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Archive for April 2015

The Aviator’s Wife, Rohmer’s Addled Bow

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Relations and film, film and relationships. So hard to separate. The big mirror that reflects all of our warts and cross hairs right back to us. And one of the most charming soothsayers of the human heart, Eric Rohmer, is being showcased at Lincoln Center.

Each of the Comedies & Proverb films begins with a proverb and in The Aviator’s Wife “it is impossible to think of nothing.” That implies that the film has passive action but the real activity is in the obsessive thinking of its characters.

I had seen all of Monsieur Rohmer’s Comedies except Aviator’s Wife. This is a story that shows how the art of rejection can create more rejection; how a little information can burn like a hole in a pocket until all the data is discovered, and usually the original premise is wrong; and how playing with the emotion of another is such a sweet, albeit unconscious power trip.

Like all of Rohmer’s films, the acting is natural, the scenes go on as if you’re really sitting in a conversation with a friend, witnessing the perils are of the heart. Girl (Marie Riviere) gets upsetting news, boyfriend (Phillippe Marlaud) gets upsetting sighting and the story begins. What is particularly striking in this 1981 film is the exquisite absence of cell phones. The story couldn’t be told in a cell phone world. There is nothing as mysterious with a text (ask Anthony Weiner) as a letter.  Little notes left in little slots can open up a story, with more possibilities for interpretation than even the most venal email… less is certainly more in the case of this film and the meaning of whether to hand deliver a card or gain distance with a stamp is beautifully executed by Rohmer. The film predates Charley Hebdo –notice the black and white keffiyah Riviere wears jauntily around her throat and the lovely young Anne-Laure Meury plays with her prey by joking about her Muslim Black street sweeper boyfriend.

The politics and technology have certainly changed, but not the dance between men and women. Rohmer knows well the steps; the missteps are endearing.

The theme song is sung by Arrielle Dombasle, stunning as Pauline at the Beach (also playing) and now the wife of philosopher Bernard Henri-Levy.

The selection of films including The Green Ray, A Good Marriage, Boyfriends and Girlfriends and Full Moon in Paris will screen at Lincoln Center until April 30.

Written by nancykoan

April 28, 2015 at 4:24 am

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Pompie’s Place Blues is Red Hot

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Immersive theatre is the new buzz word for theatrical experiences that simply put, merge the audience with the show. It removes the trappings of pure voyeurism and encourages a participatory adventure that may be the future of theater.


Pompeii’s Place, the new blues show running on a special schedule at Don’t Tell Mama, has all the makings of what could be a time machine; step back to the early days of this country and find yourself immersed in the world of blues’ evening. It won’t be a smoky joint in Harlem; but a backroom in a favorite New York cabaret club, where a fun sense of the blues world is beautifully created. and where you can step on board for great time.

The host, Arthur Pomosello, who had an eighteen year stint at the Algonquin Club, looks like Kirk Douglas and delivers a patter about the singers that’s Mad Man sexism with fatherly overtones. This of course, gives the fantastic singers, a chance to prove him wrong and show how singing the blues gave the singers and all of us a healing outlet…not victimhood.


When the lights drop, out swings alto Lezlie Harrison, with a big voice, getting it all started with W.C. Handy’s St. Louis Blues. Next up is Brianna Thomas, a frequent performer at Dizzy’s Club and The Kennedy Center. She’s a large gal with a gorgeous sound and knows how to act as demonstrated in “I Keep My Stove in Good Condition.”

The third chanteuse, Hilary Gardner has humor and a terrific voice and style. Her Ten Cents a Dance had diners wanting to ask her to join them on the floor. She has sung with Frank Sinatra…what else is there to say?

Pompies_Place_HILARY_20 (1)

The musicians behind, in front and sideways are great…Ehud Asherie is musical director, using everything he learned at Small’s., The inimitable Ken Peplowski is on reeds, David Wong, bass and the legendary Jackie Williams on drums.

What’s missing for me…and this is a compliment, is a longer show. I just wanted the evening to go on and on. I’d like to see people get up and dance…they’re doing it in their chairs… the music calls for it.

Given the time to ‘do’ up the space with a little design (tiny lamps on the tables instead of candles) and costumes for the waiters…Pompie’s Place could easily become the event for blues lovers.


Beck Lee is a consulting producer and he certainly knows his audience. The show runs May 11, 28 at 7pm and May 10 at 1 pm at Don’t Tell Mama’s on 46th Street. Delicious dinner is served with the show

Written by nancykoan

April 16, 2015 at 2:37 am

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The Dark of the Moon hits The Beacon

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While making a film about John Lennon’s power to continually draw people to him, I’ve gotten the opportunity to meet a few tribute performers. I was surprised to find them uniquely to be themselves, and though they love playing at being John and spreading his sound out to the world, they are doing it as artists…it’s a great way to make a living and keeps the music alive. Plus they are free to play the great music without any of the complicated by the inner fighting of the original groups.


