July 19, 2007

'Fully Committed,' Ross Valley Players

RVP doubles the actors and the laughs

TABLE FOR TWO: Dan Saski (top) and Justin Sheuer (bottom) both
play Sam -- and over 40 other characters -- in RVP's 'Totally
Committed,' a comedy about fine dining and class warfare.

Article Launched: Marin Independent Journal, 07/18/2007 11:07:47 PM PDT

By Mark Langton
IJ Correspondent

Never mind the preposterous-sounding menu of jicama-flavored, pan-seared tartlets of rock Cornish seahorse legs on fricasseed beds of virgin butterball lettuce, presented on Busby Berkeley platters of chocolate-dipped despondent leather covered in slightly warmed-over, neo-retro Yuppie sauce.

As it plays out in Ross Valley Players' production of Becky Mode's "Fully Committed," it's not about the food. At the top of the food chain, anyway, it's apparently more about the power.

RVP held not one but two opening nights last week, as befits a one-man show that's been double cast, for the sixth and final production of their 77th season, now playing through Aug. 19 at the Barn Theater in Ross.

Dan Saski of Rohnert Park and Justin Scheuer of Sonoma will alternate in the lead role of Sam Peliczowski, an out-of-work actor who mans the reservation hot line of the hottest restaurant on Manhattan's Upper East Side in this searingly funny send-up of negotiated power.

It is not necessary to see both actors to appreciate director Argo Thompson's take on the playwright's skewering of status-conscious New York restaurant-goers, megalomaniac chefs, coked-up maitre d's and anorexic, vegan VIPs. But it makes for a fascinating experiment in theater for any intrepid audience member willing to see how two actors with widely different styles might handle the same role.

The play follows a day in the life of Sam, who has the unenviable job of sitting in a restaurant basement before a bank of phones that looks like the dashboard of the Apollo 7 to referee the dirtiest Fight Club around. He discovers the pathetic lengths to which status-obsessed, trendy diners will go for a not-so-simple meal and the "right" table, regardless of their appetite.

We neither see the restaurant nor hear its name. All we are privy to is the dank, dingy underbelly of the glittery restaurant scene as Sam does his business in the restaurant's windowless basement, a dark place, strewn with storage, steam pipes, filing cabinets and other clutter (thanks to Patrick Kroboth's detailed and gloriously unattractive set design, angled so we see Sam's frantic, multitasking feet before we see his face).

And if it isn't enough that poor Sam has to be all things to all people, the actor playing Sam has to be all people - literally - as the play is designed for one actor to play more than 40 characters, all except Sam appearing via phone calls to the reservation line or through the intercom from upstairs in the restaurant.

It wouldn't be fair or accurate to say that one actor is any better than the other in this production. Saski and Scheuer take such different approaches to the role. If hard-pressed, it would probably be safe to say that Friday's performance by Saski showed the lion's share of experience as he skillfully managed to switch between more than 40 voices at breakneck speed. He artfully employed "actorly" tricks to delineate each voice, hopping from one side of the conversation to the other with a swift change of tone, posture and manner. Saski embodied some unforgettable characters - from the obsequious squealing of Naomi Campbell's overly solicitous assistant, Bryce; the laconic southern drawl of Rick from "Carrrrsonnnn Ay-vee-AY-tionnnnn" to the thick French accent of Jean-Claude, the maitre-d'hotels who thinks every woman has the "face of a dooog," In Saski's hands, once you became tuned into the style and the rhythm of the show (which doesn't take very long), at times you forgot he was alone on stage.

However, in Scheuer's hands during Saturday's performance were different strengths, in different areas, as well as other insights that came from other kinds of choices. With Scheuer, we meet a more frantic and thus more vulnerable Sam, who gets a little lost among the vivid caricatures of aggressive power players and wheedling sycophants. It should be quickly said, however, that this may have been deliberate - Scheuer, in a conversation at dinner before the show, described losing Sam as part of the process of rehearsal. That seems to serve him well later on as it better describes the arc that Sam must make in order for the character to find resolution when Sam appears to find himself at play's end.

