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KEVIN SPACEY - A FASCINATING, SPELLBINDING RICHARD III

Jan. 11th, 2012 | 09:13 am

(c) susan rhoades, 2012

KEVIN SPACEY - A FASCINATING, SPELLBINDING RICHARD III

Is he a poisonous spider? A lethal toad? A malignant Rumpelstiltskin? YES! As he hobbles and slithers and snakes across the stage, raving, or cooing; reviling or seducing; talking directly to another or muttering a noxious aside - Kevin Spacey is the most stunning, outrageous, entertaining and magnetic Richard III I've ever seen!

He relishes his blatent and depraved conduct...his ability to bend others to his will, or to quickly remove them permanently from his world. As directed by Sam Mendes, this production is both modern and timeless. The bare set is both rustic and sleekly sophisticated...the supporting players are wonderful, providing a foil to this megalomaniac madman. We laugh out loud, or gasp in horror at Spacey's monstrous, compelling Richard...

The riveting music - Celtic-like and abstract - a percussive and intense support to the action on stage - is performed by two musicians in separate theater boxes on either side of the stage. The drums come onto the stage in full force in Act Two, when not only the regimental forces, but the specters of Richard's victims participate in this ritualized, dramatic and forceful ending.

The athleticism, the endurance and the physicality of Spacey's performance is extraordinary and in the end, when his lifeless body is lifted by a hook attached to his feet and dangles, upside down, over the stage for a full five minutes, we recoil, not just because the image is macabre and theatrical, but because we fear for the actor's health and safety. Someone pointed out that a) he must be doing a lot of yoga to sustain this pose, and b) by removing the brace that has transformed him into this corrosive cripple and allowing him to hang freely (like an inversion table) might be the perfect antidote for this actor's contorted body.

A long (3 1/2 hours) of intense, magnificent theater...Kevin Spacey, always a compelling actor, is an exceptional, transcendent and superlative Richard III - what a privilege to see this stupendous performance.

Ah, New York.

more soon.
love
s

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57 DEGREES AND BLUE BLUE SKYS

Jan. 7th, 2012 | 12:40 pm

(c)susan rhoades 2012

A delicious, Spring-like walk this January 7th, to my neighborhood park - volunteers in shirt sleeves are readying mounds and mounds of Christmas trees for the chipper, which will be used as mulch - the fragrance of evergreens was so lovely against the sweet clear air and the view of the East River.

So lucky to be here on such a wonderful day.

more soon,
love
s

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THIRTEEN DEGREES!!!!!

Jan. 4th, 2012 | 07:35 am

(c) susan rhoades, 2012

So smug...a warm December made me feel that Winter was going to be a breeze - yeah, a 15-20 mph breeze, with the temperature this morning a balmy 13 degrees. A light film of white frost is on everything! The good news is that a) it's very pretty and b) it might reach 27 degrees later today. And c) it's definitely a homemade minestrone day! Yummmmmm.

I have to be very brave.

Speaking of brave - I've identified several possible literary agents on line and some sites on how to write a professional "Query" to submit to them. I'm quaking as we speak - fear of rejection is severely dark and threatening...but my inner optimism is saying that I've always been lucky and willing to work hard and I think I may have something to say....gulp. So tomorrow I'll go back and actually read what they say and then submit submit submit.....who thought this scary writing a book thing was a good idea? Oh well, it'll keep my blood from curdling during this cold snap.

That, and my delicious soup.

Brrrrrrr!!!!!

more soon,
love
s

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THE NEXT FIVE YEARS!!!!!

Jan. 3rd, 2012 | 03:25 pm

(c) Susan Rhoades, 2012

Hi Dear Friends and Readers - As you may know I've been writing my book - while it's gone through two revisions, I don't have a literary agent or a publisher... yet....

However, I've missed having this venue as a diary and as a place to examine and codify my thoughts and feelings - so I'll try to resume this blog (under a slightly changed and optimistic title). Optimistic, because I'm hoping you won't think me greedy to think I can have another five year Adventure...and that you'll want to share this new chapter with me. With my energy and enthusiasm and your kind words, I think I'll surprise BOTH OF US! I'll try not to be dull and pedestrian...and be as honest and forthright as I've been in the past.

Any feedback you may have is very welcome. I'm a little out of practice, and returning after the brand new year has me feeling like a novice....but that will pass as I get my writing chops back....

So please bear with me.

More Soon.
Love
s

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WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN??????

