‘Mustard’ 2021 Origin 1st Irish Theatre Festival Solo Production

In the award winning solo production Mustard performed by Eva O’Conner and directed by Hildegard Ryan, the condiment of various shades of yellow and heat gains a new symbolism and significance. The award-winning comedy/drama, an offering of the 2021 Origin 1st Irish Theatre Festival online, is from Fishamble: The New Play Company based in Dublin. Mustard has been screening online in January because of the pandemic. 

The Origin 1st Irish Theatre Festival is presented yearly. Because of the pandemic, this is the first year it has been streaming productions online, including a total of 20 events, with panels on various topics. One, for example, concerns producing during the pandemic.

Mustard, written and performed by Eva O’Connor (courtesy of Fishamble: The New Play Company)

Mustard originally premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2019, where it won the 2019 Lustrum Award, Edinburgh, and the 2019 Scotsman Fringe First Award. It was also nominated for the Scottish Mental Health Awards 2019. Eva O’Conner was last seen in the 2020 Origin 1st Irish Theatre Festival in Maz & Bricks. She is a superb performer whether in a two-hander or solo as in Mustard which she also wrote.

How O’Connor inhabits the the retelling of the story of the love possessed, lovelorn, hollowed-out character E is absolutely authentic and moment to moment mesmerizing. Her dynamic enactment of E’s relationship with a stunning, professional cyclist from London is both humorous and striking in its approach, as she develops the shades of difference between passion and obsession, between sexual addiction and love. All of this is accomplished in the name of the character’s yearning for a lasting relationship and a dollop of madness on the side.

Eva O’Connor in Mustard, Fishamble: New Play Company, 2021 Origin First Irish Theatre Festival (courtesy Fishamble)

What E discovers about herself is her ability to maximize self-loathing. As she reflects back on the relationship, she encounters her stifling obsession for the cyclist who demeans her with a series of annihilating events. The humiliation and embarrassment of her dead-on emotional suffocation and idolatry of him as her “love” object consumes her. And, it renders her immobile in an acute depression which she endures by returning home to mom. Vying between want and repulsion because she allowed the cyclist (a Brit) to redefine her being, she realizes she crafted this eternal fire of “love” for him into a weapon of emotional self-destruction.

Her only release is “mustard.” How she employs the condiment to salve her soul, psyche and physical yearning becomes an active segment of E’s account. We watch fascinated as she sets the stage for the moment of maximum catharsis and pain, curious about how all of the various props she has brought with her, a bucket, a clothesline, etc. figure into the context of her explaining the “love” affair with this “guy” whom she’s lived with for almost a year.

Eva O’Connor in Mustard directed by Hildegard Ryan (courtesy of Fishamble: The New Play Company)

O’Connor performs the characters of E, her evangelical mother and her English sometime lover with personality and spot-on revelation. Her relationship with her mother is humorously delivered with Irish accent and gesturing. Her adoration of the cyclist and her final answer to his effrontery, slaughtering her soul, is disclosed in heady wonder. Over all, O’Connor’s dialogue, descriptions, infusions of rhythmic language and unique interplay of the characters is beautiful, lush, unique and thrilling. For anyone who has experienced a similar stripping down to raw nerve by a “love interest,” this is a must see. O’Connor and her character’s emotionally mad ride are unforgettable.

After twenty minutes of viewing, it is obvious why O’Connor won awards for her play, incisively and excellently directed by Hildegard Ryan. Once again Fishamble: The New Play Company proves itself to be on the cutting edge of drama and comedy that is significant, as it expresses the depths of human emotion and feeling with dramatic ardor and vitality.

You can still see the last week of the 2021 Origin 1st Irish Theatre Festival by going to their website to view the calendar of events; these end on January 31st. For tickets to plays and the calendar of events CLICK HERE. For tickets to Mustard whose last performances are on Wednesday, 27th January at 8 pm and Sunday, 31st of January at 2 pm, click on this link. CLICK HERE for MUSTARD. You’ll be glad you did.

Raindance Film Festival Review: ‘Everybody Flies’

'Everybody Flies' documentary written and directed by Tristan Lorraine (courtesy of the film)
Tristan Lorraine wrote and directed the documentary ‘Everybody Flies’ (courtesy of the film)

Before the pandemic how many times a year did you fly on a commercial airline? Did you ever smell anything in the ambient air during the flight? If you did, was the smell like stinky feet?

Tristan Lorraine, former Airline Captain directed and wrote the documentary Everybody Flies, presented by Fact Not Fiction Films. The documentary highlights an explosive revelation about something we take for granted on flights because we trust the aviation industry, the FAA and airline companies to build flight worthy aircraft that will not crash. Indeed, statistics have proven that flying is safer than driving. But is it?

If we examine the interior of planes and specifically the environment within the cabin, we must reconsider airline safety. After seeing Lorraine’s film, one may think twice about getting on an older aircraft of an airline company that has recorded toxic fume events which are highly dangerous and have led to debilitating physical conditions for those who were not only passengers but especially for the flight crews who over time suffer from the cumulative effects of breathing toxic air.

An aircraft toxic fume event occurs when bleed air used for cabin pressurization and air conditioning in a pressurized aircraft is contaminated by fluids such as engine oil, hydraulic fluid, anti-icing fluid, and other potentially hazardous chemicals which are carcinogenic and also cause nerve damage. Some events are visible and all are aware of the smoky, misty air which smells like what it is, air contaminated by dangerous substances. But other times the toxic molecules are invisible, not apprehended by the passengers or crew. Nevertheless, if one checks for these substances by testing the furniture, walls and other surfaces in the cabin interior, their residue is present, indicating the air is contaminated microscopically.

Using longitudinal research over eighteen years compiling videos of comprehensive eye-witness testimony, factual scientific data and evidence about toxic bleed air, Lorraine makes the inexorable case that not only does poisonous air waft into plane cabins, that air causes severe physical and mental damage to victims who suffer after fume events from the harmful chemicals they inhaled. In one instance Lorraine interviews a pilot. He became paralyzed and couldn’t move his arms. But for the co-pilot the plane might have crashed.

The specific chemical pollutant which Lorraine discovered in the leaking oil that is most devastating is tricresyl phosphate (TCP). Though at one time the air filtration systems and compressors not connected to engines prevented toxic chemicals from entering the air supply, those systems were abandoned. Instead, the current system which is subject to engine oil leak bleeds and toxic cabin air is present on every plane, If there is an engine oil leak, despite Hepa filters, invisible molecules infiltrate the air conditioning and invade the passengers’ and crew members’ lungs.

Interestingly, Hepa filters can strain out virus molecules; so COVID-19 can’t be spread easily on planes. However, Hepa filters do not strain out the smaller molecules in TCP. Although fume events don’t happen regularly because they are a function of a number of problems occurring together, minor events are more prevalent. It is these that have a cumulative effect on frequent flyers, flight crews and those who travel more during the year than those passengers who fly once every four to five years.

