Saturday, April 28, 2012

Old Man in Jeep--the back story

In a current community theater production (in the Sierra foothills of California) of “Tea House of the August Moon,” I play the role of the Old Man who gets on the Jeep near the beginning of the play. He does so without explanation to those already in the jeep and when confronted replies that he wants to tag along. Later (a day, or two or three) he demands to be let off near “Yatoda.” The script suggests that he has a cousin in Yatoda and the movie version suggests that this is near the Ocean. The episode contributes nary a squiggle to the “arc” of the play. Orson Welles said that a happy ending depends on when a story ends. If the play did end here, we would have a moment of the ABSURD and it would be awesome. Google does not yield any results when searched for “Yatoda.” Perhaps it is somewhere over the rainbow. Ocean or mountain top or park, it is the place to which the Old Man goes so he can lie down and wait to die. (Just like the old Indian in “Little Big Man.”) The Old Man has lived what he considers his full allotment of life and decides that this is time to shuffle off the mortal coil. He has some misgivings, some regrets, perhaps even some reservations—but NO doubt that this is THE TIME to move on, “over the horizon.” And so he gets off the jeep, takes a deep breath and walks on, leaving the play also to move forward. The play was adapted by John Patrick in 1953 from a novel by Vern J. Sneider; it won a Pulitzer and a Tony and was further adapted by Patrick into the screenplay for the 1956 movie that starred Glenn Ford and Marlon Brando.

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