Friday, April 29, 2011

A Royal Pain

I completely managed to ignore the royal wedding mishegoss, until today.
I confess I could not resist gawking online. Here are some impressions:
• As some may have undoubtedly observed, the royal gene pool will be majorly improved with the acquisition of plebeian genes. Certainly, the commoners are so much better looking than the royals. The entire Middleton family is quite handsome, in the way of beautiful racehorses.  A good case in point is Princess Letizia from the Spanish royal family:
(Photo credits: Getty Images).

Bad genes v. good genes
Bad genes v. good genes
• Cathy said pithily, "Didn't love the dress". Me neither, but I didn't hate it. In fact, I think it's very cool that it is a fitted dress that makes her look sexy, as opposed to the Diana wedding cake dress that made her look like an accident at a bakery. Kate is an attractive woman and she looked great. Having said this, I have never understood the appeal of trains. Like corsets or hoop skirts, they are retarded.

• Does Victoria Beckham ever smile? Is that verbissener punim* in her contract?

What are you laughing at?
 *bitter face in Yiddish, aka as cara de pedo, fart face, in Spanish. 
• What's with the hats?

Look ma, there's a UFO on my head!

• For all their aristocracy, the dresses most women wore were horrible.

• Prince Edward is lookin' good!

However, his daughters...

The Royal version of Jersey Shore?
• Looking at the royals of other countries is incredibly entertaining. They look just like normal human beings, but wrapped in taffeta.

The Grand Duke and Duchess of Luxembourg
The one in the middle has cara de pedo

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Poem: An Update

It turns out that my poetic meditation on my own mortality was caused by a cracked porcelain crown, and not anything belonging to my decaying molecular structure. 
So much for poetry.

A Poem

I have not written poetry since my college days:

I hear a crack.
It's not the Cheerios with chocolate milk
(low cholesterol omega-3s)
that are my comfort food of late.
As I advance in age, no one can tell me what to eat.
I fear a corporate mistake:
the severed body part of someone else, human, insect, or man made.
I feel no pain and find no evidence,
until, regurgitating the pablum like a fussy child,
I find a piece of bone,
an ancient relic out of Moby Dick.
A broken tooth. It stinks like rotting greens.
Opaque and deathly gray,
it's nothing but a small memento of decay.

Department of Shameless Self-Promotion

Friends, Romans, Non Facebook or Twitter Followers:
I'm kvelling mucho because today my 12 recommendations for food and fun in Mexico City appeared in the very lovely
You may remember that back in November, I took a group of adventurous gringo gourmands to an eating and drinking tour of Mexico City of my own devising. Well, my friend Ganda, who is the only woman who can eat me under the table and whose appetite for authentic Mexican food rivals that of any bona fide Mexican food snob, invited me to contribute to 12 fabulous places for eating or enjoying in the Gran Tenochtitlán. The challenge, really, was to keep it down to 12. For there are many more!
In any case, if you go to Mexico City, you'll have a nice array of guaranteed good eats. And if you don't, enjoy vicariously!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Be Tipul: A Conversation With Yael Hedaya

