A Letter from Ethel Kennedy was written by the late Christopher Gorman, who has been described by his peers as a warm, charming, brilliant and wickedly funny man. Before his unfortunate demise in 2001 due to complications from AIDS, the young playwright realized a lifelong commitment to helping theatre students at Purchase College in New York. Another dream of Mr. Gorman's was to have A Letter from Ethel Kennedy produced with Joanna Gleason directing and his dear friend Anita Gillette starring. A scholarship has been established in his name and the MCC theatre will be holding a raffle of interesting objects donated by Christopher's friends in the theatre lobby every Wednesday through Saturday during the intermission.
A friend and I attended a preview showing of the performance on Monday, May 6, prior to Wednesday's opening night. The MCC theatre is small, but was full for the performance, and the run was extended due to high attendance. The stage was not raised, and the 108-seat theatre provided an intimate setting similar to a small lecture hall. We sat in the third row, just a few feet from the actors themselves.
MCC Theatre, 120 West 28th Street
The setting of the play is a restaurant in the theatre district of New York city. Jay Goede plays Kit Conway, an HIV-positive man whose parents are trying to come to grips with the reality that their son is going to die from AIDS. Randy plays Casey, a young waiter who, interestingly enough, does not aspire to be an actor. We soon learn that he is planning to move to Los Angeles with his girlfriend and open a light bulb store. While Randy's lines are few and far between, he spends quite a bit of time on stage, either setting or clearing the other tables, or working behind the bar. He seems unable to remember the food orders, and whether or not Mrs. Conway wanted ice in her drink. Even though Casey is dressed sharply in black pants and a crisp white shirt and apron, Randy manages to bring his own relaxed style to the character, especially when speaking with the patrons.
The "Letter" from Ethel Kennedy is one which the former senator's wife wrote to Kit when he was a young boy, and which he has kept for many years. In the play, his mother suggests that he leave the letter to his ex-lover Matthew, as it has much sentimental value.
Despite a few glitches in the second half of the play (one being an audience member's cell phone ringing, which threw the actors off for a minute) the performance was solid and very entertaining. At times the conversation seemed forced, but for the most part everything flowed. I found the play to be quite funny... Randy's character had many amusing lines. Below are links to the postcards designed by Marisa Acocella, featuring lines from each of the "scenes" of the original play.
We were fortunate enough to speak to Randy the night we attended the play, and he was very warm and friendly, thanking us for coming. He said he enjoyed doing the play, and the sense of humor he was able to bring to the role. He was gracious enough to pose for a couple of pictures -- gotta love the "sunshine smile" on that boy! He gladly signed my postcard of Scene I (see below).
Mark (aka "emelwhy") attended one of the Discussion periods which were held following various performances, and has graciously allowed us to share with you his encounter with Randy, and what he took away from the performance.
Click here to read about Mark's experience.
From a review by MICHAEL KUCHWARA, May 17, 2002:
Postcards from the show:
"Completing the cast is Randy Harrison, best known as Justin on television's "Queer As Folk." He cheerfully plays a well-meaning if inept waiter who manages to irritate both parents while, as the same time, appearing to Kit as the youthful symbol of what he once was before he got sick."
For more on Randy's work outside of QAF, visit the Bang Bang You're Dead page.
Read about my experience at Uncle Bob, starring Gale Harold.