Review: ‘Morning, Noon and Night’

Fans of raconteur Spalding Gray probably never expected to find him sitting behind that plain wooden desk, taking those thoughtful sips of water and relating cute things the kids said.

Fans of raconteur Spalding Gray probably never expected to find him sitting behind that plain wooden desk, taking those thoughtful sips of water and relating cute things the kids said.

Of course, as he plainly admits in his new show, “Morning, Noon and Night,” Gray never expected to find himself so situated either. Indeed, much of the charm of this latest installment in Gray’s ongoing autobiography in monologue lies in the bemused pleasure — and slight dismay — occasioned in this experienced urban navel-gazer by his strange new suburban existence.

In the course of his new 90-minute monologue, playing Sunday and Monday nights at Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont Theater, Gray takes us through a typical day in his life as a Sag Harbor homeowner and father of three kids: the 9-month-old Theo (“It’s short for the study of God,” he jokes), 5-year-old Forrest and 11-year-old Marissa, the daughter of Gray’s new wife Kathie.

Lying in bed in the morning, he gazes in wonder at his “double son” (i.e. “son” and “sun”), who, as he boasts with both pride and relief, sleeps soundly through the night. He takes a morning bike ride through the sun-drenched countryside. He walks into town with Forrest to rent a Barney video, marvels at Marissa’s math problems and her Spice Girls fanaticism. He helps clear the table , dances to Chumbawamba in the living room with the whole family and finally falls into bed exhausted. “And I didn’t even go to work,” Gray adds with sympathetic terror at the thought of those who do.

Of course, even in his new pastoral mode, Gray is plenty doom-ridden. The chaos of the daily off-to-school rush interrupts his yoga session; a visit from a contractor and an unfortunately placed Tickle-Me Elmo toy interrupt a mid-morning attempt at matrimonial intimacy. And this long day’s journey into night is suitably spotted with dark musings on more familiar Gray obsessions such as mortality and the general weariness of life (as Gray describes it, their lovely old Victorian house appears to be virtually ringed with cemeteries).

Yes, Gray remains the wittily neurotic observer who can conclude an awe-tinged description of his son’s birth with a mournful little admonition to the newborn: “I looked down at him and thought, oh little one, oh sweet one, you may already have spent the best days of your life in there.” But he’s obviously mellowed — a new, discomfiting comfortableness percolates beneath every reflection.

Your enjoyment of the show may ultimately depend on your appetite for those cute-kid stories that have glazed many a single person’s eye at cocktail parties. A sample conversation between father and son: “‘Dad, I know why they call a hotel a hotel.’

‘Why, Forrest?’

‘It’s because when the whole family gets to the hotel they all start laughing. They laugh ‘ho ho ho ho’ and then they ‘tell.’ They tell all about what happened on the way there. Get it, dad? Ho-tell.’ ”

The kid may need to work on his material, but dad is still doing fine — even the superabundance of kooky kid quotations is more endearing than annoying. All things considered — and in Gray’s hands, you know they have been — Gray is a happy dad. And all things considered, it is as pleasurable to share his happiness as it is to share his angst.

Morning, Noon and Night

Vivian Beaumont Theater, New York; 1,068 seats; $45 top


A Lincoln Center Theater presentation of a solo show written and performed by Spalding Gray.


Creative consultant, Paul Spencer; production manager, Jeff Hamlin. Opened Nov. 8, 1999. Reviewed Nov. 7. Running time: 1 HOUR , 35 MIN.
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