My weekend (or, a play about a book)

With only about a week’s notice we decided to go see Six Degrees of Separation in New York City this past weekend. We watch a lot of Bravo and had seen the two stars of the show, Allison Janney and John Benjamin Hickey on Watch What Happens Live. Six Degrees has been one of my all time favorite movies since I first saw it in 1995, but I had never seen it on stage. In 1992, when I was living in London I had a ticket to see it with Stockard Channing in the role of Ouisa but I got violently ill and couldn’t go. When I saw Channing in the film version a few years later I realized what I had missed. The film is absolutely superb. Channing’s performance is truly amazing and she deserved the Oscar for which she was nominated but didn’t win. The cinematography is beautiful, the pacing is crisp and on point, all the supporting roles are played wonderfully (with the possible exception of Will Smith who is a little wooden), the soundtrack, the clothes, and the script itself–the whole thing is magic to me.

I was a little trepidatious to see it on stage. I had heard that it was getting rave reviews, but would it suffer in comparison to the film? Plus, for all my wanderings and performance-going over the past 30 years, I have never actually seen a Broadway play. I’ve seen a Broadway musical or two, but not a play. Most theater that I go to is in smaller more experimental settings like theaters in the round or those with thrust stages. Proscenium stages seem so artificial to me, I wasn’t sure how it would all translate. In the case of the current production, it translated very well. The stage set was evocative of the film and the actors was great. The film really is about Ouisa (like Louisa) and Janney played her very well. She has impeccable timing. Corey Hawkins as Paul was far more engaging and believable than Will Smith. I also thought the scenes with the college-age kids were played and directed perfectly despite Tess’s bright red Elaine Benes wig.

The first time I saw the film I was almost levitating in my seat with delight. In addition to all of things I have already mentioned, the play is full of literary and cultural references. This is a play for people who read. People aware of culture and politics. A play about Cezanne, musical theater, Sidney Poitier, apartheid, sexuality, mental illness, authenticity, and a dissection of The Catcher in the Rye. They even go to The Strand bookstore back when it still only had eight miles of books. (In fact, my first trip to NYC was after I had seen the film my hosts asked me what I wanted to do I said “What’s the place with eight miles of books?”. Happily, in those pre-internet days they knew what I was talking about.)

And, although the play was wonderful, nothing can beat the film. I don’t want to oversell it, but I really do think it is perfection. And since getting to NYC to see this production may not be possible, finding a copy of the film to watch is way better than second best. Just now I watched Channing’s version of Ouisa’s final speech on YouTube and was floored once again. Go watch the film. But make sure you keep distractions out of the room. You don’t want to miss any of the dialog.

Stockard Channing in Six Degrees of Separation
Carrie Bradshaw was in front of us

About six rows ahead of us was none other than John Benjamin Hickey’s (and Andy Cohen’s) bestie Sarah Jessica Parker. And it wasn’t just the back of her head we saw, she was turned around in her seat talking to (John’s pretty sure) Darren Star (writer/producer of SITC) so we had a full-on view of her for about 10 minutes. To paraphrase Ouisa from the play/film we were not starfuckers so I don’t have photographic proof.

What does a right-wing crack-pot think of Six Degrees?

Just as I was in the middle of Tweeting about Ms Parker’s presence, John said, “That woman walking in looks like Ann Coulter”. I looked over and said “That is Ann Coulter”. Skeletor herself in all her demonic cruntiness walks in with someone who could have been a trimmer, less frightening looking Steve Bannon. Seriously, WTF? What could someone of her ilk think of a play like Six Degrees of Separation?

not buying books

Since our trip was very last minute and short and we packed extremely light, as in toothbrush and clean underwear light, I didn’t really fancy the idea of buying any books. We also had some very lovely weather so spending time in bookstore didn’t appeal that much either. I did, however, pop into McNally Jackson. I have enjoyed the store previously, but given that I wasn’t really looking for anything or buying anything, it turned out I wasn’t in the mood to browse their country-segregated fiction. That can be fun in some instances, but overall, not my thing.

We also stumbled across a used/antiquarian cook book store that wasn’t open. It might have been good for a glance but I don’t need to start a cook book collection beyond what I actually used to cook with.

Kind of amusing wood blocks painted to look like books at John Derian. And what a steal. (!)
Green things

Despite the hordes of clueless tourists, we did enjoy studying the flora on the High Line. Not only was it interesting to see how the plantings have evolved since the last time we saw them, it was also fun to see how the plants and trees were progressing seasonally. The spring bulbs being spent and the late spring perennials barely starting to suggest blooming, Piet Oudolf’s amazing planting scheme is still wonderful to take in. It’s like one part hedgerow, one part meadow, and one part border. So many delightful greens and textures to study. But seriously, I really wish the tour buses would not dump loads of disinterested youths and tourists there. If they had one iota of interest in plants, but no.

