CHECKMATE: Vivienne Westwood and Burberry have lifted the veil on their collaboration, with the release of their joint campaign that’s filled with an array of new and old faces dressed in head-to-toe vintage Burberry check.
Shot by David Sims, the campaign features a series of raw, candid portraits that have a whiff of Nineties nostalgia.
Kate Moss poses in a check shirt and matching high-waisted pants; Sistren, a group that creates podcasts about the stories of queer black women, are in mini kilts, knee-high socks and bucket bags all re-created in Burberry check, while musician Leonard Emmanuel wears an oversize T-shirt with the slogan “Cool Earth has a plan to save the rainforest.”
Vivienne Westwood x Burberry
The idea for the limited-edition collaboration, Riccardo Tisci’s first, was to take a unisex approach and create a “union of punk and tradition” by reinventing some of Westwood’s most famous pieces — from berets, to lace-up platform shoes and kilts — using a vintage variation of the Burberry check.
Burberry’s chief creative officer and Westwood also came together to support the nonprofit organization Cool Earth. Westwood plans to customize four T-shirts to be auctioned off with funds going toward supporting Cool Earth.
The collection is available on the
While Chip’s face is cut off in the photo, his wrist and the hospital bracelet he’s wearing around it is clearly visible. Keeping that bracelet on well after Crew’s birth is actually part of a tradition Chip started dating back to the birth of his first son 13 years ago.
As Joanna explained in the caption: “Chip started a tradition with Drake where he wore the hospital bracelet until it fell off… looks like the tradition lives on. #5.”
“We think about things like when Emmie goes off to college this little one will only be 10,” she told PEOPLE in April. “It’s just crazy to think how wide that gap is, but Chip just loves hanging out with the kids and it’s just such a sweet thing.”
“I think it’s sweet because they’re older now, and I can see them wanting to be a part of this,” she added to PEOPLE in May. “We’re all rallying around this baby, which I feel is a sweet gift to our family.”
“Our baby boy, Crew Gaines, is here and we couldn’t be more in love,” Joanna, 40, wrote in an Instagram post featuring the baby boy’s first photos. “He made an unexpected (and speedy) entrance into the world two and a half weeks early — which is fitting given he was a sweet surprise from day one. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers. We are so grateful.”
In the first of four images, the mother of five is seen looking at Crew as he sleeps in the hospital.
In other pictures featured in the same post, Chip can be seen comforting his wife, Joanna smiles while holding the baby and the whole family gathers around the new bundle of joy as Chip looks at the kids with pure excitement.
An additional post shared on her Instagram page shows the couple’s four oldest children — Emmie Kay, 8, Duke, 9, Ella, 11, and Drake, 13 — standing outside their mother’s hospital room, eagerly awaiting news of their sibling’s arrival.
“One of my favorite pics a friend showed me after Crew was born,” captioned Joanna. “They couldn’t wait to meet their new baby brother .”
Eagle-eyed fans may have noticed that the proud papa previously shared a pretty big hint about their son’s moniker. While announcing the arrival of their son on Twitter, the Fixer Upper star actually used his newborn’s name, writing that “The Gaines crew is now 1 stronger.”
“10 beautiful toes and 10 beautiful fingers all accounted for, and big momma is doing great! #blessedBeyondBelief,” he added to the happy message.
And then there were 5.. The Gaines crew is now 1 stronger! 10 beautiful toes and 10 beautiful fingers all accounted for, and big momma is doing great! #blessedBeyondBelief
Breaking years of tradition, Crew is the couple’s first son who hasn’t been given a name that starts with the letter D.
While the word is most widely used as a slang term for a group of friends, according to Pamela Redmond Satran of Nameberry, as a name, Crew is just 23 years old!
The name made its very first appearance on the Social Security extended list in 1995, when it was given to a mere six baby boys. Crew’s use as a baby name grew quietly until 2005, when actor Joshua Morrow of The Young and the Restless chose it for his son.
Crew first broke into the U.S. top 1,000 names in 2010, and currently stands at No. 712, with 339 baby boys given the name last year.
