A quiet little play with so many voices you can’t be certain who’s speaking. That’s how it struck me. I mean, just reading it. Then, just hearing it. It seemed simple. A father and a daughter, and all the complexity of that sort of relationship. A stranger who is crazy as hell. Or is he frightened? And, if so, of what? And why don’t the father and daughter care? And what the heck is he doing in their house? And why the heck don’t they care that he is? All of that is on the surface. Then there’s so much more underneath all that.
When Lowell asked me to do the reading of his play, The Middle of the Night, eons ago, I said yes immediately, first, because it was Lowell asking me, and second, because I knew that if he wrote it, I was bound to like it. Then I read it, and it touched chords so deep within my psyche that I knew this play would be good for me even if it wasn’t for anyone else… that’s just the selfish sort of gal I am. Really, what I loved was that the play left so many possibilities open to interpretation. And I love a story that makes you think. When Lowell asked me to play the part of Rosemary a year or so later, I was thrilled, first, because it was Lowell asking me, and second, because I thought it was a role that I needed… not for professional reasons… but for a myriad of emotional ones… and, third, because I truly felt that this was a play that needed to be seen. I think Lowell is on the cusp of becoming one of those American writers folks who “know” point at and say, “Now there’s an excellent example of a fine American playwright!”. And as Robert Faires perfectly suggested of The Middle of the Night, it’s akin to a sort of “Little House on the Pinter Prairie”, and Sam Shepard’s “weird, weird west”…. but something all its own.
Why? Because it captures the horrors of our minds. Our ability to selectively fear, or block out. Our need to recognize terror, or to ignore it… to acknowledge pain and suffering, or to maintain a sort of stoicism. But it’s funny… like life can be… and it’s sad… like life can be… and it’s real… like life is, but we frequently deny by putting up little walls with pretty pictures, and filling scrapbooks with “good” memories.
Then, there was the fabulous opportunity to work with Jud Jones and Travis Dean…. Jud who without a word conveyed the horror of his world for 84 minutes, pulling me to the brink of tears, pushing me toward laughter, prodding me with the pain and fear he felt… and Travis who embodied “crotchety” for stretches of time, oozed into paternal silliness, then dripped down into the bucket of a pathetic existence. As director, Lowell guided this skewed world into something that felt very real to us… to me anyway. And, over the course of our luxuriously long rehearsal process, I began to live in Rosemary’s mind more and more. Sometimes irritatingly so.
Have you ever had a song stuck in your head? Imagine a person stuck there. And she talks, and thinks in ways that you haven’t and don’t… and her off-kilter thought processes begin to guide you in your regular everyday life…. She doesn’t drive, and suddenly your driving stinks… She doesn’t think about anything beyond the crossword puzzles she sees in the paper… and since you hate crossword puzzles that leaves you with very little to think about. At the same time, she hears voices all her own. A mother she doesn’t remember… a father she cannot abide… and knight in shining armor that never arrives…. I think I understand where Sybil was coming from now. Up my medication some and I’ll get through it. But how incredible! I have been a professional actress for (ohmygosh) 20 years now, and I have rarely had the opportunity to create as full a world as I was able (and encouraged) to create in The Middle of the Night. Not that I’m a “method” actress…. I’m not, really… well, unless you consider my own method to be “method”… but the way Lowell directed allowed for so much time to really THINK and FEEL what was happening in the world of the play. Uh…. See? He’s a darn fine director, too!
All those dirigo group folks are extremely creative, with hearts in the right place… trying to keep theater an ART FORM… Lowell’s wonderful play and direction supported by Andrea Cortez’ brilliant set designs, and Robert Fisher’s complex sound compositions, and Christa Kimlicko Jones’ gracious ticket-taking-refreshment-peddling-artistic-directing, and Ellie McBride’s kindly food-burning, and assistance… allowed me to feel free to do what I love to do, and, after all, that is all an actor really wants. Right? For Lowell, I hope The Middle of the Night is seen again, and again, on other stages, and in other incarnations… because it’s a really fine piece of theater, and because we all need to think about those things we try so hard not to think about.