Ensemble acting at its very best: we leave the theatre thinking not of individual acting honors, but rather of what will happen to these five people, or why it happened, of questions raised; why can’t we come together in a home; Mother, I want to know you, bless and be blest; lines, ideas, relationships fill our minds. Even now it is Clive, Walther, Stanley, Louise, Pam I think of, not the actors who played the roles. This is what great acting must be: involvement in a whole, in caring about a whole, in total response to others, to situation. These five actors know their techniques well enough they could forget them. Rarely did they fail to punch a line, rarely did they fail to lift words, never did they have to be reminded of timing: their outer techniques were used unconsciously, and the inner techniques were released without effort, without pressure.
The unspoken drama is a poignant memory -- as it should be in true realism. What happened to these people, within these people, between these people, is unforgettable drama. This was the art of realism at its best: truth, unmistakable truth, absolutely luminous through form, through clarity. Where imagination took over, where personal experience contributed, where author’s stimulation influenced, it is impossible to know, nor is it necessary. The actors achieved the total assimilation which stamps acting with the mark of truth. However the actors arrived at the goal does not matter; they achieved truth, and to a superlative degree.
The play is a good play, tightly written, with inevitable dialogue, but these actors made it almost a great play ranking with Chekhov and Ibsen in illumination of human behavior. This is a fine example of what I mean when I say acting must illuminate a script. We not only understood the present dilemma, but these characters had perspective: they emerged from a past, from a background, and we are concerned about their future: fully developed, many dimensional characters. The subtle relationships, the old pattern, the new threads woven into the old pattern -- all unspoken. Pam and Clive: beautiful interplay telling whole chapters in a single moment. Clive and Walther: needs, longings, unfulfilled, half expressed. Pam and father, Pam and mother: a little moment left incomplete, saying what words can never say -- a child about to become adult, a difficult role to play without tricks as Ellen did, so incredibly true to childhood, yet illuminating childhood.
These actors created off-stage lives for these people: Walther in his room, Walther teaching Pam, Walther probing and identifying English flowers; Stanley with the Bentons; Stanley in his factor’s; Clive at Cambridge talking his language; Louise, anywhere, from kitchen to modern art exhibition, reaching, searching.
Nancy did an amazing illumination of the frustrations of this middle-aged, grasping, unhappy woman; so illuminating that in the end we could not condemn, only pity. Nancy has an amazing grasp of human motivations, amazing insight into inner conflicts. In this case she played the role of a woman she could not possibly admire, yet she played her with an inner conviction, an inner fire that made her every action completely credible. Does Nancy “live” in the role or “act” the role? She is such a superlative artist and person that one will never know.
Stanley was a fully dimensional human being as Bob played him: not to be approved, nor yet condemned, a man destroyed as Clive described him. Bob has learned to become more involved in the stream of the action that I have known him to be. Less -- much less -- in fact, almost no evidence of trying to respond, trying to be involved. He let things happen to him, let forces play upon him -- bravo!
As in Dinner with the Family, Frank’s artistry comes to its height in the simplicity and ease with which he plays his sustained scenes. He seems to bring to such moments whole lifetimes of thought and experience, all of which add up to this present moment when words must be spoken. The words come as understatements of all that cannot be said, and they are given impetus by the immediate need to communicate, the immediate deep concern.
Of Clive what can one say except that here was a blend of reality and art we seldom see. Richard’s work is governed by a fine sense of degree: it is passion and it is art. since I catch no signs of manipulation, I an only believe he has a fine organic sense of degree of passion to release, of degree of art to restrain. One always feels there is more, much more, unreleased, that he always knows where and when to draw in the reins. That fine balance of artistry and truth is rare. It was a strong unifying force in this production. It radiated in all directions -- on stage and in the auditorium. It filled the place with importance; the importance of the drama, of the people in the drama -- the importance of caring: it touched and reached everyone, on and off stage. It was a vital force in ensemble acting at its best.