On Sunday we ran into a little community garden on the lower east side that was decidedly not a tourist destination and so delightful. It’s run by 11 volunteer gardeners. I’m not sure who owns the land.


Cookie Dough’nt

Right before we went to New York in February a friend of mine on Facebook had posted about a place that sold cookie dough like it was ice cream. Being a fiend for cookie dough I had to see what it was all about. I walked by twice only to see a line a block long so I skipped it. On Saturday the line was much shorter so I gave it a go. Here is my review so you don’t have to wait in line: Not horrible, but homemade is a million times better. Even if there was no line and they were giving it away, I wouldn’t eat it again.

we smell nice

Decades ago an older female friend told me that when she travels to a new place she finds a scent that she has never smelled before and starts to use it on the trip. Since the olfactory sensors are so close to the part of our brains that control memory, smells can transport one to another place in pretty short order. (To this day bus exhaust on a cool day still reminds me of London, lol.) So in 2000 when I was headed to Pozzuoli (southern Italy) for the first time to stay with a friend and I wanted to find a cologne so I could try the memory experiment. In the age of global everything it was hard to find something different enough that I hadn’t already smelled a million times. I ended up finding Penhaligons in London which has been selling scent since the 19th century–and even some of the same formulations. Long story short, I bought Blenheim Bouquet and used it on my first morning in Pozzuoli as I looked out over a sunny lemon grove outside my bedroom. Now whenever I smell Blenheim Bouquet, I think of a sunny March morning in Italy. Pretty fantastic, you should try it.

On Saturday we went to the Penhaligon’s store at Rockefeller Center and did a little damage on our credit card. (Their prices have gotten really nutso.) In addition to Blenheim, both of us like the older fragrances like English Fern–it kind of has a medicinal quality. Although they are newer, we also really liked Juniper Sling (I’m wearing it now) and Vaara, which was apparently formulated for a His Highness the Maharaja who wanted something that smelled like his garden (coriander, carrot seeds and quince, etc.). How fun is that? Although I just noticed that Vaara is for the ladies. Good thing I only got the shower gel.

9 thoughts on “My weekend (or, a play about a book)

  1. BookerTalk May 8, 2017 / 1:48 pm

    Ive seen cookie dough as a dessert here and was really puzzled by it. Is it just uncooked dough?


  2. Laila@BigReadingLife May 8, 2017 / 3:32 pm

    So I had to go to the Cookie DO website and check that out – treated eggs and flour for safety! interesting! Fun post – I love a vicarious travel blog post.


  3. Nadia May 9, 2017 / 6:48 am

    Loved this post about your weekend. Not so sure about eating cookie dough like its ice cream – maybe at home.


  4. Kate W May 9, 2017 / 7:50 am

    Very jealous of your Penhaligan’s spree! Sounds like an ace trip.


  5. Joan Kyler May 10, 2017 / 8:25 am

    It sounds like a fun weekend. I only live an hour and a half from NYC and my niece lives in Manhattan, but we never go to the city. The train from Philly is expensive and driving can be a nightmare.
    By the way, thank you again and again for introducing me to R. C. Sherriff. I’ve now read four of his novels and loved them all. I’m currently reading Another Year and, so far, am getting wrapped up in his characters and story. Thank you!!


  6. Adrienne Teague May 11, 2017 / 12:12 pm

    I am the same way with bus exhaust and London. My husband proposed in London in November, and I always think of that trip when I smell bus exhaust.


  7. Richard May 11, 2017 / 9:26 pm

    I love the ‘Six Degrees of Separation’ movie, and I think Stockard Channing was perfect in the role. The stage show sounds good, too. I can imagine that Alison Janney would have been great as Ouisa.


  8. Annabel (gaskella) May 21, 2017 / 9:38 am

    I want to see the film of 6 degrees again now. Your phrase about Ann Coulter (whoever she is) ‘in all her demonic cruntiness’ made me fall about laughing!


  9. dhanff July 6, 2017 / 6:07 am

    I had tickets to see Six Degrees in NYC this weekend but that show closed early. ARGH! Will console myself with reviewing the amazing film, one of my favourites. We are going to see Oslo instead. Flying in from Toronto early Sat a.m. And flying out Sun p.m. Will 3 plays allow time for a bookstore crawl? ❤️


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