The Love Letter You’ve Been Meaning to Write to New York

Conceived and directed by Jonathan Solari
Ice Factory 2011, Ice Cubes Studio Series
3LD Art and Technology Center, 80 Greenwich Street
July 7-8, 2011
production web site:

Reviewed by Martha Wade Steketee
July 8, 2011

This is not a conventional performance but a kind of experiential adventure.  When I arrive at Rector and Greenwich Streets, I am not quite in the mood but gradually warm to the realization that I have committed to a happening-performance art-downtown hipsters kind of experience.  Our crowd assembles on the ground floor of the 3LD Art and Technology Center in a narrow hallway off which several different performances are already in progress.  We are shushed (sound reverberates, other performances, all that), and sound re-rises of post-work summer evening downtown characters with beers in hand and time to kill.  Our crowd is given little information even some time after the advertised start time about our delayed start, forming and parting for pre-show performers moving in and out of the single doorway into our performance space.  No explanation for the delay, and bit more shushing .  About 9:15pm we’re allowed into a first floor tall oblong room painted grey (floors, walls), with exposed piping (high above) and sidewalk to ceiling windows facing Greenwich Street. Band of about six musicians near the door into the room on an elevated platform.  Tiers of red folding chairs fill the space, and cushions way down front facing the street.  Yes, we are alerted that our show will be taking place in the room and outside the room, in a manner yet to unfold.

After a brief introduction to the space and to the Ice Factory festival, we’re off.  A 10-15 minute film of snippets of New Yorkers from all the boroughs addressing the question “If you could write a love letter to New York, what would you say?” is projected on the north wall, audience left, so that every member of the audience (facing toward the street remember, toward the east) is forced to strain uncomfortably to look at a 90 degree angle from their seats.  Some sequences are charming and almost all are comments by young people.  One philosopher remarks: “Remember that we’re all here because we’re scared of the woods”.  The film concludes with a young man dropping a young woman off at the airport (had we seen this woman opining about the dirty city and yearning not to be just one more face in the crowd earlier in the film?).  At this point live action sequences begin, with our filmed driver and filmmaker (the filmed character is now a live character) having real encounters outside our viewing window that we can hear via body mics: he is mugged and his car stolen, he talks to hipsters and proves a respite for a young woman escaping from a bad blind date, he talks to a Brooklyn spoken word hipster, he admires a street artist who draws his story in real time on some paper posted on scaffolding across the street.

Nothing revolutionary happens.  There are scripted chance encounters, nicely choreographed crowd scenes (as many as 30 people in some morphing scenes it appears), and some volunteer New York moments, such as a cab driver who decides to make a three-point turn in the street behind several performers during one of the scenes.  Either this is perfectly calibrated and pre-planned, or a lovely moment of serendipity.

And that’s my feeling about the entire hour-long experience: either preplanned or serendipitous, (other than audience management pre-show) it is well choreographed and earnestly presented.

© Martha Wade Steketee (July 9, 2011)


  1. As an esteemed theatrical genius I find your reView to be quite drole and lacking in any cohesive analysis of what I found to be a tremendous performance. Perhaps you should focus more on the content of the actual production and not your discomfort.

    Hon. Gary Busey

  2. I wasn’t intending to be “droll” (that’s the spelling actually I believe) but rather to meet the experiential presentation on its own terms. And I certainly didn’t intend to indicate that I didn’t enjoy much of the experience. I did in fact say so. And i focused intensely on the content of the actual production. in detail. Much of which is outlined in my remarks.

    I do thank you for taking the time to comment.

  3. Ah, but it is true that I neglected to mention an adorable puppeteer at one point, with an Avenue Q-sized one-armed puppet, who told the tale of the history of New York as land and commercial transaction, resolving with a “be here now, New York is you” kind of message. Standing outside the more integrated film into live action on-the-street adventure, this gave another version of the New York “love song” of the production’s title — love as history lesson.

    • Thanks for commenting. Feel free to talk about those things in the production you felt I neglected. I stand by my reactions in the moment to the performance I attended — yet fully acknowledge that responses to theatre are subjective, and as long as I substantiate opinions, as long as anyone substantiates opinions … I feel we’re playing fair.

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