Here in my little world we go to the theatre. We drink. We smoke. We eat. We take cabs and subways. We go to museums. The list is endless. In my world I review everything that happens to me on the day that I go to the theatre. Nothing is sacrosanct and everything is subject to my contempt or acclamation. Give me the hook or the ovation but remember it's my world and you're just living in it! Welcome to my world...
I woke on Saturday morning to the sight of beautifully wrapped birthday presents on the dining room table and the smell of coffee brewing. Stephanie had wrapped them in purple paper with lavender clothe ribbon, and scattered all over were small metallic animal stickers. As I began to open my gifts, Stephanie emerged from the kitchen with the carrot cake she'd made Friday night. Oh good lord, that girl makes the best damn carrot cake you've ever had. She even grates the carrots by hand, and she's got the cuts on her knuckles to prove it. How lovely to see our silver leafed table reflecting the presents while noshing on birthday cake and sipping coffee. She bought me a Bob Fosse book, three CDs, a stainless steel frame, a Chicago mug, a Playbill binder, and tickets to see The Diary Of Anne Frank!
You're thinking, "Isn't that a little too depressing to see on your birthday?" Well, if you're a regular reader of my columns, then you know that I love to bust out crying in the theatre. I really love a good cry. Its such a release, don't you think? After we had listened to the CDs, we thought we'd just relax around the house until dinner. Skimming the Fosse book really put me in the mood to watch All That Jazz. I don't know about you, but I could watch those dance scenes all day long. Fosse was definitely one the greatest geniuses of our time, and Anne Reinking, well, good lord that woman is amazing.
Around 5:30 we headed out and caught a cab for "Joe Allen's" on Forty-Sixth. Remember a few weeks back when I called and complained how hateful Chris the bartender was? Well, the manager, Mick was so gracious to send us a letter inviting us back for a complimentary dinner. Isn't that just delightful of him? It's so refreshing to know there are still people out there, who are courteous and pleasant. When we arrived, we were greeted by Bradley, who has such a cheery and agreeable demeanor. Oh, and did I mention that he loves my column? Proves he's a genius, too. We started off with a bottle of Rioja, and nibbled on the bread. For dinner I had the swordfish and Stephanie had the salmon, both were well prepared and quite tasty. As much as I wanted to order dessert, I couldn't. I was as full as a tick. Of course, it could have something to do with the four pieces of cake I had before I came. Instead we sipped our coffee before heading over to the Music Box Theatre.
Let me preface by telling you that I've always been fascinated by the atrocities of the Third Reich. While I was in Paris, I took a fourteen hour train ride to Dauchau and meandered around in the snow. I was, of course moved by what I saw there. But, for some reason I wasn't quite as touched as I thought I would be. I stayed in Germany that time for less than twelve hours, then caught the late night train to Amsterdam. I went specifically to see the Anne Frank House. I walked past the bookshelf and up the narrow staircase to the annex where the Franks, Van Daans, and Mr. Dussel spent two years in hiding. It was cold up there and the boards creaked in the hollow rooms. I remember thinking that it was larger than I had imagined. There were bedrooms, small toilet, and a rather nice size kitchen. But then I saw something that put a face on the Holocaust, the photographs and movie star cut-outs that Anne had pasted on the wall were still there. They looked so fresh, that it seemed a window to her soul had been left open. I imagined her gluing them on the wall. I imagined her dreams of freedom. I thought of her longing to be outside and to play with her friends in the sun. Somehow those pictures on the wall allowed me to see her as less of the icon she had become, and more of the innocent child that she was.
Adrianne Lobel's remarkably authentic set designs for the newly revised revival of The Diary Of Anne Frank took me back to 263 Prinsengracht. Brian MacDevitt's hauntingly tender lighting transformed the rooms from Autumn to Spring, evening to morning, and hope to desperation. Dan Moses Schreir's sound design brings on the comfort of falling rain, the terror of passing sirens, and a radio crackling erroneous optimism. The annex had come alive again.
To say that Wendy Kesselman's fresh adaptation and James Lapine's direction have created an important play is a rather inadequate statement. They have breathed life into the Goodrich and Hackett play from 1955, with an additional thirty percent of the diary that previously had been edited out by Anne's father. Mr. Frank had left out portions of Anne's diary that dealt with her sexuality, her estrangement with her mother and the questioning of her faith. The newly added supplementary elements of the diary now flesh out Anne as a real teenager; precocious, loquacious, endearing, and yes, at times bratty.
