Barbara, Pam, and I went to see *Miles For Mary* at Playwrights Horizons on 2/7/18. We had dinner before at the Theatre Row Diner down the street.
Barbara had read about the play in the New Yorker, thought it sounded interesting, and bought us tickets. I thought it would be a good experience for me to see I show about which I knew nothing! And the tickets were pretty cheap.
The play was written and produced by The Mad Ones. Here's how they describe themselves on their website: "The Mad Ones are a New York City-based company dedicated to creating visceral, ensemble-driven, highly detailed theatrical experiences that examine and illuminate American nostalgia."
The authors of the play are listed as Marc Bovino, Joe Curnutte, Michael Dalto, Lila Neugebauer and Stephanie Wright Thompson, in collaboration with Sarah Lunnie and the creative ensemble of Amy Staats and Stacey Yen. The six actors in the show are Bovino, Curnutte, Dalto, Staats, Wright Thompson, and Yen. That leaves Neugebauer, who directed the play, and Lunnie, who was the dramaturg. It felt like a mixture of written text and improvisation, it had a wonderful looseness.
The play takes place in 1988 in small town Ohio. Six high school teachers are meeting to plan the ninth annual telethon to raise funds for a scholarship fund created in memory of a former student who was killed in a car accident. Here's a rundown of some of the American nostalgia being examined and illuminated in the play: 1980s clothes, hairstyles, and music. 1980s high school equipment, like a computer with a black screen and green type and an overhead projector. One of the teachers attends the meetings via speaker phone (she's home with an undisclosed illness) so there was a lot of comedy connected to that. And I think someone in the creative team must be from the Midwest, because they totally nailed the Midwest sensibility. There are few things funnier than Midwesterners being angry at each other but being polite about it.
The play reminded me a lot of *The Flick,* a play by Annie Baker that Richard and I saw in 2015. Both have a charming kind of flatness. They don't "put on a show," they present a fascinating slice of life and draw you in. *Miles For Mary* is more heightened and theatrical than *The Flick,* especially with the quietly startling theatrical moment at the very end.
There were many funny lines - - my favorite was, "Sometimes our dreams are not the best things for us." One of the teachers had a meltdown on a 1980s exercise bike in one scene, that was hilarious. Another teacher blew her stack near the end and it was thrilling to see someone really lose it after so much emotion being bottled up throughout the play.
One of the highlights of the evening was an interaction we had with someone in the elevator before the play. There were about eight of us going up to the theater, and I spotted this guy when we first got in. Half of the passengers got out on 3M to use the bathroom, leaving just me, Barbara, Pam, and the guy. He was texting someone and I interrupted him.
ME: Excuse me, are you Joe Mantello?
JOE: Yes, I am.
ME: I'm really looking forward to *The Boys in the Band.*
JOE: Oh, thank you! We go into rehearsal in a couple weeks.
ME: Joe, this is my friend Barbara...
JOE: Hello, Barbara.
BARBARA: Hello, nice to meet you.
ME: ...and my friend Pam.
JOE: Hello, Pam.
PAM: Nice to meet you.
ME: And I'm Chris.
JOE: Thank you, Chris. I hope you enjoy the play. And I hope you enjoy *The Boys in the Band.*
ME: Thank you.
He was very handsome in person, and shorter than I would have guessed, he was probably about 5' 6" (but then celebrities are always shorter than you expect, right?). Barbara and Pam were eager to hear who he was. He started as an actor - - he was Louis in the original Broadway production of *Angels in America.* Then he became a director, winning Tonys for *Take Me Out* and *Assassins,* also directing *Glengarry Glen Ross,* *Pal Joey,* *I'll Eat You Last: A Chat With Sue Mengers,* and *Casa Valentina.* He's gone back to acting a little lately, he played the lead in *The Normal Heart* on Broadway and played one of the supporting roles in the HBO production, and he also played Tom in the recent revival of *The Glass Menagerie.* He's directing two plays on Broadway this spring, *The Boys in the Band* and *Three Tall Women.* He was very gracious, but then it makes sense - - I read on his wikipedia page that he's from Rockford, IL.