David Dodd 1:48 a.m., May 18
Some productions can't end soon enough. Chemistry fizzled, audiences steered clear. When the final curtain comes down, the run doesn't end; it's put out of its misery.
But what if a show hit the heights? Rave reviews, standing ovations and booming bravos every night, a cast so together they can razz each other with impunity. In other words, the Dream.
What happens when that show closes?
It did, last Sunday night at the North Coast Rep. A crack ensemble cast played Ken Ludwig's farce, Lend Me A Tenor with stopwatch precision. They were so polished they replayed the entire script, at the end, in two minutes.
The bonding started, says Courtney Corey, with the director. "I think Matthew Wiener had great success in casting the right people for the roles," she says, "and also the right people for each other." From the start it was clear that "this group of funny, cynical, quick-witted actors could give each other a run for their money."
"A perfect mix of individuals," says Jessica John. "It's so uncommon to spend two months with a majority of strangers and look forward to being with them backstage as well as onstage. We have spent long hours struggling through line flubs and challenging transitions and have saved one another on stage from potential disasters. We are true friends."
When he heard who was in the cast, Bernie Kopsho felt "trepidation. I knew almost no one, but knew OF almost everyone." Their resumes, he confesses, made his look skeletal. "But I could not have been more warmly embraced." Performing Tenor became "the most gratifying experience of my so-called career."
"Tenor proved to me what I always expected," says Jill Drexler, "that the very best actors are the smartest. I will dearly miss the wicked repartee that began in rehearsal and continued in the dressing room. We laughed almost as much behind the scenery as the audience did in the house."
Then it was over.
"The end of a run is always an enormously wrenching experience," says Ted Barton. "All my friends and the little, vibrant world we had created become vaporized."
"You have to say good-bye and let go," adds Albert Park. "The comfortable routine of working with one another seven shows a week, grabbing a bite between matinee and evening performances - you hope to work with these wonderful folks in the future, but you know it won't be exactly like this again."
When they strike the set, says Jacque Wilke, it's the equivalent of summer camp, "where you have developed relationships that are irreplacable. This cast has been inspiring. All are down-to-earth human beings who dropped their guard and felt free to be themselves."
A key ingredient, she adds, is the people who can play farce: "quick-witted, know comedic timing, and willing to laugh at yourself."
When a run concludes, actors also leave their characters. "It can feel," says Jessica John, "like the abandonment of a friend, or the return to a less brave, less gorgeous version of yourself."
Jill Drexler admits to something most actors won't. "We aren't supposed to say so, but I will miss the curtain calls. I will miss the pure joy that comes across every night. And I leave the stage thinking 'it doesn't get better than this.'"