This is me and my friend Erin on a cruise in front of Lady Liberty herself. Hair flying everywhere, well mine that is. (It’s grown in curlier than it originally was in my opinion). I’ve returned from said trip to New York and I have much to tell you!
The first five days of my trip was spent with these guys. They are my cousins, (or second cousins? my second cousin’s kids??). B called it field work in having a family. My time in Connecticut wasn’t exactly glamorous, but it was nice to hang out with family. Go bowling. See a beach. Have some nice tapas at this place in Stamford. Not work – awesome.
I took a train from Stamford to New York. Oh and got on the wrong train (hey! it was on the right platform, just the wrong train). There is nothing like sitting on a train that you aren’t sure is going in the direction you want to be going. Thankfully I got off it and boarded the right train. Sometimes, I have moments of brilliance.
I had enough time to get food and walk around Time Square before Erin arrived so I took a really long walk to Totto Ramen, in the neighbourhood of Hell’s Kitchen. There wasn’t a line, as it was 4 in the afternoon on a Thursday. It’s this tiny place where you can sit at the bar and eat great noodles. It felt very authentic Manhattan. I highly recommend it. No photos of this place, but they won a prize for best Manhattan ramen a couple years ago and the award sits under the stereo blasting old tunes throughout the small joint.
When Erin arrived we decided to go to Marseille for a late late dinner. This is where, even though it was Erin who ordered it, I had the best burger ever. Seriously. You know that episode of How I met your mother? They should have tried this burger. Because it was amazing. Again no photos, because well… I was too busy enjoying the food.
The next day it was raining so we checked out the MOMA and this is where I checked off an item on my bucket list: See the original Starry Night.
It happened. So amazing. The only disappointing part was that Dali’s melting clocks (which is actually titled The Persistence of Memory, but I prefer melting clocks) wasn’t there. It’s apparently in Paris. When I was in Paris it was somewhere else. It still alludes me.
Oh, and hey. The Scream was there. No big deal. (not on my bucket list, but still very cool). This version, of which Munch did 4, is a pastel version and the only one in the US. It has never been shown publicly.
We then went for dinner later that night, complete with a bottle of wine. Which meant that we a bit tipsy for Sleep No More. I’d been recommended Sleep No More and had heard a lot about it through different sources. It’s also gotten rave reviews. So I had to check it out.
Punchdrunk is a British site specific theatre company, and they have sunk millions into transforming three abandoned warehouses in Chelsea into The McKittrick Hotel. Sleep No More is immersive, site specific theatre, that presents Shakespeare’s Macbeth in a whole different light. Unlike site specific theatre that I’ve previously experienced, the outstanding aspect of Punchdrunk’s presentation is that it’s not a guided tour. You are free to create your own experience. Five floors with over a hundred rooms. The only conditions are that you where a mask the whole time and you can’t talk, (pretty standard rules). There are drawers to examine and books to read and bottles to be opened. It’s vicarious living and you can mess with everything in the rooms. Oh, and at some point there are actors who play out scenes.
So here is my overall critique of Sleep No More. The staging and transformation of the warehouses is outstanding and detailed. From insane asylum rooms, to a bathtub adorned with letters from MacBeth, to a taxidermy room. But the narrative and actual theatre aspect, you have to be willing to chase it. Like run after it, in a mask that your retinas are sweating bullets in. And you’re not the only one running after it, there are a dozen other people who are chasing that same narrative. So you can run after it, decide that you don’t actually like crowds and wander into another room hoping that the narrative will maybe find you. Or you can watch a couple dance on a pool table for ten minutes, or a nurse wash patient gowns. There was one scene in which I assume Macbeth is bathed by Lady Macbeth, which was intriguing, but I was adverse to elbowing other people out of the way so that me and my shortness could see something.
To this end, Punchdrunk’s Sleep No More felt a lot like a money grab. From the hundred dollar ticket price, to the fourteen dollar price tag on a drink, to the mandatory three dollar coat check. I understand why they had a coat check. Big purses and coats would get in the way. But if you need people to check everything they own, then make it free. And at the end, if you want to actually see the story and piece it together you can buy the gift book for a mere twenty dollars. And they also host a dinner for a hundred dollars a ticket every night. It is very very clear that Punchdrunk, is aiming to make a profit (or at least recover the millions they sunk into the project) and is doing very well. Which is great! Who says the arts has to be a starving-for -money enterprise? Punchdrunk isn’t being supported by government funding in this venture. Go corporate and charge money for it. I just wish I had gotten more for my money. And it could very well be my fault, as I should have followed one actor the whole time and stuck with it. It leads one to believe that you can do it better next time, that your experience next time can be full of performance. Which suggests that Sleep No More is the kind of theatre that requires more than one viewing. Isn’t that convenient?
And for someone who has studied MacBeth this felt more like glimpses of MacBeth. Loosely, kind of based on Shakespeare’s MacBeth. If you found that storyline in the performance you had to be looking for it. Hard. In the end, the experience was a voyeuristic adventure into a detailed space. Kind of like a haunted house. With some people moving through the space every once in a while and a bunch of people with masks on following them.
It was interesting, but it did not blow me away.
The next day found us at the Guggenheim Museum, Central Park and the Shake Shack for lunch. Good milkshakes and pretty good food.
We then went to Primary Stage’s production of All In The Timing. Small, intimate theatre and the production was well done with some hit and miss pieces.
After three separate tries to see Once the Broadway musical, we finally managed it on the third time. It was lovely, full of great singing and music. I realized that though I hadn’t seen the movie, I knew the music! The Swell Season, of which the band members starred in and wrote the music to Once, came to the Folk Festival a couple years ago. So I was familiar with the songs in she show. It was well done and I’m really glad we finally managed to see it.
Dinner cruise that night, where we actually got to see the city in its glory.
Our last meal of the trip was at Momofoku Noodle Bar. We accidentally went to the Milk Bar instead the first time (Patent in the Pantry had the opposite problem), so these noodles were terribly satisfying when we finally got them. Seems like my trip was full of ramen.