Skip to content

Cathedrals of Broadway

The picture at top, Florine Stettheimer’s Cathedrals of Broadway, 1929, (cropped by WordPress, I’m not clever enough to know how to prevent that irritating preset), part of four “cathedral” paintings, I only came across by accident: In the interest of thrift I took advantage of the Metropolitan “three day” attendance and walked up to 79th first thing in the AM; nice to get 7000 steps in before 10 a.m. At 11 there was a free “great paintings” tour–I took the chance. By which I mean the Met has a whole room of Van Gogh; that’s not to mention the Gauguin. And it goes on. And that’s one single room. One single gallery. It’s all too much to take in one day. How could a guide approach “great” in an hour and a half?

So the cleverness lay here: One great painting in five different galleries over 10 centuries.

Bodhisattva. Can you show me the shine of your Japan?

The tour took us through ancient Egypt (150 BC), then Japan, then China, then Europe (twice), then Florine, in the US.

We spent an inordinate amount of time in front of this Charles Le Brun 15th century domestic portrait of Everhard Jabach and his family.

Look at how dark and deep the left is, all the indications of knowledge and wealth.

Then look at how bright and lively and “pretty” the other half is. History tells us the eldest son, with the puppy and the hobby horse, blew the inheritance. So it goes.

After the tour I found an obscure room of little relevance to the masses of textiles that Frank Lloyd Wright, late in life, created as part of a commercial product in an original Taliesin line. Very cool. Although a little perverse that it was buried (literally, one floor down) from the medieval galleries.

If there is a Thursday afternoon matinee trust me, I will find it. And I did. Harvey Fierstein’s Bella Abzub monologue. I actually saw Harvey in the original Torch Song Trilogy, in 1982, with Matthew Broderick and Estelle Getty (hang onto the Getty comment for a second).

The median age of the matinee crowd was 112. The youngest person, by far, was Jesse Tyler Ferguson’s husband Justin Mikita. (When I mentioned to the people beside me that J T F was sitting two rows in front they said “who?” and I said the son on Modern Family and the woman looked at him again and said “The bow tie guy?”)

The play, a 90 minute take on her life and statements and writing, was actually beyond engaging. And weird that Fierstein did it solo. But it worked. Really well.

Afterwards I needed to make haste as the evening show at the Public downtown started at 7 p.m. I took dinner at Buvette; a wonderful, cozy, highly recommended bistro in Greenwich Village.

I ended up in an engaged discussion with the bartender and a regular (a grade school teacher) which led us across Hitchcock, Scorsese, the two Phoenixes, Russian literature, RKO and Warner, Bernard Herrmann (this actually happened: The bartender hummed God’s Lonely Man from Taxi Driver!), and a host of other cinema and literary tangents (Google had to be raised to see whether Walt Whitman was a Jersey boy–he was born in NYC but died in Jersey and, conversely, Mailer was born in Jersey but raised in NYC). It was sort of a drag to cut such a wonderful evening short and go to the theatre. Or as they say here, theater.

Ratatouille on toast to start, then Coq au Vin with a side salad and carrots and pistachios marinated in cumin and lemon vinaigrette. Luscious.

The snow they predicted for Thursday never materialized but a light rain did. I arrived at the public a tad damp.

I would like to write that Tony Kushner’s first play, from 34 years ago, was pure genius, and laid the groundwork for so many masterful works that followed. I’d like to write that the cast (Meryl Streep’s daughter, Michael Urie, Estelle Getty, etc., etc.) were the icing on the cake. But after seven plays, an opera and a standup in six days, I’d have to say this early play was mixed up and misguided and convoluted and muddy. And that was a shame. But look, dinner was the icing on the cake. The play inconsequential. And, after all, a nice bookend to the week, with Harvey and Estelle still alive, still working.

The author of Here Hare has traveled to over 45 countries on six continents, and has lived in Canada, the UK and Australia.

Back To Top