Hadestown review: Original Broadway cast vs. touring cast!

Last weekend, we were lucky enough to see Anaïs Mitchell’s Hadestown for the second time — the first time for my husband and my oldest daughter and son (for whom the trip was a birthday present), and the second time for me and my third oldest daughter. We saw it in the summer of 2019 on Broadway and I gave it a short review here. (If you’re not familiar with the show, you might want to click through there first, which actually discusses the plot and themes.)

This review will contain spoilers, but the whole thing of Hadestown is that we already know how the story turns out. It’s many thousands of years old, for one thing; and also, this is what humans do: We enter into stories that we know are tragedies, thinking maybe it will turn out different this time. So there really aren’t any spoilers. 

Well, I had such a magnificent experience with the original cast that, when I was waiting for this show with the touring cast to begin, I was telling myself very sternly that it’s normal and right for a different cast to put their own mark on their roles. It’s also true that Hadestown, while a profoundly emotional work, is not emotionally manipulative, and doesn’t deliver the same experience every time anyway. So it wasn’t going to be exactly the same.

That said, I couldn’t help comparing the two casts and productions in my head as we watched, so here is what I thought.

First, we saw the original Broadway production at the Walter Kerr Theater, which is much smaller and more intimate. Here was our view of the stage in NYC in 2019:

and here was the view from our seats in Boston last weekend:

So you can see, it was going to be a different experience anyway. 

There were some minor changes to the set and the way it moved around and lit, although it was hard to put my finger on what. The main thing I noticed was that, after Orpheus turns and Eurydice disappears away into the underworld, in this production she is swallowed up by a mouth-like aperture in the back (which also served as a train platform and other set pieces), rather than sinking down via a round platform built into the center of the stage (which is how they did it in NY). This arrangement, the aperture in the back, was surprisingly much more effective, and possibly done because it was bigger theater and, if they used the floor trick, the audience might see Eurydice scooting out a trap door (as I did from the balcony when they staged it this way at Walter Kerr!). It was very clear that Orpheus was within inches of reaching fresh air and sunshine when he stopped and turned, and Eurydice was gobbled up by the dark underworld, so it worked well (which didn’t stop the teenage girl in front of me from whisper-shouting, “Wait, wha happened?” right at that shattering moment when everyone in the theater momentarily died of grief. oh well!).

So: Original Broadway cast vs. touring cast! 

The original Hermes was André De Shields; the touring Hermes was Levi Kreis. Ahem. Partly due to my very poor eyesight, my face blindness, and just my general confusion as I encounter life, I was fairly sure they had switched actors halfway through the production, and I couldn’t wait to talk about how weird it was that they did it without saying anything about it. When nobody wanted to talk about it, I gradually surmised that it was actually Levi Kreis all the way through; he had simply taken his hat off. It’s a trial, being me. But still, that will tell you something about this actor. He was fine, but not especially memorable, and did not do much to convey that he had been around for millennia and had seen some stuff (but could still be moved). He was just sort of a ringmaster. 

Orpheus: Reeve Carney is the original. I preferred the new guy, Nicholas Barasch, but I could go either way with this role. Barasch’s voice was bigger and more sturdy and he came across as a little less weird, but still sufficiently lost and earnest, and sufficiently otherworldly. I think Carney did more with his body to convey who he was, and Barasch did more with his voice. Both very affecting. He made me cry (not that I’m made of stone).

Hades is Patrick Page in the original cast,  Kevyn Morrow for touring. This is the only one that I felt really just couldn’t possibly be a fair comparison. Patrick Page was just preternaturally . . . Hadeslike. His voice penetrates in a way that most human voices don’t. Morrow had a thundering voice and a commanding, sinister, predatory presence, and when he heard Orpheus’ song and it reached him, and when he reconciled with Persephone, you believed it. The lyrics were a little indistinct sometimes, which is a shame. But in any other universe, without the comparison, he would have brought the house down. Really, no complaints. 

