Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Great Equalizer.

I'm not exactly sure when, but soon, Praying Small will go into rehearsal at NoHo Arts. I've covered all of this to some extent. There have been some casting setbacks, theatre availability, that sort of thing, nothing to be concerned about, really. James Mellon, an exceptionally talented director with a long and impressive resume, will be the captain of the piece. The play is a rough and tumble ride through the first year of sobriety of a charismatic and intelligent man crippled with the disease of addiction. Alcoholism is the disease of More. Always wanting more. More booze, more excitement, more laughs, more high, more life. It is the only fatal disease known to man that says to its victim - you don't have a disease. It respects no one and nothing, not education, not intelligence, not common sense, not affluence, not even genius. It is the great equalizer.

I have asked my dear friend, Kyle Puccia, quite possibly the single most talented musician I have ever had the privilege to know, to write the score for Praying Small. He has been diligently doing so. He has sent me three songs to be used; two covers and an original. They are breathtaking.

I have begun, as an artist, to sort of resent my own play, Praying Small. Because it is the one that everyone wants to produce. I have written reams upon reams of other work. I feel a bit like Jimmy Buffet. He once said that no matter what, no matter how many songs he does, no matter the brilliance of his other creations, everyone always wants to hear Margaritaville. Ha.

So I have been sitting here all morning listening to Mr. Puccia sing. I am aghast. He reminds me so much of another genius friend of mine, James Barbour. Last December, Jim did a Christmas Concert at the Colony Theatre. Angie and I attended and sat back and prepared to be lightly entertained by a few Let It Snow-type numbers. Well. Out comes tall, handsome Jimmy who immediately sets about rocking our world. I actually thought that theatre was TOO SMALL to handle his voice once he got cranked up. Kyle is like that. His talent is so enormous I forget, I FORGET, how good he is.

I wrote Praying Small in the basement of a recovery home in Chicago where I was working as drug and alcohol counselor. I would work all day hearing stories about the ravages of this disease, waiting until my clients had left my office, and then quietly lay my head on my desk and weep. Not very professional of me. As an actor and writer, I was simply too empathetic for the job. It destroyed me. I would be so emotionally drained at the end of some days I could barely walk. I had seen and heard the horrors of evil itself. If ever I doubted the existence of pure evil in the world, I don't now. It is addiction. Alcoholism is the physical embodiment of Satin himself.

Once, a few years ago, a director in Pennsylvania called me. His company was producing Praying Small. He had a press conference to attend the following day. He wanted to tell them something the playwright himself had said. He asked, "If you could summarize the play in one line FROM the play itself, what would it be?" I thought about that for awhile. I called him back and gave him a line from the play. Sam, the struggling alcoholic lead character in the play, says one drunken night to his helpless wife:

"I can't wait for you to see the man I'm going to be tomorrow."

See you tomorrow.