There are few actors who can play both comedy and tragedy and do them well. Art Metrano rises above “playing” these emotions. He is telling. his own heartbreaking and ultimately heartwarming story.
Metrano took a fall from a ladder that initially left him paralyzed from the neck down. In this book based on his own widely popular one-man play, Metrano has assembled a moving and laugh-provoking autobiography peppered with characters from his past, painting a hilarious picture of his sturdy knack for surviving the worst.
The message of courage, overcoming odds, and finally laughing the darkness away extends beyond victims of injury or disease to anyone who has suffered hardship. Twice Blessed is exhilarating, enjoyable and exhausting, but unforgettable.
Art Metrano has enjoyed a long, successful career in movies, television and comedy. Perhaps best known for his portrayal of Lt. Mauser in the hit Police Academy films, his television credits include, among many shows, a recurring role on L.A. Law as Judge Fiorello.
Metrano is now involved with supporting others with spinal cord injuries. He currently performs his one-man autobiographical play, Twice Blessed.
Art Metrano and I are from Brooklyn, where there remains today something like a brotherhood among those of us who grew up and went to school together in the forties and fifties. We reconnect at high school reunions, weddings, funerals—that sort of gathering of people who have forged a common bond. It was the place that formed us, the place that we left behind to become who we are today, and yet the place that will always be a part of who we are.
Like me, Art has a strong sense of his beginnings. And when it came time for Life to smack him in the face and leave him for dead, he looked inward (and backward) at those people and at those places to find the strength to deal with what had happened to him.
At times in our lives (and we will all have such times if we live long enough), we must make an assessment of the ruins of our situation and decide, as Art did, if we want to continue or to give up and quit. If we do want to live, then we have to figure out how to do it. If we’re wise and courageous, we learn from the pain. After we figure out that God won’t pull any puppet strings and make things right for us, we learn those life lessons that we would never have had an opportunity to learn if it weren’t for the pain. Valuable lessons. Priceless lessons.
My “moment of truth” was my heart attack. Your moment of truth will be something else. These very hardest of life’s rows to hoe have a way of calling our attention to where we’ve been and where we’re going. And when all is said and done, we know we’ve come a long way when we can finally say, “I am a better man because of it.”
No one who knows him would deny that Art was down and almost out—for a while. And yet, he has come back, a long way back—in his own words, a better man. He wants us to know him, and he wants to teach us something of the important things of life—lessons of hope, lessons of forgiveness, lessons of love. Way to go, Art!
P.S.: The only thing better than reading this book is seeing the play by the same name. Readers, if you ever get a chance to see Art in Twice Blessed, in New York or Los Angeles or wherever, don’t let the opportunity slip by.
Art Metrano fell from a ladder in 1989 and suffered a “hangman’s break”—the kind of injury that kills people on the gallows. But Metrano survived. Now the actor and comic has turned the story of his ordeal into a rambling one-man up-from-adversity tale, “Twice Blessed,” at the Hollywood Playhouse.
Metrano hired writer Cynthia Lee and director Mark W. Travis to help stage his story. Travis is one of the masters of the genre, his most relevant credit being Paul Linke’s gripping story about surviving the death of his wife, Time Flies When You’re Alive.
Metrano’s tale also has potentially moving moments, and he tells it with professional poise. But his memories don’t yet make much of a play. Twice Blessed is more of an autobiographical chat, with far too many passages that are connected only tenuously, if at all, to the script’s central incident.
Some of these passages are completely expendable. But others need expansion. For example, in 1980 Metrano was shot several times by a maniacal parking garage attendant, which sounds more heart-pounding than suddenly falling from a ladder. Yet his account of this event appears to sneak into the script almost as an afterthought, with very little reflection devoted to sizing up its impact and how it compared with his more recent trauma.
For that matter, we don’t even learn what caused the 1989 accident. Metrano avoids speculation about whether he or anyone else might have been responsible for it in some way. Not that he has to conclude that someone was to blame, but it seems only natural that he would have grappled with the issue. Some sense of that struggle would add to the drama.
As might be expected from a comic, Metrano cracks a lot of jokes and does brief vocal impressions of some of the other people he encountered during his hospitalization and other chapters of his life. A few of these moments are funny and telling, but more often they come off as strained attempts to break up the gloom. The serious stuff wouldn’t need so much breaking up if the writing were sharper. Metrano’s concluding sentiments, while no doubt intensely felt, are especially banal.
Metrano strides the stage with the help of a brace supporting one arm, and he spends part of the play attached to a “halo”—the bulky device he had to wear to keep his neck in perfect alignment while it was healing. It’s a graphic visual symbol of what he went through, much more so than the elaborately lit screens that Russell Pyle designed. Two female figures who help Metrano with the halo are black-clad and hooded, perhaps to emphasize the isolation he felt, perhaps to add a note of theatricality that’s lacking in the script. (October 21, 1992)
Twice Blessed, Hollywood Playhouse, 1445 Las Palmas Ave. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Indefinitely. $20-$23. (213) 480-3232. Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes 🌳