Friday, November 20, 2009

Stagger Lee Walks Tall in "The Caretaker"

Matthew Carter, Seàn Patrick Judge (a great name for an actor), and Greg Dean are now performing Harold Pinter's The Caretaker in a nigh-abandoned store front in a downtown Houston strip mall, the tatty atmospherics of which meld nicely with the gloom of the decrepit one room living quarters-cum-storage room on stage.  The three Houston actors decided one day to "put on a show," and without director, but with the support of stage manager Abbie Falk, managed to rehearse and produce a very entertaining play:  they make it easy to remember that Harold Pinter is funny.  Greg Dean's Davies physicalizes and vocalizes bewilderment, gratitude, fear, and down-and-outness with invention and guts.  Seàn Patrick Judge's Aston is all wide-eyed creepy innocence.  Matthew Carter's Mick is all narrow-eyed innocent creepiness.  Each of the three manage to wear a different kind of groove into the dusty carpets of the one room their lives entangle in, and they rarely fall into any one rut, or unconsciously mimic one another--their bodies all moving differently, in different tempos and rhythms, and voices finding different thicknesses of cockney or welsh inflected dialects.  The staging is as simple as it can be, but complete.  It doesn't look as if it cost much money, but it's full, not a minor accomplishment for three guys working on a shoe string, and holding down full-time jobs, to boot.

I went to the show both because I trust the actors--having seen Judge work before--and because I and fellow UH MFA '09 grads may well mount one or two shows ourselves, in the coming months.  I wanted inspiration and I got it.  

The first show I was ever paid to act in was similarly put up by several guys, in Portland, Or, who'd been carrying the script of Glengarry Glen Ross around in their back pockets for years, and to this day that show remains one of my favorite performance experiences.  There is no such thing as 'essential' or 'basic' or 'pure' theater (which I recently heard a young actor call such shoestring productions), because almost by definition, theater is extraneous.  It is all ritual and pageantry--all spectacle--down to its roots, unconnected with the daily tasks of survival.  The most 'realistic' or 'naturalistic' theater out there is, at it's heart, spectacular, even if it's on a bare stage (e.g., Shakespeare's plays had little or no scenery, but they did employ extravagant costumes and language.)  BUT, we actors do well to remind ourselves that we don't necessarily need big budgets or props or supporting funds to create satisfying, right-sized, dramatic spectacle.  All we really need is passion, commitment and skill to do so.  Most of the time, I do want real financial and material support from others to make theater, if for no other reason than our capitalist society makes it almost impossible for us to sustain our energies to do excellent work again and again, without it (e.g., we need to hold down day jobs!)  But, some of the time, we should thumb our nose at all that, and pick ourselves up by our own bootstraps.  We refuel ourselves when we do.  Cleanse our palettes.  Get better at our craft.  And delight our equally dedicated audiences.

Go see The Caretaker.  It's cheap, and you'll be entertained.  You may find performance information on Facebook.  Search for "Stagger Lee," and you're there.


stagger lee said...

thank you so much for the kind comments. it was great to have you and your lovely wife in the audience. all the best, david.

David Millstone said...

You're welcome, Stagger Lee. But, my lovely companion said to tell you she's my "wench on Tuesdays and Thursdays," my girlfriend every day, and my wife only in my dreams. We're not married.

stagger lee said...


Seánalation said...

David, you are one hell of a writer! So eloquently put...thank you again for your amazing support for the show. I look forward to seeing your bootstrap productions!!