One of the things I love about living in New York is the endless opportunity to wander into something unexpected. Which happened twice in one evening this week. First I went to see Dark Space, an indescribably good tale of metamorphosis told with puppets, bravura acting and uncommon wit. It’s one of those rare perfectly realized amalgams of art piece and theatre, the kind of thing you always hope you will see in odd offbeat performance spaces, but almost never do.
Afterward I tried to describe the experience of seeing it to one of its creators, Kate Brehm. The best I could come up with was: “It’s was like watching David Cronenberg become genetically transformed into Basil Twist.” Actually, I think that’s an accurate description – but no substitute for seeing it happen right before your eyes.
Afterward we went for drinks to the Algonquin Hotel, only a few blocks away – the wonderfully storied place where Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley and the rest of the Round Table held court all those years ago. On this particular night there was open-mike singing. Yet another magical thing about New York – nearly everyone who got up to sing was very, very good. Or, to put it more accurately, they were great – great on a professional level. These are clearly people in the biz – men and women who have had years of experience with Broadway or off-Broadway. And what they do on a night off is show up in the Algonquin lounge and belt one out – comedy numbers, torch songs, classic blues, light and frothy show tunes, or full-on coloratura opera. Just for fun.
And I realized that in one evening I had run the gamut – from the most avant garde conception of theatre to the most meat-and-potatoes Broadway bedazzlement. And absolutely none of it was being done for money – only for the sheer love of being in New York, of putting on an evening of great theatre, and of being good enough to knock it clear out of the ballpark.