I was devastated last spring when I heard, through the grapevine and not the horse's mouth, that the Pearl Theater company was moving 47 blocks north and way west, to 55th St. One of the great pleasures of going to their plays, besides the plays themselves, was having a leisurely walk home after a mid-week theater going experience. No longer.
Their first production in their new space is "Playboy of the Western World." Going to see an Irish play on a freezing, raining night, brought me straight back to the summer weeks we spent in similar weather, with that same brogue around us. I took my son to the play as the husband had to work, a fact that he didn't remember until the night before. Max and I were transported back to our vacation, and were inspired to sing the song we sang for the two weeks we drove around that little island. It was a song that my husband dreamed our first night there. He sang the first line it to us and we made up verses for the next two weeks. It starts like this: "When Irish mothers and their daughters cross the ocean blue..." and it has a jiggy tune that must be sung with an Irish brogue.
I digress. Has the move uptown for the Pearl been a step up for them? It would seem so, as they now share a space with Lynn Redgrave, even if it is all the way in the basement, and only slightly bigger than the waiting area, but that juxtaposition would provide them with additional promotional opportunities.
My fear that they were moving to a theater that had an actual stage, and we would lose the intimacy of being four feet away from the actors, as they were at Theater 80 on St. Marks Place, was not realized. I'm not sure if this new space has more seats, but now the seats are on three sides, which changed the bowing procedure. When they took their bows, they bowed in three directions, which gave them a little more time to bow than they used to have when they just had to bow straight ahead.
The play itself was well done. It's a play with interesting language, beautifully written, slangy and poetic. It is about a young man who is running away from his village where he had just killed his father with a big shovel. The girls in the town go nutty for this brave and handsome foreigner who actually had the nerve to kill his da'. They fight over who will marry him, and one red-headed lass wins his heart. He participates in the local sporting event and wins. He is a celebrated hero and the two plan on marriage. But when his father comes looking for him, not dead but with a big gash on his head, the new girlfriend is horrified that the man she loved is a liar and a cheat. To prove that he is in fact brave and true, the young man once again kills his father, this time in front of everyone. After, the men try to shield him from a sure hanging, but he insists that he has won back his sweetheart, now that she knows he did in fact kill his da'. But now the girlfriend calls him a liar AND a murderer, and kicks him out. Those fickle girls.
The set was certainly a step up, nicely designed for the space, and it looks like they have some increased funding, what with the well made costumes, appropriate shoes and a playbill, a practice they had stopped last year "for environmental reasons."
The Pearl's new neighborhood is better than just a few blocks south in Times Square, and an area I rarely get to. It is just steps from Carnegie Deli, where my father insisted on going every time he visited New York. It was like a fix for him, snarfing those pastrami sandwiches and Cel-Ray soda. I think it was one of the few familiar, tangible things he could summon from his childhood in the Bronx. It is also around the corner from the Fluffy Cafe, a name I like to repeat constantly, to everyone's annoyance. "Let's go to Fluffy," I like to say Or, "Fluffy Cafe is right there, with their fluffy pastries." They serve those giant, perfect looking snacks and possibly some other food, but I was blinded by the brownies. That same corner also houses the Ben Ash deli which I suspect it is fairly new trying to look old and capture the Carnegie's leftover tourists who are freaked out by the crowds. I could be wrong about that, but I couldn't find anything in a quick Google search that had any info about this place. I wonder if there is any relation to Sam Ash. What I did find were a bunch of really bad reviews. Good to know.
I have no ending for this piece, as I am rambling, and really just writing this as an excuse to not be making the 100 cheese puffs. After baking 60+ cupcakes I'm stalling as long as possible. And as a side note, Moby Dick came up on shuffle (the song, not the movie) and has been playing the entire time it took me to write this. Rock on.