I first saw the show at Intar on 42nd Street. It had elaborate costumes and changes could take five minutes between monologues. It was mainly a question dramaturgically of shaping, condensing, combining, and eliminating redundancy. I worked with him on shaping the monologues so they'd have an arc. We worked to illuminate the monologues, to find what a monologue was really about. The best example of this was "Crossover King." It was the last monologue of the evening, as a Japanese businessman. Originally, I believe the fun for John was playing a Japanese character. What seemed obvious to me, though, after we read it through two or three times, was that this was about a Hispanic, who put on the guise of a Japanese businessman. His dilemma was that the Japanese corporate shell < could not contain the emotions of the real person, the Hispanic, from u bursting through at moments. Once we realized that, then it was easy, because that's what it was about.
To make the transitions interesting in Mambo Mouth, I hit on the silhouette idea. The characters would finish a monologue behind a scrim. And as John changed costumes, he'd keep talking behind the scrim as the end of one character fed into the beginning of the next monologue. The order of the characters, to some extent, depended on those transitions.
I wanted Mambo Mouth to have some kind of common thread, if possible. So we imposed a network of relationships. It was mainly for us, but the cross-references helped unify the evening's landscape.
I mainly want to tell a story in a one-person show, rather than just have an actor showing his craft. With Spic-O-Rama, we created a family. John was still going to do different characters, but now there was an event, the marriage of one of the brothers. The precocious kid who opened the show introduced us to all of his family members. He provided the through-line. Each monologue reflected on the event.
The way the stage was used was determined by the story or the play. John, like Eric Bogosian, could have done Spic-O-Rama in street clothes. But he enjoyed using costumes. The most important thing for me was speed between scenes. Spic-O-Rama had a much more ambitious set, kind of a warped reality, representing elements from the Gigante life.
Another one-person show I directed was Doug McGrath's Political Animal. That show used video. Once again, the story dictated the set. It was a political satire involving a television interview with a particularly greasy Republican presidential candidate. So we used the idea of the television interview. We taped Doug doing the candidate being interviewed. That was the thread throughout the play because we kept coming back to that interview. There were four TV monitors on the stage. As Doug began another character, we'd go to the television video of that character. We'd begin a scene on those monitors. As soon as he was in costume change, we'd go from the monitors to him live. Political Animal was one story with twelve characters.
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