Lorraine’s interviews with airline staff and passengers are spot-on. Because Lorraine experienced a toxic fume event which ended his career, he knows which questions to ask and which to use to follow up for specific noteworthy details. Ironically, until doctors eventually identified the cause of the poisonings in former airline staff who were perplexed by their physical suffering, the air quality issues on planes were diminished by regulating agencies in collusion with airline companies and manufacturers. Air quality problems were dismissed and “company men” using a “banality of evil” modus operandi compared the air quality in planes to that in home kitchens and other benign environments.

Lorraine proves to be thorough in his investigations to smack down the lies of the airline industry which is more concerned about profit than the people on their flights. With a toxicity monitoring device Lorraine measures the air quality in various places from his kitchen to a London street to an airplane cabin. By comparison the cabin’s toxicity numbers were astronomical, proving the regulators and companies cannot to be trusted to have their clients best interests or welfare at heart. Of course, holding to account airline companies, chemical manufacturers, the FAA and other agencies who regulate the use of such chemicals has been difficult. Not only have airlines been in collusion with the FAA, etc., they have stalked and investigated litigants who sued them after toxic fume events, as Lorraine revealed in interview video clips with toxic fume event sufferers.

'Everybody Flies,' Tristan Lorraine, documentary, Raindance Film Festival
‘Everybody Flies’ (courtesy of the film)

According to the research accomplished for the film the Federal Aviation Administration identified “204 fume events recorded in its ‘Service Difficulty Reports’ (SDR) database since October.” Recently, there have been notable events, one including Spirit Airlines in 2018. A “noxious, burning odor” caused a Spirit Airline plane to make an emergency landing July 27th 2018. The flight was diverted to Myrtle Beach International Airport in South Carolina after passengers identified the fumes and subsequently were treated for headaches, nausea and difficulty breathing. No one swabbed down the plane to check for a residue of chemicals. They should have.

Interestingly, there was no hazardous material found on the plane. Nevertheless, the 220 people on board had breathed in and filtered through their lungs and into their blood streams poisonous molecules. Passenger Mary Vincent Randall filed a lawsuit in Manhattan Supreme Court about the smell which caused her “serious and permanent injuries.” Hopefully, her litigation will be successful.

Lorraine points out that lawsuits for damages because of toxic fume events can go on for years and end up costing the litigants thousands. The companies have lawyers on retainer and are willing to spend the money to bankrupt them in order to make the litigant “go away.” Averse to negative publicity, airline companies will move heaven and earth to prevent “bad press” from tarnishing what they have promoted as a safe mode of travel. This is why the truth has not gotten out to the flying public who, when they find out and it hits critical mass, will force the industry to make corrections insuring there is safe air on all planes.

Until then, the airline industry’s reprobate, negligent behaviors persist. Lorraine points out the horrific irony of this. The problem could be solved with filters more effective than Hepa filters to prevent contaminants from entering the cabin via bleed air. And the FAA and regulators could mandate all airline companies change the air systems on planes so that the air filtration systems and compressors are not connected to engines.

Lorraine has devoted years of his life to provoke all those in the industry to make airplanes as safe as their reputations say they are. With his hard work as evidenced in this film to alert the public, and with the efforts of the unions as attention is brought to the issue, change is happening, though it is slow.

Most importantly, Lorraine’s whistleblowing reminds us that the airline industry is more concerned about profits than people and that is why some consider the solutions to fix the problem too onerous to do anything about. On the flip side Lorraine shows that other companies are making effective changes by using different air filtration systems which actually are not more costly. He highlights that the Boeing 787 is one such plane that has a safer air filtration system. Additionally, using a stronger, more efficient filter that locks out the toxic molecules would make a great difference in preventing the hazards of toxic fume events in cabin air.

Lorraine’s documentary is a wake up call for the public. We must be aware of the potential catastrophe of the possibility of toxic fume events to petition congressional representatives. Above all we must show continued, fervent support for airline industry unions as they endeavor to make cabin air safe. Considering that before the pandemic, millions of people were flying every day, and now the numbers are millions fewer, the hiatus has some positive consideration for passengers and crew who are on international long hour flights not experiencing toxic fume events simply by not flying. For the longer one is on a plane with invisible contaminated air molecules, the greater the physical harm. In relaying the information Lorraine’s message is clear with credible and frightening documentation as we see ourselves in the shoes of those witnesses who have suffered from toxic air poisoning.

Everybody Flies is a must see film, especially if you are a frequent flyer. The airline industry must be held accountable. The changes which will insure safe cabins along with comfortable flights must become a universal, global mandate. Lorraine’s documentary goes a long way in helping to make this possible.

New York Botanical Garden 21st Annual Winter Lecture Series

NYBG Glow at NYBG (Carole Di Tosti)


<p value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">The 21st annual NYGB comprehensive lecture series features non-traditional perspectives that illuminate and delve into the gardening experience.The 21st annual NYGB comprehensive lecture series features non-traditional perspectives that illuminate and delve into the gardening experience.

‘NYBG Glow,’ NYBG, gazebo (Carole Di Tosti)
<p value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80"><strong> The lecture series is being held online. It begins on Thursdays, January 28, February 25, and March 25, 2021, from 11 a.m.</strong> to <strong>12 a.m</strong>. The lecture series is being held online. It begins on Thursdays, January 28, February 25, and March 25, 2021, from 11 a.m. to 12 a.m.

NYBG Fall plantings (Carole Di Tosti)

The lecture series highlights speakers who approach the garden from unique perspectives—healing, inclusiveness, and music. These experts add new comprehension to our notions of calming our psyches to create lovely spaces and promote an extraordinary gardening experience.

NYBG Waterfall, late summer (Carole Di Tosti)

Speakers includeSue Stuart-Smith, Leslie Bennett and Larry Weaner.

NYBG herb garden late summer (Carole Di Tosti)

Sue Stuart-Smith is a distinguished psychiatrist and avid gardener. She believes that gardens may interact with us in ways that can sustain our innermost selves.On Thursday, January 28 online from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. Sue Stuart-Smith is presenting The Well-Gardened Mind.

NYBG late summer (Carole Di Tosti)

Leslie Bennett is the founder of the Black Sanctuary Gardens project. The Black Sanctuary Gardens Project creates gardens of refuge and beauty in collaboration with Black women and communities. On Thursday, February 25 online from 11 am. to 12 pm. Leslie Bennett is presenting Gardens of Sanctuary.

NYBG daffodils in the Spring (courtesy NYBG)

Larry Weaner is a landscape designer and composer. He believes that designing a garden and composing music are linked by a freedom of expression within formal constraint. On Thursday, March 25th online from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. Larry Weaner is presenting Music Composition and Landscape Design.

NYBG Glow (Carole Di Tosti)

You may register online for each lecture at NYBG.ORG, or call 718.817.8720. Each lecture IS $15/$18 (Garden Member/Non-Member) The series: $39/$49 (Garden Member/Non-Member.

New York Botanical Garden Glow

NYBG Glow (Carole Di Tosti)
New York Botanical Garden Glow, Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, December 28, 2020 (Carole Di Tosti)

As an outdoor color and light show in the evenings, New York Botanical Garden has been presenting Glow. Sauntering along the paths of the Garden with the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory as the focal point, the shades of color illuminate the pine trees and create an otherworldly aura throughout. The beauty of Glow is that it is outdoors and there is no crowding with lots of room to spread out in safety.

