Meeting Lee Tergesen: THIRTEEN

By Anne (amytych@yahoo.com)

June 9, 2012

Lee was performing in the play was "Rapture, Blister, Burn" by Gina Gionfriddo
The cast included Lee, Amy Brenneman, Beth Dixon, Virginia Kull & Kellie Overbey.

About the Play

Lee plays Don, who is married to Gwen (Kellie Overbey), and they have two sons, aged 13 and (almost) 4. The kids never appear in the play but are referred to a lot. Amy Brenneman plays Catherine, a successful professor/speaker who dated Don many years ago. When she went off to Europe in college, Don married Gwen.

Catherine returns to town after a long time away to take care of her mother, Alice (Beth Dixon), who has recently suffered a heart attack. The cast is rounded out by Avery (Virginia Kull) , the 21-year-old who babysits Don and Gwen's toddler.

When the play opens, Don and Gwen are waiting for the babysitter to arrive so they can go out, have drinks and catch up with Catherine, who has just arrived in town after a long absence. Babysitter Avery arrives, but she has a black eye, and Gwen doesn't want her to give their young son a bad impression. She and Don argue, but Gwen is firm and Avery is sent home. Don and Catherine decide to go out and catch up, leaving Gwen at home with the kids.

Pretty soon the old chemistry between Don and Catherine is stirred up, and a wildly implausible solution is presented: a switch. Gwen will take their older son to New York for the summer, and she can work on finishing her degree, which she always wanted to do. In the meanwhile, Don and Catherine will continue to see each other and raise the toddler together. Really? Yes. But somehow it made sense in the context of the play.

Don is a dean at the local college, and he had helped to arrange for Catherine to teach there while she is home taking care of her mother.  She is teaching a course on feminism, but Avery and Gwen are her only students, so classes are held at the home Catherine’s mother, Alice. 

Alice and Avery steal every scene they are in. Avery is hilarious and despite being the youngest character; she seems to be the only one who is mature and acting her age. Alice had impeccable timing and a matter-of-fact way about life – especially when it comes to the relationship between her daughter and Don.

Lee’s character had some dry humor, but mostly he was the straight guy, which I loved because it gave him a chance to show his range. He was, at times, angry, annoyed, sarcastic, disappointed, apologetic and passionate. He and Amy had couple of really good romantic scenes. Their first kiss was at the end of the first act, which took me by surprise. Usually, I am waiting for the intermission but this time I was thinking, "What? Intermission already?" I got really wrapped up in the characters and the story. That is a nice treat.

(I was amazed by how quickly the first act sped by and I told Lee about that later. It says a lot about the quality of the show and the actors when a play just flies by. Usually I am looking at my watch thinking when is the intermission? Not this time.)

In the second act, they had a scene where they got (mostly) undressed and made out on a blanket near the front of the stage, just inches from where I was sitting. It was rather surreal. They had really good chemistry and Lee is just as good kissing on stage as he is kissing on the screen.

If you don't want any spoilers for the end, you should stop reading here.

When they are together, Catherine indulges all of Don's bad habits (smoking pot, watching porn, staying up all night) and in the end, Don realizes he doesn't really want that. He needs a woman like his wife to rein him in and hold him to a "high C standard." (When he said that line, it got a lot of laughs.)  He breaks up with Catherine, and Gwen takes him back.

Catherine's Mom is a bit sad because she really likes Don, but she tells Catherine and Avery that they should celebrate the fact that they don't need a man to be happy.

The play was really well-written and acted. The only character I actively disliked was Gwen. I'm not sure why exactly. Maybe because the character was so judgmental about everyone else. Or maybe it was the actress. She didn't really impress me. Everyone else did.

The Gathering

After the show, we gathered outside to wait for Lee, as usual. He was up shortly and said hello and gave hugs to everyone he recognized from previous gatherings and was introduced to all the "new" ladies, including Sophia from Sweden, Erin from Missouri, and Christine from Los Angeles. Barb, a friend of Candy's, met Lee at the restaurant because she had to take a call outside the theater. Jessica brought her hubby, so all together we were 16 at the restaurant, including Lee.

