Letters to Holly

Monday, December 22

The Last Two Shows

Fifth Night

It's a smaller crowd, and they are nowhere as responsive. Rothschild has a bad night. Specifically, he forgets the phrase "extraordinary measures," the key phrase of the play. He freezes in place and bends lower and lower as if the words can come out either end, and then gingerly offers "unmeasurable lengths." Not a bad replacement. But his body language has devolved this play. He crouches when he's talking to witnesses. He barely whispers a line if he has any doubt about its proper place in the play. He's back to sitting through objections just in case they're in the wrong place.

Scrooge is no vamping grunts throughout his lines and, worse, in reaction to others' lines. He's stepping on our dialogue left and right, and the grunts have become verbal spackle when he loses his place. He sounds like a tubercular MC. He and Rothschild have also begun dropping lines consistently, and the reason the play is shorter this week is because we're skipping chunks of dialogue left and right.

Scrooge gets lost during his confrontation of Cratchit, and the actor locks eyes with me as he searches for the words. I know them. I can cue him. But I don't. Fuck it. I just ad-libbed to cover a previous hiccup, and I'm not inclined to be charitable. Also, I have a stage mic about three feet from my face. Any word I say will be picked up. We share a stare for what feels like five seconds, and he eventually assembles a line to get to the end of our scene. And offstage I go to change into Future Ghost.

The judge is now blatantly reading his script onstage. When he insults his bailiff, he sometimes is looking straight down at his desk top to read the lines. The end scene goes very smoothly tonight, but everything else is getting worse.

Final Show

Marley and I are done with our makeup at 2, and there's no one else to be seen. We worry that the actors have either forgotten about today or are slacking. And it's indeed a relaxed atmosphere backstage. Brick and I talk football. Mrs. Cratchit and I talk legendary Hollywood actors. It's a large audience out there today, and we hope they catch the humor.

It goes about as usual. Scrooge is adding as much extra noise as possible, but now he's adding full lines. His scene with Marley won't end. He's adding questions, questions Marley can only answer by using lines intended for the other attorney and the big punchline is wasted on Scrooge. Instead of finishing with "No more questions," now he's saying "I see. I see. Hmph. Yes. I have no more questions for this witness, your honor, at this time. Bah. Ha. Mumble grumble." How are any of us supposed to know when to start talking if Scrooge won't shut up? He stammered originally to make noise while he remembered his lines. But now he's doing it in place of his lines. We miss some good dialogue today.

Marley still can't stay quiet backstage, and his chains are rattling before his supposedly dramatic entrance. Brick is shaking with laughter onstage at this. I crack up when the judge again loses his place while reading the script and confuses our poor bailiff.

The ending goes better, but Marley and Scrooge decide to stand right in front of the Future Ghost through the last scene. Because I'm on the witness stand, I have nowhere to go. My hand gestures are lost. Otherwise, Future and the translator get good laughs. The show ends, and we thank the audience and hang up our costumes for the last time.

I don't have any sense of accomplishment. That reduces any sense of relief. It's just over.