Some people make themselves comfortable on the moving train, the better to admire the scenery outside their little window. Others are driving the train, decorating the cars, planting trees and painting clouds outside the same window for us to admire. With her red sneakers securely laced, Nancy Harrow continues to be one of the most remarkable examples of the second kind of people. Her latest creation is ABOUT LOVE, inspired by Turgenev’s “First Love,” for which she’s written music and lyrics, with script and direction by Will Pomerantz.
I first encountered Nancy as a voice coming through the radio speaker (thanks to Ed Beach, with Nat Hentoff and Buck Clayton standing invisibly in back of him) in 1970, and was intrigued. Decades later, when Daryl Sherman and Dan Morgenstern spoke of her with pleased awe, I had the opportunity to hear her sing and to meet her — one of those magical instances where the voice turns out to have a person attached to it. I learned quickly that Nancy was not only a much-admired singer, but lyricist, composer, and playwright as well. Although I have seen her sit still, her biography makes it seem that I was fooled by an optical illusion.
A pause for music:
Nancy says this about the play: Turgenev’s story is so human— each character is so true to life that it lives today even though it takes place 150 years ago. That he captures the adolescent boy’s feelings completely is least surprising because it is his own youth he is describing, but he is equally perceptive about the heroine’s powers and her frailties and the father’s strengths and vulnerabilities. The whole story is masterful in its compression— in such a brief time it covers every aspect of life from youth to death and we recognize it in our own experiences and are moved. It is of its own time and place so accurately, yet it is universal and recognizable in 2020, a portrait of the essence of human relationships touching on a wide range of emotions— joy and sorrow, humor and humiliation, cruelty and empathy. Turgenev loved his characters.
I am honored to have Nancy not only as a friend but as an inspiration, and she has told me little enticing stories about the progress of this “play with music” since spring 2019. But this year, when I asked her what translation of Turgenev she recommended for me to read — I have trouble not being a diligent student who worries about passing the final — she encouraged me to play hooky, “maybe you don’t want to spoil the surprises when you see it.”
I encourage you to join me for ABOUT LOVE. It seems that the only way one could spoil the surprise is by staying home.
ABOUT LOVE plays a limited four-week engagement, February 25 through March 22 at The Sheen Center (18 Bleecker Street at the corner of Elizabeth Street, NYC) in the Black Box Theater. The official opening is Wednesday, March 4 at 7:30 PM. Shows are Tuesday – Thursday at 7:30 PM, Friday at 8 PM, Saturday at 2 and 8 PM and Sunday at 3 PM. Preview tickets (through March 3) are $25. After opening, all evening performances are $39 – $59. Rush tickets will be available at the box office an hour before any performance for $25.
May your happiness increase!