the right stuff

There is something thrilling about entering into a very specific, fully realized world not your own – even if you don’t necessarily “get it.” Tom Sachs’ Space Program: Mars currently installed in the titanic Wade Thompson Drill Hall at the Park Avenue Armory is just such a world. Marked by a striking curiosity and often ribald wit,  the films and displays which make up the bulk of the program are an invitation to reflect on abstract concepts, utopian follies and – I can’t believe I’m about to write this – dystopian realities. If that sounds like a load of bollocks, don’t be afraid: it’s not nearly as precious as all that. Think of it as a call to look at our consumer culture slightly askance; one that cajoles rather than demands your participation. (Sachs-designed Nike sneakers worn in the space program are on sale in the gift shop, too, for anyone easily seduced out of $380.) And in case you’re wondering, no, I don’t entirely “get it” – so, no worries about my going into too much detail and spoiling that sense of discovery – but that’s not going to stop me from revisiting Sachs’ inquisitive vision and contemplating it once again.

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at the theatre: king lear

While I might have initially scoffed at the obscene ticket prices for the Royal Shakespeare Company’s recent six-week residency at the Park Avenue Armory, I nevertheless gave in and did the unthinkable: I paid. Full price, no less. With a mandatory 20% donation to the RSC on top of the advertised ticket price, the total came to a quasi-operatic $300 – plus service charges, natch – for a pair of second-best seats in the house. (Prime seating could be had for the offensive price of $250 a seat.) And yet, perhaps the blogger doth protest too much. This is, after all, an historic event: the opportunity to witness the most famous Shakespearean company on the planet perform a half-dozen of the master’s plays in repertory inside a full-scale replica of its Stratford-upon-Avon home. And despite not caring for Greg Hicks’ interpretation of the title role there is no denying that in the three-plus hours of King Lear I got my money’s worth of family betrayal, infidelity, fratricide, banishment, madness, murder, and a particularly visceral removal of one character’s set of eyes. (Plus, no matter how well I think I know the play, the image of Lear carrying the corpse of his innocent daughter, Cordelia, is as emotionally shocking as it is cruel.) It’s enough to make me wish I had purchased my tickets earlier in the run, so I could see these actors in The Winter’s Tale, too, or Julius Caesar – not that I could afford it, mind you. All of which makes me wonder: at these prices, who’s filling the stalls at the Armory? Or perhaps the more significant question is, who isn’t?

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