A while back, I read the book 21 Dog Years, by Mike Daisey, about his three years in the topsy-turvy world of Amazon. I later found out that he performs the material as a one-man monologue – I had a couple opportunities to see him at the Berkeley Rep, but never got around to it. One of my coworkers at Fog Creek is a fan of his, and found out that he was performing another work of his, The Ugly American, in New York. She had already seen it, but wanted to see it again, and I decided to go check it out. So she and I and a friend of hers went to see it on Friday night.
The Ugly American is Daisey’s recounting of how he spent a semester abroad in London studying acting, and the adventures that he gets into there. It’s pretty funny, but also gets fairly dark in places. I thought it was very well done – it’s hard to talk for two hours and keep people’s attention, but Daisey did it. I also liked the space, a theater called Ars Nova – a small theater, but very intimate.
Afterwards, we wandered around for a bit, ended up near my place, and I invited them up. We ended up talking until 1:30am or so, which was great – I love conversations. One idea in particular I want to pursue a bit, but I’ll talk about that in a subsequent post.
Unfortunately, staying up late wasn’t quite the right thing to do, because I had already made plans to catch the 9am train the next morning to New Haven. My friend Adam is in the stage management program of the Yale Drama school, and he had invited me to check out the show that he was currently managing. I had decided on the Saturday matinee performance so that I could turn it into a day trip, hence the early train to New Haven. In the morning, I walked over to Grand Central station, got on the train, and arrived in New Haven at about 11am.
By the way, I just want to say how cool this whole train thing is. I get on a train, read for a bit, nap for a bit, listen to my MP3 player, look at the scenery, and a couple hours later I’m someplace totally different. The East Coast rocks! (remember this so you can mock me when I start whining about the weather)
I met up with Adam and his girlfriend Cat for lunch, we hung out at a bookstore for a bit, and then he had to go prep for the show.
The show is dance of the holy ghosts, by Marcus Gardley. Gardley’s a recent Yale Drama school alum, and this was the world premiere performance of his first work. And it was great. The writing was thoughtful and intricate – it’s a play about memory and how our past infiltrates our present and influences everything about how we think and act. There are several scenes where the characters are in the present day, and a chance remark reminds one of them of something that happened twenty years ago, and the play flows smoothly into a flashback. It sounds like it could be corny, but the actors made it work, effortlessly transitioning between past and present.
Brian Henry, who plays the semi-autobiographical role of Marcus G, had the hardest transition, going back and forth between a 27-year-old man and the 10-year-old boy he once was. And he did it well. Henry is a current Yale Drama student, but he’s definitely somebody I want to keep an eye on. The other outstanding performance was by Chuck Cooper, a Tony award-winning veteran of Broadway. His role was the centerpiece of the play, and he held all of the crazy transitions together. Plus he had one heck of a voice (his character is a blues singer).
I look forward to future plays by Gardley – this was an auspicious debut, as they say. It wasn’t a life-changing piece of art or anything, but I really enjoyed how well he illustrated the way in which our minds flit back and forth, and how everything is connected. I’m a big fan of connection.
After the show, I hung out with Adam and Cat some more at a frites place, and then I hopped the train back to New York when Adam had to go prep for the evening performance.
Yay theater. I never got to enough theater in the Bay Area, but it’s all over the place here. Heck, I live near the Theater district, and haven’t made it to a show there yet. Yet more things to experience in New York.