May. 23rd, 2011 | 07:28 am

(c) susan rhoades, 2011

Susan, why haven't you written for MONTHS, now?

Thank you for asking...I've been selling my house, (almost a done deal) PLUS...
I'll be using my writing time to turn my blog into a book.

What makes you think you can turn this unwieldy mess into a manuscript?

Hubris. But wish me luck, anyway.

More, some time.
Love,
s

p.s. If something really big or interesting happens, I'll definitely post, ok?

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FMURRAY DOES SHYLOCK - MAGNIFICENT!

Mar. 10th, 2011 | 08:07 am

(c) susan rhoades, 2011

FMURRAY DOES SHYLOCK - MAGNIFICENT!

Part 268

I've seen the wonderful Henry Goodman do Shylock with a distinguished British cast; I've seen Al Pacino in a filmed version of "Merchant" (Splendid) and the Central Park version last summer (Disappointing); at yesterday's matinee I saw F. Murray Abraham astound with his interpretation...Wow!

The production is set in 2011...with Antonio, Bassanio and friends in well tailored suits, complete with cell phones and lap tops - obviously Wall Street honchos. While this may seem discordant, it really succeeds in making the milieu relevant to contemporary audiences.

Portia, here, is a very modern, very wealthy young woman, bristling under her late father's strict mandate that she marry only he who chooses the right casket. In this production, we see an independent, intelligent and headstrong Portia who portends the young lawyer who will shine in the Duke's court. Often, we have wondered, how and when did cloistered little Portia become so learned? Here, her actions are still audacious, but it's believable that this young woman could argue a complex court case.

The supporting cast is hip and cool. This is a world of young, brash Turks, which makes the old-fashioned Shylock's presence and predicament all the more apparent. Often, I find playing with the historical setting of Shakespeare's plays capricious and gimmicky. But this production is so unified, and consistent, while adhering to the original text, that it refreshes and illuminates rather than grates.

So let's get to Mr. Abraham. He, too, is in Armani-like attire, albeit, with his yarmulke on. He's savvy, suave, cool, measured and very business-like in his transaction with Antonio. This makes his humiliation at the hands of the anti-Semitic Venetian community and his devastation at the loss of his daughter and his fortune to a Christian more touching, and we understand why this otherwise contained man becomes filled with blind hate and murderous revenge.

Bravo to Mr. Abraham. And the entire cast. It was a privilege to see this incredible performance.

I'm so lucky.
more soon.
love
s

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CHINA! NIXON IN CHINA! THE EMPEROR IN CHINA!

Feb. 3rd, 2011 | 09:18 am

(c) susan rhoades, 2011

CHINA! NIXON IN CHINA! THE EMPEROR IN CHINA!
AN ALL CHINA WEDNESDAY

part 267

Get your galoshes on, kiddo...we're going out. So maybe it's 2:30 in the afternoon, when baby icicles are finally melting and the sleet has stopped falling...but out we are!

First stop: Metropolitan Museum. A new exhibition, "The Emperor's Private Paradise: Treasures from the Forbidden City"- The pieces are being loaned out while the Chinese are restoring the compound in Beijing. The Qianlong Emperor, who ruled from 1736-95, built this little oasis within the Forbidden City for his retirement.

That the Qian Dynasty was one of the most splendid and richest in Chinese history generally goes undisputed, so money was not an object in procuring these screens, scrolls, thrones, couches, and exquisitely carved panels from the most skillful and talented artisans in all of China. It's the perfect get-away for a cold, dreary day outside... flowering plum trees and flowers and birds decorate the most luxurious panels and screens and trompe d'oeil backdrops - many studded with jade, gilded brass, semi-precious stones and the most graceful, refined carving - And of course, silk everywhere - as opaque mesh inserts for panels, as cushions and scrolls, as elaborate embroidery on pictures, on clothing, on screens!

One revelation is the extensive use of purple sandalwood (purple sandalwood?) - a dense, naturally dark wood with a hint of navy-purple tinge - artfully carved and then polished to a lovely sheen. While amazing in its splendor, the effect is tranquil.. serene - even as it dazzles with mastery. Think of Louis XV on a Zen trip.

