She then “sees” with perfect clarity, perhaps for the first time in her life.  His vision is also “corrected,” and like a lightening bolt of recognition, they both fall madly into an irresistible sea of love.  Hannah Yelland and Tristan Sturrock in "Brief Encounter"

“Brief Encounter” is a joyous, light-hearted bon mot to romantic love.  With live music, film projections, vaudeville, pantomime, and puppetry, clichés of love fly through the theatre, breaking the fourth wall, and our resistance to its charm.  While the parodies abound, everything morphs into wise, sophisticated nuances that touches everyone.  The simple is made complex, and it becomes a fun ride.

The Kneehigh Theatre Co., from Cornwall, England brings this Noel Coward adaptation to our shores; originally a movie, “Brief Encounter,” made by David Lean in 1945, originating from the play by the same name, and emanating from another Coward play, “Still Life.”  It had a successful run at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn, N.Y. last year, before Roundabout’s current offering at Studio 54.

The lovers, Laura and Alec, are conventional pilgrims of life, respectable, married with families.  They meet, and like the famous duo from Verona, are immediately smitten.  They agree to tryst on Thursdays for tea, then a movie, a boat outing, and lunch.  Bored with their private lives, they now become new, free and weightless.

The romantic comedy becomes richly endowed with visual and aural underscoring to their emotional flight.  We see stunning projections of white, fluffy, Botticelli-like clouds, and wild waves beating on rocky shores, matching the ecstasy of their inner lives.

Another transporting image is of a film of a woman swimming underwater, in a sea of shimmering shafts of light, free and unbounded.  We see Laura and Alec, like lovers everywhere and for all time, as levitating souls.

All of this splendor is countered by the crashing reality of their ordinary existence, and mundane responsibilities.  For Laura, when she goes home, she in lonely and removed, and barely knows where she lives, almost a stranger.  Her husband is a couch potato, who does crossword puzzles for entertainment, and barely notices her.  But for Alex, her magic face is like that of Helen of Troy, “the face that launched a thousand ships.”

And although they are set with this sad dilemma, we have a brilliant comedic scene that celebrates the fandango of their love when they meet for lunch.  All stops are pulled as they dance the tango in a shower of roses, drown in bubbles of champagne, and defy gravity with wild abandonment by swinging on the chandeliers, star-dust falling around them.  LOL.  It’s wonderful!

Most of the action takes place in a tea room at the train station where they first meet.  Here we are introduced to two other couples: the woman who owns the store and the stationmaster, and her young assistant, and her lover, the vendor.  Both couples have uncomplicated affairs, and they seem to have no conflicts to resolve with their choices and stations in life, all flows easily.  They bring us back to reality.  As for Laura and Alex, there are important, life altering decisions to be made, as they realize their sad predicament.

The whole, complex effect of the play is filled with visual and aural candy, strung seamlessly together.  The Noel Coward songs are especially remarkable, simple and poetic.  The director, Emma Rice, has done an outstanding job in bringing all to a magical creative reality, and the company starring Hannah Yelland and Tristan Sturrock, were a pleasure and a delight to watch.

The Model Critic Theatre Review: Mrs. Warren’s Profession

  

 Roundabout Theater, New York, New York

Reviewed by Carlos Stafford, The Model Critic
 
    Looking back to George Bernard Shaw’s comedy, Mrs. Warren’s Profession, you’d think the present times would differ vastly from those of Victorian England, when the play was set and finally presented in 1902.  What’s so amazing to realize, in this Roundabout Theater production, is that culture, along with accepted social morality, moves through time, and transforms as slowly as a huge ship coming about.
 
    Shaw, of course, is famous for poking fun at established shibboleths, false moral rectitude, and generally, for always pointing an accusing finger at hypocrisy.  He accomplished this with his genius for keen, penetrating views on humanity, combined with a laser wit.
 
    Cherry Jones, always wonderful, and a true gift to the stage, plays the eponymous Mrs Warren, or Kitty, a prostitute so successful, she has actually gone global with brothels all over Europe. ( Or, in a modern equivalent, she outsourced her enterprise, like McDonald’s, Google, or Starbucks.) The words prostitute and brothel are never mentioned, but the audience gets the picture quickly.  

