I got to the rehearsal hall a little about 4:20, fresh from my own rehearsal, fighting for lines at Dazzle, and what did I find but four actors sitting in the rehearsal space, fighting through Act I lines. It’s an unwelcome task for everyone from the first grade to Broadway.
They paused at the end of Act I, and then, Sean still being in transit from London, they set out to work on Act I lines on their feet. They had barely got started when Sean arrived, and we were off on a working rehearsal of Act I, generally off-book, which makes much of the wonderful business that they have been developing work. It’s hard enough to juggle three hats without a script in one’s hand!
I saw the beginning of the play for the first time. It will involve the entire theater as far as I can tell, and Sean was very specific about how to do that so that the audience can work out what’s happening before losing too many words. This show is so fast and so confusing that the audience can easily get lost when voices come out of nowhere.
The train scene has grown from the last time I saw it. We now have real train seats, but, more important, the business has gotten much smoother. The beginning is deceptively simple: Aaron and Joel are traveling salesmen and Hannay is Hannay. They share a compartment awkwardly. But then we have the advent of the police (seeking Hannay), a newsboy and the train conductor. Aaron and Joel each have three hats, which they rotate rapidly almost from line to line. Sean has got it so that they don’t have to speak while rotating their own hats. This means that they must rotate hats while the other speaks, which in turn imposes timing restrictions on the speech and movement of the other actor. (Of course all four of them are moving in a chase scene much of the time!) When it works it is smoothly funny, but the process by which it gets to that point is painstaking and exhausting — segments of one to three lines (with accompanying movement of actors and hats) are repeated and repeated until they are correct. The whole train sequence is probably about five minutes long, and I watched about an hour of work on it before I had to leave.
I always knew comedy is hard, but this brings home just how hard it can be, especially when it relies on so much physical business.
(There is a herd of sheep in the corner of the rehearsal room. I’m anxious to see them in action!)” – Roger Gans