Our mission: to place the Crane Brothers in as many settings and milieus as is humanly possible, to seed as many universes as possible with their varying reactions, japes, and countervalences.
Before we can set the Crane brothers adrift on the pack ice of the Northwest Passage, we must accept the following premise:
A brief trip down the Wikipedia summary for “Pierrot” referred to Jean-Gaspard Deburau’s son Charles taking over the Pierrot role as the year he “assumed the blouse”; from now on we shall do the same for NILES, our camp and dour, hilariously long-faced, pining and thunderous clown – whoever plays NILES assumes the blouse. Whoever inhabits the role FRASIER as “begun listening.” In 1984 Kelsey Grammer began listening as FRASIER, inaugurating a definitive 20-year character run; in 1994 David Hyde Pierce assumed the blouse, retiring it only in 2004 at the end of the series. My only clarification to the premise is that while Frasier does carry much of the Pierrot in him, he is best understood as IL DOTTORE, one of the “old men” of commedia dell’arte: “the decadent erudite whose function is to be an obstacle to young lovers…He is comically inept, usually rich, extremely pompous, loving the sound of his own voice and spouting ersatz Latin and Greek…fond of girls…untruthful and gets caught cheating…he is a love rat [emphasis mine].”
NILES may be played sentimentally, as a doomed soul, as either comically or tragically ineffective, as a deluded cuckold, as an envious butt of every joke, as a sinister or criminal figure, as an acrobat, a phantom, an alcoholic wraith, a flash of lightning, as a skeleton, a phase of the moon, a woman, as the Christ-child, as anorexic, as neurasthenic, as a tramp, as a gentleman, as caustic philosopher, as heartrending romantic, as uncoordinated, as nimble, as wheedling, as a fragile yet ardent lover, as the androgynous embodiment of corruption, as a jester in chains, as a wife-murderer, a dandy and a misogynist, as a fencing-master, as an embalmer, a cocksucker, or both.
FRASIER may be played as a brute, a glutton, a lech, a satyr, a sage, either advancing menacingly or coaxing the audience to a feast, as a hulking-yet-graceful lead in the corps de ballet, as a magistrate, as a buffoon, as a tax-collector, as overheated and shirtless, as exasperated beyond the possibility of speech, as an immovable object, as both tsar and ape, as God’s first mistake and greatest regret.
Now, we put them in ice.
NILES: Mr. Gregory thinks there must be ice wedged up in the prop well. But we won't know till first light. He all but assured me if we can clear out a jam, we'll be under way.
FRASIER: Clear out of jam – just like Café Nervosa. I think that's all for now, then, Niles, since we don't appear to be sinking. Wake me if that should change.
NILES: This place make you uneasy, Doctor?
FRASIER: You call me doctor, but technically I'm just a surgeon. Anatomist, in fact.
GRAHAM GORE: That's a doctor in my book.
NILES: Really? What book is that? Richard Scarry’s illustrated version of Grey’s Anatomy?
FRASIER: Your demeanor should be all cheer, gentlemen. You understand? It's going to be tight, but that's what we signed up for, an adventure for Queen and Country. An adventure of a lifetime. That's what you tell the men.
NILES: And what shall we tell the men who aren’t credulous morons?
FRASIER: Oh, so, now I must hear you instruct me in a Captain's duties.
NILES: It's only eight men, Frasier. And there is just enough time.
FRASIER: I have lost six men on this expedition to date. Six! And you ask me to risk more than doubling that number, trekking over distant ground where you know I have lost men in years past. I'll hear no more of this. I will not lose another man, Niles.
NILES: We may lose all our men. That is what my alarm is ringing now, Frasier. And I am at a loss why yours is not.
FRASIER: You are the worst kind of brother, Niles. You abuse your freedoms. You complain in the safety of speculation, you claim foresight in disasters that never happen, and you are weak in your vices because your rank affords you privacy and deference. You've made yourself miserable and distant, and hard to love, and you blame the world for it. I'm not the sailor you are, Niles, never will be – my torso’s too sturdy and manly to spring up the rigging like you do. But you will never be fit for command. And, as your brother, I take some responsibility for that. For the vanity of your outlook. I should have curbed these tendencies, rather than sympathized with them, because you seem to have confused my sympathy with tolerance, but there is a limit to how much I can tolerate, and that is where we are presently standing! There are some things we were never meant to be to one another. I see that now. Friends on my side. Relations on yours. So let us turn our energies back to being what the Admiralty, and life, have seen fit to make us. We should give that our best. There can be no argument between us there. Now you must excuse me. I have a service to finish writing for tomorrow. It will have to act as the only eulogy our boy Eddie will be given out here and I intend it to sing.
FRASIER: Why are you here, Niles? You've never believed in this cause. No one was ordered to this. We volunteered. You volunteered.
NILES: I was, in fact, ordered.
FRASIER: By whom? Not by the Admiralty. You were never Martin's choice.
NILES: ‘Keep Frasier safe and ensure his judgement.’ Those were my orders. It's what she asked me to do.
NILES: No. I don't owe her a bloody thing. Besides, she hasn’t been able to say a word since her experimental neck surgery earlier this year in Barbados. Daphne.
FRASIER: Daphne? Daphne, who rejected you? Twice, as I heard it.
NILES: You discussed this?
FRASIER: Yes. Martin discussed it with me. Well, he... Actually, he regretted how it had happened. Niles, he was burdened by it.
NILES: Burdened by the thought of a third attempt, no doubt.
FRASIER: That's why you're here. Good Christ, Niles.
NILES: Keep your pity. You're going to need all the pity you have for what's coming.