Here's my account of my trip into New York City to see Kate Hewlett in her play, Humans Anonymous.
Of course, we plan to go into New York City and the temperature goes below normal. At least it didn’t rain. Or snow. Or sleet. Phew. And right before I left, I hear on the TV that the Broadway stagehands have gone out on strike and I’m like, hmm, I’m going, I got the tickets. The play is off-Broadway, so it’s gotta be running…
Left the car at home and grabbed the train (driving into the city is prohibitively expensive, particularly when it comes to parking). Listened to a hysterical CAR TALK segment on NPR on the drive to the station (a woman was calling in to find out how long it would take to cook meatload on her car engine – yes, people do that! Warning – if you want to do this, don’t buy a Suburu as their engine design makes for sllllloooowwww cooking). Anyway, It was a bright day, beyond crisp and more like loitering near the freezer section in the supermarket, but the tree colors looked quite pretty on the way in. Here’s a photo and well, okay, 100 ASA and fast train leaves impressionistic color blurs ;)
Got into Grand Central Station and we got something to nosh on in the lower level, which once upon a time was barren, but now boasts enough food to feed a third world country. The last time I was down there was a year or two ago, and there were armed soldiers milling about with big guns as I think we were on Orange alert for something or other. Despite what TV portrays, yes, most soldiers and cops are average-sized guys (and gals). But the SWAT team I saw last month, well, cute guys. Where was I? Got some Chinese food that was passable (will go for Zaro’s next time).
We caught the subway downtown where my friend and I first hit Forbidden Planet. This is a fantastic comic-book store. I’m not much into comics myself, but was seeing if they had any good Gorgo toys, as one of mine went missing (think a visiting niece/nephew might have appropriated it). Alas, nothing to my fancy, but oh oh, lookie at what was in the window. A gold Dalek. A cute, cute little gold Dalek! Only $11.99! Of course, they’re sold out. ARGH! Can I buy the one in the display case? No. Grrr. Come back they say, I say, at $22 for the train ticket, subway fare, etc. do you do mail order, so got their card. Oh, they had a $55 Dalek Webcam. Does David Hewlett need this or what? Can aim it at the Baz and keep an eye on him ;) Alas, just checked, no gold Dalek on their mail order site. Grrrrr…
Then we went to THE bookstore – The Strand – which is just tons and tons of books, all at pretty good prices (discounts, etc.). Remainders, new books, old books, out of print books. Of course the one book I was looking for, they didn’t have, but did pick up a book on wind, as well as an excellent (thus far) non-fiction book on the Dust Bowl. Then we grabbed the subway again, went further downtown to a science fiction bookstore, which, er, was no longer there. I ask my friend? You called first, right? No, she checked the internet. Oh well, we had the Subway Fun Pass which meant unlimited rides on the subway so it wasn’t like we blew money going down there, and we did see a nice view of the Empire State Building glowing in the setting sun.
So, headed uptown to our main reason for coming into the city: to see the play, Humans Anonymous, penned by and starring Kate Hewlett (yes, David Hewlett’s little sister, who’s a very good playwright). It’s playing at the Shelter Studios (244 West 54th Street, 12th floor) until November 18th. It’s right next to the Café Iguana (which you can’t miss with the huge iguana crawling down the outside of the building but it doesn't show in the photo below). We come in and the doorman guy asks where we’re going so we say the Theater. “Are you here for an audition?” We shake our heads, reply seeing the play and are sent on our way. So we grabbed the elevator up to the 12th floor (loved the tiny hole at the bottom where you could watch the walls go by).
Here’s a synopsis of the play: “One is afraid of loneliness; two is afraid of happiness; three is afraid of ignorance; four is afraid of judgment; five is afraid of gremlins...even the nice ones. One loves four; three loves two; five loves cats. Can five over-caffeinated humans stumble their way to a fear-free future? When an uptight businesswoman who prefers lattes to love meets a sexually-experimental young genius looking for Mrs. Perfect, there is more than just coffee brewing. With the assistance of a dry-witted best friend, his feline-obsessed sister and five addictive personalities, happiness is only twelve steps away. Humans Anonymous is a heartbreaking new comedy about friendship, fear, love...and caffeine.”
Must admit I’m used to Broadway style theaters and this was totally different. We got there early as we’d already checked out everything else in the area we wanted (stores, Applebees – which has good food but dinner cost more than the play but the ‘chocolate mousse shooter’ was scrumptious). And we walked past LOTS of stage hands on strike in front of darkened theaters and they were nice and polite and if you wanted to talk with them, they’d eagerly talk.