Sally Hawkins and Cherry Jones

    Her daughter, Vivie has been away studying at Cambridge, and before that, at boarding schools.  Supported fully along the way, she is unaware of her mother’s profession.  The play opens with a rare meeting between mother and daughter; in a bucolic setting, at a cottage in the country.
 
    As Vivie awaits her mother’s arrival, we meet Praed, a dear old friend of Kitty’s.  He is kind, gentlemanly and as we see, an eternal optimist.  As they meet, he quickly sees Vivie is unaware of her mother’s life, and doesn’t know how to break the news to the poor girl.  Vivie, having just graduated, prim and proper, scholarly, with a fierce, cold independence, represents what was called the “New Woman” of her day; a young woman breaking away from the bondage of Victorian convention.
 
  
Sally Hawkins and Cherry Jones

 When Kitty arrives, flamboyantly dressed in red, with her sleazy friend, Sir George Crofts, Crofts is immediately smitten with Vivie. Rich, heartless, and a man of the world, he quickly turns his attentions to the young woman.  As he surveys the situation, he is struck with the idea that Vivie may actually be his daughter since Kitty never revealed to anyone who the father was. The local country pastor arrives looking for his good-for-nothing son, Frank Gardner, and to his chagrin, has an awkward moment when he recognizes Kitty from a dubious, long-ago encounter.  As he sees Vivie,  we now know that he too could be Vivie’s father as well.  Frank Gardner, the pastor’s son, having dropped by earlier, has also fallen for Vivie’s charm.  Little does he know, and is later revealed, that indeed Vivie is his half-sister, and his father, is also Vivie’s father.

 
    That evening, while alone in the cottage, Kitty and Vivie are able to talk quietly.  Kitty tries to explain to her daughter her life, and what led up to her choices; it’s a poignant tale of an abusive childhood, squalor, and economic privation, an individual corned by her status and gender.  She moves Vivie to sympathy and understanding as we see her struggle to drop her judgements, and temporarily at least, accept her mother.
 
    Shaw’s style of writing–unsentimental, unromantic, clear-eyed views of society was emblematic of the Naturalist Movement in literature.  Whores became whores because of political and economic realities, not because they were fallen angels.  This literary movement developed from the Realist Movement of mid-nineteenth century France with the likes of Emile Zola, who wrote about a Parisian prostitute in his famous work, “Nana.” Unadorned, he presented life as it was. The Naturalists did the same, but added the scrutiny of science to glean meanings from the economic, social, hereditary aspects of the human condition.  It was the time of Charles Darwin, and “survival of the fittest,” and Karl Marx.  Another fitting example in drama would be “A Doll’s House,” by Ibsen–a woman trapped in a marriage by social conventions, trying to escape.  Or “Miss Julie,” by August Strindberg, where social class is destiny.   In America, we had the novelist Jack London, Frank Norris, and Theodore Dreiser  Emotion was kept at a minimum, and bold, hard realities were presented. 

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    Back to the story:  Vivie is proposed to by the older  Crofts.  Repulsed, he wades in further to present his case.  He tells her that she would benefit by marrying him because he is extremely wealthy, and in any case, he will soon die, leaving her everything. He then informs Vivie, that Kitty has brothels all over Europe and that she too is very wealthy, and wants her to have all the riches of life. The young suitor, Frank Gardner enters, and they spar with words.  Crofts then reveals at the telling moment that they are both brother and sister, and that they could never marry.
 
    Crushed, but determined and confident, Vivie flees for the city to pursue her own life, and on her own terms.  Kitty desperately wanting her daughter’s respect, arrives at her office where they confront each other with shocking disapproval and opposing viewpoints.  As with another famous Shaw work, “Sister Barbara,” the characters pull no punches, as they philosophically fight from opposing corners, to determine what is Right. The audience is left stunned and challenged, and it’s not a cozy ending.
 
    This production was outstanding. The sets were charming and transporting.  Cherry Jones was superb as Mrs. Warren. Stephanie Jones, standing in for Sally Hawkins, was excellent as Vivie, as she stood her ground, and Mark Harilick, was perfectly sinister, unrepentant, and real. 
 
    Finally, Shaw combines many brilliant notes in his writing– he distills universal social principles, the comedy of human actions, and sympathy for the nature of man.  He is never vague and always robust in his well-crafted meaning, and bravely looks to the heart of the matter.  He surely came before “spin,” and even though at times one could take him as being dogmatic and preachy, he is certainly our cultural and artistic treasure.