During the day, this past Thursday, I began having stomach distress, possibly caused by something I’d eaten the night before, or rather, devoured. My stomach pains increased and then subsided, and I was eager to attend the opening night of Edward Albee’s A Delicate Balance on Broadway. So I go to the theater with my partner John, and the play is terrific, with a superb cast led by Glenn Close and John Lithgow, on an especially stunning, haute Connecticut set by Santo Loquasto, with gorgeous, witty costumes by the legendary Ann Roth.
Sometime during the third act, my stomach troubles returned and increased, probably exacerbated by sitting upright in a packed theater for an extended period. I know and love the play, so I begin calculating how much more time I have, before I can get home. During the curtain call, there’s a well-deserved standing ovation, but as I try to stand and join in, I can’t: I’m drenched in cold sweat, and I’m unable to move. The superb John Lithgow quiets the ecstatic crowd and delivers a moving tribute to Mike Nichols, whose death had been announced that day. Several of the cast members had worked with Nichols, and Glenn Close had won a Tony for his production of The Real Thing. Lithgow recalled how on any Nichols film, once an actor had shot his or her last scene, Nichols would have the cast and crew sing the Roy Rogers theme song, Happy Trails, as a warm goodbye. Lithgow then led the audience in singing Happy Trails, in honor of Nichols.
During this wonderfully appropriate singalong, I keeled over, and I hoped that people would assume that I was simply overcome by the play and the tribute. As the crowd left, I collapsed and vomited in the aisle. The ushers were concerned and attentive, and two ridiculously handsome young police officers arrived, and were incredibly helpful. Did I want an ambulance? As I tried to stand, I realized that an ambulance might be a good idea. John and the officers helped me out into the alley which leads to the stage door, where I managed to sit on a bench, and the combination of the cool evening air and having barfed began to revive me. The officers and I discussed their work, since they were assigned to the theater district, and they told me that Bradley Cooper and Hugh Jackman were delightful, to their mobs of fans and everyone else, and the officers also recalled the filming of the amazing movie Birdman on the next block. I began imagining a new series called Law&Order:Opening Night.
As I felt better, I was greeted by various friends leaving the backstage area, who were giddy and only a little confused by the fact that I was deathly pale, with a police escort. The ambulance arrived and much as I longed to be strapped to a gurney, for the sheer drama, I was feeling much better, so I sat up while the attentive and caring EMS workers took my blood pressure. John’s a doctor, which means he’s especially helpful in these situations, so he and the EMS folks traded possible causes for my illness. We got to the emergency room, which was shockingly quiet, and once more, the staff couldn’t have been more helpful. By this point I was feeling just fine, and the various tests revealed nothing wrong, and I was released, and wisely told to schedule a visit with my regular doctor.
So for both Edward Albee and myself, it was a highly dramatic evening. As I later told Scott Rudin, the play’s producer, he should feel free to use the blurb, “A Delicate Balance Made Me Sick and I Loved It!” The episode also confirmed something I’d already been sure of: if you have to get sick, do it in Manhattan and preferably on Broadway, because New Yorkers are the best.