Sunday, November 6, 2011

A Deal to Make You Get Little Shivers

          Actors have directors to guide them to the perfect performance. Who does a writer have?

          Minus two points if you said "His mother". Unless his mother is Dorothy Parker. Which would fabulous but highly unlikely.

          So where does a writer turn to find truly valuable feedback, from experienced, knowledgeable readers? Don't torment yourself; I shall tell you straight out. Get it from professionals. And, if you can, get it for a discount.

          Here's how:

The "Little Shivers" Coverage Contest

          The amazing folks at are exactly the kind of professionals you want...and they are rewarding readers of my short story collection "Little Shivers" with discounts off their invaluable coverage services! You read six creepy stories, tell me which one you liked best (and why) and you get 10% to 25% off the professional coverage that provides.  

          You get 10% off just for entering this contest!!! If you win, you get 15% extra: a total of 25% off! 

Here's all you do:

1. Read "Little Shivers".
Email me and tell me what your favorite story was (and why) by
December 31st, 2011. Come January, you'll get an email with a code for 10% off!
3. I'll pick a winner! If you're it, you'll get a full 25% off and I'll announce it here on my blog!

          Neat, huh? I don't work for or own any part of I just think they're good people who can help take a script to the next level. I think you will, too. So are you ready to do it? Just get "Little Shivers", read it and email me by December 31, 2011!

          Don't know where to get “Little Shivers"? It's available for Kindle at and for Nook at Barnes& If you don't have a Kindle or a Nook, don't worry: you can download a free app from Amazon that will let you read the Kindle version available there.

          All discount codes will be delivered January 2012. So you'll start the new year armed with a little something to get your next script ready for the big screen.

          Use the links above and get "Little Shivers" today...and get discounts for professional feedback on your own writing this New Years!

          It's easy!

          It's fun!

          And who doesn't like a good scare?


Saturday, October 15, 2011

I was in HELL

Me & Brent Spiner on the FRESH HELL set

I was in Hell.  

It’s true.  And it was a blast.

For those of you unfamiliar with the actor Brent Spiner, rather than admonish you, I will simply state that he’s a multi-talented actor who has brought many memorable characters to life.  Besides originating the role of Franz/Dennis in the original Broadway production of Stephen Sondheim’s “Sunday in the Park with George”, he also made impressions on television (“Night Court”, “Friends” “Frazier”, etc.) and in film (“Independence Day”, “I Am Sam”, etc.).  But he is probably best known for his role as Lt. Commander Data on “Star Trek: The Next Generation”.

Mr. Spiner had begun a new web series called “Fresh Hell” in which, due to a mysterious incident, a version of himself is trapped at the bottom rung of a crazy showbiz world.  His manager reads tarot cards, his agent often wears no pants, and his neighbor (adorably played by Kat Steel) is a kooky porn “actress”, trying to hone her craft.

Loaded with referential humor, insider jokes, stinging satire and belly laughs, “Fresh Hell” is a fun ride.  And I got the honor of taking part in an episode for season two. 

The shoot is a breeze:  the crew is an exceptionally congenial and efficient group, which makes the logistics of the shoot trouble-free.  It's also a bucket of fun because Brent and Kat are about as down-to-earth and charming as you could wish--as are the writer, Harry Hannigan, and director, Christopher Ellis.  Then there's the script; it's so screamingly funny that we all lost the fight at times to refrain from bursting out laughing during the first rehearsals of each take.  So much talent and good energy; it couldn’t have been a better experience.  In fact, it was the best day in Hell I've ever had.

I recommend everyone watch season one, if you haven’t.  And then watch for me in season two as a Guido in Brent’s acting class. 

Me & Kat Steel on the FRESH HELL set

Friday, October 7, 2011

Fun on the Red Carpet


A while back I had been one of the leads in a short film by director Phil Volken. The film is called “The Great Venice Robbery” and I played a hapless, stuttering homeless urchin named Pookie. It was an exceptionally clever and fun film. Phil had now gone on to direct a feature called “Garbage” which was to have its premiere at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and he extended an invitation to me which I gladly accepted. The film was a satire on the Hollywood celebrity machine and featured cameos of Daryl Hannah, Michael Madsen, William Baldwin and Steven Bauer. Sounded like fun. 

