Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Noir It Are

My review of RTP's "Pulp" is in this week's Style (on newstands this afternoon) but is already available online. Gotta love that Internet (when you have it; ours at home keeps fritzing out, dammit!) If for nothing else, check out the print edition because RTP provided a pretty hot picture from the show (especially if you are a Holly Lucas fan which I know at least one of you is!)

As I mentioned below, my take on this production was different from Ms. Haubenstock's at the T-D in ways that I find interesting. Susan and I have divergent thoughts about many things, I'm sure, but I've found over the years that, not infrequently, we have similar impressions of many productions, even if we don't highlight the same elements. Given that, I'm wondering if this is the kind of production that can come across very differently from night to night -- more so than even the average live theater production.

For instance, Ms. H liked the lights; I thought the spotlight effects missed their mark (both physically and dramatically) almost as often as they hit, which I found distracting. Susan had issues with Ms. Mullins' performance as Terry; I thought she was spot-on, only faltering in the interaction with Ms. Rule's Vivian, something I attribute as much to a curious casting choice as Mullins' work. (Don't get me wrong: I think the world of Ms. Rule, but in my mind, Vivian has to be a bit more va-va-voom to get Terry as hot-n-bothered as she does.)

I thought the timing of the banter was pretty good -- probably just a bit more practiced since opening night. And the songs were disappointing to me but only because with the vocal chops the actresses seem to have, they could have been showstopping. As it was (at my performance at least), the music was nearly inaudible, at least two of the songs were only a minute or two long, and the actresses seemed to be virtually performing a cappella -- a pretty tall order.

Both Ms. H and I seemed to like Ms. Lucas, who Susan vividly describes as "luscious." I, too, thought she was pretty fantastic, though I could not openly leer at her because her boyfriend happened to be sitting in front of me at the show I attended. I look forward to whatever production she lands in next. And the costumes were definitely worthy of particular attention; Susan mentions Bing's red pumps but, in fact, all of the ladies shoes were pretty eye-popping.

I'm sorry I didn't have space to say more about the performances of Renee Coates and Amy Henderson. They both did good jobs but both at times seemed a little awkward, either in their roles or just on stage. With only 300 words, attenuated praise is hard to parce.

One last thing to mention about my night at "Pulp:" I also found myself sitting behind Roy Proctor (okay, technically, I moved over behind him so I could talk to him without shouting across the theater). He seemed in fine spirits, though I did not have a chance to ask him his thoughts on the production afterwards. See: theater critics don't stop being fans just because they stop being critics. I'm thinking that, after I stop writing reviews (which may turn out to be sooner rather than later), I may end up seeing just as many or even more shows.

UPDATE: It occurs to me that I should add that I have no investment in anyone thinking my impression of the show is any more "right" than Ms. H's. If I haven't said it enough before, I find Susan an astute and insightful critic. I guess what I'm trying to get at based on our very different reviews of "Pulp" is how variable live theater can be, on both the giving and receiving end of the performance equation. Nuf said?

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think that most live productions vary widely depending on the audiences. Sometimes, the audiences give the actors no energy and the actors are forced to sometimes try too hard. Other times, the audience gives the actors energy. Other times, the audience simply sucks the energy out of the actors. So, yes, performances do vary greatly.

Angela said...

That's an interesting comment, Anon 3 p.m., and I feel intuitively the truth of it, but I wonder what exactly it means for an audience to "give the actors energy." Can someone put this into words?

Anonymous said...

Theater requires a lot of energy, both physical and mental. If you go out on stage and sing your guts out to the high heavens, and end on a long crescendo, and there's no applause, or the audience claps politely, it literally can "suck" the life right out of you. Why try if you're not getting anything back? Some actors do not care, and do it because of what it brings them emotionally - however, it really is a give-and-take art form - the actor gives to the audience, the audience gives response, and the actor takes that response and feeds off of it. Anyone who would tell you differently is not being completely truthful. A really pumped up, enthusiastic, responsive audience helps the actors to feel validated - that their work is meaningful - that they enjoy what the actors are bringing to the stage. Should actors NEED that from an audience? That's a very debatable topic. However, the way the "sport" is set up is that it's give and take, based on the structure of the play/musical, and certain songs, monologues, etc. are written to elicit a response from an audience. That "energy" an audience gives can feed the energy of a company of actors. Make sense? That'll be $30.00 please!

esoteric79 said...

If an audience is into the show, the actors can feel their enthusiasm. A responsive and attentive and enthusiastic audience can really fuel a performance...one of the thrills of acting in live theatre.

Contrarily, if the audience is subdued or inattentive or unresponsive, it can almost suck the air out of the room for an actor and make their jobs more difficult (and sometimes falter as a result).

Thespis' Little Helper said...

To quote Ms. Neuwirth's response to Dave Letterman's question, "How do you keep it fresh every night?"

Bebe (deadpan, albeit sincere): It's my job.

Holly Lucas fan #2 here and very excited to see the show.

Regarding Ms. Rule's va-va-voom:
I think she's hot shit.
But I haven't seen the show yet.
But in general...she's got va-va-voom to spare.

Angela said...

I guess I mostly go to productions that aren't musicals or comedies. So the give-and-take between performers and audience must be a lot more subtle. Can actors hear little sighs from the house or see the tears in the corners of a hundred eyes?

Jennifer Frank said...

Absolutely, Angela, we can.