The original Persephone Amber Gray; the touring, Kimberly Marable. This is the only touring performance I thought was lacking. Marable just didn’t make much of an impression on me, and she really must! She’s Our Lady of the Underground! It is a very difficult, strange role, no mistake. But Marable’s Persephone came across mainly as frustrated and vulgar, without much depth. Again, maybe it’s just unfair to have to follow Amber Gray, whose Persephone is so many-layered and delicately demented. Amber Gray defied gravity when she danced; Marable was merely very energetic. However, the critic in my head mostly shut up about halfway through, and by the time the story shifted to the relationship between Hades and Persephone, I was totally with them. It’s a good story. 

The original Eurydice was Eva Noblezada, and the touring one is Morgan Siobhan Green. This was a clear improvement. Noblezada’s voice and acting struck me as understudy quality, and not on the same par with the rest of that cast. Green, though, was stellar. Her voice was piercing, and it and her body language added an awkward and frantic tone that helped round out her character a bit, making her more than just a drama girl. 

The Fates were scary and great. I’m afraid I didn’t notice much difference between the two casts here. They’re malevolent and otherworldly and funny and mean, and their harmonies were just impeccable. Maybe the original cast were slightly more skilled dancers, but I don’t know. 

Let’s talk about Eurydice! Orpheus is . . . poetry, basically, right? He’s the thing that makes you weep, rather than the thing that brings you bread and a roof over your head. But people need him desperately, because when they go without him and his songs, they end up, you know, dead, and/or stomping around in a circle wearing dirty overalls and building a wall for no reason. (My kids thought they pushed the “let’s unionize, everybody!” aspect of this production a little too hard, and said that “If It’s True” was basically a scene from Newsies, but I thought it was easy enough to take or leave, and you could certainly read it as being just about humanity, and not necessarily political).  

Anyway, I was struck this time around by how strange it is that Orpheus is the one who’s put to the test at the end, rather than Eurydice. She is, after all, the reason they’re in this pickle. She signs away her soul just for a mouthful of food; so why isn’t she the one being tested at the end, to win their escape? But of course the reason she was lost was that she called and called on Orpheus, and he didn’t hear her, because he was too busy writing his dang song that would save the world. Pff, poets. Players. (But . . . he wasn’t just imagining it! He really could write such a song! And it really did change the world, and change the course of the story, maybe, or it might, next time, come winter . . . )

Anyway, as I understand it, the original score, which got taken out of the stage version, included more about Orpheus majorly overpromising things to Eurydice and then spectacularly failing to deliver, which explains their dynamic a little better. As it is, I think there’s a bit of a hole in the plot, or a bit of a hole in the character of Eurydice as written. This is my one and only quibble with the way the story is put together: That Eurydice’s actions make the least sense, and yet she’s the one whose actions get explicitly explained the most.

But, as the fates remind us, it’s easy to criticize when you have a full belly. Maybe next time, in a different frame of mind, I’ll come back to this show and her choice will make perfect sense to me. That’s the kind of show it is. 

Overall, I adored it. Damien and the kids who hadn’t seen it yet were blown away. It’s a revolutionary piece of musical theater, and I believe people will be performing it for hundreds of years. If you can possibly see it performed by either cast, do so!

A final note on the Boston Opera House, for what it’s worth: Everyone was required to wear masks, and they were requiring proof of vaccination to get in, but they were pretty lenient about what counted as proof. I somehow lost my vaccination card, so they let me show ID and let Damien vouch that I had been vaccinated along with him. (We kind of felt like anyone paying money to see an Anaïs Mitchell show is probably vaccinated.)

The Boston Opera House is just a few blocks away from Chinatown, so we grabbed a quick dinner at The Dumpling Cafe and YOU GUYS. I may drive back to Boston just to get more duck buns. DUCK BUNS. I was so sad we didn’t have time to sit there for three hours ordering everything on the menu, because it was spectacular. Definitely go there, too. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 182: It’s still summer, dammit

Here’s what we ate this week!

SATURDAY
Caprese chicken sandwiches

We are awfully tired of grilled ham and cheese for dinner on Saturdays, but I get home from shopping so late, and then it takes eleven hours to put away all the food, so Saturday has to be something quick and easy. This was quickish and easy.

The chicken was just broiled with olive oil, salt, and pepper. We had ciabatta rolls with tomatoes and fresh basil, mozzarella, olive oil and balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. It’s still summer, dammit!

