“I am zero degrees of separation,” Stockard Channing declared as she entered The Lodge atop the McKittrick Hotel in Manhattan on Tuesday night. The grande dame was taking in a display of photo props denoting the degrees of separation from herself, a riff, of course, on the role she made famous in the Nineties adaptation of John Guare’s play “Six Degrees of Separation.” “I think it’s just an excuse to have a party,” she explained. “What’s wrong with that?” Nothing at all. Channing has a lot to celebrate lately — “It’s Only a Play,” the Terrence McNally comedy in which she plays a raging, boozy theater diva, has been extended yet again into the summer. And that’s after it opened in October.
Her costars — Matthew Broderick, Martin Short and F. Murray Abraham — had joined the Channing love-in, as had McNally himself, naturally. The playwright was in a nook nearby, wedged between the front door and two bunk beds (the rooftop lounge was designed to mimic a rustic cabin in the woods). He was surveying the Broadway-heavy room, a scene that would not have been out of place in his play.
“I don’t know who most of these people are,” he noted dryly. That the cast members had all come out on a school night — they had a show earlier in the evening — said a lot about their admiration for the indomitable Channing, who gives a fiery, no-holds-barred performance in the play as the indomitable fictional actress Virginia Noyes.
“She’s an amazing stage animal. She’s a real pro,” said Broderick, whose sentiment was echoed by Short: “Everyone loves Stockard. They wouldn’t come out for anybody.” And Abraham, how many degrees of separation were there between himself and the actress?
“No degrees of separation at all,” he said. “I am simply one of her great, great admirers.”