Performance impressions, Love, Love, Love 11/3-11/6 #richardarmitage

So now that I’ve documented what I saw in general terms (Act One, Act Two [part one, part two], Act Three), I can drop my more personal impressions from the trip via my diary on single performances of Love, Love, Love that I saw. Apologies for the pictures — yeah, I suck as a photographer. I found myself thinking again during this trip that my impulse when I see something striking is never to photograph, always to write. Also, if you’re tired of reading about the play, please feel free not to read. I’m still deep in the documenting process and I want this stuff down, but by no means do I expect comments.

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Preface

Planning started well, but got complicated as I needed to use vouchers and miles for travel and housing. October was not a good month in the Servetus household. Dad had an “accident” toward the middle of the month and then didn’t take his injury seriously at first, so that things got drastically worse. For several days, he couldn’t even stand on his own to go to the bathroom. Just as I was realizing he couldn’t stay by himself, he improved enough that I could go. And then — I had picked this weekend because I wanted one of the last performances where the weather wouldn’t be a hazard. After mid-November snow can mess up any trip around here until the end of April. I didn’t reckon with the World Series. (Although, to be fair, neither did Chicago.) When I logged on to check in for the flight, late Wednesday night, I learned it was canceled. None of the late flights from O’Hare had come north so there was no plane at any central Wisconsin airport for the first morning flight back south. The rest of the state was scrambling for seats, too. It was drive to Milwaukee (90 miles) or wait until Saturday to fly out — missing three of the five performances I had tickets for. When I got to Milwaukee Thursday morning, the limited rebooking the airline website let me do had led to the “loss” of the remainder of the reservation, which took another half hour to resolve. I could go but they weren’t sure I had a ticket to return and United (which I call “Untied” even under the best of circumstances) was not exactly helpful. Honestly, I wasn’t entirely sure I’d get there on time for the play until I exited the Lincoln Tunnel about 3:30 p.m. on November 3rd and knew I could get there on foot if anything else unexpected happened. I felt really frustrated — one of my resolutions the last time I left Germany was never again to let my emotional life be tied to anything that involved relying on a plane. There were a series of hotel-related hassles that also did their bit to harsh my mellow. This trip had its own extremely thought-provoking moments, and I’m really glad I went, but it was not relaxing. And then the election the next day, and the results the day after that.

Perspective: none of my problems reached the exasperation level of what Hariclea went through.

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Front row mezzanine, slight to the right -- this was an afterthought purchase, once I wanted to see the play first and not just Richard Armitage.

Front row mezzanine, slight to the right — this was an afterthought purchase, once I realized that I wanted to see the play first and not just Richard Armitage.

Thursday, 11/3

I’m only a few blocks away from the theater, which is good. Dinner and beers with a friend whose up-to-the-moment details I’m out of touch with; really calming debrief and vent. She is a study in calm. She orders the cheese plate and then more or less lets me eat it all. This is true friendship, especially at New York prices. We’re right across the street; I can’t take any more time stress today. So when I go, I’m chilled and I’ve got my “theater uniform” on: black shirt, black jeans, black boots. I really want to be invisible, but my face is so pale. Note to self: get a scarf. Front row mezzanine seat, but it’s actually very close to the stage. There is no bad seat in this theater. The audience is singing along with the pre-show music. The lady next to me and her husband are really into it. She says, “This was all on the radio when I was in high school.” I say, “I think we played some of this in marching band.” She laughs, and says, “So this is more your parents’ generation.” I say, “No, the brother in the play is my parents’ generation.” She says, “oh, wow.”

Main impression from first night: how improbably funny Richard Armitage was.

Main impression from first night: how improbably funny Richard Armitage was.

Act One:

Wow, Armitage is so unbelievably electric • stage presence I can feel even from here • would not have credited he could be 19 • what an unbelievable younger brother shtick • he’s so sly! • higher pitch of voice • very reactive face • there’s something to this thing that actors have big heads and faces, his face is reactive and I can see his eyes, even from here • have his parents have seen this and what do they think? • Kenneth is so pliable, but I can’t sense genuine regret over the betrayal, is it naïveté or arrogance? • overwhelming feeling in this act was pursuit of sensation — feeling everything at once which makes them feel frustration with “the old” • He and Alex Hurt are a totally effective team • Love Hurt’s blunt delivery, roughness • Amy Ryan slows them down, she doesn’t seem to be reacting to dialogue at their speed, it’s like she has poor reflexes • too slow, too cool, too detached from events in the scene • Kenneth’s is the emotional development, it’s hard to see any chemistry from Sandra’s side • is this intentional? • Kenneth’s is a laziness without malice that I recognize in myself sometimes • questions about pacing after Sandra enters • she seems to be rushing the scene, not letting the audience laugh, audience gets tired of trying • audience does not like “cunt-stable” joke as much as Sandra does • Ryan’s Sandra is not silly enough to be 19

I didn't know this was a thing, but since it is I decided to try it. You can see the mezzanine rail behind the playbill.

