Friday, August 25, 2006

1979: Smile!

In the summer of 1979, Dirty Jack’s Theater staged a revue; a composite of scenes from several shows. When the actors showed up in May of that year, the show was not yet completely written. That was one of many bad omen.

Another was this actor who sticks in my memory but for the life of me I cannot remember his name. If any of you remember the cast in 1979, just one word will bring him to mind: Braces!

This guy was mildly pudgy with a doughy face and unremarkable features, but when he smiled we all gasped. These were not the little wires that some adults wear on their teeth: these were big shiny railroad tracks. Metal mouth. Tin grin. We all were in horror of the thought of the follow spot hitting his teeth… It would be like a big cheesy disco mirror ball, spewing daggers of light back at the audience. From his mouth, no less.

It was going to be an interesting season.

Have you ever heard the expression, “chewing the scenery?” It describes an actor who overdoes it; hams it up, emotes annoyingly. That was our boy with the braces. He would noodle around while others were delivering lines, upstaging them and diverting the focus. The actors privately seethed. The worst blow was when Jon “Dirty Jack” Stainbrook remarked one time that Braces Boy was the one cast member who might actually make it in big time show business, because he was willing to do anything. I don’t know if Jon really meant it or if he was jerking the actors around, but it surely got their bitch-eyes out. They were beside themselves.

I gotta hand it to Braces Boy, though. One night he ad libbed one of the funniest things I have ever seen in live theater. Out of the blue, when he was delivering one of his goofy lines, he did a pratfall, and he immediately bounced up with his hat askew, pulled down over his eyes, and he staggered around, bumping into things and fell again. And again. It was classic Dick Van Dyke stuff, delivered with perfect deft and timing. The audience was rolling in the aisles, and the cast was stunned, mouths agape, standing around looking at each other. Now they REALLY hated him.

I wish I could remember his name. I’d like to look him up and find out if Jon Stainbrook was right. If you remember him, please drop me a line.