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by Margaret Croyden
Photo of Spalding Gray by Paula Court
Spalding Gray "Morning, Noon and Night"
The Vivian Beaumont Theater
Lincoln Center, 150 West 65 Street
Opening Night November 8, 1999
Reviewed November 11, 1999 by Margaret Croyden
Of all the one man/woman shows around town these days, Spalding Gray is truly the master. Famous for his monologues--he was the first to develop this genre--Gray is a sophisticated writer, a man of incredible wit and charm and is very much at home on the stage. His newest monologue "Morning Noon and Night" at the Lincoln Center Theater, playing Sunday and Monday evenings only, is a highly original piece of writing, rich in texture, and layered with hilarious observations about Gray's life in the country and the trials of fatherhood. Gray is a born raconteur, an expert in capturing the tone and quality of the places and people he describes. And most amusing is his ironic self- depreciation and explicit consciousness of his own weaknesses.
Gray is known for writing about himself and has often been criticized for his solipsism. In this piece, he still writes about himself, and his reactions to every detail of his daily life, but this time, his reflections are about his family,-- companion Kathie, their three children, Marissa, Forrest and Theo. This cast of characters is so vividly and comically drawn, that the focus, while still on Gray, is less pronounced.
The central story is Gray's development as a family man--a man who really never wanted to be a family man or even have another child. He is too old, too tired, and already has two children; nevertheless a third child is born. One of the most graphic scenes is Gray's description of his child's birth told with stunning theatricality. Then there is his anxiety buying a new house in the country after living all his life in tempestuous New York. Once situated in the house, the real story of his daily life begins.
He rises with the birds, sees the tress and the greenery, and compares the scene with the gloomy, barren view from his old New York flat. Soon he is showering in a bathtub full of rubber toys, then he does his yoga, all the while interrupted by the kids. Then comes the oatmeal breakfast, the lunch packing, the kids departure for school, the caring for the baby Theo. Finally, alone with coffee and the "New York Times," Gray is at last at peace. Reading the paper makes him horny and when Kathie comes back after delivering the children to their respective places, they try to squeeze in a few moments for sex, only to be interrupted by plumbers or is it the electrician.
Probably the funniest part of the piece are Gray's conversations with his overly bright son Forrest, who questions his father on everything including "what's behind the stars? A meticulous writer, Gray details his children's activities: their music, their favorite food; their favorite TV shows, their bickering at the dinner table, and the expression in their eyes. One of the highpoints is Gray's exuberant description of the whole family dancing together which he enacts, playing all the parts.
Finally it is 10: 15 and Gray is in bed ready to sleep but characteristically he thinks morbid thoughts. Conscious of the movement of time and the ever present vicissitudes of life, his anxiety increases. He wonders about his children's future and what adulthood might bring. He ruminates on the inevitability of death and the impermanence of all things. He recognizes the tedium and difficulty of his daily routine, but as his youngest child is put to bed beside him, there is an implicit wonderment to his life as he struggles to understand his children and the meaning of parenthood. A certain sadness albeit happy/sadness permeates "Morning, Noon and Night" which is normal, one assumes, with raising children.
The audience clearly identifies with Spalding Gray; they empathize and admire him. Perhaps his fears and anxieties are their own. What a pleasure to watch a witty writer and performer create a universe out of mundane events that we have all experienced, and mold it into significant art. [Croyden]
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