Wednesday, September 2, 2009

some after thoughts on Jeffrey Hartgraves' Carved in Stone

(clockwise from below: Quentin Crisp, Tennessee Williams and Oscar Wilde) and Truman Capote (not pictured) find themselves alive and onstage once more in Hartgraves' Carved in Stone, which played its final performance Saturday, September 5 at Theatre Asylum on Theatre Row in Hollywood.
I did not see the play before closing night, but I wish I had. Although my actor's intuition tells me I probably saw the best performance of the 3-month run. It will remain a CRITIC'S PICK despite its closure.
Carved is one of those pieces that is so terribly witty and intelligent that you must see it more than once to appreciate it fully. I can only hope for its eventual return. Jeffrey Hartgraves wrote from the heart about those literary giants that have affected us all. And he painted them with such delicacy and detail! Of course, he could remember Williams, Capote and Crisp, but he certainly did not live in Wilde's time, and yet he seemed to capture him so perfectly as well, at least according to the pictures I've seen and his brilliant use of words.
What a cast! Jesse Merlin as Oscar Wilde spoke the language so beautifully that I can forgive his character's oversized pomposity. He was such fun to watch, denying his own homosexual interests, yet turning his chair to the perfect angle to ogle the young writer every time he had the chance. Leon Acord as Quentin Crisp looked and postured himself so completely like the Naked Civil Servant that even before opening his mouth it was uncanny! Kevin Remington presented an exact replica of Truman Capote in speech and movement - and was so terribly funny with the stories! Curt Bonnem was totally at ease with Tennessee Williams, a complicated mess of a man whose genius was incomparable. He always said what he wanted to say, drunk or sober, and had a ball whilst doing it. Bonnem carried it all off with panache! Levi Damione made a forthright Gryphon Tott, the fledgling author with still so much to learn about himself and others. Amanda Abel and Alex Egan were sheer delight as a variety of characters dropping by like Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, Judy Garland, Bette Davis and the Bard himself William Shakespeare.
What makes the play so appealing is its ability to show the characters at their best-and also at their worst. Constantly browbeating each other or, as Wilde so appropriately called it "fencing", they prove that when put together in the same room, writers never listen. But, nonetheless, they are all seeking the root of art, and regardless of the inspiration that guided them, they all have ideas and dreams worth reading or listening to. Where does fact leave off and fiction begin? It doesn't matter, as the truth is subjective. It's all relative.
Apart from the intelligence of the writing is that the play is basically a wonderfully amusing entertainment. It gives all famous writers the hope that they can continue to pontificate and entertain in an after life, if, indeed, that after life does really exist.
Praise to John Pabros Clark for his sterling direction, to the entire ensemble, and, once again to Jeffrey Hartgraves for his brilliant depictions of these legends. May he be cavorting with his idols this very minute in the great beyond, wherever that may be!
5 out of 5 stars


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