My first thought was who to bring as my guest. The answer came almost as soon as the question entered my mind and I called up my friend Bill Oberst Jr.--a fellow actor and an indie horror film icon. Bill’s a warm, wise man who’s always good company so I was happy he accepted my invitation. We got ourselves duded up and arrived at the screening. 

As we waited to get onto the red carpet, we bumped into more friends: Ron Ranson (my fellow “Robbery” actor, who had a cameo in “Garbage”), adorable scream queen Devanny Pinn and handsome actor/director Brandon Slagle (who both worked with Bill on several projects). Then we hit the red carpet and let the photographers have their way with us. It’s always fun to see what photographers call to you and ask you for several poses or shots and which photographers look glazed over. I just get a kick out of wondering how many of the photos will turn out making me look like the undead. The dorky undead. 

We survive and take our seats for the show. Phil and producer Alina Shraybman speak beforehand, not looking a day older than the last time I saw them. Then the movie starts and the laughter begins. The whole experience is just about as much fun as you can have in a tux jacket…without getting plastered and making an embarrassing speech about a bride and groom. 

So...who wants to be my date for the next red carpet?

Friday, September 30, 2011

Welcome to the Party!

          Some people are party animals. 

          I’m more of a party begonia; a begonia in serious need of water.  By that I mean, if I don’t know folks at the party, I have trouble not planting roots in one spot and feeling like I’m slowly wilting.  I tell myself I probably feel far more stupid than I actually look.  I could be wrong.

          Now that may sound funny coming from a guy who’s an actor.  After all:  actors get up in front of hundreds of strangers and do all kinds of things, right?  They can’t be shy or socially awkward.  Well, I’m here to bust that myth wide open.

          On stage, in character, I’m whatever I need to be.  That’s true.  But the lines are all written and memorized and my attitude, stature and poise are all meticulously planned.  At a party, it’s all improv and it’s all me.  The trick is to be scintillatingly charming, quick-witted, anecdote rich and effortlessly photogenic me.   On a good day, I can be two out of three.  To try to be all four at once makes me feel like Sisyphus…with syphilis. 

          Now the other possibility is that the extroverted actor side of me only comes out when I’m on stage or in front of a camera…and the reclusive writer side of me skulks around at all other times.  This would make my life akin to a kind of twisted version of Superman:  put lights on me and I leap tall screenplays in a single bound; otherwise I’m all tongue-tied, clumsy Clark Kent. 

          But I throw myself out there into the party world and the rewards are worth it.  I get to see new places, meet new people and get out of my comfort zone—which is always good for growth and I’m a big proponent of growth.  (Or maybe, being only 5’7”, I’m just a little proponent of growth.  Yuk, yuk.)  Also, as an actor, it’s good to give new people the opportunity to meet me; I could be perfect for their next film.  I mean, they could be planning a sequel to “The 40 Year Old Virgin”, right? 

          The last industry party I manage to make an appearance at is a little different.  This is because I actually know a few people there which, thankfully, happens more and more as I  continue to work in the business. I still have to make my entrance alone (which always feels like I’m an ugly Cinderella arriving late to the ball) and wander through a mostly unfamiliar crowd.  But the venue is Boardner’s in Hollywood, which is a great space and the event—the opening night party of Shriekfest—is set up in spectacular fashion, with the red carpet leading directly to the food and drinks, the press upstairs and the music lively and festive.  

          I shuffle through the crowd and look for the few friends I am hoping to find.  For a gathering of horror fans and filmmakers, the crowd isn’t the least bit scary.  In fact: I wonder, as I circle, looking for familiar faces, if I’m actually starting to scare some people:  

          “That dude in the shiny blue shirt has walked by me three times.  Should we call security?” 

          Eventually, I do manage, to find most of my friends…and along the way, I meet a few really interesting folks.  And who knows which of them I may be working with next?  Or which of them will become one of the friends I'll be seeking out at the next party I haunt.

          Now:  did I feel completely comfortable at any time during the event?  If you read the first paragraph, you know that answer.  But you also know that I’m okay with the unease; challenges to my shy, social awkwardness help me to lessen its severity.  And it no doubt provides other people amusement and anecdotes to share at their next party:

          “Yeah, well he may be a great actor, but what a dork!  At the last party, he. . .”

