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At a Post-Screening Panel, Director and Cast of Oscar Nominated “The Lost Daughter” Examines Its Truths and Illusions

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Director: Maggie Gyllenhaal

Cast: Dagmara Dominczyk, Paul Mescal, Peter Sarsgaard, Ed Harris, Dakota Johnson, Olivia Colman, Jessie Buckley, Oliver Jackson-Cohen

Written and directed by veteran actor Maggie Gyllenhaal (in her feature directorial debut), “The Lost Daughter” — a complex psychological drama based on the novel of the same name by the mysterious Elena Ferrante — had its world premiere at the 78th Venice International Film Festival. Gyllenhaal won its Golden Osella Award for Best Screenplay. It then had a US theatrical release in December, prior to streaming on Netflix at the end of 2021. Its star, Olivia Colman, nabbed a best actress nom from the Motion Picture Academy just as Gyllenhaal was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Peter Sarsgaard

In this powerful and dark story, middle-aged Italian language professor Leda Caruso (Oscar winner Colman) runs off to a Greek island (where Leonard Cohen had written some of his early songs) to escape a past she can’t deny, rife with regretWhile she’s there to relax and supposedly do work, her discomfort seems apparent throughout the film. In flashback, her earlier self (Jessie Buckley) prefers work to mothering her two young daughters. When the opportunity affords it, she has an affair with an admiring professor (Peter Saarsgard) and leaves her husband and kids. Though she returns three years later, she can’t remove the shroud of guilt she feels.

Now, years later, she behaves impulsively and weirdly, pushing people away and alienating some. Starting out as a seemingly serene tale of a woman’s self-rediscovery, “The Lost Daughter” transforms into a painful confrontation with an unsettled past. Leda can’t get beyond the feelings that haunt her. This prompts disturbing consequences. 

At a Q&A held before its release, Gyllenhaal and the cast discussed the unique qualities of this film based on the equally special novel detailing moments in the life of a brilliant yet disturbed woman and mother. Though the whole conversation might not fully make sense until the film is viewed, it’s worth reading here just to get a sense of the process of making this fine and compelling film.

Q: Maggie, you show the confidence of a veteran with the first film by you as a director. It’s coming from a very profound, honest and urgent place, both stylistically and thematically, on what it means to walk in the shoes of this woman. How did you first become acquainted with this material, and why did you choose it to be your [directorial] debut?

MG: I read Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, “My Brilliant Friend” and the one that followed [“The Story of a New Name”]. When they came out, I loved them. I was totally shocked by the books. 

I feel like I’ve seen so many representations of women in music, books and movies that were compelling, but they didn’t feel totally right to me. They felt like a kind of fantasy. I spent a lot of my time — maybe I still do — trying to fit myself into this fantasy that I kept seeing described everywhere, and coming up short.  

With Ferrante, some of the things she was saying I had never heard said out loud before. I have this experience where I thought, “Oh my God, this woman in this book is so fucked up.” Then less than 10 seconds later, I would think, “I really relate to her.” Am I so fucked up, or is this actually a common experience that nobody’s talking about? I thought, “Though I’m having this experience alone in my room, so are people all over the world.”

So, I thought, “What if you gave people an opportunity to have that experience in a space like this, surrounded by other people — strangers, or a mother or your husband or your daughter.” That seemed like a radical thing to do, so that’s why I wanted to try. 

Q: How did you approach Ferrante — who writes under a pseudonym — and get the rights to the book? What was that process like? Did she allow you on your own to adapt the material, or was she more involved? What was it like adapting the book?

MG: I wrote to her to petition her for the rights to the book. I don’t know who she is. All my interactions with her have been through email. I [emailed] her a letter that it took weeks to write. I said I wanted to adapt and direct it and gave her a sense of why… of what I was thinking. And she said yes. 

But she said, “This contract we’re making is void if you don’t direct it.” Which I took — because I didn’t know who she is — as a kind of gift because she’s this supportive woman out there in the cosmos. It’s such a supportive thing to do. I was afraid to take it on and direct it, and she was saying to me, “No, do it.” 

Then I was in this theater doing a Q&A about “The Kindergarten Teacher” when I got all these emails that Ferrante had written a Guardian piece to me. I was in the process of adapting the script, and the Guardian piece basically said that although it will be difficult for her to have the parameters of her book changed, she knows that in order for the piece to work, I need to be free to make it mine. She said if I were a man, that she wouldn’t feel like giving me this freedom. But because I’m a woman and an artist, she knows that she has to. I love that. 

