Monday, June 30, 2008

Weekend Update

The Hello, Dolly Factor. All those people humming "Put On Your Sunday Clothes" this weekend? They saw Wall-E. It's the only movie I've ever seen that can be described by both "sweet love story" and "biting satire." It's also the only movie in history in which a Barbra Streisand movie saves the universe.

Rinse and repeat. Sun in the morning, humidity like molasses, clouds an hour later, thunderstorms, clear sky and sunshine an hour later, more humidity, more thundershowers, clear skies again -- since when did New York in June turn into New Orleans in August?

Wanted. Wanting.

Friday, June 27, 2008

remember when all the viruses on 42nd street used to be biological?

The Naughty Pine: A History by Tabletops 3

The table in Booth 109 is the only oval table in a first-floor booth. It used to sit in William “Bill the Butcher” Poole’s Christopher Street living room, but after his death in 1855 it was bequeathed to Isaiah Vanderlynn, who was, like Poole, one of the leaders of the Know Nothing party. The table sat in Vanderlynn’s study until the Draft Riots of 1863, during which the original table in Booth 109 was shattered in a fight between the Bowery Boys and the Dead Rabbits, and Vanderlynn used the Poole Table to replace it. The legend that John Morrissey, Poole’s arch-enemy, broke into Poole’s house in 1854 and nearly killed Poole by beating his head forty times against the table has never been documented, but that doesn’t stop servers from telling customers that the large discoloration in the center of the table is the bloodstain from that attack. In fact, the bloodstain didn’t appear until 2001, when Daniel Day-Lewis, researching his role as Bill the Butcher in Gangs of New York, paid 500 dollars to sit in Booth 109 and bang his own head 40 times against the table just to see what it felt like.

Booth 113 is usually referred to as the Break-Up Booth. This is where Uma Thurman walked out on Ethan Hawke, Martha Gellhorn threw a drink in Ernest Hemingway’s face, Bob Dylan stood up Joan Baez, Stan Lee told Jack Kirby to fuck off, Rickie Lee Jones and Tom Waits broke up four times in one night, and Lauren Bacall and Jason Robards Jr. nearly killed each other (4 stitches for her, 25 for him). It has more comped meals than any other booth or table in the Naughty Pine –- in this booth, the beer goes flat, the wine tastes sour, plates drop and shatter as food is delivered, and perfectly-served appetizers suddenly have long strands of hair in them. It’s the hair that make everyone think the booth is haunted –- the strands are always at least nine inches long and blonde, and they’ve been showing up since an unidentified woman was found dead of arsenic poisoning in Booth 113 on October 31, 1935. The identity of the dead woman remains a mystery, but Luc Sante, among others, believes that she was the mysterious “other woman” who appeared in letters and pictures found after Dutch Schultz was killed at the Palace Chophouse on October 23, 1935. Whether her death was murder or suicide is still unknown; autopsy results confirmed that she had enough arsenic in her to kill five people, as well as remarking on the natural color of her slightly-curled nine-inch-long blonde hair.

The kitchen of the Naughty Pine has been the temporary home of many professional and amateur chefs, but the most mysterious is Giuseppe Budino, who went by the name of Joe Boda when he was the Pine’s head chef from 1917 to 1929. Although there is no documentary proof to support the allegation that Budino/Boda was related to Sacco and Vanzetti associate Mike Boda, there is enough circumstantial evidence to make him the prime suspect in the famous JP Morgan bombing. At noon on September 16, 1920, a horse-drawn wagon containing 100 pounds of dynamite and 500 pounds of metal slugs exploded in front of 23 Wall Street, killing 33 people, injuring over 400, and causing over $2,000,000 (in 1920 dollars) worth of property damage. The bombing was blamed on Italian anarchists, but no arrests were ever made, even though Budino had been heard several times railing against the government after Sacco and Vanzetti’s arrest, had taken the morning of the bombing off, and had a cousin who worked at a scrap metal dump in Brooklyn. Budino died in a hit-and-run accident in 1940; perhaps coincidentally, the FBI closed the Wall Street Bombing case two weeks later; and the scars from the explosion can still be seen in the stone of 23 Wall Street:

The old Pine Street Courtyard behind 69 Pine was the site of two famous duellos. On May 9, 1849, two days after the infamous Astor Place riots, British actor William Charles Macready challenged American actor Edwin Forrest to a duel. As the challenged party, Forrest chose walking sticks as their weapons, and after a congenial dinner the two men and their seconds adjourned to the Pine Courtyard and proceeded to whale away at each other with their hickory sticks until each man was half-dead and covered with bruises. They then returned to the bar and drank till dawn. In 1873, after a performance of Scouts of the Plains at the Astor Theatre, Buffalo Bill Cody, Texas Jack Omohundro, and Wild Bill Hickock got “violently lickered up,” as Omohundro later wrote, and went out into the courtyard to see who was the best shot among the three of them. The challenge was to come as close as possible to hitting each other, a contest that each failed on the twelfth go-round when Cody nicked Hickock’s ear, Hickock winged Cody’s shoulder, and Omohundro shot off the little toe of his left foot.

