Love for the Lyrics

As part of the Fringe Festival, we ACRs have to load in the venue, and Julie, from Look After You rode in with me today with both our sets. We were talking about why we produce, and what we produce, and Julie was very passionate about new works. I found myself saying, “the longer we think we have to compete with television and movies, the more we try to create linear, sofa entertainment, the faster we’re gonna kill theater…”

It’s an interesting juxtaposition for me, after having seen the execrable 500 Days Of Summer. That movie is telling a story about a young man, able to see only his own beauty and perfection who loves a sociopath and, through no fault of his own, is left by her. Lyric Is Waiting is the story of a man, all too aware of his own ugliness and imperfection, who loves a woman that is actually sick, and through his own selfishness and weakness, he enables her to the point where she literally suffocates.

The second story is more honest, more sincere and far more interesting. The fact that some people have found Lyric to be confusing at all speaks volumes about how little we’ve come to expect from our theater experiences, and how hard we are no longer willing to work. A man comes out on stage, breaks the fourth wall, and his first words are about having a dream… and then we spend about 75 minutes going through his dream with him. It’s very simple to follow.

And it’s a thrill ride. Before I get too far into this, I should quickly say that this might be the most perfect cast I’ve ever seen. We have a saying in musicians’ circles, that “talent is a given”, so the fact that all four of the actors in this piece are a phenomenon isn’t what is so startling. It’s the uncanny perfection of their physicalization, the fact that each actor looks *exactly* right for each character that is astonishing. Particularly since they found Joe Masi, a behemoth of a man, to play the embodiment of mental illness as bigfoot. It’s a testament to the director and the script that he found a way to find such singing pathos as a Yeti.

Lori Prince gives a tour-de-force performance. I normally don’t do this, as readers of my blog know, I always leave out the scene chewer because when I was acting, I always found those parts to be far easier than the smaller tiny moments I would have to play when I *wasn’t* biting the set… But Lori is just sensational. It felt like the part was written for her to play. She seems to find a way of neutralizing the unnatural aspects of insanity and simply finds the truth in her character by pushing each logical moment to its illogical conclusion. It’s a marvelous performance.

I have a two year old waking up in six hours, and tech rehearsal tomorrow, so I won’t be able to say enough about this piece. Also, I can’t quote parts that I loved because my memory isn’t good enough, but let me try to describe one beautiful moment.

Lyric is finally trying to throw bigfoot out of her life. She screams and tells him he stinks, and when he begins to explain that it’s earth and animal smells, she says, “No, it’s fear.”

Bigfoot says that fear is what we are, men and monsters. That fear is all we have, it’s our natural state. Lyric wants assurance that fear can be erased, and bigfoot says it can’t. She finally asks if love will erase it, and he answers, “no”.

It is a stunning and powerful moment, especially for the men in the audience who might secretly know that fear is what moves us, fear of death or loneliness, of being misunderstood, or worse – of being known, fully. But it is made even more beautiful by the simplicity of the actors delivering the lines. And the fact that the “no” comes as an answer, directly after the question. It isn’t set up as a grand theatrical gesture, this piece of truth is given to us as information.

It’s times like this when you can be utterly transported as a theater person. The right actors, the right writer, being guided by the right director, performing in the right costumes on the right set, lit perfectly and the whole thing rings a tuning fork in your heart.

Great work has been done for you in this show. It will require you to pay attention to even the smallest moments, and… it’s a play, you don’t get to eat popcorn. But you should go, if you invest anything more than a passing interest, you are going to be richly rewarded. It’s a marvelous piece of theater.