I didn’t know this was a thing in NYC, but since it is I decided to try it. You can see the mezzanine rail behind the playbill.

Act Two:

Good connection between Sandra’s physical mannerisms in Acts One and Two, I can see how this is the same person, somewhat less so with Kenneth, connection between adolescent and man not entirely clear • Sandra has same tone of decisiveness from earlier • Rose is the worst kind of adolescent, but totally familiar • doesn’t seem fifteen going on sixteen • fantastic physical comedy around smoking and drinking • sometimes my laughter chokes in my throat • scene is written too snappily for any possible shift in mood • Ryan plays Sandra using feminism as an excuse • but wow, playing of drunk is excellent • Armitage hits perfectly this blowhard affable dad who wants to be cool and connected but isn’t • he makes really clear how this kind of bragging about his daughter is a refusal to see her, it’s funny but ow, I know exactly how this works, it hurts to see this on stage, painful • his ass looks amazing in those slacks • crucial moment, climax of scene seems to be his admission that he’s cheated, laughter is at high point here • big laughs for “we live in Reading” • Sandra’s sexual competition with her daughter — seems like she’s putting it on almost physically when she says “fully formed” • the cake eating, she’s really frightening with that cake server • last five to seven minutes of this act are wildly brutal • you really realize how good Armitage is at this, because I don’t think he’s remotely like Kenneth in either act so far • where does he get this silliness, this slapstick from? • and then the bluff father • Jamie’s soundless agony at the end is heart-breaking

Act Three:

Is this play even a comedy? • I don’t see connections physically between this Kenneth and those of previous acts • Armitage is not so good as an old man • I didn’t realize how impossible this dialogue is until I heard these words actually coming out of Zoe Kazan’s mouth • this must be really hard to rehearse • Ben Rosenfield is really convincingly out of it here, masterful combination of Aspergery-ness and just plain being out-of-touch, with that knowitall quality in the background escaping every now and then • he spits out every excuse like a pro • I don’t get the romantic attraction between Kenneth and Sandra, it seems pasted on at the end • Again, issues with timing, audience and actors are not in sync about when to laugh or if • I would call this play “family united by dysfunction” more than “generational conflict”

My Love, Love, Love stage door souvenir.

My Love, Love, Love stage door souvenir. I had a Sharpie ready but he used his own!

When I come out I’m assuming I’ll be alone, but there are several other fans there, some whom I know, others whom I recognize. I have a deal with the ones I know to act as if they don’t recognize me. The friend with whom I had dinner also emerges from the theater; she met someone outside who just gave her a ticket she wasn’t using — what luck! It’s a Thursday so I figure, despite my ambivalence about the whole experience after London, if I want to try to say anything to Armitage himself, this is going to be the night, when fewer people are there. I position myself exactly where he exits the theater so I’m the second person in line with my copy of the Love, Love, Love script. He’s so thin! I say, “You were so hilarious, who knew? A real departure for you!” and he looks up for a split second, enough that I can see his eyes under the baseball cap, and says “Thank you for coming,” but I don’t think he actually sees me. There are maybe twelve or fifteen people there and I think everyone got what they wanted, several selfies, his voice sounds happy and in a good mood. I think he’s got this down, he’s friendly and acquiescent but he’s also got a “my identity has nothing to do with your admiration” vibe on. Admirable. A group of us decamps for a bar. Honestly, I hate New York bars, they are always so loud, and if you ask them to turn the music down they look at you like you’re insane. I order calamari — I wonder absently when eating it will stop feeling transgressive. Conversation circles around whether Armitage has any chemistry at all with Amy Ryan and the plot dealbreaker for a lot of us, the plausibility or outrageousness of Rose’s demand for her parents to buy her a house, and Armitage’s appearance (luscious — not that anyone was flagging, but we all want him again now). As we say goodbye, a Berlin Station taxi passes us. I’m in bed after midnight, after my first impressions diary entry.

Friday evening playbill photo.

Friday evening playbill photo.

Friday, 11/4

The play (probably in combination with the previous two weeks) sets off a night of horrible dreams jumbling the play, dad, and my adolescence, and I probably do not need to be watching dysfunctional family drama at the moment, but I remind myself how unbelievably lucky I am to be doing this. Seeing Armitage at work exhilarates, it’s like my lungs are fully filled again for the first time in months, and some of the things that have been irritating me most lately seem so trivial in comparison. Most fandom days are impoverished in comparison to evenings like last night, even if the play didn’t seem to go that well. I didn’t have the feeling of being made small in a large world full of questions that I had in London, but I still an intense feeling of wonder. And a bit of envy: What does it take, what do you have to have, what do you have to put together personally, to move people like this?

