Friday, November 2, 2012


This wound up in a sentence coming out of my own mouth tonight at the Playwrights Horizons Theater on West 42nd Street. While taking in the empty set and waiting for the play to begin, a woman running life commentary behind my front-row seat told her companion she'd just seen a mouse run across the (stage) hall into the (stage) kitchen. (Also that the Caucasion Chalk circle was "a train wreck.") I turned and asked her if she thought the set designer had done this, set loose a mouse. To the man on my right, I commented, "Rodentry", while wondering if it's a word.

Sam Hunter's play "The Whale" was what I was there to see, and although I was prepared to not like it -- as much as I really wanted to like it -- I was not prepared to like every character so much. And the set was gorgeous. So were the costumes.

At the beginning, it was difficult to be seated so closely to a woman whose adolescent character is profoundly angry and enfortressed. De Courcy (lowercase d) is the actress's last name. Three strong, angry female characters in this play.

Initially when I heard the play featured a morbidly obese man, I wasn't interested in seeing it.

Later, at a salon, I met the playwright and saw a scene played by two of the actors. One of them was playing the angry, closed-down intense young woman, and she was mean, and it was off-putting, and I remained uninterested in seeing the play. Though I was curious.

Then a friend who had seen the play mentioned that long-distance teaching and expository writing were involved.

Time to attend. (And there was a Hurricane special on Facebook.)

If you hear that the play has to do with Moby-Dick, it really doesn't. The play is about how people create distance -- do-not-touch-me distance -- in the throes or in the wake of grief, anger, and bewilderment. It's also a showcase for the relationship between body and mind. (I shrunk and grimaced, watching the way food was wielded.) Is "The Whale" about writing? Hardly, but the essay-writing conceit works beautifully.

Everybody in this play is out of balance. I laughed genuinely (torso laughs, not throat ones) and at the end I almost lost it, its final moment is so plain sad to behold.

"That was well worth the mouse," I told the man with the glasses when the house lights came up.

Gas lamps along the eastern side of Gramercy Park [taken with a phone],
10:45 p.m. tonight

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