"A sensational black-hearted farce!"--Hamilton Spectator

 

Brian MacKay & Patricia Yeatman in Theatre Aquarius' production of Self-Help. 2002. Photo by Sheryl Nadler.

  Self-Help is the story of Hal and Cindy Savage, two struggling actors who reinvent themselves as self-help gurus and, much to their surprise, become the world's most revered relationship experts. Unfortunately, while their careers skyrocket, their marriage goes into a nosedive, and they soon find themselves scrambling to protect their reputations. The following scene begins the play. Hal and Cindy are in a dressing room preparing to go onstage. Hal puts on his make-up while Cindy reads a book.
   
   
:Hal: Closing night. Thank God. Five weeks on the same stage with Mitchell Quinty is like having Laurence Olivier for a dentist.
Cindy: What a steaming load of horse manure.
Hal: What?
Cindy: This book. Listen to this. (She reads.) You've got to have faith in your ability to achieve worthy rewards. You can dwell in the misery of life, or you can choose to say, life is good.
Hal: What book is that?
Cindy: Oh, some self-help book that mitchell loaned me.
Hal: Mitchell reads self-help books? The man should be reading an acting primer. And I'll tell you this right now. If he grabs my ass before we go on tonight, I'm going to break his nose.
Cindy: He grabs your ass?
Hal: He's grabbed it every night for the entire run. He says it's for luck.
Cindy: He never grabs my ass.
Hal: Yes, well, I don’t think he's hoping to get lucky with you.
Cindy: (Reading.) 'Focus your energies, funnel your abilities, and channel your desires.' Oh, please.
Hal: Which reminds me. Did I tell you what the director said to me on opening night? He said I didn't seem focused. Focused? You try playing Felix Unger to a gay Oscar Madison. I dare you!
Cindy: You know, I could write this drivel.
Hal: What?
Cindy: This self-help malarkey. It's just a bunch of generalities. It's common sense rhetoric. Listen to this. ‘Do not be concerned about where you are. It's where you are going that counts.’
Hal: Yes, well, I know where I'm going. To the nearest telephone to fire our agent for landing us in a show with Mitchell Quinty.
Cindy: Have you spoken to Ruby today?
Hal: No. She was supposed to call and let me know if I got that part in Edmonton.
Cindy: And if you do get it, you go off to Edmonton and I go home and we don't see each other for six weeks.
Hal: I don't like the thought of it anymore than you do, sweetheart, but it's the nature of the business. We have to go where the work is.
Cindy: Work. When we don't get it we complain because we're broke, and when we do get it, we wind up being separated for weeks at a time. Now, this guy's got the right idea.
Hal: What guy?
Cindy: This self-help guru. He does seminars, sells books, tapes. And he makes millions.
Hal: Yes, but is he fulfilled?
Cindy: He sure looks fulfilled. He's got a nice tan too. Must have got that on that tropical island he owns. Hal, I think we’re in the wrong business.
Hal: Look, Cindy, this fellow may own a tropical island, but does he get the satisfaction of a warm round of applause from an appreciative audience every night?
Cindy: He plays to sold out auditoriums two hundred nights a year.
Hal: Well, screw him then.
Cindy: You know, we could do this.
Hal: Do what?
Cindy: This self-help nonsense. I could write it and we could do it together.
Hal: Cindy, we're actors.
Cindy: And that's exactly why we could do it. Making people believe in a fantasy? We're naturals for it.
Hal: Sorry, love. As much as this particular show has been a harrowing experience, my heart still belongs to the theatre. She's my mistress. I could never leave her. I mean, we owe everything we have to her.
Cindy: Hal, we're at the Moonglow Dinner Theatre on the outskirts of Flin Flon, Manitoba. Our entire wardrobe is stuffed into two hefty bags in the trunk of our nine year old Ford Tempo. Meanwhile, we live in a one bedroom apartment over a Tai Kosher restaurant and everything we own smells of curried matzah. If theatre is our mistress, I say let's dump the bitch.
Copyright 2002 Norm Foster