I wonder: what constitutes a great performance — for himself, I mean, not from a different actor — from Armitage’s perspective? When is he satisfied?

I’ve been wrestling in advance with the question of seeing this — I’ve been in the city many times, and it’s the only “New York” thing I want to do besides eat the heck out of every cuisine we don’t have in northeastern Wisconsin — but I also want to be rid of that particular baggage and I desperately need to sleep in. So instead of virtuously going to the Morgan, I betake myself to the affordable Europa Café for brunch to sit down and write. I laugh wryly about the sheer number of hours I have spent writing about jumbled-up feelings in large city cafés. Somewhat less of that lately. I should be grateful.

Took this pic on Saturday but put it here b/c I needed an image here.

Took this pic on Saturday but put it here b/c I needed an image here.

he’s so thin! • I’m still reeling at seeing him this way • but it’s so absurd it absolutely works for him • what I hadn’t guessed at was his ability to ham things up • well, wait, I had, it’s just that’s not something he lets peek through all that often • the bounciness • the floppy hair • the voice! • Amy Ryan doesn’t always seem to live up to the energy that would seem necessary for this play • I ask again, is this play an indictment of feminism? Sure seemed that way last night • maybe it’s just because she wasn’t funny enough • I need to ask, when watching again, what strands are carried over from act to act? • interesting contrast to some of Armitage’s more heroic roles, which made him seem larger than life, he’s definitely larger than reality on stage, but he’s more — pedestrian? Is it the superficiality of the character? • words are such an inadequate bridge to capture experience • pacing issues throughout seemed to catch up to them in Act Three, which wasn’t funny • structure of play as played leaves us to guess at the continuities in personality and narrative between the acts • Act Three is too close to reality to be trivial or absurd • We can excuse Kenneth as permanently out of it as he’s always been, one glass of wine too many, but Ryan is not funny enough, even if she drinks more than Kenneth, unclear if I should find her funny or hate her • Act Three doesn’t get anywhere near the silliness of the paradox, which makes the paradox — Jamie is the one who needs help, Rose is the one who asks for it — galling • in the end, we don’t really get at anyone’s grief • “we ended up in Reading” — these material things are proof we did the right thing (another galling paradox) — play doesn’t interrogate Kenneth and Sandra’s failures on that level • it’s hard to believe in Kenneth and Sandra as dreamers because their dreams themselves are so insubstantial • hard to accept Rose as a person in Act Three after the severe caricature of Act Two, but why didn’t the audience laugh last night when she said “it was all your fault”? • in Act Two, the way parents assign categories to their children that carry over into Act Three: “clearly it meant something to her” • but despite all the problems in liking these characters, this isn’t Verfremdungstheater • Kenneth seems to have an inherent affability, a sort of “blimey” vibe, I wonder if Armitage has spent a lot of time observing that • sort of like the clueless boyfriend in Dibley, always wondered where he got that from, too • I wonder if Armitage ever wonders if he’d have ended up in a house in Reading, himself • how much insight can the trivial hold, if you were the person who wanted to say one beautiful thing and ended up never doing it, I wonder that Kenneth doesn’t have more pain at the end of his life when he’s prioritized playing golf • maybe that’s the problem with Act Three, Kenneth and Sandra have zero regrets • the play just doesn’t unpack enough the moralism of the younger generation (Rose)

I learn a friend has arrived. I talk to her for a bit, but she is very together and has definite and ambitious shopping and sight-seeing plans. I decide for a lunch special in a Turkish place. Too much food, but we don’t have this at home. I badly need a nap, which I take. I wake up in time for the performance, but not really for dinner, which is okay. As usual after flying my vital rhythms are messed up. I put on my “theater uniform” again and get ready to go. Two blocks to the theater.

This was probably my favorite seat of the whole production. Three rows back, center orchestra, aisle.

This was probably my favorite seat of the whole production. Three rows back, center orchestra, aisle.

