Mad Hatters NYC

The Hard Nut at BAM

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There’s risk everywhere in New York City—everywhere. That’s a fact.  The promise of success and the threat of failure lurk equally around every corner.  And those who live and work and thrive here embrace that risk unconditionally, drawing strength and inspiration from it. Fearlessness, ingenuity, persistence, perseverance—for artist and entrepreneur alike, these are the tenuous threads that stitch together their dreams. And it’s this frenetic sense of potential that can lead to truly astonishing results—from distinction to disaster to something altogether less interesting (albeit still quite worthwhile) somewhere in-between.

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Such is the case with Mark Morris’s The Hard Nut, a retro-modern reinterpretation of the classical ballet The Nutcracker now playing at BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music), which contains the passion but, sadly, not the mechanics to deliver something divine and unexpected. Developed using E.T.A. Hoffmann’s original story, the comic book art of Charles Burns, and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s timeless score, Mr. Morris wasted no time in shaking up the production while staying true to the crucial elements of the story: substituting the social constraints of the original work’s straight-laced 19th century setting for the liberation and excess of the swinging 70’s, dispensing with the conventional notion of gender-specific casting, and adding a substantive amount more flesh on the bones of the story than any other production has attempted. Mr. Morris even utilized Tchaikovsky’s complete original score—played exquisitely by the 53-piece MMDG Music Ensemble—in its proper order.

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To a greater or lesser degree, most all of these creative modifications and additions were successful and should be applauded. While the set was visually striking and the choreography inspired, there were also troubling aspects to the production. What Alistair Macaulay of the New York Times described as “tongue-in-cheek overt caricature” in his December 2010 review are still stereotypes of race, nationality and ethnicity and often play for uncomfortable laughs and run in direct contrast to the show’s lauded “gender transcendence”.  This is particularly jarring in  the caricaturization of the Housekeeper/Nurse played by Kraig Patterson—one of the few prominent black actors in the cast—as a bumbling, spastic jester. Unfortunately, it appears that thinking outside of one box does not guarantee escape from imprisonment in another.

Though the risk didn’t deliver the intended reward in this case, BAM, the more than 150-year old institution with a staggering array of multi-art programming, and the gorgeous Howard Gilman Opera House, were indeed impressive enough to justify the pilgrimage alone. For all the details on upcoming shows and events, visit their website here.

Pair it with:

A meal at Franny’s

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A two-hour ballet–your first–has made you ravenously hungry, and those Peanut M&M’s you shamelessly devoured during the 15 minute intermission just didn’t do the trick. Well, don’t you worry your belligerent little tummy. I have just the thing. Less than a mile south on Flatbush Avenue, past Barclay’s Center and toward Grand Army Plaza, you will find safe harbor at Franny’s, a Brooklyn pie-and-pasta joint that’s sure to fill that hole in your stomach. The mezzanelli cacio e pepe was particularly delicious and the pies were solid. To see all their offerings, visit their website here.

Location:
348 Flatbush Avenue
Brooklyn NY 11238

Hours:
Monday – Thursday dinner, from 5:30 -11:00pm
Friday lunch, from 12:00 – 2:30pm; dinner from 5:30 -11:30pm
Saturday lunch, thru dinner: 12:00 – 11:30pm
Sunday lunch, thru dinner: 12:00 – 10:00pm

– J.

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