The only surviving photograph of the Pine Courtyard, circa 1898.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Naughty Pine: A History by Tabletops 2

On July 4, 1804, after dining and celebrating at Fraunces Tavern as part of the annual meeting of the Society of the Cincinnati, Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton spent the rest of the night at Table 112, which sits at the back left-corner of the restaurant, next to the fireplace. What they talked about is unknown. One week later, on July 11, Burr shot and killed Hamilton in a Weehawken, New Jersey, duel. This is also the table where Herman Melville used to sit half a century later; legend has it that he wrote both “Bartleby the Scrivener” and “Billy Budd” here, as well as numerous unmailed letters to Nathaniel Hawthorne. If you know where to look, you can still see carved into the right-hand corner of the table the initials HM, which are just below the faint remains of Aaron Burr’s distinctively cursive initials.

The Sidesaddle Booth, Booth 120, is the ten-top against the back wall, over which hangs a framed photograph taken at the booth in 1929 by Walter Beech, whose Beech Aircraft Company sponsored the First Annual Transcontinental Womens’ Air Competition -- better known as the Sidesaddle Derby, the nickname aviator Wiley Post gave it. The picture shows all ten women who flew the two-week race from Santa Monica, California, to Princeton, New Jersey: Amelia Earhart, Pancho Barnes, Edith Foltz, Bobbi Trout, Blanche Noyes, Mary von Mach, Ruth Elder, Vera Dawn Walker, Louise Thaden, and Marvel “Mary Marvel” Manning, whose Lockheed Vega disappeared into a cloud bank over Pennsylvania on the last day of the race and was never seen again. The nine survivors gathered at Booth 120 every year on the anniversary of the race, until the last survivor, Blanche Noyes, died in 1981.

While Washington Irving always claimed that his 1819 story "Rip Van Winkle" was written while he was in Birmingham, England, the truth is, it was actually drafted after an April 30, 1815 dinner at Booth 118 in which Irving listened to itinerant fiddler Edmund Shapinsay tell the story of how he heard music coming from a low hill in what is now Central Park, and after entering a small door in the hill, came upon a group of trowes throwing a party. After drinking their ale, smoking their pipe-weed, and playing his fiddle for them, Shapinsay emerged from the hill the next morning to discover that fifty years had passed, even though he was barely five hours older. He offered to show Irving the location of the hill, but a day-long search failed to find it, and Irving wrote off Shapinsay as a delusionary drunkard even as he wrote the first draft of what would become his most famous story. As for Shapinsay, he soon found out that, whenever he was asked to confirm his wild story, he could only find Trowes Hill when he was alone. Three months later he disappeared, and was not seen again until April 30, 1846, when a young man meeting his description staggered into the Knotty Pine and asked what year it was. Since then, they say, Shapinsay has reappeared every 40 or 50 years to sit at Booth 118 and share a light-brown meerschaum pipe of curiously strong tobacco with whoever will buy him a drink, most notably the actor Joseph Jefferson in 1896, who made a career of playing Rip Van Winkle on the 19th Century stage. The details of their meeting can be had from singer/songwriter Edmund Shay, one of the current regulars at the downstairs bar, who claims to be Shapinsay’s great-great-grandson and will regale anyone with tales of his ancestor for a free drink while he puffs on a deep brown meerschaum filled with curiously strong tobacco.

