Gray invites us to spend a day under his roof
- Stephen Blair
- Portland Tribune - Features
Actor's latest gab takes a stab at reclaiming childhood innocence
When Spalding Gray gets together with himself, he can talk for hours.
The veteran supporting actor has appeared in films such as 'Beaches' and 'King of the Hill,' but he is best known for his philosophical, unapologetically self-involved monologues.
In 'Swimming to Cambodia,' his most enduring piece, he discusses politics in Southeast Asia and his work on the 1984 film 'The Killing Fields.' Director Jonathan Demme's 1987 film version of 'Swimming to Cambodia' continues to attract a cult following on video.
This week, Gray, 60, comes to town to present 'Morning, Noon and Night,' a monologue he first performed in 1998.
'It's about a day in the life of my family,' he says during a recent phone interview. He's nursing a head cold, and his train of thought occasionally gets derailed by a cough or a sneeze.
'This piece is a way of celebrating the time in my life just after I moved from New York City to Sag Harbor in eastern Long Island, N.Y. It's less political than my other pieces.'
Gray likens the structure of 'Morning, Noon and Night' to James Joyce's 'Ulysses,' which also takes place in a single day. The piece is far more accessible than Joyce's dense tome, however.
'There are moments of absolute simplicity,' he explains, 'like a detail about a seagull that's perched on a church.'
The monologue's central theme is that one can reconnect with childhood innocence no matter how old he or she is. Gray achieves this by looking at the world through the eyes of his 5-year-old son, Forrest.
Of his creative process, Gray says: 'I evolve all my pieces in front of live audiences. A lot of my material is taken from journals.' He cites Allen Ginsberg, Robert Lowell and Anton Chekhov as influences.
Gray stages 'Morning, Noon and Night' with little fanfare.
'There are only four lighting cues,' he says.
He limits the props to simple household objects, such as the cassette player on which he plays a collection of tapes. 'It's music that would be on at my house,' he says.
Gray is no stranger to Portland. He performed his monologue 'Gray's Anatomy' at the Portland Art Museum in 1994. The Portland Institute for Contemporary Art brought him back in 1996 to perform 'It's a Slippery Slope' and 'Interviewing the Audience.'
Beer is the first thing that pops into his mind when asked what he likes best about Portland.
'It's is one of my favorite brewing cities,' he says.