Thursday, July 30, 2015

RIZZOLI BOOKSTORE is back on Broadway: Review by Polly Guerin

Rizzoli at 26th and Broadway
Have you ever wondered, "What happened to the  Rizzoli Bookstore, the iconic book seller, that for over 50 years was a  a legendary establishment on 57th Street?" Well, worry no longer. Vanishing New York did not kick this beloved bookstore into the dust pin, instead Rizzoli has dusted itself off and started all over again. It has re-energized and re-established itself in a new space at Broadway and 26th Street. In the hub of activity Rizzoli is situated across from Madison Square Park and  will no doubt attract the cultural intelligentsia, who frequent the antique galleries and fine dining in the area which is known as NoMad.
    Faced with the challenge of finding a new space the store's owners researched over 100 spaces before choosing to establish itself in the landmark, 1896, Beaux-Arts building at 1133 Broadway. This means in its new site Rizzoli is now assured of landmark status and no one can tear it down. WHEW!!! Saved from extinction, the legend lives on.
      Book lovers worldwide will find comfort in knowing that tables and chandeliers from the 57th Street store have not been discarded but have been incorporated into the store design. What's new is the facade with "eyes wide open" windows that draw passerby attention to enter, to browse and to find that familiar art, architecture and fashion books and magazines are still a mainstay. The new shop, however, broadens its range of books and offers current memoirs, business titles and has incorporated a fiction section..
Rizzoli's path to Check Out
Rizzoli now takes its place in the social hub of NoMad for its new home but this time social venues will be part its outreach programs. In addition to book events, Rizzoli plans to reinvent itself with cocktail parties and
The new Rizzoli is obviously not just for art book collectors and serious bibliophile, it has taken on a new persona that is destined to attract a youthful mix of eclectic readers After all, it you're like me, "Not everyone wants to read on a screen." I like to hold a book in my hands and indulge in the time honored ritual of reading a hard cover book in real time..
Rizzoli: Open Mon-Wed, 10/30-7:30, Thurs- Fri 10:30-9:30, Sat. 10:30-7:30, Sunday 11-5..  Closed on Sunday during August.
1133 Broadway @ 26th Street, 212.759.2424.
Ta Ta darlings!!!  When I visit Rizzoli I feel "home at last" and delve into browsing to my heart's content.
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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Lily Tomlin's GRANDMA: A Reviting Drama, Sony Classic Film: Review by Polly Guerin

Julia Garner as Sage and Lily Tomlin as Elle (Photo by Aaron Epstein)
Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics
What does grandma do when a feisty young woman arrives unexpectedly at her doorstep to announce her life is in crisis?  Well Lily Tomlin as GRANDMA is not your docile prototype. Tomlin's character Elle emerges from the cloth of a seasoned, well recognized academic, an acknowledged lesbian and an outspoken personality to roar with emotion.  Unlike stereotypes Elle reacts with tongue lashing sense and spontaneity. And of yes, despite the seriousness of the situation there are laughs and tears to be shed on this often humorous and poignant story.
     Lily Tomlin, like you have never seen her before, takes center stage in GRANDMA, the Sony Pictures Classic film, written and directed by Paul Weitz. The official Selection of the Sundance Film Festival and the Tribeca Film Festivals, 2015, Tomlin's Elle, is an aging academic and celebrated poet in probably the most memorable role in her eclectic career.
     As the story unfolds, Elle has recently lost her partner of 38 years, Violet, and the mood is somber yet comical. In an act of financial liberation Elle has also paid off her debts and to celebrate she cut up her credit cards and used them in a mobile of her own design.
     So just when curly topped, angel in disguise Sage (Julia Garner) her granddaughter, appears on her doorstep in urgent need of money, $600, to fund an abortion Grandma Elle's cash flow is at low tide. Where to get the money? The film takes off with generational dynamics with Grandma and Sage driving around Los Angeles and spending the day trying dig up the money.. GRANDMA, the film, turns into a captivating adventure as they try to get their hands on cash through unannounced visits to Grandma's friends and old flames---ending up rattling skeletons and digging up secrets.
     They  pursue their quest by starting off for the local free clinic only to discover it has been closed for several years, which  forces GRANDMA to re-think the path that must be taken. She tells Sage "This is something you will thinking about the rest of your life." Grandma Elle pulls a few punches as she encounters various people from her past.. Then there is Karl (Sam Elliott) with his sonorous rich voice reminding us of his Marlboro days, who lives in a mansion overlooking the Pacific Ocean. This must have been a long shot in Grandma's plan as she hasn't seen Karl, an old flame, in decades. Just when Grandma thinks her persuasive tactics have won him over, and Karl is almost ready to hand over some cash, he reneges when he hears it is for an abortion. There's more to tell in this Elle and Karl romance and their encounter after decades plays out with painful recall of love lost with disappointed recollection..
   When questioned about the film filmmaker Paul Weitz said, "The film is largely about moving on from loss through wit and empathy and the ability to say "screw you." I just hope a splinter will lodge in the viewers memory."
     We meet Sage's mother, Judy (Marcia Gay Harden), who Sage did not tell about her crisis, as Judy conducts business at a treadmill desk in her office. At first this seemingly hard-hearted corporate lawyer and single mom seems unsympathetic but in the end Sage ends up at a clinic with the support of the only family she knows, her estranged mother Judy and Grandma..
    Lily Tomlin leaves me in awe; her great capacity to portray GRANDMA with raw emotion and honesty is a testament to her diverse talent.. As Elle leaves the final scene walking down a road in Los Angeles, it leaves us with a sense of wonder. I would like to think that Grandma has become re-energized and inspired to write new poetry into her  future.
   Ta Ta Darlings!!! Watch for the film GRANDMA, starts this FRIDAY. Check the newspapers for local listings. Fan mail welcome just send an email to Visit Polly's Blog's on