The Mona Lisa Booth (Booth 108) got its name thanks to one of the great art thefts of modern times. After stealing the Mona Lisa from the Louvre on August 21, 1911, Vincenzo Perugia painted several copies of da Vinci’s masterpiece and sold them to help finance a round-the-world voyage. In December of 1911, he arrived in New York, made the acquaintance of some Italian-Americans who took him out to dinner at the Knotty Pine, and got so drunk that he passed out. When he awoke, he found himself sitting at Table 108 with his money and watch stolen, and the bill due. Having nothing but the clothes on his back and his painting portfolio, Perugia gave the bartender one of his Mona Lisas as payment. Unfortunately, he was still so inebriated that he handed over the original instead of a copy. It is doubtful whether Perugia ever realized this; certainly he never mentioned it when he was arrested in 1913 for trying to sell what he thought was the original to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy, for $100,000. But even if he had mentioned it, it is doubtful whether the Italian or even the French authorities would have made the admission public. In any case, it is da Vinci’s original which now sits in a battered frame on the wall in Booth 108. It was only put under glass in 1915, after Marcel Duchamp drew a moustache on it.

Tomorrow: a history by tabletops (part 3).

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Naughty Pine: A History by Tabletops 1

On June 20, 1790, after dinner with Thomas Jefferson at his Maiden Lane house, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison joined Jefferson and Aaron Burr at Booth 102 for a long night of drinking, during which the four men changed the course of American history. In return for designating a swampy stretch of Virginia land as the capital city of the newly Constitutionalized United States, Jefferson and Madison agreed that the Federal Government would assume all state-held debt from the Revolutionary War up to and including the years of the Confederation. At this same table, less than seventy years later, John Brown received funding for the raid on Harper’s Ferry from his secret East Coast abolitionist backers.

In 1938, Robert Johnson stopped off for a drink at Table 101 by the window and scribbled a postcard to his friend LeRoy “Bonebucket” Jones. Less than a year later, Johnson had been poisoned by a jealous husband and Jones had moved to New York from Memphis and could be found sitting at the same Table 101, with a plate of ribs on one side and a bucket of bones on the other, singing for his supper three nights a week from dusk till closing. During that time, Jones composed his most famous blues number, “If I Were You, We’d Both Be Miserable,” which was rewritten by Arthur Freed as “If I Were You” and sung by Gene Kelly in the MGM musical Blythe and Bonnie; and later covered by the Rolling Stones (and attributed to “Traditional”) as “Misery Blues”.

Booth 105 was Tom Paine’s table, and the wall over the table had a portrait of him until it was replaced by the famous Anheuser-Busch painting of Custer’s Last Stand. In 1884, while visiting New York as part of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, Sitting Bull ate a plate of clam chowder at this table, which he chose specifically because of the Little Big Horn painting. He is said to have pointed out that Long Hair Custer was actually short-haired during the battle, a fact which no one at the time believed.

Booth 106 was the regular table of Evelyn Nesbit -- it's where she was introduced to Charles Dana Gibson, who used her as the model for his famous Gibson Girl drawings; it's where she met the young John Barrymore, who became her lover and got her pregnant twice (once in the booth itself and once in his apartment); it's where she was introduced to architect Stanford White by fellow Floradora Girl Edna Goodrich; and it's where she met her future husband Harry Thaw, who murdered White at Madison Square Garden on June 25, 1906. In the booth there's still a photo of Nesbit from her Gibson Girl days, but there used to be a much more interesting photo in its place, a shot of Nesbit with Joan Collins which was taken when the two of them had dinner in Booth 106 in 1954 just before Collins started filming The Girl In The Red Velvet Swing, the story of Nesbit's affair with White. The framed photo disappeared one night in 1965 after Andy Warhol and Edie Sedgwick closed the bar. Each accused the other of stealing it, but it was never found in either Segwick's effects after her death in 1971 or Warhols's effects in 1987.

Booth 107 is doubly famous. In 1873, 14-year-old Henry McCarty (also known as Henry Antrim, William H. Bonney, and Billy the Kid) got into an argument with an old barfly named Septimus Kane, during which he stuck a knife in Kane’s neck, killing him instantly. This murder has long been cited as the reason why he and his mother moved to Silver City, New Mexico, three days after the killing. Forty-three years later, on October 26, 1916, Margaret Sanger was eating beef stew and drinking a cup of tea at Booth 107 when she was arrested for obscenity by the New York police. Ten days before, she had opened a birth control clinic in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, which was raided by the police on October 25th. Sanger served 30 days in jail, and the first thing she did when she was released was return to the Knotty Pine to finish her interrupted meal. For the rest of her life (she died in 1966) her dinner checks were picked up by Mary Alice Whitehead, a former suffragette and co-owner of the Knotty Pine; and after her, her son Stanton, who took over sole ownership of the bar when Mary Alice disappeared in 1954. There is currently a picture of Sanger hanging in Booth 107, and it is a constant source of sad amusement to the female staff that almost everyone who sees it (including, alas, most women) believe that it's a portrait of the current owner’s grandmother.

