Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The "Woulda-Coulda" Sherlock Holmes Review

In order to review Sherlock Holmes: The Last Adventure I would need a program to orient myself with the actors.  As McLeese states, theatre is an “actor’s medium.”  The same production could have been in Grand Rapids that same night, but it would have been different based on the cast of the show. 

With a background on the actors, I will be able to analyze their performance and compare it to a range of their ability (other characters they took on in past productions) or lack there of.  I would also be interested to see if anyone has worked with each other before in a set because this might help me understand some stage dynamics: either awkward interactions or smooth exchanges. 

For example, it seemed like Watson and Sherlock weren’t the most relaxed with each other, whereas Sherlock and other characters such as the King or Irene intermingled comfortably.  Instead of just commenting on Watson’s acting abilities, I would like to know more about him: is he new to Kalamazoo’s Civic Theatre?  Is this a role where he stepped out of his comfort zone? 

McLeese explains that theatre is more comparable to “concerts or dance recitals” as opposed to “film” because “movies remain the same every time it’s shown.  But live performances offer the possibility of differences…each night.”  For this reason, I would consider it wise to go see the performance two times before I write my overall review.  I can still use my “gut reaction” that I had after the first performance, but I also would have done my “research” by comparing the consistency of the two nights and analyzing if the theatre made some critical changes after the prior performance. 

Theatre seems like it is a learning process.  Productions ranging from Shakespeare to not-so-famous play writers such as Ionesco are reproduced throughout time.  It would make sense to compare an old viewing of a similar production in order to understand the director’s flair or the venue’s vibe.  For example, does the director decide to follow a flexible manuscript that changes with modernity, or stick to a rigid original?  Is the vibe of the theatre more of a classic, high chandelier, formal setting to match with the latter style of the director?  Since there are adaptations out there, I would think it best to use all of the resources available.  For all the audience member knows, the play could be perfectly fine but the acting was abysmal, or vice versa.  By comparing more than one production, the review would be more reliable.

I have been to the theatre quite a few times in my childhood; I have even been on the stage a handful of times.  It was kind of bizarre at first, walking into a formal theatre setting with an empty auditorium. It was difficult to put myself in the mindset that I was out to see a production.  Even though the beginning may have started off a little bit slow, I soon fell into my typical, zombie like trance (I cannot EVER take my eyes off of a television screen) towards the middle-end of the first Act.  It seemed like my mind and those of the actors were in sync, we started off not really “in character” to go see a play or to perform one, and then as we got more comfortable throughout the evening we embraced our respective roles.

McLeese also notes that important elements of the show are “lighting, staging, pacing, sets, costumes,” and while I am not too familiar with this technical vocabulary, if I were to have seen the production twice, I could make more of an assertion regarding the effect of these characteristics.  Also with a comparison, I would be able to witness the critical eye of the director and his or her effect on the show, because I would know if an error was corrected from the night before.

For me, film reviews seem to be more challenging than a theatre review.  Film, as McLeese mentions, never changes.  It has an infinite amount of “takes” to perfect its image and the actor, director, set-coordinator all sort of blend together as one.  However for a theatre production, all eyes are on the actor, from the front row to the nose bleed section.  This is a lot more pressure on the talent of the actor; he or she cannot rely on a scene “cut” until the curtain falls.

When reviewing theatre, I would be mindful that Broadway productions and downtown plays are different, just like small-budget documentary films and Hollywood blockbusters.  The role as a theatre critic versus a film critic involves more of the feeling aroused by the actors, the interactions between the actors and the environment of the performance, and in a film review, direct relations to the venue or interaction between characters would not be as effective because of the physical detachedness from the actors and the audience.   

Theatre adds an extra layer of excitation to the experience because actors only have one chance for each line.  If they have a brain freeze or stumble on a prop, they have to work through it and maintain composure and character.  In theatre, actors do not have the luxury to request a Venti decaf, 2 shots of espresso, skim, blended with ice every time they need a break; the only break they get is “a leg.”

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic analysis using McLeese as a springboard, Mara. Unfortunately, a theatre critic only gets one impression/viewing and often isn't privy to the actors' respective bodies of work unless they're working in large cities/reviewing professional theatre and/or have been working in the same town and witnessing the actors' work firsthand.