Molière is my hero. One of them anyway. If I were asked outside of a grad school application what my main artistic goal is, I’d have to say to be the Eddie Van Halen of theater. Whatever I do, I want it to be kick-ass dynamic, full of energy and feeling, have tasty chops, and fun. And it better rock or why are we there?
I wound up working with this guy named Matt. Sometimes I call him A.J. or Dude. He’s a big Molière freak. He was hired to direct a production of the Imaginary Invalid out in Queens. The actor playing Argan had a shit fit after the first week and decided to check out of the show. I don’t know the details but I think it was bad news. I wound up boppin’ down to audition to replace him and after 2 hours of reading got the role. I read entire sections of the play 100% cold, ten to fifteen pages at a time. The plan was to rehearse 6 days and go up totally off-book to close out the last week.
I asked the director to request an emergency Equity showcase code for this. They asked if he had rights to this version of the play and it turned out that the producer didn’t bother, even though he said he had. The next night, I went to a wake at the local Irish pub rather than a rehearsal and stayed until the last cast member left.
Fast forward a couple of weeks and A.J. gets with his producing partner, Greg Tito and they approach the Cell Theatre on 23rd. It’s a gallery-cum-performance space. It hits me to just go ahead and write a new adaptation. A.J. takes the lead on that with his wife, Shira. I put in several rolls of my two cents. It goes up with a more age-appropriate Argan and is a hit. Nice write-up in nytheatre. Overflow audience turned away at the door. And the Cell decides to pick it back up in November to fill in a hole in their schedule. Lucky us because it’s a great space in an even greater location.
In the meantime, A.J. or Matt or Dude has me working on a new adaptation of Scapin. Ideally, we will put this up in the spring and I’ll be Scapin. The Molière role. The Van Halen in that concert. I feel like I need to get into shape for it. More mentally than physically. He made comedy that’s precise and built to last. I wanted to be on Saturday Night Live or in something like Monty Python growing up but this goes to a place beyond that. Sometimes it gets dark and serious. It says things about the way the world works that’s kind of chilling. But it’s also hilarious.
And you gotta respect the guy. He went to jail because of his first theater’s debts. I don’t know if he was the first indie theater guy but he sure sounds like it. Then he fell on stage, coughing and hemorrhaging, and died shorty after his last performance of Argan in Imaginary Invalid. I’ve heard of actors passing kidney stones on stage or being so sick they run off to puke in a bucket close by, but Molière takes the cake. At age 51, he died. But his work keeps going.
Since we’re doing more with the script, it’s going to be called The Hypochondriac and it will have lots of nudges to the current health care fiasco. The big thing is trimming it down to a good running time. It was a little fat last time. Like 30 minutes fat. It will happen. For me this has been an exercise in working on a bigger canvas and making all the moments worthwhile.
Scapin has me stumped.