Periscope Depth

man he made to serve him wittily, in the tangle of his mind

I got up early on Saturday and took the 6 to Grand Central, then the underground shuttle to Times Square. I had just cleared the stairs at the top of the subway when a man in a bright orange jacket pressed a tour bus flier on me. Maybe I had the tourist look – eyes widened, taking in the scenery instead of focusing forward. I walked with a lowered gaze whenever I saw a bus hawker for the rest of the morning and never got bothered again. So I can pass for a local if need be.

Of course, maybe he was just playing the odds; I’d bet that fully half the people emerging from the Times Square subway station on a Saturday are tourists.

How could you say no to this face?

How could you say no to this face?

Exploring randomly, I came across a poster for A Man For All Seasons. Intrigued, I found the ticket office for the Roundabout Theatre and waited a few minutes until it opened. The box manager told me he had one rush ticket left for $21; I snatched it on impulse. Sell me a Robert Bolt play and you’ll find an eager buyer; sell me a Robert Bolt play at a discount and I’m already yours.

Then I took the subway to the Village (F train, off at West 4th) and met Alexandra for brunch at Little Owl Cafe. Late as I was, we still got there before the doors opened, so we had our choice of seats. Alex proceeded to pepper me with personal questions over a hearty stack of wheat pancakes. The cafe slowly filled up around us with all the stereotypes of Greenwich – preppie moms with oversized strollers, charming gay couples, etc.

“So you think Nathan Fillion’s not attractive?” she pressed.
“I think he’s dead average,” I clarified. “Exact center of the bell curve.”
“Do you think you’re above average in looks?”
“I think so, yeah.”
“So you think you’re better looking than Nathan Fillion?” She seemed shocked.
I had to think for a moment. “I think I’ll be better looking than he is when I reach that age.”

In Washington Square we saw a slew of dogwalkers and a bunch of nattily dressed hep types. “Probably a protest,” Alex said. I picked up a page of sheet music that a young woman handed me, imagining it to be the words to L’Internationale. It was actually the words to “The Dach Song,” a song about the glories of dachshunds. Which made perfect sense, given that it was Dachshund Day in the village.

In Union Square, in the space of nine seconds and sixty feet, I saw:

  • A woman doing tarot card readings;
  • A guy being photographed for the Internet (really, no better way to describe it. young man in a business suit, posing on a bench and staring with a comically dramatic pose. amateur light reflection off a foil-covered screen);
  • Two street preachers screaming prayers at the top of their lungs, one in English and one in Spanish. “Come to Jesus if you want to be saved!” the younger one would yell, before his friend translated.
  • A variety of T-shirts being hawked by Native Americans, including “Of Course You Can Trust The Government” and “The Original Homeland Security.” I was tempted.
  • Lots and lots of produce.

Alex abandoned me on 42nd Street, in time to catch my show. “You’re really tall,” she said.

A Man For All Seasons: an excellent show. Call me a heretic, but I like Frank Langella’s Sir Thomas More over Paul Scofield’s. Scofield’s a phenomenal actor, and I never felt that his performance lacked anything, but it wasn’t until seeing Langella that I realized how dry Scofield is. So very dry and British. Langella’s More bursts with passion: sly wit with his friends, a soliciting tenderness with his family, and a growing anger at the irrationality of his enemies. Also phenomenal: Zach Grenier (you’ll recognize him from 24, Fight Club, Deadwood or maybe Zodiac) as Thomas Cromwell, the King’s secretary.

If I had one criticism it’d be that everyone had trouble with their British accents for the first 10 minutes they had onstage. If I had two: the theater was very cold.

And Saturday wasn’t over yet! More still to come.