Q: Olivia, what was your entry point into the head space of this character, a complicated woman — mother, professor, wife, and lover. How did you craft this on your own and with Maggie?

OC: I met Maggie in New York, and meeting Maggie Gyllenhaal is knee-tremblingly exciting, and we had lunch. I read the script and was so excited, because I had never played this person before. The entry point as a professor, I don’t have any “in” with that thing. But the mother and the lover and the wife and things, I’ve never seen anything quite so honest. I feel like I’m a good mummy, but there are definitely moments when I am not proud. I’m just too tired or [whatever]. 

For the first time this was something that was really, genuinely honest about [how] you don’t have to be perfect, you don’t have to be great, and sometimes you’ll be quite bad at it. I was very excited to play that.  

Watching a film like this, you feel like you want to stand up and go, “Yes, I — Oh, sorry, everyone thinks I’m insane.” But I feel like actually a lot of people do feel insane. Not about all of it, but some of it. For me that was terribly exciting. 

To work with Maggie, someone I’ve known as an actress who I adored, and have worshipped slightly — I did have a bit of a girl-crush — so to be directed by someone like Maggie, to be directed by an actor, is always exciting because you know they know how you feel. I was very excited to be part of it. I loved every minute of it. 

Q: For the rest of the actors, what was it like to be directed by Maggie, an actor with a beautiful career who speaks the language of actors fluently. Dagmara…?

DD: It was a magical dream. We filmed in a pandemic before vaccines on a tiny island in Greece. Just us, really, no family. Maggie and Peter had their wonderful girls, but the rest of us just came. And it was like a moment suspended in time, where you look up and there is Olivia Coleman serving you a Mai Tai! And Maggie comes up to you and says [whispering] “You’re gorgeous, you’re beautiful.” and whispering in your ear, and giving you the freedom and the confidence to tell her story, our story, authentically.

I saw the movie for the first time yesterday and walked away just blown away. Because [of] the experience of it and being guided by Maggie, who is so inspiring because she leads with such confidence and gentleness. It’s a combination I think only a woman can have on a set where she is the boss. But she didn’t control you. It really was just the best thing ever. What else could I say? 

Q: Paul [Mescal], what is your take?

PM: I suppose a film like this is testament to the fact that it doesn’t have to be torture, the process doesn’t have to be torture to make good films. Good films can be made by fundamentally good people, and I think that’s true of this film. And also it’s true the kind of atmosphere that is led on set by Maggie and Olivia at the front of the film, leading us through it. I can speak for a lot of us that when they set the tone like that, it’s very easy to — there’s a demand to be at that level or try and get to that height, and step into scenes and engage with the material in a kind of safe but challenging way. So I’m incredibly proud of it and proud to have worked with these amazing people. 

Q: Peter, How did you get involved? 

PS: It wasn’t easy. I had an amazing experience. I was, like you guys said, on this Greek island, taking care of our children while my wife was making this movie. I would hang out with my children in the morning and they would start school at three in the afternoon. Because of the time difference, they would do school until around ten o’clock at night. I’d take them to the beach in the morning and hang out with them, and I had a very deep, awesome experience with my children during the making of this movie. 

The acting was incredibly nerve-wracking for me on some level because I really didn’t want to suck. I thought it would be incredibly embarrassing and humiliating to be really bad in my wife’s movie. Also, I don’t really play roles like this that often, where I’m sortof the object of desire, some sort of amazing guy that every woman would want to be with. Of course Maggie thought I was right for the role, but I couldn’t see myself doing it and I was like “When do I kill someone?” 

I remember one of the things that I worked on for a while — and you would never know it, really, watching the movie — is, I give a lecture in the movie. In the script it’s just like a couple of lines. Maggie was like “I really want you to have a whole lecture that you give.” I’m really not an academic. I was like the worst student you could ever possibly imagine. I actually held the record at my high school for least number of days attended in my senior year. I went to school 71 days my senior year, and I still graduated somehow. So I am not an academic.  

However, I got really into the idea of this lecture. A friend of Maggie’s helped: Dominique Townsend, who’s a professor at Bard. I watched a number of lectures of people that I admired or knew other people admired. I read a ton, I really worked on it, and when I finally went to go give this lecture, I was so nervous.  

I mean, this is nerve-wracking for me as an actor. For me, facing a group of people and talking is not really what it feels like I do for a living. I’m used to being on a stage and facing like, Ed, and we’re having a conversation. When I face this way, my heart beat goes up quite a bit. 