Act One

So much closer to the stage • the expressions on Kenneth’s face • the way his eyes gobble up her approach • Amy Ryan is totally different tonight, more energetic, marginally more flirty, not sure, but she’s getting many, many more laughs tonight • this means Kenneth does, too • he’s hopping around like a cartoon bunny, and it’s so funny, you can almost hear the xylophone that would accompany him if he were animated • the things he does with his mouth, that giddy smile • his eyes are so big • maybe it’s that she’s displaying her attraction to him more, but he seems younger, more boyish, sillier • when he rolls the “joint,” he has to pick stuff off his tongue • Armitage’s performance is in general broader, also in the very brief poignant movements • when he says “he’s my brother” I can believe there is some kind of ethical core there that I didn’t see last night • timing of that conversation about being queer is right on again, I wonder how they rehearse that • everyone on stage is taking the audience more seriously • Ryan’s hand positions are more evocative, more ironic, much funnier • Kenneth more decadent, Sandra more “lovely” • maybe that’s it, Sandra seems to feel herself more attractive tonight • I keep thinking about Kenneth’s “hop hop” demeanor and the silly way he smiles with his whole mouth at Sandra • her energy is much more seductive, romantic • Kenneth’s desire to be instigated, moved out of his inertia is much more palpable, too • all of this conveys much more fully the potentiality of late adolescence • the sort of physical inchoateness that has yet to be channeled • they both are much more in that position tonight

My version of the obligatory off-kilter illicit picture of the stage before Act One.

My version of the obligatory off-kilter illicit picture of the stage before Act One.

Act Two

Armitage is bigger, bluffer, more aggressive with his hips • both of their speech is more direct • Kenneth’s hand language is really powerful • lots of canonical Armitage moves (extended even hands in balance, e.g., when he’s telling Sandra “this isn’t funny” or “that is the worst answer to that question”) but they are really good at showing Kenneth disturbed by the situation in his marriage • the way he hyperextends his knees when he stands • Kenneth feels better about himself tonight and that seems to deepen his crisis when he uncovers the infidelity he expects to find • his facial expressions after the couch are much harder • fascinating how he puts together this posture of conventional marital masculinity • the way he sits at the table, holding onto the chair with spread legs, as if he’d like to pull the chair apart • lots of combustion there. • throughout the act his legs are further apart, his hips are forward • this act just crackles, crackles

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Best act on Friday night.

There was a snoring man in the same aisle with me, accompanying his wife, who was the Armitage fan; he left after Act Two. I exit the theater and there are more people than last night — I count and probably twenty are lined up. I don’t have anything else I want signed and I don’t want a selfie, so I stand around in the second row, waiting. It takes him quite a while and someone asks me if I’m a fan and another nosy question and I don’t know what to say and my jaw clenches so I let my instinctively rude response escape. There’s probably something wrong with me, but I am who I am and I tired of apologizing for that long ago. People are jockeying for position and there’s a fairly raucous atmosphere; other people are enjoying the circus more than I am. Again, he’s in a good mood, and rushed, but laughs, and takes some time with the people at the end of the line. He has a nice energy; it’s good to know there’s a normal person under all of this — I never felt that in London. There he was a canvas anyone could write their feelings onto; it doesn’t feel that way here, at all. The stanchion is a boundary, but more of a boundary is his mood. I take a lot of pictures as he goes down the line, and then disappears into the car on the street.

Security man #1.

Security man #1.

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You can see security man #2 here

You can see security man #2 here. Back to us.

It looks like there’s a huge group of people all going out together, not really my scene, so I peel off and buy some halal kebab off the street (the vendor recommends the lamb — and I have a moment of wistfulness about big cities, I do miss the casual food at all hours right near me thing) and go back to the hotel to think and write.

Improbably, not my photo, but the place I bought the food from. Source.

Not my photo, but somewhat improbably, from article about the place I bought the food from. I had lamb rice. Source. Mohammed Munirul Islam, 23, works at Fahima Halal food cart on W. 45th Street. (Photo by Tung Ngo)

Act Three:

Still don’t know what to do with Act Three • tonight Act Two was the highlight — timing throughout that segment was perfection, laughter just cascaded through the theater • makes clear that if Ryan is having a good night, Armitage has a better one, but his radar as “reactor” was also much tighter tonight, he also reacted with more spark to his daughter • that side hug during the curtain call must happen every night • but Act Three was better tonight to • Kenneth caressing the urn, more regret • I wonder what makes a person old, particularly in the face, how do you change a person’s entire face • Verballhornung (?) • how do you separate the character’s reality from the parody the play intends? • the audience was better prepared to laugh at Act Three tonight, and did, but mostly at Sandra, less at Rose • but tonight Rose’s “big” lines got way more laughter, too • also her “fuck off mum” line • we have to consider that Jamie is just as much as an “accessory” here, too, shaped into what his parents wanted • what’s hard for me to watch, “if you ever need any help,” wow, that pushes buttons • projecting, I suspect it’s much harder for Rose to make this request than her parents expect • it’s weird, the way Kenneth becomes largely autonomous again in the end ?? • need a better path to that somehow

Saturday, 11/5

I did actually take this picture on Saturday morning.

