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Weird Romance – Original Off-Broadway Cast Recording 1992

Weird Romance – Original Off-Broadway Cast Recording 1992

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Synopsis

Part 1: The Girl Who Was Plugged In, based on an award-winning story by the late Alice Sheldon, who wrote as James Tiptree, Jr., is a dark Cinderella saga taking place in a future where advertising is illegal. In this society, industrialists like T.S. Isham (Jonathan Hadary) are forced to make clandestine deals with popular media stars like Zanth (Eric Riley) and Shannara (Valarie Pettiford). They get paid to display selected products during personal appearances in order to tantalize a status-obsessed public (“Weird Romance”). And, knowing that they have Isham over a barrel, the stars keep demanding more money for their continued cooperation. Isham’s grown son Paul (Sal Viviano) finds it all rather distasteful, but desires his father’s approval nonetheless. Which is why he maintains his job with GTX, Isham’s conglomerate, and suffers the menial tasks assigned to him as he learns the low end of the business – unaware that, on the executive level, Isham and his head technician, sweet-natured Joe Hopkins (William Youmans) are working on an experimental project that aims to dispense altogether with the need for temperamental, uncontrollable celebrities. A project that requires a (so far) elusive test subject, a woman with little or no self-esteem. “Put out word on the streets, Isham orders. “That woman exists somewhere and I will have her found!” Which brings us to our Cinderella: P. Burke (Ellen Greene) an unattractive bag lady with a shambling limp that causes her constant pain. She is resigned to her hard life on the street, but yearns for small niceties like not being ignored (“Stop and See Me”). Her wish is cruelly granted when a mugger attacks, stealing her few possessions and leaving her for dead. Two mercenary ambulance drivers pick her up, electronically check the “sublimation index” of her psychological profile, and realize that “GTX’ll want first crack at this one.” She undergoes life-saving treatment and awakens in the GTX labs to face Isham – her insinuating Fairy Godmother. Assisted by several technicians, he sells her on the project. It will allow her, “the Operator,” to project her mind into a beautiful, artificially grown, and utterly soulless body – the simulacrum, or “Host” – and thereafter live the life of a pampered celebrity. In return for this largesse, she will simply have to display a few products to the public (“That’s Where We Come In”). It isn’t long before Joe Hopkins loads her into a cyber-chamber, turns on the juice, and P. Burke’s mind jumps to an opposite chamber, right into Delphi (Marguerite MacIntyre). She is initially unnerved to be in this host body, because for the first time in her life she is “Feeling No Pain.” In the ensuing weeks, Delphi is groomed for a press conference by three “Handlers” (Riley, Pettiford, and Jessica Molaskey) (“Pop! Flash!”). When she is publicly unveiled, she braves questions from reporters (all played by Danny Burstein) and proves to be a rousing success. So much so that, six months later, Isham is able to present a glowing, albeit sinister, report to his Board of Directors about the new star at GTX (“Amazing Penetration”). Next, Isham assigns Paul to be Delphi’s caretaker, but since the industrialist won’t tell Paul what she really is, Paul views the assignment as just one more low-level task to be resented. Consequently, Paul is cynical when Delphi, still retaining P. Burke’s fundamental innocence, questions the safety of a new GTX product. He thinks her concern has got to be a negotiation tactic. He defends her anyway. When she thanks him, and they talk, really talk, he surprises himself by asking her to dinner – becoming her Prince – unaware that Delphi is under constant surveillance. Isham and Joe nervously watch a tape of her after-dinner walk with Paul. During it, Paul deduces that Delphi’s “biographical data” is pure fabrication. Playfully he tries to guess at her real past. Delphi is flustered: all this time she thought he knew. They are interrupted by a homeless woman, asking for a handout. Suddenly desperate, Delphi says, “Give her some money!” and when Paul does so reluctantly, she adds, “That’s not enough!” Paul, touched by Delphi’s rare generosity of spirit, declares his love (“Eyes That Never Lie”), no longer caring about her past. But Isham cares, commanding Joe to “tell her to break it off” lest she be returned to the streets. That night Joe removes P.Burke from her cyber-cabinet for daily exercise. He gently tries to lift her spirits while simultaneously delivering Isham’s devastating directive (“No One Can Do”). Afterwards, in a dream that begins as a nightmare, she confronts her alter ego Delphi, and they both realize that if their love for Paul is to have any real chance, he must be told the truth (“Worth It”). In “Endgame: The Final Sequence” (some of whose scenes have been abbreviated for this recording), Delphi meets Paul in private to speak out. But of course there is no privacy. Isham, observing them, intends to stop her from revealing the truth. He orders Joe to send Delphi a pain signal via the electrodes in her brain. The technician, though, has become far too fond of his creation and can’t bring himself to comply. Isham has no such compunction. He muscles Joe aside and sends so intense a