Saturday, January 24, 2015

A Snow Day and Transparent

Thanks to Amazon's offer and a snow day, I binge-watched all 10 episodes of Transparent today. I've heard so much about this show since it aired last year and without ever having seen it, I was excited when it won the Golden Globe award for Best Comedy. That win demonstrated a shift in how we will continue to receive our entertainment. Film, TV, Streaming - there is a new world constantly changing and I definitely want to be a part of that world.

But I digress. Back to this show full of two things this blog is about: adversity and diversity. So many people think this show is about a divorced dad finally telling his family that he is transgender. And yes, Jeffrey Tambor gives a layered, understated and award-winning performance in the role of Maura. But creator Jill Soloway has given so much more with her new series. Based in part by her own father coming out to her family, Soloway has created a dysfunctional group of people that are more relatable than what one may assume. Even if you are nowhere on the LGBT line - she has offered a variety of situations from family dynamics, child-rearing, to simply understanding who you are at any given moment of your life. Straight, gay, trans - each group has plenty to deal with as we try and get through this world. 

What is most interesting is how she addresses the fear and phobia in each of us. The cross-dressers judge the transgender community. The straight son has issues with his father's new life. The youngest daughter has spent a lifetime attempting to figure out her own identity. The stories weave in and out of each other in a way that we are not being preached at or indoctrinated (as so many want to believe) and instead - Soloway and her writers are showing what great story telling is all about. I may not be able to relate to a group of men traveling to a camp in order to cross dress and feel comfortable, but I can understand their pain and need for acceptance. (Broadway offered a play about this very subject last year based on actual events.) I'm not a straight father, but my heart went out to the son-in-law standing there trying to figure out how to talk to his children in the new upside-down world he has dropped into.

I literally loved everything about it. From the way it is filmed, the music chosen, the
direction by Jill Soloway and Nisha Ganatra, the casting - there is a reason it won the Golden Globe. It utilizes multiple time periods the same way two other favorite shows of mine have done this year. (The Missing and The Affair) Judith Light as the mother can never do any wrong in my eyes. I find I'm enamored with Gaby Hoffmann and could not take my eyes off of every single choice she makes as an actress. Amy Landecker plays a complex character dealing with her own sexuality while also learning of her dad. And I think I've begun stalking Jay Duplass as a new favorite writer as well as actor. Plus it is amazing the amount of trans people have been employed on the show. That says how important the entire subject is to Jill Soloway as she pays homage to her own father. I also must say the casting of the kids for the flashbacks is spot on!

Thank you, Amazon, for the free day of binge-watching. I really can't wait to see what season two has in store. And I look forward to watching as producers begin to offer more original content on streaming sites. 

Hello, future.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Road That We Choose

Have you ever stopped to think how different your life would be if you had made an opposite choice on a major decision in your life? Playwright Nick Payne brilliantly explores the notion of multiple roads in a person's life - all happening simultaneously, in his new play Constellations playing at the Manhattan Theater Club. This 70 minute play takes us on a tailspin of a journey in the lives of two people from their initial meeting through dating, marriage and so much more. Only they will start a scene, a light will flash and they will do the scene again in a completely different delivery, changes lines/feeling/intent and sometimes completely different outcomes. It is A Wrinkle in Time meets the romance of Somewhere in Time as this time-skipping play is ultimately a beautiful love story. Perhaps something is in the stars now (or constellations) in that we already have a Broadway musical showing us a parallel world (If/Then); however this play succeeds in this realm where the musical fell short.
When the two stars took to the stage and started this play, I had no idea what to expect when I attended on opening night. The light would shift, they would quickly change positions and I felt I was sitting through an old acting class I had attended in the early 90s. But once I caught on to what was happening, I let go and was swept away by the journey and the moving narrative being shared by this two people. Director Michael Longhurst first directed this piece across the pond and now brings his remarkable touch to debut on Broadway with two actors giving what I believe to be the finest performances this season.

Jake Gyllenhaal as Roland and Ruth Wilson as Marianne are captivating, inspiring, ooze chemistry, working their tails off - and both making Broadway debuts. Sure we know Gyllenhaal from his numerous films and I'll admit to liking him in every film I've seen. I recently fell in love with Ruth Wilson from her Golden Globe winning role in Showtime's The Affair (where ironically she also gets the chance to show two sides to one situation). These two share an amazing love story full of humor, restraint, kindness, passion, indifference – all depending on which reality we are watching at any given moment. I was completely blown away by their dedication to the craft, the rhythm of their duet acting, and the sheer amount of choices they were able to convey in such a short period of time. The clock says 70 minutes, but my mind felt I had lived a much longer evening with this play.

It’s hard to say what Constellations is without sharing too much of this strange yet moving piece of theater. However, I am very aware that this will not be for all theater goers. Big Hollywood name does not always equal good theater. Nor does every tourist want to sit through what some would be quick to call a performance art piece. But as someone who enjoys being prodded to push my own boundaries of art, loves to have my mind messed with on what is real and what isn’t, and also is moved by an incredible love story – this show can’t be beat. Bravo MTC and everyone associated with this show. Thank you for showing the diversity of what Broadway is all about.

Friday, January 2, 2015

This American Goes to Paris

I've just returned from a trip abroad where I got to enjoy my first time in Paris. This trip was different than those I've taken in the past because I was taking my 21 year old niece for a graduation gift on a trip she has talked about since she was a little girl. We enjoyed the city of lights together and talked about some of our favorite moments on our last night in town as we welcomed in 2015. I decided to put together a list here for those that may be planning their own trip to this beautiful city.

Listing of favorite things in no particular order:

1) Our first day we walked along the Seine River and our anticipation grew as we got closer and closer to the Eiffel Tower and it grew larger and larger. It was very cool.

2) Climbing to top of The Arc de Triomphe to see the view of the city…I learned what breathtaking actually meant.  

3) While there, we saw the out-of-town tryout of the Broadway bound An American in Paris - first time this movie has been done on stage and it was electric. The casting, the dancing, actually being IN Paris while seeing it…definitely a highlight of our trip.

4) While we crammed many notable places into our trip, I couldn't wait to see Notre-Dame Cathedral. The first time I saw it was at night during a cruise on the river and it was glorious to come upon it all lit up. Then when we finally visited it on our last day, I loved climbing to the top to be among the Gargoyles!

5) My most favorite thing - seeing it all through the eyes of my niece.

Here are a few things that I'll think of whenever I now think of Paris.

1) Bread. 



2) Our lovely cobblestone street where the flat we called home in the 6th arrondissement was located.

3) Smoking a pack of cigarettes second-hand just by walking down the street. Even with smoking banned in buildings now in Paris, it's still the city of smoke.

4) Steps. Our flat, the catacombs, Notre Dame, Arc, walking through Versailles - everywhere we went…steps!

5) It's not called the city of lights for nothing. They truly know how to light beautiful monuments at nighttime. 

It was a magical and wonderful trip! A great ending to 2014 and one I'll remember for sharing with a special young woman about to start a new life as a special needs teacher. So proud of her!