THE THEATER MIRROR, Boston's LIVE Theater Guide




entire contents copyright 1995 by Larry Stark

Sunday, 24 December, '95

I want to speak of second comings.

I went back to see the penultimate performance of "The Last Shaker" last week, and though the play hadn't changed much, I had. Because I'd seen it before, there were no real surprises, and so I was checking that performance of the play against my memories of not only the first performance I saw, but also against my own review of the show.

And so the impact of the play was nowhere near as powerful second time around. Fewer tears. But who will ever tell if it was the fatigue of the cast at the end of the run, or the reticence of an audience that rarely reacted to the play, or my own familiarity with the main points that made me more reflective and less spontaneous.

What did surprise me, though, was that I heard --- or maybe just noticed and remembered --- many more lines. Some of the things I noticed made more sense because I already knew the framework into which they fitted. Some of them, first time round, had simply pointed the way to climactic actions or lines later in the play. Second look, these little details took on a significance all their own. And so the play looked bigger, more complicated, more comprehensible --- at the very moment it felt less moving.

I'd noticed that happening in moviehouses, whenever I'd come a little late and then, instead of leaving where I'd come in, I stayed to see the film through a second time. Second time through even great films looked flatter, more deliberately paced, and shots looked as though they took much longer to make their points than they had first time through.

And that may well have been because the second viewing was much too soon. I went back to "The Last Shaker" only two weeks after it opened. What would have happened, I wonder, if there had been a year of living in between my first and second viewings. I mean, it is true that good plays or movies, seen again after years, still retain their power. Now in the case of plays, that may be because a new production is actually a new play --- but every couple of years I watch "Citizen Kane" or "The Wild Bunch" or "All That Jazz" or "Henry V", and the same old magic catches me up yet again. And I'm usually as charmed by a new production of "Guys And Dolls" as I was when I saw the closing performance of its original Broadway run.

The case of "The Mousetrap" was exactly the opposite, although in this case I think the show actually Did change between the night I reviewed it and last Thursday when I saw it along with the Happy Few who got free tickets through The Mirror.

Frank Annese, the play's director, was actually there and came onstage to tell the audience they would hold the curtain for late-comers because of the snow. And I thought his presence could be felt throughout the performance as well. There was a smoothness, a confidence, a shape to the show that hadn't been there opening night --- and much less nervousness in the cast. There were pauses for emphasis or tension that weren't there before, and actors took the time now and again to enjoy the focus of attention.

I don't think that's just because the cast has settled in. The shape of the play had to have come from a director who stuck around, tinkering and sandpapering, to bring out the details and link one with another.

Anyway, I had a ball. Any of the rest of you want to say something about the show? I created the "Minority Reports" category to let you disagree or corroborate The Mirror's reviews, but so far we've had no takers. YOUR opinions are as valid as anyone's, you know. Give them vent, and we'll give them a chance to be seen.

Enjoy the Festivities!

===Larry Stark

THE THEATER MIRROR, Boston's LIVE Theater Guide