Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Dark Topics and Humor

posted by Doug Newell at 4:32 PM
We're in the 5th week of rehearsals for "Back of the Throat." My character "Carl" is coming along. I've been "off-book" for a couple of weeks, but I still miss the occasional line, and hopefully after Saturday's "table read" I'll rid myself of these mental lapses. It's nice to have everyone moving off-book and it allows the cast to begin really playing the moments and feeding off of each other. The cast has been great to work with and the crew is, as always, on top of it. I feel like I'm growing tremendously as an actor. So much of my acting has been formed by my improv background. Playing to large and often drunk audiences meant I usually had to go big and broad. That experience helped in a show like "Fair Maid of the West" where I could play a drunk sailor, lisping Spaniard and horny Frenchman. But in this show I have to work much more subtly and the director Damaso's notes to "do less" make quite a bit of sense.

This play while topical and intense, is also really funny. I'd describe it as a dark comedy. There's an old saying along the lines of "comedy is harder to pull off than drama." While I think both present their own challenges, I think a dark comedy may present one of the greatest challenges in entertainment. People like to be able to put their entertainment in a labeled box. Tonight they want a "comedy" or a "chick-flic" or "Steven Segal." They need to know if they'll be laughing (comedy), crying (chick-flic), or both (Steven Segal). This show, and most dark comedies don't give you the clear cut signs that laughing is appropriate here and you should be emotionally affected here. Because of that I think a lot of people write these shows off as either "not funny enough" or "shallow." I reacted both ways to a "comedy" I saw on recently so I'll try not to judge too harshly.

I'm looking forward to seeing how an audience will react to this show and the topics it brings up. Specifically is it too early for 9/11 humor? Hollywood felt it wasn't too early to play on people's emotions here or here. That being said I think we're successfully navigating the balance between humor and drama for this show.


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