Sunday, June 10, 2012

New York poetry.

There are times New York is just so amazing that it's hard for me not to pinch myself that I get to live here. Sure, it's crowded. Apartments are small. And today is the day of the drunken tattoo-athon, the Puerto Rican day parade. But the city is so surpassing in so many ways that I very nearly gush with excitement.

Last night my wife and I got free tickets to the Public Theater's "Shakespeare in the Park." It's the 50th year the Public's been putting on free plays and they seem to be bent on out-doing themselves for their anniversary. Last night's performance of "As You Like It," featured the stunning and excellent Lily Rabe as Rosalind and a cadre of fools and melancholics, the likes of which you rarely see outside of agency conference rooms.

It was a beautiful night in New York. The skies had threatened rain, but in the end, the rain stayed away. The air was warm and humid, but not too warm and humid and there was, on occasion, a gentle cooling breeze. As for flies and bugs, they were absent, presumably flying out to the Hamptons to feast on the mega-wealthy for the weekend.

The high point of the evening was Jacques' (Stephen Spinella's) delivery of the play's greatest monologue, which left me wondering what stage I, a 54-year-old copywriter, am left to play:

"All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;

They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.
Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like a snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like a furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything."
The great Historian, Robert Conquest, compressed this monologue all into a limerick. It is also great and wonderful:
"Seven ages: first puking and mewling,
Then very pissed off with your schooling,
Then fucks and then fights,
Then judging chaps’ rights,
Then sitting in slippers, then drooling."

That's all for this Sunday.

Except for a bit more Conquest--this time a summation of 40 years of Soviet history.

"There once was a Bolshie called Lenin
Who did one or two million men in.
That’s a lot to have done in
But where he did one in
That old Bolshie Stalin did ten in!"



bob hoffman said...

Great post

george tannenbaum said...

Thanks, Bob.

It's tough on a Sunday.