When Spalding Gray last paid us a visit about three years ago, he was sitting in his favorite plaid shirt behind a table at the Gallagher Theater, sipping water between anecdotes that placed him in the worst possible light.
He was ostensibly there to talk about how he'd learned to ski. Gray was a poor student, and for a long time his only successful effort was on stolen skis. Between tales from the slopes, he also revealed how he'd dumped his longtime girlfriend for a younger woman he'd been having an affair with and had ultimately impregnated.
Gray told these awful stories about himself night after night, to hundreds of people at a time, all over the country. And people loved the rascal for it. He revealed the worst aspects of his nature not boastfully but unapologetically and poetically. His wry account of his own mundane failings made the rest of us feel that our own quotidian lives might be more interesting than we thought, if only we could tell our stories with such informal eloquence.
Gray's had plenty of practice as a live memoirist. He's written 18 monologues so far, the most famous being Swimming to Cambodia. Now he's returning to Tucson with his latest project of verbal exhibitionism, Morning, Noon and Night.
It's described as an oral diary following one day in his life with his family (the new girlfriend and their three kids) in a small town in eastern Long Island. "More than a monologue on life," announces the ever-valuable press release, "the piece is about longing and falling, watching and helping children grow."
Longing and falling are familiar subjects for Gray; he pines and stumbles through life with more flair than anyone we're likely to know. It's all in the art of recovery, and now it seems that the ex-preppie actor's road to recovery is as a family man.
But if he's running true to form, Gray will probably do at least one reprehensible thing in the course of the day he describes. And somehow, he will make us love him for it.
Monologuist Spalding Gray presents Morning, Noon and Night Friday, February 16 at 8 p.m. at the University of Arizona's Centennial Hall. Tickets cost $35, with discounts for students, UApresents subscribers and UA employees. For information, call 621-3341, or buy full-price tickets online at http://uapresents.arizona.edu.