Check out the Shriekfest Film Festival at:

Friday, September 16, 2011

“Husbands” and Art

          Can a raucous, silly web series actually be considered art?  Without me in it? 

          Actually, yes. 

          Sir Philip Sidney said the purpose of poetry is to “teach and delight”, meaning that for poetry to achieve greatness, it must do both. I think to do both in any artistic medium puts the resulting work on a higher level.  The new web series “Husbands” achieves both, flawlessly.

          With its premise based on the comedic tradition of the “happy idea”, the husbands of the series are a pair of secret, somewhat Odd Couple lovers who’ve had the happy idea to get hitched one blind-drunk night in Vegas.  Then they wake up with hangovers, wedding rings and total recall. Since they’re both in the public eye (one is an actor and one a baseball player), the news gets out fast.  Their only course of action is to make it all seem planned--thereby giving it a positive spin--and then to see the marriage through in order to remain the credible role models they desire to be.   Unexpected situations, crackling dialogue and a screwball best friend add to the hilarity.

          So “Husbands” does, indeed, delight.  But it also teaches.  We’ve all seen romantic comedies involving marriage (accidental or not) and how crazy it can get.  But the invention here is that the couple is made up of two gay men.  That not only makes it fresh, but allows for lessons by comparison:  we see the guys struggling with much the same things with which straight couples struggle (moving in together, compromise, new relatives, etc.), thus illuminating the fact that—at our cores—most of us are more or less the same, straight or gay.  
          Therefore, by successfully managing to teach and delight, I argue that “Husbands” is a work of art.  It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but what is?  And just because you don’t like a work of art, does not diminish it.  Some people have had homophobic reactions to the show, but these reflect attitudes of the viewers—attitudes which “Husbands” clearly offers an opportunity to consider and, hopefully, change.  Again:  it’s a show with many layers beyond its giddy, glitzy surface.  As such, “Husbands” is a trail-blazing triumph, a bold first step;  it will be fun to see what follows in its footsteps.

Watch “Husbands” at:

Husbands” is co-written by Jen Espenson and Brad Bell, directed by Jeff Greenstein and stars Sean Hemeon, Brad Bell and Alessandra Torresani.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Whore In The Window

          Conan, Craig Ferguson, Jimmy Fallon, Bill Maher, David Letterman.  What do these fine men have in common?  They haven’t interviewed me.  Yet.  

          Being interviewed is part of the job of being a celebrity or promoting a product, service or agenda.  It’s a way of letting people know about something.  Actors and writers need to do interviews in magazines, webzines, television and web shows to help broaden their audience.  If acting is like being a whore, then doing an interview is like being a whore in the window at the Moulin Rouge; it’s a glimpse of what you have to offer.   

          My latest whore-in-the-window stint (or “interview”, if you prefer) was actually a lot of fun.  And, money and fame aside, fun is the only real reason to do anything.  (Actually, fun is the only truly satisfying reason to do anything.)  I had been interviewed as a writer  by Actors Reporter a year or so ago for a production of my stage play “Cold Lang Syne”.  Now their sister station “Actors Entertainment” was having me talk about my acting as well. 

          The studio is small, but the atmosphere is warm and friendly.  Producer/director Pepper Jay meets me, offers me coffee and explains the logistics of the shoot, DP John Michael Ferrari gives me camera notes and my host, the beautiful Kristina Nikols, arrives looking like she just walked out of a glamour magazine.  As she alights next to me, I suddenly feel akin to Quasimodo.  I just needed a bell tower. 

          The show begins.  It’s a live chat show so we’re taking questions from online viewers.  What surprises me is that questions come almost immediately.  But it’s a kick because, if there weren’t any questions, we’d never know we were being watched.  (Well, we’d know, but it’s more fun to interact.  And I did mention “fun” is the name of the game.)   

          We talk about my acting and my writing and I answer all kinds of great questions posed by Kristina as well as by the folks out in cyberland. The amazing Assistant Editor Roxy Shih manages to insert all kinds of appropriate media into the frame as we talk not only about my projects, but about charities I support (like “The Trevor Project”) and even the double  rainbow that had made an appearance in the sky the night before.  Intern Josh Thrower expertly fields questions from the online viewers.  It's a well-run, very fun shoot.

