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Adam Rodriguez: Punch vs. Capitano, with cameos by Paolo Garbanzo

Adam Rodriguez is rehearsing his fourth show with La Fenice. Previously, he has only played the role of Pulcinella, but this time he's shaking off his hunchback to play Capitano. In this interview, Adam, stand up comic and Esther's Follies veteran, is joined intermittently by Company Member at Large, Paolo Garbanzo (who was making eggs), and Managing Director Kate Meehan.

Kate: Usually you play Punch. This time you're playing Capitano. How different are you finding the characters?

Adam: There's a lot of similarities and a lot of differences. Naturally, the physicality is very different. In rehearsal, I often find myself growing a hunch back, and it's like "oh, damn it! Capitano stands up straight!" The fact that he's new is exciting and nice. When I played Punch, I was just trying to add layers to him as a character. He started off as just a straight up murderer, and later he turned a little more perverted, and by Sloop I think he had a lot more complexity. Capitano now is just back at square one, so it's cool to get to start the process over again. There are still a lot of similarities. My Capitano is a killer and a pervert, so in that way, they are very much the same. They're both scumbags, really. The only real difference is that Capitano gets a sword instead of a rubber chicken. Just in the back of my head, I want to play Capitano once or twice more to fill out the complexity of the character. Standing straight and goosing my neck and carrying a pair of swords is the real fundamental difference.

Kate: Gotcha.

Paolo: I've got a ton of eggs! I'm adding this chicken to it, okay?

Adam: Do it!

Kate: What about the differences between performing stand up comedy and performing Commedia?

Adam: They're both very experimental. My fundamental difference is that in standup you're flat-footed, by yourself delivering a joke, so if it doesn't work, it's all on you. All the consequences are yours. In an ensemble, you've got people to bounce off of. If something doesn't work, you've got people to share the blame and maybe fix it. You have people to help you out. In standup, you're all alone in the cold vacuum of comedy.

Paolo: Doing solo shows, you're not alone, the other character is the audience. If they're not giving you the time of day, you're screwed.

Adam: You have to trick them into investing in you. You sell yourself in the first five seconds, so the audience decides in the first five seconds whether they'll like you.

Kate: And whether they'll allow you to be funny.

Adam: And that you're worth their bloody time. In an ensemble, you get five seconds for each performer, and if one of your cohorts can win them over, by the end of the show they may have softened to you a bit. They're already invested in the scenario concept, so if you can hook them into the story, they'll probably like you more by the end of it.

Kate: It helps that we cover ourselves in masks and fancy wigs and shiny baubles. It helps that we dazzle them.

Adam: You aren't as alone as standup. In stand up you're just alone with your voice and your presence.

Kate: And your meat.

Adam: And all of our stupid props. I mean, really, we're a sword fight away from being a Carrot Top show.

Paolo: I've done so much solo stuff, so the things you can get away with in an ensemble show is awesome. You can have someone be a total jerk, and then the rest of the group gets to totally overreact to his jerkness. If the other members of the troupe are the people who call a performer out, the audience doesn't have to over-react. If they watch you overreact, they can say "Oh, well, come on, he's not that bad."

Kate: Yeah, "You should meet my brother in law. He's a way bigger dick than that guy."

Paolo: "Sure, his joke has offended half the population of the earth, but... I mean, come on." You can totally go over the top, but if you're alone and you're a jerk, you're just a jerk onstage and everyone hates you.

Adam: In an ensemble, frequently the audience will love you for being the jerk. That's why playing the villain is so fun. You get to invite the audience to hate you a little bit.

Kate: I don't think anyone's going to hate your Capitano.

Adam: I'm goofing him a little bit.

Kate: He's kind of tender, really. He's the fat kid that picked up swords to keep people from picking on him. He kind of reminds me of the Truffle Shuffle kid.

Adam: Chunk.

Kate: Yeah. Like Chunk was an exchange student in Germany and fell in with a bad, stabby crowd.

Adam: Started knifing people, totally. Truffle Shuffle. Yeah, I'm not doing the Truffle Shuffle. Maybe the next show.

Kate: You really shouldn't have told me that. I'll build an entire scenario around that.

Adam: That and the "dictate" joke.

Kate: Paul, that smells delicious. Adam, let's wrap this up. Any final words on Commedia, or the show or the DC Universe?

Adam: Hmm. Let's see if I can have words on all three. Yeah. I think this show is probably one of our best, easily, because the process was very clean. Not only is everyone in it a veteran of this process, the only one that isn't is Gian, who has more experience in Commedia than anyone I know. I mean, more than any one of us know.

Kate: Naw, Aaron and I met some pretty fancy dudes at the Commedia conference.

Adam: La de dah. The ones willing to play with us.

Kate: But I don't think we'll be getting John Rudlin, Carlo Boso or Antonio Fava on our stage.

Adam: Having Gian has streamlined our process. So often we'd lose a day in rehearsal to complications in the scenario. Gian just nipped all that in the bud from day one. The scenario was hashed out before we even started.

Kate: Having the hash day in the beginning was nice.

Adam: There was no second-guessing everything, so the rehearsal was clean. Gian had already front-loaded the rehearsal process with second-guessing everything, so none of us had to. I don't feel like we missed a single day in rehearsal, where in the past every now and then we'd realize that we'd have to trash a day's worth of work because something wasn't clicking.

Kate: Yep.

A. That alone has already added to the quality of the show. We can throw all of our experience behind making things awesome, rather than making a story work. We're like the A-Team. We're like the Justice League of our particular little troupe. So I get to play the Solomon Grundy to Gian's Lex Luthor. That's awesome. Good stuff.

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