Friday, December 30, 2011

Oh, Durang!

I've taken roles in an upcoming production of two Christopher Durang one-act plays: "The Nature and Purpose of the Universe" and "Death Comes To Us All, Mary Agnes". This particular acting turn is going to present a lot of challenges to me. To begin with, I have to memorize conversations rather than extended monologues like I did in "Twelfth Night". Waiting for and giving cues is a fairly new experience for me, one that I had difficulty with during the final scene of "Twelfth Night".

Although I am playing the father figure in both of the plays, they are completely different characters. Steve in "The Nature and Purpose of the Universe" is aggressive and self absorbed while Herbert in "Death Comes To Us All, Mary Agnes" is passive and has been beaten down by life. Oh, and he has only one arm. The challenge here is to present myself in such a way as to ensure that the audience is seeing two different characters, not one actor in two roles.

The most difficult hurdle to get over is the fact that I have been having a hard time understanding the material. I've heard these one-acts described as a blistering commentary on the futility of everyday life, but I'm not seeing them that way. To me, it all reads like an extended improv where a series of outrageous events form together implausibly simply to move the plot along. That being said, I do find Durang's work humorous, but it's not insightful humor. Much of the laughs come from shock. Maybe that's the point. Maybe the audience is supposed to laugh at the absurdity of it all and shake their heads with disbelief, certain that such events could not possibly occur in real life. And yet they can and they do.

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