I saw Spalding Gray up close just once. It happened on the night of Sept. 11, 2001, when much of Lower Manhattan was open only to rescue workers and emergency vehicles. The nearest I could get to the site of the Twin Towers was Houston Street. As I headed toward a set of police barricades, he walked right past me - instantly recognizable in his flannel work shirt, with his wavy mane of gray hair.
I counted Gray’s monologues “Swimming to Cambodia,’’ “Terrors of Pleasure,’’ and “Monster in a Box’’ among the most entertaining and rewarding experiences I ever had in a theater. There, less than a mile from ground zero, I wondered how this great American storyteller would wring drama and humor out of the attacks, but felt certain that he would. After all, here was a man who found dark comedy in the story of his own mother’s suicide and his fear that he too would take his own life.