I have seen some episodes of the HBO version of the Israeli program Be Tipul and I have never really liked it. It seems forced and airless. There is a dead energy to the whole enterprise; it feels more like a whispered, solemn confessional than something that happens to people every day.
But tonight at the Museum of the Moving Image, as part of the Pen World Voices Festival, I saw an episode of the original series Be Tipul and was blown away. The writing by Yael Hedaya was magnificent, the young female patient and the shrink were amazing actors, and the whole thing felt as if we were a fly in the wall of that room.
The Israeli production is much more bare bones than the American version, which, as Hedaya pointed out, is very elegant and has very good taste. But this makes it rather musty and inauthentic, whereas the shrink's office in Be Tipul is more lived in. Actual sunlight streams through the windows. The bookcases are cheap, the books, dogeared. The light is harsh. Flies could actually sit on those walls.
Most of the episodes of the American version are almost straight transcriptions from the original series, but then what accounts for the enormous difference in authenticity and emotional impact? I'm guessing a number of things, besides the infusion of cash: There is a tendency in American films and TV to overdramatize. The prevailing notions of screenwriting are that the writer must never leave well enough alone, everything has to be escalated and amplified until it barely resembles reality. I understand that drama needs to be extraordinary, but in the case of Be Tipul and Hedaya's writing, this is achieved by a fine ear for unadorned reality and by her great insight into human motive, rather than by forcing every single beat. 
There is a scene in this episode, in which Naama, the young patient who has a crush on Reuven, her shrink, tells him of a sexual experience she had with an older man when she was still a minor. There is so much power in what she leaves unsaid, in the possibility of what she is conscious of saying and what she isn't, that the richness of our experience of her is almost too much. She remembers the flirtation fondly and she laughs with great warmth and embarrassment at the memory of her and her lover singing silly Passover songs. This moment of naked candor took my breath away. I have not seen one episode of the American series where something like this happens. In the stateside version everything is fraught and ponderous and super acty, yet ersatz, even when played by excellent actors like Diane Wiest, John Mahoney or Hope Davis. The Israeli original has the rhythm and the breath of life, whereas the HBO version feels like staged Drama with a capital D. It all boils down to sensibility. As Hedaya said, the HBO series looks great, but it's not messy enough. Hedaya, who was very diplomatic when asked her opinion of the HBO series (she'd love to get a writing gig with them), claimed that she has seen only a few episodes, said that it was strange for her to see her work transposed, and her characters transformed, and called it "emotional plastic surgery". That's exactly what it is.
Hedaya was incredibly funny, smart and charming as she spoke of her own experiences with therapy, which she claims she loves and for many years thought that it should be all intellectual mind games, flirting and fun. Her lifelong dream was to go to therapy (here's a woman after my own heart; someone who loves the attention and who could talk about herself for fifty minutes straight to an audience of one). Her idea of a dreamboat therapist was based on Woody Allen, an intellectual, older neurotic guy. Flirtation was a must. It was news to her that the main purpose of therapy was to actually help people. She said that in Israel therapists really liked the series (everyone agrees that the therapist is very sympathetically and realistically portrayed), and it made such a splash that people started wanting to go to therapy but they all expected their shrinks to be just like Reuven, (played by Assi Dayan, son of Moshe Dayan). Therapists even raised their fees according to what Reuven charged in the program.
Rarely does life imitate good art.
Hedaya is a novelist and this seems to be a bigger source of pride for her than her screenwriting work. She said it was easy to switch from descriptive novel writing to scripts but that writing scripts has not influenced her novels, which I now want to read. I found it interesting that she was a bit dismissive of her script work, because if the episode we saw is any indication, it is top notch writing, regardless of the medium.
Since the venue was very intimate and Hedaya was very open, this was one delightful talk. The audience, comprised of both therapists and lay people, felt we could relate to her and the Q&A was fun, spirited and smart.

Better than the Treasure of The Sierra Madre

This is what I consider this precious booty I just got from Mexico, courtesy of Mr. Ex-Enchilada. Better than gold, silver, emeralds and rubies:

At this point I'm chomping on a bag a day (sometimes with lime and chile Tajín, sometimes au naturel) and that is because I am exercising restraint.
Now, some people are partial to the Mafer brand pictured at right, who are like the new kid on the block and are very good except that they are bad because they contain MSG, whereas Nishikawa lists only the most pristine and pure ingredients: peanuts, wheat flour and soy sauce. Moreover, even though Mafer boasts of something perversely called abre-facil, an easy open bag, I have yet to be able to open this bag without restoring to a sharp object. Even my teeth won't work.
I am firmly in the camp of tradition on this issue. Viva la Geisha!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Pen World Voices Festival

