This weekend we close The Woman In White at Lifeline Theatre, in which I had the great fortune to play Count Fosco. As anyone who has read the Wilkie Collins novel will tell you, Fosco is one of the great villains of Victorian literature. He is charming, charismatic, arrogant, and evil, and one of the best characters I’ve ever had the opportunity to play.
I first read the book about a year ago, when the company was seriously discussing producing an adaptation. We had recently had great success with an adaptation of another Collins book, The Moonstone, and we knew we wanted to explore that world some more. The Woman In White, as Collins’ most famous book, was the obvious choice. About halfway through reading the book I knew I’d discovered a dream role.
The Woman In White is an epistolary novel, meaning it is written as a collection of letters and diary entries and other documents. The specific moment that sold me on the character of the Count comes near the midway point, at the end of a lengthy section of diary entries written by the book’s heroine, Marian Halcombe, in which she describes her efforts to uncover the Count’s duplicitous schemes. Her last entry reveals that she risked her life to spy on the Count and his accomplice, Sir Percival Glyde, and in doing so she managed to catch a fever and cannot leave her bed. While that is Marian’s last entry, it is not the last entry in the diary. Count Fosco, after finding and reading the document, adds his own postscript, revealing his admiration for Marian, proudly admitting to all the sinister deeds of which she accuses him, and daring her to try and stop his grand scheme.
I put the book down after reading that part. I was in awe of the balls on this guy. I was about twenty or so years too young, but I didn’t care. I needed that part, and I got it. And I cannot even begin to describe how much fun it has been. Everything about this production has been a joy. I will miss coming to the theater every day and spending time with this extraordinary cast. And of course I will miss my mouse co-stars Fanny and Hester, who stole the show every night.
I will be off-stage for a while. In fact, for the first time in a long while I am closing a show without knowing what my next acting gig will be. Frankly, I do not like the sensation. But I can console myself with the knowledge that in about a month my radio play Comparing Notes at the End of the World will be presented in WildClaw Theatre’s annual Deathscribe competition, and rehearsals for The City & The City, my next adventure as a playwright, begin the day after that. In fact, I’ve got some work to do between now and then, so I’d best get to it.