A Window on the Carrageenan – RecapReturn to previous page.
“All the world’s a stage and most of us are desperately unrehearsed.”—Sean O’Casey
In “A Window on the Carrageenan” I attempted to recreate the chaos of commercial theater by crafting an epic disaster. In a way, I was paying tribute to Arthur Bicknell’s “Moose Murders” trending Marx Brothers. The producer has neglected to get rights clearance, the actors leave the production before the curtain even rises, the set disappears appropriated by a Holiday on Ice show, a tripartite injunction is served against performance, the stage lights fail, the director has a breakdown and the producer is eventually arrested by the FBI. New actors are recruited from the environs of the theater: a prostitute, a paraplegic, an itinerant street singer, a gormless lass walking by. The translator who has translated the play from Gaelic into Hungarian into English is pressed into service playing a seven year old girl.
The producer buys time with the audience by delivering a lecture on thatched cottages and the street singer finds inspiration in the play’s subject of Nazis of the Reich attending college in Ireland during World War II. His song “Nazis Don’t Get Swing” becomes a huge hit. The play’s original title “A Window on the Carragee” is modified to food additive friendly “A Window on the Carrageenan” to technically thwart the injunction.
In order to orchestrate chaos, Post-Cap playwright Spencer Christiano writing as Maeve Gamorra, actually wrote a two act play modeled after Sean O’Casey’s oeuvre. Two Nazis, one bad, one good, are billeted as detainees in neutral Ireland early in World War II. Based on true historical detail, they are permitted to attend university where one of them falls in love with an Irish girl. The ensuing clash of cultures and politics resembles nothing so much as an Irish/Nazi version of “West Side Story.” The play has production merits of its own and can be performed as a separate vehicle, but as I found out in this production, when you give actors perfect freedom, the play is seldom the thing. In the eighty minutes of this production, only one full page of the original play was performed.
Instead, as the improvising actors discovered, they spent almost all of their time keeping their interpersonal relationships afloat. The prostitute tries to make a buck by attempting to score with members of the audience; she finally succeeds, loudly, with the director in the balcony. The gormless girl who has never been on a stage before works very hard at understanding the relationship between the actor and the audience. The street musician is only interested in the promotion of his music and the paraplegic is only interested in the stability of his wheelchair on a stage full of running, jumping narcissists. The producer is worried about not being able to pay his Blackberry bill thereby losing his contact list and the director finds that his reputation is no longer at risk—it has been vaporized. Of course, the playwright-within-a play, Maeve Gomorra, shows up to experience the joy of her first produced effort. The show’s end is announced by a real pizza delivery boy announcing his delivery on stage.
No one, but no one cared about presenting the play in this improvised performance. Not even Christiano who played the director and wrote the damned thing.
This was perhaps the most entertaining of all the Post-Cap presentations. No audience members left and it is important to note that the audience included theatergoers who believed they were there to see a real Irish play. It was the antithesis of a Neil Simon play. There was no roadmap. Everything was placed on the backs of the actors who had no idea what crisis they would have to avert next at any given time. Yet the laughs were what I would call warm laughs. People liked the characters on stage even though these characters were being invented as they were being presented.
My thanks to the generous talents and wonderful good humor of not only Spencer Christiano, but of Michael Arve, Cassandra Kelly, Kimberly Niles, Declan Ryan, and Patrick Stefano. It takes a lot of Irish moxie to push on while the arts collapse around you.