Christopher Durang

Christopher Durang

A weeklong electronic journal.
Nov. 14 1996 3:30 AM

Christopher Durang

VIEW ALL ENTRIES

       I have to write faster today, because I have a "handyman" coming over early this morning to do a whole list of things. The shower door doesn't shut right. There seems to be a leak inside one of the fireplaces, so something on the roof needs to be looked at. A heavy mirror has been sitting on the floor for six months, and I want someone to hang it safely.
       I don't know how to fix the shower door. So it's necessary to find someone who does.
       "Handyman" in quotes certainly looks like a euphemism. But I've met the person, and it's all appropriate, not a euphemism.
       I always liked the idea, though, of inappropriate behavior with service people who come to the door--I love the scene in A Streetcar Named Desire where Blanche DuBois flirts with the 17-year-old paperboy, and keeps making meaningless, desultory conversation. "Hey ... got a light?" Or, did you ever see The Chapman Report, where elegant, somber Claire Bloom plays a nymphomaniac? There's a fabulously peculiar scene where a hunky man comes to deliver water (I think it's California, where they do that sort of thing), and Claire keeps staring at him with inappropriate intensity and keeps lounging around, flapping her black negligee at him.
       Anyway, the visit I am awaiting today is not of that nature. Besides, I am "married" to John. Although he's away today. Maybe I'll have a pizza delivered. "Just put it on the counter. Do you need to rest after your long drive?"
       Well, enough of that. But my play is called Sex and Longing, after all.
       All day yesterday, I worked on my home-movie-video gift for the cast. The beginning of the film is jokey. Because we all had a rather long drive every day after rehearsal on this dirt road to Sigourney's house, I intercut scenes of William Holden and Jack Hawkins struggling through the jungle in The Bridge on the River Kwai. When the video switches from the "lake" sections of rehearsals to the New York sections, it's faintly depressing.
       All four actors who did my alcoholism play the other day have agreed to do it Dec. 4 for its two performances. So that's nice. We're going to rehearse it a couple of times, the first time being this Monday. Though I like to not be in New York on Mondays ... shall I skip the rehearsal, or go? Planning when I am in Pennsylvania and when I am in New York is becoming more and more like planning a battle, or putting together a really complicated dinner plan. Why can't I just live in one place and never have to leave it?
       I saw no one yesterday. And there were no ducks in the pond. I did talk on the phone several times, including to my Aunt Marion.
       My Aunt Marion is my mother's younger sister. (My mother died of cancer in 1979.) I have always felt close to this aunt; our relationship feels karmic to me, though I feel I was her father, or some other person who was older and parental in her life.
       If you were to type up my phone conversations with her, you would see paragraph upon paragraph from her of nonstop, free-associative monologue; and then occasionally one sentence from me, often unfinished, since she hears only parts of what I say, it triggers her thoughts, and she's off again.
       This aunt was the basis of the character of Emily in my play The Marriage of Bette and Boo (which is my one play with direct correlation to my life, being based on my parents' marriage). Emily in that play thinks everything is her fault, and she apologizes to everyone all the time. She then has to repeat her apology, because, like a child in the grip of "magical thinking" ("I was naughty, Daddy died, I must have killed Daddy"), she can't ever seem to get rid of her guilt, her feeling that she's responsible.
       My Aunt Marion was indeed that way for the first half of her life, at least. In her later years (she's now 72), she's learned to speak up more. This is definitely healthier, but it makes her harder to deal with--she's blunt and confrontational with her opinions, and she has no normal social sense of what topic is appropriate to broach, and what might be better left alone; or of how to wait for an appropriate moment. She should not moonlight as a diplomat.
       My mother's family has been so dominant in my psychological life. The week of Sex and Longing's opening, I had a big fight with my Aunt Marion, who had seen a coming attraction for a PBS interview with me, connected to my play. She already didn't like the title of my play--"Couldn't you call it Love and Longing?" she had asked me--but now here was this ad for an interview that included Dana Carvey as the Church Lady saying: "Christopher Durang--playwright or Satan worshipper? You decide." (I was once on Saturday Night Live when Sigourney hosted the show; and she and I were part of the first Church Lady sketch. And the Church Lady character, in case you don't know it, always thought Satan was behind everything.)
       Well, anyway, I tried to explain to my aunt who the Church Lady was, and how Channel 13 wasn't really asking if I was a Satan worshipper--"Because Satan worship is the worst thing you can say about someone," my aunt interrupts. "They eat their babies, it's terrible; and Father Aloysius says [blah blah blah] ..."; she continues with talk, talk, talk, I can't remember what, I try to get a word back in edgewise--this attempt to explain myself ends with my screaming in the phone at her in some sort of childish rage. I don't shout easily or often, but something about the barrage of words from my aunt triggers me; it's similar to the way my mother could bury you with words, both my mother and my aunt segueing nonstop from one distorted topic to another so that explanation and understanding suddenly seem hopeless and beyond human capability.
       So my anger at my aunt was out of proportion, and clearly also connected to unfinished feelings about my mother. But I find I still feel access to anger about our "conversation." God, the avalanche of words.
       Oh. I think the handyman is here. I need to get some things fixed.

Christopher Durang is a playwright and actor, whose plays include Sister Mary Ignatius ... and Beyond Therapy.