It was fascinating to see the approaches of these two actors. There were the little touches (for example, where Saski did a dead-on impression of Keanu Reeves calling in for a table, it was amusing to find Scheuer doing the same scene with an impression of Nicholas Cage). There were the big ones, as with their game plans with the most developed character of all, the chef.

In fact, the crowning achievement of this script and of both of these actors is the chef. Of all of the characters, he is Mode's greatest creation. Whether he is done in bullying Brooklynese (as with Saski) or with the mischief of an Irishman (as with Scheuer), Chef's vivid schadenfreude - his delight in other people's pain - is so intense that it's downright fetishistic.

What makes this play so satisfying is that all of the frustrating characters get their comeuppance in one way or another as Sam discovers his own power by observing the frantic positioning of others. In that sense, it is a coming of age story for Sam, as he appears to come to the realization that it is part of the human condition to barter, that we all jockey for position for a place at that table, that all of us are whores in one way or another, and that he, too, has a dog in that hunt.

And, in case anyone has ever wondered, THAT'S why the lady (as Sam sings as he jaunts out the door at the end of his long day) is a tramp.


- What: "Fully Committed" by Becky Mode

- Who: Ross Valley Players

- Where: The Barn Theatre, Marin Art & Garden Center, 30 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Ross

- When: Through Aug. 19; 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays, 7:30 p.m. Thursdays (July 29, Aug. 2, 9, 16)

- Tickets: $16 to $20; all tickets $16 Thursdays; "pay what you will" July 20 with tickets on sale at the box office between 7 and 7:20 p.m.

- Information: 456-9555, http://www.rossvalleyplayers.com/

- Casting note: Dan Saski and Justin Scheuer play the role of Sam in alternating performances. This show is double-cast, and actors will alternate performances.

- Rating: 3 1/2 stars out of five

Mark Langton can be reached at mark.langton@comcast.net.

July 12, 2007

'Seven Year Itch,' Novato Theater Company

You can scratch this one

By Mark Langton
IJ Correspondent

Article Launched: 09/12/2007 05:04:08 PM PDT

NO ONE ever went broke underestimating the arrested development of the American middle-aged male. Especially, it would seem, that generation of men who hit middle age in the 1950s.

How else can we explain the popularity of all that juvenile, sexist claptrap that passed for romantic comedies in the late '50s and early '60s? We're talking about movies like "Pillow Talk" (1959), "The Apartment" (1960) or George Axelrod's original stage production of "The Seven Year Itch" (1952), the template for all that followed, now in revival at the Novato Theater Company’s barely broken-in Pacheco Playhouse.

Which begs a question: Why?

This is a valiant effort by the folks at NTC - one that succeeds, but only in part. However, this may be the fault of the play, not the players.

"The Seven Year Itch" is not only missing a hyphen, it's lost any relevance to the way real men and women relate to each other. Even the plotline sounds like bad '70s porn, rated PG-13, for sheltered, overweight nerds.

Check it out: After sending his wife, Helen (Erin Hoffman), and son Ricky (Oliver Klein) to the shore to escape the heat of a sweltering New York City summer, Richard Sherman (David Shirk) has his marriage vows put to the test when he meets a 22-year-old model (Rachel Hempy), known only as "The Girl," who has just moved into the apartment upstairs. He starts fantasizing about her, recalling something he read at work about a "seven-year itch" (an idiom for the so-called moment of truth in a marriage when a man is driven by a primitive urge to stray). This gives Richard all the rationale he needs to cheat, believing he can blame his lack of self-control on an irresistible biological imperative!

As a result, this Steady Eddie suddenly fancies himself a Playboy of the Western World. However - as with most Axelrod heroes (Jack Lemmon in "How to Murder Your Wife," Roddy McDowell in "Lord Love a Duck") - it's all in his mind.

