Saturday, July 3, 2010

There Simply IS no weak link...

Good show last night.  Not quite a full house.  A little hesitant in spots for me, but that's the case sometimes after a few days off.  The proposal monologue is still giving me fits at times.

Our Backstage notice never did come out.  Not sure why.  Probably because they didn't have room what with the LA Fringe Festival and all.  At least that's my guess.

Angie put together a bunch of the reviews and framed them individually for the lobby looks really great.  We had a our dear friends Don and Donna Dieken in to see the show last night.  I think they enjoyed it.  Also my old buddy, Joe Hulser, came in to give it a peak.  He seemed to enjoy it, too.

A good crowd, overall.  They seemed to get the dark humor in the piece which is always gratifying.

What I especially love is watching the other actors grow and settle in to these roles.  Rob and Brad and Tara really are finding spots that they enjoy acting, one can tell, and expounding on those comfortable moments.  There is a scene toward the end of the play with Brad and I in a bowling alley (I think we're in bowling alley anyway...not quite sure WHY we're in a bowling alley, but we do the scene as though we were in a bowling alley...either a bowling alley or in Dresden during the firebombing of WWII, one or the other...I tend to think it may be a bowling alley...makes a bit more sense...but it's possible, I suppose, we could be in a Navajo Teepee during a pony raid...anyway, let's just say bowling alley for the sake of argument) that went particularly well last night.  It's a lot of fun to do that scene with Brad.  Very focused and specific and tight.  I like that.

Rob has turned his final and sad scene in a dive bar in the second act into an aria.  It's really amazing to watch and since the scene is pretty much all his, I DO get to watch it every night.  Just heartbreaking work.  Myself, I've never really liked playing "drunk" onstage.  I always come across a little too 'Foster Brooks' for my taste. I have trouble nailing the believability factor, oddly enough.  Not so with Rob.  His drunk comes across as a man that's been drunk for months, a physically depleted, emotionally bankrupt man with nothing to lose and no where to go.  Really just tragic stuff and Rob does it full out, no apologies and makes the whole scene about it.  It's too early in the play for me to let the floodgates loose and start crying but he makes it really hard to not do that.  It's a tour de force of a scene for him and one I honestly think will earn him an Ovation Award come January.

Rob has become the prime interpreter of my work.  He is the first person I think of when I'm writing something new.  He has become DiNero to my Scorcese, if I might be so bold.  He's doing the lead in my play Bachelor's Graveyard and after that the male lead in another play of mine, A Pedestrian God.  As far as I'm concerned he can keep doing the leads in my plays as long as he wants.  What's more, he'll be doing, although he doesn't know it yet, the lead in my newest and largest canvas, Heavyweights of the Twentieth Century.  That's a piece I'm holding on to until it's exactly how I want it.  I've halted work on it for the time being because Angie and I are sharing an old laptop these days, circa 1942.  It's missing a 'W' key and takes about a month and a half to boot up.  I'm typing on it now.  It tends to freeze now and then and one has to practically sacrifice a male baby to Loki, God of tricks, to get it to boot back up.  So until I get a better computer to write on, my work will have to wait.  I think Angie finds this especially tedious because nothing makes her happier than to look out the window into the office and see me clattering away on a keyboard, deep in thought while working on a new piece.

In Bachelor's Graveyard, Rob has a monologue about the Ali/Foreman fight of 1974 that is, quite literally, four pages long.  It's damned near impossible to act.  I know because I've tried it myself.  Every now and then he brings it up in conversation with me (they're in rehearsal for that play now) with a certain wry grin.  He knows I've written a damn-near-impossible piece of writing and instead of obsessing over it, he keeps plugging away at it.  What's more, I have not the slightest doubt he'll find the hook in it and make it amazing.  Frankly, I can't wait to see it.

Tara Lynn Orr, too, has found a rhythm, a centered spot, for her last scene in the play.  It's a doozy.  She's called upon to really let fly the dogs of empathy, as it were.  She played with it for quite some time, trying to find the exact place she needs to be emotionally for that scene, and finally nailed it.  It's a sterling piece of work.  She throws herself into it with a fervor.

It's such a pleasure to work with these seasoned pros, all of them.  The dressing room before and after the show is particularly fun.  We all sort of speak in an actor's shorthand because between us all we've probably got about five hundred plays under our collective belt.  So our conversation backstage is peppered with dry observances about the play and theatre in general.  It's been a long time since I've felt so completely at home and comfortable with a group of actors.  There is no weak link.  I've said it before, but a play is only as good as the weakest actor in it.  I'm delighted to note, we simply don't have a weak actor.

One of the ways I know this is because we are constantly making fun of each other's work...and no one is the least bit defensive.  Why is this?  Because we all know we're at the top of our game.  We know we're doing good work and we know everyone else in the cast knows we're doing good work and what's more we know how much respect there is for that among us.  It's a fun and funny dressing room.

Brad nailed it last night before the show when he said, "It's like drilling for oil.  You drill and drill a hundred times before you find it.  And when you do it's magic.  We've found it."  Now, this is not a bunch of people sitting around patting themselves on the back.  We all went through the storm to get here.  And make no mistake, it was a storm.  This was not, for many reasons. an easy show to mount.  But we did and we're doing our best.  And having been in a few plays myself over the years, I can say with complete truthfulness, our best is pretty goddamned good.  I'd put this cast in this show on any stage in America right now.  That's how proud and certain I am of being a part of this group of actors.

It's Fourth of July weekend, not known for a big turnout in the theatre.  Consequently we're a little light tonight in the audience.  We don't have a show tomorrow as we normally would because of the holiday.  The reviews we've received, LA Times and LA Weekly specifically, have helped a little, I think.  We still haven't found our core audience as productions past have.  But we still might.  It's hard to tell.  But I know this much, once the recovery community finds out about us, once the word of mouth starts working, once we reach the people that identify with this play the strongest, it could run for a long, long time.   I've seen it happen.  Twice in Chicago, in fact.  The first run for four months and the second for three months.  The recovery community heard about it and did not disappoint.  They came in droves.  And they kept coming.  And kept coming.  This could happen here, too.  I'm not discounting it yet.  And that makes two things, someone is going to make some serious money with the piece and two, we can all hold our head very high because we're doing something altruistic and right and noble.  And having been there before, that's a wonderful, wonderful feeling.

See you tomorrow.