Sunday, March 8, 2009

Weekend with Andy and Angela Lansbury

Last weekend I was in Kingston visiting my daughter and her sons. When Andy woke up Saturday morning he had one idea: He wanted to go with Grandmama back to Hoboken and go see a play on Broadway.

As it happened, I had with me the flyer I had got in the mail for the preview of Noel Coward's old comedy Blithe Spirit, hoping to persuade one or the other of my grandsons to join me in seeing the show. At eleven, Andy is a little too young to appreciate much about this endearing chestnut, but when I told him Angela Lansbury was in it, he said, "I've heard of her."

After a little shuffling around which included me making a phone call to the box office, shoving my clothes back in the bag I had unpacked the day before, and the two of us scurrying to the bus station to get on the earliest transportation we could, a full-fledged plan had been hatched. We boarded the bus Saturday and headed for New York, with reservations for the matinee the next day.

Andy loves Times Square with all the lights. As soon as we got to Port Authority Bus Terminal, he twisted my arm for a little walk around the nabe, and, looking east on 42nd St. he said, "That's what I like! Let's go that way!" so we were off to the tawdry glitter of the big city. I told him about the new stairway at the center of the action, and we made our way through the crowd to walk up the bright new lighted steps. One look and he said, "I thought they'd be higher," but we climbed to the top and looked in every direction. He's right--the steps are not all that high, but the view is grand.

By now it was dinnertime, so I took him to a wonderful little Italian restaurant I'd found a few weeks ago when attending the matinee of Speed-the-Plow. Andy is very sophisticated and has traveled to Italy many times in his young life. He debated whether to select gnocchi, finally rejecting it because the menu said the dish contained eggplant, and he doesn't care for it. However, he liked the spaghetti bolognese and I loved being with him in the restaurant with the noisy pre-theatre crowd.

Refreshed and well-fed we got on the bus for Hoboken and were home in 15 minutes. Playing with the tv and computer led us to a night's sleep and soon it was time to get ready for his look at a real Broadway play. I tried to prepare him for the talky, old-fashioned, very English play her was going to see, and I told him, "It doesn't get really good until the ghost comes on."

When the lights came up on the magnificent set, an English drawingroom with all the trimmings, Andy said, "Is that real?"

The play is overlong, and he did get bored before it was over. I thought the cast was superb, and, even though I wouldn't have thought of Angela Lansbury as Mme. Arcati, she played her as a no-nonsense Engish eccentric (I know that's a paradox), and even with a few bumbles in the lines--which Andy said he didn't notice--she pulled off her part with characteristic class and professionalism. The woman is 83 years old! It's a pleasure to see her tread the boards once again.

Leaving the theatre, Andy said, "Now I can say I've seen Angela Lansbury!" and when we got home we Googled her so he could see a few moments of her as Jessica Fletcher on Murder She Wrote. I hope someday he'll see her as Elizabeth Taylor's older sister in National Velvet and the saucy cockney maid in Gaslight, and of course when he's older, the evil mother in the original The Manchurian Candidate.

He told me he didn't like that ghost in Blithe Spirit. Actually, I can see what he meant. Christine Ebersole, whom I had the good fortune to have seen in Grey Gardens, had a wonderful time with the role, but the character is meant to be a prototype of a certain kind of delightful airhead, not particularly sympathetic. Jayne Atkinson was an extraordinary Ruth, toe-to-toe with everybody, and seemingly carrying the action of the entire play in her competent hands. Rupert Everett could not have been better as George. And Angela made the nutcase Arcati quite delightful.

It was an auspicious weekend, and one I hope to repeat many times in the coming years. Don't forget, I have two grandsons. If I play my cards right, I can expect to have dates for the rest of my life!


Steve said...

Don't forget Lansbury's character in the old tale of Southern decay, "The Long Hot Summer".

Mary Lois said...

I almost forgot how good she was in that one. Love the movie, but what I really love is Paul Newman in it!

Anonymous said...

Lucky grandchild, lucky grandmother. And the eggplant. I love eggplant. Take him to a Thai restaurant and order eggplant and give him a taste and let me know what he says.

I wish I had some grandchildren.