The Lying Lesson and El Quijote

Looking uncannily like her subject, Carol Kane channels Bette Davis, the woman, in Craig Lucas’ The Lying Lesson. Late in life Davis attempts to move back to her Maine hometown and, if possible, meet up with her first boyfriend there. The young woman assisting in the house sale is unaware of who she is and sometimes refers to her as “Mrs. David.”

Tall, blond Mickey Sumner has a bewitching tomboy style that is particularly in evidence when she lights two cigarettes at once, a la the 1942 Now, Voyager—one of the few references to Bette Davis’s films in the play. Admittedly, the Maine accent is tough for even an American to fake. Sumner is the daughter of Sting and Trudie Styler.

Two fascinating actresses are heroic through a play that gives them little to do. Kane’s big scene is recounting, blow-by-blow, seeing the old boyfriend again. It’s so powerful and funny that you believe Carol Kane is Bette Davis.

As for the vintage set—the shabby Maine cottage with plaid furnishings and 50s kitchen—it’s ambitious, but what a dump. One can’t imagine BD setting foot in it much less spending the night.

When you visit the Atlantic Theater Company or the Joyce in Chelsea, there are many fabulous restaurants to choose from. But if you visit from out of town, and you’ve never been there, you might like to try the famous El Quijote, in the infamous Chelsea Hotel. Dedicated to Don Quixote, there is a party room named for Dulcinea. Theatre Row recommends the recreation of sixteenth-century Spain in Jaime Manrique’s absorbing novel Cervantes Street.

Tapas and seafood rule the vast menu. Paellas come in many forms, and delicious sangria in pitchers and half-pitchers. If you’re in the mood for a snack at the bar, the fried calamari is tip-top. Free tapas are available at the early happy hour.

Through the 50s onwards, the Chelsea Hotel has played host to numerous artists whose names and art works adorn the hotel’s lobby, currently being renovated. El Quijote has never been so much as repainted, and bears the pong of a billion cigarettes smoked there before the 2003 statewide ban on smoking in restaurants. In other ways, it’s good some places never change! The better to imagine being here while songs were written by Bob Dylan, Nico, Graham Nash, and Leonard Cohen—and poems by Dylan Thomas, Allen Ginsberg, and Gregory Corso.