Saturday, June 17, 2006

NYC: Days 2 and 3

Well, in spite of my good intentions to update this every day, the vagaries of the Internet just wouldn’t let me.

My plan had been to do as I did last year here at the Cosmo by unplugging the cord from the phone and plugging it into the computer’s phone jack. Unfortunately, the hotel outwitted my maneuver by not only buying phones that don’t allow this, but also using cords that can’t be unplugged from the wall without more trouble than it’s worth (not to mention the hassle I had last year in having to place a deposit to make outside phone calls).

I was able to piggyback onto a wireless network with no trouble Tuesday night, but Wednesday was a comedy of errors, as I kept getting booted off networks after only a couple of minutes in every case. After what seemed like hours of attempts, I finally had to throw the towel in.

What I missed writing about was how I broke one of the windows here in my room. I tried and tried and tried to raise the window in order to get some more fresh air in here (it can get hot and stuffy – supposed to be in the mid 90s Saturday, with a heat index of 100), and the damn thing was jammed. I kept trying and trying to get the thing raised and it finally cracked – big time. I left it alone for the night. I was tempted to go down to the desk to tell them and give them enough time to call a glazier, but it was 4:30 in the morning and I figured it could wait until I left Wednesday morning. Well, given the noise from outside (even worse tonight, I slept for shit.) When I did leave, I stopped at the desk, expecting them to give me a hassle over paying for the window (which I would have felt some kind of obligation to do), but the woman didn’t even bat an eye, saying they’d fix it right away, and she called a maintenance guy. End of that story – except when I came back Wednesday night, and saw that there was a two-foot gap at the top of the window. I tried raising the window again, but it was still stuck . . . and then I realized that the bottom window doesn’t raise, the top one does – which makes no sense, given the way the lock is constructed, but hey, I can close it and block out most of the noise – seems like all they do in this city is pick up garbage all night. . .

Anyway. . .

Wednesday morning, I went to the South Street Seaport to buy my ticket for the evening performance (I already had bought my “Faith Healer” ticket online), and expected the usual long line and 30 minute wait. Imagine my surprise when my TKTS experience of Tuesday was repeated and there were only three people ahead of me. I saw that they had “The Lieutenant of Inishmore,” and got the ticket, leaving me with plenty of time to kill, so I decided to rustle up some breakfast, which I did, getting a turkey salad wrap, which wasn’t bad. By the time I finished, it was time to get in line for the show, and into the theatre I went. The show was at the Booth, which is one of my favorite Broadways houses (it was my favorite until I got looks at the Belasco and the Lyceum, which are just as nice), small and intimate.

There was a small mix-up with my seat, as a woman was sitting in the wrong seat, but she and her husband moved over with no trouble and the show proceeded.

It’s a very, very good show. Probably the best thing I’ve seen Ralph Fiennes do. He’s usually so restrained and bottled up, and he gets a chance to loosen up here and, if not charm the audience, then to play off them and have some fun.

He finished his monologue, we went into the scene change, they let the latecomers in, and Cherry Jones starts her monologue – and this piercing squeal from some woman’s hearing aid begins. The entire audience gets pissed off (excepting the oblivious woman her companions, who didn’t bother to do anything about it), and we spend the next ten minutes hearing ushers try to find her, her adjusting the damn thing, and various levels and types of squeals. The woman next to me (who’d been in the wrong seat) turns to me and complains about the house staff doing nothing. Through it all, Jones perseveres, acting away, either oblivious to the noise or just knowing it’ll be taken care of eventually. Finally, the noise stops, and we can all concentrate on the play. Comes intermission, and the woman next to me and I start talking about the deaf woman (who apparently was getting indignant that people were telling her off) and who we were. She and her husband had taken the day to come from DC to see the show. She had become curious about it after reading a review and wondering if it would have any resonance for her job and an “energy healer” (I know. . . ) I talked a little about myself, the Booth, and Brian Friel (about whom I wrote my thesis), and eventually Act Two began.

Given my overall lack of sleep on Wednesday morning (I can’t call it Tuesday night), I was dopey for the entire Act, and it was a real struggle to make it to the end. I’m 99% sure I saw it all, but it wasn’t easy.

Again, very, very good show. Fiennes good, Jones good (I’ve seen her better, and she had no dialect – which surprised me since I’d read she did extensive work and her coach gets a program credit), and Ian MacDiarmid – with the flashiest role – very good. Nicely directed, with a very interesting scene change effect that I’d like to steal sometime, if the occasion ever arises (traveler moves across the stage, and the set gets brought on or struck behind it as it travels).

After the show, I had a few hours to kill, so I went to Virgil’s BBQ on 44th. I’m usually leery of places in the theatre district, but I’d read good things about Virgil’s and I love the barbecue, so I went. Had a lovely salad – lettuce, chunky blue cheese, red onions (which I picked out), and a bacon vinaigrette – and a combo plate with pork and brisket. It was tasty, but overall inferior to, say, the Rib Shack in Daly City. Not bad, but not great, either.

By this time, it was time to leave for “Lieutenant.” I wanted to see it anyway, but being at the Lyceum made it irresistible. In all my years of coming here, I’ve never seen anything there. It’s a beautiful house, again small and much more interesting that the Booth from a decorative and architectural standpoint. I was disappointed to see that David Wilmot (the eponymous character) was out, but the understudy was quite good, so I guess I didn’t miss him too much. I was still having some drowsiness problems, but the play is so good and so funny – and so gory; jeezus god, I wondered how they clean up the set and costumes every night, not to mention wondering if they go through eight wigs a week when one character gets a ponytail cut off. No one, absolutely no one, writes like McDonagh, and the whole thing is hysterically funny at the same time it’s grim and bloody.

