Friday, March 31, 2017
"Willkommen" On "Cold Case" Has Similar Dynamics As "Theater Tricks" On 'SVU'!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
Lyle, brilliantly played by Eric Lange, is the male counterpart to Holly Schneider (Gayle Rankin), which makes both sad, in a way. As I talk about "Willkommen!" on "Cold Case," the reasons will become apparent.
This was "Cold Case's" only venture into the world of theater. The casting was superb, with Jon Rubinstein as an ego maniacal, down-on-his luck director, Adam Pascal as the victim, a shy cab driver with an inner talent, and Laura Bell Bundy, as the Eve Harrington of the piece, Nora McCarthy.
What happens is this. Back in 2002, the Francisville Community Theatre was mounting a production of the musical, "Cabaret." It never got a chance to be seen, because Dennis Hofferman, (Adam Pascal) who was playing Cliff, (the Bert Convy/Michael York role) was found outside the stage door, dead, the victim of a shooting; probably a robbery gone wrong.
Years later, the team is called to a backstage area. Another theater owner has purchased a table used in the aforementioned production of "Cabaret," only to find, in one of the drawers, a gun. It turns out to be a .38, which was used in the murder of Dennis Hofferman.
Which means the team has to go over every cast and crew member of this past show. to get at what really happened.
The victim, Dennis, was simply at a crossroads in his life, where he wanted to try something new. Gloria, his fiancé, and part owner of the cab company where Dennis worked, and they met, explains how the show seemed to take over Dennis--including an onstage, offstage romance with Nora McCarthy (Laura Bell Bundy) who was playing Sally Bowles.
Clinton, (Dwayne Barnes) the actor playing the Joel Grey role of the Emcee, at first resented Dennis--what is this upstart doing in theater????--until an incident when the director had a hissy fit--as many do--and dressed down the entire company. Dennis was the only one to stand up for them, and a friendship was forged.
The director, brilliantly played by John Rubinstein, says he is someone who tears actors down, then builds them up again. It is clear he wants to be Kazan or Harold Prince, but hasn't the talent or luck. Let's face it, you don't work at Francisville Community Theater if you are on the A-list!!!!!!! And direction by intimidation??????????? Where have I heard that, before?
It wouldn't work with me, darlings! Not THIS actor!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Nora, the alleged "star," who saw herself as going places, is now working on a cruise ship. Hey, it pays the bills!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! She almost comes off as the culprit, when she reveals that, the afternoon of the opening, she and Dwayne were on stage plotting the kind of robbery that took place. But the intention was only to rattle Dennis, so he would mess up, and they would shine, and be spotted by the agent the director, Rafe Gray, was allegedly bringing in that night, to see the show. Which turned out to be a lie.
The team realizes someone must have overheard the plot, and gone ahead with the plan. But who??????????????? When Lily and Company recall their interview with fiancé Gloria, they figure out who.
The afternoon of the opening, something else happened. Gloria came by to promote good wishes, and offer up homemade brownies. She discovers Lyle in the stage manager's booth, doing a sound check, and gives him a brownie. But not before, much to Lyle's embarrassment, Gloria overhears Dennis and Nora talking of their romantic future after the play. Poor, embarrassed Lyle, forgot to turn the sound off, so Gloria hears this, and storms out.
At this point, Gloria looks good for it. Until Lily realizes Lyle could have overheard the plan, and enacted it himself. But why? He was, after all, "just a Musical Director."
That phrase is one of many things this show does not get right about theater. But now let's examine Eric Lange's brilliant performance as Lyle. From the time Dennis walks in, we can see, on Lyle's face, not only bored detachment, but an angry yearning. Further into the episode, Lyle, in exasperation, storms out of the theater. Something is going on with Lyle, it is apparent, and when he is interrogated, all is revealed.
Lyle, like Holly Schneider, wanted to be in theater. The sadness of both characters is their not finding peace of mind with their place in it. In some ways, this is worse than not making it at all. The latter one is forced to accept. The former is not easy to accept. Many cannot, and they are the tragic ones. But none go so far as Lyle and Holly.
In Lyle's case, things would have boiled over, no matter what show. In this case, he was sick of being in the background--cue in "Rose's Turn!"--feeling he could do the show better than anyone, and especially the role of Cliff. He also had an interest in Nora,, which she was unaware of, and resented this newbie, Dennis, walking off with everything.
Here is another thing this show did not get right. This seems to be an entirely straight theater company!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Say, what???????????????????
Lyle's character should have been gay. The theatrical yearning would have been enough to those of us who understand theater. Obviously, the writers were just gaming it.
In one scene, during a rehearsal, there is this 10-year-old boy, downstage, singing the chilling "Tomorrow Belongs To Me." He is dressed in Nazi regalia, but he is too young for the role, and sings it, beaming, as though he were doing "The Sound Of Music." Which he would have been better off in. Again, anyone with theater knowledge knows this is not how the song should be cast or performed.
Lyle admits to having overheard Nora's plan. He also hears Dwayne turn it down. Smart move, Dwayne. So, Lyle decides to carry it out, so he can step into Dennis' role, as Cliff, and get his moment to shine.
I was never sure whether Lyle intended to kill Dennis, or not. Because, when confronted, Dennis see through the disguise, and laughs, good naturedly, at Lyle. This is where the violent resentment is triggered, and he shoots Dennis, dead.
Much to Lyle's dismay, the show does not go on. And he has never gotten over it. In a chilling moment in the interrogation room, he tells Lily and Kat the theater was all he had, and then recites the opening monologue that starts the show. It is a chilling, Baby Jane Hudson, type moment. I suppose Lyle will be sent to prison; I think he would do better in a psych facility, where he can enact all his theatrical fantasies, earning the adulation there, he never got on the outside. And I think this would have been a better ending.
I so get Lyle. Which is why I feel sorry for him. He tells Lily and Kat the theater was all he had (which is why he should have been written as gay!!!!!!!!!!) but it destroyed him, instead. Or maybe he let it destroy him.
The one thing Holly and Lyle were unable to do was objectively evaluate themselves. Lyle might have been able to sing and act up a storm as Cliff, but he was not the right type. He was just too big and burly. He should have looked at himself as, say Tevye, or, provided he could hit those high notes, Jean Valjean. Then he MIGHT have shined.
Another thing not gotten right--Lyle may have known every line and lyric-- I have plenty of show scores stored in my head, darlings!!!!!!!!!!!-- but how could he have done the show, then, without having learned the blocking or choreography??????? Good as Lyle was, unless he had been at least "walked through" the show, he could never have picked these things up. Which, again, is something those of us with theater backgrounds would know.
Poor Holly and Lyle. There are young folk out there who would give everything just to have gotten as far as they. To have made it to New York. Or to work in the theater as a knowing musical director.
They just did not make peace with themselves. They are the supreme exemplars of Shakespeare's words, "the fault is not in the stars, but in ourselves."