Acting becomes you, my dear...
March 16, 2007 - 13:11.
Twenty-one years ago, as the mother of a newborn, I stayed home for a while on maternity leave, and I got hooked on daytime television. At first it was idle entertainment. Then it became important for me to find out whether Erica Kane would discover her daughter Bianca’s secret, and if the knowledge would cause a rift between them, and what gallant knight would finally ride to their rescue, but only after destroying the one piece of evidence that could reveal his true identity.
Family members noticed the unwarranted drama with which I responded to questions like, “Hey, could you grab the ketchup?”
Ketchup? What are you saying? That my meatloaf isn’t good enough? What else have you been hiding from me?
The weird part was that I could feel it happening—feel my head tilting upward and ever so slightly to the side. Feel my chin twitch and my eyes go steely. Feel my body whirling around to face my accuser. I allowed it. I had let Days into my life.
I remembered this during act two of Act a Lady at Illusion Theater. Costumes and cosmetics turned the men into delightfully ghastly-looking women—especially the freshly exhumed Romala von Plofsdorf (Fred Wagner)—but it was acting as ladies that transformed their outlook and, to varying degrees, affected their behavior.
I found act one to be mostly silly, as I’m not much for gender jokes. I love to laugh (and did), but in the theater, I also want to feel tension. Toward the end, I got my wish. I actually worried that the men-cum-ladies wouldn’t be able to change back into themselves after the show-within-a-show. The affectations that had served them as actors threatened to topple a 20-year marriage, hobble a budding romance, and cause community outrage. Thank God they managed to snap out of it, just as I did when I finally quit watching the soaps.
Maybe this is why Hollywood couples don’t last. Maybe they get into character and can’t quite get out. Inside their masks and their makeup, their accents and their accoutrements, who’s to say they’re not transformed? Who’s to say we’re not in danger of becoming what we watch on TV? On the other hand, who’s to say we can’t learn something of value from vicarious experience? (I think we can and do, whether we like it or not.)
“You can’t tell a lady by her high, shiny shoes,” belts out Dorothy (Greta Grosch) to the strains of her accordion. “You can tell a lady by her walk.”
I think it’s both. I believe that to transform, you need new shoes to walk around in. By the same token, Jimmy Choos alone don’t make the lady; nor do Bruno Maglis make the man. You’ve got to change the walk. And if you’ve ever traded hiking boots for heels, you know you just can’t walk the same.
Written by award-winning playwright-to-watch Jordan Harrison and directed by everywhere-all-the-time collaborator and Theater Latté Da founding artistic director Peter Rothstein, this play should be of special interest to anyone who’s ever been on stage.
Act a Lady runs through Saturday, March 17—only two more shows. For tickets or a value card that gives you $100 worth of shows for $75, visit illusiontheater.org or call 612-339-4944.