The Third Policeman at La Mama

Nomad Theatrical Company pays homage to Flann O’Brien’s absurdist classic, The Third Policeman, with this entertaining adaptation.  The Third Policeman oddly experienced a bit of a revival when it was featured on an episode of Lost and was said to have inspired part of the show’s style and plot. I am not exactly sure where I first heard of Flann O’Brien, whom some count among Irish Modernist masters like James Joyce and Samuel Beckett, but my copy of The Third Policeman had been sitting on my exponentially-growing to-read pile so several months. Nomad’s adaptation finally had me moving it to the top of my list– evidence that Nomad’s goal of reinvigorating the novel for new audiences.

Mathers in puppet form, with Grant Neale on far right (Photo by Theo Cote)

The story follows an unnamed narrator who robs and kills an old man in the middle of the night. When the stolen money goes missing, the narrator seeks the help of some local policemen to find it. These policemen are comical, larger-than-life figures who spend their days stealing bicycles from the townspeople and conducting metaphysical science experiments. Their observations on life are both perfectly absurd and logical; their findings border between fantasy and reality.

Reading The Third Policeman feels a bit like being initiated into a cult. There are weird, mysterious things that only other readers could identify with and laugh at. For example, a perfectly scientific explanation of why we must all be afraid of bicycles. Part of what makes the book so memorable is how underneath the humor, there is an aura of mystery and doubt.

Nomad’s adaptation approaches the story with much of the plot still intact and chooses a far quainter tone. Traditional Irish melodies open the show and play throughout. Artistic director Grant Neale also has chosen to use puppets and manually projected images throughout the play. Much of the puppetwork by Ralph Lee was excellent. The puppets are diverse in style and use, each fitting its character memorably. They were delightful to watch and follow. The projected background was much less engaging, sometimes even obtrusive, and did little to forward the show’s tone or characters. I found myself enjoying the show’s script and acting, but missing some of the original unique gravity.


The Third Policeman plays through December 15 at La Mama Club. Tickets sold here.

The Dinner by Herman Koch

Hi y’all,

I wrote a book review for, this time about The Dinner for its paperback release. Here’s the link. It’s a pretty fun book.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch came out today, and I’ve been grappling with why everyone seems to love her so much. Here are some thoughts on The Goldfinch and a bit on her breakthrough debut novel A Secret History written for

Big time Meh
Big time Meh

‘R & J: Star Cross’d Death’ Match Brings Flip Cups and Catharsis Under One Roof (and Sidewalk))

“This isn’t your grandmother’s Shakespeare,” producer, actor, and Flip Master David Hudson announces at the start of the show. He’s right. Neither is it much like the two adaptations of Romeo and Juliet currently playing simultaneously (one on Broadway starring Orlando Bloom, the other from Classic Stages with Elizabeth Olsen), nor like the upcoming Hollywood release.

For some reason, everyone’s freshman-year required reading is a hot commodity right now, but I’d bet none of these big-budget productions gets as fresh a take on the Bard as Three Day Hangover, the acting company behind last month’s The Hamlet Project and now, R&J: Star Cross’d Death Match.

The selling point for both of those productions was the chance to get your boozy Shakespeare on. Hosted on the top level of what was once Harley’s Smokeshack, an event space with a full bar, the shows feature drinking games, audience participation (which usually involve some sort of drinking as a reward/punishment), and several rounds of flip cup. If you have followed through with the company’s boozy encouragements, you should have a drink or two under your belt by intermission.

But alcohol isn’t the only thing ‘Three Day Hangover’ brings to their Shakespearean productions. This company knows how to have fun, but they also know how to re-envision these classic plays for a contemporary audience. What results is a theatrical experience that is alternately silly and poignant, fun and dramatic.

Take the famous balcony scene, for example. In R&J, the audience stands, for the most part, and follows the actors (headed by Nick Mills and Suzy Jane Hunt) around the room wherever the action is. The room goes dark and a light shines on Juliet (Hunt) sitting by a window, as she beautifully recites her “What’s in a name?” monologue. All of a sudden, Romeo calls out to her… and he’s actually down below on the motherflippin’ sidewalk! Audience members who have probably scored a one-on-one in Sleep No More were smart enough to keep tabs on Romeo in the dark followed him out and get to witness a true balcony scene from below, as oblivious New Yorkers walk past in confusion. Mills and Hunt capture R&J’s giddy love perfectly and though they’re not teenagers like their characters, their performances are youthful, exciting, unpredictable, and realistic.

