Sunday, March 29, 2009


(Continued from Games People Play Pt. 4: Intro to Acting)

Gall in the Family

By Theodore Fletcher

In Tod Abrams' claustrophobic new play THE GREAT ESCAPE: A PLAY THAT ENDS AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE, the author expects the audience to spend hours with him observing the excruciating holiday antics of a 'typical' American family whose bizarre idea of Christmas cheer is to shamelessly strip innocent children of their hard-earned Christmas presents while staging interminable dramatic readings of banal Hallmark greeting cards. Like the author himself, who in the leading role as a repulsive, Hollywood phony is forced to fake a grand Mal seizure to escape his narcissistic family, we can only hope that God renders us as comatose as our lead actor for having to spend even a nanosecond observing such ghastly source material.

Clumsily written and even more appallingly acted, THE GREAT ESCAPE: A PLAY THAT ENDS AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE, is inexplicably set at Christmas time in a San Diego tract house, light years from civilization (or a decent freeway) and stars a family of miscreants whose propensity for upstaging, scenery chewing, and 'look-at-me' theatrics left this reviewer hoping that a sudden brush fire might sweep in and mercifully cause our 'actors' to perish from a fatal case of smoke inhalation.

The wooden acting and cloying stage presence of the 'actors' is often overshadowed by the hideous set, which consists mainly of a creepy 70's era living room completely furnished in Mexican restaurant cast-offs, shag carpeting and an inordinate number of crocheted doilies. Seated close to the cruel little area that served as a type of 'stage,' this reviewer was nearly overcome by the stench of cheap tequila, tortilla chips and the ash from hundreds of Acapulco Gold joints carelessly ground into the cheap nylon pile.

While we might choose to forgive Abrams for the indifferent staging and lackluster direction of THE GREAT ESCAPE: A PLAY THAT ENDS AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE, we should not be obligated to excuse the author for his inability to offer us a cohesive plot, involving characters or at least a decent ending - which in this case has Abrams suffering the baddest of bad Karma when after faking an Epileptic fit to escape his insufferable family, finds himself alone and moribund, trapped like a rat in holiday traffic and unable to escape his own personal purgatory: San Diego.

Abrams' dismal play can best be summed up by the great Oscar Wilde who once wrote "The world is a stage but the play is badly cast."

Monday, March 23, 2009

Games People Play Pt 4 - Intro To Acting

(Continued from Games People Play Pt 3)

The Great Escape

A play that ends as quickly as possible.

By Tod Abrams


A faded beauty, 'B' movie actress whose real-life
claim to fame is having been killed by Vincent Price
in the 1950's cult film BUCKET OF BLOOD. Her outward
appearance of quaint daffiness,masks an unquenchable,
homicidal desire to keep the
limelight firmly fixed on her. Late 60s.

Former actor-turned-science-fiction-writer-turned-farmer
whose burgeoning Avocado empire is making profits fat
and his customers fatter. 70's.

Indulgent, steadfast wife to George - her training
as a nurse comes in handy as her
mangled line readings can cause seizures. 60's.

A 'kindly' old lady whose powers of upstaging
should NEVER be underestimated. 80's

A gifted 'farmer' like his father, his dime bag
'bounty' cannot blunt the harmful effects
of pure, unrefined narcissism. 20's.

Self-absorbed, cowardly guest with an inability to
defer to the floor to anyone. Mid 40's - but has
remained eerily young thanks to a limitless supply
of Rejuvaderm.


An ordinary San Diego tract house that has been 'transformed'
from a common stucco box, into a nightmarish 'Spanish-inspired' hacienda. The decor is a mishmash of 1980's Santa Fe dreck infused
with a touch of Cape Cod creepiness. Through the plate glass windows
we can see the dense foliage that ominously abuts the house - either the residents will be torn apart by rabid coyotes or will be burned
to death by an exploding Crystal Meth lab that is invariably within walking distance of such San Diego homes.


Christmas day - year after year after year.

Happiness is having a large,
loving, caring, close-knit
family in another city.
-- George Burns

Act one, Scene One


Gather round, gather round we have a
special surprise for you!
That's right, take a seat as the real entertainment
is about to begin. Aunt Jean are you comfortable?
Good! Everyone have their 'COCK'tails and HIGH BALLS -
hey you, Tod 'fancy pants' you got
your 'COCK'tails and HIGH BALLS?

(The crowd twitters at this bit of naughtiness)


(To the audience) Kill me, kill me now.


Ok, settle down, settle down. I know that you've all been
waiting for the day's real fun to begin and I promise
not to disappoint you. My thoughtful wife has yet again
outdone herself by thinking up a new Christmas
tradition. Honey, stand up and take a bow, you deserve


De Nada, Senor!