This sandwich posed a bit of a challenge when assembled, but I just unhooked my lower jaw and dominated it.

Here is another sandwich picture, since I have it:

As you can see, I like plenty of balsamic vinegar. I like to put the dressings and salt and pepper on several layers of this sandwich, and use freshly-ground pepper and salt if I can get it. Mmmmm.

SUNDAY
Hamburgers, potato salad, broccoli and dip, blueberry pie with whipped cream

Damien’s mom came over, so Dora and I decided we would celebrate with potato salad. I said, “I’m so excited you’re making potato salad!” And she said, “Oh. I was so excited you’re making potato salad.” So I made the potato salad, and guess what? It wasn’t very good. It was just kind of bland, and also I forgot I was cooking potatoes, so they cooked into mush. Oh well.

I realized I’d gone all summer without making any fruit pies, and that aggression will not stand, man. The pie had some structural problems when we cut it, but look how pretty!

When I served it up, what people got was less a slice of pie and more of a . . . pie area. Everyone got a pie area with whipped cream. It tasted good, anyway. I don’t use a ton of sugar either in the pie or in the whipped cream. I didn’t have enough dough for a lattice crust, so I rolled little balls of dough and stuck them around the edge, then flattened them with a fork. If I had remembered to do a sugared egg wash, it would have been like little cookies.

My pie crust trick is that you freeze the butter, then shred it on a vegetable grater. Then it’s easy to incorporate into the flour without overworking it. I use Fannie Farmer’s basic pie crust recipe, and I honestly don’t remember what I used for the filling. Blueberries, flour, sugar, lemon juice, salt, butter, I guess. Probably I should have used corn starch instead of flour. 

MONDAY
Chicken berry salad

I actually don’t remember eating this meal. It’s possible I skipped it and just ate leftover pie for supper. It’s still summer, dammit. 

Here’s an old picture of this meal: Roast chicken breast sliced up, mixed greens, diced red onion, feta cheese, toasted almonds, and a vinaigrette dressing. 

The trick is to serve salads with chicken just a little too often, and then people are really raring for some squash and Brussels sprouts and stews by the end of summer. 

TUESDAY
Taco Tuesday

Hweat! Tuesday Clara and I abandoned our family and drove away to New York City to see Hadestown on Broadway for her birthday, as I mentioned. I’m immensely proud and still slightly baffled that I drove to New York City, found our hotel in Hell’s Kitchen, found a place to park, found the theater, didn’t have any problems with the hotel reservations or tickets, didn’t get lost, didn’t get into any accidents, had zero combat with rats, roaches, or bedbugs, didn’t create any international incidents with furriners, didn’t get mugged, didn’t throw up, didn’t cry except during the show, and kept us fed and on schedule, and even tipped the parking lot attendant appropriately. Not bad for a country mouse

Clara was not terribly interested in exploring any restaurants that smelled of curry or sumac, so we went for good old American food. She had a burger and fries and I had a Reuben. This is a place called Jax BBQ on 9th avenue. I guess we were supposed to order barbecue, but we do what we like. 

We were pretty wiped out, so we went back to the hotel room (we stayed at the Casamia 36 hotel, where I got a pretty good price through AirBNB. It was small and very much no frills, but very clean and pleasant enough) where Clara worked on her Hadestown drawing

At home, they had tacos. 

WEDNESDAY
Spaghetti with Marcella Hazan’s tomato sauce and sausages, garlic bread

Wednesday morning, we set out for make sure we knew where the Walter Kerr theater was, about a mile away. It was nice traveling with someone who has almost the exact same anxieties as me. We had a lot of conversations that went, “Okay, I know this is crazy, but can we just…” — “Oh, sure, sure, I completely understand!” So we found the theater, then decided that we could check out Times Square without getting too lost. It was . . . well, it was different from home. 

