It's Fun To Be Silly
“Maid in Manhattan” was on TV tonight. I saw that movie on a plane and don’t remember much about it except one thing: Natasha Richardson. When she first came on the screen I thought, “That woman looks like Natasha Richardson, but that can’t be her. Not in this movie.” The character was brassy and over-the-top and whoever it was was doing a bang-up job because she held my attention and made the rest of the film’s treacle and goo tolerable.
When I found out that it was indeed Natasha Richardson, I was shocked. Not that I know a heck of a lot about her career, but “Maid in Manhattan” certainly wasn’t anything I expected to see her in. But her performance in it was of the kind that gives me simple, basic joy to see as an actor. She looked like she was having fun. Sheer, unadulterated, silly fun with a character that she may not often get considered to play. And she was in it 100%. So much so that I didn’t even recognize her.
I see the Williamstown Theatre Festival will be doing Noel Coward’s “Blithe Spirit” this year. What does this have to do with Natasha and “Maid in Manhattan”? Not much, except... years ago I played Elvira in “Blithe Spirit”. Though I have experience and natural ability with accents and farce, I am never considered for ingénue roles (OK, one may argue that Elvira – a ghost trapped in her late twenties/early thirties – is not much of an ingénue, but she was the closest I’ve ever come to one), so I was thrilled with the opportunity! But every night in rehearsals and performances when I had to be chased around the stage by nothing, flailing as I “fought off” an invisible rival spirit… I felt silly. I was young and self-conscious and I didn’t give it my 100%.
Years later experience has changed my perspective on many things. Now I relish and embrace any opportunity to be bizarre on film or on stage. In the last year alone I got to play a bomb-and-gun toting Irish yogi, I got to spit cake on a guy, and I got to make shaving cream sculptures in the palm of my hand while sitting on a park bench.
But, oh! What I wouldn’t give to be Elvira again! Because if I can’t frantically swat at and have my hair pulled by a disembodied spirit as an actor – then when can I? So even though the cards are stacked against a non-equity nobody without representation… I’m sending in my picture.