Natalie Portman is the quintessential Anne Frank. She is not always likable, sometimes annoying, but always unfeigned. Anne Frank was a child, not a saint. Miss Portman's portrayal is real. Otto Frank, played with great compassion by George Hern, is Anne's favourite playmate. Their interactions as father and daughter are touching. It is obvious that Mr. Frank understands his daughter better than anyone else. Even Mr. Frank himself stated he became more acquainted with his daughter through her diary after her death. Linda Lavin gives an amazing portrayal as the matriarch of Van Daan family. At times she provides light comedic relief, and with a turn brings you to the brink of tears. In one scene, Mrs. Van Daan is told she must sell her fur coat in order to buy food for the annex. Instead, she clings to the coat, as the one last reminder of the outside world she has left behind. When the coat is ripped from her, she stands sobbing and emotionally naked. The scene becomes an allegory of faith, hope, and dignity lost. The entire cast is so real that one feels privy not only to their day to day life, but also to the intrinsic longings of their souls.
The invasion of the Nazis into the annex, of course, was inevitable. And although the viewer is aware of the abductions, it is still a horrifying moment. Chairs are knocked over, objects dropped and screams of terror fill the hiding place. Then silence. It is one of the most frighteningly despondent moments I've ever experienced in a theatre. After a brief blackout, Mr. Frank returns to the annex with Anne's diary and delivers the dinouement. As he speaks, a projection of Anne's writing gracefully floods the stage. He tells us that the last time Anne was seen, she was standing naked, her head shaven, shivering in the snow. Anne Frank died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp only weeks before the liberation.
As the cast slowly joined the stage for the final call, the audience applauded reverently. There were no standing ovations, no cheers, only solemn monotone applause. Many people remained in their seats, sobbing after the house lights brightened. We sat stunned and numb, tears streaming down our faces. A lady next to us offered tissues. It was almost too much to bear. After about five minutes, we regained our composure. Through tears, Stephanie turned to me giggling, "Well, happy birthday." We laughed.
As we headed over to "Joe Allen's" for a much needed cocktail, we saw the girl who played Anne's sister Margot, Missy Yager. As she was signing our Playbills she asked for a cigarette. I gave her one and lit it. She thanked us, and then I thought, "Wait a minute, I don't think she's old enough to smoke." I was still in such shock that I didn't even think about that.
"Joe Allen's" was hopping! So many people were there; Bebe Neuworth, James Naughton, Allison Mackie (Cyrano), and many others. The joy and excitement in the restaurant lifted our sprits. But, we couldn't stay all night as we had to meet my friends for some birthday cocktails downtown.
We walked over to the heart of Times Square and caught a cab for one of my favourite bars, "Le Ciel Rouge." The bar is beautiful with it's crimson walls, ceilings and curtains. The place looks like a 1920's French cabaret lounge, with cozy little cafe tables draped in red table cloths. Lovely, you must go. My friend, Greg, was already there waiting for us; we all found a table and I ordered my beloved cocktail, the Champagne Julep. It's a delicious concoction of sweetened bourbon, champagne, fresh mint leaves and crushed ice served in an old fashioned oversized martini glass. Greg is taking me to the opera in December for my birthday. Isn't that the sweetest thing? I'm so looking forward to going to the Met with him. In a couple of weeks I'll give you all a full report. Then my dear friend, Angela, came with her fianci, and she gave me some gorgeous Aveda eye shadows and a MAC lipstick that I've been dying for. My friend, Beth, who worked on Side Show, was also there. Then, my friends, Alexis and Myoko, came but they brought that crazy Carol with them. AHH! Not Carol, I thought! Carol is a complete nutcase. She looks like the bastard child of Eleanor Roosevelt and Mr. Ed. This woman mispronounces almost every word that comes out of her trashcan of a mouth. She's just unbelievable in her gold lame leopard ensemble. And get this, the woman will talk your damn head off, and you'll never know what the hell she was saying. That woman scares me! Even though Carol was there we all had a lovely time, and mercifully, she sat too far away from me for us to converse. At about two o'clock in the morning we parted ways and Stephanie and I went to the bodega next door and picked up The New York Times and some Animal Crackers for the ride home.
In closing, if you ever have a bad experience with a restaurant then you should call and report the situation. You never know, you may get a free dinner out of it. But don't always call about something negative, if something wonderful happened them tell them about that! You should really check out "Joe Allen's" on Forty-Sixth Street, between Eighth and Ninth Avenues; tell Mick and Bradley I sent you. If you're interested in a place where you can sit and talk in a delicious setting, and have a few cocktails then check out, "Le Ciel Rouge" on Seventh Avenue between Twentieth and Twenty-First Street. Have a look at their drink list before ordering. If you love Bob Fosse as I do, then you should check out "Bob Fosse's Broadway", by Margery Beddow. It's a very concise quick read all about Mr. Fosse's work in theatre and film. And if you haven't seen All That Jazz, then what the hell are you waiting for? Rent the damn thing! If you're looking for a new Winter lipstick then you should really try MAC's "Carnal," it's a stunningly dramatic blue-red! And if you're the type of person that doesn't like a show that's depressing, then get over yourself. You must see The Diary of Anne Frank, it's probably the most important play you'll see all year.
I would also like to thank all of my dear friends who made my birthday so wonderful this year!