Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Theater Review: A Life in the Theater with Patrick Stewart and TR Knight

T.R. Knight and Patrick Stewart. Photo by Carol Rosegg.
Interesting if You Share the Life, but Probably Like Viewing Someone Else’s Vacation Slides if You’re Not
By Lauren Yarger
Theater is a wonderful life: relationships develop and creativity and opportunities abound. Some not-so-wonderful things are a part of it too, like jealosy, ego, forgotten lines and prop disasters.

All of it is profiled in a biographical tale of two actors in David Mamet’s A Life in the Theater, running on Broadway, but if you’re not in the industry or don’t do a lot of community theater, this play might feel more like being forced to watch someone else’s vacation slides than a good time at the theater.

Numerous, brief scenes follow the relationship that develops between the two actors played by Patrick Stewart and T.R. Knight as they interact in various productions and backstage. The dynamics of the relationship change as the veteran actor, Robert (Stewart), drops in esteem as up-and-comer John’s (Knight) career solidifies.

Because there’s not much plot beyond that and the actors are more than capable of delivering their lines without much guidance, Director Neil Pepe seems to have felt a need to over direct the scenes where the men appear in productions together. Some of the scenes are elaborately staged (Santo Loquasto, scenic design) with the actors lavishly costumed (Laura Bauer, design). I’ve seen full productions that didn’t generate as much set and costuming as A Life in the Theater does for a five-minute bit to show the actors delivering a few lines from a show.

Probably the most entertaining part is seeing Stewart appear in a number of silly wigs (Charles LaPointe, design). Fans of the classical Shakespeare actor, known also as no-nonsense Captain Picard on TV’s “Star Trek: the Next Generation,” can’t help but chuckle and think what a good sport the bald actor is when he appears in various wigs (Charles LaPointe, design) and silly costumes and, among other things, performs ballet.

The two actors work well and have a chemistry that helps the play along, though it offers no real plot other than to allow you to recognize elements of your own theater experience somewhere in the lives of the two actors. Fortunately, it also doesn’t offer all of the profanity or women bashing Mamet includes in some of his other works. It doesn’t offer a lot to hold your interest, however, if you’re not involved in the theater (except of course the chance to get to see two of your favorite television stars -- Knight also is known to television audiences for his role on “Grey’s Anatomy.”)

If you are in the industry, you’ll chuckle your way through some of it, see yourself either as the wise veteran or the actor just starting out and groan, probably with empathy, when things go wrong on stage.

A Life in the Theatre runs through Jan. 2 at the Gerald Schoenberg Theatre, 236 West 45th St., NYC. Special discounted tickets are available through Masterwork Productions at http://www.givenik.com/show_info.php/Masterworks/267/individual.

Christians might also like to know:
• Language
• Lord’s name taken in vain

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and the CT Press Club.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.

Copyright

All material is copyright 2008- 2017 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com

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Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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