Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Life in the Theatre @ Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre

A Life in the Theatre, written by famed play write David Mamet, tells the story of two actors from completely different generations. We watch as they struggle to work together both on and off stage. A Life in the Theatre is a very interesting piece of theatre; however, it does not exactly work.

A Life in the Theatre stars two extremely talented actors that appear to be very restricted on stage by the script, scene changes, costume changes, and all around choppiness of the play as a whole. The first of these two actors is Patrick Stewart, known by most from his work on "Star Trek" and "X-Men." Steward plays Robert, an older actor that is on his way out. While Steward has several beautiful serious moments throughout the play, his comedic lines and timing felt forced and over the top. The second actor was T.R. Knight, known for his work on the hit television series "Grey’s Anatomy." Knight plays John, a younger actor who is just beginning his long career in the theatre. Knight fell way short of where he needed to be. He was often dull and unresponsive to the action going on around him. Also, the chemistry between these two actors was very awkward; at times it was uncomfortable to watch. It was upsetting that after sitting through a 90 minute play, one never forgot that it was Steward and Knight up on that stage. It was never for one second believed that they were actually Robert and John. This is a perfect case of how two great actors do not always equal one great play.

A Life in the Theatre had some problems in the technical side as well. While Mamet is arguably one of the best play writes of this generation, this play will not go down as one of his bests. The play was extremely choppy and had no major conflict. The audience never had a chance to connect to a scene because the lack of problems and shortness of the scenes made it close to impossible. Under the direction of Neil Pepe, the many scene changes were wonderfully choreographed using stage hands to move all of the set pieces. While this was a neat concept, after a while it began to become overbearing and took away from the story that was trying to be told. With a scenic design by Santo Loquasto, lighting design by Kenneth Posner, and costume design by Laura Bauer, A Life in the Theatre was a beautiful sight to watch, but fell short in many areas. The scenic design, while over all stunning, could have been more realistic. More could have been done to represent a backstage space other than a few stairs, a sink, and a ghost light. The lighting design that covered the back wall to represent what an actor sees when looking into an audience was stunning; however, it fell short for the rest of the play. Basic “lights up and lights down” lighting is nice, but after a while becomes boring. The many costumes were wonderful; however, with no fault to Bauer, there were simply too many costume changes, therefore, making the audience tired of seeing the costumes instead of excited to see her wonderful work.

Over all, A Life in the Theatre fell short of many expectations. If you are looking for a modern comedy and you love Stuart and/or Knight, then this play may be worth it; however, for everyone else, I would not recommend A Life in the Theatre. If you really want to know what the life of an actor is like, simply ask one of the stars at the stage door. They will probably put it in better terms that Mamet ever could.

Review By: James Russo & Ryan Oliveti

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