The entire play, in fact, is presented to the audience by way of Richard's inner dialogue, filled with Walter Mitty-like dream sequences, acted out by Richard and other members of the cast.

As Richard, Shirk is charged with carrying the majority of this show, a daunting task for any actor. He is always on stage. And, for the most part, Shirk is up to it. He demonstrates a real flair for comedy, especially during the fantasy sequences, where he is free to do things like don a monocle, play with dialect or sweep The Girl into his arms like Pepe le Pew.

However, when he returns as just plain Richard, Shirk never really connects with his audience. He breaks through the "fourth wall" to make eye contact early on, but it's inconsistent, and he or his director, Diane Robbins (making her NTC directorial debut with this play) would do well to make up their minds, one way or the other.

As the object of his desire, Hempy is more Doris Day than Marilyn Monroe. She plays it naive and cheerleader cute. At times she is quite poignant; at others, she lives up to the name of the laundry detergent she hocks on TV (that would be "Shrill," I'm afraid.). However, she also demonstrated more range during the fantasy sequences. The two performers that stood out Saturday probably have the fewest lines. As Helen, Richard's wife, actress Hoffman was absolutely spot-on as a 1950's Everymom - so much so, that she actually looked superimposed onto the set in black and white. And more than one theatergoer praised costume designer Gretta McGovern for finding an absolutely perfect little black, backless number, integral to a scene.

But it was actor Michael Cassidy who nearly stopped the show Saturday night, hilarious as the overblown writer, Tom Mckenzie. His interpretation of this blowhard brought to mind Mr. Peterman, Elaine's boss on TV's "Seinfeld." Only funnier. With inspired bits of business (cleaning his teeth in the mirror with his little finger, constantly straightening his tie, rolling on the balls of his feet, etc.), one couldn't help think that if the entire cast rose to his level of energy, it would have been a very different show.

There was nothing memorable about the set design - which is just as it should be, suitably bland - except for a metaphorical stairway that leads to a ceiling, no small feat on such a tiny stage, that occasioned a Jean-Paul Sartre joke ("No Exit," get it?).

Indeed, the design team deserves extra credit for restraint. This would be Jack Gallivan's handiwork, no doubt. He has been designing the lights at NTC for the past 20 shows, and is nothing if not subtle.

And a big honorable mention to Master Oliver Klein, a third-grader at Brandeis Hillel Day School in San Rafael, who aquitted himself quite admirably as Richard's son Ricky. Somebody call Hollywood, immediately.

Granted, there are pleasures to be found in these almost empty time capsules, but they are guilty ones, if you ask me. Certainly, for some, they may be fond reminders of what was purported to be a more innocent time. Plus the kitsch factor alone can often makes a lot of this nose-scrunching pap funnier than it's even supposed to be.

This play, like all the others in this lame genre, is to satire what "Beach Party's" Eric Von Zipper is to Marlon Brando. What these stories really are, in essence, are strict morality plays themselves, tarted up to look like inoffensive social satire. They creep me out because they instructed us how to behave.

Think about it: Women are relegated to one of three stereotypes: the prude (Doris Day), the victim (Shirley MacLaine) or the bimbo (Marilyn Monroe) -- in this case, "The Girl." Men, on the other hand, are reduced to only two: the asexual, platonic pal (the Tony Randall, Tom Ewell or Jack Lemmon role) or the somewhat less-emasculated, Slick Business Tycoon Who is the Boss of Her (the Rock Hudson or Fred MacMurray role).

Any way you look at it, these soft-core domestic sex farces perpetuated more than they parodied. This is supposed to be funny? Maybe so. Maybe I'm taking all of this too seriously. Maybe it's OK to look back - as long as you don't go back. I don't know any more.

I'm tellin' ya. Nostalgia just ain't what it used to be.


