I had a delightful evening on Tuesday, May 28th, attending, for the second time, a performance of "A Letter From Ethel Kennedy" and having the opportunity of meeting and conversing with Randy Harrison.
The play was even better than the first time I saw it.
On Tuesdays some of the cast comes out after the play, sits on the set and talks with the audience.
I gambled that Randy would take part and so I stayed.
Anita Gillette, who plays the mother, came out with MCC Theatre Artistic Director Bob LuPone, and sat at one of the tables from the set. (The play takes place in restaurant)
I was sitting about 5 rows up from the stage. (The word "stage" is a misnomer, because the seats are like a lecture hall and the set is on the floor.)
Mr. LuPone engaged the audience in a discussion on the play and noted that it was very much an "incomplete" production, in that the author had died before they produced it and they did not have the advantage of having a living playwright available to polish the script as they worked on the production.
However the audience agreed that it WAS a well done play which we all enjoyed and that many of us identified wit the characters.
At first I thought that Randy had probably left, but about 5 minutes into the discussion he quietly walked (almost tip-toed) in through one of the "restaurant" doors... wearing jeans, a gray tee and two tone brown leather jacket. I think he thought if he entered quietly, he would not disturb the discussion, but let me tell you, every eye in that audience was on him.
As he joined them at the table LuPone said, "Ladies and gentlemen Randy Harrison" and he was greeted with very enthusiastic applause.
I was emboldened by the informality of the discussion and got off some comments about the play...how much I enjoyed Ms. Gillette's portrayal of the mother, comments about Randy's character, "Casey" - a clumsy and incompetant waiter - and actually got into a conversation with him about his role.
He is very insightful about his art as an actor, yet almost self-effacing at times.
LuPone asked both that having done stage and film, what they preferred.
Ms. Gillette said stage was her first love because of the intimacy and instant feedback from the audience.
Randy said, "The theatre most definitely."
He agreed with her comments then went further.
He was very animated and talkative on the subject and really displayed his passion for his profession.
The substance of what he said was that in the theatre you can always build upon and improve with your next performance but with TV and the movies, once the final take is done..that's it.
He also said that for good or bad, when you finish a performance.. you as the actor are ultimately responsible...not an editor who comes along later and often creates what is seen on the screen from various takes.
I wish I had taken notes, because when this young man is into a conversation like this, he is very eloquent and has a beautiful vocabulary.
I commented on how his character in the play is so very precise in all the insignificant table setting tasks he does in the background and yet he cannot get the big things done right like the food orders.
Then I asked if he was emphasizing the detail work to convey that aspect of Casey's rather inept character... in other words that Casey was someone who was so caught up in the little stuff that he misses the big picture.
He laughed and said something like, "Actually that was just me being precise so I wouldn't forget where I was supposed to be on the stage at what time."
This was greeted by laughter from the audience.
Later they began discussing how difficult it is for the main actors because most of their dialogue is delivered seated at a table... In the first act its the main character Kit and his mother, then in the second Kit and his father, then finally in the third, Kit's ex-lover and the mother.
Everyone in the audience who commented agreed that the intensity and realism the actors brought to their lines kept the audience's interest.
I then said that I thought that the static aspect of the seated actors was off-set by the juxtaposition of their seated conversations and Casey's constant movement in the background.
Randy nodded in agreement.
I then complemented him on being able to fuss around with waiter tasks, be noticeable, and still not be distracting from the other actors while they were talking.
He thanked me for the critique and said that he tries extra carefully not to upstage anyone... that it was the last thing he would ever want to do.
Ms. Gillette said, "He is good. He is very good."
She is a Broadway legend with decades of experience. What a great compliment for her to make about a young actor.
After they finished, they all lingered a bit and I approached him at one of the tables and said "Could I impose on you to sign my copy of New York Magazine?" (I had it turned to the full page pic of him that accompanied the article.)
He smiled and said, "Sure. Of course."
As he signed I told him that I had seen a screener tape of "Bang Bang You're Dead" and he lit up in the greatest Randy-grin and said, "Did you LIKE it?"
We then got into a brief discussion of the movie and I told him I thought he succeeded in making sure that his character "Sean" was not played simply as a bad kid or someone evil... that there was a glimmer of humanity to him. He seemed pleased and said that that was what he had been aiming for.
He gave me some insights on the filming a couple of the scenes and confirmed that the movie will premiere on Showtime in October.
We exchanged a few other comments and I apologized for keeping him from his other fans and he said, "No problem," and thanked me for coming.
All in all a great night meeting and conversing in a relaxed atmosphere with a very talented and nice young man.
Mark (aka "emelwhy")