Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Trick Is to Parcel Out the Treats

The natural candy mix, above, as well as the popcorn balls and dark chocolate bites (below) are available at naturalcandy store.com, while the pumpkin spice truffles, bottom, are on offer at gnosischocolate.com. Photos from www.naturalcandystore.com and www.gnosischocolate.com.

TRAIL mix. You have got to be kidding! Dried prunes. Surely, you jest.

Likely some of the sentiments trick or treaters will hold for givers who dare pass out these perfectly sensible/nutricentric edibles instead of Milky Way bars.

For a couple of weeks, Yours Truly has been mulling what to say about Halloween treats. Because I endeavor to promote good, whole food whenever possible, it was my intention to jaw about alternatives to sugar-, chemical-laden candy.

I’m sorry, folks, Halloween puzzles will only puzzle – unless they are edible and chocolate-covered, preferably with dark chocolate. A kid can have an apple any ol’ day. For Halloween, if it is not candied or caramel leave it in the fruit basket. Coloring books with ghosts and goblins fairly screaming from the pages are not the way to endear yourself to the young set.

My beloved grandmother had the best solution: rationing. That’s what she did with my brother and me. When we came home with our loot we had to hand it over. In turn, she doled out Tootsie Rolls in sensible portions over the following weeks. It was painful, but it kept the sugar intake to a minimum.

My great, late grandmother had a good system that can still work today. I recommend it. There is help, too, from other sources. No Trick Treats, aims to accommodate those on restricted diets – which should be all of us when it comes to sugar, etc. The site lists the addresses of homes, apartments and businesses countrywide that will be giving out Halloween treats that take into account restricted diets – from allergen-free to vegan. (http://notricktreats.com/)

If yours is such a venue, simply add your address where indicated. In the hunt for sugar-free peppermints and other hard candy in your city/town/hamlet? Enter your address, then click on the sugar-free category, a little green circle should pop up. Click on it to see the
addresses where you can bag said peppermints and butterscotch. One can also create a map of the addresses serving, say, kosher jelly beans.

No Trick Treats also lists a number of places online where one can buy specialty candies i.e., Divvies (http://divvies.com/) for both vegan and nut-free products. One of my favorites is Natural Candy Store (http://www.naturalcandystore.com/). Socially conscious Halloween shoppers can do business with the Global Exchange Fair Trade Store (http://www.globalexchangestore.org/) with the assurance that the candy corn is made in conditions/countries where there are no labor, trade, human rights or environmental abuses and so on.

If popcorn is the treat of choice, do so in the form of popcorn balls. That’s what my childhood best friend’s mother did every year. Mrs. M’s house was one of the most popular stops. Natural Candy Store probably can’t top the late, great Mrs. M, but it does stock delicious-looking popcorn balls, Divine 70 percent dark chocolate bites and many other goodies.

Speaking of chocolate, the affable, beautiful and talented Vanessa Barg (aka Chocolate Girl) is this year offering pumpkin spice truffles at her NYC-based newbie outfit, Gnosis, which is a Greek word meaning knowledge. VB declares that it is the source of the world’s most nutritious chocolate. The truffles do contain ingredients to bolster the claim along the lines of cacao beans, maca, blue-green algae and Love. Even if they are not made from the most nutritious chocolate, they are nutritious. And they are sweet, too, which brings us back to the sugar situation and rationing. Even a good thing should be enjoyed in moderation, no? (http://www.gnosischocolate.com/)

The best news here, though, is that Gnosis and Natural Candy Store promise in the words of the latter, absolutely no artificial colors or dyes, no artificial flavors, no artificial sweeteners, no preservatives, no hydrogenated oils. And while they make no such promises, neither is offering play dough, pens or pencils in lieu of candy. Everything is edible.

That, is a good thing.

Chambord Entertains Some Pretty Ghoulish Ideas
FOR Halloween, adults can have their candy and liquid treats, too. There are numerous of the latter from many sources, including Chambord.

Though French, the raspberry liqueur maker has enthusiastically thrown itself into the season with any number of libations, garnishes and entertaining ideas. No doubt, its efforts are directed at the base in Ireland, United Kingdom and United States.

For the Halloween soiree, Chambord is suggesting several enticing-sounding martinis that are easy to concoct.

Vampire Kiss Martini requires only Finlandia Vodka, Korbel California Champagne( the maker’s claim, not mine) and, of course, Chambord.
(http://www.chambordonline.com/email/ch1266/Chambord_Vampire_Kiss_Martini.pdf

Also on the drink list are Chambord Candy Apple Martini
(http://www.chambordonline.com/email/ch1266/Chambord_Candy_Apple_Martini.pdf), and Ghoul-Aid Cocktail (http://www.chambordonline.com/email/ch1266/Chambord_Ghoul.pdf)
.
Would any such cocktail be complete, though, without a garnish:

Halloween Eyeball Cocktail Garnish
Canned lychee in syrup, drained
Raspberry (or other red-colored) preserves
Blueberry

Dry lychee & fill cavity with red preserves.
Insert Blueberry, blossom end facing out.
Spear with a toothpick or cocktail skewer.


And in conclusion some ideas about entertaining straight outta the Chambord laboratory:

1. Put gummy worms in ice cube trays and fill with water. Freeze and use in your favorite beverages to scare guests.

2. Wrap a tall glass with cheesecloth several times around to look like a Mummy.

3. Hollow out pumpkins to use as a holder for your punches. You may want to insert a plastic bowl into the pumpkin for easy serving.

4. Buy an inexpensive Calderon and place glass bowl in the center of it. Place a smaller rimmed bowl into the bigger bowl to hold your punch. In the outside glass bowl, fill with water and put in dry ice chips to give a bubbling fog effect (be careful not to touch the dry ice. Use tongs at all times and do not put directly into your punch).

5. Truly frighten party-goers with floating hands. Fill 2 food service gloves with colored water and twist and knot opening closed to make a tight seal. Freeze gloves for 12 to 24 hours. The result looks like two hands, which you can add to your punch bowl for a great effect.

Incidentally, both Chambord and Yours Truly strongly urge all partakers to drink responsibly.

