A play, right?

Tom Avitabile, A play, right?Last night I had the most wonderful, wonderful dream, in fact it’s 6 a.m. on a Sunday morning and I jumped out of bed just to write this down.

Last night, I dreamt of Broadway! For the first time in my life.

I was on a subway platform. People were dressed in colors and outfits the likes of which I had never seen underground.  Women wore pastel colors, their skirts and dresses very float-y, moving and swaying as they did. The men were in primary colored suits, sport coats, overalls and jackets.  All the men wore thick rim glasses. I entered down a flight of stairs to the platform. The gleaming silver train was already in the station.

Somebody said, “and a 5, 6, 7, 8.” and suddenly everybody snapped into precision from the shapeless mass of people they were a second earlier. A piano started playing and someone clapped in time to the music. People were moving… no, they were dancing! Choreographed in and out of the car doors onto the platform and back again. They were singing. I was like Dorothy on the first day in Oz, turning every which way trying to see all around me. Every new part of the number brought with it some inventive set piece, or some alignment of dancers that was based on the morning commute I’d seen a million times before, but shaped in a moving pulsing throng of color and body attitude that made them move as one.  Suddenly the men had hats, fedoras, and they became part of the routine as they used them as props and did complicated hat switching routines that actually made me laugh out loud in awe.

Then I saw the lead. She was definitely a Broadway dame! I didn’t know her, but she came right past me as I was taking it all in. I could see she was the star. Her voice was thick and resounded over the entire stage without a mic. She moved like she was on wheels, you could see her as being on the Broadway stage since she was a kid, probably played Annie, and probably just got a Tony for being a witch in that revisionist Oz musical or something like that. Whoever she was, I mean she was impressive.

Then I saw another man enter, he was in a blue suit.  Not your ordinary blue, a shocking blue with wide pinstripes you could see from the back of the theater, different from all the others. It was Tom Hanks! Tom Hanks was in this play! I smiled and giggly laughed as he did his bit again passing right by me.  

At one part in the number the ‘Train” started to move, the whole thing. I remember how silent it moved, with just the slightest rolling noise. Ball bearings, I thought. It moved maybe 20 feet in total, I remember watching the front of the train, it looked as though it was going to hit one of the steel columns of the subway station set, but at the last minute the column pulled away. And the train car moved without incident.  I remember thinking in my dream, “That had to cost a million dollars just for this.”

A few of the performers, gave me odd looks, as I was the only inert object in a sea of swirling chroma and intense motion. Then the door to the train jammed as it was halfway open.  The dancers who were now, I guess, leaving the train, amassed at the half-opened door and suddenly the symphony of movement halted. The intentional choreography disrupted, they became a messy mass of humanity piling up at a narrowly opened door.  The guy clapping stopped and the piano player halted mid-score. Someone yelled from out in the dark seats. “Harry, what the hell is it with this door?”

From somewhere up over my head, at least 30 feet and into the rigging, ropes, sandbags and lights came a voice. “On it, boss.”

A dancer walked by me, and said to a fellow chorus member, “Just like the real thing.” The dance captain heard that, “Hey, did you hear what Frank just said, like the real subway.”

I had only been on Broadway for 4 minutes and felt that I was witnessing something special, a moment when, with all the creativity around me playing out, when choreography and lighting and set pieces were all acting as one organism, in all this well planned, well executed spontaneous art that was unfolding exactly as painstakingly planned, beat by beat by hand clap, came a moment of randomness that would, if they went with it, bring the beauty of real life to their ‘Morning Subway Commute of the Mind’. The Stuck Subway door!  At that moment I saw it as another brilliant element in this brilliant mosaic that would tickle audiences and maybe put another notch in a reviewer’s memory stick. A little dab of New York the way the actors themselves on this stage, who take the subway daily, see it.

 Then somebody from the dark seats in the ‘house’ section of the theater yelled.  “That’s 5 everybody… Harry can we make that do that? Somebody find Jerome. See if he can choreograph the stuck door.”

As the staging around me dissolved into regular traffic and the performers made their way to whatever they do when they weren’t on stage, a man approached mister Hanks with a cell-phone and he took the call and walked off.

