I put my two cents in on their question after the waitress and shift manager can’t give them an answer and suggest they go to one of the many Famous Rays locations, it’s about as New York as any pizza I’ve had and they are all over the city. They are from Florida so we talk about the differences in pizza between New York and everywhere else and we touch upon my memories of Vero Beach, how cheap a great breakfast was in Florida and how beautiful and clear the water was there in the gentle surf. They are well travelled and we talk about Georgia and the places they found there for good eats and drinks, I also tell them about my road trip down south years ago to Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia when I thought a truck stop was fine dinning and beer was the drink of choice. I take the time to write down menupages.com for them so they can find what they want in food and check menus and prices when they get back to their hotel. I talk about the Village and Cafe Reggiro and the renovation going on in Washington Square Park, but am surprised to find them asking if it’s safe to go down there at night. So I assure them that they will be fine, dozens of people will be out eating and drinking till the small hours, sitting in open cafes and on sidewalks out side bars and restaurants enjoying tapas, bar food, pretzels, and even three course meals! I tell them to just take a taxi back, don’t walk unfamiliar streets in the dark. They both thank me for my time and leave …so now I polish off my drink and walk back to the theater.
The St. James is a nice old theater with beautifully upholstered carpets with matching seats, I don’t have to wait long for the lights to go down and the production to start. The stage is set with boulders, lots of them and I mean lots! They hang from the ceiling by ropes, piled up like walls and used as camouflage to hide clever hydraulics that will silently raise and lower props. There is a small house also hanging from the ceiling with ropes that got to be three inches thick! A stove and table with chairs is stage right, that will lower into the floor to allow the house to be lowered, stage left is a raised platform that is used to simulate the farms slaughterhouse and later will represent the bedroom in the upstairs of the house. a hidden pathway behind the rocks in back of the stage is used to simulate travel and the out of doors, and center stage is used for most of the scenes. It is an absorbing production, brilliantly staged and very passionately acted. Set in New England in 1850, it’s the story of the Cabot family. The father Brian Dennehy (Ephraim) gives an outstanding performance as a man who is consumed by his possessions and all that he considers his. Carla Gugino (Abbie) is exceptional as the young woman he marries determined to have her own possessions at any cost. Pablo Schrieber (Eben) puts in a commanding performance as the son(from Ephraims second wife) who fights for what he believes is his inheritance from his dead mother. Boris McGiver (Peter) and Daniel Stewart Sherman (Simeon) play the brutish brothers who work hard in the fields of the farm but dream of the gold fields of California where they imagine gold lies atop the ground like rocks do on the farm. I won’t give the plot away to any who might read the play or see the show but it’s sufficient to say that like many of O’Neil’s works it’s about loss and longing and the burdens of life. I can’t help thinking that he longed for what I long for, a more perfect world where love, loyalty, and honor take precedence over hate, greed, and betrayal. The sad events of O’Neil’s life reflect the all too grim reality of many people throughout history, what a shame but then again it fueled a string of fascinating literary works by Eugene that might not have been written any other way but the hard road he walked. Many critics have called the production pretentious and overstated, and sharply criticised the lack of Elm trees in favor of rocks. The fact is that this was written as a play but it’s really a movie, so it’s impossible to not have platforms rise and fall and houses that lift out of the way. It has been made into a movie once or twice but still I think the play was brilliantly acted by the three main characters and the brothers who are gone early in the play give us all they got while on stage and should be commended for what they do with limited roles and not too many lines. It is a great performance and the crowd roars at the finish like it’s the Super Bowl!
