Monday, May 23, 2005

Planes, Light Sabers, and Shrubberies

Greetings, Gentle Readers, and welcome to a tale of great adventure, excellent theatre, camaraderie, and sleep deprivation. On Friday afternoon I began my journey at Alexandria International Airport. The name belies the place, as I have been to larger Wal-Marts, but be that as it may, I was soon airborne upon a fairly comfortable twin-engine turbo prop (puddle jumper to you non-aircraft savvy readers). Touchdown in Memphis came much more quickly than I expected, and I was soon looking down upon the clouds in a larger jet, this one headed directly for Gotham. (I will not use that fruit-based appellation for NYC as I find it both stupid and overused) The landing at LaGuardia was smooth, and as I only had carry-on luggage I headed directly to the rendezvous point. Jeff and Keith soon arrived, and we found that Steve, and David (our benefactor, and organizer of this whole affair) were delayed in Atlanta, and since LaGuardia closes at Midnight, because terrorists do their best work in the wee small hours) they were re-routed to JFK. Dave had tickets to see Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith at 1am, so there was still a slim chance that we would make it. We grabbed a cab, checked in at the hotel, and then found a nice Irish pub and settled in to wait. Dave and Steve arrived about three rounds later, too late, alas, to see the movie. So we just drank, wandered a bit, then went back to the hotel to catch up. Since it had been somewhere in the vicinity of two decades since we had all been in the same room together there was much catching up to do. I was amazed at how easily the years dropped away. We had all stayed more or less in touch, so we didn’t waste much time with ‘so, what are you doing now’ talk. Instead we just bullshitted. I cannot recommend highly enough the therapeutic benefits of bullshitting. There were a few references made to our collective adolescence and events that took place then, but mostly we just joked around and realized how much our relationships had not changed much. I think I was expecting there to be lots of forced conviviality, surrounded by numerous awkward silences, but that never happened. We stayed up as late as any of us could manage (my watch broke in Alexandria so all times are approximate), I think somewhere in the area of 4:30am, then we crashed.
Saturday morning we got up around 9ish, and Dave found that he could exchange his ROTS tickets for an 11am show. Showers, coffee, breakfast on the run, and we went to the theater. NYC is interesting in that most buildings go up, instead of out, so theatre 12 was up 4 escalators. It was an all digital theatre, so the sound and picture was awesome. We were a bit early, so we joked and threatened grave consequences should this movie suck too. By the time the lights dimmed the place was full, and got very quiet. After many previews, and NO COMMERCIALS (thank Ipthar), that familiar drum riff, followed by the horn fanfare told us that a 20th Century Fox film was about to begin. Then, 10 words in blue appeared on the black screen. A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…
My friends, I will not tell of the events that transpired during that magical morning lest any of you read this before you see the movie, but I will say this. Had Lucas made only this movie, with some flashbacks to nutshell the events of the first two, I would still genuflect at the mention of his name. Sure, there is still no chemistry between Natalie Portman and Hayden Christensen, and the battle droids would still seem more at home in a Ninja Turtles episode than a multi-million dollar epic, but this is the movie for which we have waited. The space battles are incredible. The lightsaber duels are beautifully choreographed, and the storyline is understandable. Unlike Eps. I and 2, there were no moments where I had to go ‘oh please!’ It does get quite gruesome at the end, so this is definitely not one for the kiddies. Whether or not the movie was any good I have to see it again with my wife, and now I can look forward to it with anticipation rather than dread. And, while this is a slight spoiler I don’t think it will ruin anything for you. JarJar has no dialogue!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!(I still want to see him fed into a lightsaber powered wood chipper, though) The rest of that afternoon was spent wandering the streets of New York, and getting souvenirs for our loved ones at home. The Toys R Us there is a huge, three story affair with a giant Ferris Wheel at the center, and a life sized animatronic T-Rex. It was cool. Then we went back to the room and got cleaned up for the evening. Some folks napped others of us just sat around talking. By the time I decided to nap it was too late…ah well. Dave wanted to take us to a place called Carmine’s for dinner, as it had been recommended to him by one of his associates. He had called to make a reservation, but was told that they don’t take reservations for less than six. As we were only five it was suggested that we arrive early to ensure getting a table. When we arrived at 5:05 we were told by the stereotypical Maitre’d that we needed a reservation. When Dave explained that we tried to make a reservation the guy told us that they were booked solid three months in advance anyway, and the guy on the phone should have told us that. So we found a nice, quiet, and friendly Italian restaurant across the street and had a great meal, with some great wine, and great conversation.
So, about an hour later, stuffed with veal and ready to go, we sallied forth to infiltrate the Shubert Theatre and see Spamalot! It was getting very windy, and we could feel a spot or two of rain, when we took our place in line outside the theatre. We had about 15 minutes to wait before they opened the doors, so we just enjoyed the show that is the streets of NYC. Shortly after we got undercover a mighty wind blew up, and it started raining like there should have been an ark coming down the street. It was weird watching the rain shoot almost horizontally past us, and then actually go around the corner of a building. Lots of inside out umbrellas with people hunched behind them went running by, and then the doors opened and we went in.