I remember I did a take, and was just happy to have made it through it. I’d said everything, it seemed like it was pretty good to me. But Maggie came up and she was like, “That’s really great. Just take your elbow off the lectern.” I was like, “Take my elbow off the lectern?” It was like the life raft! So I dared to, and my own wife really challenged me. 

 As I said, you wouldn’t necessarily know it in the movie because it’s in bits and pieces in there, but that was tough, and I really finally got there. By the end, I really felt like I had been challenged to be better by my own wife and it somehow happened, and I’m proud of those little bits and pieces in there. 

Q: Ed [Harris]

EH: I thank my wife, Amy [Madigan], for reading the script after I read it. She’s a woman and she read it, and she got it. She said, “Eddie, you’ve got to do this movie.” I said, “Okay.” I wanted to be sure. I read it again and finally understood where Ferrante, Maggie and where my wife — how they were perceiving it and where it was coming from. 

I have a daughter and I remember when she was little, I was taking care of her a lot, and getting, at times, really frustrated and confused. I was like, “What do I do with her?” She’s annoying me or demanding things. Some of the frustrations or some of the difficulties of being a mother, that kind of thing. 

Anyway, I had the opportunity. I was told I was going to be working with Olivia Coleman and was excited about that, because I like working with the best people. She’s certainly that. Maggie was great to work with because she made it a very — I think for all of us — personal, intimate experience in terms of the relationship between actor and director. She’s not someone who gives you a note in front of the crew. She comes up and very [softly], “Ed, why don’t you try doing this?” or “What about if he’s… “ dadadadada. And I go, “Okay Maggie, we can do it.” It was just fun, it was great. 

I’ve got to say, I’ve been doing this for a while, making films and things. I don’t feel that as an actor in front of a camera, I’ve ever felt as relaxed as I did working with Maggie on this. So that was cool. 

Q: Dakota?

DJ: I feel like Maggie, having experienced so many different kinds of films herself, has waded through all the bullshit of making movies and goes directly to what’s pure and what is honest and what is safe. 

I think for me, Nina is a really different woman, and is so — not helpless, but just wants something, wants something from anybody. It’s just like “Help me!” I think that Maggie really gave me the space to be that vulnerable all the time, and not feel like I wasn’t going to be taken care of in that moment and in the edit. And that was very important to me. 

You know, a lot of times, you’re on set and you’re doing something that’s really scary or really emotional or really provocative, and you’re giving so much of yourself. And you’re like, “There’s something in me that knows that this is not going to be taken care of, but I’m doing my job, and I have to do my job.” 

But in this I didn’t feel like I was “doing a job”, I felt like I was doing my art. I felt like I was expressing my true artist self, and so were all of these people. It was like a family, and it was, like, everyone had each other’s back. And if one of us had a hard day, everyone was there. It was like, “No, that was great. Don’t go into your hotel room and cry and regret choosing this as a career.” I’ve done that a lot. 

But I think that’s the thing that made it so special with Maggie: no matter what beautiful moment or extremely ugly moment, it was totally safe. And that is perfect. 

Q: There is great chemistry among all the cast members on screen. But also an undercurrent of tension. It feels like you’re always on the verge of something dangerous happening. Can you talk about the chemistry and tension between the three of you? And how do you work with your actors?

MG: I was on the jury at Cannes this year, and I saw 24 incredible movies. I saw them 10 days after I finished my final mix on this movie. And I realized something at Cannes: I was like, “Ohhh, you can do whatever you want.” 

But I think in this film, I thought I will be able to do whatever I want, I will be able to express whatever I want, if I hang it on a form that’s known so that people feel “Oh, I know what’s coming. I’ve got this rhythm.” Then I can, like, hundred-and-eighty-degree it. I can do whatever I want, but I have to set up. 

I was using the language of a thriller. And even, sometimes, there’s a little horror sprinkled in, and a little French film. But really what you’re talking about, in a way maybe, is the thriller aspect of the story, which I wanted to create. And then I wanted the whodunit and the terrifying thing to be what’s actually inside of Leda’s mind — and actually inside, probably, many many peoples’ minds. Of course, that’s the most terrifying thing, you know: what lives in our minds. I wanted to use the language of classic thriller in a way to create that tension. 

Q: Olivia, Dakota and Dagmara, do you want to add anything about building that chemistry and tension among the three of you.