Nick Mills and Suzy Jane Hunt
Nick Mills and Suzy Jane Hunt

The show also captures these elemental strengths in the rest of the production. One way is by ‘updating’ some of Shakespeare’s language, dispersing contemporary references and lingo into the play. My personal favorite example of this comes from The Hamlet Project, where Rosencrantz and Guildenstern ask, “What do you read, my lord?” and Hamlet responds, “Words, words, ‘words with friends.'” For R&J, this means plentiful uses of “homie,” “oh my god,” and other phrases you’d find in a public high school. Modern updates on old language forms might become annoying, but R&J’s incorporation of such language is always used with discretion to sometimes comedic, often emotional effect. R&J also uses pop music interludes to highlight certain scenes to fun effect, most notably the song that comes after R&J have sex for the first time (to name it would spoil it).

The Cast of R&J
The Cast of R&J

R&J does drama too, and there’s obviously plenty of it in Shakespeare. One of my favorite scenes comes right after Romeo is banished. This production cleverly takes two separate scenes (one in which Juliet reacts to the banishment with her nurse, the other in which Romeo talks with the Friar) and simultaneously enacts them, recreating the emotional chaos disrupting the lovers’ newlywed bliss. It’s powerful, and it takes liberties that no Broadway production, Off-Broadway production, or film, could probably ever get away with.

R&J plays through October 4 at what was once Harley’s Smokeshack, 356 W. 44th Street.

Brooklyn Book Festival Bingo


Two Marxist Independent Press Booths Right Next to Each Other

You walk past someone named Kendall

A woman who looks like Zadie Smith walks by with her toddler

A Lending Library full of books you don’t really care for

That white, male author whose name you recognize but don’t know anything about

Bored child being lugged around by book-obsessed parents

The lone romance novel booth sticking out in a sea of Literary Brooklynite stands

Someone wearing a homemade knit cabled sweater

Booth selling classic novels with covers taken from fanart

The coolest and/or weirdest pair of eyeglasses you’ve ever seen

That black, female author whose name you recognize but don’t know anything about

Booth selling Kurt Vonnegut merchandise

Middle-aged, long-haired, hipster dad carrying child on his shoulders

A book that supposed to be a sequel to “Pride and Prejudice”

Marty Markowitz talking about how awesome Brooklyn is

An author signing table where the author avoids eye contact with everyone

T-Shirt Alert: Edgar Allan Poe and other Clever Bastards

nevermore_large is having a sale of OneBluebird’s “Master Minds and Evil Geniuses” series. Some of the usual geeky graphic t-shirt suspects are featured (Sherlock, Doc Brown, Voldemort), but my personal favorite is his intricate print of Edgar Allan Poe. Can you catch all the literary references in the design?

For more info on OneBluebird, check out the artist’s Facebook page.

Awesome Literary Calendar!

Flavorwire has published a calendar that lists an awesome literary events for every day of the year. Today, June 27, Sylvia Beach (creator of bookseller Shakespeare and Company) introduces F. Scott Fitzgerald (WHO?) to James Joyce (WHA-?) at a dinner party.

Cue the crazy ex-patriot party!


Raul Esparza AND Books?

Raul Esparza is facilitating a discussion on The Count of Monte Cristo at the outdoor Bryant Park book club “Word for Word” on July 16th.

I guess I’ve got a heck of a lot of reading to do.

Either he’s trying to make up for that hot mess, Leap of Faith, or he’s just the bestest person ever.


#11- How to Live or A Life of Montaigne by Sarah Bakewell

Michel de Montaigne, HBIC

What’s It About: A comprehensive biography of the founder of modern essay and the most chill philosopher ever, Michel de Montaigne, loosely disguised as a self-help book.

Why: I first encountered Montaigne in a French class in high school and I immediately fell in love with his friendly, meandering style, as well as his philosophical ideas. This read has been a long time coming.

Thoughts: I love love loved this book. I’m generally not one for nonfiction, much less biographies, but this book felt like a wonderful companion and friend, much like Montaigne himself. The “self-help” disguise is quite misleading. There’s no doctrine or maxims in here (Montaigne would never have wanted that for his readers in the first place). Rather, each chapter discusses an approach to living found in Montaigne’s works, and shows how, perhaps, Montaigne arrived to his conclusions using biographical evidence.

For those who are unfamiliar with Montaigne, this is a great introduction. To those already acquainted with Montaigne, this is an amazing supplement. I’ve come to learn so much about his philosophy and style. I particularly love Montaigne’s upholding of experience and variability over logic and consistency. It’s a far cry from many of his contemporaries and what we’ve come to understand as a philosophical argument. His essays are personal, funny, sincere, and genuine. He does not privilege his experiences over others, rather he advocates for a far vaster, comprehensive, and humble view of subjective experience– which is just that– subjective.

Go Forth and Read.

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