NYBG Glow (Carole Di Tosti)
Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, another view, December 28, 2020 (Carole Di Tosti)
NYBG Glow (Carole Di Tosti)
NYBG Glow (Carole Di Tosti)
NYBG Glow (Carole Di Tosti)
NYBG Glow, Gazebo (Carole Di Tosti)
NYBG Glow (Carole Di Tosti)
NYBG Glow, Reflecting Pool (Carole Di Tosti)
NYBG Glow (Carole Di Tosti)
NYBG Glow, Leon Levy Center (Carole Di Tosti)
NYBG Glow (Carole Di Tosti)
NYBG Glow (Carole Di Tosti)

Washes of brilliant colors, thousands of dazzling, energy-efficient LED lights, and picture-perfect installations fill the Visitor Center Reflecting Pool and magically energize surrounding gardens and collections. As part of the experience, visitors can also enjoy artistic ice sculptures; music; roving dancers, including a Hip Hop Nutcracker NYBG remix; and more outdoor fun. To warm up and add satisfaction to your appreciation of GLOW, you can have a hot chocolate or latte at the Pine Tree Cafe with other treats and sandwiches, pizza and Paninis.

NYBG Glow (Carole Di Tosti)

In accordance with New York State and City requirements for cultural institutions and safety protocols that include limited ticketing capacity and social distancing, timed-entry tickets for NYBG GLOW must be purchased in advance.The new, limited timed-entry ticketing system staggers visitors’ arrivals, promotes social distancing, and mitigates the risk of crowding in high-traffic areas.

NYBG Glow, Ice Sculpture (Carole Di Tosti)

More information about NYBG’s enhanced safety protocols, including a “Know Before You Go” video, is available here.

NYBG Glow (Carole Di Tosti)

Dates left to get tickets: Friday, January 8; Saturday, January 9; Friday, January 15; and Saturday, January 16, 2021. Glow takes place during the hours: 5–10 p.m.

NYBG Glow (Carole Di Tosti)
NYBG Glow (Carole Di Tosti)
NYBG Glow (Carole Di Tosti)

Timed-entry tickets for NYBG GLOW must be purchased in advance. General admission is $30 for adults and $18 for children two to 12. Children under two are admitted free. Admission for Garden Members is $20 for adults and $10 for children two to 12. Visit nybg.org for details and to purchase tickets.

NYBG Glow ends on Saturday, 16 January. You still have time to visit this gorgeous winter celebration at the Garden. Don’t miss it.

‘Meet Me in St. Louis’: Irish Repertory Theatre’s Spectacular Holiday Show

Irish Repertory Theatre continually proves that it can do the extraordinary with skill, talent and enthusiasm, as it mesmerizes and endears its members, donors and global audience with exceptional productions. This is particularly amazing during a time when New York City theater is staying safe and waiting until the blessings of the COVID-19 vaccines mitigate the dangers of the pandemic which to date has killed 330,000 Americans.

Thus, we welcome being cheered up for the holiday season. And what better way than to peer into past reflections of hope when The Louisiana Purchase Exposition, unofficially the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, commemorated the 100th year of the Louisiana Purchase. The Fair, the last great international exposition before World War I, was an extravaganza that included hundreds of thousands of people, animals, unique items and displays. It magnified the bright future of industry and innovation from 63 exhibiting countries and 43 of the 45 United States.

Max Von Essen as “the boy next door” in Irish Rep’s ‘Meet Me in St. Louis’ (courtesy of Irish Repertory Theatre)

Excitement about the St. Louis Fair, which is the central image highlighted in the titular song of the musical Meet Me in St. Louis, drives the beginning and finale of the Irish Rep production. The book by Hugh Wheeler and songs by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane are based on the Kensington Stories by Sally Benson and the 1944 MGM Motion Picture Meet Me in St Louis. Adapted and directed by Charlotte Moore with musical direction by John Bell, orchestrations by Josh Clayton and produced by Ciarán Reilly, this Holiday Special in Song and Screen can be appreciated again and again, whether with family or individually. You will never tire of the show because it is that wonderful.

Shereen Ahmed as Esther in front of a green screen, ‘Meet Me in St. Louis,’ (Irish Repertory Theatre)

The production values are sophisticated and spot-on. The orchestra’s superb technique performed seamlessly on zoom (thanks to the wizardry of musicians, Bell, M. Florian Staab and others) perfectly blends with the gorgeous voices of the cast, a tricky technical feat, especially with the ensemble numbers. The tuneful and lighthearted, upbeat songs (Trolley Song,” “Meet Me in St. Louis,” “Drunk Song,” “Touch of the Irish”) and in other instances poignant, familiar numbers (“The Boy Next Door”) are a pleasant remembrance, if you have seen the MGM film and the 1989 Broadway version which starred Charlotte Moore as Anne Smith.

(L to R: William Bellamy, Ali Ewoldt, Kylie Kuioka, Austyn Johnson, Shereen Ahmed, Top Row: Jay Aubrey Jones, Melissa Errico, Kathy Fitzgerald in ‘Meet Me in St. Louis,’ Irish Rep (Irish Repertory Theatre)

Some of the songs in the Broadway version have been cut, a wise choice for a streaming production you watch via your tablet, phone or computer. But one song that had been cut from the 1989 Broadway show was added in the Irish Rep version (“You’ll Hear a Bell”). This song, reprised in the second act, is beautifully rendered by the golden-throated, imminently watchable Melissa Errico the mother. Anne Smith encourages her daughter Esther (Shereen Ahmed) about understanding and recognizing love based on her own experience with her husband, Alonzo Smith, Esther’s father.

Melissa Errico in ‘Meet Me in St. Louis’ (Irish Repertory Theatre)

Charlotte Moore shepherds the cast with precision. She astutely teases out winning performances and humor from Kylie Kuioka (Tootie) who is a fireball of joy and mischievousness, the perfect foil for the sedate, companionable, near-in-age, wry, older sister Agnes (Austyn Johnson). The marriageable sisters, Rose (the vibrant Ali Ewoldt) and linchpin of the production, Esther (the soulful, exciting Shereen Ahmed) propel the plot development. Theirs is newfound love with their prospective partners the reserved Warren Sheffield (Ian Holcomb in a fine portrayal) and the “boy next door” John Truitt (the affable, illimitable Max Von Essen).

As Esther expresses good will toward the family which is sorrowful about moving, she  poignantly sings the profound (“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”) which is nostaligic under any circumstances and particularly heartbreaking under present circumstances of the pandemic. Shereen Ahmed’s Esther is particularly well wrought with her lyrical vocal instrument and authenticity of portrayal in the lead that Judy Garland played on film.

Shereen Ahmed in ‘Meet Me in St. Louis’ set magically appears (Irish Repertory Theatre)

With the couples’ togetherness thrown down by Alonzo Smith’s moving the family to New York to make more money and raise their standard of living, we note this makes sense if seen through modern values that lift wealth and money above well being and happiness. However, Father Smith (Rufus Collins does a fine job in the concluding scene) in a throwback to old-fashioned values and economies of the past (only Dads worked) chooses to please his family by remaining in St. Louis. It is a gift that all adore beyond treasure and we yearn for in a culture that over the last two decades has been on the brink of losing its fundamental values of the preciousness of life, love and family.