What: George Axelrod's "The Seven Year Itch," by Novato Theater Company

When: Through Sept. 29; 8 p.m Fridays and Saturdays

Where: Pacheco Playhouse, 484 Ignacio Blvd., Pacheco Plaza Shopping Center, Novato

Tickets: $15

Information: 892-3005 or http://www.novatocommunityplayers.com/

Rated: Two out of five stars

Mark Langton can be reached at mark.langton@comcast.net.

July 09, 2007

'Love Letters,' Novato Theater Company

Mark Clark and Robyn Wiley (top) perform Aug. 17-18,
following Dale Camden and Susan Davis, Aug. 10-11

'Letters' pushes buttons, not boundaries

By Mark Langton
IJ Correspondent

Article Launched: 08/09/2007 04:54:16 PM PDT

I FOUND Novato Theater Company's production of "Love Letters" a little depressing. But that's just me.

That said, it should be noted that A.R. Gurney's epistolary duet, ably directed and produced by James Hurwitz and Mark Clark, was extremely well received by sold-out audiences last weekend, and handily performed by actors Glenda Vessey and Joe Peer. It will play for two more weekends and will feature two additional pairs of accomplished local actors: Susan Davis and Dale Camden (Aug. 10 and 11) and Robyn Wiley and actor-producer Clark (Aug. 17 and 18) - intriguing pairings all - in the company's tiny but well-appointed new Pacheco Playhouse behind the Safeway in Ignacio.

Requiring only minimal staging and
two performers who don't even have to learn their lines, Gurney's now-ubiquitous "Love Letters" has become the modern chamber play of choice for anyone either sponsoring a fundraiser or looking to create a celebrity vehicle that doesn't require much muss.

The script for the original production, which opened off-Broadway in 1989 and starred John Rubinstein and Kathleen Turner, contains this explanatory note from Gurney:
"This is a play, or rather a sort of a play, which needs no theater, no lengthy rehearsal, no special set, no memorization of lines and no commitment from its two actors beyond the night of performance. It is designed simply to be read aloud by an actor and an actress of roughly the same age, sitting side by side at a table."

It works best, Gurney wrote, "if the actors don't look at each other until the end."

The three pairs of local actors join the scores of famous and not-so-famous "Love Letters" power couples who have sat side by side reading the life-long, intimate correspondence between two WASPish soul mates - if it can be believed that WASPs actually have souls - one Melissa Gardner (played by Vessey last weekend) and Andrew Makepeace Ladd III (played last weekend by Peer), whose bond begins in childhood and ends in middle age. It was performed in the North Bay as recently as last year by former TV stars and Marin residents (before their recent move to New York) Jill Eikenberry and Michael Tucker of "L.A. Law" fame. I saw it in the late 1980s with a robust Christopher Reeve and an actress whose name I can't recall, lost in the mists of time. Steve Allen and Jayne Meadows took a turn. So did Jason Robards and Colleen Dewhurst. Would you believe Timothy Dalton and Whoopi Goldberg? Sandy Duncan and Peter Fonda? All true, all true.

The tale of their lives, which move in different directions almost immediately, and their odd, life-long connection is by turns as mundane and complex as life gets. The missives they share literally span the gamut from an elementary school valentine to a post-mortem condolence.

We meet them this way:

"Andrew Makepeace Ladd III accepts with pleasure the kind invitation of Mr. and Mrs. Gilbert Channing Gardner for a birthday party in honor of their daughter Melissa on the occasion of her seventh birthday."

Melissa: "Dear Andy: Thank you for the birthday present. I have lots of Oz books, but not 'The Lost Princess of Oz.' What made you give me that one? Sincerely, Melissa."

Particularly effective last Saturday was Peer's interpretation of Andy, the upright, uptight WASP so often found in Gurney's plays. Arguably miscast as Oscar Madison in last year's NTC production of "The Odd Couple," it was rewarding to see this actor handle something he could sink his teeth into. Peer brought an understated, quiet dignity to Andy, especially in the emotionally difficult final scene - which only goes to prove that an actor should never be wholly judged by a single role.

