Sunday, April 03, 2011

It's not easy being Sheen

Right now, as I write this, Charlie is taking to the stage in Chicago for another installment of the torpedo of truth. I can predict what will happen (damn the torpedoes ... I've been wrong before!) I think he's going to tank one, maybe two more shows, and then the rest will be unexpectedly refunded and canceled, citing technical difficulties, or an illness, or something.

I've done theatre. There is only so much you can do with poor material. It is even harder if the material is your own.

I know this because I've been there in a one man show for an hour and ten minutes,  squirming before an audience, trying to salvage it, and without the video or guest acts. In 1997 at the Montreal Fringe I had such a bad show once that I forgot a line, didn't know where I was supposed to be in the blocking, and Paul, a brilliant fellow playwright and friend, called out the line from the back to save me. The rest of the show I was going through the motions. I remember sitting on a stool after the show, crying, with four more nights left, thinking about how I had just bilked these poor people out of their $7. I felt like chasing them all down to give it back. And how the hell was I going to get up there the next night?

The next few shows got better, and on closing night I kicked ass. The audience called me out for an ovation. It was the only one I ever got as an actor, and from then on I decided to write novels. I figured it couldn't get any better than that. Later, looking over the script to clean it up for a production with (thankfully) another actor, I couldn't believe I went up there with such a flimsy story.

I doubt Charlie has the same thoughts.

One thing that seems pretty muted in the media, and indeed in the tweets and rants against him, is that this could well be mental illness. I'm not a psychiatrist, but I have dealt with others with mental illness, and some illnesses can't be overcome or medicated. My experience with a partner with borderline personality disorder was so traumatic that for years I looked for the signs in everyone.

In Rome, with the lead they used to process their sweet wines, and with all the dipsomaniac tendencies of Caligula and Tiberius among many many others, they too had their own problems with powerful people going mad. I can't read their history without wondering why these crazy tyrants stayed in power so long. It is personal relationships make it make sense. They had their rational supporters who tried to help, and whose reputations were pinned on success.

It is much like the junkie who keeps 'borrowing' stuff from your apartment. At some point you have to cut all ties and stop them from dragging you down. It's hard not to hate them for what they've done.With people in power, or even just those with money, there's a tendency not to criticise them from within the circle.

Poor Charlie (yes, I actually wrote that), surrounded by people who say that things are fine, that he's a winner, and that the money will keep flowing, thinks the world doesn't understand him. He can only reject the outside criticism for so long. Stadiums of people are telling him otherwise. It is one thing to keep millions titillated on twitter, but entirely another to entertain five thousand of them for ninety odd minutes in person.

The question is, when is the media going to stop feeding into all this crap so he can get some help ... or does he have to hit rock bottom first? He may be winning with everyone's money right now, but those incomes are quickly drying up. Is he going to get help? Does anyone in the circle want to challenge the Warlock?

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