I did actually take this picture on Saturday morning.

What is it with these dreams? Dreamt I was staying with Julie H in Austin, where Armitage came over to visit, they were going on together like a house afire, comparing notes about their expat experiences, her whole house was made up of a mattress. He was wearing that baseball cap, and took me to the bus stop but the right bus never came. Ouch. That’s not freighted with meaning or anything. Over to the Europa Café again where I buy a piece of tiramisù and a cup of coffee for brunch — wow, am I a nutrition whiz — and get involved in a detailed conversation with a couple at the next table on the banquette. They’re from northern New Jersey and are going to see Beautiful. They’re probably about ten years older than me, she’s a hospital chaplain and he works for a textbook publisher. Interesting discussion about the gender politics of the UMC — church body versus individual congregations, and where she stands re: same sex unions — and the burdens of confidentiality in listening to terminal patients. I see the guy eyeing my tiramisù. I offer him a bite and he eats about a third of it. “Shoulda got this,” he says, “it’s good.” I laugh. While we’re talking I see three buses go by on the other side of Fifth Avenue with the Berlin Station poster. They leave for their matinée and so do I. Since I have a little extra time, I take the opportunity to buy the bling I want: the mug and a magnet. I’m going to order the poster separately so it doesn’t get crushed.

I’m seated next to a fan I don’t recognize who’s never been in New York by herself and has taken the train from Pennsylvania to New York City for the day. Great conversation. She’s decided that since she’s not going to have children, she’s going to give herself more permission to have fun and enjoy things like this, even if they are expensive. We talk a little bit about the trip and the city and our mutual interests in Armitage — she’s frustrated with how hard it is to see some things and I agree. Some things she’s not that interested in. But she felt like she couldn’t miss this. I tell her I’ve seen it a few times and we have great seats on this side of the stage to see Armitage.

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This was a great seat, too. First seat on the aisle, front row, side orchestra (stage right).

Matinée. Act One:

audience not quite so present as last night but Armitage is really awake and ON • I can see his dazed look of desire from the door frame • open, very masculine hunger — “you look great under there” • greater astonishment at Sandra’s outrageous statements • more insouciance in total • but in the “following orders” line, he seems more impatient and annoyed • it’s like he’s more frustrated with Henry and more bold with Sandra • I kind of still can’t believe I’m so lucky as to be watching how he does this • trying to figure out his relationship with comedy and also chemistry with Ryan • there’s a little piece of humiliation in here (out of his usual bag of tricks), like that’s on the edge of sexual attraction and somehow makes it more spicy, the possibility that he could be rejected, which he plays with, e.g., when he says he knows that Sandra likes him, and then looks down • soles of Kenneth’s feet are dirty • that swinging housecoat move never stops being funny, so great how obstinately he does that • but it’s interesting, the conflict of boyishness and irritation with Henry that comes to the fore today • some things work really well about this blocking, it seems formulaic but it organizes the whole thing, like a dance

My fellow fan is: really enjoying the show: “I feel like I have to think about everything I’ve seen again after seeing him do this — he’s just so good.” She really wants to greet him at the stage door, but her train is leaving before the evening performance ends. We talk about the logistics of staying cheaply and safely overnight in NYC in case she wants to come again to this show or to a future one. Her thrill is palpable and it’s so much fun to talk to her.

Saturday matinée playbill picture.

Saturday matinée playbill picture.

Matinée. Act Two:

In line with the greater annoyance with Henry in Act One, Kenneth’s negative emotions are much closer to the surface this afternoon, this makes Act Two’s dark turn more believable: in fight with Sandra, at the table — just before Rose blows out her candles he looks darkly mutinous, as he’s responding to Sandra’s admission about the drunk driving • Kenneth is still bluff, but there is way more anger there from his side • Jamie’s dancing at the beginning is more evocative • they just seem to gloss over these English things, I wonder how serious a problem that is • something in the play that’s interesting but not fully realized in the “we were never like this” theme that’s more convincing when Kenneth allows himself to get as angry as Sandra seems to be by the cake scene • these huge trouser break pants look better on him that one would guess, I can’t believe how much time I spend looking at his rear end • Armitage can be funny even with his back, can’t see much of the smoke scene from here but I can see that his posture changes with every draw on the cigarette — it’s more than the smoke • also, the anger makes the paterfamilias behavior more convincing, esp. the line about the school fees, the fact that he at least seems to feel the weight of more responsibility here makes him more sympathetic

Kenneth: "I'm serious. I want to talk to you. I want you to be honest, this isn't funny" (p. 83).

Kenneth: “I’m serious. I want to talk to you. I want you to be honest, this isn’t funny” (p. 83).

