July 2009


James Ensor at MoMA

Funny peculiar. If you are a devoted reader of ID tags in museums, you may have spotted one or two attached to James Ensor's exquisitely repellent works. He's an eccentric choice for a big bow-wow retrospective. Even more so when you consider that several of New York's regular critics seem to prefer the current Ensor show at MoMA to the powerful Francis Bacon show uptown at the Met. Was this really credible? I wandered in mostly to satisfy my curiosity, and curious turned out to be the operative word. Despite his British-sounding name, Ensor lived his entire life in Belgium, mostly secluded in an upstairs apartment above his parents' old curiosity shop, which sold trinkets to tourists but also carnival masks of the kind that their hermetic son would use to morbid effect in his art.
New York Arts

Katona József Theatre, Budapest, at the Lincoln Center Festival: Ivanov by Anton Chekhov

We seem to be enjoying a Chekhov renaissance at the moment. I feel extremely fortunate to have seen all major plays within less than a year, and one of them twice! All of these productions had their flaws and misjudgements, but they were all excellent nonetheless. As a whole, they showed that American and British directors are freeing themselves from tradition and are confident with taking risks in seeking out a harder, more contemporary edge and in exploring Chekhov's evanescent transformations of tragic and comic moments. It is easier to translate words and sentences, even subtle ones, than it is to bring humor into a foreign idiom.
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