William Bellamy, Kerry Conte, Kathy Fitzgerald, Jay Aubrey Jones and Ashley Robinson round out the cast of this marvelous production which was produced remotely with the dexterous application of green screens and lovely backdrops. In its technique, applied imagination and sheer audacity, the production, not streamed live from a stage, is a book musical with actors separate, home alone. filming, which has never having been done before. This was a realization which John Bell musical director affirmed to Melissa Errico who quipped in her New York Times article that Meet Me in St. Louis was a show where no one actually would meet in St. Louis or anywhere else. Read Melissa Errico’s account here.

Great praise goes to the cast, the creative team and director Charlotte Moore for this Christmas treasure. The Irish Repertory Theatre has exercised their vitality and prodigious cleverness to provide this most American of celebratory entertainments at a time when we crave affirmations of friendship, love, family, togetherness and joy present in the show’s themes. This is one you must not miss.

Irish Repertory Theatre’s Meet Me in St. Louis runs until Saturday, 2nd January. For tickets and times go to the Irish Repertory Theatre’s website. Click Here.

‘The Last Vermeer,’ Telluride/Toronto Film Festivals Review

(L to R): Guy Pearce, Claes Bang in ‘The Last Vermeer’ (courtesy of the film)

The Last Vermeer which premiered at the Telluride Film Festival and Toronto Film Festival as Lyrebird was renamed to refocus upon the genius Dutch Baroque Period painter Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675) who is one of the national treasures of The Netherlands. Vermeer specialized in domestic interior scenes of middle class life, exemplified in his renowned Girl With the Pearl Earring and The Milkmaid. As the film elucidates Vermeer used unique, expensive pigments and was most concerned about the masterful use of light like the other great painters of the Dutch Golden Age, i.e. Rembrandt, Frans Hals.

Vermeer worked slowly and produced relatively few paintings which brought him moderate success. When confronted with financial difficulties during his country’s two wars, he went into debt, which his wife and children had to recover from after he died. For two centuries Vermeer fell into obscurity until his discovery in the 19th century which grew until his paintings became valuable. His works’ value is what intrigued Hermann Goering enough to purchase a Vermeer from dealer Han van Meergren for the highest price yielded by the Nazis for confiscated and stolen works of art during WW II.

Claes Bang, Vicky Krieps in ‘The Last Vermeer’ (courtesy of the film)

The film starring Guy Pearce, Claes Bang and Vicky Krieps is based on the book The Man Who Made Vermeers by Jonathan Lopez. Directed by Dan Friedkin who has numerous producing credits of intriguing films (The Square, Hot Summer Nights, All the Money in the World, {2017} Ben is Back {2018)} to name a few) the film was scripted by James McGee (Jon Orloff), Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby and is about the amazing true story of the recovery of a Vermeer that was counted among Nazi loot after the fall of Hitler.

The film begins in the aftermath of the bombing of Rotterdam and takes place in Amsterdam when allied troops helped restore order to the governments that had been upended by the Nazis. Part of the process of restoring order was to divine the Nazi collaborators and punish them. At the time Canadians were in charge after which the Dutch government would assume control and command. As the film opens we note a Dutch Nazi collaborator is being summarily executed in the public square as a crowd cheers.

Claes Bang in ‘The Last Vermeer’ (courtesy of the film)

In this environment there are friends and foes and it remains unclear the extent to which one should judge another’s way to survive under horrific oppression and slaughter, such as the Nazi occupiers delivered to the Dutch people. In the instance of Nazi looted art, recovery takes take precedence and those caught in the crosshairs of vengeance receive little mercy from others who may have collaborated on a higher, more obscure level in the occupied government who look to hold the reigns of power.

Claes Bang portrays Captain Joseph Piller, a Canadian Jew tasked to locate and return a Vermeer purchased by Hermann Goering and afterward, to seek justice for the original theft of the art work. Along with his wife who compromised her fidelity to gain information, Piller was in the resistance, and if he was caught as a Jew, it would have gone badly for him. Indeed, Piller and his wife courageously negotiated an opaque moral tightrope to overthrow their Nazi enemies, a detail which is inferred and not explored with any depth.

Guy Pearce in ‘The Last Vermeer’ (courtesy of the film)

The Vermeer was one of thousands of Nazi stolen artworks, documents and valuables that were hidden when the allies came through (see the film The Monuments Men {2014}). To this day there are paintings that have been recovered, but they cannot be matched to their former owners. In some instances, museums and art galleries purchased the works on the QT to keep the historic, priceless pieces in the country of origin, rather than work to locate the family of the original owners (see the film Woman in Gold {2015}).

Captain Piller is not the only one looking to recover stolen works from the Nazis, jail or execute collaborators after restoring the works to their original owners. This is a high stakes conflict to exact justice. On the one side are the allies. On the other is the Dutch government has its own processes of dealing with collaborators, including letting some go free depending upon the quid pro quos to be made.

Guy Pearce in ‘The Last Vermeer’ (courtesy of the film)

Piller must discover the truth of a mystery about the Vermeer before the compromised Dutch Ministry of Justice, represented by Alex De Klerks (August Diehl) regains full jurisdiction over the matter. Time is running out for Piller to “get the job done,” before the Dutch can pardon, get payoffs from the collaborators, or look the other way and allow the Nazis and collaborators to depart or go underground until the culture forgets and moves on.

Guy Pearce finely portrays the wild and ostentatious Han van Meergren who Piller discovers was in possession of the Vermeer before it ended up in the hands of Goering. Piller gains the trust of van Meergren and vice-versa. Together they pull apart whether or not as an art dealer van Meergren collaborated with the Nazis and betrayed the Dutch people or was in fact like Piller and his wife, part of the resistance and on the side of the Allies.

Guy Pearce in ‘The Last Vermeer (courtesy of the film)

In the process of revealing this mystery the film goes into the type of paints Vermeer used as well as his technique. It further unveils the flamboyant identity of van Meergren and through him it excoriates the art world for its tenuous and corrupt practices to gain illicit and unconscionable profits off the backs of artists who do the work and beg to be exploited for the sake of recognition and a few coins to help them live.

The ironies abound in The Last Vermeer. The high points occur every time Guy Pearce is onscreen and taking charge of the mysterious which we attempt to understand. When it is revealed in the courtroom when the judge, defense, jury and art expert examine van Meegren’s role in the world of the Nazis, the high jinx are quickly and shockingly revealed in an exuberant twist. That Piller and his staff assist van Meegren in his revelatory exploit is all the more delicious.

Guy Pearce in ‘The Last Vermeer’ (courtesy of the film)

Though the film has slow moving parts related to the exposition and falters in not revealing the backstory of Piller and his wife, when the conflict comes to the fore, it takes off into a fascinating account of a true story. The cinematic elements, costumes, hairstyles, and the recreation of historical setting is excellent.

There is no spoiler alert here. You will just have to see the film which will be released 20 November 2020.

