Who Are You People?
At the intermission of the first preview, the four male actors in Triumph of Love try to figure out just how accurate a barometer this first audience is of future audiences in terms of their reaction to the show.
In our surprisingly spacious seeming dressing room- I've never been in a cast at Cal Shakes with so few men in it- we are all still flushed from our efforts in the first act and reassuringly gratified by the information this first audience has given us: that our production has lots of laughs, that about 80% of our painstakingly crafted bits do, in fact, actually work and that our hard work in the rehearsal hall seems to be paying off. Big time.
But who are those people out there? Several theories are bandied about between the dressing room tables. The first thought is that they are savvy theatre types who come to the preview because they like to be in on the process, or as Comic Maestro Dan Hiatt opines: "They come to see the show before all the bits are cut." Another theory is that the first preview audiences are the equivalent of traffic accident lookee-loos, there to see the possible missteps that a first audience may engender. (Fortunately we're too well rehearsed to supply that particular brand of schadenfreude.) Yet another theory is that they're just cheap and want to save a couple bucks on the ticket price.
Regardless, the concensus in the dressing room is that if all the audiences turn out to be this responsive and generous, we're in for a terrific run.
But actors are a paranoid lot and we all secretly wonder whether this first audience is a trustworthy indicator of what we can expect from future audiences.
The Aspidistra Effect
And there were some (pleasant) surprises. One that comes to mind is a recurring gag- maybe a little less Marivaux and a little more Groag- regarding the fictitious name Princess Leonide uses in her gambit in this philosopher's garden. Off the top of her head she comes up with the unlikely name Aspidistra for herself. Much rehearsal time was spent developing the various mispronunciations that nearly all the other characters in the play struggle with in trying to address her. Doubts as to whether this somewhat dog eared gag would work were quickly and resoundingly quelled when every permutation, from the first utterance of the name to the last Aspi-dissy-sissy, was met with gales of laughter. Who Knew? Lillian did. And as she said herself in that day's pre preview rehearsal: "There are no cheap laughs. A laugh is a laugh no matter how cheap."
Speaking of cheap laughs, I was gratified to discover that my hijinks with the onstage fountain and its adorable Eros sculpture seemed to flow (or squirt, as the case may be) rather nicely and though we all somehow mistrust that first adrenaline producing preview audience, the feeling at the end of the show (once the audience had filed out and we went back to work fixing some small technical glitches) was decidedly upbeat and positive. Tomorrow night we get to see if all this hilarity was a fluke. My fingers are crossed 'cuz this first preview was a ball!