Proof Daniela Ruah is Awesome

Already scorching hot in the morning as I walk the two blocks to the bus, again just catching it as it arrives two minutes early; I so love living on the edge. . .
Just like Friday, or what you would call “last blog,” I was a bit hungry but not enough to get lunch at Union Station, so this time I passed up Wetzel’s and went straight to McArthur Park, where I spotted a McD’s right next to the subway entrance and grabbed a large fries to go. There have been times in Europe when I bought two of those and didn’t get hungry till next morning, so I knew this would be more than enough to tide me over till I was done with what I came to see. Haven’t been in this neighborhood since the time I took the photo of the violinist dancing to the drummer in one of the previous blogs; I know it was on my birthday but can’t remember what year. I do know it wasn’t anywhere near as hot that day as I walk past hundreds of families and a pee-wee soccer game before finding a bench that didn’t burn my tushie too much. Took me a lot less time to polish off the fries than I’d hoped, so soon enough I found myself on my feet again, and from the edge of the park I could see the marquee of the Hayworth Theater a block and a half away; so much for going early to make sure I found it, but then I’m a firm believer in Shakespeare’s quote “Better three hours too soon than a minute too late.”
Walked to it anyway to see if anyone was there who could tell me when the doors would open—usually an hour earlier, of course, but for the few times it’s different, it’s well worthwhile to ask. Everything is still locked up, but with the thought that there might be a back door with people going in and out, I move over to the side of the theater, instead finding a big parking lot where indeed there are some humans offloading things from their cars. Having no idea they were heading this way, I shouted my question, and when they got closer the older man of the group said I could wait inside with them—I think having the cane all day today helped to make me look a lot more innocent and safe than I usually do, and the fact it was already near 100 degrees no doubt added sympathy.
It took me about three seconds to realize the young quiet lady smiling behind them while lugging a carton of water bottles and a flower pot was indeed the diva I came to watch, Daniela Ruah, star of NCIS: Los Angeles—Chris who? LL who?—and frequent entry in my Top 15 actresses blogs. This may indeed be the happiest moment of my life. . . not so much that I got to meet her, but that I managed to do so without making a complete foolish drooling ass of myself! Let’s hear it for self-control!
Still, it did occur to me how amazing it felt being so close to her. . . and instantly I realized how nice and. . . normal she is. I like to use the word diva as a joke, but if anything, she’s the anti-diva. I even got to tease her about how I was going to tweet all this, and luckily she laughed along. After a small discussion on Portugal she went off to do what she needed to do to get ready for her performance, leaving me with Aliah Whitmore, director-actress-person in charge of Whitmore Eclectic, with whom I had some fun moments but mostly uncomfortable silence. . . though it beats standing in the 101 degree sun. Still, I wish she would have given me something to do, like empty the bags of brownie bites. . . good thing I already ate. . .
Her brother Jake, the set designer and sound guy, also came by and offered me something to drink; gotta say everyone in this family that I met, including the older man who turned out to be none other than James Whitmore Jr., were incredibly nice and not diva-like at all. Just before they started letting other people in for the show, Daniela comes back out to run lines with Aliah, which was interesting because—knowing nothing about the play—it was strange hearing her doing a monotone, curt emotionless—almost robotic—delivery. Found out later it was only this scene, thankfully, and I did my best not to be noticed, just in case. . .
Finally let inside the theater, picking the left aisle seat of the fourth row, while I take a good look at the set in front of me: a ramshackle house with a porch in front of it, a couple of wooden deck chairs, and off in the corner the weirdest tree I think I’ve ever seen, but then I don’t watch horror movies. It was actually kinda inspiring, made me think set design might be cool thing to do. . .
These are the strangest seats I’ve ever parked my tuckus on: they seem to roll back and forth with your body weight, although it does leave a lot of foot room under the seat in front.
Aliah comes out to say hello and tell us how long our bladders have to wait till intermission. . . not in those words, of course. Then all goes dark, but it only takes a few seconds for light to come back up, and there’s Daniela. . . I mean, Katherine, in discussion with her father, who has brought her champagne for her birthday. . . except it’s not really champagne, as it is made in Wisconsin, and she rightly calls it the worst she’s ever tasted. This gives me hope there will be humorous moments throughout the play alongside what promises to be heavy stuff. Daniela is wearing furry boots and a braid that make her look incredibly cute, along with plaid pants/pajamas and a U of Chicago sweatshirt. At one point she’s at the middle front of the stage and does a squat, making herself so tiny it’s really rather amazing.