Armitage is just — yeah. I just want to watch, and watch, and watch, and write it all down and look for clues. I can’t quit watching. The fellow fan next to me is a little dazed and wants to find a way to come back. We have a few more words about the play and say goodbye.

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I have no Act Three notes for this performance because I was waiting to meet some friends and it got complicated and there was no time to jot anything at all down. The place we’d planned to meet was overrun with rugby fans (my fault for not thinking about that possibility). After a slight wait, I run into the first two, and we are able to have a bit of a conversation as we figure out who knows how to contact whom. Eventually everyone who wanted to got together so we could sit down for a quick although delicious dinner. But first the difficulty of even finding a place after the first one didn’t work out — one woman’s husband who knew the neighborhood well absolutely saved the day so we had time to chat with people we didn’t know. Slog through Times Square — overwhelming. It vaguely reminded me of the crowd density of the Love Parade in Berlin in the summer of 2000. I look at the sign near the police station but I don’t see a Berlin Station ad (later I learn that they are still there, though). I have calamari for dinner. Again. By the end of dinner we’ve calmed down a bit and know each other a little better. We leave the restaurant in a huge rush (luckily we’re close to the theater) but definitely with the feeling of having put some names to faces. It turns out that I am again seated next to a fan.

Right in front of the stage -- but a little too close, I think.

Right in front of the stage — a good seat, but a little too close, I think.

Soirée. Act One:

Front row center tickets, these are great seats but I think I liked it better two rows back • jarred • still, some things you only get from here • in that last second of the act, as Sandra falls into Kenneth’s arms, a moment of sheer, closed-eyed bliss • Armitage’s face is always active in the pauses, as when she’s pressuring him to stay with her • or the mixture of horror and glee when she intimates she wants him and he crouches over slightly • is the slack quality of his face, the infinite pliability, muscles or makeup? • and the question persists, how does he do this, why how does someone become this? what quality of personality stands behind it? • this is probably my decisive question and the one I will never get an answer to • the way the hair flips around to cover his forehead, he’s flipping more tonight • in the afternoon I was more aware of his calculation at getting what he wanted, this time the axis is tilted much more toward desire • the way his eyes darken in the split second before he kisses her • but also, the silliness, this might be the maximum silliness he can get out of this character • as a sort of microcosm of the 60s, this performance definitely captures the goofiness • is he flexing his pecs? • and his eye movements, so reactive, honestly, one could buy the tickets just to watch this • theater is really this man’s element • something I feel here in common with the Crucible is that Armitage is never really pushing • he wants to keep the ball in the air but he doesn’t seem to take the initiative to change the tempo, he’s always waiting for her •

Saturday evening playbill photo. Hmm. I think these must be more exciting if they are tweeted.

Saturday evening playbill photo. Hmm. I think these must be more exciting if they are tweeted.

Soirée. Act Two:

Jamie’s black fingernails • wow, that fell apart fast • almost no applause this time • some laughter all the way through • but it’s clear most of this audience had no idea what happened at the end of this act • Kenneth is really miserable this time and also more openly fatherly • it makes it a sort of implicit wedge issue in his playing of the segment of the scene with just Sandra • how fatherly is he really, how self-interested? • again, he starts the whole scene out as wanting a confrontation • maybe it’s too much, maybe that makes it harder for people to laugh • but wow, the forehead is really engaged tonight, furrowed, crinkled, moving eyebrows, especially when he’s on the sofa • the quintessential couple of the 80s, how self-aware were they? • “we were never going to” • looking back I can see my parents stuck in this same problem, even though they were not boomers •

At this point, I get interrupted in my writing by the fan sitting next to me. And then I have a really surreal conversation with someone else. I hate the shadow world, which I understand poorly to begin with and in which I never know exactly what is going on or what my role should be. I just wanted to write about my crush. I don’t know why I can’t say what I want and enforce it. In any case, it disrupts the end of my observations for Act Two.

I actually took this picture on Sunday.

I actually took this picture on Sunday.

The audience is ready to give them a standing ovation (weird — no laughter all the way through) but we’re again interrupted by the Broadway Cares speech (this has happened after every performance — I don’t feel like going back and inserting it every night, but it did happen. I’m generally in favor but I wish they would let us finish applauding). It’s effective, though — like many Midwesterners I have a hard time walking past people with buckets, so I give them money every evening.

I exit the theater, and the first thing I hear, unfortunately, is a white person complaining about Asian fans. “They probably weren’t even in the theater,” I hear, but then I hear one of my friends say there were only four people in the stage door line before the performance finished. I’m pretty sure they were in the theater and that that explains a lot of the delayed applause effect — this play is hard to understand, with the over-another line delivery in British accents. I can’t imagine what it would be like to listen to it if you weren’t a native speaker and/or understanding English at near-native levels. They may not be laughing at everything but they want to show their appreciation.

