Withdrawing with Style

By staff February 12, 2007

Theater is the opiate of the Hannah.


By Hannah Wallace


I think someone spiked my weekend—it was that good. And the theater played a major role.


Friday night, after sucking down a few Hotinis at the magazine’s “Hottest Husbands” party at Saks, pal Little J and I hurried across town and arrived at the Asolo at 7:55, my mother waiting impatiently to give us our tickets for the opening of A Few Good Men. As you can see from my bio, Sorkin holds a special place in my heart. (When we were roommates years back in a Gillespie Park duplex, Little J and I shared overlapping periods of unemployment during which we’d spend our days camped out in front of West Wing reruns and Sports Night DVDs.)


Aside from a fellow audience member’s sudden bout with state-the-obvious disease at an incredibly inappropriate time, I really enjoyed the show. Sorkin’s always good for elevating arguments, never (well, rarely) pulling punches on either side of the fight—while undercutting all that smart with frequent doses of smartass. Tom Stoppard (not unfunny himself, to be sure) once said he wrote plays because dialogue was the most respectable way of contradicting himself; Sorkin earns a fair bit of Stoppard-association in my mind.


And I’m told the Asolo Rep actors themselves are enjoying the Sorkin because—in addition to other reasons of quality—his dialogue is smooth and intelligent, making the lines easier to remember.


This time, the post-opening party migrated to Patrick’s—Little J and I, my mother and the Asolo’s other stage manager (who should, for the sake of consistency, be called Stage Manager J) sharing a high-top table amid the crowd of Asolo-ites. I feel silly admitting it, but I still get a real thrill around casual conversations of stage folk—in part because I pretend it makes me interesting by association, but also for the pure behind-the-scenes casualness, the dynamic between onstage and offstage lives. And even though I’m just tangentially a member of that crowd (which certainly helps me idealize it), I’m greeted warmly by the likes of Col. Jessep and Lt. Weinberg, and that just makes my night.


And how’s this for the Six Degrees of Sarasotans—Little J’s little sister unexpectedly showed up at Patrick’s, too. It turns out she’s good friends with AFGM’s Pvt. Santiago.


Twelve hours later, Little J and I, along with SARASOTA Magazine’s copy editor Megan, met again at the theater for a matinee of Amadeus (which I’d been meaning to see again since its opening). I’d been warned the night before that this particular show would include both captioning and middle schoolers in the audience, and I was terrified for my own tendency to go ballistic at the slightest sign of audience distraction. But from our seats in the orchestra: perfection. Laughter at the jokes; rapt silence at the drama. I was enthralled, totally captured by the whole experience. Absolute theater. It was like frigging heroin.


(And it’s a good thing Brian “Salieri” Torfeh isn’t a member of the resident company, because otherwise I might be compelled to stalk him, which always puts a lot of miles on my car—it’d be a real hassle.)


Speaking of Stoppard, am I the only one who sees a little bit of Travesties in Amadeus? The first-person flashback narrative? The historic figures converging in a European capital city? (And yelling at God in another language also has a certain Sorkin-ness to it—Two Cathedrals, anyone?)


But this, this really blew my mind: Looking online just now for information on A Few Good Men, I see that Tom Hulce starred in the original Broadway production. Hulce I know from Asolo lore: He was an Asolo apprentice in the ‘70s before going on to star as—wait for it—Mozart in the 1984 movie version of Amadeus. Hulce once said in an interview that he’d based that character’s maniacal laugh on a director he’d worked with—almost certainly, say the old pros, the late Bob Strane, once the Asolo’s artistic director. I always associate Bob with a framed quote my father once gave him, a copy of which still hangs Dad’s office: “Since we cannot hope for order, let us withdraw with style from the chaos.” The quote, of course, is from Stoppard.

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