Dateline: New York, New York-
This will be the last entry from NYC. I don’t know where I will be tomorrow night, it just won’t be here. I have some ideas, but we’ll see what happens. It’s going to depend on train schedules, cousin schedules, and holiday week traffic. It’s been a bittersweet two weeks. I’ve caught up with people, attended some terrific theater, but at the end of it I find myself full of tidbits that I want to share with Tommy which I just can’t do anymore. Heck, there are even some things I want to share with Steve. I’ve made so many trips to Manhattan over the years that details elide and sometimes I find myself confused as to whether a certain event involved Tommy or involved Steve and I can see them becoming more and more intertwined in my brain as time goes on. By the time I’m eighty and my dementia is well in place, I’m likely only to remember one husband with aspects of both men.
It was a hot and sticky day all day in the city. The kind of day where he feel you need a shower after walking three blocks. Fortunately, it was also a day I could spend primarily indoors. I headed to midtown around noon for a matinee of The Bands Visit. (The Barrymore has a great air conditioning system). This is the musical that swept the Tonys this year. It’s a long one act about an Egyptian band that gets on the wrong bus and is stranded in the wrong town overnight when they go to Israel for a cultural festival. David Yazbek has written an Arabic music flavored score for the band (many playing their own instruments) as the Arabs and Israelis awaken to their human commonalities. It’s a very sweet show. Not much actually happens but you recognize that both the band members and the townspeople will be pushed out of their respective ruts by their interaction and they will be forever changed.
My evening show, another long one act, Come From Away, has a similar theme. It’s the story of what happened in Gander, Newfoundland on 9/11 when US airspace was closed and 38 transatlantic flights were diverted and a town of 9,000 found themselves playing host to 7,000 unexpected guests. Again, an event over which they have no control throws people together and all of them are forever changed for the better because of it. I found the show incredibly uplifting. The cast of twelve, of all ages, shapes and ethnicities, fluidly portray dozens of characters with the quick change of a hat or coat. While the tragedy of that day is always there in the background, the show is about the good that we as humans are capable of doing for each other. Sitting through the unfolding story, most of which I already knew, I thought that both of these shows were the perfect antidotes for the toxic politics of today. Most people are decent people and when confronted with the stranger on an individual level, they will open their hearts and homes. It’s when they can hide behind the anonymity of the internet or distance themselves from the human face of the news that the toxicity bubbles to the surface. The row in front of me was occupied by a tour group from Newfoundland who adored the show and waved Newfoundland flags at key moments. It was obvious the cast could see that and were touched by the gesture.
Both of these shows, while neither even about the US, made me feel more positive about what we as a society can accomplish when we can break our problems down to the individual people to people level. I once wrote a play entitled ‘Terrorist in the Family Room’ about a dysfunctional suburban family that takes in an international terrorist by mistake, but the whole point of the play was that the real terrorist was the television set and the constant diet of unrealistic images we all get fed which distract us from what’s in front of our noses.
Something interesting about all three of the new musicals I have seen (these two and Dear Evan Hansen) is that they are all very small scale. Come From Away has a cast of 12, Dear Evan Hansen, a cast of 8, and The Band’s Visit a cast of 14 plus some additional musician band members. All three of them are in relatively small Broadway houses making the experience of seeing them fairly intimate and it is easy to relate to the performers. They are all going to be swallowed up on tour in 3,000 seat civic barns.
Between shows, I had one of those weird things happen that tend to become stories. Tommy and I had both been fans of the long running TV series, Bones and had binge watched it several times. Our favorite character was the quirky Zach, played by Eric Milegan and we thought the show was never quite as successful after his departure. Anyway, I have followed Eric on Twitter for years. This morning, scrolling through, I saw a tweet from him asking if anybody was in NYC? Being in a silly frame of mind, I replied that I was. Lo and behold, I get a message from him several hours later asking me to please come to a set he was doing at the Broadway comedy club and to please introduce myself (he had looked up my social media and I guess he decided I was worth knowing…) As the show was scheduled between matinee and evening, I thought what the hell, turned up, had a very nice chat with him (and we seemed to hit it off quite well) and I stayed for the show. I may have made a new friend. We shall see…