Wednesday, September 19, 2012



The Shavian farcical elements of the play were admirably personified and epitomized by Bob Linn’s lion and Larry’s Androcles.  Bob, in particular, has mastered improvisational skills in the comic vein.  He concentrates on the central element of the situation and simply lets it play.  The vocalizations which come forth are results.  They were a necessary expression of responses to what was happening -- springing from a need for communication.  Maybe the people of Paradiso should be forced to communicate with sounds that are not words.  Perhaps in that way people would discover real concentration and motivated response.  These are the basis of farce comedy.  Cerasani should try responses to grunts and laughs and sounds in grunts and vowels, etc., to rid himself of all the false, studied business and movement which ruined the comedy of the Secutor-Retiarius sequence.  Tom’s concentration was equally false.  Bob had discovered the basic qualities of his injured lion -- the qualities which fit into a “farcical fable for children” -- a hurt lion, capable of gratitude, who never forgot.  the play gave him the outlines of the situation-- and Bob let it play.  Governed by a sense of detachment which saw the values in each sequence, he created something he believed in, and everyone else believed it.  The lion of the fable became a reality.  Larry played admirably with him.  He was at his best when he forgot his lines were lines.  When the need to communicate on the lion’s terms became imperative, Larry entered into the farce situation and they played together.  Larry’s playing was of high order throughout, except for the exit to the arena, in which the clowning began to take precedence over the reality, as clowning for clowning’s sake.  It is important to watch this tendency.  Clowning is an art, but it must never be caught being an art.  The realism must conceal the art except in high stylization perhaps.

Megaera missed almost completely, and the failure is a warning to all in Paradise who are emotionalizing.  All Megaera needs to be is a direct opposite to Androcles -- strong, forceful, dominant, direct.  So played, there is a laugh or chuckle on every line because of the visual and auditory opposites.  She needed only to make direct, factual statements.  then she had only to listen to Andy: grasp a second too late the implications of his line.  (double take), and top his meek statement with an opposite.  Betty’s tendency to go up and down the scale, to over-business, stamped her work as “acting.”  The result was that the wonderful curtain line (You dance off with a lion you haven’t known ten minutes. . .) never did come off.  It was sheer hysteria which is not at all amusing.  Everyone:  avoid this kind of acting in Paradise.  Play strength with real concentration on the real situation.  Betty’s other climax -- the faint -- did not come off because she did not learn how to faint.  The strong force going down like a log is a farce incongruity which should  bring down the house.  Benjamin’s faint should have been from a standing position.  Ferrovius should have pulled him up in his ardor and then let go.  All comedy business such as this should be carefully worked out; realism is not enough, timing is everything.  Jack, as the Centurion, needed sharper timing and less violence.  There was too much perspiration in the role -- a human being playing from a distance to make a comment on and through the character.  Benjamin was best when not working so hard to be limp.  Realize the incongruous visual image that walks onstage in these two personages: Lentulus  and Mettleus.  The audience always got it the moment they came on.  You need to do little more than go through the action of the scene.  Learn to project in your minds a visualization of yourself as character against an incongruous background -- this should touch off your risibilities and put you into the detached comic attitude.  After that just play the situation.  Pressman does it well.  When Zegers learns to do it, he won’t have to work so hard to find incongruities.  Directing may help him in this respect, for a director must see in those terms.  Zegers’ Ferrovius was a fine characterization and all of his scenes were well-played -- except for the little comic, ironic twists.  For the most part, we were succesful in producing a comedy but not so successful in producing intellectual comedy.  Shaw’s farce scenes are inserted to highlight his concern for society, his crusade for rationality.  But the farcical elements and the intellectual elements are one play.  We played two dramas: the farcical fable of Andy and the lion, and the tragedy of the martyrdom of the Christians.  Remember:  all of the elements of a drama no matter how diverse, must be fitted into one framework.  Never sacrifice coherence.  Shaw labels his play “farcical.”  He does not call it “farce” -- it is an intellectual comedy with farcical elements to disarm the audience sufficiently so that the message goes home painlessly while they are off guard.  The play must then be comedy -- that is the framework into which all sequences must fit.  Now Bob and started off with farcical comedy; the entrance of the Christians with their anachronisms carry on into comedy, and then Lavinia and the Captain take over with the intellectual debate.  Roberts did, generally pretty good work with comic elements in his address to the Christians.  But Suzanne, unfortunately, with her very first speech, changed the tone of the play completely.  With the tone of her voice, with her total attitude, she immediately set up the tragedy of martyrdom.  Suzanne did a good job of playing a young woman in love, about to be martyred in a serious drama.  She and Roberts played well together on the serious level.  Their scenes were moving, gripping.  But they were out of context with the rest of the play, and they did not present Shaw’s rational viewpoint.  We became more concerned about the lovely Lavinia about to die than about reason in an irrational world.  The ironies of the situation must ber more important than the human interest factors.  Suzanne played to the hearts of her audience which is wonderful in straight realism.  But Shaw aims at the heads of people.  He does not eliminate the heart, but it must never obscure his aim at the rational faculty of man.  And and the lion (man and beast) could come together without violence -- why not man and man?  The wily emperor prevailed upon Ferrovius to give up Christianity and to take up arms to preserve the status quo.  Andy, the meek, Andy, the humanitarian, Andy, the Christian, is safe only with a lion to protect him.  Lavinia sees all this, gravely, yes, but if we get concerned over the gravity of her viewpoint, if she sees her world as tragic, we will see it so with her, and our feeling will obscure our capacity to reason.  She must see from the ironic viewpoint -- not the sad view of humanity.  The audience sees through the eyes of Lavinia and the Emperor.  If we become involved in the tragedy of life, we cannot reason to the solution of life’s dilemma.  Suzanne involved us in the tragedy, instead of taking us to the Shavian plane: search for a rational solution.  Violence is not the solution.  What is Christianity?  How can it exist in the world?  Suzanne understands Lavinia, but she has not yet learned to play from the rational rather than from the emotional.  We started with the vocalization through which the rational is made manifest: clear, bright direct tones; clear articulation; brilliant phrasing and pointing of meaniing -- the tossed up word, the suspended phrase -- all these are evidences of the rational mind.  Suzanne could not achieve this delivery nor the attitude which produces this delivery: concern but not involvement.  The Emperor had the clarity of tone, the clarity of articulation, the pointing of meaning which are essential to intellectual comedy.  His difficulty was in responding to the farcical elements on the one hand, and making shrewd silent comments on the other.  When he says, “And now, Ferrovius, will you join the guard,” his eyes say “You can’t say ‘No’ now, and if you say ‘Yes’ next week you will push Christians into the arena.”  When he says, “Caesar has tamed the lion,” something else says, “so long as Andy stands beside me.”  this is the difficulty in playing the Emperor: underneath the playboy is a Bernard Shaw.

Everyone in the company must become adept at landing lines, at planting them securely, of delivering them with impact, yet witjout pounding.  Kulhanek did a good job with the Jupiter line.  Now get your Paradiso cast to land lines in similar fashion.  Better play ball with fast delivery and true aim.

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