Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Night at the Theater

In Which Jean and Valerie See Stars

Last night, we did our own madcap riff on the Marx Brothers' A Night at the Opera*, substituting a Broadway theater for the opera house.

We had fourth row orchestra seats for Good People, a wonderfully engaging show with a top notch script by Pulitzer Prize winner David Lindsay-Abaire, and a first class cast, including Estelle Parsons (our favorite), Frances McDormand and Tate Donovan. Estelle Parsons' take on Dottie was an amazing theater experience. Her character walked that fine line between understated and overdone: her frazzled, spiky bleached hair was fabulous (although Estelle herself said she was disappointed that she couldn't get it brassier), her costumes were a riot and her South Boston accent was spot on. We couldn't take our eyes off her in the bingo scenes, where she was dressed in amazing get-ups, including red lipstick you could probably have seen from the last row of the mezzanine and a hilarious pair of black patent go go boots. It was icing on the cake to go backstage and meet her in her dressing room. She was very sweet and gracious and up close she's a great looking dame. Valerie has a cold, and kept her distance, but Jean went eye to eye and cheek to cheek, so to speak. What a doll. We've been huge fans since her Academy Award winning performance as Blanche Barrow in Arthur Penn's 1967 film Bonnie and Clyde. Younger readers of the blog will know her as Roseanne's mother in the long-running TV show Roseanne.

In the play, Dottie (Estelle) does her "crafts" and brings her home-made rabbits much like these to bingo, putting them on her table with a "Rabbits $5" sign. This is a very fuzzy enlargement of a rabbit that was on Estelle's dressing table, cropped out of the previous photo. You can just barely make out that the rabbit has a cigarette in its mouth, like Dottie, and is wearing a copy of her first costume in the show. (Compare it to the next photo of Estelle.) Jean noticed that Dottie was also wearing an ankle bracelet. Fabulous!

Here's a great picture of Estelle in costume as Dottie. The play was voted best of the year by the New York Drama Critics’ Circle. The author, Estelle and actor Tate Donovan were interviewed on WNYC's Leonard Lopate Show in March. To hear the interview, click here. If you’d like to see some video clips from the play click here. It's closing on May 29, so if you want to see it, act now!

Cast members' dressing rooms were thronged with wellwishers. Estelle was in the farthest dressing room, so on our way back to the stage door we shouted our appreciation to Frances McDormand (another Academy Award winner), also in her dressing room with the door open, and lastly had the good luck of running into leading man Tate Donovan. (Loved him in the FX series Damages with Glenn Close.) He was in a great mood and complimented us on our hats. When Jean asked him for a picture, he gladly obliged and got one of his friends to take a picture of the three of us.

Jean says: after the show, I talked Valerie into going to the mezzanine bar in the Paramount Hotel. [Valerie says: She twisted my good arm!] Built in 1928, the Paramount was bought by nightlife entrepreneur Ian Schrager in the late 1980s. With renovations by mad genius Phillippe Starck, it reopened in 1990 and was an instantly hot destination. Randy Gerber opened his Whisky Bar on the first floor. Although the hotel has changed hands again and is now owned by a Hard Rock Cafe joint venture, its bar overlooking the grand staircase and lobby is usually a great place to hang out and recap the night's events. (Click on the photos to enlarge.)

While we were waiting for our order, I ran downstairs so Valerie could take my picture on the expansive white sofa in the lobby.

Valerie says: I wasn't sure why Jean was so insistent that we have cocktails here, but I trust her taste, and followed her unquestioningly. Check out the huge chandelier, and the Fred-and-Ginger-worthy sweeping staircase. My cocktail, which I foolishly had made to my specifications, did not turn out to be a stellar idea (prosecco with muddled blueberries - the blueberries did not have time to flavor the prosecco). Afterward, Jean was adamant about my seeing the restroom.

This must sound like a questionable practice, especially in light of recent stories in the news about congressmen who get into trouble in airport restrooms, but we actually check out ladies' rooms for their architectural and design features. Well! Talk about eye candy! It really was a very entertaining restroom, and we couldn't resist some tomfoolery.

Jean says: What can I say? I have no logical excuse for our actions, but we did have fun. [Valerie says: What's logic got to do, got to do with it? And I would like to point out that we would have done the very same thing had we not just had cocktails.]

How's this for a statement bathroom fixture? The rose you see is artificial, but Jean says there used to be real roses in these - um - boutonnieres designed by Phillippe Starck.

Valerie has the dramatic model pose thing down, but still has to do some work on the sophisticated, drop-dead cool model facial expression. The colored tiles behind the door juxtapose wonderfully with the black and white tiles in the outer room. And, we might add, they contrast Starckly (silly pun intended) with Valerie's hat.

Again, Jean pleads insanity and throws herself on the mercy of the court!

Jean demonstrates her own version of Leonardo DaVinci's famous drawing. (Again, click to enlarge.) A woman dressed all in black in front of black blinds is sort of the reverse of the polar bear in the snowstorm ...

Leonardo's original. See the resemblance?

Valerie says: None of my friends ever figured I'd wind up as the under-the-table type at a bar, but here I am. Actually, there was graffiti under the bar, and I felt driven to get small, so to speak, so I could pose in front of it.

Jean managed to finally get the only one of the four elevators with the graffiti interior. (We had to wait quite a while for it, but it was worth it.)

Valerie says: Here I am in a lobby chair. Jean spotted this outsized chair and encouraged me to behave badly in it. (Neither of us needs much encouragement.) But you can see I'm fundamentally a good girl - I never let the soles of either shoe touch the upholstery.

And so, at the end of our highjinks, off we went, into the night. You've heard the expression "all lit up like Times Square". Now you see where it comes from. At midnight, not only was it amazingly bright, it was also jammed with people taking advantage of the mild weather.

Jean is wearing a turban by Amy Downs New York (from A Uno); Tahari knit jacket; Brigitte harem pants; Pataugas ankle-strapped flats (from A Uno); and Lux De Ville patent handbag (from Enz).

Valerie is wearing her famous basket hat (google Basket Hat Video to see how it's made); red celluloid earrings; vintage Norma Kamali duster with the huge shoulder pads of the period; lacquered wood bud vase; vintage Bettina Riedell dress; plastic red ring from El Museo del Barrio; red sandals by Nicole.

BONUS PHOTO: Margaret Dumont and Kitty Carlisle wearing hats in a crowd scene from the Marx Brothers' A Night at the Opera.

* In the photo at the top, for you youngsters, left to right are Kitty Carlisle, Allan Jones, Chico Marx, Groucho Marx, Harpo Marx, Sig Ruman and Margaret Dumont.

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