Monday, November 20, 2006

How The Play Is Going

Pretty good actually.

As you know, I am appearing in a mistaken identity farce for the next few weekends called HERE LIES JEREMY TROY. This is notable because I haven't been on a stage in about 10 years (karaoke doesn't count) and I haven't been in a show where I had to memorize lines in about 20 years. I don't like memorizing lines. It's anxiety-producing. If you get something wrong, or god forbid skip a line, you can not only throw yourself off but also the poor bastard who has to pick up cues from you. I don't mind if the other actors miss their lines because I have so much improv under my belt (oh, THAT'S what that is!) that I welcome the excuse to cover for 'em.

So after 3 months of rehearsal we finally opened this last weekend, doing two matinees to houses which were small and kind, like Mother Teresa. I should explain that we are sharing the space with a show that only plays evenings, another mistaken identity farce called WHO'S WIVES ARE THEY ANYWAY? It only makes sense because the sets are close to identical. The most important thing is to make sure there are plenty of doors to walk in and out of; the rest is gravy.

Who are my fellow actors? Well, the male lead is played by Scott, a very good-looking guy (too good-looking if you ask me, but that's just sour grapes) who up until now had no stage experience. Scott has been amazing. He started out making all the classic mistakes (not playing big enough, acting with his back to the audience... basically just being too realistic) and over the course of rehearsals he's become a farce machine. He's big, he can handle a broad take, he's even acquired comic timing.

Kim, who plays his wife, has plenty of experience - she's even written a show and had it produced there. It seems pretty effortless to Kim. She also has an infectious and uncontrollable laugh, which she kept succumbing to in rehearsal but somehow has completely wrestled to the ground now that we're playing to audiences. Kim knows what she's doing.

Rachel, who plays daffy artist's model Tina Winslow, also has all kinds of acting experience. Tina is further proof that women are perfectly capable of being funny. It annoys me that the high point of the show is a scene with Rachel and Kim that I'm not even in! Damn them! Rachel and I are also sharing our first stage make-out scene. I've seen pictures and it's surprisingly convincing. I gotta admit, it's awful difficult to get your bearings after a kissing scene - it really short-circuits a lot of connections in my brain, especially since she's so damn sexy. Rachel is a squeaky-clean person in real life, so she shapes up as the most ironic casting decision of the show.

Finally Don, who is the Boss Who Comes To Dinner. Don has acted for 20 years. He could do the show in his sleep but chooses not to. More than any one, Don knows how to play the audience like a harp. There is a speech he does toward the end of the show with a punchline that is so bone-crunchingly obvious that I would never believe it could be anything more than a sad anti-climax. Don makes it work. It got laughs at both shows this weekend. Hearty laughs. Don is a tremendous fan of classic comedy, i.e. the Marx Brothers, Abbot And Costello, W.C. Fields. Possibly he would be even funnier in black and white, but it would just be impractical.

And me? I have no idea how I come off. I know I'm responsible for a lot of the show and I haven't noticed dead silence during my scenes, so I'm probably holding up my end. I can't decide whether I mug too much or if I should be mugging more. At least I had the instincts to insert that most reliable of laugh-generators, a spit take, into act one. I'm proud of that. Unfortunately the stage manager (Jeannine, who is ruthlessly efficient and smart as a whip) has chosen Coca-Cola to stand in for coffee. I'd have gone with diet coke. I fear we are making the floorboards pretty sticky.

Finally a word about our director, Marc Del Monte. He's great. The man knows comic timing in a big way. He's very good to actors (this is his first directing job; he acts regularly and even has a regular gig playing a comical rabbi at bar mitzvahs and weddings. La Chaim!) and skilled at saying just enough to draw us out without saying too much. At the first rehearsal he gave us each a dollar, so we could say we are being paid to act in a show. I am a paid actor.

As much fun as I'm having, my next show should be a musical, and my next part should be something small and scene-stealing. Maximum benefit, less lines to memorize, wouldn't have to attend all the rehearsals. At my core I'm a very lazy man. I hear they're going to be doing THE SOUND OF MUSIC... maybe I'll try out for Max, the cynical talent agent. Failing that, perhaps I can be a nun. C'mon - if I shave, how could you tell?

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