Monday, July 27, 2015

THE WRECKERS: Dame Ethel M. Smyth's Opera at BARD: Review by Polly Guerin

Fisher Center on Bard's Hudson Valley Campus
With a tumultuous orchestral score, vibrant musicality and high drama staging, THE WRECKERS, the long neglected opera by Dame Ethel Mary Smyth, arrived at Bard Annual SummerScape festival recently and garnered a sold out performance for the first fully-staged production of Smyth's masterpiece in America.. There is still time to see this rare and riveting opera;  three more performances remain: July 29 and August 2 at 2 pm and July 31 at 7:30 pm, taking place on Bard's Hudson Valley campus in the striking Frank Gehry-designed Fisher Center's Sosnoff Theater.
      Leon Botstein the esteemed music director, who incidentally is the president of Bard College, leads the
American Symphony Orchestra with a rich orchestral score that swells to heights of high drama with the grandiosity of Wagner and a hint of Bizet's Carmen, and at every nuance the music emulates the ensuing tragic tale.
So why does The Wreckers matter today? Director Thaddeus Strassberger, who stages the work,  lends clarity to the subject. "The themes of mass hysteria and populist justice should find powerful echoes in today's world events." In fact the opera address issues with profound resonance for audiences today.
    With Bard's reputation for reviving important operas it is no wonder that opera lovers and the curious cultural mavens went up to Annandale-on-Hudson to see this work by a Victorian-born Englishwoman, who at her time was was recognized as "the greatest female composer of the 19th and early 20th centuries."    
 Mark, Neal Cooper and Thirza,  Katharine Goeldner
It's a great folkloric story.that provided Smyth with the inspiration for her third and finest opera. Composed to a libretto by her friend and Henry Brewster, The Wreckers (1902-1904) gives a glimpse into the lives of people in a Cornish village who use religion to justify plundering ships after bringing them to rocky shores by extinguishing the beacons. Pitted against the community is the preacher husband, baritone, Pastor Pascoe, portrayed by Louis Otey. His young wife Thirza, Katharine Goeldner demonstrates her mezzo-soprano coloratura virtuosity while her lover Mark, performed by English tenor Neal Cooper, provides robust interpretation in his role as the young fisherman. The  romantic controversy.includes Sky Ingram with her compelling, energetic presence and versatile soprano. Mark and Thirza conspire to save the ships by kindling secret beacons to guide the ships. The tragic fate of the lovers is sealed with a village tribunal and in a colossal operatic finale they are condemned to death in a sea-filled cave.Though the story is fictitious the existence of wreckers on the British Coast was a historical fact, in small, desperately poor villages.  Smyth's opera presents issues with profound resonance for audiences today.
Dame Ethel Mary Smyth
     By the way, Ethel Mary Smyth was not content to write parlor music, and set out to conquer the male-dominated worlds of the opera houses and concert halls as well. She became famous in cultural cognoscenti circles and when John Singer Sargent sketched a likeness of her Smyth herself explained: "I feel I must fight for (my music), because I want women to turn their minds to big and difficult jobs; not just to go on hugging the shore, afraid to put out to sea." Her published output encompassed six operas, a concert mass, a double concerto, a choral symphony, songs with piano, organ pieces and chamber music. She counted Tchaikovsky and Debussy as her many admirers.
     Smyth became a prominent member of the "Votes for Women:" movement, her involvement including a stint in prison and her composition "The March of the Women" which was adopted as the suffragettes' anthem. Accolades and recognition were her due and in 1922 she was she was made a Dame of the British Empire..
   Ta Ta Darlings!!! The Summerscape Coach: $40 round trip transportation from Manhattan to Bard is available for the August 2nd performance.      
For more information visit for details. Fan mail welcome at Visit Polly's Blogs at


