Tuesday, January 24, 2012
EXCERPT FROM ELMHURST COMMUNITY THEATRE
The opening night went from one disaster to another, building to a climax at the beginning of act three. Francine’s voice had been getting smaller with each scene. By the third act even the people standing next to her on stage couldn’t hear her. She gave her line: I surrendered my innocence to that beast Black Bart.
Standing in the wings, I could see her lips move, but I wasn’t sure if any sound was coming out.
Mabel looked at her and said, “Francine, you’ll have to speak up. We can’t hear you.”
Francine looked startled, like someone who had been suddenly awakened from a deep sleep. Her eyes darted around the stage and then swept out to the audience. She stood motionless for a minute or so, but it seemed like an hour. Thelma was prompting Mabel with her line: That beast must be made to pay for this!
No one on stage was saying anything. Francine looked wildly around one more time and then ran off stage—into my waiting arms.
“Francine,” I said, “it’s okay. You’re doing fine.” I was both trying to calm her down and prevent her from fleeing out of the theatre. I don’t know what made me think it would still be possible to save this awful production. I just acted automatically.
“You’ve got to go back on, Francine,” I said. “That’s the only way we can save the play.”
“Oh, but I can’t. I’m too embarrassed.”
“You have to. You owe it to the rest of the cast who have worked so hard.”
I was half pulling and half coaxing Francine toward the door in the back wall. I got her into the doorway and said, “You can do it, Francine,” as I pushed her onto the stage.
In trying to resist, she caught her shoulder on the doorway, and the set started to teeter. I heard someone in the audience yell, “Look out!” And then the set collapsed on stage.
“Close the curtain!” I yelled. “Close the curtain!”
For a moment we were there in the silence of the shambles of our production. Then I heard a few hands clapping. What the hell were they doing, I wondered, applauding because the play was over? The applause grew stronger and rose to a crescendo.
“Open the curtain for a curtain call!” I yelled. The audience was on its feet giving us a standing ovation.
In the morning Polly invited me over for breakfast and the play reviews. I wasn’t particularly interested in reading about my humiliation. “They’re not bad at all,” she said. “Buddy got the papers from Manchester and Nashua.”
“Here’s the Union Leader,” Buddy said, handing me the Manchester paper opened to the review.
BRILLIANT PSYCHOLOGICAL DRAMA
Elmhurst Community Theatre’s summer production, Flossie Finds Romance, opened Friday night. Elmhurst is fortunate to have the talents of a man like Curtis Booth to bring out the deep Freudian message of the play.
As the show opens, we see two sisters, Flossie and Belle, played by Mabel Brown and Francine O’Reilly, working as pickle slicers in a pickle factory once owned by their father. The father has been unjustly charged with embezzlement and put in jail. The factory is now owned by the evil Black Bart. Curtis Booth plays both roles with the same brilliance he has shown in his long Hollywood career.
The Freudian significance of the play is obvious with the phallic symbol of the pickles along with the castration fantasy of slicing the pickles. The younger sister Belle is suffering from an unresolved Electra complex. She fantasizes about kinky sex with Black Bart, an older man who represents a father figure. Flossie as well as Montague Badnick, played by Nick Reynard, and Rupert Trueheart, played by Walter LeDoux, helps Belle overcome the father fixation and transfer her longings to a more age-appropriate suitor.
The play evokes the three Freudian elements of the personality with Flossie representing the ego, Black Bart representing the id, and Rupert Trueheart representing the superego. At the end of the show, everything collapses around the players as they symbolically return to the womb. The play is riveting from the beginning to the thrill-packed end.
“It must take a really sick mind to write this kind of crap,” I said.
“That’s not so bad,” Polly said, refilling my coffee. “More toast?”
“No thanks.” I really didn’t have much appetite.
“Here’s the Nashua paper,” Buddy said, handing it over opened to the review.
RADIANT STORY OF CLASS STRUGGLE
Multi-talented Curtis Booth, known for his roles in dozens of top films, has lent his great gifts to the Elmhurst Community Theatre’s production of Flossie Finds Romance. The play is a gripping tale of the class struggle that occurs when management exploits labor.
Management, represented by Black Bart, played by Booth himself, and abetted by Montague Badnick, played by Nick Reynolds, keeps raising production quotas. The evil pair delights in creating harsh working conditions, such as making the workers in the pickle factory peel onions until their eyes are full of tears.
Not content with the exploitation of wage slavery, Black Bart also tries to seduce Flossie and Belle, played by Mabel Brown and Francine O’Reilly. Rupert Trueheart, played by Walter LeDoux, is a working class hero, who saves the girls from Black Bart’s evil clutches.
The turning point in the play comes when Montague Badnick recognizes the evil of capitalistic exploitation and switches sides. Good triumphs over evil and freedom over wage slavery as the workers prepare to go out on strike.
An especially adept directorial touch comes at the end of the play where the walls collapse around the actors on stage, symbolizing the collapse of capitalism and the triumph of the working class. As the walls fall down, Rupert Trueheart, the working class hero, shouts, “Workers of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains!”
Sometimes I think I’m the only sane person left in the world.
Click here to find more about Elmhurst Community Theatre