The Access Theater
380 Broadway, 4th Floor
May 5-7, 12-14, 19-21, 26-28, 2005
Thursday through Saturday, 8pm
Will — Jeremy Goren
Carol — Leslie E. Hughes
Steve — Patrick Shearer
Simone — Elizabeth Stewart
Margaret — Ree Davis
Don — Ed Knauer
Jim — John McCausland
Samantha — Cat Johnson
Ben — Christopher Yustin
Monica — Sabrina Howells
Director — Pete Boisvert
Playwright — James Comtois
Asst Director/Stage Manager — Patrick Shearer
Stage Manager — Stephanie Williams
Lighting Designer — Chris Daly
Set Designer — Alice M. Golden
Costume Designer — Lauren Michiell Cavanaugh
Makeup Designer — Catherine Culbertson
Pete Boisvert, James Comtois,
Patrick Shearer, Stephanie Cox-Williams
Catherine Culbertson, Shannon Mulligan, Ben VandenBoom
The germ of this story sprouted several years ago when I had heard that an estranged relative of mine had a stroke that destroyed his ability to control his emotions; he would burst into tears for no readily apparent reason apart from a chemical glitch in his brain.
This was a huge wrench to the theory that our emotions make us more than meat and bones.
In other words, it’s often said that our emotions are what make us complicated, ethereal and mysterious beings. But…what if our emotions are no more complicated, ethereal or mysterious than the wiring in our laptop, and our thoughts, desires and feelings are no more mysterious than the causes for a hard drive to crash?
However, to deal with this on some theoretical or detached artistic level would be fraudulent. Sure, this was a huge—and interesting—philosophical “can of worms,” but to deal with a real human’s real illness on a “can of worms” level just left a bad taste in my mouth.
This has always been my weird ambivalence towards the artistic and academic worlds (they’re not very far from one another). I do love trying to think about The Big Picture and philosophical cans of worms on an intellectual level, but how much do these pretentious musings help us in the great scheme of things?
Will and Carol’s family are very much part of the “liberal intelligentsia” and really don’t know how to deal with Uncle Jim’s ailment apart from a theoretical or detached level. From what I’ve gathered, most academics and intellects suffer from this problem. They’re more interested in anagrams, recurring motifs and poetic language than in dealing with the real-life messiness that most plays, poems and novels explore (present company excluded, of course).
Despite emotions being just a “chemical glitch in the brain,” humans really are complicated, ethereal and mysterious beings that have never been able to understand, control or contain their (our) emotions or behavior, no matter how much intelligence they (we) have.
So, instead of a lugubrious examination of the fraudulence of intellectualism, the fragility of emotions and our reptilian-stem parts of our brains, why not write a play about some first dates, a road trip, a family reunion and a wedding?
So, ladies and gentlemen: my first-date, road trip, family reunion and wedding play.
Not a fan of emotions,
James “Hold Me” Comtois
New York, March 2005
Dying Goldfish (2005)
A slice-of-life comedy about first dates, weddings and awkward displays of emotion. Two siblings — Carol, a university instructor and Will, a lonely and aspiring novelist — return home to witness their cousin's wedding and visit their uncle — a former professor — who has suffered a stroke that has destroyed his ability to control his emotions. This homecoming reminds both Carol and Will how separate their private lives are from their family lives, and how happy they are to keep things that way.
The awkwardness, bluster, embarrassment, confidence, dissembling, and utter realness of these characters was vital and bracing theater. … The superb, real, very natural acting by the entire cast, and the fine limning of character by letting them be who they are, are qualities to be highly valued, as was the direction that allowed for slick but unshowy transitions between scenes, keeping more than one plane of action going. ... The characters are the thing here, not the point the playwright thinks he needs to make." — oobr.com
Photos by Aaron Epstein