Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
The Director: The Third Act of Elia Kazan
Also see Susan's report on The 2007 Helen Hayes Awards
Playwright Leslie A. Kobylinski, who also directed the 70-minute piece, places the prominent stage and film director Elia Kazan (1909-2003) in a neutral space where he reviews his long career. Beginning with the politically active Group Theatre in the 1930s, Kazan became known for his work with actors and his legendary work on plays including A Streetcar Named Desire and Death of a Salesman. His movies included Oscar-winners On the Waterfront and Gentleman's Agreement, as well as the film adaptation of A Streetcar Named Desire.
However, Kazan's notoriety comes from something beyond his career as a visionary director, a founder of the Actors Studio and a proponent of the Stanislavski acting style known as The Method. He was a member of the Communist Party for a year and a half while in the Group Theatre, and in 1952 the House Committee on Un-American Activities called on him to name other Communists. Kobylinski's writing, and especially Foucheux's anguished performance, show how Kazan's decision to "name names" which haunted the man for the rest of his long life was in no way an easy calculation to save a career at the expense of others. "Why can't we just say what we believe in?" asks Foucheux as Kazan, restating his belief that artists must be the bearers of truth.
As Kazan recounts the stories of his past, Foucheux conjures up the voices and facial expressions of those around him: his stern father and doting mother; his first wife, who stood by him until her death; many of his co-workers in the theater; and the inquisitors on the House committee. In this space, Kazan is not rationalizing his behavior in a strict sense; he is attempting to set the record straight.
Grant Kevin Lane's austere production design and, especially, Justin Thomas' lighting design set Foucheux in high relief. Composer Steve McWilliams and sound designer Matthew M. Nielson bring the viewer inside Kazan's head, showing the world from his perspective.
Round House Theatre