Frequent readers of my site know that over the last couple of years, I have set out to try and challenge myself each year with something outside the norm of my daily nine-to-five. It seems like I wasted a major chunk of my Twenties and Thirties immersed in a whole helluva’ lot of entertainment and socializing among friends and family but I never really took the time to carve some time and chase an extracurricular activity or two.
That all changed two years back when on a whim I accepted an offer to return to the stage (after a 17 year hiatus) and take a supporting role in the local Gateway Players community production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Over the course of two months in early Autumn 2008, I challenged the hell out of myself to dive into the big-bad boots of Aide Warren, Nurse Ratched’s right-hand-man. And I loved every life-affirming, rejuvenating second of the experience – adding a solid stable of awesome personalities to the rogue’s gallery that pop up and play their roles in my ever-expanding life. Any experience that nets you additional blissful memories and a few more friends is one worth celebrating – which is what I did when I took to these pages to recount my experiences at the beginning, middle and end of the whole endeavor.
While I wanted to return to the stage last year, I ended up putting it on hiatus as I worked to close out my dance card before waltzing away from my place of previous employment. It was a busy first half of the year as I was leaving on the best of terms and hence determined to make sure every “i” was dotted and every loose end tied before bidding the place a fond adieu. In addition, it took me a little while after my last day to get my bearings straight (some might say that’s a task that continues to this day) and once I finally pointed my ship towards the next exciting destination, I got busy hunting gainful employment and just lost track of the calendar. That said, I did want to etch something worthwhile to my list of life experiences, so when my wife Andi inquired into joining alongside her for a September triathlon, I said “Why not” and enlisted. I’d never competed in an “athletic anything” outside of some grade school Field Days but times have changed and I was more than equipped at this later stage to take to the water, bike and tread to make another mark on my own personal history. And when I crossed that finish line and saw my kids, Colin and Aria, alongside other friends and family, my heart just grew two sizes too big. I loved every second of it.
So, how do I top the last couple years? Sure, I could hunt down a half-marathon or chase my dreams to Hollywood but at my age I’d likely just rate a walk-on zombie role in whatever schlock was filming in the Mojave. Instead, I decided to re-up for another shot at that triathlon and see if the old man still has it. That’s still a ways away however and the August triathlon in Westborough, MA will be fodder for another blog. But, the allure of the theater proved too hard to resist.
Which led me to the Gateway Theater on a chill February night a few weeks back, where Mike Dupuis (my former Cuckoo’s cast mate) was set to co-direct (or assistant direct depending on who you talk to) an adaptation of the comedy Love, Sex, and the I.R.S. I saw Mike a few times in early February as he was handling set duties for The Wizard of Oz, which featured my wife Andi as Glinda the Good Witch, and he lit enough of a fire to get me out there on that cool night to audition my wares and see if either he or the head honcho John Kennedy were buying.
I’m so glad I did. And even happier that they did.
The concept behind Love, Sex, and the I.R.S. is pure entertainment. This play was not written to shed new light on the tortured human condition. It was made to put asses in seats and get ’em jiggling with laughter. After the dark comedy that turned pitch black in Cuckoo’s Nest, lighter fare is exactly what I craved. There is no better feeling than making someone laugh – be it the kids in your 8th Grade classroom, your first born, your spouse, or the poor sap stuck in the cheap seats. Laughter is the best medicine and it becomes a more potent elixir to the guy administering it when done well.
William van Zandt and Jane Milmore’s Love, Sex, and the I.R.S. tells the tale of two dudes shacking up in an NYC apartment. Both struggling musicians, they try to make a living in a town that kills dreams nightly. Unbeknownst to Leslie, Jon Trachtman has been scamming the government out of taxes for years by claiming that his live-in roommate Leslie is a woman, and that the two are married – thus taking advantage of the tax benefits afforded to a wedded couple. Unknownest to Jon is that Leslie is currently macking on Jon’s main squeeze, Kate – the girl who he is set to marry in two weeks. In one crazy night, all deceptions threaten to unravel when Jon’s Mom, Leslie’s girlfriend and a crafty I.R.S. investigator descend upon their apartment.
And that’s where the comedy comes in. For starters, Scott Metras (Leslie) may be a world class guy, a great actor, and a handsome man – but he is a truly hideous woman. While rehearsals have only just begun and thus we’ve been blocking scenes in street clothes – we did get a preview of Scott in drag during the rehearsal when he donned the long blonde wig that will transform this real-life beauty into beast. Think Animal House’s Bluto in drag and you’ve got a great idea of the sight gag to expect when the curtain rises. As for Scott, he’s a young dude who has been acting for decades, and some of you would have seen him in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest as the suicidal Billy Bibbit – my personal punching bag.