Pretty as a picture folks, I'm tellin' you! Well without
further ado,I have the supreme pleasure of introducing
you to one of America's most important actresses, a
national treasure who despite her innate poise, perfect
diction and strong resemblance to her fantastic looking
older brother,yours truly,has agreed to lead us in a
thrilling reading of
every Christmas card we've ever received -
I give you the incomparable
Judy B!

(The crowd politely claps as JUDY B grabs the MR. MICROPHONE)


Oh George, you can't be serious! ALL THESE CARDS?!
Why we could be here for days!
Better get me my reading
glasses and some more of that Christmas hooch
- this could take awhile! All right, this card here is
from Aunt Hildawho lives in Maryland with
her 2nd husband Eddie. They have
two children named Larry and Sarah. They used to
have the cutest dog named Laila or Lady - poor dog
was hit by a car several years ago.
Poor Hilda never
got over it...such a sin.
Anyway, Hilda and Eddy sent this card
6 years ago right
after Eddy's colostomy bag was installed.

God, don't they both look so happy?!

'May this day that comes but once each year
fill your loving hearts with hope and cheer.
Let's pray your Christmas wishes
are granted in all due haste
for the doctor tells us we've not time to waste.
Death may be impatiently pounding at our door,
and our medical bills may leave us profoundly poor,
but we still send you our holiday best
praying that unlike us
the Lord decides not your faith to test.'

(The guests are convulsing in laughter as JUDY B
takes a healthy swig of her 'holiday hooch'
and takes up another card to read to the crowd.
Tod uncomfortably squirms in his chair
- he gives a knowing wink to the audience and then
suddenly clutches his head as if he's suffered
an aneurysm)

(To Be Continued)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Games People Play Pt 3

(Continued from Games People Play Pt. 2)

The incomparable dancer/choreographer Martha Graham was once quoted as saying 'The center of the stage is where I am.' In that deceptively simple quote we are able to understand Ms. Graham in her totality. The world is her stage and the stage her world. If you were to take Ms. Graham's simple the-world-is-your-stage concept, and allow it to metastasise into a narcissistic religion, you would possess a basic understanding of my husband's family. Each of the kindly, Tolken-esque members of George's family are scintillating stars on the verge of going supernova. These charming, simple 'villagers' possess so many innate 'talents' that visitors are warned to steer clear of the impromptu living room 'stage' as one could easily be trampled by errant family members desperate to have their way with the family's pride and joy, the Ronco MR. MICROPHONE.

In my limited time with my husband's family, I have been 'treated' to mind numbing, Karaoke, vertigo-inducing poetry readings, and stand up routines so tortuously unfunny that I've been tempted to contact Amnesty International and report George's family for having violated my basic human rights. I had hoped that this Christmas might be different, that the grab and go 'thrill kills' of the gory White Elephant contest might have satisfied the family's bloody desire for more egregious spectacles. How wrong I was!

I was horrified to learn that today's soul-deadening holiday 'center piece' festivity consisted of a 'spirited' dramatic reading of every Hallmark Christmas card received by George's family for the last 3 years. With mounting panic, I watched as George's elderly aunts and uncles smacked their lips, their eyes glistening as they savored the obscene bounty of ugly Christmas cards before them, hungry for their chance to grab the MR. MICROPHONE and dazzle the room with their perfect elocution and dramatic 'flair.'

Being the trapped, sniveling weasel that I am, I had to make up my mind between two unattractive choices - either fight or flight.

(To be continued)

Monday, March 16, 2009

Games People Play Pt 2

(Continued from Games People Play)

'The White Elephant' in case you're not completely up to date on violations of the Geneva Convention is the cruel custom whereupon each member of George's idiosyncratic family is required to bring a small 'novelty' gift to the Christmas gathering. Unlike 'Secret Santa' where you might be required to buy a gift for a family member that they might actually value, 'The White Elephant' is a completely different animal. (No pun intended) In this horror show, family members are encouraged to bring 'gifts' that have little to no monetary value, are profoundly ugly, and serve no useful purpose. Guests are then required to draw
numbers lottery-style from a gaudy 'Christmas Cauldron' and according to that number select their 'gift' from the enormous pile of gaily wrapped 'White Elephant' packages. Now, receiving a cow shaped candle or penis paper weight is bad enough, to add insult to injury, my husband's family has put their own twisted imprinter on this awful custom. According to the mysterious rules set forth by the family elders, it is completely within one's right to forcibly take a White Elephant gift from another family member who has had the misfortune to draw an earlier number.

