‘Tis a puzzlement! There’s a lady most of us know about who has been nominated for 16 Academy Awards (she won three Oscars), more than any other actress in history. But wait! In addition to that, her long marriage to Don Gummer, a sculptor, is considered one of the most successful marriages in show business. So you’re thinking they probably had no children? Aha, wrong! The couple has four, three girls and one boy (the three girls all have their mother’s nose, and there’s nothing wrong with that). No scandals involved there. By now, of course, you know who the star is – yes, Meryl Streep. When she was asked for advice to enjoy a long marriage, her answer was “Good will and willingness to bend – and to shut up once in a while.” Now in her 60s, she continues to star in movie after movie, consistently doing a fabulous job. Recently I saw her latest film, “Hope Springs.” I went not only because I consider Meryl Streep to be a great actress, but also because I looked forward to watching her pairing with Tommy Lee Jones. Quietly and beautifully acted by the two, they appear to have great chemistry. The story in “Hope Springs” is about a long-married couple (31 years) trying to relight the flame (she tries harder than he does) through intense couple counseling. Happily for the viewer (I mean me), there’s no filthy language, no gratuitous sex. It’s a decent, lovely, simple, funny, sad, quiet, slightly flawed but beautifully acted film. At last, a movie for grownups, but 13-and-up teens will find plenty of laughs in the old dogs learning new tricks.
Several months ago, while looking for something to watch, I came across “The Real Housewives of New York City” on the Bravo TV Network. It didn’t interest me and a few months went by before I came across that program again. By then, some of the ladies had been dropped and three new ones had been added: Sonja, Aviva, and Carol. On this “reality” show (how real is it, really?) the gals travel to Miami and St. Barts and even go skinny-dipping. Sonja and Ramona have bonded (do you care?) LuAnn insists that everyone call her “The Countess.” “The Real Housewives of New York City” is supposed to be a show about a group of wealthy Manhattan housewives balancing their careers, friendships, and home lives. But I must say that get a glass of wine in these women and there’s no telling what they’ll do. Scene after scene I was left cringing (don’t ask why I didn’t change the channel) as the housewives were groped, hit on, confronted, and bossed around. On episode nine, rightly titled “Dirty Ol’ Dog,” Aviva’s father George starred. Supposedly daughter is fixing him up with Sonja. “Daddy” is forward and outlandishly sexual with the ladies. George goes too far in his speech and his actions, even groping Ramona right in front of her husband Mario, and promising great orgasms to two of the others. I can’t understand why daughter Aviva is not very embarrassed. In fact, she appears amused and proud of her ol’ Daddy. Is it just me, or is that a little messed up? If you think I’m making this up, watch “The Real Housewives of New York City” for yourself. As for me, I don’t plan to continue. This “reality” show is out of tune with June!
“The Best Man” is the best Broadway show I’ve seen this year (of course, that’s not counting musicals). It was written by elegant, acerbic, all-around man of letters, Gore Vidal, who died last month at the age of 86. Mr. Vidal was the last of a breed, versatile and talented. His most successful play, written in 1960, was “The Best Man.” It’s about two contenders for the presidential nomination and now it’s been revived. It was quite a unique experience even on entering the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre. Ushers wear festive boaters with red, white and blue trim and there are yards and yards of patriotic decorations. I suppose the aim is to give the audience a sense of being present at a presidential nomination convention in Philadelphia, where the play is set in the year 1960. In those days, there were still suspenseful battles for delegates. Today it’s more like ceremonial coronations of pre-selected candidates. Even so, “The Best Man” has a veneer of current events sufficient to revitalize the drama. Included are Vidal’s winking cynicism about the political arena and the corrupting influence of television cameras. Nevertheless, the landscape has certainly changed. This drama is more like a civics lesson drawn from a long, out-of-date textbook. Today’s “The Best Man” is filled with a stellar cast and the American circus of electing a president in the 1960s somehow comes alive. As of now, the final performance is set for Sunday, Sept. 9. If you go to see it, you’ll be glad you did.
When I was in grade school, I got hooked on one of America’s most popular 20th century poets. “Who was he?” you ask – the flinty, moody, plain-spoken and deep Robert Frost. I suppose I enjoy his work because I can understand what he is saying. His poetry explores philosophy even though it is mostly set in rural environs and in nature. I recall reading Frost’s “Birches,” especially his description of trees “bent by the long weight of snow, their tops trailing the ground like girls washing their hair.” Certainly, the most famous woods in American literature are the forests in Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” A recent book about Frost is called “The Art of Robert Frost.” It is written by British professor Tim Kendall. He covers 65 poems and I found it a good way to revisit and understand Frost even better. The poet encourages multiple answers without giving precedence to any one of them. His language becomes plainer over time. You can read your way through a lot of Frost before finding so much as a three-syllable word. He says one thing, wholly means it, and also means something else. I have a childhood association with “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” How often I’ve said “and miles to go before I sleep” not even thinking of its origin. And another in “The Road Not Taken” – “I took the one less traveled by and that has made all the difference.” And in “Mending Wall” – “something there is that doesn’t love a wall.” Winner of four Pulitzer Prizes for Poetry, he was 86 when Frost performed a reading of his poem “The Gift Outright” at the inauguration of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy on Jan. 20, 1961. He died two years later. His epitaph quotes the line from one of his poems: “I had a lover’s quarrel with the world.”
You can email June Sturz at email@example.com.