          And, before I know it, we’re wrapping up and the show is over.  All good things, eh?  So until next time, thanks to the glory of technology, you can watch the interview if you missed it by clicking on the photo below.   Yeah:  the one of Beauty and the Beast!  ;)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Getting Wild


          After a film is shot, some folks may be surprised to learn the drama, in fact, continues.  It’s called “post production”, but it might as well be called “A Nightmare on Film Street”.  This is because it’s the phase where all those miles of footage have to be sewn together to (hopefully) make an awe-inspiring Frankenstein monster; a coherent, engaging story with the sounds and visuals working together to create movie magic.  It’s where you discover all the missing links, the bumps, the flaws…and painstakingly toil to make it all into a work of art. 

          One of the more common issues is finding that the take with the perfect visuals doesn’t have the best sound.  That’s when ADR (Automated Dialogue Replacement) happens.  Actors are brought back to re-record the lines that need to be cleaner.  It’s a little like lip-synching.  Think of those drag queens in “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” moving their lips to Gloria Gaynor singing “I Will Survive”.   It’s just like that that, only in reverse.  And without scary wigs.  The footage is played and you say the lines while your screen image moves his mouth. 

          Now that’s for re-recording lines that were already in the film.  Sometimes, you record new lines:  lines that help make a scene feel more fleshed out and realistic, lines that help close a lapse in exposition, lines that just bump up a joke or something.  These are called “wild” lines.  I did a whole slew of these for “Camp Virginovich”, a teen sex comedy in the vein of the “American Pie” movies.  I sat with the director and editor as we recorded handfuls of lines for various reasons.  They were all funny lines, but I noticed some of them augmented my character’s slightly inappropriate horn-dog behavior.  While my character may have had a wandering eye or hand, now and then, he was still basically a nice guy.  Now, even if they only use half of what we recorded, my character may go from goofy to creepy!  The great thing is, both actually suit the script, since my son’s a horn-dog as well, so it’s a win either way. 

          But that’s a hint of the magic of post production:  your character can change, scenes can disappear…all kinds of surprises for the cast at the premier.  I’ve had my share; it’s all part of the fun. 

          So keep your eyes open for “Camp Virginovich”.  It’ll be amusing to see what I’ve become; what the entire movie has become.   Just be warned:  it’s gonna be wild!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

You're a WHAT!?!

Schizophrenic.  Imbalanced.  Unfocussed.  These are a few of the suspicions you sometimes get when you reveal yourself as a hybrid actor/writer.  That’s changing as more and more artists cross lines and perform more than one profession.  But you still run across prejudice from time to time:  that one art takes necessary focus from the other; that you can’t do one as well as the other; that you can’t love one as much as the other.   So let me shatter those myths. 

Myth #1:  Your true calling takes all your focus:  you don’t have time for more.
Who says?  Lots of folks have two jobs in today’s world.  Most spend eight hours or less at one thing and the other eight at something else—often many things—completely unrelated to whatever they do in those first eight hours.  So spending some hours a day devoted to writing and some to acting shouldn’t make anyone balk.  When I’m performing in a film, obviously I spend significantly more hours acting than writing.  And when I’m not acting in a film, I spend more time writing.  As far as my focus and time, the two disciplines have a perfectly complementary relationship.  

Myth #2: You can't possibly do one as well as the other.
There are so many examples of actor/writer hybrids who succeed brilliantly at both that this argument should never enter anyone’s mind:  Steve Martin, Woody Allen, Orson Wells, Will Rogers, Carrie Fisher—to name a few.  In fact, even in this list, there are actor/writer/directors.  I’d argue most of them are as capable in one category as another.  And yet folks still hold to the belief that you can only really excel at one thing.  I like to think I act and write well.  I’ve gotten recognition for both.  And if I do one a little better than the other, I couldn’t tell you which.  It would likely end up a matter of opinion; subjectivity is always a part of the arts and one’s appreciation of them.  And, since I don’t care which I do better, I continue to merrily pursue both.  

Myth #3: You can only have one true love, one true passion, one true calling.
In a world of infinite diversity and possibility, I’m staggered at people who limit their thinking like this.  I know it makes things easier to comprehend if we box them up, label them, and put them orderly onto shelves.  That, in fact, does seem to work for the most part in the physical world.   But in the world of ideas, the world of passions, the world of appetites, boxes and shelves have no place: such things blur lines and defy boundaries; they are, in a word, limitless.  So why not love more than one thing?  Why not love as much as you can?  If you have a passion for something, why not explore it?  If you have a passion for something else, why not explore that, too.   Life is a bounty; try many things. And if two things come to the forefront instead of only one, embrace them, celebrate them and follow their callings.

