"Are you receiving?" I asked Terrence McNally, who stood at the entrance of the John Golden Theater March 24. It sure seemed like it from the long curl of celebs that had queued up behind me and trailed off into the distance, all anxious to shake the hand of the man who had given them four Tony-winning works to date — one in that very theatre, Master Class, with a masterful, Tony-winning Zoe Caldwell playing Maria Callas. Caldwell and two other McNally Callases were in attendance: Elizabeth Ashley in the audience, and Tyne Daly onstage, starring in the evening's presentation, Mothers and Sons, McNally's 20th and latest for Broadway.
"I just love this theatre," the playwright confessed. "I would sit up in the balcony and enjoy the play every bit as much. It is a true Broadway house. When I was at Columbia, I saw every play from the last row. Every theatre had a last row that was $2.90. It was standard — from My Fair Lady to the most intimate play. We're doing a $30 student rush on this, and that's a big difference from $2.90 — a 1,000% inflation."
McNally's husband/lead producer, Tom Kirdahy, basically threw him a play and a party, then cast the audience with a theatre full of their nearest 'n' dearest. At the end of the evening, he even wheeled out a massive cake to cap the celebratory mood.
McNally, beaming ear to ear with that wild Irish smile of his, received all comers with open-hearted affection — lyricist Lynn Ahrens and composer Stephen Flaherty from his Ragtime Tony team and his current collaborators on Susan Stroman's Little Dancer; The Dancer of the McNally-scripted Chita Rivera: The Dancer's Life, a former Spider Woman from his Tony-winning Kiss of the Spider Woman; Joe Mantello, who directed his Tony-winning Love! Valour! Compassion!; actor Micah Slock and director Jack Cummings III from the most recent of McNally's many Off-Broadway plays, And Away We Go, at the Pearl; and Walter Bobbie, who helmed McNally's second most-recent Off-Broadway opus, Golden Age, at Manhattan Theatre Club.
The press line was as giddy as it was glittery. Nathan Lane, who has chalked up a couple of classic McNally eccentrics (the Callas-crazed Mendy in The Lisbon Traviata and the showtune-warped Buzz of Love! Valour! Compassion!), was his eminently quotable self, ignoring the bland questions of the press and cracking wise instead: "You're asking about my first time with Terrence?" he rattled one reporter. To another peering out over a toboggan, he caustically quipped, "You know, you really should dress up for these things." And he waved away all questions about the shocker fatality on his television series, "The Good Wife," with "I dunno, I understand somebody died." (He writes his own stuff — on the spot, it would seem.)
The Lone State contingent representing McNally's home state included Christopher J. Hanke (who has replaced another Texan, Michael Urie, in the Barrow Street Theatre hit, Buyer and Cellar), columnist Liz Smith and El Paso's own F. Murray Abraham (you thought Beirut, right? Now, he's British in The Threepenny Opera).
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