Tuesday, November 6, 2012


Brilliant Shaw: good to look at, good to listen to, Shaw played with audacity, intelligence and passion.  Brilliant style, clarity of idea, clarity of speech and action, a clear straight line of action, clear objectives, excellent ensemble -- all add up to brilliance.

Niki needs to observe and study the incongruities of the British servant.  Niki tends to dramatize, to play scenes.  The British servant never dramatizes  -- understatement is the key -- expressionless excitement, unyielding principles; they say “He’s a Knight,” as if a tear in the curtain was far more important.  Study them in British films.  Your acting generally will improve as you learn to play with this understatement.

Nancy’s Jennifer was lovely, marred only by actor tension which is visible in tense hands and audible in vocal strain.  The only answer is to trust the playwright, to let scenes play instead of forcing them to play, to have fun, to play with sheer joy in the playing.  Carry over the freedom and fun and audacity of your improvisation to the play itself.  Participate so fully in the action that you cannot think of the “how” of doing.  If for a time you need physical props to concentrate on, use them.  Use them freely until your mind is freed from the tension of words.  This use of props need not be a crutch -- it’s a natural tendency, a character trait.  You need the ability to turn a stage light into a star and wish on it while you say, “Improvise, Rhapsodize.”  Until you can do that, you will be tense, speaking tensely.  You have everything you need to be an actress.  Now free your creative spirit by employing various levels of concentration.

BB was brilliant.  It was based on the sense of the outrageous, which is basic to Shavian drama.  Pogue landed every Shavian barb brilliantly and satirically.  Superb pointing and timing.

Walpole was played with the same audacity.  Dan is occasionally too conscious of the technique of “landing” lines.  And any such consciousness telegraphs strain to an audience.  Be conscious of techniques during certain rehearsals but in performance play for the fun of it and trust the tecnhiques to carry over.  Better lose a laugh than be caught working too hard to get it.

Griswold became quite a master at landing the undercut lines.  His score was almost perfect.  Best of all, he made the undercutting an element of character.  He can afford to brush up on his British accent.  You gain in ease when you can slip easily from one dialect to another.  Acquire several.

Haire’s Blenkinsop was a Shaw Blenkinsop unsentimentalized.  Excellent characterization.  Jim tends to rush through transitions sometimes before they have become fully clear.  Sustain them.

What Alton did was excellent on stage, but it needed amplification to fill the auditorium.  Minnie was what was needed for Minnie and the moment.  Remember how you arrived at what she should be: by reducing, eliminating the dramatic until only the inarticulate exterior was left, speaking dramatic words.  The incongruity of the British servant.  Redpenny and the Secretary were both sharp, pointed moments.  The reporter was Bill’s best playing of the season -- more economy than ever before, better concentration, less focus on “how,” more completely a part of the whole, good timing, nice understatements.  Learn dialects, Bill.

Ridgeon and Dubedat were well-matched and excellent opposites.  Both Dennis and Vance have a great Shavian asset in that their minds are always far ahead of their tongues even though their tongues are speaking with rapidity.  Shaw wrote for actors who could speak lines with flexibility and brilliance.  The whole cast did well with this, but Dennis excels in that his speech is so incisive, crisp, consonants are brilliantly articulated and vowels given full value.  He excels, too, in the pointing of the significant word and the acceleration to the end.  These are an actor’s attributes: he made them a keynote to Ridgeon’s mind -- his rationality -- a good example of actor’s technique serving both author and character.  Once in a while Dennis’ consciousness of what should be pointed is a little too obvious and sometimes a transition is played too long, which I think he always sensed.

Vance’s balance of charm and rascality was amazingly right.  He made both the bounder and the artist credible.  That Jennifer should love him was credible; that the doctor gave him money was credible.  He motivated Ridgeon’s line,  “The most tragic person is a genius who is not a man of honor.”  The difficult death scene was superbly played on Saturday night with a fine balance of comedy and serious implication.  Vance needs to sharpen line endings to make them snap, to provoke surprise reaction, to release laughter, a more incisive tone to complete a line, replacing his tendency to let a final word slide.  Many comedy lines in intellectual drama need the snap of a whip effect or a startling little slap equivalent to provoke the surprise response.  

The entire cast must be complimented on their ability to involve the audience in the Shavian dilemma.  The audience was alert every second.

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