I was in New York City this week for about 45 hours. It was probably the least interesting trip I’ve ever taken in the sense that I did almost nothing. But, you know? It was a much needed couple days away.
[Note: I inadvertently started rambling on and on about my neuroticism and love for New York, so please feel free to just skip ahead to my thoughts on “Reasons To Be Happy”.]
New York is one of my favourite places. I love big cities, which I know often confuses people, as I also have debilitating anxiety when there’s too much sensory stimuli. When I make this comment I suppose people think immediately of Times Square, making the confusion understandable. But, no. I’m happy to say I didn’t even venture north of 34th Street this trip. Unless I’m going to a Broadway show I really have no reason to visit the “crossroads of the world.” Though I did briefly consider it when Alyssa messaged me to say that the Bluth’s Frozen Banana Stand was set up there on Thursday…
But as tempting as that was, I decided against it. My love of big cities decreases slightly when I’m overwhelmed in a massive crowd of loud tourists moving every-which-way. I’m oddly okay in a well-moving crowd, however. Walking with the flow of traffic in SoHo, or navigating the underground during rush hour in London are relatively non-panic-inducing for me most of the time. If I know where I’m going, and everyone around me knows where they’re going, it generally goes quite smoothly. I’ve noticed that rush hour and non-tourist crowds are simply calmer, and consist of mainly people on their own (almost entirely single travelers in rush hour) and couples (more so in neighbourhoods), making the crowds move quickly, calmly, and often pretty quietly.
Big cities are always a catch-22 for me. When I’m out I can’t not take notice of every little detail around me- I look at the face of every person I walk by, I listen to every word in earshot, I read every sign in sight, I glance in every window I pass, and so on. My mind fills with everything around me, and I absolutely love it. I can think back and remember even minute details, almost like I’m looking at a photograph of a moment. Cities are filled with so many incredible details in so little space, and taking that all in is really exciting for me.
I love being aware of everything around me (most of the time), and can’t imagine my brain not working this way. I can read something once and know it by heart, I never lose my car keys, and can give kick ass directions to places I’ve only been once. It’s great until the point that it’s just too much and becomes sensory overload, which for me results in panic attacks. And in the past couple years my panic attacks far too often result in emergency room visits due to blood loss, heart palpitations, or whatever else decided to manifest in a particular episode.
But I’ve found that outside of massive tourist zones my sensory input level in big cities is pretty much perfect. Sitting alone on a park bench or by the window in a coffee shop in Manhattan you’re pretty much invisible to the bustling world around you, which leaves you free to take it all in.
I arrived in the city by bus around 5:30 in the morning on Thursday. In London I came to learn than wandering the city between about 5 and 7am was a perfect time, and it turns out the same is true for New York. The sun is up, the air is cool, and the city is starting to come alive.
Early Morning | Broadway & 22nd
I walked around for a few hours, taking breaks in Washington Square Park, Madison Square Park, and Union Square to people watch, snack, read, and search out free wifi. I then spent a few hours in the Union Square area after discovering some awesome book shops, a Forbidden Planet (aka heaven), and a cinema (though I was so exhausted that I actually fell asleep in the film for about an hour and a half… Oops.) Oh, I also walked past Peter Hermann, who it turns out is even more gorgeous in real life than on TV. Well done, Mariska.
Early Morning | Union Square
After that I headed to the restaurant where Carly works to get some lunch. I ended up just hanging out until the end of her shift, after which we headed to the West Village. I didn’t realize it then, but I’d not seen much of the West Village, which is disappointing, because it turns out it’s pretty awesome. It’s quiet, with lots of green space, trendy restaurants with patios, a place where you can go and play board games for $1 an hour (we totally did this, btw), shops, and tons of interesting folks about. We wandered for a bit, played an Office themed game of Scrabble, grabbed some dinner, and then headed to the Lucille Lortel Theatre to see the first preview performance of the play Reasons To Be Happy.
I thought Reasons To Be Happy was excellent. It’s a play by Neil LaBute, and is a sequel to the his previous work Reasons To Be Pretty. A familiarity with Pretty may be helpful when watching Happy, but isn’t essential, I don’t think. The show follows its four characters (played by Jenna Fischer, Leslie Bibb, Josh Hamilton, and Fred Weller) through a complicated relationship crisis.
Each scene alternates between a basic set that takes the form of numerous locations using only two benches, coloured lighting, and a small collection of props; and a second, much more detailed set which slides forward and backward, that is the break room of two of the characters workplace. The scenes are broken up with a darkened stage and loud boom of rock music, including several Nirvana songs.
Hamilton, who plays the lead character Greg, appears in every scene of the two hour show and does an incredible job. I liked Greg, even though at several points during the show I didn’t want to. The sincerity of the character makes you feel bad for him, rather than angry at him, when he’s unable to make decisions on the messy situation he’s put himself in.
