Thursday, January 27, 2011

Adding Machine - The Musical

A couple of the reviews are out. Backstage and LA Weekly.

I'm pleased. Not because the reviews are so astounding, they're not. They're good, and I think fair, but because a week ago today I was certain we were going to be eviscerated in print. And I was sad, because I'd worked so terribly hard on this show. I had given up some other gigs, high paying ones, and I was thinking I'd made a dreadful mistake. Just being honest here, not blaming, just saying how I felt. In this particular case it feels really great to be wrong. It turned out to be the right choice, after all.

My co-stars fared well, too. Kelly and Rob and Christine all received nice mentions. That pleases me very much. Kelly and Rob both exhibit some vocal pyrotechnics in this piece that simply can't be ignored and Christine has, to be perfectly honest, one of the purest, simplest, most haunting voices I've ever heard. In addition, they all happen to be very fine actors, too. Our ensemble - Travis, Greta, Nick and Mandy are so letter perfect as to be sort of stunning. They got a nice mention, too. So in those regards, I'm really happy so far.

Still waiting for the big one - The LA Times. That, I think, should be out today. Aside from that, a bunch of smaller publications, local ones. But, as I've said before, all theatre, like politics, is local.

Speaking of the ensemble, apparently one of them (Mandy) has seriously hurt her foot and I'm going in a bit early today to make the necessary adjustments in blocking. Live theatre.

Reviews are a funny thing. Some actors don't read them. I went through a period where I didn't, in fact. As goes the old adage, 'if you believe the good ones, you have to believe the bad ones.' My teacher of note, the tremendous actor, Michael Moriarty, once told me he hadn't read a review in twenty years. He's also the first person to recount the old line to me, "Critics are like eunochs at an orgy, they can watch but they can't join in."

Personally, I've been very lucky throughout my career with regards to critics. I've only gotten a few sticky ones. And frankly, I didn't even mind those. The ones that have bothered me are the ones that treat my work with indifference. You know the ones...'Also in the cast...'

One of the above notices referenced Carrol O'Connor (Archie Bunker from All in the Family). I can see that, I suppose. Actually, if truth be known, my initial image for Mr. Zero in Adding Machine was James Gandolfini with his intense yet odd, nasal readings. Of course, that was merely a starting point. It quickly morphed into something else. I'm not really a very good impressionist (although I do a pretty good Brando) so usually I'm in no danger of being accused of copying anyone.

One of the three Camelots I've done (King Arthur) was cited once in print. I decided to play the role as if Peter O'Toole were doing it - pigeon-toed, eccentric vocal choices, unexpected volatility, etc. So I was amused when one of the reviewers wrote, "Mr. Morts as Arthur appears to have channelled Peter O'Toole in his portrayal." Hm.

Early in my career I did the role of Clifford Anderson four seperate times in the play, Deathtrap. The fourth time I did it, I was, quite frankly, getting a little bored with the character. So I decided to give him a slight stutter. I thought it would liven things up a bit for me. When the show opened one of the notices said, "If Mr. Morts had bothered to learn his lines..." Clearly they had mistook my intentional stutter for unintentional line faltering. That one amused me more than bothered me, though.

Some years back I was in Toronto doing a play, a Eugene O'Neill piece, and the critic had written something to the effect of, "if the whole play could be recast with better actors, keeping only Mr. Morts..." It hurt a lot of feelings. One night a few weeks into the run, I encountered that critic in a bar. I'd had a few by then. He came up to me and said, rather smugly, "Did you like what I wrote about you?" I said, "Listen, you gob of spit, you have the right to voice your opinion because that's your job, but you don't have the right to be cruel, so fuck off." Back in the days that I spent time in bars I often said things like that. I regret them now. But at the time it seemed like a good idea.

A buddy of mine, a very good actor on the East Coast, was once doing a play with me at Arena in DC. He got a lousy notice for the new play we were doing. He, too, encountered that critic in a bar (in fact, I was there, too, just not at the same table). He became so enraged he took his wallet out and threw it at the critic. We've laughed about that for years now. Who throws a wallet at someone? He said, "I was between beers and didn't have a bottle in front of me, the lucky son of a bitch."

In any event, for better or worse, the notices are trickling in for The Adding Machine. I hope they help because The Odyssey spent a bunch of money on this show.

Back on the horse today. Another run at this extraordinary material. I'll probably never get it exactly right, but I'm having oh, so good of a time trying.

See you tomorrow.