Okay, from here on it’s gonna be more of a stream of consciousness as to what tickled my interest during the play; a lot of it is going to be out of context, as I’m not going to explain the plot or anything like that. For instance, at one point she uses the word “bughouse,” which had me thinking of the movie Starship Troopers for a few seconds before I could rally from the silliness.
As much as I know it’s something every actor loves to do, I seriously cannot stand to watch crying, especially someone I admire, like Daniela. I know it’s acting, part of the script, so I guess it’s a bit of a complement that she’s making me feel this way, but I don’t like being made to feel uncomfortable. . . especially when I’m paying for the privilege! {This is no doubt why I prefer seeing stuff like Avenue Q and Spamalot and Book of Mormon!}
Along comes a new character, Hal, played by Dustin, who according to the program is Aliah’s fiancée; knowing this fact would prove interesting for me later. He’s playing a math nerd, and like most of that ilk is trying to pretend he’s not; I kept thinking he should simply own his nerdiness and move on. . . but on the other hand, the fact that he’s a drummer in a band made me laugh really hard, so maybe not. . .
While not nearly as bad for me as crying, it’s still a bit difficult watching Daniela playing severe confusion, but it has to be said, she rocked this scene. At the beginning I got the sense I wasn’t going to care for this character, but wow, she’s really making me feel sorry for her. Adding to that are cackling sound effects which are so severely fucked up, meant to mimic what’s in her brain; job accomplished, very creepy. . .
With cop sirens blaring we go to black, and that’s barely the end of the first scene! Wow, this is gonna be quite a ride. . .
Now comes the scene they were rehearsing in the lobby, with Aliah, who with just a few subtle changes of wardrobe has gone from free spirit to career woman, completely different from when I was speaking to her. . . that’s why they call it acting, duh. Daniela has changed into a shirt and black tights, barefoot with her hair up. Considering how little time there was between scenes, I’m gonna guess that was what she was wearing underneath, but it was the first of many times I noticed how much I love the clothing changes, both in how it changes the mood of the scene as well as how seamless and easy they made it look. In this scene Daniela is showing so much nervous energy, incredibly skittish, along with that curt emotionless tone. It was at this point that I had what was probably my most important thought of the afternoon: with any other actress I would have found the performance amazing as well, but having gotten so used to her as Kensi, to see her play something so totally opposite made her performance all the better, at least in my eyes. It also made me realize that the show hasn’t been using her character to full potential; it’s supposed to be all about undercover work, at least in the beginning, but there hasn’t been a lot of that lately. There could surely be some scenes where Kensi’s playing something other than a bimbo or Deeks’ wife. . . something to show her range like this play did.
But enough of the editorial; I’ll just repeat that this was an excellent job of acting. At this point in the play Claire—Aliah’s character—wants to take Katherine away to Noo Yawk, trying to sell her on all the fine points, including a garlic press, which leads Daniela to utter a very heartfelt “What the fuck are you talking about?” Probably the biggest laugh of the show. The incredulousness Claire shows at Katherine talking about a math geek in a rock band—before he shows up in the scene—was also good for a big laugh, and when he does appear, or rather after he’s gone, she says, “He’s cute.” Of course he is, Aliah, he’s your fiancée! {Told ya the thing from the program would boomerang back!}
We have another change and blackout, and this time Daniela—I really should remember to write “Katherine” instead—is all in black, sitting on the rocking chair. I thought it was rather strange that she went to her father’s funeral in the black tights; it wasn’t until she stood up that I saw she was wearing a dress. There’s another scene with Hal, whom she appears to be a lot more into now. . . until he makes the classic blooper of saying, while talking about the late-night party, “Mathematicians are insane!” Oops!
From there it’s Geek Courting, as Katherine tries to show her brain credentials by talking about Sophie Germain, whom oddly enough I have heard of, not being any kind of math lover at all; Every once in a while you hear in the news that the largest prime number to date has been discovered, and they’re talking about the Sophie Germain prime.
Finding this kind of thing works for him, he kissed her, and Daniela makes it quite obvious that, while surprised, she likes it. Still, she’s playing it shy, until suddenly she blurts, “What do you do for sex?” Yup, she did; it was so out of the blue it took me a moment to laugh. At first I wondered if she was asking him if he was gay, but obviously that couldn’t be it, considering he’d already kissed her. Luckily I didn’t have to think any more about it as she kisses him back and the set goes black; this time, because they’re at the front of the stage and have further to go, you can hear them scurry off.
