Morgan sympathizes... every time he ventures into the Carousel B&G (which is not often), its displaced horses striking him as glum. But Gillian must have sustenance—"Now"—so sentiments to the contrary hold no sway.
"Don't start moping again about these bloody decorations; talk to me, Morgan, please. I need a friend." Morgan redirects his gaze from the lacquered mount above them, to stare, without expression, at Gillian's face. "Swell. Real helpful. Why not write obituaries for these goddamn, painted ponies? And while you're at it, author one for me: 'Gillian Gallipolis, at the age of thirty-five, former London Academy actress and local personality, lost her mind last night, ON STAGE, IN PUBLIC, FULL HOUSE watching, and—succumbing to humiliation—crossed the River Styx. Critics are invited to review the corpse on Monday, after which her fans can trash the remains.'"
Gillian orders a salad; Morgan a coffee (poured on the spot).
"No. David let it slide. The natives are restless, though. Our brutish Board of Directors is out for blood. Namely mine."
"Well, Paul and Janie have been supportive. Ben has been... perturbed, miffed because I've stepped on some of his lines—my least offense. Morgan, I admit, I'm scared to death."
"Lost it again?"
"We had a number of 'pregnant pauses.' Actually, things went pretty well, from an outside point of view. The scenes are designed to play with certain ad-libs, certain hitches; Monica 's on the verge of coming unglued. I use that. It's why I'm cutting people off; my character just can't wait. Thursday night the second act ran three full minutes shorter. Three minutes! Have you any idea how long that is on stage? And it's all her doing; Monica's. Once she makes her entrance, BANG, the play is off and running. I can hardly keep apace myself." Gillian's salad is served. Morgan takes a swig of his lukewarm coffee. "They've asked me for my notice... want my understudy to finish the run."
Tears dilute the anger that possesses Gillian's psyche. Morgan grasps her hands and squeezes them consolingly... despite his having done so countless times, through countless crises, despite the fact that thespians seem profoundly self-concerned, their egos disproportionate to their talents—volatile, legendary—occupational hazards that their near-and-dears indulge (though this is different, this is more than a temperamental actress acting out her insecurities in some narcissistic snit; a darkness has befallen Gillian—dense, apocalyptic—that casts a pall of panic on her consciousness, her career, inflicting closet demons, dreadful secrets, waking nightmares, her actor's bag of tricks become Pandora's box, unhinged, unleashing traumas Gillian dares not name. Instead, she acts—with brilliance, on occasion, thus the management's dilemma. Even fickle brilliance sells; receipts are in the black. But will their source endure, or crash and burn?
"You look like a wet raccoon."
Liquefied mascara bruises Gillian's deep-set sockets. Tilting back her head, she blinks—a wooden stallion looms, its belly, by a variegated center pole, impaled, its mouth, by graphic reins and bit, distorted.
"My sentiments exactly; I feel skewered..." She gazes upward. "...while fans and hostile critics laugh and point." She frees her hand. "Besides, I said that line. I've said it every night since opening. People just don't hear it, that's all. What's a girl to do?" Gillian shoves aside her plate. "It's late; I have to hurry."
"You're hiding something. What?"
She tries to match his earnest stare.
"My Jewish guilt; what else?"
"I'm feeling Jewish. Where the hell's our waitress?"
"The line reads..."
"STOP! I'll work it out myself; I always do."
"A regular rock."
"Don't need anyone."
"Right. I'm just as tough as you are; we're a pair of mulish bores. All I talk is 'theatre;' all you brood about is 'art'—unless you're on your theme of infidelity." Morgan winces. "Sorry. Hey, I have to go; tonight's an early call. Coming?"
The horses seem to come alive, defy their rigor mortis (in his mind's eye), perk their ears, enlarge their nostrils, toss their manes; their hooves, in bounding strides, surround, stampede, their tails do orbits; refugees from a merry-go-round, revolve.