ONSTAGE & BACKSTAGE: Cruising With Anika Larsen, Plus Don't Tell Mama

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16 Jul 2013

Seth and James' moms between improv gigs
Seth and James' moms between improv gigs

A week in the life of actor, radio and TV host, music director and writer Seth Rudetsky.

Oy! I just finished one cruise and in a few weeks I'm going on another cruise. I've said it before and I'll say it again: My personal shopper is the worst!

The weird thing about this cruise is that it directly conflicted with Unbroken Circle. The first conflict was Anika Larsen being booked as one of the cruise performers for the week. She plays James' sister in Unbroken Circle and got a great mention in the Daily News review: "Best of all is the thoroughly natural Anika Larsen, as Ruby's daughter Edna. She is a woman who has been damaged but, despite everything, remains unbroken." Here she is, sounding amazing on the cruise

We resigned ourselves to putting on an understudy for the week but decided that, since we were only doing Wednesday shows, James and Juli would fly to Bermuda on Thursday and join the cruise for the last few days. But the more we thought about it, the more we began to feel bad that Juli had to miss any of the cruise...to perform a great role in an Off-Broadway play. (Turns out, her personal shopper is the worst, too.) We finally decided to put her understudy on and Juli was thrilled. Then we added a 7 PM  show Thursday and a 1:30 PM matinee Sunday. James did the Wednesday and Thursday shows, arrived Friday afternoon in Bermuda, sailed one day with us and then he, Juli and Anika got off the boat Sunday with enough time to make their 1:30 PM curtain.

It was weird to do so much of the cruise without James, but it was fun to be there with both of our moms. One night, Anika came out to dinner with us and my mom was regaling her with stories about people "not getting her jokes." Example: My mom was at the movies with her coat on the seat next to her. A man came by and asked if he could sit where her coat was. She said, "Sure, but you'll have to hold my coat in your lap." Silence. She couldn't understand why he didn't find it hilarious. I explained it's because she does her "comedy" totally blank-faced and there's not a hint of humor attached. It's Meisner technique realness.

Another "joke" that no one got happened on one of our first cruises together, after my mom tripped down a flight of stairs. She was fine, but they still rushed her to the onboard doctor. When the officials from the boat came and asked her what happened, she said, blank-faced as usual, "A steward pushed me." Shockingly, no one laughed. She then followed that comment with, "Bi-i-i-g lawsuit." Again, crickets. Anika, however, couldn't stop laughing during her stories. Then James' mother, Elizabeth, chimed in and said she could be just as blank-faced.

Cut to: We got on the elevator with four people we didn't know and Elizabeth suddenly turned to my mom and said, "You need to start doing what you're told!" My mom immediately took the bait and fired back with, "You've been incredibly rude to me all evening and I won't stand for it." That's right, they decided to play a full improv scene on the elevator to try to "outreal" each other. I was mortified.

Soon, everyone in the group wanted to get in on the act. Juli practiced the dialogue she wanted to do with me. I was actually impressed by her writing.

She wanted me to ask, "Where were you last night?!"

And she'd fire back with, "I told you! At the casino! Now, off my back!"


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