Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Halfway House Club closes...Paul has left the building

The Halfway House Club closed last night. We ran three nights; the fourth--Friday night--was canceled because of the snow. Ah, the snow. We still have a major storm raging out there. Snow, now turning to ice. Gotta love this New England weather. (We canceled, but that left time for us to head out in the blizzard to Club Passim to hear Lori Mckenna's solo set.)

was a good run. An interesting story. My kind of story and play. As an actor, I'm being even more choosy than ever. Looking for just the right parts. Looking for plays that resonate with my viewpoint of life and the world. I don't care about the old chestnuts anymore, if I ever did. They have their place, and God love the theaters and the actors and directors who keep them alive. I'm looking for the plays that have meaning today; not the ones written in the 1950s who people excuse with, "but they have just as much relevance today as they did fifty years ago." Well, maybe. But they've been beaten to death, and I'm looking for new ground to break.

I always have a favorite line or lines in a play that just dig right down to the core for me. I have to. I always look for those lines, and in The Halfway House Club, these were the lines, spoken by Ann to Paul, my character, a philanderer who said he never hit a woman in his life:

"Maybe no physically. But emotionally you've hit them. You've hit them harder than you ever could possibly with your own hands. Being cheated on. Having your heart broken. It's as if you're being stabbed. Slowly. And painfully. Without remorse."

It's true. As a society, we've yet to recognize that people who harm people emotionally are just as much thugs as people who physically harm people. Maybe even more so, because people who hurt others emotionally tend to do it consistently because that's just what they've learned to do; that's how they've learned to get what they want. If I hit someone, I can be hauled off to jail, and for good reason. But the person who seriously hurts someone emotionally is allowed to continue their behavior. If I were run over by a bus, no one in their right mind would say, just shake it off. But someone can run over me with a bus emotionally, and what's the first thing out of most people's mouths? Just shake it off. Forget about it. Move on. It's not right. As a society we should recognize that these emotional batterers are just as nasty as anyone else who hurts someone. And as a species, we should realize that there is a part of us that, even though we can't see it, can still be hurt in the same way as a physical part of us. As Ann says, the pain is the same. That should tell us something.

It's a good play, and Philana Gnatowski, the playwright who also played Samantha, is well on her way to having a really great play. The setting is a halfway house for people with broken hearts. My character, Paul, cheated on every woman he's ever been with. What brought him to the halfway house was he finally cheated on the one woman he loved. With a little imagination, we set up a world where, because Paul's father left him when he was ten, he became frightened whenever he found himself in a real relationship. The ensuing battles between all the characters, to paraphrase Paul, raises some good issues about the way men and women interact. And finally, on closing night, I, as Paul, was able to look across the stage at Philana who was playing Samantha, and see the character as just a younger Paul, and hating myself, or what I had become, and not wanting her to follow my path, I was able to cross the stage and stop her from hating me, and thereby I stopped hating myself. A nice bit of theater.

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