Tuesday, July 03, 2007

"The Summer of Love"

Bereft of even the semblance of justification, the war in Mesopotamia grinds on, with its cost in many lost and maimed lives.

Here in New York, though, we are marking the “Summer of Love.” The catalyst is an exhibition at the Whitney Museum of posters, films and other memorabilia of the quixotic events that took place in San Francisco forty years ago. I was living in London then, but I well remember seeing my first band of flower children sashaying, with bells and flutes, down Great Russell Street just outside the British Museum. With “Swinging London” only recently proclaimed and the Beetles at full throttle, the event was less incongruous that it would have seemed only a few years before.

I returned to the US in time for Woodstock, which I didn’t attend, but the social revolution was in full flower. It certainly changed my life.

The art shown at the Whitney holds up very well. From a purely aesthetic point of view it showed that the art spirit (if there is such a thing) could not be confined to “respectable” genres like oil painting and sculpture. They say that the “psychedelic” work is influencing current production. Young people are rediscovering it.

The Shakespeare events in Central Park have fallen into line, with banners proclaiming “Free Love.” (In my experience, love is never free, but no matter.) The events have kicked off with a spectacular production of “Romeo and Juliet,” a play that is not often seen in these parts. Perhaps it is too sentimental for hardboiled New Yorkers.

The new production of is staged in a huge, shallow pool of water. This can be fun, as the actors splash each other getting attention, but must be awful on a cold night (the one I attended was cold) for the actors who have been “killed” and are forced to lie there until the body can be carried off. Even the final scene in the tomb is aquatic.

The director observed counter-type casting in selecting Oscar Isaac to play the role of Romeo. Isaac is a kind of street urchin. At first, it seems bizarre, but you end up rooting for him as a stand-in for all those nerds in high school who (sometimes at least) actually got the girl.


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