It's that time of year again, where I go to New York, see all the shows (well, all the new ones since November), and score them from 1 to 5 stars (based on how good they were) and 1 to 5 skeins (based on how well they incorporated the fiber arts!) Plus, I buy yarn, from Knitty City on the Upper West Side, and the Argyle Yarn Shop in Brooklyn's Park Slope Neighbourhood.
Beetlejuice: I enjoyed it, I appreciated that they didn't write a carbon copy of the film (one of my all-time favourites!), liked the cast, liked the score, liked the lyrics especially, loved Jill Abramovitz (who played multiple roles, but was particularly hilarious as the 4th Mrs. Dean, and thought Leslie Kritzer was oddly muted, for her (she played a Life Coach—maybe Life Coaches just aren't that funny)—when her jokes landed, they really landed, but one can only do so much with what one is given. It reminded me a lot of The Prom, believe-it-or-not, with non-related adults swooping in to help a distressed young girl, lots of comedy, plus an inspiring message. Did anyone knit? No. Not only did no one knit (I was hardly expecting them to), there was an anti-hobby message, and the lyrics specifically stated that spinning your own yarn was boring! How dare they! So 3 stars, but -1 skeins.
Hadestown: if you'd asked me which "save someone from the afterlife musical" I would have preferred, I would never have guessed that Beetlejuice would have been the correct answer (I do hope I have all my cases correct, all these subjunctives are distressing!), but ultimately I thought Hadestown was a huge disappointment. It has certainly stayed with me, but that doesn't mean it's an artistic triumph—a horrific car crash would also stay with me (not that Hadestown is as bad as that, but just to make the point).
I have a few complaints, but my primary one is that, in this through-sung musical, almost no emphasis is given in the lyrics to elucidating character. The people on stage are names, and tags ("she likes the sun!" "he's a good singer!") and that's just not enough to make me care about them. And if I don't care about them, I don't care about what happens to them. And if I have no stake in the characters or the plot, why am I here? The cast fights gamely ("I may not have a character to play, dammit, but by God I'll try to create one anyways!" one imagines them thinking) but it's just an impossible task. This particular interpretation of the mythological plot made very little sense to me (Hell is a factory? Why would anyone sign up for that by choice?), and "the turntable's making me dizzy," and if only you were here in person you could see my devastating parody of the choreography.
Oh, and if one character's such an amazing singer-songwriter that the very walls open up before him, you need an amazing song moment. You can't (a) have the lyrics be "la la la la la la", and (b) have the character steal the melody from another character (if I got that plot point correctly), and make us still buy into this. I ended up spending most of my time admiring Timothy Hughes (picture), and I really only ogle the chorus as a last resort.
Did anyone knit? No. And they didn't wear knits, either, it was sort of a 1920s theme crossed with lumberjack crossed with steampunk. 2 stars, 0 skeins.
Oklahoma was very interesting, and sometimes it worked, and sometimes it didn't. It's one of those "the director got an idea" revivals, so we are treated to (a) the house lights always being on, except when they're not, (b) Ado Annie in a wheelchair, which was fine, (c) Aunt Eller much younger and more vital, (d) no chorus, (e) the dream ballet was one girl in a t-shirt, (f) they served chili and cornbread but ran out 1 person before me, sigh, (g) the cast gets drenched in blood by the ending, etc., etc.
I loved when it got all Twin Peaks on me (unaccountable literal darkness, b&w video moments, etc.), but the metaphorical darkness didn't really meld well with the ah-shucks good-natured humour of so much of the musical. I don't know what happened at the end (I mean, I do, but I'm not sure how I'm supposed to interpret it, which means it didn't quite work). But I wasn't bored! Did anyone knit? No, and because Aunt Eller's not an old lady any more, no shawl for her. 3 stars, 0 skeins.
Kiss Me Kate is one of those revivals where I personally feel it wasn't necessary because I saw the last revival (lucky me) and I loved the last revival, but I always hate it when New Yorkers bitch about something being revived because there will always be new fresh audiences who haven't see it. I enjoyed it well enough, but it wasn't a patch on the last revival, which had truly powerhouse performances and some of the most thrilling choreographic moments I've ever seen ever, period (preserved on youtube, jump to the 5:22 mark if you're impatient!)
Did anyone knit? No, which is super-unrealistic given it's mostly set backstage, in the 1940s. One girl darned a vest, but that's sewing. 3 stars, 0 skeins.