Despite my best efforts, we did see the apparently famous Naked Cowboy. We saw a lot of people who had persuaded themselves it made sense to buy national brands of clothing and jewelry in Times Square, even though you could easily find the exact products online or in, you know, Biwabik, Minnesota. It was very hot and muggy smelled like different kinds of garbage, and sounded like Hell. I know New York City has innumerable nicer things to offer than Times Square, but we really didn’t want to get lost, so we lurked about for a while with our eyes bugging out, and then had lunch at a deli. Look, here is my sandwich:

Damn fine pickle. Then it was time to head over to the theater! And that’s when things really got great! I was expecting something extraordinary, and it was even better than I expected. 

After the show and after Clara got a few autographs on her drawing, it started pouring rain, so we schlopped the mile back to the parking garage. Okay, we got a little bit lost, but that’s because my phone sometimes insists on showing me upside down maps. We did pop into a little Greek grocery and bought some olive oil soap and some kind of honey apple pastries to bring home. There was a nice orange cat and some Greek men who thought it was pretty cute how wet we were. And then we retrieved our car, I recovered quickly at the shock of how much it costs to park your car for 24 hours in New York City (SO MUCH. OH MY FRIENDS. SO MUCH.) and away we went! We stopped in Connecticut to put dry clothes on.

It was a pleasure to travel with an art student as we zipped over and under all those spectacular stone bridges on the Merritt Parkway in Connecticut. They are all different, and some of them even have two different sides! Normally I don’t care for art deco, but when it’s mitigated by creeping vines and those lovely trees on the median of the highway, it’s great. (They are not all art deco, of course, but that’s the easiest style to identify when you’re driving under it.) Here’s someone who did a 60 MPH drawing challenge. When I was little and we would drive to NY or NJ to visit family, we would always look forward to the one with wings

Back home, they had Marcella Hazan’s miraculously simple and confoundingly delicious tomato sauce, with sausages and spaghetti and garlic bread. Recipe card at the end. 

THURSDAY
Pork spiedies, fries, pineapple

On Thursday, I made some spiedie marinade (recipe card at the end) in the morning, but half the pork had gone bad. So I set what I had to marinate, and then threw raw meat-tainted oily marinade all over the inside of the refrigerator for no reason at all! Then I went out for more pork and had some pharmacy adventures (not in the fun way), set the rest of the meat to marinate, and took the kids to the beach, because holy crap, it may still be summer, but not for long. 

Got home, shoved the pork under the broiler, and we had the meat on toasted rolls with mayo, plus pineapple and fries.

This is a good marinade. You can adjust it as you like, and it really tenderizes the meat.

You can see that I had leftover broccoli instead of fries. This may seem virtuous, but you have to remember that I had consumed about a cubic yard of meat in the last 48 hours. Also, the kids ate all the fries while I was toasting my bun. 

FRIDAY
Tuna?

It says “tuna.” I may want to run to the store. Actually we are going out to shop for school supplies today. This is actually the last possible day to do it, because we start on Tuesday and we’re going to the beach one last time on Monday. It’s still summer, dammit. 

***

 

Chicken Caprese Sandwiches

Keyword basil, chicken, mozzarella, prosciutto, provolone, sandwiches, tomatoes

Ingredients

  • Ciabatta rolls, Italian bread, or any nice bread
  • Sliced grilled, seasoned chicken
  • Sliced tomatoes
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Sliced prosciutto
  • Sliced mozzarella or provolone
  • olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper
  • Optional: Pesto mayonnaise

Instructions

  1. Preheat broiler. Drizzle chicken breasts with olive oil, salt, pepper, oregano, whatever. Put chicken on shallow pan with drainage, and shove under broiler, turning once, until chicken is browned on both sides. Let cool and slice thickly, you animal. 

  2. Toast bread if you like. Spread pesto mayo on roll if you like. Slice tomatoes. 

  3. Pile chicken, tomatoes, basil, cheese, and a slice or two of prosciutto, sprinkling with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper a few times as you layer. 

5 from 1 vote
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Marcella Hazan's tomato sauce

We made a quadruple recipe of this for twelve people. 