Bibb, playing the role of Carly, was delightful to watch. Carly goes through the ringer in this show, and Bibb transitions through her characters emotional journey seamlessly. I wanted Carly to come out on top, and I think in her own way she did.
Weller played Kent, the ex-husband of Carly and best friend of Greg. I honestly don’t know what I thought of this character. At first I was annoyed by him, and then I started to like him, and then I felt bad for him. Weller seemed a little over animated, which didn’t quite fit with the sombre feeling of the rest of the show.
Jenna Fischer played Steph and rocked it. Though I suppose my adoring her makes this declaration a bit bias… ; )
Seriously though, I love seeing Jenna in roles that are completely different from anything we’ve seen her in before, and Steph definitely fits that bill. She’s abrasive, swears like a sailor, and initially has very unclear motives that make you unsure of how to take her. I wasn’t sure if I even liked Steph until the second half of the show, when a very touching moment happens between her and Greg that made me trust what she was saying.
Steph is also pretty angry, which is something we don’t get to see Jenna play often. Though a few scenes from films like A Little Help and The Giant Mechanical Man come to mind, her characters have never been quite as consistently aggressive as Steph. She yells, she hits, and she swears throughout the entire show. And, naturally, Jenna is able to show about a million and a half emotions on her face while simply standing to the side watching other characters, which happens in the final scene.
Of course what I saw was the first night of previews, meaning there’s likely to be a pile of changes between now and opening night on June 11th. It’d be really interesting to go back and see the show after that to compare, but I don’t think I’ll be lucky enough to find a $5 bus ticket (no, seriously, I paid $5 for my return ticket!) again, which is basically my budget!
After the show Carly and I went and hung out by the stage door with a few other folks. The cast came out and were all really sweet and chatted with everyone for a bit. Jenna said that after the show ended she was flustered and didn’t even hug her costars, just ran straight for a brownie, which made everyone laugh. She chatted, signed Playbills, took photos, thanked everyone for coming, and then had to run off to the cast party. We took a couple photos, but they’re terrible, so I won’t be posting them anywhere! lol
After that we headed back to Carly’s place to watch the series finale of The Office, which was, you know, emotionally magnificent. When it ended we both sat there and cried. I’m really happy I was able to watch the finale with a fellow fan. I knew of Carly from another fandom years before I even started watching The Office, and I’m pretty sure she’s the first person I ever spoke to online in The Office community. So, it was really, really nice to be able to share that with her.
Friday was a late start, as we didn’t finish watching the finale until around 3am. We headed in to the city around lunchtime, had a bit of an adventure learning how Canadians cash cheques in US banks, and then said goodbye when she headed off to work.
I then started to wander and discovered the new Star Trek movie playing in Imax, which pretty much put a SOLD sign on my afternoon.
On a whim I had a look on the MCC site and found I could get a super cheap single ticket (thank you under 30 discounts!) to that night’s performance of RTBH, and since my bus wasn’t leaving until midnight and I figured I won’t be getting back to see it again, I thought “why not” and grabbed it. So, I headed back to the West Village.
It was really interesting to see that there were already some changes in the show between the first and second night:
- Weller toned down Kent quite a bit, which I thought really improved my view on the character.
- Some of the music between scenes changed.
- Jenna’s costume in one of the scenes was different, though I’m not sure if something like that would have been an actual change, or if there were simply multiple costume options for that particular scene.
- They seemed to remove a number of props that caused spillage on the first night. For instance, Jenna stepped on a prop that on the first night caused a tiny explosion and required someone to go and wipe up the stage between scenes. However, on the second night there didn’t seem to be any mess, which of course makes sense to opt for! This happened again in another scene where 2 take away cups and a bag are thrown away and Josh Hamilton fishes the bag out. There must have actually been liquid in the cups on the first night because the bag was sopping wet on the first night. However, on the second night the bag was completely dry.
- The name of a shop referenced changed from the first to the second night. On the first night is was “Costco”, while the second night was something I’d never heard of beginning with an “A”.
Curtain Call Friday Night | Faceless Cast
After the show ended I quickly scurried off to find some food and my bus stop. The bus was meant to come at midnight, and showed up around 2:30am. There’s nothing like sitting on the pavement in the middle of NYC in the middle of the night! But I guess you get what you pay for on a $5 return ticket ; ) Honestly though, it was annoying, but nothing more. The bus broke down on the way to us, which happens, so not much anyone can do. They sent a replacement as soon as they could. There were a bus load of us there waiting together and chatting, so the time passed quickly enough.
But, we made it back in good time and I had a very nice long nap before going out to celebrate the fabulous Miss Amy’s birthday Saturday night.
All-in-all it was a very nice little trip!
Oh, almost forgot… NYC Celebrity Sightings: Peter Hermann, John Lutz and Sue Galloway (Lutz and Sue from 30 Rock), BJ Novak, Sam Rockwell, Rob Corddry, Ellie Kemper, Rich Sommer.