Monday, October 1, 2012


When we finish a good book, we feel as we do at the end of an appetizing meal—satisfied, refreshed, ready to continue our normal lives with renewed energy. When we finish a great book, we feel, Jonah-like, as if we've been swallowed up and tossed onto an unknown shore, lucky to be able to breathe at all.  (Margaret Quamme, "Great books demand transforming,"essay from the early 1990s.)

I have carried around Quamme's quote for some twenty years because she is right in the largest sense of the word. Good art—a painting, a book, a concert, a play—suspends time briefly and then lets you gently back into the everyday world.

Great art tears you right out of the comfortable world in which you live and pounds you into another reality all together.

I just had a great art experience.

Last Saturday, Warren, our friends Margo and Gerald, and I watched the final rehearsal-before-opening-off-Broadway of a one act play, "North."

"North" is about Anne Morrow Lindbergh and a weekend meeting between her, her husband Charles Lindbergh, and the French aviator and writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. All but a handful of lines in the play come from the writings of the three main characters, especially from Anne's published diaries and letters.

I came to the production with high hopes and expectations. The reality far exceeded anything I had imagined.

The play is excellent. The actors who play Charles and St-Ex, as Anne referred to him in her journal, are superb. The staging, the set, the costumes, all incredible.

But Anne? Anne was alive for the hour plus of the play. Christine Ritter, who plays Anne, is Anne Morrow Lindbergh, moving through her life and her words and her thoughts right there in front of us. I sat through the play with one hand literally to my throat, the other figuratively on my heart. Seeing Anne come to life was draining, exhilarating, and deeply moving.

Afterwards, the cast, the playwright, and the stage designer held a conversation with the audience. Jennifer Schlueter, the playwright, asked us for feedback and questions. There was that brief awkward silence while everyone looked around furtively, weighing whether to be first, and then someone jumped in with a comment.

"Someone" jumped in? Oh, it was me. You know that.

I looked at Christine and said, "You were Anne." I explained that I was a rabid AML fan and how deeply I responded to the performance. Christine grinned and admitted she was a huge AML fan. It turns out that a number of the audience members were also huge AML fans, and at times the post-play dialogue turned into the Anne fans, as Margo referred to us, commenting on this or that nuance of the performance based upon our cumulative knowledge of Anne.

The four of us went out for ice cream afterwards, still talking furiously (an Anne phrase if ever there was one) about the play. Warren and I talked about it before falling asleep that night and again over breakfast Sunday morning.

You know you have seen an amazing play when Warren, who knows very little about Anne, Charles, and St-Ex and absolutely nothing about their meeting, was still talking about it.

The "North" poster at 59E59 Theatre
The cast and crew of the for/word company left for New York city and as of this writing, have arrived. They open this Thursday at 59E59 Theatre and will be there all month. For anyone who is or will be in New York this month, find some time and go see the play. Even if you have never heard of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Charles Lindbergh, or Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, go see the play. I dare you not to be moved by what you see performed.

In theatre circles, the saying for a successful run is "break a leg."

Break a leg? Break a heart.


see you there! said...

Lucky you! Thanks for the heads up. I'm a big AML fan as well. I'll be watching for this in the S.F. Bay Area (since I can't afford a round trip ticket to NY).


Sharon said...

Oh I hope it comes to DC. It looks very interesting, to say the least! :)! Glad you were able to enjoy it!!