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The Best Kind of Madness

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The Best Kind of Madness

Albert Dayan as Lloyd DallasPhoto by Daren Scott

Jason Heil drove up to my hometown of Los Angeles to see a play, not cast one. But there we were, sitting in the audience of a theatre in Glendale, when my friend of many years floated a completely insane idea.

“Hey, you interested in auditioning for a play that begins rehearsals in a week?”

“I doubt it. Wait. Where’s it going up?”

“At Cygnet. In San Diego.”

What’s so insane about that? Well, for one thing, I am the father of an 11-month-child. And by father, I don’t mean a “show-up-in-the-evenings-and-pat-him-on-the-head” dad. No, I’m talking about a “full-time, daddy-day-care, I’m-the-one-who-gets-him-to-take-his-nap” dad. Moving to San Diego in a week’s time would effectively turn my wife into a single mom for the month it would take her to join me with our son, and leaving would also mean shuttering my tutorial business smack dab in the middle of its most profitable time of year. Jason, as usual, was entirely out of his mind.

“Sounds great. I’ll check with Katharine,” I told him.

A week later, there I was in the rehearsal room at Cygnet’s office, getting ready for the first read-through of Noises Off. It had all happened so fast. Seated around the table was a spectacularly talented cast. As luck would have it, a few among them were students or former students of mine. I’ve long taught a weekly acting class in San Diego and now, to my great delight, I’d be performing opposite several of them. Also in the show were San Diego luminaries Jonathan McMurtry and Rosina Reynolds, who I knew by reputation to be dauntingly talented actors. My role? Director Lloyd Dallas, the one who bosses them around.

Rehearsals turned out to be a blast, albeit a mind-numbing, exhausting blast. Anyone who’s done Noises Off can confirm for you two key things: one, it’s a hell of a good time and two, performing it is like running a marathon… in a blender… with a blindfold on. It’s the kind of show that leaves you with war stories. Just ask Rosina about her daily battle with the phone cord, or Sandy Campbell how I spit all over her, or Craig Huisenga how hard it is to make your pants fall off on cue. Ask Sean Murray how he manages, day in, day out, to keep us from accidentally killing each other.

Heading into previews I’m excited as hell. From the beginning, this whole journey for me has been absolutely the best kind of madness. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. As my character Lloyd so aptly puts it in Act One, “That’s farce, that’s theatre, that’s life.”