Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Hardest Part

Regarding Rescue Me's Season 4 finale

Those who had some experiences on the stage and/or screen (and bona fide actors) will know what I'm talking about. For those who don't, you'll probably look a little closer next time you go to the movies or watch TV.

Many acting school-of-thoughts train thespians to use "Sense Memories" when it's time to convey a particular emotion, any emotion, especially on stage. You get to a point where your character has to have a reaction, and you need to push yourself to react, so you take a deep breath and bring to the forefront of your mind the memory of a really emotional moment in your life, one that will give a reaction proper to what you need to exude. Your character's wife leaves him, you think back when your mom told you that some nice family brought your hamster with them to the countryside.

But what happens when you don't have a point of reference? When don't even know what kind of sense memory can make this look good?

The hardest part of being an actor is death. Of course, everyone knows how they WANT to die, and think they could act it out if needed. But really, what IS dying? What do you see, what do you feel? How do you not make it look cheesy and over the top? And can you know what your talking about, when you've never been through it, and anyone who did can't quite relate it to you?

Edward Albee's Zoo Story was my own and only experience as such, where my character of Jerry culminates his vengeful harassment of a poor stranger with the final insults of forcing the man to kill him. So I was kind of lucky, cause in my view, the only way for him to die was in the darkness of a blood-chilling laughter. But even then, I burned the midnight oil more than once trying to figure out how to pull it off. Lucky as well for being young; I wasn't rehearsing for things soon to come...

I hate Charles Durning, that old bastard. Good hate that is, as I just love every single one of his performances. Well..the one's I've seen. Typical Durning was his turn in "Rescue Me", which came to a fourth-season end this week. I hate his patriarch to Dennis Leary so much that I devoured each of his too rare appearances in the show. Especially his very last scene. The cheesy setting of father and son attending a ball game was eclipsed by Durning. They talk, they make jokes, the bat cracks. Tommy (Leary) gets on his feet in cheer, but dad stays sitting, bows his head to look at his belly and wipes some crumbs off it. Keeps his head there, and folds his arms. No extravagant gesture, no warning sign, no dramatic or comedic moment. An old man, who had fought against life for all too long, simply rests. And never wakes up. Nothing left for his son to do but put his arm around him, and lean on him for the rest of the game, without any sound save for the ironic-yet-pertinent Let The Good Times Roll. One of the greatest death scenes I've ever viewed.

The hardest thing for an actor to do is die on screen or stage. What must it be like when you reallly ARE near the end of your run? My hat off to you, Mr Durning. May this last scene be an echo of how peaceful your own final rest will start out.

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