When I was 8 to 10 years old, I used to sneak through the neighborhood around my best friend Ron Cox’s house, tracking my buddies while they stalked me. I think Ron supplied all our toy guns. Each of us hoped to surprise and shoot the others. If someone “got the drop on you” and managed to shoot you (with oral sound effects) before you saw him, you had to play dead until your opponent had had enough time to get away. Then you were up again and hunting prey.
Currently, I’m in a stage production in which I play dead for an entire scene. The show is “City of Angels,” originally a 1989 hit on Broadway with music by Cy Coleman, lyrics by David Zippel, and book by Larry Gelbart, famous for everything from “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” to “Tootsie,” “Oh God!” and TV’s “M*A*S*H.” One of the characters I play is a quack healer who is sponging off a disabled millionaire but gets shot in the head in the middle of the first act.
He spends the lengthy final scene of the first act as a stone-dead corpse in the morgue while other characters argue, sing, and dance around him. It’s a somewhat long scene: a fair amount of dialogue bracketed by two different musical numbers go by while I lie motionless on a gurney upstage center. It lasts about nine and a half minutes: I timed it one night.