It is always a strange sensation for me to be in an audience. Fortunately I was so psyched about seeing the show that I wasn’t at all uncomfortable. The Shubert is a beautiful space, with lots of sculptures and paintings on the house walls and proscenium. The set was hidden by a show curtain that looked like a huge portcullis, and had ‘stone’ walls that extended out beyond the proscenium. There were very pythonesque clouds over the stage and along the top of the proscenium. Large Verilites abounded, and there were air cannons in the on-stage boxes. Our seats were beautiful! Dead center about 10 rows from the stage. We waited and watched the crowd. At one point I saw a familiar face a few rows ahead of us, and I asked Keith to see if he agreed. Sure enough, it was Sigourney Weaver. She is as lovely in person as she is on screen. Later we realized that her companion was Alan Rickman. Then, off to our right, a few rows ahead of us, was Colin Mocherie (Who’s Line Is It Anyway?). We briefly considered approaching them, but decided that they were just trying to enjoy a night out, and since most other folks were not disturbing them, why should we. Then the lights dimmed, and hilarity ensued.
I don’t think I had any preconceptions about the show, but I was totally unprepared for just how funny it was. The show opened with a number about Finland, which was quickly stopped so the ‘real’ show could begin. Tim Curry as Arthur ‘rode’ onto the stage, with his faithful servant, Patsy, clopping the requisite coconuts behind him. David Hyde Pierce begins the show as Guard 1, asking Arthur where he got the coconuts, and Hank Azaria, as Guard 2, begins discussing the carrying capacities of various species of swallow. The audience applauded each time one of these three made their first appearance, and I surprised myself by clapping right along with them. (I generally disdain such displays) Again, I won’t ruin the show for any of you who might get to see it, and I suggest that you move Heaven and Earth to do so, but I will say this. Azaria was born to be a Python. He played Lancelot, The Knight of Ni, and Tim The Enchanter almost as well as Cleese himself. His ability to play the absurd as if it were real is brilliant, and he is totally without self-consciousness on stage. David Hyde Pierce, for all his stuffy pomposity on TV, gives a very relaxed, ‘wink, wink, nudge, nudge’ performance that will be tough to replace once he moves on. And who knew he could play the piano so well. The only real low point, alas, was Tim Curry. He seemed either tired or bemused while on stage. His songs were powerful, and his acting was fine, but he frequently seemed more amused by his fellows on stage than focused on his own performance. I don’t know if he just didn’t get it, or if we saw him on a bad night, but if that is how he always is, perhaps a different Arthur wouldn’t hurt the show. The most standout performance, to me, was by Sara Ramirez, who played The Lady of the Lake. Her vocal prowess was as powerful as her grasp of the ridiculous. The show has a few slow moments, but overall it is a brilliant night of theatre; by the end of the play my face ached from laughing. It not only brings “Holy Grail” to the stage, it also skewers the whole Broadway machine, while never ignoring the fact that it is biting the hand that feeds it. I earnestly hope it tours, but if you can possibly get to New York to catch it, do so. (oh, those air cannons I mentioned fired about a billion bits of confetti onto the audience at the end of the curtain call)
After the show we tried to find a bar that was quiet enough to be heard in, but to no avail. So we bought some beer and munchies and went back to the hotel for more bullshitting, fart jokes, political debate, and general silliness. We stayed up as long as our middle-aged bodies would let us, about 3am, and then crashed.
6am sucks even in NYC. We slowly crawled from bed, showered, packed, and were downstairs to get the limo at 7. And when I say limo, I’m not talking about the euphemistically named busses airports use to shuttle passengers to and fro. Dave got a real stretch limo to take us to the airport. It’s just a shame we were all too exhausted to misbehave as much as I have always wanted to in such a vehicle, although there was the one moment when, at a stop light, Jeff puts his window down and says, “Hey, should I start yelling ‘fuck you’ to people?” We decided that it probably wouldn’t be a good idea, so he went to put the window back up, and it wouldn’t work. He then said it was a good thing he didn’t tell anyone to fuck off after all. Everything from then on was pretty standard. Good-byes were said, and the seeds of the next gathering planted (this time in FL). The flights home were uneventful, and as this narrative is already too long, I shan’t go into them. I slept most of the way home, anyway, and was in bed by 8:30 last night.
This trip shall remain one of the highlights of my life, and I want to thank everyone who was involved, especially Dave. This gathering was everything we all hoped it would be, and a great deal more. There is only one aspect of this great journey that remains unfulfilled. We never did find a truly hillarious fart joke. ;-)


1 comment:

Jeff said...

Good recap. I think the Maitre'd at Carmine's was looking for us to put a twenty in his palm. The movie theater seats were unexpectedly comfortable considering my hangover. I shall have to see Episode III again to properly place its hierarchal ranking, but it is enough to be elated that it didn't suck! Regarding Spamalot, if that was the only single thing we did the trip would have been worth it. Add in everything else and this trip can "serve as example in these dark times".