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Dear World at the Masquers

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By Theresa de Valence - Posted on 03 November 2005

I don’t know very much about theatre (but I know what I like). Okay, I only said that to annoy, even if both phrases are true. Pity I wasn’t given the script of Dear World, directed by Pat Nelson, or I could quote more preposterous aphorisms dropped mercilessly from the mouths of the gentry, Lady Constance (played by Theo Collins), Lady Gabrielle (played by Irene Scully) and Aurelia, the Countess of Chaillot (played by Ann Homrighausen). Some of the quips are quite funny.

What is the purpose and meaning of theatre, I continue to ask? Dear World has indeed contributed more data but most of the points are contradictory. So, let’s start at the top:

Come and see this play. You will feel better. About everything. Bring your mother, your daughter and your nephew. (I know, you say, I don’t have time and I ...) Exactly. I don’t know anything about you, and I don’t know what you’d like. Get out of your chair and come anyway. That doesn’t make you get up and call for reservations? No? Well, I guess I’ll have to tell you more about it, then.

First off, it took me more than a few tries to see this play. This is the third Masquers’ performance where this magazine’s (This time) publication date has required my attending an earlier rehearsal in place of a later performance.

I also have a confession to make: I am beginning to like this rehearsal business. Sunday at the theatre I watched some drab weary folks, many with plenty of grey hair. Today at the dress rehearsal; nobody was boring enough to have any grey hair.

I first saw Gregg Klein drearily resting against a wall with his eyes half-closed, at the prior visit. He was holding the script which looked tiny resting against his huge body on the bench. I was curious about him; what would possess a man like him to want to be an actor in a play?

Gregg Klein, playing the Sewer Man, nearly steals the entire show! He is huge and handsome and magnificent and warm and gentle and clever and kind. Like Lady Constance, I have fallen in love with him. I would have sat there mesmerized for another couple of hours, if only the play hadn’t ended.

My other vote for thunderingly best performance goes to Aurelia, the Countess of Chaillot who was recognizable in full dress only by her stride across the stage. Oh, the metamorphosis that goes on in theatre! How did Ann Homrighausen and the rest of the production crew make this happen?

Theatre is a continuing mystery. How are all of the decisions made, and why? And in such delicate deliberate detail.

For example, consider the advertisement flyer for the play: a pair of eyes surrounded by black fingers and feathers. Who knew what canny resemblance the picture would have to the gorgeous unforgettable eyes of Aurelia? Wasn’t the advertisement created long before the first dress rehearsal?

How about the two American business tycoons, both aptly named Mr. President (played by Michael O’Brien and George Doerr)? What possessed whomever to mould one man large and the other small; one shaved bald scalp and chin, the other with pomaded hair and a moustache pencil-thin; both dressed to perfection in a three piece suit of delightful trim and all battened down with gold chains and watches? Add a few dance steps, we are swelling with joyful laughter! What a visual feast!

Naw, the Oil Prospector (played by Don Hansen), wal’ he’s a treat. One pip outta his mouth, and the audience can tell that we’re in for some puns and some fun. He’s perfect and the boot fits.

Nina (played by Bridgit O’Keeffe) is a charming girl. She is an awkward waitress but succeeds in love as well as any girl with magic blue shoes could want. Beautiful and earnest. Somebody told me once that women in love are always radiant and men in love look like stuffed fish.

Julian (played by Coley Grundman) is in love. Julian is also an efficient intimidated young secretary. Coley is the only actor I have seen perform already, so I knew beforehand to watch his hands and feet. Watching him take notes from the two tycoons was a completely distracting delight!

In the middle of some commotion or other, the Sergeant (played by Larry Schrupp) marched across the stage, taking with him the reserves of any fears I had that I might not enjoy the play. The Sergeant’s explanation of how Julian came to be in the river was gratifying. The actors’ resuscitation of a nearly-drowned Julian was fun, as was Julian’s response to the substitution of one of his rescuers.

There were lots more developments in the plot. The Mute (played by Robert Love) was also a Mime whose voice was filled in by others. Lady Constance ends up battier than when she started out, an entertaining development, particularly when she offered to be a witness for both sides of a court trial! Lady Gabrielle amusingly reinforced many stereotypes, but her pooch was annoying. The Waiter (played by Rob Bradshaw) had highly active eyebrows though he was not fundamental to the plot.

The deliberate attention paid to detail after detail seems never-ending. In theatre, of course, there are dozens of artists contributing creativity, not just one. As the trailing performance of 50th anniversary year of the Masquers’ theatre, no doubt it retains traces of the original troop. Each of the cast and crew has added focus to the expressions and mannerism of the actors, fine points to the costumes, all of which have been honed for the betterment of the performance.

Why not for the benefit of the audience? Because the audience doesn’t really matter, Silly, (just ask Lady Gabrielle). All of these theatre people are playing to themselves, for themselves, not even for each other. I know, I saw them before the rehearsal began. There could be nothing else which explained why a bunch of people elected to give up regular dinners as well as their evenings to put on a play. Even says so in the play: ask the republicans.

You know, though, here’s that serendipity again. As these normal everyday folks sauntered onto the stage, not yet in costume, the pianist began playing scales. One or two of these folks started singing along. As the notes mounted the scales, the actors’ voices grew stronger and louder. They shuffled closer together and turned to face the audience. As the volume mounted, so did the pitch and intensity. They became bigger and bigger and I forgot the Me who was observing Them.

Many of us are too disconnected to get around to doing something truly useful with our lives like saving the world, but you know, it doesn’t mean that we don’t aspire to this renaissance. As the Countess of Chaillot told us, it will all be different tomorrow.

In the end, it does come down to the cast of Dear World saving the day, which is handy.

Moreover, it can be done from a theatre seat.