Vessey's interpretation of Melissa, a rebellious, loving, artistic and self-destructive lost princess from a wealthy but broken home, felt uncharacteristically forced in the early scenes. She was guilty of a common misdemeanor among actresses of a certain age when playing children - mistaking petulance for "child-like."

The result is often a discomfiting coquettishness in a little girl, appropriate only to JonBenet-style child beauty pageants, if ever. This was no doubt due to lack of rehearsal time, for Vessey clearly warmed to her task by Act II, exuding subtle shades of inner conflict and repressed pain, making the ultimate disintegration of Melissa both credible and compelling.

It could be said that "Love Letters" is a slick and predictably structured work that pushes more buttons than it does boundaries, and that watching several decades of schools and summer camps, colleges and hospital stays, marriages and careers - the arc of an entire lifetime - in the span of just over 90 minutes can be a little saddening as it whisks by (depending, no doubt, on where you fall in that arc).

However, this is not necessarily a bad thing. A definite argument can be made for the importance of theater that disturbs. "Love Letters," in its own minimal way, makes this argument well, reminding audiences "of a certain age" that one of the few up-sides of middle age is insight. And that sometimes memories of "Roads Not Taken" provide the deepest, sweetest ones of all.

Quick note: This production is intended to be both a celebration of NTC's 60th anniversary (of their incorporation as a theater company) and as a fundraiser to pay off the first phase of their new theater renovation - as well as funding phase two.

Support your local community theater. It's good for you.

Joe Peer and Glenda Vessey took their turn Aug. 3-4


What: A.R. Gurney's "Love Letters"

Who: Novato Theater Company

When: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, Aug.10-11 and 17-18

Where: Pacheco Playhouse, 484 Ignacio Blvd., Pacheco Plaza Shopping Center, Novato.

Tickets: Benefit performances. All tickets $15.

Info: 892-3005 or www.novatocommunityplayers.com

This production did not receive a star rating since the cast changes weekly.

July 01, 2007


'She Loves Me,' Novato Theater Company, Pacheco Playhouse

Kodaly (Jeremy Berrick) attempts to romance a

nothing-doing Ilona (Karen Leland) in She Loves Me.
(Provided by Novato Theater Company)


By Mark Langton
IJ Correspondent

Article Launched: 10/31/2007 04:43:28 PM PDT Marin Independent Journal

There is a great line in the movie "Roxanne," Steve Martin's modern adaptation of "Cyrano de Bergerac," where Martin is asked by co-workers why he's in such a good mood all of a sudden, and Martin replies, "Because yesterday she didn't and today she does."

It is a wonderful movie that shares the same sort of buoyancy that carries along the stage musical, "She Loves Me," another great love story now in revival at the Novato Theater Company's Pacheco Playhouse, through Nov. 18.

And anyone who’s felt that feeling knows exactly what Martin was talking about. And we’re not talking a merely speculative, petal-plucking “She loves me, she loves me not” kind of she loves me. No, we’re talking a stop-the-presses, hold- the-phone, cancel-my-tango-lessons, jostle-the-postman (fling the mail!), shout-it-from-the-rooftops kind of she loves me.

And it is precisely this feeling that "She Loves Me" wishes to celebrate in song.. The fact that it does so without sentimentality is nothing short of miraculous, and probably the reason it has remained popular lo, these many years.

It is the third adaptation of a Hungarian play, "Parfumerie," by Miklos Laszlo, which also inspired Ernst Lubitsch's 1940 Hollywood comedy "The Shop Around the Corner," with James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan, as well as a 1949 musical version, "In the Good Old Summertime," with Judy Garland and Van Johnson. More recently, it was used as the template for "You've Got Mail" (1998), with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks.

The setting is a place that doesn't exist anymore, mid-1930's "Mitteleuropa." The story revolves around two lovelorn clerks in a Budapest parfumerie - Georg Nowack (Larry DiMare) and Amalia Balash (Monica Norcia). Bickering colleagues by day, they are also unwitting pen pals by night, brought together anonymously by the 1930s Hungarian equivalent of couples.com.

