If you didn’t already know, the height difference in podiums was the best indication that tall-drink-of-water (and Tony winner) Gabriel Ebert was about to do a reading of British playwright Duncan Macmillan’s Lungs.
Since I’ve been fangirling over the play — which debuted at the Studio Theater in DC in 2011 and got raves when it played at the Paines Plough/Sheffield Theatres Roundabout Season in the UK — I made my reservation super early for the Araca Group’s Monday reading. As in, even before the cast was announced.
Still, even without seeing the amazingly tall podium, I was certain Ebert had joined the reading. Not just because I’d read about his casting (alongside Jenni Barber), but also because, well… I rode the elevator up to the performance space with him. And I kinda could not breathe. When he asked me if I was going to the same floor, I think I squeaked out an affirmative-esque sound. I don’t know. I may have blacked out. What can I say, he’s just so gawkwardly dreamy.
Lungs speaks to how we are in relationships, how we are to each other, and how we are to the world. Since I’d already read the play (nerd-alert), it was a delight to hear it aloud. The reading afforded me the opportunity to more fully experience the rhythm of the play’s overlapping dialogue and the layering of its two characters. It also left me contemplating my own behavior — the things I say, the things I hold back, the inordinate amount of recycling I should (but don’t) do.
As a bonus, after the reading I caught Ebert munching cheese and crackers with one of my favorite playwrights, Annie Baker (The Flick), and it was like being at the cocktail party of my dreams! Because yes, my dreams are weird, G-rated, and very Off-Broadway oriented.
But really. Ebert and Barber were great interpreters and Lungs is as comic and touching in person as it was on the page. Here’s hoping the reading blossoms into a New York production soon.