RELATED VIDEO: Inside the Moment Joanna Gaines Found Out She Was Pregnant with Baby No. 5: ‘My Jaw Dropped’
Perhaps in an attempt to throw their fans off their decision to break with tradition, shortly after the couple announced they were expecting a fifth child, Chip asked a child named Gage to help him “think of a D-name” — presumably to match his older sons’ first initial.
“Chip is the best swaddler,” Joanna said. “He’s always been able to rock our babies to sleep. He’s like, ‘I’m going to be holding the baby the entire time!’ ”
Of diapering, she added, “We need to figure that one out again. I don’t even remember, but I do remember the blowouts and I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh!’ I’ve gotta get my stuff together. It’s coming!”
Joanna also shared that the couple may not be done having kids just yet. “I joke with my friends that I’m going to be that 45-year-old who’s pregnant,” she revealed. “Chip is such a kid at heart and we both love a big family. I’m open to whatever. I’m just having fun with it.”
The future newlyweds are avoiding the bad luck superstition of the groom seeing the bride in her dress before the ceremony. In a press briefing on Friday, the palace confirmed that the first time Harry will see Meghan in her wedding gown will be when she walks down the aisle.
“That tradition is very important to them,” a palace spokesman said.
Harry and Meghan will also be spending the night before their wedding apart. And they will stay at Windsor Castle on the night of their wedding.
Meghan’s mother, Doria Ragland, will travel with her daughter by car to Windsor Castle the morning of the wedding.
“Ms. Markle is delighted to have her parents by her side on this important and happy occasion,” the palace announced.
There are several royal family traditions Meghan will also consider for her wedding. Every royal bride since 1858 has carried a sprig of myrtle — the “herb of love” — in her wedding bouquet. The royal family has also been using pure Welsh gold for their wedding rings ever since the Queen Mother’s wedding in 1923.
And while most brides honor the tradition of throwing the bouquet, Meghan’s floral posy (by Phillippa Craddock) will very likely end up in Westminster Abbey, rather than in the hands of one of her bridesmaids.Most royal brides (including Kate Middleton and Princess Diana) have sent their floral bouquets back to the Abbey to rest on the Grave of the Unknown Soldier, a place of remembrance for fallen soldiers since 1920.
In Afghanistan, the photographer Loulou d’Aki made appointments to photograph stylish residents of the capital city. And when the air cooled down, she captured more natural moments in public spaces. NYT > Fashion & Style
Chinese New Year, or the Spring Festival, is a highlight in Chinese society. But for many young people, the joy of vacation and family reunion is mixed with questions from parents and relatives about their achievements in the past year, including about their relationships.
This is a particularly stressful occasion for single men who – unless they choose to rent a fake partner or have a stroke of luck at the local marriage “market” – are forced to face the miserable fate of singlehood.
The 2010 national census data suggests that 24.7% Chinese men above the age of 15 have never been married, while 18.5% of women in the same age group remain unwed.
The disparity in marital status between the sexes is particularly large in younger age groups. According to the same data source, 82.44% of Chinese men between 20 and 29 years of age have never been married, which is 15% more than women of the same age. The gap is approximately 6% among those in their 30s and less than 4% for those in their 40s or older.
But there is an argument that the sex birth ratio might not be as skewed as all that. It points out that many of the “missing” girls were unregistered at birth in official records. By examining multiple waves of census data, for example, researchers have found that millions of “hidden girls” turned up in later statistics.
That being said, the extreme 118:100 sex birth ratio still points to huge pools of bachelors in China in the decades to come.
What alarms the state is not the singleton status of these men, but their socioeconomic characteristics. China’s wealth is unequally distributed across the population, with particularly huge income gaps between urban and rural populations.
As in most countries, men are expected to be the head and main provider for the family, and women are allowed and encouraged to “marry up” to males with resources. Caught between the patriarchal tradition and the widening social gap, Chinese men on the lower end of the socioeconomic ladder have a particularly hard time attracting brides.
New generations of Chinese women, who now make up 45% of the country’s workforce and are almost on par with their male compatriots in education enrolments, no longer need to be financially dependent on future husbands. They have the potential to shake rigid gender roles that require men to shoulder the economic burden alone.