Tootsie was once of my favourites this season. It worked almost all the time with very few missteps. Like Beetlejuice, they didn't slavishly recreate the movie; one notable change is Dorothy joins a musical, not a soap opera. The score by Yazbek was great: Dorothy's first solo, the best friend's song, and the ex-girlfriend's song, all terrific. They hamstrung themselves a bit with having most choreography be ostensibly by the hack director/choreographer of the show-within-a-show, and that's my one complaint ... if only Dorothy had somehow managed to have him replaced early on with a more exciting talent, we could have seen more exciting choreography. But again, no hand-knits, no crochet, nothing. Sigh. 4 stars, 0 skeins.
Ain't Too Proud was my other favourite, which was a surprise to me (and I had an obstructed view, on the extreme left front with basically only half the stage (a triangle from upstage left to downstage right and forward of that) visible, and I loved it. Now those are hard-working performers! It's the first time this season I worried about people eating enough to sustain their activity. Yes, the biographical bits are a bit sketchy (rather than the scene-by-scene methodology of Beautiful), but with so many group members to honour, this is probably a necessary sin. Still, it all worked for me, and I'm not even a Temptations fan. And I'm grasping at straws, but there were some cardigans, though they seemed machine made. I'll take it. 4 stars, 1 skein.
I also saw two plays, Hillary and Clinton, and Gary.
For some reason all of Hillary and Clinton's press photos are in black-and-white. it was interesting, funny at times, with good peformances. I do wish that the actors in H & C had tried a bit to actually play their characters (there's no attempt at all at impersonation) because (a) I'd like it better, and (b) it would seem less jarring when Barak shows up and is played like Barak. There were a lot of sweatpants and robes and fuzzy slippers, and no knitted items. 3 stars, 0 skeins.
Gary is a sequel to Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus, and in case you don't remember it, it's the one (well, one of the ones) where everyone dies in a bloody and horrific fashion: 20 of Titus' sons die in the war, then the Goth prince Alarbus is sacrificed to the Gods (an actual Goth prince, not a moody black-wearing teenager), then Titus kills his own son Mutius for being uppity, then the Emperor kills Titus' sons Maritus and Quintus, the Goth queen's lover Aaron kills a midwife, Titus kills his own daughter for no evident reason (who had already been raped, had her hands cut off, and her tongue cut out), he kills the Goth queen's remaining children, then he kills the Goth queen herself, then he's killed by the Emperor (but not before chopping off his own hand in order to appease the emperor, but it didn't work), who is killed by Titus' final son, who then becomes emperor and kills the Goth queen's lover Aaron.
The joke in the sequel is that Gary is the new maid who must clean up after the events of Shakespeare's play. It's hard to tell, but I suspect his shirt is knit, with yarnover holes making the ends look worn (it's more evident in person). While it was interesting (and not nearly as troubling or odd as I'd been led to believe), humorous, and enjoyable, I felt the author (Taylor Mac) was trying to say something that I didn't get, so it was all a bit surfacey for me. Still, 3 stars, 2 skeins.
I was staying in Bed-Stuy in Brooklyn, so (with about an hour to-and-from Manhattan) I didn't have that much free time for yarn shopping. I did manage to make it to Knitty City, where I acquired sock yarn as a friend present (she's walking my dog!), and a little something for myself. It's a bit crowded and hectic and hard to walk around (they have permanent ladies prominently planted at the table at the back, knitting all day, who are probably lovely but it seems a bit cliquey).
I had a better time at the quieter Argyle Yarn Shop in Brooklyn, where the helpful staff member guided me to local yarns, bespoke colourways, etc. and indulged me when I gossiped about the shows I'd seen. I nabbed some nifty skeins:
The variegated one is Hedgehog Fibres in a special colourway for Argyle, the limited edition "Cherry Blossom," and I've paired it with a solid from Swift yarns (Swift High Street DK) in the Andromeda colourway. At the moment they might become my first amigurumi*: Buster. Or another hat. Or bookmarks!
On the Needles (and actively being worked on):
Vairisle Hat (started the decreases, so almost finished)
Another 1898 hat (it's just such good airplane knitting, I had to do it again. I've finished the band)
The second Sophie's Universe blanket (Round 50)
Itineris Shawl (I'll pretend it's a scarf. I'm 2/3 through the fourth repeat)
A swatch of stockinette in white worsted (third of three needle sizes) for my Master Knitting Course
Caldwell Vest (halfway through armhole shaping on the back)
Persian Dreams Blanket (round 6 of Hexagon 9)
*amigurumi = stuffed animals and anthropomorphic creatures made in a style of crochet and knitting originating in Japan