Honolulu Lite

by Charles Memminger

Wednesday, April 30, 1997

Actor reveals
his vast body of work

IT'S been noted by sophisticated theater critics that I have an acting range from A to B, meaning that I have the ability to project an amazingly narrow span of emotion on stage in front of lots of people, chiefly pure undiluted fear.

So when I was asked to play a dead body in this Saturday's Hawaii Theatre benefit, "An Evening of Mystery," I thought, no problem.

I'm no master actor, like, say, Ernest Borgnine, but I figured I could play a dead guy. In fact, if I really prepared for the role, I could probably bring new dimensions to the part. I could play a bloated dead guy.

So I went to work preparing for my part, in the manner that Robert DeNiro prepared for the later scenes of "Raging Bull," namely, eating a lot.

"You're eating like a pig," my wife said, as I downed a couple of tacos.

Honey, I said, you just don't understand art. An actor has to become the part. I'm going to be the best bloated dead guy ever to take to a Hawaii stage, by God.

"Yeah? Well get off the bed," she said. "You're getting salsa all over the pillows."

Get up? I asked. Get out of bed? At one in the afternoon? What's my motivation?

"Your motivation is that if you don't get your fat butt out of bed, I'm going to clobber you with this broomstick."

Ah, I said thoughtfully. Intense physical pain. Impending serious injury. I see. Yes. I am motivated to get out of bed. Maybe you do understand art.

SO everything was going fine in my growth as an actor until the script was delivered the other day. As I flipped through it I realized that, yes, I would be playing the dead guy, Maximillian Rich, but that through a series of flashbacks, he comes to life and has to actually do more than simply lie on the stage projecting impending rigor mortis. He has to do all kinds of advanced acting stuff, like "walk toward Kimo with a moody expression" and "give a boy a fatherly hug" and "step back and begin to laugh and look seductively at Lauren."

I know nothing about this kind of stuff. I tried a variety of moody expressions in the mirror and they came off alternately goofy, deranged and psychotic. I tried to do "seductive" but the best I could come up with was "creepy," "leering" and "constipated."

And let's not even talk about giving boys fatherly hugs. There is way too much leeway for misinterpretation there. One person's fatherly hug is another's felony abuse.

I started tearing through the pages of the script. It got worse. At one point, I'm supposed to wipe blood on the boutonniere of my tuxedo. I'm not a tuxedo kind of guy. The only one I've ever worn is one of those blue ones with the frilly shirts that we wore at the high school prom. I don't know what a boutonniere is. Why do they have to throw Spanish words in an American script?

I realized it was too late to back out. Besides, it's my own fault for agreeing to take the part without looking at the script first. You think Dustin Hoffman agreed to do "Tootsie" without knowing he was going to have to dress up like a girl? Would Jim Carrey have agreed to be in a turkey like "The Cable Guy" if he, well, never mind. You get the idea.

I'm locked in. But don't let that stop you from going to the benefit. It's a little pricey, $150 a seat. But it's for a good cause and remember Colin Powell, Bill Clinton and George Bush yammering about the importance of volunteering these days. Volunteer a little of your money to the Hawaii Theatre.

There will be some extremely talented (and experienced) people in the cast who know what they are doing, such as Devon Guard, Laurence Paxton, Glenn Cannon, Stefanie Smart and Tina Shelton.

It'll be easy to tell us apart. They'll be the ones acting. I'll be the one wishing I were dead.

Charles Memminger, winner of
National Society of Newspaper Columnists
awards in 1994 and 1992, writes "Honolulu Lite"
Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Write to him at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin,
P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, 96802

or send E-mail to charley@nomayo.com or

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