My new “Think Again” column is called “As Ronald Reagan Said… Oh Never Mind” and it’s here.
My new Nation column is called “Of Semites and ‘Anti-Semites’" and it’s here.
If you’ve been reading “Altercation” for a long time, then you may have heard my argument that I prefer Shaw to Shakespeare (and not that it’s relevant, Mozart to Beethoven). That argument didn’t look so great last weekend, but it was not a fair fight. Saturday afternoon I saw the Pearl Theatre Company revival of Shaw’s The Philanderer. Originally written in 1893, it was banned for 15 years. And it’s a nice light piece of Shaw, who, having only written a single play before this, was just beginning to develop to the crazily self-confident genius/philosopher/playwright he would soon become. It’s got some interesting ideas about relations between the sexes and “Ibsenism” and you will thoroughly enjoy it—Pearl’s production is flawless (though the chairs could be more comfortable).
At BAM’s Harvey Theater, however, where Richard III marks the third and final installment of the transatlantic Bridge Project, co-produced by London’s Old Vic (where Kevin Spacey is artistic director), BAM and Sam Mendes’ Neal Street Productions staring Spacey, and directed by Mendes and co-produced by the Old Vic company is the kind of performance one recalls, however faintly, for a lifetime. Spacey is a man possessed, as Richard must be, and the staging is scary and sparse at the same time, allowing you to focus not only on the words but on what is unspoken but nevertheless communicated (or at least “felt”) by a rapt audience over a period of three and a quarter hours. The rest of the performances were good too, but it is almost impossible not to be overwhelmed by Spacey. From the opening lines—see the hed—the effect is hypnotic. If ever an actor was meant to play a role….
So I’m sticking to my argument, just not this once… (And I think tickets are sill available for the run.)
I did, however, get to the tenth anniversary performance of the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra last week at Symphony Space, conveniently located two blocks from my apartment. I saw the first of two nights, which was the star-studded one. The orchestra, founded and directed by the pianist Arturo O’Farrill, spent its first five years as a resident ensemble at Jazz at Lincoln Center where I saw it a few times. Its current 18-piece lineup plays old fashion Latin jazz, but also newfangled Latin jazz. It’s a really important institution. The show I saw included an original arrangement of the Tito Rodríguez hit “Estoy Como Nunca,” sung by Carlos Díaz from the Cuban a cappella group Vocal Sampling; the songwriter and author Ned Sublette in a big-band bolero; the Latin jazz composer and arranger, Ray Santos doing “Browsing With Bauzá,” a tribute to Mario Bauzá, a founding father of the music. Next came Colombia’s Edmar Castañeda playing a harp, Argentine pianist Fernando Otero, the great (and sexy) Chilean Claudia Acuña sanging the Violeta Parra song, “Volver a los 17,” amazingly arranged by Jason Lindner . And it just kept coming. Randy Weston, Cuban drummer Dafnis Prieto, the great sax player Donald Harrison who sang “Iko Iko…” well, you shoulda been there. I’m sure glad I was…