On Saturday afternoon I saw my last show of the 2005-06 season, Tarzan. The New York Drama Critics Circle, of which I am a member, votes this Thursday on the best plays of the year, and the names of the winners will be released immediately after the ballots are tallied (the news will be posted here).
All this means that Broadway is quiescent until August, when Martin Short’s new musical comes to town. I have a couple of weeks to catch my breath before I hit the road and start seeing out-of-town shows, and I’m going to need it. It’s been a long, grueling season, full of the good, the bad, and the ugly, though I suppose in the long run that I’ll remember it above all for the fateful night when I had to be helped into a cab by a kindly press agent, followed a few hours later by my admission to Lenox Hill Hospital.
Amazingly enough, I only skipped a single drama column last December, and I was back on the aisle two days after coming home from the hospital, marveling
at the Irish Repertory Theatre’s revival of Mrs. Warren’s Profession. In retrospect I suppose it was stupid of me to get back on the horse so quickly (though I left New York the very next day to spend a couple of weeks convalescing in Smalltown, U.S.A., which was a bit smarter). Nevertheless, I did it, and I’m not sorry: I had something to prove to myself, and I managed to prove it without doing any damage to my weakened heart.
Having done so, though, I scaled back my playgoing, restricting myself to two shows a week. It wasn’t until the spring rush started that I opened up the throttle, and even then I took care to husband my energy. As regular readers of this blog are well aware, I stopped going to nightclubs, and I haven’t been to a single movie since I got out of the hospital.
So has the time come for me to resume normal activities? Yes and no. I have no intention of reviving the Old Me, the fellow who never spent an evening at home when he could be anywhere else. I was already growing more reflective in the weeks just prior to my collapse, and I mean to stay that way. On the other hand, I’m feeling better than ever, and now that I’ve survived the spring rush, I’m inclined to test myself still further–within limits. The past six months have taught me a number of valuable lessons, the most important of which is to be unafraid of doing nothing.
Just the other day I spent the morning writing my Wall Street Journal drama column, then decided on the spur of the moment to stroll across Central Park to the Guggenheim Museum to see the David Smith retrospective. It was an eat-your-spinach self-assignment: I’ve never warmed to Smith’s welded sculptures, but every art critic I respect says he’s the real deal, so I figured I ought to give him yet another try and hope that the scales would fall from my eyes.
I hadn’t yet eaten lunch, so I bought a couple of dirty-water dogs from the pushcart at Eighty-First Street and Central Park West, then perched myself on a convenient rock and dined al fresco. After that I headed east–but not for long. No sooner did I pass under Winterdale Arch than I spotted an empty park bench, and in an instant my high-minded resolve evaporated. Instead of spending the afternoon with David Smith, I spent it sitting on the bench. The sun warmed my skin, the breeze cooled it, and though I gave brief thought to taking an improving book out of my bag, I ended up doing nothing at all but listening to the birds and looking at the passers-by.
Midway through my reverie, an anxious-looking pedestrian politely interrupted me. “Pardon me for bothering you,” she asked, “but will I get to the East Side if I stay on this path? These roads are awfully curvy, and I seem to be going in circles.”
“I know what you mean,” I replied, “but if you go this way and keep an eye on the skyline, you’re bound to end up on the East Side sooner or later.”
She thanked me and moved on, leaving me to ponder the lovely implications of the phrase sooner or later. I make my living by going to performances and hitting deadlines, so when I’m off duty, I try to let things happen when they happen instead of insisting that they happen at this time or that. I doubt the Celestial Accountant really means for us to account for every second of wasted time, but should it turn out that He does, I intend to tell Him that I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a cloudless summer afternoon than sitting on a park bench, reveling in the passing moment. I didn’t spend enough afternoons that way in the first part of my life, and now that I know better, I have every intention of wasting every second I can spare.
* * *
I’ve decided to play hooky for the rest of the week. I’m leaving you in the capable hands of Our Girl, who will post my regular theater-related items on Thursday and Friday, along with whatever else she may have in mind. See you Monday!