So a cool pal of mine who will not want to be named here (because she is genetically predisposed to modesty and discretion) managed to snag me a "plus one" invite to today's memorial for the greatest playwright of our time, Edward Albee. If you occasionally visit Extra Criticum, then you know what this man meant (No, "means!") to me.
As soon as I opened the email I wondered who I might ask to go as my "plus one." Now, I'm not the type to need to cast about for a "plus one" for anything, certainly not a funeral, but these past few months have been some of the loneliest on record, due in large part to a severe back injury which still threatens to put me under the knife, something I am trying desperately to avoid at all costs. The result has been days of isolation. And so I find myself feeling hopeful that my slowly healing lumbar vertebrae might show some restraint this afternoon, at least long enough to make it up to Times Square for the memorial. Incidentally, although my invite guarantees me a seat the memorial is technically open to the public so if you're an Albee fan, try your luck in the line. Doors at the August Wilson Theatre (245 W. 52nd Street) open at 12:30PM for the 1PM "show." (And yes, I do feel safe in my assumption that Mr. Albee would have enthusiastically endorsed use of the word "show" in this context.)
I am also keenly aware of an unmistakeable emotional pull to skip today's "show." If it only manages to touch on one or two of his unique character traits, today's memorial is sure to bring up all sorts of unresolved feelings, existential questions, doubts, fears, regrets in me. Put simply, Edward Albee looms large in my psyche. I once heard him say that if we're asked to drop upwards of a hundred bucks on a Broadway show, then surely it ought to shake us to our very core. I do feel on some level that every time I sit down to write a new play, I'm chasing Albee's example. Hoping my characters might each speak with their own clear voice rooted in an intuitive honest faithful devotion to human nature. Also hoping to bite off something larger than an "issue of the moment" but reach for something universal, something deeply human by delving bravely into the darkest corners of the individual, the specific. And finally, hoping to make something memorable, arresting, and defiantly unafraid. And so, of course, I want the person seated beside me to share a deep appreciation of at least some of the ways his work was hands-down in a category all its own.