Soul Doctor

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soul doctorI love religion, hippies, and men who cry easily. So how can I not recommend this new musical Soul Doctor?

This musical has many themes – it’s a coming-of-age parable and an unlikely friendship between Nina Simone and Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. The Rabbi became a blockbuster recording artist in the 1960s. Incidentally, a synagogue named for him is in my Upper West Side neighborhood.

The show leaves you on such a great high. I felt we, the audience and actors, should end the evening with a group hug. Or together, we could all sing Hava Nagila or Shalom, My Friend — the only Hebrew songs I know.

I am not Jewish but I still enjoyed the spirit of unconditional love in this show.

But I have a few thoughts of how I might tweak this show before it comes to Broadway. Oh, wait! It’s on Broadway. Here are my thoughts any way.

Schlomo, at the end, comes to value his father’s gentle leadership, but what about his mother? Surely, she must’ve been more than a stereotypical small-minded immigrant to have instilled in Shlomo such a deep commitment to love and kindness and warmth for his fellow human beings.

Another thing — when Schlomo and Nina meet, they compare the sufferings of their tribes. This is never a good conversation. Hello! I’m Irish. I don’t think it’s ever productive to brag about or base our identities on our collective victimhood. Instead, let’s talk about the resilience and the perseverance of our peoples. Let’s sing, dance, write poetry (and blogs) and rise above the inevitable suffering with a daily dose of joy — which, mostly this musical does.

After the show, my husband and I met the talented Amber Iman. She played Shlomo’s bestie Nina Simone. She disarmed us with her wisdom and love!

The singing and acting was lovely. I loved Eric Anderson as Shlomo (and yes, wanted to hug him!). He was like the original Hugging Saint Amma. I am a huge fan of hugging. My husband fell in love with Amber Iman (and probably wanted to hug her). She played Nina Simone, like Shlomo, a person of great talent and great warmth for her fellow human beings.

Their relationship was interesting — it transcended a Hollywood narrative. It is charming and disarming when a man and a woman are great friends and artistic supporters of one another without being romantic partners. Artists, like singers and writers, require a lot of encouraging friends. (Thus, my Life Rule #1 Pile on the People.)

I was inspire20130816-122217.jpgd by Shlomo’s deep commitment to young people and social justice.

The musical is at Circle in the Square Theatre, 1633 Broadway (on 50th St. between Broadway and 8th). The last show in that theater was Godspell which my kids loved. Same story, different religion. Give love. Give yourself to others unconditionally.

For more info, check out www.SoulDoctorBroadway.com

Thanks, Culture Mom Media for the tickets to Soul Doctor. All thoughts are my own.

Coffee & Meditation

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Some mornings I only get out of bed because of the coffee. And my journal. And my friends. Okay, and my family. But coffee comes first.

Today’s Valentine’s Day. Perhaps it’s a little depressing for many? Like my family of origin, my husband’s not too big on gifts, cards, remembering holidays. I, on the other hand — the one who overcompensates — made every one a personalized Valentine’s Day card. And though I didn’t get much — or anything — at home, I did get some little cards with fair trade chocolates and a pink Valentine’s dish towel at work. I love my work peeps!

It was an ordinary day. I worked my job, did Pilates at lunch, worked again, then taught a session of comedy/improv at the Middle School, made dinner, shared dinner with the fam, went to the theater with my husband, (we saw The Broken Heart a play from the 1620s by John Ford — it was a bit of a slog). I took the subway home alone (I couldn’t stay for the second half). I shooed the kids to bed. I did the dishes.

And tomorrow I’ll do it all over again (though I hope I don’t have to see that play again).

I want to be grateful for every single day. I want to have an open, loving heart, especially on Valentine’s Day. And I did find one moment of deep calm and contentment in my day. At the end of Pilates class, Shayne, our teacher, turned off the lights. We lay in the Yoga corpse pose, Savasana. Then, Shayne read this poem by Hafiz:

The Sun Never Says

Even after all this time
The sun never says to the earth,
“You owe Me.”

Look what happens with
A love like that,
It lights the Whole Sky.

Is that amazing, or what? Meditation is almost as good as coffee.

Cherry Orchard

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Turturro lets the stuffing out of the chair. (photo by Richard Termine for the New York Times.)

My husband’s translation of ‘Cherry Orchard’ was so naturalistic. A few minutes into John Turturro’s opening scene, I squeezed Chris’s arm and whispered, “So good. Genius.”

Chris (John Christopher Jones) did a brilliant job of situating the audience right there with the family at the grand Russian estate as it falls into disrepair and bankruptcy, sold to the local boor — or is he a self-made man? — played by Turturro.

An actor at the cast party told me it was the only of Chekhov’s place that the author considered a comedy. (Actors can be so smart — like real artists, not just empty-headed celebs!)

Chris worked hard of this translation, obsessed by it for months. He spent a lot time sitting in front of the computer. I know how hard it is to write.  It is mostly about keeping your seat in the chair.

I have seen Chris in a number of Chekhov plays. From those plays, I can see what life was like back in the day before people realized you should work out to lift your spirits. Or perhaps, people, try some anti-depressants?

In Chekhov’s plays my heart always breaks for the way the characters ridicule the intellectual, the perpetual student. Ugh.

This production is not depressing. I loved the party scene where the family, led by Dianne Wiest, and the guests wait to hear about the fate of the estate. The party goers’ spirits were as light as the stuffing from the chair that flew around the stage when Turturro ripped open the furniture.

For some reason, I always imagine the cherry orchard bathed in late afternoon light, like in the Van Gogh painting of the olive orchard. The cherry orchard never appears on stage yet it is a character in the play, once great and now parceled away — like so many nations, families and nature itself. 

On the cab ride home from the opening night party, I read Chris the The New York Times Review of ‘Cherry Orchard’ off of my smart phone, hitting bumps and speeding up Third Avenue. It was a triumph for Chris.