(Bennett’s monologue appeared in the London Review of Books, 7/16.)
An ordinary kitchen. Gwen, a middle-aged woman, talks to the camera.
He pulled up his trousers.
‘You are nice to me,’ he said. ‘I couldn’t have shown it to anybody else.’
I said, ‘Well, I hope you haven’t been doing.’
‘Oh,’ he said. ‘Not much chance of that. No demand at the moment.’
He’d come home from school looking a bit down and retreats upstairs to his room and doesn’t even bother to raid the fridge, by which I take it something’s amiss. He plays his music for a bit and I’m ironing when he comes down barefoot and sits at the table watching me, which is an event in itself. Suddenly he gets up and says, ‘Mum, I’m going to show you this, but it’ll be the last time you’ll ever see it.’
And he undoes his trousers and pulls down his shorts.
He said, ‘Now, what’s that?’
Well, it was nothing. I couldn’t even see where he meant until he points it out, just a bit of a spot. Only it was the other I couldn’t get over. I hadn’t been keeping track and I don’t know when I last saw it exactly, but he can’t have been much more than twelve. And he’s only fifteen now but you wouldn’t know.
He said, ‘Are you sure?’
I said, ‘Michael. It’s a spot, love, that’s all it is,’ and I got him some stuff to put on.
He gets his trousers up sharp.
He said, ‘Don’t tell Dad.’
‘Why should I tell Dad? Why should I tell Dad anything?’
‘And don’t tell our Maureen.’
‘As if,’ I said (which is what he’s always saying).
‘I don’t want my private parts mulled over by my sister.’ He’s getting some pie from the fridge.
I said, ‘Wash your hands.’
He said, ‘You said it was nothing.’
I said, ‘It is nothing but wash your hands.’
It’s an aerodrome we go to, disused. We shouldn’t but he’s only fifteen so it would be illegal anywhere else, and I’m not altogether sure it’s legal there, but it’s off the road and he’s desperate to start driving. His dad’s not keen but he doesn’t have the patience to teach him anyway.
I nearly killed him though today. There was a lad gunning his motorbike about and Michael nearly went into him, scraped him. It was my fault. I should have been looking in the mirror. He scarcely touched us, this lad, and just belted off, only I had my hand gripping Michael’s leg I was so shocked. And he was trembling. He said, ‘Mum, let go my leg.’ I said, ‘I hope it hasn’t scratched the bodywork.’ He said, ‘It’s my bodywork I’m bothered about, let go my leg.’ Anyway, there was only a tiny mark on the bumper. I couldn’t hardly see it, only I said I’d tell Dad it was me that was driving.
I’d brought a flask, so we sat there on this runway having some coffee. I said, shouted actually, with having his music on, ‘Is this what they call “quality time”?’
And he nods, though whether at me or the music I couldn’t tell. And then he’s looking at his phone.
Later on, Maureen saw me checking the bumper. She said, ‘Is that a scratch?’
‘No, it fucking well isn’t,’ Michael said. ‘And anyway Mum was driving.’
He winks at me. And I wink back, only I can’t wink so just screwed my face up.
He looks more than fifteen.
Thinking about it afterwards, I didn’t see the bike because I was looking at Michael’s hands on the wheel and thinking how much nicer they are than my hands.
(Neil Genzlinger’s article appeared in The New York Times, 10/12; via Pam Green.)
Carol Hall, who helped turn an unlikely inspiration into one of the biggest Broadway hits of the 1970s when she wrote the music and lyrics for “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas,” died on Thursday at her home in Manhattan. She was 82.
An announcement from her family said the cause was logopenic primary progressive aphasia, a rare form of dementia.
Ms. Hall was enjoying moderate success as a singer and songwriter when, developing an idea first hatched during a dinner party conversation, she, Peter Masterson and Larry L. King created “Best Little Whorehouse,” a comedy based on an article Mr. King had written in 1974 for Playboy. It concerned the moralistic efforts to close down a real-life Texas brothel known as the Chicken Ranch (because some customers paid in chickens) that had operated for years.
The show drew mixed reviews — Walter Kerr, writing in The New York Times, called it “an erratic and ambling, if sleekly produced, business.” But the reviews didn’t seem to matter much to audiences. The provocative title, the down-home humor and Ms. Hall’s amiable songs made for a winning package.
(Dominic Cavendish’s article appeared in the Telegraph, 8/14.)
Some 15 years ago, the Canadian theatre visionary Robert Lepage, who made his name with sprawling, character-loaded epics, achieved a solo triumph with The Far Side of the Moon, combining a trim tale of two brothers with the Cold War rivalry of the Space Race. His latest one-man endeavour for his company Ex Machina – receiving its European premiere here – provokes a similar sense of awe. This is the most intimate show of his career, achieving both a cerebral and an emotional power.
At the age of 57, Lepage has been drawn back to 887. That’s the number of the apartment building on Murray Avenue, Quebec City, where he grew up in the Sixties. He doesn’t just describe it in reminiscence, painting the scene with words. Lepage proves he needs to consistently push the boundaries and nowhere is that more evident than in his technical wizardry. He shows us his old haunts: looming large over a succession of model sets of the mansion block, other local environs of interest and places held dear in the memory.
Stage Voices Publishing for archived posts and sign up for free e-mail updates: http 2015:// www.stagevoices.com/ . If you would like to contribute a review, monologue, or other work related to theatre, please write to Bob Shuman at Bobjshuman@gmail.com.
(Nell Casey’s article appeared in The New York Times, 10/8; video includes Gray monologue and Talking Heads music.)
