It is mortality, not a show, that reunites Bob and Gwen in “All I Care About is Love”.
“The show must go on,” or so the theatre people say. This adage is tested in the sixth episode of Fosse/Verdon. Despite being institutionalized, sleep deprived, and deep in the hopeless edit for a quickly collapsing film, Bob Fosse is pressured by his ex-wife Gwen Verdon to begin rehearsal for Chicago.
Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow…
On Broadway, actors perform a grueling eight-shows-a-week schedule, with one day off before the cycle begins again. And in “All I Care about is Love,” Fosse is trapped in his own version of this showbiz loop — just like with Cabaret, he’s locked in an edit suite, miserably making cuts and screwing the assistant editor. And just like with Cabaret, his drug use and chain-smoking make the days begin to blend together into a seemingly endless purgatory. An escalating, rhythmic montage of lighting cigarettes, shaking pill bottles, having sex and heavily sighing over disappointing footage highlights this emotional overload.
Fosse’s ex-wife Gwen can see that he is not a healthy man, but her own aspirations for glory and obsession with the Chicago project overshadow her empathy. She might not have much left for the man who serially cheated on her on film after film, and consistently belittle her work or took credit for it. But nevertheless, despite Fosse clearly being at the end of his room, Gwen pushes him to begin rehearsals. Her own career has stalled out, and Chicago represents for her the opportunity to play a leading role again, and relive the fame she once enjoyed.
A Special Relationship
It’s not surprising then when Bob Fosse is admitted to the hospital with a heart attack barely halfway through the first rehearsal day. Having not slept the night before and loaded up on amphetamines, constantly coughing and then immediately lighting up thereafter, Fosse’s health is in grave condition. Seeing her husband in active cardiac arrest jolts Gwen out of her reverie — once again her own career ambitions are halted by her ex-husband.
The complicated relationship between the divorced couple is on full display in the hospital, where Fosse’s girlfriend Annie is dismissed by Gwen. When offered a sandwich by a stranger, Annie lies and says that she is married to Fosse, the truth of her depressing status lingers long after the stranger departs. As Gwen explains to their daughter, Fosse and Verdon have something indescribable, a familial need for each other that transcends sex.
Sex, for Fosse, is enormously tied to identity and self-worth. In “All I Care About is Love,” audiences learn that Fosse was molested as a child after performing at late night clubs, and then belittled by his father for not bringing in more money dancing to support the household. Fosse, in imagined standup comedy sequences where he plays Lenny Bruce, muses on the irony. A thirteen year old boy who didn’t even know the word for it was having sex. What do you call that? Sex, money, success, and adoration all became muddied in Fosse’s mind from a very young age. It somehow makes sense then, how Fosse is unable to maintain the traditional, monogamous relationship. Sex for him is about a lot of things, but not love.
Photo and video credit: FX Network – Read the previous review here