Here’s another rough piece I foisted upon the insanely generous Moonwork crowd last night – I have this bad habit of not-quite-finishing a piece but giving it a try anyway because of how nice they are. I think this one is no different. I need to figure out an ending, and maybe flesh out the non-review stuff too…
“All the world’s a stage, and we are merely players.”
Please forgive the pomposity of kicking things off with some lyrics from the band ‘Rush’, but I thought it appropriate considering the subject matter of this piece.
We are all indeed merely players on this stage of life. But what role has each of us chosen to play? If the role you have chosen is that of a doctor or a lawyer or someone who withholds information about apartments until presented a fee, or perhaps a ninja, then to you the stage called life might seem sufficient. But what if you are one of those who must seek out other stages within this stage called life? A stage…such as an actual stage?
What if you are blessed with the curse of the need to perform?
I am one of those desperate few. A comedian. A writer/performer hybrid. A mutant, whose need for constant attention, acceptance and admiration is matched only by my need for constant admiration, acceptance, and attention. But when did that unquenchable desire for validation uncloak itself in my personality, like some sort of Romulan warship of dysfunction, it’s photon torpedoes aimed squarely at my self-esteem?
My first stage was the dinner table. As a young child of three, I would do impromptu animal impressions using a pair of stringbeans, which made excellent tusks:
Elephant – two stringbeans in the corners of my mouth curving up.
Walrus – the same, but pointing down…
That was pretty much it, really. I had a limited repertoire. Elephant and walrus. My first reviews were dismal. Yes, I said reviews. I could not yet read, but my parents would pretend to read reviews of my animal impression one man show aloud from the Arts section of the New York Times. Somehow, they told me, the theater critic from the most prestigious newspaper in all the land had witnessed my latest stringbean performance, and invariably, without fail, they had hated it.
As I sat there in my PJ’s, grinning and chewing stringbeans after what I perceived to be yet another smash performance of elephant and walrus, my father would make a grand display of thwapping open the paper. THWAP. And he would say “Oh no. Tsk Tsk tsk. Listen to this review, Andres — ‘A complete waste of stringbeans! Du Bouchet insists on endlessly cycling between his tired old elephant and walrus impressions. Insufferably self-indulgent!”
My mother would sigh, shake her head, and force me to clip the review out of the paper with a pair of scissors and place it in a scrapbook, which she insisted on referring to as the Crapbook. Years later, when I could read, I would find said Crapbook in the attic. The articles were completely random. A sports article here. A political scandal there. I guess my parents were just trying to toughen me up. To prepare me for the inevitable critical drubbings I would receive later in life. They knew I was destined to loom large in the public eye, like the giant E at the top of the optometrist’s chart.
But my current success does nothing to mollify the stinging childhood memory of my father thwapping open the New York Times and pretending to read such scathing broadsides as:
“Tonight I eschewed the typical Broadway fare in favor of lurking outside the du Bouchet’s kitchen window in the New Jersey suburbs, in order to sneak a look at the show everyone’s mocking: Stringbean Toddler Trainwreck. And boy oh boy did it live up to its name. This is one show that is so bad it needs to be seen to be believed. The smug look of happy satisfaction on du Bouchet’s face after he gleefully pretends to be a walrus with a pair of stringbeans is utterly repellent.”
“Much like the namesake of the bean for which this show is named, Andres du Bouchet’s Stringbean Animal Impression Review feels strung together, with no cohesive storyline or theme. From Walrus to Elephant and then back to Walrus, the narrative skitters along schizophrenically and, in the end, predictably. ‘Oh he’s doing the walrus impression again, I bet the elephant one is right around the corner. And yes, here it is. Is this child really three years old? I would have thought he was two.”
“Make no mistake. Terrible theater is created by bad little boys. Therefore, Andres du Bouchet must be the worst little boy there is.”
“Bean There, Done That!”
“More like string-has-bean.”
“Young du Bouchet’s performance belongs where those stringbeans are ultimately going: a colon, and then a toilet, and then a sewer, and then a river, and then the ocean, and then a fish’s stomach, and then a person’s stomach. A person who is guaranteed to be more talented than du Bouchet.”
“You can’t spell string bean without ‘I ban’, and if I could ban one thing it would be Andres du Bouchet. Period.”
“I had to dictate this review to my assistant, because I am now blind. Blind from having to watch a wretched toddler commit rape against the very concept of theater itself! I watched a rape and it made me go blind aaaaaaaaaaah! Yes I told my assistant to type aaaaaaaaah!”
Every night my father would read a similar review from the New York Times, because every night my mother made a point of serving string beans. And every night I would do my damnedest to top the previous night’s performance. I wracked my brain every night in bed as the salt hardened on my cheeks, planning the next evening’s show. I would lie there wondering “Should I lead off with elephant or walrus? And then what? Walrus or elephant? Were there any other animals I should try? Like what? Get real, du Bouchet. You’re three fucking years old! If there were any other animals out there in this world which could possibly be crudely mimicked by a sticking pair of string beans against your face you’d have oops I’m asleep”.
Well, things are different now. I’m an adult. I make my living as a writer and performer, dammit. And I know my animals. And I know that you, Moonwork, the friendliest, most enthusiastic audience in all the land, will give me the validation that I was denied as a child! So, without further ado, I would like to present to you, Moonwork, my updated rendition of Toddler Stringbean Animal Revue, entitled Andres du Bouchet’s Stringbean Cavalcade Of Animals. And scene!
Elephant! Look out or I will stomp you!
Walrus! Get off of my rocky outcropping! These walrus cows are for my mating purposes!
Um. (panic sets in)
(more panic, crying, fleeing stage)