So there you go.  Hope I’ve demystified the actor/writer hybrid.  And if I’ve inspired you to try something new, let me know.  I’d be thrilled.  I’ve always been a cheerleader for positive change.   

Uh-oh.  I just added to my hyphenate!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Murder, I Wrote

          I always liked thrillers.   Sleuth.  The Mousetrap. Deathtrap.  Stage thrillers had become few and far between and, frankly, I missed them.  So I decided to write one of my own.  But what could I do that was different?  I decided to push the envelope:  I aimed to write something that would be a valentine to the classic, melodramatic shockers, but also embrace comedy as many film thrillers had successfully done...and then go one further and include some timely social commentary and use the medium to hopefully teach and enlighten.  My idea was to make a thriller for our generation.  Ambitious, perhaps, but I love a good challenge, now and then. 

          But the story of this creature being brought to life begins with a killing…

          I had invited a director friend of mine to dinner.  My motive was clear:  I wanted to talk him into directing a play I hadn't written, but one that I thought was brilliant and, what’s more, had a role in which I thought I’d be brilliant.  (I’m allowed my opinion, no?)  After pitching the idea for all it was worth, including why my friend was perfect for the job, I gave him the opportunity to jump at the prospect.  Instead, he killed it.  Mercilessly.  The play I had in mind was a drama (mostly) and he said the only thing that would really interest him was a thriller.

          Funnily enough, I had just finished writing mine and now it was exactly what the doctor (or “director” in this case) had ordered.  I gave him a copy and he was hooked.  So we dumped the body of my other proposed project and began to rework my script more to his taste.  Then we gathered a production team, had auditions and, that winter, my New Year’s Eve murder mystery “Cold Lang Syne” had its World Premiere. 

          It was glorious.  My director friend and the amazing cast and crew took what I had created on the page and brought it to unforgettable life on the stage.  The set, dressed with potential weapons, dangerously sharp antlers and a fanged boar’s head looked remote and creepy, the lighting added darkening shadows, and the audiences laughed and screamed in all the right places. They loved it.  “Cold Lang Syne” was an instant audience favorite. 
          In fact, after attending a performance, film producer Redford Mejia of 701 Productions asked to meet me for dinner.  So my story begins and ends with a dinner.  Only at this dinner, Mejia tells me he wants to make “Cold Lang Syne” into a movie.  Funnily enough, I had just finished writing the screenplay…

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Send In The Clones

The dynamic duo of Longshadow Productions

Some things are too good to be true.  As an actor, you are job hunting constantly:  even if you’re already on a job—unless you’re on contract for a few years—you have to spend your “off” hours hustling and hawking, meeting and greeting and generally informing or reminding people you’ll be available and eager to work any day.  This is true even if you have an agent.   The endless self-pimping is necessary because jobs are not just going to fall in your lap unless you’re a DeNiro, a DiCaprio or a D cup.

But then again…

I had done a web series for the dynamic duo that makes up Longshadow Productions—an up-and-coming outfit of entrepreneurial chutzpah that had cast me as a rabbit-eared, megalomaniacal sorcerer in the sci-fi/fantasy The Immoral Dr. Dicqer (see earlier blog “I was A Green Screen Demon”). They had now come up with a new, equally whacky project and offered me the lead.  Yep:  no searching through casting posts, no elbow rubbing or schmoozing, no auditioning—nothing; just a director handing me a script and saying: “Wanna play the lead?”

I knew I had not become a DeNiro or a DiCaprio, so I quickly looked at my chest to make sure I hadn’t suddenly grown a jaw-dropping set of man-boobs.   To my relief, Pamela Anderson had nothing to worry about; I was still me.  The director later confessed it was simply my work on Dicqer  that got me the job.  There is almost nothing sweeter to hear than that work previously done left someone wanting to see more of you.  Unless, of course, you’re a stripper.  Then it’s just cheesy.