I have been invited to blog about this interesting annual literary fest, taking place this week in our fair city. This post appears at the Pen page, but I post it here as well for my dear readers:
Opening Night for this festival used to be at Town Hall, which was cavernous and felt too big for something as intimate as literature. Last night it took place at The Lighthouse at Chelsea Piers, overlooking the coast of New Jersey and the Hudson river, which was very nice. The evening's theme, as far as I could tell, had to do with water, and that had something to do with freedom, though it is unclear to me exactly why. The concept was "Written on Water". I'm not sure I understand what this means. To me, whatever you write on water will disappear as you are writing it, and literature is quite the opposite, the only thing that remains of those who practice it. They turn to dust, but their written words remain. Perhaps the theme is meant as a reflection on the precarious state of literature these days, what with bloggers instead of writers, and screens instead of pages, and book shops going out of business. In any case, the Pen World Voices Festival is always a bracing reminder for us to read and to write.
   I have to confess that when I started attending this enlightening festival, I quickly discovered that I am not a fan of readings as much as I am of discussion panels, where there is more of a frisson as you listen to your favorite writers, or writers you don't know, discuss with each other (are they nasty, naughty, or nice?). The downside is the part where the audience asks questions, but that is a topic for another post.
   Perhaps literary writers do not suffer from ADD like the rest of humanity and are hence impervious to the concept of length. For some reason, the readers were seated at the back of the auditorium, and they walked down the main aisle like participants in a wedding, which made the proceedings longer. On the other hand, a festival of literature has every right to take its time; it is not a festival of twittering. It may be actually very beneficial to sit down, concentrate for a bloody second and listen to narratives of more than 140 characters.
   Happily, there was booze for sale. As a liquid, alcohol is a perfect, and very necessary lubricant for literary readings. I should have bought a drink, but since I was blogging for this august publication, I wanted to be extra sober. So to honor the the spirit of the evening, I drank water. It was very good.
   The evening started out with Iva Bittova, an artist who is some sort of a cross between Yma Sumac, Diamanda Galas and Jascha Heifetz. I thought that it would have been cooler to have an actual singer/songwriter who writes words for songs, which would have been more appropriate to a festival of writing (this is a euphemism for I wish they had cut the pretentious crap). 
   Another confession I have to make is that I came to this event because I am in love with Hanif Kureishi. It's been a while since my heart fluttered for any writer in a groupie kind of way, but this man makes it happen. And he did not disappoint. His reading was the funniest, most biting, entertaining and lovely reading of the evening. I have such a crush on him, that I spent a good while after his appearance debating whether to stalk him (I could see him standing in the side lines towards the end of the evening), confess my admiration and my passion and have a quick, torrid, fabulous affair with him. He is hot. And smart. And funny (and he has written some very nifty movies: My Beautiful Launderette, Intimacy, The Mother, Venus). As far as I'm concerned, he was the highlight of the evening. I also very much liked the poor soul who had to read right after him, Mircea Cartarescu, with a faux naive, pithy and sardonic poem about his crush on Natalie Wood as a way to escape Romanian reality.
   The foreign writers read in their own languages with a translation provided on screens. It is wonderful to listen to works in a language one doesn't understand and yet one tries to follow the inflection in the voice, or some similar words. As I speak Spanish, I could compare the original language in the poems of Gioconda Belli to the translation. I could not decide if the omission of certain words in the translation was an improvement or not. Belli likes to use words that only appear in literature: nenúfar, velamen, cardúmen, ingrimo, a word I had never heard before, and which means "alone". I also speak Hebrew, but the Hebrew in the poems of Agi Mishol was so poetic there were entire swaths of words that were new to me, even though they sounded like they came from an ancient, mysterious treasure chest.
   Malcolm Gladwell, who said he felt like the segment on Sesame Street in which there is something different from the rest, because he was the only non-fiction writer in the bunch, read a short and effective passage about planes spiraling down. Apparently, because of gravity, when a plane is in spiral descent, you can't really feel it. This will become a small comfort to me from now on every time I fly.  I may not know I am about to die until I disintegrate. Phew.
   In general, I think the writers were divided into two categories (insofar as my own personal taste): precious and non-precious. I am firmly in the camp of the non-precious. That is the reason why I stayed all the way to the end until Wallace Shawn and Deborah Eisenberg read (from Shawn's play The Designated Mourner). Non-precious is an understatement with Shawn. He read a bit in which a character describes how he urinated and then defecated on a book, simply to prove that it was possible. And that's the note the evening ended with. You want freedom? There you have it.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Mexican Food Awesomeness

Just back from Mexico City, where I ate this meal:

Fresh guacamole prepared at the table at excellent Restaurante Nico's. This recipe uses olive oil!