At some point, Amy Brenneman came out and waved hello to everyone. Lee told Amy that we (the peeps) told him that he had carried the show. Amy chuckled and said, “Yes, I had never acted until I met Lee.” (Thanks to Candy for remembering the details.) Candy also had the distinctive experience of making Lee laugh. Candy recounted: “One of the peeps commented on how wonderful his performance was, and he said "You guys are too easy." Then I said "I've been told that a lot,” and he threw his head back and let out such a big laugh!  Made me really happy to know that I made him laugh like that.

We went across 42nd Street to the West Bank Cafe, which is where the cast spends most nights. We waited a couple of minutes for them to set up a table and when we went to the back, Lee did not like the set-up and wanted to move the tables, which reminded me of the Boston gathering.

He asked the waitress if we change could how the tables were arranged. She said she would get Pablo to move them. Lee muttered after her that he didn't need Pablo and that he was perfectly capable of moving the tables himself, which he did. By the time Pablo arrived, Lee was done.

Because there were so many of us, Lee moved around and visited us all in groups. By the time he joined our table, Leslie, Merrily, Leeanne, Antonia, Lora and I were deep into discussions of our favorite "Weird Science" episodes. Antonia advised Lora that if she only saw one episode, it should be "Pirates," which is on my top five, but my favorite is "Funhouse of Death," where Lee plays the evil clown. When I told Lee we were discussing WS, he ordered us to "live in the present."

He talked a little about his new show, "Red Widow," and I commented that the plot sounded a little like Southern Comfort, a pilot he did a few years ago with Madeleine Stowe. He agreed that it was similar but that "Red Widow" was much better.  Actually, when I mentioned "Southern Comfort," I couldn’t remember the name, just the plot, but Lee knew what I was talking about. It’s like he read my mind.  :) He said that Red Widow is set in Sausalito but will be filmed in Vancouver.

It was around this time that he told me he could see me while he was on stage and said, “Don’t ever do that to me again.” I laughed and told him that those were the seats that the theater gave us. If he had an issue, he had to take it up with Lianne in the box office. Heh.

When we were in the theater, Merrily, who was sitting next to me, said she thought he was looking at me. I wasn’t sure at the time. It was at the end of the scene where they were getting ready for the younger son’s birthday party and Lee was sitting on the picnic bench directly in front of where I was sitting. As the picnic table moved back, he must have seen me sitting there. The movement of the table took several seconds, and that’s the only time he was really looking in my direction. I behaved myself and didn’t smile or anything, I swear.

Back to the happenings at the café … Sophia had brought some candy from Sweden and offered a piece of it to Lee. He put some in his mouth and made the most hilarious faces. I was laughing too hard to get any pictures. Not sure if anyone else did. Sophia asked if he had ever been to Sweden. He said no and it’s never been on his list but now he would have to reconsider. Then one of the peeps joked that he could stop by Sophia’s house when he goes. And Lee remarked that he would probably still be chewing the candy, which made us all giggle.

I asked him to sign a birthday card for someone special and I gave him a pen that you click to get the ballpoint out. He tried to write without clicking it and got frustrated, which made me laugh. Later, another peep asked him to sign a program but didn’t give him a pen, so I offered mine. Again, he forgot to click it and tried write with the ballpoint still stick inside and gave me this look as if to say it was my fault. LOL. It’s the little things.

I asked him if he had ever worked with Amy Brenneman before. He said he hadn’t but that she was great to work with. He said she had a very take-charge attitude and that on the second day of rehearsal, she demanded that Lee kiss her, as they would be doing it at some point for the show. Lee said he was a little puzzled as it was only the second day and then remarked something to the effect that “what Amy wants, Amy gets.”

