Harold Clurman was one of the most influential men in theater from the '30s through the '80s. He was a co-founder of the Group Theatre, an innovative ensemble art theatre. He was a critic. He was a teacher. He was an author. And now he has been brought back to life by writer and star, Ronald Rand.
Clurman started with some of Copland's music, which is fitting because, as is soon learned, Clurman roomed with him in Paris. Then Clurman entered the stage. The show is like a lecture to a class -- throughout, Clurman talks to his assistant and his students in the front row. They and the audience have come to absorb his wisdom and listen to his past adventures with many famed stars of yesteryear.
Thus, the show consists of many anecdotes and noteworthy quotes. It ran a fitting length, 85 minutes, and ends with a poignant message about the theater: "If this be magic, let it be art; if this be art; let it be magic." It delves into questions about theater's existence, purpose, past, and future.
The show kept the attention for the most part. It was at its best when there were funny quips and imitations that made the audience laugh out loud. The pacing was a little slow, but the show was never dull. Perhaps it could use a tiny trimming and some added jokes.
Rand was very animated as Clurman. Clurman seemed to be reincarnated. Rand did a superb job of staying in character and of playing many other characters through Clurman's impersonations. His inflections and tics were perfected to a T. His charm and charisma shone through throughout the evening.
The amiable little theater was transformed into an office -- there was a desk cluttered with period props, chairs surrounding the desk, and a coat rack with Clurman's signature cape. Rand donned this majestic cape at the end of the show, bringing Clurman back to life one final time. The lights included a windowpane effect, as well as a spot special that Rand used in his most poignant moments. The sound cues were mostly Copland, which set the stage appropriately.
Clurman is a biography on stage. It provides for a digressional, stream-of-consciousness view of Clurman's life. Anyone who wishes to increase his/her knowledge of major influences on the American theatre should see this show.
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Copyright 2003 Seth Bisen-Hersh