Put the first act of opening night with the second act of Thursday night and you’ll have a good show. Saturday the play was out of control -- the first act, in particular, like a runaway horse: exciting to watch and to listen to but not making points, not scoring, with no moments of little silences in which implications sink in. All of you -- and Gene in particular -- forgot the important principle: the significant word or phrase in the middle of the line must be lifted up, tossed up, or sustained in some way and punctuated with an arrest, brief or sustained according to the complexity of the thought or structure. Then comes the acceleration to the punch. This should be observed in all drama, but it is absolutely essential in any drama of strong intellectual content. Master the principle and you will find yourself experiencing a strong sense of control and power. That grip on the internal word gives you a grip on your material. You will probably sense the idea going home. Gene is just beginning to get it. The first night he used it with telling effect in the first act: effect -- an experienced actor in full control of character and situation -- a fine performance. But in the second act he went back to pounding lines -- overstressing. It is vocal skill Gene needs most to work on. In this production he learned projection, the amount of vocal energy needed to fill an auditorium. (He has not yet carried it over to CYRANO.) Now he needs to make habitual the sure sense of timing and internal line pointing of opening night, act one. Saturday his lines ran away with him -- the speed was so great they missed point. At other times he slows down and pinches everything -- result: no point and heaviness. Also Gene needs to work for front placement and open throat to eradicate a tendency to nasality in emotional moments. His grasp of the role and the situation made him a steady focal point, a real force on stage. Even on off-nights, his work is distinguished by a totality of participation, of aliveness physical and mental, that is a tremendous theatrical asset. He maintained a first-time illusion most successfully.
Of this group Willoughby is most successful with verbal pointing. He consistently lifts the significant word; he is most adroit with verbal implication, with subtlety of meaning, a lively play of thought and speech that is expressive in showing this thought. His Judge grew more delightful each night. He did not quite achieve that gentle abstraction of a man who could sentence a man to hang in exactly the same way he would spray bugs on a rose bush. But he came very close.
Pogue, too, is vocally adept at pointing lines -- when he has assimilated them into his thinking. When he was at his best, it was brilliant playing, brilliant pointing, brilliant characterization. The sole problem was due to insecurity. Lines must be solidly memorized in order to be forgotten. Thursday night he played the second act with exceptional brilliance of character, of implication, of audience communication.
Rod was at his best in the first act of opening night. Character clicked, lines landed with a hard snap which released laughs. This is another technique you all need to master: the electric snap at the end of a line which inevitably releases a response in the audience: laughter, shock, thought. If the snap is not there, the light does not go on, the surprise is missing, the idea does not go home -- electric communication with the audience is broken. Your best performance had it. When the technique failed, the excitement was ended. Rod did a good job of assimilating character traits, habits, age was believable. Rod needs to become secure in audience contact -- as do you all. Your Thursday first act was no doubt easy, relaxed and comfortable onstage -- but the audience was left out. We could hear you all right but were not stimulated to be concerned. You saw how Jenkins’ Cyrano changed when we forced him to play to the scale of the theatre and to play for audience response. every actor must have this sense or he is no actor. Rod experienced it the first night -- work from that experience. His LeBret does not yet have this true audience communication. It is projected vocally, volume and vitality are good, but does not yet have that inner sense of now touching this chord, now that, striving in the audience to evoke the response Le Bret must touch off.
Dan was in his element. He still needs to guard against a tendency to overpoint, to overstress an implication and thus destroy the implication. He and Claris both suggested a strong continuity -- a past as well as a present. Claris, in particular, set up, suggested an offstage atmosphere. She gave a perspective depth to the action.
You all must sense the need for playing opposites. The best of performances had light and shade, dark and bright, loud and silent. But at other times you all played the same tone, the same volume, the same pitch, the same speed. Saturday night this tendency was most annoying. In the first act you all fell into the runaway speech pattern; the second act as played at the same volume, the same pitch. When you are truly playing with each other these variatins may happen naturally, but since you cannot always hope to be inspired, learn to play opposites as an artistic principle. Become skilled in this technique. If rehearsal periods are long enough, these opposites are handled by the director. But actors must train their senses to respond with opposites.
Your off-nights were saved by your fullness of tone, a front direction which was stimulating to hear. This brilliance is a distinguishing trademark.