Your PopCulteer is back from his whirlwind trip to New York City to cover the 2016 International Toy Fair.
It was an amazing four days and you will start seeing an astonishing amount of Toy Fair coverage beginning this weekend. We’ll have videos, photo essays, and first-hand accounts of the coolest new toys coming your way for the rest of the year.
There is more to New York than Toy Fair, though. So I’m going to tell you about some of the other stuff we got into during our adventures in the big city.
Danai Guirira (most famous for her role as Michonne on The Walking Dead) is a celebrated playwright who has earned acclaim for her heavy dramas depicting the plight of modern-day Africans. I went in expecting a deep, ponderous, serious drama about a culture which is alien to me. Instead, I got to see an uproariously funny and identifiable family drama with plenty of comedic overtones set entirely in Minnesota.
Familiar tells the tale of an older married couple who came to America from war torn Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in the 1980’s. They have two daughters and as a family, have very much assimilated into American culture. They watch football, love The Rachel Maddow Show, and attend a Lutheran church regularly. One daughter has become a successful lawyer and a devout born-again Christian and is preparing for her marriage to a white man. The other daughter has just returned from a trip to Zimbabwe and is a singer/songwriter and fung shui consultant who is sort of the black sheep of the family.
When an elderly aunt from Zimbabwe unexpectedly shows up to perform the roora, a traditional African pre-marriage negotiation ceremony, all hell breaks loose and long kept family secrets are exposed. The end result is a darkly-funny situational drama with elements of farce that sits well alongside the more darkly comic works of Edward Albee, Bruce Norris and Tracy Letts.
The entire cast did a spectacular job. This is an ensemble piece with a remarkable set and captivating direction and it was amazing to see such a nearly perfect production at what was only the second performance of this production.
Familiar is playing in a limited run at Playwrights Horizons theater.
Of course, you can’t go to New York without sampling some of the fine, or not so fine, cuisine. Here’s some quick impressions:
Pigalle is a gourmet restaurant located on the first floor of the hotel where we were staying. We had one meal there and it was exquisite. I had grilled salmon served on a bed of veggies, lima beans, lentils and chickpeas and it was phenomenal. The food was terrific, the service was excellent, the price was hefty, but not as much as you’d spend at The Chop House here in Charleston.
One night we had pizza delivered from Famous Amadeus and it was everything that New York style pizza should be. The sauce was tasty, brimming with the strong scent of very fresh basil, oregano, and rosemary. The cheese was gooey, the crust was perfect, and the slices were bigger than your head. We ended up eating on that for days.
Junior’s is a legendary restaurant located smack dab in the middle of Broadway and much of the reason for its legendary status is the cheesecake. That status is well deserved. Remember that diet your PopCulteer told you about last week? More than three months in, Junior’s necessitated my first “cheat day.”
At Junior’s, the place always seems to be packed. Service is great and fast, and the portions are comically gigantic. Melanie had an open face roast turkey sandwich that looked like it included the meat of an entire turkey in it.
One tip if you eat there–if you want to try one of their famous desserts, order it first or you’ll never have room for any.
Take the yellow cabs. Never get in the black cabs. The yellow cabs are regulated. The black cabs will cost you more than hiring a limosuine.
The other show we took in was Fun Home, the Tony Award winning musical based on Alison Bechdel‘s graphic novel of the same name, and starring Huntington’s Michael Cerveris. This was at the Circle In The Square Theater and it was an incredible production with another amazing cast and a set with trap doors that could swallow up a piano or barf up a coffin as needed.
This show has been so widely-acclaimed and has been running long enough that any notes I give you about it may seem a little pointless. It deserved the Tony Award for best musical, and Cerveris certainly deserved his Tony for Best Actor in a Musical.
I’ll just tell you that unless you are completely offended by the existence of homosexuals, you will likely find Fun Home to be one of the best musicals you have ever seen. The songs are catchy, the story engrossing, and the cast is simply marvelous.
Enough About That
One thing your PopCulteer did not get to do as much as usual this week, being otherwise occupied in that big old city up there, was to pimp and promote the General Substances of fine radio programming, which can be heard on Appalachian Independent Radio.
In case you missed our really, really cool stuff, Friday at 8 PM you can hear a brand-new episode of Word Association With Lee and Rudy, followed immediately by a repeat of this week’s On The Road With Mel (in this week’s show, your PopCulteer joins Mel to discuss the wonderfulness of traveling companions). At 10 PM, you can hear a replay of Radio Free Charleston International which this week is a prog-rock extravaganza featuring five songs spread across the two hour show. Listen right here, on this doo-hickey…
Saturday morning, starting at 9 AM, you can tune in to a replay of this week’s Radio Free Charleston, presenting two hours of fine local music which will be followed by encore presentations of all three of the other General Substances programs.
One Stuff To Do
With your PopCulteer still being worn out from the long train trip home, we’re only going to plug one event this week. Friday night at The Blue Parrot, Mr. Lee Harrah celebrates his birthday with a show that will include his band HARRAH, Sheldon Vance, and Gypsy Rhythm, all three Radio Free Charleston favorites.
You may remember that, just last week, we premiered the official music video for the first single from HARRAH’s upcoming CD. If you missed it, check out “Blood Moon.”
The RFC crew will be on hand, not to shoot video but simply to enjoy the show and celebrate the anniversary of Lee being unleashed upon an unsuspecting world. It all kicks off around 10 PM at The Blue Parrot. Check out the cool graphic, with art by Mitch O’Connell…
That’s it for this week. Gird your loins because a butt-ton of Toy Fair coverage begins Saturday.