Wednesday, November 25, 2015

On Broadway- The King and I

You know you are in for something special in the new Broadway production of The King and I as it opens as a huge ship moves along the stage and out into the audience.

Kelli O'Hara has finally won a Tony for her role as Anna, the English widow who brings her son to Siam when she takes a job as a teacher to the King of Siam's many children in the 1860s. O'Hara is simply stunning as Anna, letting us see how steely Anna must be to hold her own in a land where women are relegated to an inferior role.

Jose Llana played the King in the performance I saw (the role has seen two Kings since he departed), and he did a masterful job in a very demanding and dialogue-heavy role. He and O'Hara had a wonderful chemistry, especially in the audience pleasing song and dance of "Shall We Dance?", one of the highlights of the show.

I'd never seen the show, and was so impressed with this glorious production. Everything from the sets to the costumes to the music and choreography were perfectly done.

The young actors who play the King's children are delightful, and O'Hara clearly enjoys her scenes with them. Her interactions with the wives is interesting too. As hard as it seems, Ruthie Ann Miles steals the scene from O'Hara as she leaves the audience breathless when she sings "Something Wonderful". She received a standing ovation in the middle of the show for it.

It is a very long show, but you are so absorbed in this amazing production, you will jump to your feet at the end of the show to applaud this pitch-perfect production. The King and I is a show worth seeing, even if you have to pay full price for a ticket. You will get you money's worth.

More information about the show is here.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

On Broadway- Sylvia

Annaleigh Ashford follows up her Tony-winning performance in You Can't Take It With You with another comedic tour-de-force in Sylvia.

She plays a dog that Greg, a man who seems bored with his job and his life played by Matthew Broderick, finds wandering in Central Park. Greg names the dog Sylvia and brings her home to his New York City apartment much to the dismay of his wife Kate, wonderfully played by Julie White.

Kate and Greg are now empty nesters, and Kate has gone back to school and found a job that she loves. She and Greg seem to be in a different place in life. He is bored with his job, looking for something fulfilling, and after years of raising children and caring for her husband, Kate is ready to dive into her career, and caring for a dog is not in the picture for her.

Anyone who has ever owned a dog will be charmed by Ashford's fantastic performance (and judging by the roaring laughter from the audience, most of them owned dogs). She is sassy and funny, and when she curses other dogs at the park, I laughed so hard because I imagined my dog used to think the same things.

Ashford has said that to prepare for her role she took dog obedience lessons with her own beloved dog, and her commitment shines through in her performance. She even managed the wet dog eyes. (I absolutely love her in Showtime's Master of Sex as office manager Betty, another award-winning worthy performance.)

Robert Sella steals the scenes he is in as three different characters, especially as Leslie, the therapist and Phyllis, the socialite. Broderick is very low-key in his performance, and I guess that is because Greg is so low-key.

I wasn't crazy about the ending to the show. You can't compromise when it comes to dog ownership, and someone has to give in. Let me just say that it's clear the author of the play is a man.

This is a show worth seeing for Ashford's performance, and I would recommend it as you can find discount tickets. It is a limited run show, so if you want to see it, more information is here.

Monday, November 23, 2015

On Broadway- Fool For Love

Nina Arianda & Sam Rockwell
Sam Shepard's Pulitzer prize-winning play Fool For Love has finally come to Broadway, with two powerhouse performances from Sam Rockwell and Tony winner Nina Arianda at the center of it.

The show opens in a small hotel room, an elderly man sitting off to the side of the stage, a man in cowboy hat in a chair and woman sitting on the edge of the bed, her hair covering her face, not moving. The scene is silent for more than a few minutes, making some in the audience uncomfortable.

Finally, the cowboy Eddie speaks, asking the woman May if she needs a glass of water. We find that Eddie has found May here, claiming that he has been searching for her. She doesn't believe him, and we slowly discover that he left her behind, running off with another, wealthier, woman.

Over the course of the 75 minute show, these two spar verbally and physically, and the emotions are tense and intense. They circle each other, pushing each other away, yet seemingly unable to pull away from each other. There is clearly something in their past.

May tells him that she has a date coming to pick her up, and he refuses to leave, wanting to meet the man. The poor guy, Martin, shows up, and while totally confused by what is going on, he tries to follow the action. Tom Pelphrey gives a terrific, winning performance as the confused Martin.

Eventually we find out what the deal is with Eddie and May and the old man. It's a stunning revelation, and when it happens, you can audibly hear the audience takes in its collective breath.

Fool For Love is a testament to great writing and brilliant acting by Rockwell and Arianda. It is a not-to-be-missed show, even at full price, but you'd better hurry, its run ends December 13th.

I saw Nina Arianda in her Tony-winning performance in Venus in Fur, and she proves here that she is a talent to be reckoned with.

