So We Start Tonight

It’s a Pay-What-You-Can Preview with the box office opening tonight at six. We’ve given away 100 free tickets participating in the National Free Night of Theater giveaway. We’ve given another 100 away for preview performances this weekend. The tix got snapped up in an hour, apparently. It’s a cool way of bringing in new folks; young bargain-hunters for what, one hopes, will not be the their only theater visit of the season. Last year we had an incredibly diverse array of audience members for the first performance of Bob Brustein’s Spring Forward, Fall Back as we gave away (perhaps unwisely) the entire house with free tix; only later did we discover we didn’t have to. No matter, it’s an important national promotion, and I hope the success sticks.

Speaking of success and its stickiness, that’s all we can hope for with tonight’s first preview–that we build on everything that was good about last night. Our dress rehearsal went well in front of about nine theater buddies. We jumped about a page and a half of dialogue in Act III – always a harrowing (and amusing) exercise – as we watch our actors subtly scramble to find their way back on line. It’s good to have something go wrong like that in a final dress – it paves the way for things going very right once a critical mass has assembled, as they will be tonight. The thing we want sticking from last night are some of the revelatory magic moments where laughter erupted in response to a moment of utter sincerity and honest vexation, as when producer Bobby Gould tries to put the moves on temp secretary Karen in his home and asks, “Now we can talk about purity or we can turn the page; what do you want to do?” And Karen responds, matter-of-factly, “Talk about purity,” as she prattles on and Bobby goes a little slack in the jaw, his ambitions of conquest rather summarily dismissed. Huge laughs, as Bobby doesn’t get what he wants and exposes himself, in the process, to be a truly flummoxed middle aged man.

Well, those kind of successful moments where a character’s actions, intentions, and injury become crystal clear are the kind of support-beams an actor needs in erecting the scaffolding of his character. Who is Bobby Gould? In Danton Stone’s soulful portrait, he is exactly what he says, “a man trying to do good.” And yet he’s also been a whore for twenty years, a slave to commerce, even as he possesses the knowledge that life is about more than that kind of material servitude. Bobby does what he does but he needs something different. It gnaws at him. He’s both ironic, self-deprecating, and yet utterly sincere; worldly but open to enchantment, especially when it comes in the form of a gorgeous, insightful young secretary. Bobby becomes a man lost at sea.

How is our actor to play all that?

Carefully. And with brio. Charting a rigorous course. With ice in the veins. And an open vulnerability.

In short, not an easy task. And so God Speed to Danton, and to Peter, and to Meghan on this first night in front of an audience. Performance Report to Follow.