It's summer! The first road trip was to SoCal (cold! windy!) to visit an 8-year-old just out of the hospital (she had a bout of pneumonia, but she's much better now) and other friends and relations, and to see the recording of The Importance of Being Earnest radio play, starring Charles Busch as Lady Bracknell, and our own James Marsters as Earnest/Jack. First time in-person sighting! Woo and hoo!
Sis-in-law was all set to go with us, but came down with a nasty fever, probably the same one that laid the 8-year-old low, and she handed her ticket over to MiAmor's son, Chip, with grace. Chip is a great guy, so very much like his da, and it was very nice to have a chance to hang out with him for an evening. We don't get to see him often enough since he's moved out of town, and those 20-somes can be awfully slippery for parentals to pin down, as we all remember from our own 20s. Also, he knows his Wilde, and he was crazy to see Mr. Busch, so he was all in.
The play took place in an intimate space, around 300 seats. Interested parties have probably already heard the gist, which was that there was a row of microphones across the front of the stage, a row of chairs across the back, and a table off to the side for the foley artist. There were just suggestions of costumes, no sets, and not much in the way of blocking, other than an actor backing off a mic when their character would be "off-stage". We heard from the director before the play, some nonsense about how, without this play, humor as we know it would never have happened. I adore Earnest, but I think that social satire was already well developed by the time it came along in 1895. Exhibits A, B, and C are Jane Austen, William Makepeace Thackeray, and my beloved Gilbert & Sullivan. As always, you may feel completely free to disagree. We were given our minimal instructions, punctuated by the foley guy hoisting a hilariously enormous "Applause" sign. Those sound effects people are such cards.
The cast filed out, scripts in hand, took their seats, and we were off. All the actors were really wonderful, with special mention going to Matthew Wolf, who played Algernon/Jack with all the insouciance of a British, Victorian surfer dude, and to Emily Bergl, who played Cecily with an utterly devastating charm. This company uses her a lot, I think. Sarah Zimmerman was a fantastic, elegant Gwendolyn, and Charles Busch was terrifying and believable as Lady Bracknell. Too, too perfect. Of course, you all want to hear about James, and so you shall.
The short version is that he was great, of course. He was wearing a black turtleneck, trousers, and shiny man shoes. I'm no expert on English accents, but mad_brilliant_ says he acquitted himself well, so I bow to her superior knowledge. To me, he sounded quite Spike-like, about which I have no complaints. He sounded a bit more "upscale" than Spike, but not anywhere near William, and nothing like as plumy as Algernon. Which I think makes sense, since his character is supposedly a country gentlemen, while Algy is definitely a city boy. So his voice had a harder quality (which I associate with Spike), but not coarse. For someone who doesn't claim to know much about accents, I do go on, don't I?
I hadn't quite realized what a straight man dear Jack is in the first half of the play. He only gets in a couple of zingers, being Earnest and all. I was starting to think that James was being somewhat wasted, but Jack comes roaring out in the second half with tons of great dialog, and the closing line/title. He went from despair to triumph, he smirked, he tilted his head. According to MiAmor, he did that thing with his mouth! (But no tongue.) It was quite satisfying.
McDiva was happy with the staging, because the actors were required to make character’s kissing noises on their own hands. No actual kissing was witnessed, which she thinks is a Very Good Thing. There was also amusing eating of bananas and toast fingers by the actors, so that it would sound right when they talked with their mouths full, from filching cucumber sandwiches and muffins. The foley artist was busy pouring tea, rattling saucers, rifling book pages, and patting the handbag. Teatime was apparently quite exciting and action packed, back in the day.
Afterward, the actors came out to meet and greet, and James was instantly in the middle of a scrum of Stage Door Jills. He was very engaging, signing autographs and posing for photos, chatting a mile-a-minute with everybody. I asked a couple of the ladies if they were on LJ, and they said they were, but I didn’t recognize any of their user names, so I guess we travel in different f-lists. There were 14 of them going to every show, I understand. It was a bit overwhelming. Still, they were very friendly, and eventually noticed that McDiva was waiting for her moment with James while taller people muscled forward. Apparently she was under the impression that she should be patient. Who raised this kid?
They (the SDJs) grabbed her and thrust her into James’ orbit. He immediately bent down to greet her, very quietly and gently. He fell into photo pose, holding her shoulder (very gently) while I bobbled the camera and asked permission. “Of course!” Thank god the #@%$ camera decided to cooperate, unlike with Nathan Fillion at Comic-Con last year. Afterward, I thanked him most sincerely, and he made eye contact while assuring me it was no trouble at all and that he was moved that I would trust him with so precious a gift as my clearly exceptional child, something he understands, being a parent himself. Heh. Not really. Well, he did make eye contact and he said something, but I really couldn’t tell you what. There was a lot of meaning packed into his gaze though. You all know he can say a lot with a look, right? We communicated. Deeply.
He then dragged McDiva off to the table he was using for autographs and very graciously did two of them for her (she wanted to give one to her friend in honor of her 13th birthday), and chatted amiably with her. When she showed me the autograph later, it read, “Bite me, James Marsters.” “He asked if it was okay, mom!” she insisted. Someday she’s going to understand why I think that’s so funny, but today is not that day.
McDiva and I fell back to squee over her victory, and to be happy that she didn’t say, “My hat has a cow,” as she feared she might. When I looked again, MiAmor and Chip were moving in for a meet ‘n’ greet, so McDiva and I got into photo-snapping position, again. James looked a little surprised (and relieved) to be approached by a couple of guys, and he immediately flung his arms around both their shoulders in a manly fashion (no longer gentle) for the photo.
Have I mentioned that my slashy little heart was not so secretly hoping for a photo of James with MiAmor? MiAmor is quite amused by this, and tells me that I’m very naughty. Which he likes about me, apparently. Mission accomplished, MiAmor chatted him up, telling him how much he enjoys his performances, and how he’s looking forward to seeing him in many more roles. Compliments delivered, we headed out for more family photo ops by the fountain, but not before I grabbed Charles Busch’s arm and gushed all over him. Poor man.
It wasn’t until 2 days later, driving back to San Francisco, that I realized that I was the only family member not to partake in the laying on of hands. Huh. Oh well. I have photos of my nearest and dearest with one of our favorite artists, so I’ve got no complaints. Bonus, I got to hear his dirty giggle in person! MiAmor reports James has a cute, bony shoulder. That will have to be enough for me.
P.S. I was so excited by the line, "What the slashy heck?" in the web comic, that I am still doing the happy dance. It might be pathetic, but all I can think is, "Joss knows us! He is conversant in our language! He noticed us!" Then I beg for a treat.
Anyway, if you thought that was bleak, keep reading to page 13 of DHP, Gilbert Hernandez' Dreamstar story. I'm probably going to stop by Dark Horse on Monday to crash MiAmor's editorial meeting, so I might get a chance to poke my head into Scott Allie's office. Any messages?
*ducks the rotten fruit*