The potential cockfight between the New York and Boston musical productions of Aristophanes’ Lysistrata will not take place this summer after all.
In early March, The Transom reported that A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum screenwriter Larry Gelbart’s adaptation of Lysistrata for Boston’s American Repertory Theatre had been dumped after the production’s star, Cherry Jones, production designer Michael Yeargen and director Andrei Serban objected to the raunchiness of the script. Lysistrata is a comedy about Athenian and Spartan women who withhold sex from their warring husbands in an effort to get the men to put down their swords.
Mr. Gelbart and his collaborators, composer Alan Menken and lyricist David Zippel, were dismissed on Feb. 5 by e-mail, and the A.R.T.’s founding artistic director, Robert Brustein, started churning out his own version-with music by Hair composer Galt MacDermot and lyricist Matty Selman-in time for the show’s planned May 10 opening.
Meanwhile, Mr. Gelbart’s version caught the attention of the Manhattan Theatre Club’s artistic director, Lynne Meadow, who organized a March 11 reading of the script with actress Christine Baranski in the starring role.
But an M.T.C. production of Mr. Gelbart’s Lysistrata is not likely to hit the boards anytime soon. According to sources familiar with the situation, the March 11 reading of Mr. Gelbart’s play did not generate an overwhelmingly positive response. The audience was small and included mostly M.T.C. producers, though one source mentioned that a curious Nathan Lane stopped by to listen.
Mr. Gelbart, who was in California and did not attend the reading, told The Transom that from what he’d been told, he was able to “return to the text and make some changes.”
Unfortunately, Mr. Gelbart said that his schedule, which is dominated by work on a television-show pilot for ABC, has prevented him from working out Lysistrata ‘s kinks with Messrs. Menken and Zippel. He said that when they found the time, and “when we’re all happy with what we’ve got, we’ll see where we want to go with it.”
Still, Mr. Gelbart said, there was little chance that a production of his script would get off the ground this summer, when Mr. Brustein’s production is slated to run first at the A.R.T. and then later at Philadelphia’s Prince Music Theater.
Ms. Meadow told The Transom: “We just opened a show, we’re opening another two, Larry’s got a pilot, and Alan Menken’s doing a million things, so no one’s even dealt with it yet.”
Meanwhile, Boston sources said that Mr. Brustein and friends are having more trouble getting their act together than Lysistrata’ s men have getting laid.
Mr. Brustein is said to be working on finishing his script with the help of his friends. And his cast members. And his director, two dramaturges, a musical director and composers.
“It’s basically adaptation by committee,” said one source, who added that the committee included Mr. Serban, Ms. Jones, Mr. Selman, Mr. MacDermot, dramaturge Gideon Lester and Marjorie Samoff, producing director for the Prince Music Theater, where Lysistrata will be mounted when its A.R.T. run has finished.
Other sources downplayed the tension over Mr. Brustein’s script.
“They did a reading,” said one source, “and some people were happier with it than others.” But that source waved off the suggestion that the rewriting process is unusual. “With any new adaptation-and certainly one that is a comedy-you want to incorporate funny things that people bring to it during readings and rehearsals.” Mr. Brustein said the rewrite process was not unusual. “This is the case with every production, and certainly with any Serban production. It’s one of the reasons that the match between Larry and Serban would have been such a bad marriage.”
Mr. Brustein also pointed out that the production will be billed as “adapted by Robert Brustein and the A.R.T. company, which is exactly right.”
Ironically, in his most recent conversation with The Transom, Mr. Gelbart complained that the A.R.T. had denied him exactly this sort of revision process.
“Ordinarily you write a piece, then you read the piece with the company and you agree about what may or may not need fixing, and then the playwright makes those adjustments,” Mr. Gelbart said. “I was never given that opportunity. It was ‘goodbye and here’s your hat’-or in this case, ‘your laurel wreath.'”
Mr. Gelbart added that he still hasn’t received a copy of Mr. Brustein’s version of the play, which he requested.