It was not crushed to a paste, but delicately chopped. Awesome.

Goodbye cholesterol diet: tacos de chamorro. Pork shank. Notice the homemade tortillas. I love how they present the taco garnishes here:

Cilantro, chopped white onion and chopped green chiles. Please note the absence of cabbage. That is an American invention. Wimps.

Sopa ranchera de elote: this was an amazing corn soup that had little surprise bits of goat cheese that melted in the mouth.  It really tasted like homemade, but had that fancy touch. I miss soups that are not loaded with cornstarch. Mexican soups are usually not thick and always incredibly flavorful.

The Small Enchilada ordered this vegetable soup.

She also had the Empipianadas de Guajolote: Red pipián enchiladas stuffed with turkey. Pipián is a sauce made with pumpkin seeds. These had fried onions on top and they were a subtle and unusual flavor. Really elegant.

The Enchilado Brother in Law had the sealed tuna with a vinaigrette of xoconostles and some exotic dried chile from Oaxaca with a very complicated name. This was less traditional but very good.

I had the classic Carne Asada a la Tampiqueña, which tasted exactly like the one from my childhood, which is fabulous. The classic garnish for this steak dish is enchiladas verdes, poblano chilies sauteed with cream and onions, guacamole and refried black beans. Heaven.

The Mini Enchiladitos had tortilla soup and chicken with mole. They seemed very happy. 

For dessert, we also had homemade ate de guayaba, excellent guava paste which was not too sweet, with Reblochon cheese from Querétaro. A chocolate mousse with mezcal in the bottom, and dulce de zapote negro, which is a compote of black zapote fruit that is super refreshing and a great end to an enormous meal. I had to have an "anís campechano en las rocas" as a digestif in order to get up from the table.
It's half sweet anise liqueur and half dry on the rocks. I learned this trick from some professional alcoholics in Mexico. It works like a charm.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Asphalt Jungle right here in my backyard, which is called New York City.
As a couple of hawks make their nest in prime real estate, overlooking Washington Square Park, down below, in the park itself, there is another kind of wildlife. And it's not half as civilized as those peaceful birds.
To wit: I met a friend from abroad and we had a lovely conversation in one of the benches. Later, in my house, she realized she had forgotten her cellphone in the park. I called the number and someone answered. For a split second I thought a decent citizen was about to give us the phone back, but the voice on the other end quickly disabused me of the notion.
"You gonna pay for it?"
I could hear it was still in the park because I heard someone playing the trumpet.
"Why should I? It's my phone".
He hung up.
I called back.
"Hey, you have my phone".
"Yeah. How much you willin' to pay for it?"
I, oblivious to the notion of negotiation with an extortionist, insisted that I should not pay for squat since the phone belonged to me.
He hung up and turned it off. My friend wished I had bargained.
It was already dark and we started looking for any of the many homeless denizens of the park that all look like they were run over by a particularly gnarly steamroller. I profiled anybody indigent with a cellphone in his hand, of which there were several.
Then I heard the trumpet player. So we followed the sound. He was serenading a couple who looked blameless. I asked a very tall guy with two phones and camo pants. I got screamed at in that menacing way that some Black people use to scare White people.
So one of his friends tells me to pay him no mind, he is a drunk, but he himself happens to know who has my phone and he feels our pain and he can get it for us, but the guy is going to want money for it. Yep. And I'm from Missouri. I was ready to go to the police, but my friend was willing to pay a forced reward. So she bargained from 40 bucks to 20, to 30. The guy left (I am convinced he had the phone in his pocket the whole time) and then after no more than five minutes, came back with the phone. But my friend only had two twenties and I had not brought my purse, so he went to give the money to "the guy" and came back to tell us we could go get the change ourselves, pointing at some other dude who was walking away. When we balked, the good Samaritan turned on a dime and became extremely aggressive, a studied but convincing performance designed to scare the hell out of us. It didn't scare me, but I was not about to find out whether he was hamming it up or really meant it. I wanted to go to the police camper parked next to the park, because the principle really bothers me. I don't care if your ass is full of crack, I just hate to be taken for a fool. But my friend, a peaceful soul, a believer in the healing power of positive energy, was just happy to get her phone back. I wish he gets such an enormous feast out of his $40 worth of crack or whatever it is he takes to be so dumb and so smart at the same time, that his brain explodes. Karma.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Strange Days

