May 2, 2010
Lee Tergesen, Christopher Meloni, Dean Winters and Terry Kinney participated in an
uproarious celebrity reading of "The Godfather IV," written by
"Oz" creator Tom
Fontana and directed by Linda Laundra.
Eamonn Walker was the narrator, and Tom Fontana made a couple of
special cameo appearances (as Julianna Margulies and Colin Farrell!). Other "Oz" alumni in supporting roles
were Mike Doyle, Zeljko
Ivanek, David Laundra, Kristin Rohde, and Catherine Wolf.
In promoting the show, the
Primary Stages site described the plot this way:
- Three actors from "Oz" sit in a diner, talking about their
careers and the works of various screen immortals. When one of
the trio (Chris Meloni) attacks the plausibility of the Jack
Woltz scene in "The Godfather," the other two (Lee Tergesen,
Dean Winters) decide to "re-enact" the scene by sneaking a
horse's head into Meloni's bed. Unexpected complications arise.
Fontana's site called the play "a comedy about ego, love, revenge
and a horse's head."
There were just two performances: 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Sunday, May 2,
59E59 Theater A in New York City.
In introducing the play, Elliot Fox, the managing director of
Primary Stages, told the audience that the group of talented
performers had been working "diligently" to prepare for the event
... "since yesterday." *wink wink*
The script was much longer in the making, however. Lee said that Tom
Fontana had actually finished it about five years ago. He explained
that's why some of the references were a little dated, such as a
part where Lee says he learned about jimmying locks from playing a hoodlum on
Tom's original plan for "Godfather IV" was that it would be a
feature film. Then it was to have been a stage play. It has been
revised a few times over the years as plans for it changed. Finally,
Tom simply updated and stripped it down for the Primary Stages
Proceeds from the event will benefit
Primary Stages and the Writers Guild of America East Foundation.
SYNOPSIS, cobbled from New York Magazine, Vicki Moriarity's
blog and my own memories:
The performance was actually a "staged
reading." The actors sat on stools lined up on stage, and stand in
front of each stool held the script from which they read. Despite
the "reading," it was an animated performance,
filled with inside jokes and hilarious ad-libs.
Eamonn Walker narrated the action of the play, which centered around
a coffee-shop get-together of real-life friends Terry Kinney, Dean
Winters, Lee Tergesen and Christopher Meloni. The bull session
eventually finds Winters and Tergesen plotting to re-create the famed horsehead-in-bed
scene from "The Godfather," with Meloni as the victim and Kinney filming the action for
Why? Because (in the play) it turns out that since "Oz" ended, Meloni has become a preening Master
Thespian. In front of his sporadically employed buddies, he feigns
exasperation at having to work every day for the past 11 years
on a hit.
After the show, Meloni sought to set the record straight:
"That wasnít the
real Christopher Meloni!" he said. But Tergesen jokingly disagreed:
ďHeís such a dick!"
In the productionís most hilarious
art-imitates-life-imitates-art turn, Tergesen remains in thrall to
Meloni just as Oz's Tobias Beecher was to Chris Keller. "Itís about
putting our characters on display, in terms of Chris manipulating
me, and me being all sweet and innocent Ö 'cause Iím definitely not
sweet and innocent," Tergesen told New York Magazine. "But it shows
how tight we were and how we just beat the shit out of each other,
and always just having a laugh, no matter what."
In regard to the laughs, the cast's repeated cutups and flubbed line readings were
relished by the audience.
The play began with the actors discussing their favorite
actors. It gave Lee the opportunity to trot out some superb
impressions, including Cary Grant and a James-Mason-like Lawrence
Olivier. Finally, they hit on Marlon Brando. This led to discussion of
Godfather," a move that Meloni thinks is thoroughly implausible. When Dean says
something along the lines of it being a classic, Meloni asks
incredulously, "Better than Citizen Kane? Better than Avatar?" That
got a HUGE laugh, which made Meloni beam and say "I wrote that
Throughout the reading, Terry Kinney kept making little jibes at the
other actors and then he'd look at the audience and say
very softly, "I didn't write that," and make writing motions in the
air while shaking his head.
According to the plot, Lee has recently broken up with the actress Julianna
Margulies. When Eamonn stage-directs that "Julianna Margulies enters
the diner," everyone on stage looked expectantly to the
entrance and applauded madly. Out walked... Tom Fontana. Alas,
Julianna was supposed to be in the play, but a last-minute
scheduling conflict kept her from being there. So, for the rest of the show,
Tom played Julianna Margulies. Which was HILARIOUS.
Because "Julianna" at the diner looking for Chris, Lee
learns that Chris has broken
the "guy code" by dating his ex. Therefore, he decides to go along with
Dean's plan to put a horse head in Meloni's bed.
