Archive for June, 2006

Go See Nervous Boy

Tuesday, June 20th, 2006

What you should do, if you are living in New York, is go see Nosedive Productions latest show “The Adventures of Nervous Boy”. I say this knowing full well that the more good I say about it, the higher your expectations will be and, ultimately, the bigger chance there will be for you to be disappointed, but I think the play is so good that I’m not worried about that. Go in thinking the play is great, it will just be confirmed for you.

Drama is all about interaction and stimulus-response, so the very hardest thing to write about is alienation. The plays and movies that are mostly about how difficult it is to survive the unbearable loneliness of modern big city America usually fall into one of three categories. A) They suck, they’re just self-involved tripe about how misunderstood some closet genius is, or, even worse, how misunderstood some perfectly average person is, B) They don’t suck, but they chicken out by having the disenfranchised character discover validation by entering back into the world of nonsense that they had originally identified themselves by eschewing or C) Something magical happens.

Nervous Boy is a phenomenal piece of magical subtlety, despite the moments when you feel like the show is overdrawn. Yes, a bar scene degenerates into pool-cue swinging cavemen, and yes, it appears that some of the characters may seem to be zombies, and sure, you realize that what you’re watching may not be real, may actually just be in the main character’s head… but that’s the beauty. It *might* be.

Because you can’t push it too far. There are a bunch of specifics in this play, the desperate measures we will take to connect into a world that we find loathsome, the people we scratch and claw our way toward despite the fact that we will have to become dumber in order to socialize with them, the idea that even the undead in our city want to be killed to separate them from this liminal existence (I’ve used the word liminal twice in the past five posts, I expect a dollar from every reader), but overall the feeling, despite the theatricality we’ve just witnessed, is that you leave the theater having seen truth.

These things might be in Nervous Boy’s head… but, on the other hand, if you stayed at that bar until 3:15 instead of leaving at 2:45, maybe these people turn in to cavemen. It wouldn’t be that big a surprise.

There are moments of horror in this play in the old-fashioned sense. There is blood, there is murder, there are monsters, and you never know how bad each moment will be. But the real horror, the moments of real dread, occur when the main character is trying to connect with people that he actually hates. He desperately paws at people who don’t like him, and with whom he shares nothing, no sense of history, no sense of future, no respect for their lives. And that is the most horrible thing that happens. The only time I had to hide my face behind my hands is when the words “I love you” are spoken.

The acting is fantastic, particularly the women in the cast. Every one of them is pitch perfect, moment to moment. Many plays use double-casting as a tool to protect the budget, and I’m sure that was a thought here, but to have the same faces and same bodies repeating throughout the play in the guise of different characters only reinforced the sense of alienation. A woman dies, then she shows up at a party as a Upper East Side jackass, then she’s a downtown slut in a bar, and each of these characters is developed physically, vocally and emotionally, you know the actress (Anna Krul ) is sensationally talented, but you see the same face.

The double casting is also fantastic with the stripper, Tai Verley, who goes from being a hardened faux-soft yuppie to an undead pseudo-prostitute, both characters beautifully realized and fully developed, but the beauty is knowing that the same face is on both women. Not enough can be said about the talents of Rebecca Comtois , who creates a character out of what in the hands of a lesser actor would be a caricature. Particularly difficult is the idea of being a young actress playing the part of a young actress, with affection but still a grain of truth.

That’ the real beauty of this production. We don’t hate Rebecca’s character, but we also know why Nervous Boy hates her, even as he clings to her as his closest female friend. The absurdity of the relationships we find ourselves in, the absurdity not of the world, although that’s included, but of our OWN BEHAVIOR. WHY!? We do shit that we can’t at all understand, and Nervous Boy doesn’t try to explain it to us, because even though we don’t understand why… we *know* why.

I haven’t seen that in a play. Ever.

I won’t comment on the lead actor. I’ll try to get in touch with him myself.

The writing and the directing are fantastic, to the point where I’m not only excited about what these guys will do next, but I’m excited about the idea of working with them one day. There is a little prayer you say at the beginning of a play, a prayer that apparently gets joked about in “The Drowsy Chaperone”. You pray it will be good, that it will be short and that there’s no audience participation. For the first time in a long time, I found myself hoping the play would keep going, the opposite prayer of most audience members everywhere.