I've been doing some strange things lately that I want to share with you, my dear readers:

• I went to Cinema for The Ear, a screening of movies without images at Lincoln Center. The theme was horror, and several composers created aural movies that were very cool. We all sat,  some of us blithely munching on popcorn, in the darkened theater with no images coming out of the screen, just soundtracks in surroundsound. Many of them sounded eerily similar, compositions in dark keys but in good taste.
But there were some that stood out. One in which the voice of a soprano was mixed and layered into a disturbing soundscape of wails and shrieks and ululations, another one which took the sounds of people in movies in moments of extreme turmoil and the final one which was the soundtrack for a short of Poe's The Tell Tale Heart without the images. Spooky!
I wish the theater was pitch black dark. Spookier!

• This is so out of character for me, I'm slightly worried. I am currently watching, since yesterday, the live Hawk-Cam from Bobst Library at NYU, where a pair of red tailed hawks have built a nest on exquisite real estate, overlooking Washington Square Park and Fifth Ave. Most of the time not much happens, but yesterday about 6 pm, I tuned in and saw the man of the house relieve the mom, as she flew away for a pedicure or yoga class or something, and he sat on top of three pristine eggs, continuing to incubate them. It was awesome! Being a male, he fidgeted much more than his wife, who seems to be in a placid state of zen for hours, warming up the little eggs. It is utterly fascinating.

• I made ceviche.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Broadway Scorecard

What I am about to do may seem dastardly, but I feel like doing it anyway. Here's a quick guide to what shows to see on Broadway, according to moi. Go to the TKTS booth on the day and you may be able to find 50% off tickets for most of these shows.

Good People by David Lindsay Abaire, with Frances McDormand. A decent play but worth it just for seeing McDormand tear up the stage. Tate Donovan and Reneé Elise Goldsberry are also excellent.

Marie and Bruce by Wallace Shawn, with Marisa Tomei and Frank Whaley. An acid, surreal romantic comedy, if you can call it that. The two leads are very good. Warning:  this play is not a crowdpleaser.

The Motherfucker with the Hat by Stephen Adly Guirguis with Chris Rock and Bobby Cannavale. Quite entertaining, if predictable and underwritten. Chris Rock is no actor, but he can land a punch line. The rest of the cast is excellent.

Arcadia by Tom Stoppard. If you need a very engaging mental workout, this ambitious and erudite play may be for you. A beautiful production.

Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo by Joseph Rajiv, with Robin Williams. Subpar writing on the level of a pretentious semi-literate teenager with delusions of genius.
Avoid like the plague.

Jerusalem by Jez Butterworth with Mark Rylance. Not as incredibly awesome as its enormous buzz but pretty brilliant. Also pretty long.

The House of Blue Leaves by John Guare with Ben Stiller, Edie Falco and Jennifer Jason Leigh. Good revival directed by David Cromer. The dames are awesome and the play is a hoot.

The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde. Brian Bedford is sublime and so are the oneliners. 

