Musings on the play “Antlia Pneumatica” by Anne Washburn, and other things, and a recipe for Italian Almond Cookies.
The recipe for Almond Cookies will come later, at the end of this post.
Right now, let me tell you about a play I saw. Last night I went to see the play Antlia Pneumatica at Playwrights Horizon, in NYC. There was a wonderful bit of staging in one of the scenes. The play takes place in Texas Hill Country, and is sort of a “Big Chill” kind of a play. I wonder now, how many people remember the movie “The Big Chill,” or whether it’s star has faded and it is no longer a cultural icon. For baby boomers, it was quite the movie, one with which we so identified. But maybe for all generations, so many years out of college is a point of reference of identification. At ten or twenty years out from such a shared experience, we find that we have changed with time. Our relationship to that old gang of mine has two sides, that of the past and that of the present. This is the landscape of the territory covered within “Antlia Pneumatica,” written by the playwright, Anne Washburn.
The “From the Playwright” notes in the playbill, give us insight into the play.
They quote Ms. Washburn as saying,
My grandfather once said that when he was a child people didn’t say that they were going to go “see” a play; they said they were going to go “listen” to one. I think that’s right; what we view, we accept as fact; listening is always an act of interpretation.
I didn’t set out to write a play in which large sections are heard rather than seen, but in a play where the intangibles–the past, memory, doubt, feelings – are the most important, and uncertain elements of our experience, both in our lives and as audience members. Foregrounding the act of listening seemed right.”
The staging which I found wonderful took place outside, under the expanse of the night sky of stars, far from any internet connection, and where there were no electric lights to extinguish the light of the stars. We barely perceive the outline of the two actors on the stage. In fact, they are so hidden from view, that for most of the dialogue, I though they were holding hands, and that their backs faced the audience. Slowly toward the end of the dialogue, the light appears as if we are experiencing along with the actors, the sun rising, as their conversation concludes. It comes to light that they are indeed holding hands, but facing us, their audience. In this scene, we are literally experiencing what Anne Washburn, the playwright describes in her notes. We are hearing the play, rather than seeing it. As a result, we deeply feel the impact of the intangibles she describes, “the past, memory, doubt, [and] feelings.” We feel them in our heart so much more, while hearing the words in the darkness of the starlit sky.
During the course of the play we figure out that one of the characters is indeed a ghost. While physically present in the course of the play, Washburn’s ghost really appears in the way that our own ghosts appear to all of us. That is, in our memories. In a way, the main characters of this play are both ghosts in this darkness, while they wrestle with their past in the present. After the darkness, some new understanding comes, balancing the present upon the past, and resolution is found. The ghost moves on, and the main character, who was so conflicted at the beginning of the play, and who has conjured this ghost of her past, has found some peace.
In a Q&A that followed this performance of the play, Washburn related to us that the play came out of a silent retreat for a group of playwrights, that took place in Texas. Not surprising that a scene such as this, where we are listening, more than seeing, came out of that experience. The weight of the quiet created in that scene is almost deafening in it’s impact.
Equally as weighty, were some scenes in which the actors are lined up at the front of the stage, while singing songs relevant to the play, or while one actor recounts a tale. Seldom are we placed so face to face with our actors, during a theater piece. It is as if they are looking into us, the audience, and we feel the impact of their words.
* * * * *
Other things of interest this week include this……
What I love about this photo, are all the different combinations of swatches in the color family of red, on the wall of swatches behind Isaac Mizrahi. The New York Times article featuring this photo, is about an exhibition highlighting the career of Isaac Mizrahi at the Jewish Museum in NYC, entitled “Isaac Mizrahi: An Unruly History.” The wall of swatches is almost like an art exhibit, in and of itself.
* * * * *
And then there is Spring…
The quickening of Spring coming, is so exciting to witness. Every day in my back yard garden, there are changes in the landscape, including new leafing here and there, bulbs shooting up out of the ground by leaps and bounds, and forsythia in neighboring yards starting to show their bright yellow flowers. I recently planted 12 new hellebores to the mix in my yard. A gardener needs faith in the future, when planting.
* * * * *
Further on Anna Sale of Death Sex and Money & WNYC, announcing an Anthems of Change dance party…
I recently received an exciting email, announcing a first night dance party at the Brooklyn Museum for Anthems of Change. If you can’t make it to the dance party at the museum, hold one for yourself in your own living room.
A few weeks ago, we asked you to send in the songs that you count on during big moments of change in your lives. More than 600 songs later, you’ve built an amazing soundtrack—your Anthems of Change.
We were so impressed with your suggestions that we want to celebrate your anthems with a dance party. Bust out your best dancing shoes because you’re all invited to join us on Saturday, April 2nd at the Brooklyn Museum at 9 p.m. for a DANCE BREAK!
The party is free and is hosted by First Saturday at the Brooklyn Museum. You can find more information on the Brooklyn Museum website.
If you can’t make it, don’t fret. You can have your own dance party thanks to the listener-powered Spotify playlist you helped build.
* * * * *
And since this is a food blog, how about a recipe
for Almond Cookies…
Now that Dan and I are retired, we have time to stop and smell the roses, so to speak. Another way of putting this in terms of mindful meditation is that we are more able to pause, and take a breath.
Our neighbors recently invited us to join them for lunch, this past Monday at noon. How lovely to be able to say yes, because we now have the time for such things, and for ambling through our days.
I decided to bring a treat with us to contribute to the lovely meal that our neighbors prepared and served. And so, continuing with my love for all things almond, I baked a batch of Pasticcini di Mandorle, or Soft Almond Cookies. I have always been a sucker for the Almond Cookies found in Chinatown bakeries. These are an Italian version of the almond cookie, and to me, their marzipan like flavor is reminiscent of macaroons eaten on the Jewish Holiday of Passover. Funny how almond cookies cross all cultural lines. Biting into these almond cookies, one experiences the crackle of breaking through the crisp outside layer, which then gives way to the satisfyingly soft, slightly chewy interior. Dear reader, do try baking these to bring as a gift, when going on a visit to your own neighbors, family, or dear friends, and enjoy!
- 3 cups (350 g) ground almonds
- 2 cups (200 g) confectioners' sugar, plus extra for dusting
- grated zest of 1 large organic lemon
- 2 eggs, gently beaten with a fork
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Mix the ground almonds, confectioners' sugar, and lemon zest in a large bowl. Add the beaten eggs and, using a fork or your fingers, bring the mixture together to form a soft, sticky dough.
- Dust your hands with confectioners' sugar and scoop out a walnut-size lump of dough, then gently shape and roll it between your palms into a ball. Dust the ball with more sugar and put it on the baking sheet. Continue until you have used up all the mixture. Make an indentation in the center of each ball with your finger so that they cook evenly.
- Bake for about 14-18 minutes, or until golden brown underneath and cracked, crisp, and very pale gold on top. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool. They will keep in an airtight tin for up to a month.