Visit http://www.chambordonline.com/age.aspx?ReturnUrl=%2fDefault.aspx for more ideas.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

3fer: 'La Bête' 'A Life in the Theatre' 'The Sneeze'

Joanna Lumley, Mark Rylance and David Hyde Pierce, above, in “La Bête." Patrick Stewart and T.R. Knight, middle, in "A Life in the Theatre." Bottom, Chris Mixon and Rachel Botchan in "Drama" from "The Sneeze." Photos from www.labetetheplay.com, Carol Rosegg and Gregory Costanzo, respectively.

BY TAMARA BECK

JUST because they are theater, doesn’t mean they are theatrical. Following is my take on three.

With little to recommend David Hirson’s “La Bête” but its failure on Broadway in 1991, it’s hard to see the need for this revival. It’s a mess not even the accomplished Mark Rylance (Valere), the talented David Hyde Pierce (Elomire), the excellent Stephen Ouimette (Bejart) can put in order. Joanna Lumley’s (The Princess) sends us a postcard from a soap opera; her under-the-top performance lacks charm, wit or even camp. (See video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l6Un8-vfcW0&feature=player_embedded).

Set in the 1600s, “La Bête” is about a troupe of actors whose patron, The Princess, forces the company to take in a self-aggrandizing fool, or lose her patronage. It is also a farce about philistines at the gates. Director Matthew Warchus indulges too much of the chaos for which he has been praised, but thanks to the impeccable timing of his cast he serves the script’s rhyming verse well; it moves along, without any one actor stepping on another’s lines - brief respites from the monotony.

Meanwhile, they meet by the stage door after the show, the young actor, John (T.R. Knight), and the old actor, Robert (Patrick Stewart), and compliment each other’s performance. They dish about co-stars we will never see and criticize each other ever so delicately.

They rehearse a variety of scripts as if they are a two-man rep company.

Stagehands move flats and bring in props. The actors act out scenes or put on grease paint. The actors change costumes at least two dozen times. We see them as WWI soldiers on the front lines; shipwrecked sailors on the “salty, salty water;” as civilized gents in Robert’s office discussing that fact that John knows that Robert is the father of the child his wife is bearing; at sword play in fanciful costumes. They are stretching and exercising at a barre.

It is a droning 88 minutes that David Mamet takes from us for his “A Life in the Theatre,” a Broadway hit in 1977.

The monotony here is broken up by a few funny scenes such as Robert doing a send-up of a “Les Miz”-type drama. Plenty of slapstick, and an entertaining bit has the French flag flapping in front of his face as Robert loses his wig. The audience was content to laugh at much less broad comedy. Even scene changes got applause. DM’s signature repetition of lines elicited a hearty response, too.

Inexplicably drawing laughs was an exchange between John and Robert that went something like this:

Robert: So, you’re off.
John: Yes, I’m off. I’m hungry.
Robert: You’re hungry, I can’t eat after a performance. Well, so, you’re off.

DM, who is often prolifically profane (“Glengary Glen Ross,” “Speed the Plow”), to his credit shows considerable restraint here, using the “f “ and “c” words only sparingly.

A livelier and more vibrant way for life to be spent in the theater is with “The Sneeze.” These vignettes based on Anton Chekhov’s stories and plays by Michael Frayn (“Noises Off”) are played out by The Pearl Theatre Company.

“The Sneeze” is directed by the company’s first-year director, J.R. Sullivan, with gusto. Set in a rural Russian theater, the interludes between scenes include some singing, some dancing.

The actors have excellent timing. Among the players, Chris Mixon stands out for his physical comedy in the title piece as well as in “Drama” and particularly in the finale, “The Proposal.” He is joined by Rachel Botchan, a veteran of the 26-year-old company in an equally stellar turn in “Drama” and “The Proposal.” The actors are not the only ones in the ensemble who merit a mention. Lee Stark as an inconsolable widow and Bradford Cover, the man who has come to collect her late husband’s debt in “The Bear,” give piquantly uproarious performances.

The production has a great balance of comedy and romance.

Visit http://www.labetetheplay.com/ to learn more about “La Bête; http://www.broadwaysbestshows.com/show/A-Life-in-the-Theatre to learn more about “A Life in the Theatre," and http://www.pearltheatre.org/index.php to learn more about “The Sneeze.”

Friday, October 22, 2010

Good Mix in Southeast Asian Intl. Film Festival

Cockfighting, above, is but one event contributing to a bad day in “Anima and Persona (Aaranya Kaandam).” Kalki Koechlin, middle, as "That Girl in the Yellow Boots." Below, Rajat Kapoor cannot get any in "With Love to Obama." Photos from Capital Film Works, Ashok Pandey/Revel Films and Anurag Kashyap Films, respectively.

EVERYONE'S having a bad day. An aging Don loses his libido. His young mistress has had enough. The idiot errand boy wants to grow up. The head henchman gets ambitious. Two villagers get greedy. Another gang gets the wrong idea. And there's cocaine, cock-fighting and blood too. “Quote, unquote.”

Meanwhile, Paan Singh Tomar owned the steeplechase competition for seven years. The records he set during the Indian National Games stood for years. This brought him great fame, but not as great as that which resulted from his run as a notorious outlaw.

Here are rather interesting synopses of “Anima and Persona (Aaranya Kaandam” and Paan Singh Tomar, respectively. They are two of the 21 feature-length and short films to be screened during the 7th Annual Southeast Asian International Film Festival next week at the SVA Theater in New York.

As Southeast Asia becomes more industrialized and a major trade/investment corridor and as quality of life improves, giving rise to a robust middle class, these changes are being reflected in cinema. This year, SAIFF is presenting films that address previously taboo issues such as criticism of social/economic issues “Asshole” (“Gandu”), as well as sexuality/desire (“I am 24”) and political satire “Autumn” (“Harud”).

The aforementioned are among an interesting roster in four categories: Documentary, Dramatic, HBO Short Film and Spectrum. Panel discussions are in play, too. Most of the films address relatable issues, particularly for those in mondern-day devloped/developping cultures. “Slackistan” is a state of mind for overprivileged do-nothings who for the first time in their sorry lives are forced to wax self-reflectively as things begin to fall apart. In “The Untitled Kartik Krishnan Project,” a young man who makes his money coding HTML inadvertently finds his true calling, deals with unrequited love and in the process has transcendent experiences.

