Rated: 18+ · Non-fiction · Biographical · #2161032
CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER & BRIAN DENNEHEY IN INHERIT THE WIND AT THE LYCEUM. AND WE'RE LATE !?
A few weeks ago, I had an urgent phone call from my friend, Barb, who was completely beside herself. I was able to decipher that what she was trying to convey was the news that Christopher Plummer and Brian Dennehey were appearing at the Lyceum Theater in previews of INHERIT THE WIND. Without hesitating, I immediately began to stammer and stutter along with her. Somewhere in that unintelligible conversation we decided that we would not be able to go on living (not happily anyway) if we missed this.
Next day, I went online and made the purchase. In order to get the perfect seat for a show of this caliber, one must sometimes wait… I booked us second row, dead center… but we would have to wait eleven days. And I am not even going to write what I paid for those tickets. I’ll simply quote Bing Crosby from White Christmas and say it was “somewhere between ouch and boing!”
Two days before the show, we spoke again deciding to make our way into the City on our own and meet at Penn Station outside of a certain shop.
One day before the show, I phoned Barb to let her know this was frightening to me. I don’t mind traveling into the City in daylight hours, I explained; but the idea of traveling home in the dark, alone, after midnight was daunting. I feared it would have affected my psyche enough to interfere with my enjoyment of the show. Barb understood and we agreed that rather than walk two blocks from my house and catch the train, I would make the forty minute drive up to her office and make use of one of her computers to do some writing while she closed up for the day. Sounds easy enough, yes?
I left my home at three-thirty for what should have been, as I have said, about a forty minute drive to her office. Barb works for Pierre Deux, the decorating house, and her office is in Secaucus. About ten minutes by train from Manhattan. We’d leave my car at her office and take hers to the train station. Within minutes we’d be in the City and could take a nice leisurely walk to the Lyceum. (What’s that they say about the best laid plans?)
I phoned Barb at about four-thirty to say I was not even out of town yet. Traffic was at a complete standstill and no one seemed to know why or how long it would be this way. She wasted no time logging on to her computer to check it out. In a minute she let me know there was a several alarm fire in one of the towns through which I needed to pass. Traffic there was being diverted and onlookers were also contributing to the tie-up. We had no way to know how long this would take but I felt that it would work out since I had left so early, uh, to avoid traffic.
By five-thirty, we’d moved two miles. Now the tickets were at the box office… in my name. Barb would not have been able to get them because she wouldn't have had the proper credentials. Telling her to go on ahead without me and I would catch up was not an option. I phoned her again just to fret. (Walking into a theater late is a horrible thing to do in any circumstance, but when your seat is down front, dead center, it’s simply unacceptable. Combine that with my concern over these two princes of the theater seeing two empty seats directly in front of them and you can sense my anxiety. What could I do? I put my convertible top down, cranked up the music and sang with Stevie Wonder… Baby everything’s all right. Up tight… Well, you get the picture.)
By six-thirty I’d established myself on a first name basis with my traffic clique. Yes, we’d begun to form cliques. I phoned to give Barb my hourly update and introduce her to my new friends… Just then, a man in a red car accidentally cut me off and as we waved our we’re-all-in-this-together understanding to one another, the traffic vanished. (I will never understand how it does that.)
“The traffic’s gone!” I announced victoriously. "I’ll be there in a few minutes."
Indeed, I was at her office in less than fifteen. She closed the place while I made use of the facilities. As we exited the building and were triumphantly approaching her car, one of her coworkers stopped us to say she’d heard that there was no parking at the train station. The lots were jam-packed. Now, Secaucus, New Jersey is not a place to park your car just anywhere, unless you want it to disappear – or parts of it to disapp… nevermind.
We decided to check it out anyway. Coworker had been correct. There was no parking at all. What to do.
Holland Tunnel was backed up for miles; it would have taken way past Curtain just to get through the tunnel let alone navigate the City and then park... It was already past seven. (Am I glad I left my house at three-thirty!) Barb suggested we head over to Hoboken and catch the Ferry. Sounded good to me.
