Interviews with the Cast of McLean Community Players’ ‘Comic Potential’ Part 1: Frank Gorrell

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In Part 1 in a series of interviews with the cast of McLean Community Players’ Comic Potential, meet Frank Gorrell.

Joel: Please introduce yourself and tell us where our readers may have seen you performing on the stage?

Frank Gorell. Photo by Traci J. Brooks Studios.
Frank Gorrell. Photo by Irish Eyes Photography by Toby.

I’m Frank Gorrell, playing Chandler Tate, and readers may have seen me in two other productions by the McLean Players; in 2014 Ken Ludwig’s The Game’s Afoot, or Holmes for the Holidays in which I played William Gillette. And last year I portrayed John Clark in Calendar Girls. Anyone who has gone to area film festivals may have also seen me in the very fine independent film 6 Hearts, 1 Beat written by Frank E. Jackson, Jr. and starring Tray Chaney (“Poot”) from The Wire.

Who is your character and what do they do in the show?

Chandler Tate is the director of a soap opera produced in Britain; essentially the equivalent of local access here in the US.  He used to make major movies – comedies, specifically. When we meet Chandler, he is bitter and frustrated that he has been moved sideways, and down a few rungs, frankly, into his current position. He anaesthetizes himself with alcohol.  Yet, if Chandler were not in the picture, that is, not a character in this play, I’m not sure the show would have the many layers that it does.

In Chandler’s case, what is one’s passion? Why does one get out of bed in the morning? His passion is comedy – not just being funny, not getting laughs with cheap obscenities. Chandler’s passion is comedy, as he describes it, the art of surprise. I’d like the audience member to ask him or herself what their passion is after seeing this show.

What is your favorite scene in the play? What do you enjoy most that you get to do?

In Act I, Scene 2, Chandler has been to the local pub and had just enough Scotch to function, but he is lubricated, for sure. He goes off on his staff, Prim and Trudi, which leads them to storm off furious at him.  (It’s not the first time, we learn.) Left alone with young Adam Trainsmith, who Chandler thinks is just another accountant there “to advise…on program making,” Chandler talks about his past; how things were different at the movie studio. When Adam says that he wants to write comedy, Chandler’s passion is truly revealed, and he explains great comedy to Adam. We see Chandler from here on as a mentor and instructor.

What I enjoy to do the most in this show is pay homage to some great comedians. A few references are actually in the script, but I have added two others. One is very obvious. I think many folks will get the other.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Chandler has a very nice scene with Jacie near the end of the show. This is the second time we see that Chandler is more than what one may think based on Act I, Scenes 1 and 2.

What is your favorite line? What is your favorite line that somebody else gets to say?

For the second time in three shows, The Game’s Afoot being thhe other, I poke fun at accountants. It so happens that I am an accountant! In this show, I rant at Carla Pepperbloom, that as an accountant, she can’t possibly feel anything or be moved by anything. In fact, she couldn’t possibly recognize art. Let’s just say that Chandler’s word choice is more colorful.

Alan Ayckbourn gave Chandler several great lines. But there are some other lines some characters have that are equally wonderful.  My favorite, and I think it may well be the entire cast’s favorite, is spoken by Jacie. I won’t reveal the actual line, but it comes in Act II, Scene 9, and is an amalgam of choice words she’s picked up from Chandler.

Have you had particular challenges to meet in realizing your character?

Fortunately, I have not. I’m old enough to know and understand the references to great comedians and movie directors, and to be able to add a couple of my own, as I mentioned. No, I do not go to work drunk. I do appreciate where Chandler’s frustration can come from. In my present job with one of the Big Four accounting and auditing firms, I am challenged and able to pursue my passion within my field. But I understand brokenness. I see that Chandler is in pain. One will note in the show that after being drunk in Act I, Scene 2, Chandler is sober and fully engaged in his passion.

Chance (Frank Gorrell), director of a soap opera, complains to Prim (Sam David), programmer of the androids and Trudi (Kirsten Burt), the technician, about glitches in an android's performance. Photo by Irish Eyes Photography by Toby.
Chance (Frank Gorrell), director of a soap opera, complains to Prim (Sam David), programmer of the androids and Trudi (Kirsten Burt), the technician, about glitches in an android’s performance. Photo by Irish Eyes Photography by Toby.

This is an area premiere of a not well known (in the US) play. Did you have any hesitation about auditioning for it?

None whatsoever because Bob Sams is directing.  I trust him completely.  As soon as I read the script, I knew Chandler was the part for me.  I did have to carefully consider certain words – f-bombs – that are in the show.  As I said earlier, gratuitous usage is simply for cheap laughs. I wanted to be certain these were carefully chosen by the author and necessary. I have concluded, and I believe the audience will agree upon consideration, that they are necessary. Chandler is a jerk early on for reasons I mentioned – frustration, brokenness; he’s a passionate director, mentor, and instructor; and he has a compassionate streak. All these dimensions, plus my appreciation for British-style humor, make Chandler the role I wanted. I think our audiences will get a kick out of it because it is a truly funny play. It’s also thought-provoking on many levels.

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Comic Potential plays from October 7-22, 2016 at McLean Community Players performing at The McLean Community Center’s Alden Theatre –  1234 Ingleside Avenue, in McLean, VA. For tickets, call Ovations Tix at (866) 811-4111, or purchase them online. Here are directions to The Alden Theatre.

Note: The play contains adult situations and language. Suitable for those 17 and older.

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Joel Markowitz
Joel Markowitz is the Publisher and Editor of DCMetroTheaterArts. He founded the site with his brother Bruce to help promote the vast riches of theatre and the arts in the DC Metro area that includes Maryland, Virginia, and DC theater and music venues, universities, schools, Children's theaters, professional, and community theatres. Joel is an advocate for promoting the 'stars of the future' in his popular 'Scene Stealers' articles. He wrote a column for 5 years called ‘Theatre Schmooze’ and recorded podcast interviews for DC Theatre Scene. His work can also be seen and read on BroadwayStars. Joel also wrote a monthly preview of what was about to open in DC area theatres for BroadwayWorld. He is an avid film and theater goer, and a suffering Buffalo Bills and Sabres fan. Joel was a regular guest on 'The Lunch and Judy Show' radio program starring Judy Stadt in NYC. Joel founded The Ushers Theatre Going Group in the DC area in 1990, which had a 25-year run when it took its final curtain call last year. Joel is a proud member of The American Critics Association.