Apr 11, 2010

So last weekend I drove to Cincinnati with my mama to see my friend David Bar Katz's play The History of Invulnerability, the first preview performance at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park. My mother did things like force me to see Blue Velvet and Almodovar movies when they came out and always took my sister and me to plays, about 500000000 of them when we were sprites, and I knew she'd love to see the play, not to mention the first public performance of a play written by a (very brilliant) friend, so it was really lovely, and we did it very luxuriously, taking two days to get to Cincinnati and two days to get back even tho it's about 7 hours away, and staying two nights in a fancay historic art deco hotel downtown so we could also see the other show at the playhouse, Daddy-Long-Legs, a (possibly overly) sweet very old-fashioned musical which could notta have been more different from David's play, which is about the creator of Superman, Jerry Siegel, as well as that sweetest of subjects the Holocaust.

Seeing David's play was also special for me because I read a draft of it about 4 years ago, when he was furiously writing it in like TWO DAYS for the summer workshop of the Labyrinth Theater Company (an amazing company, where Phillip Seymour Hoffman was artistic director) and I remember talking to David when he was in mid-meltdown, trying to write this thing, and I offered to read what he had and he sent it over and I thought it was really great, what he was doing, funny and smart and moving, and had some comments for him, and anyway, he magically finished, as he always does, and did the workshop, which is only for company members tho I sneakkkkked in last summer to see his latest play, and then that fall Joi and I saw a reading of it at the Public Theater as part of Labyrinth's Barn Series, which takes place every fall (and where you can see readings of brand new plays for fa ree) and it was really great, seeing this play I had read come to life a bit... but a reading isn't a fully fledged thing and the play is pretty complicated and I remember thinking there were moments of greatness, moments that were a little heavy handed, moments that worked perfectly and moments that worked less so. But anyway, it was many moons later that David told me that he credits me with him being able to finish the play, which I believe was a case of yours truly being very chirpily gung-ho and can-do at just the right moment.

So then a few years later the play gets swooped up and produced by this really gorgeous, top-rate playhouse in Cincinnati, and so then there we were, and last Friday my mama and I arrived in town, lazily had room service dinner, and then saw Daddy-Long-Legs, and then afterward met David and the director and a bunch of the cast, who had all just finished the first dress rehearsal in another part of the theater, at this swanky bar nearby, the kinda bar where glamorous older ladies sing old tunes on shell-shaped stages and chandeliers glitter sluttily and stare at themselves in the windows, and because there was a certain amount of barely contained PANIC in the air I was sorta vaguely expecting the play the following night to be a little messy, a little in need of more work, and so fast forward to Saturday -- after we slept and slept and sampled Cincinnati-an things like chili with cinnamon in it, and then slept some more and had a very fancy dinner at our hotel, the kind where chefs send out AMUSE BOOCHES -- and I will just say that I was really just MIND BLOWN at how everything just came together. I mean David's play just done blew me away, and I mean the whole thing, every aspect. The set alone was spectacular, all sorta based on old comics and then with tons of projections flashing on screens around the space, to the left and right of the stage and across from it (there were seats in front of the stage and on either side), including tons of new artwork by Joe Staton.


So the play sort of traces the story of Jerry Siegel, who created Superman and then quickly lost the rights to him, and the story of Superman himself, and makes the point that Jerry was one of several Jewish writers in the 30s and 40s who created superheroes as possibly unconscious responses to the rise of Nazism. At the same time we see the story of two men and a boy in Auschwitz, the boy reading Superman comics while the men plot an uprising (based on historical fact), each engaging in his own fantasies of rescue and invulnerability.... and these stories all sort of layer and wrap around each other, delicately delicately, and we go from scene to scene and place to place really deftly, with changing projections and lighting to guide us through, and it's ridiculously funny and super smart and so painful and, finally, just completely devastating. It's the kind of play that has to be done so well and so carefully to work properly and I'm writing this whole long entry out of just pure astonishment that it done did. It was really one of the best things I've seen. I think the whole audience was in tears by the end and there was an immediate standing ovation. The official opening was on Thursday and look at this review. Really, it was amazing, and I can't believe it all came out of that feverish couple days of writing 4 years ago. I hope David's play will go to other theaters so that you can see it, too. Unless you're in Cincinnati, in which case you should buy tickets this instant. And send me some chili.

Here are some more photos:

That's David and my mama before the show and below is David, Joe Staton, and David's beauteous wife Julie, who is by the way publishing mah first children's book next year.

Also, here is my mama and me at dinner:

And here is the evil little moppet who was making eyes at me and smiling over his shoulder the whole time, save for the few moments when I cleverly snapped this photo:

Look at him so obviously up to no good, pretending to drink from his "sippy cup." It's a wonder we made it to the play at all.