However the Boston production of Lysistrata is received, it won’t affect Mr. Brustein’s gala retirement send-off. A.R.T.’s artistic director plans to depart his post at the end of Lysistrata ‘s run, but his bon voyage soirée, which is being hosted by actresses Meryl Streep and Ann Reinking, will take place on May 6-one day before the company moves rehearsals into the theater.
Expected guests include Claire Bloom, Don DeLillo, Christopher Durang, Rocco Landesman, Carly Simon, Mike Wallace, F. Murray Abraham, Marisa Tomei, Christopher Walken and Debra Winger.
Mr. Gelbart said, “I think my invitation got lost in the rudeness.”
– Rebecca Traister
Flirting With Disaster
On Wednesday, April 10, Saturday Night Live ‘s Will Ferrell brought down the house during the MoMA presentation honoring Three Kings and Flirting with Disaster director David O. Russell by imitating tight-ass Inside the Actors Studio host James Lipton.
When Mr. Ferrell asked Mr. Lipton’s trademark question, “What’s your favorite curse word?”, Mr. Russell, dressed in a suit with sneakers, replied, “Fuckface.”
Later, at the after-party at SetteMoMA, Mr. Russell’s director pal Wes ( The Royal Tenenbaums ) Anderson, in one of his elaborate jacket/V-neck/tie ensembles, looked as though he might be taking advantage of some of Mr. Russell’s favorite expletives in a low-toned but very animated tiff with his girlfriend, Miramax creative executive Jennifer Wachtel.
Ms. Wachtel and Mr. Anderson installed themselves next to a column in the middle of the buffet line at the beginning of the party. Ms. Wachtel, dressed in a white halter top and white pants, angrily sucked on a cigarette and glared at Mr. Anderson. Mr. Anderson glared back, and the two hissed at each other unintelligibly while hungry guests stared at their shoes and waited patiently for their asparagus ravioli.
– R.T .
Around lunchtime on April 13, chef Claude Troisgros took a break from training the kitchen staff at the Royalton Hotel’s restaurant and decided to pop in on an old friend. Still wearing his chef’s whites, Mr. Troisgros walked across the street to db Bistro Moderne, the restaurant that his buddy Daniel Boulud recently opened in the new City Club Hotel.
“The restaurant was really packed. Packed!” Mr. Troisgros said. He looked a bit like the Gallic version of Fox sportscaster Howie Long, but his voice sounded similar to Mr. Boulud’s.
Mr. Boulud was on holiday, but Mr. Troisgros knew someone else in the kitchen and was granted permission to visit. “At this time, I was just at the door, and everybody look at me. To go to the kitchen, you have to go all over the restaurant.” As Mr. Troisgros traversed db in his culinary garb, he said, a table of diners called out to him: “Mr. Boulud! Mr. Boulud! We just want to tell you, the food is excellent!”
According to Mr. Troisgros, he did what any chef worth his salt would do: He basked in the adulation. “Well, thank you,” he told them. “Come back!”
Then he e-mailed Mr. Boulud. “If you want, I can do that every day,” he informed him.
Mr. Troisgros was recounting his tale in the Royalton’s sparsely populated dining room, and when he finished, he let out a robust laugh not unlike a goose’s honk. A year from now, he hopes to be fielding his own kudos as the chef who resurrected the restaurant formerly known as both ’44’ and, more informally, the Condé Nast cafeteria.
On April 15, the restaurant began offering a prix-fixe bistro menu of Mr. Troisgros’ devising called Baby Blue. It features his Brazilian-influenced French cooking, such as Poulet “Chic” -shredded chicken with a Cabernet sauce served over fresh fettucine with blueberries and green peppercorns. (An à la carte menu devised by him and his executive chef, Damon Gordon, is also available.)
Baby Blue is a reference to the Blue Door restaurant at Miami’s Delano Hotel, where Mr. Troisgros is the consulting chef.