So, we came on the 12th floor, went around the corner where we told to go and sat on a bench just around right outside the theater, which was actually a door leading to the box office, which is actually just a tiny area between the door and the theater (and they had two plays going concurrently, HA and Five Women, er, can’t recall the rest of the title). So, killing time, we sat on the bench outside the door but opposite the elevator and some stairs, and people went up and down the stairs a lot. I asked one person what was upstairs and apparently it’s rehearsal rooms, music room, auditions, etc. Virtually all the actors I saw (aspiring ones, I assume) wore blue jeans, or black leggings, and virtually all the women were probably size two or smaller.
One guy went in and out of the theater a few times and it him me - it’s the guy who will be playing Peter in the play (they had photos of the cast displayed in the lobby).
Most people showed up about 10-15 minutes before the play was scheduled to start (8:00pm but it didn’t really get going until 8:20 or so) and since we were first in line, we got in first and grabbed a center front seat. The theater holds 60 seats. It’s a very small, an intimate setting. The sets are simple: several translucent barriers provide the background ‘walls,’ with the one in the middle forward just a couple feet as that’s where the actors mostly enter the stage. At stage left, there’s a small round table, some chairs and a setup for coffee (as this will mimic the coffee shop) while at stage right, there’s a small desk, laptop and wire basket, which mimics an office setting, and just to the right of that, is a screened off area to simulate the boss’ office.
A lot of people gravitated toward the right for some reason, and I’m thinking, do they know something I don’t? Turns out a whole gaggle of ‘em were friends of one of the actors.
But, truly, there really wasn’t a bad seat in the house due to the size. And the actors often stopped within several feet of the front row, so close you could go “oh, blue eyes”. And every once in a while, as actors delivered their dialogue, they’d look right at you. That was neat.
It was a great play. Lots of humor, snarky dialogue and just fun. Plus being so close to the action made you feel like you almost part of it. In fact, at one point in the play, something unexpected happens, but to say anymore is a big spoiler so won’t say but I sure hadn’t expected it.
Kate was great as Gema, who lives in the dreaded ‘suburbs’ and sister of Peter (Philip Graeme), who is assistant/co-worker to Ellen (Esther Barlow), the lead character in the play.’ Kate wore a sweater, long skirt, tan Wellies (Wellington boots), as well as a hat with cutesy flower decals that sorta screamed “eccentric cat lady!”. And she seemed a little odd at first appearance (you really have to see her first appearance) but Gema was just a very happy lady with high self-esteem and a fiancé. And yes, she had a cat – a Norwegian forest cat (and they’re real!). The cat carrier prop contained a toy cat and a ‘cat instructions’ manual with a picture of the scariest white cat with huge blue eyes that you ever saw. She wants Peter to cat-sit ‘Charley’ but he’s rather suffer the pains of hell before doing that. As an interesting side note, the photo of Charley is real, not a photo-shopped image. A friend of hers rescued the cat from a shelter and when Kate saw it, knew that THAT was Charley.
I won’t give away the whole plot of the play in case someone decides to go, but I enjoyed watching all the actors, and the dialogue was fast-paced and wonderfully snarky.
Once the play ended, everyone applauded, the actors left and that was basically that. However, the actors did come out several minutes after, mostly to meet friends in the audience. I spoke briefly to the lovely woman who played Ellen and she went back and got Kate for us. Kate came out and was a delight to talk with. We talked about the, A Dog’s Breakfast, Stargate, the convention (she said the NJ con was nice and laidback but thought it was the last con until I told her they were just moving it next door to Philadelphia so I think she’d be game to do another one!), Paul McGillion (whom she’s sorry she missed at the convention), David (of course). She was really sweet to talk with us and posed for photos too.
After that, back out into the cold, traipsing through Broadway which is looking an awful like BLADE RUNNER now, what with all the video screens on so many buildings.
We took the subway to Times Square, which appears to be owned by NBC what with all the NBC posters (very nice HEROES one) ;) Then arrived at Grand Central with about 12 minutes to spare to catch the train home. Alas, not enough time to find a cup of coffee. Darn.
All in all, a very good day in the city (with the exception of no gold Dalek, darn darn). If you do live in the city, and have the time, I’d recommend seeing Kate’s play. It was fun!
Shetler Studios main website:
If you click on THEATER, you can see the size of the Bridge Theater where HUMANS ANONYMOUS runs.
Good description of the play:
Buy tickets here!
Noreweigan Forest Cats – they’re real!
find the cat named ‘Snowscape’ and that’s basically what Charley looked like