Dean is in charge of getting the blood and the horse head.
After a couple of false starts and scenes with David Laundra and
Kristen Rhode, he winds up going to see Zeljko Ivanek (the governor
on "Oz") because he remembers that Zeljko once had a horse's head
on his wall. But Zeljko now has a moose head instead, and he is
strangely attached to it. Reluctantly agreeing to loan it to Dean, Zeljko kisses Mortimer the moose
goodbye. Later in the play, when Dean doesn't return the moose head
on time, Zeljko leaves messages on his answering machine,
plaintively calling out, "Mortimer, where are you?" Zeljko's part
was small, but absolutely one of the highlights of the play! (The
moose head, by the way, was an adorable stuffed animal. It was
adorable, even while Lee is
gleefully "sawing" its antlers off so that it more closely resembles
Meanwhile, Lee and Terry are in charge of getting a key to Meloni's house.
Catherine Wolf (Nurse Carol Grace in "Oz")
plays a suspicious neighbor of Meloni's. Nevertheless, they are able
to convince her that Lee is a city alley inspector and Terry a
member of Homeland Security and she leaves them alone.
When Lee, Dean, and Terry finally do sneak into Meloni's house, they find Chris in bed with
"Julianna." To enact this scene, Tom Fontana and Meloni
had put two stools together, and Meloni
snuggled up to Tom-as-Julianna, one leg hooked over his, head
snuggled into his neck, one hand on his breast, and a look of
blissful contentment on his face.
Confronted by the sight of two people in
bed, Lee, Dean and Terry retreat. But not before Terry gets a lot of
footage of "Julianna's" breasts. "Hubba, hubba!"
Back "outside," Lee is shocked that Chris would
betray him. "Charlatan!" he cries. This scene follows a couple
of instances in which Lee had gotten all loopy when Meloni would
refer to him as his best friend. Once, Meloni insisted
that he's not dating Julianna, declaring, "I'd never do that to my best
friend." Lee was so thrilled, saying, "Best friend? Oh joy! Oh rapture!"
The laughs rained down.
The reading also contained countless moments
when Chris would look over at Lee and give him a knowing smirk, or a
grin, or make googly eyes at him, causing members of the audience
swoon or laugh. Or both. Then there was the line from Meloni, in
which he stated: "We have a bond, a chemistry that transcends time,
space and heterosexual impulses."
At several points, Lee is called "sweet
and naive" and he's just getting totally bamboozled and manipulated
by Meloni. After a few of those instances, the audience would go
"Awwwwww." Lee at one point looked out at the audience and
beamed and said something like, "These are my people."
Back in the "alley," Dean convinces Lee that they have to come back another night when
Chris is alone. He's worried that Julianna might wake up because "she's a very
light sleeper." Lee and Dean's timing here was impeccable, as Lee
looks at him in shock for a long beat, then asks "How do you know
that?" Dean quickly answers, "TMZ." LOL!
When they try again the next night, Meloni is
alone in "bed." Chris simulated this pulling two stools together and
curling up on his side, with his lower legs dangling off. Quite a
The first problem the perpetrators encountered
was getting Meloni's sheets untangled. Dean orders Lee to "blow on
him." Lee looks surprised and says, "Blow him?" Finally, he gets the
instructions straight and causes Meloni to stir, unfurling the
sheets. With this action completed, Terry, Lee, and Dean take a moment to marvel at the size of
(He is fully clad, of course. But he does "wake up" and give a nod
of thanks to Fontana, the writer.)
Eamonnn stage-directs that Chris starts rubbing his dick, and
Chris moves his hand in that general direction and then starts moaning. "Leeeee." "Leeeeeeee!"
"LeeeEEEEeeee!" The scene is priceless.
Finally, they guys accomplish their mission:
They put the "horse head" in Meloni's bed, cover it with "blood"
(aka Paul Newman's spaghetti sauce) and get out of there without
"Outside," they are accosted by a cop, played
by Mike Doyle (Adam Guenzel in "Oz"). Dean tells Lee to play drunk. "How
drunk?" Lee asks. "Jaeger drunk," he's told. Lee immediate staggers
and belts out a few lines from the "My Fair Lady" songbook.
Before long, he has the policeman singing along. And, boy, can Mike
Doyle sing! I could have danced all night myself!
The play wraps up with the guys back in the
coffee shop. Terry's documentary has won an Oscar, Lee does an
imitation of John Travolta from "Staying Alive," and Colin Farrell
is there, too. Well, Tom Fontana as Colin Farrell, that is. :)
AFTER THE SHOW
After the show, the entire cast posed for photos
press, and then Chris and Lee came to the foot of the stage where
they promptly were mobbed by fans.
Pictures of this and other play-related
festivities can be found here:
Events: Godfather IV