When we come back Daniela has taken off the dress and put the sweatshirt back on, sitting at the front of the porch on what’s no doubt the morning after. Hal comes out and it’s lovey-dovey for a while, but more in the manner of a one-night-stand–which it is, at least so far–where they still don’t know each other very well, than a real relationship. At one point they’re talking about how great the sex was, and he mentions being embarrassed, to which she replies, “It’s only embarrassing if I don’t agree.” There’s a pause as he looked very uncomfortable—and the audience laughs—before she quickly adds, “So don’t be embarrassed!”
He leaves, and after a few seconds of her looking contented, the best moment of the play occurs: Daniela, still sitting there at the front of the porch, throws her arms in the air like she’s at a rock concert; she’s even got the face for it. Then she lies down and does a fair impression of a squirming puppy getting its belly rubbed as she has a gigglefest, celebrating either having a boyfriend or just getting laid. I imagine a lot of women do this, but like her wait till he’s gone so he doesn’t get a swelled. . . head or something. Maybe it has to be seen, but it was so awesome!
And then Claire comes out, clearly hung over. Katherine is still happy, bouncing on the front of the porch to make it squeak—so incredibly cute, and nice work by Jake to design that into the set. Her happiness doesn’t last of course, as first Claire and then Hal bring her down. We get to the gist of the story—too late to mention spoiler alerts, of course. Hal had been at her place to look through her dad’s math journals, and she leads him to something completely new and possibly earth-shattering. . . and then she says it’s not dad’s work, but hers.
Dum-dum-dum! And intermission. . .
Other than a non-stop toilet and a grumpy old man waiting in line, nothing much happened during the break. Watching the stage, I see a young lady hanging laundry on the left side, so I imagine Chekhov’s gun is in effect and it’s about to be used. A few minutes later Daniela does come back out with a basket to gather said clothes—couldn’t possibly be dry already, but anyway—looking even cuter than before in jeans, grey tank, sweater, and sneakers, as well as a fluffy ponytail that makes her look all of twelve. It takes a few minutes to realize this is another flashback, to the time when the lovers first met, which is mentioned earlier. They’re sitting together in a relatively small chair as Dad has a long soliloquy—you can tell Mr. Whitmore is loving this!—and the fact that we now know how much they like each other makes it an even more interesting scene, smiling uncomfortably as they pretend to listen to the long-winded speech.
After another scene switch, with a creepy Mr. Roboto mask floating in the window, we’re back to where we left off before intermission, where she claims to have written the proof. Claire wants her to explain it, to which Katherine retorts, “It’s not a muffin recipe!” which got a big laugh. It’s crazy how well she does crazy. . . lest Daniela reads this and takes it the wrong way, I mean she obviously did a lot of research to get the small touches right, because this scene was furiously intense! Wow. . . she really brought it, all three of them did; I have to imagine this is the kind of stuff actors live for. And it’s a lot more interesting seeing Aliah and Dustin doing this scene, knowing they’re a couple—makes me wonder how deliberate it was to put that info in the program.
During the next change we see Katherine in the window, looking at dad, who’s out in the snow doing his thinking; she charges out of the house and to the front of the stage, at which point we find Mr. Whitmore coming up the aisle from the back of the theater; nice touch. This may have been the most difficult scene of all to watch, as he ignores everything she says, deep in his mental condition, until at the end he breaks down and collapses in her arms. Very painful to watch, and difficult to appreciate just how amazing the acting is, but somehow I managed.
Another change—Mr. Roboto’s in the window again—as she’s in a white shirt now, hair down; changes her look completely. Aliah does love boots–she’s in some knee-high brown ones here, and considering they’re about to catch a flight. . . didn’t think about airport security, didja? It’s another confrontation scene, with Daniela at first emotionless again, then changing to barely-controlled anger. When Claire mentions her boyfriend has a lot of connections in Noo Yawk, Katherine snarks, “Does he know anyone in the phone sex industry?” which most likely got the biggest laugh of the day. Aliah throws the airline ticket, which hits Daniela’s empty coffee cup and knocks it over; you can see Daniela standing it up again as she grabs the ticket. It made me smile, though I’m sure no one else in the audience had my attention to humorous detail.
Hal comes in for another confrontation, where he tells her he believes her about the proof now, but she basically tells him he blew it for not believing her when it mattered. “You got laid AND you got the proof. You’re a genius!” She’s crying again, looks like such a forlorn little kid. . . it really is heartbreaking. . .
After a while they calm down and he asks her to read the proof to him, and as she does she gets spotlighted, at which point he leaves while she’s still talking. . .
Crazy sounds. . . and fade. . .

