(A tongue-in-cheek look as to how one line’s allusion informs an entire character.)
The last show I was a part of before I started with Bag&Baggage (38 years ago) was The Great Gatsby. In this (some have said) seminal production I played the title role, Jay Gatsby (or as it was called when I played it: The Great Gutsby or the Adequate Gatsby or “Hey, Die already! My flask is empty! Just like your emotional choices!”). Needless to say, my performance was (un)forgettable in a number of ways….but at least I made every performance, which can NOT be said for the actor who played Nick (ask me about it sometime, I’m always ready to throw this particular actor under the bus!)
But, I digress… (Which is horribly uncomfortable in pleated pants)
Where was I? Right! Scotch- Err… Gatsby! It’s always interesting when characters intersect (if they don’t it’s called a monologue…which, as we know, is only a precious few letters away from morgue). So I was pleasantly surprised when reading the play (which I have done before, no matter what Scott says) and a line straight from Jay Gatsby’s lips comes out of Eddie’s (less historically heralded, yet in this actor’s case no less smug) mouth.
When a playwright namechecks a much more famous story directly, it’s a tip to an actor (that a playwright’s getting lazy…OR…) that this was done purposefully and has meaning (or that the playwright is a thoughtless hack, but in this case it’s The Best of Everything, which is a wonderful play…so we will approach this situation seeing the snifter half full, Campers).
One of my favorite things about the writing of The Best of Everything is how much story is told in a short amount of time. Caroline and Eddie have an entire arc of a story in just over four pages of dialogue (What? You say you wanted another play where I intricately plotted to kill Cassie for 25 minutes!?). This type of focused playwriting is incredibly exciting and fun for an actor (due to ease of memorization…) to work with. An actor must start from the place of: What are the choices (not yodeling) that will enhance the (possibly yodeled) dialogue while still representing your character (push down that impulse to yodel Beck!)?
While the audience gets to see Caroline throughout the story, Eddie must become fully formed in just a few phrases (Sadly none of them yodeled). By using (lifting, sampling, outright pilfering) this famous line from Gatsby I, and audience members familiar with Gatsby, instantly know not only who Eddie is, but more importantly who he wants to be seen as: A romantic hero (some of the more jaded people I know will claim I simply lifted that from the writer’s notes…those people are A-1 Poo-Poo faces). It is my job to make sure you see both sides of that in Eddie in an honest, effective way on opening night.
Great writing is conveying a great deal of information in a short amount of time. That is the opposite of what I’ve done for you today.
See you opening Night!
Bag&Baggage Resident Acting Company
“Eddie” in The Best of Everything