My expectations for this production were very high. And in some manner, they were met. Shaping this piece to match the marathon play was a delicate balance, Ali built on the previous direction, leading me to be less ponderous, and more immediate. To wit; go faster.
This was disorienting at first, I was used to presenting it a very specific way. It led to discovery, and wonderful surprises. Also, in the interest of keeping it short, I used the same edit we used for the radio adaptation. Last night, the last night, I HATE THIS ran one hour.
One of the less pleasant surprises was audience reaction. I won't get into the disappointment I felt at there being small houses. I have done that an awful lot ... for years. Last night I was slapped in the face with a rather obvious revelation:
It doesn't matter how well written it is. It doesn't matter how well I perform it. It doesn't matter, as Jess so kindly reported, that I take care of my audience, and make them feel safe. It doesn't matter that there are all kinds of plays about serial killers, pedophile priests, and men who treat every woman they meet like trash and get away with it which attract vast, sold-out audiences.
Some people cannot handle this.
There is a critic in town whose job, ostensibly, would anyone actually pay him for it, would arguably have a responsibility to come see this award-winning production and grant his opinion. Arriving late to a performance of Insomnia (no late seating) he was offered a ticket to I HATE THIS. He said he wouldn't be able to handle it.
You fucking pussy.
Last night, however ... there were these two people in the front row. About ten minutes in I noticed they were whispering. And I was standing right next to them. I was acting, I was trying not to pay attention, but I was in the far downstage corner of the space, I was right next to them, and they were having an urgent conversation. This was during Becky's/Julie's first phone call.
By the middle of the next scene, "Blame" - the harshest, angriest part of the show - they got up and made their way out. She was weeping, copiously.
Ah. I got it.
After the show, Becca said she spoke to them out on the sidewalk. The woman said what I had written was perfect, exact, and that she couldn't take it. She was very complimentary, but you know, bereft.
At the bar my friends, upon hearing the story, wanted to know how she couldn't know what she was in for. I suggested there is a difference between a story about dealing with grief, and being plunged deep into the experience from the beginning. She told Becca she regretted not reading any reviews or anything, she might have been prepared - or most likely not have come at all.
And that, as they say, is the rub. It made me feel like this entire exercise has been insane. The play found a home in hospitals and church basements - even sanctuaries. Presenting it as entertainment, in a theater, for the first time in years, I was expecting a similar reaction. And I expected a crowd. But young people do not care. And old people cannot take it.
I generalize. I hope you take my meaning.
Where do I go from here, I do not know. I may be done. It has been ten years, I have wanted a run of this show - a public, Cleveland, professional run - and for my efforts, I got one. Previously I had performed I HATE THIS a total of 36 times, with at most five performances in the same space. Now I have added eleven more, all at the Storefront. It was animated, swift, lively, an education ... I could repackage this, and resume my trek across the country, visiting clinics and parish halls. I don't know. It's a good show. It's a good story. And it has its place, as a cautionary tale, as a promise of recovery, of healing, of reconstruction, of rebirth. Of the possibility of change.
Right now I am tired and sore. And I want to concentrate on newer works. It's time for rest and reflection.