Many young women – especially those without promising career prospects – are looking again to marriage as their once-in-a-lifetime chance for upward social mobility. This is reflected in the increasing dating costs and rocketing “bride wealth” that women request from their male partners, which further disadvantage impoverished men.
Young men – economically disadvantaged and sexually frustrated – might eventually vent their anger through violence against others, thereby threatening public security and social stability. At least, that’s what the Chinese government fears.
But little is discussed in official channels about abandoned girls, domestic and international human trafficking, and supporting women in workplaces.
Of course, not all “bare branches” are disadvantaged because of socioeconomic reasons. Homosexuality was formally decriminalised in China as recently as 1997 and removed from the list of mental illness in 2001.
Despite the conservative stance of the government and the dominating power of capital, there are signs of progress. In a recent survey on relationship values conducted by Tencent.com, – one of the leading internet companies in China – both male and female respondents listed “individual space” (32.8%) and “real connections” (24.6%) as their top requirements for starting a marriage. Only 9.3% males and 16.6% females put “house and car” as a requirement, suggesting a rejection of the purely materialistic model of marriage.
The U.K. and Ireland are now naming the tempests that roll across the region, basing their system on the U.S. National Hurricane Center’s conventions. But in such temperate climates, what qualifies as a storm? WSJ.com: Lifestyle
Football in Minnesota isn’t about the game, it isn’t about the wins or losses, it’s about tradition. In this newly-updated edition of “A Tradition of Purple,” Jim Bruton brings the indomitable legacy of the Minnesota Vikings to life. From the moment they first burst onto the field in 1961 and destroyed the Chicago Bears in an unprecedented upset, the Vikings have carved out a place of their own in the NFL and in the hearts and minds across the country. This illustrated novel captures the love affair between the Vikings and Minnesotans-one forged from the unique combination of frigid cold games, heartfelt community service projects and hatred of the Green Bay Packers. Whether it’s stories about Norm Van Brocklin and Bud Grant or tales of a “Football for Life” clinic with the children of St. Joseph’s Home, A Tradition of Purple has something for every Vikings fan-the epic wins, the gut-wrenching losses, the players who kept going despite the wind an the cold because there were still fans bundled in those seats willing to stay to support their team. Recapture all the excitement of Vikings football by adding this illustrated masterpiece to your collection!
List Price: $ 14.95 Price: $ 14.95
Unlike some other reproductions of classic texts (1) We have not used OCR(Optical Character Recognition), as this leads to bad quality books with introduced typos. (2) In books where there are images such as portraits, maps, sketches etc We have endeavoured to keep the quality of these images, so they represent accurately the original artefact. Although occasionally there may be certain imperfections with these old texts, we feel they deserve to be made available for future generations to enjoy.
It Will Be the Best Day or Your Life. .or the Most Embarrassing!” As a bride-to-be you want a wedding day that is both special and memorable. You’ve been waiting for this all your life and it needs to be perfect. If you’ve been planning your wedding and wondered what was missing, this book has the answer! I want you think back to when you were a little girl. Do you remember looking at photographs from your grandmother’s wedding? Perhaps some really old photographs from her mother’s wedding? What were these weddings like? Were they simple? Formal? Regardless of the “style” of wedding, I can tell you something that weddings from this time did have. Elegance. If you look at photographs of most modern weddings, you may see expensive gowns or fancy locations, but you don’t see the elegance. That’s something you can’t buy. Elegance is free. This book will help you to bring back the elegance and sophistication of weddings of the past. Mixing these classic wedding elements with the modern aspects of current weddings will enable you to create a one-of-a-kind event that will leave guests talking for years and be a monument to the love you feel for your soon-to-be husband. Eleanor Kennedy has been a wedding planner for over 40 years and successfully organized thousands of wedding and special events. She lives with her husband in La Jolla, California.
