Three Dimensions, One Mind

Jason Bryant is a man with a subtle disposition and an exquisitely beautiful soul.  During his openings you can find him with a glass of wine in his hand, humbly chatting in the corner or in a circle of guests; traces of his southern roots are hardly recognizable in his accent.    It is almost as if he has forgotten that the night is about him, instead he allows his work to speak volumes.  Devoid of eyes, Bryant’s work challenges the viewer to see the world through his point of view.  The realistic quality of the closely cropped images unearth an alluring elegance and symmetry that otherwise might not be seen if the entire inspiration of the work had been simply replicated on canvas.  In this way, his artistry gives direct insight into Jason Bryant the man.

Trilogy, Bryant’s latest solo exhibit at Raandesk Gallery, provides further entrée into the mind of this talented artist.  Using three diverse concepts, Rubric, Merging Iconography and Symbolic Portraiture, Jason Bryant offers an intimate view of classic Hollywood, skateboard culture and the exhibition of the human form.

Rubric is a series of four paintings whose source images are derived from vintage Hollywood movies such as Wild One with Marlon Brando.  Although the eyes are edited out, one can clearly see from the lifelike quality of the paintings that faces belong to Brando, Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn and others.  Instead of becoming just a painting from a movie scene, Bryant transforms the images into something else entirely through thought-provoking copy.  The paintings like the films that inspired them are black and white and are no less as crisp and captivating as Bryant’s works in color.   Evoking nostalgia and social commentary, Rubric is a luscious addition to Jason Bryant’s body of work.

Merging Iconography are two paintings that successfully blend the realms of skateboarding and film stills.  Bursting out of the frame are bold, colorful graphics.  Both chic and cheeky the pieces grab you and shake your ideas of pop culture to the core.  Equally beguiling as Rubric, Merging Iconography create an elevated, symbiotic union.

Music is as important to who we are as the foods we consume.  Symbolic Portraiture cleverly offers viewers a human profile without a face.  Instead, the audience sees the back of two women, one dressed in a hoodie, the other in a t-shirt.  Album covers on the back of the clothing replace features and expressions.  Although, the faces are hidden, viewers see a deeper perspective of the women in the painting.  By revealing the album cover that best represents their personality, you get a more profound understanding of who they really are. 



Not even torrential rainfall could keep me from attending the opening of Trilogy on September 16.  I found myself doing laps around the gallery space constantly changing my mind as to which piece was my favorite.  Time after time I find myself entranced by the meticulous, flawless art of Jason Bryant.   Trilogy will be on exhibit at Raandesk Gallery, located at 16 W. 23rd Street, until November 12 so you still have time to introduce yourself to the art of Jason Bryant. 

Photos:  Courtesy of Raandesk Gallery

Slideshow:  F.A.M.E NYC Editor

Time Is On Their Side

In some ways a trip to the theatre can be compared to a photograph – it is a moment that encapsulates a specific period of time and emotions.   The only difference is one image is recorded in your mind, the other recorded on a glossy sheet of paper.  After the moment is over, life goes on and like other memories that fade or become altered with age, the image one captures from a theatre experience will not change, nor will a photo.  Inside the Cort Theatre awaits an unforgettable experience that will leave an indelible impression on the consciousness.  Time Stands Still is a timeless piece of art that will leave viewers captivated and questioning the world around them.  Written by Donald Margulies, the play premiered in February 2009 at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles with Anna Gunn, David Harbour, Robin Thomas and Alicia Silverstone performing the play’s four characters.  In January 2010, it began its initial run on Broadway with Laura Linney, Brian d’ Arcy James, Eric Bogosian and Alicia Silverstone as the only cast member to reprise her role.

When I first heard about Time Stands Still it was creating quite a stir and receiving rave reviews.  Tickets were as hard to find as the Willie Wonka golden chocolate bar wrapper.  By the time its first Broadway incarnation at the Manhattan Theatre Club’s Samuel J. Friedman Theater ended on March 27, the play had garnered two Tony Award nominations for Best Play and Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play for Laura Linney.  I had thought I might have been jipped out of one the best shows of 2010 and was ecstatic to read that the show would resume in September after a brief hiatus to allow Ms. Linney to fulfill scheduling commitments for The Big C, a new series on Showtime.  Now playing at the Cort Theatre, the original Broadway cast has reprised their roles with the exception of Alicia Silverstone; Christina Ricci was cast in her stead.