In fact, I initially angled for the role of Leslie and Scott went gunning for Jon and we both were tossed a curveball. The character of Leslie should be fighting the direction to toss on the dress out of pure disdain for Jon and his deception. And let’s be honest. Y’all know I wanted to wear that dress. It would have fed this Blog for months and driven my wife crazy. I can’t think of a better reason.
But our director made an inspired choice by casting us an opposite directions. It makes for a better challenge for us, as actors, and it should make for a more entertaining experience for the audience. Plus – we need that potent sight gag and unfortunately, when I tossed on the wig, I was a little too pretty for the role. The director, John, even said that I had a “Meryl Streep” thing going – a sentiment that evaporated the second I opened my mouth to act. Hey – Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful.
I think we’re on the cusp of something special. While we’re at the initial blocking stage – just trying to find our marks and see how the movement flows – you can already feel something electric in the air. This WILL be a fun night at the theater and I promise a ton of laughs. And the cast that John and Mike have assembled is top-notch.
In the plum role of I.R.S. agent Floyd Spinner is Billy Bolster – who was also in Cuckoo’s Nest as Martini. In addition, he costarred with my wife Andi as Max in The Sound of Music and he has been the scene-stealer in so many productions in this neck of the woods and beyond. Billy is the best – onstage and off – and if he ever decides to amble out of Central MA, there isn’t a theater company in the land that wouldn’t benefit from the split-second comic timing and indelible characterization he brings to every role. I could watch this guy read a phone book. And now that I say that, I’m probably in for a long night on Tuesday.
Another Cuckoo’s Nest alum is Gwen O’Brien. She’s Kate in our play – the girl caught pinballing between the affections of Leslie and I. In Cuckoo, she was one of the party girls, Candy, who bring a little life to the ward. Gwen is awesome – an amazing actress who can play tender and funny and fierce in equal measure and she is going to be a joy to watch and act alongside. Here’s hoping she’ll have me back by the end of the play. No telling.
My former director, Dave Corkum, has been cast as the shiftless degenerate Grunion. I won’t spoil his surprise appearance but I’d say they cast completely to type with this one. Sorry Dave – but I still owe you for the 562 lip locks you stole off my wife two years ago when you were the Captain to her Tennille errrr….. Maria. Plus, you dressed me as the Good Humor Man from Hell so you have that coming to you too.
While I haven’t acted with Gina Rondeau, who plays Leslie’s hapless hen Connie, I can tell that she is gonna’ bring the house down with her antic, desperate, clueless attempts to land the floundering fish Leslie. She brings the funny and in this show, that’s money in the bank.
We’ve also appended our own gender switch to this tale of flip-flopping identity by casting Suzanne Adams in the role of surly superintendent Mr. Jansen (now Ms.). While it requires a few liberties in the script to have the change make sense, I think it’s going to play beautifully. For starters – having the boys in fear of this barging broad is good for a laugh and some of her lines (and her penchant for brews) plays even better. Suzanne is the best – tons of energy and she’s really tearing into this role. Plus, she’s promised us a kick-ass cast party so I had to underscore the benefits of free food.
Last, but not, least we have Sarah White who plays my Mom, Vivian Trachtman, a well-meaning Mom who becomes a wretched mess when the booze starts flowing. I’ve seen the transformation begin in rehearsals and the more terrifying it is for me, the funnier it will be for you. You’re all in for a treat when Sarah gets hold of the sangria.
So, that’s just a little preview of what to expect. Just enough to whet your whistle and hopefully urge you to purchase a ticket. I have a pretty good feeling that this is gonna’ play well and will likely be one of those shows where advance tickets fill the house. The theater seats somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 – 70 people (depending upon how creative we get) so with 4 shows spread over 2 weekends, tix should go quickly.
So here’s the important details.
The Gateway Players in Southbridge, MA present a production of William van Zandt and Jane Milmore’s Love, Sex and the I.R.S. on the evenings of May 7, 8, 14 and 15. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. EST each night. Tickets cost $12 at the door ($10 for Seniors) however I strongly encourage you to order in advance for a $2 discount (meaning – $10 a ticket, so don’t go grabbing that calculator). You can order via their website (soon) or you can send me your ticket requests and I can get them for you when they go on sale and can then hand deliver them or leave them for you at the door. Buying early guarantees you a spot for this soon-to-be sold out show as well as gives you a discount too.
It’s Win-Win baby!!! Plus, did I mention I’m onstage almost constantly. You get to watch me on the tightrope and pray for a fall. See – WIN!!! WIN!!!
If you’d like advanced tickets just send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org with the date and number of tickets requested. We’ll figure out the financial arrangements to the side.
Anyway, I can’t wait to see it all come together. I’ve acted before and had a blast but this is the first time where I’m doing this much heavy lifting. It’s a great challenge and one I am confident I’ll nail. And then next year, who knows. Maybe I’ll jump from a plane, wrestle an alligator or go The Full Monty – or do all that at once.