Austin Pendleton's fascinating and entertaining play uses the 1960 London rehearsals of a production of Ionesco's Rhinoceros as the context for an exploration of celebrity vs. artistry, survival vs. self-destruction, and most of all, betrayal of others vs. betrayal of one's artistic gifts. It's a backstage story of celebrities: Orson Welles (Robert Machray), whose career has waned, is directing Laurence Olivier (Martin Jarvis) in Ionesco and longing for the money to do a film about Shakespeare's Falstaff. The superb vocal performances of the entire cast make for an enthralling listening experience. Robert Machray and Martin Jarvis are uncanny at capturing the sounds and rhythms of Welles's and Olivier's memorable voices and at bringing these giants to life.
Starring (in alphabetical order):
Caroline Goodall as Joan Plowright
Glenne Headly as Vivien Leigh
Martin Jarvis as Laurence Olivier
Robert Machray as Orson Welles
Orlando Seale as Sean
Simon Templeman as Kenneth Tynan
© Austin Pendleton; (P)2003 L.A. Theatre Works
A fine production of a play about actors and the artistic process. It covers the challenging effort to work together by two of the 20th Century's great stage talents--Orson Welles and Laurence Olivier--in the absurdist playwright Ionesco's "Rhinoceros." The actors do a wonderful job--I particularly enjoyed Martin Jarvis's fine reproduction of Olivier's voice and intonations. The only weak link is Gleane Headley's brave but essentially unsuccessful attempt to evoke Vivien Leigh, which I admit is an almost impossible task. Altogether, however, this production is a fine effort that is highly enjoyable. Movie and stage buffs (particularly of the 1940s thru '60s) will have the most fun.
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