Words, Words, Words

October 1, 2000

I went up to New York this weekend to see Ralph Fiennes in Coriolanus and Richard II. I work across the street from an Amtrak station, so I just caught a train at lunchtime, switched to an LIRR train at Penn Station, and called Terry McGarry when I got to Long Beach. She picked me up and gave the grand tour of her house (which is very nice, although I wouldn't want to use the toilet in the basement). We went down to the boardwalk and appreciated the lovely view. There was one lonely solitary surfer riding the tiniest waves you ever did see, and an object that looked like an island but which Terry said was probably a large tanker. After a while it started moving, so unless we wandered into a Terry Bisson story she was probably right. We finished the evening by getting a Trekkies/Galaxy Quest double-feature from Blockbuster and ordering some delivery Chinese food. We didn't get to bed until after midnight, which was fine. I went to bed a bit before Terry and got up a bit after. I showered and dressed in plenty of time for us to head out to Brooklyn.

There was very little traffic along the way, for which Terry gave me full credit. We had lunch at a little Greek diner, where I got a feta cheese omelet, before heading over to the theater.

I had overcompensated for getting "obstructed view" seats to Richard II (all they had left) by getting the really expensive seats for Coriolanus. We were in row G and had a fantastic view. Strong performances all around. Terry and I had a discussion about the difference between pride and vanity during the intermission, except that I couldn't think of the word "vanity", so it wasn't quite as focussed as it might have been.

Asking in the lobby for a nearby restaurant, we got directions to a place that was closed, so we went to the BAMCafe, where I ordered the wild mushroom tart and Terry had a hamburger. Apparently wild mushroom tarts are a "girly" dish, since the waiter tried to give it to Terry until we redirected him. There was also a bookstore attached to the cafe, small but intensely specialized with a good selection of theater/film/music books, where I nobly restrained my impulse to impulse-buy, even though the Hitchcock book looked really fun. Then it was back to the theater, where I discovered that "obstructed view" meant there was a pillar between us and the stage. This wasn't as bad as I'd feared. Most of the time it didn't interfere with my enjoyment of the play, and I only leaned far enough over to violate Terry's personal space once, during the deposition scene when Richard was standing in exactly the wrong spot.

Of the two plays, I greatly preferred Richard II. Fiennes' Coriolanus was good, but his Richard was magnificient. The long speech in Act III, where Richard's emotions swerve all over the place, actually worked. And Bolingbroke was interestingly unregal, never comfortable with the pomp, glowering from beneath his crown. A pointed contrast to Richard, who was the other way around, very good at being kingly but very bad at being a king. It's no accident that Richard is never more effective than when he's surrendering power; he manipulates symbolism to great effect. The only part I disliked was Aumerle, who cringed too much, but that was a small flaw in a superb production.

We got back late and went straight to bed, then had brunch in the morning before I left. Transferring at Penn Station went a little less smoothly this time, but I had a book with me and was in no hurry to get home, so that was all right. It was standing room only on the way back, but fortunately I was one of the ones with seats. A very fun trip, and just the right length. (There was a moment during dinner Saturday night when Terry and I both ran out of conversation, and it was probably just as well we didn't extend the visit too much beyond that, because now all the memories are golden.) Terry also had a great time and I'm very glad I went.

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