Tuesday, June 19, 2012

special friends

After class this morning I met back up with Kevin Rahm, who is in town for a few days before heading on a golf trip with some buddies in Scotland. Yeah. This is his life. We had made a plan to meet in his hotel lobby at 1:30, but he sort of slept in through that (don't lie) and I got to listen to the grouchiest hotel desk clerk woman of all time harangue and guilt various guests. Once I finally called and woke Kevin from jetlag-land he showed up and we headed to the Stockpot.

Stockpot is a tasty place if you like comfort food, and primarily English comfort food. It's a sausage and mash, shepherd's pie kind of place. We had a great lunch and Kevin told me lots of stories that I can not and will not repeat on this blog, but they involve celebrities and I totally love stuff like that. Kevin is an actor in LA, and I was quickly to find that, throughout the day, people would be recognizing him from Mad Men, Desperate Housewives, Judging Amy, Friends, or any other number of jobs he's had. I usually see Kevin in LA, where actors are pretty much left alone. Not so much in London.

Kevin wanted to see Long Days Journey Into Night, which I already had tickets to on Thursday, so we went to the box office and, following a lot of sturm and drang and awkward telephone calls on my five pound phone, we got my ticket switched for tonight. Then we walked through Chinatown and Covent Garden towards the river. We even passed through Somerset House, which was oddly quiet - no fountains today- but still really regal and stately.

We stopped for liquid refreshment at the top of the OXO Tower, which has fantastic views of the river and the city. I had this really fruity drink which I was embarrassed of as soon as it came out. It was a virgin super girly thing in a fat flute and I wish I had just gone for the Red Bull like I had initially planned. Kevin and I chatted up there until he was recognized by a peppy lady from the table behind us, who proceeded to give him a complete character history of his character on Friends. I took pictures for them. I didn't mind. I'm a bit used to it with James Valentine, anyway. It's fun to have important and special friends.

Next we went to the Damien Hirst exhibition at the Tate Modern. Holy Moly! It was something. I knew that Hirst is probably Britain's most famous living artist, but I didn't know how much he loved bugs. And dead things! Death was kind of a theme. For example:

Here is the severed head of a cow with thousands of maggots and flies all over it!

See this cute lamb? She's dead. She's in formaldehyde.

Same with this shark!

These butterflies are also dead, but pretty. (There was also a butterfly room in this exhibit; a really humid room where butterflies were busting out of pupae and fluttering around the room. None of them landed on me, but one did land on the room guard in a private and embarrassing place.)

But there were also some beautiful spot paintings

Some really interesting spin paintings

And a fun projection room where we watched a video Hirst made for U2's "Even Better Than the Real Thing" and a short film where two clowns, in full make-up, told morbid stories and honked a horn. That was maybe our favorite part.

We had to make it back into town quickly for the show, so we had a quick lunch at Costa on Shaftesbury Avenue, and Kevin's friend Britt joined us for that. And then we headed in for a long day's journey into night. We sat on the front row.

This play, an American classic, is almost never staged because it's such a beast. It's massive. It's sad, it's talky, and everyone is miserable and drunk. It wouldn't do super great at the PG Playhouse or the Scera Shell. But this production was absolutely captivating. David Suchet played the lead role of James Tyrone and Laurie Metcalf played his wife, Mary. I didn't recognize either of the two sons, except I think the guy who played Jamie was also the crippled Canadian on Downton Abbey? I'll google that. Anyway, I'm almost positive I'll never see this play done better, and I don't know if I'll ever see any performance as great as Laurie Metcalf's. Maybe it was just sitting on the front row or something, but she was alive every minute of the play. She refused to be indulgent or show-offy. She was hypnotic and spit her lines out ratatat and I just thought her performance was in a different league not just from the other actors, but just about everyone I've seen here. But I consider myself Steppenwolf trained, so I'm biased. But jeez louise, that was some acting. Best show I've seen in some time.

At intermission Kevin and I boggled our eyes at each other like we couldn't believe how great this all was. We grabbed some Diet Cokes in the lobby and launched into accolades, until we decided we needed to go outside because Kevin said the lobby smelled like "BO and pipe smoke." While outside we found that, in addition to being beautifully directed and artfully acted, this play had a very unique and special Production Consultant:

After the show Kevin and I said adios until tomorrow, and I decided to take the bus home. But SURPRISE! The famous number 9 has been changed to number 14, and it doesn't take you where the map says it will. So I hopped off down on Fulham Road and rented a bike. It was a nice evening; it doesn't get dark here until 10:30 or 11 in June, and the weather was great. I listened to my ipod and thought about Eugene O'Neill as I pedalled up Queen's Gate. It was a momentous show tonight and I was glad for a little time to process it.