I’ve been quiet for many months – classes to take, a leaky roof and two AC units to replace. Moving from a high school to a middle school library, and new places to travel to: Oregon. Washington state. British Columbia. Canyon de Chelley, the four corners area of the southwest. Manhattan.
Through it all I’ve silently enjoyed the multitude of Armitage posts leading up to, and after, Brexit. The Leicster City championship. Berlin Station. Audible. Off Broadway (Although my favorite posts from him are never the contractually obligated ones- I favor the ones he deletes. What can I say? I prefer an opinionated Armitage, and I wish he would be more secure with the ones he makes public).
I was lucky enough to see the play Love, Love, Love four weeks ago. I’ve been thinking about just what it is about Richard Armitage that still interests me. I am long past the giddy fan girl stage. That has faded. Replacing it is a low key fascination with a good actor who is an ordinary man. His ability to surprise is the thing that still attracts me. He does surprise me.
I read LLL ahead of time. I will admit an inability to “hear” the characters in words of written dialog (with the exception of The Lion In Winter – the dialog in that play absolutely crackles). Frankly, I didn’t love it. It was OK. I had my reservations about seeing it. Still, Armitage onstage is a rare event, and Armitage onstage on this side of the pond is rarer yet. Quietly, I made my travel plans.
Manhattan. I’ve not been to Manhattan since I was twelvish, with my father, for the “Second International Star Trek Convention” at the Hilton in 1973. I remember it was crowded, the streets were filthy, the subways were fun, the Twin Towers were really tall, and the people of NYC were much nicer than they seemed on TV.
This time around, the streets were cleaner, the buildings just as tall, and the walk up to Central Park seemed much shorter. I didn’t need to use the subway because I chose a hotel two buildings down the street from the Laura Pels Theatre. My room was small but comfortable and had a lovely view of six dead pigeons on the roof of the church next door. Best of all, there was a gyro food truck at the end of the street with decent food. I just couldn’t bring myself to try a food truck hot dog. There is something about the idea of a hot dog straight from the hot dog jacuzzi that turns my stomach. (A proper hot dog needs to be charred on a grill and covered in chili and cheese).
The play was that evening, and I was the first one in line (easy to do when you are staying two buildings away). With me I had brought my John Proctor confession in case there was a chance for an autograph. My seat ended up being in the first row, stage left. I had the most brilliant first view of Kenneth taking a quick peek at the TV before he disappeared again…and we were off.
I really didn’t expect to laugh as much as I did. I had imagined it to be much more serious when I read it – but it was funny. Armitage was funny. Sure I’ve seen interviews that display his sense of humor, but his characters so rarely demand comic timing, and his LLL performance had timing in abundance. I truly hope that enough directors, producers, and casting directors have seen the play and will consider him for roles outside of the angry box they have typecast him in.
I did have interaction with him at the stage door, consisting of him asking me, “Would you like me to sign this?”. I this I managed to squeak out an entire “Yes, please”, before he disappeared into his waiting car. There was little time to truly savor the moment except in retrospect.
I enjoyed meeting other Armitage fans. We truly are a diverse, and thankfully, in person, a very gracious group of fans. I sat next to Helga from Estonia (Yes! I know where that is!), and fans from Texas, and one who had attended the two-room school where I was once a librarian. It is amazing to sit with someone in a theatre in Manhattan who can describe perfectly the tiny apartment building that was located directly behind the school. It is a small world, indeed.
The next day, I walked up to Cenral Park, stopped by the Trump building long enough to have my picture taken in front, pointing it out with a “certain” finger (We are not Trump supporters. Librarians know how to fact check, after all). I went up to St. Patrick’s Cathedral where a mass was in progress. It is a spectacular building. While there I asked for forgiveness for flipping off Trump tower.
That evening, I tried to get a selfie at the stage door, but didn’t manage it. Later I walked down to Time Square.
There is a Walgreens at Time Square, and I needed Advil. It is a poorly run, three floor building next to the police substation. They only had two registers open, and there were long, long lines. (Seriously, Walgreens. You have a three storey store at the busiest intersection in Manhattan, on a Halloween weekend, when it is crawling with tourists even at 11:00 pm, and you only have two registers open?)
While I was standing in an endless line on the second floor, an elegant, well dressed mother from India was arguing with her teenaged daughter. The daughter was buying head lice shampoo for a homeless man outside the store. He said he needed it, but she couldn’t tell because he was wearing a hat. The mother said he was going to bring it right back to the store and exchange it for money, but the daughter held her ground under withering disapproval. When her patents moved out of earshot, I told the young woman that she had a good heart, and good for her for standing her ground. Tears and hugs ensued. I offered to pay for the shampoo, but she refused. When it was finally my turn, I let her go ahead of me and took the opportunity to tell her mother that she had raised a child with a good heart.
When I finally made it outside, I met the homeless man in question. He had the bag of shampoo tucked by his side. His name is Bobby, and he and I had a long, lively conversation about life, the city, the country, travel, and the slings and arrows of ordinary fortune. I really liked the guy, and can see why she was moved to try and help him. (I gave him money that Starbucks can do without). So, if any of you are seeing LLL, and wander down to the Walgreens/police substation at Time Square, be on the lookout for a gregarious African-American homeless man named Bobby. He’s well worth talking to, and will add to your Manhattan adventure. Don’t be afraid of him because he is homeless.
And Richard Armitage? He’s an interesting actor who gives compelling performances – the kind that make you think. I truly think the stage may be his best medium as a performer, and I look forward to his next play.