Last evening, after the opening-night party for The Oldest Boy, I got on the uptown subway at 66th Street. I’ll admit it: I was reading the reviews. Contrary to the party in Terrence McNally’s It’s Only a Play, in which notices are noticed on TV, and in most pre-1950 show-biz movies, in which the playwright pops by a midtown newsstand to grab the early edition of The New York Times, reviews are now consumed online.
This being a Monday night, the arriving train had seats. Remaining Halloween confetti had been swept away, finally, so I reckoned I was the only person aboard who had just come from a festive occasion. And what a party it was! The restaurant PJ Clarke’s, across the street from Lincoln Center, offered up a bounteous buffet. No Tibetan theme – yak meat, butter tea – was observed, but appetites were sated with pasta and chicken and fish and the PJ staple that causes me, gratefully, to bust my cholesterol count: creamed spinach.
As I sat down on the subway, I immediately plugged in to a conversation across from me. A stage-mom type was telling her blond young son, “I have to pick up your sister first tomorrow, after her ballet class, and then I will take you to your audition.” Celia Keenan-Bolger, I mused, thinking of the central actress in The Oldest Boy, came from a similar arts-oriented family, though in Detroit not New York. Celia’s actor siblings, Andrew and Maggie, turned out for the opening, looking pleased and proud.
A man to my subway-left was reading a Playbill for Chicago, a show in which Taye Diggs, who also made the Oldest opening, once appeared, although – trivia alert! – Diggs made his Broadway debut at Lincoln Center Theater: Carousel, in 1994. I saw another actor with LCT credits, Steven Pasquale – A Man of No Importance, 2002 – give Celia Keenan-Bolger a big hug at the PJ Clarke’s party: the pair had appeared together in the Seattle production of the Adam Guettel/Craig Lucas musical, A Light in the Piazza, which also had a bright life at the Vivian Beaumont. Another bright life, that of Guettel’s mother, Mary Rodgers, had been celebrated at Town Hall just before the Oldest Boy opening-night curtain. Many revelers had attended both events.
All these associations jostled for brain space in the mere minute it took the subway to progress from 66th street to 72nd street. Ah, New York, I thought: where all sights and sounds in the digital age link to all other sights and sounds with many fewer intermediate stops than John Guare’s magnificent LCT classic, Six Degrees of Separation, would have it.
The doors opened at 72nd street. Two men dressed as Buddhist monks got on. So Halloween after-parties were still raging? Or The Oldest Boy had understudies whom I had not yet met? Hardly. The Dalai Lama had spoken earlier that evening at the Beacon Theater, on Broadway and 74th street, and, once they sat down, the monks began reading what looked to be the program from that event. They conversed in Tibetan. At least I think it was Tibetan. I couldn’t be sure. I went back to reading reviews on my iPhone. I thought: with a little luck, life outside the theater mirrors life within it.
Brendan Lemon is the American theater critic for the Financial Times and the editor of lemonwade.com.