Ruth Edscer’s desperate search for her estranged father takes her into Mumbai’s political Sodom and Gomorrah in the opening night selection (27 Oct.), “That Girl in the Yellow Boots.” Newcomer Kalki Koechlin has received good notices for her performance in this thriller, which has shown in both Venice and Toronto. Epic “West is West” closes the festival (2 Nov.). In this sequel to director Andy De Emmomy’s “East is East” about the Khan clan, one of the many lessons that becomes clear as the narrative moves from metropolitan England to rural Pakistan is that father does not always know best, nor does he always do best.

Commanding its share of buzz is “With Love to Obama.” Among the seven films making their world premiere at SAIFF, it chronicles the experiences of Om Shashtri, a U.S. businessman of Indian descent. He is twice a victim. First, of The Great Recession when the bank holds his house hostage, then by similarly afflicted kidnappers in his native India who hold him hostage because they believe he’s still rolling in dough. Here, too, is a message for the current U.S. chief executive. “With Love to Obama” has great potential for both laughter and tears.

In the festival’s competition arm, awards will be presented in several categories: Grand Jury Award, Jury Award for feature films, Best Director and Best Short Film. Films in all categories are eligible for the Audience Award for Best Feature and Best Short Film.

Visit www.saiff.org for more information about the 7th Annual Southeast Asian International Film Festival, including ticket sales, schedule and venues.

In 'Hereafter,' the Dead Have Their Say

Matt Damon and Richard Kind, above, in "Hereafter." Below, Frankie/George McLaren are engaging as twins.Photos courtesy of Warner Bros.

I was very excited about seeing “Hereafter,” not because of the subject matter – communicating with the dead – but because Clint Eastwood is the director. My regard for the man dates to “Rawhide” reruns.

However, Yours Truly left the film, which closed the 48 New York Film Festival, disappointed. It opens nationwide today. What is responsible for this disappointment is not so much CE's direction as Oscar-winning screenwriter Peter Morgan’s script. His story – or to be precise two of them – fail to engage. “Hereafter” starts out promisingly enough. A Paris news anchor and her news director boyfriend (Thierry Neuvic) are on vacation in Indonesia before a tsunami hits. Incidentally, the scene of the storm is nothing short of incredible and spectacular.

From Indonesia, the action switches to England and the lives of two twin boys, then on to San Francisco – or is it vice-versa – to the simple life of the factory work played by Matt Damon. As I’ve already alluded, “Hereafter”unfolds in three overlapping stories before they merge.

Marie Lelay (Cecile De France) returns to the anchor desk in Paris but is still haunted by her experience in Indonesia. She was caught up in the carnage and went over to the other side before she was brought back. She is deeply affected and fascinated by the experience and wishes to write about it, much to the dismay of her boyfriend and book publisher. We meet George (MD) giving a reading to a widower (Richard Kind) as a favor to his brother. An accident left George with an unwelcome ability to hear from the dead through their living loved ones. All it takes is a touch, and he can quote chapter and verse. In London, adorable twin boys (Frankie/George McLaren) live contentedly enough with their unfit and alcoholic, but loving mother until one of them is killed in a freak accident.

In a brief couple of scenes, such as a visit to a photographer and their bedtime routine, one instantly cottons to the twins. We know tragedy is coming and want to get to know them as well as possible before it strikes. We are invested in their lives. If only PM’s efforts had been as engaging in the other two stories, “Hereafter” would be a film that hums along nicely instead of dragging its feet for more than two hours before it comes to an unsatisfying end.

It is difficult to explain just why it is not possible to care for Marie. She is competent, principled, pleasant and attractive. Yet, the more we see of her life, the less we want to see of her life. The anguish she feels after the accident is not palpable enough, estranging the audience and making it difficult for it to make the connection that leads to compassion. Likewise, as decent as George is, who gives a hill of beans about his humdrum life? And if the cooking class is supposed to touch hearts, it misses the mark. These scenes are some of the least engaging parts of the film. I am suspicious that the cooking class is the clunky device used to introduce Melanie played by Bryce Dallas Howard – in a brief, wasted role – as a failed love match for George. She purses her lips, bats her long lashes and looks in awe with those beautiful eyes. Then, she is gone. Good riddance. Her appearance does nothing to move along the narrative. If the point is to show, as George said, that his gift makes normal relationships impossible, we could have taken him at his word. Here is a case where telling is better than showing.

In any case, events conspire in a credible and clever enough way to bring the three main characters together in central London for the London Book Fair. Marcus hounds George until he gives him a reading, and on the downlow George hounds news anchor-turned-author Marie – the main title of her book is “Hereafter” – and she inexplicably and incredibly becomes his girl.

There are several charming moments in the “Hereafter,” mainly in the twins’ thread. Absolutely hilarious are the scenes in which the BS meter of the taciturn Marcus figuratively flail as he suffers through one charlatan after another in his quest to reach out to his dead brother, Jason (George McLaren). Marcus is neither wisecracking or precocious – that would have made him insufferable. Similarly, the scenes with Marcus and George are tender and funny. George's communication powers, which after a couple of instances become more special effects than special gifts, are plausible here.

CE gets uniformly strong performances from the players. For obvious reasons most of the “Hereafter” promotional posters show MD and CDeF. They should, however, also feature the twins, for they steal the film and save it from being uniformly uninteresting.

"Hereafter" is rated PG-13 for mature thematic elements including disturbing disaster and accident images, and for brief strong language.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

In Oct., Rag Trade Really Turns Out for Cancer

The Gucci 1973 Borsa Bag, above, is one of several items offered in a raffle that will benefit the foundation named for Gabrielle Rich Aouad, below. Photos from www.gabriellesangels.org.

YOURS Truly has been wondering how to express something meaningful about breast cancer awareness all month. Something beyond exhorting all who have ears - though important - to have regular breast exams, mammograms at appropriate times, adopt cancer-preventive diets and, of course, to donate funds for research, education and a cure.

