In the middle of these recent late night wars our country is once again divided. There’s Team Leno, Team Conan, and then there’s the small little group of insurgent insomniacs who stay up waaaay past all that to tune in for “Up Late with Skip Carter” (Local Channel 27′s second highest rated non-animal variety slash talk show). Every night at 2:30 his is the little talk show that could … but then couldn’t — as “tonight” happens to be the last episode (for a while at least) of this home grown chat-fest. Luckily, we’re there to see it play out. While the only people watching maybe be you, me, and the cameraman, Skip Carter (Nick Lehane), his twin sister Lacy (Lauren Glover) and his one-man-band Carl (Gabriel Millman) are, to borrow a phrase, dancing as fast as they can. And, viewing audience or not, this swan song is almost as “awwwwwww” inspiring as Bette Midler crooning to Johnny all those years ago.
We come upon You May Be Splendid Now (written by Dan Moyer, directed by Will Brill & Emma Galvin) unexpectedly, but then we’re dumped right into the lap of this homey little talk show that’s one (but only one) step up from closed-circuit TV. Skip begins the show with a charming patter, a quick finesse and a winning manner (all the while having his set-ups continued by Lacy who acts as punchline or nonsensical segue depending [it appears] on whim). Soon enough he bravely tells the viewers that this will be their last show for a while. Seems twin sister Lacy will be heading off to Southeast Asia – Thailand, Malaysia — in the hopes of “finding herself” (I smell a lost opportunity for a little “I’ve Never Been To Me” right about here, but hey … this isn’t my show …). This frees up keyboardist Carl to devote more time to Fauxgleberg – his Dan Fogelberg tribute band. Carl is as deadpan as Lacy is cute and Skip is winning, and somehow they all roll together like the wheels of a wobbly little tricycle. It’s small, but it’ll getcha there.
You don’t have to be half of a twin set in order to understand what’s going on throughout You May Be Splendid Now, you just need to have had that effortless shorthand with someone, that creative chemistry, that little man that lives in both your heads that leads off with an “ … aaaaaannnnnd …. ACTION!” which launches you both into your oft-repeated routine, the one you both know by heart, the one you both know so well that you can improvise the hell out of it and still keep it on track. If you’re lucky, you’ve had that kind of shorthand with someone, and you’ll recognize it when you see it here. So, while “Up Late with Skip Carter” starts out as one thing, after a little lane-change bump, you realize that you’ve been thrust into The Carter Twins’ brain and that tonight’s little tricycle ride is headed down a new path …
The Carter Twins from Haverdale, hanging it all on the bones of their late night show, soon let their story unfold in the way two people who know each other inside and out tell their story – not in exposition and pokes of “remember when” but in reenactments that rely on stream of consciousness and dedication to preserving a shared history. Soon you realize that they aren’t doing a simple Talk Show — they’re doing what a Talk Show would be if it were produced by Reality Show King Mark Burnett. There’s no backstage here. This is is.
As the layers are peeled back on this duo Lacy’s sweetness and Skip’s endless jokes become clearer for what they are – built long ago as a coping mechanism, and comfy as an old shoe, she on the left, he on the right, and walking through the world together in an effort to steel each other against the tragic loss of losing their parents and the paralytic fear of being alone.
Carl on the keyboard, for his part, is as funny as the Twins but in a whole different way. As Skip and Lacy play off each other he’s left to play off himself, using deadpan keyboard sound effects to punctuate sentences or move the scenes along. While at first he’s little more than window dressing he slowly unfolds as the bit of spirit gum that keeps the fanciful Carter twins a bit grounded. Mr. Millman knows exactly how to underplay a moment to great effect – by keeping his character restrained rather than empty he is then able to reach poignant emotional upswings when he’s brought out from behind the keyboard and into the spotlight … not just on “Up Late with Skip Carter” but in the reality of it all as well.
Planted on this trio is the obligatory talk show guest - Mr. Branson Burger-James (Dan Wohl) – a nice bookend as Mr. Burger-James was also the very first guest on “Up Late With Skip Carter”. Six years ago Branson was a lacrosse player and treasurer of Haverdale High’s Film Appreciation Society. Six years later Branson is a full-on Goth – makeup, clothing, claw and all. He morosely discusses his new passion for “a sport I invented myself … Clawball” and hypes the 3 Gothic Metal groups he heads up: Beast of Eden, The Furious Bastards of Unbridled Fury and…Clobberdick. Now … don’t get me wrong. I’m certainly a fan of angst-y gothic death metal band members and their inability to cry. But the extra story thread derailed the plot a bit for me, and having Mr. Wohl play out some of his story off-stage felt a little awkward. Still, he does his brooding-best to make you like him and certainly makes you want to go and wail off in a room somewhere.
But back to the main show: Ultimately Nick, Lacy, and even Carl have some deep issues to work out, and surprisingly are able to do so in their fashion – using funny voices and made up scenarios in the middle of the night on TV. Over the course of this final show there are a few hidden secrets that see the light of day (such that it is at 2:30 am) and a few surprising little twists that come to their logical conclusions. While this may have been Skip Carter’s final performance in Haverdale, the crew of You May Be Splendid Now will be doing a few more performances as part of the Shelby Company trio “Great SCoT: New Plays!” Don’t let this show go “off the air” without catching it before it’s gone.
~~~You May Be Splendid Now
By Dan Moyer
Directed by Will Brill & Emma Galvin
Remaining Shows: Wed Jan 27, 7pm; Thu Jan 28, 9pm; Sat Jan 30, 4pm; Sun Jan 31, 2pm Great SC0T Deals:
Single Play: $15
Two play marathon: $20
Three play marathon (all in one day): $25
SCoT Pass (all three but on different days): $30 Access Theatre
380 Broadway, 4th Floor
New York, NY 10013