Oh! Mr. Tilney, how frightful! — This is just like a book!
Saturday morning we followed excellent directions given to us by a native New Yorker and fellow Pemberlian, and set out for the morning. On the way, we located the restaurant and the Park Avenue Christian Church, home of Theater Ten Ten. To our delight, the church was a Gothic edifice! Perhaps more Blaize Castle than Otranto, but still, very exciting.
We arrived at the Metropolitan Museum of Art before the crowds and spent most of the day exploring its long passages and galleries, as our passion for ancient edifices and artifacts was next in degree to our passion for — well, you know. While we weren’t able to see all the exhibits, we chose favorites to linger over and briskly worked our way through several others. I was thrilled to find a collection of red figure vases by the Berlin and Achilles painters in the Greek and Roman galleries; Kelley’s must-see was George Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze. We especially enjoyed the special exhibit titled Americans in Paris, 1860-1900.
By mid-afternoon the museum was getting crowded, so we left, walking several blocks south along Fifth Avenue, then turning around to walk back to 86th Street through Central Park. We saw the viewing station for Pale Male, the Model Boat Pond, and took in the vast array of families, dog walkers, pedestrians, and cyclists. We took another loving look at the church — it was on the way, I promise — and hurried back to the hotel to meet the other Pemberlians and (hopefully) the Virtue Queen, who was making her way north from Times Square.
We ate at Lili’s Noodle Shop & Grill, where the Virtue Queen finally caught up with us, then it was a very quick walk to the church. Theater Ten Ten is in the basement. It was a good thing we arrived early, because no sooner had we secured our front-and-center seats than the first few rows were full. VQ, her husband, and her brother had to sit some distance away, but later she assured me that they purposely held back from joining the “Austen mosh pit”.
As for the play, I loved it; couldn’t stop smiling; would have returned for the Sunday matinee if my flight had been later. My official review is on the Solitary Elegance site, but here are some additional thoughts:
- The set was designed to look like a large bookshelf, featuring novels mentioned in Northanger Abbey. I was tempted to take a photo of the empty set, but was glad I didn’t, because soon thereafter the announcement was made that photography was not allowed. The books are only partially visible in the production stills, but trust me; it was a really neat design. There were only a few props: a table, a pair of crates for chairs, Catherine’s novels, a couple of teacups and a punchbowl. Not much more than that. And yet once the performance began, I didn’t notice the minimal setting because I was enjoying the play so much.
- I was impressed by how hard the cast had to work — not only playing their parts in the main story, but filling double or triple roles, making quick costume changes between NA and Udolpho, and then acting in the high-energy Udolpho scenes. Since I attended the next-to-last performance of a five week run, I was concerned that the cast would be tired of the show, but the performance felt fresh and energetic; the cast seemed to be having fun. The actress who played Catherine was especially a trouper; I don’t know how she managed — between all the dialogue and the applause-earning nightmare-at-the-Abbey scene; I would have thought she’d be hoarse — but she was great.
- The hyacinth scene is one of my favorites in the book, so I was pleased to see it included in this adaptation (it’s usually omitted) and thought its interpretation was spot-on. The “something shocking out of London” section of Beechen Cliff is tricky, as it’s often cited in literary criticism as an example of Henry’s misogyny (why do some scholars insist on taking Henry seriously but not Eleanor when she defends her brother?), but it was deftly and playfully handled here. Other favorites: a dueling scene between Montoni and Morano, fought around an oblivious Mrs. Allen; the Gothic nightmare scene mentioned previously; the ending was just lovely.
- The Virtue Queen and her court had this to say:
We actually talked about how imaginative the set was on the way home, and how creative the Udolpho/NA integration was. The stage book really helped the less-informed among us.
I could go on, but that’s enough for now. After the play we escorted VQ to the subway, then spent a while in the hotel lobby discussing the play and other Topics Austen.
Next: Sunday in the park
Tags: geekery, new york city