‘A Touch of the Poet’ The Irish Repertory Theatre’s Superb Revival of Eugene O’Neill’s Revelation of Class in America

Robert Cuccioli in Irish Repertory Theatre’s Touch of the Poet (Irish Rep)

The Irish Repertory Theatre’s activity during the COVID-19 pandemic is nothing short of award-winning. They have remained stalwart in presenting streaming live productions, filmed productions and filmed productions online by actors who have done their work solo from their own homes, which afterward are seamlessly brought together by technicians.

The latter phenomenon is perhaps the finest example of the tremendous effort the Irish Rep is ready to perform keeping in mind their unction to do no harm to actors, technicians and audience members during this incredibly dangerous time, where if you peruse statistics on Worldometer, the death toll in the U.S. marches toward the numbers of dead during four years of our involvement in WWII. Considering that the COVID atrocities have occurred over a 9 month period under the abdicated watch and depraved indifference of Donald J. Trump and the sleepwalking GOP, the death toll is staggering and egregious.

Mary McCann in Irish Repertory Theatre’s Touch of the Poet (Irish Rep)

Thus, global watchers of Irish Repertory Theatre which hail from Australia to Ireland and all parts of the United States, are so grateful for the opportunities that engaged and talented actors and the Irish Rep’s creative team provide. As they unleash their talent and passion to create wonderful artistic performances, the productions help sustain us through this unprecedented crisis in our lives.

In their latest offering Eugene O’Neill’s A Touch of the Poet, the Irish Rep used the magnificent set they had created that was ready for production when the pandemic hit and New York was put on pause. With painstaking coordination, director Ciarán O’Reilly, the actors, technicians and artistic team configured a maverick presentation that launches the Irish Rep into new territory and reveals to other theater companies a way to deal with the vicissitudes of social distancing in performance. Each of the actors filmed their portrayals solo with attention to the staging of their actor/character counterparts.

Belle Aykroyd in Irish Repertory Theatre’s A Touch of the Poet (Irish Rep)

The result is gobsmacking and actors’ performances are treasures. How they accomplished this feat of interaction keeping it dynamic and vital is beyond entertainment. The production of A Touch of the Poet is a profound recognition that with genius and collaboration, the breathtaking can result. And their collaboration elevates what many consider to be one of O’Neill’s more mediocre plays to one of illustrious depth.

This revival elucidates that in O’Neill’s work there is much that is parallel to our time as we follow the misfortunes and revelations of the humanity of the Melody family. In themes and characterizations we identify with the expose of Con Melody’s self-betrayal. Striking is his wanton self-abuse and the abuse of his wife and daughter as he pursues fantasies that no longer support the vitality of their lives and, in fact, hinder their appreciation of who they are and what they might be.

Kate Forbes in Irish Repertory Theatre’s A Touch of the Poet (Irish Rep)

O’Neill sets his drama in Boston around 1828. The Melody family headed up by the alcoholic, self-destructive fantasist “Con” Melody (exquisitely portrayed by Robert Cuccioli) runs a ramshackle Inn with attached bar. Along with “Con,” are Sara (Belle Aykroyd) the stunning, truth-telling, rebellious foil to her father and Nora ( Kate Forbes) his pliant, subservient, fawning wife. The four live hand to mouth because Con abides in his glory days when he was a fiery and intrepid Major in the Dragoons, serving under the eventually exalted Duke of Wellington.

At the outset of the play, Jamie Cregan (Andy Murray gives a fine performance of Melody’s soldier underling and partner in brawling) provides the backstory of Con’s inner and outer conflict that Con has been unable to confront his entire life. Jamie explains how Con is an erstwhile gentleman with roots from the Irish peasant class that his father struggled to escape from. The father eventually advances himself and carves out an inheritance for Melody who is lifted into the airs of landed gentry and rises to a position of power in the British military.

L to R: Kate Forbes and Belle Aykroyd in A Touch of the Poet (Irish Rep)

When Con’s philandering, drinking ways cause him to be sanctioned and ejected from his position as Major, Melody flees to the United States with Nora where they purchase the Inn and raise Sara. Swindled by a Yankee, who lies about the value and prosperity of the Inn, they barely scrape out an existence which is further impoverished by Con’s alcoholism and his inability to make his way in the United States.

Con’s relationship to Nora and Sara varies from drunken rages when he belittles and demeans both to guilty apologies and attempts to make amends with blandishments. Cuccioli balances the drunken bouts and insults with hasty apology that is both humorous and heartfelt. Through his spot-on portrayal we understand the impossibility of Con’s self-hatred and his attempt to escape both his alcoholism and his menial position in the new world as classism and discrimination drive him deeper into self-loathing. Cuccioli is particularly illuminating when he entertains the magical persona of “The Major.” As he affirms his exalted personage in a conveniently placed mirror, quoting Lord Byron, he imagines his long-lost greatness and gentility are still within.

Robert Cuccioli and Belle Aykroyd in A Touch of the Poet (Irish Rep)

Indeed, Cuccioli’s stance, mien, presence convince us that he was once an individual of great deeds and valor and has fallen on hard times but will remain unbroken and unbowed. Nora adores him for she has “won” this dignitary’s love and that raises her own identity and self-esteem. Kate Forbes is just incredible as she mediates Nora’s self-recriminations, with her subservience to Con as she waits on his every whim. She never reproaches him for his abusiveness, indeed, she accepts his cruelties and disdain as worthy of her low station.

Cuccioli and Forbes relay powerful portrayals of these two individuals as they complete the dance of superior to menial externally which becomes the reverse when we see that Con needs to believe he is genteel and honorable, the stiff-upper-lipped gentleman of quality. However, ultimately, Nora dominates; Nora obliges and encourages him to fulfill her own assumptions about his love, as he lowers himself to rages and miscreant behavior.

Robert Cuccioli in A Touch of the Poet (Irish Rep)

Belle Aykroyd’s Sara who challenges Con’s treatment of Nora adds spark and fire to the dynamic of the family. She is the flint that ignites Con and inflames his drunken rages. She fills out the charged, family interplay with an amazing performance of irony and savagery. An instance of this occurs when Sara mocks Con’s puffery and “superiority” by putting on an Irish brogue and acting the menial. Apparently, Con has attempted to teach both Nora and Sara the finer ways, but Nora is unwittingly inflexible and Sara, who “knows better” enjoys defying her father at every turn.

Sara stirs the cauldron of infamy when she entices the guest of a wealthy land-owner to fall in love while she nurses him to health. Through her pursuit of him we learn of Nora’s own desires of greatness realized through her love of Con which becomes the similar road that Sara travels down. To raise her self-esteem in her own eyes and self-love, she becomes sexually involved with Simon Hartford (a blasphemy at the time) despite the threat of his mother Deborah Hartford’s (Mary McCann) disapproval. Deborah Hartford will make sure their relationship is doomed because of their class and economic differences.

Robert Cuccioli and Belle Aykroyd in Irish Repertory Theatre’s A Touch of the Poet (Irish Rep)

In the climax of the play which skirts the edges of physical confrontation, the actors seamlessly convey the action, considering each filmed his/her performance in their own homes. Thanks to the precise staging, it works when Con slaps Sara, when he caresses his wife at the conclusion with a new-found reverence of her patience and concern for him, and when he is physically bold in his attempts to kiss Deborah Hartford. Mary McCann’s staid and well-born Deborah Hartford is the perfect inducement for Con to entrap himself in one more perfidious and humiliating debasement.

