“So I need signatures,” Green party gubernatorial candidate Malachy McCourt says to the couple who, like many of the couples entering the Lyceum Theater on West 45th Street for the 2 p.m. matinee of “The Lieutenant of Inishmore” on Wednesday, is clutching water bottles and canes. McCourt is wearing a white baseball cap and bushy white eyebrows set off by the reddish skin of an Irish guy who’s gotten too much sun, probably because of all the petition carrying he’s been doing. How’s it going? “Oh, like a fiddler’s arm,” he says, with 12,000 signatures in hand on the way to the 30,000 he wants by the August 22nd deadline—in order to make sure that, after any challenges, he retains the 15,000 required.
Some people sign right away. Some hesitate, possibly because they are from out of state. No matter where they’re from, McCourt turns on the charm, like to a woman who hails from Country Sligo. “Ah,” he says, “Yates country!” A few of the theatergoers ask him if he can win. “Winning is one thing,” he proclaims. “Being victorious is another.” Tell your friends, he advises, “Don’t waste your vote. Give it to me!” Still, a lot of folks blow past him. “New Yorkers are tough, especially in the heat,” he says.
Ach, the heat! It’s nearing 100 degrees as McCourt and a few volunteers (including Alison Duncan, his running mate and a post-baccalaureate pre-med student who had to balance her petition-carrying duties with a calculus class in recent weeks) pound the pavement in front of the Lyceum. Eventually the theater decides that McCourt isn’t charming enough to stand at their doorway, and a guy steps outside to tell McCourt and company that the sidewalk under the Lyceum marquis is private property on which they are not welcome. If they don’t move, he’ll call the cops, “and they will issue you a ticket,” the guy says. “You know why?” he adds, reaching into his pocket to pull out a shield, “‘Cuz I’m a cop!”
The moonlighter steps back inside, and McCourt stands his ground. “He can’t talk to the governor that way!” he huffs, winking. A woman from Scotland introduces herself and brings a friend over to meet him. “You know, Frank McCourt, he wrote Angela’s Ashes,” she tells the friend. That’s his little brother.” Someone takes a photograph.
Do people ever talk to him about, like, the issues? “Sometimes. They ask me what I’m about,” he says. And what does he tell them? “Peace is number one, and bringing the troops home to look after New York State. Free education through college—education is very important to a lot of people. Single payer health care. And Spitzer’s for capital punishment.” McCourt’s not.
Eventually, a uniformed cop named Skryzpek comes along and tells everyone to get to the edges of the marquis, where you can read the Observer’s review of “The Lieutenant of Inishmore,” and learn that, “The more outrageously over-the-top it became as the bizarre evening went on, the funnier it was.” Some of the volunteers heed the 5-0, but not McCourt. He stays right in front of the door, chatting the cop into submission, and eventually the crowd dwindles as the afternoon show—the one inside—begins.