Leslie helped with my bad memory on this one.  Lee actually had said, "When Amy Brenneman tells you to do something, you do it." Leslie and he then jokingly acted out a little scene. She pointed at him and said, "Take off your shirt," and then Lee said, "But it's not even in this scene!" And then Leslie pretended she was Amy again and said, "DO it!" and he started whimpering and pretending to take off his shirt and acting out that scene with Coco in “Fame” when the sleazy director wants her to take off her blouse.  It was so funny.

Leslie also reminded me about this little exchange (these two love to snark at each other, I swear):

I asked Leslie to take pictures of Lee and me together, and while she was photographing us, she was apologizing for not taking a lot of shots. “I mumbled something about not wanting to flash in your faces,” Leslie said. “ Then I went to take some pictures when Lee was signing the card, and both of them both looked at me. I said, ‘Oh, I was trying to take candid shots,’ and Anne said, ‘Posed is OK, too,’ and Lee said, ‘You've gotten bitchier.’ I’m not sure what prompted that, but I told him (truthfully), ‘I've always been this bitchy but just wasn't comfortable showing it.’ He said something like, ‘That was smart.’

“I asked Anne if I was doing a bad job of the picture-taking, but Lee replied, ‘You're getting a lot of shots of the table!’ Because the camera was face down on it when I wasn't using it.”

Lee proceeded to talk about Beth Dixon, the actress who played Amy’s mom. She has a lot of funny lines and got a lot of laughs. Lee said he told her that it was OK if she got laughs, but if the laughter turned to applause, “it’s not working for me.” I agree. We don’t want the spotlight off Lee for any longer than necessary!

Someone asked Lee where Yuko was. He said she was sick and home in bed. One of the peeps suggested we all go over to cheer her up. Lee sarcastically remarked that it would go over big. “Let’s not even call first. Let’s just surprise her,” he said sarcastically.

Later, the waitress came out and gave us the last call from the kitchen but Lee apparently didn’t hear because he asked her several minutes later if he could have two butterscotch puddings to go. She said no because the kitchen was closed. Lee was worried Yuko would be upset because she had specifically asked him to bring them home. He said he was going to be in trouble. Then he remembered that he had brought some home the previous night without even being asked. What a thoughtful husband!

Before we all said goodbye, I said to tell Yuko we missed her and hoped she felt better soon. He said, “I’m totally blaming the pudding thing on you.” Heh. I told him to feel free.

At some point, Lee asked me, “How many times is this?” I asked, “You mean times I’ve come to see you?” And he nodded. I told him it was 13 and he looked alarmed. I assured him that 13 was my lucky number and I purposely chose my seat (A-13) because of that.

Lee posed for tons of pics with everyone and we all said our goodbyes (and got lots of long, lovely hugs from Lee). I walked back toward my hotel on the east side and decided to walk through Times Square. Even at 1:30 am, the place is pretty busy. The lights were on and the streets were wet from a short rain that happened while we were all laughing in the West Bank Café. I had my iPod on.

So there I was in my favorite city, having spent the last couple of hours in the company of my favorite actor (and some great friends), and now listening to my favorite songs. I was on top of the world and I couldn’t stop grinning. And all thanks to Lee and the peeps. How fucking cool is it that it still feels THIS GOOD 10 years after it all started?

 

Main Page
Meeting Lee

Meeting One
March 19, 2002

Meeting Two
May 19, 2002

Meeting Three
October 7, 2002

Meeting Four
December 7, 2002

Meeting Five
January 28, 2003

Meeting Six
August 31, 2003

Meeting Seven
November 13, 2004

Meeting Eight
January 7, 2005

Meeting Nine
May 31, 2008

Meeting Ten
May 2, 2010

Meeting 11
Dec. 4, 2010

Meeting 12
Nov. 23, 2011

Meeting 13
June 9, 2012

Meeting 13
June 9, 2012

Meeting 14
Aug. 17, 2013

Meeting 15
June 14, 2015