I went to see some friends tonight in a curious play by Austin Pendleton called "Orson's Shadow." It's set in 1960. Orson Welles is in Scotland, appearing in his play about Falstaff to empty houses. He is approached to direct a production of Eugene Ionesco's "Rhinoceros," starring Laurence Olivier and Joan Plowright and accepts, despite believing that Olivier ruined his Hollywood career because his "MacBeth" was unfavorably compared to the Shakespearean films directed by Olivier. Meanwhile, Olivier is having his own issues; carrying on an affair with Plowright (whom he would later marry), while trying to delicately leave his beloved, but unbalanced, Vivien Leigh. Larry also has some major issues with the play, itself. A classically trained actor, he can't figure how to play modern absurdism and is further frustrated by Plowright's apparent ease in doing so.
"Orson's Shadow" is a fascinating take on several topics, least of all, the real-life drama behind the scenes of producing a play. Anyone who has ever been a part of a live theatre production knows exactly what I am talking about. But it also talks about failed relationships, floundering careers, desperation and the creative process. All of which, tied in nicely with the "Wired" event I attended last night.
Needless to say, I was worn out by the end of "Orson's Shadow." And while I wanted to stay and talk to my friends about the show, I was simply not up to it. I said "Hi," and told them I enjoyed it, then quietly slipped away to come home and write about it and see if that helped me sort out all the things my theatre weekend was about. Maybe by the time I start auditioning actors for the show I am directing in the spring, I'll have figured it out. Or not.