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A CurtainUp Streaming Feature
The Solo Play — the one-person play's presence during the pandemic, and probably long after, prompts a revisit to my 2014 in depth coverage of that genre
By Elyse Sommer
Even the wildest forecasts about the future of the ever growing popularity of the solo play didn't foresee its role during the worst disaster to affect our lives: COVID-19. Eventually this nightmare that's been with us awake as well as asleep will end. But theaters are likely to rely more than ever on monologues that can be staged with little or no scenery. In short, a setup that's economical and easy to fit the safety precautions likely to be needed until a vaccine has been thoroughly tested and approved by the scientific community.
Given its ever increasing prominence has prompted me to repost my still relevant, in depth feature about this genre's history and trends.
The Solo Play- Part One—The Solo Play Has Given New Meaning to Greta Garbo's "I Want to Be Alone!"
I actually began commenting in detail about the solo genre in a 2009 feature Solosphere. The reviews of the plays running that year are still in our archives (as is any review or feature linked in this or any of my postings). And my paraphrase of Shakespeare's quote to sum up this genre's ever expanding presence on stages everywhere stil applies: "When solo shows come, they come not as single spies/ But in Battalions."
While I've always admitted to my own preference for seeing a play with at least two actors on stage, there have been enough exceptions. One of my favorite shows of the last seasons before the lockdown was One of my favorite shows before the lockdown was Harry Clarke in which Billy Crudup hilariously portrayed the titular Harry as well as all the other characters. Terrific ss Cruddup was in the premiere I saw at the Vineyard Theater, this is enough of a full-bodied play for plenty of other good actors to shine in. Case in point: Barrington Stage, one of the two Berkshire Theaters staging live performances this summer, very wisely opted to start the ball rolling with Harry Clarke, and casting Mark H. Dold, one of their regular and best actors, as Harry.
Emotionally bracing as it must have been for Berkshire theategoers to see a live actor in the company of others, my five months of seeing theater only on screen made me realize that some one person plays might be especially effective when streamed rather than seen live. To be specific, I think my very last Broadway play before everything closed was My Name is Lucy Barton, a stunning solo performance by Laura Linney, was riveting for those in close to the stage seats. But that left two thirds of the audience at the Friedman Theater unable to really see Linney's features in close-up. A streamed version would have put everyone in the front row and more fully immersed in Lucy's narrative.
To illustrate the solo format's importance whether theater is virtual or back to more normal conditions, there's the All For One (AFO) Theater Company which was created for the sole purpose of developing solo theater and create opportunity for solo artists to enjoy sustaining careers. And the need to do so with Zoom hasn't stopped them. Currently, they're presenting a new Live on Zoom solo, Jack Was Kind, written and performed by Tracy Thorne from September 16th to October 10th, Wednesdays to Saturdays. (for details see https://www.afo.nyc/jack-was-kind).
Another solo you can stream right now comes courtesy of the Irish Rep Theater's digital Fall seaon. On offer is Belfast Blues, written and performed by Geraldine Hughes as filmed last year at Lyric Theatre, Belfast in 2019. For dates and reservstions see https://irishrep.org/show/irish-rep-online-2020/belfast-blues/
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