Geoffrey: “Lear loses everything…and it is only when he is all alone, naked in a storm, that he is able to find…”
Oliver: “His dignity.”
The thing about rock bottom is this…it’s always far below where you thought it was.
Secrets are seeping out all over the place around the companies of King Lear and East Hastings. The truth about Charles is out, and another opening is cancelled. The venues are switched. Sophie is betrayed, and betrayed again, and kicked while down for sport. Ellen quits. Geoffrey is again arguing for art in front of Richard’s businessman.
Only this time, Geoffrey is wrong, and Richard is right, and I think the show knows this. Keeping with the idea of “losing everything”, Geoffrey is forced into a scenario where he must sacrifice literally everything he has for art. Charles is a great actor, dying, and wants his shot at Lear. To give him this, Geoffrey sacrifices his love, his job (almost, but c’mon, he’s headed there), the interests of virtually everyone else, even the basic tenant of artistic professionalism.
It colors my view of the series very differently, seeing how things end. Geoffrey isn’t our artistic ideal, he’s meant to be the artistic ideal. The man who honors art at all cost. The only way to view that is for it to actually cost him everything. When looked upon this coldly, is it even worth it?
Richard, aka “Big Dick”, may have the right argument coming back at Geoffrey, evoking Charles’ dying wish: “Do me a favor: if my dying wish is to drive a city bus blindfolded, say NO!” However, he too has sacrificed everything. Whereas Geoffrey has lost it all in the pursuit of art, Richard has done so for that which he has lacked forever – his own happiness. He can’t be separated from his musical cronies, even for a lunch with Anna (which he attends while high on Ecstasy). He has lost all semblance of tact when addressing the musical’s success, as if the Shakespeare show isn’t also a reflection of him. To be fair though, it’s not. Richard stopped doing that job the minute Geoffrey put him on Darren patrol.
Click to watch the entire episode.
Ellen, meanwhile, becomes more and more of a real-life Regan to Barbara’s Goneril, the true negative force motivating the two “evil sisters”. Barbara isn’t evil, really; she’s just grown so bitter and cynical over her career, wounded by losing parts, aging past her prime, stuck on an artless TV show, and manages to poison Ellen in the process (figuratively, unlike their Lear counterparts). By the time Ellen realizes that Barbara sold out Charles’ cancer to Richard, the damage has already been done: Ellen has quit the show and signed a five-year contract for a new TV series. The allure of growing up has pulled Ellen away from her life to that point.
Watching everything fall apart is pretty painful, especially when the premises on the show were once so fun and frothy. It’s still good, mind you, but it isn’t easy to watch. Coming up with everyone’s “super objectives” last post was a simple observation, but this time around, it’s a clear driving force. Much like with King Lear, the desires of the old(er) have wrecked havoc on a kingdom, and the young are made to suffer for it.
Which brings us to Sophie, paralleling Cordelia as the undeserving victim of so much beyond her control. She was subject to Charles’ abuse when her only crime was inexperience. She is exiled from the big venue to a small, crummy dressing room in the studio theatre. She tries to share with her show “sisters”, but they are preoccupied with their own drama. All she can do is put on appearances, tell them, “I feel really lucky…”, and fight back the tears while doing so. Her dream is in tatters.
Because we must continue kicking Sophie when she’s down, she also has to face Paul, who’s been blind to the fact that she likes him. He’s been enamored with Megan from the musical, whom he now acknowledges is an idiot. “You can’t be an idiot and be a good actor,” Sophie argues to Paul, but it’s about his idiocy, not Megan’s. But the musical company, arriving at the bar, is all shallow sympathy for the latest cancellation.
“You have no idea what it’s like to go out and do King Lear!”, defends Sophie.
“Neither do you, they keep canceling,” says one of the MTs.
And just like that, the powder keg is lit, as Paul rushes to the defense of his company. Harsh words are coming out all around, and even Cyril and Duckie are getting in a fight with the composer. Barbara and Ellen start having it out. The composer reaches for a bottle to hit Cyril, and hits Jerry instead.
Poor Jerry, who only wanted to tell the bar that his wife had a baby, is the only one injured. Only the innocent suffer when fools rage.
Stray Thoughts and Quotes:
“When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.” – Anna “Wow, that’s like something you’d see on a pillow.” – Geoffrey “I have it on a pillow.” – Anna
Living in the same house as the rest of your acting company is a recipe for LOTS of drama. Take it from one who knows.
Richard’s constant refrain of “Sexy Anna” is just cruel.
Darren is dressed like a member of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
The announcements of Lear’s downgrade and East Hastings’ upgrade are juxtaposed in one sequence. Somber, mournful, right up against celebratory, shallow.
Charles is finally lucid in rehearsal, but he’s still cruel and unprofessional. His assault of Ellen is her last straw before quitting.
Anna awkwardly tries to get pot for Charles from Maria, who thinks she’s trying to come out to her, which leads to this golden exchange: “A lesbian…oh god! No, I was asking about pot.” “You assume I’m a pothead as well as a lesbian? Because all stage managers are pot-smoking lesbians? Well I’m sorry to disappoint you…but I’m all out.” – Gotta love Maria.
I’ve made peace with the way that the show and Geoffrey talk about TV and musical theatre, since this is a largely symbolist reality, especially on this show. After all, it is a TV show, and the creators did write a musical.
Cyril’s sigh on the second cancellation announcement…priceless.
Also, the Bolivians are still there.