Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Gawking with an Irish Accent


It’s brooding Irish actor day on Gawker Stalker today, with Jonathan Rhys Myers bitching about Colin Farrell’s bitching about Irish women not being sufficiently familiar with waxing salons, and Gabriel Byrne making himself late for wherever he was going by having long conversations with the friend of some blogger no-one has ever heard of (why wasn’t he at the opening night of Shining City? Was he trying to get a cab to the after-party so that he could pretend to have been there all along, a la Faith Healer last week?) And to top it all off, there’s a girlie-pink banner ad for Marian Keyes’ latest novel flickering along the top of the page. Ah, how proud I am.

Gawker Stalker is a funny old game; there’s now an accompanying, real-time map, so that anyone who finds themselves near the site of a celebrity spotting in the moments after it’s posted can dash downstairs and into the relevant park or café to see if their idol is still there. It’s done in savage irony, as much of Gawker’s content is, but also like much of Gawker’s content (especially now that the site is taking in millions of dollars in advertising revenue) it also, conveniently, panders to that very perfunctory, lowest-common-denominator, Us or People-esque appetite for more and more celebrity sightings. And the sightings are so mundane - both in terms of the calibre of the "celebrities" spotted (not just the B-listers or the famous-fifteen-years-ago people, but the NY bloggers and media types about whom nobody outside their cock-ring-narrow circles are interested) and in terms of the normality of the things they're spotted doing - buying a coffee, walking a baby, crossing a street, hailing a cab. It's pathetic, but strangely addictive. The map, however, is too much like hard work for my liking. I find it hard enough to work out whether the 4 train goes to Times Square or Grand Central, the N to Canal or Chambers. I'm not going to dizzy myself further by trying to work out which end of the park Scarlett Johansson is walking her dogs at (note to disbelieving boyfriend: no, really! Well, ok...maybe a little map-frowning. But not for Matt bloody Dillon. There's time-wasting, and then there's MORTAL SIN).

Celebrity is such a strange phenomenon in this city. It’s hard not to get sucked in, at least to some degree; hard not to gawk. But what was most strange, or maybe sobering, at the opening night of Shining City on Broadway last night, was to see how quietly and in how unnoticed a fashion Conor McPherson and his wife came into the theatre and took their seats while, around them, the celebrities in attendance (namedrop time? Ok…some Sopranos people, including Edie Falco; Eric McCormack from Will & Grace; Brian Dennehy; Mario Batali the swanky NY chef, and many other bit-parters, most of them probably from Law and Order, which seems to supply the default celeb audience at Broadway openings) were grinning and gurning and posing and preening like the full-on publicity factories that they are. All getting the maximum possible mileage out of being there, and all, no doubt, feigning terrific interest in the play they were about to see, and none of them having the slightest notion that the slight, red-haired young man moving through them was the playwright, and hardly caring less. Camera bulbs flashing, air kisses flying, Stella McCartney frocks swishing, disinterested glances darting; it’s a really surreal, artificial atmosphere. And of course every other seat was taken up by mothballed Patrons, skin freshly tightened and Chanel boucle freshly updated for the new season. While, sitting with his back to the frenzy at the entrance, waiting to see what would become of his words this time, was the artist.Now, that said, McPherson is very laid-back (not to mention a very nice guy), and far from a shrinking violet – he seemed pretty much at ease both before the performance and at the party afterwards, where he gave a warm and funny speech, straight off the cuff. It just looks agonizing, though, the whole process. I mean, I've withdrawn all my plays from Broadway as a result...

The production was better than I expected, and the response was good, though as usual at this sort of opening, when most of the audience are there to be seen rather than to see, the atmosphere was strained, people not hesitating to cough and shuffle and sigh when their ankle-high boredom thresholds were reached, and I felt a definite bristling among the older members of the audience, the men especially, when the nature of the scene with the character of the rent-boy (played with damn-near-perfect Dublin Scangerese by Peter Scanavino) became clear. The play’s not perfect, and there is the sense at many points of the writing straining towards something that it hasn’t yet discovered or articulated (the inarticulateness of Brian F O’Byrne’s performance as the priest-turned-shrink Ian was another matter; that was carefully and artfully designed, and O’Byrne carried it off extremely well). As Neasa, Martha Plimpton is strong, and again, her Irish accent is really well observed, but Oliver Platt was hard to buy, at most points, as Ian’s wife-haunted patient John. There’s also an uneasiness to the shape of the play which may come, I suspect, of the playwright having arrived at his central theme or idea before finishing the writing of the play, rather than letting it emerge through the writing. Once that happens, it’s a difficult situation to resolve, and the resultant uncertainty does pervade the production, absorbing as it is. And the ending…well, I actually liked it. I mean, it’s very rash and bizarre, but I found it thrilling rather than ludicrous, and I got such a sadistic kick out of all those Park Avenue poodles gasping and shuddering as they doubted the evidence of their own eyes. Apparently there were real, blood-curdling, coronary-inducing screams of terror at the previews. Now that I would have liked to hear.

7 comments:

Auds said...

on hols in NYC at mo - link very helpful. Will spend tommorrw looking for Lucy Liu and Hugh Grant!
Doubt I'll run in to them in Ellis island though../.

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