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Thursday, August 5, 2010

Madoff errors

I recently wrote a negative review about "Imagining Madoff," a play that is being given it's world premiere at Stageworks in Hudson. (It runs through Saturday).

I recently heard from the playwright. My first assumption that it was a complaint about the negativity of the review. Worse - she wanted corrections made about "factual errors" in the review.

She was right. I assigned the wrong actors to roles. I goofed. When you consider "Imagining Madoff" only has three characters, and I got two wrong, it's a pretty major goof.

There is a tendency to defend such errors particularly in a week when I attended five plays in five days. But there is no denying it is a careless error that should not be condoned.

Actors usually get short shrift in a review to begin with. There is seldom enough space to truly explain all the things they bring to a character, nor is there room to explain the script problems that offer them little help and tend to make them look bad. Though I did not believe the performers were ready on opening night, clearly they understood their characters. This is case where good performers will get much, much better during the run of the play.

I feel especially bad for the actors in "Imagining Madoff" as they are both highly respected professionals who, most likely, are giving up much of their summer to perform in a work they believe in. They aren't in Hudson for the money.

I identified Mark Margolis - who plays Bernie Madoff as playing Solomon Galkin. Galkin was played by Howard Green. I reversed the roles and had him playing Madoff.

Both men are as good as they are experienced. Margolis has appeared in more than 50 plays in NYC and has a full career as a television actor and worked in numerous films. The same is true of Howard Green who has had a long, successful career in theater and film. That two actors of this quality accepted roles in "Imagining Madoff" contributed to the buzz about the show.

I apologize to both men. They deserved to be recognized for their work and their love of theater that brought them to Stageworks.

The playwright has a second complaint about the "factual content" of the review. One of the problems I had with the piece is that the characters did not speak enough to each other in a direct manner. I felt the play depended too much on monologues.

The playwright points out the characters were not delivering monologues. They were talking to characters who were not physically represented on stage. In Madoff's case he spends a lot of his time in his cell giving an interview to someone. We are told that someone is there, but the person is not physically represented by an actor.

At first I was going to debate the issue. I relate it to a case where you are on a bus,train or plane and someone sits next to you and you make the mistake of asking them "What's new?" The rest of the trip is spent listening to that person. Often we refer to that type of one-sided conversation as a monologue.

However, the more I thought about it, the playwright is correct. No matter how one-sided the conversation, or no matter how long or how speech-like the passages - when directed to another person, they are not monologues.

The example I used to convince myself of this is the play "Harvey." When Elwood P. Dowd speaks to his best friend - who happens to be a imaginary 6-foot rabbit - we don't think of him as delivering a monologue. So when Madoff speaks to an imaginary reporter, or a secretary speaks to an imaginary representative of the S.E.C. it shouldn't be be considered a monologue.

In my defense, the only difference is in "Harvey" I usually believe the rabbit exists. In "Imagining Madoff" I was unable to accept the playwright's device and never felt those imaginary characters existed within the life of the play. Thus I felt the performers were directly addressing the audience. Like in a monologue.

I will be more careful in the future.


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