Vague Impressions From Thirty Minutes With The Cast Of Eureka.
The Boulevard Theatre closes its season with the world premiere of local playwright Chad M. Rossi’s Eureka!--a coming of age romantic buddy comedy set on the East Side of Milwaukee. With less than a week to go before opening night, I had an opportunity to talk to the cast about the play, Milwaukee and various bits of nonsense prior to a Wednesday night rehearsal. Much of the conversation was recorded on video. Here are some general impressions from the first thirty minutes of the conversation:
The First Ten Minutes: Plot
As the play is premiering, I know very little about the plot. I ask the cast to let me know about it. Here’s what I am able to piece together:
THE SETTING: It’s a contemporary comedy set in Milwaukee. As the cast is all generally in its late 20’s/early 30’s, I ask if it might be a comedy set on the east side. Though it’s never expressly stated in the script, the cast generally agrees from clues in the script that the play must be taking place somewhere on the East Side or possibly River West.
From Racine. (As if to prove this, he pronounces the name of the town “ray-seen” as all people native to the town do.)
Jason plays a guy named Clyde. Clyde is the roommate of Wayne (played by Cesar Gamino.) I ask what Clyde’s background is--what he does for a living. The question prompts this bit of dialogue:
JASON: I want to reform society.
ME: Okay. Professionally?
CESAR: [to Jason] You TALK about it.
JASON: Yah, I talk about it.
CESAR: He comes up with these great ideas all the time and . . . AND he likes to show me his penis.
CESAR: Well, he flashes me. He’s just proud of the size of it. We’re that close . . . I work a normal nine to five job, so I’ve accepted the conformity. [Jason’s character] is trying to, but his brain is just so far out there.
JASON: Yah, [Cesar’s Character] helped me find a job that he’s held for six months, but I hate it: spreadsheets, word documents. It’s not as free as I’d like it to be.
ME: Office monkey stuff.
JASON: Exactly. So I don’t want to be conformed to society. I just want to be my own self.
From Brookfield. He’s been back and forth to California a number of times. (As if to prove this, he expresses frustration at the fact that people from River West and the East Side all feel the need to walk everywhere. In California, Cesar went native and presumably drove anywhere that wasn’t less than a block away. Jason and I attempt to explain the mathematics of parking on the East Side—how one usually ends up parking roughly half the distance away from the destination that one would’ve walked anyway.) Cesar plays Wayne—a guy whose life has just recently stabilized. He’s starting to get serious about a woman. That woman is Nancy. She is played by Rachel Lau.
From ‘Tosa. (no one in southeastern Wisconsin seems pronounce the full name of the town unless they’re applying for something.) She lives in Waukesha now. She plays Nancy: a girl from a relatively wealthy family who has been working a professional job for seven years. She’s been dating Wayne for four months. She’s very driven and needs to be in control.
From the South Side. She plays Teri. Teri meets Wayne at Wolski’s and the two hit it off right away. It’ never expressly stated in the script, but Jason figures she might be working as a barista somewhere on the east side. The reason for this doesn’t become immediately apparent. I understand what he’s talking about only once I have seen the play. Nancy knows Terri. Rachel explains the connection like this:
RACHEL LAU: . . . she and Wayne met before I met Wayne so I don’t know that they know each other.
RACHEL LEW: This is all very complex.
Rachel Lewandowski further clarifies aspects of her character and her relationship with Clyde, rounding out the basic premise of the play.
The Next Ten Minutes: Stage Anxiety and Underwear
Being a new play, it has been explained to me that the script has been evolving in the course of rehearsals. Pages that had been previously committed to memory get discarded without much notice. Things change. Everyone present seems to have had some kind of experience working on an evolving script, so it’s no big deal. Rachel Lewandowski was probably affected the most by the changing script.
RACHE LEW: I can say that it’s done a number on me as far as my memorization.
RACHEL LAU: She was the one and only who came in off-book and shamed all the rest of us.
And, evidently, those lines she had worked so hard to memorize so far in advance had been eliminated. Meanwhile, Jason, who shared the deleted scene with her was able to roll straight out of it, having not completely committed it to memory.
Cesar goes on to say that, on a more subtle level, a new script changes a little bit from page to stage regardless. Things get tweaked.
There is a brief silence. I observe that there is only one week until the opening. There is some concern rippling through the cast that there would be problems getting through the script entirely off-book with less than a week before the show, but this is nothing new to a show premiering with actors who aren’t working on a show full-time. It goes more or less unnoticed at this stage, but Rachel Lewandowski mentions that she’s never performed lines onstage before, so the anxiety about lines is particularly tense for her.
At some point in the conversation, Cesar is talking to Jason, casually raising his voice to say, “put your dick back in your pants.” Evidently it’s one of his lines.
ME: Have you ever said that onstage before?
CESAR: That line?—No. I think it’s one of the more interesting lines I’ve had to say onstage: put your dick back in your pants.
RACHEL LAU: But because we have lines like that we have not been able to get through a rehearsal without cracking-up at each other.
The cast then breaks up into fragments of discussion over the nature of comedy, but a part of me still wants to go back to an earlier point:
ME: Did I hear you correctly in that you’ve never done lines onstage before?
RACHEL LEW: Yes, you heard that correctly. And one of my biggest fears is public speaking.
CESAR: Way to admit that NOW!
JASON: So you’re just thrown-in there.
RACHEL LEW: Yep. And to top it all off, I’ve got to get down to my undies, so imagine being me.
CESAR: Hey—join the club.
ME: That’s gotta be tough, because here you’re not far from even the furthest members of the audience.
RACHEL LEW: No.
ME: How do you prepare yourself for that?
RACHEL LEW: Shave.
At this point, it becomes apparent that the only person in the cast not to undress onstage in the production is Rachel Lau.
CESAR: She should’ve been down to her underwear. The way we blocked it she was gonna be.
RACHEL LAU: We practiced it and Ces thought I looked pretty good, but Mark said no. That’s okay. I’ve been onstage in my underwear before. It’s fun. It has its place but I think if I was down to my underwear I’d lose a sense of power and control.
The Third Ten Minutes: Further Definition
ME: So the feeling I’m getting is that it’s a light comedy.
RACHEL LAU: I call it a sex comedy.
CESAR: I don’t know if I’d call it “light”
RACHEL LEW: It isn’t some of it is pretty deep.
RACHEL LAU: It’s so real it’s funny, though. Because sometimes when you see something that’s mirroring real life, you’ve gotta say, “Oh my god, I’ve done that.”
CESAR: I’m not going to go there. My character’s a little too close to my real life these days.
RACHEL LAU: Mark [Boucher] casted it like that on purpose.
RACHEL LEW: When he first asked, he said, “you’re all cast for a purpose and it’s because you’re perfect for the part.
CESAR: So at least we don’t have to dive too deep to find our characters . . .
EUREKA! runs through April 27th