Go see this show. You’ll be glad you did.

The Rap

Monday, June 19th, 2006

My brother and I had a short but vocal conversation on the idea of having a “rap” on us. Lemme ‘splain.

A “rap” is sort of like a “rep”, except with the added conceit that it is both negative and slightly mythical. You can have a reputation for frugality, but your rap is that you’re cheap. That sort of thing. I may have as much fascination with the idea of a “rap” as anyone, but I do find myself in a foreign country when a complaint is lodged about how unfair someone’s reputation is, because it seems to me that a person’s internal life is infinitely more complex than a person’s social life, and to be upset about perception of the former based on jokes of the latter is to make an extended slippery-slope mistake in priorities.

My brother said that the rap on him is that he’s lost perspective ever since he ended up with money. In complete denial of this, his best friend made a joke about him some fifteen years ago, that he “is the kind of guy who walks around with his pants unzipped and blames the guy who made the pants”. My brother is also the kind of person who will kick a basketball on top of a school or throw a driver into the woods or break a tennis racquet every single time we play tennis regardless of being dirt poor… if anything his maturation has given him *more* perspective not less.

And that’s the problem with your perceived rap. I am always worried about money. I don’t actually know if that’s the rap on me or not, but every single thing that happens, I have to find a way to get a deal or to scrimp to get by. I’m also married to a Jewish girl. Now, I obsess about money because I’ve chosen to make art my business, and there isn’t a lot of money in art, but if I found out that my rap was that I had gotten cheap ever since I married a Jew… you can see that would be unsettling to say the least.

But, the truth is, our raps *are* our reps. Say what you want, but none of us has earned an unfair reputation. If someone says I’m an attention whore or a drama queen or, y’know, *fat* or whatever, it isn’t that I haven’t earned it. I have.

If your friends start joking that you get drunk and belligerent at parties, you need to know that you have a problem with getting drunk and belligerent. *Especially* if it’s your friends joking about it. If you don’t want the jokes any more, then quit drinking, and if you can’t quit drinking, then you’ve got a problem, and your friends will probably help you.

One’s social circle does not get together and compare notes and come up with a series of things to mock you with. The truth is, if your friends are making fun of you, you could look at it one of two ways- either they aren’t really your friends at all, or they adore you so much that otherwise distasteful behavior is not only dealt with but it’s celebrated in the only way it can be.

And that’s the thing. I don’t have a couple of friends who think I’m really reserved and a couple of other friends who think I’m a loudmouth. They all think the same thing, my family agrees with them and guys I barely know would agree with them. There very well may be friends that blanche at the idea of having me over to meet their new girlfriend, because I am totally willing to use the word “vagina” without much thought. I can’t get upset about it, they’re right to be cautious. I actually *don’t* know when certain things are off-limits, and if you try to hint that I may have gone over the line, I’ll go *nuts* over the line.

The rap on me? I would guess the rap on me is that I want people to like me too much, that I’m desperate for attention and that I’m an incomplete faux intellectual – that I think things through only to the point of an absurd conclusion and don’t complete some of my thoughts. I think the Rap on me is that I like to talk about how hard I’m working, and probably inflate it much more than I actually work, and that I find excuses for my failures in order to lead a noble failed life.

Now, where these things aren’t true isn’t really important, because it has all been true in the past. And, the most important thing, I know what is true and what isn’t, I know what demons I have to fight and which ones I can only hope to play dead around, and this battle, even for a loudmouth show-off, is a private one. If my friends think I’m not terribly smart, the fact is they don’t think this enough to not love me and want to be around me. We all have behavior that’s distasteful, and the fact that my friends put up with mine is extraordinary.

Lies and Such

Thursday, June 15th, 2006

So, I’ve been hiding several facts from the world which is why I can’t write. I discovered a long time ago that the best way for me not to spoil a secret is to not talk about anything at all. Last week, I was at dinner at Otto with my three best friends and our rental whores, and I found I couldn’t say a word because I knew the first thing out of my mouth would be “THERE’S A SURPRISE PARTY TONIGHT!!!”

Which there was. Deb and I managed to pull a surprise on our spouses, who’s birthdays are just about one month apart. The levels of subterfuge were incredible, we had to pile lies on top of lies on top of sleight of hand bullshit, and still, if my wife weren’t so distracted by two or three things she’s been working night and day on, she would have figured it out.