I am again reminded of the gentle Hobbits who drunk with the power of the 'The Ring' degenerate into an orgy of winner-take-all savagery. In the White Elephant, kindness and chivalry are reduced to quaint notions that take a major backseat to not only satisfying one's insatiable desire to score the 'best' of these shiteous gifts, but also the pleasure one receives in mercilessly annihilating every other family member in doing so. With my own eyes, I have witnessed the gruesome sport of once kindly old ladies ruthlessly stripping a bewildered three-year-old of a cherished gift. The 'sport' made even more gruesome by the 3 year old's inconsolable tears and the gleeful cheering of the assemblage. I'm convinced that the ancient, blood-thirsty Romans never witnessed such carnage. To my husband's famiy, no celebration of the birth of Christ is complete without a small, defenseless child in tears or at least one family member bitterly resentful at having received a beautifully wrapped Slim Jim or set of novelty golf balls.

Once 'The White Elephant' ended, Jesus surely wept for our immortal souls as the day's torturous 'festivities' were far from over.

(To be continued)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Games People Play

My husband's family has always been a mystery to me. Lithe and attractive - George's family are hardy people who look as though they never get sick. Not only are they physically strong - they are the most 'evolved' and loving people I have ever known. Whenever we visit George's San Diego family I am reminded of the hobbits, elves and fairies of Middle Earth. George's people are the sort of stout, merry people that upon a first introduction will embrace you in a stifling bear hug, take your hand in theirs and while looking unflinchingly into your eyes say something creepy like "Wow, what a pleasure to connect with you - thank the goddess that you have made a safe journey! Can I bring you some ale? We fermented it ourselves this very morning!"

George possesses a large extended family, which is made even larger by the family's fierce adherence to the custom of maintaining close familial relations with ex-wives, ex-husbands, ex-girl or boyfriends, ex-coworkers, ex-drug dealers, ex-maids, or ex-12 step sponsors. They blindly adhere to a once-family-always-family philosophy. Were I to bludgeon my husband George to death with a baseball bat, I'm convinced that his family would continue to send me Christmas letters, and upon my release from San Quentin would ask me carve the ham at Easter. These same gentle people, who had welcomed me into their home with the same fevered attentiveness one expects from a retarded Walmart greeter, hid the darkest and sickest family custom I had EVER had the displeasure of beholding. A custom so primitive and barbaric - I'm convinced the Spanish used it during the Inquisition.

I refer to the unspeakable Christmas atrocity innocently called 'The White Elephant.'

(To Be Continued)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Cocktail Hour Pt 7 (Home Less)

Continued from The Cocktail Hour Pt 6

"Fucking democrats." said Mr. Woods.

I wasn't certain whether Mr. Woods was speaking to me or his dog who had ceased sniffing my crotch and was at present sniffing his own. Not certain if or how I should respond to such a statement, I thought it prudent to remain silent.

Seeming to construe my silence as agreement, Mr. Woods continued his rant unabated. "Goddamn Democrats -they're fucking everything up. George Bush is the single fucking greatest president of the last 100 years, and if anyone believes differently, then they're fuck-all full of shit!"

Still not certain how I should respond to such a conversation 'opener' an uncomfortable moment passed before I lamely responded "Right" and went back to staring at the bright morning sunlight bouncing off the shimmery surface of the L'Hermitage pool. I'm fairly certain Mr. Woods was frustrated by my utter lack of interest in the topic under discussion as he angrily threw his newspaper to the ground. His valet who had just returned, placed a small porcelain bowl of cooked hamburger meat in front of the dog then silently scooped up the paper and obediently returned to his previous position behind Mr. Woods.

Mr. Woods said nothing, crossed his arms in concentration and like me stared at the surface of the pool. We said nothing for a minute or two until I thought to ask him about his dog.

"Excuse me," I said "But I'm a little curious - how is it you're allowed to have a dog here? I mean isn't that against LA hospitality rules or something?"

"I live here." Mr. Woods casually responded as if living in a $700 a night hotel was the most natural thing in the world.

"Live must be expensive." I replied.

"Yes, but it's worth it, I never have to make my bed or cook anything. Besides, my dog loves the facilities here." I thought it odd that Mr. Woods seemed to speak of his dog with the same deference and concern that one might have for a small child. The dog finished the hamburger meat, and jumped up on Mr. Woods' lounge chair coming to rest comfortably in his lap. They both looked at me expectantly.

"Well, that must be a great way to live." I said at last.

Unimpressed with my response, Mr. Woods muttered an agreement and continued to stroke the head of his small dog. Another moment passed and I decided to take a chance. What the fuck, I thought - James Woods and I hardly travel in the same circles, and save for the unfortunate and bizarre connection of burning my husband with a lit cigar years ago, I was certain we would never see each other again.