Tomorrow: a history by tabletops (part 2).

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Naughty Pine: A Brief History

69 Pine Street today

The Knotty Pine was established at 69 Pine Street in 1784 by Amos Vanderlynn, on the site of his father’s bar, which was called The Dutch Courage. The Vanderlynn family retained ownership of the one-story building until 1898, when Charity Vanderlynn’s husband Michael John Whitehead bought up the building and both adjacent lots, with the intention of constructing an office building on the site. The demolition of 69 Pine Street was only prevented when Charity’s cousin, Civil War veteran Adrian Vander, hired a team of Irish laborers and on Christmas Day, 1899, dismantled the entire building, loaded it up onto twelve carts, and delivered it to the back yard of 305 Bleecker Street, where it was reconstructed exactly as it had been at Pine Street, booth by booth and table by table, and reopened on January 5, 1900.

For the next eight years, the only way to get to the bar was by way of a small three-foot-wide passage between 303 Bleecker and 305 Bleecker, which led to the doorway which used to open up onto Pine Street, and now fronted a vegetable garden. When 303 and 305 Bleecker were demolished and a single apartment building was rebuilt over this passageway in 1908, Jonathan Vander had two doors built into the side of the building -- 303, which led to the apartments, and 305, which opened up onto a passageway into the back door of the bar. From the 305 entrance, patrons could walk to a stairway which led to the old Pine Street back door, in the rear of the Knotty Pine’s kitchen. (The current passageway, which bypasses the kitchen entirely, was constructed in 1921.) The 305 door is still the only way to enter the bar, and was especially convenient during Prohibition, when Bat Masterson first called the place by the name it’s known today, The Naughty Pine.

The outer structure of the original Pine Street building, which still exists as an attachment to 303/305 Bleecker and now opens up onto a garden seating area, has undergone three separate renovations since its move to Bleecker, the latest of which was in 1954, when the famous upstairs bar, with its landmark skylight, was added to the structure. This renovation was totally financed by Jackson Pollock and Jack Kerouac, who put up the money on one condition -- that they would never once be banned from the Naughty Pine the way they had been continually banned from the Cedar Tavern on University.

Tomorrow: a history by tabletops (part 1).

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Writer's Life

This is what goes through my mind when I finish a play:

This is the best thing anyone has ever written; how come I still have to go to work this morning?

I so want to get laid right now.

Let’s start the next project right away.

Let’s take a breather for a couple of days.

Let’s do something quick. Like in, y’know, three days?

Y’know, it’s pretty good for a first draft, but don’t show it to the agent until it’s been rewritten.

How about a hug?

Which one of 20 Get Me Out Of My Day Job projects should I work on next?

And what about the other thirty folders in my files?

Let’s go through everything and see what strikes my fancy.

God, there’s so many things I could be doing!

I really wish I didn’t have this day job.

I am never going to be able to write one-fiftieth of all these projects.

My life sucks.

And this play sucks; I am going to have to rewrite it top to bottom.

Don’t touch me.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Weekend Update

Rewrote Act 2 Scene 2 on Friday night after work? Check.

Set alarm for 7 AM? Check.

Watched Un Flic with Alain Delon and Catherine Deneuve? Check.

Went to bed at 1? Check.

Got up at 7:30 Saturday? Check.

Wrote first draft of Act 2 Scene 3? Check.

Read first scene of play out loud in preparation for Sunday public reading? Check.

Completely re-structured first scene of play based on crappy out-loud reading? Check.

Re-wrote Act 2 Scene 3? Check.

Got heat prostration headache? Check.

Crashed at 4? Check.

Woke up when lightning storm hit Manhattan at 6? Check.

Watched Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Indy and the Holy Grail on TBS? Check.

Drafted final scene of play? Check.

Went to bed at midnight? Check.

Got up at 7:30 on Sunday? Check.

Wrote final scene of play from 8 till 10:15? Check.

Saw The Incredible Hulk Sunday at 11? Check.

Still think Liv Tyler and my friend Elizabeth Chaumette were separated at birth? Check.

Had lunch at O'Flaherty's? Check.

Somehow restrained myself from trotting out awful "Flaherty's will get you nowhere" pun? Check.

Read first scene of play at uptown diner at 4 PM? Check.

Finished final scene of play? Check.

Took deep sigh after finishing first draft of play? Check.

Immediately started rewriting? Check and double check.

