Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Guilty Pleasures 4

Early in the second act of The Seafarer, actor Ciaran Hinds takes a fall. He reaches out for a chair and tips it and goes down flat out on his face. Boom. Try that eight times a week. At least I think it was intentional. I read the play again afterward and it's not there. The line that follows, "I'm f*ing going in and out of time zones here" is there, but no fall. (Was he wearing a cup for that? Wouldn't a cup be a good idea?) A bunch of other lines aren't in the printed play as well. At one point Richard, who is a practiced drunk, turns to his newly sober brother and says, "We know you're an alcoholic and your life is tatters and it's a struggle for you to grasp human emotions, but..." That line is not in the play, except for the last bit. I looked for it later, because it stood out, that line. 

I know all this because last Thursday Larry and I saw the kids off to school and preschool, told them to be good for their grandma, then got on a train to New York to see our first-ever Broadway play. 

We walked from our hotel to the playhouse in the rain. The stage was lower than I would have thought and smaller, with a compact, even claustrophobic, set. But what shocked me most was the quiet audience. Here's the devil flat on his face and nothing but silence for a whole beat. Then he says, "Oops." Nothing. A few giggles, maybe. Then he just gets up and the play takes off again at the same breakneck speed as the first act. I wondered at the strangely silent audience (and I was part of that) even though the play is very funny. The devil keeps talking about taking someone to hell through the hole in the wall and then when there's a snag in this plan, another character says, "Well, that's a pain in the hole." Juvenile, but just right. And yet we just sat there, clinging to our seats. Maybe we're conditioned against laughing at drunks. The silence didn't take away from the experience. At the point when Ivan runs in screaming about his glasses I thought, oh, no, this is the beginning of the end. 

At the end, everyone stood to clap. Larry's eyes were shining. But the two older ladies next to him on the aisle bolted out of the theater between the two curtain calls. Like their hair was on fire. Funny thing, one of the actors looked down at those seats. Then his eyes flicked up at their retreating backs, while everyone else is roaring and clapping. 

Because we weren't ready to go back to our little hotel room, we stopped in a bar. Larry went off to order drinks and came back with two shots of whiskey, said it was Powells. He said it was the same stuff they were drinking in the play. OK. He was very serious about the whole thing. We talked about the play and he understood it better than I did. It's a play for men, really, which is not a criticism. We talked about the actors and this gave me a chance to weigh in as an authority. This one was in The Yalta Game a few years ago in which he killed. Killed. Like it was written for him. And this one toured with Stones in His Pockets, in which two actors do dozens of parts. And this one, with the stunning presence,  has been in lots of  McPherson plays, The Weir and Come on Over. It's like a collaboration at this point. (Here is the true tragedy of the internet; it can make a pseudo-intellectual of any idiot with an index finger and an idle hour.) 

Larry listened to all this. He said, "I see it now. You're going to be a groupie for all these guys." 
"Yes," I said. "Yes! And why not?"
Larry said we should do this again. I told him that Shining City is at the Huntington in March. He looked into his glass and said, "Get tickets now."

1 comment:

Julie said...

So funny, a few years ago Sam took me to see my first play on Broadway -- well, a musical but that still counts -- and I had the same reaction as Larry; more tickets NOW PLEASE!! It's an awesome experience. Wonder why I was nearly 40 to have it?