The crowd is large — probably at least twenty-five — so I get in back and take a few photos when Armitage exits. A group of confused millennials next to me who didn’t really get either Act Two or Three: are parents really like that? theirs aren’t; are kids really like that? they’re not. When he comes out, his friend Jo Bendy is with him along with a man I don’t recognize. I don’t take many pictures.

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I spend most of my time talking to the fan with the husband who saved dinner about the subject of the play. They are both really informed — Xers with millennial children — and we talk quite a bit about the college conundrum (about which I naturally have opinions as well, despite my lack of children) and the questions they are facing with all of their children, but especially their son. They are really open, which I appreciate, and although I sense there might be disagreements that we don’t probe, there are a lot of things we agree on and this is definitely one of the better political conversations I’ve had in the last year. They’ve also put away their troubles for the evening and they’re really a breath of fresh air.

As the crowd dissipates, we proceed to try to find a place to talk and conclude there is no good place around 46th Street to do that, but eventually we split into two groups at two different places, and then condense into one group, and we have some good conversations. I don’t remember about what. I do jot down the following notes before I give in to the desire for an Ommegang Three Philosophers:

Soirée: Act Three

the level of tenderness, sadness, is elevated this time around • Kenneth is clearly troubled by Henry’s death • this far stage right, I can watch every expression enfold across Kenneth’s face in response to Rose’s request • for a comedy, it’s really rather deep • if he’s sadder about Henry, he’s maybe sadder about everything, even including his decision not to accede to her demands • he’s also gentler with Sandra • the way he whispers in her hair

Sunday, 11/6

Sunday playbill shot

Sunday playbill shot

Exhausted — I’m not accustomed to this much city or this many conversations in a day anymore. Thankfully, no dreams. Morning wake up, a few blocks walk to breakfast with a friend. This is the person I’d most wanted to meet on this trip and it’s unfortunate that I’m so exhausted at this point, but we have a conversation in which we really connect, so at least there’s that. In New York City, you can have macaroni and cheese for breakfast. So, I do. Also, a breakfast drink with kale and fresh ginger in it – $10. I order two, which is ridiculously frivolous. I obviously need to work harder on making Wisconsin work for me. I also learn — how did I miss this? — that she’s never been in NYC before. She needs to wander around and I need to sleep; luckily she doesn’t hold it against me. We plot out some places for her to window shop before her trip home starts. Back to the hotel room for a nap. One of the several interesting things she says at breakfast sticks in my mind: if you’re from this kind of family, you can see the end of Act Two coming almost from the beginning.

If I’d had money to hang out in NYC for longer, I’d probably have taken this day off from watching the play to think before seeing it one more time, but alas. I had two concerns for this performance: I wanted to trace at least the outlines of the playlist, and I wanted to spend at least one performance just staring at Richard Armitage. (Shallow, I know. I never had the feeling that the audience was majority fans or overwhelmed by fan responses, but the number of people in the theater who were looking at Kenneth for the entire performance was a bit noticeable. Anyway, I decided to give in the one time.)

This was a good seat, too; second row, side orchestra, third seat in. However the couple next to me were a bit fractious, so I wasn't unhappy when a vacancy in the row right in front of me let me move into the first row again (C5).

This was a good seat, too; second row, side orchestra, third seat in. However the couple next to me were a bit fractious, so I wasn’t unhappy when a vacancy in the row right in front of me let me move into the first row again (C5).

Notes, 11/6, matinée:

this time I find myself thinking about the little physical details Armitage puts into this performance • spinning on his toe • the callous on his right foot • his tongue • allowing himself to concentrate with delight on rolling the “joint” • his fingers in his hair • the way he touches his nose • the way he narrows his eyes • the still huge humor of the “queer” exchange with Henry in Act One • and I have so many questions about the way that blocking supports the comedy here • the flirtatious desire in Act One is at a height, it’s totally how we imagine the 60s were • Henry’s signals to Kenneth to get lost much more visible from this perspective • the air guitar in Act Two, Kenneth really enjoys it for a split second • oops, Armitage’s ass • OMG, his hands • the more I watch Kenneth, the more I wonder what makes Armitage tick • he’s so bothered by his dance background but most of his acting is movement • although his speech has improved a lot in comparison to The Crucible • or maybe it’s that the demands are different, not so grandiose • in the end, I’m never sure how to deal with that final act but at least this time the audience really got into it, liked it better, found the humor • is this audience older? • but I think the performances are better in which Armitage is less comic in Act Two • maybe? • or maybe you have to have all that laughter in Act Two to make Act Three bearable • when, exactly, IS Kenneth grown up?

