Wine, Women, Some Song…and More Wine

Perhaps I am the only person grateful for the eruption of that volcano in Iceland. Yes, I’m well aware of the havoc which has been wrought throughout the travel industry, as well as the overwhelming inconvenience at hand. But Mother Nature proving yet again that she’s still running things helped turn my weekend into one for the ages.

You see, the West End Whingers (of “Paint Never Dries” fame) were in town meeting everyone in sight, taking in opening night shows and parties, and even taping an episode of “Theatre Talk” with Michael Riedel and Susan Haskins. The two gents had been scheduled to fly out until Eyjafjallajokull (toss that into a spelling bee, why don’t you?) blew its top. As a result they ended up with an extra week on holiday, continuing to meet more folks and take in more parties.

And as it happened, my buddy Steve on Broadway was also in town for the week taking in the last shows of the theatre season (meeting his personal goal of seeing all 38 Broadway productions). Originally slated to meet for ITBA business, we decided we wanted to catch up earlier so Steve arranged for us to meet Thursday afternoon at the Dean & Deluca on 46th Street next to the Paramount Hotel. Knowing that the Whingers were in town, I really wanted to meet them as theirs is one of the most prolific London theatre blogs. However, I thought it too gauche to be all “Hey Steve. Nice to see you, now can I meet the Whingers?”

Anyway, we settled in and as always started our usual back and forth on the productions we had seen recently, the latest news, gossip, twitter, etc. The conversation turned several times to Whingers, and the exploits that they have had from La Cage Aux Folles’ opening night to a notable incident at the Theatre Talk studios with Billie Joe Armstrong and Michael Mayer that had me applauding their honesty and chutzpah. Lo and behold, Steve looks up as my phone (inconveniently) rang and says “And there they are now!” and proceeded to wave them into the cafe.

I can tell you without hesitation that they are as downright funny and genuine as their writing. What you read is what you get, and it makes for the most amusing banter. The twosome can dryly toss out witticisms in the twinkling of an eye. I sat in total amusement as they recounted the whirlwind of activities they’ve had since coming to New York. The gentlemen are never short on anecdotes or opinions and are delightful raconteurs. All this over afternoon tea! (The last time non alcoholic beverages would factor into my weekend). The discussions we had were spirited; filled with interesting opinions and immensely engaging and friendly.

While they went off to get some writing done for their site, Steve and I continued our visit at the Atrium in the Marriott Marquis lobby where I got started in with a white Russian. We met again later that evening at the Hourglass Tavern on 46th & 9th to celebrate Andrew’s birthday (who shares it with QEII). Steve charmed the hell out of our waitress, who was a dead ringer for Anna Magnani. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is when I found myself enjoying red wine for the first time in my life (whenever the Whingers are around there is wine, they famously give out glasses of wine in lieu of stars in their blog’s rating system).

I thought it was a perfect afternoon, but little did I realize that I would be trumping this ace the very next night. I was in back in town to cover MTC’s Collected Stories with Linda Lavin and Sarah Paulson (more on that later this week) and lo and behold I found myself on the same block as Steve! We chatted for a few moments before we participated in a conference call with the delightful Alicia Silverstone (see previous parenthetical), an exclusive event set up through the ITBA. More wine flowed on the patio at Sosa Borella before we went our separate ways for the evening shows.

Post-show we all met up again at Angus. I walk into Angus, see Andrew and Phil at the barJoining in the fun was SarahB, her delightful best friend Beth from Texas and the irrepressible Karigee, as well as the Daily Mail’s Baz Bamigboye (the Michael Riedel of the West End, but much more likable). The theatre talk continued, as did the laughter. There I was double fisting with wine in one hand, water in the other recreating Donna Murphy’s greatest hits from Anyone Can Whistle with Kari and Sarah. Theatre was shop talk and how I wish it could have gone on forever. It was yet another night when we closed down the joint, those are admittedly some of the best nights we have as a group. I even got to pose for a quick pic with Eglantine Price who dropped in for a nightcap. It reminded me of that first blogger brunch I attended almost two years ago where I met Steve, where I got to know many extraordinary theatre lovers.

My weekend with the Whingers ended there, but I wasn’t quite done with theatre folk. The following afternoon, Roxie and I ended back in New Paltz to work with some of the college kids on a revue that will be going up next month. Over the course of an amusing rehearsal found myself playing Anne, Fredrik and Fredrika in a four person version of “A Weekend in the Country.” (I’m officially Fredrik when everyone is in attendance) It was so good to be back, and even more delightful to have my ass kicked in rehearsal once more (it’s been over five years since I’ve done anything of this sort). As always – I love New Paltz, I love reminiscing about my memories (which all burn in my head with a steady glow) and revisiting my favorite places. I’m looking forward to going back and working with the kids again.

And on the Sabbath, I rested. It was so good to spend time with theatre friends, old and new. My world has gotten both a little bigger and a little smaller and I couldn’t be more thrilled. Oh, and by the way, should I become a wino it is entirely Andrew and Phil’s fault. Steve’s too.