Watch “Old Friends New Works” below until December 7
“You broke my heart. You let me down. You cut my teeth out…You pulverized my sense of self…And I recovered,” Edie Falco says in Simon Stephens’ “Recovery After An Accident,” and for a moment it’s not clear whether her character is talking about the virus, or addressing the married woman with whom she was having an affair, and who had decided to end it.
The monologue is one of the four original works in the virtual benefit for Manhattan Theater Club – about half an hour of theater in the hour-long video (the rest of the time is taken up introducing the works, praising MTC and soliciting funds.)
What they all seem to have in common – besides artists who have been involved with MTC in the past – is an effort to acknowledge the current, devastating moment, and at the same time to transcend it.
In the ten-minute monologue that launches the program, Laura Linney portrays the same character she did on Broadway earlier this year in “My Name is Lucy Barton,”an adaptation of the novel by Elizabeth Strout (best known of “Olive Kittridge), who has written a new monologue for Lucy. In it, she describes the early days of the pandemic, when her ex-husband was urgently insisting that she get out of town – an insistence that baffles Lucy. “It’s odd how the mind does not take in anything until it can.” We listen with a new, knowing perspective when Lucy, in describing her day, recounts the varying early reactions – the packed elevator full of indifferent New Yorkers versus her long-time accountant who backs away from her and says “Distance!” denying her their usual hug.
Joshua Boone performs in a new work by high school senior Em Savarese, which came out of MTC’s Student Monologue Challenge, which created during the pandemic to continue the theater’s educational efforts. It begins: “You have no idea how much I love you right now.”
Love is the theme, too, of a new song by Jason Michael Webb, who explains why. “If you’re like me, 2020 has been an emotional roller coaster, from racism to COVID to the election…I would like to take a moment just to remind us of what life used to be like…something as simple and beautiful and light as falling in love.” (I’m not sure falling in love is always simple, but I know what he means.)
The song, “It’s your turn (to be in love), “ is sung by Jeremy Pope, who made his New York theater debut in “Choir Boy.” He is, like the other theater artists in the video, happy to show his support: “I know we’re not at a fancy gala with the option of chicken or fish. And no I’m not wearing pants. But I am so glad we are sharing this moment together, even if virtually.”