Sent script copy to Ava in Australia? Check.

Re-set alarm for 5:15 PM instead of 5:15AM? Check.

Woke up at 5 AM and said to self "Okay--the alarm will go off in like 15 minutes?" Check.

Woke up at 6:15 AM? Check.

Got fear-induced surge of adrenaline, threw on clothes, and got out of apartment in 90 seconds? Check.

Got into work about 20 minutes later than normal? Check.

Finally zipped fly at 11:10 AM? Check.

you wouldn't like me when I'm angry

(no, it's not me--it's my friend Jay.)

Monday, June 9, 2008

Weekend Update

Irish Flu. Because of Friday night? Saturday was a total loss. Thank you, Jameson's!!!

Sex And The City. Whatever movie Anthony Lane saw, it wasn't the one I watched. Don't any of these male film reviewers have female friends? Or are they just all full of crap? Discussion to come.

War, Inc. A satire that tries so hard to be sharp that it ends up being a blunt instrument. Instead of crying "Wow!" you keep on saying "Ow!" except when Marisa Tomei is on.

Sunday, Sunday. Got up at 7. Rewrote Act 2 Scene 2 in a coffee shop till 9:30. Saw the 10 AM Sex And The City at Lincoln Square. Walked out into the 95-degree-heat and felt like I'd been hit with a burning oven mitt. Walked to the Borders on 59th. Rewrote the rewrite of Act 2 Scene 2 in their coffee area from 1 to 2. Walked to work. Typed out the rewrites and printed them. Subwayed to the Angelika and picked up tickets for the 5:30 War Inc. show. Rewrote the rewritten rewrites for Act 2 Scene 2 from 4 to 5:15. Walked to the Corner Bistro. Had a Bistro burger at the bar. Got home at 10. And thanks to the August heat and humidity, slept for all of maybe 20 minutes.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Elsinore by Moonlight

Random thoughts about the Hamlet in the Park:

Michael Stuhlbarg. Probably the most manic Hamlet I've ever seen, which is not a bad thing at all. It really makes "Now I am alone" a potent moment when, for the last 20 minutes, you've been watching a guy bounce around the stage like a little kid who just had one brownie too many, a big smile on his face, saying anything that comes into his head; and then when he's alone that mask drops to the ground along with his father's coat. That's the brilliance of this performance: you can actually see the words coming into Hamlet's head. Stuhlbarg isn't reciting -- he's thinking out loud, in that high-pitched voice of his that switches back and forth between fiddle and violin, now grating and edgy, now lyrical and sweet. During intermission, my friend said: "I thought it was Joaquin Phoenix until he opened his mouth and I could actually hear him."

Hamlet and Hamlet. Running time with intermission: 3 hours and 15 minutes. Cuts I noticed in the script: no Second Gravedigger; no "Our ship got attacked by pirates;" and (oddly) the moment just before "To be or not to be" that contains Polonius' set up ("With pious action we do sugar o'er/The devil himself") and Claudius’ response ("How smart a lash that speech doth give my conscience!") (Disclaimer: I might have totally missed it because I couldn't take my eyes off Lauren Ambrose, and was much more interested in her than in anything Claudius had to say.) Kudos to director Oskar Eustis for creating that rarity of Public Theatre evenings, one in which all 20 actors are not in 20 different plays. Double kudos for not having an Interpretation into which the text must be shoe-horned. (Which makes the final moment a powerful kick in the teeth.) On the "Did Gertrude know anything beforehand?" debate, the verdict is out (thanks for nothing, Margaret Colin). On the "Did Hamlet sleep with Ophelia?" debate, hell to the yes (thanks for everything, Lauren Ambrose). [Sidebar story: when John Barrymore was asked "Did Hamlet ever sleep with Ophelia?" back in the day, he replied: "Only in the Chicago company."] And on the mad/sane debate, this Hamlet is always mad with a purpose. Does he ever really lose it? Yes, with Ophelia -- and it breaks your heart.

The Meh. Andre Braugher and Margaret Colin just didn't do it for me as Claudius and Gertrude. Braugher was likable but bland; his soul-searching monologue was more like a rant, going up and out instead of down and in. He had an odd "Whoo hoo!" moment when the treaty with Fortinbras was announced -- it was like a Yankees fan watching Rodriguez hit a home run -- and if memory serves me right, his whirling of Colin in a victory hug was their only passionate moment. After which Colin made a point of straightening her skirt, which got a laugh, but epitomized the Nancy Reagan vibe in her character. And that cool public distance sure didn't help her when she got to the "Ophelia is drowned" speech. I have to say, if she was actually using her performance to suggest possible reasons why Gertrude would marry her brother-in-law so quickly, then I missed it entirely. Overall, I didn't get any chemistry between the two of them, and that's the one thing these two characters need.