Jerusalem on Broadway

This play by Jez Butterworth comes with a lot of great buzz and for the most part it is quite deserved. It's a richly funny play about the current state of England, as opposed to the mythical England from Masterpiece Theater that is no more.
However, to paraphrase William Carlos Williams, so much depends upon... the seats you get. We were in the middle of the mezzanine of the rather cavernous theater and we had trouble hearing the cast. Either they are not miked, or the mikes are too low, but there were big swaths of very funny dialogue that we missed.
The play is about a rowdy character, Johnny "Rooster" Byron, who lives in an Airstream trailer in the woods and is a sort of king of the forest, and a petty drug dealer who befriends a gang of aimless youngsters who like to spend time with him, or rather, with his drugs. Because he is a one man plague, he is about to be evicted from his sylvan home by the authorities on St. George's day (the patron saint of England).
Byron is a magnificent character: a highly imaginative liar (he claims, in my favorite bit, to have had a conversation with a 90 foot giant who built Stonehenge), an anarchic presence, a thorn on the side of good customs, a manipulator and opportunist, but a good man.
Alas, I do not share the general enthusiasm for Mark Rylance. He works very hard to be funny, which makes him a ham. His commitment and physicality are admirable, but the three times I've seen him on Broadway (Boing Boing, in which I hated him, and La Bete, where he was better, but way over the top) I have found him more unfunny than not and loaded with shtick. I would love to see this play with someone else playing Byron. Someone like Stephen Mangan, who was incredible as Norman in The Norman Conquests, or someone naturally feisty, like Billy Connolly (he'd be brilliant). 
The production is very striking. The first scene is an amazing coup de theatre in which we witness the crazy revels of a drug party at Byron's and then immediately, with a clever change of lights, the morning after. The play's language is rich and abundant, teeming with jokes and dramatic allusions, and even if you know little of Shakespeare and other British tropes you get a general sense of a fierce and lively debunking of the national character.  However, at over three hours, the play becomes rather unwieldy and uneven. I really liked Act 2, when a more personal side of Byron emerges, but Act 3 spirals into sordid violence and the ending seems too remote from the tone of the rest of the play.

The House of Blue Leaves

This excellent revival of the John Guare play has a very strong cast, headed by Ben Stiller as Artie Shaughnessy, the extraordinary Edie Falco, as his wife Bananas, and Jennifer Jason Leigh doing a very funny turn as his lover, Bunny. The play is extremely funny and vicious, an American classic along the lines of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, and the production, well directed by David Cromer, sustains the right balance of wackiness and discomfort, really going for the jugular. The women are all excellent, including Alison Pill, unrecognizable as a Marilyn Monroe wannabe, and Halley Feiffer as a disgruntled nun.
My only beef is with Ben Stiller, who seems a little stiff in the role. Stiller doesn't mind getting all dark. His Artie seems to emit negative energy. But this is untempered by any other traits. Stiller plays the piano and sings and acts, but there is no nuance to the character. He has a wonderful scene on the phone with his successful best friend in Hollywood, in which he goes all out in desperation, self-humiliation and embarrassment (which have always been his forte as a comedian), but I wish there were more layers to his performance. His diminished tenderness for Bananas is in the text, but the lines ring hollow; the feeling doesn't seem to be there. I think he lacks a certain working class charm, a soft spot, a silver lining.
However, his girls, as Artie calls them, are something else. Jason Leigh, an actress that is not known for her light comedic touch, or for a light touch at all, is terrific as Bunny, a vain, cruel, ignorant, contagiously bubbly Lady Macbeth of sorts. She sports a nasal Queens accent and a ridiculous jet black wig and gives a genuinely funny, spirited performance that somehow finds the likability in Bunny. Edie Falco's sweet, loony, sad Bananas is a fantastic counterpoint to Bunny's ruthless energy. Falco is funny and heartbreaking. In hammier hands, Bananas could be painful to watch. But Falco finds the perfect balance between craziness and knowingness, and does not hit a false note. The play is a hoot, and it has aged well. As our national obsession with fame has reached proportions of absurdity that John Guare may not have possibly imagined back in the sixties, when he wrote it, this savage play about the American desperation to succeed and be famous at all costs is even more resonant today. 

Monday, April 04, 2011

Today On I've Had It With Hollywood

The not scary enough Insidious.