With Time Stands Still, Donald Margulies has crafted a modern masterpiece; it is a sociology exposition done right.  He scrupulously places the elements of new millennium relationships, beliefs and society under a microscope, dissecting each aspect until its essence is exposed and theories are challenged.  The play involves two couples Sarah (Laura Linney) and James (Brian D’Arcy) and Richard (Eric Bogosian) and Mandy (Christina Ricci), but centers on the relationship between Sarah and James.  Sarah and James are war correspondents; she is a photographer and he is a reporter.  For nine years they have been shacking up together and documenting the most gruesome aspect of the human condition.  As the play opens, Sarah had just been severely injured in a car bomb explosion in Iraq and has returned to their Brooklyn apartment to convalesce.  James recently survived a jarring experience which led him to leave Sarah in the Middle East and is now wracked with guilt.  Shortly upon their arrival back from a hospital overseas, they are visited by Richard, a photo editor and friend, and his newest love interest Mandy.  Richard suggests that since Sarah is recuperating, her and James should collaborate and create a coffee table book of their experiences in Iraq with her photos and his commentary.  But as Sarah and James begin working on the book, infidelities are revealed and life as they know it also questioned.  James is ready to try a more conventional life and Sarah is addicted to the adrenaline rush and is reluctant to change.

The cast brings this stellar story to life with compelling conviction.  Sarah finds solace in the square of the lens.  The moment she clicks the chaos of her surroundings, the world is silent (hence the title Time Stands Still).  She finds excitement and a sense of duty by showing the world the atrocities of war.  Most of all she is unabashedly unconventional.  Laura Linney is one of the most inspiring actresses of this century.  Her talent enriches the complex relationship Sarah and James share.  She is able to penetrate the core of Sarah’s personality and bring across all her fearlessness, flaws and vulnerabilities in a poetically human performance.  Laura Linney’s Tony nomination was well deserved; her depiction of Sarah is one of the most riveting displays of acting prowess that was offered this year. 

Brian D’Arcy’s acting chops have been well-honed on stage and his portrayl of James is another magnificent testament to a skillful Broadway veteran.  James is a man who has hit a wall going 100 mph and is on the precipice of change; in fact, he needs it in order to move forward.  The subtle desperateness D’Arcy exudes as he struggles to hold on and fix a relationship that is slowly disintegrating is genius and vividly sets up the tug-of-war aspect as the future of Sarah and James’ relationship is explored.

Eric Bogosian is probably best known from the 1988 film Talk Radio and his role on Law &Order: Criminal Intent as Captain Danny Ross, but he is also an accomplished novelist and playwright. His understanding of character development has served him well with an engaging portrayal of Richard.  In the wrong hands Richard could easily become a less memorable character, but Bogosian brings him alive with wittiness and grace.



Charm and exuberance are two traits Christina Ricci has in ample supply; she is one of the most interesting young actresses in Hollywood.  She could not have made a better Broadway debut than the role of Mandy.  Mandy’s youthful, naïve way of seeing the world and her devotion to Richard is the catalyst that inspires the questions and sparks the conflict in Sarah and James’ relationship.  Ricci turns a character that could be perceived as a bubblehead into a sweet, profound young lady.  She and Eric Brogosian’s performances are the perfect compliment to acting superiority of D’Arcy and Linney.

This play lacks nothing.  By the final curtain close I was rushing to my feet to give this show and its cast an enthusiastic standing ovation.  Time Stands Still has all the elements of 007 martini – all the best ingredients shaken to perfection.  Mature and momentous, to miss this show is to deprive yourself from a truly enthralling and entertaining theatre experience. 

Photos:  Joan Marcus

First and Triumph

Baseball is America’s pastime, but football is America’s obsession.  The National Football League amalgamates the combat of Roman gladiatorial games with the dramaturgy of a Greek tragedy, all played out in front of hordes of screaming fans in a huge amphitheater.  From September to February, Sunday belongs to the pigskin and its disciples. Vittles that are served at a Superbowl or tailgate party can easily eclipse a Thanksgiving turkey dinner.  Nothing unites families around a television like football, and fantasy football can create virtual warfare at the jobsite. 

The NFL, originally named the American Professional Football Association, has spawned many titans and gods since its inception in 1920, but of all the immortal figures that have been a part of the NFL’s history, none is as legendary as Vince Lombardi.  And finally all the theatrics of football’s greatest coach have been brought to Broadway in Lombardi.  Vince Lombardi was Brooklyn born, Bronx made and had the attitude of a winner wired in his DNA.  Raised in the Sheepshead Bay area in Brooklyn, Lombardi began his lifelong journey with football at Fordham University after accepting a scholarship and becoming part of the famous Seven Blocks of Granite, the nickname given to team’s offensive line.  He is most well known for being the head coach of the Green Bay Packers, but he was also the assistant coach and head coach for St. Cecilia High School in Englewood New Jersey, assistant coach for West Point and the New York Giants and head coach for the Washington Redskins.

