“Love, Love, Love,” Manhattan, and Bobby

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.

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John Proctor’s confession from the 2014 Old Vic production of The Crucible.

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.

 


18 thoughts on ““Love, Love, Love,” Manhattan, and Bobby

  1. “Librarians know how to fact check, after all” – love the line! 🙂
    Thank you for your report – NYC is a lot about Richard Armitage this autumn but it’s also a lot about multiple encounters in or around the theatre. That’s what made my journey so precious too!

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  2. I’m totally with you the stage being his best venue. Despite all the obstacles to seeing him there for so many, he seems more in his element there than on television or in film. Or maybe it’s just that we only ever see fragments on the screen, but there’s a whole continuous “phrase” of his work on stage. But he has a curious presence. Hard to put into words.

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  3. Enjoyed reading your wonderful recap of your visit to New York. I’m absolutely with you regarding RA being a really good live-performer with a strong stage presence.

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  4. Like you, I was also surprised to find Armitage so good at comedy. In fact, I liked him better in a (dark) comedy than in the masterpiece-tragedy The Crucible (but that’s probably more a reflection of my own personality than his acting chops). It would be great to see him do more “light” stuff.
    And yeah, I was in that Walgreens, too, but I did not meet Bobby.

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  5. What a lovely report. I’m so glad you enjoyed my city.
    That Walgreen’s sucks because only tourists shop for pharmacy items in Times Square, and tourists put up with shitty service because they don’t have options and their feet are too tired to wander all over Manhattan looking for an alternate place to buy Advil.
    New Yorkers shop for aspirin (and groceries, and cheap restaurants, and dry cleaning, and everything else one needs to run a life) in their residential neighborhoods where the stores won’t remain in business if the service is bad.
    Your instinct to patronize the cart man for food was dead-on. Cart licenses are complicated and pricey in New York, as is the competition for good locations. If the food isn’t good, the cart doesn’t survive, so most of the cart guys in NYC have really, really good food. This New Yorker also bought a dinner from that guy on that corner one night before the show.
    You managed Manhattan really well—bravo!

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  6. I really lik d Manhattan. I don’t know if I would like it if I lived there permanently because it is so expensive, but if I could rent a place for a month, it would be really fun. There was so much I didn’t get to do that just required time to do properly. I could probably spend two weeks in Central Park alone (We don’t have grand trees like that in the desert. I get besotted on greenery). I didn’t brave the subways, but I wanted to – (maybe spot Pizza Rat!) I envy you having access to so much great theatre! I loved the whole experience.

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  7. Thank you, for that. I am busy now trying in to teach middle school kids how to fact check. You would be amazed at how many think there really is a Pacific Tree Octopus. I think I loved people watching in Manhattan as much as I liked Armitage. I had to break down and buy a very nice (fake) cashmere scarf and a hat from a street vendor. He was very chatty. He was a veteran. I told him how trite the words “Thank you for your service” must seem, but I meant it and got a big hug.

    There was simply so much to see and not enough time. I want to be there for a month and just absorb it.

    Also, I forgot. There is a bakery kiosk down at Bryant Park that has the best croissants since Moxie Bread Co., in Louisville, Colorado. It hands down beat the hell out of the grocery store croissants we get here at home.

    (Grammar Police, yes, I know there needs to be a new paragraph up there, but my iPad is not cooperating)

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  8. He has a remoteness on screen that I never really noticed before until I started thinking about his performance. I know I must sound like Captain Obvious, but when I watch him onstage, he is so much more “present” in a way that is more nuanced than the “obvious” denotes. It’s hard to describe. I think I really, really appreciate seeing that intense focus in action.

    I know I want to see more of it – not in the fangirl sense, but more of the watching a man excelling at his craft sense.

    It is hard to put into words.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Bobby sat outside the door on the east side . He’s quite a people person.

    I thought Armitage nailed 19 year old brattiness. Kenneth could have been so many of my students! All insolence and swagger and delicious naïveté about the world.

    I love him doing comedy, perhaps because we never get to see it and I agree about black comedy. It must be rexhilarating for him to get a character that he can sink his teeth into – a character (sorry, Berlin Station) that he hasn’t done a multitude of times before.

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  10. So enjoyed reading this, your memories, your thoughts….I too, hope that Mr. Armitage does more stage, especially in New York City, he seems comfortable with it, at home….I loved the play, saw it twice and managed, the second time, to catch him at Stage Door..He is a sweet, kind, extremely polite talented man as well as a gifted actor…I live fairly close to NYC, so we go often, and for as diverse as that city is, the sheer number of people everywhere, it is still a joy to visit, and the people quite nice…So glad you enjoyed yourself, and thank you for sharing your experience….

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Enjoyed reading about your New York experience, I am on my way there right now. I will be attending the Friday performance of Love,Love Love. Can’t wait. If I see Bobby I will make sure to connect with him.

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  12. Patti, you will have the time of your life. If, after the performance, you are trying to beat the crowd to the SD line, leave via the side aisles if at all possible. Take the escalator up. He may or may not have time to sign, but if he does, he’ll hurry right along. The same thing with a selfie. I swore I wouldn’t do “deer in the headlights”, but I did. 🙂

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  13. I so enjoyed reading about your experience; actually I gathered already between the lines that you are the lovely lady who sat next to me in the theatre even before you mentioned me in text 🙂
    Just a note: my name is Elga and I’m from Latvia not Estonia (you know, us from small nations are quite sensitive about being mixed up with others 🙂

    Same as you, I very much enjoyed my NYC experience. The city is so vibrant, intriguing, and, surprisingly, not overwhelming (what I was afraid might be the case). This was my first time there and I definitely want to return and stay a bit longer to have a chance to see and experience more of what NYC/Manhattan has to offer.

    This was the first time I met RA fans in real life and same as you, have the best impressions- everyone I got in contact with (ladies from US and Germany) were so lovely, intelligent, kind human beings. I think RA would be proud to know how wonderful people refer to themselves as his fans.

    P.S. Sorry to hear you didn’t manage to get a photo at SD- drop me a line if you are interested to get some (foggy, not superb quality, but still…) photos with him signing where you can also be seen.

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  14. Glad you liked the play and especially Richard in it so much! I so wish the play would be taped for a wider audience to see, you’re making me even more curious than I already am and I just can’t make it to NYC for the play….
    I laughed out loud at your fact checking comment (I am a trained librarian as well, although I haven’t worked in an actual library in years). And yes, I’d forgive you in a heartbeat for flipping that finger at someone who really deserves it. 😉
    Love your story about Bob too. This was a heartwarming read in this time of turbulence. Thanks!

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