Friday, November 16, 2012

Consummate actor plays consummate actor

A few years ago Christopher Plummer was a great success on Broadway as John Barrymore in an almost-one-man show.  The success was reprised earlier this year in Toronto and, after a short run, filmed, as it appeared on stage -- with some filmic additions.  The film version was shown in selected art cinemas yesterday, including at our own Cape Cinema.  With only the addition of a slight mustache, a double breasted suit with a 1940s cut and a fedora -- and later on the tights and paraphrenalia of Richard II, Plummer became Barrymore supposedly having rented a middle sized legitimate theatre for a final stage appearane, a one-man show in which he would mostly recite the great moments of Richard II.  As playwright Wm. Luce imagined it, this was not strictly a one-man show because an off stage prompter, named Frank, was very much present, both as helper and as goad trying to keep the meandering actor on point.  But, of course, as with such one-man shows, Barrymore renamised about family, wives, past successes and his aging, alcohol addled mind produced silly songs, jokes, poems and bits from other Shakespearean plays. 

Although Luce was not entirely sure handed (he has Frank exasperatedly suggesting Barrymore try AA -- which was not formed until after Barrymore was dead), Plummer was unerringly wonderful.  The emotions ranged from fey to deeply poignant, from witty to truly grand. His smallest gestures, his pauses and vocal subtlties were an example of what a truly great actor can do ... even in his 80s. I have fallen in love with Christopher Plummer over and over again since The Sound of Music and I am in love with him once more ...  and in love with the art that is great acting.

2 comments:

FOLKWAYS NOTEBOOK said...

What a great review. The wonderful production, like you describe, probably left you with a lighter step as you left the theater. Another good example of choosing the right place to match your interests. -- barbara

June Calender said...


Thank you, Barbara, yes, I'm in the right place. Barrymore's life was full of angst and ended with regrets so I lived those feeling. They remained but very much mixed with my gratitude for the brilliance of Plummer's performance. Seeing fine art, of whatever sort, fills me with gratitude and wonder.