I may not be getting an incredible amount of work done in New York, admittedly, but I’m taking in a lot. I can work later, right?
This week, we attended a reading of a play about Oriana Fallaci, written by another Texan, Larry Wright. Fallaci was an incredibly gutsy, accomplished and outrageous journalist. She was particularly well-known in the 1970s for her interviews with the likes of Henry Kissinger and the Ayatollah Khomeini. After 9/11, she found the international spotlight once again with her inflammatory anti-Islamist views, dying a few years ago. Kathleen Chalfant, a wonderful actress I saw a few years ago in “Wit,” was superb in the role of Fallaci.
I also saw a new play by Alan Ayckbourn, “My Wonderful Day,” on the Upper East Side, and a run-through of a one-man show by the indefatigable Larry Wright taken from his recent New Yorker piece on Gaza.
By Saturday, it was cold and windy, with a mixture of snow and rain. Two primo college football games were on TV — Florida versus Alabama and Texas at Nebraska. It was a perfect evening to do nothing except watch TV and impersonate two sloths.
But we had tickets to a play in Brooklyn and plans to meet two friends there. We wrapped up and braved the elements, wearing enough layers of clothes to rival two Eskimoes, and wielding umbrellas that flapped and jumped in the wind. Out of this unauspicious beginning, we found ourselves at one of the most incredible performances we’ve seen since we’ve been here.
“Brief Encounter,” playing at St. Ann’s Warehouse, is based on the Noel Coward play about a doomed love affair of a man and woman who are both married to others. That tells you something. But it doesn’t begin to describe the inventiveness and artistry that went on — the music, the wonderfully effective atmosphere, the imaginative special effects, the superb timing, the acting. A relatively simple and poignant story became something so much more — moving and riveting and seamless.
After the play, we left the theater with our friends Mary Jo and Bill, and walked outside, where the wind still blew and the rain whipped at our umbrellas. In an alcove to the side of the theater, we saw an actor from the play, the good-looking leading man still dressed in his fedora and trenchcoat, catching a smoke.
We were all still so exhilarated by the play, by what we’d just seen and heard, that we showered him with compliments (still failing at the New York be-cool standard). He acknowledged us very politely and said how much he loved being in New York and what a great city it is.
I looked up, through the damp, to see the towering Brooklyn Bridge just beyond us.
“It is great, isn’t it?” said Mary Jo and Bill, the longtime New Yorkers.
“We love it,” my husband and I, the visitors, said. Just as if we owned it, too.
(Copyright 2009 by Ruth Pennebaker)
Read one of my favorite posts about failing at self-improvement
I don’t think I could I cope with Brief Encounter without Rachmaninoff and Trevor Howard, even with the Brooklyn Bridge in the background.
Brief Encounter with a City
Night. Wind. Rain. Theatre exterior. In a side alcove, a lone figure stands, smoking. He is an actor from the stage. Still dressed in fedora and trenchcoat from the Noel Coward play that just occurred, he is a Janus– both Art and Life. Towering beyond, a bridge– the Brooklyn. A still life rendered in a mottled atmosphere of my heart’s vision of New York.
This play and the 1945 film Brief Encounter are both separate adaptations of Noel Coward’s Still Life, a one-act and part of Tonight at 8:30, first performed at the National on November 30, 1936.
Ruth, thanks for blogging your real life experience. You so captured the elements of what I believe is New York. And it really does exist, if you only know where to glimpse it.
Your experience, as you drew it for me, brings to mind an early scene from All About Eve, where Karen Richards alights from a cab on a rainy night, walks down an alley toward a stage door and encounters Eve Harrington standing in an alcove wearing a rain bonnet and coat.
Thank you for the trip to NYC and into my on private world.
my own private, not my on private….
I miss being able to preview a post before clicking “Submit.”
Winston, funny you should mention All About Eve, one of my very favorite movies of all time. Sorry you can’t preview.
Duchess, Trevor was missing, but Rachmaninoff was there in full force. Almost lifted me out of my seat.
I liked this post, especially the ending. What’s more, since I know Mary Jo and Bill since this summer, I could imagine them there, too. I remember Oriana Fallaci who was very respected in France. I admire your prominent placement of the adjective “sucked.” I hear my daughter using this word, but have not yet incorporated it into my written vocabulary ….
You very nearly went without Trevor Howard.
The first choice for the role of Dr. Alec Harvey had been Roger Livesey, but when director David Lean and producer Anthony Havelock-Allan saw Trevor Howard, in a rough cut of The Way to the Stars, they decided to offer the part to Trevor Howard instead, who at that time was an unknown actor.
Nice to see virtue rewarded, for a change!
Like Duchess, I just can’t imagine Brief Encounter without Trevor Howard and especially Celia Johnson. There has never been her equal for conveying pinch-faced suffering in the name of duty and doing what is proper. I wept buckets the first time I saw that film, and have soaked several more hankies since, whenever I caught it on television.
I’ve never been able to hear Rachmaninoff’s name without laughing, since Spike Milligan repeatedly referred to “Rachmaninoff’s bloody awful Warsaw Concerto” in his very funny autobiography, Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall.
So glad you’re taking in so much of New York!! Work will come. Right now you’re collecting material.