"I'm here because I hate my family." I said provocatively.

"Oh, why is that?"

And with that simple statement, I told James Woods all about the inebriated, Botoxed housewives sucking down a stolen recipe for Magic Margaritas, my husband and child enjoying a life I had sold my soul to bestow upon them, and my despair at their lack of interest in my welfare.

At first, Mr. Woods said nothing. I thought that perhaps he hadn't been listening, but to my surprise I noticed that had ceased stroking his dog and turned to give me his full attention. The golden morning light reflected beautifully on his pitted face. Despite the brilliance of the glow, there was no judgment or emotion etched into the dark features.
I remembered reading on some trashy Hollywood website that James Woods was some kind of genius - a member of MENSA who despite his erratic nature possessed amazing intellectual gifts. Like a colorful, exotic insect Mr. Woods continued to appraise me, carefully deliberating what he would say.

At last, Mr. Woods asked "Have you ever read George Bernard Shaw?"

"No, not much I'm afraid." I regretted my shitty public school education.

"Then I suppose you are not familiar with one of his most famous quotes - one that I'm fairly certain applies to you."

"Which is?"

"Hatred is the coward's revenge for being intimidated. Grow up already and and go home. You're boring."

With those words, Mr. Woods clasped his purse dog close to his body, rose gracefully from his lounge, and signaled for his valet to follow. As he disappeared from sight, I realized our audience was at an end. God had spoken.

Like Moses returning from Mt. Sinai, I returned to my family the next day a changed man. As I silently entered the house, I heard my son and my husband splashing about in the pool. Upon seeing me, they both shouted elated hellos - but their happy greetings gave way to wonder when they saw the holy illumination that shone from my face. I had spoken with God, and God had instructed me to return to my people with new wisdom that would govern our lives.

After 'officially' welcoming me home with a hardy hug and kiss, George offered me a Watermelon Mojito derived from a recipe he found on the Internet. As I sunk into the happy fog that accompanies this particular cocktail, I couldn't help but laugh as the GAYEST disco version of Belinda Carlisle's 'Heaven is a Place On Earth' played deafeningly on our stereo.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Cocktail Hour - Pt 6 (The Face Of God)

(Continued from the Cocktail Party Pt 5 'Heaven Can't Wait)

Years ago, when my husband George and I first met and were in the throws of infatuation, I attended a swanky dinner party with a group of attractive film publicists who seemed to my inexperienced eyes to be glamour and sophistication incarnate. Looking back now, they were really a fraternity of gossipy, professional starfuckers. For those of you not familiar with Hollywood jargon, a starfucker is:

starfucker (plural starfuckers)

(slang, vulgar) One who obsessively seeks sex or association with stars, or celebrities.

These are the same tiresome, Hollywood jerks who despite having absolutely no personal relationship with anyone of consequence, might casually say something pretentious like "I thought Kate was absurdly over-the-top in THE READER but I positively adored Angie in CHANGELING - now there's an Academy Award performance!"

During the course of the dinner, one of these obnoxious publicists asked me if I had a boyfriend. As George and I had only been dating a couple of weeks, I wasn't certain he qualified, but as there were no other 'potentials' on the docket, I responded I had. When pressed by the group as to my new boyfriend's profession, desperate to join their starfucker fraternity I responded proudly, "I believe he's an Assistant Director." Suddenly, the table's side conversations came to a screeching halt, and the entire table turned to look at me with the disdain one reserves for a dinner companion who farts or hocks up phlegm at the table. An uncomfortable moment passed, before one of the publicists took pity on me and said in a kindly voice, "You know dear, no self respecting boy fucks below-the-line. But if one 'goes' in that direction, one certainly doesn't admit to it." The assembled guests giggled and nodded their approval. As I had no clue what below-the-line meant, I glanced around the table and joined them in giggling stupidly.

George explained to me that in budgeting a motion picture or television production, below-the-line costs include the salaries of the non-starring cast members and the technical crew, as well as use of the film studio and its technical equipment, travel, location, and catering costs, etc.The distinction originates from the early studio days when the budget top-sheet would literally have a line separating the above-the-line and below-the-line costs. Like an Indian aristocrat who violates that country's strict caste system, I was dating an UNTOUCHABLE without even knowing it!