Phew! I don’t know about the actors, but I’m sure sweating! Was not expecting that much intensity, for so long. It took me all of the break—about ten minutes while they scouted for chairs—to get my brain back in gear, and I can only imagine what it’s like for the actors, having to come back to being themselves and finish off the performance-high adrenaline. But everyone did look calm as they sat to take questions, this being the last performance of the run. First they introduced themselves: “Hi, I’m Daniela, I play Crazypants.”
Most of the questions centered around schizophrenia, which was apparently never mentioned outright in the play but was assumed to be what Dad was suffering from, given the symptoms. It was said that, when off meds, people suffering from this often become euphoric, showing extreme creative genius. . . which explains why a lot of them go off their meds, I suppose. {This is exactly the kind of thing I would usually research after such a project, but now I’m afraid to.} The auditory hallucinations that freaked me out so much were a part of that; hearing those things in my head only once would certainly inspire me to take my meds.
Aleah talked about how Daniela had started rehearsals “strong,” as in body language, and had to “break down” physically, which was interesting, made me want to see what she looked like at first {Thought I suppose watching DVDs of her pointing guns would suffice.} At this point a man in the front row from the Air Force talked about his family history of the disease and gave her a challenge coin, which most people didn’t understand, though she did. “You rendered me speechless; that doesn’t happen often.”
As this went on I had an interesting thought. . . well, interesting to ME: if you’ve read through this page you’d find that every year I list the sexiest women on TV, and so far Daniela has won every year. For the first time ever I didn’t find her “sexy.” Somehow she managed to turn that off, which I never would have imagined possible. . . but at the same time I definitely LIKE her more, if you know what I mean. If she wasn’t before, she sure is my favorite actress now. . .
When I returned to my physical location I heard Aliah saying that the play was “more about grieving than anything else.” Daddy Whitmore claimed it was “useful to be an imbecile,” and I’m sorry to leave that without context, but it sounds a lot funnier this way. Aliah was asked by someone who’d seen the play before why this ending was more definitive than the original, and this time she had an instant answer: “I had more empathy for her that way.”
The tree on extreme stage left is finally mentioned, carved with hideous faces; I think the guy who asked wanted to take it home. Daniela was asked if there was anyone who wasn’t supportive of her doing the play, to which she answered no, saying even her agents—theatrical, not NCIS—were “thrilled.” She also admitted that when she first brought it to Aliah “I didn’t have an effing clue what this play was about.” Daddy Whitmore summed up his acceptance of the role with, “My daughter said we’re doing this.” And Dustin, who apparently didn’t feel much for the Hal character at first, mentioned, “I wasn’t crazy about it, but now I fuckin’ love it.”
When asked about the difference between live theater and TV, Mr. Whitmore stated, “Theater’s like a sporting event. You have to keep going whatever happens,” while Daniela mentioned that in TV there were so many things out of an actor’s control, like editing. Then she came up with the line of the night: “When the lights come up, I can hear my heartbeat. Theater makes you alive.” I couldn’t stop smiling after that one. . .
Someone with a math background asked the cast how much they knew about the numbers game; Dustin’s easy reply was, “I just memorize the lines, buddy.” Daniela’s reply was, “I have trouble adding tips. . . but I passed it in school, for all you kids out there!” {And right now I’m watching the NCISLA episode where Kensi is a math tutor. . . HA!} Aliah flat out says she doesn’t like math, though she does explain that the scene where Katherine is yelling at Hal about wanting to see what’s in his backpack could be said to be game theory.
Once there were no more questions, and this being the final night—or day—the crowd was invited to join in the after-party, which featured a type of food I’m not familiar with, and considering the scents, it’s better for me to keep it that way. That’s okay, the fries were still doing their job. Instead I waited for the chance to talk to Daniela. . . and as I’m waiting, a Rush song comes on in the theater! Okay, it was Tom Sawyer, far from my fave, but still. . . forgot to ask who chose it. . .
Among other things, I told Daniela how I enjoyed the play so much I wanted to see it again right now, but I don’t think she understood my point. Oh well. After some Marine Corps talk–and a hug!–it was time for me to move away before I lost control and said something stupid. . .
So I went up to Mr. Whitmore and told him that, while watching him up on stage I got an epiphany: “Were you Robber on Battlestar Galactica?”
“I was! How the hell did you remember that?”
“I don’t know!”

Phew. Maybe I’ve simply been lucky. I don’t go to much theater, and even then only when it’s musical and funny, but I can’t remember a time when a production hasn’t been superb in every way: set design, lighting, sound, directing, and definitely acting. Everything about this show was brilliant.
One more thing: I’ve lived in Los Angeles practically all my life–only time I was really away was in the Marine Corps–and you can’t do that without having some run-ins with “Hollywood.” I’ve met many famous people, mostly actors and musicians, and plenty of Hollywood “types.” I think the attitude that comes with the name is a cliché that is overblown, though of course there are enough cases to make it somewhat true. For the most part, a good majority of the people I’ve met in the industry are like everyone else, nice and thoughtful and just being themselves.
Having said that, Daniela Ruah is easily the nicest, most down-to-earth TV star I have ever met. Period. . .
And you can bet this will be staying on the internet for centuries to come!
Can’t believe I went the whole day without stopping for ice cream!

;o)

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6 thoughts on “Proof Daniela Ruah is Awesome

  1. Pingback: Top 15 outings of 2013 | LoganBruin--An Unauthorized Autobiography

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