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There are probably twenty people at the stage door; everyone comes out except Richard Armitage, including Amy Ryan, which makes one fan happy because she gets the last signature on her playbill that she hasn’t had. (It’s apparent fairly quickly that there’s no car for him; he’s announced he’ll be live tweeting Berlin Station.) Ryan looks younger in person than she does in any stage guise, but she is clearly not eager to be doing this, she is only even marginally friendly before she breaks away (observation not criticism). She seems to have her family or guests along with her. There’s again a group of people I know; I have an appointment with one of them and I break off in order to get something to eat — we’re meeting again in the evening.

I wander with a purpose uptown ten blocks to Joe’s Shanghai and get one order of pork soup dumplings. The waitperson is annoyed I don’t want to order more. I realize I won’t even get to Thai or Jewish food on this trip.

I’m back down to the Laura Pels Theatre in time to see Kingdom Come with the friend — a play about how relationships develop over the Internet, which seems like an interesting close to the evening. (Review still forthcoming, I hope. I don’t have notes but it deserves a few paragraphs.) We then go back to my hotel room and watch the latest episode of Berlin Station on my computer — thank you, TWC. Unfortunately any interesting material in the episode has been drowned out in my memory by the racist crap. When I got around to writing about it, it reminded me of why I don’t like to watch television. We’re both hungry, so we look for a place to eat at 10 on a Sunday night. Wow, Manhattan, I love you. We find an extremely convenient Italian place. I find myself starving all of a sudden — maybe because the playwatching is over. I can have both carpaccio and orecchiette with broccoli rabe; the menu makes me want to cry a little. We have a long, for me very satisfying conversation about the play, the future. I feel reassuringly reconnected with her.

Monday, 11/7

I make it to the airport without incident and sit in the departure lounge, blogging about the music. This is the best way to end the trip: by starting to think about what it meant.

Maybe someday I will figure out how to aim to take a selfie.

Maybe someday I will figure out how to aim to take a selfie.

~ by Servetus on December 11, 2016.

15 Responses to “Performance impressions, Love, Love, Love 11/3-11/6 #richardarmitage”

  1. I enjoyed reading your impressions of the play and other experiences you had while you were in the big city. It helped me remember details of my trip which tend to be a just a happy blur in my mind. I hope there are more RA plays in our future. Just thinking about the possibility puts a smile on my face. 🙂

    • These plays make the rest of my annoyance with him lately worth it — he’s just so good at what he does that I wonder he ever does anything else. I know that effect of having a good time and forgetting the details; I always want to remember the details, lol. I hope there are many of these trips as well.

  2. My morning was very enjoyable thanks to you ,Servetus. 😊
    PS : The selfie is absolutely perfect! 😃

  3. Loved reading this Serv!!!! My memories of my attendance are still bright and making me smile daily!!! Wish all the fans that attended could have this experience every year!!!!🎉

    • I do, too. It’s a bit frustrating that is has to be an expensive big city where this happens (London or NYC so far, and if he goes afield in the US, all the other options are also expensive), because it excludes so many people. However, it really does give one an attitude adjustment. I hope you guys are well.

  4. Wow, serv, you’ve got lots of friends. 😀

    • I’m very lucky. My ‘problem,’ if it is a problem, is that I tend to prefer one on one or very small groups to large groups. I don’t always manage that well. But I am grateful for everyone who puts up with me over the years.

  5. Since I haven’t written my own observations about the play, yet, I just skimmed over those paragraphs and enjoyed your description of the non-performance activities. You had a packed programme, it seems. And I think there is something to be said for insisting on “alone time”. I regret a little bit that I did not take the time to note down my immediate impressions of the play – I knew it at the time that it was a mistake. But I was just too tired by the end of each day, what with all the sight-seeing and meeting people. Your account has brought a few memories back, though!

    • I’m just unbearable without a certain amount of it (and time spent sleeping doesn’t count). I can do it and have done it but I can’t hold it together infinitely and I become progressively not nicer as the clock ticks, to the point that I horrify myself. It sounded like you had a lot of fun, though, like you had just the experience you wanted. I think that’s the main thing (given how much time, energy and money this takes).

      • Of course – I should stress that I do not regret meeting and spending time with so many nice people. As you said – that was what I wanted. I attempted some note-taking on day 1, but didn’t even finish that. So I let it slip.
        I know what you mean about needing alone time in order to remain balanced. With children in school and husband at work, I get a lot of alone time during the day at home, nowadays. And thankfully I have grown older (and mellower 😉 ) and am better in group settings, too. I used to veer between tyrannical dictator and huffy isolationist in group situations…

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