Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Beauty and Wrap-ups

If you missed it, a review of “Xmas Carol for Two Actors” was in Sunday’s paper.

It’s always interesting during the holiday season when the overviews about the year that was come out. We are reminded of gaffes and scandals that now seem like ancient history (Anthony Weiner!) and we are very nearly forced to reflect on the good and the bad of the previous 12 months. I appreciate that Entertainment Weekly chose to recognize a challenging work like “Sleep No More” while also joining the chorus of praise for “Book of Mormon.” The NY Times had two wrap-ups, Brantley’s including several shows you’d expect. I like Isherwood’s largely because of the core message of his piece, summed up as “…while most of the media attention and dollars continue go to the overhyped fare that is more branded entertainment than art, American playwriting that strives to tell subtler if less handily marketable truths is in surprisingly strong shape.”

In the past, I’ve been chided when I comment on the physical beauty of someone in a show. Apparently, this somehow treads into the subjective/objective territory – opening up a critic to the criticism that “he/she only likes shows with pretty girls/boys in it…” Or maybe a critic is only supposed to notice acting ability without any attention given to the actual physicality of the actor. Given that an actor’s body and all of its components are the primary tools he/she has to do their job, this seems a little disingenuous.

There is no escaping the fact that acting is a profession where the way someone looks is one of the most – oftentimes THE most – reason that person is cast (contrary opinions? Let me hear ‘em!) So the question arises, does an actor’s looks become a valid talking point in a review? Personally, I know there are times I have to reflect on whether I liked an actor’s performance because of what they did or how they looked or the magic alchemy between form and function. How much of that should I put in my review?

For Sycamore Rouge’s “Picasso in the Lapin Agile,” I thought the two female leads were/are stunning. I mentioned this in my blog post, but I don’t know if I would have included those kinds of comments in a published review. Somehow I don’t want any actress to be discounted as “just a pretty face,” particularly when her acting is as compelling as Mrs. White’s or Ms. Kuykendall’s was.

I think the attractiveness of the “Picasso” cast made more impact on me than it might have otherwise because of it being a bar show where I could see the actors very up close. Part of the magic of theater is that, sometimes, people who are reasonably attractive in person seem absolutely stunning on stage. Does that somehow mean these people are better actors because the force of their performance is so strong you think they are better looking than they really are?

Beyond “Picasso,” I’m also thinking about this issue because I think the whole beauty thing can cut both ways. My industrious son has been up for parts where we have gotten the impression that what the casting director was looking for was someone a little quirky or distinctive looking, a boy who wasn’t quite so ‘pretty.’ I remember hearing that one of the reasons people like Julia Roberts is that she isn’t a perfect beauty and so therefore more relatable. And that actresses like Charlize Theron haven’t always been taken seriously because they are too beautiful.

In many ways, it’s unfortunate that physical beauty plays such a big part in the acting world. But this is also a good time of year to remember that, while what you look like on the outside may play a part in your success, what you are like on the inside will be what determines whether you are happy or not. Perhaps a little trite but not any less true for being so.

Speaking of the season, this will be my second-to-last post of the year. Tonight is the first night of Hanukkah and tomorrow I will plunge headfirst into the joy and fervent family time of the holidays. But I will take time out enough to post a link to my rave review of “Frog and Toad” which damn well better run in Style this week. Happy holidays, y’all!

1 comment:

philcrosby said...

Dave -- I wish you had been at "The Holiday Stops" to enjoy the many 'Hanukkah carols' the show contained. "What Child Is This Anyway" .... "Maury Had a Bubbe" ... "God Rest Ye Merry Gentile Men" ...

Have a wonderful holiday! See you in the New Year!