jolt that Delphi collapses in Paul’s arms. Paul sees the electrodes under Delphi’s hair: “What the hell are these?” She replies, “Ask your father,” and blacks out. Paul, carrying Delphi, rushes to GTX Control. Isham, realizing that his son can no longer be kept ignorant, permits Paul entry to the inner sanctum. Inside, Joe revives Delphi, noting that she has suffered a severe trauma, which could “feed back into the Operator,” and tries to dissuade her from revealing her true identity. Heedless, she forces her consciousness to shift back into P. Burke’s body – from which she declares her love to Paul. Though stunned, Paul reaffirms his own. And life leaves her. Isham deflects any accusation of responsibility: “She did everything voluntarily. Even that.” Paul shouts, “And you let her, knowing I was in love with her!” Pointing to the now lifeless Delphi-simulacrum, Isham counters, “You were in love with her! You’re the perfect consumer, Paul, you fell for the package.” Outraged, Paul vows to expose his father’s operation. “Why not run it with me instead?” Isham offers. “I think you can now. I think you’re ready.” But at long last, Paul isn’t buying. “You know what? I don’t care what you think. I’m done here. And so are you.” Six months later, GTX is undergoing criminal investigation, even as Delphi, powered by a new Operator brain, emerges onto the scene, fooling her old fans – but not Paul, who is imbued with a new sense of self-worth and the tender memory of the “real” Delphi. Part 2: Her Pilgrim Soul, from a story by Alan Brennert, is a contemporary romantic mystery about loss –and healing. It opens with the image of a 1940s band singer, Johnny Beaumont (Viviano) who is really just a three-dimensional projection in a holo-chamber. We are at an M.I.T. lab, where computer scientist Kevin Drayton (Hadary) and his assistant Daniel Gaddis (Burstein) are putting the finishing touches on the most sophisticated holographic imaging device in existence. But Kevin seems unable to find any joy or victory in his creation (Opening Sequence: “My Orderly World”). His bewilderment is compounded by a glitch in the system: unbidden it has called up the image of a human fetus. Kevin and Daniel try to dump the image; it disappears, but not easily. Daniel muses that the fetus “looked almost … alive.” “Don’t go weird on me,” Kevin chides, rationalizing the impression away. They leave the lab, and within seconds the system restarts itself. The fetus has matured. Floating in the chamber now is the image of a squalling baby. At the Drayton household, Kevin feels similarly unconnected to his wife Carol, a commercial artist (Molaskey). They had planned on children when they got married four years ago, but now the subject seems to paralyze Kevin. And he won’t, or can’t, talk about it. The next morning, Kevin and Daniel return to the lab to discover the image of a little girl in the holo-chamber. Her name, she says, is Nola Granville (Greene). She is dressed in upper-crust, turn-of-the-century style, and she reacts spontaneously to visual and verbal stimuli, which no system-generated hologram should be able to do. Nola recalls living in a “big green house” in Westchester, and relates an unpleasant memory of when “Daddy paddled me” unjustly. All this is beginning to upset the precarious balance of Kevin’s orderly world. Desperate to prove that Nola’s appearance is all an elaborate practical joke arranged by a rival scientist, he sends Daniel out to research the girl’s information. But Daniel returns to report that the Granville house actually exists, and that the descendants living there once had a “great-aunt Nola.” It is believed that she died, but there is no death certificate or other documentation in county records. Kevin reacts with decidedly unscientific denial, refusing to accept that Nola can represent a genuine phenomenon. Daniel, frustrated and provoked, reminds his boss what the spirit of discovery is all about (“Need To Know”). Swallowing his apprehension, Kevin goes back to interrogate Nola further (“You Remember”). Amazingly, she appears to be existing on two different levels of consciousness at once: the first a past life which she recounts as she ages before his eyes (at the approximate rate of five months per hour, ten years per day); the second a thorough awareness of her real-time presence in the lab. Kevin becomes so captivated by the mystery of Nola that he decides to move into the lab. This is a development his wife Carol is hard pressed to understand, and one Kevin is at a loss to explain (“Another Woman”). In the sweeping number “Pressing Onward, Moving Forward,” Nola ages from early to late twenties. In several scenes, she recalls yearning to discover the world beyond the house of her wealthy domineering father. She recalls going to college and meeting Robert Goldman, the poor Jewish liberal lawyer who would become her beloved husband; she recalls how her happy marriage enraged her conservative father enough to cut her off from the family. Kevin, wanting to ease Nola’s sorrow, attempts to offer comfort, but when they cannot touch, she being only a projection, they are both reminded of the gulf between them. For all her memories, Nola cannot seem to recall why she has appeared in Kevin’s lab. She strongly feels a sense of purpose, but she cannot articulate precisely what it is. Alternating with these scenes, we follow Daniel’s legwork on the outside, as he interviews Nola’s grand-niece Susan (MacIntyre) with her