From this juncture onward, we anticipate Con’s complete obliteration and the hope of a renewal. O’Neill satisfies; his ironic twists and Con’s ultimate affirmation of the foundations of his soul is as uplifting as it is cathartic. Now, his wife and daughter will have to adjust to this new day and redefine their expectations of their lives. Sara has already begun but the road she has chosen, like her mother’s is hard and treacherous with only her estimation of love to propel her onward.

Kudos to all the actors who negotiated the new medium of filmed staging on film and made it real. Likewise, kudos to the director who shepherded them through with extraordinary results. Last but not least are Alejo Vietti (costume design) Michael Gottlieb (lighting design) M. Florian Staab (sound design and mix) Ryan Rumery (original music) Sarah Nichols (video editor) April Anne Kline production coordinator.

This sensational collaboration magnifies the themes so you can greater appreciate O’Neill’s play of revelation and redemption through confronting one’s own shibboleths and destroying them. The revival shines a refreshing light on A Touch of the Poet and burnishes it with a new glory.

This is a production you must not miss. After this evening’s performance at 8 pm there are three more performances, two Saturday 31 October, and one performance on 1 November at 3 pm. For tickets to the online performances go to the listed site .https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/cal/32325?_ga=2.134261553.1367444511.160409768

New York Botanical Garden: Haupt Conservatory Open With Limited Capacity


NYBG seasonal plantings (Carole Di Tosti)

NYB, Levon Levy Center

NYB, Levon Levy Visitor’s Center-Entrance (Carole Di Tosti)


NYB, Levon Levy Visitor’s Center (Carole Di Tosti)

In times of trouble, the New York Botanical Garden has been a place of asylum and peace for many.


New York Botanical Garden (Carole Di Tosti)


New York Botanical Garden (Carole Di Tosti)

NYBG 2020

New York Botanical Garden snapdragons (Carole Di Tosti)

The 250 acres of various gardens, the serene walks, the waterfall, old growth forest, LuEsther T. Mertz Library, greenhouses, Stone Mill, ponds and Zen water designs (the Native Plant Garden, one of my favorites) provide  places to contemplate, restore, clear one’s mind and rejuvenate from the noise and chaos of our culture.


NYBG, Thain Family Forest walk (Carole Di Tosti)


NYBG, Waterfall in the Bronx River (Carole Di Tosti)


NYBG Bronx River flowing by the Stone Mill (Carole Di Tosti)

NYBG, Native Plant Garden

New York Botanical Garden, Native Plant Garden and water features (courtesy of the Garden)

In keeping with our steadfast and wise Governor Cuomo’s phased approach to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NYBG has reopened carefully since July. They’ve accomplished this with timed-entrances, hand sanitizer stations everywhere and close monitoring of members and visitors along one-direction paths to provide 6 feet social distancing.


New York Botanical Garden (Carole Di Tosti)


New York Botanical Garden hydrangeas (Carole Di Tosti)


New York Botanical Garden, Dahlia, “Mystic Spirit” (Carole Di Tosti)

The bathrooms are meticulously disinfected as is the cafe which provides drinks and outdoor dining as does the Hudson Garden Grill. There is no indoor dining anywhere and the Hudson Garden Grill provides a few salads, wine, beer, cold drinks and snacks. You can sit at one of the tables under an umbrella and enjoy a light lunch viewing the beautiful pine trees, plantings and the seasonal gardens in the distance without fear of crowds, all tables separated from each other six feet or more.


New York Botanical Garden (Carole Di Tosti)

Above all, one must visit the Garden with a mask. If one has symptoms of COVID: temperature, dry cough, body aches, digestive problems, difficulty breathing-94 oxygen level as tested by an oximeter, unusual rashes not typical of characteristic allergies, eczema, etc., in addition to cold-like flu symptoms) stay home, rest and recuperate. COVID requires not infecting others and taking care of oneself. The disease is deadly and social responsibility is an imperative when an infectious disease is easily spread in public. The Garden is a respite, but quarantine, rest, liquids, Elderberry, UMCKA and what the doctor prescribes is the only respite for COVID to avoid getting worse and having to be hospitalized.

NYBG, Enid A. Haupt Conservatory

NYBG, Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, Palms of the World gallery (Carole Di Tosti)

I visited on Friday, September 25th at the last minute and found 10:30 A..M. available to visit Enid A. Haupt Conservatory and then go for a walk on the grounds. With a membership, one has free entrance to the Conservatory and parking passes are given.


NYBG Seasonal plantings (Carole Di Tosti)


NYBG, Clematis (Carole Di Tosti


NYBG, Seasonal Plantings (Carole Di Tosti)


NYBG, Seasonal Plantings (Carole Di Tosti)


NYBG, Seasonal Plantings (Carole Di Tosti


NYBG, Seasonal Plantings (Carole Di Tosti)


NYBG, Seasonal Plantings, hibiscus (Carole Di Tosti)


NYBG, Seasonal Plantings, Hibiscus (Carole Di Tosti)


NYBG, Seasonal Plantings, Clematis (Carole Di Tosti)


NYBG, Seasonal Plantings, Hibiscus (Carole Di Tosti)


NYBG, Seasonal Plantings (Carole Di Tosti)


NYBG, snapdragons (Carole Di Tosti)

The above pictures are what is happening around the Garden if you just plan to lift your spirits with a walk and not get involved in any other activities or go into the conservatory. The pictures below are the conservatory environs.


NYBG, fountain, interior Enid A. Haupt Conservatory (Carole Di Tosti)


NYBG, interior Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, fountain (Carole Di Tosti)

NYBG, Enid A. Haupt Conservatory

NYBG, Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, fountain, flowering spider plant (Carole Di Tosti)

NYBG, Enid A. Haupt Conservatory

NYBG, Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, fountain gallery, floral detail (Carole Di Tosti)

If you’ve run out of parking passes as I did, parking for members is discounted at $10.00 and that is well worth it. The visual beauty and healthfulness of the plants and gorgeous landscape with lovely, coordinated plantings is better than a sedative for one’s emotional state.


NYBG, Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, walkway (Carole Di Tosti)


NYBG, Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, walkway (Carole Di Tosti)


NYBG, Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, walkway (Carole Di Tosti)


NYBG, Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, walkway (Carole Di Tosti)

The Garden staff are preparing for the Kiku exhibit which takes place in the fall every year and coincides with fall activities like Pumpkin Weekend which they are already preparing. Both take place in October.


NYBG, Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, Kiku Exhibit preparation (Carole Di Tosti)


NYBG, Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, Kiku Exhibit preparation (Carole Di Tosti)


NYBG, Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, reflecting pool (Carole Di Tosti)


NYBG, Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, reflecting pool, another perspective (Carole Di Tosti)

The Conservatory is monitored by following the path through all of the galleries in the Conservatory, from the Rainforest plantings, through the Desert plantings and the exhibition galleries.


NYBG, outside the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, the Lotus and Water Lily Pond (Carole Di Tosti)

One can also step outside to visit the Lotus and Water Lily Pond where one will see water plants, Lotus and a variety of Water Lilies.


