Public Enemy Number Thirteen OR How I Spent My First Seven Weeks At UCI

This is the performance review I wrote for Drama 30A. If you're in the cast of Anything Goes and you're reading this, please don't get upset. haha. I'm just doing my job as a student.

Being a production assistant on Anything Goes makes the task of writing this essay incredibly difficult as I have seen the process of bringing the play to the stage from the open dance call, to the first table read to the closing performance. I watched as the actors transformed into their characters physically, vocally and emotionally. Michael Doonan’s portrayal of gangster Moonface Martin in Anything Goes displayed the most growth from the beginning of the rehearsal process resulting in a strong comedic performance due to his emotional investment in the character despite a lack of preparation at the outset.

I’ve been told that many people were surprised by Doonan’s turn as Moonface, as he has been cast primarily in dramas, however I was not aware of this until after the play had opened. In rehearsals I was always laughing at him, so for me to picture him as anything but a comic is difficult. When approaching his character, Michael constantly questioned the directors, aiming for the best result possible. He created his character’s given circumstances and gave him life focusing on even the most minute details like why Moonface would know what a “mizzen mast” was if he had never been aboard a ship. Michael embraced Moon as a con man, sparking a few physical tools, like creeping around corners and his amazing facial expressions, to use in his ‘less than sinister’ arsenal. These tactics were used to his advantage, in his dealings with the conniving pair of Chinese, attempts to threaten the wealthy Evelyn Oakleigh, and fooling the ship’s officers with a simple costume. “...I know I’ll get into trouble in this get up. I don’t know how to act like a minister…” Mooney tells his cohort Bonnie, played by Ashley Moniz, as they sneak aboard the ship. Moonface’s unconfident approach to his disguise somewhat mirrors Doonan’s approach to the character. Michael was unsure how far he should take certain jokes, like how crass he could be when polishing the gun, or how much more he should pile on, such as his resemblance to a five-year-old when Moonface whines because Evelyn isn’t afraid of him. Every rehearsal Michael tried to explore new physical things, some would work and some wouldn’t. A constant factor however was his 1930’s accent.

Vocally, Michael was perfect, but his next step was to work on the physical and emotional aspects of the character. He had an idea of what he was aiming for, but all the elements weren’t quite fitting together. Physically, he needed to go bigger, and three weeks into rehearsals, while everyone else was off book, he still had his script in hand. I ran lines with him while the director worked on other scenes almost daily for a week or two, and even after that when I was taking notes he still missed or butchered many lines. It made everyone a tad nervous and illustrated the importance of learning your lines. Acting cannot happen while one has the script as a crutch, and once Michael had his lines down he was able to explore the character more physically, creating some of his character’s hilarious slapstick moments such as rolling around on the floor with his suitcase prior to “Bon Voyage” or being thrown back into the crowd during his speech before “Blow, Gabriel, Blow”. He better established his relationships with the other characters, almost forming himself as a sort of comedic glue between the plotlines. He kept the audience, and myself, in stitches. His chemistry with Bonnie (Moniz) was perfect. Her tough yet bubbly personality balanced out his childlike whining and made the duo even funnier. The trio of Moonface (Doonan), Billy (Lewis) and Reno Sweeney (Goretsky) couldn’t be anymore flawless as the three share the same goal: to take care of Evelyn and get Billy his girl back.

It was a really eye opening experience as an actor to be a production assistant because I was able to see the entire process from an almost omniscient point of view. I believe that Michael Doonan’s performance was one of the stronger ones in the show because he created a life for Moonface and he worked hard to make up for an initial lack of preparation, resulting in an amazing and hilarious performance, which will not soon be forgotten.