On Friday, I drove up to New York. On the agenda, two plays by Bertolt Brecht. Robbi dropped me off at the world’s finest rest stop (that’s the Delaware House for those of you who have not yet had the pleasure), and my friend Don drove me the rest of the way. Don, a lifelong fan of Ethan Hawke, had won an auction, the prize for which was tickets to Ethan Hawke’s off-Broadway play Clive (adapted from Brecht’s Baal), a backstage tour, and dinner with Ethan Hawke himself. And I was lucky enough to be Don’s date for the evening. And so we drove north.
Our punishment for the evening ahead: a 90-minute wait to get through the Lincoln Tunnel.
But we had left plenty of time. We got into the city, parked, dropped our bags in Don’s room, and enjoyed the views of the city.
I do love my small town life, but I can also see the lure of living in a tower, looking down at the lights of anonymous life and motion everywhere.
Eventually, it was time to head to the theater. We took in some h0t dogs.
And then waited the lobby for the woman who was to present us with our tickets and escort us to our seats.
The show was wild. Apparently, Baal was a bad-boy poet. Clive was a bad boy musician. Both were womanizing booze hounds with a penchant for making poor decisions.
In addition to starring (and being directed by) Ethan Hawke, the play featured up-and-coming actress Zoe Kazan and Vincent D’Onofrio in his first play in more than ten years.
As promised, when the play ended and the rest of the audience filed out, we were invited onto the stage to take a closer look.
The space was designed to appear made of flattened beer cans.
Apparently these are actual bottoms from actual cans, and the flat panels above and below are the graphics from beer cans printed on a metal substrate. As such, the entire set shimmered.
Five doors featured prominently in the show. Designed by musician/artists, the doors were, themselves, musical instruments that the actors played throughout the show.
In addition to serving as guitar stand…
…this door had a built-in set of metal keys attached to pickups, so that when the actors plucked them, it produced a resonant sount.
This door housed a washtub that distorted and amplified their voices.
And this one contained an embedded string instrument.
Don was pleased.
And why not? We were getting the celebrity treatment. Next, our hostess introduced us to the person in charge of wardrobe and wigs. There were a lot of wigs in Clive.
Finally, she showed us the room where the costumes for the next play were being assembled. Set in Bollywood, the next show being produced by Ethan’s company is a musical.
The costumes were beautiful.
This is the “mood board” the costume designer used for inspiration as she worked.
Once the tour was done, our hostess led us to a restaurant across the street where Ethan Hawke was already waiting for us at a table in the back. No kidding. Ethan Hawke. Don and I sat down and proceeded to enjoy appetizers, entrees, and delightful conversation. For those of you who have not yet had the pleasure of meeting Ethan Hawke, I can only say that he is exceedingly kind, generous, and down-to-earth. We spent about an hour talking about this and that. He answered all our questions, and told us some wonderful stories.
Eventually, the meal ended. I briefly considered asking for a photo, but it didn’t seem like the thing to do. We’d had such a nice time. We bid Ethan farewell, and headed out into the night.
We returned to Don’s hotel so that I could fetch my bags. We were in the elevator, on the way up to the 24th floor when the elevator stopped and an electronic voice informed us that we were being returned to the lobby on account of their being a “fire emergency.” We and 500 or so other people gathered on the sidewalk outside while various fire trucks started showing up.
There wasn’t much in the way of information sharing, so our imaginations ran wild as no fewer than 30 firemen crowded into the lobby. Some of them went up and some just hung out. There didn’t seem to be a great deal of urgency.
I did my best to wait out the crisis, but eventually, 1:30am rolled around and I gave up. I was to spend the night at my friend David’s place in the West Village. Bidding Don good night, I headed off to find a downtown train.
In spite of the hour, the city was very much alive.
According to Don, there was a small fire in a linen closet on the 23rd floor. He made it back to his room by 2:00am, just about the time I turned in at David’s.
The next day involved fantastic Ramen noodles at a place on 2nd Avenue.
And more Brecht, this time a show called The Good Person of Szechuan, in which my friend David plays one of the major roles. The play (and David himself) received rave reviews, including this piece in the Times.
As such, all of humanity was out to get a ticket. I felt fortunate to have mine already.
As advertised, the play was fantastic. As was David. As usual. He’s incredibly talented, and it is a thrill to watch his career progress.
In this play, his character, a mendicant water seller, has exceptionally poor dental hygiene.
Nothing that a little Pad Thai can’t fix.