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May 2, 2011

Life in the Half-Fast Lane

This is a shallow post. (Well, shallower than usual from me.) I was going to post on Richard Serra and Kasimir Malevich, but my train of thought was interrupted by a weekend. And I want to talk about that, because I can't get to the greatest sculptor (I'd even go greatest artist) of the last 40 years or so and the Russian Suprematist who influenced him before I process this weekend out loud.

On Friday, Laurie (Fendrich, my wife; she's a painter, too) and I went to the theater. The tickets were her birthday present, and the play was "King Lear" at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (a.k.a. BAM). Derek Jacobi acted the lead role. Now, partly for cheapskate reasons (theater is expensive and I want to make sure I get my money's worth), I like my plays dramatic (as opposed to musicals), tragic instead of comic, and overlong and overstuffed. "Lear" is perfect for me. Some knowledgeable people say it's Shakespeare's greatest play. Personally, I prefer "Macbeth," Laurie "Hamlet" and our daughter "Othello," but who are we amateurs to say?

Anyway, what--unexpectedly--struck me most was how astoundingly hard Jacobi worked. The guy's 72 years old and, after exhorting, scolding, exclaiming, weeping, shouting and (at one point) whispering for about three hours, he single-handedly carries the dead Cordelia about twenty-five feet out onto the proscenium, lays her down, and proceeds to do one of the longer death scenes to be seen on the boards. (These were very inventive boards, by the way, up through which, when the occasion called for it, spewed lightning, fog, smoke, and fire.) The second thing that got me was Jacobi's vocal range. Has any other actor ever gone so high on the register--at moments, he practically yodeled--in conveying Lear's beyond-existential agony?

The production was fine--nifty simple black costumes with astute use of brown, purple and gray--and the audience gave it a standing ovation. The audience also looked like a meeting of a faculty senate (lots of white beards and rumpledness), which leads me to Saturday night. Laurie gave a party for the bloggers on "Brainstorm," The Chronicle of Higher Education's blogsite to which she, an art professor, contributes (for a bit of filthy lucre, I might add). Only four of the fourteen regular bloggers showed--one came down from Boston and another all the way up from Florida (both of them write mainly about science)--but a bevy of editors and significant others attended, so that the food that Laurie spent all day cooking (pasta, sesame chicken, shrimp with cilantro, and some very nasty lemon squares) was pretty well gobbled up. As was the wine gurgled down, along with a fifth of Tanqueray and some scotch. I've been out of academe for twenty-some years, don't drink, and had forgotten how much academics drink, especially when it's free. (Credit where due, though: One of the guests brought a bottle of ten-year-old single malt as his housegift, which was above and beyond.) The point of all this? Well, I was chief server and in charge of kitchen police, so the evening was a long one, especially bang-bang with "Lear."

Finally, came Sunday night: The opening of "Soutine/Bacon," an astonishingly major-museum-quality exhibition at a very monied (ya think?) gallery on the Upper East Side, with a direct (as you shall see) physical connection to the Hotel Carlyle. It was an absolute zoo, albeit a quite elegant zoo with gate-guardians checking the guestlist on iPads, the crowd salted with (or maybe they just came because they like modern art) otherworldly beautiful women none of whom checked in at under six feet tall, and a few genuine celebs in attendance (Leonardo DiCaprio in an Auburn University baseball cap--I recognized the cap, but not him). A reception, even more crowded, took place at the Carlyle, a place you got to by slipping behind the gallery reception desk and dog-legging it through a Gosford-Park-like passage right into the HC's lobby. I said hello to the people that both good manners and naked opportunism bid I should greet, but the crush in the salon was unbearable. A bit of smoked salmon on a piece of potato, a piece of crayfish dipped in something fancier than mayonnaise, a glass of bubble water, and I was outta there, cooling my heels while Laurie stayed on in that high-end cattle pen, working the room with her dealer. She's the one who says she needs lots of sleep, so how could she be doing this, after three hours of "Lear" and discussing it for another two, and after festing the Chronicle crew the next night?

For that matter, how could I? It turned out I couldn't. Today, I'd promised myself, I was going to blog on Dick and Kaz, and I just blew it off. Too many scheming daughters, imbibing professors, and supermodel art lovers were hubbubbing in my brain. When it clears, I'll try to get back to that which is infinitely superior to any of all this: abstract art.

May 2, 2011 8:41 PM | | Comments (1)


this is the kind of thing (the Lear play) that makes me yearn to be in NYC.

that said, these kind of descriptions make it possible for me to be content far away......

(the other stuff not as appealing, -ha! i am a monkess)

Derek Jacobi is so cool beans- we once loved watching the "Claudius" series.

re, abstract art. i flatter myself an expert. please keep me posted.

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