Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Song Is Over



"I drank for four days and four nights...
and then I fell through a window.
I was bleeding - but I was forgetting."
-- Oscar Madison (from Neil Simon's The Odd Couple)

People who are involved in theater productions - be they actors, technicians, directors, stage managers, you name it - these people are all familiar with a phenomena akin to postpartum depression.* Since being in a play is not as intense or solitary an experience as pregnancy (or so I imagine, having never been pregnant myself), the let-down afterward isn't nearly as severe - and, the sense of emptiness is eased because it is common to everyone involved. But, as with all good things that must come to end, there is still a feeling of loss, a void that must be faced.

For me, being cast as the lead in a really good play was a dream come true. And to be cast as Oscar Madison in The Odd Couple was like being able to hand-pick the dream. The play had it's original run on Broadway when I was a pre-schooler - so I can't remember a time before the archetypes of Felix Ungar and Oscar Madison existed. I grew up with the movie and the TV show. I loved these characters in the way a child can truly love a fictional character, half-expecting to perhaps meet them one day, like a favorite sports figure or a movie star.

"Of course - if you're going to kill yourself,
where's the safest place to do it?
With your friends"
-- Oscar Madison

Can't get any better than that, right? Actually, it can. The way you improve on perfection is to share your dream with good friends. So you ask one of your closest friends, a guy you've know for nearly 30 years, to audition for the role of Felix. And he gets cast in that part. And you get another friend, who you've known for about 20 years, to audition - and he gets the role of Oscar's policeman buddy, Murray. Now, since the play only has eight different roles, you've got an excellent shot at a stellar cast. After all, the director has already shown her good taste in casting the leads and one of the supporting players. But she does even better than that - she casts all eight roles flawlessly. [In the end, you even forgive the director for not casting your wife in one of the two female roles; since she ends up being even more valuable to the production by handling props, setting dressing and being the stage manager - all in one!]

"Don't say 'Alright'! I want you to promise me
you're going to try and have a good time..."
--Oscar Madison

So the (dare I say it) stage is set. But you've still got to learn the 456 lines of dialogue. You've never done anything close to that before. You've got to learn to work together with the other actors - the ones you've worked with before and the ones you haven't; some who are already your friend and others who will become a new friend. You get to take off your pants on-stage. And throw plates of fake linguini. And figure out how to rip apart bags of potato chips so they make a nice mess and open cans of beer (OK, really just Diet 7UP) so they will spray everywhere. You pick out pre-show music (from the early to mid-1960s, heavy on Henry Mancini and Frank Sinatra) to put the audience in the mood.

And then you get to perform it all in front of a bunch of people - and try to get them to laugh.

But you only get to do that six times over two weekends.

Because, eventually, you have to allow your life to revert to being just "mostly out of control" rather than "completely out of control". More's the pity. Still, it was really fun while it lasted. And there's always the chance you'll get to do it again somewhere down the road.

"How about next Friday night?
You're not going to break up the game, are you?"
--Oscar Madison

Tuesday night, four of us got together to strike the set. We removed all of the remaining props and costumes from backstage, we loaded all the furniture that had been loaned for performances into the back of the MAW's Pacifica and delivered each piece back to the owners. We removed every trace of Oscar Madison's apartment from that stage.

I got home and turned on Turner Classic Movies in time to see the end of Billy Wilder's Some Like It Hot. Then they did a nice segment on Sidney Poitier. I should have been writing a blog post or balancing the check book. Or sleeping.

But The Odd Couple came on. I watched the whole thing. Again.

Take care.


* If you've ever really suffered from postpartum depression, cut me some slack.
I did say "akin", not "just like".

10 comments:

Jeanne said...

Sounds like a terrific production! I wonder why they never stage that here in Dayton? We have 5 or 6 community theater groups. You'd think that' someone would put it on.

Sending your link to my friend, Jim, who helps with selection for some of those groups!

Ellie Belen said...

We watched the Odd Couple movie again too.

We kept saying, Jim Styro did that line really well or he made that line his own and really funny.

You guys did a great job. I wished I came to your last performance as well, just to see how comfortable you guys became by end of production.

Middle Aged Woman said...

EB - I must say, I think you were there for the second best performance. Opening night was great, but closing night rocked the house! I was continually amazed by the level of work I saw on stage. I'm just sorry I never saw it from the audience!

jeckleday said...

Oh but they do, Jeanne. One local group even alternated the male and female versions.
If you'd like to see it, contact them through their websites.
You probably won't affect their 2010-11 seasons, since those are in their final selection phases. The two groups that have January-December schedules might be the place to start for quickest result. And, yes, I'll bring it up if I'm involved in a theatre's season selection.
As a play from the 60s, "The Odd Couple" now falls into the classics category and would be scheduled as such. It still has plenty of impact, but would not be the same kind of draw as a newer, hotter show.

Jim

Pamela said...

I've been wondering where you've been. Glad you enjoyed your production. And glad you're back.

TennLady said...

Glad to have you back blogging!

Jim Styro said...

Jeanne: We had a great time staging the play and the audiences (regardless of age) seemed to really enjoy the show. I don't know what's hot in Dayton - but The Odd Couple still seems to draw well in Motown. BTW, the MAW and I are planning to be in Miamisburg next weekend to visit my Dad. So watch out for Michigan plates that say "STYRO" (no kidding).

Ellie: Thanks again for organizing that fantastic group for opening night. Let's hope this experience hasn't ruined all future Odd Couple viewings. I fear that in any Walter Matthau / Jim Styro comparison, I lose big-time.

MAW: I'd be glad to do all of my lines in bed or a hot tub or something...

jeckleday: I just resigned as Board President of a local theater group, so I don't have to worry about such things - for at least a while.

Pamela: It's good to be back. Thanks for not forgetting about me. Now that I'm writing again, I need to starting reading and comments again too. I'll be 'round your place soon.

T-Lady: Thanks. I hope to keep things interesting.

Dackmont said...

You know how some people have dreams that there's suddenly a final exam for which they forgot to study? I don't have those much any more, but I still have dreams about forgetting my lines "in the play", or having to switch suddenly into a role for which I haven't prepared.

As you say, in the end, the fun outweighs the stress. I/we had a blast doing this stuff way back when, and am completely stoked that you, MAW, "Felix" et. al. got to do this at the community theater level. Too cool.

And don't forget that "The Song Is Over" isn't the end of the album...

cheers!
-Jah-Om Churlie

P.S. He wrote a good post, but why did he say it was "just like postpartum depression"? I can't even see you... lactating.

Jim Styro said...

Jaom-mont: But TSIO does close Side One of the album (a critical piece of information which would likely elude anyone young enough that they NEVER OWNED A RECORD PLAYER!) - a poignant fact for a middle-aged male like myself.

Dackmont said...

I can dig, groovy bro. The "great album side" is something of a lost art, like the B-side or the (two-sided) mixtape. And TSIO would have been the closer to Lifehouse if the Who had completed it. Parting is sweet sorrow.