It took fashion to help me find my tongue. Hundreds of events around the country this month are dedicated to raising funds/awareness about one of the most common cancers that afflicts women in the United States. Following are but a trifling few events that bring attention to the scourge, mainly breast cancer, as only the rag trade can.


A Little Louis Vuitton In the Cause of an Angel
IT’S
a beauty: Small, black, leather (w/ pebbles), has a lengthy gold chain and a killer gold logo. At nearly $800, it is not cheap as these things go. And the Gucci 1973 Borsa Bag can go to someone who spends as little as $100.

That’s the deal in Americana Manhasset’s six-item luxury raffle, proceeds from which are earmarked for Gabrielle’s Angel Foundation. The foundation, dedicated to eradicating acute myelogenous leukemia (AML), tonight is having its annual high-profile The Angel Ball at Cipriani Wall Street. All raffle winners, including the one to get Louis Vuitton’s “exlcusive” mystery contribution will be announced whether present or not.

No doubt Gabrielle Rich Aouad, the beauty for which the foundation is named, would be proud. In 1996, she succumbed only after fighting tooth and nail against the cancer.

Not to be outdone in the raffle sweepstakes, host Americana Manhasset is offering a shopping spree valued at $6,000. Whether spending $100 for one raffle ticket, $250 for three, $500 for seven or $1,000 for 15, it’s a deal: private car, personal shopper consultation, and five-thousand bucks to purchase product/services at the Long Island luxury shopping emporium

Visit www.gabriellesangels.org for more details about Americana Manhasset Luxury Raffle, Gabrielle’s Angel Foundation and The Angel Ball.

SuperTrash Treasures Cure Dress in Intense Pink
How does one get Malik So Chic, Richie Rich, Alice Roi, Russian pop star Sasha and other celebs in the same room?

First, get “The City’s” Roxy Olin to host them at a soiree in a destination city i.e., Paris, London, Los Angeles, or say, New York – at hip nightspot, RdV, to be exact. Next, seal the deal with a common cause: debut of the SuperTrash & Susan G. Komen - Fashion Fighting for the Cure dress.

Designed by Olcay Gulsen, the Cure dress aka Dalmace is a little silky/satiney affair w/cut-outs on the sleeveless shoulder, at the waist and at the back. On the bodice and waist it has ruching and extends to just above the knee. Dalmace is available in various colors as long as they are Intense Pink. All month it is available on the SuperTrash Web site for $99, instead of $125.83. Proceeds from its sale go to the Greater NYC Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

For the uninitiated (present company included), by the way, SuperTrash is the L.A.-born/Amsterdam-based label that fashions itself the go-to brand for “independent women with great sense for fashion and style.” Such women include Victoria Beckham, Paris Hilton and potentially millions around the world as the label has a presence in 28 countries and scores upon scores of boutiques/department stores.

Learn more about SuperTrash and purchase the Cure dress at www.SuperTrash.; learn more about Susan G. Komen for the Cure at http://ww5.komen.org/.

At Madison 3rd Street, DIY Creations and Free Natives
ANIMAL print Keds are but one of the possibilities for shoppers who present themselves on 28 Oct. at Madison 3rd Street as the Los Angeles retailer celebrates five of fall’s hot brands.

Sara Berman, Charles Henry, Kasil + Taylor Jacobson and Free Finger will be for sale, too, with a portion of proceeds going to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

Should shoppers not cotton to animal print Keds they can design their own, very possibly with the help of brand creators who will be in the house.

Meanwhile, Native has pledged to send some folks home with a pair of its shoes – gratis – provided they are amongst the first 100 to walk through the door.

Visit http://madisonlosangeles.com/ to learn more about Madison 3rd Street and the shopping benefit, and http://www.bcrfcure.org/part_pinkprod.html to learn more about the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

Pearl Paradise Proffers Pretty Pinks
IS there any better time to be pretty in pink pearls than in October? Pearlparadise.com does not think so and as an enticement is offering a 15 percent discount on its blush-hued stock this month. A quarter of sales will go toward the good work of the Tower Cancer Research Foundation.

That can be as little as $90, not including the discount for a necklace. Or $358 for the Pink to Peach Freshadama Freshwater pearl set (left) minus the 15 when the password – CURE – is invoked.

One does not think too much about pink pearls. For instance:
* Peach and pink pearls are naturally found in freshwater pearls – they are not color treated and will not fade;
* They are rather democratic in that they complement virtually every skintone and complexion;
*The pearls are not widely available at retailers.

No doubt just about any pink pearl the fertile mind can conjure up, pearlparadise wants to imagine it stocks, including the Natural Conch Pearl and Diamond Vine Earrings for a cool $3,750. CURE is the word.

Visit http://www.pearlparadise.com/pearl-color-pink.aspx to learn more about Pearl Paradise and http://www.towercancerfoundation.org/index.php to learn more about Tower Cancer Research Foundation.

QVC and FFANY Have Passion for Selling Shoes
FROM AK Anne Klein to Via Spiga, some of every brand was on the block.

The occasion: “QVC Presents FFANY Shoes on Sale.”Last week, the hawker network and Fashion Footwear Association of New York (FFANY) combined their considerable resources for a three-hour shoe salethon. Offered at half price were thousands of Nine West, Enzo Angiolini, Etienne Aigner, MICHAEL by Michael Kors, Coach Footwear et al., including Fergie.

It is fitting that the Black Eyed Peas frontwoman’s shoes would be part of the sale since she acted as the spokesperson for this year’s program. (See her PSA at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sG09AsrwNX0.)

There’s no telling – not yet anyway – how much booty the broadcast netted. The intention, however, is that it will be added to the $32 million raised over the last 16 years for breast cancer research and education institutions.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

'Me, Myself and I' and Other Strange Bedfellows

Elizabeth Ashley, Brian Murray, Zachary Booth, Preston Sadleir and Natalia Payne, above, in "Me, Myself and I." Photo by Joan Marcus.

BY TAMARA BECK

"Me, Myself and I" is one of the latest works by America's greatest living dramatist, Edward Albee, who famously gave us "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf."

Identity, the self as other. The self as outsider. The self as twin. EA doesn't curry favor, but the audience at Playwrights Horizon – uneasy at times with the absurdist plot ably directed by Emily Mann – gives him laughs.

