Whether we will all get together in New York during the long Presidents' Day weekend in February remains unsettled.
We examined the New York theater offerings, and they were pretty depressing. All of us are intrigued by the three-part Tom Stoppard play about 19th-Century Russia, but Saturday, February 17, is not one of the Saturdays on which all three parts of the play will be performed.
We do not think that it would make much sense for us to see only one part of the trilogy. We are also skeptical that an American cast can do the play justice and, further, we are skeptical that the chosen director has the intellectual firepower necessary to bring this particular play to life. Nothing he has directed before suggests that he is a suitable candidate for addressing the complex historical issues raised in this play.
My sister-in-law saw the original production of this play at The National Theatre in London. She said that the play was not well-received by London critics or audiences, but she said that a sufficient rehearsal period had not been set aside by The National. Consequently, she said that she did not want to offer an opinion about the merits of the play itself. She DID say that she thought that Josh and I and my Dad should see it, if for no other reason than that our love of Russian history would make the play more interesting for us.
The only other New York theater offerings that interested any of us, in the least, were the new David Hare play and the new Brian Friel play and "The Drowsy Chaperone". However, we are not especially keen to see any of these plays--they are simply the only ones that we think we could sit through.
In May of last year, in the week between Josh's graduation and my graduation, we all spent four days in New York, and we all saw "Doubt" and "The History Boys" and "The Faith Healer" and "Hairspray". Why did we go see "Hairspray"? Well, none of us had seen it before, and it sort of seemed like a fun show to attend--and so we went, and it WAS sort of fun.
However, in general, we dislike musicals, because the singers are miked and because so much of the orchestral material is now performed by synthesizers. These two developments have succeeded in killing the vitality of the American musical theater.
We checked the Carnegie Hall schedule, and there will be nothing of interest at Carnegie during the weekend in question.
We checked the New York Philharmonic schedule, and the orchestra will be offering performances, under Maazel, coupling the two Brahms serenades with the two Brahms piano concertos. The New York Philharmonic does not have the right sound for Brahms, but I would have been tempted by these concerts if a great Brahms pianist like Zimerman or Kovacevich had been engaged. However, the scheduled pianist is Emanuel Ax, so these concerts hold no interest whatsoever for me or for any of us.
The New York City Ballet will be performing that weekend, but the programs that weekend do not seem particularly interesting. However, Josh very much wants to see the New York City Ballet and he very much wants to see the New York State Theater.
That leaves the Metropolitan Opera, which will perform three of my very favorite operas that weekend: "Jenufa", "Eugene Onegin" and "Simon Boccanegra".
On Saturday, February 17, "Jenufa" will be performed in the afternoon and "Eugene Onegin" will be performed in the evening. On Monday, February 19, "Simon Boccanegra" will be performed.
Further, on Tuesday, February 20, "Eugene Onegin" will be performed again and on Wednesday, February 21, "The Magic Flute" will be performed.
Josh also wants to see the Metropolitan Opera House, and to attend some performances there. We were half-thinking about staying in New York through the Wednesday night "Magic Flute", in order to catch four or five of these Met performances.
Josh and I were talking about this last night, while he and I were washing and drying last evening's dinner dishes, when my Dad said to me, from across the room, quite sharply, "Andrew, I cannot believe what I am hearing. You will be arriving in New York late on a Friday night, and you want to run out the next morning and spend the entire day at the Met? This is not going to be a Dailey-Thorp tour, you know. You will be going to New York to visit with your brothers and to help out around the house--that's all."
I could not believe that my father had said that to me. I have always spent as much time as possible with my brothers, eagerly, and I have always done more than my share of helping out, willingly and happily, no matter what work was involved. I was stung and hurt by my father's words, and I was grateful that my back was to him (and to everyone else, too) because it took all of my strength and all of my concentration to hold back tears.
I did not say anything. I just continued washing dishes, but a few seconds later my father was behind me, and he put both of his arms around my waist and he said to me, very quietly, "I didn't mean it that way".
"I know" I told him.
And I continued washing dishes, and my father continued standing behind me with both of his arms around my waist and, as he stood there behind me, holding me, I could no longer hold back tears.
