WILLIE: I'm gonna tell you something now I never told you in my entire life. I hate your guts.
AL: You told it to me on Monday.
WILLIE: Then I'm telling it to you again.
from The Sunshine Boys by Neil Simon
|Burns and Matthau|
|Koslofsky and Martin|
|I even got a chair like Archie's|
Every night for nearly two hours I yell and carry-on like a lunatic – and Willie is as screwy as they come. (My favorite line in the entire show is delivered by my co-star, Bill. After Willie gloats in what he feels is sweet vindication at receiving a long-awaited apology Al says to him: “What did you get? You got no apology from me which you didn't accept.” Exactly). On the drive home, I'm usually pretty bushed and my vocal chords need a bit of a rest. I'm not an angry person. Sure, like anyone else, I get ticked off from time to time at slow-moving traffic and the dumbness of people in general. But I never realized until playing Willie how exhausting it can be to be so angry – even if you're just pretending! What's more, Willie has got inside my head a bit so that lately I find myself more tense, more frustrated at people, more quick to make judgmental statements about them (in my car, on my lawnmower, even on my early morning runs). Linda thinks some of Willie even leaked into my message last Sunday morning – egad! Get thee behind me, Satan (and Willie, too!)
I talked with my daughter, Emma, about these things yesterday. She's a theater major after all. I asked her how she plays characters that are slightly (or majorly) insidious. Her reply is that you have to be careful. You have to protect yourself. Last fall she played the inner voice that preyed on the fears of a 12-year-old girl. In the week or two before the run of their show, that voice started to prey on her own fears. Through prayer and the Word she shielded her heart but admittedly it wasn't easy.
|For all that, it's a lot of laughs...|
Frankly, when I started to try Willie on for size I had fun with it. I relished the idea of playing a guy so very unlike me. After all, I get to swear – in public, no less – without any feeling of guilt (it's acting, after all). But night after night after night of it – he's got to me a bit. I'm still glad and honored at the opportunity to do so and I think I've done a good job of it (or so say a lot of people; one lady told me she had seen this at The Guthrie and – her words - “You were as good – if not, better – than that guy's performance”) Maybe part of it is I don't like the fact that there's a bit of Willie inside of me – perhaps a few layers down – who while not as prejudicial as he is is very opinionated about the way certain people choose to live their lives. Usually I prefer to keep those thoughts to myself as no real good can come of expressing them out loud – especially the way he does it. But dang it, sometimes Willie just doesn't know his place.