So what, you may ask, does the blog title above have to do with all this?  To which I answer (whether you asked or not) as follows:  the new series is about a modern, married mad scientist couple who have created the perfect clone.  I play the lead geek/slacker scientist husband…and his delightfully dysfunctional clone.  Needles to say, I’m beside myself.  Literally.   The show is witty, rude and really, really funny.  I think you’ll dig it.  I think a lot of people will.

So, I’ll keep you posted.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Have You Ever Been Haunted?

Lots of folks have been scared by a horror film.  That’s easy.  It’s a given.  But have you ever been haunted by a horror film?  Had it lurk in your mind for years like an insidious ghost?  I did.  And this is my story. 

            When I was young, I watched a lot of television.  We all did.  But there was one viewing I never shared with anyone; my weekly dose of horror films.  Being on television, they were no doubt edited, but I was too young to know and too young to not find the result fascinating regardless.  Sometimes they were classics with Vincent Price; other times they were bottom-of-the-barrel scrapings.  But I ate them up—often not knowing the difference. 

            One film struck me as totally unique.  It had no stars that I knew, it seemed to be dubbed and fairly low-budget…and yet it was stylish and darkly humorous and went from a tale of murder to a Poe-like ghost story of a man haunted by either his own madness or an actual, vengeful spirit.  And it had an awesome last minute twist.  To top it off, it had an even later twist:  the realization that this film about a ghost seemed to simply vanish.  True, I had forgotten the title, but no matter how I described the film to family, friends, or fellow aficionados—no one had any idea what I was talking about.  It was as if the film had never existed! 

            Perhaps it was I who was the mad man.  Perhaps the lunatic in the movie was just a manifestation of my own loss of sanity.  Had I dreamt the film up?  And if I had, why could I remember it in such detail?  The images were embedded in my mind:  this incredible scene where the man is questioned by a police detective as the blood of the man’s latest kill threatens to drip on the detective’s head; the deceased’s ghost appearing to tell her killer that if he didn’t want to see her, she would oblige…but that everyone else would still see her; and the mad, dizzying waltzes amidst corpse-white, faceless mannequins. 

            I searched on the internet, but came up with nothing.  I posted in forums and everywhere I could think.  I kept asking people about this demon haunting me.  It went on for years.  Finally, someone suggested a title that seemed to have nothing to do with the ghost story I recalled.  But I looked it up and, sure enough, it was the very movie that I had seen long ago.  Reading a synopsis, I realized I had separated the film’s two plots into two separate movies in my memory.  The ghost story that had thrilled me was interwoven, often with dark humor, into a psycho-slasher story—cleverly satisfying those who dig blood and body counts as well as those who favor cerebral terrors and suspense. 

            If you haven’t already guessed, the film is Mario Bava’s “Red Sign of Madness” which somehow became translated in the English version as “Hatchet For A Honeymoon”.  (Nice alliteration, but the murder weapon is a cleaver.   Go figure.)  If horror is your bag and you haven’t seen this film, I highly suggest you do.  It’s a surreal mix of slash and panache, humor and horror, tradition and invention.  For a rather nice, in-depth review (though with a few spoilers), check out:  Or, just go rent or buy it.  It's worth several viewings.             

And so my story ends.  My ghost was real.  I hope you can find it one day.  And I hope it haunts you. 

Big time.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Bad Boys



          Friend and fellow actor Bill Oberst, Jr. (above, center) is pretty well-known in the horror community: he’s been in over fifty films and most of them have been horror films showcasing him as a pretty scary dude. In those movies, he comes across as the kind of guy you wouldn’t want to find in a dark alley; but to meet him in person, you’d discover he’s among the nicest, sweetest guys around. You may recall me mentioning Domiziano Arcangeli (above, left) in an earlier blog: he’s another name in the horror genre whose terrifying on-screen presence is truly surreal juxtaposed with his gentle, soft-spoken off-screen demeanor. And then I look at my body of work and see a trend appearing: that I often get cast as villains...just like these other guys. And I’m as nice as can be. Honest. I really don’t eat babies. Except on Sundays. 
          Of course, all actors can play many different kinds of roles. I’ve played a wide variety. But clearly, one of my emerging niches is the Nice Guys Who Play Bad Boys gang. Now, it’s terrific fun to get to play a really nasty bastard. My character in Freudian Eyebrow is a sadistic borderline sociopath, my role in Beat Bernie is a selfish, cruel prima donna and my bunny-eared baddy in The Immoral Dr. Dicqer is a spiteful, splenetic megalomaniac. Heck, even my jailer in Samurai Avenger: The Blind Wolf is a complete jerk. And I’ve enjoyed every single one of them. I just hope people don’t start seeing me on the street and then run, screaming. Any more than they already do. 

