Sunday, May 23, 2010

Morning Milking Evening Milking, Mach II (Spring: 2001)

This is the only play I've ever done twice in full production. I've work-shopped plays and done readings with various casts but this was different. In a four person play a delicate interconnectedness is created. We replaced two actors and set about re-mounting this strange and beautiful play.

I know that any audience member who hadn't seen the play was just as disoriented and entranced as the first time we'd done it, but for me, some elemental component had lessened. It was as if I was hearing the third echo in a canyon, not shouting out the original slogan.

An intricate drawing faxed to successive numbers erodes back to some inarticulate state. A game of telephone in which "You don't have to open the envelope" becomes "Shoes don't run back to the antelope." The bank of a great river eroded over time creates a pond.

I feel funny typing it now because of course when you are in the moment you do your best, you think the best of what you are doing, you applaud the efforts of everyone involved. However, in looking back on it I feel as if some crucial cog had lifted out of gear, the engine still ran and the car could still handle rough turns, but there was always the slight nagging fear that we might just run right off the road.

Adding to the strange replicate experience was the fact that we were doing the play in the same theater on basically the same set. Because of this there was a constant internal replay going on.

It is a testament to the power of the piece that it still worked as well as it did. The language Jim Farmer uses destroys audience expectation. It lets you know right from the start that you cannot expect any normal storytelling ploys. I had seen a production of his before I did one and I was determined to work with him after it. He takes classic genres and inverts them so thoroughly that to call them spoofs is to do them a great disservice. Their absurdity exploits our expectations of the drama or tension inherent in those forms and creates something utterly new.

So even though I felt a constant little itch at the faded repetition of this particular production, I could also instinctively feel how deeply what we were doing touched the audience. They would reel with laughter, talk out loud at what they saw amongst each other, gasp in disbelief. It was like being at The Apollo Theater.

At one point, my character is tortured with desire and anger. My woman is pregnant and the baby isn't mine. We've continued a hot and heavy romance throughout. I've come home late after a night of drinking. I am alone for the first time in the play. I surreptitiously take out a small Pinocchio marionette and play with him, making him climb up a chair, do a dance, etc.

Why was this so funny? To this day I truly do not know. But the first moment I put those little plastic feet on the ground and made them move, each and every audience transformed into a screaming horde of children, delighted and amazed.

I've begun to write on my own and my biggest influence is Jim Farmer. In fact, I have to cop to just imagining I am him and doing what he might do. His co-existing sense of doom and humor combine in such a powerful way. Doomor, you might say.

So this second production of "Morning Milking Evening Milking" was like the moment after you look directly at the sun. Your eyes are closed so you can't possibly be seeing the real sun, but there it is just the same on the back of your eyelids.