OC: I never want to let Maggie down. 

Q: The dynamic has been the three characters, both the harmony and tension they have. 

Q: Dag, did you create tension?

DD: Did I create tension? 

DJ: You know, it’s interesting because I was ready to create tension when I read it out, like “all right.” 

DD: She would spin me the other way, and she was like the great note whisperer. She would come in and drop like, 12, and just say “whatever sinks deepest,” like, “We’ll see what happens.” And so on the page, and in the book, Callie’s character is bold and brash, and she’s the one who wants to get a snack for everyone, but it has to be her snack.   

I know moms like that, and sometimes I’m one like that, too. But I remember Maggie saying to me “She wants to be validated. She wants to be loved. She’s wonderful.” I’ve never felt like everything was more relaxed or more confident in a movie. And I’m in a bikini with a pregnant fake belly and my jigglies are out, and Maggie made me feel extremely beautiful. 

We discussed how not every woman who is loud and opinionated is a fuckin’ bitch. So let’s try it differently. And so I think the tension isn’t like, oh three different personalities and they all hate each other. It’s three different women who want to know that they’re good inside and sometimes don’t know how to do that. I think that’s where the tension lies. Right?

OC: I would have said that. That’s exactly what I would have said.  

DJ: I also feel like Maggie does this thing where it’s like life is tension. Every day is stressful for me. And I have moments with women and with men, and people, and everyone that is tense. But now, you go to the movies because it’s escapism, or you’re binge-watching a show because you want to feel less tension. But isn’t the point of art to make you feel things that you need to look at, and then you feel tension in this movie. I feel like women can just look at each other and have millions of different tensions without saying anything. 

MG: Yes, and that scene — I love the scene where you’re asking about these three women here. I love that scene between you guys when you just found the little girl. And so in terms of tension, these two women looked at each other. Dag, someone said to me about you, was giving me a note early on about the movie, and they said, “Well, I don’t know. I can’t tell if I’m supposed to love her or if I’m supposed to be afraid of her.” And I’m like “Oh, yeah!”  

DJ: How many people do actually feel [like that]?

DD: That’s what my kids think about me every day.

DJ: Yeah. Also, that scene, you’re like — is Nina going to cry, is she going to apologize? Is she embarrassed? Are they going to have sex? What’s going to happen? 

MG: Yes, yes. There’s so much tension or vibration between you guys. I don’t think you could articulate what it is, what kind. I love the scene because it’s like 500,000 different things going on between you guys, and beyond my wildest dreams. 

DD: Yeah but that’s you, because you didn’t tell us to play it one way. You would do your whisper thing and then it just…

OC: We each had 20 whispers. 

DJ: Yeah and I’m like “Well, what’d she say to you?” 

Q: You and the cinematographer you worked with, Hélène Louvart, created such a visual language for this movie. This is a very intimate kind of movie. Talk about crafting that and how you stayed close to the character? 

MG: It’s interesting that so many people have said that to me. In fact, early on in editing, I got a note saying, “We’ve got to expand a little bit. Can we see where we are?” Because I was watching the beginning of the movie and going, “big wide shot, oh, another big wide shot; another big wide shot.” I think it doesn’t get digested that way. I think because the movie is so subjective, inside of Leda’s mind, actually in terms of the cinematic language, there’s a lot of moving back and being wide. But it doesn’t feel like it, for some reason. 

Hélène — I am so grateful to that woman. She’s got five kids. She really taught me how to prep. I knew that I needed to prep, in fact I met a DP who I was a massive fan of. He pretended for a minute that he wanted to shoot the movie, and we had lunch a few times. He [said] “I don’t prep. I don’t do any prep.” But I was like, Wow. I don’t think I can do that.  

Hélène was, “Of course you need to prep.” We spent hours on Zoom in the pandemic thinking through the scenes. Then we scouted together and then we really shot listed together. But we had shot lists, I mean really organized. And I never opened my binder with my shot list in it one time, the whole time we were shooting.  

I don’t know how much we did that we had imagined. Certainly, coming from being an actress, I want my actors to be free, and if they came in with their own sense of what they were doing — and they always did — you can’t really shot-list. But the point is, we really knew what the scenes were about. Together we knew what we were after. So then it was like jazz, because we were free enough to run with it.  

Have you guys done scenes where we’re at a dinner table? All of us are at a dinner table, and somebody’s shooting it and they’re like “I need two shots on you, and you, and you, and you.” And then they need your P.O.V. of everybody, and my P.O.V. of everybody. And you want to shoot yourself by the end of the day.  