Tom Avitabile, A play, right?The leading lady chatted for a moment with a wardrobe person, and was tugging at her costume, demonstrating something.  I took the opportunity to do what I came here to do. Suddenly, in my dream, there was a reason for me to be there. I picked up a case I didn’t know I came in with and headed up stairs to the offices of the theater. I walked through a room with benches and maybe 20 people, all sitting reading books, newspapers or working their phones, coats and bags at their sides.  Extras, I thought. Or Understudies, more like casting probably.  A big show like this must constantly be replacing cast members, or maybe it was for the touring, bus and truck productions that mirrored every big Broadway play across the rest of America. Then, in a logic that can only make sense in a dream, I looked into a room as I passed it. It looked more like a large classroom. A few music stands and a piano were up front.  For some reason my first thought was some kind of Julliard type classroom where students learned Broadway appreciation 101.  Then I thought, maybe it was a rehearsal room of some kind, but I dropped the whole line of thought.

I found myself approaching a desk, there was a woman going through papers, I waited and introduced myself.

She looked up. “Can I help you.”

“Yeah, I was told to show up here.”

“Who are you here to see?”

I didn’t know, or couldn’t say.

I remember seeing the look on her face. It was like she took pity on me. “Are you here for the casting?”

“Kind of, I guess”

“Do you know what part?”

“Adrian, I blurted out.” Then I remembered, “A Mr. Krantz, asked me to come in.”

Those two names turned her around. She immediately changed her tone and body language. Adrian (?) was the 3rd starring role in this play. And I got the immediate respect and attention, as if I were a big star.

“Oh, I’ve been expecting you. Have you been shown to your room?”

“No, I have kind of been wandering around.” I was now playing it like a big country bumpkin for some reason.

Then suddenly I knew why I was there. I remember saying in my dream, “I guess I am the ‘ingénu’.” And I also remember, as soon as I said it, saying to myself, “a 50 year old ingénu, can you believe it.” (I just looked up in the dictionary what I thought was spelled Angeniux or some French derivation, and found it to mean, and I swear I didn’t know this, “2. naive character in drama”)

She picked up the phone and announced, “He’s here. Yes, I will.” She hung up and said, “Right this way, the director, the producer and the choreographer will meet you in your room.”

I walked up more stairs and had the following thoughts, I am out of shape, I’ll have to get my boss to give me enough of time off from my job so I can do this, but this is big, it’s worth it, I got a lot of catching up to do. I am sure the dance captain will assess my limited abilities and help me not make a fool of myself. In two or three weeks, I’ll bet I’ll be thinner and in good shape. I’ll eat good and stick to it.

Now again, this is the dream I just had, this dialogue actually happened in it. I am not embellishing it. I do find it troubling that in my dream I was so vain.  Anyone who knows me will tell you, I think, I hope, that my appearance, fashion sense and caring about those things is never evident outside of a wedding reception or business presentation.

Around this point in the dream I awoke. I lay there in a state of warmth, in a wonderful peace. The dream actually must have made me smile.  But the narrative kept going. (Now, did I really wake up, or was I still dreaming that I was now dreaming that I was thinking about it after waking up?) Anyway here are the last thoughts, the kind of climax to my dream, the back story if you will: I was chatting with someone in a Sardi’s styled restaurant the night before, we hit it off pretty good and were laughing and topping one another’s jokes. At some point he handed me his card and asked me to come here today.  He was the producer of this play. He wanted me to play a role I was born to play.  You see, the whole idea of this play was that there was a regular guy in it. Someone who spoke to the audience. He was trapped in a Broadway play. He had lines like, and this would be before a big number, “No, no don’t start singing… no, no more singing again.” He was a character, unbeknownst to me, previously played by the likes of Matthew Broderick, who I was replacing.  An everyman who is trapped in a Broadway musical.

In a fit of inspired casting, they decided to try a real person. Someone with absolutely no talent, to play someone with absolutely no talent whose idea of hell is Broadway!

I even had a line in the play that said, “Hey, there’s Tom Hanks!”

Then I really woke up.  I was still in love with my dream. It was a rare dream, in that it had a beginning, middle and end. It was totally wrapped up. Very rare. I immediately tried to remember what I ate last night, and how late I ate it. I never had such a congruent dream. So much in fact, that I wrote this even before eating or the other thing you do as soon as you get up. So much in fact that right now, some 57 minutes after I got out of bed this morning and turned on this computer, I am thinking about synopsizing it and showing it to a friend who is a show runner for one of the big Broadway production companies. It could work? Especially if they don’t cast me and we can talk Tom hanks into playing himself.  (…Why Tom Hanks?)

AvitabileTom Avitabile

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