Saturday, July 12, 2008

The East Village: "Where you can come live on dreams and tofu"

Campbell Robertson takes a look at the Broadway smasheroo "Rent, " which closes in September after nearly 12 years, in the Times Sunday....("Bohemia takes its final bows")


Now, 12 years later, it would be impossible to see the show and think it was set any time in the past decade. Much of “Rent” has become downright nostalgic, almost jarringly so. Several numbers revolve around pay phones and answering machines (20-somethings with answering machines!). Roger, the gloomy, HIV-positive guitarist with a nasty case of rocker’s block, plays gigs at CBGB, then a landmark of the New York underground music scene, now a menswear boutique. A group of lefty hipsters talk politics with no mention of anyone named Cheney or even the first Bush.


Did “Rent” play a part in changing the neighborhood it celebrates? Probably. “Rent” is the “All the President’s Men” of aspirant hipsters, a great advertisement for Alphabet City (once and never more to be marked off by the avenues Awful, Bad, Crazy and Dangerous), where you can come live on dreams and tofu.


I’d go even further and stipulate: “Rent” is a safe, accessible show that at times struggles, even strains, to put up a dangerous front. The “Rent” marketing campaign has tempered that gritty facade in recent years; the show now, like “The Phantom of the Opera,” advertises itself as something you simply have to see — and come back to — because of its place in the culture.

But think about that. Is there a more accurate reflection of recent New York history? Friendly, clean, low-crime, nonsmoking, trans-fat-free, cabs-that-take-credit-cards New York? A city we can’t honestly pretend is rough and gritty anymore?


Anonymous said...

"I WAS late to “Rent.” Late to the show"

When I arrived in New York, in the fall of 1998,

But the city in which “Rent” takes place was already vanishing when the show opened

I have a lot of problem with this article being written by someone who has been only here for 10 years. What does Campbell know about the East Village, or NYC for that matter? I just found this article to be condescending. Yhen again that's what these yunnie transplants are known for. Rent opened in 1994 at the New York Theatre. Campbell only speaks of when it opened on Broadway in 1996 Workshop. Typical yunnie: late to the show; been here for 10 years and now thinks that he knows and owns NY and now "mourns' the death of the bohemian life, which I'm sure he contributed to it. Can't live with them, can't live with them. There goes my weekend rant.

EV Grieve said...

Good points, anonymous...I agree. Thanks for the comment.