I'm having motivational issues, so instead of motivating myself, I think I'll try to motivate anyone who happens by here wondering, "Hmm, what's good in New York that I may not know about this weekend." I'm sure I'm the only person with a blog doing that, so it should come in quite handy.
Closing this Sunday is The Black Eyed by Betty Shameih. I just caught the show on Tuesday, and although I found the show somewhat uneven with a bit too much preachy statement making here and there, there is more than enough in Shameih's writing and a couple of the performances to recommend catching it. The show looks at four Palestinian women who meet in Limbo, all looking for men in their personal histories who they believe might be behind a secret door with all the other "martyrs." One woman is Delilah (as in "Samson and ..."); also there is Tamam, who suffered brutality at the hands of Crusaders; and then two from the modern era: Aiesha, who grew-up in a Palestinian refugee camp and became a suicide bomber, and a woman known only as The Architect, a Palestinian-American killed on one of the 9/11 flights. Jeanine Serralles' performance as The Architect is reason enough to sit through The Black Eyed mostly brisk 85-odd minutes. Her character begins mostly in the background, but when she takes command of the stage near the end, she is absolutely tremendous, filled with nervous energy and using her movement and voice to absolutely captivate the audience. For me, this was important because while I also enjoyed Emily Swallow as Delilah, I found Lameece Issaq and especially Aysan Celik (as Tamam and Aiesha, respectively) mediocre at best. The play begins and roughly ends with the words "Unanswered questions. Unquestioned answers." Occasionally, Shameih hits us over the head with this theme, but her examinations of violence, faith, violence in the name of faith, female identity and power (or lack of), U.S. imperialism. the Palesitnian struggle combined with diverse opinions about the best way to solve it -- depicted most specifically between Aiesha and The Architect -- are generally fascinating and well-handled. Only when Shameih becomes a bit too polemical and do the lines sound like parts of a speech from a protest rally do things get tedious, but not so much to completely undermine the show. If you can get to New York Theater Workshop in the East Village and in to see it (my performance on Tuesday was sold out), it would be well worth your time.
Frost/Nixon, a fascinating look at the behind-the-scenes goings-on of David Frost's famous interview with Richard Nixon in 1977, also closes on Sunday. Written by Peter Morgan (also screenwriter of The Queen and The Last King of Scotland), the show brought Frank Langella a very-well-deserved Tony Award for his moving, sympathetic and riveting portrayal of the only American president to ever resign from office. The play is fascinating not because of how it recreates segments of these very famous interviews, but rather due to its incisive examination of not only a tragic plummet from power into -- and then eventually, even sadder, out of -- self-delusion as well as, and even more impressively, a wonderful look at the power of television. In 1977, a full 17 years after the Kennedy/Nixon televised debate that had its own impact on that presidential election, the true reach and influence of television as a forum and its strength and differences from older media such as radio and newspapers was still not fully recognized. For a piece of theater to do such a great job showing it is marvelous. Four performances left: get there if you can. And if you can't, oh well ... Ron Howard will be directing Langella and Michael Sheen (starring in the show as Frost) in a feature version for next year. I'm not sure whether that's necessarily a good thing, though.