Dec 4, 2004

The Curse of Gordon

I'd like to write a serious and sober post about the extraordinary 37-year legacy of Taper and Center Theatre Group founding artistic director Gordon Davidson, whose contributions to the cultural life of not only Los Angeles but the nation are inestimable.

That post will have to wait while I add one footnote to his illustrious career. To wit: Davidson's last season has been plagued by glitches that have literally stopped the show in each venue he oversees--including his new baby, Culver City's Kirk Douglas Theatre. Two of these I witnessed, because they occured on the opening/press nights: An early scene in Intimate Apparel at the Taper had to be stopped when a bed got stuck in the trap and wouldn't go back down into position. Gordon himself came onstage and introduced an "understudy" bed, which was manually schlepped on and off by stagehands. And at one point near the end of Act One of Little Shop of Horrors, the curtain closed, lights swirled, dramatic music played--and then nothing. A voice came on the PA to tell us there were technical difficulties, and we patiently waited for the show to start up again. (I wish I could say this heightened the drama of that piffling show.)

I wouldn't be posting about my suspicions of a "last season" curse at all if a theatregoer hadn't just filled me in on a rather scary recent evening at the Kirk Douglas Theatre: During the mud-fight that climaxed Act One of A Perfect Wedding, actor Mark Capri started to clutch his chest and announced that he was having chest pains. Given the wild, jarring juxtatpositions playwright Chuck Mee is known for, the audience apparently thought this was part of the show; Capri's castmates knew better, and had to turn to the audience to confirm that this was most definitely not a scripted moment.

Paramedics were called, Capri was given an EKG and a clean bill of health--no heart attack after all--and the show went on.

I've heard about the theatre superstition that a bad dress rehearsal means a killer opening night. But what does this trifecta of show-stoppers say about Gordon Davidson's career? Are the poltergeists giving the old maestro a last farewell? Are the gods of the theatre trying to invite us to pause and reflect on Gordon's legacy?

At the very least, they add a bit of spice to Davidson's exit--and a salient reminder that his career has been devoted to a living, breathing art form in which anything can happen in the moment.

I look forward to next week's School for Scandal opening. If all those wigs stay perfectly in place I'll be so disappointed.

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