Last night, in rehearsal for The Meaning of Lunch, I had one of those "moments" that happen in theatre every so often.
I was off-stage, and watching Sandy Elias and Melissa DiLeonardo work a scene. I was having such a good time watching them work, and admiring the way they were playing off each other. It's always hard to picture how a show is going to go over when you're rehearsing. Shows that I've enjoyed every moment of during rehearsals have fallen flat as a pancake once the audience stepped into the room.
But, sometimes...You just see things working, right in front of you, and you feel blessed to be in such company. Sandy, Melissa and Gabe Estrada are in this show with me, and each and every one of them have great moments. That's a testament to their talent, of course, but it's also about the whole thing coming together in the right way.
It all starts with Dan Aibel's script, of course. It's no exaggeration to say that I have loved this play from the moment I started reading it. I got so excited when I finished, I had to blog about it. Yeah, sure, it's a style that is exactly in line with my sensibilities, and I'm sure lots of other people would be less than enthralled with it. Doesn't matter. I, frankly, don't care what anyone else thinks. I loved it from day one.
Mr. Aibel has the great gift of being able to say something with his play, without SAYING SOMETHING. The Meaning of Lunch is about people, their lives, and those lives happen to shed light on a larger social issue. His work displays something that I very strongly believe, that audiences don't care about issues, they care about people. They don't care about intellectual ideas, they care about emotions. You can comment on issues and ideas, but you MUST do it in an entertaining, emotionally honest way.
Dan (who I don't get to meet until next Monday - hope it's not presumptuous to go to "first name basis") writes dialogue that I find endlessly entertaining. Witty, fast paced, inventive, and not easy. Such a joy to perform.
Mix that with our directing team, Jason Fleece (also a Stage Left Ensemble Member) directing and Lorenzo Blackett assisting. Jason has really approached Dan's script with exactly the right intent from day one, and Lorenzo has ably supported that vision. From the first reading, I was really happy with how Jason saw this script and these characters, because there were a number of voices that saw it as a much darker and seedy story. Jason's clear sense of the play, and ability to make that vision clear to everyone, has made bringing Dan's script to life a really fun task.
It's funny. I loved this play so much, and I think I'm being truthful when I say I believe that my overwhelmingly positive reaction to it was what brought it to the attention of our Artistic Director, Vance Smith, and the rest of the Ensemble. I just thought it was a great play, but I also didn't really see myself acting in it. Sure, I kinda envisioned myself while reading, but every actor does that.
Todd, the role I'm playing, is not exactly the kind of part you'd immediately think of a six-foot-three, 200-mumble-pound actor for. Yet, as we play with the script, I realize, over and over, how much I identify with him. There are many things about Todd, his social skills, his relationship with his father, that might be said about me as well. I'm very thankful that Jason asked me to do it.
Really, I'm just thankful for the whole process, and that moment last night just crystallized it all for me.
Honestly, the only thing I can really wish for is that we were doing a full production, rather than just a reading. Hopefully, we'll get to that, sooner, rather than later. Not to turn this into naked promotion, but please come see us.