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cultural commentary from the desk of Don Shewey
You must never blank people when intimate relations have arisen. You must never slam the door in their face. I’ve been the victim of it several times – and it’s the worst. It gives you no chance of dealing with it and working it through. You just stand there in the middle of the road wondering what happened, what did I do…When the other party has a change of heart but will not tell you why they have, or indeed that they have – this is the cruelest mystery of all, for the mind cannot rest but cogitates ceaselessly.
— Duncan Fallowell
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The one must-read article is “Taken,” Sarah Stillman’s shocking article on the outrageous misuse of civil forfeiture laws to strip American citizens of their belongings without charging them with any crime. Just when you think you’ve heard it all, along comes another insane way for police departments to harass poor and non-white Americans.
I haven’t gotten around to reading Zadie Smith’s story, “Meet the President!” But I will.
Former editor-in-chief Robert Gottlieb, as plugged-in a publishing insider as there is, in his review gently spanks Boris Kachka for “Hothouse,” his somewhat credulous, gossipy history of the famed Farrar Straus & Giroux. And in “Compositions in Black and White,” Paige Williams profiles Bill Arnett, a collector of outsider art by black Southerners, in such a way as to manifest both his good-hearted championing of artists who would otherwise never be seen AND his obnoxious grandstanding.
My favorite cartoon:
8.16.13 — I think Young Jean Lee is one of the bravest and most talented young(-ish) artists on the New York theater scene. She challenges herself relentlessly, never works in the same genre more than once, and collaborates with artists from other forms and aesthetics all the time. I was delighted when Lincoln Center Theater scheduled a return engagement of We’re Gonna Die, a piece Lee first performed at Joe’s Pub and then brought to Lincoln Center last year at this time to inaugurate LCT’s new tiny black box space, the Claire Tow Theater. Just before We’re Gonna Die, Lee created a stylized costume drama kinda-but-not-really-adapted-from-Shakespeare called Lear at Soho Rep; just after WGD, she made Untitled Feminist Show, a (mostly) wordless dance piece featuring all naked women, which was performed at the Kitchen, where she’d also presented The Shipment, a play in which an ensemble of black actors played white characters. Unlike any of those, of course, We’re Gonna Die is staged as a rock concert, in which Lee fronts a band of nerdy boys called Future Wife.
I expected much more rock ‘n’ roll, but there’s quite a lot of stand-up storytelling about family and boyfriends – at heart, it’s an emotional account of Lee’s father’s recent attempt to participate in an experimental cancer treatment. The band is great, but Lee’s songs and performance are flat and mundane, intentionally so but not especially interesting (in the direction of Jonathan Richman, but not even that witty). Nevertheless, I admired her courage in getting up and doing it – I can’t think of too many other contemporary playwrights with the guts to live out their singing-with-a-band fantasies (although it’s fun to imagine: Adam Bock? Richard Greenberg? Annie Baker? David Mamet?) – and the band is terrific. (They are Tim Simmonds, Mike Hanf, Nick Jenkins, and Benedict Kupstas.) And she does get the audience to sing along on the title song, which closes the show – feel-good existentialism? Future Wife has just released an album of the show with a stellar array of guests, including David Byrne, Laurie Anderson, and Adam Horovitz of the Beastie Boys. You can hear the studio version of that song (overproduced if you ask me) below: