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Minute-to-Minute: “Balm in Gilead” takes Compton’s

posted on April 15th, 2017 by Rachel Karp


By Philip Merrick


Photo by Chris Monaco ’18

2:42am I arrive in a carful of friends at a parking lot in Saratoga Springs. We’re a few minutes early. We sit in the car.

3:01am It is gently snowing. We cross the parking lot and enter Compton’s through a winding back entrance.

3:02am As we seat ourselves, we pass Nick Leonard ’20, already sitting at a booth. He is in character, moving his face and mouth but doing nothing. Sue Kessler is standing by the main entrance surrounded by a big group of cast members. She tells them to begin acting and they disperse themselves to different areas of the diner.

3:03am A (real) waitress passes by our table and hands us menus.

3:05am Chris Naughton ‘17 enters from the main entrance and embraces Caiolin O’Connor ’20. “Where ya been the past few days?” he says.

3:07am The men’s bathroom is the size of a broom closet. It contains a sign saying, “Caution water is hot!!!!”

3:10am Jacob Hudson ‘18 comes by wearing a scowl and a white apron. “Everything alright over here?” he asks.

Photo by Chris Monoco ’18

3:12am Anabel Milton ‘18, brisk and expressionless, deposits a postcard for Balm in Gilead on every table she passes.

3:13am I notice that several actors are chewing gum. Sydney Tennant ’17 asks my friends and me if we’ve seen Joe.

3:17am Caiolin O’Connor and Eli Bliss ‘20 are hovering around our table, switching rapidly between speaking to each other in Spanish and to us in English. I can only follow half of the conversation.

3:20am Nick Leonard’s character is making a fuss at the other end of the diner. He raises his voice but does not speak distinct words. I notice a man sitting a few booths down who clearly does not know anything about Balm in Gilead or tonight’s improvised performance. He looks quite confused. Sydney Tennant asks once again whether we’ve seen Joe.

3:22am Sydney finds Joe. It’s Chris Naughton. Their interaction does not end well.

3:27am According to Eli Bliss ’20, there’s a great drug scene in Colombia.

3:28am One of my friends says the word “heroin” too loudly. Eli stops the conversation short and walks away.

3:30am Josh Wagner ‘17 asks if anyone has a cigarette.

3:31am Billy Winter ’18, dressed in drag, goes through great pains to let us know exactly what he and the other people at his table are eating. He claims his wig was once worn by Dolly Parton.

3:32am Caiolin O’Connor tries to sell us heroin. Billy tells us he doesn’t use it because “Kay would kill me.” Kay, I discover, is Anabel Milton’s character.

3:34am I learn some slang words for drugs: bambinos; goofballs; pills.

3:35am “YOU’RE A PAL!”

3:36am The man sitting a few booths down seems to have wised up to the improv. He calmly browses the internet on his phone.

3:37am “Live from New York, it’s Saturday niiiiiight!”

3:38am My friend is trying to buy “all” the bambinos. “You think you’re going to get all of it like that, honey?”

3:40am “Oh, don’t go looking for Babe. Babe’s bad off.”

3:42am Joe (Chris Naughton) reaches all the way over a table to pluck a strawberry off of someone’s plate.

3:43am Samantha Fleischman ’20 seems to have replaced her gum with a lollipop; upon further inspection, I discover that the lollipop has chewing gum stuck to it.

Photo by Chris Monaco ’18

3:44am Sam Fleischman and two other women offer their prostitution services to the table. I offer them $50 each.

3:45am Sam leads me to the men’s bathroom, locks the door, and begins to explain exactly how her chewing gum became stuck to her lollipop.

3:46am Someone knocks on the bathroom door. I hear the voice of Annabelle Vaes ’19. “It’s Judy. We want to use the room.” We do not open the door.

3:47am Sam’s gum falls on the floor. She picks it up and puts it back in her mouth.

3:52am Having heard all about her gum and lollipop, I politely decline any further services from Terry, which I have learned is the name of Sam’s character. I return to our booth.

3:59am Stage manager Chloe Brush ’18 is wrangling the actors into cars to get back to campus. Most of them are still in character as they leave.

4:01am My friends and I call it a night. We pay for our food and head back out into the parking lot.

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