I’ve never seen the band Brit Floyd who will be coming to the Beacon on May 12 in their Space & Time tour, but spoke to musical director Damian Darlington. Damian has played with Brit Floyd all over the world. The productions are elaborate with the kind of stage magic one could expect of Pink Floyd. Damian said, “we give the audience a chance to experience what is was like…and they find something deep inside.”

Pink Floyd’s philosophic lyrics and psychedelic sound made them one of the most commercially successful and influential groups in music. The co-founder Syd Barrett, a brilliant artist, had to leave the group after years of mental struggle. The stories about him are legend…like walking out onstage with Brylcream and Mandrax in his hair, all of it melting under the hot stage lights, so that he looked like a candle on the wan. The other members played on in different combinations for years, despite quarrels about all the things rockers quarrel about. Through it all, though, they produced stellar albums: The Dark Side of the Moon (1973) and The Final Cut, 1983), Wish you Were Here (1975), Animals (1977) (1975), The Wall (1979) and The Final Cut (1983).

Their music could be dark and sad, but always deep and moving. They created dreamscapes where all feelings were up for exploration.

Damian on his rare time off also has an acoustic band, Acoustic Unlimited. The other members include Rob Stringer, Ian Cattell, Bobby Harrison, Aaran Ahmun, Carl Brunsdon, Thomas Ashbrook, plus back up singers. They have all been together a long while and are tight. The show has a new set list, fifty years of Pink Floyd and an enhanced light show.

It may still be possible to catch remnants of the real Pink Floyd… there are always rumors of reuniting but the last time they all played together was 2005 and since then members have died. So it’s a very good thing indeed that Brit Floyd keeps the candle burning with what I’m expecting to be a knock out show.


Written by nancykoan

April 8, 2015 at 2:24 am

Posted in music

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Music To Soothe the Lonesome Traveler

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There is nothing about feeling lonely in Lonesome Traveler, a musical playing at 59E59  Theaters that spans the history of American folk music from the dust bowl days to the present. It’s the kind of music that represented a country able to recognize its own suffering and injustice and express that recognition through song. Of course, folk music couldn’t by itself resolve the problems of unfair wages, unjust wars, and racism, but it went a long way in helping to reduce the pain. Folk music helped bolster the creation of communities, including the unions, and in rallying support against war.

The U.S. was a less populated country when singers like Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie and Odetta brought the news to the people through song.  And people were spread out… riding box cars, moving west to look for work…always hoping to better their lives. Songs helped tell their stories and help relieve the pressures of life’s challenges.

In this wonderful production, a group called the Lonesome Traveler folds and unfolds on itself, portraying the different periods of folk music and the bards who led the songs. The narrator, a brilliant Justin Flagg playing guitar, banjo and stand-up bass, portrays the music of Pete Seeger, Dave Guard, Peter Yarrow and others. This is the style of the show. Whether singing as Woody Guthrie or Joan Baez, they are all extremely accomplished performers who bring the different periods of musical history alive.

We learn a little bit about the lives of each of these singers and writers, and what inspired them to write what they did, some literally lifting old songs that were long part of musical history and updating them for the time. The audience is encouraged to join in, and This Land is Your Land started the ball rolling.

The video projections help convey the different periods, from dust bowls to mountain shacks to the March on Selma.  We see how the tunes corresponded to our lives,  from union busting, Talkin’ Union, to Hitler and Pete Seeger’s, Last Night I had the Strangest Dream.

Two of my favorites were represented, Judy Collins and Joan Baez, but I missed hearing “Joanie Mitchell” sing Big Yellow Taxi’s folk rock anthem to gentrification.

By the second half, tears stared to flow. Ian and Sylvia’s beautiful tune Someday Soon was like stepping into a time machine. “The Kingston Trio” sang Where Have All the Flowers Gone, so poignant after all these years of lost lives in the Middle East and other wars.

Lonesome Traveler is the kind of show that should play college campuses and music schools and certainly PBS. It is an oral history of our country…with music. As the performers are all so great, I will mention them by name: Matty Charles, Sylvie Davidson, Jamie Drake, Justin Flagg, Sam Gelfer, Anthony Manough, Nicholas Mongiardo-Cooper, Jennifer Leigh Warren and Trevor Wheetman. The show is directed by its writer, James O’Neil, with Trevor Wheetman as musical director. Mr. Wheetman’s bio sweetly gives thanks for the job which also led to meeting his now fiancé, musician Syvlie Davidson. Ah, the power of music.


Lonesome Traveler runs till April 19th @ 59E59 Theatres.

Written by nancykoan

April 2, 2015 at 9:52 pm