Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Towards Zero

I haven't read Agatha Christie since I was a kid. With Towards Zero I immediately recognized the basic formula but was still amused and engaged by it all. All the characters portrayed as having some kind of secret, the artificially contrived sense of suspense, the ending where everything is explained and things you couldn't possibly have known revealed to tie it together. You can't take it to seriously. Good silly fun. A nice way to kill an afternoon or two.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Cafe Society

Woody Allen's Cafe Society is a breezy fluff piece of nostalgia that has an enjoyable pace and is nice to look at. The characters are not drawn very well and do not really stand out. The story is simple and fairly straight forward -- with a few distracting side plots and irrelevant scenes. I wasn't particularly into it and felt bored by Allen's chronic plays with love triangles, but I thought the ending was very sweet and it kind of made the whole thing come together for me.


Indecent is a unique play that tells the story of a Yiddish play written in Warsaw in 1907 and the troupe that performed it for years. It spans all the way until 1952 and takes place in Europe and America.

The play itself, The God of Vengeance, takes place in a Jewish brothel and has a central love scene between two women, and because of this the Yiddish theater initially rejected it for making Jews look bad. However in spite of this it became a hit in Jewish theater throughout Europe.

Throughout Indecent we see snippets of the play performed and become familiar with the plot. The controversial scene is called the rain scene, where the two women make love. This is not actually shown until the end but is referred to for it's beauty and depiction of pure love (when we do see it, it's kind of ridiculous, but it's okay). In the US the cast is prosecuted on obscenity charges.

Indecent takes place in the context of serious anti-semitism and is about a specific era of Jewish history that came to an end with the Holocaust. The last third of the play is grim yet beautiful. Because of ingenious and beautiful and dark and haunting staging, the final years of the troupe chill the audience with an awed impact. I found this a singularly powerful play (in spite of a few cliches here and there).


Harlots is a ridiculous show that recently aired on Hulu. It's just one season and in spite of how dumb it is I watched the whole thing. It is basically a soap opera taking place in 18th century London brothels and focuses on a silly rivalry between two madames. The trials and tribulations of different prostitutes are part of the drama, particularly the family of the madame played by Samantha Morton (who I love). There is tons of sex, and gorgeous costumes, but it isn't sexy at all. It isn't funny even though the drama is laughable. Still, I bet if they make a second season I will watch it.

More Veep!

After binge watching the first two seasons of Veep in 2013, I began watching it as it aired, episode by episode. I love this show so much that when this season ended I went back and watched them all from the beginning. It's so good. Watching them back to back you have a clearer sense of some of the plot twists. The humor is so biting. Selina is so mean that after a while it became a little difficult to watch, but I still loved it. The performances all amazing and Julia Louis Dreyfus does an incredible job.

The Financier

I didn't like Theodore Dreiser's The Financier. I've liked other books by him. This is about a young man (Frank) with a gift of understanding finances and an intense focus on making money. He is extremely rational and pragmatic. The problem with the book is that it focuses on so much on his financial dealings, especially two specifically shady transactions. The details of these are told over and over and over, often in the exact same words, so it becomes tedious and redundant and too much of the core of the book. There is also a love affair that is interesting but not compelling. There are a number of characters in the financial and political world but all of them are two dimensional and forgetable (except perhaps Butler, the father of the young woman Frank falls in love with).

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Garth Fagan Dance

Last night I saw Garth Fagan Dance at Celebrate Brooklyn. It was amazing. I loved every minute of it. The program was six dances and the company was fantastic and charismatic. The choreography blended modern with Afro-Carribean and classical technique. I think my favorites were the lovely, slow, evocative "No Evidence of Failure" and the rousing and fun "Geoffrey Holder Life Fete... Bacchanal". I'm going to keep an eye out for more of their performances.