Radio City Music Hall’s New York Spring Spectacular has one goal and one goal alone: to create a new tradition in the spring to match their unparalleled success with the Christmas Spectacular. You’ll get lots of Rockettes and lots of NYC vignettes, less Santa and a whole lot more Easter Bunny. After a dramatic last minute cancellation in 2014 and an entirely revamped creative team, they have finally presented this long-gestating project…and they’ve succeeded in spades. This will pack ’em in for years to come.
It’s a spectacle of a very particular sort and — especially if you bring along a kid — it pretty much gets the job done, as hokey as it is. I did bring a kid and she had a blast (“I’ve never seen ceilings so tall!” she exclaimed after entering the lobby of Radio City for the very first time.) As we walked out at the end, she was gobsmacked to hear they do another, different show in the fall. “Really?” she said, wide-eyed. We’ll be coming back, apparently.
It’s a simple story, just like whatever plot they use each year to hang the various set pieces on the Christmas Spectacular. This time, it’s about a billionaire (Tony winner Laura Benanti) who wants to fire the lovable old coot named Bernie (Lenny Wolpe) who does her NYC tours and replace him with a virtual Bernie! Virtual Bernies rarely ask for overtime, of course. Meanwhile, an angel named Jack (Derek Hough of Dancing With The Stars) wants to earn his wings. His task? Convince billionaire Jenny to take Bernie’s tour, discover the magic of the real New York and real people and save Bernie’s job. If you’re wondering what happens…well, actually, no one wonders what happens in a show like this.
The show starts with an orchestra popping up and diving right into the classic “Rhapsody In Blue;” subtlety is not on tap here. Before you know it, we’ve got our set-up, some high kicking from the Rockettes, a Taylor Swift song and we’re off to the races. The show swings through landmarks like the Metropolitan Museum Of Art, the New York Public Library, a fashion show, every sports arena you can think of, the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building and more, all delivered with a dusting of magic thanks to the angel Jack and about a gazillion taped celebrity cameos.
It’s neatly done with a high-powered creative team including Mia Michaels of my preferred dance show So You Think You Can Dance doing the opener, Diane Paulus & Randy Weiner working as a creative team of overseers, a mild book by Joshua Harmon of the wildly acclaimed play Bad Jews, original songs by Gary Barlow & Eliot Kennedy and all of it helmed by choreographer and director Warren Carlyle. What’s remarkable is that despite all these disparate talents and what must have been heavy corporate oversight on a hugely important financial gamble, the show actually has a pulse and a little personality. A few laughs, lots of virtual highlights of the city, a moment of adult romance for the folks and then it’s over.
While they have a similar spirit, the difference between this and the Christmas Spectacular are many. One, that show is essentially an old fashioned revue; all the modern add-ons in recent years like 3-D and video feel like awkward fits meant to keep the show “current.” In contrast, the Spring Spectacular has been conceived from the start with all sorts of multi-media elements and they work together naturally and effectively. Two, it’s called the Christmas Spectacular so despite a generally secular air, the finale does bring out the Living Nativity and suddenly you get a quick blast of “Jesus is born!” This is not the Easter Spectacular, so while the Easter Bunny pops in and out, there’s absolutely no Easter message at the end. Yes, the story revolves around God (voiced by Whoopi Goldberg) giving an angel a task, but Easter it ain’t. Finally, this show has stars.
It must have been a much-debated idea to bring in a Tony-winning talent like Laura Benanti and give her top billing. Believe me, whatever they’re paying her, it’s not enough. The script is a smidge better than average but Benanti elevates the material tremendously. She strikes just the right note: wryly self-aware, but never undercutting the essential sincerity of the story. She makes bad jokes sort of work and makes the few good jokes funnier. She sings beautifully. She even manages to make the “surprise” of dancing with the Rockettes towards the end seem like it’s actually happening for the first time. They should beg her to come back next year. Derek Hough is an amiable presence as well, dancing nicely of course and handling his modest dramatic demands capably. He’s no singer but gets by easily enough, though I think he has one too many solos for a guy who is essentially a hoofer. Their presence pays off and is crucial to turning what could be an anonymous revue into something not bad.
While there’s a nominal storyline, the Spring Spectacular is really a string of set pieces, just like the fall edition. Many work, but some don’t.
