Monday, February 15, 2010

Little Misdirection

As I may have mentioned, I'm acting this month in Murder On The Nile, an Agatha Christie murder mystery. I play William Smith, the eccentric communist who hates rich people. Kind of a weak motive but that just makes me a more likely suspect, n'est-pas?

Christie presents an interesting acting challenge. In most plays I consider it my job to convey information, to illuminate the plot in a dozen subtle ways so that the intention of the playwrite is made clear. Of course, you can't be too obvious about this but the point is you're finding ways to help the playwrite tell the story.

However, this is a murder mystery, where the point is to short-circuit the audience's ability to guess the ending. If you illuminate what's really going on, you're wrecking the play. So here my job is to be true to the character but convey whatever I can to NOT illuminate the playwrite's intention. Maybe this is why you don't see a lot of method actors doing Christie - they see their job as to be true to the character and don't care about messing with the audience. That's someone else's job.

INSPECTOR: So Mr. Kowalski, you say you loved Miss Cosgrove?

STANLEY KOWALSKI: (glowers angrily) Oh to hell with it. Take me in. Bitch had it coming! (spreads arms, cries to the sky as if to God himself) Stella!

INSPECTOR: (nonplussed) Well! Uh... alright, the rest of you can leave. (EARLY CURTAIN)

The play has been useful to me in the sense that it's sharpened my ability to underplay. The less you put out, the less you give away! I'm auditioning for Moss Hart's Light Up the Sky tonight, a play about the opening of a play. Possibly have to overplay this one. The last thing a backstage comedy needs is realism.

No comments:

Post a Comment