Empanada Loca – Labyrinth Theater Company

First show since I got back into the country. Wow. It’s been way too long. Going to see this tonight at the Labyrinth Theater down on Bank Street. I originally picked up the tickets because Daphne Rubin-Vega is in it and I don’t know the last time I saw her onstage (oh, wait, it was Les Miserables but I’ve tried as hard as possible to forget that production). 

After a quick Google search to figure out what the hell this is about, I come to find out that this is a one-woman-show. To say I’m excited doesn’t cut it. 

(Bonus: there’s no intermission.)

Empanada Loca – Labyrinth Theater Company

eyes bright, chins up, smiles on.

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Sometimes it’s good to post your every thought on Facebook. For example I posted last week that I was beyond excited for Catching Fire and the next day my friend Andrew texts me saying he can get passes to an advanced screening from Time Warner Cable and he’d go down at lunch that day to see if he could obtain two. And he does and you’re beyond excited. This, I will admit, is probably the best thing Time Warner Cable has ever done for it’s customers.

Last night at the AMC on 34th and 8th, I took in a screening of Catching Fire. We were all given free popcorn, soda, a poster, and a t-shirt (admittedly it’s the ugliest t-shirt I’ve ever seen, but it was free and I’ll wear it to bed, so it’s all good). The theatre was packed and I got there only 15 minutes beforehand (Andrew was more on top of his game though, so he grabbed seats early). I was so. excited. (Nerd admittance: I wore the same gold sweater that I wore to the Scholastic screening of the first movie in 2011. The gold sweater is huge now and barely fits anymore, but I still love it.) The theatre hushed as the lights went down and I could barely contain my excitement.

tl;dr version: It lived up to everyone one of my expectations. It was two and a half hours of bliss. The cast was phenomenal and it’s a wild ride. I can’t wait to see it again. Now for more detail, and two spoilers, keep reading.

I don’t know where to start. I’m going to ramble, probably incoherently. I loved the maturity that Prim’s character has made since the last movie – it’s striking. The first interaction between Peeta and Katniss is unbearably chilly (hence Haymitch’s reaction). The scenes of uprising in the districts as the victors make their rounds on tour is incredibly powerful, as is when the head peacekeeper in District 12 is replaced with Thresh and havoc ensues. The scene in District 11 with Rue and Thresh’s family will make you want to sob. Half way through the Quell you really believe that Katniss might actually have feelings developing for Peeta. I loved, loved, loved Sam Clafin and Jena Malone as Finnick and Johanna Mason respectively. Lynn Cohen was thoughtful and caring as Mags. There’s a lot of build up to the Quell – they don’t just re-introduce the characters and throw them back into the arena, which was nice. I loved the character they added of President Snow’s granddaughter to add to the impact that Katniss was having on Panem. Brilliant. Katniss and Haymitch’s relationship is much stronger this time, as it should be. The poison fog is really gross. Gale’s character has a larger role this time around. He’s in much more of the movie and I think he will be even more of a central character in Mockingjay.

Lenny Kravitz, Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson, and Stanley Tucci are still perfect in their roles. Needless to say Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson were too. The last standout in my mind was Philip Seymour Hoffman. Just perfection. 

Spoiler alert: What I noticed was different from the book: I re-read the book a couple of weeks ago so it was fresh in my mind. They left out the part where Katniss goes to her father’s old cabin and finds out about the possible existence of District 13 from the District 8 refugees. The other part that I noticed they left out was when each tribute’s score is revealed and Katniss and Peeta both get 12’s, and Haymitch throws a fit. That’s really all that I noticed that was different between the book and the movie.

It was two and a half hours of bliss. I held my breath a lot and wanted to cry sometimes. I bit my tongue when Andrew leaned over to me and said, “I thought they would’ve killed him [Cinna] already!” when Cinna is walking Katniss to the tube, knowing that he would soon be killed. 

I think I will definitely go see it again in the next week. It was definitely worth the wait and I can’t wait for Mockingjay (part 1?).

One of the only benefits to being underemployed is that it leaves your Wednesday afternoons free. I still get up obscenely early every day and the week before last I woke up before 8 on Wednesday and decided to try my luck at the rush line for Death of a Salesman. There were already 20 or so people ahead of me when I got there, but on the other side of the sidewalk was the four person line for people waiting for rush tickets for the matinee. I was given a bracelet as a guarantee that I’d get tickets and I sat next to former Rockette and waited for an hour and a half. I ended up in Row B in the orchestra to the side. There was a full cast and I was ecstatic to finally see a staged version of this classic.

This is a play that is almost shoved down the throats of high school-aged kids, so you probably know what it’s about. It’s a three-hour long tragedy that when acted pristinely is a beautiful tragedy to watch.

The set, a middle class family’s house designed by Jo Mielziner, is beautiful to look at. The lighting, designed by Brian MacDevitt, is also exquisite.  The best part of this production is, obviously, the cast. Philip Seymour Hoffman plays the title role of Willy Loman, with Linda Edmond supporting him as Linda Loman. The sons, Biff and Happy, are played respectively by Andrew Garfield and Finn Wittrock.

Hoffman and Edmond are fantastic, as expected, but Garfield was a different story. We know he can act in movies, but the timeless question of theatre snobs is, “But can they actually act onstage without 15 takes?” Well, I was thrilled to conclude that Garfield can indeed act onstage. His transitions between being 17 and 31 were easeful and believable. He broke down crying no fewer than 4 times in the second act, all believably. Finn Wittrock, a more seasoned stage actor, was also heartbreaking as Happy. A last stand-out in the cast was Fran Kranz as the nerdy-turned-successful schoolmate of the Loman brother’s, Bernard. 

This revival of Death of a Salesman is tragically beautiful in every sense of the phrase. It was definitely worth those 90 minutes on the street.