Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern

Orson's Shadow

Also see John's review of God is Crazy About You!

Daniel Lugo, Truth, Peter Zaragoza, Kathryn Bain, Ron Bruni; seated: P.J. King
The Edge Theatre presents the dark backstage comedy Orson's Shadow by playwright Austin Pendleton. The play originally opened in 2000 in Chicago at Steppenwolf. From there it went on to run Off-Broadway at the Barrow Street Theatre, beginning on March 13, 2005 and closing the following December 31. Pendleton is the former director of the Circle Repertory Theatre. His other plays include Booth and Uncle Bob. He has also directed numerous productions on and Off-Broadway including Elizabeth Taylor in The Little Foxes, and the world premiere of Say Goodnight Gracie.

Orson's Shadow is set in 1960, when Orson Welles directed Sir Laurence Olivier and his soon-to-be wife Joan Plowright in Eugene Ionesco's play Rhinoceros at the Royal Court Theatre in London. Theatre critic Kenneth Tynan brings together the considerable talents of Orson Welles and Sir Lawrence Olivier in an attempt to create what he believes will be a memorable artistic endeavor. However, the process is colored by the equally considerable egos and neuroses of both men.

In 1960, though courting Joan Plowright, Sir Lawrence Olivier was still married to famed Hollywood actress Vivien Leigh, whom he was to divorce later that year. In the late '50s Vivien Leigh had already sustained a severe mental breakdown for which she was hospitalized, and she suffered from mental illness for the rest of her life. Vivien's surprise visit to their rehearsals sets them on edge, the emotional turmoil of the situation only emphasizing her manic behavior. They manage to get through it all as "the play is the thing." And our play ends with a brief narrative by Joan Plowright on the final days of each of our famed characters.

Actress Truth captures the centered serenity that is Joan Plowright. P. J. King as Olivier is at times uncanny. He is wonderful in a well-written second act scene in which Olivier fumbles through his acting process finding his character in Rhinoceros. Peter Zaragoza does a decent job looking and sounding like Orson Welles, but focuses so much on the deep resonance of Orson's voice that his phrases become stilted. Ron Bruni successfully creates an English gentleman in his portrayal of critic Kenneth Tynan. Kathryn Bain has enough of the lovely facial angles and attitude to remind one of Vivien Leigh, but is missing her tenderness. Miss Bain is tall and lithe, and her stature actually plays against her as she seems less fragile.

The play itself is in need of trimming in the second act. The manic behavior of Vivien Leigh is awkwardly written. It is troublesome enough to portray the vulnerable and volatile nature of Miss Leigh's illness. The choices of the manifestation of her illness seem random. The first scene of the play unnecessarily features Kenneth Tynan taking of his damp shirt. A refined Englishmen in 1960 in rainy season with no undershirt? At its current location, the show has minimal lighting design, though its set translates well. Especially for those who recall their work, this visit to the backstage lives and loves of such famed actors, who were in themselves such characters, is a treat.

The Edge Theatre is presenting Orson's Shadow from January 13th - January 22nd, 2006 at ArtServe in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. ArtServe is located in the Broward County Library at 1350 East Sunrise Blvd.. Orson's Shadow will then appear at the Main Street Playhouse from January 27th - February 5th, 2006. The Main Street Playhouse is located at 6766 Main Street in Miami Lakes, FL.

The Edge Theatre is a professional theatre company that has been in existence since 1995. Since then it has produced 120 plays, and is the recipient of the Curtain Up Award for Best Progressive, Innovative Theatre in the Tri-county area. It's mission is to produce both neglected works of established playwrights, and develop new talent in South Florida by finding new playwrights. For information on Orson's Shadow or the rest of their season, you may contact the Edge Theatre at 954/ 733-8735 or online at edge

Photo: Peter Zaragoza

Stagehand Sean: Daniel Lugo
Kenneth Tynan: Ron Bruni
Orson Welles: Peter Zaragoza
Sir Lawrence Olivier: P. J. King
Joan Plowright: Truth
Vivien Leigh: Kathryn Bain
Stagehand Patrick / Stage Manager: Kevin Mercurio

Director: Jim Tommaney
Costumes / Props: Shirley Pringle
Stage Manager: Kevin Mercurio

See the current theatre season schedule for southern Florida.

-- John Lariviere

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