Monday, April 20, 2009

Marriage a la Mode

Now I wish I would have already seen more of Neil LaBute's work than I've already seen. Last Friday, we saw his first play to get a Broadway production, reasons to be pretty, and last year, Vanessa and I saw In the Dark Dark House Off-Broadway at the Lucille Lortel in the West Village (formerly the Theatre de Lys, where the famed production of The Threepenny Opera ran for ages in the early 60s).

His best known work is still the film In the Company of Men which I have yet to catch up with. But he can write dialogue with the steady fury of David Mamet, plus, despite allegations of sexism, he;'s much much better at writing women's parts--at least in the current play--than anything I've ever seen of Mamet's. This play shows how a relationship breaks up because a friend passes on an ill-timed and ill-thought remark of one partner to the other. The series of short blackout scenes has each half of the two couples interacting with the others--inevitably, everything resolves itself, as the central figure almost deludes himself into thinking he's keeping a key secret or two or that whether he does or not really matters. Just think of this play when you're tempted to say, even in jest, that your spouse has a "regular" face.

Also took in the revival on Bway of Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit, which features a late-career turn by Angela Lansbury, with superb support from Rupert Everett and Christine Ebersole. The play's a bit of a trifle, and Lansbury was good, hamming it up some, and probably deserving of the standing ovation she got mainly on past performances--I, for one, found her great roles of Mrs Lovett in Sweeney Todd and Raymond's mother in the movie, The Manchurian Candidate, about as good as any. Everett and Ebersole, however, made the sometimes creaky vehicle keep running--I'm not sure if Coward's plays will survive that much longer on their own merits. The Shakespeare Theater Company here in DC is doing Design for Living next month.

Another revival took place on the northwest corner of 161st St. and River Ave. in the Bronx. My friend Marcus was kind enough to invite me to use the extra ticket to Game 3 in the new Yankee Stadium last Saturday. This was the debacle when the Tribe scored a record (against the Yanks, that is) 14 runs in the second inning to go on to a 22-4 wipeout of the home club. Given the dough dropped to recreate the old stadium, complete with frieze, but the decision to make the dimensions higher, the prevailing theory holds that this cuts the wind resistance so home-run balls go flying over the right-center wall in regular procession--the Yanks had five homers the day before.

The fact that I've never been a Yankee fan is indisputable: I came of age, baseball-wise, in 1954 when the world began and ended with Willie Mays and the Giants as they upset the heavily-favored Tribe in four straight, across the river in the now-gone Polo Grounds. But unlike many--especially Dodger fans, who now have a memorial Rotunda recreating that feature of Ebbets Field at the new Mets emporium--I never became a Yankee-hater either. Mainly this was because, we hardly ever played them until interleague play began--that miserable '62 series when McCovey failed to save Mays what would have been his last chance for a majestic at-bat--and when we did, they would win. Or, as I just learned from longtime first baseman Whitey Lockman's recent obit, yet another strain that hurt the Giants going into the '51 Series against the Yanks after the Shot Heard Round the World got them there was Lockman pulling his shoulder helping to carry Bobby Thompson off the field. End of story.

The new Stadium--there really is only one such field in baseball--is reasonably pleasant; as with every park opened since Camden Yards, you can see the field from the concession-rest room consourses. Many fans complained that the always haughty Yankee management, whether it be the Steinbrenners or the old George Weiss-Dan Topping days, managed to give everyone worse seats than they had in the old Stadium. But the one thing that came across from this game and the others played there so far is that for a while, this will be pitchers' hell.

Everyone wears player shirts at the Stadium, it seems. If someone can find me one for Vic Raschi or Allie (the Chief) Reynolds, I might be willing to don one next time I emerge from the D train. Despite all the construction, incidentally, those blocks of postwar apartment houses to the northwest of the Stadium look exactly the same, although one misses seeing the old shuttle line to the Polo Grounds (yes, there was one) that went through the hill and under an apartment block back when the Giants were there.

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