Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Glory Pie (Spring: 2006)

After "Bloody Corsets/Body Count" I hit a rough patch personally. I was still years away from any kind of real internal change or acceptance of what my true issues were. This hamstrung me in ways I couldn't perceive. The biggest stress was the fact that Cashel had moved first to Maine and then Texas. I was not handling the separation very well.

He'd visited a few times, even helping to hand out programs at "Bloody Corsets/Body Count". I'd visited him as well but we were both deeply affected by the distance between us. His arrival in the fall was a great help.

Somehow I was called to audition for a new play called "Glory Pie". This was one of those times when I instantly knew that the part was mine. I might not get it, but I knew it was mine. The audition went very well and my instinct was correct.

"Glory Pie" opens with a couple dealing with the news that they are pregnant. Guests are expected at any minute, her sister and brother-in-law who are just about to go to China to adopt a baby girl. They are taking this course because they have not been able to conceive. My wife fears that her sister will not take the news of our natural conception well.

Complicating matters is the unexpected arrival of our new next-door neighbors, an Aussie actor and his lingerie model girlfriend. They inject a party atmosphere into the evening that sets everyone off on a drinking spree. Tensions rise, tempers flare, and voila, hit show.

We opened at the Coronet Theater right near the Beverly Center. Eddie Izzard had just done a string of shows here, testing out new material and there was a feather boa draped over the window of the dressing room.

After having done a show with a whole group of friends, it was a real treat to meet and work with all new people. Well, all new but for the actress who played my wife, who I had met through my circle of friends.

We were not rushed, we had the co-authors directing, we had a crack production team behind the show. The Lawlers wrote the play partially based on their own experience adopting a little Chinese girl but they didn't rest on those laurels. The sibling rivalry was sharp, the new-Hollywood party couple was a sexy hoot and the whole design and execution of the show created a real party vibe.

The set felt like an ultra-modern retro Silverlake house decorated to look like a 1950's martini bar. There was a spontaneous dance sequence that interrupts the uneasy dinner that has, fueled by alcohol, funneled into a party. And the audience ate it up with a spoon.

My character flirts shamelessly with and ogles unabashedly the lingerie model. My wife is aggressively pursued in a light-hearted way by a new guest, the slick Aussie friend of the Aussie neighbor. And yet somehow, in spite of these obvious stabs at flirtatiousness, the writing manages to make it clear that these two are meant for each other.

Alyssa Stec played my wife and she was a bundle of dancer nerve and verve. Her tension builds until she takes center stage during the dance for a sexy ass-shaking solo which builds to a hip rattling climax. Alyssa was a Rockette in another life and nailed this moment, managing to ACT at the same time. A great performance.

Real life Aussie Tom Tate played the thick-as-a-brick heart-of-gold Aussie actor on the brink of stardom and Bree Turner effortlessly inhabited the hedonistic yet oddly innocent world of his lingerie model arm candy. All the baby talk gets to her and she deepens considerably over the course of the dinner. Her understudy was a wonderful actress named Parisa Fitz-Henley who brought her own wonderful flavor to bear in such a way that the play changed. Not for better or worse, but good change, like watching a sunset shift from deep red to purple-orange.

Dan Kinsella and Carla Capps were hilarious as the nervous couple about to fly to China to pick up a baby and bring her back here. This nervousness was palpable and crucial to the conflict at the center of the play. For while my wife and I have to face the arrival of a few growing cells, these two are about to pick up a living human being. Instant parenthood.

Finally, Darren Schnase and my friend Sean-Michael Bowles both played the Aussie latecomer who turns the party on a dime. This is a tricky part as he is a whirlwind, late to arrive, first to leave, he comes in and somehow by his very presence, unfolds all of the tensions that have been bubbling beneath the surface. All while remaining above the fray.

Packed appreciative houses, great reviews, out and out hit show.

Now, I would be remiss in telling this tale if I didn't write about the aftermath. The Lawlers filmed our performances to pitch the play as a TV pilot. The popularity of the show led them to seek to move the production to a larger house.

The money people wanted to do so but wanted to cast names. Which I get. My cousin and I had been joking about Mark Ruffalo replacing me in "Searching For Certainty" almost since the first reading. But The Lawlers asked us all to be understudies once the play moved. Which made me mad.

Now, I was mad all the time those days so I think my reaction would be quite different these days. Then I could only connect to the insult. Not the fact that they were caught in a difficult spot and were doing the best that they could. Now, I still think they should have just told us what was going down and thanked us for our help. I think relying on our knowledge of the play to give them a back-up plan is understandable but they probably should have just come up with other options.

But truth be told, what else were they gonna do? NOT ask us to be involved? That wouldn't feel right to them either. The second production never materialized, partially I assume because it is such an ensemble piece that no name big enough to draw houses would be interested. It really works on each actor, it is not a showcase piece for any one person.

What I care to focus on is the moment in the play when all the characters spontaneously erupt into a choreographed dance which whipped the audience into a frenzy. I always did love to dance.

And I kept Eddie Izzard's feather boa, too.

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