The Rockettes — Golden. To my limited experience, they are used a lot more here than in the Christmas Spectacular and effectively so. The lone exception, oddly, is the big finale, a long, drawn-out and poorly choreographed affair that is underwhelming. Until Benanti comes out and they do those kicks, it’s surprisingly dull and should be reworked significantly for next season.
3-D and those glowing wristbands — Kids actually hate 3-D; just look at the dramatically falling numbers for 3-D movie attendance. (Studios make more and more of them and people go to them a lot less, primarily because kids hate the glasses.) Luckily, it’s a brief segment but since 3-D is not what a stage show is all about, this is one multi-media element that is worth dropping. No one would miss it. At least it’s brief. On the other hand, I thought the wristbands they handed out that glowed and changed colors whenever “magic” happened were a lot of bother for nothing. Yet the audience seemed to be continually amused by them. Still, surely they can do something more with them other than one brief, raise-your-hand segment.
Movie clips — A compilation of movie clips celebrating New York City was a savvy breather, proving entertaining and giving the stage a chance to reset for a new number. Hey, Radio City has a history of exhibiting movies so it makes sense. But The Godfather? Really?
Met Museum — The first stop on the tour set the tone. After a few mild jokes you realize a slightly more sophisticated air would prevail rather than just dancing elves (or in this case, bunnies).
Tina Fey and Amy Poehler — They voiced the lions in front of the Public Library. It’s a good example of the show’s use of sophisticated technology in service of a simple effect — talking with the lions. The show is filled with celebrity cameos, most of them harmless but some of them effective, like this. Their jokes were pretty good and it revealed that this Spring Spectacular would focus heavily on using the entire space of Radio City Music Hall. At times, the roof was illuminated to look like the ceiling in Grand Central Station, the walls featured pictures of immigrants who came to America, t-shirts were shot out of cannons into the crowd, ushers tossed around free boxes of popcorn and in this segment the two lions quizzed audience members (including one effective plant) on New York trivia. The sense of a big party, that the show was spilling out into the audience was a smart move.
Don’t buy your umbrellas on the street — A solid “Singin’ In The Rain” segment featured Derek Hough. In the performance I saw, he was suddenly saddled with an umbrella that fell apart. Hough handled the snafu like a pro but it’s a good lesson for tourists: don’t buy umbrellas on the street; they last about five minutes. This was the peak chance for Jared Grimes to shine (he plays Benanti’s numbers guy) and he tapped well. Maybe I’m too sensitive — it does mimic the film, after all — but I’d tweak their interactions with the cop.
The romance — One didn’t really expect a moving storyline from this, so it’s hardly a disappointment. But the entire purpose of the tour we’re taking is to have the Laura Benanti character open up to the fun of a real tour guide and the pleasures of New York City, while falling in love with the angel Jack. Instead, time and again, something magical takes place involving Jack or the grandkids of Bernie the tour guide while Benanti and her right hand man Grimes would be off to the side, oblivious while chatting on their cell phones. Huh? It’s a missed opportunity not to see her won over as each stop reveals something more magical than the one before. The sense of her opening up is utterly lost simply from the staging. She should be a part of the fun right away, first reluctantly and then more and more willingly.
The original songs — Forgettable. They should lean even more on instantly recognizable classics and current tunes like Taylor Swift’s “Welcome To New York,” not originals. Since she’s practically a cheerleader, the Swift tune works particularly well here as backdrop for the Rockettes.
More dogs! — It’s astonishing how thrilled audiences are to see live dogs on stage in a theatrical setting. Any show — play, drama, musical, “happening” — if you bring on a dog, audiences will melt. This show has an almost constant parade of doggies, putting the corgis in The Audience to shame.
The sports cavalcade — One section has Bernie the tour guide trying to accomplish a feat of sportsmanship like scoring a goal in hockey or hitting a home run. Unlike say the museum section, which went to just the Met, here they decide to go to every single sporting event in the city, complete with a banal celebrity cameo. It’s like a parent who tries to overstuff your trip by going to seventeen stops in a day when five stops enjoyed at leisure would be far more memorable. This is a dutiful “checking off” segment and it falls flat. Choose one sporting venue — Yankee Stadium of course — and make it fun. Sure, they wanted to give sports fans (ie. little boys, or so they imagine) their due. But it’s a real bore. Yet it’s not as bad as….
