THERE WAS nothing to it. The running sight gag that the author of this farce so carefully designed that the director bought into was sheer simplicity in itself. The dialog that contrasted it nearly wrote itself, setting up a social criticism they were sure would be meaningful to everyone after they went home. A conversation starter. The hunt for the actor that was to accomplish this artistry—not to mention the auditions for it—went on for days longer than for the lead. There were no lines; they were looking for a modesty of presence that undercut the daring necessary that so many men were so ready to flaunt, standing up on the stage, bold and daring, desperate to get the part, so they could show off their…theatrical…gifts. None of them understood.
Chester adored this play and believed in it, and he fought every instinct he had to turn and run, or even at least put his hands up to shield his shame, and that genuine inner conflict he could do nothing to hide was what fulfilled the vision and landed him the role.
“Perfect. No arrogance.”
“Agreed. That blush is priceless.”
The hard part, the directors and producers correctly discerned, was to waltz a very fine line between his willingness to appear full frontal naked before an audience at very precise comedic timings, and keeping his personal mortification and disgrace turned up on high in doing so. Rehearsals were tricky; they didn’t want him in any way to get used to prancing about in front of God and everyone, so he didn’t appear “in costume” until the second-to-last tech rehearsal when all the lights were kicked on to performance levels, and a serious unexpected setback was discovered.
“Wow, he’s white. Incandescent.”
“Agreed. I’m still seeing spots. Makeup!”
Lucy was given the task of finding the right mix of powders and oils she would have to brush all over his entire body to keep from blinding the patrons when he stepped on his mark and yet still have him appear glistening.
“Oh, and shave him, too, dear. Can’t have our gimmick looking like a gorilla.”
“Yes, of course completely. Everything below the nose.”
There were coloration and glow debates right up to his second entrance.
“Cut! What the hell, Chester?”
“Yeah, no, we can’t have that.”
Chester’s hands flew to his center juncture. His face went crimson even more spectacularly than usual—the rampant erection he was sporting was just out-and-out wrong for this kind of show. He flew off, stage left.
Lucy was there to catch him with a robe, and she assured him that he killed it, taking him back to the dressing room to re-apply the pancake that had smudged, slowly, carefully, paying extra care to make sure his penis was properly shaded. His third entrance had the same problem, and brought up the question among the directorate as to whether or not they should bring the whole cast and crew out, to try to laugh him out of his hardon. It proved necessary. By the time he got to his last moment to shine, he was so embarrassed, his guilt and humiliation took over his courage, and withered him in the green room.
“Can’t have that.” Lucy twinkled as she knelt before him—checking for stubble with her cheek, licking and tonguing and slathering the vexing excess clumps of foundation that sure seemed to be centralized, smoothing him over, getting his eyes to glaze as she cooed, encouraging him to relax—like she always did right before he went on. “Mmmm; break a leg. Listen: you go be brave and I’ll be right here to fuck you like a whore after your dramatic triumph.” Her dress fell to the floor to show him what he had to look forward to, and he took his cue.
“Lucy! Get out here! No, now! Right god damn now!”
Directing is the art of compromise and problem solving toward creative eloquence, and the decision was made that Lucy was just going to have to fuck him like a whore before he went on, not after. Which worked, until an inspiration struck at the last run-through, and there was scrambling.
The production, of course, bombed. The review did comment on one small change to the script that was of note, in that the comedic nude appearances of Chester and Lucy together—hand in hand, humble, out of breath, rosy, dripping, their body-greasepaints smeared and blended—was indeed an amazing special effect, a case of fine acting, and a true conversation starter.