Monday, April 26, 2004

Nothing left to hide...

"Something to Hide" ended this weekend.

We will now observe a moment of silence.

Wow. Look at that. Pretty cool, huh? Yes, and so quiet.

... um, where was I?

Whenever a play ends, it's my tradition/habit/ritual to look back at some of the low/highlites of the whole experience. So, why should this be any different?

As you may remember, I got into this show at Stephanie's recommendation. Stephanie had previously played my girlfriend/ex-girlfriend in the staged reading of "Atheists" and my ex-wife in "Whatever Happened to Me".

I'd first met Stephanie about a couple of years ago at a BBQ Steve (world renowned director and lame-ass around town) had held. Of course, I went there alone. Steve had introduced me to Stephanie and her husband, Tony, but they were just another couple of people I didn't know amongst quite a few people I didn't know. Some folks think of strangers as friends they haven't met.... I tend to use the dictionary's definition. So, when Steve was getting "Atheists" cast and mentioned Stephanie, I asked, "Who's that?" "Tony's wife," he replied. "Who's that," I asked. "I worked with her at Cypress," he insisted. "Who's that," I asked. "You met her at the barbeque," he continued and I asked, "Who's that?" She came in to the first rehearsal and I thought, "This is Stephanie?! This is the woman who is going to portray Beatrice, the fictionalized version of DeAnna Caudillo, my last, best chance for happiness on this planet after losing Rosa?! This is what I get?!" Actually, she did it very well... total bitch. I mean, she portrayed a total bitch. That was my first impression of Stephanie. Then, when I was directing the staged reading of "Whatever Happened to Me" and needed someone to play Annie, the fictionalized version of Rosa, I didn't have a whole lot of women I could call - which is often my problem but that's a different story - but the character was kind of a bitch (read: strong woman) and I knew Stephanie was, er, could play one so... And so, she got cast. The worst thing about these staged readings is that, when I look back at the tapes, as good as she was in both parts, in a full production she could be heart breaking.

And, so, those were my two experiences with Stephanie. And as sweet as she might be, I had this Beatrice/Annie template pasted over her. (Consider if you wrote two shows inspired by lost loves and you had the same person play both parts. How would you feel about that person? It does tend to change one's view.) Well, every so often I'd get the obligatory, "How ya doin'?" email from her but I didn't think of her as my friend... probably because of the whole Beatrice/Annie thing and, well, because I know actors. When they say, "How ya doin'?" they mean "Come see my show!" (No offense to actor folk... you freaks.)

Then, I get this email from her about this part in "Something to Hide". I get an appointment with the director, Teri. I get cast... and find out Stephanie's playing my mistress. In all honesty, my first thought was, "Isn't she a little cold to play that part?" Remember, my two previous experiences with her had been with her portraying exes, parts that were written kind of cold. (Can you imagine me writing a steamy love scene? Come on!) Well, okay, I'll admit it. She proved me wrong. Stephanie's very versatile.

Stephanie has a rhythm to her acting. It's kind of how I look at my own. Acting is a lot like dancing. There's a rhythm, a flow, and when you do it right, it feels like dancing. So, my scene with Stephanie always felt like a dance, which I liked very much. It was at the beginning of the play and really helped set the tone.

Then, Stephanie took a week off and Michelle stepped in. Michelle doesn't have rhythm; with her, it was herky-jerky. It had me off balance... I was glad when Stephanie came back. And we danced.

Wanna hear about a double-standard? Both Stephanie and Michelle are married. As a result of past issues, I have problems kissing married women. Oh, sure. I'll enjoy it... I'll just feel really neurotic about it. But when Michelle stepped in... well, she really enjoyed it. And here's where the double-standard comes in. I can enjoy it; I'm single. But they're not supposed to! They're married women!!! It's a short stroll from wisdom to idiocy - I constantly prove that.

As much as I might have enjoyed my role, I always tried to be a gentleman, which is a hell of a lot more than I can say for my fellow actors. The guy who played the Inspector was just disgusting. That's all I have to say. He was a lech, a perv, a sicko. That's all I have to say. He had zero class. That's all I have to say. Mr. Purcell, who played Will Purdy, was a nice guy, but only appeared to have class next to the other guy. He kept telling me to go after Claire, our 18 year old maid. Then, he'd ask for details on the kissing scene. Now, I try to be a gentleman, okay? So, no. I wasn't going to tell him if or how much I enjoyed the kissing scene or who was the better kisser. (Stephanie.)

Mind you, I also kissed Christi, who played my wife, but that was a very short kiss... thankfully. Why "thankfully"? Because with the amount of lipstick she wore, my face would have been red had it gone on longer... I mean, with lipstick! I always had to wash off after - I'm not kidding! Christi is a very accomplished actress and can really reach down into her gut and pull out a variety of emotions. Sadly, though, she's no more than a puppet pulling her own strings. She never felt real to me on stage, which made her feel less real off stage. Does that mean her performance was lacking or that she's lacking as a person? Oh, hell no. She dazzled the audience and is no less real than anyone. But when you play off a person on stage, there's an intangible something going on - imaginary characters inhabiting imaginary people (we'll call them "actors") - and nothing is real. Maybe this made it easier for me to be a villain towards her.

Okay. A word on that. I was more violent towards her than I'd ever been with a woman in my life. It made me sick. But what made me more sick was how much I liked it. Every day of it built up in me and it's going to take a while to purge that. I'm not a violent man... but I felt a very comfortable rage up there with her. It was like a monster coming out. Mind you, she didn't help. She never stuck with our choreography and I had to improvise quite a bit - when you're fighting, this is NOT a good thing. Often, she would fight me harder, which made me have to fight harder in return... which built and built. But I would always check with her after to make sure I didn't go too far. And she'd tell me I hadn't. Then, a few weeks ago, Teri came to me and had a talk with me about going too far, which Christi had told her I'd been doing. Now, as sorry as I was if I had, Christi could have told me; it put a thorn in our working relationship.

It also put a thorn in my relationship with Teri. As talented a director and nice a person she is, she clearly has her favorites. And I'm not a big fan of playing favorites.

Before I segue to my favorite, let me mention another member of our cast, Ms. Cunningham. We had two older people, seniorish-citizens, in the cast and I was worried about both of them remembering their lines. Ms. Cunningham was one but they both got their lines by and by. She was a lot of fun to work with but I'll be damned if she knew anything about comic timing. I know we're not all funny but, damn, it was frustrating. But, then, she always brought chocolate... so I loved her.

Lastly, my favorite, Claire. Yes, our 18 year old maid. Look, before you start judging me, I never made a single overture in her direction and kept my distance. I knew two things: 1) it wouldn't have worked and 2) I didn't need the trauma of being rejected by an 18 year old. That said, she was more entrancing than any woman I'd know since DeAnna, beautiful, poised, graceful, funny, smart... yep, pretty close to the neighborhood of perfect.

Damn chronology!

And I didn't need more things to drive me crazy. You want a list?!
1) I wasn't just playing a villain. I was playing an adulterer (sound close to home, folks?) and a batterer.
2) I had to deal with the Inspector's constant insults and digs.
3) And I was drawn to someone who hadn't been born when I met Rosa!

Okay, there's bound to be more and I might tell you some day. Until then, I'm done. Now, I've got to shed Howard Holt and find where I left Ken... probably behind the refrigerator. It's always the last place you look.

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