from Lips Together, Teeth Apart
by Terrence McNally
Theater Arts 16: Acting for the Camera
October 10, 2002
|1||Intro: stung by failure to connect with Sally, he needs to express himself
Obj: Get this off my chest, put some order in my thoughts.
|My brain has become a collision course of random thoughts. Some trivial, but some well worth the wonder.||Turns away from Sally (who is off left), towards the camera. Delivers the rest of the monologue (until the last beat) into (or just off) the lens.|
|2||Hey, this is serious.
Obj: Persuade my (imaginary) interlocutor that i'm in serious trouble.
|Sometimes I think I'm losing my mind.|
|3||Let me tell you what i mean...
Obj: Be understood.
|I'm not sure of anything anymore. It's the same anxiety I have when I think I've forgotten how to tie my tie or tie my shoelaces or I've forgotten how to swallow my food and I'm going to choke on it.||Leans on chair back.|
Obj: Make my meaning clear by fleshing it out with an example.
|Three days ago I was standing in front of our bathroom mirror in terror because I couldn't knot my tie. I wanted to say, "Sally, please come in here and help me."||Looks off the lens when he calls to imaginary Sally.|
|4(b)||I should have been able to, what's the big deal, but...
Obj: Express/share my bewilderment at my situation.
|But I couldn't.||Looks back into lens.|
|4(c)||The main theme: his own unloveability, his suspicion that love is impossible.
Obj: Put (an piece of) my painful situation into words.
|What would she have thought?|
Obj: Continue explaining my bewilderment.
|Last night I spit a piece of steak into my napkin rather than risk swallowing it, because I was afraid I would choke.|
|6||Steps back again to generalize. Humans are unloveable. Kind of disgusting,
Obj: Explain why love is so difficult. Express my loneliness, with an edge of bitterness.
|Maybe it's trivial and that's why no one wants to talk about it, so I'm talking to myself. No one wants to listen to who we really are. Know somebody really. Know you leave shit stains in your underwear and pick your nose.|
|7||Intro to new movement: frenzy of honesty. Each revelation is harder for him.
Obj: Twist the knife in my own wound, until i can openly admit i'm in pain.
|Tell a woman you've forgotten how to swallow your food and she's in her car and out of your life before you can say, "Wait, there's more.||Stands straight (no longer leaning on chair). Hand gestures.|
|8(a)||Stage One: angry
Obj: Be hurtful to Sally (in my mind).
|Sometimes I have to think about someone else when I'm with you because I'm afraid I won't stay hard if I don't.|
|8(b)||Stage Two: going deeper
Obj: Continue being hurtful to Sally; shock her perhaps.
|Or how much I want to fuck the teenage daughter of the couple that lives three doors down.|
|8(c)||Stage Three: significant admission; this one hurts
Obj: Be totally honest.
|How my father takes all the air out of the room and I can't breathe when I'm with him.|
|9||Climax of the series of admissions. The Big One.
Obj: Express my pain and anger; mention the unmentionable topic and shatter the polite surface of denial.
|How if I could tear my breast open and rip out my heart and feed it to these sea gulls in little raw pieces, that pain would be nothing to the one I already feel, the pain of your betrayal!|
|10||Quieter, almost desperate: The Bigger One!
Obj: Express the root of my pain.
|How most afraid I am of losing you."|
|11||Despair. Regret. Ironic resignation.
Obj: Summarize and make my point.
|How can I tell you these things and there be love?|
Overall objective (spine):
|To hold onto the few loving relationships in his life, especially with his wife.|
|His own sense that he is unloveable; his doubts that love is even possible; the current strains in his relationships (especially his wife's affair).|
Objective in this scene:
|To put his feelings into words, to try to make sense of them.|
Obstacles in this scene:
|His sense that no-one wants to hear this sort of thing.|
The mood of the speech evolves from bewilderment to anger to the pain that lies at the heart of the anger.
This speech is a revelatory moment, vital for establishing the inner life of the character. It's very intense by the end.
Love is difficult and rare, but life is empty without it.
Sam has just tried to connect with his wife Sally.
Sally is painting, and he told her that he likes the picture she's working on. She didn't connect with him, but began talking instead about how she feels when people judge her painting.
He reacts by having to tell someone, anyone (even an imaginary interlocutor) everything that's buzzing around in his mind. ("My brain has become...")
The speech doesn't advance the action, but reveals character and theme.
The language is carefully wrought, from the series of alliterations that help determine the rhythm of the opening lines, to the raw, biting Anglo-Saxon monosyllables that set a more bitter, angry tone later, to the series of heavy syllables at the conclusion ("and there be love").