Friday, April 30, 2010

How To Succeed (Winter: 1989)

The hyper intense theatricality of "Drood" lent the winter musical an air of invincibility. We were like cats who just discovered a cat-nip tree in their kitchen.

While all of the fun of "Drood" was an extension of the play itself, "How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying" wound up being the inverse. The parties got better but the show got worse.

This is not to say that it was not a good show. It most certainly was. The set was like a Brill Building grotesque, the costumes nailed the kind of buttoned up good-looking repression of 1950's big business, and the music was executed within an inch of its life.

But like the underbelly of the 1950's, there were some dark forces at work.

After a particular performance, Judith Swift called an impromptu meeting and chewed about fifty new assholes. It seems that someone had yawned on stage. The party the night before had lasted well after dawn which means that a good portion of the cast was most likely in that hangover stage where actual intoxication is still occurring.

Judith didn't name names and I don't know who yawned on stage but we were all guilty.

My house was a constant location for these debauched group performance art drinking sessions. There were distinct party factions, the drinkers and the smokers. Marijuana was becoming much easier to find and I happily planted flags in both camps. We shot hours of video footage of us dancing to hit songs of the day in complicated choreographed tableaux. We came up with the Insult Singing Game in which we would hurl insults at each other in made up song.

The show had a manic insanity. The sexuality that obsessed the office world of the play became out of control in the cast. Couples were formed and dissolved seemingly overnight. Triangles, parallelograms, hell, cubes of jealousy and intrigue arose and flamed out.

My character was named Jerry Tackaberry and I had one line. Someone said, "B.B.D.O?" to me and I repeated it a few times. Judith thought it would be funny if I sang it like an opera singer would sing "Figaro!" For some reason this moment totally worked even though it probably had no right to. Most of the time Jerry was kissing ass as far as he could up the corporate ladder.

We would take our curtain call and my face would ache from the giant plaster grin of a mask that I grimaced throughout the play.

One of my favorite numbers took place in the men's room as we all shaved in mirrors. We stood in front of a row of empty frame so we faced the audience. This gave the impression of us looking at our own reflections. We sang the song and used big bulky blocks of wood that had been meticulously transformed into old-fashioned electric razors. We made the sound of the razors in harmony.

I remember being vaguely in a panic throughout the whole run of the show. The energy was most definitely out of control and I was partying like I probably never have before or since. We steadfastly refused to let things like sleep or food get in the way of our fun.

The best number of the show was called "Coffee Break" in which the workers of the corporation threaten mutiny if they can't get their caffeine. A giant urn appeared and everyone danced in front of it like a Mayan zombie at a human sacrifice. That sense of being on the edge of some psychic break, that group-think was taking over.

We were one, fused into one giant infant, plugging two wet fingers into a live socket.

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