A Spanish Play
I read the play six years ago out loud to Brian in the car as he drove us to his grandparents’ house. It was my first time meeting them. I don't think of myself as a clumsy person usually, but before two hours had passed, I upset a whole box of Russell Stover’s assorted dark chocolates onto the pristine white carpet. The box had just been opened; one piece had been eaten. So I scooped all of the chocolates back into the box — no reason to waste all of those delicious goodies and, as I mentioned, the carpet was very clean. I later learned that chocolates that fall on the floor are to be thrown away in this family.
Later than night, Brian's grandma asked me if I liked black licorice. I said, "No. Not really. I am growing to like my mother’s anise cookies, though." She told me she had just the thing for me. She took me into the kitchen and poured me a shot of Zambuca (a licorice flavored liqueur) and then set it on fire. Hot licorice flavored alcohol. It was terrible. Brian's brother finished the drink for me after my first few sips.
A Spanish Play is about actors rehearsing a Spanish play in which some of them play actors — one of those actors is rehearsing a Bulgarian play. So there are three layers (at least) going on. While there's a lot of comedy, especially from Denis O'Hare, mostly it’s sad. The characters, in each layer, are sad and lonely. Their relationships are falling apart. They are losing their grips on who they are. Do actors exist apart from the roles they play? Is it better if they don’t? Is there an end to anything? To art? To relationships? To pain and loneliness? To existence?
I really liked it. All the actors were amazing. I’ll remember the sadness though, I think, more than anything else. The actor rehearsing the Bulgarian play has a line about liking happy, “jolly” plays, but the sad things stick with you longer. I think that’s right. We’re all so afraid of sadness and loneliness (or so familiar with it) that seeing it on the stage or on the screen resonates louder and reverberates longer in our hearts.
The play was directed by John Turturro. It was a square theater with about five rows of seating on three sides. I think that’s called a three-quarters stage. We were in the second-to-last row in the center section (excellent seats that we got for free because Brian’s job is awesome). We went in as soon as the house opened — about fifteen minutes before the show started. We sat and watched the seats fill up. About five minutes out, three men came and sat down in the seats right behind us. Brian says to me quietly, “That’s John Turturro. He’s sitting right behind us.” And sure enough he was. We were able to eavesdrop as he talked to the other two men about what had been happening in rehearsals and the differences between doing a new play and an old play. During the play, Brian was treated to and distracted by some of his commentary. He was sitting directly behind Brian. I couldn’t hear much after the play started. I did hear him curse once or twice in reaction to some technical difficulties. But mostly it was just cool to sit in front of a famous actor who also happened to direct the play.
This is a picture that Brian took of John T. on the set of A Spanish Play.