Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Miss Manhattan Hangs Out...with Ryan Raftery

In Ryan Raftery’s suitcase, there’s a sensible pair of wedges, a heap of plastic fruit, a bag of herbs meant to look like weed, an apron, Twinkies, and god knows what else. They’re all props and/or costumes the actor and comedian needs for his Joe’s Pub performance of a show he also wrote, The Rise and Fall (and Rise) of Martha Stewart, an 85-ish minute musical based on the (in)famous entrepreneur.

Ryan was born and raised in Brooklyn’s Mill Basin neighborhood and studied theatre at NYU. He began making a splash in New York’s theatre scene with one-man shows, but it was his one-man musical about Anna Wintour, Ryan Raftery Is the Most Powerful Woman In Fashion, that began drawing attention from publications like The Cut, Women’s Wear Daily, Paper, the New York Daily News, and countless others. Wintour sent him a pair of her sunglasses in recognition of his work. He followed up with a show about Bravo’s Andy Cohen--Ryan Raftery’s Watch What Happens — Live on Stage! (Cohen sent flowers)--and completes his “Titans of Media” trilogy with this show about the queen of home entertaining.

The show chronicles Stewart’s life growing up in New Jersey to her time on Wall Street, to the boom, bust, and reinvigoration of her empire. Ryan parodies pop songs to tell her story, like Guns N’ Roses’ “November Rain,” Bruno Mars and Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk,” Alanis Morissette’s “You Oughta Know,” Beyoncé’s “Crazy in Love,” and more. Ryan spent nine months researching Stewart, talking to people Stewart knows directly, and learning to imitate her speech pattern and mannerisms. Stewart’s colleagues have come to the show already and left flabbergasted, saying “That’s so Martha!”

Before the show, Ryan sucks on cough drop after cough drop to ready his voice while setting his props onstage--the Twinkie goes with two massive, faux joints that will be consumed later with the actor playing Snoop Dogg; a set of cards bearing Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s Five Stages of Grief goes on the table, “denial” on top; a red apron bearing a white, embroidered ‘M’ is stationed close by.

Then, with the help of makeup artist Kasey Spickard and wigs by Marty Thomas, Ryan begins to morph into Martha. He sips Earl Grey tea with honey while Kasey applies a thick layer of foundation, contours cheekbones for the gods, darkens eyebrows, paints lips raspberry, and whisks Ryan’s already long eyelashes into boldness with mascara. After donning a denim shirt, a quilted hunter green vest, khakis, those sensible wedges, and a blonde wig, she’s a vision realized. Showtime approaches. Ryan warms up his voice and the dressing room is filled with operatic vocalizations.
On stage, Ryan’s luxurious baritone resounds through the space, his expressive face somehow both genuine and campy under a perfectly primped blonde wig. It is such a gift to be watching him send up this oh-so-serious public figure with such care, attention to detail, and love. Martha is a force to be reckoned with. But so is Ryan Raftery.

See Ryan perform The Rise and Fall (And Rise) Of Martha Stewart in Los Angeles from November 5-7 at Rockwell Table and Stage.
Follow Ryan on Twitter and Instagram.

Follow me on Twitter and Instagram.
Subscribe to Miss Manhattan Hangs Out.



Sunday, September 17, 2017

Queens of Rockaway

It’s a blustery day as Mag and I board the new(ish) NYC Ferry to the Rockaways at Pier 11 in Manhattan. Wind flaps loudly, deliciously through our hair and sunglasses, and it’s cool enough to wear a sweater. The sky practically is cloudless, just that bright swath of never-ending blue so beautiful Crayola can’t help but name crayons after it. Mag’s scarf, wrapped with effortless chic around her neck, blows in the breeze and she looks like a European model off-duty. I stand next to her holding onto the railing in cutoff shorts and my mother’s college sweater, feeling Gidget-esque. 

I’m well aware this may be my last beach trip of the summer, because isn’t that always how Labor Day goes—we and 498 of our closest friends have piled into this ferry to feel the sun’s rays on our faces by the sand once more, before the obligations and occupations of fall tie up our weekends until summer comes along again in a year. 

For the price of a subway ride ($2.75, for those outside of the boroughs), the ferries make the trip to the beach at the far reaches of Queens a far more palatable experience than it had been for some of us (namely, me) previously. I remember the first time I went to Rockaway Beach I took the A train, which was an interminable ride through the bowels of first Manhattan and then Brooklyn and finally, good ol’ Queens with at least two switches in between to get on the “right” A train or transfer to the Rockaway shuttle. The prospect of going there left me to the beaches of South Brooklyn, Brighton Beach, Coney Island, and my beloved Manhattan Beach. But given the new ferry, I was eager for a day trip of sorts—the Rockaway Ferry takes about an hour, and you can sit on the top of the boat in the sunshine. Normally it stops first at a pier in Sunset Park, but when we took it on Labor Day weekend it was running express, so it took less than an hour. Friends recently took the A from Washington Heights-ish to get there, and I love them dearly but they did it wrong. To be on the boat feels like being a 1950s glamazon driving a convertible, cat-eye sunglasses, headscarf, lipstick and all. It is not, to say the least, a feeling one gets on the subway. 

Docking at Beach 108th Street in the Rockaway, the sun has risen a little higher in the sky and it’s time to put away my mother’s sweater. We make our way to a Brazilian luncheonette close by, Beach Bistro 96, which serves up modern takes on Brazilian classics in a tiny room patterned with palm leaves. We munch on decadent pão de queijo, fluffy balls of cheese bread, then dive into mushroom quinoto and tapioca, a sort of small Brazilian crepe made of tapioca flour. 

Tummies full, we make our way to the beach and set up shop. And by shop I mean a place that doesn’t have too many people where we can lie down and talk or not talk, getting crispy tan from the sun. Mag lays down a Bloomingdale’s towel from perhaps the late ‘80s or early ‘90s, a “Gold Card” that makes me smile. “Usually I get made fun of for bringing this towel places,” she tells me. “But I was like, I’m seeing Elyssa, it’s fine.” Happiness is having friend who understands, no? 

And our day goes as planned. We talk and don’t talk, I fall asleep, we talk and don’t talk some more. There’s great joy in being able to just sit with another human being and enjoy your surroundings. I think it’s when we get to that point that we don’t have to question our friendships anymore, living in a comfortable silence that doesn’t need to be broken. 

I get a little crisper from the sun than I intend, plus the tide is creeping up to us ever closer. We depart and head for something sweet at the newly-minted food counters built after Hurricane Sandy destroyed whatever was there before. Mag opts for a root beer float and I nibble on a fruit juice popsicle while we listen to the DJ’s eclectic mix and men from a local labor union dance and sip beer in their folding chairs or both. 
Back on the boat later, my skin is warm from the sun. The moon appears over Red Hook as we ferry past, the Statue of Liberty behind us and Manhattan in our midst once more.