Here are OTTO, the adept and excellent Zachary Booth, and his twin brother, otto, sweetly played by Preston Sadleir who make up the trio of the title. OTTO addresses the audience directly, breaking the fourth wall. He is disrespectful. He is inconsiderate. He also has charm to spare. The protagonist, self-professed evil twin, OTTO, doesn't like his family and has some far-fetched plans to escape it.

Grande dame Elizabeth Ashley, taking over the role Tyne Daly originated when “Me, Myself and I” debuted in 2008 at the McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton, NJ, is their slovenly and perplexed Mother. She is also as sexy and slutty as a dame of a certain age can be. To add to her confusion, she gave her sons the same name but with different cases, and the names are spelled the same backward and foreword (palindromes and twins). She doesn't know to which son she is speaking.

Mother’s bedmate, the Dr., played by multiple Tony and Drama Desk award winner Brian Murray, is the perfect foil. "You mean metaphorically," he says, when it is clear she means literally.

Identity, the self, ego and the other – all serious issues – are taken seriously, despite the shenanigans.

Lest this reviewer reveal the various plot turns and twists – most of them tight – she will conclude by asserting an appreciation of “Me, Myself and I (extended through 31 Oct.) for its cheeky presentation and theatricality.

Visit http://www.playwrightshorizons.org/mainstage.asp for more information about “Me, Myself and I.”

Tamara Beck is President, Clean Lists Associates, Inc, an association management firm. And an avid theater-goer.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Not Your Ordinary Little Cupcake Bakeshop

Little Cupcake Bakeshop cupcakes, above and below, know how to draw a crowd, middle, to the shop. Bottom, a plethora of celebrity chefs will help close out The Edible Garden. Cupcake photos by Yours Truly. The Edible Garden photo courtesy of The New York Botanical Garden.

WITHOUT a doubt one of the most popular is Southern Red Velvet. Chocolate Cloud is also getting its share of love. Carrot has some folks salivating, including a colleague with whom I share half of the one sitting pretty in the little pink box the cashier handed to me. Yours Truly favors the white cake/chocolate frosting number.

Introducing some of the nearly dozen types of cupcakes available at the Little Cupcake Bakeshop. The Soho newbie is having a grand opening party on 10 Oct. 2010 aka 10.10.10. Just what New York needs, right, another cupcake shop? But these are not your run-of-the-mill cupcakes, nor is this your run-of-the-mill bakery.

Little Cupcake Bakeshop cupcakes and cakes and pies and cookies & bars come into being from the freshest, wholest, localest ingredients. Stuff like New Jersey eggs and Vermont butter. In an imperfect world the bakery can be forgiven for getting its chocolate as far away as Europe.

According to its owners, Little Cupcake Bakeshop is the first carbon neutral bakery in Manhattan. “Throughout our operational processes we attempt to meet the highest standards of environmental responsibility,” they say on the Web site. This includes equipment, lights – even paint and cleaners. One doesn’t reckon there’s any Pine-Sol under the sink. When the bakery cannot eliminate carbon in its everyday operation – say making something like the banana pudding that is delicious and not too sweet– it atones by donating dough (money) to Carbon Fund. The non-profit plants trees that soak carbon to balance the carbon emissions released by such offenders.

Little Cupcake Bakeshop pointedly opened on 10.10.10 as part of an international day of climate action led by the movement, 350. Like Earth Day, it’s a space in time that unites the world around a common cause relating to the environment.

Such good deeds as these and Little Cupcake Bakeshop’s Little Cupcake Initiative can’t help but enhance the taste of the Strawberry Rhubarb pie and the Oatmeal Butterscotch Peanut Butter cookie, no?

Learn more about Little Cupcake Bakeshop, including the Little Cupcake Initiative, at http://www.littlecupcakebakeshop.com/; 350 at www.350.org, and the Carbon Fund at http://www.carbonfund.org/.

'The Edible Garden' Prepares to Serve Last Meals

IN the Conservatory Kitchen on Saturday, Mario Bartoli is whipping up Cavolo Nero with Ricotta, Spaghetti All'Amatriciana
and Mortadella Ripiena. I have no idea what this is, but it sounds scrumptious.

And so does Beet and Goat Cheese Risotto, the aromas of which Todd English will fill the kitchen on Sunday.

Michael Psilakis visits the Perennial Garden to sign “How to Roast a Lamb: New Greek Classic Cooking"; ditto for Nan K. Chase with “Eat Your Yard!”

That doesn’t grab you? Two words, then: Groovy Gourds.

Folks, several reasons to hustle over to The Edible Garden at The New York Botanical Garden this coming weekend before the months-long culinary exhibition about growing and preparing food shutters on Sunday (17 Oct.).

To sweeten the pot, two more words: Free samples.

Visit www.nybg.org for complete information about "The Edible Garden," including links to recipes and how to purchase tickets.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

This 'The Little Foxes' Retains Mendacity

Lynda Gravatt, Cristin Milioti, Christopher Evan Welch and Tina Benko, above, in "The Little Foxes." Below, Denise Summerford and Cheney Snow are “In Transit.” "The Little Foxes" photo by Jan Versweyveld; "In Transit" by James Leynse.

BY TAMARA BECK

MUSIC syncopates with menace. The stage is encased in purple velvet and looks cavernous. There is no curtain, just the rising tension of the beat of the music to open the proceedings.

Mid-stage is an archway framing a staircase; above the archway is a TV screen. Projected from it is a man lying on his back. Characters enter from far behind the archway – audible before they are visible. The stage is now set for what follows: deception, unease, danger, betrayal, http://www.youtube.com/user/nytheatreworkshop79?feature=mhum.

Ivo van Hove is the mastermind behind this avant-garde interpretation of Lillian Hellman's classic, “The Little Foxes.” And as unusual as the staging seems, it also evokes a modern resetting of a Greek tragedy. LH's tale is full of evil-doing and unpleasantness, hiding under the guise of a civilized and mannered family saga. In this production of "The Little Foxes" at New York Theater Workshop, the characters are dressed in business suits and evening dresses. The women wear high heels. Virtually all of the players are strivers hungry for power, prestige and money.