NYBG, Enid A. Haupt Conervatory, Lily Pond (Carole Di Tosti)

Swimming amidst the plants are coy of various sizes. One old gentleman looks to be a few decades old and has grown to a renowned size.


NYBG, Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, Courtyard Plantings (Carole Di Tosti)

There is also a frog whom I heard on a few visits to the Lotus and Water Lily Ponds hanging out in the vegetation. Two Lily Ponds are in the Courtyard in the center of the environs of the conservatory.


NYBG, Lotus and Water Lilly Pond (Carole Di Tosti)


NYBG, Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, Courtyard Plantings (Carole Di Tosti)


NYBG, Courtyard Plantings, Lotus and Water Lily Ponds Carole Di Tosti)


NYBG, Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, Courtyard Plantings (Carole Di Tosti)


NYBG, Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, Courtyard Plantings (Carole Di Tosti)

And there are frogs in the swampland and wild plants area of the Garden. I have heard them in the area of the Native Plant Garden.


NYBG, Native Plant Garden Water features (Carole Di Tosti)

I have also seen hummingbirds and cardinals in that area. The birds are as beautiful as the flowers that line the water features.


NYBG, Native Plant Garden (Carole Di Tosti)


NYBG, Native Plant Garden wildflowers attracting hummingbirds and nesting cardinals (Carole Di Tosti)

You will need a timed ticket to enter the Garden even if you do not go into the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory. If you are a NYC resident, your entrance fee is discounted. If you go on Wednesdays, you may visit the Garden for free. Members may enter the grounds and the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory for free.

For information and tickets go to the NYBG website. https://www.nybg.org/visit/admission/?keyword=NYCResidentZIPCheck

Sign up for the newsletter to keep apprised of the activities happening in the next weeks and discover whether there will be a Holiday Train Show with limited access and reserved tickets.

New York Botanical Garden is Reopening The Outdoor Gardens and Collections to the General Public July 28

NYBG, New York Forward Phase Four, Governor Cuomo, Appreciation Week

New York Botanical Garden, Reopening New York Forward Phase Four (NYGB)

Today, The New York Botanical Garden announced its schedule to reopen the outdoor gardens and collections of its 250-acre site to the general public on Tuesday, 28 July. The process has been a gradual one as New York City achieves New York Forward’s Phase Four which is projected to begin 20 July. The Garden’s reopening plan is mindful of protocols that pertain to businesses and cultural institutions. It follows CDC guidelines regarding protecting visitors from COVID-19 transmission. The Garden’s protocols involve safety measures that encompass State and City requirements and OSHA requirements.

NYBG, New York Forward Phase Four, Governor Cuomo, Sunflower, Appreciation Week

New York Botanical Garden, Reopening New York Forward Phase Four (NYGB)

As a part of Appreciation Week July 21-26 the New York Botanical Garden is welcoming Garden Members and Bronx Healthcare Heroes from the eight public and private hospitals in the borough. Also included are Bronx Neighbors with “first access” and complimentary tickets for free admission. This reopening including “Appreciation Week” is contingent upon Governor Cuomo designating New York City as fulfilling the requirements for the Phase Four opening.

NYBG, New York Forward Phase Four, Governor Cuomo, Appreciation Week

New York Botanical Garden, Reopening New York Forward Phase Four (NYGB)

All visitors, including Members, must purchase or reserve timed-entry tickets in advance. All visitors must be wearing masks.

APPRECIATION WEEK REOPENING is from July 21, Tuesday – July 26, Sunday from 10 a.m.-6 p.m.  GET TICKETS BY CLICKING HERE

Perennial Garden, NYBG, New York Forward Phase Four, Governor Cuomo, Appreciation Week

New York Botanical Garden, Perennial Garden, Reopening New York Forward Phase Four (NYGB)

Through its Appreciation Week initiative, the Garden acknowledges its gratitude and recognizes the dedication, strength, and resilience of Bronx frontline health care workers and residents. These are the workers that residents remember daily around 7:00 pm with cheers, shouts and a clamor of pots and pans for their great sacrifice to help patients through the terrible journey of overcoming this virus which is still not understood. Complimentary admission for those groups will continue through September 13.

Seasonal Walk, NYBG, New York Forward Phase Four, Governor Cuomo, Appreciation Week

New York Botanical Garden, Seasonal Walk, Reopening New York Forward Phase Four (NYGB)

New Yorkers will be coming from all the boroughs to seek respite and renewal at NYBG. They have gone through a hellacious time (characterized by Governor Cuomo) these past months sacrificing under quarantine. Together, all New Yorkers were united, disciplined, smart, tough and loving as they confronted an unprecedented crises in their lifetimes and brought the highest COVID infection rate in the world to one of the lowest in the nation.

Home Gardening Center, NYBG,New York Forward Phase Four, Governor Cuomo, Appreciation Week

New York Botanical Garden, Home Gardening Center, Reopening New York Forward Phase Four (NYGB)

The Garden is the place to be in July. It is one of the most gorgeous, historic and extensive botanical gardens in the world. Not only is it an urban oasis, it is a cultural, living artifact which has become a moral imperative, a haven for every season, and a New York City treasure anchored in the Bronx. Currently the Garden landscape features vibrant daylilies, hydrangeas, water lilies, and lotuses among its one million plants. Walking paths and trails crisscross the Garden providing opportunities for discovery through encounters with nature.

Thain Family Forest, NYBG, NYBG,New York Forward Phase Four, Governor Cuomo, Appreciation Week

New York Botanical Garden, Thain Family Forest, Reopening New York Forward Phase Four (NYGB)




Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden, NYBG, New York Forward Phase Four, Governor Cuomo, Appreciation Week

New York Botanical Garden, Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden, Reopening New York Forward Phase Four (NYGB)

Know Before You Go

  • Reduced Garden capacity and amenities. For the safety of visitors and staff, NYBG closed indoor spaces and any collections where social distancing is not possible. Water fountains and bottle refill stations are deactivated. Please bring your own water, or purchase water at the Pine Tree Café.
  • Enhanced cleaning and disinfecting practices. Garden staff are sanitizing surfaces such as tables, handrails, and door handles regularly.
  • Sanitization stations. Hand sanitizer has been placed throughout the Garden. All visitors and staff must practice proper hand washing procedures.
  • 250 acres to explore. Enjoy seasonal highlights in the Chilton Azalea Garden, Native Plant Garden, Perennial Garden, Conservatory Courtyards, Rockefeller Rose Garden, and most other outdoor collections and trails. Dress for the weather and wear comfortable walking shoe

Lotus and Water Lilies, NYBG, New York Forward Phase Four, Governor Cuomo, Appreciation Week, Public Opening 28 July

New York Botanical Garden, Water Lilies and Lotus, Reopening New York Forward Phase Four (NYGB)

  • Grab-and-go food service only. Limited food and refreshments are offered for carry-out at the Pine Tree Café. Outdoor seating is available.
  • NYBG Shop is open. The Garden has adjusted shopping and checkout processes to provide the safest possible experience.
  • Mobility considerations. Wheelchair loans and the Tram Tour are suspended. If you require a mobility device, we ask that you bring your own.