It is not so much the elegant simplicity of Joe Masteroff's book, but the complexity of its score by Jerry Bock (music) and Sheldon Harnick (lyrics) that appears to have ensured it would stand the test of time. Bock wrote enough music for an operetta, and with a bright consistency of tone that respects the story's milieu.

DiMare is a nice-looking, light-footed leading man with a strong voice and an earnest air that makes him a quite likable Georg. But it his leading lady who is the star of this show.

The role of Amalia is usually cast with a 20-something ingénue, and is played accordingly. Norcia plays an Amalia who is somewhat older, closer to Norcia's own age. This throws all kinds of new shadings onto the role. For example, when she sings "Will He Like Me?" it is not sung by a young girl, nervous about a first date, but as a beautiful woman, fully grown, who fears that beauty has faded, in the hopes that this date could be one of her last.

This takes acting chops - and who knew? Norcia, who teaches voice in Marin, has an old-fashioned, classical vibrato that reminded me of Snow White. Although a veteran of past NTC productions, it was mostly as musical director ("Most Happy Fella," "Sound of Music," "The Fantasticks"), and only recently made the hop from the orchestra pit to the stage as one of the Pigeon sisters in "The Odd Couple." And then you couldn't really tell.

But when Norcia sings the stuffing out of "Will He Like Me?," a sweet, torchy show-stopper if there ever was one, (whose melody sounds suspiciously like "Do You Love Me?" from "Fiddler on the Roof," which the pair opened on Broadway in '64, one year later), all wonderings cease. That was a soliloquy, and as good an acting job as I've seen in community theater.

This musical is remarkably generous to all its performers: many supporting characters are given showstoppers, too. The standouts were Elliot Simon, a cartoon character of a man, as Sipos, particularly his big number, "Perspective," and Karen Leland's Ilona, the parfumerie's most unlucky woman in love. She sings "A Trip to the Library" like a two-fisted, tough-but-vulnerable wiseacre right out of "Guys and Dolls." Both were a joy to watch on stage, and a delight in their scenes together.

Also, NTC veteran Jeremy Berrick won an ovation at one of his exits as Ilona's smarmy suitor, Steven Kodaly. With his pencil-thin mustache and slicked back hair, Berrick plays Kodaly with all the oiliness and smooth class of a narcissistic song-and-dance man. Well done. Ditto Jarrett Battenberg's ambitious delivery boy, Arpad. Always a fine tenor, it has been fun to watch young Battenberg's acting skills grow, and they are much improved from his last NTC appearance in "Sweet Charity."

Jerrie Patterson's turntable-driven set on wheels is a miniature in Art Nouveau, making good use of the small space. A lot of work by a lot of people went in to the tasteful costuming - particularly stunning was Norcia's green-with-white lace Christmas gown, the lace sleeves somehow highlighting the grace with which this orchestra conductor makes use of her hands. And Jack Gallivan's lighting design often added a wintry violet glow, suggestive of an Eastern Europe twilight.

Everyone was singing the praises of music director Andrew Klein, who single-handedly carried the entire evening's musical accompaniment on piano at Friday's opener, and director Patterson, who returns to the NTC director's chair for the fifth time with this production. Together they took a difficult score -- with complicated rounds, quick patter songs, and songs sung contrapuntally among the principals -- a large cast and a small stage, and somehow made it all work beautifully.

In defiance of our own cynical 2007 instincts, "She Loves Me" turns out to be the still-living proof that, against all of the odds, some love affairs really do deepen with time.


What: "She Loves Me"

Who: Novato Theater Company

When: Through Nov. 18; 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays; 3 p.m. Sundays.

Where: Pacheco Playhouse, 484 Ignacio Blvd., Pacheco Plaza Shopping Center, Novato

Tickets: $10 to $22

Information: 883-4498, www.novatotheatercompany.org

Rating: Four out of five stars

Mark Langton can be reached at mark.langton@comcast.net.