Keyword Marcella Hazan, pasta, spaghetti, tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes or whole tomatoes, broken up
  • 1 onion peeled and cut in half
  • salt to taste
  • 5 Tbsp butter

Instructions

  1. Put all ingredients in a heavy pot.

  2. Simmer at least 90 minutes. 

  3. Take out the onions.

  4. I'm freaking serious, that's it!

 

pork spiedies (can use marinade for shish kebob)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup veg or olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp dried mint
  • 8 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 4-5 lbs boneless pork, cubed
  • peppers, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, cut into chunks

Instructions

  1. Mix together all marinade ingredients. 

    Mix up with cubed pork, cover, and marinate for several hours or overnight. 

    Best cooked over hot coals on the grill on skewers with vegetables. Can also spread in a shallow pan with veg and broil under a hot broiler.

    Serve in sandwiches or with rice. 

A quick review of Hadestown, which you should sell a kidney to see

Yesterday, Clara and I saw the Broadway production of Hadestown for her birthday. It was the best thing I have ever seen on stage.

Hadestown is written, words and music, by Anaïs Mitchell, who originally made a musical, then recorded it as a concept album with Ani DeFranco, then re-worked it as a new musical that premiered in 2012. If you still think of Mitchell as a somewhat pretentious, precious, indie folk cutie, you need to get caught up! This is a mature and stunning work that’s hard to classify. WordPress is having fits over me trying to insert audio right now, but you can hear the Broadway cast recording here

It’s based on the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, Hades and Persephone, and it’s set in a Depression-like era perhaps near the end of the world, complete with squalid barroom and post-apocalyptic New Orleans folk jazz, I guess? Normally I could do without old stories cleverly transposed into unconventional settings — this Onion article springs to mind — but that’s not really what Hadestown is. Part of the conceit is that we’re all always telling these same stories over and over again, and that we must. And in spirit, it’s truer to to Greek tragedy than any Greek tragedy I’ve seen performed straight, complete with an omniscient narrator in the person of a dazzling urbanite Hermes (André De Shields):

Image from this Theater Mania video

a chorus of the three pitiless, inexorable fates (Jewelle Blackman, Yvette Gonzalez-Nacer, and Kay Trinidad), who are on no one’s side;

screen shot from this Theater Mania clip

and so much catharsis, the ushers had to go around with a spatula, scraping the melted puddles of the audience out of their seats after the final curtain. 

I’ll do a more thorough review at some point, but in the meantime you can read Leah Libresco Sargent’s take here

The lyrics are real poetry, but also clear and clever, studded with allusions you can take or leave. Each song, lyrically and musically, was worthwhile in itself, and didn’t exist merely to move the plot along or to give equal time to every performer. Clara and I agreed that Orpheus’ song — the one that has so much power in the story– really did have that much power. You didn’t have to tell yourself, “Yeah, yeah, I’m sure this feels very magical if you’re part of that word.” The hairs standing up on your arm spoke for themselves. 

The stage set was so well-conceived, they could build worlds with lighting and shadows and the three concentric circles of the stage floor, which rotated independently and could be raised or lowered. Without complicated special effects, they placed us indoors and outdoors, in Hell, and in uncanny in-between places.

(These photos are before the show began, obviously.)

All the musicians were part of the action or otherwise integrated into the set, and many of the actors played instruments as well. It was mind-boggling how much talent was on display. 

Orpheus (Reeve Carney)’s voice was powerful and disturbing and he sometimes lost control of his falsetto, which was affecting, rather than otherwise.

He had the air of a floppy theater kid ingénue.

Image from Theater Mania videoo

At first I thought his acting skill wasn’t quite on par with the rest of the cast, but I believe this radical immaturity was part of his tragic flaw. Hermes introduces him this way:

Now Orpheus was the son of a Muse
And you know how those Muses are
Sometimes they abandon you
And this poor boy, he wore his heart out on his sleeve
You might say he was naïve to the ways of the world
But he had a way with words
And the rhythm and the rhyme
And he sang just like a bird up on a line
And it ain’t because I’m kind
But his Mama was a friend of mine
And I liked to hear him sing
And his way of seeing things
So I took him underneath my wing
And that is where he stayed
Until one day…

Well, one day the gods get involved. Toward the end of the show, Persephone takes up the bird theme again, singing:

Hades, my husband, Hades, my light
Hades, my darkness
If you had heard how he sang tonight
You’d pity poor Orpheus!
All of his sorrow won’t fit in his chest
It just burns like a fire in the pit of his chest
And his heart is a bird on a spit in his chest
How long, how long, how long?