          But I’m honored to be in such awesome company as Oberst and Arcangeli. And I’ll be happy to keep playing guys that people love to hate. Just remember: sociopaths, killers and other evildoers need love, too. Just keep clear of the blood; it gets sticky.

Friday, June 17, 2011

A Deviation: Taking a Bite of the Apple


            I used to be a New York junkie:  trekking to the Big Apple every year to see as many shows as possible in a finite amount of time.  Given the disadvantage of living in Los Angeles (one of many), I had let several years go by between trips and, though I had survived the withdrawal symptoms, I was itching to get back.  As an actor, it seems both prudent and necessary to keep abreast of the New York theater scene and—as such—I had some serious catching up to do.   

            So I went and did a Broadway blitzkrieg.  Here are my takeaways: 

Sister Act:  Two powerhouse leads (Patina Miller & Victoria Clark), an energetic cast and increasingly splashy sets and costumes, turn a better-than-average show into a knock-out, crowd-pleasing winner. 

The Book of Mormon:  The raunchiest lyrics and most irreverent book on Broadway have made this the “must-see” musical of the season.  But it’s really just a loving throw-back to the style of simpler, old-fashioned musicals.  A witty and peppy, spoof-filled score (ala “Avenue Q”, no surprise) and a winning cast make this potty-mouthed musical a naughty little treat.   It was the only Broadway show I saw that isn’t based on a movie, a television show or a comic book; that originality is, in my mind, is the most laudatory element of all. 

Mary Poppins:  The sets and magic tricks are as jaw-dropping as money can buy, but Disney messed with the movie’s magic, leaving this Mary to only fly in fits and starts.  The familiar songs work, but the new ones are forgettable.  “Brimstone & Treacle”, sold by a scene-stealing evil Nanny Andrews (Ruth Gottschall), is the exception.   But for a Disney-hungry throng, even a less than “practically perfect” Mary is clearly enough.  

My Big Gay Italian Wedding:  A tiny, Off-Broadway event which delivers everything you could want from such a venue and such a titled show:  a hammy castful of whackos are thrown into a hysterical (if slightly over-long) farce revolving around a gay, Italian boy marrying his Polish lover.  Oy, vey, Maria! 

The Addams Family:  The strangest family, their house and “pets” are all brought lovingly to life with Bebe Neuwirth and Rachel Potter outstanding as Morticia and Wednesday (although Zachary James’ underused Lurch is also spot-on).   Unfortunately, the book and score are merely serviceable, making the visit less satisfying than one—living or dead—would hope.    

Billy Elliot:  Based on the powerhouse film, the Lee Hall/Elton John musical manages to mine the right story elements to allow for a completely satisfying retelling.  Fortunately, the direction and cast back that up with innovation and energy in abundance, pushing the show into the realm of the amazing.  Whereas Mary Poppins flounders, Billy Elliot flies. 

Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark:  Julie Taymor’s visionary touch makes the graphic novel world literally come to life—on stage and in (and over) the audience.  The sets, costumes and acrobatics are inspired, impressive and thrilling; the cast gives their all through every moment. But the book, lyrics and music are largely banal. T.V.Carpio makes the mythical Arachne's haunting musical moments shine, but the rest of the cast all too often seems to be screaming to be heard over the din of the orchestra—as though someone thought volume would make up for unimaginative lyrics and a pedestrian rock score.  Still, the crowd cheers the hero flying over their heads; perhaps that is enough for the lowest common denominator.   Works for Mary Poppins. 

            So there you go.   My two cents only, mind you.  I say you should never listen to anyone you don’t know well; that the criticism of someone whose opinions are not ones you agree with on a regular basis will most likely bear no relation to the opinions you will form on your own.  And those are the only ones that count.   

In the end, only you can know what you like.  And you’ll never know for certain unless you go.   Over all, there's great stuff happening on the Great White Way.  So do go.