husband Chuck (Youmans), and later a fiftyish black man, George Lester (Riley), who met Robert and Nola as a child. (The interview scenes have been abbreviated for this recording.) Meanwhile Nola, now in her early thirties, revels in the memory of Robert’s law practice building steam, her emergence as a published author – and pregnancy. As Daniel is returning to the lab with new information, she recounts a bucolic vacation at a remote country cabin. The reverie ends as she cries out in sudden remembered pain, reliving a miscarriage. Kevin and Daniel can only watch, anguished and helpless. The pain passes, and Nola, recovered but shaken, announces that she has to be alone, just for a little while, whereupon the system abruptly shuts itself off, her image vanishing, startling the scientists. They had thought she was trapped within the system, and never suspected she could control it! Daniel risks asking his increasingly obsessive boss if he isn’t “getting involved.” “With a spirit?” Kevin retorts. Daniel replies, “Some say that’s what we fall in love with, when we fall in love, a soul, a spirit.” He adds, “Doc, she’s aging at the rate of ten years per day. At this rate, she’ll be gone in three or four days. What’ll you do then?” Kevin has no answer. The next day, as Kevin abstractedly listens to an old jazz vocal over the sound system, Nola reappears, a graceful woman of middle age. She recalls her miscarriage in greater detail, and how her husband Robert blamed himself for taking her to an isolated location without medical facilities. “It wasn’t his fault,” Kevin protests. But Nola is unwilling to talk about the tragedy any more. She asks Kevin if he’d play her the music he’d been listening to. “I’ll do better than that,” Kevin smiles, calling up the 3-D image of Johnny Beaumont (“I Can Show You a Thing or Two”). Nostalgic, Nola recalls how her husband taught her to slow dance. She offers to show Kevin. Initially self-conscious, Kevin gets into the spirit of the lesson, yet despite the physical barriers between them, the moment becomes too intimate. He pulls away. “Is it Carol?” asks Nola. When Kevin doesn’t respond, “Do you really want to lose her, Kevin?” He explodes: “Don’t talk to me about losing things! All I know is, the moment you become truly happy in this life, that’s when it’s all taken away!” “And if you never know happiness,” Nola interprets, “you’ll never have to risk losing it.” Trapped by his own flawed logic, Kevin returns to the lesson. “Teach me some more.” At home, Carol is trying to distract herself from thoughts of Kevin by immersing herself in the creation of an abstract sculpture. She sheepishly reveals it to her friend and partner Rebecca (Pettiford) when the latter arrives to check up on her; it has therapeutic value for both (“A Man”). The next day, at an old-age home, Daniel has tracked down a blind fellow named John Ruskin (Youmans) who used to be Robert Goldman’s law partner. Ruskin describes his late partner and Nola with great fondness, also Robert’s total dispiritedness following Nola’s tragic death at the age of 32 – leading, no doubt, to Robert’s own premature death (“Pressing Onward, Moving Forward” – reprise}. Daniel, stunned, knowing that the holo-chamber’s Nola has aged well beyond 32, asks how Nola died. “I thought you knew,” comes the surprised reply, “she died having a miscarriage.” At the lab, Kevin is asleep. And Nola is in her seventies. Accessing the voice synthesizer, she adjusts her voice to resemble Kevin’s and places a call to Carol, asking her to pick him up at the lab. “I’m ready to come home – and I love you.” Next, Nola rouses Kevin. It’s time for her to go. The younger man implores the now much older woman to stay, but her life span is nearly over; she has no choice. “I can’t lose you again!” exclaims Kevin. “Like you lost me before?” asks Nola. And suddenly Kevin understands that Nola hadn’t just been remembering the pain of her miscarriage, she’d been remembering her death. And he had been by her side in a past life, as Robert. With “Someone Else Is Waiting,” Nola makes Kevin confront the grief he carried from one life into the next, the grief that has made him afraid of having children with Carol and losing her the same way; the grief that impelled Nola to return, live out the life they never got to finish together, and, in so doing, release Kevin to live out his new life, to embrace happiness – and love – in the here and now. Her mission accomplished, Nola vanishes, this time for good. And Carol arrives. As husband and wife move toward each other, Johnny Beaumont appears once more in the holo-chamber – a final farewell from Nola – at which Kevin takes Carol in his arms and, to her utter astonishment, begins to dance (“I Can Show You a Thing pr Two” – Finale). – Jameson Baker

Credits

Daniel, Fan, Technician, Reporters: Danny Burstein P. Burke, Nola: Ellen Greene Isham, Kevin: Jonathan Hadary Delphi, Fan, Susan: Marguerite MacIntyre Carol, Fan, Voice Coach, Technician, Voice: Jessica Molaskey Shannara, Rebecca, Make-up Specialist, Technician: Valarie Pettiford Zanth, Movement Coach, Technician, George Lester: Eric Riley Paul, Johnny Beaumont: Sal Viviano Joe, Chuck, John Ruskin: William Youmans Conductor, Keyboard I: Kathy Sommer Associate Conductor, Keyboard II: Garth Roberts Bass: Steve Mack Drums, Percussion: Ray Grappone Synthesizer Programming: Douglas Besterman Orchestrations by Douglas Besterman Musical Direction and Vocal Arrangements by Kathy Sommer