Poor George, who at the time was managing his aspiring starfucker boyfriend, was also managing one of Hollywood's most tempestuous and volatile actors, James Woods. While extremely gifted, Mr. Woods has always had a reputation for being 'demanding' (Hollywood double-speak for total douche bag) with his directors, fellow actors and below-the-line crew. During the course of this particular production, George the charismatic 'can-do' AD had successfully appeased Mr. Woods with his professionalism and cheery demeanour. Like the proverbial calm before the storm, this bit of good luck was not to last. One unfortunate day, George made the mistake of bringing Mr. Woods to the set a couple of hours prematurely. Irate, Mr. Woods who at the time had taken up smoking cigars, purposely threw his lit cigar at George's face burning him slightly. Not satisfied with disfiguring my below-the-line, untouchable boyfriend, Mr. Woods stormed out of the trailer and DEMANDED! DEMANDED! that George be fired on the spot! Fearing a lawsuit or at the very least a disability claim, a kindly producer 'suggested' Mr. Woods apologize to George. Mr. Woods muttered his apology while SLUMDOG George held an ice pack to his singed face. For the remainder of the show, the official war between George and Mr. Woods had ended, but hostilities remained and George would neither forgive nor forget the battering he received at the hands of James Woods.

Bathed in the glorious Beverly Hills morning light, I took my place on the lounge next to Mr. Woods' dog and closed my eyes. A few minutes passed and I was beginning to drift off to sleep again when I suddenly realized that Mr. Woods' dog had risen from his sitting position and had taken to nuzzling my crotch.

Startled, I instinctively placed my hand over my privates fearing that the dog's nuzzling might turn to something more sinister. While neither glancing nor acknowledging me in any way, Mr. Woods said to his valet, "The dog looks hungry, you better get some hamburger."

(To Be Continued)

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Cocktail Hour Pt 5 (Heaven Can't Wait)

Continued from The Cocktail Party Pt 4 (Angels and Demons)

Like a mad man, I navigate my way through the ugly, unkempt streets of hell-hole Hollywood, which inexorably and thankfully give way to the tidy, manicured bungalows of West Hollywood before finally ending my journey in the spacious and immaculately clean boulevards of 90210 Nirvana. My angel Gretchen had thoughtfully notified the hotel’s staff of my impending arrival and due to my ‘fragility’ was to be treated with the utmost kindness and civility. As I pull my politically correct, environmentally sensitive Toyota Prius up to the pearly gates of Heaven, the mono chromatically outfitted valet opens my door, greets me by name, and expertly whisks my ridiculously impractical overnight bag from the trunk. He catches me slightly off guard, when he stops me, takes my sweaty hand into his, holds it firmly, and while looking directly into my weary, bloodshot eyes says with real authority, “Welcome home Mr. Abrams, we’re so pleased to have you back with us again.”

I stand there dumbfounded. I don’t move – I don’t speak. I stare dumbly into the face of St. Peter the valet and realize with profound relief that I've been called home to sweet Jesus. Like the biblical Abraham of yore who agonizes whether to sacrifice his only begotten son for the lord he reveres, I am forced to endure that hideous, thankless life in Los Feliz so that I may earn my rightful place among the angels. I nearly weep as I pass through the pearly gates and begin my American Express paid ascent into Heaven.

I am escorted to my large airy room by a gorgeous, young angel whose beatific smile and ingratiating manner dazzles me. I can only nod and grin stupidly as he runs through the endless list of services Heaven provides 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I hand him $20 for his cuteness, and lasciviously assure him there’s PLENTY more where that came from! I then spitefully turn off my cell phone, place my hotel house phone on DO NOT DISTURB and collapse on the pristine, cloud-like bed. Like a much older, much queerer version of Eloise at The Plaza, I giddily call room service. My food magically appears on a sparkling silver tray and as I greedily wolf it down - I can only pity my spoiled, drunk husband George grilling veggie burgers on MY expensive barbecue, and our parasitic, ungrateful son carelessly splashing around and enjoying himself in MY heated pool. Stuffed, I finish my first dinner in Heaven and am happily lulled to sleep with the comforting thought of angels weeping when George and Ethan are cast out of the Los Angeles Garden of Eden I have wrought and forced to dwell in some ghastly and rundown Echo Park or Washington Heights duplex.

The next morning, I wake refreshed and clad in the luxurious white robe and slippers provided to me by the L’Hermitage angels make my way to the rooftop pool for a spot of breakfast. As I’ve woken early, I am alone on the roof save for a tall, thin man magisterially reclining on a lounge chair reading a newspaper. A small dog sits patiently on the lounge next to him and a single, male attendant stands directly behind him unmoving. As the tall, elegant man on the lounge lowers his paper to regard me, I recognize him instantly and gasp, as he is the talented but erasable actor James Woods, sworn enemy to my husband George and the bane of his miserable existence years ago!

(To Be Continued)