Months ago, Ian Schrager Hotels, which owns both the Delano and Royalton, hired Mr. Troisgros to convert ’44’ to a Blue Door, and the Baby Blue menu is intended as a kind of conceptual appetizer.
Mr. Troisgros’ more ambitious Blue Door menu will be inaugurated as soon as the Royalton’s dining room and kitchen undergo a delayed renovation that’s expected to take place at the end of the year.
Until then, Mr. Troisgros-who’ll be spending at least one week every two months in the Royalton’s kitchen-has his work cut out for him. Condé Nast has a real cafeteria now, Bill Clinton’s visit to Michael’s has sparked a resurgence, and Mr. Boulud is doing gangbusters across the street. Then there’s the Baby Blue name, which works for pastel-hued South Beach but feels twee for midtown.
“For the moment, it’s a little bit like a baby,” Mr. Troisgros said. “But when it’s going to be a new décor, I think it’s going to be really focused, really strong.”
Besides, Mr. Troisgros is no Johnny-come-lately when it comes to both French cooking and New York. Along with his brother Michel, he’s the third generation in a family of chefs (their father is Pierre; their grandfather, Jean-Baptiste) whose namesake restaurant-Troisgros, in Roanne, France-has a place in French culinary history. While his brother stayed to run the family business, Claude opened a successful, eponymously named place in Rio de Janeiro.
In 1994, he opened his first New York restaurant, C.T., which earned three stars from The New York Times . When the owner of the space decided he wanted out of the restaurant business in 1996, Mr. Troisgros decided to close.
Mr. Troisgros intends for Blue Door to be a level above C.T., and he’s itching to get back into the thick of things. “I was really missing the business here, the friends, the customers,” he said. “New York changed my life. Before I came to New York, I was Claude Troisgros, the son of Pierre Troisgros, who have a restaurant in Brazil. O.K., he’s doing well, but you know, he’s the son. He like to travel. He’s the aventurier .
But, Mr. Troisgros continued, “after New York, city of success, everybody call me. I’m not anymore the son of Pierre. I’m Claude Troisgros, doing my own food.”
Social Studies II
“It was easier to smoke when I was in school,” Social Studies author Fran Lebowitz said as she lit up a cigarette outside the steel doors of Middle School 254 in the Bronx on April 19. For the second year in a row, Ms. Lebowitz had traveled to this three-year-old facility on Washington Avenue and 189th Street to live out what she called “a kind of revenge fantasy.” She was taking part in the annual Principal for a Day event organized by Public Education Needs Civic Involvement in Learning (PENCIL), a group that pairs public schools with private-sector partners.
According to Ms. Lebowitz, she attended public school in New Jersey for all but the last year of high school, when she briefly went the private route. “I was expelled,” she said. “It turned out that it was just too difficult for me to remember to wear a blazer.” But even before then, “I spent a large part of my high-school years in the principal’s office,” she said. “In fact, most.” So Ms. Lebowitz liked the idea of being on the other side of the desk. “I thought it would be fun to boss people around,” she said.
That didn’t happen, but Ms. Lebowitz wasn’t too broken up about it because, “luckily, I can do that in my actual life.” Indeed, she had done some bossing on behalf of M.S. 254, getting the Diller Von Furstenberg Foundation, a nonprofit that bears the surnames of media mogul Barry Diller and his spouse, fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg-to donate $25,000 to the school’s library.
“It’s a kind of a grant,” said Ms. Lebowitz, who had remembered to wear her blazer on this day. “I didn’t get myself one-I should have while I was doing it. I called Barry to ask him to give them encyclopedias. That’s all I asked for. He said, ‘How much does that cost?’ I said, ‘I don’t know. I paid a thousand dollars for mine. I bought myself the Encyclopedia Britannica.'” Mr. Diller came up with $25,000.
One of M.S. 254’s steel doors opened and the school’s actual principal, Wilford Hemans, walked out. Ms. Lebowitz didn’t stow the cigarette. She didn’t have to; she was principal for a day! And for about two hours prior to her nicotine fit, the student body of approximately 600 sixth through eighth graders had fêted her with a talent show in the cafeteria.