My father turned and he kissed me on my forehead, and that made me cry even more. The tears were flowing so much that I could not even see clearly enough to continue washing the dishes.
I could not even wipe my eyes because my hands were buried in soap suds.
No one in the room was saying anything--there was TOTAL silence in the room--and I could not turn around because I did not want my brothers to see me crying. I was stuck there, unable to stop tears from flowing, with my hands buried in dishwater, with my Dad holding me from behind, with Josh drying dishes VERY slowly because he was running out of dishes to dry, and I did not know what to do.
Finally, I said "Well, both performances of 'Eugene Onegin' are sold out, anyway, and it really will not be all that much fun to stand for three-and-a-half hours, so what difference does it make? And odds are that Angela Gheorghiu will probably cancel 'Boccanegra', anyway, so what's the point of even thinking about going? And 'Jenufa' can wait for another time, I guess."
Josh came to my aid and he said "It doesn't matter. We don't have to do anything in New York that weekend. I, for one, don't care."
My Dad did not say anything--he just stood there, with his arms around my waist, and in a few minutes I was able to see well enough to resume washing dishes. My Dad stood there, behind me, until I was done.
When all of the dishes were put away, Josh and my Dad and I went over to the other side of the room and we sat down. No one in the room had said a word the entire time we were finishing up the dishes.
As soon as we sat down, my sister-in-law, the psychiatrist, took command of the situation.
"I think that Andrew and Joshua should go hear 'Jenufa' that Saturday afternoon" she said, to no one in particular. "They have been talking about 'Jenufa' for months, and this will be their only chance to hear it this year. They will be with everyone through lunch that Saturday, and after lunch they can run over to the Met, and still be back in time for dinner."
She looked at my father, and she continued "And, if they are planning to go to City Ballet that Sunday afternoon, I, for one, would like to go with them."
Then she looked directly at me and she said "You are welcome to stay with us through Wednesday night. Since you will already be in New York, you might as well stay for another two nights. You will have your days free, to spend with your brothers, and you SHOULD go over to the Met at night if you really want to."
Then she looked at my Dad again and she said "I think you should ALL stay through Wednesday night. I think you should all stay through Wednesday night, and I think you should ALL go to "The Magic Flute" on that last night. I think you might enjoy it."
Then she looked at my mother and she asked her "Don't you want to come with us to City Ballet that Sunday afternoon?"
My mother answered, "Yes, I think I might".
Then my sister-in-law turned to both of my brothers and she asked "Do you have a problem if Andrew and Joshua go to 'Jenufa' that Saturday afternoon?"
Both of my brothers shook their heads.
"Well, it doesn't seem like there are any problems, then, does it?" And those seemed to be her final words on the matter, and we started to talk about something else. We did not return to the subject for the rest of the evening.
Nevertheless, last night, while Josh and I were getting ready for bed, my mother came into our bedroom and she asked us whether we needed anything, which of course we did not. She sat down on the bed between us, and she told us how much she appreciated all of our help, both before the holidays and during the holidays, and she put her arms around both of us and she kissed us both.
A short while later, my father came into our bedroom and he, too, sat down on the bed, next to me. He put his arm around me, and he kissed me, and he said "We couldn't have done Christmas without you guys here to help us. Your mother and I appreciate, very much, all you guys did."
Then he said "Why don't we figure out what we are going to do in New York the weekend before you leave for Houston?" He was referring to the January three-day weekend, immediately after which I have to travel to Houston on firm business with two other attorneys from my firm.
What he was really saying was that he wanted me to forget about tonight, and to examine the matter, afresh, two weeks hence.
Josh and I said that that was fine with us.
Then my mother said that we should come back for dinner tonight, and tomorrow night, too, if we wanted, because she had so much food that she did not want to go to waste.
My Dad said to her "Yes, let them come for dinner tomorrow tonight after work, but we will send the extra food home with them tomorrow tonight when they leave. They probably want to spend some time in their own home for a while, what with all the time they have spent here with us the last month."
So, tonight, I am going to ride home from work with my Dad, and Josh and I are going to eat dinner at my parents' house, but afterward we are going to go back to our own place, where we have not been for almost two weeks.