So far I haven’t seen a bum show (no "Paris Letter"s in this collection . . .) yet.

Thursday was DaveCon, and my plan was to walk from the hotel to the TGI Friday’s we were meeting at, but just past Houston, I realized that I would have trouble getting there, so I hopped it onto the subway. Got to the restaurant and was extremely confused. The address was on Broadway, but the restaurant is on 7th. I went in, went upstairs, and saw no one, so I went down the block to the Times Square Visitor’s Center, where I could check my email and verify the address. Everything seemed correct, so I thought I should try again, and sure enough, I’d had the right place all along; it was just that the group was around the corner. I caught up with everyone, even if some of the regulars weren’t there – Karen was out of town; Carl, Kathie, and Brady, who knows; Brad getting ready to move to Virginia the next day. After only a few minutes, we had to hoof it over to the Ed and get in line to get our tickets. It was a hot day, but we didn’t have to wait too long, and were soon marched in, given our instructions (be back by 3:45), and released. We went to Rupert’s, as usual, and ordered stuff. I had a lemon lime whippy, which was too sweet and a real mess (I had to use the bathroom in the Ed to hose down and clean my shirt). We chit chatted a little while, and then some of us repaired to the Angelo’s Pizza for drinks. Finally, it was time to get back in line, so off we went. Usually, the ushers will give us the spiel (“no ‘woo’ing, laugh at everything,” etc.), lead us into the lobby, where we wait interminably, and after finally let into the house. This year, though, they must have realized we (of all people) know what to do; they marched us straight from the sidewalk to our seats, with no preamble. It was a nice change of pace.

The show itself was okay. KYCE was good, Sandra Bullock, meh, and the band sucked as much as they had the first time I saw the show (Carl phoned us during dinner, and I told him that, not only could I not remember what they had played then, I honestly couldn’t have done it while they were playing it – they were truly unmemorable).

Afterwards, Tony Mendez came to collect us, and we went into the lobby to shoot our annual episode of the “Tony Mendez Show.” I got some nice face time (we all did), and then it was back into the house for photos and the tour for the new kids – I got to go for the first time in three years; nothing new, but it’s always interesting.

(There’s a car on the street right now, playing deafening rap. I’m three stories up, so I can only wonder how loud it is in the damn car.)

After the tour, we talked to Tony out on the street. He couldn’t go to the party as he had ballet tickets. While we were talking, a car pulled up with some well-dressed women in it. The driver got out and looked like she wanted to ask a question, hesitated a while, then got back in. I went up to the car and asked the passenger, an older woman, if I could help them. They were curious as to what was going on, but were also trying to give away their tickets for “The Threepenny Opera.” I was tempted, but had already paid for the party, so I was going to go. I told them they’d probably have no trouble getting rid of the seats; they told me they’d already been turned down five times. I suggested they try over by the TKTS booth, which they thought was a good idea. I hope they were able to get rid of the tickets; they seemed nice and I hate to see seats go to waste like that. Ironically enough, a little while later, Jim Dale walked by on his way to work (looking damn good for 70), and I saw Ana Gasteyer while walking to the restaurant. (So far I’ve seen Marian Seldes [bustling along northbound on 7th while I was in P.J. Carney’s], George Takei [leaving “Faith Healer”], and Dale and Gasteyer. I saw a woman today who looked a lot like someone, but I’m damned if I can remember who it was. Oh, and there was a woman at “Faith Healer” whom I thought might have been Frances Sternhagen, but I couldn’t swear to it).

We finally got to the restaurant, and even though we were a half hour early, they were able to seat us upstairs in a private area. The food was pretty good (I’d been bitching about having to pay so much, but I almost got my money’s worth – and they forgot to charge me for my first drink). We all talked a while, and then about 9:30, they asked if we could move so they could clean up. We agreed, but since there was no room downstairs, they sent us to their sister restaurant next door, which was horribly loud. After only about a half hour, we repaired to Hurley’s on 48th, where we usually end up. It wasn’t quite as crowded as the other places, but there was still only one table for 8 or 10 of us (the NBA playoffs were on), and after they informed us that it was a one-drink minimum, we left. After a few minutes on the sidewalk, we all parted and headed for homes or hotels (some folks went to Helen Read’s hotel room; I did not, as I was feeling sleepy). Cheryl Levenbraun and I walked to the Times Square subway station, and after a few minutes, my train came, and I was off for the hotel. I was up until 4:30 again, trying to do some work (which I’ll subtract from my hours next week, natch), and dealing with more connectivity issues. (I don’t understand how a signal can go from “Excellent” to gone in only a few minutes.) I figured I could sleep in Friday, which I did.

I’ll get to Friday’s exciting events tomorrow, since it’s now 4:15, and it looks like I’ll hit the trifecta if I don’t watch it . . .

Saturday? “Shining City” in the afternoon, “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” in the evening (I’m only hoping that Norbert is in; he wasn’t in when I bought my ticket Wednesday afternoon – great seat; second row center), then Jessica Molaskey at the Algonquin at 11:30. I’ve been afraid I wouldn’t be able to stay awake for her, but given my late hours this week, I’m hoping it won’t be a problem.

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