The fashion show — This is the show’s number one clunker, an almost absurdly dull and out of place attempt to give fashion a moment to shine. We see faux fashion shows complete with models and photographers while videos of top fashion designers like Isaac Mizrahi describe what inspires them. They let the educational aspect of the show overwhelm them here. If they must, they can keep the futuristic fashion display complete with Rockettes in LED costumes. But they must drop the rest of the segment as a very bad idea, very poorly done. Because this is so female-oriented, they follow this with the laborious sports segment I mentioned above. (It’s not exactly a thrill to see video of a sports star chanting “Go Bernie!”) This back-to-back misfire is by far the show’s weakest area. It’s also easily fixed; shorten or remove both immediately. Take the kids on a bathroom break right here.
All in all, despite some dull passages, it was a trim and mildly amusing event. Not theater as such, but a decent spectacle. Mind you, there’s an hilarious disconnect between a show extolling the virtues of a live tour guide and seeing the sights of New York…all while giving you a virtual tour of New York. But pointing that out seems pointless in this silly context.
Benanti bears pointing out, though. She’s worth her weight in gold and you should knock off half a star or more when imagining the show without her. Hough was also good, though here’s one more tweak for them: under no circumstance should he be taking the final bow. It makes no sense in terms of star power in New York City and hey, their characters just fell in love! It seems awfully ungallant. She should go last or at most they should bow together. But the show itself can take a bow or at least heave a sigh of relief. After a very stormy process, they’ve got themselves a crowd-pleasing hit.
Oh dear. I was warily looking forward to seeing this revival of The Heidi Chronicles, though I feared the beloved Wendy Wasserstein’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play had been wildly overpraised in 1988 and would not date well. To be fair, this is a weak production. But I doubt even an ideal one would do more than bring back misty memories of when a female playwright seemed bold just for being present and commanding attention. Luckily, we have a lot more substantial female playwrights around, thanks in part to Wasserstein (though not nearly enough). So we can treat this simply as a play and not the pathbreaker it was.
The story depicts the chronicles of Heidi, though when a secondary character makes that reference it seems odd and out of place. She’s far from the most storied member of her circle and often seems like a bystander in life, at least as seen here. Nonetheless, we meet the esteemed art historian Heidi Holland giving a lecture on important but overlooked female painters throughout history in 1989.
Then we flash back to Heidi meeting the two major men in her life: best pal and future out gay man Peter Patrone (Bryce Pinkham, very appealing) and brash, masculine, confident and smart Scoop Rosenbaum (a fine Jason Biggs). Scoop is untrustworthy in love and Heidi proves the touchstone of his life as Scoop marries and cheats and makes loads of money. What might his life had been if he’d proven worthy of her? She would have married him, Scoop declares. Yes, but I wouldn’t have stayed married to you, Heidi replies in one of the better retorts in this retort-heavy affair.
We dance through decades, charting the progress of women and gays, successful careers, the launch of Scoop’s magazine for Baby Boomers, a pal’s TV producing career, the spectre of AIDS and so on. It’s a quick, superficial trip so you better not blink.
This production has many faults such as an ugly set design that combines sort-of period furniture with slapped-on visuals from each era, as well as atrocious costumes that look like the sort of thing you’d don for a very broad SNL sketch. Indeed, the entire evening feels like a series of strung-together SNL sketches, from the feminist consciousness raising segment to a local TV segment where the otherwise thoughtful Peter is suddenly cutting off Heidi in mid-sentence to score his moment in the sun. (We expect that from Scoop, not Peter.) And again Heidi remains passive, though when she later describes not scoring better on this eight minute segment on a local TV show as one of the major regrets in her life, I can only hope she’s joking.