 NYBG, Water Lilies and Lotus Pond, New York Forward Phase Four, Governor Cuomo, Appreciation Week, Public Opening 28 July

New York Botanical Garden, Water Lilies and Lotus Pond, Reopening New York Forward Phase Four (NYGB)

An inherent risk of exposure to the coronavirus (COVID-19) exists in any public space where people are present. People visiting The New York Botanical Garden do so at their own risk as to such exposure as well as other risks inherent to outdoor public spaces. We will continue to monitor state and city guidelines to inform the Garden’s operations.

For more information about the NYBG and the 28th JULY PUBLIC OPENING, CLICK HERE.


Rosary O’Neill Talks ‘Clark and Carole’

Rosary O'Neill, Clark and Carole

Rosary O’Neill, ‘Clark and Carole,’ New Orleans (DCLarue)

When playwright Rosary O’Neill was living in New York City, she was inspired to write Plane Love based on her own love relationship and the love relationship between Clark Gable and Carole Lombard. She mounted a number of successful readings of Plane Love at the National Arts Club, The Player’s Club, The Actor’s Studio and a few other venues. I attended a few of these readings and reviewed Plane Love which is an intriguing and beautifully written love story,

Rosary and I had the opportunity to touch base in emails, texts and phone conversations these past months. It was then she mentioned that she had reworked Plane Love into another version of the play and titled it Clark and Carole. Playwrights and writers who subscribe to my Social sites will be interested to discover Rosary O’Neill’s motivation in reworking an older idea. Arthur Miller said in the biographical film about his life and writing that he felt that he was never “finished” with a work. He believe that there was always something more to discover.
The thrust of this interview with Rosary O’Neill about this play that she refashioned, follows Miller’s conceptualization that writers are not always “finished,” with their works. And indeed, the great writers are always evolving and reshaping what they’ve written. The interview with Rosary was conducted via email.

Rosary O'Neill, Clark and Carole, Degas in New Orleans, Musée d'Orsay, Musee Dorse

Rosary O’Neill, ‘Clark and Carole,’ pictured at Musée d’Orsay in Paris with Degas ballet dancers (Carole Di Tosti)

What if any are the differences between the old version (Plane Love) and this new version (Clark and Carole)?
The new version Clark and Carole is set in 1937-42 rather than today. So we have all the delicious details of pre-World War II Hollywood glamour: the big movie stars, the glorious silver screen, the larger than life seductions. Most importantly are the lure and the sizzle that sparks the real love behind the silver screen.
Why did you decide to change the title from Plane Love to Clark and Carole
The play was always based on the wild, strange, circuitous and surprising love story of Clark Gable and Carole Lombard. Their relationship took off during the time when Gone with the Wind was shot. It was also a time when Hollywood stars lived on ranches outside Los Angeles and their amorous girl friends were lured by letters, phone calls and surprise visits. Since the play was actually based on Clark and Carole I decided to put their names in the title to make that clearer. I also changed the characters’ names to “Clark” and “Carole.”
I found that using the title Plane Love and changing the names of Clark and Carole to Bill and Jane confused audiences so that they forgot or didn’t get the story was based on the love affair of Gable and Lombard. Because much of the plot—unwanted pregnancies, children put up for adoption, infertility—that was considered “shameful” in the time of Clark and Carole is no longer considered so, I felt I could remove the guise of an update and name change.
In the earlier version of Plane Love, I had the Carole Lombard character live after the plane crash and find herself pregnant, in the search for a happier ending. In the Clark and Carole play I returned to the real and sad ending. The crash that killed Carole Lombard sent Clark into shock, a love shock he never truly recovered from

Rosary O'Neill, Clark and Carole

Rosary O’Neill, ‘Clark and Carole,’ pictured in Paris at Musée d’Orsay, with Degas’ Little Dancer (Carole Di Tosti)

What is Carole and Clark about?
It’s about love, Love, and more LOVE. It’s a madcap love story told through letters and phone calls and secret meetings and wild romance that ends in a fantasy marriage, furious love, infertility, more lavish romance, a plane crash, and FOREVER LOVE.
What is poignant about their relationship? 
What’s heartfelt is how they loved and never stopped loving each other. She was racing home through bad weather on a prop plane to be with him for her birthday. She never made it to his loving arms.
They had both been married unhappily. Clark was married twice, to his acting teacher, and a society maven, both of whom launched his career. Carole was married to the famous actor William Powell in a partnership that strengthened her career.
Both Gable and Lombard were at the height of their careers and had more roller coasters to ride when their love affair ascended. Other actresses embroiled with Clark and Carole who added fuel to the tryst included Loretta Young, Joan Crawford, Jean Harlow and Lana Turner. One of these glamorous stars added an illegitimate baby to the mix.

Rosary O'Neill, Clark and Carole, New Orleans

Rosary O’Neill, ‘Clark and Carole,’ New Orleans, (DCLarue)

Why might millennials, the younger generation, be interested in learning about Carole Lombard and Clark Gable and that time in Hollywood?
 It was a GREAT TIME of beauty and intrigue. Stars started young. Bloomed young, died young. Jean Harlow died at 24, Carole Lombard at 33. Jimmy Dean died at 24. This was the time before bodywork and face-lifts, and lip injections happened on the scale that they occur today. The the line up of youth and beauty was awe-inspiring; and of course, women’s careers ended by 40-years -old.

Rosary O'Neill, National Arts Club

Rosary O’Neill at the National Arts Club (Carole Di Tosti)

Actor training for the screen was coming into its own. Gable studied acting (Stanislavsky method) prodigiously. The screen required close ups and psychological verity. The secrets of the stars were kept secret and so their beauty was magnified with supposed virtue. This was the pre-drug pre-decadence pre suicide era. It wasn’t that problems weren’t rampant, they were just hidden, and virtue and good looks were promoted.
Why were you drawn to these personalities particularly and not others during that era of Hollywood or later? 
I have always been attracted to actors from a broken past. Gable and Lombard each, like Marilyn, like Jimmy Dean, like Monty Clift lost a parent at an early age. They grew up in a broken household and looked to the theatre to build their dreams. All the actors I’ve studied worked so hard to be great artists. And they were each successful until—some big blow. For Dean and Gable/Lombard and Clift, it was a big physical crash. For Marilyn it was a body pill crash.

Rosary O'Neill, Actor's Studio, Plane Love, Clark and Carole, Clark Gable, Carole Lombard

Rosary O’Neill, outside the Actor’s Studio, NYC (Carole Di Tosti)

I love Gable because he worked so hard to be a great actor and had such a bucolic but buoyant sense of humor. Carol Lombard bore all kinds of pain and endured betrayal and trickery to work her way into stardom and into the arms of Gable. I also love Clark and Carole because of the tragedy behind their beauty. Carole couldn’t conceive, and Gable couldn’t keep her. Finally, the actors were on a timeline. Pre plastic surgery and pills, pre fertility pills and drugs, pre exercise and life coaches, time ran out.
But in my play, there is no time limit. Glark loves Carole and Carole loves Clark, forever!
You will be able to see Rosary O’Neill’s play Clark and Carole on July 20 at 8 PM in a live streaming format on these links below.
Alan Smason is producer/director of the reading. Kelly Lind and Robert Pavlovich play Carole Lombard and Clark Gable.




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