One group of girls had done some choreographed MTV moves to Jennifer Lopez’s “Love Don’t Cost a Thing,” and then the Luis Mojica Multicultural Orchestra, a group of students from M.S. 254, M.S. 306, M.S. 390 and Intermediate School 164, led by Mr. Mojica, had performed several numbers, including “Tanga,” “Caña Brava” and the Tokens’ “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” On that last number, assistant principal Aileen Colón volunteered the “weem-o-wep” part.
Mr. Hemans said that a group of outside consultants led by Mr. Mojica had taken the children, who had no previous musical experience, and taught them woodwind, brass, string and percussion instruments, as well as the repertoire of songs, in the span of a year. “Our goal is to get some of them into La Guardia high school,” Mr. Hemans said.
The performance impressed Ms. Lebowitz, who was a child cellist. “It’s easy to get them to start together, but stopping together-metaphorically, that’s very difficult,” she said.
Not surprisingly, M.S. 254’s music program was in danger of being cut next year. But Ms. Lebowitz was thinking of placing another call to Mr. Diller. “Now I’m going to hit him up for the music,” she said. “That costs much more. I asked the guy how much it cost. He said $50,000.”
Ms. Lebowitz sucked in one last draught of smoke. “The thing I don’t understand about the city is how, for 10 years, we have this huge boom-and the second it’s not a boom, what, they didn’t save one cent?” she said. “There are years I make money. Those years, I save it up. You know, because I know that years are coming where I’m not making any money. Why didn’t they know that?”
Marty Goes B.A.M.!
Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz will sing the praises of the Brooklyn Academy of Music six ways to Sunday, but just don’t ask him to catch one of the shows. On April 10, the ebullient Mr. Markowitz joined socialites Anne Bass and Beth Rudin DeWoody at B.A.M.’s spring gala dinner, bellowing “Welcome to Brooklyn, the heart of America!” and pronouncing B.A.M. “one of the major gifts that Brooklyn gives the world.”
But Mr. Markowitz’s enthusiasm seemed to wane when it came to checking out the premiere of Monteverdi’s Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria by French baroque ensemble Les Arts Florissants. “Luckily, they didn’t say the opera was mandatory,” Mr. Markowitz said with a lusty “har har har!” As the other guests headed to the Harvey Theater, Mr. Markowitz announced he was off to “meetings”-but not before expressing genuine surprise that The Transom wanted to catch the opera. “You’re seeing the show? You’re actually seeing it?” he asked The Transom. “Well, I’m sure it’s magnificent .”
– Elisabeth Franck
The Transom Also Hears…
…Body tanned, sweat glistening on his exposed, muscular chest, Vanity Fair Afghanistan correspondent Sebastian Junger sprinted along busy Houston Street in teeny-tiny black running shorts on the afternoon of April 14-and no one seemed to notice.
…The shelf life of media moguls is growing shorter every day. At the black-tie WNET gala at the Plaza Hotel on April 17, USA Networks chief Barry Diller was overheard telling another, more hirsute man in a tux: “I actually talked to Rupert this morning.
I haven’t talked to him in a while.”
The man was unmoved. “Aww, who cares about Rupert?” he replied.
– Ian Blecher
…Now we know where the Hilton sisters get their smarts. At the Henry Street Settlement’s April 11 gala, socialite Kathy Hilton put up for auction a Swarovski crystal cross from the collection she hawks on QVC. The cross was allegedly designed by her daughters, Paris and Nicky, which helped drive bidding for the $150 necklace to $350. But when the auction closed, Ms. Hilton informed organizers that she wanted to give a cross to each of the six partygoers who’d been bidding for the item. But instead of having the losing bidders match the winning bid amount, Ms. Hilton said the losers could pay whatever they’d initially offered for the pendant-leaving one potentially unhappy winner.