Saturday, February 07, 2009

Opus 111

Uncle Vanya: solid but not great. Denis O'Hare, playing the title character, seemed to me to be working at a much higher level than anyone else in the cast. Good set. Slightly overobtrusive sound design, including a very annoying cricket-type surge at the opening that reminded me of Jerome Groopman's New Yorker tinnitus piece, which I had read on the subway on the way downtown. I devoutly hope I never have tinnitus, I think it would drive me fairly crazy!

(What a play, though! I love Chekhov.)

An aside: the translation was by my mother's old friend Carol Rocamora, the mother of my brother J.'s friend David Katowitz.

David Katowitz was a frequent visitor to our household in the late 1970s, almost like a member of the family for a few years there. I will not rehearse all the details, only observing 2 things I always remember when I think of him:

1. During the 1980 presidential election, we got a voting machine at school (to learn about democracy!) and my fourth-grade class organized a mock 'election' for kindergartners through sixth-graders. Given the nature of the school, it was inevitable that the vast majority of children registered Democratic votes - I can't at all remember the numbers, but it was as dramatic as something like "465 Democrat, 3 Republican, 5 Other" when we tallied it up. My brother (I cannot honestly remember which brother, but possibly M.) came home from school and announced, "David Katowitz voted for Ronald Reagan!" "Why?" someone asked (perhaps our mother, perhaps slightly surprised). My brother: "Because he wanted to see what it would be like if there was a nuclear war!"

2. A year or two later, M. wrote for some classroom assignment that asked for an account of what had happened over the weekend, "David Katowitz came over to play." His teacher, who was a funny and warm-hearted person who knew us all well, wrote as her comment in the margin: "Is the house still standing?"

Carol Rocamora was also the instigator of an exciting event in our childhood, our mother actually taking days off from her teaching job (unheard-of!) to play the piano backstage, in rehearsals and in performances, for a play titled "Opus 111" - I cannot reconstruct, even with the help of the internet, the name of the playwright and theater, but the play (could it have been part of a series of one-acts, one of the others being by Romulus Linney?) involved a piano lesson and Carol had decided that it would be more theatrically effective with someone playing a real piano backstage.

The performance of the Beethoven sonata in the play continually broke off after not too many measures, so my mother's practicing was disproportionately devoted to the very difficult stretch that was the only bit featured. Whenever I hear this piece (here is a YouTube version - the bit that was used in the play starts around 1:45), I think of her very strongly, and remember those times!

Dinner was quite nice, in that way that makes one grateful to live in a city like New York where one can walk into a random restaurant off the street at 11 at night and have a delicious dinner! The restaurant is Friend House; I had shrimp shu-mai and sushi, G. had thai-style duck with hot basil. Nothing, perhaps, to make anyone's mouth water in the description, but it was very nice....

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