Farce is situation which is possible but not probable. If the audience has a chance to think they will realize the improbability and say “oh this is utterly ridiculous. I can’t laugh at anything so improbable.” and so the situation in farce must keep the audience smiling, chuckling or laughing. Any second without a smile is a danger. We did pretty well with this facet of farce until the last act when dead spots began to creep in, and the audience began to be vaguely uncomfortable. Your comic attitude slipped. Up to the last act you played with a fine sense of outrageous comedy. You had it when you burst into outrageously funny responses to Paul’s snake bite. Fortunately this restored the act to its proper farce dimensions. But before that: no “last will and testament” touches off solemn thoughts unless you add an outrageous flourish or something or unless these are outrageously funny, incongruous responses to it -- you skipped these. then you played sequences too slowly. It needed to sweep Parole into the death chamber before the audience could think of death. Then Parole turned the audience thinking seriously on death for a second. She said, “He’s dead” on a minor note of wonder, and minor notes, unless they are in direct incongruity with majors, are death to comedy. Pam was thinking only “He’s dead.” She should have been thinking an outrageous comic incongruity that tickled her own funny bone like “He’s dead -- how dare he -- I want to talk to him” or “He’s dead -- a devil like Henri can’t die” or “He’s dead -- I must be drunk, the cognac.” Any thing that carries on into a comic sequence. The angels were making comic reactions, but they could not quite counter that minor one-note “He’s dead.” Every instant in farce -- and comedy in general -- there must be two levels, incongruous to each other. Pam acts just the level of the spoken word instead of saying one thing and thinking an opposite, or saying one thing and doing an opposite, and consequently she gets caught in poses. Chris has covered this element and played it beautifully. Result: the best acting he has ever done. He spoke, shouted destructive words and smiled with delight at his little secret, until he discovered the secret that he was only a vicious man and we cannot laugh at viciousness or cruelty or meanness. When we added the smile, we knew he was riding for a fall -- a comic fall -- in a way we were “in” on a secret, something had been telegraphed to us, a signal of just comic deserts. This is an important facet of comedy: you must acquire it. Yvonne needs it. The romantic sequences with Jules did not come off as comedy. They were both playing the realities beautifully, but Yvonne needed the little secret joy in her “I wanted to kill” -- no one will ever know she was a murderer. It’s a delightful secret. If she had captured that secret joy the scene would have built in the sharing of secrets. Then in the following scene a whole deluge of incongruities: her secret almost discovered, she has to pretend she is shocked -- she’s glad -- did she murder him subconsciously: delight, shock, until she is literally going round in circles. Yvonne needs to let herself clown more -- on a refined scale, of course, but still clown. The lack of clowning was most apparent in the last act. Clowning is actually playing through with responses which meet up with the oppositions that trip you up. Phil needs to add this to his directing techniques: action and reaction following lines. In the first two acts you were responding fairly well -- not always enough -- but you usually did something following lines. In Act III it was a line spoken and the speaker stopped and the listeners stopped and as a result the comedy stopped. It should be: line spoken -- go about your incongruous business. On line spoken and others, react yes, no, yes. But -- your little secret must take you right on about your secret business no matter what gets in the way. You pause momentarily to speak and then you go on, leaving everyone to adjust. (“Mr. Hulot’s Holiday” is a perfect example.) In the 3rd act you tended to stop going about your secret business. You came to superb heights in your clowning with your responses to Paul’s snake bite. You played reactions to the hilt. To lesser degrees this should have been going on throughout. Bob clowned the chicken episode superbly. Someone else might have put in gimmicks or gags. Bob simply played the chicken and the secret and he clowned superbly in picking up the feathers -- again the little secret incongruous to the business. Frank and Leigh should have followed through with more complete responses. Frink has a beautiful sense of comedy and plays through usually. The moments that did not come off were (1) He lost the little secret and stopped with nothing to carry him on (2) He finished his capper on a minor note -- a minor note with major positive business might sometimes work, but not a minor note alone.
In the first two acts the Angels were doing pretty well with building sequences to strong cappers. The trial was beautifully played. The chart-graph sequence was perfection. Frank Galati was especially brilliant with cappers because he adeptly added the surprise element: he built and built and you expected him to go on and he changed pitch, or he changed tempo, or changed quality. You all need to work on this facet of comedy: surprise through sudden change of any sort. It isn’t merely flattening a line, it is doing it with surprise that counts. Galati’s work was excellent throughout: just enough characterization to be individual, not enough to get us too absorbed in character. His concentration is comic, and he had secrets up to the last act. Most of the time he sets up sequences. You are all a little weak in anticipating the next sequence. You played a sequence for what’s in it -- which is good -- but at the same time you should be setting up what’s to come. On final dress rehearsal you did an exciting build up to Laird’s entrance, but you never quite hit it again. That suspense of something’s about to happen, someone will come in, a young man. This is the child’s make-believe attitude which everyone must have: magnified, intensified. A good dramatist sets up the events which are to come. Actors can kill the suspense by not anticipating, by not being carried pell-mell into the next. Jon needs to let himself think ahead more. It will give more electricity to his performance, another plus level of acting. His Paul was excellent, but let yourself enjoy acting more, Jon. Farce ought to surprise even the people in it. Jon doesn’t let himself be surprised. Work to get it right and then let it happen -- have fun.
Leigh is wonderfully spontaneous, radiant. Continue trying to govern that spontaneity so that speech, in particular, is under control. Sense the need to land important words, never let them get lost. If laughter has drowned out a line, repeat it. Farce is carefully constructed -- each bit must land for its particular or something else will not be set up. Cut down your actual speed to theatrical pace which means everything is landed at exactly the right moment. Kovara is a good clown. “That girl’s as light as a feather” was perfect. He lets moments happen; he seems to do things always at the spur of the moment; actually he has set up his role in the situation so he can take advantage of anything, just anything that happens, and that’s good comedy playing. Sometimes he doesn’t quite land a sequence, and that’s usually because he has overdecorated vocally on the way to the capper. Felix was well played. In a role such as this which does not instigate events, but is played upon, go farther with reaction responses. The night (dress rehearsal) that we had you playing those interrupting “but - but - but?” you were at your best. This is the refined clowning of responses I recommended to Yvonne: the immediate response, plus the secret pleasure, plus several other responses in quick succession. You were at your best in the chart sequence after the “I need more cardboard” when you were playing both delight and apprehension. If you can’t clown responses, bits are apt to come off too self-consciously which was true in the opening sequences. Laird did what was required of his brief moments with good style.
Remember, build sequences, telegraph ahead, continue to do something after lines, play reactions. GOOD WORK -- ALL.