Intellectual comedy, aimed at men’s minds to make them think on the achievement of peace through the use of reason. The author is bitter about the modern situation, but he conceals it by taking us far into the past, seeming to poke fun at an ancient civilization; then he begins to insert modern references which at first are comic in their incongruity. The veteran is the turning point.
Intellectual comic high style: brilliant vocal style particularly, and movement timed with deft precision. Characterization is the realistic basis for the drama, but it conveys nothing without style. In fact, it can obscure. Striglos is one example of vocal style that is an asset in intellectual comedy. One might wish that he could get rid of some of the grating in the vocal production, but all other vocal elements are present to make lines land with telling effect: bright, hard, well directed tone, no messy emotional involvements -- simply sharp and direct and well perfected. His lines hit the entire audience, and consequently all respond as it on cue, with laughter. Bill ends lines with a good sound snap that makes him hold for the recovery so that he never comes in too soon on a laugh.
Now Pomerantz gets so involved with the emotion of the role that he plays it at the expense of the intellectual content. Feel all you can, but play against it all the way with a bright hard-palette tone, sent to the back board of the auditorium. Those curtain lines will not come off if played with realistic introspection. Duerrenmatt has to speak with sharp impact through the soldier; the last Roman soldier. Join the society of those working on front direction and hard-palette tones, Jeff. All of you must learn that only when techniques are mastered can we judge how much talent an actor has.
Chamont is on his way to style: tone is very good, intellectual stimulation is excellent, clarity of concentration on one element at a time is excellent. Sometimes he does not achieve complete crystallization at the close of a line or sequence. He moves on too soon with a realistic undertone into the next sequence -- which muddles the point just made. Try for the Striglos intense concentration following a line, as if he has been hit hard. Struck dumb by his own sharpness. Your actor in “Dinner” needs this quality in a lesser degree, but still very present.
Gore was doing excellent pointing, landing lines with mental comment, until Saturday night when his tone was slightly muffled, not so well directed. It was still a fine performance, but not so perfect in scoring as on previous nights. Chris is mastering techniques and shows that he knows what he is doing. Note that his techniques are not limiting his total participation, but rather heighten his comic spirit. McClory achieves the same result: plays totally with good technical discipline. Marc is on the way to this. His characterization was excellent. His excess of military zeal was in the spirit of comedy. If his point did not always land, it may because he has not quite learned that art of tossing high a middle word, stopping slightly, and then making a surprise change in pitch or acceleration with the rest of the line. Also master that stop at the end. (See the Chamont comment.) Marc’s work is achieving a security, a solidity, a certainty not evident before -- a good sign of the right kind of progress. Frankel comes up with a good characterization -- a sure fire one, but he never achieves form, style, so what he is and does does not make a point. One or two moments he crystallized. For the rest see the Striglos, Chamont, Overton comments. Without form no drama is effective, but intellectual drama in particular cannot strike home. All the Apollonius sequences should have been variations of the auction procedures: the going, going, gone attack. We did not quite make the time come off as such. Reimeld plays “to scale” magnificently. He had two moments and he played them to the scale of the fall of Rome. His first entrance fully motivated the second and the “et tu” which Frank finally landed. Reimold has only to guard against excess actor tension which sometimes obscures the clarity of his work.
Pyramus became more delightful and more pointed every night. Phil has acquired a good, bright, direct tone, but he sometimes does not hit it on the first word, he does not always vocalize fully and his lines gets off to a slow start. Also, everyone: if a line or word does not come off one night, try another comic device the second night. If a clincher, capper, consists of one word, sometimes it can be landed with one flat stroke, sometimes it needs a middle toss-up: “Tone” I think might have needed a lift at the beginning and then flat. So with “succinctly”’ the “inc” portion might have gone up a note or two and then flattened out.
There should have been a sudden focus, even double takes from the whole stage at the appearance of the trousers at the end. Vance, alone, could not create the startled focus and make the point. It seems to me now, that we should have had someone with whom the audience could identify on the comic level. As it was, after his entrance, we identified with Aemilian and Rea and thus, it was after the mention of Rea that the strong antagonism started. Perhaps instead of going serious immediately, Romulus should have made some comic reaction of incredibility -- Pyramus and Achilles -- even others. We may have missed some surprise moments with which the audience could identify. Vance’s work was excellent on both the comic and ironic level. There was a moment we missed which left a dead spot around the Rupf exit. I think the eyes of Rupf and Romulus should have met and held on “Goodbye, Mr. Rupf,” until the smiling Romulus eyes dominated the Rupf grin, and we saw that grin give way to comic incredulity, from which he recovers, goes into the doorway and plays the recovery there. We need to keep this audience viewpoint in mind in all directing. With whose eyes must the audience see?
Niki did a remarkably fine job. She did not have time to achieve the totally superior, worldly, tradition-bound snobbism that Nancy had created. Niki did not quite achieve the bored superiority of a woman who had lived with Romulus for twenty years. Niki’s dramatic flares were those of a younger wife, a newer experience; Nancy achieved the long, long suffering contempt. Nancy’s eyes were coldly weary; Niki’s flashed with anger of the moment. Both are brilliant actresses.
The Tucker-Manuella scenes were beautifully played. The fire and passion with which Frank played were refreshing vital notes which the comedy needed at that point. When played so brilliantly you need have no fear of breaking the comic spirit. Both Ellen and Frank need to guard against a tendency to slow down, thus losing the dramatic sweep of the current. Saturday night there was a slight lapse in dramatic tempo.
Frank’s Romulus was not complete, but was, nevertheless, excellent. The first act was brilliant -- not only in comedy playing, but in wit. It set exactly the right notes. It was laugh-provoking, but more than that, it was signaling “there is more in this than meets the eye.” Frank was tossing off lines with beautiful effect: not merely being funny, but being witty. There was much Duerrenmatt back of his thinking. It was acting of more than one dimension and excellent. it was in the last two scenes that acting inadequacies became apparent. Within the framework of intellectual comedy, there are episodes of a serious nature. Great vocal skill is required for such scenes. Frank Manuella was greatly aided by the brilliance of tone he used. The sharp edges his full tone had, which kept his emotional scenes on the intellectual level. Tone, in itself, has implications. As actors, you should become aware of this. Had Manuella lost that brightness and edge, his scenes would have changed to tragedy, pure and simple. (Saturday night, it almost slipped.) Now: Chew must acquire these brilliant tones, those edges. They connote intellectual passion, they keep the head alert, even while the heart is touched off in the final Empress scene; we should have heard them even in the tender daughter act. Subliminally they tell us that this man is not clown nor buffoon; they prepare us for the Ottakur meeting. Frank needs vowels in his speech -- full, sustained vowels. They ring bells.