But the major flaw is the play itself, which begins superficially and gets worse. Take Heidi’s friendship with Peter. He is the best and most enduring relationship she has. And yet, they barely seem on the periphery of each other’s lives. We see them meeting, we see him coming out, we see them re-connecting, we see them at weddings and so on. But they always seem to be catching up. Towards the end, Heidi hasn’t been able to reach him for a while and interrupts Peter to say she’s taken a teaching job far away and leaving the city, a massive change in her life that Peter knows nothing about even though they live in the same city. He breaks down because it’s the late 1980s and friends are the only family a gay man has. Why is he sad and angry? Because all his friends are dying; all he does is go to funeral after funeral and memorial service after memorial service. Doesn’t she understand?
But what the hell? This is news to her? Isn’t she attending at least some of these funerals? Her best friend is gay, works in medicine, indeed shields HIV positive children from bigots, he’s losing friends and lovers left and right and Heidi has to be told what’s going on? That would make sense if they hadn’t spoken in years. But as far as I can tell, they’re best friends.
Her female friends seem even more distant. The consciousness raising segment doesn’t feel like a scene where Heidi makes friends for life. It’s just a series of jokes. When Scoop’s wife and a friend of Heidi’s seem to know each other, I’m confused. How did their paths cross? When all these women seem to know Scoop is cheating yet again, I’m even more confused. They barely seem to know each other; when do they trade gossip?
Heidi’s best female friend (or at least longest, since by and large Heidi seems alone) swoops in from LA and pitches Heidi on coming up with ideas for a sitcom set in the art world. Has she met Heidi? Heidi is the least pop savvy, least sitcom-friendly person around. She is (presumably) immersed in the art of past centuries. What could conceivably make Heidi seem like a good idea for a consultant on a sitcom? And are they really friends? They keep saying so but it’s hard to believe.
Indeed, the entire show feels disconnected. Elizabeth Moss is a marvelous actor on film. I’m not sure her style will transmit to the stage but she certainly doesn’t have her legs yet. Wonderfully subtle and compelling on Mad Men, here she seems to have wandered into most scenes and barely draws your eye. Moss and everyone else seem to be speaking in italics, which is my phrase for when scripted dialogue sounds exactly like scripted dialogue. You almost start to look for the cue cards. Pinkham does this from the start and almost to a fault. At first I thought it was an adolescent tick for his character; but he continues throughout the show. And yet his performance is the most effective one here, somehow. Biggs is fine but all the rest feel like stock characters given stock characterizations. I was just thinking how I hate plays and movies that echo a line of dialogue from early in the work to remind us of the connection that these characters have…and then this show does it. Twice. Both men and Heidi recite so much dialogue from the first time they met some 20 years earlier I wondered why they didn’t just do a flashback.
Heidi is a very passive character and frankly uninteresting character. The only time she really shows any personality is when she’s alone on stage, delivering a speech or lecture. But even here Wasserstein undercuts her heroine. It would be nice to know Heidi is a pro at her career if a bit lost in her private life (a cliche, but still). Instead, even her lectures are undercut by some goofy attempts at humor when surely Heidi should be razor sharp. And her big monologue is a speech about the future of women where she breaks down weeping. That’s the peak for our strong, independent female who is forging her own path in life? When Heidi adopts a baby towards the end, it feels like an accessory, no more meaningful a step for her than the acclaimed scholarly work she published feels like a real career peak.
This is thin stuff un-enlivened by the star power on display. Perhaps a powerhouse actress with stage chops could bring something more to the character of Heidi, make her not seem a bystander in her own play. But that wouldn’t change the fact that The Heidi Chronicles is a dated time capsule — one of those time capsules lodged in cornerstones in small towns all over the country. It contains the usual items — events of the day, “timely” issues, pop songs, hair styles, political and social references and so on. It’s not particularly unique or revealing and when you get right down to it, not very interesting.
