The checkered career of this production is witness to the fact that this company’s great need is a group and an individual sense of the integral forces of drama: an uncoordinated Monday night dress rehearsal, a promising Tuesday night more tightly knit dress rehearsal, a weak opening night with brilliant patches, but lack of continuity, a Thursday night of considerable power and steady build to the author’s statement about the reversal of relations between God and man; a pathetic, depressing, aimless Friday night, with a return to a certain magnitude on Saturday night. A drama must unfold in its own good time, exactly as a symphony does. The director and every actor must know where it is going and how it is to develop, and at the end every careful detail seems -- is -- part of an impressive whole. This authority, springing from a sense of the integral whole, provides the underlying tension that builds and holds even through the relaxed moments of the drama. The result of such coordination is always an absorbing experience. Details are so clearly etched that the gathering together of all the strands in the closing moments is a culminating experience. The last moments of our drama never did quite come. Gideon supersedes his father; colorful Joash, the leader of the tribe in the opening scene, falls into a secondary or even tertiary position for even Jether joins Gideon now. I sensed something of this awareness in Joash, but nothing of it in the rest of the family; they merely got off stage as best they could. Why? Because they were not an integral part of the drama from the beginning. Marianne developed some sense of the instrument she played in the symphony, but it was never fully tuned up. As for the others, couldn’t “extras” brought in at the last minute, given their lines, cues and costumes have contributed as much? And so with the orgy maidens and captives: it seemed they were merely there for the final dance moment. Who are they? What instruments are they? What integral part have they played in the suspense of the drama, in the final culmination of the culmination. Minds -- actors’ minds -- were not functioning creatively. To watch Kovara and Galati create roles and drama through the progress of rehearsals, Kovara -- only onstage a few moments -- assembled a total character in great detail. If he had not been killed off, one could have imagined him living on in a drama of his own. Galati brings something new to every rehearsal. His assemblage of props and costume accessories is creative imagination productively used. He goes through a solid process of addition, and then he eliminates to essentials. Results: a fully dimensional character that has a function in the drama, is integral to the drama, creates interest and therefore suspense essential to the culmination of the drama.
Laird, watching performances, observed that every moment of a play sets up a later moment. Every actor should be aware of what he is setting up. Wednesday night’s performance did not come off because too many people were purposeless extras and others played “moments” and “scenes” that set up nothing, that did not point with suspense to ultimate reversal and culmination. There were delightful comic moments, but how did they tie up with God’s final speech? Bob Frink does a good job of comedy that ties up. Once he learned to land his lines, he did it consistently and built and sustained a role that made him inevitably the one to say: “The girl, Gideon, she is yours.” He built a fully dimensional character, realized his function in the drama and communicated it in theatrically effective terms. French does a good job of landing the sense of lines, but might have gone farther with individualizing the man. Chris created effectively the visionary, so repugnant to the Loard. He lost for a time that frantic excitement of a new discovery before each line. That moment of seeing a configuration and the madness of “what does it mean?” until he inevitably falls in fits. Jon, too, a good job of creating a character and of landing lines. He needs now to learn how to let this audience enjoy those lines, to relish them, grasp them. Jon, like Barbara, always wants to rush on. What is it? Fear that the show will lag, stop, slow down while the audience enjoys the show? Nothing could be farther from the truth. Audience laughter, audience response, is an integral part of the show. The pace of a show seems slow when an audience is not permitted to enjoy it. When they are laughing the tempo seems fast even though lines be stopped. Sense what lines the audience will want to linger over in some way. Relish them yourself while business of character goes on. Share with the audience their enjoyment -- it may be expressed in laughter or in the thought that lingers. You are not really an actor until you have achieved this.
The Orpah who danced was not the Orpah who spoke the lines, nor the Orpah who walked in with Gideon in the next scene. Leigh’s difficulty came probably, from a failure to create a total character before speaking lines. The result was that she had to concentrate on how to say them rather than having to say to say them from an animal urge, an animal instinct to save itself. Perhaps we should have had her use sounds, not words, gutterals in a foreign speech, which carried the meaning of the spoken passage until the futility of trying to speak in sounds, not understood, had to be carried into dance. Always work from the why, not the how.
Paddy Chayevsky lines in non-serious passages require the undercut statement and we were weak through in its use. Frank Chew might have registered more forcefully if he had used it. Instance: “We will finish the prayers,” arrest, drop to a flat understatement, “we will take care of women and the animals.”
Techniques could have been sharper throughout. Mennen’s Purah was well executed except that he needed a sharp freeze before springing to his feet, and another sharp freeze before sitting down. There will be no time to drill you techiques before “Brigadoon.” You will be in real trouble if you don’t master them beforehand.
Shethulah was at his best in rehearsals: vivid, vital, menacing and well projected. Nick need to find means of re-motivating each time he comes on, so that the character does not become a stereotype: hear something new or do something different just before coming on or expect to see someone else on stage, or do something a little different. If something new does not happen, the role goes dead, no matter how dramatic it is.
Overton could have stirred his creative imagination more. He seemed concentrating more on how than on who and why. Shannon: two roles to play reveals a need for greater vocal flexibility in otherwise excellent work.
Mike does excellent work from inside in character motivations. More improvisations might have sharpened up his responses which were often too slow. Perhaps Mike’s theatre sense needs re-sharpening. Truth is life is theatrical truth only if it is heightened, intensified, sharpened. A long pause may be “natural” in life. On stage it can be sustained only after a tremendous climax. Mike needs to sharpen his sense of how long a pause can be sustained. Many of his lost interest. Too, he thinks too long after someone speaks. Instead think as he speaks and come in with the vocalized response immediately. Too often Mike falls into a pattern common to many of you: to get swiftly to the end of a line you go on a monotone without inflecting words. Some word in a line needs tossing up to point the idea. When he improvises, Mike communicates brilliantly. Other times his lines are stilted. We needed more time and concentration on the technique of building sequences. Too many, too often, were broken down into single line instead of overlapping and topping swiftly to the climax. This, too, is theatrical, rather than “naturalistic.” It is cumulative. It carries the drama forward. ACtors and directors should have this theatre sense: the forward surge of drama. Mike tends to play outside the current of the drama instead of caught in the current. Any character you create must be propelled on by the forces of conflict. Building of sequences technically would have propelled Tom more easily into his gigantic outbursts. He was a truly magnificent personification of the Lord. HIs is an excellent balance of reality and of theatrical truth. He believes in the character he creates. His dramatic imagination casts his work in theatrical form. He creates a strong image of the role he is creating. His visualization of it is keen; that image directs his work and he seldom fumbles. To be able to project such an image is like having a blueprint which keeps you from the fumbling that results from trail and error. To do so gives a sense of power and control.