The entire cast – from Sanjit De Silva's Mr. Marshall of Chicago whose project to build a cotton mill in town precipitates the chain of events that ends so tragically to the exquisite Elizabeth Marvel whose Regina Giddens is a masterpiece of a monster – is wonderful.

Regina is willing to sacrifice her only child, Alexandra (Cristin Milioti) to get a piece of the Hubbard family's expected fortune. Her brother, Ben, (Marton Csokas) exercises his brutality with brio. Their other brother, Oscar, (Thomas Jay Ryan) is a mean-spirited bully. Symbolically and to the disgust of his wife, Birdie, he kills animals for sport and pleasure. Unlike Ben, he is actually a weakling and easily cheated by his manipulative siblings. Ben and Regina are equals, or would be if Regina weren't a woman.

The play is still set in a southern town, racked by unemployment and filled with racial unease. The Hubbard brothers look to profit handsomely from "bringing the mill to the cotton" and routinely cheat the local blacks. They need Regina to bring a third share of the investment to keep it in the family. To further her schemes, Regina sends Alexandra to bring her husband back home from the hospital. Alexandra adores her father but she does as she is told. Horace Giddens (Christopher Evan Welch) does not lack principles or intelligence but he does lack the strength to stop his wife's machinations.

To try to avert disaster Alexandra enlists as allies Birdie (Tina Benko) and the house servants, Addie (Lynda Gravatt) and Cal (Greig Sargeant), who are the moral center amid the malevolence.

The drama is intense and gripping with no intermission to distract and the performances and staging are worthy of this fevered plot.

Visit http://www.nytw.org/ for general information about "Little Foxes.

'In Transit,' and Always With a Song for the Ride

YOU
are young or youngish, and your love life, work life – even where you live your life – are "In Transit." You have to sing about it, a cappella at that, on the platform of subway stations, opening with "Not There Yet" to set the stage: http://primarystages.org/intransit#video

Inspired by the rhythms and sounds of life on the subway, “In Transit” was written by Kristen Anderson-Lopez, James-Allen Ford, Russ Kaplan and Sara Wordsworth. The four were members of an a cappella group in college.

Chesney Snow as Boxman stands out in this largely unknown cast since he is our charming narrator and host, as well as the beatbox for the proceedings. “In Transit” is a simple story but this world premiere production at Primary Stages (59E59 Theaters) – under the musical direction of Mary-Mitchell Campbell and musical staging and direction of Joe Calarco – is complicated. Everyone has to sing either as the lead or as backup on every number. The actors portray 38 different characters, and their nuanced acting distinguishes each of them: the aspiring actress temping for a "corporate diva"; the out-of-work stock broker; the jilted lover, the closeted man. They perform with verve and skill.

Along with our narrator, Steve French, Celisse Henderson, Hannah Laird, Graham Stevens, Denise Summerford, and Tommar Wilson take travelers on a thrilling ride from "Not there Yet" to "Getting There."

Visit http://www.primarystages.org/ for general information about "In Transit."

Tamara Beck is President, Clean Lists Associates, Inc, an association management firm. And an avid theater-goer.

Friday, October 8, 2010

'Inside Job': Fix Is in, and Taxpayers Are Dupes

"Inside Job" relies on a series of experts, including Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., above, and former New York governor and attorney general Eliot Spitzer, below, to tell the story of how the U.S. economy came to be in such a sorry state. Photos from Representational Pictures, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

“INSIDE Job” is not a comedy but it was responsible for lots of laughs from the audience that screened it last week at the 48th New York Film Festival.

Oscar nominee Charles Ferguson’s (“No End In Sight”) documentary is about the forces responsible for the economic crisis in 2008 that caused millions to lose their jobs and homes at a cost of more than $20 trillion and counting. It opens today nationwide.

One had to laugh to keep from crying or screaming as the film recounts in blunt, plain English how the regulations put into place after The Great Depression have been systematically weakened since the rise of Ronald Reagan. Deregulation continued into the administrations of George Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. The jury is still out on President Barack Obama, but at the moment things do not look promising. Alas, virtually his whole economic team is pro-deregulation.

Easing of regulations, for instance, allowed community banks to pursue risky investments with depositors’ money. Investment banks could merge with insurance companies, creating a conflict of interest, and so forth. Out of this deregulation also came financial “innovations” such as derivatives, credit default swaps and portfolio insurance. They are highly speculative, intentionally complex and have little or no basis in financial reality.

These innovations are prized because a ton of money can be made from them. Indeed, a trader can both recommend and bet against the same risky “product,” essentially talking out of both sides of his mouth. Or under the cover of a favorable grade from industry-beholden credit rating agencies, recommend a product to a client that s/he knows full well is junk. In this environment competition became intense. Many traders lost all sense of ethics and responsibility in their quest for huge bonuses for themselves, obscene profits for their firms and heavy losses for taxpayers if the bubble burst.

Greed was good and greed was rampant. Even with all of the crashes – i.e., S&L scandal, dot-com debacle, and of course, The Great Recession – virtually nothing has changed. Goldman Sachs, a major offender, for instance, continues to make money hand over fist. And as Charles Ferguson points out about the 2008 crash in his director’s notes, “nobody has gone to jail, despite fraud that caused trillions of dollars in losses.”

“Inside Job” opens to the beat of Robert Gabriel’s “Big Time” and slick, aerial views of Manhattan, as well as scenes of swank homes in exotic and exclusive locales – the spoils of war. Explaining or avoiding explaining just how the country and world got into this fix throughout the film are narrator Matt Damon, an impressive roster of economists, politicians, hedgefund managers, academics, policymakers, one Madame, as well as charts, graphs, Congressional hearings and a propulsive soundtrack.

It’s depressing, illuminating and riveting. This should be required viewing, especially for those studying business and finance. There are a lot of talking-heads, but many of them are utterly fascinating in their candor or coyness. Those who are reduced to hems and haws, studdering and muteness under CF’s insistent queries are thoroughly entertaining. In sheer exasperation, Glenn Hubbard snaps, “I don’t believe I have to discuss that with you” when CF persists in harping on the former's clear conflicts of interest. GH is the dean of the Columbia University business school and a former Bush II chief economic advisor who played a key role in designing the infamous 2003 tax cuts. French minister of economic affairs, industry and employment Christine Legarde’s revelation that she learned about the collapse of Lehman Brothers from the news instead of the New York office is depressing.