After all this Asian glory, I'll just sneak a peek at the newly restored Renaissance painting by Filippino Lippi of Madonna and Child. It's been in the Met collection for years, but recently was taken into the conservation department for a cleaning... under the thick, discolored old varnish, there was this magnificently vibrant painting! The careful cleaning brought the picture back to life! And what a charming picture it is. Not only is the Madonna radiant, but the baby is sooo precious - reaching for the religious book his mama is holding, and innocently crumbling the page as only an adorable baby will do. The Madonna's enveloping robe is the most extraordinary blue - a blue derived from crushing the expensive Lapis Lazuli gem that is only found in Afghanistan. Can you imagine how expensive it must have been to import this gemstone - and how much had to be used to produce this rich, saturated color? Well the effect is touching - amazing - astonishing.

Thank you, wonderful Met. You never disappoint.

On to the other Met...I have a ticket in the ozone layer to see the premier Met production of John Adam's "Nixon In China"...Some have said what took so long? Others have said why bother...so let me tell ya:

Nixon in China? What an amazing subject for an opera. But - regardless of what we thought of Nixon in 1972, this visit was EPIC - and opera is a natural medium for epic stories...And John Adam's music rings in the hall with meaningful and often beautiful sounds. Although no one was humming any tunes when they left.

Peter Sellers, the gnome genius of the opera world - is producing this debut. John Adams, the composer, is conducting the opera himself! And Mark Morris is choreographing ....Would I miss this for the world?

There is some awkwardness to the beginning - The need for exposition - a sometimes literal and prosaic libretto - But the staging is brilliant - seeing Mao and Nixon and Kissinger and the Chinese delegation lined up on stage just like the press photos in the newspapers of the day - the enfeebled Mao is a tenor - and sings about the oppressive history of China - so impassioned that he rises up from his seat in proud defiance. Nixon, a baritone, seems quite conciliatory - a man with a political and economic mission...And Pat....dressed in GOP red is a very sympathetic figure.

Act I ends with a banquet scene that is both highly theatrical and historically evocative ...Amidst the many toasts, the masks of rapprochement thinly veil the vast philosophical differences between these two powers. And the music wonderfully echoes this complex amalgam.

In Act II we have the Nixons, mostly Pat, being taken to visit hospitals, and farms and schools - and there's a lightness and a knowing sense that we're being given a sanitized view of Mao's China. But when the Nixons are taken to a political ballet - WOW! I haven't always been sympatico to Mark Morris's work. But here - he is brilliant! His political ballet is beautiful, absurd, propagandist, allegorical, satirical, and savage. We are confronted with the Cultural Revolution at its most despicable - as are the Nixons...especially Pat. Great ballet! Great theater!

Then Mao's wife, Chiang Ch'ing, sings a paen to Mao's Red Book...and it is simultaneously beautiful, strident and terrifying. When the curtain falls on Act II, the audience knows why this opera wants to be seen and heard.

Okay. You're going to be disgusted with me - I have to leave and not see Act III. Why? Well, partly because nothing could top Act II...especially because the Nixons are going to reminisce about their lives together...ugh...I want to leave on this ecstasy of Act II...partly because as the night wears on, the sidewalks are getting icy and I want to be safe ... and partly because after 11 pm the bus service gets very sparse and I don't want to have trouble getting home in the freezing cold.

BUT, there is some serendipity to this premature departure. As I'm leaving the Opera House, rushing past Isaak Mizrahi and friends - who should be standing just outside the theater than Mark Morris!, glass of wine in hand, talking to a friend....normally I'm shy about going up to a stranger, but I decided I just had to say something...

"That ballet was astonishing - absolutely beautiful and amazing. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you." He gave me huge grin - and thanked me for saying so. So there.

I'm back to my normal life, now.

More soon.
love
s

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MINI Mii

Feb. 1st, 2011 | 09:03 am

(c) susan rhoades, 2011

MINI Mii

part 266

There's not too much I miss about my old life - of course - some friends I hardly see anymore ; driving! I really miss hopping in my car and going somewhere - anywhere; and TENNIS!

How I've missed playing tennis.

Indoor courts in Manhattan cost upwards of $100/hour! And playing on city courts requires a permit and appointments. So Wii Sports became more and more attractive. I know I'm on a strict budget... but with all this snow, and feeling a little too lump-like, I decided to check out Overstock.com and see what they offered. And lo! And behold! I'm the proud parent of a Wii....

My Mini Mii looks a little like me - gray hair, a round body...she doesn't play as well as I do in my dreams - her forehand can be erratic - she's often swatting and missing in little puffs of falling down and getting up. And there she is, running around the court in a haphazard, inane, side to side dance... But we're both getting a LOT better. The paradigm of the Wii isn't a perfect simulation...but I'm getting used to the control and its idiosyncrasies - and it's almost like playing the real game!

