Regional Reviews: San Francisco
Talk Is Cheap ... Dreams Are Priceless
Talk Is Cheap features videos of students acting out various scenes. Meisner criticizes the acting almost to the point of being brutal in his remarks. Several of the filmed students break down crying, but they get no sympathy from him. This production is wonderful if you are an actor, actress or an aficionado of legitimate theatre. I doubt if it would be anyone else's cup of tea.
The presentation opens with a projection stating it is New York City, 1955, the first day of class. Meisner says to the audience, "So you all want to be actors - well, we shall see." He says that less than one percent of the world's population must entertain the other ninety-nine percent. He warns that making a living as an actor is like trying to sell your poetry door to door. "You should take a vow of poverty," counsels the teacher. He asks, "Why are you doing this", "Why do you really want to be an actor", and "Can you stay the course even if you are tired of being a waitress or a cab driver?" The stern teacher says it takes courage and stamina to be an actor, and it takes twenty years of acting to make you a good actor. You will make mistakes during your career but you will learn from those mistakes.
Meisner blasts Hollywood acting; thousands of young persons come to Hollywood to try acting, but all they are interested in is becoming rich and famous and having a large swimming pool. He chastises persons like Jimmy Stewart and Gary Cooper for not being real actors. He also has no kind words for college-trained actors, especially if these groups are presenting classic plays like Shakespeare or Chekhov. It seems that this "genius" criticizes everything, including the Lee Strasberg Method school of acting. He concludes the first act by saying that each actor must overcome his/her fears of his own personal being and not care what others think about him/her. The audience is given a stern warning when Sanford says there is a fifteen minute break and you better be back in your seats then.
Talk is Cheap's shorter second act takes place around 1993 and consists mostly of actors doing their thing on the video screen. Jarrett has made an amazing transformation to depict the teacher as an old, ill man. He sounds like Henry Fonda in On Golden Pond. Once again, Meisner is the intimidating teacher chastising the actors. During one of the film scenes, we see a blues singer named Holly doing a heart wrenching number that goes on much too long. Sanford gives her an A+ for acting as well as singing. The last video scene of two men arguing over nothing also goes on to become a boring scene. However, the teacher likes it.
The teacher concludes his lecture by saying that actors must always be truthful, even under imaginary circumstance. The most important word for an actor who is playing a part is "Why" (am I playing the part). A good actor must be a highly sensitive human being and have a vivid imagination and a freaky ability to concentrate on what he is doing on stage.
At the end of the performance you know a great deal about The Meisner Technique. Talk is Cheap ... Dreams Are Priceless plays through August 27 at the Magic Theatre, Fort Mason Center, Building D, Laguna at Marina Blvd. San Francisco. For tickets call 415-441-8822 or go online to www.magictheatre.org.