Backstage camaraderie, the sharing of ideas and make-up brushes, critiquing that night’s performance, rehearsing a new play, quick costume and wig changes, some bickering, some jealousy, some swordplay and lots and lots of laughter are what David Mamet, in his mellow younger period as playwright circa 1977, strove for and accomplished mightily in his charming and bittersweet ode to the actor and his craft “A Life in the Theatre” which has recently opened revival and you should make every effort to see at The Schoenfeld – 236 West 45th Street.
Two actors, one just beginning – a formidable T.R. Knight as John who holds his own with the other thespian who has been there and done that repeatedly for fifty years, the magnificent Patrick Stewart as Robert share with us in a series of short scenes various aspects of what it is to be an actor from the actor’s perspective.
It is a serious, playful, loving and intimate look into their lives on stage and off that will have you hysterical at the missed cues and forgotten lines one moment and the next understanding the loneliness that pervades the profession.
Much of the plays within the play (mostly amusingly bad, illustrating what actors must sometimes endure to pay the rent) are performed facing upstage to a tiered theatre that is majestically designed as a mirror reflection of the theatre we are sitting in and so we see what makes the magic on stage work from a backstage vantage point. Witness the rocking boat scene.
One wonders what it would be like done on a smaller scale. There seem to be as many stagehands as there are producers. With the price of tickets today an audience wants and deserves spectacle. And so director, Neil Pepe has opted for a grand production which is executed to perfection by scenic designer Santo Loquasto, lighting designer Kenneth Posner, and costumes by Laura Bauer.
It’s wonderful seeing two such accomplished actors that complement each other so well and that have such an easy going yet professional rapport. What fun they must have performing this show. Both Patrick Stewart and T.R. Knight will certainly be nominated for numerous well deserved awards for sharing the tools of their trade so admirably.
Photo: Carol Rosegg