Today On I've Had It With Hollywood

Cedar Rapids, a wonderful satire.


On the other hand, Arcadia, by Tom Stoppard, was thrilling and delightful. A real play, by a real playwright. A challenging, witty, ambitious and very engaging work, even if I cannot claim I grasp it in its entirety (I need to get my hands on the text). Ben Brantley's complaints about lack of intelligibility seem to have been addressed. David Leveaux's direction is beautifully paced and very smart. The cast is quite impressive, gliding through extremely challenging (and some gorgeous) speeches quite effortlessly. They all seem like they know what they are talking about in terms of Latin, mathematics and other arcana, which is already an accomplishment. The American actors acquit themselves decently with their British accents and everybody is quite good. In particular I liked Tom Riley, Raul Esparza and Margaret Colin. I was partial to the characters in the story set in the past, since the ones set in modern times, except for Esparza, were hamming it a bit too much. Billy Crudup and Lia Williams are seasoned actors but I wonder why they feel they have to mug so much. The one thing I missed, was the sense of love and passion beneath all that intellect. They all talk about it, but it is not much in evidence. Is this because they are British, or because they are so busy with the intellectual fireworks that they forget the fire in the loins?  I don't know. Still, the entire experience is bracing, a fabulous mental workout and in the end, deeply moving, and very beautiful.

Friday, April 01, 2011

The Curse of Bad Broadway Shows

Few things are more embarrassing and mortifying than to take highly intelligent, sophisticated and lovable friends to a Broadway play only to be insulted by its mediocrity and lack of a coherent reason for existing. With our long-suffering friend Jacqueline, who comes all the way from the Middle East and hence does not need further aggravation, this is the second time we fail her. (First time was that abomination Stepping Out, the Billy Joel musical).
Yesterday we attended the opening night of Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, starring Robin Williams. A crapshoot at 50% off in the TKTS booth. We paid 65 dollars for the privilege of watching a play that seems to have been written by an utterly untalented and unintelligent 15 year old. Had we seen it in a high school gym in a suburban town with the school's drama club, perhaps we'd had humored it with grudging tolerance. But still would have counseled the aspiring playwright to learn the craft and avoid repeating every half sentence seven times. And the director to instruct his actors not to bark at the audience the entire time.
This is one of the most appalling shows I've ever seen on Broadway (followed closely by A Free Man of Color). They both suffer from the same problem. They are not plays. They are tableaux. Representations. Harangues. Plays about "ideas". This one confuses drama with non stop screaming and dialogue that goes more or less like this:
Stupid American soldier:
What are they saying!!! Tell me what they are saying!!! What the fuck are they saying??
Iraqi translator:
What do you want? Tell me what you want!!! What the fuck do you want???
This goes on for two hours. 
I bet Rajiv Joseph, the playwright, thinks he is channeling Beckett and Pinter and Mamet. He needs to have the wax removed from his ears. It's reaching all the way up to his brain. 
I counseled my beleaguered friends to leave at intermission but we wrongly decided to give the play a chance. Needless to say, it got worse. We left before having to endure the further injury of wildly undeserved final curtain applause.
Since this was opening night, the audience was comprised of overdressed people (I've never seen so much plastic surgery outside of LA) that clapped every time a scene mercifully ended. I suspect they were the proud relatives of the cast and sundry investors. Robin Williams, who was the only sane person on stage, almost could not open his mouth without bursts of applause. I hate it when the audience thinks they are at a taping of The Price Is Right. Williams was the only source of respite in a horribly directed production. Like the poor tiger he plays, he is trapped in a really bad play. I was fascinated by his precision with a punch line. He has a couple of mildly funny lines, but because he is a seasoned comedian, he lands the punch lines with force and grace, making them sound funnier than they are. Alas, the play is so bad that by Act 2, it all starts sounding like shtick.
The rest of the actors are instructed to bray and scream like banshees at all times. The guys who play the American soldiers, especially the white one, are atrocious. 
Everything about this play is atrocious. I want my money, my time, and most importantly, my dignity back.