One could fault CF for not offering any prescriptions in “Inside Job,” but it is massively apparent that the illness here is the cancer known as the campaign finance system and the cure is sincere reform. For it is this blight that spawned deregulation and an enforcement structure that permits the wolves to stand guard at the hen house.

If the financial services industry can be re-regulated and those regulations are enforced, that would address a lot of systematic dysfunction. Unfortunately, as “Inside Job” points out and any thinking person can see for himself, Washington is in the deep pocket of Wall Street. According to the documentary, the financial services sector has five lobbyists for each member of Congress. Many of the regulators are from The Street and are pro-deregulation. The U.S. taxpayer doesn’t stand a chance.

“It will be very, very difficult to reform the system, said Nouriel Roubini, Professor of Economics at Stern School of Business at NYU, speaking to Yours Truly after the film in which he appears prominently. He was addressing whether campaign finance reform could play a major role in curbing Wall Street excesses. “They tried that already and it didn’t work.”

NR aka Dr. Doom because of his bleak economic forecasts, called the 2008 meltdown as far back as 2006, but he and subsequent others were ignored by both Washington and Wall Street. “I think it will take several years – maybe by 2013 or 2014 – for the economy to recover,” he predicted.

Visit www.filmlinc.com to learn more about the 48th New York Film Festival.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Wine & Food Fest: Eats, Drinks & Merrymaking

Favorites from last year's Food Network New York City Wine & Food Festival return this year. Rachael Ray, above, hosts the Blue Moon Burger Bash with Bobby Flay on the bill. Below, the Grand Tasting offers up wine and food with lots of new players, and Alton Brown, bottom, signs his newest book. Photos courtesy of New York City Wine and Food Festival.

ONE need not venture too far out on a limb to predict that it will expand to even more cities very shortly. After all, it is not possible that, say, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New Orleans, and Chicago are going to allow Miami, New York and Atlantic City to carry the Food Network Wine & Food Festival banner alone much longer.

The Food Network New York City Wine & Food Festival opens tomorrow through Sunday (7 Oct.-10 Oct.) mainly at various locations in the Meatpacking District. This is year three. Its sister festival in Miami will be celebrating 10 years in February. Atlantic City just joined the fold this year and, by most accounts, staged a smashing extravaganza for four days in late July/early August.

Along with Food & Wine and Travel + Leisure, Food Network’s introduction of world class cuisine, chefs, personalities, presentations and panels is quickly becoming a phenomenon. One measure is the bump in requests for media credentials. The New York press office puts the number at 40 percent for this year’s do. No exact numbers, but attendance is up. Alas, many of the events are already sold out (“San Pellegrino's Meatball Madness presented by Eater.com hosted by Giada De Laurentiis,” 7 p.m.-10 p.m./7 Oct., but there is “Flowers Vineyard & Winery: True Sonoma Coast Ridgetop Vineyards: A Study in Pinot Noir hosted by Jason Jardine,” 1:30 p.m.-3 p.m./9 Oct. Also open is “Panel Discussion: Get Real, Go Local, Demand Organic!,” 3 p.m.-4 p.m./9 Oct. All told there are more than 100 offerings, up from 80-something in 2008, and proceeds from the festival benefit Food Bank for New York City and Save Our Strength..

Not so surprising the intense interest when the bill for the Food Network New York City Wine & Food Festival includes marquee names – some making multiple appearances – such as Masaharu Morimoto (“Master Sushi Rolling Class with Chef Masaharu Morimoto,” 2 p.m.-3:30 p.m./9 Oct.); Daniel Boulud (“TimesTalks - New York’s Star-Studded Chefs,” 6 p.m.-7:15 p.m./8 Oct.); Rachael Ray/Bobby Flay (“Blue Moon Burger Bash presented by Pat LaFrieda Meats, hosted by Rachael Ray,” 7 p.m.-10 p.m./8 Oct.); Paul Deen (“TimesTalks Book Signings,” Various times/9 Oct), and newbies like Sunny Anderson (“Sunny Anderson Whole Foods Market Culinary Demonstration presented by KitchenAid,” 1:30 p.m.–2:15 p.m./9 Oct.).

Like its colleagues, Atlanta won’t hang back and allow the triumvirate to have the festival all to itself too much longer. No doubt, The ATL, too, wants in on such fare as The Neelys Whole Foods Market Culinary Demonstration presented by KitchenAid (noon-12:45 p.m./10 Oct.), as well as “Fun and Fit in the City presented by Target.”

Jumping off from the Harlem Children’s Zone, Fun/Fit is an interactive health expo (9 a.m.-1 p.m./9 Oct.) – a fest within a fest – whose mission is to eradicate childhood obesity and confront the obstacles in the way of bringing up kids on good food in the big city. The centerpiece is a discussion framed as both a challenge and a question, “Does an Apple a Day Really Work Anymore – How Can We Raise Healthier Kids?” Indeed, Fun/Fit is a half workday of talks/tastings/teaching/tips and has attracted stars along the lines of Dr. Mehmet Oz, Marcus Samuelsson and Alonzo Mourning.

Food Network New York City Wine & Food Festival-goers in need of a break from the feast can find rest in the Delta & Coke Hotspot on 9th Avenue between 13 and 14th streets. From 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m./8-10 Oct., one can take the load off while also enjoying certain complimentary beverages and check e-mail using Delta’s Wi-fi, amongst other creature comforts.

Whether in Harlem or DUMBO, though, foodies and wine enthusiasts will not lack for talks/tastings/teaching/tips, as well as tours (Tour de Beef, Sessions 1 and 2 at 6 p.m. and 7 p.m./7 Oct). And, of course, there is the Grand Tasting. Welcome to Pier 54 and samplings/products/wares from some of New York’s top restaurants, as well as wine/spirits makers and exhibitors.