I meant to take pictures. But I didn’t.

Here’s the set-up

Deb and Steve came to New York (that’s right, it was a surprise party for Steve in a town THAT HE DOESN’T LIVE IN) in order to surprise Mac in his play. Mac knew they were coming, and Deb knew that Mac knew, but Steve and Jordana didn’t know that Mac knew. I knew everything.

So, Jordana was trying to get Mac to give us tickets to his play, which we weren’t going to, and she was lying to him so that he would give us four tickets, which he knew we needed, but which he also knew we didn’t need because we weren’t going to use them.

Our friends said they wanted to meet up with us at 6:15 on Saturday before Mac’s play. They said this on an email list that both Mac and Jordana are on, so they had to pretend, on the list, that they didn’t know Steve and Deb would be there because, even though Mac knew they were coming, Jordana didn’t know that Mac knew, and the rest of the list had to cover. Plus, none of them were going to meet us for drinks. They were already at my house.

To meet them for drinks at 6:15 meant we had to eat dinner around 5. And Mac should have come to this, or Steve and Deb basically wouldn’t see them, so Jordana had to invite Mac to dinner for a surprise that Mac already knew about, before we all went to his show, that we weren’t going to, after we had drinks with our friends, who weren’t meeting us for drinks. Mac showed up and tried to pretend to be surprised that Steve and Deb were there, which he totally wasn’t, and his head came *this close* to exploding.

In the middle of the meal, I called Deb, pretending to be a group of our friends cancelling drinks, and then Deb pretended to call the other group to cancel just as I got back to the table and discovered that I didn’t have the tickets, which I never had. Jordana said “we should go home and grab them before the show” and I said, “but we’re supposed to meet our friends for drinks” and she said, “they just called and cancelled, we’ve got plenty of time”. So, Jordana was insisting that we go back to our house to grab non-tickets for a show we weren’t going to, in order to surprise Mac, who was sitting right in front of us. It was all going according to plan.

Meanwhile, at 4:30, just after we left the house, my mom, Jordana’s mom and sister and a couple of other brave souls, came into my house and set up decorations all over, cooked finger food and started serving drinks. At 6:30, I called and said we were on our way home to pick up the tickets.

This is why, when Jordana and Steve walked through the door of my house and some 40 people yelled “surprise”, Jordana’s first thought was “what the hell does Sean’s mom do when we’re not here” and her second thought was “I hope these people know I don’t have time to talk to them, I have to get to Mac’s show…”

Mac showed up at about 10, the party ended around 2. The fact that people drank from about 5:30 on is pretty extraordinary.

The best thing- we had a fountain of melted chocolate and fruit and pretzels to dip in it. The fountain was frickin’ awesome.

Also, it was nice for Deb and I to pull the wool over the eyes of two people who are generall smarter than we are. From now on, until the two of them do the same to us, we are officially smarter than they are. No matter who the doctor is.

Maybe That’s What He Wants

Saturday, June 10th, 2006

Jordana got done recording a piece of music a week or so ago, just hours after I read Mac’s draft of the second act of our play. It was a strange evening for me in many ways, but I only have a moment or two to write right now so let me just say a couple of things.

I believe that the lyrics Jordana has written that are right, and the script that Mac has written where it works, are both far superior than the bulk of the stuff I’ve put together. But I also believe that when the planets align, we could have a wonderful piece on our hands.

The song that Jordana has written is breath taking. Finally, after months and months, I’ve heard the sound that will determine the possible greatness of this show. It is the right song for this show, a perfect song for this show, and I’m gonna have to work my ass off for the rest of the summer in order to keep up with the shadow that the possibilities of my co-creators cast on me.

I love these characters in a way much more than I loved the sailors in Fleet Week (although still not as much as I loved the *actors* in Fleet Week). I do think there is the possibility for a spectacular show here, and I look forward to seeing where we go.

However, I’m gonna have to ask your indulgence, those who read this and those I speak to or see on occassion. It isn’t that I’m inspired, it’s that I’m terrified. This show, on top of the three or four things I can’t talk about, are taking my time. So, if I don’t get a call back to you, please, PLEASE, forgive me.