Saturday, January 08, 2011
OF MICE AND MEN and INSIDE JOHN MALKOVICH
This is a post that may skitter all over the place so I hope you will bear with me. I saw an incredible production of the play OF MICE AND MEN at a local theater, which managed to make every role shine in a way I've never seen before.
Suddenly I understood the play wasn't just about Lennie and George, but all the folks working at that ranch-each of them isolated because of race, age, intelligence, loneliness, unmet aspirations, sex, size. It was the moment in the theater when a chill comes over you and you know you are seeing something truly special. You know you finally understand a piece of work in a more profound way than before. AMAZING. This play also featured the oldest dog in the world. He had to be helped across the stage, helped up and down. (Is it animal cruelty to force a dog of this age to act?)
And one of the most amazing performances was from the actor playing Lennie.
Okay. Here's the rub.
The performance of the actor playing, Lenny, the guy who wants to tend rabbits (so I don't ruin for anyone who hasn't read it), seemed amazingly like what John Malkovich might be like in that role. So I am thinking to myself: am I inside John Malkovich here? His face, his voice and speech patterns, his gestures. JOHN.
Why does this actor seem so much like him? Back home, I go online and it turns out Malkovich played this part in the nineties and I probably saw it. The actor must have seen this performance too and copied it. Maybe unconsciously, maybe not.
Is this legitimate to you? If you copy another performer's speech patterns and mannerisms almost perfectly, is that acting or miming? I'm not sure. I have heard when roles are replaced on Broadway, the director often wants a performance as much like the original one as possible. Especially if the original actor played it to great acclaim.
But I can't imagine the director saying to this actor, play it like Malkovich did. Get inside his head. What do you think? Should you be able to copy an actor's style to this extent? Should an actor own his style? Have other actors played a part exactly the same way as in an earlier movie or play? Jeff Bridges' Rooseter Cogburn was different from John Wayne's, for instance.
THIS IS NOT TO DETRACT FROM WHAT WAS TRULY A BRILLIANT NIGHT AT THE THEATER FOR ME. I'm just wondering....