Thursday, December 20, 2007

A Week for Goodbyes

You think you've seen how pathetic a dog can look when she's watching you eat and hoping for just one tasty morsel, but that's nothing. When that same dog is to weak to move and finding it difficult to even breathe, then you see what those eyes can really do. Now before anybody who might happen to read this feels the need to send me condolences, I'm not talking about my dog. This dog and I didn't have a particularly close bond. In fact, I first realized something was seriously wrong with this dog when I walked into her yard and heard only a muffled woof, instead of the loud, angry barking. There was something not right about the way she was lying on the ground, not stretched out or curled up in typical fashion but like a used dog someone had crumpled and discarded. Her labored breathing was another clear sign, and the distress showed in her face. This would be the morning I helped my mother transport her dying dog to the vet. It turned out the dog had bleeding masses in her spleen and liver. The spleen she could have lived without; the liver, not so much, and every lobe appeared affected. The veterinary surgeon said their were procedures that she could do, but she couldn't in good conscience recommend any of them. So we watched as the vet administered a lethal injection. Within just a couple of seconds the dog stopped struggling to breathe.

That night was the final performance of A Tuna Christmas, in which I played, among other roles, an animal lover named Petey Fisk who adopts a dog/coyote hybrid he names Fresno. In this production, Fresno was played by a standard poodle. It was a strange experience being greeted by Grendel, who sniffed my jeans with particular interest that night - the same jeans I had worn to the vet. And acting with him on stage, having just said goodbye to one dog and knowing I also might well never see him again had a peculiar poignancy. Now this would be the appropriate place to say I gave an incredibly moving performance that reduced the house to tears, akin to Kathryn Hepburn's character in Stage Door when she talked about the calla lilies, but it wasn't anything that outwardly dramatic, just something I felt while playing a goofy little comedy. Afterward there was a cast party, which was nice because I got to say goodbye to the rest of the cast and hang out with some friends who came to the show, but I stayed a little too long because the conversation somehow turned to dead pets. And it wasn't me.

And here's where I give a shout-out to friends who came to the show: Glen Hardy, Spenser Coates, and Bart Weil. Glen and I met in Much Ado About Nothing, Spenser was in Love's Labors Lost, and Bart and I have done improv together on several occasions. Thanks for the support!

Among this week's auditions, the real standout in my mind was a dog-food commercial. During the audition I got to talk to a big stuffed dog as if it was real. Naturally, I kept seeing those big brown eyes staring at me like they had Saturday morning. Made for a real happy pitchman, I'm sure.

Last night was the last theater Christmas party ever at the Second Stage in Anaheim, home of many fabulous theatrical productions of note over the years. The party had some raunchy and raucous moments, largely related to a twisted white elephant gift exchange, but it also had a melancholy tinge because it was a fair well to a place where I had some personally significant experiences and met some pretty important people in my life.

Today I got a call from someone who would like me to audition for a gig hosting a new series. (The series is about animals, naturally.) Well, the audition's something to look forward to in the new year. Getting the gig could make for a very happy 2008.