Hades (Patrick Page), from his gleaming hair to his gilded shoes, was downright terrifying, in voice and presence. You felt that presence every second he was on stage.

I thought at first his basso profundo was something of a party trick, but he knew how to deploy it, and he seemed more than a man. Which made it all the more gripping when, as a god, he is faced with a terrible choice of his own. 

Persephone (Amber Gray) in this work is not an abducted maiden in mourning, but an aged and aggrieved queen and wife who’s prowled back and forth between summer and the underworld countless times, and who knows full well that “a lot can happen behind closed doors.” She’s developed some coping strategies, and they are not ideal. With her gravelly powerhouse voice and desperate green velvet and shimmies, she is alarming, pathetic, malevolent, and ultimately completely winning, as well as miraculously light-footed in her spike-heeled boots. 

Image from Theater Mania video

The only quibble I had was the casting of Eurydice (Eva Noblezada). She did a good job, but I didn’t lose my heart to her, as I did to every other character. It wasn’t a stumbling block, though; and at one point, Hermes directly chides the audience for holding Eurydice to too high a standard. I was content to award the real heart of the story to Persephone and Hades. Eurydice and Orpheus are, after all, still very young in this iteration. It did hurt to see how she held him at arm’s length even as she was falling in love.

While Hadestown is raucous, funny, stylish, and vastly entertaining, it is also profoundly in earnest, and doesn’t try to dazzle or deceive the audience about what’s the show really means. It has elements of politics, of social commentary, of lessons about the environment and worker’s rights and industrialization; but what it’s really about is . . . well, art, love, and death.  

In elementary school, some student would always complain, “Why do we have to read Greek myths?” The anemic answer came: “They teach us about our own lives.” This makes no sense when you’re fourteen years old and reading a fleshless synopsis of a tale about people in togas making inexplicable choices and being randomly smitten by the gods. But in Hadestown, which keeps most of the myth’s major plot points intact, the very overt point is: What you’re seeing right now will happen to you. Rather than asking you to suspend your disbelief for the show, they insist you resist forgetting, and that you acknowledge how personal it is. As Hermes tells Orpheus: “It’s not a trick. It’s a test.” 

As the action moved inexorably toward the final shattering blow, I was in agony, not only suffering with the characters, but wondering whether the show would have the guts to end with naked tragedy.

And they did. They did not flinch, but let the terrible thing happen. But the way it was framed, what they showed us was tragedy, not nihilism. Real tragedy, which tells you something true about life. Real tragedy which gives you something, rather than taking everything away.

What a contrast there is between the circular reasoning in “Why We Build the Wall” and mystical cycle of hope that Hermes reveals at the end. The whole show is marked by a pattern of openly asking and answering questions, and leaving it up to the audience to decide whether the answers satisfy or not. My friends, I was satisfied. 

***

Clara drew a picture of the show the night before, and several of the cast members signed it.



One more note: The Walter Kerr Theater was wonderful. It’s a small theater, and although our balcony seats were unexpectedly high up, they were still good seats. The sound was great, the theater is gorgeous, and the courteous, placid staff managed the tight crowd exceedingly well, directing streams of antsy New Yorkers in a serpentine line for lady’s room with aplomb. Overall a near-flawless experience.  If there’s any way at all you can get to see this show, I beg you to try! 

The show says it’s recommended for people age 12 and up. That seems about right to me. There isn’t any sex or violence or cussing that I can recall, but it sure is sad. 

Dreamlike reviews: Hadesdown, The Ghost Keeper, and The Sopranos (again)

You know what the real thing is about being in your mid-40’s? You can do everything you used to do in your 30’s, but you cannot bounce back.