Lauren Ambrose. An alabaster acting god. The “Watch every emotion register on my face” style of acting which, in Claire Danes, comes off as affected and technical, always feels like the real thing with Ambrose. She hurts so much you just wanna hug her, and then sneak a look at her face to see how she’s taking the hug. How good is she? If there’s a god in heaven, she will get to play Hamlet in the next 10 years. And it will be talked about for the next 50.

Ophelia. The hardest thing for an actress to do as Ophelia isn’t the mad scene –- it’s the stupid “O what a noble mind is here o’erthrown!” monologue after the Nunnery scene. The more she gets emotional about Hamlet telling her to get to a nunnery, the bigger the leap to channel that emotion into a speech that says “He coulda been a contender” instead of “Why are you DOING this to me?” [Just the existence of this speech after that scene is a window into (a) how Shakespeare’s characters constantly surprise you, (b) how in Shakespeare rhetoric always takes precedence over everything, and (c) how Shakespeare’s boy actors were expected to play their female parts.] Even in the best of productions, this speech is a pothole, which means the only way to get past it is to hit the gas and try to convince the audience (and yourself) that Hamlet isn’t really like this, honest, and it’s all my stupid fault because I listened to my father. It’s the acting equivalent of an Immelman Turn, and Ambrose comes the closest I’ve ever seen to pulling it off.

Sam Waterston and Jay O Sanders. The anchors. Waterston makes Polonius proud and blind and helpless. There's a moment after the nunnery scene where Ophelia reaches up to him as he stands on the scaffolding, reaching up as if to beg him to come down and take her in his arms, and the look on Waterston's face is shattering. (It's a visual that Ambrose echoes in the mad scene; nice touch.) As for Sanders, there are probably people in the audience who will think that the Ghost, the Gravedigger and the Player King are played by three different actors. Praise doesn't get any higher than that.

Fresh Eyes and Ears. I went with a friend who had never seen a production of Hamlet before. She gasped when Polonius died; had a hard time remembering who Claudius was because (Hamlet trivia) he’s never once called by his actual name in the course of the play; got a little confused about what happened to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (because the pirate ship scene was cut); and loved every minute of it, not the least because all the catch phrases and famous lines that she knew as “Hamlet quotes” were spoken as part of the play itself, so she could hear them literally for the first time. It’s not true that she turned to me after Hamlet’s “The rest is silence” and said: “He dies?!?" But at the actual end of the production she did turn to me and say, "Whoa -- that’s not in the script, is it?” “Hell no,” I said, “but it’s great, isn’t it?” “God, yeah,” she said, “what a kick in the teeth.” So, uh, stay to the end, people.

And yes, okay? I do hang out with people who have never seen Hamlet before.

Weekend Update

Human Nature 101. When you’re born, the landlord shows you the apartment you’ll be living in for the rest of your life. “You get to design the room yourself,” he says, “you get to furnish it, paint it, add whatever you want to it, but there has to be a hole. You can put it anywhere, and you can’t cover it with anything, but there has to be a hole.” So you say okay and you sign the lease and when you build the room, you put the hole off in a corner somewhere, maybe against the wall –- some place you know you won’t fall into it accidentally. But it doesn’t matter where you put it –- you’re always falling into it. Sometimes deliberately, sometimes by mistake, but it never fails: the one place in the room you’re supposed to avoid is the one place in the room you can’t stop visiting.

June Means Parades, and the second Sunday in June means . . . That’s right; next Sunday is the parade everybody avoids but nobody talks about out loud. Especially if you’re this Upper East Side Coffee Shop.

Blood and Thunder. If you’re going to see Hamlet in the Park, there’s no better way than to go with a friend who has (a) never seen a production of Hamlet before and (b) never been to the Delacorte Theatre before after (c) getting a couple of tickets on the Public Theatre’s new virtual line. Thumbnail review: Michael Stuhlbarg as Hamlet, Lauren Ambrose as Ophelia, Sam Waterston as Polonius: wonderful. Andre Braugher as Claudius, Margaret Colin as Gertrude: meh. And give Jay O Sanders a special prize for making the audience go “Wait -- you mean the Ghost, the Player King and the Gravedigger were all played by the same actor?”