You can find more information here.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Weekend Cooking- A Crazy Busy Week

This post is part of Beth Fish Reads' Weekend Cooking.  If you have anything related to food, cookbook reviews, novel or non-fiction book reviews, recipes, movie reviews, etc., head over to Beth Fish Reads and add your post. Or, if you want to read food related posts, head over to read what some interesting people have to say about food.

Last week was a crazy busy week. We were out almost every night, which while it can be usual for my husband, is not so much for me.

  • On Sunday we had dinner with my husband's aunt who was in town for a wedding. We had dinner at The View, the revolving restaurant on the top floor of the Marriott Marquis hotel in Times Square. I started with a White Berry Cosmo, which had just the right blend of sweet and tart. It's a three course pre-fixe, so I had the crab cake appetizer (fine) and the Roasted Breast of Chicken, which was very tasty, as was the side of Pumpkin Risotto. The Chocolate Gianduja Lemon dessert was OK.
  • On Monday, I did cook and I made a new recipe from Pinterest- One Pot Greek Chicken & Lemon Rice from Recipe Tin Eats. My husband enjoyed it, and we had enough for leftovers the next night.  

From Recipe Tin Eats
  • On Wednesday, we attended a gala for the Path to Peace Foundation at the United Nations. Princess Haya bint Al Hussein, the daughter of the late King of Jordan and the wife of the Prime Minister of the UAE and the ruler of Dubai, received the award for her work with children's and hunger organizations. She gave an impassioned speech about how the people who are terrorizing the entire world do not do it in her name (she is Muslim) or in the name of Islam, and how the world must pull together for light to defeat darkness. The dinner was salmon or vegetables, which was different from most galas, where the norm is a filet of beef and some kind of potato. 
    Princess Haya bint Al Hussein
  • Thursday evening found us at the Arlington Club, where we had dinner with a couple from Sarasota. It was raining cats and dogs and so my between wonderful Cosmo and their famous popovers that they serve the table, I was a happy camper. My husband and I split their Chopped Greek Salad and their dinner special that night of a 28oz. bone-in sirloin steak with truffle fries. For dessert, we shared a Banana Cream Pie, which is served with rum ice cream and nutella fudge topping. It was delicious, and fortified us for our dash back into the rain.
  • A friend came into town, and we took him to dinner at my favorite neighborhood restaurant, Lusardi's, where my husband and he talked shop. I had a lovely pinot grigio with my favorite dinner of their Insalata Piemontese (pear salad) and Tortelli en Salsa Tartufata (ravioli with mushroom and spinach and fontina cheese in a white truffle sauce). It's always good at Lusardi's.
  • I had every intention of making dinner on Saturday, but after working my shift at The Book Cellar, I did not feel much like cooking, and was relieved when my suggestion of going to Finestra, a little Italian joint across the street from our apartment, was met with enthusiasm from my husband. The Cheese Tortellini Soup with herbs warmed me right up, and I ate half of my Spaghetti Carbonara, which was delicious but very filling (the leftovers will be lunch).
  • Back to Sunday, and I am finally cooking- Mississippi Roast in the crockpot with mashed potatoes, and a broccoli, mushroom and onion saute. French onion soup will be my starter. I hope I remember how to cook!
How was your week of eating? Let me know in comments.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Weekend Cooking- 100 Years of Family Dinners

This post is part of Beth Fish Reads' Weekend Cooking.  If you have anything related to food, cookbook reviews, novel or non-fiction book reviews, recipes, movie reviews, etc., head over to Beth Fish Reads and add your post. Or, if you want to read food related posts, head over to read what some interesting people have to say about food.

As I began to write this post, I was interrupted by a matter that needed attention in the kitchen, which is either ironic or appropriate depending on your point of view. I took care of the issue, and so I am back to work.

I saw a post on Facebook this week from which created a video "100 Years of Family Dinners". They started in 1915 and showed a plate that represents what American families would eat for dinner.

It was fascinating, and only takes a few minutes to view.

It begins in 1915 with Roast Beef and Franconia Potatoes, which I thought looked very appealing. Fast forward ten years and in 1925, we get Chicken a la King, which sort of surprised me.

We see how the economic times changed the meals. During the Great Depression, 1935's meal was Creamed Chipped Beef on Toast with Buttered Peas, and in 1945 as WWII was ending, we see Spam, Baked Potato and Lima Beans, not my favorite meal, but representative of the depravation of the war years.

In 1955 TV was king, and so the invention of the TV dinner was popular. They show my favorite, Roast Turkey, Gravy, Mashed Potatoes and Peas. (I used to eat this after I got home late at night from work at the movie theater when I was in high school, which was the late 1970's so its popularity continued on for decades.)

The "Mad Men" decade brought us Chicken Kiev, Potatoes with a Cream Sauce and Boiled Carrots in 1965, while in 1975, Cheese Fondue with Ham and Bread Cubes celebrated the Me Decade with a communal dish. (Now that is ironic.)