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A Conversation in Kilkenny (fiction)

By Mark Langton

(A rural pub in County Killkenny, Ireland. PACKY finds TOM at the bar drinking a pint. PACKY sits down and motions for one himself. Both men sit facing the audience.)

PACKY: Hello, Tom.

TOM: ‘lo.

PACKY: Showery day.

TOM: Begor' ‘tis.

PACKY: How’s de missus?

TOM: Well, she won’t kick the boucket, anyway.

PACKY: Ah, and what a marvelous relief that must be....You know, for you.

TOM: Says you, says I.

PACKY: Aye, say I -- why, what say you?

TOM: Well, if ya must know…(begins drumming his hands on the bar). I suppose if ya want me to agree...I suppose that I’d say aye, says me.

PACKY: Hi- diddlediddle, diddlediddle-dee. (Both men rap the bar twice in unison.)

(Both treat this greeting as routine, and each takes a long pull on his pint while staring straight ahead.)

PACKY: You know, Tom…

TOM: Work away, boy.

PACKY: Well, I mean to say…If ya don’t mind my noticin’, you’re looking very hirsute, dese days. Wit’ the new beard and that haircut, bejaysus if you’re not lookin’ more and more like Our Lord every day.

TOM: Aye, well. One can only hope. And pray.

PACKY: Ah wouldja shtop.

TOM: Oh, God I won’t.

(Long pause.)

PACKY: You know.... I find it a bit disturbin' that I cannot recall a day with sun.

TOM: Nonsense. This day, week. A glorious day. O God, it was grand.

PACKY: Aye, I suppose....As I recall, all I could t’ink of at the time was ... will it EVER rain again?

Certainly put Digger Dan in a bad humour.

PACKY: Well, with Dan that’s always the case on a fine day.

TOM: (Doing an impression of Digger Dan) ‘No one’ll die in dis weather.’ (Both men chuckle, and he does it again.) ‘No one’ll die in DIS weather!’

PACKY: Aye, but it is sad….Who would’a t’ought gravediggin’ would be a seasonal occupation.

TOM: Aye…poor bastard. Well, must pray for a fierce winter, so that Dan may be warm.

PACKY: Ah, Tom, yer a generous man.

(Long pause)

PACKY: You know (testing the waters, and with great import), I was over dere.

TOM: Good man, yourself.

PACKY: I saw Himself.

TOM: (Not looking up) Did you now…? Himself? Over t'--

PACKY: Aye. (Slowly, as if recalling a dream) He was goooooooin’ down the roooooad…

TOM: You don't say.

PACKY: …goin’ down the road like a two-year old.

TOM: I can hardly believe it.


PACKY: Aye, well, the only reason I even mention it is because didn’t Mike Cantwell say to me just the other day, that he was over dere, when I was over dere. And he saw Himself….

TOM: You’re jokin'!

PACKY: No, I’m sure of it….I’m sure he said it, anyway….The man said – and I believe these were his exact words -- said he was goin’ down the roooooooad….

TOM: Sweet muther of Jaysus…!

PACKY: Aye…I believe the precise phrase was … goin’ down the road…like a two year old.

TOM: I mean it’s diabolical.

PACKY: Aye…I thought so, too. And here’s the t’ing -- he said that he was ‘lurking.’

TOM: Lurking?

PACKY: Aye. Lurking, was Himself. Which has me totally confused, don’t you know…I mean to say, he always did have good harse-sense, did Himself.

TOM: You can usually trust a man who knows his teeth.And with Kat’leen bein’ a little long in the tooth, don’t you know… (Five men nearby at the bar spit mouthfuls of lager, trying to hold back).

PACKY: But you must admit, he is a great believer in...conserving his intellectual resourses. Which is why, these days, apparently he does most of his talkin' -- well, all of his talkin' -- to the birds.