Based on the book When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi by Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Maraniss, Lombardi mainly takes place during a one week period in December 1965 as Vince Lombardi and his Packers pursue another championship (Lombardi had lead the Packers to a championship in 1961 and 1962 but had not been to the big show in two years).  Look Magazine reporter Michael McCormick goes to cheese-head country and stays with the Vince and his wife Marie observing Vince at home and on the field with his family, which includes his wife and his players, in the hopes of returning to Manhattan and writing a breakout article that will finally showcase his abilities.    

Playwright Eric Simonson crafts a beautifully poignant script and an excellent testimonial to a great man.   Vincent Lombardi’s love and passion for winning, football and his family are well represented.  Most football novices know the legend of Vince Lombardi and his single-minded drive to succeed, but the play also provides the audience with a sense of what Lombardi was like at home.  Yes, he was a monolithic figure that ruled with a steel fist and iron shooting from his larynx, but through his harsh language the audience sees and feels the love and passion that made him equally flawed and brilliant. Vince Lombardi not only wanted those he loved to be the best, he desired to be the best for them. 

The audience bears witness, watching him interact with his players –pushing and praising all from the same heartfelt place.  But I believe Lombardi’s “push and praise” attitude is best represented in the relationship he develops with the young reporter.  During the play the audience discovers that Vince knew McCormick’s father, who was an editor for a paper in New Jersey.  Absent from the production are Vince’s children.  As the week progresses, Michael has trouble following Lombardi’s rules as well as authoring an uncompromising story that will surely land him in peril with his editor and Lombardi.  The tension, love and acceptance that a father and son experience as the son struggles to find his voice in the world is impressively explored through the bond between Vince and Michael.  For one week they provided each other with the stand-in each needed to heal past hostilities each may have had for their family member, and gives audience members a possible peek into the mind of Vince Lombardi the father.  The fallible side Lombardi is displayed when the play briefly goes back in time to New Jersey. Vince contemplates the idea of leaving football for a bank job, and shows even an individual whose destiny is clearly mapped out can sometime wrestle with doubt.  More obvious, is the stomach pain that pops up and rears its head during the production – a tell-tale sign of shadows to come.

Lombardi is as fascinating to watch as Brett Favre bomb to Randy Moss in the end zone during a Monday Night game, only this show is played with no time outs.  There is definitely a certain mana permeating in the Circle in the Square Theatre that the cast absorbed and used to perform masterful portrayals of their characters.  Dan Lauria, best known as the dad from The Wonder Years, is truly exceptional as Vince Lombardi. The devotion he gives to his performance is evident through each growl and command.  I could wax poetic for another paragraph about the authenticity of his depiction, but NFL legend Floyd Little, who was in the audience the night I attended, provided the confirmation that Lauria scored a touchdown.  During the brief Q&A after the show, Little stated he thought he was watching Vince, a compliment sure to be uttered several times over as other members of the NFL see the show.  Judith Light is simply a joy to watch.  As Marie Lombardi she has all the great one-liners and she delivers each time.  She and Lauria are the heart and soul of this show, their banter is energizing and intruiging to watch.  One of the most hilarious points in the show is when Marie breaks out an atlas to try to find out where Green Bay is.   Keith Nobbs portrayl of eager reporter Michael McCormick is a refreshing departure from the sell your soul for the exclusive approach in which journalists is sometimes depicted.  His exchanges with Lauria are some of the best in the show.  Bill Dawes, Robert Christopher Riley and Chris Sullivan round out the cast as the devil-may-care Paul Hornung, hardworking Dave Robinson and non-talkative Jim Taylor, with each of these Packers, the audience views another side of Vincent Lombardi the coach, slightly adapting his no-nonsense methodology to deal with each of the players. 

Like Vincent Lombardi’s Packers, this cast works like a well-oiled machine and like the championships Green Bay garnered for their efforts I am sure there will be nominations and awards in Lombardi’s destiny.  Another reason why this show will be successful is due to the support of the other star of this production, the NFL.  During the Q&A the actors expressed how the league and the players have assisted with this production.  In fact, the audience walks into a shrine with Lombardi memorabilia and photos littering every inch of the lobby.  Adding to the experience is The Circle in the Square Theatre itself.  The open stage of the auditorium is similar to a football field and provides a 4-D theatre experience.  You do not have to know what a nickel defense or west coast offense is to see this play.  The love of football is not necessary.  This play crosses over gender, chronological and ethnic lines because at its heart it is a great story.  This production is filled with raw emotion and hits harder than a 250 pound blitzing linebacker.  Well worthy of the man who exemplified the will to win, Lombardi succeeds in glorious fashion.