Learn more about Food Network New York City Wine & Food Festival, including venues, at http://www.nycwineandfoodfestival.com/2010/; Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival at http://www.sobefest.com/2010/index1.php; Food Network Atlantic City Wine & Food Festival at http://www.foodnetworktravel.com/microsites/index.cfm?site_id=2&mstype=foodnetwork&action=atlantic_city_detail; Food Bank for New York City at www.foodbanknyc.org; Share Our Strength at www.strength.org, and Harlem Children’s Zone at http://hcz.org/home.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Genesis of 'The Social Network' Like No Other

Jesse Eisenberg as an exasperated Mark Zuckerberg, above, in a deposition scene from "The Social Network," about the making of the 500 million-friend strong Facebook, below.

FOR a few weeks before I saw the film last week, I’d been seeing an ad on the side of buses that read “PUNK GENIUS BILLIONAIRE” wholly ignorant that it was an ad for “The Social Network” about the birth of Facebook. The film opens nationwide today.

In fall 2003 when Mark Zuckerberg&Co. were busy at Harvard creating (or not) the algorithms and other innards for the platform that would transform the way half a billion people interact, I was holding it down in Paris (France), helping a friend plan a wedding, amongst other things.

It wasn’t until sometime in 2006 after I’d moved to New York that I first heard of Facebook. I didn’t get it. “The Social Network” scriptwriter Aaron Sorkin (“The West Wing”) who has a cameo in the film and who appeared on “The View” on Wednesday to promote the film – which he did unabashedly – articulated my sentiments. “I know about Facebook the way I know a car has a carburetor,” he responded when asked whether he was on it or knew about. “But if I opened the hood I couldn’t find it.” AS is not on Facebook and has no plans to join, he declared.

Someone attempted to explain this phenomenon to me in 2006, “Well, if people want to know what you’re doing, they can just go to your page and see everything, so you don’t have to send out a global.”

Believing in the power and reach of Yahoo! e-mail, I remarked, “I don’t mind sending out a global.”

It was not until last year that I joined Facebook – after the birth of VEVLYN’S PEN. I reasoned, “Now I can try to make it useful for myself because I have something to say that is not personal and perhaps can benefit VEVLYN’S PEN” – and by extension, Yours Truly. Though I’ve joined and still don’t quite get it, I don’t use Facebook as much as I should. As recently as a month or so ago, I sent out a blast, complaining that I did not find Facebook user-friendly amongst other grievances. I ended in utter frustration with, “Where’s my wall?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Watching “The Social Network” at its star-studded gala premiere and opening of the 48th New York Film Festival, it was fascinating to imagine how Facebook might have come about. AS wrote the script from Ben Mezrich’s “The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook, A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius, and Betrayal.” The title of the 2009 best-seller fairly sums up what the book and the film it informs are about. Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin was a consultant on BM’s book. He and co-founder MZ had a falling out, so MZ’s account of how Facebook came into being may be somewhat different. The latter refused to cooperate on the book or the film.

So whose to know what’s true or what’s not true. Did Mark really steal the idea of Facebook from the Winklevoss twins&friend? Did Mark really, under the bad/good influence of Sean Parker, really squeeze Eduardo out of the company and his shares? Did SP aka Napster after a multiple apple-martini dinner with the co-founders, or on another occasion, really assert, “One suggestion: Get rid of the ‘the’. Just ‘Facebook’. Flows better.”

I haven’t followed the story like, say, my Chase banker. She was at university when Facebook was coming together and has some insights into such questions and is very interested in seeing the film. I did not allow her, however, to coerce a review out of me before I was ready to share.

Mark Zuckerberg – the 35th richest person on the latest Forbes list with a net worth of $6.9 billion and reportedly the youngest, richest in the world – does not come across in the best light in “The Social Network.” But at the same time, I don’t think he looks so terribly evil either. Maybe a little cantankerous for one so young, but one must keep in mind that this young man is a social misfit. This social awkwardness is part of what breathed life into Facebook.

Because of the Internet we have platforms such as Facebook, which has revolutionized the way we relate to each other. To think that one can live in New York and be in touch with one who lives in Timbuktu if s/he has an Internet connection. It’s beyond – even though it’s real, it’s surreal – comprehension. It’s a bunch to wrap the brain around.

Overall, I like the film. The first third, though, is a little plodding, even as we see Mark having that famous fight with his girlfriend (Rooney Mara) that gives life to the precursor to Facebook. I was fidgeting here and during other scenes, a sign that I am bored. It’s a little dull, but I was interested in learning about the story so that kept me rooted in my seat.

The scenes at the computer when the magic is happening are engaging enough but are annoying, owing to a personal beef. I don’t believe anybody types that fast, especially when numbers are involved. Of course, the movies are edited thusly for dramatic purposes. But still. Why can’t programmers be depicted making typos – even if a very few? I think there is drama inherent in that, too. A minor quibble.

There are also early scenes in the film of the sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll variety that are a little superfluous, but the crux of the film revolves around the separate lawsuits filed against Mark (Jesse Eisenberg) by both Eduardo (new Spiderman Andrew Garfield) and the Winklevoss’ (Armie Hammer/Josh Pence). The action is set in a law office where depositions are taking place. As complainants give their accounts of basically how Mark screwed them over, the scene goes back in time to depict the events of their testimony before toggling back to the deposition chamber.

It is fascinating. AS’s writing is sharp, crisp, real, human. Fans of “The West Wing” will recognize his voice. The players, especially in the deposition scenes, deliver the lines with verve. All principals put in strong, credible performances. They become the people they are depicting. JE is Mark, especially after seeing the latter on Oprah the day after the story was leaked about his $100 million-gift to the Newark, NJ school system. The resemblance is uncanny. The scuttlebutt is that Justin Timberlake as Napster steals the film. Whenever he is in a scene … I’ll just say that JT makes the most of his time on screen. And delivers delicious lines such as the one about “the” in the title and when he asks Mark and Eduardo whether they want to make millions or billions, rendering them wide-eyed, open-mouthed and mute.

“The Social Network” is a film to see because Facebook is a huge part of world culture. The story is unfolding in real time. It is not yet at an end. Its full impact is still an unknown. It’s exciting and, scary.

Visit www.filmlinc.com to learn more about the 48th New York Film Festival.
 
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