In Lips Together, Teeth Apart, Terrence McNally’s play about two couples spending an awkward, revealing weekend in the Fire Island Pines, actress Tracee Chimo plays Chloe, the most exuberant member of the foursome. It was a role Chimo had been waiting to play.
“I actually studied this play in college,” she says. “I must have been 19 or 20 when I first saw the play, and someone was like, ‘You would be the perfect Chloe, but you’re just too young.’ I remember being disappointed, so it’s hysterical to me that now, at 35, I get to play her.”
In Chimo’s favorite section of McNally’s script, Chloe bounds about the house, singing bits of show tunes and generally riling up her companions.
“I just think it’s so fun,” Chimo says of the passage. “I do about five different things in like two pages, like five huge things in two pages: I sing, and then I get mad at my husband, and then I run over and insult Sally, so it’s such good fun to play the character who gets to probe everybody. I push everybody’s buttons. In that one chunk, I manage to push every single character’s button, and I just think that’s so much fun. I think it’s fun to bother people, and I’m really bothering people in that section.”
Below, check out Chimo’s favorite passage.
CHLOE: This would have been so much quicker with a microwave. So where is Sam the Man?
SALLY: He’s under the house.
CHLOE: What’s he doing under the house? Your neighbors are very, very attractive.
SALLY: He’s snooping.
SAM: (From below.) I’m not snooping, I’m exploring!
JOHN: Don’t start with the neighbors, Chloe.
CHLOE: Do I look like I’m starting?
JOHN: You always look like you’re starting.
CHLOE: I like people. I love you. (She kisses John on the top of the head.) That was wonderful last night. I’m still glowing. “Gigue.” 4 down is “gigue.”
JOHN: You know I hate it when you do that.
CHLOE: “So sue me. Sue me. Shoot bullets through me.” (She is almost singing it by now.) “I love you.” God, I love that show, it’s a classic. (She waves.) Good morning!
CHLOE: He waved at me first. Who are you anyway? Bluebeard? Henry the 8th? Someone got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning! (She joins Sally at her easel.) I guess that’s telling him. I wish I could do that.
SALLY: Why don’t you try it?
CHLOE: It’s too deep for me. Jazz exercise is about as profound as I want to get. That and Little Theatre. Did you really like me in A Little Night Music?
CHLOE: That Sondheim is such a little devil. He writes real tongue twisters. I don’t suppose people like you have ever wanted to get up on a stage and expose themselves?
SALLY: Not really.
CHLOE: Count your blessings. It’s a curse. Stick with your painting. Do you ever sell anything?
SALLY: Neighbors, people at the office.
CHLOE: I envy you sometimes. A real job. John says I’m too emotional to work. That’s coming along. I’m impressed.
SALLY: I’m not very happy with it. Trying to put the power of all that, the play of light, the volume, the space, onto canvas with a crush and a few colors. It’s pathetic. It’s arrogant almost.
CHLOE: Well, it’s not like you’re out robbing liquor stores.
SALLY: I think I see the ocean but when I try to break it down into colors, forms, brush strokes, it all comes apart, and I don’t think I’m capable of truly understanding or seeing anything at all.
CHLOE: There you go again, Sally. Deep, deep, deep. I thought you did this for fun. You make it sound like torture. That’s why I won’t do heavy drama. They’re doing Arthur Miller next month. “No way,” I told them. Listen, I even think a show like Carousel is pushing its luck. I love how you do that with the brush, those swirly-swirl-swirls. Does this bother you?
CHLOE: I’m sorry. (Calling to Sam.) Sam? What are you doing down there?
JOHN: Why don’t I just get a large rock and bash her head in?
SAM: (From below.) What?
CHLOE: What are you going to feel like for dinner?
SAM: (From below.) I thought I’d throw a shark on the barbie, mate!
JOHN: Jesus, Chloe, we just had breakfast.
CHLOE: That’s all that one thinks about, food! He used to drive our poor mother crazy. I don’t know how you put up with him, Sally! (To John.) Look who wasn’t hungry.
JOHN: Shove food in somebody’s face and of course they’ll eat it.
CHLOE: I didn’t shove food in your face. I put a buttered, toasted Entenmann’s bran muffin on your plate.
JOHN: You know I have no will power. You married a weak man.
CHLOE: I wish you wouldn’t say things like that. It’s very upsetting. It’s certainly not amusing.
JOHN: It wasn’t meant to be.
CHLOE: I think this whole weekend will be fraught enough for Sally without you contributing your very peculiar dark humor. I can take your little barbs. After 14 years, I’m like an archery target! But I don’t think other people understand or appreciate them. ‘Nuff said? God, what a glorious day! (Music has begun from next door. The selection is Schubert’s Moments Musicales, #3 in f minor. Chloe breathes it in.) Listen to that! Crème de la crème, your neighbors, what did I tell you? I love classical music. It’s so soothing. What is this piece, Sally? You know everything.
SALLY: I think it’s Schubert. One of the Moments Musicales.
CHLOE: You’re pretty smart for a girl.
SALLY: I don’t know everything, Chloe.
CHLOE: Yes, you do. (She does back into the kitchen. We will be able to watch her take things from the toaster, butter them, etc. and arrange everything on a tray.)