Monologue for Mandelbaum
The bulk of a man that was Mandelbaum all but blotted the drama section of the 18th Street Barnes and Noble from view as he thumbed through a paperback proclaiming its contents to be the “One Hundred Best Monologues of the English Speaking Stage.” Mandelbaum, of course, was in search of only one.
“Prepare a two minute monologue, classical or modern” read the audition notice that had rooted a Mandelbaum barren of monologue to this hopefully fertile soil. Neither did the eternity of his hope discontinue its springing nor his optimism fade when he discovered that fully half of the one hundred speeches honored in the superlative were spoken by women.
“Surely,” he thought, “of the fifty remaining. There would be. . . .” But of the fifty remaining, there were those for which he was too old; there were those for which he was too large, there were those for which he was too short. Indeed it would seem that playwrights from Shakespeare William to Simon Neil when creating these one hundred best, may well have created for a Burton, a Harrison, or a Brad Pitt, but for a Mandelbaum, well for a Mandelbaum there would have to be something in the next hundred, or even the one thereafter.
He thumbed through another book, another and still another; monologue after monologue, read and rejected: too flowery, too familiar, too suggestive, too--but then, when optimism had ebbed and hope was failing, he turned a page and there it was. The words fairly popped from the page and filled his head with their rightness. He gloried in every word, in every comma and period, in every space between. Even as he left the store phrases and whole sentences embedded themselves in the concrete of his consciousness.
With a week before the audition, Mandelbaum practiced. Before a mirror in his bedroom, he mouthed the words searching for the appropriate curl of the lip and bend of the brow. Waiting for the subway, he sought the exact moment to raise a hand to his forehead, point a finger to the heavens, stomp a foot in defiance. And if others in the station moved warily away from him, his monologue so engrossed his attention, he noticed nothing. In the mornings, his alarm clock rang the strains of his monologue; at night his dreams were its words.
Came the day of the audition, he was ready.
“Mandelbaum,” called the slender black clad young lady who had taken his head shot and resume.
He rose and followed her into the theatre noting carefully the swing of her arm.
“Mandelbaum,” she announced to the darkened theatre and pointed him to the stage.
Mandelbaum walked a bit stage right, stopped and turned to the house where the director was seated. He breathed deep and opened his mouth ready to fill the theatre with the words he had so lovingly, so carefully prepared. But not a sound did he utter.
“Yes?” queried the young lady.
Once more he tried; once more there was silence.
“Well,” coaxed a second voice.
Mandelbaum’s face reddened with his inability to make the words come.
“You can begin,” came a third.
His body contorted in agonies of shame and chagrin.
“Is there a problem?”
Mouth open, Mandelbaum tried to force the words into eruption but still nothing came. There is a famous painting in which a nightmare of a woman opens her mouth in the silence of a shriek. Mandelbaum was that woman.
“We’re waiting,” prodded the young lady.
“We’re waiting,” echoed the second voice.
“We haven’t all day, my good man,” added the third.
But then as if a soloist arisen to disband this hellish chorus there was a new voice, a voice with authority: “No, wait. Don’t you see. Watch him; look at the agony of his futility. The struggle to express the inexpressible. The eloquence of his silence set against the banality of language.”
“The voice of the voiceless,” ventured the young lady.
“The desire to communicate, the impossibility of communication.” suggested the second.
“Less is more,” posited the third.
“An actor with the courage to make the radical choice,” proclaimed the authoritative voice. “I think we’ve found our man.”