I was in Chicago at the FemCatholic Conference last weekend, and it was completely wonderful. Met Mikayla Dalton, Corita Ten Eyck, Theresa Scott, Leticia Adams, Donna Provencher, Jenne O’Neill, Aimee Murphy, and so many others in real life for the first time, and I spent lots of time with my wonderful friend Elisa Low.  And Nora Calhoun, and Hope Peregrina and Ben Zelmer, and Samantha Povlock! And Shannon Wendt and Meg Hunter-Kilmer and ARGH the woman at the Femm Health table whose name is escaping me at the moment. And so many other brilliant, interesting, driven women I admire so much. I felt so out of my league.

Anyway, now I’m lurching around like a reanimated but still desiccated mummy, dizzy and incoherent, picking ridiculous fights with people I care about, and complaining about how bad my head feels and always feels, and I just can’t seem to snap out of it. I blame feminism. And airplanes. And train madness! (I did not take a train.)

Oh, if you want to hear my talk and all the talks at the conference, you can stream and download the whole thing for $49. My speech was called “When Women Say Yes: Consent and Control In Sex and Love.” It was about . . . a lot of things.

Also, I’m sorry we haven’t put out a podcast since the middle of February. Soon, I promise! I’m sorry! You could listen to that one again if you wanted to. Sorry.

Anyway anyway, I don’t want the algorithms to forget me completely, so here are some quickie reviews of things I’m enjoying while busily burning through all my social capital:

Listening to Hadestown

My daughter Clara turned me onto this musical. Originally a New Orleans jazz-style folk opera concept album about Orpheus and Eurydice by Anaïs Mitchell (I know. Stay with me), it’s now a musical that’s premiering on Broadway this month. You guys, it’s so good. Entirely successful world building. I am a sucker for anything based on Greek mythology, but become irrationally enraged with anything that doesn’t do it justice. This one is just weird enough to work.

From The Theater Times:

[Mitchell’s] version isn’t totally pin-downable about where and when it’s set–it’s mythic, after all–but there’s a Depression-era vibe to above-ground scenes, where penniless poet Orpheus and his lover Eurydice struggle to survive. It is hunger that allows the wealthy Hades to tempt her down to the underworld–to an economically secure but soulless industrial town, where men may be guaranteed work, but forgo contact with the natural world. Naturally, it is Hades who gets rich from their labor.

You will not believe “Why We Build the Wall” was written in 2010.

But this isn’t about politics; it’s about mankind. “Wait For Me” just about killed me.

All in all, just a fascinating, captivating, completely original work. Perfect lyrics, songs that stay with you. Such good stuff.

What I’m reading:

The Ghost Keeper by Natalie Morrill

It is not a chick book, despite what the cover might suggest if you are one of my jerk sons. I keep plucking people by the shirt sleeve and shakily asking if they’ve read this book yet. I don’t know why I haven’t heard more about it. It did win the HarperCollins/UBC Prize for Best New Fiction, which is a good start. I’m working on a review for the Catholic literary mag Dappled Things, where Morrill is fiction editor.

This is seriously brilliant lyrical writing, on a level with the best of Michael Chabon or . . . I don’t know, I don’t want to be crazy, but I keep thinking, “Edith Wharton, no, E.M. Forster, no, Faulkner . . . ”

It follows a Jewish Austrian boy with a very particular vocation that keeps pulling him back. He grows up and starts a little family, and they are so happy, until the Anschluss.

The book follows them before, during, and after the war, and I’ve just gotten up to the chapter that describes another, related love story, but an infernally inverted one. And then they all need to figure out: What is love? What is loyalty? What is forgiveness? GOSH. I haven’t finished it yet, but even if it totally mucks up the ending (which I don’t anticipate!) I’ll forgive it, for all the moments of gorgeous tragedy and piercing joy. Do not read on airplanes unless you don’t care if you get stared at for gasping audibly while you read. Wear a sweater; you’ll get chills.

And we’re watching:

Well, we’re still watching The Sopranos. This is the second time around for me, and it’s even better than I remembered. It’s so much funnier than I remembered. It’s a little scary how much more sympathy I have for Tony this time.

I also think they should have won some particular prize for the depiction of dreams.

I guess the common thread in all these things is a sort of lyrical dreamlike quality, realer than real life.

That reminds me, what movie or TV show has the best, most accurate portrayal of dreams? It’s so easy to get it wrong and overplay your hand.