Wednesday, November 14, 2012


This play is so well constructed that it is excellent for actors and directors to study for fundamentals of dramatic principles.  An actor may do a brilliant characterization, a director may produce brilliant business and stage pictures, all of which -- acting and directing -- maybe come to nothing unless there is an awareness and an adherence to structure and design.  Lindsay and Crouse created a tight structure: every laugh is carefully set up, every event is logically prepared for.  Because their characters and situations are real and believable the audience is unaware of the structure.  Actors and directors cannot afford to be unaware.  If they are unaware of design and structure the drama sprawls, meanders, has occasional high moments but plays with diminishing returns.  When structure is observed audience enjoyment mounts with each sequence for the audience feels it has foreseen what suddenly unexpectedly comes off.  They are delighted with their ability to add up -- the “funding” is sheer delight.  Characterization is important, feeling and responding are important, all the outer techniques are important, but remember than they can come to nothing without this sense of structure, of setting up, of preparing for discoveries.  You did a good job of this in performance; some stress and strain and anguish might have been eliminated if you had all been aware of structure earlier, for when that awareness is present, the drama begins to play itself.  You may have faith in your playwright, when you are capable of recognizing his form and when you recognize the importance of observing that form.  The actor is a creator of character -- yes, but never forget he is a communicator and brilliance of characterization is ineffective unless it is effectively communicated.

Characterization was excellent on the part of everyone throughout.  with more time a fuller pattern of people living together might have developed; little touches of family living: checking on the boys’ sex, tying up shoestrings, picking dry petals off a plant, etc. -- we were still too concerned with the main line of action to develop the accompanying incidentals, but nonetheless you created a believable Day family.  With regard to structure, Tom sets up the circumstance, follows through it and clinches it very successfully.  He does a good job of pointing up the initial step, if planting the necessary fact.  Having done that he follows through casually and is socked in the middle by the unexpected result.  He then plays the surprise, lets it accumulate and then collapses.  He plants lines and ideas excellently -- sometimes a little too forcefully.  He lands lines well -- sometimes too hard -- (keep a light snap in the end).  He is particularly good playing in response to whatever happens at the moment, and so there is always a freshness and unexpectedness in his performance.  With this resource he can’t go stale.  Sometimes he over stresses: if you have used a vocal device to point a word or idea, do not use a physical one too.  If you have used a physical means underscore vocally.  This is a safe rule to follow.  There will be exceptions to it, times when both are needed, but don’t make the exception the rule -- too many of you distract from your vocal pointing by physical excesses.  Galati’s work became much better as he did less and less, and in the end he gave a fine performance.  He has a fine sense of structure when he governs his excesses.  He has a fine sense of comedy when he disciplines voice and body.  He has a good grasp of character which he can communicate well when he observes the disciplines of coordinating lines and business.

Cora was delightfully played and played for delight.  Yvonne’s characterization made it clear why Mr. Day could not abide the woman, but her sheer vitality, sparkle and charm afforded a wonderful opposite to Day and to Vinnie.  Yvonne plays with brilliance, clarity, with a comic sense that reaches the balcony.  She responds in character to everything and to everyone, and she wears clothes with style.  Only one distraction: excessive emphasis with hand gesticulation.  You don’t need this extraneous emphasis, Yvonne.  Mary was a joy.  Leigh lets things happen to her and she responds “naturally” spontaneously and with a good sense of theatre -- what she does, what she feels is communicated with care and with telling effect.  Her senses are alert and responsive -- she was Mary.  The episodes with Chris were delightfully played, especially after they both just let them play.  Chris, for the most part, was Clarence Jr.  Occasionally, with Father, for instance, certain lines betrayed a studied quality -- a desire for a certain effect which did not quite come off.  It’s all right to play how a line should be spoken for its maximum effect providing that you can then forget that you planned it.  Acquire the habit of going to the end of a line, of ending it with a slight snap, but then to just let it happen.  Your mind and body are so lively and responsive you don’t have to manipulate them; now let your speech come forth equally free and trust your theatre know how to point lines.  There isn’t one single way to punch or plant a comedy line.  Sometimes you must experiment, but always there must be surprise: a surprise evokes it.  You know the means used to deliver a comedy line, now trust your knowledge and just respond to what is going on -- play everything with the care of the Mary sequence.

Pam started the play with good specific business and excellent comic concentration.  Margaret was a good contrast and opposite.  Mary’s characterizations always the authority of totality and opposite.  She plays through beautifully and carries scenes offstage.  Once in a while she doesn’t quite punch the end of a line before taking off.  If you have to speak while walking upstage be sure to give lines a good toss back over the shoulder.  Mary’s Margaret gave a nice note of stability and permanence to the household.  She created a fully dimensional character one remembers.  Bambi still needs to learn split second timing.  If she achieves it in “Rhinoceros” it should carry over to realism.  The reaction to “prettier” emotionally was right; the frozen arrest missed by a beat.  Nora’s click of a silver dish in response was accurate to the second and Marianne knows how to achieve focus by doing nothing.  Suzie’s maid needed more focus on her essential characterization.  Perhaps we needed to have her give father a sunny smile.

Barbara’s work is difficult to analyze since it is basically very fine.  The character she creates is believable and fully dimensional.  she has charm, vitality and magnetism on stage.  If she can bring down the house each night with landing each line yet responding realistically, she must have a sense of comedy and of comedy technique.  Then what stands in her way?  Partly, perhaps, the paradox of illusion and reality that all acting must be.  Barbara achieves the reality but doesn’t always magnify it to the proportions of the theatre.  Lines in addition to their realism must be pointed, must adhere to the structure of the drama by closing a sequence, by telegraphing a plot development.  In improvisations strict realism is adhered to in order to develop all facets of character.  This phase Barbara does beautifully.  Her conflicts start with full rehearsals when form must be given to the realism.  The opening scene always seemed difficult.  It came out best the night after we did the vaudeville stunts which were pure theatre.  On Friday night she came closest to achieving the balance between realism and theatre.  Tones were bright, lines were tossed up, the sense of comedy prevailed and Vinnie’s anxiety was no longer actress anxiety.  Barbara in working on a role needs to mix reality and theatre from the beginning: inner motivation with objective communication of the traits developed.  Like Chris, Barbara too needs to respond spontaneously on stage.  Create the character, then trust the character to respond.  Discover the patterns of response -- vocal and physical -- then trust those patterns to respond.  Almost never should one plan to say lines in a specific manner.  Such a procedure results in a studied performance, lacking the surprise which is drama.  Alternatives are present in every moment.  The choice between these alternatives has to be made on the spot, at the moment.  Barbara too often acts in the past tense: her choices were made in her private rehearsals.  They do not occur on stage in response to what someone has said or done or a tone of voice, or a look in the eye.  Never concentrate on how you are going to plan a scene:  let it happen, and happen to scale of the theatre.  You played the last act scenes beautifully.  Use them as your models.  The doctors were played with nice authority: all proportions exactly right.  A most successful and satisfying opening.

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