Flavorpill: Review: The Human Symphony

Originally published on Flavorpill.

HumanSymphony3

The New York Neo-Futurists’ new show, The Human Symphony, is a play with a lot of layers. On its surface, it’s an exploration of dating in the internet era, created and directed by Dylan Marron, best known outside of the theatrical world for his roles on the podcast Welcome to Nightvale and the webseries Whatever This Is. On another level it’s a symphonic metaphor, looking at the dating habits of humans as themes that develop and interplay across different movements, adding up to something much greater than any specific instrument’s line or any individual song. And on a third level, there’s the technical engine on which the show runs: six audience members are chosen to become the cast and crew, pantomiming along to a prerecorded soundtrack, moving props and set pieces, and even operating the sound system, all by following orders delivered to them via iPod. That’s a lot to chew on, which is both a strength and an occasional liability for the show. Continue reading

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Talkin’ Broadway: Book Reviews – The Great White Way: Race and the Broadway Musical by Warren Hoffman and Black Broadway: African Americans on the Great White Way by Stewart F. Lane

Originally published on TalkinBroadway.com.

The Great White WayIf you dive into Warren Hoffman’s The Great White Way: Race and the Broadway Musical expecting it to be a catalog of minorities on stage, you might want to take a second look at the title. Hoffman’s book does indeed cover shows like Show Boat and Flower Drum Song, which focus on the experience of minorities in this country, and it takes a look at all-black productions of traditionally white shows like Hello, Dolly! and Guys and Dolls. But Hoffman is quick to point out that an understanding of race and the Broadway musical can’t possibly be complete without an attempt to understand Whiteness on stage as well. Hoffman asks readers to consider not only what shows like West Side Story (which place white characters in opposition to characters of other races) might have to say about being white, but also to focus on shows like The Music Man and 42nd Street, which white audiences have typically seen as “not about race.” The Great White Way provides an enlightening experience with the potential to open the reader to radical reconsideration of classic and contemporary shows alike. Continue reading

Flavorpill: Review: The Woodsman

Originally published on Flavorpill.

The Woodsman

Any trip to Oz can be measured by the magic encountered on the journey, and by that scale, The Woodsman should be high up on your itinerary. A genre-defying offering from Strangemen & Co. written by, co-directed by, and starring James Ortiz, The Woodsman employs poetry, music, dance, and most memorably puppetry to give Dorothy’s tin companion the Wicked treatment, taking us from his parents’ romance through the moment the little girl from Kansas finds him rusted in the forest. Continue reading

My Mother’s Cranberry Jell-O Mold Recipe

Anyone who wonders about my fascination with mid-century frankenfoods need look no farther than my mother’s holiday recipe collection. This very 1960s New England side dish is a favorite in my family at Rosh Hashanah and Thanksgiving alike. A word of warning, learned from experience: off-brand (e.g. kosher) gelatins haven’t jelled as firmly as needed for a mold. (If you know the trick to make them work, please share in the comments.)There’s some debate in my family as to which flavor of Red Jell-O works best for the recipe, but I’m pretty sure we have used any number of flavors and it’s come out fine each time.

My mother's recipe card.

My mother’s recipe card.

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My Mother’s Brisket Recipe

My mother wasn’t much of a cook. My brother and I talk about growing up on Hungry Man TV Dinners, and many of my favorite holiday recipes involve opening cans to be mixed together and heated. However, there were certain dishes my mother perfected over time. She was proudest of her brisket.

There was a story she loved to tell in the last years of her life about how she emailed the brisket recipe to my cousin Karen, only to receive a reply from a stranger saying, “I don’t know who Karen is, but the brisket was delicious. Thanks!” Ironically, I don’t think she ever actually emailed the recipe to Karen, so when she died I despaired of ever reconstructing it. (My uncle and I tried this year, in a Facebook conversation prompted by my cousin’s request for the recipe.)

This morning, I was going to try to recreate the recipe from memory, but I decided to try one last Google search, just in case. Lo and behold, someone I have never heard of entered the recipe into Tastebook.com, attributed to my mother to dispel any doubt. Thanks, Debbie Pullen, whoever you are!

Lest I lose it again, I thought I would preserve the recipe in my own records right here before I try my first attempt at making it. You’ll note it relies on canned goods and onion soup mix. What can I say, my mom was a product of her generation. You’ll also note that these directions assume you’ll be cooking ahead and reheating for the holidays. You might be tempted to serve it hot out of the oven, and that’s fine, but the freezing and reheating process definitely helps tenderize the beef and combine the flavors. I believe that my mother occasionally seared the brisket before the first step of this recipe, but Mark Bittman says the searing doesn’t really change the outcome, so feel free to skip. Enjoy! Continue reading