But if you know that the scene is really about Paul, and how he feels about Peter, then I don’t have to come in that day. [laughter]

You’d shoot it in half a day, which is what we had to do anyway. because we only had twenty-eight days. But she helped me to really understand. 

I learned to love the lenses. I didn’t know that language. Now I knew some languages in filmmaking, and I was like “Get that 50 off.” I never talked to her like that, but I really learned. I told Hélène that at the end, and she said “Yes, you did, you learned quite quickly.” And I was terrible. She was totally like “Yeah. So people learn about London, whatever. ” To me it was incredibly expansive. She really taught me so much. 

Q: Irish actor Jessie Buckley isn’t here, but talk about her a bit. You, Olivia, and Jessie basically built the same character at two different points of her life.  Did you have any conversations about how to tackle this character in two different life stages? 

OC: We knew each other beforehand, and I am obsessed with Jessie. I just think she’s incredible. We spoke and said, “What action shall we do?” And that was what we decided, and then we didn’t speak again. 

It was lovely, though. I knew at this moment I might have realized that people are not sure of where they come from. It’s all in the script, and clearly Jessie and I didn’t talk to each other and we found it in the script. And it is all there, and we both ended up with something. 

Even though we’re clearly two different people, we understood it so beautifully between us. We came up with the same thing In a way, albeit different. But a woman in her twenties is not the same woman in her 30s or 40s. We all change, so it’s okay that we’re different. And Maggie said “It’s okay. You don’t have to meet and have a great big thing about it.” And she’s right. 

But It’s because the script is so good, we just knew our road map was clear. So we didn’t go massively awry. For some reason, that was a massive moment for me, just that second. So we’re good, it’s good. We basically said we’re from Shipley in Leeds, but we’ve been educated so the edge is taken off it. See you there.

Food and Drink

Blu On The Hudson The Destination For a Perfect Dinning Experience

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I first wrote about Blu On The Hudson 8 months ago. This perfect mini vacation, is one stop on the 158 bus or a ferry ride away. Located on the Hudson River, at 1200 Harbor Boulevard, in Weehawken, you will find breath taking views, a calming atmosphere and food that rivals  the best 4 – 5 star restaurants in Manhattan.This is the spot where Arron Burr shot Hamilton.

Blu on the Hudson is spacious with over 30,000 square foot, so far, but they are creating a space that I was lucky enough to see. This glass enclosed and outdoor upstairs will rival every wedding, event space within a 2 hour drive.  I am letting you know, now is the time to book your event before it is booked out.

Blu Hospitality Group, truly wants to impress you and goes out of their way to do so. You are greated by a specious luxurious space and a large fireplace.

Beautiful walls, several dining room with views, alcoves for a intimate dinning moments and bar that you will want everyone to know your name, awaits. High ceilings and modern decor makes everyone who enters forget their stress and just relax. You can feel your body ease.

From moment one, you are made to feel like Blu’s welcomed and invited guests.

Sarah

My server Sarah was a prime example of this.

Starting off the experience, my guest, writer and friend Craig and I decided to indulge with cocktails. I had the Oil On The Skin ($16) made with Aperol, Strawberry, Grapefruit and Prosecco. This was refreshing and the perfect summer drink. Craig, who was excited by the amount of Tuffle inspired food and drink choices ordered the Blu Seasonal Black Truffle Bloody Mary ($18) and was thrilled. Spicy, with garnishes that made this drink an appetizer in itself had sure this brunch was already a hit.

When looking at the menu I knew we had to try the Ricotta Stuffed Pancakes ($21). Topped with a Blueberry Compote and served with organic Maple Syrup, these surpassed my expectations. The ricotta had a lemon zest, the pancakes fluffy with crispy edges. I was already imitating Sally in the film “When Harry Met Sally” after my first bite. I will definitely be coming back, for this alone.

Already on a bacon kick thanks to David Burke, I also wanted to try the Thick Cut Wagyu “Bacon” ($26), that is slow cooked in a soy caramel glaze. This is only served at dinner, but luckily I got to try this. With a savory salty crunch, this was the perfect compliment to the pancakes. Sweet, then savory, crunchy, then tender, what Blu offers the dinning experience is a sensual layered, all senses dive, into carnal pleasures.

I now needed the perfect Iced Coffee and again the simplest of needs had a taste sensation.