Friday, July 24, 2015


The story that inspired the play DEATH OF THE PERSIAN PRINCE is a riveting revelation about sexual reassignment surgery which is legal in Iran. However, homosexuality is forbidden in most cases for males, punishable by death. Yet, hundreds of gay Iranian men choose to change their gender through sexual reassignment surgery.. If they don't, it's legal to execute them.
     A world premier production in the 16th Annual Midtown International Theater Festival, Death of The Persian Prince is written and directed by Dewey Moss and most of his works involve LGBT elements. In the program notes he comments, "We've come far in the U.S. in regards to people's rights--which is celebrated---but my work on Death of the Persian Prince reminds me that as a world society we have so much further to go. It is my hope that this play will serve to educate, open minds, and continue the idea of a better society for all.
    A limited engagement at the Davenport Theater's Black Box Theater, located at 354 West 45th street,  will be presented Saturday July 25th at 5:30 pm and Sunday July 26th at 1pm. (Tickets $20 through the following link: Then the play moves onto to the South Asian International Performing Arts Festival August 4th at 9pm and August 8th at 4pm at Access Theater Black Box, 380 Broadway, New York (Tickets at
The cast of three sterling actors have a synergy that keeps us riveted to our seats. In a present day, evening setting Samantha, played by the attractively engaging Iranian-American actress Pooya Mohseni---she interacts with James portrayed by George Faya, a not-so-docile, veteran of the Iraq war. The scene opens with a highly charged romantic encounter in Samantha's New York apartment, when late in the night James temporarily leaves, suddenly there is a knock at the door and the drama runs into high gear. Enters a stranger, played by the fiercely driven Gopal Divan, who has arrived unexpectedly from her homeland. Shattering confessions and unimaginable terror, the story of James, Samantha and the stranger takes an unexpected turning, leading to a stunning ending.
    The Death of The Persian Prince dramatizes the real-life story of thousands of gay Iranian who have changed genders to avoid execution by the Iranian government. It is a haunting tale about the power of the human spirit. The play runs 55 minutes and is presented without intermission
Ta ta Darlings: I highly recommend Death of The Persian Prince not only for its entertainment value but for the story that it reveals and informs us about  how "being cured" is not the solution but ultimately leads more often than not to suicide.  Fan mail welcome:


Monday, July 20, 2015

JOHN SINGER SARGENT Revisited: Review By Polly Guerin

Madame X
Aficionados of the art world may know the celebrated American painter John Singer Sargent for his famous painting of the iconic Madame X (Madame Pierre Gautreau) with her scandalous alabaster shoulders, one strap of her sensuous black gown slipping over her shoulder.. Quelle scandal, such was the uproar in Paris that Sargent fled to London where he repainted the strap. No doubt you have seen Dr. Pozzi in his baronial red robe, but few of you have had the opportunity to see Sargent's portraits and sketches that he produced at whim, simply because he indulged his urge to make lasting images of patrons, friends and family.
   Sargent: Portraits of Artists and Friends brings together about 90 portraits of artists, writers, actors and musicians, and unlike commissioned works, many of them were his close friends or people he encountered in his travels, people whom he admired like William Butler Yeats for whom he created a sketch for a book of poetry.
William Butler Yeats
   The recently opened exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, also brings together a candid look at Robert Lewis Stevenson, Henry James and the great Shakespearean actress Ellen Terry. The exhibition explores the friendships between Sargent and those who posed for him as well as the significance of these relationships to his life and art. He often posed those sitters informally, in the act of painting, singing, or performing.
Ethel Smyth composer THE WRECKERS
Then, too, there is the sketch of  Dame Ethel Mary Smyth, who is widely recognized as "the greatest female composer of the 19th and early 20th centuries.  In her autobiography Smyth describes posing for Sargent while seated at a piano and singing. The resulting portrait, created in a hour and a half, contrasts boldly drawn lines with smudging passages. Smyth was a committed champion of women's rights and played a prominent role in the suffrage movement.She gave up composing only when deafness overcame her in later life.When she was made a Dame of the British Empire in 1922. Smyth herself explained: "I feel I must fight for (my music), because I want women to turn their minds to big and difficult jobs; not just to go on hugging the shore, afraid to put out to sea."
     Ethel Smyth's masterpiece, the opera, The Wreckers, based on historical events in Britain's Cornish coast in the 19th century , is a three-act saga of pirates, sex and betrayal with libretto by her close friend Henry Barrister. It is currently being performed at BARD in the Sosnoff Theater July 24 and 31, July 26, 29 and August 2. Contact box office at 845:758.7900. The American Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Leon Botstein, music director, directed by Thaddeus Strassberger. 
   Sargent was not essentially a bravura portraitist of high society, the individuals seen through Sargent's eyes represent a range of leading figures in the creative arts of the time. The exhibition brings together paintings that have seldom or never been shown together. In this exhibit we see Sargent in a new light, a bon vivant depicting everyone he selected for the mere pleasure or shall I say, unexpected results. One subject, W. Graham Robertson posed with his poode, who bit Sargent during the sittings. The case of the  Pailleron children is yet another topic of consternation.. Daughter Marie-Louise glares with defiance; perhaps because it took 86 sittings as she clashed with Sargent over her hair and dress. My dears, see for yourself; there are more casual portraits of other artists at work include Claude Monet on the banks of a river.
  Ta Ta darlings!!! The Sargent show is on until October 4th, plenty of time to cool off at the Met, Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street:  Fan mail always welcome, send your comments to  Visit Polly's Blogs at and click on the link to Blogs in the left-hand column.