I mentioned back here that my friend David Rintels had written a one-man play years back in 1974, Clarence Darrow, that Henry Fonda starred in on Broadway. And Kevin Spacey, the outgoing artistic director of The Old Vic theatre in London was going to perform it. I thought I'd update things for you.
Besides, I like saying nice things behind people's backs. Especially when their friends, such terrific people, and really deserve them.
I spoke with David yesterday who had reason to be in London anyway and saw the play twice. He said that Spacey was tremendous. He also commented, to his great surprise, that he always thought Henry Fonda had given the definitive performance, but that Spacey was every bit his equal. Though it was two completely different interpretations. Spacey was aggressive, while Fonda was introspective.
Nice too is that Spacey interrupted the thunderous curtain call cheers to say what an honor it was for him to introduce the play's author in the audience. David said that he stood and got very nice applause ( -- the only time, he said, that he'd likely ever get a standing ovation...)
Anyway, I'm thrilled for him.
The Old Vic theatre isn't very big, and the review were so glowing that David heard that some scalpers were getting upwards of $1,000 a ticket.
(Beyond the acclaim for his performance, Spacey gained notoriety for something else in did on stage. As the Daily Mail reported: "During a scene in which his character is on trial, defending himself, Spacey was addressing the audience with a passionate plea for his innocence, when a mobile phone began ringing in that section.The music got louder and louder as the guilty party tried to look innocent, until Spacey finally snapped, in character shouting: 'If you don’t answer that, I will!' He received a round of applause.")
But as for the actual play, here are excerpts of some of the reviews --
From The Guardian --
Kevin Spacey gives a big, barnstorming performance as the famed American lawyer, Clarence Darrow. But that is entirely appropriate for a man who was a fervent champion of the poor and oppressed and of whom it was once said, after he had been accused of corruption: "Darrow doesn't bribe juries: he just frightens them to death."
Spacey has been here before. He played Darrow in a 1991 PBS film and, on stage at the Old Vic, in a 2009 production of Inherit the Wind. But David W Rintels's one-man play, first performed by Henry Fonda, makes different demands in that Darrow is looking back over his entire life. And, in the Old Vic's new configuration, Spacey is having to perform in the round.
He does this magnificently. His Darrow has a slight stoop and sagging walk as if his knees were buckling under the weight of his moral indignation. But the dominant impression is one of ferocious energy as Spacey roams around the cluttered law-office set and periodically bursts out of its confines to eyeball members of the audience.
From The Sunday Telegraph --
Now, as he prepares to hand over to the new artistic director, Matthew Warchus, he delivers a thrilling solo turn as the great American defence lawyer Clarence Darrow. He is clearly fascinated by the character, having already played him in an American TV film and in Trevor Nunn’s production of Inherit the Wind at the Old Vic, a play about the Scopes “Monkey” trial in which a teacher was prosecuted for teaching the theory of evolution in the American Bible belt.
Here, however, Spacey is entirely alone on stage and playing in the Old Vic’s dramatically reconfigured in-the-round auditorium. How can one actor possibly hope to engage in this big house with an audience that completely surrounds him? Inevitably he must have his back turned to a large section of the audience at any one time.
The answer is that Spacey prowls round the stage like a battered old prize fighter, constantly on the move as he buttonholes members of the audience, and radiates a charisma and a dramatic attack that is often spellbinding. There are moments when he seems to be speaking just to you. It is inevitably a somewhat shouty performance, as Spacey has to make himself heard all round the house, but the sheer energy and attack of this tour-de-force is exhilarating.
From The Daily Express --
Kevin Spacey leaves The Old Vic after 10 years with a pitch-perfect performance as the legendary American lawyer who made his name championing the underdog
Movie star, stage actor and everyone’s favourite American-in-London, Kevin Spacey bows out of his 10 year tenure at The Old Vic with a virtuoso performance as influential American lawyer and civil libertarian Clarence Darrow.
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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