For entree’s more truffles for Craig with the Truffled Mushroom Omelette ($22) filled with White Cheddar, egg whites and one yolk served with a side salad. Craig was in heaven with his light as a feather, but flavorful dish.

 

Craig also ordered the Parmesan Truffle Fries ($12), and I am so glad he did. These were bite fulls of erotic delights.Loving artichokes, I ordered Eggs on Artichoke ($24), which consisted of poached eggs, pecorino, roasted tomatoes in a light béarnaise sauce. The piece de resistance of this dish, were the lightly fried artichokes that added texture, then melted into your mouth with a pop of flavor. Even the roasted tomatoes added an arousing impact to the tongue. When food is done well, sex definitely comes second.
The fabulous warm and inviting manager Andrew, wanted us to try his favorite dish, the Jumbo Lump Crabmeat and Shrimp Cobb Salad ($29). Topped with Deviled Eggs, Bacon, Tomatoes, Corn and Avocado, this was served over Market Greens and a feast to behold. The crabmeat was tender and the shrimp succulent, but the surprise here was the corn, which added so much to the dish. This is great luncheon entree when you want to indulge and also stay healthy.

Now I was so full, I was not going to do desserts, but feast or famine and feast it was. The adorable Sarah made sure we were given these beautiful dishes to indulge.

First up the Tiramisu ($14), which is one of the best I have ever had. Extra creamy and not overly sweet. An added layer of thin chocolate added to the decadence. This dessert also puts on a show.

The most luxurious, extravagant haven of food for the senses has to be the Chocolate S’Mores ($14). Served with a gluten free graham cracker crust, Chocolate Mouse and Marshmallow. Tiny chunks of sea salt make this decadent and sweet, with pops of indulgence.

A coffee ($6) ended our foray of culinary ecstasy. To quote myself from my last experience at Blu “Food and sex have always gone hand in hand and eating at Blu On The Hudson, will make all your senses take flight. This restaurant potions of food, drinks and presentation justify and make the whole experience worth the trip and the cost.”

To Executive Chef Juan Carols Ortega, you make my body sing with your creations. This is definitely one of my favorite places to eat. Blu is exquisite perfection.

You can follow Blu on The Hudson at @bluonthehudson.

 

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Celebrity

The Glorious Corner

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G.H. Harding

TRUMAN’S SWANS — I only know Ryan Murphy by reputation. He’s been the flavor-of-Hollywood for quite some time now; yet a devil-may-care attitude persists in his CV. I loved his Nip/Tuck which just defied expectations on every level; terrific acting from Dylan Walsh and Julian McMahon, and just the wildest plots I’ve ever seen.

From there Hollywood started throwing money at him left and right; American Horror Story and Hollywood (with Jim Parsons) followed. Also, the anthology series-Feud which began with the “feud” between Joan Crawford and Bette Davis and was succinctly thrilling.

Now, Feud is chronicling Truman Capote and his “feud” with his Swans; featuring mainly a terrific performance by Noami Watts as Babe Paley. Calista Flockhart; a devilish-Diane Lane and Chloe Sevigny are also there as the other swans. Director Gus Van Sant (Drugstore Cowboy) directed several episodes and it is, without a doubt, the best thing Murphy has done and I’ve seen in quote some time.

One episode is entirely shot in black-and-white, a risky-gamble for anyone … but, it pays off handsomely.

Tom Hollander as Capote is simply off the charts and is, I believe, one of the best performances I’ve ever seen.As a young writer, there were two writers I was absolutely captivated with: Dominick Dunne and Capote. Dunne I met and he was everything I hoped him to be, Capote, never. The Swans is a long, long story and I urge you to look further into it. Capote, truly self-destructive, became an appendage of them all and they all told him everything, some of which he wrote about is Esquire (La Cote Basqu”-1965) exposing their innermost secrets and thereby severing the relationship.

Just a brilliant, brilliant series, Murphy’s crowning touch.

Sanford Townsend Band

SHORT TAKES — In my final few weeks working from home, I finally dialed up ROKU’s Yacht Rock station after initially being somewhat repelled by the term. Turns out, it really means soft rock and I’ve heard everything from Hall & Oates to the Sanford Townsend Band (big favorite) and lots of Steve Winwood; Eagles; Al Stewart; and Chicago.