At first I was playing the standard doubles game they offer, but I've discovered how to play singles... playing with two Mini Mii's on my side of the net and ignoring the net-playing Mii...I 've even caught myself apologizing to my "partner" when I've flubbed...(cause I'm a little nutsy as you know...I"m in heaven pretending). I play most mornings for half an hour or so... have quite a workout, even in my tiny studio -

Now, I can't wait to visit my daughter and really play!

Frozen rain shards are gently striking my window - but I'm going to be brave and, with my new boots, visit the outside... Later...

I 'm playing some tennis first.

more soon
love
s

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FATBOY

Jan. 16th, 2011 | 04:00 pm

(c) susan rhoades, 2011

FATBOY

part 265

I met Fatboy in Chicago, when he was truly worthy of his name. At that time, he had a brother - and they slept together, rollicked together and rolled about. Fatboy was almost 20 pounds of love. And when he was in your lap, everything was cozy and squishy and furry.

Fatboy moved to Northern California where he gainfully maintained his weight and his charm. When he and his loving owner and his fiancee set off to Southern California, in a seedy U-Haul, with Fatboy contentedly on Lena's lap (she, who wasn't a big fan of cats, large or small) I knew he was going to be very happy in his new home.

So many years ago.

The arrival of a new rescued kitty, who adored Fatboy and whom Fatboy adored - the arrival of a Tibetan Spaniel who tolerated Fatboy and whom Fatboy tolerated - the arrival of a strict diet for Fatboy, who became svelte and lean...a poster kitty for Diet Chow...

When I would visit, Fatboy seemed to remember me, and while he had enough love from his family, he asked for a pat or two. He was happiest to cuddle with Imogene in a snug bed in a corner. But he was getting older, and a little slower...

Fatboy died today. The grief we feel matches the love he was given.

Rest in peace, Fatboy.

love
s

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SNOW. BOOTS. BROADWAY.

Jan. 13th, 2011 | 06:25 am

(c) susan rhoades, 2011

SNOW. BOOTS. BROADWAY.

part 264

Ooooooooo..More snow coming. Upon returning from Austin, there were only a few tufts and mounds reminding us of The Blizzard. Now the forecaster says 4-6 more inches. The Blizzard had reinforced the need for new boots, so I can play and trudge with uninhibited cheer. Not the fashionable kind that look like they could be worn by Jack Sparrow...nor the polka dotted ones worn by school children...No. I know exactly what I want: Waterproof. A 2-inch wedge heel to be stylish. And tire treads for soles. And of course large enough for my very big feet.

After trying on 20 pairs (thanks to DSW, where no sale sherpas grimly tote towers of boxes back and forth from the storeroom - and the customer guiltily fidgets in her chair) I find just the right pair.

Let it snow - Let it snow - Let it snow.

And it does. 4-6 inches as predicted. Those boots are burning a hole in my brain. To Hell with my sewing project. Let's give these babies a road test.

M-m-m-m-m-m-m. They're great. Snug. Comfortable. Forced to ford the icy pond crossing Lexington Avenue, with slush above the ankle bone, I'm warm and dry. My peripheral hearing catches a muted "S...t, I just stepped into it" - my normal empathy gives way to smugness....ya need new boots I'm thinking to myself.

Well...this is going swimmingly...I can't stop now. What to do on a cold, snowy day? Wait! It's matinee day - and I've been anxious to see "The Importance of Being Earnest" with Brian Bedford playing Lady Bracknell. I Love this play! Have seen it in very amateur productions - visiting English troop productions - Repertory theaters - the '50's classic movie more often than is seemly...I bet they've got cancellations today and will be thrilled to see me.

Thrilled? Not only did they honor a coupon I hadn't brought - they gave me options in the orchestra for the same price - and another option that was even cheaper. In fact, they were so eager to have me, I hurried out of the lobby after the transaction for fear of being Shanghai'd -

What a delightful performance. My box seat was PERFECT - and as close as I was, Bedford's gorgon-like Lady Bracknell was spot-on. He never resorted to the tricks often used in drag performances....in fact, his large size and male voice just reinforced Lady Bracknell's officious nature. And the audience of intrepid New Yorkers, wide-eyed tourists, young people who don't know how to stay at home, and what-the-devil retirees rollicked with laughter.

A perfect antidote for a cold winter's day.

I LOVE NEW YORK!

More soon.
love
s

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