The part of Stage Manager in Thornton Wilder's small-town essay on the eternal verities is not a star vehicle; he manipulates characters and audience, but he is (the whole point of the play) of the same substance. Yet this production leaves no doubt that the selling point is A Certain Someone: name above the title, his photo on 22 of the programme's pages. Alas, he stands in the same relation to the Stage Manager's role as that character does to the rest of the play: it becomes his plaything. Robert Allan Ackerman's consciously artificial direction of the townsfolk's performances is well judged, combining with Wilder's staging to preclude the suspension of disbelief., but the main problem is that this guy at the front with the corncob pipe and the New England accent is him with a corn-cob pipe (etc.). He's just too big for the part and the play. For big-name scalp-hunters only.
Written for City Limits magazine.
Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.
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