When so many women entered the work force, 1985 saw Sloppy Joes and Boxed Macaroni and Cheese on family tables, a meal that could be put together quickly.  Ethnic foods entered supermarkets, and in 1995 we see Tacos and Refried Beans, followed by Sushi in 2005.

As people turned to healthier fare for their families, we end up in 2015 with Grilled Salmon and a Quinoa and Kale Salad.

Which one of these meals is your favorite? Let me know in Comments.

Friday, November 13, 2015

At The Movies- Brooklyn

A few years ago I read Colm Toibin's beautiful novel Brooklyn.  He told the story of Eilis, a young Irish woman who leaves her home, her mother and sister in Ireland to come to America for a better opportunity in 1951.

Eilis' sister Rose arranged for Eilis to move to move to Brooklyn where a kindly priest found her a job working in an upscale department store and a place to live in a boardinghouse with other young women.

Eilis was frightened and very lonely, and Toibin made her loneliness feel palpable on the page. I can remember feeling that so many of our own relatives must have felt the very same way, moving away from home and family all alone to a new country.

Toibin's novel was turned into a movie, also called Brooklyn, and I saw it last week. It is such a beautiful work of art, it felt like an old-fashioned MGM movie from the 1950s. The colors are so vibrant, the costumes just so lovely, and Saoirse Ronan is absolute perfection as Eilis.

Her beautiful face just registers all the emotions that Eilis feels- the loneliness, homesickness, fear, and eventually joy and love. Ronan gives a stunning performance, and is in nearly every scene of the movie. Oscar buzz is already building for her, and I would be shocked if she is not nominated.

Director John Crowley creates a work of art here, and Nick Hornsby's script perfectly captures the essence of Tobin's book. All of my favorite book scenes are in the movie.

As Eilis falls in love with Tony, wonderfully played by Emory Cohen, you can feel Eilis coming out of her shell and believing that she can be happy and have a future. Watching them fall in love was so heartwarming.

Tragedy intervenes and Eilis must return home for awhile. When she gets there, she feels torn between her home and her new life, and you will be on pins and needles waiting to get to the end. And even though I knew how it ended, I still felt anxious, that's how well done this movie is.

In the lobby
I give Brooklyn the movie my highest recommendation. Take your mom or your grandma to see it with you.

The City Cinema 1-2-3 on the Upper East Side had a display of one of Eilis' costumes, a black sweater that I coveted from the movie. Maybe there will be a fashion tie-in with the movie?
A closeup of Ellis' sweater and skirt

The link to the homepage for the Fox Searchlight movie is here.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

In A Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

In A Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware
Published by Gallery/Scout Press ISBN 9781501115523
Hardcover, $26, 320 pages

People looking for a read similar to The Girl On The Train have a new mystery to savor. Ruth Ware's In A Dark, Dark Wood is a worthy successor, also featuring an unreliable narrator.

The story opens with Nora waking up with a head injury in a hospital bed. She wonders what has happened and what she has done. And why is her room being guarded by a police officer? Is it to protect her or keep her from leaving?

Earlier, Nora received an invitation to a hen (bachelorette) party for someone she hasn't seen since high school. Since she didn't get an invitation to the wedding she finds this strange, but when her friend Nina calls and begs to go with her to the party, she reluctantly agrees.

The party takes place in a secluded house in the woods, and we meet the people at the party- Nora (a writer), Nina (a doctor), Melanie (a lawyer and new mom), Tom (a playwright), Flo (the party hostess and best friend of the bride) and Clare (the bride).

We slowly find out that Clare and Nora used to be best friends until something drastic happened to end that. And now Clare is engaged to Nora's ex-boyfriend. Why would Clare invite Nora to her hen party?

In A Dark, Dark Wood has a setup reminiscent to an Agatha Christie novel: a small group of people trapped in a place, when strange things begin to happen. There is too much drinking, some drug use, a ouija board, a shotgun on the wall, and then the truth telling begins and people begin to turn on each other. (There's even a Ten Little Indians shout-out in the story.)

When it appears that someone out there is trying to break into the house, the shotgun comes into play. And Nora ends up in the hospital with ahead injury with only flashes of a shooting and a car accident.

Like The Girl On The Train, the reader is led to believe that our narrator may be responsible for a death. Nora's head injury, like Rachel's alcohol-induced blackouts, causes her to wonder what she may have done. Ware does a terrific job creating an atmosphere of panic and confusion, and even though the reader feels confident she has cracked the mystery, she begins to doubt herself just as Nora does.

In A Dark, Dark Wood is a page-turner, the kind of book you can curl up with on a rainy day and read all the way through. And if someone you know from high school invites you to a weekend at a secluded house in the woods, you will know enough to decline. I recommend this book for those who liked The Girl On The Train and Agatha Christie mysteries. It was an Editor's Buzz book at BEA this year, and a well-deserved choice.