The Shadow of Greatness
You Took a tremendous chance walking through that door. You've heard of obsessed fans stalking their idol? I could turn the tables right here, right now! The idol stalking his fan!
-- Alan Perry the man over whose life "the shadow of greatness" hovers"
And turn the tables he does. But there's a fatal flaw immediately evident in the playwright's table turning game.
(Photo: Richard Feldman )
There might just be enough obsessed fans out there to stalk the trim and handsome as ever Richard Chamberlain who plays Alan Perry, but the idea applied to a theater playwright is patently absurd. Granted, an occasional odd man out in this profession might earn enough royalties to support a townhouse on New York's Beekman Place. However, even the most devoted theater fan will be hard put to believe that a contemporary American playwright would attract legions of fans on the order of those who might obsess over a film or rock star, maybe an occasional best-selling novelist. Gary Socol, who himself has done most of his writing for the small screen, further asks you to believe that such obsessive devotees would memorize their idol's every line and, whether male or female, be eager to jump into his bed should the opportunity arise.
The plot is designed around a meeting, instigated by the celebrity playwright in order to teach three of his most devoted fans and penpals, to get lives of their own instead of latching onto him and his words. As becomes instantly obvious, Perry himself isn't exactly a poster child for mental health. His celebrity is rapidly fading and his personal life a disaster. But as his last two plays have flopped, so this little exercise in setting up a dramatic situation is doomed from the first ring of the doorbell. It doesn't take a genius to see that Perry's guests will turn the tables on him and teach him a few lessons.
Sad to say, this story about misguided attitudes towards celebrity, with the added theme of learning to deal with loss, doesn't have enough sizzle for even its celebrity star and his very capable colleagues to make us suspend disbelief. Not that Perry's party doesn't have its moments. Most of them belong to Jan Maxwell who gives a knockout performance as a reformed substance abuser whose grief over a lost loved one enables her to help Perry get a grip on his self-destructive ways of dealing with the loss of his one and only love. Maxwell's Roxanne is so poignant that you're almost persuaded that she and Perry could have a future.
Kellie Overbey and Ross Gibby do their best with the clichéd other guest roles -- she as a depressed would-be actress and he a homosexual would-be playwright. There's also has a smattering of funny, smartly delivered dialogue, a townhouse (by Rob Odorisio) that any New Yorker would kill for and some surprise gimmicks (e.g. a deadly knife that isn't, a straight jacket that's not as confining as it looks). None of it is enough to keep us entertained for two hours as director Martin Rabbett (who, like the playwright, works mostly in television) conducts the party games with a steady but often too undramatically slow tempo.
In a season of high caliber productions, this Berkshire Theatre Festival party is disappointingly underwhelming. When it's over we're left with little to discuss, except perhaps reminiscing about all the roles in which we've seen and enjoyed Richard Chamberlain.
|THE SHADOW OF GREATNESS
By Gary Socol
Directed by Martin Rabbett
Cast (in order of appearance): Richard Chamberlain, Kellie Overbey, Jan Maxwell, Ross Gibby and voice over by Lady Eleanore Kooke
Set Design: Rob Odorisio
Lighting Design: Fabrice Kebour
Costume Design: David Murin
Sound Design: Rich Dionne
Berkshire Theatre Festival, Stockbridge, MA, (413) 298-3868
Running time: 2 hours, including one intermission
7/252000-8/12/2000; opening 7/26/2000
For season's schedule go here
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer based on July 26 performance
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