From Miami to Jupiter is about eighty miles by road. The distance defines the south and north ends of the coastal megalopolis on South Florida’s Atlantic side and the drive is not for those without extensive hi-speed video game experience. The mode of driving on I95 or the alternative Turnpike, is of ducking and weaving across lanes, tailgating at 30% beyond the speed limit, and giving signals is seen as a sign of weakness.
‘Dial M For Murder’ at The Maltz Theatre, Jupiter, was a spirited and stylish production. All praise to our designers who achieved a unity of style. Michael D’Amico displaying his usual virtuosity with the set, Robin McGee coming up with a truly stunning dress for Claire Brownell who played Margot with an understated grace, also achieving in her performance a rare period authenticity threaded with genuine inner life (possibly the most difficult role in the play). Costume designer Robin, also chose her suits for my character so well then when offered a deal I immediately purchased them both. And special kudos to Paul Miller who did the lighting.
It’s a moment of homage to the late great Alfred Hitchcock whose name is more associated with this 1952 thriller than that of its author, Frederick Knott. And in a quasi-accidental moment during tech I passed in front of a lamp and the director yelled “hold it!” The resulting shadow was incorporated into the final tense moments of the play, giving an unexpected humorous twist, and a unique reference. Audiences loved it.
The Maltz as helmed by Andrew Kato is an impressive operation. They’ve taken special care to make their visiting artists feel valued, included and at home. Little touches like the bottle of water and the orange which greet you off the plane! It is also flourishing after an extensive renovation with plans for more development to come. It’s great to see a theatre sufficiently valued by its community to be able to expand, and not as is widely the case presently, to be scaling down operations.
Florida has been good to me, and I love going there to be in plays. The mighty United States has a few actual theatrical companies. Nothing like what you could guess at or hope for, given the might and wealth of The Republic. But South Florida has a core of talented actors who work up and down the strip from Miami to the Maltz weathering the closing of Equity theatres (ones that can pay something meaningful) and the springing up of non-Equity ones (that cannot). The effect, and I don’t think it was anybody’s plan, is close to a company of actors. A mobile, a fluid one that spans half a dozen venues. It’s always good to work with actors who know each other. There’s a shorthand. Todd, Greg, Jim, and Dan… do you know what I mean?
Whilst in Jupiter, I got a call from David Arisco, artistic director of the Actor’s Playhouse in Coral Gables, south of downtown Miami. Would I be interested in reading for a part in the show about Judy Garland that played to great acclaim in London and New York?
David offered me a role in 2003 and I wasn’t available, and I’d always wanted to work at his theatre. Besides, I knew there wasn’t really enough excitement in my life, so I hired a car, got a free upgrade to a sleek late-model Cadillac and cruised down to Miami getting the complete hazard experience on the road. I stayed one night in Miami Beach. Nowhere in Florida does pastels better. The limes, the magentas, the ochres …
I packed in a hurry and forgot to take a fresh shirt. In the morning the one shirt I had with me had lost its appeal and there may have been a coffee spill on it too. “I’ll buy a new shirt.” I told myself.
“Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes.” So said Henry David Thoreau,19th century transcendentalist. Perhaps if he’d seen the South Beach pastels he’d have made an exception.
I entered a gentleman’s clothing store and explained that I was looking for a shirt to wear to an interview. I was slightly pressed for time.
“Oh!” said the assistant.
I explained that it was to audition to play a Scottish homosexual who accompanied Judy Garland.
“That sounds exciting!” he said and pulled a dress shirt in bright purple with a price tag beyond what I normally would have spent.
“I’m not sure about the color.” I said.
“Purple is the new blue!” He exclaimed. “I will iron it for you.”
It was all worth it. The dangerous drive, and the retail time pressure that made me an easy sell, because I will return to Miami at the end of the year to play Anthony in ‘End of the Rainbow’.
Purple is the new blue. Gay is the new straight. But if Antarctica melts, Florida and all its pastels will be the new Atlantis.