Actor and activist Paul Robeson is a fascinating, even tragic character. Once the most influential and well known black man in America, he fell under the wheel of the McCarthy Era and died a shadow of his former self in the 1970s. We’re still waiting for a great movie or miniseries or stage play that tackles this titanic figure. This one-man show written and performed by Daniel Beaty is a potent reminder of Robeson’s remarkable trajectory. But Beaty simply isn’t up to the demands of creating multiple characters on stage and delineating them one from the other on a dime. It’s cleanly directed by Moisés Kaufman with all the tech elements nicely judged. I’d happily hear Beaty give a lecture on Robeson. Unfortunately, a stage play that feels more like a lecture is not so satisfying.
The Tallest Tree In The Forest begins with Robeson being commanded to appear before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in the 1950s. Then it jumps back to his childhood and the tragic loss of his brother out of Robeson’s life, his academic achievements and how he almost stumbled into performance. Actually, even here the play drops the ball: Robeson is an excellent student and then out of nowhere we’re told he gives concerts to raise money to pay his tuition. Really? When did he discover his voice? How did it flourish? Were these concerts the first time he performed in public beyond say the church choir? The arts would prove his calling but we miss how it all began.
The show moves on, with Robeson becoming a lawyer but quitting out of disgust for the virulent prejudice he faced. He’s cast in the London production of Show Boat, becomes a star and yet still finds prejudice wherever he turns. A chance encounter with a coal miners’ march lights an activist fire, illuminating here what Beaty failed to do with Robeson’s musical passion. Soon he is constantly balancing his performances with calls for social justice. Robeson is treated with honor and respect in the Soviet Union, a country where officially all races are treated equally in its governing document. That sparked a passionate appreciation for communism, one that would ultimately doom our hero in the eyes of the public.
His life is so complex and rich, a show about it can’t help but be interesting. Still the play Beaty has written is of the very blunt variety. Robeson’s father might walk up and say, “Son, I’m so proud of you. You’re the third black man to attend this university.” Or Robeson might say to a woman he’s just met, “I’ve heard of you. You’re the first black woman to achieve such a high position at this institution….” I’m paraphrasing but you get the idea; information is ladled out in chunks.
Worse, Beaty is not a master of multiple characters. His attempts at a Welsh coal miner and a Jewish dissident are unfortunate in the extreme, but many people come and go via awkward, unconvincing attempts at characterization.
Even Robeson himself has an accent that wanders here and there. Yes, sometimes Robeson is speaking one way in public and another in private, but by and large it’s a failing on the actor’s part. I was often unsure who was talking; in a one-man show, that’s death. Keeping each character specific and clear so we always know who is speaking is essential. Beaty is successful at creating two vivid characters, both women. Robeson’s wife Essie was always a distinct person and I knew immediately whenever she was speaking. Similarly, a brief monologue from a professor on why Robeson and indeed anyone who speaks up about class and labor is erased from US history also came alive for me.
Those are the exceptions, unfortunately. Along with the play’s didactic nature, it also fails to give Robeson his complicated due. Like many on the left that embraced the Soviet Union, he found it hard if not impossible to accept the brutal reality of that totalitarian state. Fair enough, but here Robeson is almost noble in refusing to listen to the pleas of Jewish friends and denounce their treatment and indeed execution in the USSR. And why? Because he’s worried about enabling a third world war and nuclear annihilation. It’s a little more complicated than that in the show, but not much. Robeson led a remarkable life and it’s easy to see why Beaty or anyone would burn to tell this story. But doing it well is another matter entirely.
Thanks for reading. Michael Giltz is the founder and CEO of the forthcoming website BookFilter, a book lover’s best friend. It’s a website that lets you browse for books online the way you do in a physical bookstore, provides comprehensive info on new releases every week in every category and offers passionate personal recommendations every step of the way. It’s like a fall book preview or holiday gift guide — but every week in every category. He’s also the cohost of Showbiz Sandbox, a weekly pop culture podcast that reveals the industry take on entertainment news of the day and features top journalists and opinion makers as guests. It’s available for free on iTunes. Visit Michael Giltz at his website and his daily blog. Download his podcast of celebrity interviews and his radio show, also called Popsurfing and also available for free on iTunes.
Note: Michael Giltz is provided with free tickets to shows with the understanding that he will be writing a review. All productions are in New York City unless otherwise indicated. Entertainment – The Huffington Post
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