Not bad actually. Guess I really am old … Micky Dolenz does an interview with NPR’s Lillian Galvez today and BreakfastWith The Beatles’ Chris Carter on March 31 before his show at LA’s Troubadour on April 5 … The Rascals people Got To Be Free tour at the Patchogue Theater on April 26; Keswick Theater on April 27; and SONY Hall in NYC on May 17 …

James Gunn’s Superman: Legacy movie has been re-named Superman; and has cast Wendell Pierce (The Wire; Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan) as Perry White. And remember, Rachel Brosnahan is Lois Lane! … Keith Richards singing Lou Reed’s immortal classic “I’m Waiting For The Man” is so excellent. Take a look: https://variety.com/2024/music/news/keith-richards-covers-waiting-for-the-man-lou-reed-tribute-1235927738/

Lou Reed

The track appears on a Lou Reed tribute album that also features Angel Olsen, Lucinda Williams, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Rufus Wainwright, Rickie Lee Jones, Rosanne Cash and others. It arrives April 19 — with a special Record Store Day edition arriving the following day — on Seattle’s indie Light in the Attic Records (which was chosen by the late artist’s estate to handle his reissues and got a Grammy nomination for the “Words & Music: May, 1965” album). Booklet features liner notes by compilation producer & former Lou Reed publicist Bill Bentley, featuring photos by Mick Rock and Timothy Greenfield-Sanders. Said Richards: “To me, Lou stood out. The real deal! Something important to American music and to ALL MUSIC! I miss him and his dog” …

Micky Dolenz and Chris Carter

SIGHTING: Micky Dolenz and Alison Martino at the Catalina Jazz Club watching Jimmy Webb … And, we watched the awesome Jeffrey Wright in American Fiction and loved it until the end. It’s almost as if writer/director Cord Jefferson couldn’t figure the right ending, so he portrayed three. Pretty weird for sure, but a staggeringly excellent performance by Wright, Erika Anderson and Sterling K. Brown.

NAMES IN THE NEWS — Nancy Jeffries; George Michael; Helene Blue; Monica Lynch; Thomas Silverman; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Alexa Blake; Joe Bonadonna; Andrew Sandoval; Race Taylor; Scott Shannon; Dan Ingram; Bruce Morrow; Wolfman Jack; William Schill; Ed Steinberg; Chris Carter; and CHIP!

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Off Broadway

Friedlich’s Downtown “JOB” Standoff Soars Sharply with Great Aim

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On a very sharply defined theatrical space, downtown at the Connelly Theater on E4th St., a psychological standoff is what immediately snaps us deep into the emotionally volatile and fascinating world of JOB, the thrilling, critically acclaimed play by Max Wolf Friedlich (SleepOver) that is getting an encore engagement after playing a sold-out, twice extended off-Broadway run last fall at the Soho Playhouse. Working this through in real-time, the play is a tense, tight, and tumultuous zooming in on mental health and the workplace, when one young tech worker, played to frayed perfection by Sydney Lemmon (“TÁR“, “Succession”) is mandated to seek the services of a crisis therapist, fascinatingly well-played by Peter Friedman (PH’s The Treasurer; “Succession”).

Peter Friedman and Sydney Lemmon in JOB at SoHo Playhouse. Photo by Emilio Madrid.

Directed with clarity and cleverness by Michael Herwitz (MV Playhouse’s The Campaign That Failed), the setup and startup of this armed and well-aimed play grab hold quickly and miraculously, digging us sharply into the space, designed to claustrophobic perfection by Scott Penner (Coal Mine’s Dion: A Rock Opera), with exacting costuming by Michelle Li (Comedy Central’s “Awkwafina is Nora from Queens”). The play puts us off balance, making us lean in to try to understand what is bringing these two together; Lemmon’s Jane and Friedman’s Loyd, in this room with such overwhelming anxiety. It’s wisdom and shame connecting and colliding, setting up a chaotic and life-threatening game of chess, using paradigms and conflictual standings between generations, genders, and political viewpoints.

Peter Friedman and Sydney Lemmon in JOB at SoHo Playhouse. Photo by Emilio Madrid.

Something has sent this young female big tech employee over the edge, causing a viral unhinged meltdown that we only secondhand hear about, but it is clearly a scream into the internal void about something overwhelming and disturbing. We assume, like the therapist, that Jane’s job, the one she has been put on leave from and the one she is desperate to get back to, is the cause, and the more we hear and learn, the more we understand, or at least, we think we do.

