Spalding Gray: Stories Left toTell

My wife and I attended Spalding Gray: Stories Left to Tell, part of the Paramount Theatre’s Spoken Word Series, on Thursday night.

It’s been just over three years since Spalding Gray’s body was pulled from the East River in New York, an apparent suicide. He had last been seen by his family on January 10, 2004. It’s thought that he jumped off of the Staten Island Ferry. Gray made a career of writing and performing monologues about his life and his neuroses. I remember him first in a small part in The
Killing Fields
. He also gave a memorable performance in the role of Mr. Mungo, the bachelor who commits suicide in Steven Soderbergh’s King of the Hill (it’s a travesty that it’s still not available on DVD). I lived in Manhattan in the mid-90’s and remember passing him on the street a few times. My wife and I saw him perform It’s
a Slippery Slope at the Paramount
in January 1997 and, if I recall correctly, I saw Gray’s Anatomy at SXSW Film that same year.

Gray’s delivery was such a big part of the draw his stories that I wondered how well a group reading would translate. It started out kind of rough. I found myself imagining Gray’s voice and delivery over that of the performers on the Paramount stage. They eventually settled in though and I found myself enjoying the material even though I’d heard some of it before. Unlike Statesman reviewer, Brad Bucholz, I preferred the delivery of Carmelita Tropicana over several of the others. Shawn Colvin did a good job and
Jonathan Ames made a respectable stand-in reading journal entries at Gray’s trademark wooden table. At first, I thought they might leave the table and chair empty as a place for Gray, but perhaps that would’ve been a bit too morose. I did like the way that they used the lighting towards the end as Gray’s last journal entries were read. A father myself, I couldn’t help but think of Gray’s two sons and stepdaughter, who he had late in life and the effect his suicide must’ve had on them. None of us is perfect, but
I just can’t fathom leaving my family to deal with such a terrible situation, especially since Gray’s own mother committed suicide when he was in his mid-twenties. Gray’s writing seemed to enable him to deal with the demons that claimed his mother, but a terrible head on collision in 2001 while on vacation in Ireland seems to have pushed Gray over the edge. The reading captured the bittersweet ending to a life that seemed to touch and hopefully enrich the lives of many people. There were more than a few tears
in the audience when the lights came up.

The Statesman has an interview with Gray’s widow, Kathie Russo, a review of the show by the interviewer, Brad Bucholz, and a slideshow of photos from the performance.

1 Comment so far

  1. John Boland (unregistered) on April 1st, 2007 @ 11:50 pm

    I am the webmaster of on behalf of the Estate.
    We would like to post a link to your blog under Fan Writings. You would maintain full copyright
    and get credit.
    Please let me know. If you go to the site and click on Contact that goes to me.
    Please mention your blog address so I can keep track.
    Thank you

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