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Take Two

Your Humble Blogger gets an excellent double take opportunity in this play. Like a lot of Tom Stoppard bits, it is both a simple joke and a place where several threads in the play cross. Of course, since this play is fundamentally a silly play, the threads are pretty much joke threads rather than a cross of a running gag, a deep philosophical question and a meta-theatrical device, but that’s all to the better for me.

The main running gag involved is people talking on the telephone to people who have already hung up and left. My moment is the second of three instances of that—out of five telephone conversations, I think, altogether. As my character is comically garrulous and my partner on the other end of the line is in the cabin next door, before I realize I’m talking to myself he has entered the room. I halt my rant with him over the phone to say Hello, come on in and only then realize what is going on.

The classic double-take, of course, is in three parts: the actor looks at something surprising without registering surprise, then looks away, and then registers surprise and looks back. It can be fast or slow, the second take can be exaggerated to varying amounts (John Cleese is knocked into the air by the power of whiplash, hopping away from the object of the double-take by anywhere from a few inches to (at The Hollywood Bowl, I believe) what appears to be more than six feet, but that must be an optical illusion), but that’s the basic move. Look, look away, look back.

This gag allows me to do the triple-take: I look at Alex Gal entering, without of course registering any surprise at his presence, then turn my attention to the phone before turning back to stare at him in surprise—and then turning again to stare at the phone, which is now a surprising item due to my realization that the person I thought I was speaking to is in the room with me. It would be possible to do yet another take after that, switching my attention back to Mr. Gal, but that seems to me excessive, particularly as the bit can perfectly well end with my slamming the telephone down on the hook. On the other hand, how often does a fellow get a chance for a quadruple-take? I mean, a legitimate one, not just mugging? Or not completely mugging, anyway.

Also, Mr. Gal is joining Mr. Adam, who is already in the room, and they don’t have very many lines before I am off the phone and monopolizing the conversation again. In fact, I don’t think I’m going to have time to let the second take be a slow one and the third a quick swivel, which might be even funnier… I think it’s going to be Hello, Gal, come on in and then bam-bam-bam-hang-up. I still have a few weeks to play with it, though.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,
-Vardibidian.