From time to time I make a bit of noise about getting up on stage instead of just scribbling, complaining about what’s happening on it — you know, giving me a better perspective of what it’s all about and all that? So far, thankfully, nobody has ever called me on it because I’m sure I would faint. Or worse. Ron Pullins, on the other hand, is actually doing it, leaving the cheap seats and, gulp, crashing through the fourth wall. Granted, it will be a hometown crowd — friends, really — and he will have script in hand so, short of passing out, he should be fine. But, still, the Port playwright is actually doing it — treading the boards, making his acting debut in the North Shore Readers Theatre Collaborative production of his play “The Dollartorium.”
He’ll be playing “this guy, Ralph” — the lead, actually — a fellow with the American condition: He’s alive, but still not rich, even though he’s totally nose-to-the-grindstone, and it looks like he’s doomed to a life of class envy forever ... until he meets a television huckster who, for three easy payments of $29, will rock his world, unleashing the secrets of how to take control of his life, how to take control of the fortune he deserves. And, believe you me, the secret has very little to do with work. Because work is for chumps. The rich don’t work, right? They make money — and that’s what Ralph could do ... down at the Dollartorium. It’s a modern play dressed up in some very old theatrical clothes. The style and form comes from “The Clouds,” Aristophanies’ spectacular hatchet job on the Greek intelligentsia at a time, like ours, when sophistry, not philosophy, ruled — taking aim at old Socrates, specifically. “I think it was instrumental in getting him to drink the hemlock,” says Pullins, whose firm, Focus Publishing, specializes in classical Greek and Roman drama as well as textbooks.
The Merrimac Street resident, whose quirky 10-minute play “The Object,” about a strange and fascinating (and never specifically described) thing, was just staged last month at the Fudge Festival in Worcester, says “The Dollartorium” is the wildest thing he’s done since ”The Boss Is Dead,” his 2003 breakout play, which looked at the secret lumpen fantasy of finally settling scores with the big bossman. The play’s subtitle (“For those who have yet to cash on the American dream”) pretty much says it all. The play is “for all of us who are angry at these guys who are making millions of dollars for running companies into the ground,” says Pullins. “It comes out of that frustration and anger.” The play, which came out of the Playwrights Intensive series, will also be staged next month at the Whistler in the Dark play series in Boston.
And he’s leaving the security of his writer’s hideout because ...?
“Because I believe it’s important,” he says, “I think it’s important to know what’s going on besides sitting down and watching in the audience, or writing in some safe spot in your home. It’s easy to write words for people to say. It’s more difficult to be up there and actually say them. It’s a good place to see what the characters are like inside and out. I think it will be interesting to see what I learn.”
Joining Pullins on the Actors Studio stage will be Tracy Bickel, Mary Shapiro, Jennifer Wilson, Brad Ritchie and Kerry Zagarella. Suzanne Hitchcock Bryan directs.
And, no, the acting gig is not a zig in Pullins’ career trajectory.
“It’s one thing to get up on the stage in front of friends,” Pullins says, “Getting up there in front of strangers is something else entirely.”
JUST THE FACTS, MAN: North Shore Readers Theatre Collaborative will present a staged reading of Ron Pullins’ “The Dollartorium” at 10 a.m. April 10 at the Actors Studio, 50 Water St., the Tannery. Reservations recommended. Suggested donation is $7. For more information, call 978.465.1229 or log onto the website. The play will also be staged at 7:30 p.m. May 5 at Whistler in the Dark, at the Factory Theatre, 791 Tremont Street, Boston. For information, log onto www.whistlerinthedark.com.