I wait outside with others all eager to meet the cast and get an autograph, we wait for a half hour before they all come out one by one. I stop Daniel as he was just going to leave figuring that no one would want his autograph. I hold out my program and say “Not so fast bud you guys rocked the first part of that show”! causing a round of applause by others waiting with me and he blushingly signed away, obviously happy at the recognition. Next Boris comes out and gets a round of applause too and signs many autographs, I tell him that Daniel was gonna just walk by and he says “Well he’s not too bright you see” causing all of us to laugh at his obvious co-worker joke but at the same time I see it as the characters still alive and could imagine Peter and Simeon talking like that about each other. Next is the man himself Brian Dennehy, big and imposing, familiar yet larger than life. He signs for many and poses for pix very patiently before he leaves and then Carla and Pablo come out together, she is petite and gorgeous and Pablo is strong and cool as they too wade through the crowd who surround them with questions and beg for photos and signatures. I leave while others are still talking and taking photos and start walking back to Penn Station, but after a few blocks I realize I’m walking the wrong way!
I turn around and as I come back I find Pablo and Carla together going someplace, it couldn’t be a restaurant because Pablo carried a plastic container with heath salad and dressing out of the theater with him so he’s got his dinner, could this be a romance I wonder as I walk by noticing they recognize me from before as they pass. Good for them I think as I walk down the busy street, the weather is hot and dry now a perfect day for walking. But soon I see a strange sight, Brian Dennehy is standing out in the middle of the street trying to get a cab. He’s got two small bags, one he’s carrying and one pull behind and he’s looking lost or something. I walk up to him and say “Hey Brian I see you have just as much trouble getting a cab as the rest of us.” He looks at me and says “This is bull***t, I’ve been trying for twenty minutes!” So we begin walking along together and he says “I can’t understand this, doesn’t anyone want to be out in this beautiful weather.” We wait for more cabs to pass still striking out, he asks me if I’m needing a cab too and I stupidly say no, I should have said yes and hung out with him. I mean I don’t know where he was going but it would have been cool to share a cab and maybe wind up having a cold beer together and talk about acting, movies, and TV. But then again he was probably on his way to a lie down before the next performance tonight at eight so he says that if this keeps up he’s going back to the theater and walks off. I look at the retreating figure and am a little worried for him, he is just a few years younger than my father but he’s been around so he will be okay I think as I turn and head towards Penn again. I was thinking about staying in the city but I’ve got a pork bracciole that’s thawed that I eaither cook and eat tonight or chuck out, it’s been thawed for days. So I decide to leave the city early, and as I walk with the crowds listening to the conversations of people around me. There are a few goggle eyed tourists from parts unknown who say to each other things like…”How do these people stand all the crowds and noise?” or “I could never live here, but I’m glad I saw it!”
I group of younger people are talking over a destination and saying over and over…”She said it was right here! Right here by the garden.” now I don’t know what they mean but then one of them says “The Stage Door Deli, she said it’s right by here.” I look up as I approach the intersection leaving them behind arguing about it, while I wait for the light to change I look up and as a truck moves out of the way I see it in the distance on the right hand side of the street. I walk back half a block and say to the group “Your looking for the Stage Door Deli right?” “Uh yeah.” a girl says just slightly worried at the stranger talking to her. I point down the street and tell em “It’s right there on the right hand side of the street, the Garden is opposite, you can’t see it from here but it’s there…trust me.” They thank me and I walk off happy to have helped again. I feel it now, it’s my destiny to be an ambassador of New York City, to help out-of-towners find their way and to change peoples opinion about New Yorkers. I go down the escalator to the station and help another couple find New Jersey Transit before getting to the LIRR area. I’ve got six minutes to grab a cold Stella Artois and go down to the track area, easy as 123.
I sit and sip my cold one bemused as a couple in their mid thirties smooch in the seat in front of me and talk about the musical Jersey Boys to each other and to someone on the other end of the cell phone, it must have been one hell of a show to arouse so much passion. They really need to get a room, jealous you think…well you might be right. But I’d say right now I’m way more envious of Pablo Schreiber than of this guy in front of me. But also way more jealous of O’Neil’s ability to imagine fictional lives than I am at this point in my writing career, and if I’m ever going to be published I’ll need to have that mastered. I sit and ponder the problem while the couple in front of me have finally run out of steam and sit quietly.