Kevin Wants this to be a Drama??

That was the question asked after James and Belen read the first scripted pages of Causality this week. In Scene 1, James and Belen’s characters, Adam and Cecily meet each other for the first time. Not wanting to be terribly specific yet, all I will say is this encounter for both actors and director was, at first read, hilarious. The creative crew of Causality has been working for more than a year now crafting very specific characters. They have detailed, complex back-stories. They know what they love and what they fear. They have defined relationships with other characters not written into the script and all four of our characters (Adam, Cecily, Ruby and Travis) spent two hours in a room together last October getting to know one another. It wasn’t pretty. But it was, often, pretty funny.

James Radack as Adam

James Radack as Adam

However, having quirks and funny qualities does not necessarily a comedy make. And when our esteemed playwright, Kevin Finkelstein, sent me these first pages this week all he said is, “I think this will have to be a drama.”  This is not to say there are not funny moments.  If we stay even remotely close to the path we are on, I can guarantee someone in the audience will laugh a time or two (and in truth, knowing how good our actors are, I’m willing to bet they will laugh a lot) because something these characters do or say will be relatable. The resulting catharsis is very likely to be a laugh.  But as James and Belen moved through our rehearsal Tuesday night we found that what initially struck us as funny could, with a small tweak, turn into a darker, sadder moment.
After the second read, I asked James to change the motivation behind Adam’s big move in this scene. Instead of taking a moment and giving Cecily something out of true kindness, James was directed to respond quickly and off the cuff. His Adam never backs down from a challenge and here, in this scene, Cecily’s declaration that he is not nice challenges Adam to prove he is. I wanted James’ Adam to react immediately to that challenge, offer Cecily his token of kindness and then immediately regret it. Being nice to Cecily means that Adams suffers and Adam is anti-suffering. The internal conflict between Adam’s insecurity versus his selfishness, took Adam from caricature to character and gave Adam such human dimension that, by the end of the scene, Adam was no longer this funny, oddly charismatic weirdo but a sad, pathetic sack of a man. Someone we pitied. It was uncomfortable to look at him this way. We were no longer laughing. But the discomfort we felt was the tension between wanting to root for and help him and wanting to write him off. Drama is human suffering. And we were witness to it.
Kevin’s going to get his Drama.

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