Spalding Gray moved to New York City in 1967, shortly after his mother’s suicide, when he was 26. He lived with his girlfriend, Elizabeth LeCompte, in an apartment on Sixth Street and Avenue D, on the Lower East Side. To make ends meet, Gray occasionally worked as a stock boy, while LeCompte sold postcards at the front desk of the Guggenheim. But mostly they were finding their places in New York’s avant-garde theater world.
In 1968, they saw Richard Schechner’s critically acclaimed production of “Dionysus in ’69,” which included an onstage orgy. Gray and LeCompte were electrified by it. The following year, they would become members of Schechner’s experimental-theater troupe, the Performance Group, after the director cast Gray in his rather unusual interpretation of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth.” Schechner recalls coming across Gray’s head shot and seeing a young man “staring out with eyes so far apart — he wasn’t trying to look pretty, he wasn’t trying to do anything.”
View this book at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Journals-Spalding-Gray/dp/0307273458/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1318273709&sr=8-1
One of Spalding Gray’s monologues ‘The Anniversary’ is included in One on One: The Best Men’s Monologues from the 21st Century from Applause Books: http://www.amazon.com/One-Best-Mens-Monologues-Century/dp/1557837015/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1318273803&sr=1-1
(George Hunka’s post appeared 3/11 on Superfluities Redux.)
Irish actor Jack MacGowran is probably best remembered as one of Samuel Beckett’s foremost performers, though he also appeared in material as wide-ranging as the plays of Sean O’Casey and William Friedkin’s The Exorcist. With Beckett, he crafted a monologue called Beginning to End based on Beckett’s prose writings and toured this to great acclaim through the 1960s. In 1966 MacGowran filmed the performance for Ireland’s RTÉ Television. Until recently the film was hard to come by, but this too recently cropped up on YouTube in its 50-minute entirety, and it is presented below.
(Monologues are posted as a recurring feature on Stage Voices.)
ARTHUR is in his 30s; he lives in Brooklyn.
I went to see a psychic on West 76th Street. Sixty bucks a pop. I figured, what the hell. And she was pretty good, too, although she did keep bringing up near-death phenomena. She did know I'd moved, though: She also knew my work had moved. And she knew I was going to see my father after slightly more than four years . . .
The very next day my eighty-one-year-old Dad shows up. He's with my brother on the last leg of a seven-day road trip from Georgia. In New York, they’re stopping over at the Princeton Club and having Sunday brunch at the Algonquin. Then they're going to see my Dad's boyhood friend, Lucian. So, I walk into the brunch, O.K., to see my father plowing into the dining room in his wheelchair, and his hair is all over. He looks like this mad genius musical conductor. Immediately, the serving staff thinks he IS a mad genius musical conductor and seats him at the famous Round Table. They start asking him why he's been gone so long and when he's going to come back again for his birthday parties. . . . I mean, my father never went to Princeton. He's never set foot in the Algonquin. I say to my brother, “O.K. what's the deal? You two win at Lotto or what?" He says, "Can't you even once make your old man happy?"
I just get served the eggs Benedict, thinking this can be great, thinking this is the first real meal I've had in weeks as my father puts down his fourth shot of Old Fitzgerald and says, "Well, we did that. Time to go see Lucian." My brother then says to me, "Take care of the tab, fancy boy." I say, "Wait a minute. I thought you were taking care of this.” And my brother says to me, “You're the one who's been a little remiss for slightly more than four years. You take care of it." I say, "Yeah, but that's because seeing you people makes me CRAZY.” And I start flailing around trying to dig my debit card and twenty bucks out of my trousers, saying, "I just spent my last sixty bucks yesterday." And my brother says, "So stiff the waiter!"
The next thing I know–after I've done exactly that, giving my brother lead time to load my father into their rented BMW—we land in a rundown tenement on the Lower East Side. I try to tell them that Lucian has had a stroke. I try to explain that Lucian hasn't talked in eleven months and has been practically comatose. I try to tell them that Lucian doesn’t recognize me. I try to tell them that he’s in the hands of the Visiting Nurse Service of New York. I try to tell them that Lucian is totally dispossessed and 1ives in abject poverty. I try to tell them that there’s nothing more anyone can do and that I don’t go anymore to see him. So my father says to this veritable corpse lying shrunken and decrepit in the stench of that apartment: "Get up Lucian. It's time to get down on that field and practice." And, suddenly, Lucian, who is about to go at any moment, becomes lucid. He opens his eyes and says, "Hey Mac, how you doing?" So my father says, “Oh, I'm pretty qood, what about you?" And Lucian says, "Can't complain." And my father starts crawling into bed with Lucian to give him a rubdown, and they start whispering to each other as if they’re little kids planning to run away to see the world.
My brother, the entrepreneur, finally decides to unveil his plan, whereby, we should sell all of our family's property back to ourselves so that we can create an estate. “I gotta buy back my bronzed baby shoes?” I ask. He's says they'd be cheaper if I bought them before Dad dies. "How long's that?" I say, just to be flip, and he says, "Toscanini's got four months, tops. Cancer." And, suddenly, I realize that the brunch at the Algonquin was my father's way of saying goodbye to me.
And, suddenly, I realize that neither of us expect to see each other again.
And, suddenly, I realize he’s saying goodbye to Lucian right now.
I hope death means floating on the ceiling until the ambulance arrives. I hope it's like passing through an invisible curtain. I hope there’s a tunnel of blue light where someone who once loved you comes to meet you. If we aren't all repenting some ghastly sin we've all committed, then why are we even here? I should have asked the psychic: How can we reach the invisible hand that will point us on the right path? Why won't it reveal itself?
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