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Progress=Death?

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A man was targeted and killed for being gay; in Greenwich Village this week. People are killed all the time of course. But targeting someone because of being gay in the geographical home of Northeast gay liberation is shocking. There will always be people who are threatened by others. But it does seem that anti-gay violence has increased in recent months. Yes, it could be that the stories make the mainstream airwaves now (versus barely a mention in years past.) But the past year’s crime statistics in New York City would suggest that is not the case. Hate crimes have gone up, and presumably some of that hatred is aimed at LGBT people. Why, 44 years (almost to the day) after Stonewall does this violence exist?

How others live their life is of little concern to most people. It is only when our lives (inner or outer) feel weakened or threatened that we pick our head up and look around. Our negative thoughts and feelings about strangers come from our sense of instability. If we are not happy with our lives or ourselves it is (briefly) satisfying to malign others. We can call it bullying or bashing; its genesis is the same, and there is nothing new about it. Bullying/bashing is almost always perpetuated on those who are perceived as weaker. There was a time that by virtue of their position in society and actual laws regarding their personal lives. LGBT people were frequently victimized. A person who may fear for his/her job, housing, family connections, makes an easy target. Bullies could lash out without much fear of repercussion. Who would press charges? Even if charged, would society care? No doubt there were people sitting at home thinking; ‘well if they knew he was gay he must have been doing something ‘gay’ at the time.’ And that, for many people in olden times, was upsetting.

But this is 2013. Studies (for the past decade or two) have consistently shown that younger people (college age) don’t view LGBT people as an anomaly. Many teens now publicly identify as LGBT, in numbers and manner that children of even the 1970s couldn’t have even dreamed. LGBT people are openly serving in politics and the military (both rather straight-laced professions.) With the exception of a religious institution (or the Boy Scouts) it’s difficult to conjure a profession that would (lawfully) oust an employee for identifying as LGBT. It happens, there’s no doubt, but it’s not routine and it’s certainly not legal. LGBT people are now represented in television and film as something other than the object of ridicule. This is no small thing, as there are many subgroups that are still considered an acceptable punch line by virtue of their appearance.

So how could there be violence towards a people who have made such significant strides? Could it be that it is because of those strides that we are seeing this abhorrent behavior? Can it be that individuals who feel dissatisfied with themselves and their lives are as antagonized by the belief that someone is ‘getting what’s mine’ as they were/are by those who are seemingly weaker? Are attacks on people who are finally getting what’s rightfully theirs (civil rights) inevitable? Is it an inherent part of the battle, these innocent casualties that occur as we get closer to victory? Must Freedom Riders always be sacrificed for freedom?

 
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Posted by on May 19, 2013 in Cultural Critique

 

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God of Carnage – Review

Hitting the leg of the person next to you (while laughing out loud) repeatedly during a performance is a good sign.  My stinging palm is proof that God of Carnage, at the Bernard Jacobs Theatre, is an absolute delight.  This French expose of modern marriage is written by Yasmina Reza (translated by Christopher Hampton) and directed by Matthew Warchus (Boeing Boeing, Follies, and numerous West End productions.)  Set in Cobble Hill Brooklyn in 90 minutes of real time, there is never a dull moment.  It seems dismissive to describe Ms. Reza’s work as a 21st century Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, but somewhat apt.  Perhaps any theatrical construct of two married couples exposing the underbelly of their selves and their marital dynamics is going to conjure Edward Albee.  In the case of God of Carnage it was the fierce humor, and quite frankly, the drinking, that whispered “Virginia Woolf” repeatedly.  But that reference is merely a jumping off point for this play.  Without resorting to Lifetime movie tactics, God of Carnage manages to tackle; bullying, gangs, violence and social class while never losing its humor or dramatic interest.  The fact that the evening stays above the sentimental fray must be greatly credited to the incredible cast.  Hope Davis and Jeff Daniels as one couple and Marcia Gay Harden and James Gandolfini as the other couple.  Not enough can be said about the sheer delight in watching these four very talented people.  Ms. Harden has a luscious role and plays it like a virtuoso; she is hysterical and heartbreaking and infuriating.   As difficult as it is to take ones eyes off of Ms. Harden, this truly is an ensemble piece and it is clear that this quartet is having the time of their lives.  It speaks volumes to me that during repeated silences, the acting was equally as riveting as it was during the explosions.

Ms. Davis and Mr. Daniels (a wealth management professional and attorney) are visiting Ms. Harden and Mr. Gandolfini (an art historian and home fixture retailer) to discuss their sons’ recent physical altercation.  The stage is set in a dramatic fashion.  The entire stage is used as the living room; a rather unbelievable conceit for a Brooklyn home.  However, in an entertainment world in which Greenwich Village rent controlled apartments are 2,000 square feet with terraces, and newspaper columnists can support $650 a pair shoe shopping habits, all NYC scale bets are off.  There is a bold textured wall separating the living room from the rest of the apartment.  The wall is set at an angle and we can see the walls behind it, painted red.  As the play/story unfolds, the walls become progressively darker; a nice touch.  Despite the expanse of the apartment, it is surprising how much of the production so accurately represents time and place; keeping in mind that this play is French.  The only nod to its original Parisian setting is the omnipresence of the clafouti (a French pastry.)  The costumes, mannerisms and parental concerns simply scream “NYC 2009!”
I strongly recommend seeing this production, and seeing it with someone who does not bruise easily.
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Posted by on August 19, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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