PACKY: Well, he's a philosopher.

TOM: Aye, and we've got one or two of those.

PACKY: And come to t’ink of it, thank God for dat.

TOM: Ahhh, God Aye, t’anks be to God for that.. Solemn agreement all around. Both men laugh, wistfully. Followed by a


TOM: You know, the t'ing about Kat'leen...She only comes oop to "here" -- but she comes oop… (raises his fists in a fighting stance) if you know what I mean. (chuckling all around.)

PACKY: I suppose you know you're a wicked man.

TOM: Ah, that I am.

PACKY: Ah you’re the son of the deeeevil himshelf, y’are…

TOM: Guilty if it please the court. And I’d like to throw myself upon the mercy of… Kathleen, if ya don’t mind.

PACKY: Ah ya see, it goes to character your honor.

TOM: A matured and finished sinner, is what I am. T’anks be t’God.

PACKY: T’anks be t’ God.


PACKY: Ya roasted hoor, ya..

TOM: A roasted, black hoor. (They drink to that.)


TOM: (After some consideration ) Ah, but (quite serious) when ye t’ink about it, ’tis a blessing and a curse.

PACKY: Oh, God it is.

TOM: A doooble-edged sword, as it were.

PACKY: A gift…AND an affliction.

TOM: Life-long, life-long….And it’s not getting’ any longer, boyo, you know.

PACKY: Ah, sure, we’re not long for this world, ould son.

TOM: Me point exactly.

PACKY Ah, sure yer all right, wouldja shtop.

(Another pause.)

TOM: Anyway…. (Collecting himself, starting fresh…out of the side of his mouth, almost in a whisper.) You know, I was over dere. (Pause) And I, too, saw Himself.


TOM: God, Aye. And as coincidence would have it, on this completely separate occasion, I happened to notice he was goooooin’ down the roooooad.

PACKY: For fook’s sake...!

TOM: Goin’ down the road like a two year old.

PACKY: The man is relentless.

TOM: Aye. So I says to him, I says, “Showery day,” says I. ‘Begore, it is,’ says he. ‘How de Missus,’ says I. ‘Well,’ says he, ‘won’t kick de booocket anyway’…’Well,’ says I, ‘that must come as quite a relief, you know, to you;’ ‘Says you,’ says he. ‘Aye,’ says I, ‘why, what say you?’ ‘Well,’ says he, ‘if ya must know, I suppose if was all left up to me, I suppose that I’d say aye,’ said he.

PACKY: Very suspicious behaviour, if ya ask me.

TOM: That’s what I said …(to the barman) Jim! We’ll have one more and then we’ll go...

PACKY Or two.

TOM: I'll have two Harps and a violin, please.

PACKY: Or three.

TOM: (Drinks) Ahhhhh….be t’ Holy Man.

PACKY: (Drinks)…Ahhhhhhh...to be sure..to be sure.

(Long pause)

TOM: (Inhaling the word) Anyway…

PACKY: (Inhaling the word) Anyway…


PACKY: (Up an octave) You know…

TOM: Work away, boy…

PACKY: Just this day week…I was over dere. Sure if I didn't Himself again!

TOM: Did you now? (Sitting up, with great interest)

PACKY: Aye…and now that ye mention it…he was goin’ down the road.

TOM: I don’t believe it…

PACKY: Aye…(Pause.) He was gooooooin’ down the road…well…like a two year old.

TOM: Will the man ever shtop?!!

PACKY: Ah, he’s a shockin’ feller altogether.


TOM: (Perplexed.) Packy?


TOM: I suddenly feel unmerrrrciful uneasy about t’ whole t’ing, don’t you know.

PACKY: Ah, well,God you would.


TOM: At least there’s that, then (with grudging satisfaction).

PACKY: Aye. There’s that.


TOM: There ya have it, then.

PACKY: Aye, there ya have it now.

(Both men nod once and finish their drinks.)


Night Beat, S.F. Examiner, 1990