Backstory: One Last Thing
I have a minor obsession with death. But it's not morbid fascination about dying; it's about the ways in which we choose to live our lives knowing that it has to end at some point and that generally we don't know how or when.
Likewise, I'm fascinated with the idea that death can literally come down to a matter of turning left when you ought to have turned right. Every decision is potentially fatal. So many terrible stories boil to down to oh, if only he hadn't gotten on that flight or oh, if only she'd left five minutes later... So I am convinced that death is always one simple decision away.
That's sort of the premise behind this show (for which I sadly have no photos, by the way). It began as a look at that left vs. right idea. The hair-thin precious truth of life. But of course there had to be more. I mean, without some deeper concept behind it this play becomes a cheap knock-off of Groundog Day, with the main character having to go through his last few moments over and over. I don't recall how or when the through-line came to me, but I realized it wasn't going to be about correcting a fatal decision; rather it had to be about that other fascination--how we comport ourselves in life and the final impression we leave. (I am also terrified that I am going to die a death where my last thought will be, "Oh shit, this is going to look stupid...") As an exploration of leaving a proper final moment, the piece really came alive.
The character of Charles is sort of one my concept-embodiments except that he's just a guy. On the other hand, he also represents total understanding. He's the physical version of my belief that once you get to the other side--whichever other side you choose to believe in--and you finally understand what life and death are about, then the way that we all choose to go about it hurrying and worrying just looks silly. In my works, Charles and Minion from Writer's Block both have this outlook.
This play premiered with AYTB Theatre Co. in Boston in 2005 (I think) as part of Death & You: A Beginner's Guide. It went over well. But when it was taken in as part of the second Chester Horn Short Play festival, I saw what it could really be--and at that it was done by an all-female cast. Leading the way as Charlie--or Charlene--was a wonderful actress named Lori Jean Ramsay, who I described in a journal entry as "equal parts pixie and British nanny. Flighty and endearing and with a soft, cherubic loveliness, [she] owned the show from her entrance--wispy dress, striped socks, sneakers and all." That performance netted the play "Outstanding Author" awards. It hasn't seen stage time since. Which is a shame because I'm told it has one of my most beautiful speeches in it.
Maybe some day. You know, before I go left instead of right.
The characters of Alex and Katie are named after my son's cousins down in Florida, both girls.