American Theatre Critics Conference, Day .5-Day 1

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You may have noticed a huge time gap (even for me) between my last post, which began outlining my experience at annual conference of the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA), and this one. There is a good reason: the New London Radisson Hotel.

My aging but hardy laptop has traveled with me far and wide; should I need wireless, it obliges. It isn’t something I even think about. Except at the New London Radisson, where hotel-furnished communications beyond tin cans and string constitute a major technological demand.

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But before I whine, let me more properly catch you up.

When I last blogged about my adventure with the critics’ conference, I’d only progressed as far as the awful subway nightmare that nearly threatened to derail my attendance in the first place. At Penn Station, where my train departed without me thanks to the MTA and despite a $32 cab ride, the air conditioning was on the fritz, so that wasn’t much fun. Still, the Amtrak window-counter fellow took pity on me and changed my ticket to a later train without charging me for the difference. (I suspect that giving him wounded puppy-dog eyes and asking questions like “How much is this going to soak me for?” probably had something to do with it, too.)

After 90 minutes communing with the god of single malt, I hopped on the train and went to New London. The ATCA conference, of course, coincided with the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center’s annual conferences in nearby Waterford.

(Apropos of nothing, by the way, whenever I arrive in New London each year to teach as part of the O’Neill’s National Critics Institute, I almost instantly think of — well, think of shipbuilding instead of steel and less eye candy:

That, by the way, is called a blazz break — a conflation of blog and jazz break.

This time, exiting the New London train station, I began a two-bag shlep to the Radisson, a seven-minute hike, just as the skies opened up. That was charming, especially when two cars drove by and generated a Connecticut-style tsunami of sludge. My late, soggy arrival at the Radisson, meanwhile, left little time to unpack or crank up the laptop before we, the critics, were bussed over to the O’Neill — and I do mean school bussed. First order of business: enjoying a wine-rich reception on the seaporch of the Hammond Mansion (the Grand Central of the O’Neill campus). Next: seeing David West Read’s play The Dream of the Burning Boy. (Events at the O’Neill are not open to review.)

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By 11:30, I was back in my room and, well, the fun really began. Wireless? What on earth is that? Not only couldn’t I get online, but when I called the front desk, I was immediately switched to an exercise in tech support right out of Orwell. Repeatedly I instructed the (not-in-the-U.S., of course) tech operator that the problem wasn’t with the configuration of my laptop but with the wireless of the hotel itself. After 30 minutes, the tech operator abruptly said “The problem is the wireless in your hotel, not with your computer.” Thank you for your wisdom, Sensei.

I thanked the tech operator for the reference number and the assurance of the issue being resolved by morning.

Israeli-Palestinian peace will be achieved, and the final resting places of Amelia Earhart and Judge Crater found, however, before this Radisson figures out its wireless problems, however.

Indeed, three days later, when I checked out, the issue was anything but resolved. I’d called both the front desk and the tech dragoons, what, five times? So I haven’t posted on the CFR, beyond that mini-post, simply because I spent far too much time fighting with tech support over when the hotel would fix its wireless. As you can well imagine, at a certain point I just gave up.

Overall, the hotel gets very mixed reviews. I wasn’t expecting silk brocade and Phipps at the ready, but on the single afternoon that I had legitimately free to catch up on work, I decided to treat myself to room service and learned that the restaurant in the hotel didn’t open till 5. Fortunately, the sweet-natured front desk clerk, more than aware that the hotel was far from sold out, noted that there is a chef on site in any event — and he/she might be willing to cook me a burger. Three minutes later, the phone rang.

“Sir? I apologize, but the chef has walked out of the building.”

Elvis cooks?