note: entire contents copyright 2002 by Carl A. Rossi
Ninety-nine years ago, an actor asked author/critic Max Beerbohm on how to portray a writer onstage --- what are their physical characteristics; their mannerisms? Mr. Beerbohm later wrote, “I looked at myself in the glass, vainly. …. All I could advise him to do, at last, was to stain the thumb and forefinger of his right hand with a little ink.” Upon further reflection, Mr. Beerbohm added, “Though writers have no hall-mark on their appearance, they do acquire, through practice of their art, a rather distinctive manner. Accustomed to express themselves through a medium wherein there is no place for gesture, or play of features, or modulation of the voice, they become peculiarly passive in their mode of conversation. Obliged in their work to dispense with such adventurous aids, they lose the power to use them in their off moments. … When a real writer reads aloud to you something that he has written, his calmness, as you must have noticed, becomes intensified.” If you would like an example of what Mr. Beerbohm was writing about, get thee over to Boston Playwrights’ Theatre where Larry Weinstein is giving what appears to be a reading of his monologue, NEW CURTAINS FOR MACBETH.
Mr. Weinstein appears before us as one Mack Feiner, actor and eternal understudy, to announce that the performance of MACBETH we have come to see has been canceled due to the production’s star (“Frank Deeds”) having been found murdered in his bed the night before --- an ironic murder, since Mr. Deeds had been playing Duncan. Partly out of wanting to give us our money’s worth, partly at getting the chance to shine in his own light, Mack proceeds to eulogize his mentor (using slides of a well-known actor) and promises to act out key scenes from MACBETH; it comes as no surprise to find those scenes have already been performed offstage and that we are but witnessing the final curtain for Macbeth --- I mean, Mack Feiner. Should you choose to let in the cold winds of Reality, you’ll soon feel a draft --- instead of letting Mack go on, any sane producer would have simply refunded us our money; why would a star of Frank Deeds’ magnitude bother with the ten-minute role of Duncan; and twice (unseen) policemen bang on the door through which we have entered --- are we locked in with a possible felon? --- and then they go away. But now my teeth are chattering, so Out, Out, Damn Thought!
With another actor (say, Jeremiah Kissell), NEW CURTAINS FOR MACBETH might become a compelling one-character tragedy, complete with pity and fear. Right now, Mr. Weinstein the Playwright and Mr. Weinstein the Actor are each doing the other a disservice: the Playwright by allowing the Actor to speak his speeches, and the Actor by holding out each word to us with love in his eyes and then wrapping it in cotton lest it break. Is this Mr. Weinstein’s first play? He certainly performs it with the caution of a parent watching his firstborn toddle away from him (a more seasoned playwright would be the first to drop his script to see if it cracks or bounces), and Spiro Veloudos has given Mr. Weinstein all the slack rope he needs. (I can hear Mr. Veloudos murmuring, “Well, Larry DID write it, after all….”). Another actor (again, Mr. Kissell would be ideal) would seize upon NEW CURTAINS FOR MACBETH as lumpen gold crying out to be hammered into gleaming crowns, rings and daggers --- this could prove to be a classroom favorite for acting exercises, should Mr. Weinstein allow his child to be adopted by others….
But I was as fascinated as I was frustrated watching Mr. Weinstein the Actor, who is a newcomer to me. Slight of stature, Mr. Weinstein offers warmth, sincerity, tweedy good looks, and the makings of a firm but sweet stage personality. His voice is a Shakespearean one, cultured and elastic, with sudden cracks of lightning that make you blink; and just when you feel all that cotton is growing oppressive, Mr. Weinstein will flash a scowl, a glance, that tears through it all and shows the banked fires within. I hope we’ll be seeing more of Mr. Weinstein, as Writer and as Actor --- provided they each go their separate ways. In fact, I can see him performing in several of my own scripts….