Check this out: Parking was a dream. As we walked from the car to the terminal we could see that the Ferry was heading for New Jersey and there was no line. We looked at one another in nervous disbelief. Could our luck be changing for the better?
We stepped up to the counter, purchased our tickets, walked outside, stepped onto the boat, sailed across the Hudson, disembarked, caught a bus to the theater, walked in, picked up our tickets, entered, shed our coats, sat down, heaved a sigh of relief. CURTAIN. (Definitely worth a good solid HIGH FIVE and tension relieving giggle!! Talk about the nick of time!)
The Lyceum is a beautifully appointed, smallish theater with a cozy, intimate feel to it. One of those theaters where there are no bad seats, but, as in all theaters, there are wonderful seats. We had wonderful.
When Brian Dennehey walked onto the stage, not eight feet away from us, the audience burst forth with such a rousing applause, I wondered how he would manage to continue. He did stand still for just a moment while the mirth quieted. He then went on to give a performance that was so stellar, I say with all sincerity it was bested only by Christopher Plummer’s. I finally understood the coinage of the word "star" when referring to an actor of a certain quality and magnitude. These two great actors lifted each other up to such amazing theatrical heights that they took us right along with them as though we were willingly encased in some gravitational pull.
As the curtain closed after the final encore bows, the woman to my left said in astonishment, “I knew I was going to see Christopher Plummer tonight, but I did not know I was going to experience THIS.” All I could do was nod my agreement; I was completely speechless. I turned to Barb who merely raised her eyebrows and opened her mouth as though to speak, but couldn't. We smiled at one another, shook our heads in disbelief, and exited with the throng.
I could overhear remarks made by others as we walked along. They validated my heart song:
“I don’t want it to be over.”
“That was wonderful”
“One of the best things I have ever seen”
“Isn’t he wonderful”
“I love him more than ever”
Everyone with whom we made eye contact as we all poured onto the sidewalk of the busy theater district seemed to want to say something, and all seemed to feel the same. There was no denying it. We had all shared in experiencing a true once-in-a-lifetime event. What's more, we all knew it!
For the first time in my life, I contemplated the pros and cons of waiting at the Stage Door to meet the actors. Thought better of it knowing I was incapable of saying anything worthwhile or sensible and moved on down the road. Remembering that we had not eaten before the play because time had not seemed to have been on our side, we decided to catch the Ferry and go back to “the Jersey side” for dinner.
The ride back across the Hudson was every bit as magical as the earlier ride to the City had been.
Earlier, the City had been transformed into shades of pinks and golds as the windows on the magnificent skyscrapers reflected the sunset. Now it was bedecked and bedazzled with the flickering lights of man set against the velvety night sky. There is simply no other city like it. And indeed that view was the crown jewel topping off the evening.
By ten-thirty, we were seated in one of those wonderful diners for which New Jersey is famous, enjoying being served by a waitress with a personality that was rivaled only by the rest of our evening! She added a whole new dimension to our experience earning her place as part of the memory. At some point, Barb and I found our tongues and our thoughts. I don’t know who started it but we sat there in that diner talking about the play. The perfect matching of costumes and set to the material. Plummer and Dennehey; the perfect matching of these two actors in the lead roles. The cast; every bit up to the task of acting alongside and with these two astonishing men. We left the diner at after one in the morning. (Have I mentioned that it was perfect?)
I turned on the music as I headed south on the Parkway but turned it off again, wanting to relive the play. I remembered the endearing face of the woman who’d so sweetly said she hadn’t wanted it to be over yet… In the confines of my car, I finally answered her... Audibly.
So, what does all this have to do with writing? Simply this: Performances like that, material like that, theaters, conversations, and audience reactions like that inspire me limitlessly. Someone wrote that wonderful, timeless play and these two brilliant men found it worthwhile enough to want to perform it. For a writer, there is no better validation.
Go see it!
Then email me…
Copyright 2007-2018 Posted to WDC with permission.