"Acting is rhythm." Those words from an acting teacher decades past continue to resonate with me. Watching The Lord's Lover this week they rose again into consciousness.
Acting is rhythm.
We know a parrot isn't talking when he (or she) says words. Even if the words themselves join together into cogent sentences. Not even if said words are beautiful or wise. Why not? Because what we mean gives a flow, a pattern, a rhythm to words in genuine speech. Hence a dear friend can say "You bastard" and have it come out as an endearment. Or those who've experienced love tend to be least easily fooled when someone lies, saying "I love you."
The rhythm of genuine communication leads us to the difference between talking and saying words.
So much of the art of theatre consists of finding that rhythm. Theatre, being artificial, often finds tricks to achieve this. One of the earliest is with style. Metered verse for example can serve as an anchor, and good actors who learn how to 'ride' such verse can move with it into emotional truth. Juliet Annerino, the singer behind The Lord's Lover (she wrote and produced it) demonstrates this throughout the show. She can sing--not only carry a tune but reach out and share her heart. The artificial nature of lyrics (unnatural speech on par with poetry) and of making her voice part of the music don't get in the way of communicating with us. Just the opposite!
Odds are, that took some time to learn. But the results show. I can recommend her performance and voice without any hesitation.
The rest of the show is a mess. A promising mess, one that manages to entertain and move now and then, but suffers considerably in comparison with Ms. Annerino's singing. Or, to be brutally frank, against most professional theatre. With perhaps one or two exceptions, the cast all demonstrate real talent. Only a few did not eventually grab my attention. A few times I was moved.
But frankly the text is written in a daunting style. The vast majority of it consists of monologues, in which the cast members involved without exception spoke to the open air. Not for a second did I believe in them, because not for a second did I believe in their audience--to whom were they speaking? Frankly this is a trap in many stylized plays, especially verse plays or Shakespeare. To whom is Hamlet speaking? The answer is--the audience. His companions and intimates. Just as Richard III makes them his co-conspirators. Much of The Lord's Lover has these two people describing different aspects of their relationship in long monologues. Never until they actually had some one to physically look upon and speak to did either one seem to be actually talking. Both recited. Gave line readings. Played a mood instead of communicating something for a personal reason to do so. What made this most frustrating (in retrospect) was a simple answer lay before them all the time--each addressed their therapist! We learn that at the end. But without that awareness, they might as well have been parrots.
But give them an acting partner and both did fine. Not great, but fine.
The playing of attitude and mood pervaded the show, so much so I cringed whenever the man playing God entered. The idea was fine, even a little bit inspired--God as a Master of Ceremonies, half D.J. half Canival barker. Bravo! But mugging and lots of energy can only enhance a purpose, a motivation, a real desire brought to life by the actor. They cannot substitute for it.
At the same time, let us give praise where due. Nearly the entire cast sooner or later made a real connection, shared a real moment with the audience. Many the show I've seen that never accomplished that. "Bermuda Love Triangle" was a borderline brilliant vignette (albeit under-rehearsed). "Second Coming, Last Call" got my attention and interest, keeping it. And the very ending of the show, revealing the truth about the two young lovers we'd followed, centered around a nice touch.
In the end, I was glad to have watched the show, but my frustrations at it still gnaw. Why didn't the singer ever interact with these scenes? Did the message of several scenes have to be SO heavy-handed? And so on...
The Lord's Lover plays Wednesday nights at 8:30pm at "Los Globos" is at 3040 W. Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90026. You can get tickets right here.