by Carole Di Tosti
The Gates: An Evening of Stories With Adam Gopnik written and performed by Adam Gopnik, is directed by Catherine Burns and is currently being showcased as an Under the Radar Festival offering at the Public Theater.
The unique production offers gateways into the life and times of award-winning writer Adam Gopnik told through a number of entrancing segments. The presentation chronicles key years that he and his wife made their lives in New York City. As they adapt to the city’s splendor with F.Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald hope, by degrees they resolve to never leave the inspirations of Manhattan and its glorious people to move to New Jersey suburbia. This is especially so after the dire days of the World Trade Center attack. Thus, throughout, we discover how Manhattan remains the Gopnik’s bedrock community. Though they travel, the city satisfies their impulse to embrace the diversity that provides the infinite measure of grace that ineffably defines New York.
Gopnik’s performance sparkles with buoyant humanity, philosophical ruminations, strikingly memorable images that retain symbolism for him today. If you add piquant wisdom and numerous “LOL” moments, you still will not be able to describe the pleasure of this evening.
Gopnik begins his journey in 1981 New York City when he and girlfriend Martha, walk through the “Strangers Gate” of Central Park with starry-eyed love and the hope that they will be able to thrive in the at-times unfeeling metropolis.
Living on various grants, Martha studies, Adam hopefully writes for The New Yorker, a position which he obtains after a number of years. They accumulate adventures and carve out living space in what was a bit larger than a library cubicle in a basement “walk-down” apartment. This teeny-tiny space they shared with hordes of roaches of every shape, size and type known to mankind, and perhaps even some genetic mutations. As they married, gained friends and connections and enjoyed each other’s company in this space they romantically entitled “The Blue Room,” they found their way into their artistic craft and agreed to disagree about food in moments that defined their marriage bond. It is in “The Blue Room” years that the couple solidifies their self-worth and identity as artists.
Thrilled that his jobs at GQ Magazine establish him as a savvy word smith, Gopnik relates the thrill of landing a well-paying position of grooming editor at GQ that allows the couple to wave goodbye to the trials of impoverishment and reside in the artsy community of Soho. There, they enjoy a loft apartment sans roaches, replete with mice and rats. Gopnik spared us the rat encounters, which assuredly he could spin into golden laughter.
Nevertheless, he ends the segment with an interesting revelation about finding one’s place in one’s identity in a geographical location. After the couple celebrate the spoils of Gopnik’s unusual speaking engagement, Gopnik opens the door to the loft and up rises the conjured image of a hundred dancing, cavorting mice racing from detection in the light. Gopnik ratchets the celebratory mice image into the philosophical New York galaxy of his life. He relates it to envisioning the significance of these creatures who live in the secret spaces of New York City lives. Like the mice, who resiliently thrived and made their home in New York, the Gopniks, pushed their way in and shuffled, honed and matured their skills and intellect. As they mined their ingenuity, they established a foundation with which to build more than a living space. They built a home and as such, they deserve to stay and become native New Yorkers.
Gopnik employs circular storytelling, and recaptures images tying them to the conclusion of the various storytelling segments. By the time he moves from the “Strangers Gate” of Central Park and concludes after the “Children’s Gate,” we have been massaged to receive humorous tidbits about daughter Olivia’s imaginary friend “Charlie ravioli” and Luke’s and his “awkward” moment in an Athletic Club steam bath. For him it is a defining moment which clarified his son’s character as mature beyond his years and filled with wisdom and grace.
I could go on about the metaphors, images and beauty of Gopnik’s work and his simpatico relationship with the audience who connects immediately with the clever humor and heart-felt cadences strung together by this poetic and marvelous craftsman. The ninety minute show is just smashing.
The tickets are sold out. However, the show may be extended. Keep in touch at their site: