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Playing Hearts

So, having fallen out of the habit of blogging, Your Humble Blogger seems not to have mentioned being cast in an upcoming play. It’s called Hearts, and it goes up at the end of the month and through the first couple of weeks of May.

It’s a crap play. And really, what I mean is, it’s crude and sentimental, it’s easy to see the mechanisms of the manipulation, and it has a variety of flaws in structure, technique and craft. On the other hand, the emotional manipulation probably works, and even if some of the audience will resent being manipulated while feeling the emotions, I suspect that audiences at large eat this shit up with a spoon. Hoping so, anyway. And there are quite a few good things in the play, some lovely scenes, funny moments, and opportunities for theatrical effects. It’s a memory play, where the main character tells the story of his life—his war story, both as a WWII soldier in Europe and the aftereffects over fifty years—to the audience. This sort of thing depends enormously on the likability of the lead actor, and fortunately we have a very likable lead.

And I’m playing eighteen characters.

Well, it depends on how you count, but it’s at least a dozen, even if you are stingy with what counts as a different character. It’s a lot of fun.

My main character is Babe, the main character’s best friend. I play Babe at ages 18, 24, 26, 41, 42, 51 and 71. That counts as one, even though I have to indicate to the audience that every cell in his body gets replaced, like, eight times. Seriously, it’s at least four different voices and three different walks, and it’s more difficult to play all those different characters that are the same person, but still, it counts as one.

The rest range from having a single word (two of them) to having all of sixty words, some of them actually responding to something somebody else says. Ten of them are in the Army, because part of the thing about the Army is that there are a lot of people around, saying things like report to the stockage depot and the CO says to wait for reinforcements and INCOMING! One is a psychiatrist with a facial tic; one is a twenty-year-old encyclopedia salesman. One is both in the army and a childhood friend of the main character: he gets one line, an obscenity in Yiddish. One is an SS captain. Three die. Three are in Buchenwald on liberation day.

I’m doing accents from Boston, Baltimore, Zurich, Tupelo, Leipzig, St. Louis, Zwickau and South Philadelphia. Actually, that’s all bullshit—my Mississippi accent is probably more-or-less Mississippi, but I have no idea if it’s Tupelo; my Swiss accent is a travesty, and I’m doing standard-central-European-Jew, not any particular region, much less town. Even my Baltimore is not even Baltimore so much as white-mid-Atlantic My South Phillie, though, is fabulous. My point, though, is just that I have eighteen different voices, eighteen different rhythms, eighteen different ways to hold my jaw, and maybe ten ways to set my shoulders and heels, since most of my military guys walk the same. It’s a lot of fun.

And the show in general is a lot of fun. The last couple of shows I have done were not very fun for me, for a variety of reasons, so I’m really happy with this one. The script, I still have problems with. The process has been great.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,