A day off two weeks ago, and the frenetic crammed-in schedule that a day off can bring, led me to fling myself into a cab on Ninth Avenue after a badly-needed hair appointment. At rush hour. “40th and 7th, please,” I said. The cabbie responded, “40-eth?” “Four oh,” I replied.
The cabbie, who spoke English with the lilting accent of a French-colonized African nation, regaled me with a story about how the difference between “eth” and “ayth” cost him his first shot at the college exams when he first moved to the U.S. and missed his exam date, thinking the date was the 28th when it was the 20th.
I hit the “off” button on that little television screen in the back seat. That screen annoys me, along with that unnecessary screen in the elevators of corporate buildings, delivering news bits and factoids. Thirty seconds of downtime must be filled by news of Paris Hilton and definitions of obscure words we will never remember or use. Can we no longer talk to one another?
“What state are you from?” the cabbie asked.
“I am from Missouri,” I told him carefully. “That is in the middle of the country. By the Mississippi River.”
He was delighted. When he was a child, “in my country” (never named), they learned a song in school about a boy created by a famous writer from that part of the world.
“Mark Twain?” I suggested.
“Mark Twain! The boy was called `Tom Sawyer.’ We learned a song about Tom Sawyer.” He sang the song, in French, to me. Tom Sawyer was a boy, born on the banks of the Mississippi … that was as far as my French took me. It does no good, I have learned, to let French speakers know that you understand them. I have a good accent and know some colloquial phrases, but I have no daily practice, no experience in France and no meaningful vocabulary. Responding to the French only excites them into thinking I understand way more than I do. If I say something like “Are you lost?” or “you’re on the wrong train,” they happily shout “Tu parles francais
?” and embrace me with misguided kisses. I have made the mistake of replying, “Je me débrouilles
” which means, technically, something like “I get by,” but to a lonely Frenchman means “Mais oui, mon frère
, I know clever little slang phrases in your language, please reply rapidly and with much panache
.” So now I play dumb.
When we reached 40-eth and 7th, I paid the Tom Sawyer fan and asked, “Could I have 8 back?” “Hate?” he replied. “Huit
,” I answered. “Oh, you speak French?” “Un peu
, I said Americanly. “Oh, I wish this ride were longer!” he said.
Which is, I have to say, the nicest thing a cabbie has ever said to me.
After a snack on 40-eth and 7th, I went on with my friend to the Theatre for a New Audience’s production of Antony and Cleopatra
which received, in my humble opinion, an unjustly harsh review in The New York Times
For one thing, the Times
critic complained about the size of the theatre (200 seats) and the stage (well, whatever, you work with what you have). The majesty of the Egypto-Roman conflict was diminished by the real estate, the critic complained. To which I wanted to say, “well, welcome to New York.” I thought that the staging, space considered, was creative and used the space well. I thought that the minor players (I’m looking at you, Christen Simon, in particular) did a fabulous, scene-stealing job and I thought that Martin Csokas was a very sexy Antony. Sexy as in “oh, can I be Cleopatra tomorrow?” Sexy in a smartest-guy-in-the-room, beleaguered, besotted, weary wary warrior Hugh Laurie in House
kind of way.
Moreover, in this production, as in the Julius Caesar
production by this same company, all the players were there. A lot of the roles which seemed to be comprised of merely listening (again, you, Christen Simon) came across as characters who were actually present. Jeffrey Carlson put a keen young-Derek-Jacobi-as-fresh-faced-blond-psychopath spin on the role of Octavius.
I recommend this Antony and Cleopatra
especially if you, like me (nerd alert!) have a life goal of seeing all of the Bard’s work live while you’re alive. (And there’s no point in seeing them otherwise.)A bientot
Labels: actors, Shakespeare