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