Two Nights With Minky Woodcock

For night two, I’d asked for a spiritualist ticket in the hopes of seeing more of the show. I did… not as much more as I might have liked, but enough to make it worthwhile, to be sure.

For round two, I was assigned to Margery of Boston herself, played by Veronica Varlow. Her séance had been a highlight, as Varlow is an incredibly compelling performer, and not just because of… okay full disclosure here, and maybe skip forward a paragraph, Mom… not just because Margery did her séances in the nude, the better to “produce ectoplasm from her orifices.”

She stuck with “from her mouth” for the séance we all saw. And probably the one only VIPs saw.

Neat thing about being in Margery’s group for night two… also in my group was the real-life Margery’s actual granddaughter. Needless to say, Veronica was pretty thrilled about this, calling to other company members “Hey, my granddaughter from the future is here!” And maybe that makes it okay that we didn’t see any further scheming from Sam Smiley or Nurse La Chatte. Other than predicting the date of Houdini’s death, Margery was never involved in any scheming against him. Which meant that instead of an additional story scene between the first theatre section and her séance, Margery simply did some tarot readings near the lobby. But it also meant that real-Margery’s relative didn’t have to witness her grandmother plotting a murder, so… evens out?

I thought that being in Margery’s group might mean being at the table for the séance instead of the rows of chairs that lined the edges of the room. It did not. Must have been a VIP thing. Or maybe an Arthur Conan Doyle thing? He and his wife were at the table…

For a moment after the second theatre sequence, it looked like we were getting a bonus séance, but something cooler happened instead. A moment I’d just read earlier in the day on the subway. Minky Woodcock her own self burst out and brought us to a bedroom at gunpoint, in order to incapacitate Margery and hijack her séance.

I’ve never been held at gunpoint by a nude redhead before. I imagine it’s usually less fun.

Some of my group didn’t get that it was Minky’s group that was supposed to follow her to the stolen séance and not us. Margery’s butler started to correct them, and then the “unconscious” Margery’s head popped up as she snapped “Nobody go anywhere!” and then went back into drugged sleep.

“I think she’s coming around,” said the butler.

It was pretty funny. She played the ad-lib well.

Erica Mancini had been playing the bellhop at the Prince of Wales hotel, where all of this was happening, and she was apologizing profusely for Minky’s ambush… but every time someone hit the bell on her desk, she’d reflexively respond “Thank you for staying at the Prince of Wales hotel!”

Every time.

It got funnier every time she did it. Respect for her commitment to the bit.

In the end came a ritual that I’d seen part of in Bess’ group the night before. Margery led us to connect with each other and make a wish for our future, pointing out the truth you never think about at these things… 

This assemblage of people, in this place, will never happen again. This exact group of people will never be together again, certainly not in this place.

Because, if you’ll forgive a repeated theme, time’s arrow moves ever forward. So savour the moments when they come. Savour a handshake from an artist you adore, or her hand on your shoulder, or the moment when you’re called on and instead of floundering, you nail it. Live in the moment as Minky plays out a scene inches away from you. You’ll be back on the subway heading for Washington Heights before you know it.

I wish I’d seen more of Minky’s plot. Which was the A-plot of the show. She’s the title character, but if you weren’t in her group, you might barely run into her outside of the theatre sequences that bookended the show. That, to me, was unfortunate. But I was happy with what I did experience of that once-in-a-lifetime show.

(They might stage it again someday, but as Margery taught us… it won’t be the same.)

Next time in this series… food, glorious food.

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