Opening this weekend at the Group Rep’s Lonny Chapman Theatre will be Sam and Bella Spewack’s mildly sinister but pleasant little Christmas comedy, My Three Angels.Â We’ve had a delicious time working on this project.Â I put together a thoroughly competent and professional company of players.Â There was, however, one notable exception who had threatened to overturn our company’s serenity, equilibrium and general state of well-being.
You may perhaps have already heard about the difficult time I had with the most recent member of my cast.Â She was a last-minute addition, and I have come to regret my decision to include her within our otherwise harmonious group.Â I suspect she has been spreading rumors about me and no doubt bad-mouthing me viciously.Â This being Los Angeles and the center of the film and television industry, I am not surprised.Â Rumors will fly and reputations will be lost.Â Therefore, to save my own reputation and to set the record straight, I want to present my own version of this sordid little affair and let the reader judge accordingly.
You may not know, but there is a small part in the first act of My Three Angels calling for the happy arrival of Christmas dinner at the home of Madame and Monsieur Ducatel.Â Normally this part is played by a puppet or severed feathered chicken wings (with accompanying sound effects).Â Being the aggressive and fearless theater impresario that I am, I determined a live cameo guest appearance by a real chicken would be both entertaining and appropriate and provide the audience with that little bit extra that we are known for at the GRT.
I therefore began a rigorous and exhaustive talent search through some very seedy parts of Los Angeles.Â My quest eventually took me to Peking Poultry at 717 N. Broadway in Chinatown, where I auditioned a large number of fowl candidates, settling finally on the rather full-bodied diva (see picture).Â I need to point out at this time that rumors she has spread about being descended from palace chickens inhabiting the forbidden city outside Beijing are completely false.Â Truth be known, she is an American chicken, and her breeding is no better than yours or mine.
It is also important to note that her quarters at Peking Poultry were decidedly cramped and she was stuffed into a narrow cage with other harlots of her ilk. She could barely stand properly and was destined for the chopping block within the next day or two.Â I rescued her from this dire fate and offered her a glowing moment on the stage, under the bright lights, with a little bit of immortality thrown into the bargain.Â But was she grateful?Â Did she care?Â Not a bit.
In fact, I have it on good authority that she has complained bitterly about the rations she received and about her confinement in what I admit was a small cage –Â but honestly, it was a palace compared to her previous quarters.
Now let’s talk about her performance.
Overact?Â Absolutely!Â She was incorrigible!Â What a ham!Â She didn’t care for sound designer Steve Shaw’s accompanying clucks and poultry renderings.Â She insisted on doing her own vocals.Â Come now!Â Can you believe that?Â For crying out loud, Audrey Hepburn was willing to let Marni Nixon voice Eliza Doolittle…but Miss Beulah Baptiste insisted on voicing her own part.Â And believe you me, this chicken is no Audrey Hepburn, no matter what she says.Â “She’s trying to upstage me,” her co-star, Bobby Gallo, kept complaining.Â “She’s too fat, she should lose a couple pounds.”
Well, when Beulah heard that, there was no reconciling my two actors.Â “I’m a full-bodied girl,” she insisted.Â “He’s milking the scene,” she complained.
“She stinks,” he countered, and he was absolutely right.Â The final straw came when she accused Bobby of staring at her breasts.Â “I was hungry,” he explained, but that exacerbated the situation.
Beulah attempted several times to get loose, and I finally decided to let go of my manic obsession for having a live bird in my show.Â This all may have been caused by my unsatisfied urge to have a parrot on my shoulder during our recent run of Poor Of New York, when I played the part of the seafaring Captain Fairweather.Â Be that as it may, I finally voided Beulah’s contract and happily restored peace within my company of players.Â Beulah, however, was not satisfied and threatened to take me to Actors’ Equity.Â I threatened to take her to El Pollo Loco.
We finally compromised and settled on my taking her to a 12-acre ranch near Malibu, where she now resides in the company of 15 or 20 contented hens and two charming roosters who have already started to compete for her affection.
If you come to our production of My Three Angels at the Group Rep, you should be aware there will be NO CHICKENS ON OUR STAGE, case closed, end of story.Â I apologize!Â I am humiliated, but I will not budge.Â NO CHICKENS, no matter how many patrons sign the petition I understand she has been circulating.Â Nevertheless, I can promise that other performances will be of merit and the show will go on.
My Three Angels, presented by Group Rep.Â Opens Dec. 9. Plays Fri.-Sat. 8 pm, Sun. 2 pm. Through Jan 15.Â (12/25 and 01/01, 7 pm shows only).Â Tickets: Â $15 – $22. Lonny Chapman Theatre,Â 10900 Burbank Boulevard, North Hollywood. www.thegrouprep.com. 818-763-5990.
***All My Three Angels production photos by Sherry Netherland
Larry Eisenberg is an actor, writer and director.Â He earned his MFA in directing from the California Institute of the Arts. He directed the premiere of an adaptation of Isaac Bashevis Singer’s Stories for Children at the Hudson Theatre and has staged numerous productions at Lonny Chapman Theatre.Â His favorites include The Poor of New York, Horton Foote’s The Trip to Bountiful, Chaim’s Love Song, Over the River and Through the Woods and his original play Nautilus, which was later turned into a feature film entitled Fish Don’t Blink starring Lea Thompson and Dee Wallace Stone. He currently serves as one of the two co-artistic directors at the Group Rep.