It’s a sizzlingly tight psychological dive into trauma and destruction, beautifully enhanced by the strong and jarring lighting design by Mextly Couzin (MCC’s Which Way to the Stage) and the clever intrusive sound design created miraculously by Jessie Char and Maxwell Neely-Cohen (Fake Friends’ Invasive Species). The sharpness to examine our vantage points is alarmingly pulling, forcing us to try to make sense of all the voices and sounds rattling around in the red light pulsations that become red siren flags and weapons used against our senses, aiding our discomfort but forcing us to lean in more to the frantic essence of a person overwhelmed.

Sydney Lemmon and Peter Friedman in JOB at SoHo Playhouse. Photo by Emilio Madrid.

As a psychotherapist myself (in my real world), the play connected deeply to so many difficult dilemmas and challenges that step into the shared space of the therapy room. The passionate counterarguments and denials of need are well-known engagements, and I couldn’t help but find fascination and connectivity to their standoff, even as they both lean in and away from one another from one minute to the next. The two actors are spectacularly detailed in their stance, both physically and mentally, moving around the “all-time therapy classic” square with precision and expertise.

Returning and wrapping themselves around one another to points made, the twist and dig into the darkness of the web and the idea around an obligation to help, on both sides, become increasingly life-or-death, as the armed walls of JOB keep crumbling and rising with a vengeance. The doctor/patient paradigm is a forever shifting perspective in this captivatingly killer of a play, registering completely under the climax, which doesn’t feel fully formed in its finale. With screams into the dark making more sense with each reveal and wrap-around, Max Wolf Friedlich’s JOB leaves us electrically off balance, wondering and wanting maybe a bit more reversal of fortune in those last few moments, but most assuredly satisfied in the leaving of that room at the end of this complex and captivating ‘session’.

The provocative dark comedy, JOB will play from January 19 through March 23, 2024, at the Connelly Theater (220 East 4th Street). https://jobtheplay.com/

For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

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Broadway

Ken Fallin’s Broadway: Sarah Paulson in Appropriate

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Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ Appropriate not only got a second extension, but transferred  theatre. Slated to close March 3 at the Hayes Theater, Appropriate will now play a 13-week engagement at the Belasco Theatre, with performances beginning March 25. The strictly limited run will continue through June 23. The reason for the transfer was Paula Vogel’s Mother Play, was already slated to perform.

To read T2C’s review of Appropriate  click here and here.

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Off Broadway

Brooklyn Laundry a Touching and Comedic New York Love Story

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John Patrick Shanley’s Brooklyn Laundry is heartbreaking, soul searching and will hit home, especially if your life has not always been a bed of roses. This imperfect love story, is touching as we meet a hardened disillusioned Fran (Cecily Strong), as she enters her local laundromat and meets upbeat owner Owen (David Zayas). The two seem an unlikely match, but opposites attract and these two both desperately need and want love. Owen asks Fran out and she says yes, but first she has to deal with some horrifying problems that are weighing her down.

David Zaya, Cecily Strong photo by Jeremy Daniel

First up her older sister Trish (Florencia Lozano) is dying. The father of her two children is a dead beat dad, so Fran gives of her own life to routinely goes upstate to help out.

When Fran and Owen do go on their date, it takes chocolate magic mushrooms to break the ice. They both have unrealistic versions of their wants and expectations. Fear over sexual performance, commitment and finances in raising children plague Owen. The two hit it off and are looking forward to their next encounter, except Fran’s other sister, Susie (Andrea Syglowski), whose loveless marriage and disable child, are about to make Fran’s burden even heavier. Fran can not catch a break. Even when she stands up for herself she is saddled with responsibility and familial tasks.

Can this connection win over insurmountable odds?

Shanley, also directs. I found this play so real, where you laugh, because if not, tears will come streaming down your face. Right now it seems as if most of our lives are out of control and how you cope, becomes the question of the day.

Each of these actors infuses warmth, humanity and longing for what should, could or will be, that we are right there with them. Zayas and Strong’ have such a palatable chemistry, that you root for the happy ending that may seem more of a miracle.

Santo Loquasto’s revolving set is rather spectacular involving a realistic laundromat, two homes and a beautifully lit  restaurant by Brian MacDevitt.

It seems this is the year of Shanley, with the Off-Broadway revival of Danny and the Deep Blue Sea and the Broadway revival of Doubt, but if they are all like this, count me in for this absorbing 80 minutes fable of love.

Brooklyn Laundry: Manhattan Theatre Club at City Center, 131 West 55th Street through April 14.

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