Today’s news:

Make best of Manhattan: It’s closer than Alaska!

I'm riding the Port Washington LIRR from Penn Station back to Auburndale after spending a weekend in the City with my first wife. We do that every once in a while, seeing some shows, eating at some good restaurants and staying at a Midtown hotel, this time at our favorite, the Michelangelo at West 51st Street and Seventh Avenue. It costs a lot, the economy is tanking and the dollar is not worth what it used to, but as somebody once said, you can't take it with you.

The train makes a stop at Shea Stadium, bow your heads. The Mets have just lost — again, another sorry season is down the drain, and they're going to tear the place down. Some of us take this very seriously. Fans of the old Brooklyn Dodgers like me had a saying, "Wait until next year," but that doesn't help much. And all I keep thinking about Shea is: Are they going to have to change the name of the station?

I'm a lifelong resident of Queens, population about four times that of Alaska, and I like it here. But we bridge-and-tunnel people should get to Manhattan as often as we can. There's nothing like it — just ask all the tourists, especially those Europeans who are living it up with their bargain-priced euros. Amazingly enough, there are some people in Queens, and many more in Nassau and Suffolk, who avoid the City like the plague. They might as well be living far, far away, like, say, in Wasilla.

Saturday night we see "[Title of Show]" at the Lyceum Theatre, about to close in a few days after starting out at The New York Musical Theatre Festival and moving to the Vineyard Theatre Off Broadway. It's a show about creating a musical and getting it done on Broadway — lots of funny inside theater stuff, making it ideal for some of the local groups to produce, unless they're put off by liberal use of the f-word. But hey, it's 2008, we have cable TV and those Anglo-Saxon words get your attention. By the way, the audience was packed with the youth of America, many of whom had seen the show more than once.

On Sunday afternoon, after a great brunch (a Scandinavian smorgasbord) at Aquavit (East 55th Street), we were at the Walter Kerr Theatre for "The Seagull" by Anton Chekhov, the award-winning London production starring Kristin Scott Thomas.

Now, I have to confess to you, dear reader, that although I consider myself to be a well-rounded theatergoer, I had never seen a production of a Chekhov play. I don't think you can count Neil Simon's "The Good Doctor," nor my role in "A Marriage Proposal" many years ago with the ever-youthful Sheila Rhyne.

The production was superb, once you figure out the relationships of the characters with those strange-sounding Russian names — you actors out there who want to improve your craft shouldn't miss it. Now if I can get to see "Uncle Vanya," "Three Sisters" and "The Cherry Orchard," I'll be all right.

But what's up with all the standing ovations? It seems you can't see a Broadway show, no matter the quality, without the entire audience springing up out of its seats. And the actors returning the favor now often applaud the audience at the curtain call. I'm all for mutual admiration, but not that much. I realize that lots of things are beyond our control, but let's be less reckless with our superlatives.

Contact Ron Hellman at

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